A Lifetime Supply of Mustard
Nearly a decade ago the office consisted of an old dusty desk, three rattling computers, two for Jason and one for his two employees to share, the computers maxed out with the best software on expanded hard drives. Their best piece had been their scanner, now long retired, but top of the line and taking up a good portion of their precious desk space.
"Too much mayonnaise," she said and walked over, took
the sandwich and tossed it in the garbage.
'We need to talk."
"It seems that enough has been said."
"Too much," he agreed and stepped toward her only for
her to retreat. "You let Kendra go."
She clasped her hands in front of her, squared her shoulders,
a look of defiance in her eyes, "I don't need an employee that's going
to run around laughing at me with every delivery."
No, he thought, and she hadn't needed a boyfriend that
had been an extension of such betrayal. How many times had Kendra been
in his office, before and while he was seeing Susie, telling about all
the quirky things her boss had done? How many times had he laughed,
tuned it out, sat blindly in the middle of the whole thing?
It had all led down to last week when Susie had accompanied
him to a benefit that his company had helped to sponsor. Maybe he'd
questioned her more then once, suspiciously, about what she would wear,
translating in her mind that he was a little embarrassed by her in some
way. She had noticed him watching her eat, had cringed enough for her
to see when she slipped the pineapple off her chicken, when pineapple
in mustard was one of her favorites . . . mustard with everything.
She hadn't done anything out of the ordinary in the presence
of the town elite and his business associates and potential clients,
not to his surprise, necessarily, but to his relief-a relief she'd obviously
noticed. She'd worn a somewhat reserved silver gown and had gone to
the expense, one he knew would tear at her pocketbook, to have her hair
and nails professionally done.
And then when tears threatened, she'd risen from the table
as other guests stood to move toward the dance floor, and tugged him
discreetly to the door where she'd asked for a cab and said goodbye
with tears running down her cheeks. He'd been alarmed, a little angry,
and had missed the hurt, the plea in her eyes.
Was it too late, now, to make amends?
"You've made it clear how you feel about me, Jason," her
voice was soft, her eyes downcast.
"Actions usually speak louder the words, but this time,
words were just as strong," she looked up then, tears running down her
cheeks. "You expect me to be some sort of fool, some type of embarrassment.
I didn't think it bothered you, and then I saw it did-"
"No, Susie, bothered isn't-"
"You never stood up for me. I thought you might be a little
in love with me, care a little, just a little, about me, and there your
were laughing behind my back. I was some joke the whole time. Some cruel,
cruel joke to you. I don't even known why you bothered, why you kept
coming back, taunting me with . . . even when you knew who I was, knew
where I came from. Even when you snubbed me."
She turned away, wrapping her arms around herself, defensively,
protectively. He watched as her hands rubber her arms. She shivered
a bit, cold. He wanted to reach out and sooth, protect, warm her.
She'd cared for him so, giving smiles and hugs freely,
leaving his paper messages in his lunch bag, writing the same message
over and over on his sandwich . . .
MADE 4 ME . . . .
Making her own sandwich to say WERE YOU . . . or YOU WERE.
You were made for me. The words twisted together in his
heart. Had she really felt that? And had he damaged such faith, such
trust? She hadn't been able to give him both sandwiches and he'd missed
it-missed out on the full extent of the heart placed behind his daily,
very redundant, sandwich.
But he had hope, he thought, this time reaching for her,
holding onto her shoulders when she tried to step away.
"You never supported me. You didn't defend me."
"No," he said, turning her, watching her eyes look up
at him, "I never let myself believe that you were so important to me.
I didn't notice how all the gossip and the laughter affected me."
"You think I'm weird."
"No," he denied vehemently, pulling her closer, wrapping his arms around her, "Quirky, maybe, but that's not a bad thing. It isn't," he insisted, tightening his hold. Her back was ridged, the look in her eyes still accusing and skeptical,
"I promise, but it will take a little time for me to explain.
Can you give me some?"
