Lucy was leaning over the counter whispering something into the bartender’s ear. Andy. He laughed and shook his head.
Birt wished he could hear what she was saying, but he was sitting too far away. Anyhow, this was the time; he was sure of it. He’d been coming here every Friday and Saturday night for several weeks now, the nights Lucy was working. By now she knew him by name. He’d chatted her up a bit, but didn’t want to come on too strong. Didn’t want her to think he was a weirdo. Because the Lord had revealed to him the first time he’d laid eyes on her that Lucy was to be his wife.
He’d had sense enough not to blurt that out the first time he’d spoken to her. It was important to take things slow, let her get to know him. No inappropriate behaviour. Just taking an interest in her as a person. Building trust. But tonight he felt a nudge to take the next step.
He caught her eye; she smiled and made her way over. He drew in a breath, reminding himself that this was a divine opportunity. He sent up a brief prayer for the right words.
“Lucy! So nice to see you this evening.” Yes, that sounded relaxed and natural.
“Hey, Birt—how’s it going? What can I get for you?” Birt was sure her smile was far more than just a service-industry courtesy.
“I’m doing great, Lu (He’d heard the other servers call her that). Do you have any local IPAs?”
“How about a Wild Wanda? New from the Golden Gizzard brewery over in the North End; it’s pretty popular right now.”
“As usual, I’ll trust your judgment, Lu. One Wild Wanda, please!”
When Lucy returned with Birt’s drink, he took his chance. “Thanks, Lu! Look, would you like to grab a coffee sometime? I’d love to hear more about those part-time courses you’re taking.”
Lucy shook her head. “I don’t go out with customers, Birt. Personal rule of mine—sorry.”
Birt was puzzled. This was the moment; he was convinced of it. Maybe another tack.
“Look, Lucy, it’d just be coffee—not a date. You’ve been telling me about your design program, only it’s been a couple words here and a sentence there, since you’re on the job. We’ve never managed a complete conversation.”
She wasn’t convinced yet, but she was wavering. “You pick the time and place. Hey look, tell you what. I’ll bring my hockey-mum sister along. How non-threatening is that?”
“Fine. But just a coffee.” She picked up her tray and began to move away.
He needed to nail down a definite time. “So, Monday good for you?”
“Okay. Brewsters on Ballantyne Street, Monday afternoon at two.”
“Perfect – see you then, Lu!”
Birt was sorry he had doubted. God was opening the door for this young woman to become his wife. He nursed his beer and decided to get another before he left—just so Lucy could see he’d appreciated her recommendation.
Monday finally arrived and Birt tried to keep himself busy in the morning by tidying his apartment.
It hadn’t been easy convincing Marty to come along. “Two in the afternoon? Some people actually have work to do, Birt. Why do I need to be there, anyway?”
“Marty, this is the girl I’m going to marry! I promised her I’d bring my sister.”
“Marry?! How come I’m just hearing about her now? Where did you meet her?”
“She’s a waitress in a pub. The Lord told me she was the one.”
“Hmm. And how long have you been seeing this girl?”
“Well, this’ll be my first time seeing her outside the pub.”
Marty knew her younger brother well enough to just go with it. “I’ll need to leave by three latest to pick the kids up from school.”
Birt was at Brewsters at 1:30 p.m. to make sure they got a table. Marty showed up a half hour later.
“Marty, you don’t need to do much talking,” Birt assured her. “You’re just here so Lucy'll feel comfortable.”
“Thanks, Birt. You’re a real charmer.”
Nearly 20 minutes later they were still waiting for Lucy. Marty looked at her watch and then at Birt and raised her eyebrows. Finally Lucy walked in, quickening her pace slightly when she caught sight of Birt and Marty.
Birt jumped up like a puppy eager for a treat. “Lucy! Great to see you!”
“Sorry I’m late,” she said, addressing the comment to Marty, but offering no reason for her tardiness.
“Nice to meet you, Lucy,” said Marty, extending a hand.
The young woman shook hands and sat down. “I can’t stay long.” Again, no explanation.
Lucy noticed Birt’s shirt and frowned. “Your shirt says B-i-r-t. Is that how you spell your name?”
Birt smiled proudly. He’d had the shirt specially printed with big yellow letters. “Sure is!”
“Why? I mean, why would you spell it that way? Is it short for something?”
“He changed it in high school. It used to be B-e-r-t, short for Bertrand,” Marty volunteered. “He thought the new spelling was cooler.”
Lucy looked appalled. “It looks like ‘dirt.’”
Marty put a hand over her mouth to stifle a laugh.
Birt made a clumsy attempt to change the subject. “So, uh, tell Marty what you’re studying at community college, Lu.”
“It’s an interior design program. A lot of the courses are online, which works well for me. I certainly don’t plan to spend the rest of my days serving drinks and I’ve always wanted to be a designer.”
“That’s great, Lucy. Must be a challenge to study while working full time. How far along are you?”
“I’ve been at it for over a year now, so I’m about halfway through. What about you, Marty? What do you do?”
“Most of my time is taken up looking after our three kids, but I also work part time as an admin assistant at our church.”
“Really? What church is that?”
“It’s called Community Church. On the edge of town, behind the Walmart.”
“Oh, I know that one, yeah. Friend of mine went there for awhile before she moved away. Said she liked it. I always thought church was boring. What do you guys do to keep people coming back?”
“Well, why not come see for yourself? My husband and I could pick you up on Sunday if you like.”
Birt jumped in. “Hey, why don’t I pick you up, Lucy? Marty and Jim’ll have a full carload with the kids.”
Lucy looked doubtful and turned to Marty. “Can we sit with you?”
“Absolutely,” smiled Marty, “and you can come to lunch at our place afterwards.”
