Continued from The Plot Thickens
May 2000 Michigan, also Indianapolis
In spite of his history of taking drives around Chicago without his landlord's permission, Chris was no rebel. With all his hopes for future happiness resting on my father's permission, he was adhering faithfully to the ATI/IBLP courtship script. The next move was Scott's to make. And the week had been delightful. Chris had enjoyed every minute with my siblings; getting to hang out with me again made it even better! The only disappointment had been, well, my dad.
All week Chris had waited for my father to say something, anything! Here Chris was, with nothing else on his agenda. Nearly a month had passed since Chris had first requested permission to court me. Now, for the first time, the three of us (Chris, me, and my dad) were in the same house, eating at the same table, sleeping under the same roof. When would their discussion resume? Was Scott toying with him? Chris wasn't sure what the procedure was, but he certainly hoped they could move on to the next step soon.
The Fiat was packed and Chris was ready to hit the road when Dad finally spoke. Would Chris like to take a walk? A walk? Now? How do you say what you really think to the man who holds the power to say yay or nay to your heart's deepest yearnings? Um, sure!
What did they talk about? The conversation has faded completely from Chris's memory. But as they strolled up the road together, news spread through the house like wildfire. "Dad and Chris are going for a walk!" This was a highly irregular event. Dad and Mama walking after lunch, or after dinner, yes. But Dad taking a walk with a visiting young man after breakfast was completely unheard of. When the pair returned from their walk, Chris got in his car and took off. Dad went back to his office chair and said nothing.
When I got home from work that evening, I was already agitated. I wanted to know if anything had happened in the final moments of Chris's visit to illuminate the dark mysteries of the last month. Andraste filled me in. "Dad and Chris took a walk before he left," she said me. But that was all she knew.
A walk? Dad and Chris? What the hell was going on? If they were talking about me and my future, didn't I have a right to know about it? I had had more than enough of men in my life planning my existence for me. And Dad had better not be getting Chris's hopes up! I knew Chris way better than he did, after all. It was just cruel to string him along like this!
I knew Chris was lonely--how well I knew! It was hard to leave the Institute, whether you left on good terms or bad. It would be natural for his thoughts to settle on an old friend. Or maybe I was just being conceited. Maybe he really was interested in Andraste. She was sweet and domestic and had just finished high school, after all. He was younger than I, not by much, but I'd always said I'd marry someone older.
The last months had had their share of internal tension but the last week had been off the charts! Out on the trampoline, I vented my exasperation to Andraste. "This"--bounce--"is ridiculous"--bounce! Poor Andraste understood exactly how I felt. It had been a rough week for her, too. What with graduation, a house guest, a crazed roommate (me), and the gift of clip-on earrings with the caution not to wear them "too often"! She wanted to help.
Andraste got on the computer and looked for Chris's screenname. Sure enough, there he was. He was staying overnight at the IBLP training center in Indianapolis, for old time's sake. And naturally, he had gravitated to the CharacterLink office, where he was sitting in front of a computer screen. "Jeri's really upset," Andraste told him. "We all know about your letter, and that Dad talked to you in private this morning. But he won't tell us anything and Jeri's going crazy wondering if it's about her."
Chris felt bad. Making me miserable was the last thing he wanted to do. Apparently, his letter was an open secret, their one-on-one conversation was a giveaway, and Scott didn't realize what his own daughters knew. The next morning, he made a phone call to my dad.
"Scott, everyone in your house knows about my letter, but they don't know if I'm interested in Jeri or Andraste. You need to tell them what's going on."
So Dad and I had a conference in his closet of an office. So it was about courtship, and it was about me. I knew it! I also knew I had no romantic feelings for Chris. It was unfair for Dad to let Chris get his hopes up! We had a good friendship and had shared a lot of memories, and there was no reason to ruin that relationship by trying to force it through a "courtship" process, subjecting it to scrutiny and pressure and expectations from my family for months (years? how long did one maintain a courtship before giving up?). How dare Dad give my friend false hope? I insisted he call a halt to the whole thing. Now.
Dad agreed. He would talk to Chris. "But, first," he said, "Chris wanted it to be a secret, but I think you should know now, he wanted to pay $5000 for your trip to the Philippines. Of course, under the circumstances, it wouldn't be right to let him do that, so I'll tell him to keep it."
Well, that was a bombshell that came out of nowhere. Chris had that kind of money? He wanted to give it to me? So I could move across the globe for months? I was dazed. "No, right, he shouldn't. Of course." My head spun. I knew Chris was generous, but he was an even better guy than I'd thought. Not that it made any difference in my sexual interest. I would stick to my position. If my mind ever changed, my mom would be able to say I'd been bought. She'd said things like that before. Well, I wouldn't change my mind.
Chris was still in Indianapolis when Dad called him back. That conversation turned out to be significant, mostly because of how Chris interpreted it. We don't have a recording, of course, but Chris recalls that Scott told him, "As far as I'm concerned, you're a great guy, but Jeri has asked me to tell you that she's not interested. So consider yourself free to move on and pursue other interests!"
Chris had an entire day on the highway to digest this news. The Fiat covered the distance to Wichita in record time.
And I wondered, if I hadn't put my foot down, how long would Dad have strung Chris along?
Continued at Instant Messenger and Little Women