She was so near, and yet ...

Just Married

Kerry Frankenfield and Mark Macek

October 06, 2002|By Molly Knight | Molly Knight,Sun Staff

She's pretty, and she drives a gold Saturn. For two years, that's all Mark Macek knew about the woman who lived next door. Although he had often admired her from afar, he never had the nerve to approach her. So he watched, and he wondered.

"I was always too nervous to say anything to her," said Mark, an assistant professor at the University of Maryland's dental school. "I never thought I'd have the chance to meet her."

His only chance, he remembers thinking, might be if he casually ran into her in the parking lot of their apartment building in Columbia. So, one sunny afternoon in April, Mark set out to wash his car and to wait. After several scrubs, however, his car was gleaming and there was no sign of his neighbor. Disap-pointed, he returned home.

That same evening, Mark went to a friend's house for a party, where he was introduced to an attractive schoolteacher named Kerry Frankenfield. Kerry told him about her fifth-grade class and her apartment in Columbia.

Columbia?

"At that moment I realized who I was talking to," he said. "I couldn't believe it was her."

The woman next door was even more beautiful than she had appeared from afar, Mark said. He asked a mutual friend for Kerry's e-mail address and planned to ask her out. Meanwhile, Kerry left the party thinking about the man next door, whom she'd passed so many times without notice.

"I really liked him from the moment I met him," said Kerry. "But I didn't want to get my hopes up. I just figured that he was probably seeing someone."

Later that week -- after sending Kerry a few e-mail messages -- Mark decided to ask her out in person. Once more, he stood guard in the parking lot, this time feigning work on one of his car's headlights.

When Kerry returned home from work, she stopped to talk to him and agreed to go for a drink at a local bar. That night, Kerry and Mark talked for hours. "I felt so comfortable with her," said Mark. "It was like we were old friends."

A year later, on Valentine's Day of this year, Mark took Kerry out for a romantic dinner at McCormick & Schmick's restaurant in Baltimore. Afterward, they stopped by his apartment, where he told Kerry a gift was waiting. When she walked inside, Kerry saw a huge banner hanging from the ceiling reading: "Will you marry me?"

"I was so stunned that I almost forgot to say yes!" said Kerry.

Mark, 37, and Kerry, 34, were married on Sept. 21 in St. Philip's Episcopal Church in Laurel. A reception followed at Savage Mill. The couple took a four-day honeymoon to Disneyland.

Before they had met, Kerry and Mark said they had spent years looking for love in all the wrong places.

"Every time I went out with a woman, I was so conscious of the fact that it was a date," said Mark. "I just never felt comfortable."

"I had dated so many guys that were 'Mr. Wrongs,' " Kerry said. "I decided that I was just destined to be single."

Now that they're married, Kerry and Mark can look back and marvel about how they found each other.

Sure, it took a few years. But it was there all along -- right next door.

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