Monday, August 24, 2009

The Dreamers Chapter 13 of 47

Chapter 13 The Dreamers

Red decided to scratch me from tonight’s game. I can’t say whether he was right or wrong for doing it. Emotionally I was pretty low, but I thought all the talk from Dick was going to help. Honestly, I was not that disappointed when he told me. The season was only two games old, but it seemed like a hundred games had gone by. I felt sluggish even though I hit great in the cage. Maybe I’ll get to pinch hit or something.

Scott Andrews came up to me as I sat in from of my locker, tapped me on the shoulder and told me Red wanted to see me in the office. Gus and Mario joined him there.

“Bill, I know you saw the line-up card tonight without your name on it,” Red started. “I think tonight it is the right thing to do. We still made need you to pinch hit or something. You’ll be back in there on Tuesday when you take the mound for the first time. I have decided that you will pitch Tuesday night’s game, just as we had planned. Neither Gus, Mario, nor I feel that an extended period of time off is an answer. I’m going to put in Del Ray, our back-up catcher at third for tonight. But if the game gets close I will probably put you in for defensive purposes. Our pitchers deserve a better fate then Del Ray at Third base. I think you would agree.

Marion and Gus started laughing. A smile broke across my face even though I knew it was bad to think poorly of a teammate. What Red said was true, having seen Del try and take infield practice with us. It was hard to see someone who was such a good defensive catcher look so lost in the infield. He did have a strong arm and was willing to take anything off his body to block the ball. But, just the same, he was considered dangerous and a liability.

Red, I understand,” I reply. “I am a little down, but working with Dick was a big help. I’ll be ready to do what ever you want. I appreciate all that you are doing. I really do.”

“It might be good for you to get in a little throwing off the mound in the middle innings, just don’t leave too much of it there. We have a game on Tuesday remember. Is that OK with you?”

“That’s fine with me,” I reply. “Anything else?”

“Go shag some balls in the outfield and get in some running,” instructed Red. “I think you’ve had enough BP for the day. And another thing, I just want to say how sorry we all are, but trust everything will work out fine. ”

The Pirate players were all wearing the number 23 on their sleeve in memory of Curtain as I made my way out onto the field. This season would be tough enough for them I thought. Chuck Curtain had a lot of friends on this team. Some had been promoted from their rookie league team in Florida with him. Others had just arrived from other teams.

Don Jackson, our starting pitcher, got through the first inning giving up only a lead off single that was erased in a double play. Adams, Andrews and Tavy too care of that.

In our half of the first Jones doubled to right center on the first pitch. He stole third. Mike Adams hit a foul pop that the Pirate catcher made a nice play on sliding into our dugout, but came up with the ball unhurt.

Tavy hitting third, stroked a line-single into left field, going the other way again, scoring Ross Jones with the first run, giving us a 1 to 0 lead. Reggie Bond hit a tower fly to the warning track in left that was caught that almost made it 2 to 0, and Scott Andrews struck out to end our half of the first.

Through the fourth inning the teams traded base hits, but could not score any more runs. We still led 1 to 0 going into the fifth.

The Pirates mounted a threat in the top of the fifth. Jackson walked the lead-off hitter. The next batter tried to lay down a sacrifice bunt and dropped the ball just to the left of the mound. Jackson came off the mound, but did not hear Bolton calling him off. As he tried to make the play himself as he reached down for the ball his cleats didn’t dig in the ground and he crashed down on the seat of his pants. He tried to get up and make a throw, but it was too late. The Pirates had men on first and second with no outs. Mark Moran, their clean-up hitter was up and the Pirate bench started to heat up with some chatter. Jackson knew he was in a spot and now he knew that bunt play was Bolton’s all the way, but it was too late to worry about that now. You could tell by the way he was firing the ball into his glove 3 or 4 times as he waked up to the top of the mound. Bolton patted him on the butt, shouting encouragement on his way back behind the plate.

Jackson knew he had his work cut out for him. He had to be careful pitching to Moran. He couldn’t afford to walk him as Moran hit 35 homers in A last year. Michaelson, their big catcher was on deck and was no easy out either.

