A LONG TIME COMING.

It was two months short of Melody’s 50th Birthday as she stood, her honey blonde hair flecked with grey, not that that worried her, neatly arranged in a bun with a flower in it, wearing a blue dress that accentuated her slim figure, and red high heeled shoes, beside her was her son, whose dark brown hair was combed back from his face, rimless spectacles in front of his brown eyes, wearing a white, open necked shirt and black trousers.

“You ready, Mum?” he asked.

“Yes.”

Her son led her along on his arm as the gravel voice of Joe Cocker belted out the chorus to the theme song from An Officer and a Gentleman, Up Where We Belong. Standing, facing the front, was a tall, thin man with dark brown hair flecked with grey, olive skin that was passed down from his Spanish-American maternal grandfather who had an affair with his Anglo-Australian grandmother at a time when the general consensus was that the Americans were oversexed, overpaid and over here. He was wearing a royal blue suit, a white open necked shirt and shiny brown shoes. He had his hands clasped in front of him.

Standing in front of them was a woman who was about sixty, wearing a crisp off white skirt suit, a pleated white blouse and lilac shoes. On her head was a creamy coloured hat.

“Dearly and beloved -” she began.

Melody and Steve had met at high school for no other reason that they were in the same year. Steve was an academically minded, quite reserved teenager who experienced teenage acne. Melody was more your typical teenage girl and as such, she tended to look more towards sporty boys. She had virtually dated and broken up with every member of the football team from their year, by the time she had finished Year Eleven, and went to school more for the social aspect than the academic.

So, it was much to the surprise of Steve that she, as the school formal came around, approached him.

“Have you got a date for the formal?” she asked.

“I-I wasn’t g-going to go,” he stammered nervously.

“Come on.”

Unsure of what her intentions were, he thought that would be the end of the matter.

“I was just wondering,” she began.

“What?”

“Would you be my partner for the formal?”

“Well, as I said, I wasn’t planning to go. And why are you asking me?”

“I thought it’d be nice.”

Unsure whether she was making a fool of him, Steve responded, “But, I thought you’d be more likely to ask one of the other guys.”

“Seriously? A lot of those guys are only after one thing. And I have been cast aside after football matches because they want to get with their mates. I even had one of them try to spike my drink.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. Come on, will you come or not?”

“All right.”

Steve prepared for the night by hiring a tuxedo that he found uncomfortable and a white shirt with a winged collar and bought a green bow tie and cummerbund.

After they graduated from high school, Steve went to university and Melody took on a number of different jobs, before marrying a tradesman who played football of a weekend, who had olive skin, dark hair and a typical three day growth of whiskers, and before too long, she was pregnant with her son. Two years after that, she gave birth to a daughter. The marriage was not a happy one, and Melody was determined that her son would not be like his father, who was a player of women as well as football.

Melody finally had the courage to leave her husband, and view her kids as her happily ever after.

As Melody entered her 47th year, she noted that it was also 30 years since she finished high school. So, it was of little surprise to her that she turned on her computer one morning to see that a former fellow student was organising a reunion. With little thought, she decided that she would definitely attend.

The night came by, and Melody drove herself to the event, dressed in a smart casual way. It was as she walked through the door into the ambiently lit room that she noticed him. He was standing off to the side of the room, a glass of lemonade in his hand, wearing a navy blue Harrington jacket, a green checked shirt and cream chino slacks. His dark brown hair was turning grey. Could it be?

Slowly, she walked over to him. “Steve,” she began.

He turned to look at her. Her own brown hair was beginning to turn grey and she still had the figure she had in school, despite the fact that she’d had kids. She was wearing a light blue dress. “Melody.”

“Can I give you a hug?” she asked.

Steve, who had never been overly comfortable with physical affection, answered in the affirmative and gently took her in his arms.

“So,” she began, once he released her, “what have you been doing?”

“Well, I went to university and graduated with an honours degree and then undertook a masters. I have done a little travelling with it.”

“That was you. Always the academic one.”

“Yes. And what about you?”

“Oh, well, I left school and had some work in a music shop, then, I did some secretarial stuff. I married a guy who was a football fanatic and tradesman and had two kids. He treated me like dirt, though.”

“Oh, Mel, you deserve better than that.”

“For a long time, I didn’t think I did.”

“Nobody deserves to be treated like that.”

“What about you? Are you married?”

“No. I’ve had a couple of girlfriends, but they didn’t last.”

“You still married?”

“No, we divorced.”

The conversation may have sounded plain to an outsider, and, as the evening came to an end, Melody said to Steve, “Got any plans for the rest of the night?”

“No, I’m planning on going home. I feel a bit overwhelmed.”

“Oh, I was just wondering if you’d like to go for coffee.”

“Well, not out, if that’s what you mean.”

“Why don’t you come back to mine?”

“I couldn’t-.”

“No, come on.”

