Thursday, February 9th, 1978
Lindsay Place High School, Pointe Claire, Quebec, Canada.
It was the day after, and Diana was still walking on air as she and her friend Cathy disembarked from the bus and started walking toward the school.
“So, tell me!” Cathy implored.
She knew something was up with Diana. Her friend had dropped enough hints on the bus ride to school, and there was something about her this morning. Usually, it was all she could do to stay awake for the whole bus trip. This morning she was practically giddy with whatever it was.
Diana glanced sideways at her friend and flashed her one of her coy little smiles. Then she looked toward the school as she conjured up the events of the day before.
“Well… It was after school and I was at my locker gathering up my stuff. I wanted to be sure I remembered my history book because you know we have that quiz today in second period…”
“Diana. Whatever it is, I’m sure it has nothing to do with school. Will you please get on with it?”
Diana giggled at her friend. Nothing could suppress the effervescence of her mood. She felt drunk with delight at this unexpected turn of events.
“Okay. Okay. Like I said, I was at my locker getting my stuff. I had my bag packed and my coat on, and I had just pulled on my hat when I felt someone grab it from behind and snatch it off my head. I figured it was one of the juveniles from Grade 10 and I whipped around to try and grab it back. That`s when I saw who it was.”
“Who was it?”
“It was Danny Alexander.”
“Yes. It was Danny Alexander.”
“The guy on the football team… the cute one?”
“Yes. Danny Alexander.”
“Well, I know it’s true, but it’s unbelievable. He’s so cute, and so… I don’t know… sad. You never see him smile. He’s kind of scary, but in a, you know, sexy kind of way.”
“Yes. I know what you mean, and I think he’s older. He’s 17, I think.”
“He is 17.”
“How do you know?”
“Garry MacAdam told me. He said they had to change leagues for football this year because two of the boys were over age. Danny was one of them. You’re only 15 Diana.”
“I’m almost 16.”
“You’re not 16 until June. That’s not almost.”
“… it’s more than half,” Diana countered.
“Well… anyway, Danny Alexander is just about the last person in the world I would expect to steal your hat.”
They reached the front steps of the school and went in the main doors. Diana’s locker was on the second floor and Cathy’s was on the main, so they stopped at the foot of the stairs in the foyer to finish their conversation.
“So, then what happened?”
“Well, he was with his friend Rob Addie.”
“The redheaded, pimply-faced guy that plays on the basketball team?”
“Yes. That’s him. Well, I figured they were going to throw my hat back and forth and make me jump for it and stuff. But that’s not what happened.”
“Well, he just stood there holding my hat like he was waiting for me to make a grab for it, so then, you know, he could snatch it away and stuff.”
“So, what did you do?”
“I made a grab for it. Only he didn’t snatch it away. He let me grab it. So then, we were both standing there holding on to the hat like we were connected or something. You know, through the hat.”
“Uh-huh. Then what?”
“This is the most amazing part. I keep playing it over and over again in my head. It makes me feel like I’m floating or something.”
“So, spill it, Diana. What was it?”
“Well, that was when our eyes met. You know how they say the eyes are the windows to the soul. I totally believe it now, because it was like we were cosmically connected. It was just for a second, maybe not even, but it was like time stopped or something. Suddenly, Rob Addie was gone, the school was gone, the whole world was gone. It was just him and me Cathy, our souls inextricably entwined. And then he gave me this little smile, and I gave him a smile, and then I knew, Cathy. I knew he was the one. I love him.”
“God, Diana. Could you be any more dramatic?”
“No. It is dramatic. It’s the most dramatic, wonderful, incredible thing that has ever happened to me in my whole life. I love Danny Alexander, and I think he loves me too.”
“Are you sure about that, Diana? I mean, maybe he was just horsing around. It’s not like a lot of guys have shown much interest before this.”
“What are you saying?”
Cathy regarded her young friend critically. It was true she had a pretty face, and she had beautiful, long brown hair that fell all the way down to the small of her back. But her body had been slow to develop, especially in the bust area, and if there was one thing Cathy knew for sure, despite her own limited experience, it was that high school boys had a keen appreciation for a well-developed bust. If anyone had a shot at Danny Alexander, it would be her, Cathy, not Diana.
“I’m just saying maybe you’re reading a bit too much into this. Did you even know him before this?”
“I sat beside him for a whole six months in Career Development. You know, it’s one of those grade eleven-twelve split electives. I never thought he even noticed me, but I guess he did because now he loves me.”