Jackson threw the first pitch fastball way outside in the dirt with Bolton making a great play to save it on his knees. Bolton got up and took a couple of steps toward the mound and said something to Jackson as he threw the ball back. Bolton got set as Jackson looked for the sign. He took a deep breath, exhaling very hard. Jackson went set, looked at second, and threw a fastball right down the middle that Moran got all of, depositing it in the next county, just foul. The crowd gave the largest collective sigh of relieve I had ever heard. As soon as the ball left Moran’s bat Red took his hat off and slapped in against his leg real hard. The ball was hit so high and far you would have thought it was a rocket launch at Cape Kennedy. The Pirates could have been leading 3 to 1, but it was nothing but a long, loud, strike one.

Jackson threw Moran nothing but off-speed stuff from then on, striking him out on wicked curveball in the dirt at Moran’s feet. He also got Michaelson on an easy pop to short, and got a fly ball to left for the third out. The crowd went wild as Jones squeezed it in left-center field. Jackson took his hat off and wiped his forehead as he walked off the mound. That was a close one. Amazing what a difference one pitch can make in an inning.

“Billy, grab a bat and hit for Ray,” stated Red from the bullpen telephone. “This one run lead is making me nervous. Get something started for us, will ya.”

I walked down from the pen along the left field foul line and picked up two of my bats and my helmet. As I climbed down the dugout stairs I stuffed my soft hat in my right back pocket, inside out. I dropped my bats onto the on-deck circle and pushed my batting helmet onto my head. The batboy handed me the pine tar rag and the rosin bag. I used a little of both on my bat handle. I picked up the weighted bat and began to get lose as I was announced to the crowd. A big roar went up as my name was announced. Reggie was kneeling down next to the circle. Reggie had a big grin on his face, like he always does. Those white teeth of his could nearly blind somebody.

“What are you smiling at you big lug,” I said? “You know something I don’t?”

“I’ll always know something you don’t,” said Reggie. “You rookies don’t know anything,” he said with a little laugh. “Now go up there and don’t embarrass your whole family.”

With that I smile back and make my way to the plate. I stepped into the batter’s box and smoothed out the dirt as I found my footing and began to dig in. the Pirate catcher, Moran, winked at me.

“Doesn’t get any better than this, does it kid,” he said. “Getting paid to play a kid’s game, who would believe it?”

“Play ball,” the umpire shouted as I took my practice swings over the plate. I tried to relax as I looked out to the mound. For a moment I saw the ball jump off my bat and hit Curtain in the face. I asked for time and jumped out of the box.

“You all right, kid,” asked the Ump?

“Kid, shake it off,” said Moran. “Get back in here and forget about last night. It’s over. Time to play another game. Come on, let’s go.”

I looked at him and the umpire as they were waiting for me to get set again. He was right. Let’s get on with it. I looked at Red who was clapping his hands in the third base coach’s box. “Come on Billy, hit your pitch,” said Red.

I can do this I said to myself. I get back in the box and start my routine all over again. I take the first pitch for a called strike, fastball right down the middle. I should have swung at it, but I couldn’t.

My teammates were cheering me on from the dugout, chanting my name. The crowd was getting louder with every passing second. The second pitch was on the way, a fastball inside. I turned on it and hit a rocket just inside the bag at third. The Pirate third baseman dove, but came up empty as I approached first base. I rounded the first base bag and the ball rattled around in the left field corner and I cruised into second base standing up with a double. The fans erupted chanting my name. “Bill-lee, Bill-lee, Bill-lee!” I put my hand on me knees as the tears streamed down my face. The second base umpire called time.

“You alright kid,” the umpire asked?

“Ya, I’m fine,” I reply, quickly wiping the teas from my face before I look up. “I think I’m going to be OK.”

We went on to win our third game in a row as Dave Bolton hit a towering home run to dead center driving me in and giving us a 3 to 0 lead. Later in the inning with Bill Marshall batting for Jackson in the eighth, he walked. Jones toped a little roller off to the side of the mound for an infield single. Adams hit a liner to second with both runners just able to scramble back to first and second. That brought up Tavy with Bond to follow. The fans were going nuts.

