A Loving Moment
By Richard Mabey Jr.
While this is a true story, I’m not 100% sure if all of the dialogue is exactly how it was spoken. But it is written as best as I honestly can remember. The core essence of this story is based upon truth.
In mid June of 1971, I graduated from Boonton High School and began working a full-time summer job at Bradlees Department Store in Wayne, New Jersey. I worked from nine in the morning till five in the afternoon, in the Men’s Wear Department.
I was blessed to have a lot of great coworkers. One of my coworkers was Betsy, who worked in the Boys’ Wear Department. Betsy was a kind person and from time to time we would have lunch together at the snack bar in the back of the store.
I remember one morning we made plans to have lunch together later that day. Betsy was a great work buddy.
To my surprise, mid-morning that very day, my girlfriend Penny came to see me at Bradlees. I was so very glad to see her. She told me that she took the public service bus from Paterson to surprise me.
There was a Friendly’s Restaurant in the very same shopping center, just a few stores down from Bradlees. Penny asked me if we could have lunch there, when I got my lunch break. I remember smiling as I answered her with a great big YES!
Then it dawned on me, just seconds after I said yes, that I had made plans to have lunch with my coworker Betsy. Betsy and I were just coworker friends; beginning, middle and end, nothing more and nothing less.
Well, I told Penny that I wanted her to meet one of my coworkers. So, Penny and I walked over to Boys’ Wear where Betsy was putting up some boys’ shirts on hangers. The introductions went smooth as glass. I introduced Penny as being my wonderful girlfriend and I introduced Betsy as being my helpful coworker.
I remember telling Betsy how surprised I was that Penny came to see me at work. I then told Betsy that Penny and I were going to have lunch at Friendly’s. I think Betsy understood, but I got the feeling she was a little disappointed that I was breaking our coworker lunch plans for the store’s snack bar.
Well, high noon came around and Penny and I walked out of Bradlees and began walking over to Friendly’s. I don’t think we took three steps from the door of the store, when Penny said to me, “she likes you, you know.”
“Oh no,” I remember saying to Penny. “We’re just coworkers.”
“NO Richard, she likes you,” Penny emphatically told me. “And, she’s pretty! Do you think she’s prettier than me?”
I have to confess that this may sound unkind, but inside I was overwhelmed with joy that Penny was jealous. It was a sign to me that Penny really did like me a lot.
“Oh, Penny, don’t be silly. Of course I think you’re prettier,” I remember saying to Penny as I opened the door to Friendly’s.
“She likes you, Richard. And, I don’t like her,” Penny declaratively told me as we walked to a booth.
“Penny, please don’t be that way,” I remember saying to Penny as we both sat down, across from each other.
Well, Penny and I had lunch together. I have to confess that it wasn’t the most easy-going lunch that Penny and I had ever had together. I used to get an hour for lunch, so we had plenty of time.
“I’ll walk to the bus station from here,” Penny said with a hint of anger in her voice.
I remember this moment as clear as the crack in the Liberty Bell. I looked Penny square in the eye. I don’t know where I got the courage to tell Penny this. I know one thing, it came from the core center of my heart.
“Look Penny, I love you so much it hurts. I think about you all the time. Betsy’s a coworker. You can’t imagine how much you mean to me,” I gently said to Penny.
Penny was silent. Every second seemed like an hour. I remember Penny looked down at her plate. She began gently crying. I remember how she took her paper napkin and dried her eyes. I’ve reflected upon that moment at least a thousand and one times. For I knew in that moment in time, Penny really did care about me. And, the good Lord knew, I loved her.
I remember a few seconds passed. Penny was gently quiet. Penny told me that she’d be right back and she walked to the Ladies’ Room. I got the money ready for the check. As I waited for Penny to come out of the Ladies’ Room, I held back my own tears. In a few minutes Penny came back to our booth.
“Ready to go?” Penny asked.
“Yea, ready to go,” I replied as I left a tip on our table.
Penny and I walked to the front of the restaurant. I paid the bill. Then we walked out the front door. We took a few steps toward a bench that was there on the way back to Bradlees.
We held hands as we walked. Penny stopped. In a very quiet voice, Penny said to me, “I love you. Damn you Richard, you better be true to me.”
“I will. I promise,” I gently said to Penny.
We hugged right there in the shopping center in broad daylight. Penny started crying again. It was more like sobbing this time. I cried.
“Damn you Richard, be true,” Penny whispered in my ear.
“I will, Penny, I promise I will,” I whispered back into Penny’s ear.
We let go of each other. I looked at Penny. I wiped her tears off her cheeks with my clean handkerchief.
“I gotta get to work,” I remember telling Penny.
“I gotta bus to catch,” Penny said to me.
We walked together to the front door of Bradlees, holding hands.
“Call me tonight,” Penny said to me as she let go of my hand.
“I will,” I replied.
My heart pounded as I watched Penny walk across the parking lot to the bus stop at the corner of Route 23 and Ratzer Road.
I did remain true to Penny the entire time we dated. Ten thousand times, I’ve wondered what happened. Ten thousand times, I’ve wondered over the years, why we broke up. I’ll never really know. We were young. It’s just life, I guess.
Penny’s in Heaven now. I mourn for her. Even though the romantic feelings had evaporated, there was a comfort knowing that she looked up at the same star-studded night sky. For she remained a true friend. And now, I simply mourn her passing.
Peace and harmony,