I hadn’t arrived home from New York very long before my cousin wanted to set me up with her roommate. I was very shy, and dating was hard for me. But my cousin was one of my best friends, and I trusted her a lot, so I accepted.

When I met Natalie, I had to admit that she was beautiful. Her personality was magnetic and fun. But still, there was something that bothered me about her, and I just couldn’t put my finger on it.

We went to a movie and then we went out for ice-cream. I was smitten by how pretty she was, and yet, something kept nagging at me. It was kind of like the first time I saw a copy of the Mona Lisa. Something was there that I wasn’t sure about; something familiar but distant.

While we were eating our ice-cream, we started talking about where we were from. When I mentioned I was from St. Anthony, her excitement was unbounded.

“I know somebody from St. Anthony!” When she mentioned that she had gone out with one of my best friends, Bob, suddenly the lights came on for me. She was the beautiful girl that had been Bob’s girlfriend all through high school. I had never personally met her before, but more than once he had shown us her picture, which he kept tucked away in his wallet.

The picture was etched deep into my memory. In the picture, Natalie was smiling a gorgeous smile while dressed in the track uniform of her school. Every time someone had asked Bob about his girlfriend, he had whipped it out and shown it proudly. Now here I was on a date with her, my friend’s girlfriend, or ex-girlfriend, or something. Suddenly I felt very uncomfortable.

She talked about what a great guy Bob was. I agreed with her, and felt even more uncomfortable, wondering if they were still dating. Still, if it hadn’t been for the discomfort I felt, it probably would have been a perfect evening.

When my cousin asked me about a second date with Natalie, I tried to decline. “But it might hurt her feelings,” she told me. I still didn’t say yes or no, but I put off answering for as long as I could while I figured out what to do.

As luck would have it, I ran into Bob. “Hey, Bob. Guess who I met? I met your old high school girlfriend.”

Bob seemed mortified by this. But what surprised me even more was how he acted when I told him my cousin had set me up on a date with her. “Isn’t that weird?” I asked.

Bob’s response was far different than I expected. He encouraged me to continue to date her.

“But I think she still likes you,” I said. “I mean, you two were boyfriend and girlfriend for what, five years?”

Bob’s responses were vague and more confusing than ever. But he assured me that there was no way he could or would date her, and would be happy to have me do so. With his insistence, I went out with Natalie a couple more times, but still, I couldn’t get past the fact that she had been Bob’s girlfriend for about five years. It just didn’t seem right to date her.

Years went by. Bob and I each married and had families of our own. Then, one day, when we got together and were visiting about old times, I mentioned Natalie. Bob grinned and told me more of the story. “She really wasn’t my girlfriend all of those years like you thought. I grew tired of people asking me if I had a girlfriend, so I found a pretty girl at the track meet we attended, and took her picture. I kept it in my wallet and claimed she was the one. I was really freaked out when I was actually set up on a blind date with her.”

I laughed. “And I could never get past the fact that she was your girlfriend. It’s funny the strange curves life throws at us.”

Then Bob looked over at each of our two wonderful wives who were visiting with each other. “Yeah, but it all seemed to work out for the best in the end.”

 

Daris Howard, award-winning, syndicated columnist, playwright, and author, can be contacted at [email protected]“>[email protected]; or visit his website