Wretched (Part II)

I won’t lie.  The hours after my first kiss were spent in a sort of sweet, suspended state of mild shock.  

Perhaps if he had been less attractive or if I had felt less enchanted I wouldn’t have spent as much time just sitting on our sofa staring blankly around the room.  Maybe I wouldn’t have noticed every inch of everything around me and felt compelled by some beautiful force to be so exceptionally alive in that moment.

My Aggie came through the front door and I sat quietly waiting for her to discover me sitting in the darkness of our living room.  When she did see me sitting there she seemed less surprised than I would have expected.

“Oh, Clara.”  She murmured with more serenity than I had seen her exhibit all day.  Her face looked softer too.  She was much more relaxed and in her eyes she was smiling.

I turned to look at her for a second.  I felt bashfully self aware just sitting there.  It was like she had accidentally walked in on my deepest thoughts.  

Yet, I had braced myself in anticipation the moment I heard her opening the front door.  I could have just stood up, turned on the lights and the radio but I couldn’t bring myself to ruin the way it felt like every second was somehow attached to the last in a long lovely rope connecting me to a few hours before.    So I just smiled and forced a big, wide and likely odd looking grin.

“You look kinda funny Clara.”  A mixture of awkward curiosity and concern beheld me in the face my Aggie.  “Are you alright?”

I nodded quickly and tried to smile even more convincingly.  “I’m fine, but I should tell you something.”  

My breath quickened.  I usually told Agatha almost everything, but there were many things from today that I couldn’t imagine ever telling her about.  Yet, I knew there was one thing she needed to know. 

I had tried to find my papa earlier but he was gone too, of course.  I even looked in all the rooms at the motel but he was no where to be found.    I had wondered briefly where they’d all gone to but my mind was pulled in one very specific direction.  I seemingly couldn’t leave the moment of my first kiss.  

“I was driving the car up the big hill near the Westvold farm – on my way to get those roses.  Remember?”  I looked up at Aggie checking her expression for a response.

She turned around and nodded for a moment after turning on two lamps near the fireplace and the radio too.  A familiar song was playing and it felt odd.   It was like a harbinger of what I feared would happen to my golden afternoon.  This loveliness would disappear and everything would go back to just the way it was.

“Well, the car must have run over nails that came loose or something because I had two flat tires.  So I just left the car there.  I didn’t know what else to do.” She was removing her hat in the back bedroom now and I sat and waited to hear something.

“Listen angel, the car was towed hours ago and brought into the station.  Phillip is taking a look at it right now.  Don’t worry!”  She yelled.  Then she emerged from the back room and sat on the chair in the corner by the fireplace.

“How did you find out about it?”  I asked half scared to find out.

“Tilly told us.  Walter was headed home in the tractor when he saw it sitting on the side of the road.  He hauled it in and then found your father in the county clerk’s office.  

I’ve been at church all afternoon and evening.  Tilly drove me home.”  Then she finally put her feet up on the footstool.

“Oh.  I’m so sorry.  I tried to find someone but no one was here.  I looked everywhere.”  My voice was likely strained but I was scared they would think I was irresponsible to leave the car on the side of the road.  “I didn’t know what to do.  I’m sorry Aggie.”

“Don’t worry about it honey.” She smiled reassuringly. “I know you must have been scared.”  

She studied me closely then her brow furrowed slightly.  She spoke with great care.  “Say, honey, your father and I were worried sick about you, but then Tilly told us her nephew had found you and brought you home.”  There was a long pause and I wasn’t sure if I should respond or wait for her to say something further.

The silence was unbearable. “Yes.  I think his name was Adam.”  I tried to feign as much nonchalance as I could possibly muster.

But nothing much ever escaped my Aggie.  She half glanced up and with a sly knowing grin she rested the sharp chin of her heart shaped face calmly on the back of her tiny hand.  “I’ve been told he’s a handsome young man.”

“Oh, well, I suppose some people might say that.” I tried to obscure the situation as much as possible without totally lying. “He was very nice.  It was kind of him to give me a ride home.”

But Agatha wasn’t going to be detoured.  Not in the slightest.  Her smile faded and instead she just sat there half glaring at me.  Then, after I refused to comment further, still attempting to convey as much indifference as possible, she pretended to give up and sighed loudly while resting herself back against the chair.

