He was giving out apples for his finance company during a four-day Savings and Loan convention in Manhattan's Hilton Hotel. She was newly back from a year in Madrid, appearing in TV commercials and now (in tight shorts and high boots) doing a so-called "modeling" gig for Kodak, sticking little felt bees on every male's lapel passing by. They worked in neighboring booths and sometimes chatted.
She ate a few of his apples, but he wouldn't let her "sting" him with a bee. That was noteworthy, but she was focused on paying rent until her career revived. She had quit her lucrative network radio talk show for that European lark of a year but if absent from New York for even a short while, everyone forgets you, so ... silly but well-paying gigs and no dating or romance until re-established.
Nevertheless, although not technically "dating" a free lunch is ... free. Accustomed to being taken to 21 Club or other upscale eateries by suitors, she accepted when he invited her on the third day. What? He picked up hamburgers and sodas in a fast-food place to take to Central Park, sit on a bench, and watch Little League baseball. She then learned he was just getting started in business after spending a year traveling Europe on his motorcycle to "find himself." He'd been in Spain at the same time she was.
"You must have seen me on television, right?
"No, the places I stayed at didn't have TVs."
He asked for a dinner date, but she refused suggesting he call in a couple of months — too busy rekindling a career — undoubtedly the first time this handsome dude had ever been turned down. Convention over, he walked her out of the Sixth Avenue and 54th Street hotel. Her apartment was on East 79th Street near the east river. They walked and talked all the way there. Upon arrival, he said, "This wouldn't be a date, but how about going ice skating?" What? Now she was rather intrigued with this gent who did nothing by the book. Skating after walking a few miles? She got her skates, and they took a bus — a bus! — to his west side apartment and get his. Then they took another bus to Rockefeller Center's ice rink.
While she did twirls and arabesques, he fell down and ran into rails. She repeatedly retrieved him, cracking up with laughter. Why on earth suggest skating? He couldn't even stand up very well on ice! (He later admitted he liked being rescued and then glide clumsily around arm in arm while she kept him from tumbling). Back in the warming hut removing skates, she asked about dinner. She missed the shock on his face but by now figured he didn't have much money so suggested an inexpensive and nearby Greek taverna. Walking distance. (He later confessed that the guy next to him on the bench dropped a twenty on the floor while standing up, and rather than properly returning the bill to its owner he pocketed it hoping to help cover the cost of dinner).
Next, he just happened to be on the street where she lived quite often, so when she ran into him while doing errands they did this and that around the neighborhood — not dates and no kisses but lots of walking and talking for over a month. They went skating again, and ... What? He was a fine skater! He grilled burgers — again the burgers — on a hibachi dragged up to her building's rooftop. She liked his mind (and style) better and better. Plus, they both were scuba divers, she experienced and he recently certified. It isn't every day one meets an intellectual who roams Europe on a motorcycle, scuba dives, skates, and hauls a hibachi from one side of a city to the opposite side on a bus.
She remembers the first kiss because it was so long in coming but doesn't remember when, after long phone conversations, he started arriving at 2 a.m. with an overnight bag. She also doesn't remember when some of his clothes started hanging in the closet, but a soulmate was found.
Career finally called. She landed a nonfiction book contract and went to friends in Florida to tackle the project for a couple of months. He came down frequently (probably on a freight train). This man was always there. He just never went away. She routinely swam her mile in the posh Sea View Hotel's Olympic pool, so when he was visiting they spent time up on the roof, talking more and making love in a nonworking sauna. She thinks he actually stayed at the local YMCA like he said he did. They borrowed her friend's car and drove to Key Largo; as his "buddy" she shared his first open-water dive. They stayed overnight in a Holiday Inn, but by now she was fine with that.
She didn't believe in marriage unless children are planned, and family was in neither of their separate agendas. So he rented a country house, she kept the Manhattan apartment, and they lived together back and forth for four years. Both careers blossomed, and they moved up from burgers.
When they went back to the Sea View (as guests with an ocean-view suite), he—W-h-a-t? — proposed to her on "their" roof. She wilted. Was this male branding at play? Then he offered a small, black velvet box, and her spirits really plummeted. Oh no! Not an engagement ring!
But she had just finished a first novel and diamonds were central to the story, especially one diamond earring in particular.
This man never missed — There they were: a pair of diamond earring studs instead of the oh-so-common ring.
She said "Yes."
Moral of story: Beware of accepting apples from strangers and watch out for unnoticed bee stings or you might find yourself living happily ever after.
Alexandra York is an author and founding president of the American Renaissance for the Twenty-first Century (ART) a New-York-City-based nonprofit educational arts and culture foundation (www.art-21.org). She has written for many publications, including "Reader's Digest" and The New York Times. Her latest book is "Soul Celebrations and Spiritual Snacks." Read Alexandra York's Reports — More Here.
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