Some years ago, a good family moved into the third floor apartment of the tenement where we lived in the Bronx. David was the son and he was going to medical school. He was also an avid reader so he spent most of his free time in the library. The librarian there was a pretty, soft-spoken young woman named Lilly. The kids all loved her. If we couldn‘t find a book she would stop whatever she was doing, smile at us warmly and launch a search to find it for us. She was a hard worker.
She also secretly admired our new neighbor David. Whenever he entered the small neighborhood library, Lilly‘s eyes lit up and observed his wandering path through the stacks of books. She never struck up a conversation with him though. She was much too shy, and in those days a woman didn‘t talk to a stranger without a formal introduction. One evening, as Lilly was closing up the library, her assistant bent down near the desk to retrieve an unopened envelope off the floor. She showed it to Lilly and they noted that it was sent from a major city hospital.
“It looked so important,” the assistant said. “Some poor person is probably looking for it frantically. It must have fallen out of his pocket or book.” Lilly glanced at the address of the recipient and was surprised to see it was for the building right next to hers. She took the letter so she could drop it by the man‘s apartment on her way home. She turned out the lights, finished locking the library and hurried home, where she quickly set down her bags. Clutching the envelope, she ran across the way, entered the front lobby next store and scanned the mailboxes. She found a Gordon, the same last name listed on the envelope. Lilly walked up the three flights of stairs and was greeted at the door by a sweet older woman who was leaning on a crutch.
“Oh, thank you so much,” she said. “Well, here‘s the letter. Is David Gordon your husband” “Oh no,” she answered. “That‘s my son. We were wondering where the letter went. ” She looked Lilly up and down. “Well, look at us, standing here like strangers, ” the woman said smiling brightly. “Come and sit for a moment and have some tea. Please. ” As she motioned Lilly to a chair, the lady talked about the letter. “When I get mail for my son, I always put it on the kitchen table so he can find it when he comes home. This letter was important so I stuck it in his book. You see, he is going to medical school to be a specialist, ” she said proudly. Just then, the door opened and in walked her son, David.
Upon seeing that he was the young man she had admired so long, Lilly felt her heart beat faster. His mother excitedly explained to him what had happened to the letter. David looked at Lilly in astonishment. “Gosh, you‘re from the library? Thank you. I was looking high and low for that letter. ” He turned to his mother. “You see, I was accepted to the hospital‘s medical program. ” Then he turned back to Lilly and smiled shyly, “Thanks again, Miss Uh… I didn‘t get your name?”
“Lilly, ” she said, smiling her warmest smile. And so began Lilly and David‘s life together.
But now for the whole story. After they had been married 25 years, he told us the truth about the letter. David was a cardiovascular specialist by then and his dear Lilly, the mother of their three children was sitting by his side as he told us. You see, David wasn‘t that avid a reader as it turns out. He just wanted to see that pretty young librarian. He told his mother about the girl at his local library, but he was shy and didn‘t know how to approach her. His mother devised a scheme.
Every time David went to the library, he was to drop an envelope addressed to himself on the floor. David‘s mother hoped Lilly would retrieve it for him, call him over to the desk and give him a chance to strike up a conversation. So David dutifully dropped a letter each time he visited the library, but each time someone would see the envelope fluttering to the floor and rush to reclaim it for him.
“Oh sir,” he‘d hear someone cry out. But when he turned, it was never Lilly. On the day he finally met Lilly, David waited till no one was left in the building but Lilly and her assistant. Once again he dropped his letter by the desk. The next day he hoped he could come back and ask Lilly if she had found an envelope with his name on it. The plan worked far better than he imagined when Lilly showed up in person to deliver the letter. While David was telling the story, his beautiful wife Lilly began laughing hysterically.
“David,” she said, when she caught her breath. “You didn‘t seal that envelope very well. We opened it at the library. I saw that there was nothing but a blank piece of paper inside. But I was dying to figure out what you were up to so I played along. David, you are a terrible actor.” She turned her twinkling eyes to her husband‘s. “But Oh, David, I loved you so.”
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