“Some girl was making eyes at Christian all during mass,” teased my older brother Julian. “She was cute, too: blue eyes, long curly black hair...”
“Do you know her from youth group?” asked Mom.
“I’d never mess with her, not in a million years!” I said.
“Maybe in about twenty years,” said Julian. “Curly-Q ought to be out of diapers by then!” He was laughing so hard, tears were streaming down his face.
“She was like two years old!” I explained. Then even Mom laughed.
“Curly-Q” was cute. And it was kind of flattering, in a funny way. But come on, get real.
“You guys coming to midnight mass?” I asked Julian and his fiancé.
“Nah, we’ll go in the morning,” said Julian. “Hey, keep your eye out for Curly-Q!” It’d been like 20 years, but he never let me forget. He told that story I don’t know how many times.
Church was packed. The usher sat me in the front row. What kind of loser goes to midnight mass on Christmas Eve alone? I thought. I was surrounded by couples holding hands. At least I get to sleep in tomorrow, I thought.
I’d recently moved back to the area after accepting a teaching job nearby. I’ll never get married, I thought. Why can’t I be more like Julian?
Suddenly I had the feeling that I was being watched. I looked up and into the most beautiful blue eyes I’d ever seen. -- She was in the choir. I casually looked behind me as the priest came down the aisle, Was that girl really looking at me? But I was the only singleton around.
I tried to pay attention, but I kept glancing over at the choir. That girl caught me staring at her a few times.
I’d been in the youth choir when I was younger, maybe it was time to re-join…
At the end of mass, as if in answer to the prayer in my heart, the pastor announced, “Our growing choir is still looking for new members...”
After mass I approached the cantor. I wanted to talk to the girl with the long straight hair, but I didn’t know what to say.
I’d bought the ring months ago. Caitlin and I had been together for five years. We even worked together, at the same elementary school. I taught math; she taught art. I loved watching her create: drawing, painting, sculpture, even graphics on the computer. She was amazing.
We still sang in the choir, too. -- We did just about everything together. I couldn’t imagine spending the rest of my life with anyone else. I was incredibly lucky. She was the one.
So then why hadn’t I proposed? I had one nagging doubt. It was so dumb. But I’d always wondered, Whatever happened to Curly-Q? Was she out there somewhere, waiting for me? Could she possibly be even more perfect than Caitlin?
For years I’d fantasized about Curly-Q: whenever I was lonely, after a break-up, even after the occasional fight with Caitlin. I prayed, God, please give me some sign that Caitlin really is the one for me...
It was Christmas Eve. We always went to midnight mass together, to celebrate that night we caught each other’s eye.
Before mass we exchanged cards. Caitlin made her own cards. She did the typography and everything by hand. Her cards were always incredible, but that one literally took my breath away. I couldn’t believe my eyes. My mouth must’ve dropped open.
“Don’t you like it?” asked Caitlin. “Is it too corny?”
My heart was pounding in my chest. “Where’d you get that picture?” I squeaked.
“In one of Mom’s old photo albums…”
“That’s not your mom,” I said.
“Silly, it’s me. I was about three years old. Wasn’t I cute?”
“Yes! But your hair…,” I said.
“I know; I wish I had those curls now! They started growing out before I was two. Mom didn’t cut ‘em off till I was like four. She still has a ponytail of those curls somewhere...”
After thanking God and wiping away the tears on my face, I read the words on the front of the card, I’m so glad I found you…
She had no idea. And neither had I, all those years…
After mass I called Julian. “You’re never gonna believe this!” I said. “I found Curly-Q! We’re getting married!”
“Huh? What!? Don’t go crazy, man! What about Caitlin?” asked Julian.
I yelled, “Caitlin is Curly-Q!”
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