“Or you and I could grab lunch at a restaurant,” Birt quickly offered.
Lucy smiled at Marty. “Lunch at your sister’s place sounds great, Birt.”
Lucy was waiting outside when Birt pulled into her driveway the following Sunday. “You’re gonna love our church, Lu.”
“So you go every week?”
“Sure. Well, I’m there most weeks. Usually. What about you? Do you have a church background?”
Lucy shook her head. “Not really. I remember going with my grandmother the odd time when I was little, but my family wasn’t into church. According to my dad, Sunday was for sports.”
An usher smiled in recognition as they entered the church. “Birt! Long time no see!” he bellowed jovially, and then put a hand out to Lucy. “Hello, ma’am, and welcome to Community. Nice to have you.”
Lucy looked at Birt and rolled her eyes. “Here most weeks, huh?”
Before Birt could defend himself, Lucy spotted Marty and her husband, and headed for their pew. She sat down beside Marty, asking questions and listening thoughtfully throughout the service.
“This guy isn’t as good as the senior pastor,” Birt whispered to her when the assistant pastor got up to preach. “You oughta come when Pastor Clements is here—he’s hilarious!”
“Birt, why don’t you two head over to our place,” Marty suggested after the service. “Jim’s counting the offering and I have to collect the kids and speak to Pastor Gary. There’s a casserole in the fridge that you can heat up in the oven. We shouldn’t be too much longer, okay?”
“Yeah, sure, Marty.”
“This is amazing,” Lucy raved later, as they all sat around the table finishing up the cheesecake Jim had made for the occasion.
“I’m pretty proud of my dessert-making skills,” laughed Jim. “But don’t ask me to do a main dish!”
They spent another hour with Jim and Marty before Birt headed for the door.
“Your sister’s family is nice. So friendly,” Lucy commented on the way home. “And the church—it wasn’t what I expected at all. In a good way, I mean.”
“Glad you liked it, Lu! Look, the church has a movie night on Fridays. How about I pick you up for that?”
She shook her head. “You know I work Fridays. Actually, I’m meeting Marty for lunch this Thursday.”
Birt lit up. “Great! Thursday works for me, too.”
“Ladies only, Birt.” Lucy frowned. “Anyway, don’t you have a job? You seem to have an awful lot of free time.”
“I’m between jobs at the moment. Got a bunch of interviews lined up, though. I’ll be back in the labour force again soon.”
That Friday night, Birt was back at the pub. “Hey Lu!” He waved to get her attention.
She delivered some drinks to another table and made her way over. “Hi Birt. What can I get for you tonight?”
Birt smiled and asked for the same beer he’d had the week before. “Listen, Lu, how about I pick you up Sunday for church and then we stop somewhere for lunch on the way home?”
“Yeah, you can pick me up for church. I’ll be ready at 9:45. As for lunch, let’s just play it by ear, okay? She and her tray were gone before he could come up with a reply.
Once again, Lucy was waiting outside when Birt arrived on Sunday to pick her up. And she was there the next week and the next. They got into the habit of going to Marty and Jim’s for lunch. Lucy offered to take the family out to eat, but Marty told her to spend her money on her studies.
Birt managed to persuade Lucy to go out once or twice for coffee, but most of the times he asked, she said she was busy. And then one Friday night when Birt went to the pub, she wasn’t there. Off that night, Andy told him.
“I really need to talk to you, Lu,” he said when he picked her up for church that Sunday. “Let’s eat out after the service just this once, okay?”
“Fine. Jim’s away till next week anyway, and I don’t want to burden Marty while she’s alone with the kids.”
Birt had noticed over the past few weeks that Lucy was really taking to the church and seemed to genuinely enjoy the services—even the preaching. Which should make it that much easier for him to propose. Her aloofness was just an act; he sensed how she really felt. After all, she was to be his wife.
Pastor Clements preached longer than usual that Sunday; it took forever to get to the closing hymn. Birt was halfway out the door when he realized Lucy wasn’t behind him. He looked back to see her gathering hymn books and bulletins from the pews.
He shuffled back petulantly and stood watching her. “I told Marty I’d cover for Jim this week. It’ll get done faster if you give me a hand.”
A short time later, they were at Cindy’s, a diner on Front Street, and the server was setting down Lucy’s tuna sandwich and salad. Birt was already well into his chicken Alfredo.
“Not bad,” remarked Lucy, taking a bite of the sandwich.
“Mine was good, too,” echoed Birt as he put his fork down and wiped his mouth with the paper napkin. Okay, this was it. This was his God-ordained moment. “Lu, I uh, I think it’s great that you’re really into church now. Getting to know some of the regulars and showing up faithfully every week.
“I’m sure you’ve realized over the past couple of months that it’s no coincidence I’ve been coming to the pub the nights you work. Well, I’ve got a good reason for doing that. And now that you’ve got a few weeks of church under your belt, you’ll understand. See, the Lord told me the first time I saw you that you would become my wife. I agree with Him, Lu, and I know I'll make you a great husband. So will you marry me?”
Lucy just stared at him, no doubt overcome by his proposal.
She shook her head, eyes wide in disbelief. “Birt, how could you think—” She sighed. “You don’t even know what to do with your own life, and you’re asking someone you barely know to marry you? Anyway, I’ve been spending a lot of time with Marty and some of her friends from church. If you were at the pub Friday night, you know I wasn’t there. I went to movie night at church with them. These people have been teaching me a lot about the Christian faith.”
“But God told me you were the one!"
“Well, He hasn’t shared that with me. I’m not ready to get married yet—to anyone. And neither are you, for that matter. I’ve got school and my job, and there’s something else. I’ve been learning about Jesus. Friday night, I put my trust in Him. Birt, I never thought I’d say this, but I’ve found the love of my life.”