tagRomanceWill You Marry Me, Revisited

Will You Marry Me, Revisited

bychatbug©

Thank you Vixen Too for editing the story. There's very little sex in this story, so if that's what you're looking for, go read another story. This story is more understandable after you read the first part, Will You Marry Me? I wish that I could tell this story better and I wish that sometimes stories would come true.

Bert looked over at Ruth, snuggling up to him on the bed, her head resting on his shoulder. He held her hand and noticed how peaceful she looked. He thought back over the changes in his life the last few years, and how happy he was that he'd contacted her again.

Bert had been married to Patricia just under twenty-two years. They had a fourteen-year-old son, Matthew. The marriage had its ups and downs, but he was content. A couple of weeks after Patricia's forty-first birthday, she had a brain aneurysm and died the next day. Bert and Matthew were devastated. Bert took off of work to arrange the funeral, grieve, and help Matthew grieve. After a month Bert arranged for someone to look after Matthew, and returned to his work as a computer programmer.

About six months later, a college directory came in the mail. Bert had forgotten he'd ordered the directory, and tossed it on the bookshelf. The house still looked the same as when Patricia died. He didn't have the motivation or desire to make any changes. Work and taking care of Matthew took all of his time and energy.

Bert's numbness started to wear off about a year after Patricia's death. He thought he'd try Internet dating. He met some nice ladies, but they either lived too far away or weren't interested in a serious relationship. After a year he gave up, figuring that he'd try again after Matthew went to college.

One day Bert was cleaning up the living room when he noticed the college alumni directory. He wondered what his classmates were up to. He sat down and thumbed through the pages. He looked up his class, and found that four of his friends were listed. Linda was a pediatric surgeon in Chicago. He smiled; glad that she'd had the career she talked so much about. Mark was a real estate agent in Atlanta. That was a surprise. Mark and Bert had worked together, editor and features editor, on the college newspaper. Bert thought Mark would have gone on to be a journalist. Kevin was a petroleum researcher at Shell in Houston. No surprise there. Bert, Kevin, and Linda had spent many a night together in the science building, cramming for the next math or science test.

Bert was pleasantly surprised to find Ruth listed. She was an elementary school teacher in Irving, just north of Dallas. He chuckled. He closed his eyes and thought about the time he'd spent with her. He had been her boyfriend for three years. He smiled as he remembered the basketball games they saw, the times they ate in the cafeteria, and the nights she visited his dorm room for "study" sessions. Although they didn't take many classes together, they helped each other with their schoolwork.

Bert graduated a year before Ruth. After she graduated, he drove to her parents' house in Dallas to visit and ask her to marry him. She seriously thought about his proposal for a couple of days before she said no. Hurt, Bert left later that morning and moved on with his life.

Bert sat down at the computer and started a summarized version of his life's story. When he finished three days later, the text ran for nearly four pages, single-spaced. He reflected that Matthew would appreciate reading it some day. He wrote four letters, one for each of his friends. He printed the letters and the story, and mailed them. He wondered if any of them would respond, if any of them would remember him from college.

Linda's email came first. It was short, thanking him for thinking of her and sending the letter and life story. A few days later Kevin's email came. It was longer, and Bert was happy reading about all the good things that had happened to him. He had a nice wife, Kathy, and a couple of adult kids, George and Angela. Kevin's life story was shorter than Bert's since he hadn't changed jobs and moved around as much.

A couple weeks passed before Mark's email showed up. It turned out that Mark tried to break into journalism, but a stint at the Mobile (Alabama) Register broke him instead. Mark drifted around for a few years, trying to decide what to do, when he met Sally, and settled down in Atlanta. She was a technical recruiter, and after he'd lived in Atlanta a couple of years, decided to try selling commercial real estate. He found he enjoyed it, and developed a sizable clientele.

A few days later a longer email from Linda arrived. Her life went just as she predicted it would when they sat around the student union talking about their futures. Linda finished medical school and was nearly thirty when she finally started practicing as a pediatric surgeon at Children's Memorial Hospital. By the time she was forty she was one of the most respected surgeons in Illinois. Never married, of course. She and Kevin had dated for a while in college, but the course load they were taking kept them from developing a relationship.

Bert was disappointed that he hadn't heard from Ruth. He corresponded with his college friends and caught up with their lives. Bert smiled whenever he thought about how scared he was to contact them after so many years, and was so glad he made the effort.