“Geez, Diana. You don’t know that for sure. I’m just saying, you might need to slow down a bit.”
“I don’t want to slow down. Danny Alexander is my soul mate and my life’s true love. I’ve never been so sure of anything in my whole life.”
“Okay, okay, Danny Alexander is the one. Congratulations. I’ll be maid of honor at your wedding.”
“Maybe. Maybe not.”
Cathy made a face. Diana stuck out her tongue.
“Okay. So, what happened after the big moment?”
“Well, he let go of my hat. I put it back on my head and then I went to catch the bus.”
“That’s it? You didn’t say anything? You just walked away?”
“No… you think I should have said something?”
“I couldn’t. You know what I’m like around guys. I didn’t want to spoil it… I had to get out of there.”
“Well, it’s not how I would have handled it, but who knows? Maybe it’ll work out for you, Diana.”
“There’s one more thing I didn’t tell you. It’s the second-best part.”
“As I was walking away, I overheard Danny say: ‘that chick is cute’ to Rob Addie.”
“Yes! Danny Alexander thinks I’m a cute chick. I’m a cute chick now.” She did a little dance with a pirouette flourish to illustrate the point.
“Okay, Isadora. So, what happens now?”
“Yes. What’s the next step?”
“Well, you know. He’ll get in touch.”
“Really? You think so?”
“Yes. What I think is he’ll go to my locker after school today and wait for me to come, and then he’ll strike up a conversation. Maybe he’ll walk me home and carry my books.”
“Really? That’s what you think?”
“Yes. That’s what I think.”
The bell sounded, and they had to head for their home room classes: Diana up the stairs to the second floor and Cathy down the hall on the main.
“See you at free period,” Cathy said as she walked away. “Good luck with your soul mate.”
“Ciao for now, ma ‘amigo,” Diana replied.
Danny did not show up at Diana’s locker that afternoon. Diana arrived fashionably late, 15 minutes after the four o’clock bell. As she rounded the last corner, she fully expected to see Danny waiting for her in front of her locker, but he wasn’t there. She waited around for another 15 minutes, fussing with her books and various odds and ends in her locker, all the while watching over her shoulder for Danny, but he never showed. Diana figured he had probably come early and left before she got there.
The next afternoon, the Friday afternoon, she arrived at her locker five minutes after the bell. Diana had been thinking about it all day, and she had concluded that Friday would be a much better day for her to begin her romance with Danny Alexander. After all, it was the last day of school before the weekend, and maybe if the Rendezvous with Danny went well—that’s what she had begun calling it in her head—they could meet up somewhere on Saturday, the mall maybe or the arena.
But Danny didn’t show that Friday afternoon, nor did he show on any of the afternoons of the following week. In fact, he was absent from the immediate vicinity of Diana’s locker for the entire month of February, in that frigid winter of 1978. She was especially hopeful on the 14th because it was Valentine’s Day, and the romance of something happening with Danny on Valentine’s Day would have made such a good story. But nothing happened. It was just a day like any other.
Not only did Danny fail to appear at Diana’s locker on any day after school through the rest of that term, but she didn’t see him anywhere else either. She began to frequent spots where she thought she might run into him. She sat with friends on the bleachers by the lower field where the football team played its games in the fall. She started hanging out at the commons in the mall where kids from school used to go on weekends or after school. She went with Cathy to the only two school dances that winter and to every lunchtime sock hop hoping to see him, but she was disappointed. It was as though a hole had opened in the earth and swallowed Danny Alexander whole.
Diana saw him only once more that year. It was at the spring assembly. She was on the girls’ intramural volleyball team, and she was there with her teammates to mount the stage and collect a certificate of participation from Mr. MaConahie, the vice-principal. They all wore their uniforms, if you could call them that: white blouses that buttoned up the front and navy-blue bloomers. It was not very becoming on Diana. The starched whiteness of the blouse seemed to accentuate the smallness of her bosom, and her legs stuck out from the bloomers like pencils.
It was right after the assembly that she saw Danny. He was standing in the hallway just outside the gym doors when Diana and the rest of intramurals came out. He seemed bored or tired or something; his expression was vacant and distant. When their eyes met, Diana tried to strike a pose to display her ridiculous volleyball get-up in the best possible light. She leaned back slightly from the waist and stood with her legs apart just a little, and then she tossed her hair and smiled.
