tagRomanceElectives Ch. 02

Electives Ch. 02

byREGade©

Chapter 2: Turning the Corner

We talked about everything on the way to and from class. During that third week of classes, I often felt Ginny's arm rub against mine as we walked. She seemed relaxed and comfortable to be with me, and I know I was with her. I was not inclined to crack a book on Friday night, but when she suggested that we study for an upcoming quiz for our American History class, I jumped at the chance to sit across the dining room table from her, and review dates of events from the seventeen hundreds. At the end of the fourth week of classes, we expanded our joint-study time to include Saturday nights.

The fifth week of classes marked the mid-point of our summer session. By meeting five days per week, except for the Fourth of July, we were covering a lot of territory in a short amount of time. I was enjoying every minute of the time I spent with Ginny.

Two things happened that weekend that sent me from the heights of euphoria, right back into a tailspin.

It was midnight on Saturday night, and the car I was driving wouldn't start. Ginny heard me grinding the starter and came outside to see what the trouble was. She offered to take me home, and I accepted.

As we drove, I told her about my work experience at the service station. "After a year of doing repair work, my granddad saw that I'd never be a mechanic, so he had moved me into sales."

"I failed at every job I tried, too. That's why I became a teacher," she laughed.

"Do you like being a teacher?"

"Yes, I enjoy the kids, but I didn't intend to make teaching a career. It looks like I'll have to take some time off and go back to school for a master's degree."

I didn't know what to read into those two sentences. I was thinking of a discreet way to put my question when we arrived at my house.

"This is it. I hope you'll be all right driving home at this hour."

Ginny looked at me, her eyes glistening. "I'll be fine," she said, leaning over to kiss me on the lips.

The kiss was brief, and she was back in her seat before my mind grasped what had just happened. I thanked her for the ride, and got out of the car, wanting to remember the softness of her lips forever.

My granddad took me to Ginny's house the next morning, and he didn't even need to look under the hood. The car started on the first try. I was embarrassed, especially when I saw Ginny at the door. She and my granddad exchanged a look, followed by a shake of their heads. He drove off, and I went inside.

We'd had five weeks of classes and this was our third week of studying together so our movement from the dining room table, to the patio, to the kitchen, my using the bathroom, back to the patio, and ordering a pizza had become routine. We finished the assignment early that day.

"Let's go to the circus," I said, making it sound like an order, not a suggestion. Ginny was dubious. I reminded her that it was the last night the circus was going to be in town. She relented, saying to give her a few minutes to get ready.

"Are you sure this car will make it?" she asked, teasingly as we got into the car.

I laughed. I guess we were both in a good mood. We were doing something other than studying. Should I tell her that she looked nice? She's married. This is not a date.

Our seats were not in the best location. I took her hand as we climbed to the uppermost section of the stands.

"This is fun. I can't remember the last time I went to the circus," she said.

She had to crane her neck in order to see what was happening in the center ring. I didn't mind having her head next to mine. Her perfume was very appealing. I felt her hand squeeze my thigh when a high-wire walker nearly tumbled to the net below. I was sure it was intentional, and I believe Ginny knew it was too. I turned to see her eyes on me, looking solemn for a second, before she burst into a smile.

Ginny laughed at the clowns, cheered throughout the elephants' act, and joked with the people around us. I enjoyed the closeness of her body as she leaned in to direct my attention to something she wanted to share with me. I'd never seen her so relaxed before. She was genuinely having a good time.

At the end of the show I took her hand to guide her down to ground level. She held on to my hand all the way to the car, possible so we wouldn't get separated in the crowd. This wasn't a date; she was a married woman.

Ginny talked excitedly about the circus all the way to her house. I walked her to her door, and waited until she found her front door key. "Thank you, Randy. I had a good time," she said, turning to me as she opened the door.

But when I leaned forward for a kiss she pulled back, saying, "I can't."

I walked away in embarrassment. I'm not sure if I heard her call out to me or not.

The next morning was like any other, almost. We discussed the novel we'd read and the history assignment. Except for a strained feeling, it was all quite normal. She walked with me to our first class, to our next class, and to the car afterward.