Tavy took the first pitch curve for a strike. He stepped out of the box and took a good long look at Red at third. Red had no play on as he did not want to take the bat out of Jon’s hands. He stepped back in and dropped the end up the bat in the middle of home plate. He then rolled his wrists and made big circles with his bat ala Willie Stargell. The pitch arrived as Jon met it with a nice level swing and lined a one-hop single to left. The left fielder charged hard and made a perfect throw home, but Red had held Marshall at third. The bases were juiced and Reggie Bond was coming to the plate. We were about to break this game wide open.

The Pirate manager signaled for a new pitcher, but it made no difference. Reggie deposited his first pitch way over the right-center-field wall, a mammoth homerun that must have traveled nearly 500 feet, clearing the bases and giving Reggie his first Grand Slam of the year and the Yankees a 7 to 0 lead.

Morse closed out another game with a perfect ninth inning with 2 strikeouts and the Monarchs won 3 in a row. The locker room was joyous to say the least. You would have thought it was Times Square on New Year’s Eve. Everyone was congratulating each other. Even I became so caught up in the clubhouse excitement that the previous day’s events lay dormant in my mind.

The team showed a lot of character tonight. Don Jackson brought me over a cold Coke and thanked me for my getting the team started and giving him some breathing room. I told him the way he pitched the one run we had was all he needed, which was true.

“You pitched a great game, tonight,” I said to Jackson. “Did you feel good out there?”

“Are you kidding,” he said with a smile. “I left the bullpen with nothing. My curveball was flat; everything I threw Bolton warming up was way high. I was surprised when I survived the first inning, but then it came to me in the second. I’ll never figure it out. This is some crazy game, isn’t it? Nice hitting.” He shook his head as he got up and started to go over to his locker.

Bolton called a great game for Jackson. Catchers never get enough credit for keeping pitcher in a game. He knew he wasn’t sharp, but kept on him the whole time, getting him to keep the ball down, hoping it would eventually come to him.

“I guess it was just what the doctor ordered,” said Jackson as he just got up from his chair next to mine. He looked at me and wanted to take it back as soon as he said it.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “What a stupid thing to say right now.”

As soon as he said the words he wanted to take them back, but it was too late. My mind started tracing back to last night’s game. Chuck Curtain, Doc Martin, Emma and Joe Curtain…I needed to get dressed and get to the hospital and find out what is going on I thought. What am I doing sitting here gloating over a baseball game?

“Bill, I’m sorry,” Don rushed to say as he reached out touching my shoulder. “That was sure stupid of me. Sometimes I forget to engage my brain before I speak. Don’t let me spoil this celebration for you and us.”

“Don, it’s OK,” I reply getting up out of my chair. “Hey, we all need to get on with it, don’t we? It’s all going to be alright somehow.”

Don noticed a little smile coming back on my face. I could sense how relieved he was by the way some nervous laughter escaped from his face.

“Ya, that’s right, Bill,” said Dave, “things will work out fine, you’ll see.”

As he excused himself to clean up and go meet his wife I could see how much pressure last night was putting on all of us, too afraid to say the wrong thing. Even those not directly involved couldn’t remove themselves from some level of pain and sorrow, but tonight this celebration was just what the team needed. This young season was off to a great start. I felt happy for Red, Mario, and Gus. They deserved a winner for a change. I was going to be apart of it.

I was one of the last players to dress and leave after the game. Mario came back into toe locker room to tell me someone was waiting to see me. I asked him who it was, but he said I’d find out soon enough. I pulled my dark blue knit shirt over my head and just ran my fingers thru my very damp hair to put it in some order. Who ever it was would just have to take me as I was tonight. I kicked most of the other things into my locker floor and threw my uniform and towel in the laundry cart. I put on my black leather coat and headed out through the double-doors to the corridor leading to the parking lot.

There was Gloria waiting just outside the doors. I didn’t know quite what to say. As soon as she saw me she raced over and threw her arms around my neck and squeezing me like she would never let go. I immediately threw my arms around her, holding her tight, pushing my face hard into her warm neck. It felt wonderful. I don’t know how long we stood their holding each other, but it could have lasted forever a far as I was concerned.