Danny did not react. He just stood there staring at her with the same dumb expression on his face. It was as though he didn’t see her at all; it was as though she was invisible, and he was looking right through her. Diana was devastated. His reaction, or lack of it, hit her like a physical force, like she’d been punched hard in the pit of her stomach and all the wind knocked out of her.
A couple of floor hockey players from the intramural league passed in front of her blocking her line-of-sight with Danny. She turned and started walking back toward the gym, tears welling up in her eyes. She struggled to keep herself from breaking down and crying like a baby. It was an effort just to walk. Her legs felt like they were made of Jell-O. She couldn’t breathe. She couldn’t get rid of the horrible feeling she was feeling, and she just wanted it to stop.
She charged back through the gym doors and slammed straight into Mr. MaConahie, the vice-principal. She staggered backward from the impact, and Mr. MaConahie had to grab her by the shoulders to keep her from falling down.
“The assembly’s over, Diana,” the vice-principal said. “It’s time to go.” He gestured at the gym doors that Diana had just come through.
“Umm… I have to go to the girls,” she said, and she continued across the gym floor and out the doors on the other side. She went to the girls’ washroom on the main floor and into the last stall furthest from the door. She slammed the door behind her and locked it, and then she started to cry. She cried with a vengeance. She cried great, heaving, noisy sobs of tears and snot, and it made no sense because she hadn’t really lost anything—least of all Danny Alexander, who she’d never really had in the first place.
But it wasn’t just Danny’s sudden indifference that upset her; it was the hole it had kicked in her confidence of that special moment when she and Danny had looked into each other’s eyes, and their spirits had somehow forged an unassailable bond. In that moment, Diana had been so sure that Danny was her one true love that she would have bet her life on it. It sounded so stupid now when you put it into words, but at the time, it felt like the absolute truth. That it might not have been what she at first believed it to be, shook Diana to her depths.
She was never really completely sure of anything after that.
Diana graduated from Lindsay Place High School two years later in 1980 and went to the senior prom with Wayne Bussey, a friend of Garry MacAdam’s, whom Cathy had started dating. After high school, she went on to Dawson College and enrolled in Business Studies. She discovered she had an aptitude for numbers and finance.
After college, she got a job at the Bank of Montreal and eventually worked her way up to a credit analyst position in a commercial lending unit downtown. It was her job to crunch the numbers for new loan applications and reviews. She was good at her job. She knew the bank’s credit rules backwards and forwards, and she was good at structuring credit applications. Maybe she lacked the confidence to close a multi-million dollar deal, but Diana could quickly spot the strengths and weaknesses in any balance sheet, and she could write up a credit that showed the warts as well as the pearls.
It was at the bank that Diana met Gordon. He started as a commercial lender a few months after Diana and stayed for a little more than a year. He left when he got a better offer from the Canadian Bank of Commerce. He never had that much to do with Diana when they were working together: just the requisite good mornings and good nights and the occasional conversation in the lunchroom over morning coffee. Then at the office goodbye-cake event, he surprised her by asking her out.
On their first date, he took her to a Japanese restaurant in the west end. They had to take their shoes off and sit in a little hut with a fake grass roof. Gordon made a joke about how he should have been more careful choosing his socks. The food came with chopsticks, which neither of them could manage. They had a good laugh watching each other raise morsels of food to their mouths only to fumble it at the crucial moment. In the end, they ate the big chunks with their fingers just to get something to eat.
Diana was still living in Pointe Claire then, and on the way home, they stopped in Lachine to look at the water. Lake St. Louie was heavily polluted in those days, but it was still beautiful at night with the moonlight dancing on the water. They didn’t sleep together until their second date, and on that occasion, their lovemaking was awkward. Gordon was a big man, tall and somewhat overweight. They made love the first time at Diana’s apartment in Point Claire near the lakeshore. It started with kissing in the living room and gradually moved to the bedroom where they started to undress. It was a small room, and very close quarters with both of them in it. Gordon seemed to take up all the space by himself.
While trying to pull her top over her head, he accidentally clipped her in the jaw with his elbow. The blow stunned her and sent her toppling backward onto the bed. Her lower lip felt like pins and needles and she tasted a little dribble of blood. Gordon apologized profusely. Diana realized it was accidental, but still, it put a chill on the moment. They completed the act, but by that time, it was really just to get it over with.
