Tom played on the North Down Cricket Team, and he invited Casey and Sam to the game in Belfast on a Saturday afternoon in late April. There was no rain, so Casey spread a blanket on the grass with the other spectators. Tom loved seeing her there, looking over often enough that a few of his mates felt it necessary to remind him to play cricket. They were jovial about it, since he managed to score a respectable amount.
He kept looking because she was the perfect picture of a fashionable lady. Her beige skirt and white blouse were exactly right for a sunny afternoon, and the wide hat she wore hid her short hair. She had a parasol, but had deemed it superfluous with the hat, and besides, holding it kept her from clapping whenever he made a hit.
His friends approved of her. He hoped she would find a friend or two among the women. George’s wife, Susan, had promised to make Casey a special project of hers. Tom noticed when Susan arrived and sat next to Casey, who began playing with Susan’s five month old son. He liked seeing her laughing and chatting with the women. He wanted her to feel as if she belonged. He wanted her to say ‘yes’ when he asked her to marry him.
He had called his mother before leaving work, to let her know he wouldn’t be over this weekend. Somehow, it had not occurred to him that he’d done the same thing the week before, and the week before that, and just possibly, the week before that. His mother, of course, remembered this, and she had never spoken to him in such an exasperated tone.
“Dear, perhaps it’s not a good idea to pursue the girl with such dedication. There is something to be said for suspense, you know.”
He trusted her advice, as always. So, touching the ring in his pocket, he considered her words for a moment before answering. “I can’t play games with her, Mother. If I came to Ardara and didn’t see her, I’d be miserable. I just want to be with her. It’s not like I get to see her very much, you know.”
“I understand she has been attending church with you in Belfast,” she replied. “Is she willing to attend with us in Comber? She and Dr. Altair are, of course, welcome for the weekend.”
“I know that Casey would be delighted,” Tom said. This was, perhaps, a bit strong, but anyway, he knew she would go. Nervous, he plunged ahead. “Mother, I am in love with Casey. I want to marry her and I want to ask her as soon as possible. Will you and Father give your blessing? I know you have concerns, but I’m asking you to trust me on this. She is trying to meet your conditions, in spirit as well as practice. Please welcome her into the family.”
He was surprised at her answer. “Tommy,” with a sigh, “Your father and I have already discussed this, and we both agree that we have no real right to interfere in your decision. You’re a grown man, and a good one. We have nothing but pride and love for you, and we want you to be happy.”
She was quiet for a moment. “You’re right, we still have concerns. But we know she is trying, and we have agreed that if this is really what you want, and if Casey will be your wife, then she will be our daughter.”
After the game, Tom, Casey, and Sam strolled the market for food to take home for dinner. Now with the meal cooking, they settled in the parlor, Sam and Tom in chairs and Casey on the window seat, catching the late afternoon sun.
“So, what do you miss the most about the twenty-first century?” Tom asked them. He liked to ask things like this; he never got tired of hearing about the future.
“Miss the most?” Sam repeated, giving it some thought. “Television, I think.”
“Television!” Casey was appalled. “How can you miss T.V.?”
“Oh, are you one of those snobs who never watched?”
She lifted her eyes heavenward and shrugged. “I suppose. I was a busy person. I didn’t have time to watch.”
Sam nodded in understanding while Tom looked on in amusement. He had no idea what they were talking about, but they’d get around to explaining. “It’s not so much that I miss what was on the telly,” Sam explained, “it’s the idea that I could watch something if I wanted to. That’s what I miss.”
“Oh.” Casey thought about it. “I can see that, sure.”
She was outlined in the sun; her hair seemed aflame. Tom smiled at her, enjoying the pleasure he got from looking at her. “And what do you miss the most about the twenty-first century, dear?”
Her glance returned to the window and her expression was melancholy. “My mother,” she said.
Sam folded his hands and looked at the ceiling. Tom got up and went to sit by her on the window seat, cupping her face in his hands and kissing her forehead. “Sweetheart, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make you sad.”
