[Note: I started writing this in honor of my wedding. Over six months later, I am finally finishing it.]
"Grandpa," Melly said, moving closer to where he sat in his chair.
"Yes, Melly?" he replied.
"Will you tell me a story?" she asked.
"What kind of story would you like to hear?" he asked. The crickets and cicada chirped and rattled in the evening air as Melly thought.
"A story about true love," she finally announced.
"A story about true love, eh." He rubbed his chin. "A story about true love." He sat in pensive thought for a moment. Melly rocked on the balls of her feet while she waited. A slight smile began to form on his face. "I think I have just the story for you." His smile grew. He patted his lap, and Melly took the cue and quickly clambered up over his knees and onto his lap.
"Once upon a time there lived a young man named Neil. He worked in the town store to help earn some money to help his parents make ends meet. Each day he would walk into town and work at the store. He liked this job very much. It expanded his horizons as he met all kinds of people as he worked there. At first Neil's only jobs were to clean up and restock shelves, but over time the shop owner, Mr. Hampkins, trusted him enough to let him work with customers and help them with their purchases. Neil enjoyed tending the store and meeting new customers."
Melly put her hand up to his face. "Grandpa, this doesn't sound like a love story. It sounds like a story about a boy."
Grandpa chuckled. "Be patient, my dear. There is still more background you need before the girl comes into the story."
Melly sighed. "All right. But don't keep me waiting too long."
He smiled. "Careful, Melly. You don't want me to save the story for another day do you?" Melly shook her head. "Okay then," he continued, "Be patient while we lay the foundations of the story. Without the foundation the ending won't be as sweet. Sometimes the best things come to those that wait."
"That's what Mother says," Melly said with a small pout.
"Your mother is a wise woman."
"Okay." Melly cuddled up closer to her grandfather. "I'll be patient."
He wrapped his arms tighter around her and continued. "As I was saying, Neil enjoyed tending the store and meeting new customers. Many nights his younger sisters would beg for stories--many of which he based off events that had occurred that day at the store."
"Do you ever base stories off events that really happen?" Melly asked.
"Why yes," Grandpa said with a smile. "Yes, I do." He hugged her close and continued his story. "One day a beautiful young maid walked into the store. Her chestnut curls bounced as she walked. Neil watched from behind the counter as she stopped and looked at a horse figurine displayed on the shelf. After studying it for a time she moved on, coming closer to the counter with each step. Neil stood there mesmerized. He had never seen such a beautiful girl in his life. She stopped and fingered some ribbons. When she looked up her warm brown her met his hazel ones. Surreptitiously, he wiped his sweating palms on his trousers."
"Why was he sweating?" Melly asked, pulling back to look at her grandfather. "Was it very hot that day?"
"No," Grandfather chuckled, "it was not a particularly hot day. Neil was sweating because he was nervous."
"Why was he nervous?" Melly asked.
"Well, because he knew he was about to speak to a very pretty girl and that is something that makes most any young man nervous."
"Oh," Melly replied, still not quite understanding. But, she was more interested in hearing the rest of the story than trying to understand the psyche of young men. "So did he talk with her?"
"Yes," Grandfather replied. "After their eyes met she came up and asked for a pound of sugar. Neil stumbled over his words, but got her the sugar without making too much of a fool of himself. Once she left, he leaned on the counter and thought about her. He wondered who she was and what she was like. In his imagination she was warm-hearted and kind to match her beautiful appearance."
Melly moved away from her grandfather to grab the padded stool from by the fireplace. "Was she warm-hearted and kind?"
"Yes, Melly, she was as Neil found out once he got to know her. He soon found out by keeping his ears open that she was the daughter of the new preacher in town. Every few days she would come into the store to purchase something. At first Neil felt extremely nervous, yet excited, when she would come in. Overtime he began to ask her questions and get to know her. Once his sisters found out he had an interest in the new girl in town, they pestered him with questions about her and teased him too."
"What about her?" Melly had moved the stool next to her grandfather's chair and now rested her arms and chin on his legs. "Did she like Neil?"
"Well, that was part of what kept Neil feeling nervous even after he started getting to know her. Sometimes a smile would light up her face at something witty he'd said and hope bloomed in his heart that perhaps she might like him or at least learn to like him. But then he would question his reasoning. And as much as he would like to have gotten to know her better, he just wasn't sure enough of himself to put his heart out there for rejection."
"Yes, but did she like him?"
Grandfather laughed. "All in good time my little one." He ruffled her hair. "Like you, his sisters also sometimes had a tendency of becoming impatient. They got tired of Neil dragging his feet, so they decided to get to know Lucy themselves."
"Is Lucy the girls name?"