“Well, he is a nice boy, but I think you should be careful.  Boys like him can make a lot of trouble.”  I noticed a look of genuine concern spread across her face as she spoke.

I didn’t know what she meant or even could mean.   And my face surely showed it.

“Oh, don’t mind me.”  She changed her tone and gazed at me with a sort of confidence in her eyes that I had never detected before.   It gave me the impression that in this conversation we were two grown woman discussing the sort of things only real adults talk about.   I felt a bit frightened and thrilled at the same time.   Then she continued, “You’ve always been so sensible.  I’m sure you’ll be fine.  I should just keep my big mouth shut.”

And then that was the end of our conversation between two almost equals.   Because I had no idea what she meant and it scared me.

“What do you mean when you say Adam could be trouble?”  I still tried to sound only remotely interested but I knew it was pointless.

“Oh you shouldn’t worry angel.  Your papa is a saint and your mama, bless her soul” she paused for a moment in a sort of reverence, then, “she was a rare lady.  She was as wild as the wind on a March day, but she never was one to bother with-” she cut herself short and looked at me and smiled quietly instead.

“With what?”  I asked.

“Oh honey.  You know.”  She really thought I knew.

“With what?”  I had a hunch but I wanted it to be much clearer.

“With men.  You knowMen!”  Now Aggie almost looked embarrassed.  I felt guilty for making her say anything more.  I had had a hunch after all.

“Oh.”

My father walked in just then and announced loudly, “Hello!” He always did this when he first came home in the evening.  It was in this deep voice too.  Sometimes it carried so much it could be heard almost a block away.  He could make his voice boom when he wanted.  

I felt awkward because of what we had just been discussing.  My shoulders were squeezed as close to my body as possible. 

“Darling.”  Aggie called.   That was her name for my papa: darling.  He called her dolly, but only when he didn’t think I was listening.  

Aggie rose to meet him from her chair and I could hear their voices in the kitchen even though I could no longer understand what they were saying.   I stood up to walk over to the stairs and then to my bedroom.  

When I reached the top step I felt a sort of sadness as I glanced around me.  Once I found the darkness it was almost like I had reentered the world before.  And when I looked out the windows and heard the sound of the crickets chirping through the screens of the open windows I felt a little heartsick.

Oh what was the cure?  I went over and sat on the edge of my bed near the window.  

It hit me that I had purveyed the same scene the night before and that my thoughts had been so very different.  Last night I had been worried about robbers.  Tonight my thoughts were about… men.    It seemed like a good moment to write about.  

I found a scrap of paper laying on my dresser from a flyer passed around town.  It read, “Come see the wonders of modern know how!”  There was an appliance store opening up in a larger town nearby and it was an ad for in-home, electric refrigerators, ovens and washing machines.  I found a sharpened pencil and tried to scrawl down a few thoughts in the form of poetry.  It was terrible, but I felt better somehow after writing it.

Clara!” Aggie yelled at me from below.

“Yes!”  I responded loudly to the green carpeted floor in my bedroom.

“Supper is ready.”

I quickly ran down the stairs and into the kitchen.  At the table my Aggie had laid boiled potatoes, creamed corn, sausage and cheese out to eat on the table.  I reached for the pepper to sprinkle on the potatoes.  Then Aggie suddenly turned off the lights in the kitchen and lit two candles she had put in glass candlesticks.  Then she placed them on the table.

“I thought we should eat in the elegance of candlelight tonight.”  She grinned at me quickly and then at my father.  

The thought then occurred to me she had been inspired by our earlier conversation, especially since she now gazed with a look of deep emotion at my father.  I felt embarrassed to know. 

Then I examined my father.  I tried to see him objectively.  

It was difficult to imagine him being a romantic hero.  Of course, it wasn’t that he was ugly.  He had a handsome face and he was kind.  But I couldn’t quite think of him as being anything but my stoic papa.  He certainly was very different than the men I saw in movies or read about in books.  But Aggie loved him and the way she glanced at him now told me that what she saw was very special.   She saw a man.

I felt very awkward so I stared at my potatoes and ate as fast as I could without saying a word.  Except, I did look up for a second long enough to see them both almost beaming with a look of some sort of quiet contentment.  They sometimes had this look at night when we all sat around in the living room listening to the radio.  Papa and Aggie would be next to one another on the sofa.  Aggie knit and Papa smoked his pipe.  And they had the same look.