Steve drove to Melody’s house and sat in the lounge while Melody went into the kitchen to put the kettle on. “How do you like it?” she called out.

“Have you got any tea, instead, please?”

“Sure. How do you like it?”

“No milk, two sugars, please.”

Melody made Steve’s drink and her own coffee with milk and two sugars and brought the cups in, before sitting on the couch her lower left leg tucked under herself.

“I was surprised to see you there, tonight,” she began.

“I was debating with myself whether to go, actually. I wanted to show those who wrote me off that they were wrong.”

“I knew that you were destined for good things. You always worked hard at school and deserved to do well.”

“Thanks.”

Steve sipped his tea and they talked for the next hour or so, before he said that he’d better be heading home.

As Steve put his hand on the door, Melody asked, “Would you like to see me, again?”

He shyly turned to face her. “Well, yes, I would. If you’d like to see me.”

“Yes.”

As he turned to say good-bye, she reached up and put her arms around his neck, and tenderly kissed his cheek.

“Give me a call sometime.”

“Will do.”

Weeks went by and Steve hadn’t called her until they had a chance meeting in a supermarket.

“Hi,” he began, uneasily.

“Why didn’t you call?”

“Oh, you know, I’ve been busy.”

“There’s this new cafe that’s just opened in the next suburb.”

“Yeah.”

“Maybe we should give it a try.”

“Okay.”

“How about Saturday night?”

“Yeah, okay.”

“Meet you at seven.”

“Okay.”

Saturday night, Steve dressed himself in a green polo shirt and faded blue jeans before he drove to the cafeteria. He arrived at 6:50, as he didn’t want to be late. He hoped that she would not humiliate him.

Shortly after 7PM, Melody walked in and he raised an arm from the booth where he was sitting. Over she walked.

“Ordered yet?”

“No, I decided to wait for you.”

“Thank you.” Melody pulled a small glasses case out of her handbag and read down the menu. “I’ll go for the Chicken Maryland with a salad, please.”

“Porterhouse steak with vegetables, please.”

After their meal, which tasted good, Steve invited Melody back to his place and showed her his collection in glass cabinets of the model cars that he’d collected and his Doctor Who memorabilia.

As they sat down for a drink and a snack, Melody began, “You know, people were pretty cruel to you when we were younger.”

“Yes, but I wanted to use it to my advantage. I was determined to go to university to prove them wrong.”

“I know I fell for the wrong guys. I always thought I wanted someone muscular and rugged.”

“That’s what you did have.”

“He was a pig, though.” Melody kicked off her high heels and leant back on Steve’s sofa, putting her leg over his lap. “Now, I think I want someone reliable. My kids have both grown up, now, and I kind of get lonely.”

At that point, she sat up and put her legs down, and leant across, putting her arms around Steve’s neck, kissing him tenderly on the cheek. Nervously, Steve turned slightly towards Melody. “Don’t be shy.” She kissed him tenderly beside the spot she had done, moving across until her lips met with his. Steve closed his eyes and for the first time, he began to feel a surge of passion and experienced the taste of a beautiful woman’s breath. Their lips were connected for about ten minutes.

“That was- lovely.”

“I’m glad you liked it,” she replied, as she rubbed his chest through his shirt. He put his arms around her shoulders. “Didn’t you ever get lonely?”

“Well, not that I really had the time. With one thing or another.”

“I mean, you never got married or anything.”

“I had a few girlfriends, but they didn’t stick around.”

“When was the last one?”

“Oh, about ten years ago.”

They began their courtship and one night, Steve gave Melody three pieces of paper. On the first two, were clues for which there was one word, and the third consisted of a series of numbers.

Sounds like a female sheep

Like you do with dough

Not one, but not three

Goes with Tasman, South China, Adriatic, Mediterranean, North

Put a T before the male pronoun

Consists of leaves, but it’s not a tree.

Put a T before the male pronoun

Not gold, but not bronze, either

Bun E. Carlos plays them in Cheap Trick.

Hmm, what were these about?

Sounds like a female sheep. Ewe. Ah, you. What you do with dough? You knead it. Need. Not one but not three? Not sure about that one. Between, one and three? Two. Tasman, South China, Adriatic. Sea. The. Has leaves but not a tree. Branch? You need two sea the? What else has leaves? Ah, book. You need to see the book. The. Not Gold but not bronze. Silver. What does Bun E. Carlos play? Guitar? No. Ah, drum! You need to see the book The Silver Drum. She found the book and searched through to find the words, “Will you marry me?”

“Yes,” she replied with a broad smile.

“Do you, Stephen Edward O’Neill, take Melody to be your lawfully wedded wife? To love and to cherish from this day forward?”

“I do.”

And do you, Melody Louise Johanssen, take Stephen to be your lawfully wedded husband?

I do.

I now pronounce you husband and wife.

Diagnosed with autism at 35. Explained a lifetime of difference.