"I promised myself that I would honor Danny's life for a year after his death. That's the reason I couldn't kiss you goodnight," she said when we were under way.

How was I supposed to answer that? Should I tell her that I was sorry about Danny's death? Should I tell her that the circus was not a date? I had no business trying to kiss her. As far as I'd known, she was still married. She had done nothing wrong. "I understand," I said.

"Thank you for understanding," she responded, and those were the only words spoken about the subject. We drove to school together, talked about the two classes, and even laughed a few times, until Friday when we stopped in front of her house.

"I don't think it's a good idea for us to study together this weekend, Randy."

.She was out of the car and headed toward her front door before I could think of anything to say. "Okay," I said to myself.

My grandmother was the first to notice that I was in a fog. She urged me get ready for work, declaring that I was going to be late. Millie was the second. She offered to watch the lot while I ran across the highway to get something to eat. I told her to leave, that I wasn't hungry.

"Is it the lady in the Honda that stopped by to see you a few weeks ago?" she asked.

I stared at her, and Millie got the message. She'd crossed the line. It was not our custom to talk about anything personal. She did, however, make me smile when she swung her ass as she walked to her car. She looked back and grinned when she saw that her ass had done the trick.

The afternoon and evening dragged on, as if it would never end. The lull periods without customers were the worst. It was not my style to show exuberance. I preferred to let the customer notice a unique feature, and then to expand on it, matter-of-factly. But I found myself pointing out minor details about vehicles in an effort to make them stay for another minute or two.

When I was alone during these lull periods I went over what I knew about Ginny. Danny was her husband, the soldier I'd seen in the bedside picture. He'd been killed in action, probably in Iraq, and Ginny had vowed to honor his life for a year after his death. Did that mean that she would not date? Did she feel guilty about having a good time at the circus? Should I have told her it was not a date? Or was it the kiss the night she'd driven me home?

My attempt to kiss her goodnight was a mistake. We would have four more weeks of class, twenty trips to and from class. Somehow, I would conduct myself as a gentleman, treating her with the respect a war widow deserved. We would get through this, and then it would be different. I wouldn't see her, ride with her, walk to class with her, and laugh with her, ever again.

But Damn it! I didn't want it to end. It was a noble thing she was doing, honoring her dead husband's life. I had to find a way to make her feel good about herself.

When I closed up that night, I hadn't gotten a nibble. I tried to study, but found it impossible to concentrate.

Saturday was different. I credited my success to something Millie said when she left. "You've got to lose that up-tight disposition you're carrying around. I know it's not easy; I've been there. You have a natural laid-back knack for sales, Randy. If I had it I wouldn't have to wiggle my ass and show so much leg, but I don't. I want to see some of these heaps gone when I open the lot on Monday morning."

I watched her walk to her car. I cracked up when she wiggled her ass, once, and looked back at me, grinning.

I didn't take no for an answer that day. I kept my grandfather busy giving estimates of trade-ins and approving sales contracts. When we closed up that night there were six empty spaces on the lot. I even sold the car I'd planned to drive to school on Monday.

Millie's pep talk stayed with me that night. I was able to read most of Hemingway's Old Man and the Sea, and finish it on Sunday morning. I was in my room that afternoon, trying to make some sense of the symbolism when my grandmother said the phone was for me.

"Randy?"

"Hi," I said, recognizing her voice, thinking, this is the first time we've spoken on the phone. She called me...SHE CALLED ME!

"I just wanted to say...I mean...I'm sorry...I'd like to see you if...I mean...if you would like to."

"Ginny?"

"Yes?"

"Is Ginny short for Jennifer?"

"You always have a way of making me smile. Do you hear me smiling?"

"I hear you smiling. It sounds lovely, you have a beautiful smile."

"I would like for you to watch me smile."

"I'll be there in thirty minutes."

I stepped into her house at three-thirty, not knowing what to expect. Ginny sat me down on the couch, and stood in front of me.

"Yesterday marked a year since Danny was killed. I cried all day, knowing that I hadn't lived up to my word of keeping his memory for an entire year. This morning, I woke up..."