She smiled a little. “I wish she could meet you.”
“Ah, I wish that too, lass.” He tilted his head, eyes crinkled with curiosity. “Would she approve? And your father?”
Her smile widened. “Oh yes. I think if they could meet you, they would not be worried about me at all.” She turned her face to kiss his palm, her expression thoughtful. “It’s silly, maybe, to miss her like this. After all, she lived in Berkeley and I lived in Belfast. But we used to talk all the time, almost every day.”
This kind of statement always gave Tom the shivers. What kind of technology was it, that allowed a mother and daughter to talk every day between Berkeley, California and Belfast, Ireland?
Casey gave a little laugh. “She had this uncanny knack for calling me just as I sat down at a pub to do some serious drinking with my friends. It never failed that my phone would ring within ten minutes of sitting down.” Her voice changed as she mimicked the call. “’Hi, Mom.’ ‘Hello, Sweetie. How are you? What are you doing?’ ‘Getting drunk, Mom. So, what are you doing?’“
They both laughed, and Casey looked at Tom in embarrassment. “You must think I’m awful, going out and drinking at pubs.”
He touched her hair, his expression serious. “You and I have had quite different upbringings, even not accounting for the time difference,” he said. “My mother was firm that none of us ever drink alcohol, and none of us does to this day. Alcoholism is such a problem in this country that I could never fault her for her insistence. But according to your society you weren’t doing anything wrong. It comforts me that you weren’t doing anything your parents weren’t aware of.” His fingers caressed her cheek. “I know you well enough to know how good you are. I think you’re…young.” He shrugged. “Maybe I never drank, but I did not always make excellent choices either, when I was your age.”
“I never got very drunk, you know,” she clarified, patting her stomach. “I can’t hold enough beer.”
He gave a little laugh and hugged her, more content than he had ever felt in his life. When Sam cleared his throat they broke the embrace, but didn’t move more than a few inches apart.
Sam just grinned and went into the kitchen to get dinner.
Tom stood and pulled Casey to her feet. “Come walk in the yard with me.”
She wrapped her fingers through his and led him through the house to the back door. It had been a warm spring day, but with the fading light, a breeze had come up. Tom slipped his jacket off, to help her into it. The yard had submitted to Casey’s ministrations and the grass was thick, with early plants beginning to rise along the border. Ash trees were spreading with leaves and some birds had built a nest. Tom smiled when he saw it, considering that a good sign.
It was a small yard and they soon traversed it, even though they strolled. They paused next to the hedges in back, to admire an early and brave rhododendron Casey spied within the branches. Rather, Casey admired the flower while Tom admired her, hands in his pockets, fingers caressing the ring he had there. He smiled steadily at her until she turned with a laugh. “There are other nice things to look at, sir.”
He tilted his head. “I’ll be the judge of that, Miss.” He reached into the hedge and plucked the flower, bringing it out and cupping it in his hands. Its red was almost black in the gathering twilight and he presented it to her, keeping the stem covered by his fingers.
“For you, my flower,” he whispered.
She didn’t take it right away. Instead, she reached to cup his face in her hands, her lips meeting his in a tender and languorous kiss. Not wanting to crush the flower, he could only stand there and return her kiss, shivering under her lips. He felt as if a wave of love had crashed over him, and he would gladly drown in it.
She pulled away, her expression dreamy, her hands a feather-light stroke on his face. She laughed a little as she remembered the flower and she took it in both hands, with a slight, teasing curtsey. He couldn’t speak, just watched her pleased smile change to astonishment as her fingers found the ring he had slipped around the stem, the diamond sparkling in the light from the house. As her eyes went back to his face, he took both her hands, enclosing the flower and ring, in his hands.
“I love you, Casey. I need you for all my life. Please Casey, will you marry me?”
His heart overflowed with joy as she nodded. He would forever hear her answer, “Oh yes. Yes, Tom,” and forever remember the look on her face. He slipped the ring onto her finger, joyful, nervous and excited all at once. He had no doubts at all.