The third message on her phone was Tyler. He sounded excited. Or at least churned up about something that had him tripping over his tongue. Abby was intrigued at what could destroy his usual calm, suave phone personality.
"Hey, Abby, thanks for calling back so fast," Tyler blurted, as soon as she identified herself. "I hope you're free for a couple days next week. I need to ask a big favor -- and maybe I can do you a favor, too. There's an airport near Bluebell City, isn't there?"
"Umm, I don't even know where Bluebell City is." Abby stared at her windows, which were fogged over after ten minutes of sitting in her car, breathing heavily from her struggle with the storm, while it got chillier outside.
"Southeastern corner of Iowa. Probably the biggest city close by is Davenport."
"Well, Davenport has a municipal airport. Why do you need to go there?"
"My buddy Antonio wants me to come for opening night of his first solo directing production. It's my old school, Southeastern Christian, so it's kind of special to both of us. Opening night is the seventh. I thought maybe you could fly me over on the evening of the sixth, after rehearsal. Antonio would put us both up at his place -- big old house, you'll love it -- and I'd spend some time with the kids during the day, we'd go to opening night, and you could fly us home the next morning. There's this great indoor market close by, if you're into that kind of thing. Or if you just want to goof around, relax, there's a spa. I'll spring for a massage, if you want one."
"I would fly to Alaska for a good massage." Abby thought that was the stupidest response she could have made, but her brain seemed to be snagging on something she couldn't identify.
Maybe it was the thought of going somewhere with Tyler with no children to interrupt or demand their time? No emergencies?
Maybe it was just the shock of hearing Tyler's voice after all those odd, intense looks at the picnic -- which were outnumbered by the times he couldn't seem to meet her gaze. She had thought maybe he had finally let all the accidents and interruptions discourage him, and he had given up. She had convinced herself something had gone very wrong during the picnic. Maybe his father's comments had made him start thinking and he had realized he didn't like the direction their relationship was ambling toward? Maybe he realized what was just starting to form between them, and it scared him? Maybe he was trying to give her the brush-off, but politely.
After all, he was calling her to fly him somewhere, like a business proposition. Although, why would he offer a place to stay and different things she could do to keep busy while she waited for him, if it was just business? What guy who wasn't interested would be thoughtful enough to offer to pay for a massage for her?
"I should have said it first, but I'm hiring you to fly me there, so I'll take care of all the expenses for the plane. And any jobs you can't take because you're committed to me."
Was it just her imagination, or did a silent chime go off in the air when he said those last four words?
"Please, Abby? It means a lot to me, seeing my former students, my old school." Tyler took a loud, deep breath. "And it'd mean a lot to me to show it to you. There'll be some free time. We'd finally have a chance to get to know each other better."
"Yeah, get to know each other," she echoed. Abby shook her head and pinched herself and hoped she didn't sound as breathless and brainless as she felt. Could he hear her heart pounding at five thousand miles an hour?
"No kids to get in trouble. No cars to break down. No errands to run. It'd mean a lot to me. Please say yes?" Tyler asked, with a curious mixture of laughter and pleading in his voice.
It meant a lot to him. Abby didn't need to see his face to know that, or even hear him say the words. It was clear in his voice. It struck a chord inside her that understood everything he was feeling; a longing to get away from everything and everyone they knew, every distraction, every obligation, and just get to know each other.
"Two nights," Abby whispered, fighting an insane urge to giggle.
"What was that?" Tyler asked.
"Let me get this straight, okay? You want to fly out Thursday night, see the show Friday night, and fly back Saturday morning? Your friend is putting us up at his house."
"And he'll have a driver from the school pick us up wherever we land, and give us his car for our use the entire time we're there." Tyler chuckled. "Weakening?"
"Big time." Abby swallowed hard against a choking sensation. She had an urge to jump up and shriek; half excited glee, half terror that something was going to go wrong in a big way. Her plane would probably blow up Tuesday afternoon and she would never get to go to Bluebell City, wherever it was in Iowa, with Tyler. Alone with Tyler.
"So it's a date?" His voice seemed to crack a little on the last word.
"It's a date."Abby barely heard as they finalized the schedule. Those words kept reverberating in her head. Tyler hung up a few minutes later, to call his friend and double-check the arrangements from that end. She sat still for a long time, staring at the phone after the light on the screen went dead.