It’s the day after Cooper’s dinner meeting with Rick, Deanna, Laura the Sunday school teacher, and the other family involved in the case, and all he can think about is Laura. He tries to do some research on the case, but it doesn’t help. He’s distracted.
And again, I’m left wondering. If meeting Laura was enough to throw him off kilter to this extent, why is he still single? He’s a church guy, and evangelical. He attends the sort of church that usually has plenty of young single woman looking for a husband—and the way Farris describes him, Cooper would seem the perfect catch.
Cooper is distracted because he’s supposed to pick up Laura’s Sunday school notes on his way home from work, and he can’t stop thinking about it.
He had had his fair share of dates since coming east, but it was the first time in a very long time that he had thought ahead to an evening with a young lady with a sense of excitement instead of anxiety.
Um. Stopping by to pick up her notes for a court case is not “an evening with a young lady.” This is not a date.
Unable to contain himself, Cooper leaves at 5:25, which is early for him. He drives straight to Laura’s place. He checks his hair in the mirror, he’s so excited to see her. He knocks on her door. She comes out, momentarily confused, before remembering that he had asked if he could stop by for his notes. That’s how very much not-a-date this is. She ducks inside and comes back with her notes, which she hurriedly hands to him. Farris makes it very clear that she wants him to leave.
This is where it gets interesting. As annoyed as I was at Cooper for assuming that Laura was available and making a huge deal out of this visit—can you even call it a visit?—Farris isn’t offering Cooper smooth sailing. I’m not reading between the lines that Laura wants Cooper to leave. That’s how Farris is writing this. Laura forgot Cooper was coming and wants him to leave.
“Thanks, Laura. Umm,” he stammered, “I was hoping to look them over a little and maybe ask you a few questions if that’s OK.”
“Well, it’s really not the best time for me,” she replied.
He waited for further explanation, but when it was apparent that none was coming, he spoke again. “Well, I guess that’s fine. We can do it some other time. In fact, I was hoping to ask you about getting together some evening. Not about the case, but just to get to know you a little better.” He looked uncomfortably at his feet.
Laura stopped rocking and smiling. “I was afraid you were going to ask that,” she said. Seeing the hurt in Cooper’s eyes, she quickly continued. “Not that I don’t think you seem like a really great guy. It’s just that I am in a serious relationship and have been for several years. In fact, he’s our pastor’s son—Terry Pipkin. I thought Rick might have told you about him.”
Just how big is their church? Cooper and Laura and Rick and Deanna all go to the same church. Has Cooper never run into Laura before? Pastors’ kids tend to be high profile, at least in small-to-medium churches—how did he miss this?
Let’s treat this as a serious question for a moment. Laura teaches the third grade Sunday school class at their church. There were 12 kids in Laura’s class when Nora Stoddard visited it. This puts their church in the middle, in terms of size. I grew up in a church with several thousands parishioners—while Laura appears to teach the only third grade class at this church, our church had multiple classrooms per grade. But, unlike smaller churches, which combine grades, a single grade merits its own class.
It’s plausible, then, that Cooper might have missed Laura—particularly if he were part of a young singles group and she were part of a young couples group. He may also not be given to keeping close tabs on the goings on at the church, which would have easily allowed him to miss Terry Pipkin, the pastor’s son.
Cooper apologizes. He says Rick didn’t mention anything. He had no idea.
“Of course you didn’t, and I’m not upset with you for asking. In fact, I’m flattered. If only …” She bit her lip and then shook her head. “Well, anyway, I think you understand.”
Again, please forgive my presumption,” he replied, with a brave smile.”
And then he leaves.
Farris then leaves Cooper and takes us inside with Laura.
“Who was that?” Terry asked, looking up from the newspaper as he leaned back in her kitchen chair.”
Terry, by the way, is reading the Washington Times. Laura goes back to making dinner. By herself. It’s clear that all is not right here—although I don’t think it’s the Washington Times reading or the solo dinner making that Farris sees as red flags.
Terry looked up from the paper and studied Laura’s face for a few seconds. “It just hit me. Why would a lawyer come here to get your notes?”
Terry proceeds to grill Laura. Who was this lawyer? How old is he?
Yes. Yes she is.
