I wasn't supposed to love Nate Grady, let alone marry him. But we found a love that triumphed over all adversity just like Jane Eyre, my very favorite heroine.
I was young, bookish, naive on the verge of entering the conventand then I met him . The day I abandoned my old life, the day I agreed to marry him, now seems an eternity ago. But despite everyone's objections, I fell for Nate. An older, previously married man. My first and only love. My husband.
When I looked into Nate's eyes on our wedding day, the rest of the world vanished. If I was crazy for doing this, I prayed the craziness would last forever .
About the Author
An author of more than 65 novels, in twenty languages, Tara Taylor Quinn is a USA Today bestseller with more than seven million copies sold. Known for delivering deeply emotional and psychologically compelling novels, Ms. Quinn won the Reader’s Choice Award, is a four time finalist for the RWA Rita Award, a finalist for the Reviewer’s Choice Award, the Bookseller’s Best Award, and has appeared often on local and national TV including CBS Sunday Morning.
Read an Excerpt
January, 1968 San Francisco, California
Life started the night we met. Everything before this was merely preparation for what was yet to come. It was a Saturday evening and I'd gone to a local pub just down the street from St. Catherine's Convent. I'd been living in a private dormitory at the convent for a couple of years, studying education at the small elite women's college a block awayand was just two weeks from becoming a St. Catherine's postulant and beginning my life of poverty, chastity and obedience. The San Francisco pub wasn't a place I frequented often, but that January night I needed the noise, the distraction, as much as I wanted the beer that I would drink only until it got me past the unexpected tension I felt that night.
After all, I had prayers and then Mass with the sisters early the next morning, followed by religious study.
At a little table some distance from the shiny mahogany wood bar, I sipped my beer, watched merrymakers and pool-players, and contemplated the fact that I didn't belong anywhere.
Not on a date. Or at home watching television with my family. Not out with friends, not in a library studying and certainly not on the completely empty dance f loor in front of me.
I was an in-between, having left behind the person my parents, siblings and friends, knew me to be. And yet I hadn't arrived at who I was going to become. The friends I'd known were getting married, having babies, exploring the world and its opportunities while I was living on the outskirts of a society I was on the verge of joining. I had three years of religious study ahead of me before I'd be allowed to take my final vows and become one of the sisters with whom I'd soon be living.
Don't get me wrong, I wasn't sitting there feeling sorry for myself. I'm far too practical and stubborn and determined to waste my time on such a defeatist emotion. I was simply taking my life into my own hands even as I gave it to God. Trying to understand the reasons for my decisions. Testing them. Making sure. Soul-searching, some folks might call it.
For that hour or two, I'd left my dormitory room at the convent and all that was now familiar to me, left the sisters and their gentle care, to enter a harsher world of sin and merriment and ordinary social living to seek the truth about me.
Was my choice to wed myself to God, to serve him for the rest of my days, the right one for me, Eliza Crowley, nineteen-year-old youngest child of James and Viola Crowley?
A woman's laugh distracted me from my thoughts. A young blond beauty settled at the recently vacated table next to me with a man good-looking enough to star in cigarette commercials. They held hands as they sat, leaning in to kiss each other, not once but twice. Open-mouthed kisses. The girl wasn't much older than me, but she had a diamond on her finger whose karat weight was probably triple that in my mother's thirtieth-anniversary band.
I couldn't imagine any of that for myself. Not the hand-holding. The kissing. And certainly not the diamond. They were all fine and good and valid for some lives. Just too far removed from me to seem real.
As I drank my beer, I saw an older woman sitting at the bar. I had no idea when she'd come in. The place was crowded, the seats at my table the only free ones on the f loor, but I'd pretty much noticed everyone coming and going. Except for this woman.
Had she appeared from the back room? Was she working there? Maybe a cook? She held her cigarette with her left hand. There was no ring.
Judging by the wrinkles and spots on that hand, I figured she had to be at least sixty.