In a while Gloria loosened her grip from around my neck, just enough to draw her head back enough to start softly kissing my cheek near my ear. She began moving around to my face and began gently kissing around my lips in a circular pattern. I let her do what she wanted. It was very nice. I just stood there enjoying it all. Then she moved right onto my mouth and gave me the warmest kiss I think I have ever had in my life. The passion I was feeling started to make me more the aggressor as I joined in to this remarkable kiss. Our breathing became labored and neither of us wished to stop. Our cheeks became very moist. I pulled back from the kiss to see that tears were streaming down her face. She placed her fingers across my lips.

“Please don’t say anything,” she said softly. “Can we just be quiet for a while?” She kissed me warm and passionately again. How could I say no to that?

She pulled back and brushed her hands across her cheeks wiping the tears away. I smiled and put my arm around her shoulder leading us to the exit, not saying a word. I did not want to say anything stupid and spoil this moment.

We got into my car and I just started driving with no particular destination in mind. I got on I-91 north heading toward Hartford. At the Capitol exit I moved off the interstate fond a parking spot at Bushnell Park Green. I got out and opened the door for Gloria. We walked back and forth around the part, holding hands, but still not saying anything. I found us a bench and we sat for awhile. I put both of my arms on the top of the bench back, looking up at the sky. I had to break the silence.

“I can’t tell you want a pleasant surprise it was to see you waiting outside that door at the ballpark, waiting for me,” I said to Gloria who was starring at the ground. “I really need someone to take to tonight. If I could have picked someone it would have been you. I wanted to call you but didn’t feel right about it after our last meeting and all.” The sounds of the birds fill the silence as I finished talking.

“I heard what happened in the game, and then, about, well anyway I felt for once in my life it was my turn to be there for somebody,” Gloria began. “My mother has been telling me how stupid I was for turning you away. She said she could tell how much I really loved you, and you me, and that what I was doing just didn’t make any sense. If Bob Lollar really cared about me things would be different already, but they are not, because he is NOT. He probably never will be. She told me that I needed to understand that he is history, not the future, and that I needed to wake up and see it for what it was. My letting you go could be the biggest mistake of my life.”

She leaned her head into my shoulder, her hair touching my cheek. She stayed there for about a minute, then raised up and looked at me.

“I know I may be way out of line here, especially after sending you away like I did,” she continued in a soft voice. “But, I do realize now that I do really love you and how much I care for you. Sometimes I get confused, but I would like another chance if you’ll have me back,” she asked sheepishly?

I moved toward Gloria and kissed her as warmly and passionately as I knew how. She kissed me back with just as much passion and feeling.

“I would like for us to start over,” I said warmly. “I do love you and care for you very much. Where this will lead I can’t say for sure, and it sure isn’t going to be easy with the Lollars and all, but we can make this work if we both want it.”

A smile broke out across Gloria’s face. What a beautiful, perfectly wonderful face she had. So radiant, so innocent, so stunning, I thought to myself. I was one lucky guy.

“I think we should start heading for home,” I offered. “It’s getting late and some people will be wondering where you and I are. I have another important stop to make when we get back to town. I think it would be best if I make it alone,” I conclude.

“I understand, said Gloria as she kisses me warmly again. “Let’s go home.”

The twenty minute ride was peaceful as he sat next to me hugging my right are very tightly the whole way home. The console was certainly in the way, but we’d be alright.

The Chicago Symphony was playing on NPR. I really had not desire to change the station. It might be better if no lyrics were being sung tonight. This was more than I had hoped for. This only happened in fairy tails, didn’t it?

I dropped Gloria off at her house and I kissed her good night in the car. We promised to talk tomorrow. I couldn’t wait. It felt good to have someone to care for and that cared for you as well. I needed to feel it right now more than ever. Then I thought about Sharon Curtain and how she would need for someone to be there for her. I couldn’t even imagine how she was feeling right now. Would she ever be happy again? Could she ever be happy again? Would she want me to come to the hospital? Mary would know what I should do.

