Welcome to Cooper’s office, May 20th, 2005.
Cooper gathered his courage as he prepared to pick up the phone to make that call that he had promised Peter he would make to Concerned Women for America. Nancy’s voice on the intercom interrupted him.
“Randall Wasson on line 2 for you, Cooper. Says he’s with the Washington Star but is not a reporter.”
This is one of those coincidences that evangelicals argue are acts of God. Cooper was about to call Concerned Women for America about funding—really truly right about to do it—when this call came through from Randall. (Really? Randolph and now Randall??) Randall tells Cooper that he’s a secondary owner of the Star and that he wants to talk to Cooper about funding for the case, but that he can’t say more than that over the phone.
Randall arranges for Cooper to come to his office to meet with him and talk further on Thursday at 8:00 am, the day after the upcoming hearing (as he will be out of town before that). It needs to be 8:00 am because that way “there is little chance that anyone in our editorial or news departments will see you.”
“Sure, no problem. Eight o’clock sharp. Can you tell me why—”
“I am afraid I must hang up,” Wasson interrupted in a whispered voice. Immediately, Cooper heard only a dial tone.
Curiouser and curiouser. Bad spy novel indeed.
So of course, Cooper decides not to call Concerned Women for America. He got a call from a mysterious stranger who said he wanted to meet secretly to talk about funding for the case, and then quickly hung up, and that’s enough to make him decide not to even just call the CWA to find out what they could offer.
It’s 6:45 pm on May 20th and Terry is driving Laura to a concert.
The white Grand Prix moved skillfully through the sluggish traffic. Terry Pipkin hit the accelerator just enough to move to the far left lane without giving the maroon van he pulled in front of an opportunity to pull ahead of him.
We get lots of car travelogue in this section, by the way.
The conversation once again lapsed into uncomfortable silence, as it had so often lately. Pipkin negotiated a complicated lane change to head south on I-95 toward Woodbridge. Eventually Terry spoke.
“So why is it so hard for us to talk lately? I seem to be doing my normal part, but you seem so distant.”
Laura turned and looked at the man she had dated for seven years with a big smile, but there was sadness in her eyes. “I … I … just have a lot on my mind.”
Hang on. The math doesn’t work out on that 7 years.
Laura told Cooper that she’s been seeing Terry since they were sixteen or seventeen. She said they both went to college, and that Terry graduated late due to missions trips and changing his major. She said that Terry is just now rounding out his first year as a teacher (i.e. his first year after college), but that she is three years ahead of him in the school’s pay system. That means she’s finishing her fourth year teaching. Assuming she graduated college in four years (which is probably a safe assumption, given the emphasis on Terry’s irregular time to graduation), that would make Laura and Terry around 26. They’ve been together 9 or 10 years, not 7 years.
“Are you thinking about the Thomases and Garvises again? That case seems to have taken over your life. Are you still worrying about that Suskins guy ratting on you to the school authorities?”
“Oh, I don’t know,” she answered with a sigh. “I guess not. I think Cooper scared them off that idea.”
“Cooper. That’s it,” Pipkin snorted in disgust. “He did ask you out that one time—I had forgotten about that. So, what’s up between you and Cooper?”
“Nothing, Terry. Nothing at all. Cooper did express interest in me. But I told him that I am in love with you.”
It annoys me to no end that Farris uses Terry’s last name. He de fact puts him in the bad guys category by doing so. Don’t get me wrong, Terry is rather putting himself there all on his own at the moment. Still, I don’t feel like it’s too much to ask for to want more consistent name usage in this book. Having two separate categories—first names for good guys, last names for bad guys—feels off somehow.
Terry wants to know what Cooper said when she told him she was in love with Terry; Laura says Cooper asked whether they were engaged, and that she said no.
“So what would you say if I asked you?”
“I refuse to answer that question,” Laura said bitterly.
“What? Why do you say that?”
“Because you are not asking me to marry you. It is simply a hypothetical question that you have asked me a dozen times over the years. And I refuse to answer it again.”
“Well, maybe it isn’t hypothetical anymore.”
There’s more back-and-forth—Terry says he’s been “scared” to ask her before, but that he always knew she’d say yes, and that now—what with Cooper—it’s the first time he hasn’t been sure what she would say.
“Laura,” he said, in a soft and kind voice, “I am afraid of what you’ll say, and I can’t bear the idea of you rejecting me now after all these years.”
That is basically textbook for what you should not say right before you ask someone to marry you. All of the guilt and pressure pushed together in those few short words—don’t do that.
“Well, I guess there’s nothing I can do but ask you.”
He paused and reached din the left outside pocket of his spots coat, and pulled out a small jewelry box. He laid the box on the center console and took both of her hands into his, and looked her straight in the eye. “Laura Frasier, I love you. I have always loved you. I want you to be my wife. Will you agree to marry me?”
Tears welled in her eyes. She was still confused, but her traditional patterns of though there gaining ground. She thought briefly of Cooper, felt a pang of embarrassment for thinking of him at all, and dismissed it out of her mind. … “Yes, Terry, I will marry you.”
We need to talk about why this proposal has taken so long. I’ve been puzzling on it and puzzling on it and I still can’t seem to make heads or toes of it.
I have a Patreon! Please support my writing!