Shorts #01: Daisy's ChoicebyDawnJ©
(This story is based on the country song "Pickin' Wildflowers" by Keith Anderson. No copyright infringement intended.)
The music was loud, the bar smoky, but the people in the little space cleared for dancing didn't seem to mind. They were enjoying the sexy sounds of the tall, rangy young man with the wicked grin on his face, belting out his suggestive song to the delight of his audience.
Daisy watched him. She still couldn't believe she had taken his dare. Billy Thornton had been, and still was for many, the town heart-throb when he was a teenager in high school. That had been eight years ago. He'd gone away to the big city, to Nashville, to make a name for himself as a country singer, and now here he was, back home for a break from the road. He was staying at his parents' ranch, out on the far end of town, and he'd promised his friend Tom, the bar's owner, to give him a night free of charge, for old time's sake.
He'd passed by her house, the morning after he'd blown back into town. No one had known he was there as yet, except for his friend, who'd kept his secret till now, and Daisy, who had been kissed soundly before her grandmother's startled eyes. Her own surprise had been considerable. After all, Billy Thornton had cared for no one but himself, way back when she would have died for a look from him. A kiss would have killed her. It had almost killed her that morning, but embarrassment had won over, and she had pulled angrily away from him, slapped his face, much to her grandmother's delight, and swept grandly back into the little house. Well, as grandly as any woman can, dressed in faded cut-off jeans and flip-flops.
She could still hear him, just before she slammed the door.
"I dare you to do that again, Miss Daisy!"
Steam blew out her ears, and she turned smartly, almost losing an eye as the door swung sharply toward her. She sailed back out the door, like a ship at full tilt, and raised her hand to smack him silly. But he caught it, and brought it to his lips, completely deflating her.
"What...?" She didn't know what she wanted to ask him, and he didn't seem to care. Granny had watched the exchange silently to that point, but then she spoke.
"Billy Thornton, if you have business with my grand-daughter, you'd best be gettin' to it! She's got things to do, don't you, Daisy dear?"
She had winked broadly at Daisy as she asked the question, and chuckled when Billy grinned. Daisy sputtered in anger. Not Granny, too!!
"Yes ma'am!" he'd said, looking at her grandmother, still grinning broadly, her hands firmly held in his. "Say, Daise," he said, turning to her, "how about a date this evening?" He studied her face as he made his unexpected invitation. The color slowly bloomed in her cheeks, and then spread down her neck. "You're beautiful when you blush, Miss Daisy!" he said in a low voice, one Granny could not hear. The color stayed.
"Why, thank you, kind sir!" she'd replied in her finest accents, fluttering her grey eyes at him, effectively hiding her emotions from his suddenly sharp gaze. "I'd be delighted, only..." She paused, and then pulled her hands from his. "I don't date strangers!"
She felt a small lick of triumph at the hurt look that slid over his face. He lowered his gaze, and pushed his hands into his pockets. When he looked up again, there wasn't a trace of anything but teasing to be seen in his eyes. He looked over her left shoulder at something that seemed to be of great interest to him before shifting his gaze back to her.
"Now, Daise, that's not true! We were in school together all those years!" he commented. "Why, you were so aloof, none of the guys who wanted to ask you out could even get a word in edgewise. You shut them down..." He let his voice trail off, and looked directly into her eyes. Daisy's mouth gaped open in disbelief.
"Are you saying...?" She swallowed, closed her mouth, and looked at him. He returned her gaze steadily, and then, as though the words had been welling up and could not be staunched any longer, "I don't believe you, Billy Thornton! You're lying!"
She spun around again and began to walk away, missing the stricken look that crossed his face. Her grandmother, however, did not, and that wise old lady smiled quietly, and waited to see what he would do. He glanced at her, without Daisy noticing, and when she nodded, he called after her again.
"I dare you to find out, Daise!"
Daisy heard him, and felt her skin prickle. She struggled with a sudden urge to cry, and kept facing the door. She wouldn't fall for a foolish dare twice in one morning! She opened the door, and heard two things at once...her grandmother chuckling, and a chicken squawking. She couldn't help herself...she turned around, in time to see Billy waving his arms like wings and squawking!
Oh no, he didn't, she thought. He couldn't seriously be standing there calling her chicken! And Granny was laughing!!!
"You have some nerve, Billy Thornton" she sputtered, "coming here after eight years, expecting that the local girls will fall all over themselves for you, and do anything you ask!" She was standing before him again, shaking with the energy of her feelings. "Well let me tell you, mister," she said emphatically, stabbing his chest with a rigid forefinger, "I am NOT one of those girls! You may think you're the best thing that ever happened to womankind, but allow me to differ! I wouldn't go out with you if you were the last cowboy standing!" She wheeled around again, ready to stalk away from him, but he grabbed her arm and spun her back around.