As I pulled into the drive way only a small light was on in the kitchen. I went in the back door like always. I could see the flickering lights from the TV set in the living room. Gus was fast asleep. Mary seemed to have already gone to bed. There was a note on the kitchen table:

Bill, Doc Martin has Mel Brinkman assisting in the Autopsy on Tuesday.
He feels there is something strange about Curtain’s death. He will be starting early Tuesday and should have all the results back by late Wednesday. He’ll keep in touch as soon as he knows anything.
They also found out that Sharon Curtain is expecting their first child.
She is due in tomorrow. Try and get some rest.

ps I hope it works out for you and Gloria. Mrs. James called.
Love, Mary and Gus

Curtain is dead? How can that be, I thought? Oh. Man, this is worse than I could have ever imagined. Their family must be devastated. What is Doc Martin speculating about? This whole thing is freaky enough with out some new twist, I thought. I just wanted it to be over. That’s all. Just over. I headed up stairs, mentally and physically exhausted. I must have laid on the bed for an hour before falling asleep.

I woke to tapping on the bedroom door. It was Gus.

“Hey, Bill, you awake,” asked Gus softly?

“Yes, Gus, I’m awake,” I reply. “What time is it?”

Gus opened the door and came into Bob’s room as I sat up in bed. Gus plopped himself at the foot of the bed.

“Ja sleep OK last night, Kid,” asked Gus? “Ya came through list night like a champ. I told Mary all about it, your double to ignite the team and all. Did you see the note on the kitchen table?”

“Yes I did,” I replied. “It makes no sense, though, to me at least. What do you think Doc Martin’s looking for or suspecting?”

“Not a clue here,” said Gus, scratching his head. “Beats me. Doc will tell us when he knows something for sure. Don’t worry. Come on down when your ready and Mary will have some breakfast for us. Sure hope is works out for you and Gloria. ” With that Gus started to head down stairs.

“Gus, I think I’ll grab something down at the BlueLight if you don’t mind,” I state quickly before Gus got to the door. “I think Mary will understand.”

Gus turned and winked. “I think she will too,” said Gus. “I really mean it when I say I hope it works out for you two. Anyway, Mary and I are going over to the Dodge’s and see if there is anything we can do to help. If you need us you can try and reach us there.”

“Please tell the Curtains how sorry I am,” I ask. “I hope they really know how sorry I am.”

“Don’t let Gloria wear you out. Your pitching Tuesday night you know,” added Gus with a smile. Mary and Mrs. James will surely come out for that. Remember what I said. You don’t what the headlines to read: LOVE INTEREST SAPS STARS STRENGTH. ROOKIE GETS BOMBED! Details on the 11 O’clock News!” Gus is really laughing as he leaves the room.

“Gus you have really weird sense of humor,” I add. “I won’t let her put Kryptonite in my shorts or anything. It would be nice to pitch in the big Metropolis one day.”

“Who knows, Kid, anything is possible,” finished Gus halfway down the stairs.

I take a quick shower and head over to the diner, feeling good about seeing Gloria again, but still very sad about the news of Curtain’s death. I arrive at the Bluelight and spot Bolton’s truck in the parking lot. I park next to him and head inside. I find him and Reggie Bond at a booth in the right corner and head over to say Hi. Reggie spots me coming down the isle.

“Hey, Billy, have a seat man, we just got here ourselves,” says Reggie with the big smile of his.

“Reggie, Dave, how you guys doin,” I respond as I take a seat. “Some game last night.”

“Ya, we broke a few windows didn’t we,” smiled Reggie. “At least me and Bolton did. Gonna have some breakfast with us?”

“Thanks, but I have a pretty lady waiting for me over at the counter,” I tell Reggie half embarrassed. Not that you guys aren’t great company, but let’s face it, she’s got much better legs than either one of you.”

“How do you know about OUR legs anyway,” asks Bolton? “You been checking us out in the shower or something? I thought there was something funny about you. I don’t think Reggie’s your type, though. He likes partners that can dance, cut a rug, know what I mean? I don’t think you’re the dancing type.”

“Lucky for me, ay boys,” I jokingly respond. “Reggie, looks like you’re off the hook. See ya! I got me a gal to go see.”

“Make sure you let Reggie know if it doesn’t work out,” said Dave laughing. “He could always get you dance lessons.” Now Reggie is laughing as well.