She was doubtful, and he didn't fault her for being so,
but lifted a heartfelt praise to God when she nodded, a little numbly,
her permission. He dropped a kiss on her forehead, letting his lips
linger over the soft skin for a grateful moment, warming him, hopefully
She said little, crossed her arms across her chest, and waited. It was still hard to talk around the knot in her throat, still difficult to understand why he had pursued her when he thought so little of her. She refused to blame herself, or her mother for having to grow up in difficult circumstances. Each of the oddities he saw, she'd learned to view as blessings. Winning a lifetime supply of mayonnaise and mustard was like the widow's jars Elijah filled. They sold some of it off, gave plenty away, and still were inundated with mustard. God blessed her by giving her a liking for
the stuff, so it was hard to fault Him.
They stopped at the top of the stairs at an old metal
door. He took out a key from his pocket and slipped it into the old
metal lock. He jiggled it just a bit in the slot, tugged the door, sending
a rippling echoes of metal against metal down the stair well, and finally
pried the door open.
Her hair lifted in the night air as Jason led her onto
the roof of his ten story apartment building. She took a deep breath
of the cool evening air and readjusted the old army jacket around her
shoulders. Underneath she wore her prettiest dress, a loose fitting
sundress of splotchy green leaves, yellow and electric blue flowers
on a candle-flame white background.
"This is it."
She looked around, finally resting her gaze on his. It
was so hard to read him, to understand him, "What?"
"Hopefully where you and I can finally meet," he reached
out his hand, and watched as she considered it for a moment before unwrapping
her arms from around her and placing her hand in his. He led her to
the edge to look down at the city below.
"I moved here after college, started a business, in a
new town, with new business associates. I knew so few people. At night,
when the city would grow dark, I would come out on the roof and watch
it come alive. You can see it's other side, what you don't see in the
day. You can watch it dance, here it's subtle movement as it slowly
moves to rest. It never sleeps."
"I liked to come out here and stand under the door frame
and watch the rain fall. Relax in the sound, in the rebirth, the coolness
of it. I would stand there, up here, and pray, just talking to God about
anything and everything, not just during the rain, but all the time.
It was just that, when it was raining, it was like everything but God
was locked out of my vision, as if this curtain had been dropped down
to surround us."
He laughed when he saw the look on her face. Definitely
perplexity, more than a little skepticism. "My first year, I just .
. ." he looked out into the city, his dark brown eyes searching for
what he had seen then, "I was different, but so in tune with where I
wanted to go, what I needed to do, where I thought God wanted me. I
tried everything to find the advertisement focus that my company needed.
Riddles, songs. There was always something new and odd popping out of
my head. When bagged our first big client, when we saw his profits soar,
my small staff threw a party. And they gave me this."
He released Susie's hand and reached in the pocket of
his leather coat and pulled out a plaque, handing it to her. She tilted
it to catch the light that lined the rooftop.
"To the quirkiest man alive," she frowned over the words,
but made herself read the rest of the inscription, inscribed underneath,
in smaller print, "A boss that runs after the odd and finds gold, pushes
past the everyday to find brilliancy."
She looked up at Jason, for the first time seeing past
the mask she had always seen, to the expression of need.
"You do fit into my world," he said gently, turning her
to face him. "Don't you see what I'm trying to tell you, Susie? It's
who you are, who God created you to be, that's attracted me to you.
Your vibrancy, the color your bring into my life, the faith, and the
reminder that the best things in life don't have to demand the public's
He closed his eyes slowly, and dropped a kiss on her forehead,
gently reminding her of how precious she was to him, "You, were indeed,
made for me," he said, drawing back so he could see the look in her
eyes, a look he would cherish for the rest of his life, "Designed for
me. Forgive me?"
Unable to say the words she would have said if she'd even
known what they were, Susie leaped toward him, throwing her arms around
him and holding on to her gift, her man. She smiled against the warmth
of his leather coat, then looked out into the city, where this quirky
man, her quirky man, had begun building his dreams long ago, where God
had led them both.
Two months later, during an hour long ride on a carousel
that Jason had paid for in advance, with children and couples getting
on and off at every stop, and a beaming teenage attendant watching the
entire time, Jason asked Susie to marry him. With the high pitched sound
of the music of dancing horses and laughing children surrounding them,
and colors bright as a rainbow swirling and framing the moment, what
else could she say, but "yes" with butter, and some sugar, on top.