Tracy Blane, society writer, drew a small tape recorder out of her bag and began to speak into the microphone. She snagged the first interview with Linoak County’s newest power couple and she was excited to get the story behind the relationship and engagement of Bob Schlagel and Lillian Hyde. Tracy was a young, eager and relatively talented newcomer to the Linoak County Gazette.
She said into the tape recorder, “Notes by Tracy Blane, interview with Bob Schlagel. January 15.” “Bob good to see you! Thank you for agreeing to speak with me today.” She continued
“It’s a privilege Tracy.” replied Bob.
“I am here to ask the questions so many of our readers are asking!” She announced.
“Really? I’m flattered.” Bob said with a smirk.
“Really! Everyone knows that you and Lillian Hyde are two of the best Boulangers in the county and now you are engaged to be married! You’ve been tagged Linoak County’s newest power couple.” Tracy responded.
“Interesting! I’m not sure how Lilli will feel about that but I’m happy to answer your questions .Within reason of course.” Bob said, laughing.
“First, tell me a little bit about your relationship. When did you meet Lillian Hyde?” Asked Tracy.
“Lillian’s family and my family have known each other forever it seems. Lillian and I started school together when we were 5 years old.” said Bob.
“Wow!” Tracy replied. “Did you ever date Lillian when you were younger?” she asked with genuine curiosity.
“No. I mean we may have gone to a couple of dances with a group of friends but nothing more. I was interested in Lillian of course. We participated in similar activities. We had similar backgrounds. Our families had a friendly competition going between our businesses but Lillian didn’t seem interested in dating anyone seriously.” Replied Bob “In all honesty I fell for Lillian Hyde the first day of 8th grade. She walked into the classroom with her pony tails, big brown eyes and freckles across her cheeks and bridge of her nose.” Bob continued with a smile on his face.
“Oh that is sweet!” exclaimed Tracy.
“She probably won’t thank me for telling you that story, but it’s the truth.” Bob responded with a chuckle.
Tracy, turning off her tape recorder said; “Off the record Bob I do know about how Lillian’s fiancee Finn was killed. You needn’t worry about that coming up in the discussion.”
“Thanks Tracy, that makes things easier,” Bob remarked, relaxing just a bit “Off the record, Finn was a friend. We played football together in school. His loss was difficult for everyone in Bushwick.”
Tracy began to record the conversation again. “I’ve heard it said that you were “married” to your work. Most people thought you were going to be a perpetual bachelor. Was that true?”
“The short answer is yes. In a nutshell, my father turned the business over to me when I finished my degree. It was a huge responsibility.” Bob explained.
“That didn’t leave you much time for relationships I’m sure. I’m sensing that you never were able to shake your feelings for Lillian?” Tracy asked.
“All of that is true, yes. I was as happy when I was around Lillian. If I’m honest, I haven’t always been an easy man to warm up to.” said Bob somewhat sheepishly “Lillian, being a woman of quiet grace, strong values, and compassion, would not consider dating a man who did not share and elevate those important character qualities. I couldn’t live up to those standards, at least not while living with all the pretense in my life.” He said. “Lillian has a unique view on the world. It’s one of the things that I love about her. I suppose we all live with a little pretense. Lillian has a way of getting past the pretense to what is really important.” Bob continued.
“I see, you felt that you had some work to do on yourself before you could approach her about your feelings?” Asked Tracy.
“I didn’t think I would ever be able to talk to Lillian about my feelings for her. I felt as though people expected me to be ‘the man about town’ sort of guy.” Bob disclosed with some reluctance. “I thought, for our business to be successful, I needed to live up to other people’s expectations.” He continued. “Truthfully the more successful I was at business, the less successful I was as a human.”
“You mentioned Lillian’s character qualities, is that what kept you attracted to her all these years?” Asked Tracy sincerely
“Tracy, you are pretty well acquainted with Lillian. Have you ever met anyone who intermingles her life and her business so successfully? She has strong boundaries for sure but like her Aunt Ginny, the business seems to be an extension of herself. She believes in being a real member of the community. Though her business is successful there are no “airs” about her. Her business is intimate in that she makes it a point to get to know people. She was like that even in school. People feel happy to be around her. You must know how rare that is?” He said with a smile that brought out his dimples. “Then of course there’s her beauty but you know all about that too.” he laughed.
“I do!” said Tracy, “Then it wasn’t until the Applefield Country Christmas Cookie Bake-off Invitational, that you felt you were able to drop your public persona and open up to Lillian?” Tracy asked, getting back to the topic at hand.