One day, a letter arrived in the mail for Bert. It was from Ruth! Nervously, he tore the envelope open and pulled out a handwritten letter. He smiled as he read about her life. She'd never gotten a computer, and didn't like using a computer in school, because she could only type with her right hand. She'd taught third grade at the same elementary school for twenty-five years. And yes, she was glad that he'd written to her, and wanted to correspond.

Bert and Ruth sent letters back and forth. He sent her a current picture and she sent him one. He was surprised to find that she still looked so youthful, while he'd aged and put on 50 pounds. He was nervous the first time he called Ruth. Her voice hadn't changed much over the years, and hearing her brought back memories of the many conversations they'd shared. He knew she didn't drive, but he was surprised to find out that she hadn't been out of Texas since college. He invited her to fly to Baltimore to spend a week, and she agreed, after school let out for the summer.

Bert booked the flight and made the hotel reservations for Ruth. His anticipation grew as the date of her arrival drew nearer. He looked forward to seeing her again after all these years.

Bert and Matthew drove to B.W.I. airport to pick up Ruth. Her flight was an hour late, and they passed the time watching planes take off and land. Finally, her flight arrived and they went over to the baggage carousel to wait. Bert was watching the passengers retrieve their luggage, so he was surprised when Ruth snuck up and gave him a big bear hug.

Bert was amazed at how little Ruth had changed over the years. Sure, the skin on her hands and neck had wrinkled, but she looked as young as he last remembered her. A touch of gray in her shoulder length straight black hair was the only other blemish he noticed. Bert picked up Ruth's luggage and they walked back to the parking garage.

Ruth and Matthew talked on the way to the hotel. She smiled at his precociousness. Bert dropped Ruth off at the hotel and helped her get checked in and settled. Bert and Matthew had a couple of hours to kill before they returned to the hotel for dinner, so they went to the aquarium to see the dolphin show.

Ruth took a shower and got dressed. She was still trembling. She was surprised at how excited she was to see Bert. Sure, she'd been looking forward to this trip for a couple of months, but feelings that she'd thought long suppressed bubbled to the surface again. She smiled as she thought of how much cuddlier Bert looked, now that he had filled out some.

Bert and Matthew met Ruth at the hotel restaurant. They sat down and looked over the menu. Ruth smiled as Matthew discussed his dinner choices with Bert. She could tell that he was accustomed to eating in nice restaurants. Ruth listened to Matthew talking about the dolphin show and the colorful tropical fish over dinner.

Ruth kissed Bert goodbye before he left the hotel with Matthew. Not a peck on the cheek or a friendly kiss, either. The intensity and length of the kiss pleasantly surprised him.

"See you tomorrow," Ruth cooed.

Bert smiled. "I'll be here at eight."

Bert took Matthew home and went to bed. He thought about the hug and the kiss and hoped that this was going to be more than a friendly visit before he fell asleep.

The next morning, Bert picked up Ruth at the hotel. Ruth was quiet, looking out the window as Bert drove to Washington D.C. He parked at Greenbelt and they took the Metro to the mall. Soon after they came out of the station onto the mall, Ruth put her arms around Bert's shoulders, and kissed him.

"Thank you for inviting me on this trip, Bert."

He grinned. "You're welcome, Ruth."

They walked over to the tour mobile stop and bought tickets. They rode around once and saw everything. On the second trip around D.C., they got off the bus and spent some time at the Lincoln Memorial and the Museum of Natural History. Bert enjoyed that Ruth held his arm as they walked through the museum. They ate a late lunch at the museum cafeteria and spent an hour at the Museum of American History next door, when Ruth sat down on one of the benches.

"I'm not used to so much walking, Bert. Can we call it a day?"

Bert sat down next to Ruth. "Sure. I'm tired too. Let's rest a while, and we'll walk over to the Navy Memorial station."

"How far is that?"

"About three blocks."

Ruth grabbed Bert's arm and leaned her head on his shoulder while they sat and rested. They walked to the Navy Memorial Metro station and rode back out to Greenbelt. They were quiet on the drive back to the hotel.

Ruth opened the door to her room, went in, and collapsed on the bed. Bert closed the door and sat down on the side of the bed. She took his hand in hers.

"Thank you for a lovely day. Washington is a wonderful place to visit."

