Originally published as stand-alone short stories, Beth Mathison's heartwarming series about a couple looking to rekindle their romance is finally collected in one volume.
Frannie and David Young have been married over twenty years, have two kids, busy jobs, a house in the suburbs and a dog named Max. To keep the romance alive in their relationship, they plan a “date” twice a month. Their block of time together includes very few rules, no kids or dogs, but requires an open mind. Frannie and David switch off planning dates, depending on the NFL’s schedule and how the planets are aligned that particular month.
"Off the Dock"
It's David's week to choose and the couple is off on a fishing trip. When the fish refuse to bite, will the couple find anything to talk about to fill the silence? Or, will the couple find themselves falling back in love hook, line and sinker?
"French Romance Cooking Class"
Frannie chooses a hands-on French cooking class as their outing. As they struggle with the “right” way to spice up their lives (both in and out of the kitchen), they discover that their strength as a couple depends on their ability to “wing it.” They also discover that “winging it” with raw oysters, a bottle of wine and an eccentric French cook can make for one interesting date.
"A Mission to the Mustard Museum"
Frannie and David visit the Mustard Museum where they encounter life-sized bottles of condiments, Louisiana hot sauce, and crowds of elderly tourists. Fearing their relationship has lost its “zing” as they head towards being Empty Nesters, they reaffirm their passion for each other, Mustard Museum style.
“Tell me again how you think fishing is romantic,” Frannie said, adjusting the edge of her wide-brimmed hat. She normally wore the hat for gardening, to protect her face from the sun’s damaging rays while she pulled weeds in her vegetable patch. She wasn’t sure what hat was appropriate fishing gear. Mosquito netting? One of those foam hats that house two beer cans and a hose for convenient alcohol consumption? As Frannie was getting ready earlier that morning, she had grabbed the first hat she could find, a pink print covered with tiny daisies.
“I didn’t say fishing was romantic,” David replied. His head was covered with a baseball cap, the team logo faded from wear and the sun. He had hauled it out from the trunk of the car when they had arrived at the dock. “Just that it might bring more romance into our lives.”
“All right, let me rephrase my question. How will fishing together bring more romance into our marriage?” she asked. Frannie wasn’t a lawyer, but a paralegal for a small attorney’s office. She brought out her lawyerese when she got defensive. And the thought of spending the majority of the day fishing on a remote lake was bringing out her defenses in spades.
“Thank you for rephrasing, counselor,” David countered. “It’s that together part. Fishing…together.”
“I see. And you thought that fishing was the romantic way to go?” she asked.
“Have I ever expressed an interest in fishing?”
“Was there some subtle clue in my behavior that said ‘I’d really like to go fishing with my husband’?”
“Then why did you pick fishing? I honestly don’t understand.”
“I think that it’s OK not to understand something,” David responded, adjusting the line in his fishing rod. “You get to pick a date once a month. I get to pick a date once a month. So, here we are on the calm waters of Lake Nagawicka. Together. Fishing.”
Frannie bit her lower lip as she considered his comments. Twirling the knob on her fishing pole, she watched as David tied a hook on his own line.
“Last month I did pick that English café with all the doilies and lace curtains,” she said. “That was way out of your comfort zone. You also had to endure that snooty waiter who ignored you because you were wearing khaki pants and a polo shirt instead of a suit and tie.”
“And I did try the mushy peas with my bangers and mash. That was a stretch for me,” David said. “I think I get credit for eating an entire serving of peas mixed up into a fluorescent green paste.”
“Point taken,” Frannie said, putting her defensiveness aside. “OK, what do I do with this hook?”
“You have a choice between a worm or a leech.”
“Do I have to touch either one of them?” she asked.
“No,” David replied. “For this date, I will do all the touching of worms, leeches, and fish. Unless you would like that experience. And especially if it turns you on.”
“No,” Frannie responded firmly. “Touching any of those things turns me totally off. I’m going to take a pass.”
“I did try the mushy peas,” he reminded her.
“Very different thing.”
“True. I can’t blame you at all. There is the slime and wiggle factor.”
David took Frannie’s hook and baited it with a worm. Casting it out for her, he showed her how to slowly reel it in, telling her to watch for the bobber to twitch, indicating a fish on the line.
The air was warm, a light breeze gently rocking the small aluminum fishing boat. David sat in the back near the motor, Frannie on the middle bench. They had attached padded seats on the hard aluminum seats before setting out from the dock. David had brought two fishing rods and a small foam cooler full of bait. Frannie had brought her purse, a small soft-sided cooler filled with food, and a canvas tote bag filled with rain jackets, sunscreen, and a sweater. She had organized the bags under her seat so that everything was easily accessible.
They fell into a comfortable silence, casting out and reeling back in. True to his word, David baited the hook for her each time she lost a worm.
The boat was anchored in a quiet bay close to the shoreline, the water calm away from the open lake. The trees on the water’s edge were lush with summer growth, creating a picturesque setting for their date. The boat sat twenty-five feet from land, out far enough that the lake breeze offset the warm July humidity. An occasional seagull or crane would soar above them, searching for fish.
The quiet was unusual for them. Not distracted by the demands they faced at home, Frannie shifted in her seat, squashing a desire to check the e-mail on her phone. It was difficult for her to stop the running to-do list in her head. It was a busy time at the office for her, and she was also busy driving the kids to their summer activities every day. She put the urge to check her phone behind her. One of their date rules was a strict no-electronics policy, unless a family emergency arose.
“So this is what you do when you go fishing with the guys?” she asked. “Cast and reel in, cast and reel in?”
“Pretty much,” he responded. “It’s nice, isn’t it? The quiet, I mean.”
“It’s different,” Frannie responded honestly. “I normally don’t have a lot of it. It feels…strange.”
David baited another hook for her. “Maybe that’s why I like it so much,” he said. “It feels good to get away from all the busyness for a while.”
“What do you talk about with the guys?” she asked.
“Well…” David said. “We talk a lot about fishing.”
“Hmmmm…” Frannie said. She fiddled with her reel. She was starting to feel uncomfortable with the prospect of talking about fishing lures and leeches for the next few hours. It had been almost three weeks since their last date, and their difficulty in relating to each other was obvious. When they spent that much time without meaningful conversation, it was a struggle to get to know one another again. Intimate strangers, they called themselves when they had drifted apart.
“Ugh,” David said. “I think it’s been way too long after our last date. Want to play association?”
“Absolutely. You read my mind,” she responded with relief. “You start.”