“That’s OK, you go see your girl friend, girl friend,” said Dave laughing harder now. Bond has already lost it. “Ok you guys I’ll quite. Truce. I thought you guys could take a joke.”

“We have,” said Reggie. “We’ve taken you for going on two years now. That should be enough for any one.” He was talking to Bolton. “Bedpans, jockstraps on the head, Voodoo exorcisms. I think we know who the weirdo is around here.”

“Hey, I don’t have to take this you know,” responds Bolton. “After all I’ve done for this team. If I had left this curse on this team we would not be 3 and 0 right now.”

“Oh, I see,” I said looking at Dave. “You are the reason we are 3 and 0? It has noting to do with the great pitching we’ve had three games in a row? How about some clutch hitting by some of your teammates, and yes, we admit your homerun yesterday was a thing of beauty.”

Dave stands up and takes a bow.

“You are too much,” I state waving my hand at him heading off to see Gloria. “I’ll see you guys later. Try and enjoy what’s left of your breakfast. Reggie, you have my condolences.”

Reggie and I glance at each other and start laughing again. Bolton is a real cosmic cowboy, really off the wall.

“Oh, listen,” I say going back over to the table. Curtain from the Pirates died last night. There’s going to be an autopsy today. I’m not sure what is going on, but there must be something Doc Martin is looking for. They found a large dark spot on Curtain’s brain from the X-Rays and the MRI. This could get really bizarre.”

They are both stunned with the news I just dropped on them. “NO problem,” said Dave in all seriousness. “Just say the word and consider it done. Reggie just sat their speechless, putting his head in his hands.

“Thanks,” I reply putting my hands on Bolton’s shoulders. “I’ll talk to you guys later. Don’t forget you are picking Becky up a college.”

I head over to the counter where Gloria is waiting on some customers. She excuses her self and motions for me to take an empty booth in the far corner. She goes back to her customers for a moment. As I wait, Mel, the owner, comes over with a cup and a pot of coffee. He pours me a steaming cup of coffee.

“Good to see you again, Bill,” says Mel. “I’m sure Gloria will be along in a minute. Hey, congratulations on the team doing so well. 3 and 0. Big Shots now, uh?”

“Hardly,” I respond to Mel.

“Guess I’ll have to get out to the park and see what all the excitement is all about. Remember Kramer and Conklin, those two guys you first met in here? Big baseball fans. They’ve been keeping me up to date. They haven’t bee this excited about the town team in years. You must be doing something right.”

“Mel, let me know when you can make it and I’ll have some tickets waiting for you, right behind the dugout. Spirits are pretty high after last night’s win,”
I add.

“Hey, well listen, good luck to you. The boss is coming and I don’t was us to get in trouble,” concluded Mel with a little chuckle.

Gloria took off her apron, threw it on the seat across from us and sat down nest to me. She took my hand in hers. Her face was absolutely radiant. She leaned in a gave me a warm kiss.

“You look beautiful today, even in your waitress garb,” I state. “I’m glad were friends again.”

“This time we’re going to be friends for a long time, you can count on it,” she adds with a big grin on her face.

“No, I didn’t forget, but you know what I mean,” I reply. “Something more that just friends would be just fine with me. I never really wanted to let you out of this as I did. I was trying to be too much of a gentleman. I was hoping you would change your mind and I’m glad your Mom helped.”

“Well, here we are together again, hopefully for a long time,” offered Gloria as she squeezed my hand. “Let me get you some breakfast and then, Mel has given me a couple of hour off before the lunch crowd comes in. I wish I had to whole day off to spend with you. It’s not often you have a day off.”

“Honesty, I was going to be busy today and tomorrow, but I’ve had a change of plans,” I stated and then hesitate. “Curtain, the Pirate pitcher, died sometime last night. Doc Martin is performing an autopsy today as he must suspect something out of the ordinary, as if someone dying from a baseball game is ordinary. I can’t figure it out, but I am going over to the hospital when we leave here. Do you want to come with me?”

“Sure, Bill, I’ll come with you,” said Gloria with deep concern in her voice. “Just let me know what you want me to do.”

“Just be with me for now,” I ask. “If you get uncomfortable about this you just say the word. I do not what this to be too hard on you as well. There are enough people hurt by this without adding another.”

