Editor's note: Below is an excerpt from author Alex Wellen's new novel, "Lovesick." In this chapter, after weeks of procrastinating, Andy Altman finally works up the nerve to ask his future father-in-law, Gregory Day, for his daughter Paige's hand in marriage. Alex Wellen is an award-winning television producer for CNN.
Nothing like mixing love and a battle with a crime ring of geriatric gangsters to cause some dizziness.
(CNN) -- I go to the dining room for some privacy. It's now or never. I press the speed dial for "Gregory Home." While the phone searches for a cell tower among the sticks, I confirm the coast is clear.
Reception here is spotty. My phone flickers between one and three bars. You can't do this with anything less than three out of five. The quality of the connection is crucial. "Come again, Andrew? Why on God's green earth would you want my dressing?"
I've got two bars. It's ringing. Holy crap! Holy crap! Holy crap! I'm getting married. I should have done this in person. I should have taken him to Applebee's or bought tickets to an Oakland A's game or just asked him over lunch at Langley's Diner. This should be easier. Doesn't every man secretly want a son?
"Hello," Gregory says, bracing for a telemarketer.
"Dad! It's me." No. "Mr. Day, Andy Altman here." No. "Gregory, we need to talk." No.
"Is anyone there?"
"Hi, it's Andy," I say finally.
"Hello, Andrew," he says, still concerned I might sell him something. I can hear him tearing paper like he's opening mail.
"Everything okay?" he says suddenly.
"You bet. We arrived safely in Sonoma," I assure him. "Paige is getting ready for dinner." His daughter may have just turned thirty, but a father never wants to be reminded that his unwed daughter is on a sleepover with a boy. "Ignorance is bliss," "plausible deniability," this is how a father deals with his daughter's virginity, Paige tells me.
"After dinner, it's bingo at the Baptist Church, a mug of hot cocoa, and straight to separate sleeping quarters," I want to tell him. "How are things?" I ask, scanning the reception area, working up the nerve.
"Same as they were two hours ago," he says coolly. Gregory clears his throat: "What can I do for you this evening?"
"So I wanted to call," I say, taking a deep breath.
"Let me stop you right there. I don't need an apology about before. Just don't let it happen again. I want to put this whole evening behind us. Tomorrow's another day."
"You want to put this evening behind us?"
I let out a long sigh. "God, I've never done this before," I say. Was that my inside voice or my outside voice? Calm down. "I wanted to call you," my outside voice says. "You know Paige and I have a wonderful time together. I love her very much and I would like to ask her to marry me. I have such great respect for you and I wouldn't feel right not checking with you first."
It sounded better in the shower.
A tumbleweed rolls through the dining room. Crickets chirp.
"Hello?" I ask.
Gregory speaks, finally. "I appreciate that, Andrew," he says kindly. "I do." He seems genuinely touched. "When did you want to do this?"
Didn't I say "tonight"? I swore I said "tonight."
"Tonight!" He's appalled, his voice rising. "You're proposing tonight and you're asking me now?"
"You're totally right. I screwed up. I'm sorry. I was just worried about spoiling the surprise."
"You don't trust me to keep a secret?" Gregory demands.
"No, not at all, I trust you. I bet you're the best with secrets."
Gregory takes a deep breath. Then another. He clears his throat.
I'm blowing this.
"Wait," he commands finally.
"Okay. No problem."
I lean against the dining room wall, sandwiching the cell phone between my ear and the window. I close my eyes, bracing for what Gregory might say next. Nine long hours pass in silence. Then I hear him take three short hits of his inhaler.
"Hello?" I ask.
"Hello?" he asks.
"Oh, hey, you're back."
"What do you mean 'I'm back'?" he asks.
"You're back, you told me to wait. Didn't you just go somewhere?"
"I'm just sitting here. I was waiting for you to say something."
"I thought you wanted me to wait," I say.
"I do. I want you to wait to ask Paige to get married."
It's as if Paige and I are back in the car and I've narrowly missed that head-on collision. My blood vessels widen. The adrenaline kicks in. What is he asking me? Is he saying no? Is he saying maybe?
"If this is about money," I prod, "I've got savings."
"That's not it at all."
"You think a year is too short to get engaged," I conclude.
"It's been more like nine months, and that's not it either. Listen," he begins.
"I don't want to pressure you, Gregory," I jump in, "but I love Paige. We're a good couple. I'd be honored to be a part of your family."
"Just wait, Andy," he says, his voice shaky.
It's the first time he's called me this.
"I have my reasons and I'll explain when I see you. I promise. But you need to make me two promises, son: keep this between us . . . and wait."
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