"The circus was not a date," I interrupted her, hating the way she was beating herself up for enjoying herself one day out of three hundred and sixty-five.

"Yes, it was a date," she said as she approached me. "The circus was a date, and every time you came to my house was a date. I had fun. We even held hands."

She sat down next to me.

"I had fun too, but the hand holding was to make sure we didn't get separated in the crowd."

She grinned, skeptically, as she slid onto my lap. Her eyes met mine before she continued. "That time I came to your grandfather's business was a date, although it was not as long as I would have liked. Every time I rode to and from class with you was a date, and the night I took you home was a date. That's the only time I kissed you."

My arms were around her, wanting to console her. "That kiss was the highlight of my life. Your lips are incredibly soft."

"I'm sorry that I turned away when you tried to kiss me after we had a fantastic time at the circus. It would have been a perfect ending to our date. You left, and I cried as soon as I was on the other side of the door. Telling you that it would be better if we didn't see each other this weekend was the hardest thing I've ever done. I should have explained the reason."

"It's okay; I understand your reasons now."

"I woke up this morning with a clear conscience, wanting to see you. It took me until three o'clock to get up the nerve to call you."

"I'm glad you did. Having you sit on my lap now makes up for the way I felt when I left here on Friday."

"If you would like to kiss me now, I promise not to turn away," she offered.

I tried to duplicate the soft kiss she had given me the night she took me home, but it didn't turn out that way. Ginny's mouth was open from the beginning, her hand on my cheek to hold it steady, as she ground her lips into mine in a display of passion that I will never forget.

When we had to stop kissing to regain our breath she had more to say. I let her do the talking.

"Being with an older woman seems to agree with you," she said in a cautious whisper, like it was more of a question that a statement.

"I love being with you. Having you sit on my lap is like a dream come true."

"I knew that you didn't mind that I am four years and two days older than you. I've seen the way you look at me."

I pulled her down for a kiss. "I think about your soft lips every time I look at you."

"Can you tell how I feel about you from the way I look at you?"

"I enjoy having you look at me. Did you know you had feelings for me that day you were filling your gas tank?"

Ginny looked away, and then back, into my eyes. "Randy, I don't like to think about that day. I knew I was betraying Danny's memory, and yet, yes, if you must know, I had feelings for you. It's been difficult these last few weeks. I hope you will be patient with me. I don't want to be hurt, and I would never forgive myself if I hurt you. It would be a mistake to rush in to anything."

"I'll be patient."

The words were no sooner out of my mouth when I felt her lips pressed to mine, and then she jumped off of my lap. "Ahgggg, I promised myself that I wouldn't do that, being the older woman, leading the young man astray."

I laughed and watched her jump around, obviously angry at herself for being impulsive. She caught me looking at her, and became solemn, gazing down at me, her eyes softened, contented to share the moment.

It was time for me to take charge of the situation, to prove something to her. I jumped off the couch, picked her up, tossed her on the couch, and stood over her. She lay there, passively looking up at me.

I eased down until my knees were on the floor, and I was hovering above her. "Ginny, you're not leading me astray. I know you're in a tug-of-war with your emotions. I'll be patient. I won't rush you. We'll take it slow."

Her eyes were fixed to mine. It was like I was the grown up, and she was a child, questioning. "How slow?" she asked.

"It's up to you. You set the pace."

"You're too good to be true. You make me feel...young, carefree, and happy, all at once. Would you like to set a date?"

I wasn't sure what she was getting at. Did she mean what I thought? "As I said, it's up to you."

"How about the night we celebrate my twenty-fourth birthday, and you'll still be the tender age of nineteen?"

. "Okay," I said, still not sure if we were talking about the same thing.

"In the meantime, I want to learn everything about you. We'll have real dates, I'll ask you questions, and you'll keep me from acting mushy when we're together."

"I'll ask you questions, too," I said, and watched her smile as she pulled my head down for a soft, tender kiss.

"Of course, but you promised to take it slow. There are some things that I'm not ready to talk about."

"I'll treat you like a fragile piece of china. You're nice to look at, but too rare to damage."

