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The Last Quarter

A story from this book - Chicken Soup for the Bride's Soul: Stories of Love, Laughter and Commitment to Last a Lifetime

The Last Quarter
Ward Nickless

When I decided my girlfriend Maria was the woman I wanted to marry, I told her I wanted to date her exclusively. A good friend of ours suggested we start "courting."

Since neither Maria nor I knew the difference between courting and dating, our ever-helpful friend quickly pointed out they were similar, but with significant differences. "Appropriate physical boundaries" needed to be respected; and a dedicated commitment would enable us to grow individually and as a couple. Finally, according to my friend, courtship meant every time Maria and I saw each other, I was to give her a quarter. Yes, that's right - a quarter. Is this some mysterious, ancient ritual, I wondered? "Never mind," said my friend. "Just do it."

So I took the "quarter" challenge, and decided to make a game of it. It became second nature to check my pockets for the appropriate pieces of silver. A dime wouldn't do. I hid quarters under her plate in a restaurant or left them with notes on her steering wheel, or gently slipped them into her hand as we walked to the movies. I loved to see the excitement and joy in her face every time I gave her a quarter. She saved each one and collected them in a green corduroy drawstring bag. When we were apart, Maria would hold the bag and think of all the fun we shared.

Finally, the right time came for me to ask the Big Question. Almost finished with our premarital classes at the church, I'd never been more positive about a decision in my life. But doubt crept into my mind - did Maria feel the same way? More than anything, I wanted the proposal to be special and to incorporate our "quarter them." Carefully, I formulated my plan.

First, I chose a nice restaurant across from the performing arts center and bought tickets to a jazz show I knew she wanted to see. Then, I put words onto paper about how much Maria meant to me:

The Last Quarter
In the first quarter a comfort level was formed,
In the second quarter a friendship was spawned,
In the third quarter silver tokens of affection did abound,
And in this final quarter - my true love I have found.
This is the last "quarter" I will give you to celebrate our "courting" stage. For today I ask you to be my wife, and in exchange for the silver tokens that daily show my love, I humbly ask you to accept a silver ring, and thus daily share my life. I love you, Maria.
Ward

I framed the poem and letter and placed a quarter inside, too. I arranged with the manager of the restaurant to have the frame placed on a secluded table with the menus set directly over it. My plan? When Maria lifted the menus she would find the poem and, at that point, I would drop to my knees and propose.

On the way to the restaurant, I felt confident. At least until Maria grabbed hold of my hand in the car.

"Your hand is clammy. Are you nervous about something?"

I made some lame joke in response while thinking, This woman knows me pretty well. I took that as another sign I'd made a good decision.

About five minutes after we sat down, Maria lifted her menu and saw the framed poem beneath it. She picked it up and exclaimed, "Hey, they've got a quarter theme, too!"

I didn't say a word. Maria was still reading. A look of confusion crossed her face. I guessed she reached my name at the bottom. That was my cue. I knelt down beside her and asked her those four little words: "Will you marry me?"

Well, would she? There was a tantalizing moment before everything sank in. Finally, Maria said the one word I most wanted to hear. "Yes."

The waiter brought the champagne on cue. As we laughed and held each other, I handed Maria my cell phone, programmed with her mother's number, so she could tell her mom the good news. Within a short while, Maria and I married. All the quarters I gave her remained in the same bag, sitting next to the framed poem.

Our marriage was wonderfully happy, but I found I missed our quaint little custom. So I planned another surprise. Over a year later, we moved into our new home and had a special dinner on Valentine's Day. When Maria opened a box of chocolates, she found - wrapped in tissue in place of a chocolate - a quarter.

She looked at me, mystified. "Why am I getting a quarter?"

"I missed 'quarting' you." I rolled the quarter up her arm. "I want to quart you and court you for the rest of my life!"

Since then, I've been giving Maria a quarter every day. Sometimes I put them in the most unexpected places. Maria put all the "new" quarters in a ceramic jar on her nightstand. She stores them in quart-size mason jars in her hope chest and promises to keep them forever. I've no idea how many are in her collection, but I do know that many quarters make infinite riches - of love.

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