"What have you got to lose, then, Miss Daisy? Since I'm not your type, a night out wouldn't be that hard to handle, now should it? It'd certainly prove to me that you're not lying when you say you don't care for me."
Granny had chosen that moment to speak again, in as maddeningly reasonable a tone as any Daisy had ever heard her use.
"He's right, you know, Daisy! What harm can one night out do? None, if he isn't the guy you're likely to lose sleep over, now is it?" She looked strangely at both of them, and then added, much to Daisy's chagrin, " 'Sides, it's not like you have anything else doing, or any other fella beating down the door for a date, now is it?"
Daisy tasted defeat, and it was a bad taste. She didn't feel like being gracious, but she knew, instinctively, that Granny wanted her to go. She didn't know why, and she guessed she'd find out when Granny was good and ready to tell her. In the meantime, she had done the gracious thing and asked what time she should be ready.
Now here she was, sitting in the darkest part of the bar, sipping a second Cherry Coke and tapping her fingers unconsciously on the table in time to the music. She was glad that no one paid her any mind. She was not a frequenter of bars, nor was she a drinker. The dancing had become increasingly suggestive, and now Billy was singing a song she had heard once or twice as she worked around the house. It had brought a blush to her cheeks each time she heard it, and as he sang, she felt her face growing warm again.
Although the room was poorly lit, Daisy knew Billy was looking at her as he sang. It was purely coincidence that the song had her name, and how he knew she loved to pick wildflowers was a mystery to her. But the import of the song, the sexual weight of the words, did not escape her, and she shifted uncomfortably in her seat. The last thing she intended to do this or any other evening was go anywhere with Billy Thornton other than back to her home. The days of dreaming about making out with him in the bed of his pickup truck were long gone!
Despite herself, she smiled at the second stanza, at the allusion to James Bond, her favorite spy! There was no keeping their date 'covert' as the song suggested, since her grandmother knew exactly where she was and with whom. She still had no clue as to why Granny had practically pushed her into Billy's arms earlier. The puzzle of it was driven from her mind when someone jostled her arm and her drink spilled. She stood hastily, hoping to avoid a stain on her slacks, but it was not to be. She could feel, if not see, the liquid spreading on the front of her pants.
She moved hastily to the ladies' room, and under the harsh light she examined the damage. Her white top had escaped most of the splash, and she dabbed at the few spots. The slacks, however, were a mess. She cleaned up as best she could, and went back into the bar in time to be held securely from behind.
"Okay?" Billy's voice sounded strange in her ear.
"Yes," she said breathily. "Just some spilled soda." She turned her head and smiled tentatively at him.
"Would you like another?" he asked, looking solicitously down at her. "Something stronger?" he wondered, when she hesitated.
"No, no!" she said. "I'm fine!"
The little pause, about to get awkward, was broken by Billy's voice in her ear. "Let's dance!" he said, and turned her around fully, pulling her into his arms.
Daisy wanted to resist, as much as she wanted to sink into him. She didn't understand where these feelings were coming from. She had gotten over Billy years ago! She hadn't thought about him in a long while. Why now, suddenly, was she feeling breathless in his arms? Why now, suddenly, did she wish it were afternoon and they could "sneak away for a couple of hours" down by the river?
Billy's voice in her ear broke into her reverie. "Relax, Daise! I don't bite!"
She made a conscious effort, but it was hard to let go, because she felt as though if she did, she would collapse in a puddle at his feet. She would never give him the satisfaction of knowing that she was, after all, just like the other girls in town, the ones who had eyed him hungrily when he'd gone onstage. Their eyes held an invitation it was impossible to miss. And yet, he had chosen to come here with her. It boggled the mind!
"What are you thinking about?" he asked quietly. "Because whatever it is, it's making you very tense!"
She said the first thing that came to her head, forgetting for a second that whenever she did that, it was invariably the last thing she actually wanted to say.
"I was thinking about the last song you did!"
As soon as the words had been spent in the smoky air, Daisy clamped her mouth shut. It did no good -- Billy had heard them. She felt him go still.
"What are you doing?" she asked in a panic. "We can't just stop dancing in the middle of the dance floor!"
"Hey Daisy, don't you worry 'bout your mama, Like 007 we can keep it covert!" he sang softly for her ears only, all the while moving her off the floor. "Baby whatcha say we go pickin' wildflowers? Got a spot way back in the woods."
They were off the floor. He stopped and looked into her eyes, for all the world as though they were the only two people in the room, and this wasn't a bar, but the fields just on the outskirts of town where the wildflowers grew in abundance.
"Hey baby, won't you come with me?" He sang the invitation, gazing deeply into her eyes, waiting for her answer.
Daisy was speechless. All the feistiness of the morning had disappeared. In its place was all the teenage uncertainty, all the teenage desire... She fought against both passionately.