"Yes," Grandfather replied. "Neil's sisters got to know Lucy. One day they came up with a plan. They invited both Neil and Lucy to come on a picnic with them in the grove of trees along the road to town that was their family's favorite picnicking spot. Once both Neil and Lucy were there, his sisters hurried away on the excuse that they needed to pick berries for their mother. This left Neil and Lucy alone. At first they were both a bit awkward, but then they started talking and laughing. They waited for a bit, but when his sisters did not return, they decided to not wait and begin eating. They spent an enjoyable afternoon together. When the shadows began to lengthen they packed up the remains of the lunch. Neil offered Lucy his arm and began to walk her back to town. As they walked Neil's nervousness began again. He'd had such an enjoyable afternoon and knew he wanted to spend more time with Lucy, but he was still a bit afraid to ask."
Grandfather stood up and put another log on the fire. After he sat back down, Melly arranged her arms on his legs once more. "What happened?" Melly asked. "Did he ask her?"
"Yes. Just before town he stopped. 'I had a wonderful time this afternoon,' he said. 'I have too,' Lucy replied smiling. 'Would,' he began. 'Would you care to.' He paused. 'Yes?' Lucy asked encouragingly. 'Would you like to go to the concert at Farmer Taylor's home Tuesday evening. He's invited some of the musicians in town to each play a song or two.' Lucy linked her arm through Neil's elbow. 'It would be my pleasure,' she replied. Neil's grin at her reply filled his face. That same grin still filled his face when he entered the family home to find his sisters eagerly awaiting his return. They were delighted to learn how well their plan had worked."
"If I were them, I would be delighted, too." Melly yawned.
"Ah, my child, you are tired. Perhaps we should save the rest of the story for another night."
Melly emphatically shook her head "no."
"Alright," Grandfather conceded, "But I will try to not keep you up too much longer. You mother would not be happy with me when she comes back from her friend's wedding to find that I have kept you up late every night with stories."
"When is Mother getting back?" Melly asked.
"The day after tomorrow. Now lets get back to the story. They went to the concert. Every few days they would do something together. Sometimes it was just a walk around town and talk during Neil's lunch break. It wasn't long before they had become best friends. Now Neil knew he wanted to be more than just friends, but he wasn't sure how to broach the subject with Lucy, despite now being very comfortable in her presence. He loved her kind and loving nature. She also had a certain amount of spunk that endeared her to him even more. Knowing that he had fallen deeply in love with Lucy, and hoping that she might feel the same for him, he turned to his most trusted advisers, his parents, and asked them what they thought he should do. His father encouraged Neil to start building a house on the plot on land he would inherit. His mother encouraged him to talk to Lucy about his feelings."
"So what did he do?" Melly asked.
"Well, first he spent some time pondering the advise he'd received. He went to the plot of land that would be his. He sat on a log, watched the world around him, and thought. A few days later he brought Lucy to that very spot where he'd sat and thought. They sat and talked about the beauty of the summer and anecdotes from their day. Lucy kept looking to the brown furrows in the otherwise green grass. Finally she asked about it. Neil stool up and offered her his hand. She took it and stood up. They walked over to the furrows, and Neil began to explain that the furrows marked where he planned to build a home. He told her of his love for her, then knelt on one knee and asked Lucy if she would share his life and that home with him. She eagerly accepted, whispering in his ear that she'd begun to love him from the moment she'd first walked in to the general store. She's stopped and looked at the horse figurine and the ribbons on her way to the counter to give her heart time to slow down the maddening pace it had begun the moment she'd laid eyes on him."
"So it was love at first sight?"
"In part," Grandfather replied. "Only in part."
Melly scrunched up her face. "What do you mean, 'only in part'?"
"Well, Melly, they were both attracted to each other and could sense the beauty of each others souls in that first moment, but as they got to know each other and spent time together, that love grew and blossomed and sunk roots deep into their souls."
"Oh," Melly replied. "So they got married and lived happily ever after?"
"Yes." A sweet, wistful look crossed over Grandfather's face. "They did get married, and they did live happily. Times were not always easy. They faced their share of trials. But they did live happily. As for the ever after, once I die and see your grandmother again, then truly we will live happily ever after."
Surprise blossomed on Melly's face. "That is yours and my grandmother's story?"
"Yes, dear girl, it is our story."
Melly sighed. "I wish I'd known her."
Grandfather wrapped an arm around her shoulder's and squeezed. "One day you will. Your grandmother loved you very much, and still does from where she is I'm sure. I remember her holding you and cradling you in her arms as she sung lullabies or spoke soft words while gazing lovingly at your face."
"How old was I when she died?" Melly asked.
"You had just turned two years old."
"Do you really think we will see her again when we die?"
"I know we will, my dear Melly. I know we will."
"How do you know?"
"Because she and I were married for time and eternity, just as your parents were. And that means we are married forever, in this life and in the next."
Melly smiled. "I'm glad."
"So am I, Melly."
They sat in silence gazing toward the fire and enjoying the cozy comfort of home and of the knowledge that their family would be together forever.
Grandfather stirred first. "Well, my child, the story is over and it's past time for you to be in bed."
Melly roused herself and stood. "Thank you, Grandfather. I enjoyed your story."
"You are welcome, my dear. Now off to bed."
Melly kissed his cheek goodnight, returned the stool to its place by the fire, and made her way to the stairs that led up to her bed. "Goodnight, Grandfather."