My twin brother Bobby—I’m Barbara—grinned and said, "I'll leave you and Ian alone. I'm going to see if there's enough ice in the coolers." Bobby scurried off toward the picnic-table shelter. My family and friends were celebrating my parents' wedding anniversary at the county park on a gloriously bright, sunny, Saturday afternoon—Michael and Kathleen Dolan, married fifty years.
I turned toward Ian, the tall, handsome hunk
"Bobby knows the coolers are full of ice," I said to Ian. "I saw him take care of the ice myself. This is a setup. You know that, don't you?"
Ian smiled at me. Dark hair, bright blue eyes, mega-watt smile—he hadn't changed since I last saw him maybe ten years ago. Like always, the sight of him nearly took my breath away.
"I don't mind us being left alone," Ian said. "I've been thinking about you, Barbara."
"About me?" I blushed and nearly fell backward against the tree.
"When I called Bobby and said I was back in town, he invited me to your folks' party, and I automatically thought of you."
"Ah!" I said. "He probably told you I'm the divorcee in the family. What about you? Married? Probably not. Otherwise, my match-making brother wouldn't have set us up."
"I've left the marriage thing to fate," Ian said. "Figured someday the right woman would come along at the right time."
I'm sure my matching-making brother must have told Ian I'd avoided dating since my divorce three years ago and had become somewhat of loner, a recluse sort of. But Ian and I didn't get a chance to talk any longer, because a friend of Ian's rushed up to him and said, "Dude, haven't seen you in awhile. "C'mon! I need a horseshoes partner." And off they went.
Bobby and Ian had been best friends in high school, playing on the same baseball, football, and basketball teams. Ian's parents were divorced; he lived with his mom, and he spent a lot of time at our house, eating supper with us at least once a week.
I'd crushed on him severely and would have been thrilled to date him, but no high school girl dates her brother's best friend. How awkward! And now I wondered if Ian were back in town to stay or if he were just passing through.
Forget it!I told myself. But I couldn't deny the pull I felt toward him—once again.
The moment I caught Bobby alone at the grill flipping hamburgers, I said, "Why didn't you tell me Ian was back in town?"
"I thought the surprise would be nice. Shake you up a little." Shrugging, he added, "I knew you always like him."
Oh my! Had my feelings that obvious?
"And by the way," Bobby added, "he's back in town to stay. He's taking care of his elderly mom and setting up his dental practice." Bobby shot me a mischievous look. "I told him you were the meanest police sergeant in town."
At the picnic tables underneath the shelter, my family sat together—Mom, Dad, Bobby, and me. Maybe thirty guests had also gathered. The food was delicious. Ian sat four tables away, and every time I glanced at him he seemed to be glancing at me.
After short speeches from Bobby and me honoring our parents, while others congratulated them, Ian and I seemed to gravitate towards each other. "Let's take a walk," he said.
"I'd like that," I said, my heart fluttering.
For a minute or two we strolled silently along a tree-shaded path in the park, and then Ian said, "I had a crush on you in high school. Did you know that? I ate at your house every time I could so I could sit across the table from you."
For a second time today, he nearly knocked me over. "What?"
"It's true. I loved you mom's cooking, but I think I was also in love with you."
"You're kidding me!"
"I'm not. But a guy doesn't date his best buddy's sister. At least not in high school. That would be way too weird. You're a police officer now?"
"Guilty as charged."
We stopped walking. Ian turned to me and grabbed both my hands.
My heart nearly exploded.
He said, "Look, Barbara, I'm in town to stay. You wouldn't arrest me if I asked for a date, would you?"
A little breeze blew, rustling the trees, but it did nothing to cool me off or to stop my head from spinning. Finally, I squeezed Ian's hands. He smiled. I smiled. "After all this time and after what you just said, "I'd arrest you if you didn't."