"I'm ready to go home now, Billy!" she said in a strangled voice. "Please!"
She wasn't sure she liked the way that last word had come out, sort of like a plea for mercy, but it was the best she could do in the circumstances. So, he'd been proved right after all, but she didn't have to acknowledge his victory. She'd come out with him, and now it was time to go home. Before she lost her mind completely and gave in to his seduction.
So why was she so angry when he said, "All right, if that's what you want!"
He walked away from her, over to the bar, and spoke to Tom, who looked over at her and then gave Billy a pat on the shoulder. Daisy looked away, not sure she liked the fact that she knew exactly why Tom was commiserating with him. Let them think what they liked, she thought defiantly. I will not be humiliated when he leaves again and forgets I even exist!
By the time he got back to her, she was in a fine temper. She pulled her arm sharply away from him when he tried to escort her out, and flounced out ahead of him into the balmy night air. The stars were out in full force, and the full moon lit up the street. Billy's bright, shiny pickup truck stood out sharply against the ratty, or battered, or dirty ones around it. She stood waiting for him to open her door, and when he stopped in front of her she looked up. What she saw caught her unawares...
He did not hide the hurt this time. He reached past her, opened the door, and helped her up into the seat. She opened her mouth to speak, but the look on his face silenced her. He closed the door quietly and walked around the back of the truck to his side. Inside, he fired up the engine and backed out slowly. Once on the main road, he put his foot down and raced to her grandmother's house, as if the hounds of hell were on his tail. Daisy felt her heart sinking lower with each mile closer to the house, and when he drew to a halt at her front gate, she could hardly raise her head to open the door. Billy looked across at her -- she could feel his eyes on her like a weight. Just one more to add to the inexplicable ones that had descended on her as they drove home.
"Daise..." he hesitated, and then seemed to make up his mind. He got out of the truck, and came around to help her out.
"Thanks for coming out with me," he said formally at the front door. "I'll say goodbye before I leave."
He turned and walked away. Daisy watched him, wishing she could let go of the pride that stopped her from calling him back to her side. What did she have to lose after all? He was leaving in a couple of days...she could enjoy his company till then. She'd think about what would happen when he left after that.
She didn't realize that she had closed her eyes, but when she opened them, he had gone. The tears rolled unchecked down her cheeks. She stepped back from the door and sat on the porch swing, hating what she had become...
The sun was beginning to stain the sky with pinks and golds, and Daisy shivered. Lord, she had fallen asleep in the swing again. Despite her heavy heart, she smiled. Granny would pitch a fit, the way she always did, and berate her for not taking care of herself. That had been her one "vice", as a teenager growing up -- falling asleep on the front porch. She sat up...and almost jumped out of her skin. Billy sat on the front step, watching her.
"Wh...Why...?" she stopped as he stood up and came over to where she was sitting in startled, and quivering, confusion.
"I came back to say one thing," he said, " but you had fallen asleep." He sat next to her on the swing. "So I stayed, and watched you sleep." He spoke simply, as though it were the most natural thing in the world for him to watch her sleep on her grandmother's front porch.
"Why?" she asked, equally simply.
Billy took her hands. "Because," he answered. "Look at me Daise!" he begged her, and when she did, he smiled. "I chose that song deliberately," he confessed. "It's only what I've wanted to do with you since junior year in high school. But you were so cold and aloof, I didn't dare try. And you ignored me. I might as well have been the fire hydrant you threw your bookbag on every morning while you waited for the bus."
He laughed at the startled expression on her face.
"I can tell you exactly what you ate for lunch on a Tuesday," he admitted, "or what your favorite novel is." He took her hands, which were lying in her lap. "I even know why you went away for a couple of years."
He held her hands when she would have withdrawn them. "I almost killed that guy, you know," he said. "I'm ashamed to admit it, but after I overheard you telling your grandmother what had happened, I went over to his house and beat the crap out of him."
He let her go and stood up, walking to the railing and looking out at the fields across the road. "And that's why I left, eight years ago."
He turned back to her. "Why do you fight me, Daise? What do you want from me?"
He didn't move from the railing, and Daisy knew the next move was hers. And she sensed, as the sun rose in the sky, and the smell of freshly brewed coffee assailed her nostrils, that what she said and did now would be the beginning, or the end, of something special.
"A wildflower-picking partner?" She looked at him, feeling unaccustomedly shy, and felt her heart soar when he smiled, the mischievous smile she remembered, the teasing light back in his eyes.
"Baby whatcha say we go pickin' wildflowers? Got a spot way back in the woods. Sneak away for a couple of hours, You and me baby, pickin' wildflowers." He walked towards her, singing the song, waggling his eyebrows, grinning from ear to ear.
Daisy laughed aloud. It was a good sound.