"You're welcome. We can see more tomorrow."

Ruth laughed. "I think another day like today would kill me."

"Ok, we'll do something more restful. We can take a Baltimore harbor cruise."

Ruth pulled Bert down on the bed next to her. "That sounds lovely." Tears welled up in her eyes.

Bert put his hand on her cheek. "What's wrong, Ruth?"

She looked helplessly at him through her tears. "Hold me, Bert."

Bert took Ruth into his arms and held her as she sobbed. He rubbed the back of her head to comfort her until she stopped crying and looked up at him.

"I'm sorry, Bert."

"What's wrong, Ruth?"

She almost started crying again, hearing the concern in Bert's voice, but fought back the tears and brushed her palm against his cheek. "Nothing's wrong. You have no idea how many years I've prayed for this. I'm so happy to be in your arms again." She put her hand behind his head and pulled his lips to hers. "Kiss me."

He kissed her and held her quietly in his arms. He'd hoped that her visit might be more than just visiting a friend, but he never imagined that she would feel this deeply about him after all these years apart.

Ruth looked into his eyes. "I guess you think I'm being silly."

Bert brushed the hair from her eyes. "Not at all. Although, I'd like to talk about what you said."

She looked away shyly. "You mean, about how much I wanted to see you again."

Bert grinned. "Yes."

She hugged him as tightly as she could. "Bert, I'm so sorry that I said no when you asked me to marry you. If I had any idea how my life would turn out, I would have said yes." She was silent for a moment. "I should have said yes."

Now it was Bert's turn to be silent. He hoped she'd be excited to see him again, but he was stunned by her words. He remembered how much it hurt when she'd turned him down, even though she tried to make the rejection as soft as she possibly could.

He brushed her cheek with his palm. "Why did you say no?"

Ruth sighed. "I was young; I didn't have much self-esteem. I was afraid you would get tired of me and fall out of love with me."

Bert was surprised. He felt a surge of anger, but he silently counted to ten and calmed himself. It happened too many years ago to get angry now. "What? That's why you didn't marry me? You didn't even give me a chance."

Ruth grabbed his arm and looked into his eyes. "I'm so sorry I turned you down. I know how much I hurt you when I rejected you."

He kissed her on the forehead. "It was a long time ago. I loved you and I wanted to take care of you and be with you; and yes, it hurt me a lot when you said no."

Ruth pulled his arm into her chest. "I'm sure it did. If you only knew how much it hurt me."

Bert looked into her eyes. "How much did it hurt?"

Ruth sighed. "I've never told anyone this before. I never thought I could trust anyone that much." She snuggled up to him. "When I was a young girl, I was shy. I didn't have many friends. Most everyone in school ignored me because of the epilepsy. I thought high school might be different, but it wasn't. It was worse. After my breasts developed, the girls hated me and the boys wouldn't leave me alone. By the time I got to college, I was sure that guys only wanted one thing from me, and I hated them for it."

"I met a couple of sweet girls in my dorm, and we became good friends. They helped me overcome my shyness and to not hate men so much. Linda talked about you, and introduced us. After I got to know you, I could tell you were different." Tears formed in Ruth's eyes. "You were the first man that really wanted to know me. Not just my breasts, but me."

Bert's face reddened. "Well, I wanted your breasts, too."

She smiled. "Yes Bert, you did." She sat up on the bed, took off her shirt and bra, and lay down. She took Bert's hand, pulled it over her, and put it on her right breast. While he fondled, she continued. "I remember how much you wanted to take my blouse off, but whenever you touched me, all my bad experiences would flood into my mind and aggravate me." She sighed. "You were so patient and understanding with me when I would snap at you. Mmm, it feels so nice the way you rub my skin and nipple."

Bert smiled.

Ruth squirmed. "After I turned you down I thought I would have other wonderful relationships. Boy, was I wrong. After I moved to Irving, the men that wanted to date me were losers or users. By the time I turned thirty, I decided I wanted to reconnect with the one man who loved me."

"And who would that be?" Bert whispered.

She poked Bert hard in his ribs. "I called your parents' house, but the number was disconnected. My father hired a private detective. He traced your addresses in Houston, New Orleans and Picayune but after looking for a few months couldn't trace you any further."