I would have asked to be excused from the table when I finished but since they seemed so happy I didn’t want to interrupt them.  So, I just quietly and carefully scooted down the bench and off to the sink.  I threw my scraps in the bucket and then washed my plate and silverware.  Then I quietly slid into the hallway and off to the stairs.

That night I tried to write more poetry after I finished my homework.  But it was still just as terrible as before.  Then, after everyone had gone to bed I walked downstairs and into the completely still and dark living room.  I looked out the windows and in a romantic fit I decided to go outside dressed in my flannel pajamas.  The air breezing in through the windows had felt surprisingly warm.

Once my bare feet hit the wooden front porch I felt almost guilty for walking outdoors at this hour alone without anyone’s knowledge but my own.  But, I dared myself further so I walked down the steps and into the still damp grass.  My feet screamed at me with the sheer chill and wetness of the lawn after sunset in a Midwestern spring.  I looked around for a few minutes just to try to capture images in my mind.  Then I felt silly, so I pranced back inside, quietly.

My feet were on warm dry carpet now.  The door was closed.  And I felt like a chicken for not going for a walk.  But, I just went back up the steps and to sleep anyway.

_____________________________________________________________________

Sure enough the next day Andrew and his mother arrived at the motel.  It was around four in the afternoon.

“They’re here!”  Aggie gathered herself and quickly applied two layers of pink Coty lip rouge in a mirror she kept hanging inside the door of the pantry.  Then she fluffed up her blond locks, took off her apron and proceeded to make her way out the front door, but then stopped with a jerk.  “Clara!”  she turned around and gave me a look of exasperation.  “You should be getting ready too.  Why are you wearing that dress honey?  You know how much ivory washes out your complexion.  That collar is all wrong for today too.  You should go put on your green dress.  Huh?”

I bounded up the steps as quickly as I could.  

“Clara!?”  I heard Aggie yell from below.

“Yes?”  I responded, hurrying about my room in an effort to locate where I had placed my green dress.

Clara, make sure to wear your hair down.  Ok?”  She yelled again.

“Sure!  I will!”  I was feeling a tiny bit annoyed now.

I raced downstairs, only slowing at the bottom step to convince myself that I was a lady of some sort of poise.  I didn’t particularly care that much how well this went, but I liked to play the roll of a beauty trying to capture the attention of young man.  Not that I had had many opportunities especially, but it seemed like a lofty and dreamy woman to pretend to be right now.  

I looked in the mirror in the pantry for moment now and even though I wasn’t sure what to think of the image I saw, I decided to try at least acting beautiful.  My very dark brown hair and blue eyes weren’t glowing and warm like Agatha’s almost platinum blond and sky blue, but I reasoned that the contrast between the light and dark was sort of pretty in some way perhaps.  Perhaps.

I threw back one shoulder and stuck my chin out a bit.  My nose looked good from this angle, I thought.  Then I smiled.  My teeth weren’t perfectly straight.  But they were straight enough, I suppose.  The green dress really did look better than the ivory one.  Aggie was right.

Aggie kept her pink rouge and other makeup in a drawer in the kitchen.  I’m not sure why she kept it there instead of say, her bedroom, but she was almost always in that kitchen when she wasn’t cleaning the motel.   So, I guess it did make sense.

I hesitated for a moment.  I didn’t want to be rude or dishonest and steal.  But the lipstick looked so pretty on her.  I wanted to look pretty.  So, I pulled out the gold case from the drawer and brought it in the pantry.

“Clara?”  Agatha’s shoes clicked and clacked on the linoleum as she walked into the kitchen from the hallway.  “Honey, what’s taking so long?”

I emerged from the pantry.  My lips were painted a pale pink.  It was almost the shade of bubble gum, but with maybe a bit more depth and sophistication.   It was on thick.  I had never worn lipstick before.

“Oh!”  Aggie looked at me.

“I’m sorry.”  I broke down a little.

“That’s ok angel.  It looks nice.  Really.”  She wrapped her arm around me and escorted me down the hallway to the door.

We walked outside and over to the cement sidewalk past the car.  It led us to the motel just a few feet away.  And there he stood.

Andrew was tall.  He had a fair complexion and light brown hair he combed over to the side in a majestic sort of swoop.  His freckles were noticeable too, even from a distance.  But he was good-looking in a very ruddy sort of way.

