Natalie was the little girl across the street who adored Tommy and planned to marry him when they grew up. In the wake of Tommy's broken back and the disintegration of his family, Natalie's family left town.
She never thought she would see him again, until she was assigned to cover the Mission's handicap awareness campaign -- led by Tommy. He didn't seem to recognize her, and she didn't want to embarrass him by bringing up the past, but she had to warn him before the past found Tommy in the shape of his estranged father.
Just when was the right time, in the middle of the campaign and threats from petty criminals who were blackmailing one of Tommy's friends?
"And you are?" Tommy leaned forward. His eyebrows rose a little when she just stared into his big, chocolate eyes. "Sorry, but nobody told me a reporter was coming. I don't know who you are."
"Oh." She wished she had taken him up on that drink -- she could have splashed it on her face, and maybe generated enough steam to hide behind. "Sorry. Natalie Schaeffer."
"Right!" He leaned back, twisting sideways in his chair so he hooked his right arm over and behind the push-handle.
"You know who I am?"
"Gee, you look so young." He snorted when she shook her head, completely lost. "Natalie Schaffer. She played Mrs. Howell on 'Gilligan's Island.'"
"You are the only person in the whole world who would remember something like that. But it is a different spelling, I must point out."
"Picky, picky. There was this girl I knew when I was a kid. She made the same argument. I used to call her 'Lovey,' and sing the bars about the millionaire and his wife, and she would run away in terror. Gee, give a guy a complex. I was just a dumb kid -- how could I tell her I was passionately in love with her? It just wasn't cool for guys my age." Tommy chuckled. "That's off the record, right?"
"Oh, absolutely. Why would I want to mortally embarrass you in front of half the country?" Natalie bent her head over her notepad, thankful she had written down a list of questions she wanted to ask him. Please, please, please, don't let him recognize me now, after he said all that.
A warm glow shot through her. Tommy had been in love with her, all those years ago? She had been pleased and mortified when he teased her about her name. Maybe if she hadn't run away, she might have known? Then again, what good would it have done either of them, after her father took them to a new church, a new town, and a new state?