Their lovemaking improved with familiarity, as did other aspects of their relationship, but it was never passionate with Gordon. It was more a matter of them becoming comfortable with each other in virtually every aspect of their lives. It was easy for them to share. They seemed to agree on everything: they both wanted children, a quiet life in suburbia, a nice house in Beaconsfield or Point Claire, maybe a membership at the country club and an extravagant vacation once in a while. They were great life partners, even if they were never great lovers.
They dated for almost two years before they got married. It was a simple ceremony with their families and a few friends. They paid for most of the wedding themselves, and their parents kicked in for a short honeymoon in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Diana decided to keep her last name. Gordon’s last name was Doll, and she couldn’t bring herself to go by the name ‘Diana Doll.’ It sounded like a character from a kids’ cartoon show. Gordon protested, but he finally let it go when Diana promised their kids would have ‘Doll’ as their family name.
They put a down payment on a small bungalow in St. Anne de Bellevue. After a couple of years, Gordon got a promotion and they traded up to a larger house in Pointe Claire with bedrooms and a big yard for the kids. Diana got busy painting and decorating, and she took up gardening. The kids never came, though. At first, they suspected Diana, but after they made the rounds of the doctors, it turned out to be Gordon. They were both devastated by the news, especially Gordon. Diana tried to persuade him to adopt, but he didn’t want to do that.
One day, Diana came home with a golden retriever puppy. They called him ‘Rolly’ because of his habit of rolling onto his back for tummy rubs. The years drifted by. Diana kept her analyst job at the bank even though she didn’t really need to work. Gordon continued to do well at the bank and the promotions kept coming. He eventually rose to vice president Eastern Canada, one-step down from the senior executive rank. They celebrated with a champagne supper at the Chateau Laurier.
There were lots of happy times, but it seemed like there was always something missing. They both felt it. Rolly lived for 16 years—almost double the life expectancy for a golden retriever. When he finally gave up the ghost, it was like Diana’s heart had been ripped out of her chest. She called in sick and spent two days on the couch weeping.
Gordon was also heartbroken. He started spending more time at the golf club. He would often have dinner at the club instead of coming home. He said he was entertaining clients. Then, one night, he didn’t come home at all. He said he had stopped off at the home of one of his golfing buddies after their round. He’d had too much to drink he said, and he didn’t want to risk driving home. She asked him why he didn’t call. He just shrugged and said nothing.
About a month later at one of Gordon’s company events, Diana picked up a vibe between Gordon and a woman on his staff. It was nothing really: just some eye contact, but Diana knew something was up. She kept an eye on the woman for the rest of the evening. She had long dark hair like Diana used to wear when she and Gordon first met, and she was at least 20 years younger.
There was dancing after dinner, and towards the end of the evening, the girl came to their table and dragged Gordon onto the dance floor. It was a rock n’ roll number—not the kind of thing Gordon would normally get up for, but he certainly seemed to enjoy dancing to it with this girl. He looked happier than she had seen him in a long time. On the drive home, Diana asked about the girl. He murmured something about her job at the bank and didn’t mention any personal details. He seemed uncomfortable with the question.
A few months later, Gordon came home from work and said he needed to talk to her about something. He poured a couple of glasses of wine and took them into the living room. They sat across from each other—Gordon on the easy chair and Diana on the couch. She already knew what he was going to say.
He said he’d met someone and that he was in love with her. He had decided to move out. He was leaving that night—that moment in fact—and he’d be back in the morning to collect his things. He tried to give her a hug when he was leaving, but she wouldn’t let him.
The following week, Diana got a call from Gordon’s lawyer about a separation agreement. The settlement was fair. She got the house free and clear, and enough money to live on comfortably. She expected divorce proceedings to follow soon after, but she never heard anything from Gordon or his lawyer about a divorce. A year went by and she heard from a mutual friend that things had not worked out for Gordon and the girl from the office. He had left her, and he had also changed jobs. It sounded like the new job was not quite as good as the old one. It was at the VP level, but with a small credit union—not a major bank.
Then one day, out of the blue, Gordon called her. It had been almost 10 years to the day since they had parted. He made some small talk, asked her how she’d been, and then he told her he wanted a divorce. He said he’d met someone new, and they wanted to marry. Even though she had long expected the call, it still came as a surprise. She told him to go ahead and start the proceeding, and she wished him well. She struggled to keep her voice even when she said goodbye for what she assumed would be the last time. It wasn’t losing Gordon that bothered her. It was the feeling that she had wasted so much of her life on him.
In all those years after high school, Diana never once thought about Danny Alexander—not until the day his letter arrived from Paris, France.
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