Conversation at lunch had been understandably strained and Melissa got the impression they would discuss their confusing predicament at a later date and time.
“I have a confession to make,” Troy said. He offered his hand to help Melissa up into the passenger side of his truck.
Troy stood beside the car and reached his hands up to hold onto the door frame, tucking his fingers into the crease there. He leaned slightly forward, allowing his arms to support his weight. His face was close to hers but not too close. His light brown eyes pierced into her as he took a deep breath and let it out slowly.
“I’ve never kissed a girl before.”
Wow, okay. So, he’d been serious about never having dated prior to her. That’s not such a bad thing. Melissa reached up and touched his cheek. He leaned his face into her hand and closed his eyes. “Why are you telling me this now?”
He opened his eyes. “I just thought you might want to know what you’re getting yourself into.”
“Probably a little late for that,” Melissa whispered.
“You’ve fallen for me, haven’t you?” Troy baited her.
“You already know the answer to that question, and you’re a cad for asking me to admit it.” She slowly drew her hand away from his face but smiled softly.
“Sorry,” he whispered and returned her soft smile.
“You’re not even supposed to be alone with me, are you?” Melissa asked.
“No, not really,” he admitted. From what little Melissa knew about the Mennonite religion, dating was not allowed. No wonder every Mennonite in that restaurant had looked at Troy like he was a cockroach bringing a harlot into their midst. They had been just as angry at him as they’d been with her, probably more so.
“So, what are you going to do?”
“I’m going to ask my brother and his wife Jessica to have us over for dinner soon so I can spend more time with you… in the company of a chaperone.”
“Don’t you trust yourself with me?” Melissa realized her voice had taken on a lighthearted flirtation.
He answered by firmly shaking his head back and forth emphatically. “No, ma’am, I do not.”
They both chuckled, breaking the seriousness of the situation.
“And I need to meet your father as soon as possible.”
“My father?” She raised her eyebrows.
“Yes, I will not disrespect him by continuing to pursue your affection.”
“Do I get to meet your parents?”
Troy gulped. “Of course.”
“They’re not going to like me, are they?” Melissa wondered if meeting his parents would be like an intensified version of how things played out in the restaurant.
“They’ll grow to love you,” Troy said. “Just like I do.”
“It’s too soon for you to love me.”
“I don’t believe that.” He reached for her hand and brought it to his chest, positioning her palm over his heart. “When it’s right, you can feel it. In here. Piercing you to your core.”
“In a romance novel, they would call that insta-love,” she teased, not pulling her hand away.
“I’ve never read a romance novel,” Troy said, keeping his hand over hers. “I just know what I read in your emerald eyes.”
“What do you read in my emerald eyes?” she whispered.
“That you’re the woman God made for me,” he whispered back. “And I’m the man God made for you.”
“That was very nice of him,” she said.
“I need to spend some time in prayer and consecration,” Troy said. “And prepare myself to be worthy of you.”
“You’d better take me back to work then.” Melissa told him softly, wishing she could pull him down for a first kiss but sensing that her first kiss from him would be at the altar, should they continue this trajectory. She had a strong suspicion that was exactly where they were heading.
Troy raised her hand to his cheek again, pressed his hand outside of hers and held it there against his cheek. His eyes closed for a few seconds and he seemed to breathe in the scent of her wrist.
It was quite possibly the most romantic moment of Melissa’s life.
Troy finally released her hand from his face but held it gently in his for a moment more and looked into her eyes. He squeezed her hand, placed it on her leg, then stepped away from her. He closed the truck door, walked around and climbed into the driver’s side, turned the key in the ignition and backed out of the parking lot.
Neither of them spoke during the drive back to the store and they never touched again, even as he held the car door to let her out at the entrance to the Farm and Tractor Supply store. One last longing look into her eyes then he walked back around, climbed in his truck, and drove away.
Book Club Discussion: In the book my friend gave me called Bible Doctrine and Practice, which is an explanation of the faith and practice of the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite, there is a whole section that discusses the need to avoid courtship and keep their thoughts pure. Although the book goes into a lot more (and less) detail, the way my friend described how a young man in their faith chooses a bride is to speak to his parents and/or minister, ask the minister to speak to the young woman's parents asking permission to marry their daughter, and only after they have accepted the proposal, will the young man and woman be officially engaged. After that, they are encouraged to marry as soon as conveniently possible. One challenge is that the book states that the young man should not ask for the young woman's hand in marriage until he is sure they are in love with one another. My question is: how do they know if they're in love if they're not allowed to date? That's kind of more like a rhetorical question, but something that niggles at my mind.