Dear Gentle Readers:
I've had several questions about the short story "The Christmas Interloper", and now I'd like to answer them for you.
The story is non-fiction. "Emma" is, indeed, Belinda (me!), and it happens to have a very happy ending. For both your reading enjoyment and entertainment, I provide for you "the rest of the story"...taken from an email recently sent to family and friends of the bride-to-be.
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Dear Family & Friends,
As I sit writing this email, I am also planning my wedding which will take place on June 26, 2010. Yes, it has all happened rather unexpectedly and suddenly. While we plan for a new life together, we also have established a time of reflection, prayer, and courtship so that we may confirm that this is the right path for our respective and joint lives at this time.
I am actually marrying my high school sweetheart. Teddy Ashcraft and I met and dated when I was 16 and he was 20. He was in the military at that time and we met at the Baptist church we both attended in Killeen, Texas. Being a mere 16 years old, my parents had to "inspect and approve" of him dating their young daughter. But he passed the Alice and B.T. test, and we dated for about a year -- as I remember it. During my senior year, he was transferred to Alaska and I subsequently graduated from high school. While he wanted to marry me at that time, I told him I needed to go to college, and so I did.
As Paul Harvey says, "the rest of the story" you already know. I met and married my college sweetheart, Tim. We were happily married for almost 25 years when cancer struck and took his life. Next month, in fact, will be the 5-year anniversary of his death. That doesn't seem possible, but time has a way of marching on -- with or without you.
Just prior to the Christmas holidays, I had a dream about Teddy. He and I were in my parents' living room. We were all sitting there talking. Mom and Dad looked healthy and happy -- probably the best part of the dream. Then all of a sudden, they were gone and I was left alone. A feeling of uneasiness came upon me. I was, in fact, quite frightened. Remembering Teddy was somewhere close, I called out for him and he came to me. Somehow, I felt better after that. But the dream stopped and I awoke.
The next morning was Saturday, and not having much else to do, I did some online research. I found him! I knew he'd been married, but was not certain of his current marital status. Further research revealed an obituary of his Dad's that did not mention a wife for Teddy as one of the survivors. It did list his brother and HIS wife as survivors. Aren't I quite clever?!? More research, a phone number, a possible address...and I called him that evening after much debate on the propriety of the act. Since that time I've been assured that the rules have changed and that women may call men. After all, this is the second decade of the 21st century. I left dating and dating protocol in the late 1970s, so who would have known?
In a fast-forward moment, we talked on that Saturday night and on subsequent occasions for hours at a time. It was fun catching up on a lifetime that happened over 36 years ago. I discovered he'd been divorced after a marriage of 13 years that can only be described as quite unhappy. There were no children from that marriage -- a definite plus in the marital consideration process.
We agreed that he'd come for New Year's Eve and we'd go to dinner. Indeed, he came, we went out, we fell in love (again!) that week, and by the end of the time we'd spent together, he asked me to marry him. Since I've completed all the college I want or need, and after much thought and prayer, I said "yes".
Teddy lives in Clarendon, an hour southeast of Amarillo. He has a brother there, but other than that, there is no other family. Since he is somewhat retired and I need to continue working, he will move here and live in Fort Worth with me. He has attended my church and likes it. He plans on attending, and perhaps joining. Domino, my little Chihuahua, adores him. I have to remind Domino that he is MY dog, but he has taken a great liking to Teddy. I've learned that dogs are a good judge of character. For professional reasons, and the fact that I've been Belinda Scholl for almost 30 years, I will retain my married name. It's a hassle to do all the necessary paperwork that involves changing one's name. We want simple at this time in our lives and keeping my name fits with that philosophy.
The wedding itself will also be simple. There will be no formal invitations, so just come. It will be held at Christ United Methodist Church at 3301 Sycamore School Road, Fort worth, 76123 in southwest Fort Worth on June 26. The phone number is 817.346.2400. The exact time has yet to be decided, but I will keep you posted. This is where I'm a member and have been serving as pianist since September of 2007. After the brief ceremony, we'll have a simple reception to greet our guests, and then be off on our new life together. We hope you will be able to come!
In conclusion, I will say that I never expected this to happen. I really wasn't "looking" or hoping for anything in particular when I called Teddy. It was more or less of a whim. I almost didn't call him! I also never expected to have another husband -- especially one who would love me so unreservedly and whole-heartedly. I never dared to ask God for that since I'd already had such a marriage. To have found such favor with God that He has given me -- truly, given us -- another opportunity for marriage is more than I could have ever conceived.
We ask you to share in our joy and happiness and that you support us with your good thoughts & prayers. We also hope to see you June 26 in Fort Worth, but if that is not possible, we know you will be us in spirit and love.
Teddy & Belinda