Had she always lived alone?
I pictured the house I might havea single woman by myself. It would be white with aluminum siding, and a picket fence and f lowers. I was inside, having dinner, I thought. A salad, maybe. I'd worked that day. I'm not sure where, but I assumed I'd be a teacher. I was patient enough. And I liked kids.
And the whole vision felt as f lat as the tile f loor beneath my feet. There was nothing wrong with that life. It just wasn't mine.
I imagined being my sister, my mother. I loved them, admired themand experienced no excitement, no sense of connection, when I considered their choices for myself. I pictured myself as Gloria Steinem. I had courage and determination. Perhaps there was some contribution I was supposed to make to the world, some discovery or mission.
But I didn't think so. There was no fire, no zeal at the thought. Rather than change the world, I felt compelled to care for those who lived in it.
What about that woman over there at the bar, surrounded by people yet talking to no one, lighting up another cigarette. Was there something I could do to help her? Comfort her?
I didn't know, but if she asked for help I'd give it. Regardless of any discomfort. I was here to serve.
I wanted to be God's servant, ready for Him to send where He needed, when He needed.
Joan of Arc wasn't my heroine. Mother Theresa was. I'd made the right choice.
Satisfied, relaxed, I reveled in my quieted mind and a few minutes later I was ready to leave the half mug of beer on the table and head back to St. Catherine's. I planned to write about tonight in my journal, chronicling for later years these moments of ref lection and self-revelation. I was mentally titling the page The night I knew for sure.
I just had to find the waitress so I could pay my bill. Good luck doing that, since the bar was so crowded. I couldn't even catch a glimpse of her. How much did a beer cost in this place? Surely fifty cents would do it, plus tip. I'd shoved a few bills in the front pocket of my blue jeans.
"Hey, don't I know you?"
I started to tell the blond guy standing at my table that the line was wasted on me, but then I recognized him.
"you're Patricia Ingalls's older brother, Arnold." My reply was pretty friendly to make up for thinking he was hitting on me.
"Right," he said, smiling. "And you're that friend of hers who decided to become a nun."
Not quite how I would've said it, butokay. He was, after all, correct. "Yep."
"My friends and I just drove in from skiing at Tahoeand this is the only table left with seats. Mind if we join you?"
I fully intended to tell him he could have the table. I was leaving, anyway. And then I noticed the guy who'd joined the group, pocketing a set of keys. Arnold was older than Patricia and me by four years. This guy was even older.
It wasn't his age that froze my tongue, though. I'm not really sure what it was. He looked at me and I couldn't move.
And somehow, five minutes later, I found myself sitting at a table sipping beer with five athletic-looking older men.
And buzzing with nervousness because of the man right next to meNate Grady, Arnold had said, adding that Nate was staying sober so he could drive, which explained the keys.
Was I drawn toward him as a woman is to a man? I didn't think so. Not that I knew much about such things. It was just that he was sovital.
I couldn't understand my reaction so, really, had no explanation for it.
"When'd you quit the convent?, Arnold asked after the beer had been served.
"I didn't." My eyes shied away from any contact with Nate as I repliedand my entire body suffused with guilty heat. For a second there, I'd wanted to deny my association with the church. With my calling.
Like Peter? Who later redeemed himself ?
Or Judaswho never did?"
"No kidding!" Nate's deep voice was distinctive, his words clear in the room's din. "you're a nun?"
he'd been a minute or two behind, parking the car, when Arnold had mentioned it earlier.
"Not yet," I assured him as though there was still time to stop the course of my life if need beand at the same time shrinking inside, preparing to be struck down for my heresy.
"I've been living at St. Catherine's dormitory for the past couple of years, but in two weeks I move into the convent itself and start my formal training," I added to appease any anger I might have instilled in God, directing my comment to Nate without actually looking at him. "It takes three years to get through the novitiate."
"You live with the nuns?, That voice came again, touching me deep inside.
