We will leave young Frederick now as I take you to the year 1968, just outside a small brick chapel in the state of Florida. A young man, no older than eighteen or nineteen, made his way slowly up to it, several books under one arm, just as the large front doors were flung open.
Hope ran nearly headfirst into the stranger, sending his books flying. “I am so sorry!” she cried, flinging a hand over her mouth. “I was in such a rush I didn’t see you there.”
The young man held up a hand and glanced rather sheepishly at her as he bent over to pick them up. “No, don’t apologize. I should have been more careful.”
“Here, let me help you,” she urged, bending down too to help collect them. Just as they both made to grab the last book, their heads collided with a thud, sending the now recovered books tumbling back down to the pavement in surprise.
“I am so sorry,” repeated Hope, her cheeks burning.
The young man chuckled. “Neither of us seem too talented at first impressions.” He cleared his throat, smiling up at her. “Maybe, I should get the rest of these?”
He collected them quickly, and a moment later he straightened up, glancing down at his watch and then up at her with the same smile still playing at his lips. “Were you going somewhere?”
“Oh right,” She blushed again and set off as fast as she could to the small vicarage behind the church, returning just before the service started with the offering baskets in hand.
As she sat down, she caught sight of the young man looking at her from the other side of the church and lowered her head slightly, letting her curly brown hair hide her still rosy cheeks. It wasn’t until halfway through the service that she chanced a look in his direction. He was a good looking and clearly foreign young man, just barely older than her, with a slightly rounded face and large green eyes that followed the reverend as he made his way around the pulpit. He glanced towards her, and she quickly averted her eyes, pretending not to notice. From the corner of her eye, she caught the young man suppressing a smile.
After the sermon, as the small congregation socialized, Hope felt a light tap on her shoulder. She turned and started at the sight of the reverend standing behind her with his hand on the young man’s shoulder. “Hope, this is Frederick. He recently moved into the area for work. Frederick, this is my daughter, Hope.”
“I believe I have already had the pleasure,” said Frederick with a smile, his German accent strong in spite of his perfect English.
“You know each other?”
“Something like that,” replied Hope, glancing at her father. “I’m afraid I gave him a concussion on the front steps.”
Her father raised an eyebrow but Frederick only chuckled. “It was hardly so exciting.”
“I was thinking about asking Frederick over for dinner after we finish up here,” said the reverend, looking at Hope. “Are you alright with that?”
“I couldn’t impose,” put in Frederick.
“Nonsense,” replied Hope, smiling over at him. “We’d love to have you.”
Just then, one of the elderly ladies called to the reverend, and he smiled at them apologetically before making his way over to her. “So…” said Hope, after a moment, “what’s this job that brings you here?”
“An internship really,” replied Frederick. “As a computer at NASA.”
“I should have known,” laughed Hope, motioning to his books and vest. “You look like the type of person to be helping Kennedy get our man to the Moon.”
He smiled slightly. “I will take that as a compliment.”
And so began what became a bit of a tradition for the threesome. Every Sunday, after the service, Frederick joined the two in the small vicarage for Sunday dinner, becoming a slow but sure fixture in the little community. So it went for several months until one Sunday, after the meal, when Frederick was helping Hope with the dishes. “It was a wonderful meal,” he said, drying off the last of the plates. “I only wish I could make something for you.” She smiled slightly. “Perhaps if you could come to my apartment tomorrow, I could make you a meal.”
“I don’t think my father will be free,” replied Hope, sighing.
Frederick bit his lip. “I wasn’t actually referring to your father.”
She looked over at him in surprise. “You mean… just me?”
He swallowed. “Only if it would please you.”
Hope tried to hide a smile. “I think it would.”
The next day, she made her way up the stairs to his apartment, tucking a loose curl back behind her ear as she did. When she arrived, she knocked lightly. The door swung open almost immediately and Frederick stood in front of her, an apron hanging over his usual dress clothes. At the sight of it, she pursed her lips to try and hide her smile, and he just chuckled as he slid it off. “Do come in, Hope.” It was a small apartment, cramped and cheap with thin walls, but in the middle of it, just next to the window, a small table was carefully set with a single silver candlestick standing at the center of it. “It isn’t much,” apologized Frederick, sighing.
Hope smiled over at him, her face glowing in the candlelight. “It’s perfect.”
As they ate, the conversation turned to Frederick’s work. “So let me get this straight,” said Hope, laughing. “You graduated university at eighteen, dumped a romantic life in Europe, and came to Florida to work double-checking other people’s math?”
Frederick chuckled. “You make it sound so thrilling.”
“But why?” asked Hope, seriously. “What made you decide to come?”
Frederick motioned to the silver candlestick. “That did.” Hope raised an eyebrow. “My mother was given that candlestick from a Jew, a childhood friend who she hid during the war. I used to sit and watch the candles burn down, thinking about the generations that would live because of her. Then, when I first began dreaming of working at NASA, my mother told me that if I worked hard and followed through, she’d give me one of her candlesticks so that when I got my man to the moon, she could light her candle in Germany, and I could light my candle here… and it would be like we were celebrating together.”
Hope sat thoughtfully, staring at the candlelight. “And now you don’t want to disappoint her.”
Frederick leaned back in his chair. “No matter what, she never hesitated in sacrificing for the people she loved. My hope now is that in doing something greater than myself, I can give her this one thing back.” He sighed.
“You will,” said Hope quietly, looking over at him. As he met her eye, she raised her glass. “To family, friends, and the bravery to follow one’s dreams.”
Frederick smiled slightly in the candlelight and clinked his glass against hers. “To the future.”
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