“So, Caleb,” Sarah cooed, stepping closer to him. “Now that my sister’s out of the picture, what do you say you and I try going out on a date?”
Caleb took a step back and almost spilled his glass of punch. He couldn’t believe that after so many months of rejecting her that Sarah still had the gall to keep trying.
A mere three weeks had passed since he’d been dumped by Ashley, and it was hard enough to be in the same room with her family and Paul’s family for the baptism.
Caleb’s mind was on Paul and the importance of his decision to be baptized, so he wasn’t prepared to deal with Sarah. He’d all but forgotten about her because he hadn’t been spending any time at the Hardman’s house.
Sarah had been an annoyance to him since the first time they’d met, and it appeared that he was going to have to make it very clear that he was not interested in taking this conversation any further.
“Sarah, it’s not going to happen. So, give it up.” Caleb didn’t mean for it to come out snippy, but he was tired of her advances. This was one part of dating Ashley that he wouldn’t miss.
“What, I’m not pretty enough for you?” Sarah pouted and batted her eyelashes with an expression that told him she knew just how beautiful she really was. He rolled his eyes at her and shifted his attention away, unfortunately catching Ashley’s eye from across the room. He looked away quickly and inadvertently looked right back at Sarah. He sighed and shrugged his shoulders in defeat. “Or am I not smart enough?”
Suddenly Caleb realized that she was feeling a lot more insecure than he had given her credit for. Here she was the older sister to Ashley, who was acing her pre-med classes at the prestigious University of Michigan.
Ashley had drawn the attention of three men in recent years; he a recently graduated medical doctor, Paul, who was a straight ‘A’ student at Michigan State University, and now she was engaged to a young veterinarian.
No wonder Sarah thought she wasn’t good enough.
Caleb finally felt pity for this woman who was much closer to his own age than Ashley had been and would probably make a good trophy wife for the right man. But she was right; Caleb wanted someone who could hold a conversation intellectually with him, not just look good on his arm.
In a way, Sarah reminded him a lot of his own mother. She had been very beautiful when she was younger but had never gone to college nor had she needed more than her own charm to get her through life. His father was wealthy enough that his mom never had to lift a finger. She spent a good deal of her time hosting bridge club, attending fundraising luncheons, and raising her children. His mom and dad seemed happy together and still very much in love, so something must have worked out right. Still, he knew that Sarah was not the right woman for him. He took a deep breath and looked at her with new understanding.
“Sarah, look. I appreciate your interest, but I’m really not your type.” There, he thought; throw it right back on her. “I’m sure you’re plenty smart, and you know how beautiful you are. I just think you need to look for someone who is in a better place mentally. It’s going to be a long time before I’m ready to pursue another relationship. Your sister messed me up pretty bad, and I just need to get away from dating for a while. I hope you can understand.”
That should help; Caleb had taken Sarah’s sister a little farther off the pedestal that everyone seemed to elevate her on and made it sound like it was him who wasn’t good enough for her. He hoped that would be enough to stop her advances, but he also knew that the best thing he could do was put some distance between him and Sarah.
If Paul hadn’t asked Caleb to baptize him, he most definitely wouldn’t be here today. He wasn’t ready to be in the same room with Ashley right now and he was sure that Paul probably felt the same way. Yet, Ashley was practically Paul’s family, and there wasn’t any way to avoid the inevitable.
Suddenly, there she was standing next to her sister. Ashley looked up at him and smiled slightly, almost apologetically. This was the first time he’d seen her since he and Paul had confronted her and Roy that first day in the barn. Caleb had heard that Ashley and Roy had been inseparable since the day they met and were planning a wedding in just a few weeks.
Caleb understood why. When you know you’ve found the right person, there’s no reason to wait. He should have known all along that Ashley wasn’t the right girl for him. They had never felt that overwhelming need to be together all the time like she seemed to have with Roy. It still hurt. He knew it was time to get this over with.
“Hello Ashley,” he said, formally but with slightly more confidence than he felt. “How are you?”
“I’m good Caleb, how are you?” she asked, quietly. Her voice was just as beautiful as ever and it almost brought tears to his eyes knowing that he would never hold her in his arms again, would never kiss her or tell her that he loved her. He coughed lightly and decided to change the subject.
“I’m very pleased for Paul today. He made a good choice, and I’m glad to have been here for him.”
“I’m proud of him too,” she confirmed. “It was really nice of you to take the time to share the gospel with him this way.”
Caleb snorted slightly, knowing that it was years in the making and he was just the last catalyst to put Paul over the edge. Caleb still didn’t fully understand why Paul had asked him to baptize him when he lived next door to his new bishop and his family. But Caleb had gone along with it because it felt like the right thing to do.
“I think the credit lies mostly with you Ashley,” he pointed out. “It was the story about Joseph Smith that you shared with him in the meadow outside your house that did it. You’re a really good missionary.”
“If I were a good missionary, he would have been baptized years ago.” She blushed from his compliment.
“You don’t give yourself enough credit,” he whispered. He couldn’t understand why he was doing this; why he was allowing himself to get drawn back in by her. He decided to change the subject again. “Your sister and I were just discussing you before you walked up. I was telling her that I’m going to be missing you for a long time and she seemed very understanding about my insecurities.”
“Yes,” Sarah interjected. “He seems much more confident than he did just a few minutes ago. Sometimes it helps to talk things out and understand our own feelings. I think he’ll get over you just fine!” She winked at him, but not in a flirtatious way, more a conspiratorial way. He smiled back at her, knowing that Sarah was probably right; things would all work out for the best.
“By the way—” he turned his attention back to Ashley. “Congratulations. I understand you’re finalizing plans to go to the temple in a few weeks.”
“We are. And thank you.”
“I wish you all the best,” Caleb nodded his head slightly in a way that almost felt regal. He was happy for her, but he was ready for this conversation to be over. “Now, if you ladies will excuse me, I should go offer my congratulations to the man of the hour. I can tell that Paul would love someone to pull him away from talking to his great-aunt. It was nice talking with you both.”
With that, Caleb walked away from them with more confidence than he’d felt in weeks.
Book Club Discussion Questions: I this gives Caleb a little closure, don't you?