“That was totally unexpected!” said Bob “The Invitational is one of the highlights of the season for everyone involved. Ginny’s Cookie Jar and Bob’s Best Bakery had been invited every year since the beginning of the competition. It is always a big honor. As your readers will already know, Lillian’s team and my own tied for first place. Something that had never happened in the entire history of the Bake-off.” Bob related enthusiastically.
“What REALLY went down after the prize was awarded?” asked Tracy
“I had butterflies about the size of helicopters in my stomach. I knew that if I didn’t express my feelings for Lillian right then and there, I’d never get another chance like that again. I pulled her off to the side and said ‘I’d admired her for years’ then we made a date for coffee” Bob said happily. “I finally had the courage to drop the make-believe Bob and be honest with Lilli.” he admitted.
“It seems your relationship grew quickly. Now, how about the engagement? I hear there’s quite a story there!” said Tracy.
“Yes indeed! Your readers may or may not know that Lilli and I were engaged this past Christmas Eve… it was nearly Christmas day by the time I had a moment free to ask for her hand in marriage.” said Bob “I had planned to ask Lillian to marry me during the Progressive Christmas Eve Dinner put on by First Lutheran Church of Bushwick. We were both catering the event which was held at stunning, Victorian style homes. It seemed the perfect event for a proposal. All of our friends and most of our family were either partaking in the dinner or providing food for the dinner. Both the Hyde and the Schlagel families attended the Lutheran church for years. I tried, at each house, to take Lillian aside so that I could ask her to marry me. Lillian looked gorgeous! She was wearing Christmas colors, her hair twisted gently at the nape of her neck. Her brown eyes sparkling as she smiled at me. Every single time something interrupted my best laid plans. Finally, at the end of the evening Lillian’s Aunt Pauline saw how exhausted she was and asked me to make sure Lilli got home safely.” He related with great animation. “I drove her to her home, then walked her through the door. Her cardiac alert dog Ginger was there greeting her excitedly. Lilli wanted to make us some tea. When she turned her back to plug in her electric tea pot, I reached into my pocket, took out the ring box and got down on one knee. Good old Ginger took her place sitting right by me. When Lillian turned around I was FINALLY going to be able to ask the question I wanted to ask for so many years. Bob said a bit choked with emotion. As your readers know, she said YES!” He continued. I almost couldn’t get the words out.” He said, his voice raspy from trying to hold back the tears. “Honestly Tracy, I have never been happier in my entire life.”
“Now that is quite the story Bob Schlagel, my readers will eat it with a spoon, as-it-were. Lilli is a beautiful soul.” Tracy observed, her own eyes welling up with tears. “I just bet your family and friends are ecstatic.” Tracy stated.
“Oh yes! Especially our parents. My mom and Lillian’s mom are very close friends. They speak on the phone or by video chat at least twice a week. To say they are excited would be an understatement.” said Bob.
“Bob it has been a genuine pleasure to do this interview. Thank you so much.” Tracy remarked turning off her tape recorder.
“Thanks Tracy. Tell Lillian I said hello when you see her for her interview.” He said as he walked Tracy to the door.
Tracy entered Ginny’s Cookie Jar bake shop to see Lillian Hyde sitting at a table with steaming cups of tea and a plate of gluten free treats. “Hi! Tracy!” said Lillian with a big smile. “Hey!” said Tracy as she slid into the chair opposite Lillian. “How are you?” asked Lillian. “Help yourself to a cookie my friend!”
“Thank you so much!” said Tracy as she pulled the tape recorder from her bag.
“I suppose it’s my turn for the grilling.” joked Lillian.
“Not really one for the small talk are you Lilli?” Tracy said, laughing.
“Not really, no, not when it comes to this interview Tracy. I’m not good at these things and you know it!” exclaimed Lillian.
“Horse feathers! Lillian Hyde, people love you!” Tracy said. “And Speaking of Love… I was wondering if you knew how Bob Schlagel felt about you all of these years?” She asked.
“I don’t know… I think I must have known on some level. Bob’s family and mine were very close. At times I saw Bob more often than I saw my own flesh and blood family members. Except Aunt Ginny and Uncle Zane of course.” Replied Lillian thoughtfully.
“With your brother being so much older I imagine that the Schlagels did play an important role in your life.” said Tracy.
Lillian said, “There are nearly 7 years in age between Chad and I. Bob did offer the ‘brother’ role that Chad could not because of our age difference. Don’t get me wrong, though the age difference did present challenges, Chad and I are close now. And before you ask, Chadwick is in favor of my relationship with Bob. He has the big brother seal of approval.” Lillian laughed. “I know Bob had that shell of a ‘man’s man’ with the usual bravado. I remembered what he was like as a younger man. Very loyal and protective of his friends. He’s still very much that man.” She added.