"I live in a dormitory on the grounds, yes."
"Dressed like that?"
"Not around the convent, no." I didn't describe the plain brown dress I usually wore. Not understanding why his presence was like a magnet to me, I wasn't going to engage in conversation with him at all if I could help it. I tried to focus on Arnold and the other guys as they relived, with exaggerated detail I was sure, antics from their day, each trying to top the other with tales of daring attempts or perilous danger survived.
But frankly, I found their accounts boring. I kept thinking about paying my bill and excusing myself. Our waitress passed, laden with drinks and I told myself I'd f lag her down next time.
"Do you spend your days with the nuns?"
I shook my head, alternating between wishing I'd bothered with makeup or a hairstyle and feeling glad that I hadn't. Men liked blond bobs, not the straight brown wash-and-wear stuff that was cut just above my shoulders.
There was safety in mousy.
And in another six months when, God willing, I became a novice and received the Holy Habit, minus the wimple I'd be honored with when I took my final vows, my hair would be cut as short as my father's.
"What kind of order is St. Catherine's?"
Why wasn't he joining in the boasting with his friends?
"Teaching. Other than those who run the household, the sisters hold teaching positions, either at the private college I attend or at Eastside Catholic High School right next to it."
I didn't see how he could possibly be interested in this. And wasn't even sure he'd be able to hear me above the crowd.
"So that's what you want to do? Teach?"
"I want to serve God. Since the Second Vatican Council there's been a surge of energy directed toward education. And I love kids. So, yes, I do hope to spend my life teaching." Instinctively I turned to face him as I spoke. And couldn't look away. He had the bluest eyes I'd ever seen. And possibly the warmest.
"How old are you? If you don't mind me asking."
He leaned a bit closer, not disrespectfully, I somehow knew, but simply to ease conversation. "Do you have any idea how lucky you are to know your calling in life at such a young age?"
The question reminded me of my reason for being in the pub at allpotentially the last time I'd enter such an establishment. "Yes," I told him, remembering the conclusions I'd drawn only a half hour before. And the resulting peace that had settled over me.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4.5 stars The Night We Met is the fourteenth stand-alone novel by American author, Tara Taylor Quinn. Eliza Crowley is attending college, living in a Catholic convent and just weeks away from becoming a postulant nun when she meets Nate Grady in a pub. He’s much older, 32 to her 19, divorced, and her path in life is already set. But meeting Nate throws all her plans awry. She is stunned by her own reply when he writes her a letter proposing marriage. It is 1968, so her decision means rejection by the Church and being disowned by her family. Both believe their love is strong enough to survive this isolation. What is fascinating about this novel is that it is inspired by the author’s parents, and based loosely on their marriage. It is a first person narrative, from Eliza’s perspective, told plainly, and is no standard Happily Ever After tale. There are plenty of ups and downs in the forty years they spend together, happiness and heartbreak. This is a very moving read.
In 1968 San Francisco Nineteen years old Eliza Crowley plans to enter St. Catherine¿s Convent where in six months if God is willing she will become a novice. Eliza stops at a pub across the street from the convent where she meets much older Nathaniel Grady. She is stunned by her attraction to the twice divorced ski resort manager because no man has ever hooked her before. Still she knows she is no longer suited for a convent life as her heart belongs to Nathaniel. He feels the same way about her though he feels he is robbing the cradle. They marry.----------------- Over the years they remain married and raise children who give them grandchildren. Their relationship remains strong through their time together has dented some of the luster. Still Nate and Eliza are an entry although the ardor has cooled over the years somewhat.------------------ THE NIGHT WE MET is the first event of many years together for Eliza and Nate. However, Eliza is the only fully developed character as each escapade unfolds it is from her point of view. Thus the audience sees Nate and their offspring through her filter. In some ways more of a series of vignettes than a saga, this is an interesting relationship drama of a couple through the decades.------------- Harriet Klausner