Terry shook his head, stood, and walked slowly up behind his girlfriend. Grasping her gently by the shoulders, he smiled as he spoke with a teasing voice. “So what’s going on? Are you embarrassed about something?”
Laura tried being evasive, but nothing occurred to her quickly.
Finally, Laura tells him outright that Cooper asked her out on a date. He asks what she said. She said no, of course.
“Oh, OK. Just checking. Still my girlfriend?” he asked.
“Yeah, I’m your girlfriend … still.” There was a hint of bitterness in the last word.
There’s trouble in paradise. Don’t worry, Farris will make it clearer as we go on what the problem is—although even his explanation isn’t all that helpful. Suffice it to say, for the moment, that their relationship is on the rocks—but that still, Larua doesn’t feel like she can leave. (Farris will explain that too, though it’s not actually that hard to guess.)
Seriously, though. What is with Farris having his heroes fall for “taken” women? And yet, ambiguously taken. Neither Gwen nor Laura was actually married. Gwen was divorced; Laura is in a longterm dating relationship.
Farris tells us that Cooper returned to the office after his disappointment on Laura’s front step, because the restaurants would be full of couples and his basement apartment at his aunt and uncle’s house is empty and uninviting. Wait. Basement apartment?
I’m going to pause here and take back some of what I said earlier—it’s still odd to me that Cooper, a Bible believing Christian, would be so very single, but now that I double check the dates—the U.S. Senator Cooper spent six years working for lost his office in the 2004 elections, and it’s now April 20, 2005—Cooper has only been living in Leesburg for a few months at this point.
It’s no wonder Cooper didn’t know who Laura was, or anything about the pastor’s son. He’s still new.
Cooper is brooding.
His mind told him that he had no right to be upset. It was not as if his girlfriend had dumped him. He had met a girl. She seemed very nice. Maybe very, very nice. But she was taken. He knew that. But the loneliness was harder to bear than any other emotion he could remember feeling in a long time.
Cooper. Go to the singles group at your church. Or have Rick ask around—churches like this tend to have several middle aged women quite adept at match-making, I’m sure Rick would know who to talk to.
Gradually, a little thought he had been trying to suppress left fully into his consciousness. He really should read Laura’s notes from her Sunday school class, one side of his brain argued. He tried to look only for things that might raise relevant legal issues, but he kept evaluating her personality and spiritual maturity himself. Only once did he allow himself to think, She is even better than I thought. He then said it out loud.
In an attempt to distract himself, he runs a strong of words through his head like a mantra: “Hard Work. Concentrate. Make my mark. Do good for America.” It works—sort of.
When he finally leaves the office to head to Wendy’s for food, he turns on “the oldies station,” in the modo for “something a little lighthearted, something easy and fun.” What he gets isn’t exactly what he’d signed up for.
A seven-chord introduction signaled that the Everly Brothers were about to sing. The song caught the edge of his consciousness.
I want you to tell me why you walked out on me.
I’m so lonesome everyday.
I want you to know that since you walked out on me
Nothing seems to be the same old way.
Think about the love that burns within my heart for you
The good times we had before you went away, O me
Walk right back to me this minute
Bring your love to me don’t send it
I’m lonesome everyday.
His mind told him that they hadn’t had any good times. Quite simply, Laura hadn’t walked out on him. There was never anything between them. But his emotions didn’t get it. He had conjured up love and laughter and life together. His “Work hard—concentrate—do good” mantra failed him. At the moment, the Everly Brothers seemed to understand him far better than he did.
He listened to his emotions and sing.
I … what.
Is this normal? This isn’t normal, is it? I married young and don’t have much experience with dating—am I imagining that this feels off?
You know what? This feels like it’s veering into stalker territory. Cooper met Laura the previous evening at a social function. He intentionally arranged to get her address from her on a pretense—coming by to pick up her notes for the case. He made it into a date in his mind. By the time she told him that she was not available, he was already so obsessed with her that a radio song about a breakup incapsulated his feelings for her. More than that, “he had conjured up love and laughter and life together.”
He created an imagined relationship with her. He feels as though she broke up with him, as though she dumped him. He’s built up this entire imagined life with her in his head. He met her yesterday.
Am I imagining this? I’m not, am I?
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