Bertha, his mother, or Mrs. Windmere, as she was regarded properly, was a petit woman of about 45 with thick black hair and brown eyes.  She wore a neatly fitted black dress with intricate white lace at the neck.  Her gloves were pristine and her purse was a plush dark purple velvet.  She had a look of stately, hard-nosed reserve.

We approached them quietly but my Aggie was bright and pleasant.  I felt glad to be standing next to her.

“Mrs. Windmere.  It’s a delight.”  Aggie extended her hand and shook the proud woman’s hand.  Then Mrs. Bertha Windmere smiled, showing a big grin.  Really, even her teeth looked intimidating.

The sun shined in our eyes so we all quickly moved off and into the motel.  I watched Andrew and with his back turned to me he seemed totally disinterested in my existence.  I reassured myself that I didn’t mind.   But, I did.

“Oh, Mrs. Windmere.  You should sit down.”  Aggie guided her to the small sitting room in the motel office.

“Thank you, dear.”  Bertha smiled and with a graceful bend of her knees she sat down on the best looking chair we owned.  I wasn’t at all surprised she chose to sit there.

Andrew ignored me almost entirely.  That is until, Aggie said, “Clara you should bring Andrew to the house and give him some cake.  I made plenty yesterday.”  She smiled confidently at both of us.  Then she added, “It’s chocolate with frosting.”

“I’m sure that’d be swell.  Thanks.”  Those were his first words and with that he stood up and started walking towards the door.  

I wasn’t sure if I was bringing him or if he was bringing me.  His mother placed her delicate hand on her chest and made an expression of some sort of embarrassment at her son’s blunt demeanor.  But she tried to smile too.

Aggie threw me a look that said, “Don’t ruin this.”  And I followed him out the door.

We walked across the lawn.  He was in front of me, his hands in his pockets.  Then he stopped and so did I.

“I have no idea where we’re going.”  He exclaimed suddenly and chuckled as he turned around.

“Of course!  I’m sorry!”  I quickly responded.

He looked at me with what I can best describe as a milky sort of expression.  It was very calm.  He was very calm.  

“Just follow me.”  I led the way down our path.  We walked past the car and the fence.  My thoughts quickly shuffled about as I remembered where I was the day before at this time.  It felt almost scandalous.

Once we found our way to the kitchen I found the best glass we had, one of the nice ones we saved on a special shelf above the sink.  Then I poured a glass of milk and cut off a nice sized piece of my Aggie’s dense, rich chocolate cake.  It smelled absolutely divine.

“Here you go.”  I placed it front of him carefully and then sat down facing him in a chair at the table.

“Thank you.”  He said with a manly sort of briskness.

Then we just sat there in silence for a few minutes and I started wondering if there was something I should say.  I reasoned there must be a good topic if I could just think hard enough.

“This cake is delicious.”  He said plainly but with earnest.

“Thank you.  It is very good.  Aggie an amazing cook.”

“Mmm.”  He nodded.  “Is she your mother?  Why do you call her Aggie?”

“No.”  I had had this question before so it didn’t surprise me.  I knew how to handle it, even though every time someone asked me I felt things I still struggle to put words to.  “She’s like a mother to me.  But I call her Aggie because she’s not my real mom.  My mother died when I was three.  She fell off a horse and hit her head really hard and was knocked unconscious.  Then she was dead within a few hours.”  I felt bad.  I didn’t want make the conversation too sad, but he had asked.  “No, Aggie is wonderful though.”

He looked me in the eyes and it felt like he was seeing right through me.  He had a way that only a few people have of possessing a moment with such totality that you couldn’t look away but to look in his eyes was almost terrifying.

“I’m sorry.”  He said quite gravely.  Then he let go of his command and stared down at the table with a strange sort of near sadness.

“Oh.  It’s alright.”  

Then he was at it again.  He threw his arms behind his head and leaned back in his seat and crossed his legs at his feet.   A look of probing curiosity studied my face.  Then he shocked me.

“You know what this is don’t you?”  He suddenly grinned in a way that was all at once comforting and deeply disconcerting.

“No.”  I was confused.

“It’s a set up.”  He raised his left brow and I could see a sort of humor in his face now.  He wasn’t nearly as stuffy, distant or awkward as I had first thought.

I bit my bottom lip and then laughed a little. “Yes.  It is.”

He leaned in to the table and then said, “My mother went on about you for almost an hour on the way here.”  He laughed again.  “She’s a nice old broad once you get to know her.  Don’t let her scare you.” He studied my face to see what sort of reaction his words would produce.