I was expecting to hear a comment, such as, 'I'm an antique,' but she didn't use the opening to comment about our age difference.

"We'll have dates, and learn everything about each other."

"May I hold your hand as we walk to class?"

"You better," she smiled, and that is when I noticed the absence of the wide wedding band.

"I'll introduce you to my grandparents."

"I'll introduce you to my sister-in-law...hum...that may be a problem. Danny was her brother, and she may not take kindly to someone taking his place. I'll need to prepare her."

And thus began the courtship of Jennifer Driver Stapleton. By the time Barbara Stapleton, her sister-in-law returned, I'd heard how Danny had swept her off her feet. She told me, laughing, about admitting to him that she was not a virgin. He had graduated first, and they married before he left for training.

She was half way though her senior year when her brother's wife died suddenly. She went to visit Brian, and met his adopted daughter, Amanda, and his son, Phillip, for the first time. Ginny was the only family member to go to the funeral. Her parents and brother condemned Brian for never having married Phillip's mother, but Brian maintained that although he and Peggy had not gone before an official, they were man and wife. He even inscribed her tombstone Margaret Driver, using his surname.

Ginny said that the three of them, Brian, Amanda and Phillip were so broken up over the death of Peggy that she didn't get to know her nephew very well. She said that she came away with a premonition that Danny would also die young.

Danny was sent to Afghanistan and had only been in combat a few months when she received the news of his death. She vowed to honor Danny's death for an entire year. She and her brother talked often, commiserating with the other's loss. She also exchanged e-mails with Brian's adopted daughter, nine-year-old Amanda.

Our real dates were limited to Sunday nights, although I went to her house after work on Fridays and Saturdays, and we called each other often.

When Ginny wanted to see a movie, I was forced to tell her that my former girlfriend worked at the only theatre in town.

I told her about Edie, and how she'd broken up with me when she learned that I'd lost my virginity to Edna, the bookkeeper's daughter. Ginny wanted to hear all about my nearly three years of dating the same girl. I explained that all we had done was kiss. "She didn't want to do more until she was eighteen."

Ginny often returned to the subject of Edie when we talked on the phone. She kept me talking for hours about my brief affair with Edna. She wanted to know every detail.

My grandparents welcomed Ginny to their home. My grandmother commented that the older woman was just what I needed. "She has a positive influence on you. Your grooming has improved."

I knew Ginny was good for me. She kept me focused on the classes we were taking. We finished strong; she aced both courses; I was happy to receive an A for American Authors and a B for the American History class.

My grandfather added that my sales record was also improving.

It was her second visit to our house when Ginny told us about her family. In addition to Brian, she had another brother, Glenn, who was a dentist. Glenn was the apple of his mother's eye, Brian having lost favor when he took a widow and her daughter into his house. Ginny tried to explain Peggy's reluctance to marry Brian, but her parents' minds were made up. They sent gifts to their grandson, but always referred to Phillip as 'the little bastard.'

It may have been my grandmother's influence, but I guess even Tom Jansen knew that my schoolwork was going to be very time consuming. Anyway, he hired another sales person, and cut my hours back significantly. Herman was an experienced salesman, accommodating, and worked well with Millie. I still had to close the lot on Fridays, but left early on Saturdays. Millie even got some extra time off.

Barbara returned at the end of August and took a dislike towards me from the moment we met. She resented my existence, and the place I'd secured in Ginny's life. I could tell that our being at odds with each other bothered Ginny. She blamed herself for not preparing Barbara as well as she should have.

Barbara was trying to drive a wedge between us. She put up roadblocks, saying that Ginny didn't have time for three dates each weekend. I had to admit that she was right. With school and work, I didn't have time for three dates a week either. We cut back to two nights, but we talked on the phone almost every night we weren't together.

"Amanda has written to me every day this week. I think she's reaching out to me," Ginny said.

I knew who Amanda was. I also knew that Ginny exchanged e-mail with her niece. "Is she upset about something?"

"It's her dad. He means everything to her, and my parents sent him away to collect their fortune from the estate of my dad's aunt. I wish you were here. I would show you her e-mails. Amanda writes very well for a nine-year-old."

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