On right track for romance


Monique Mercer And Byron Coleman

May 09, 1999|By Joanne E. Morvay | Joanne E. Morvay,Special to the Sun

When Monique Mercer decided to visit a friend in Raleigh, N.C., in March 1996, her mother didn't want her to drive alone. Instead, Joyce Mercer suggested, why not take the train?

The idea seemed so old-fashioned. But Monique knew her mother wouldn't let up, so she finally agreed. When Joyce dropped her daughter at the train station in Fredericksburg, Va. (Monique grew up in Stafford County, Va., and was still living there at the time), she took note of how nicely dressed Monique was and teasingly asked Monique if she thought she'd meet a man on the trip. Monique just rolled her eyes.

Monique didn't meet anyone on the train going down. But she and her girlfriend had a great weekend visit. And on Monday, Monique was at the Raleigh train station, headed for home.

On that chilly March morning, Byron Coleman stood on the station platform, waiting for the train that would take him to a job interview in Baltimore.

As the striking woman with the shy smile passed him, Byron wished her "good morning." On the train, the pair found themselves seated together. They struck up a conversation and Monique offered Byron an impromptu breakfast -- a Coke and some pastries she had packed for the trip.

As the miles whizzed by, so did time. Conversation flowed easily between Monique and Byron; they talked about anything and everything: family relationships, their jobs and their shared passion for travel.

Byron, an outgoing and attractive man who likes to talk, was amazed that Monique so effortlessly held up her end of the conversation. Monique admits now that, at times, Byron's endless questions made the experience akin to a tough job interview.

Suddenly, in Richmond, the conductor announced that all passengers getting off the train in Fredericksburg would have to move to one car. And so, Monique slowly gathered her things, wondering what she should do next.

"There was no time to really wind up the conversation," Monique explains. And she was too shy to ask for Byron's phone number. But after their four hours of conversation on the train, Monique didn't want to lose touch with him.

"When I met Byron, it was like, this is the kind of guy I'd like to take home to meet my parents," Monique says.

Fortunately, Byron had a similar feeling. The couple quickly exchanged phone numbers and addresses.

Later in the month, Monique sent Byron a letter telling him how much she enjoyed meeting him.

Byron landed the job he was interviewing for in Baltimore and became a maintenance supervisor for the Rouse Co. As soon as he got settled, he went to Virginia for the weekend and met Monique's family, including her mother and father, Edward "Gary" Mercer.

Monique continued to write and Byron called her on the phone. In December 1996, Monique was hired as a junior research analyst for R.O.W. Sciences, a health policy research firm in Rockville. She commuted from Fredericksburg, but her being in Maryland made it much easier for the couple to meet at the end of the week.

In the summer of 1997, Byron took Monique home to Baton Rouge, La., to meet his parents, Doris Coleman and Felton Coleman Jr.; his brother, Selwyn Coleman; and the rest of his family.

In August 1998, Monique and Byron decided to get engaged. On May 1, Monique, 33, and Byron, 35, were married at Mount Hope Baptist Church in Brooke, Va. The wedding party included Byron's daughter from a previous marriage, Anyea Coleman, as a junior bridesmaid, and his brother as his best man. Monique's sister Janine Maloney was her matron of honor. The reception for 200 guests was held at Monique's parents' home in Falmouth, Va.

Monique firmly believes it was divine intervention that brought the couple together.

"Neither of us had really traveled by train before. And Byron literally showed up out of nowhere," she says, smiling as Byron grins back.

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