I was shocked.  “I’m sure she’s lovely.”  I smiled.

“You know, I wasn’t even supposed to be here.”  He moved his arms from behind his head and looked at me squarely.  “I enlisted in the Navy recently.  But I have two weeks before I leave.  My mother is determined to have me meet someone before then.  She wants me to have some-”  he glanced up and off with a sort of knowing smile, “romance.”  Then his eyes met mine.

I swallowed hard and nodded as nonchalantly as I could.  “Well, I can see why she’d want that.  It’s nice to have someone to write to I would bet.”

“Sure.”  He agreed with a nod, looking off a little again.  “My brothers are both fighting in the war right now.  One is in Italy and the other is in the Pacific.”

“I thought they were both in the Army.”  I asked meekly.

“My oldest brother, Peter, is.  But Aaron is in the Navy.”  A look of pride filled his face.

“Do they have people they write to?”  My voice sounded so quiet.

“Pete doesn’t write much to anyone.   I don’t think he wants to scare people.  But Aaron, he always has lots of nonsense to jabber on about.”  He grinned and shook his head.

“Aaron has a girlfriend?”  I wondered.

“Yes.”  Then he nodded again.  “She’s a secretary in the city.  She rarely visits us, but that’s probably because my mother can’t stand her.”  He looked at me sideways.

“Oh.  I’m sorry.”  I felt unsure of what to say next.

“No.  My brother is seeing her because she makes my mother angry.”  He bit his lip now and a serious sort of look came over him.  Then he burst out laughing again.  “You wouldn’t like her either.”

“Why is that?”  I wondered.

He shook his head and shrugged his shoulders.  “I don’t know.  I just don’t think you would is all.”

“Well, maybe I would.”  I tried to like almost everyone at least a little.

He smiled and shook his head to disagree silently.  “Say, when do you serve supper?  I am famished.”  He looked pleadingly at me.  “I’m sorry. I know that’s rude as hell.  I just am so hungry.”

“Of course.”  I grinned.  “It’s almost 4:30 so we should be eating in about an hour.  I bet Aggie will be here any minute to start preparing it.”

“Don’t you cook?”  He asked with seeming confusion.

“Yes.  But I think she has something special planned.” I recovered.

Then the conversation all but died.  Of course, it wasn’t that I didn’t like sitting here talking with him.  It was just that we didn’t seem to have much of anything left to say.  We had exhausted everything that could be said at the level of intimacy we had reached in a matter of a half an hour sitting here at the kitchen table.

“Would you like to go see how they’re doing?” I suggested politely. 

“Sure thing.”  He said.

We rose from the table and found Aggie and Bertha standing over by the side of the road when went outside to investigate.  Then we watched as they walked together down a dirt path to the creek that ran past our motel.  It was a shallow creek and it would nearly half disappear at the end of the summer but it was rushing now with water.   

Agatha liked to bring people there.  I think she thought it was a scenic spot.  I admired Bertha for humoring her so kindly.  

Then I started to wonder about the young man standing next to me.  Perhaps we wouldn’t get along after all.  

After a spaghetti and meatball supper with a pie for dessert we all sat around at the table.  The soft light from the windows gave a tender beauty to the surroundings and I privately mused at how romantic this moment felt.  But, when I looked at Andrew it was nothing like the day before.  

A sudden sharp pain of sadness and anxious happiness cut me inside into pieces.  I wondered where Adam was right now and my mind ran a little wild coming up with scenarios.  Then I realized that all I really had right now was this.  Just this.   I tried to appreciate it.  Then I looked over at him again.  Nope.  Nothing.

Bertha told us stories about all the prizes she had won over the years for her expert gardening knowledge.  She had a particular knack with petunias apparently.

Then it was over.  Bertha and Andrew went to the motel and I stayed behind to clean.

Of course, there was talk of how the next day Andrew was going to take me for a walk.  My Aggie and Bertha had seemingly decided at some point today in conversation that Andrew and I were going to be an item.   They just had to convince us.  And despite the lack of interest either Andrew or I had, they were fairly relentless.

After I was done washing the dishes, sweeping and putting things away I went up to my room and worked on a book report I had been writing for the last two days.  It was easier to complete than I had thought it would be.  I felt relieved.  But after that there was nothing left to do.

