“A Mormon girl and a Mennonite guy,” Troy whispered. He sat back in his chair and put his hands behind his head. “What an interesting combination.”
“How’d you know I was Mormon?” Melissa pursed her lips.
“Apparently I’m better at doing research than you are.”
“I hadn’t realized I needed to make a trip to the library in order to go on a date,” she said.
The tension in the air was almost palpable when Becca came back with their drinks. Melissa had her arms crossed and Troy still had his hands behind his head. Neither of them broke eye contact long enough to give Becca any acknowledgement that they were ready to order. She stood with her little notebook in her hand, pencil ready, and cleared her throat.
“Becca, can I ask you a question?” Melissa smirked at Troy to watch for his reaction.
“How long have you known Troy?” They still didn’t break eye contact.
“As long as I can remember, why?”
“Would you say he’s a good man?” Melissa saw him shake his head almost imperceptibly.
“Why are you doing this?” Troy whispered. Melissa ignored him.
“Should I be in any way concerned to be alone with him, like for instance if he asked me out on a date?” Melissa already knew the answer to her rhetorical question, so she continued. “Would you think that it would be necessary to… research his background before going out with him?”
“Uh…” Becca stammered. Melissa finally broke eye contact and smiled sweetly up at Becca.
“Would you want him to research your background before he took you out on a date?”
Becca barely glanced at Melissa before meeting Troy’s piercing eyes. Something passed between the childhood friends and Becca seemed to take a half step back.
“If I had to make an educated guess right now…” She almost sounded like she was choking back tears. “I’d guess… that I will never get the chance to find out.” With that, she ran from the room.
“Was this your way of showing me about your religion without having to tell me? By bringing me here?”
“When were you planning to tell me that you’re Mormon?” Troy leaned forward and forced her to look him in the eye.
“Why does that matter?” She barely squeaked out her question.
“Are you ever planning to leave your faith?”
“Of course not.”
“Well neither am I.” With finality, he sat back in his chair and took a deep breath.
“Then why are we even sitting at the same table?” Melissa whispered. She felt a tear fall down the side of her face, but she ignored it. If she reached up to wipe her cheek, everyone in the restaurant would know she was crying. She had no intention of letting any of them have that satisfaction.
“Because I think I’m in love with you,” Troy whispered back. The hardness had yet to leave his eyes, but his words were soft and pure.
“What?” Melissa’s breath caught in her throat. “You barely know me…”
“And you’re in love with me, too.”
Melissa stood up suddenly and tried to calm her breathing. “I… I need to use the ladies’ room. Excuse me.” She turned around and ran right into Troy’s Uncle Patrick.
“Could you point me in the direction of the ladies’ room, please?” She managed to choke out. He reached out his right hand, pointing to the hallway by the kitchen. She casually tossed her long hair off the side of her shoulder, letting the curls fall down her back, held her head confidently and strode over to the hallway, never looking back.
Melissa opened the door to the ladies’ room so hard that it crashed into the side wall, causing the girl sitting on the floor crying to jump and look up from where her head was tucked into her arms. “Becca? What are you doing in here?”
“Getting away from Troy.” There was almost an underlying ‘obviously’ at the end of Becca’s statement.
“What a coincidence…” Melissa sighed and then sat down hard on the floor next to the girl who probably woke up that morning thinking she was someday going to marry Troy Weller. They sat in silence for a few moments. Finally, Melissa looked over at Becca and frowned slightly. “He just told me he’s in love with me.”
“Well, he just all but told me that he’s not in love with me.” They both sighed at the same time and chuckled over at each other.
“What are we supposed to do now?”
“I guess I need to shake off the childish fantasies I’ve clung to all these years and get on with my life.” Becca tucked her knees up to her chest tighter and rested her chin on them.
“I guess I’m gonna need to figure out how to tell my Mormon parents that I’m in love with a Mennonite guy.”
“I don’t even know what a Mormon is,” Becca said.
“Well, I know very little about the Mennonite faith either.” Melissa reached over and tugged lightly at one of the white strings hanging down from Becca’s cap. Becca reached over and tugged lightly at one of Melissa’s long strawberry blond curls.
“Maybe we can teach each other.”
“That sounds good,” Melissa replied. “You know what else sounds good?”
“Your pot roast here. I heard it’s delicious.” She smiled over at Becca.
“It is,” Becca acknowledged.
“I could use a good waitress to bring me a plate of it.” She raised her eyebrows. “I tip well.”
“You had better make Troy pay for your lunch or I’m going to smack him upside the head.” They both chuckled and Melissa stood up and brushed herself off, then reached down to offer Becca a hand.
As they walked out of the ladies’ room arm in arm, Melissa whispered over to Becca, “I guess I need to go reconcile with my new boyfriend before he finds some other girl to take to lunch.”
“Wonder what religion she’ll be…” They giggled and ignored the stares from all the tables nearby.
Melissa enjoyed the confusion and fear in Troy’s eyes as she slid into the seat across from him. Becca smiled at him peacefully.
“You want the pot roast too, Troy? Or do you need some more time to decide?”
“Thank you, Becca,” Troy said, a soft smile playing across his face. Although he answered Becca, his eyes never left Melissa’s. “I think I have decided that I would like the pot roast.”
He reached cautiously across the table and opened his hand, inviting Melissa to meet him halfway. She smiled back at him and laid her small hand inside his, allowing his strength to flow through her.
Becca chuckled and walked away.
Book Club Discussion Questions: Well, they're over one hurdle. But their challenges are far from over. I have conducted a lot of research about both religions in preparation for this novel. In fact a friend of mine who's a Mennonite brought me a large book of their doctrine and I read it cover to cover! How about you? Do you know enough about either or both to be able to compare and contrast the two? If so, what do you think will be Troy and Melissa's biggest stumbling blocks?