Excerpt of Mansfield 2nd Ward

Shelby held her left hand out. The diamond solitaire was stunning. Elle didn’t know a thing about diamonds, but it looked to be at least the size of a pencil eraser.

“When’s the date?” Nate asked.

“They’ve just gotten engaged. They haven’t even had time to think about that,” Elle said.

“Yes, plenty of time to talk about that,” Shelby said, looking at James. Her voice would have made icicles shiver.

Mindy rushed to hug her daughter, with tears in her eyes, telling Shelby how excited she was. It was more than Elle could endure. Shelby craved the prototypical LDS life—marriage, home, babies. None of those things were bad. Elle wanted those things for herself. But Elle and Shelby were the same age, only 20 years old. To throw yourself away before you have even given yourself a chance to experience life outside your parents’ supervision seemed like such a waste. Elle affirmed to herself her goals—school, career and then all the blessings the Lord saw fit to throw her way.

Elle found herself in the tall back chair that had replaced the cozy armchair that had been there a long time ago. The reading corner was where Nate and Elle had first met and become friends.

Nate walked over to her. “What a crazy day, huh?”

“Sure has been.”

“James seems like a nice guy. I hope he makes my sister very happy.”

Elle smirked. “An unintentionally ironic statement—do you know how much that makes me glad you are home now?”

“What?” he said.

“Look at her,” she said, nodding toward Shelby. “Have you ever known your sister to be as cool as a cucumber after she got something she wanted so badly?”

Nate studied the couple a bit. “Oh. What do you think is wrong? I thought she wanted to marry him?”

“Oh, I think she’s just suffering from some disappointed expectations,” Elle said. Nate looked confused. “He didn’t ask her the way she wanted him to.”

“That matters?” Nate said.

“To some girls, maybe,” Elle said.

“Not to you?” he said.

Elle shrugged. “I never really thought about it. I guess it’d be nice for him to get down on his knee and all that, but I don’t need theatrics. I don’t need the plane with a banner flying by or the baseball game big screen or anything like that. Just a private mutual agreement between two people.”

“You’re so austere!” Nate said, smiling. “But I understand what you mean. If you decide on making the woman you’re in love with your eternal companion, it should be a private affair.”

Elle smiled back. From the corner of her eye, she caught Shelby dragging James outside. “Uh, oh. Looks like someone’s in trouble.” She turned to share her amusement with Nate. His face looked troubled. “I’m sure they’ll be fine.”

A dozen minutes later, a very contrite-looking James and a ruffled-looking Shelby entered back into the house. James kissed Shelby before going over to Ed. She joined Nate and Elle.

“If tonight couldn’t get any worse,” Shelby said. “He messes up something as simple as a proposal. Then he has the nerve to tell me after Christmas, his job is sending him back east for training. He’s not sure for how long, but it could be as long as two months!”

“I’m sorry, Shel,” Nate said, putting his arm around her. “But hey, you’ll only have to worry about missing him for about a week or so before school starts back up.”

“Wrong,” she said. “After we talked about getting married, I told the school I wouldn’t be registering for next semester. I’d be in the middle of wedding plans for late spring. I wouldn’t have time for school.”

“It’ll work out,” Elle comforted. “You still have a few months to get started.
Most guys don’t really need to be around unless it’s for a tux fitting or something. It’s perfect timing.”

“I guess you’re right,” Shelby agreed. She gave them the first hint of a sincere smile. “Guess I’m going to have to find a local singles’ ward. I am not going to mom and dad’s family ward!”

“I was going to talk to Nate about it, but I’m sure the invitation can be extended to you, too,” Elle said. “You guys should come with me to my student ward at Westminster.”

“Sounds like a great idea!” Nate said. “We could all go together, and then Elle could introduce us to people.”

Shelby looked unconvinced. “Westminster? I bet all you guys talk about is politics or Einstein, or something.”

“No, not really,” Elle said. “There a wide dynamic of people on campus, and my ward reflects that, for sure. I mean it’s not as if you’re looking for ‘hot guys’ hot guys so it’ll just be a place to go to church and have fun at the activities.”

“I guess,” Shelby said.

“Come on, Shel,” Nate encouraged. “It’ll be fun! I’ll know two people right off the bat.”

“Fine, whatever,” Shelby grumped, still with a hint of a pout on her face.

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