I sat on the edge of my bed again and felt a creeping emptiness, like a cold wave of unknown grief was threatening to overtake me slowly.  Piece by piece.  Moment by moment.  I felt the need to resist.  But I wasn’t sure how.

I rose from my bed and walked down the steps and opened the front door.  It seemed like a good idea to just walk outside and keep going tonight.  So I did.  I meandered down and over towards the creek.

Steadying myself by grabbing the roots of trees that somehow come uncovered by the sides of a dirty creek, I made my way to the water.  My aim was to put my feet in the creek and just stand there for a while.  I might even see a frog or two.  I just wanted to be there.  I just wanted to feel the beauty.  Entirely.

And then I realized slowly that I wasn’t alone because standing off to my left was Andrew.  He was sitting against a log, barefoot, smoking.  But he didn’t seem to notice me at all.  He was staring off into the trees on the other side of the creek.

I stood there watching him.  It didn’t seem right not to say something, although I considered it strongly.   But I hoped he would see me first, at least.   When he finally did notice me the look on his face was one of instant understanding.  I smiled.

“Hi.”  He said sadly.

“Hi.”  I responded.

“Do you smoke?”  He extended a packet of cigarettes.

“No. But can I join you?”  I wanted to too.

“Yes!  Please.”  He seemed relieved.

I walked over and sat down next to him.  Then curled my legs up and held them.

“It’s funny.”  He started.  “I said earlier that I wasn’t supposed to be here, but the truth is that I didn’t want to be.”

“Oh.  Why?”  I prodded carefully.

He laughed mirthfully.  “Oh it’s a dumb story I guess, but the truth is that I am already seeing someone.”

“Really?” I asked with sincere interest.

“Yes.  My mother doesn’t know about her because she’s a Catholic.  We’re Lutherans.”

“Oh.  So are we.”  I hadn’t thought much about it I guess, but then again, my parents weren’t people to take things like that terribly seriously.  They attended church, I completed confirmation of course, and I knew they both believed in God but I can’t remember them ever saying anything about not seeing Catholic boys.  Or, really anyone different than us for that matter.   I felt a certain new respect for them I hadn’t had before.

“Her name is Susanne.”  His face lit up with a sort of glee.  I was crushed for him.

“I wish you could be with her right now.  I’m sorry.” I consoled.

“Oh god.  So do I.”  He leaned back against the log and looked as if he could almost cry.  “It’s the sort of night where you should be outside under the stars necking passionately with someone you love.”  

He flashed a toothy grin then took a drag of his cigarette.   Tightening his brow he looked at me curiously.  “Don’t be offended.  Please!  But you, you’re a good looking girl.  I’m surprised you’re sitting here right now with me.  Where’s your boyfriend?”

“I don’t have one.”  It was a bit like I had showed up at a party dressed completely wrong.  I should have had a beau.  

“No one?” He smoked blithely.

“I guess there is someone sort of.  Maybe.  But I just met him and my mother-” I stopped myself short.  I couldn’t believe I’d slipped again.  I did the same thing yesterday with Adam.

“You can’t call her mother?  I’m confused.”  He seemed at least partially perplexed.

“No.  I’m not allowed to.  On account that it’s disrespectful to my mother.”

“But wouldn’t that be up to you to decide?”  He seemed pleasantly defiant.

“I suppose.  But, no.  It’s just not what we do.”  It had never bothered that much until recently.  And in this conversation I recognized for the first time just how much it really did pain me.  I had memories of my mother but Aggie was my mother too.

“Families are funny.”  He laughed with a sort of sadness in his eyes.  “You know, you were saying you had met someone.  Tell me more.  Maybe it will make me feel better about my own sorry state.  It sounds tragic.”

I laughed.  “Oh it isn’t really, I guess.  It’s just that I don’t know how I’ll ever see him again.  My Aggie, well-”  I paused because it seemed odd now not to call her my mother around Andrew, “she’s my only connection to him.  He lives two towns away and is the nephew of her best friend.  And I don’t think she wants me to see him.”

“Bugger.  That’s murder.”  He looked upset.

“We also just met yesterday.”  I sheepishly looked down at my feet. “It’s dumb I guess.  But he did say he’d come by and see me someday so maybe he will.”

“If he doesn’t then you should just forget about him as quick as you can.  That’s what I say.”  He was definite.

“Oh?”