Reaching over to stop the tape Tracy said “Lilli, I won’t ask about Finn unless you want to talk about him. We can keep it very brief.”
“Thank you Tracy. Obviously there is a history there and I think I do need to clear that up.” replied Lillian
Turning the tape player back on Tracy asked, “Lilli, most of us who know your family know of the tragic passing of your former fiancee Finn McCarthy. Was it difficult for you to open up to another relationship.”
Lillian thought for a long time then stated, “Yes, Finn was a wonderful guy. I met him while we were still in high school. He was on the football team and I was a bit of a ‘nerd’. During a football practice during the Fall of our Senior year Finn seriously sprained his ankle and couldn’t come to school for about a month. I became his tutor. We dated for about 2 years. He asked me to marry him when I was 21 and before I turned 22 he was killed by a hit and run drunk driver. The case has never been solved.” She continued talking, “It was a horrible shock. I never wanted to feel that way again and as a result I closed myself off from any other serious romantic relationships.”
“Until the Applefield Country Christmas Cookie Bake-off Invitational where your team of bakers and Bob Schlagel’s team of bakers were competing.” said Tracy with a broad smile.
“Yes,” said Lillian, “Until November of last year.”
“That was a bit of a surprise wasn’t it?” Tracy inquired with a smirk.
“You have NO idea Tracy Florence Blane!” Lillian teased.
Tracy laughed “So spill!” she said.
“I’m sure Bob told you that he took me aside after we both won first place at the Bake-off. I mean both of us winning first place was a HUGE honor then Bob approached me after the prize was awarded to our combined shops.'' Lillian said “You should have seen the look on his face. He was so nervous. It was adorable, which is something I never thought I’d see in this lifetime. He stuffed his hands into his jacket pockets, the old Bob, the man I knew growing up reappeared like someone waved a magic wand. He dropped all that bluster and just spoke what was in his heart.” she gushed.
“What did you do?” Tracy said with a bit more enthusiasm than she intended.
Lillian sighed “Ahh what could I do? When I looked up and saw those blue gray eyes filled with uncertainty and a look of pained anticipation on his face, I was powerless. Especially when I made him smile and he showed those perfect dimples. If you had told me I’d fall for Bob Schagel Jr. 6 months ago I’d have laughed right out loud. Now look at me planning to marry him!”
“We heard the story from Bob, now we’d like to hear the Lillian Hyde version of the proposal” said Tracy emphatically
“That’s simple from my perspective. We had catered the Progressive Christmas Eve Dinner for First Lutheran Church Everything went off without a single issue on the part of the bakeries. Until I got overly warm and started to get a little tachycardic. A heart problem I developed along with my Celiac disease. Bob took me off to a cooler area of the dining area so I could cool down and catch my breath, literally. Bob looked like the proverbial cat on a hot tin roof. I asked him what was going on and he said he’d tell me later. Things got VERY busy when we were serving the dessert course. That was our time to shine. However, I never really recovered from getting overly warm so Aunt Pauline, my guardian angel, asked Bob to drive me home.” bubbled Lillian
“Bob drove me home in his car, his canary yellow, vintage, Corvette might I add. He walked me all the way into the house. He’s such a gentleman! I offered to make tea. I turned away to plug in my electric teapot then turned back again to find Bob down on one knee, Ginger Pye sat right beside him. You know Ginger, my service dog, would have to give her blessing! Bob had a ring box in his hands. I looked at him, the ring box, then Ginger, then back to Bob. Which is when he asked if I would consent to marry him and I said yes. I was so taken back and so overjoyed that I basically whispered my reply.” She said, adding all this in a flood of words. “Then I hugged him!”
Tracy inquired with a cheeky little giggle “What are your plans now?”
“We haven’t even been engaged a month yet and we want to take our time to plan our wedding. I’m not sure what our plans are right at the moment but I do know I’m excited about the future. I didn’t think I’d let myself love any man ever again. I am incredibly happy.” said Lillian emotionally.
Tracy shut off the tape. “I think we have enough now Lillian. You and Bob tell a beautiful story of how true love helped you find yourselves and re-awakened both of your hearts. It is WONDERFUL. Thank you for agreeing to talk to me.” Tracy gushed.
“You are very welcome. I wouldn’t have told this story to anyone else.” said Lillian giving Tracy a hug.
“I have to go write this up and get it in by the deadline. Bye for now Lili!”
“Bye Tracy!” Lillian closed the door behind Tracy smiling to herself.
“That should satisfy the curious,” Lillian said to herself.