Bert pulled Ruth's back against his chest. "Wow, a private dick. I'm impressed. Hmm, I guess you called about a year after my mother died. My father moved in with my sister in Picayune, Mississippi. I was married to Patricia and living in Richmond, Virginia."

Ruth snuggled into him. "I saw a blurb about you and Patricia in the alumni news a couple of years later. I think it was Matthew's birth announcement. I was happy for you, but cried for myself. I threw myself into teaching. Oh, I'd date every once in a while, but nothing ever developed."

"I was so shocked when your letter arrived in the mail last fall. I'd long given up hope of meeting someone as nice and sweet as you. That letter sat on the end table for a week before I had the courage to open it. I was afraid my dreams would be dashed forever. I was sorry to read about Patricia's death, but I was happy to read about your life and write to you about mine. Hearing your voice on the phone brought back so many great memories of our time together. When you invited me to visit I knew that my prayers had been answered."

Bert lay quiet in thought. Ruth enjoyed feeling the warmth of his chest against her back and his hand resting on her breast. After a long while she asked, "Bert, why are you so quiet?"

"I've been thinking about what you shared with me," Bert said quietly. "I've been feeling sorry for you. You deserved a much happier life."

Ruth kissed his hand and put it back on her breast. "Don't be sorry. I've had a pretty good life. I enjoy teaching and I hope I made a difference in a few of my students' lives. Mmm, I love how it feels when you rub my nipple."

Bert caressed Ruth's breast gently. He enjoyed watching her squirm and felt glad to make her smile. Soon, she rolled over and kissed him. He liked how it felt when her breasts pressed against his chest. She started to unbutton his shirt when he pulled her hand away.

"What's wrong, Bert? Don't you want to get more comfortable?"

He felt torn. After what she'd said, sex felt wrong. "Ruth, I care about you and what happens to you. You've had months to think through your feelings, but I'm still working through mine. Yes, I'd hoped we could be more than friends, but now I need some time to think. Maybe I should be going now."

She put her fingers on his cheek. "Oh. I'm sorry; I guess you're right. I understand." She sat up on the bed and kissed him goodbye. She shed a tear as she heard the door shut. "Damn," she thought, "Just this once I wish he wasn't so sweet. I really needed to be intimate with the only man that's ever loved me."

She took a long bath, got dressed, and had a quiet dinner in her room. She prayed that she hadn't driven Bert away and that God would bring them together.

The buildings and streets whizzed by without notice as Bert drove home. Ruth really surprised him this time. It was obvious that she was deeply, madly in love with him. Could he love someone he spent so much time getting over? Could he love her again?

Bert had dinner with Matthew. Listening to Matthew talk about his day was just the diversion Bert needed. After dinner, he cleaned up a little and caught up on some computer work. He went to bed at his normal time, but couldn't fall asleep. After rolling around in frustration for a couple of hours, he got up and sat in the dark living room, thinking about what Ruth had said.

Bert woke up, startled. He was still lounging in his recliner. He got up, stretched, and got ready to see Ruth. He drove over to the hotel and parked in the garage. He picked up Ruth in the lobby, and they walked over to the inner harbor. The harbor cruise wouldn't leave for another couple of hours, so they visited the aquarium together. Ruth held his arm as they saw the tropical fish and rain forest.

She sat next to Bert and leaned on his shoulder as they cruised around the harbor. After the cruise, they had a late lunch and returned to the hotel. Ruth sat down on the bed and Bert sat next to her.

Ruth kissed Bert on the cheek. "Thank you for a lovely day."

Bert put his arm around Ruth's shoulder. "You're welcome."

"Have you sorted out your feelings about us yet?" she asked as she leaned against Bert's arm.

He laughed. "Anxious, aren't you?" His tone turned serious. "Yes, I've sorted out my feelings. I love you, Ruth."

"I love you, Bert," she whispered as she kissed him.

Bert sighed. "So what do we do? I work in Washington D.C. and you work in Irving, Texas. I'm sure Matthew doesn't want to move. He just lost his mother a couple of years ago; it would hurt him to lose his friends as well."

Ruth was quiet for a while before she answered. "What if I move to Edgewood to be with you? I can teach in Maryland just as easily as Texas."

"What about your family? Wouldn't you miss them?"

"Yes Bert, I wouldn't get to see my parents and sister as often. But we can still fly to Dallas occasionally to see them."

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