“Sure!  You won’t live forever.  Besides, if he doesn’t then putting yourself on the shelf will only cheat a man who could love you.”

“Well, how long do I wait?” He seemed so sure of himself and his thoughts and so I felt the need to ask questions. 

“You shouldn’t wait!  Wait as long as you would for yourself.”  He let out a puff. 

“What does that mean?”

“You shouldn’t ever give up.  No.  I don’t mean that.  You should just let them be.  You know?  You should move freely.  If he cares he’ll find you but never wait.”

It made sense.  It was poetic.  And now all I wanted to do was sleep.  I rested my head back against the log behind me.

We sat there together and closed our eyes.  His cigarette was finished and he breathed deeply for a moment.

“I just want to sit here all night.  Do you hear that?”  He asked me.  “It’s the sound of frogs mating.”

“What?”  I asked slightly shocked.

“It is.  I read about it in my life science textbook.”  He giggled.

“Well, they’re having a nice night I suppose.”  I couldn’t believe I had just said that.  I raised my hand and covered my mouth.

“They must be.”  He laughed.

I had a sudden thought that I half wanted to kiss him like I had been kissed the day before.  I looked over at him and blinked.  He noticed me and half opened one eye.  Then he smiled again and shook his head.

“Oh no.”  He said.

“I.”  I had no idea what to say.  He read me much too well and there was nothing I could say now.

“How about we just go back now?”  He suggested, suddenly rising and dusting off his pants.

I just sat there unsure what to do next.  It seemed unlikely I could salvage any dignity at this moment, but I so desperately wanted to.

“I think the moonlight and stars just got to me.” I reasoned out loud as I stood up and brushed myself off now too. “I’m sorry.  I didn’t-”

“Look, you didn’t do anything and truthfully, if it wasn’t for Susanne I would have tried first.  But I just feel bad-”  He looked sympathetic.

“Oh, of course.  And maybe I have someone too.  I don’t know.”  I really didn’t.

“Well, you never know.”  He shrugged.  “He might be thinking of you right now too.”

“Gee, I wonder.”  I shrugged.

“You should try to find a way to see him.  I mean it.”  He looked at me solemnly.

“What about everything you said before?”  I questioned.

“I meant that too.  But-”  He shrugged again. “I just.  I feel bad.  You seem like such a nice girl.”

“Thanks.  I guess.”  I wasn’t sure if that was entirely a compliment.

“We should go.”  He led the way to the side of creek and helped me up and over the side.  When we were walking across the lawn he began, “You know it is funny.  I had thought this visit was going to be sad because my Great Aunt Cornelia died, but right now I feel pretty fine.”  He put his hands in his pockets and smiled sweetly.

“I’m glad to hear that.”  I sighed.

“Say, it’s been nice talking with you tonight.”  Then he stopped short before we had to part ways and added, “Thank you.”

“My pleasure.  Of course.”  I nodded.

He reached over and wrapped his arms around me and I responded in kind.  Then for a moment we seemed inseparable.  I wasn’t sure why.  And I felt very confused.  He ran his hand across my back and then uttered, “I can’t kiss you.  You know that right?”

I backed away a little indignantly.  “Of course.  I wasn’t expecting you to.”

“But I want to.  Tomorrow night might be too late.  What if that boy comes to see you.  You never know.   But I don’t think I should-”

“Of course not.  It’s ok.”  I tried to reassure him.  “He probably won’t.  But even if he doesn’t it’s ok.  Really.”

“It’s not though.  Not really.”  He looked saddened.  He kissed his finger and then placed it on my lips.  “This might be my last chance.  It might be the only chance I’ll ever have to kiss you.  You just never know.”

For someone who had never been kissed ever in my life until the night before this was proving to be the most romantically dramatic week ever.  I could hardly believe it.

“Now do the same to me.”  He pleaded.

I kissed my finger and placed it on his lips.  He reached around and held me for a second.

“Alright.  Sleep well.”  He announced before turning to walk away rather dramatically.  He was absolutely nothing like he had first seemed.  People will often surprise you.

I walked slowly back to my own house and my own room.  When I entered through the front door I could hear footsteps coming from the kitchen.  I wandered up the stairs anyway, hoping whoever it was wouldn’t realize I had ever been gone.  But first, I glanced at the clock above the radio in the livingroom.  It was far past 10:30.  It was almost midnight.  I was shocked for the umpteenth time this week.  I had never been out so late before.

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