“No problem,” add Gloria as she rises and goes off the get me some breakfast.

I notice that Dave and Reggie had already left. It is just me and a couple down at the other end of the diner. What a day this was going to be.

Gloria brought me my breakfast and sat quietly while I ate, sipping her own cup of coffee.

“Bill, tell me, what were your other plans,” asked Gloria. “Are they just postponed?”

“Why, yes they are just postponed, I was going to California,” I state without much thought.

“Why would you have to go out of town now?” asks Gloria with a puzzled look on her face. “What could be so important to make you leave the team for a couple of days? That is not an easy trip to make quickly.”

“I am only postponing it for a week, but it has to be done quickly so we can settle this thing once and for all,” I inform.

“Where are you going in California? Who do you know there,” asked Gloria with some concern in her voice? “Could I come along?”

“Sure, I guess you could, but why would you want to go,” I ask? “This is not going to be a joy ride I assure you.”

“Why is that,” asks Gloria?

“I am going to see Chris Tavy out in California, that’s why,” I state in a firm voice. “She doesn’t know I’m coming, yet,” I add. “Jon doesn’t know I am going either, but this must get settled between them. Would you still like to come along? Did you know Chris very well?”

“I’ve never talked to her before,” states Gloria Firmly. “Not even once.”

“Is that so,” I state in a slow, firm voice. “Gloria, I may be young, but I am not totally stupid. I thought what happened between us last night was real and that you really do care about me. How can you be truthful to me when you can’t even be truthful to yourself? I am going out to see Chris Tavy to tell her that I think her husband was set up, positioned so that it appeared like he was having an affair. Then, when the time was right, someone called Jon’s wife when she was out of town, and exaggerated about his little lunch date, making it out to be more that is was, and lying that it may have not been the first time. Then sent anonymous letters informing her of other exploits between Jon and these women that never really happened, knowing full well how upset Chris would become. But this person didn’t expect Chris to get so upset she would separate from Jon, and then demand a divorce. I guess this person was just wanting a little practical joke, but this one went too far, this one got way out of hand, kind of like the practical joke that Cheryl Tavy and Bob Lollar were involved in. You remember THAT practical joke, don’t you Gloria? Maybe it didn’t get too far out of hand at all? Only the person who made the phone call and wrote the letters would know for sure?”

Gloria sat there in total silence. She was hurt, angry, embarrassed, all at the same time.

“It was really too bad for everyone. Too bad for Bob and Cheryl. Too bad for Jon and Chris. To bad for Mary and Gus.” I went on. “It was really too bad for you and Bob, wasn’t it, Gloria?

Gloria looked up at me with tears swelling up in her eyes.

“Maybe it would be a good idea for you to come with me,” I state to Gloria? “I think you may have something important to tell Chris Tavy. Don’t you?”

“Maybe you should just mind your own business,” blurts out Gloria. “This has nothing to do with you. You have no business getting involved.”

“And you do," I reply? “Just who do you think you are ruining people’s lives with vicious lies? What did it do for you…did it make you feel good to write those letters full of lies? And, now that it was almost all over did you think you would taste the sweet flavor of revenge? Did you think it was going to put your and Bob’s life back together again? Did you think that Bob Lollar would come running back to you once he knew what you had done? It didn’t happen did it?”

“NO! NO! NO! ” shouted Gloria as she really started weeping loudly, dropping her head into her hands, trying to hide her shame.

People in the diner turned to look at what was going on. Mel came out from the kitchen area to see what was going on.

“You guys all right out here,” asked Gus? “Gloria, what’s going on?”

“It’s OK,” said Gloria clearing her throat. “It’s OK, this is all my fault. We’re alright.”

Mel shook his head as he went back into the kitchen. He probably thought we were loved starved lunatics by now, having our first lover’s spat.

“Maybe I should go with you to California after all,” said Gloria with a sincere voice. “I guess I really did something awful, didn’t I? I never thought it would go this far. I never meant for them to get a divorce. When Bob left I was so hurt. I had no one to blame but the Tavys. It was their daughter, Jon’s sister, who messed up my life with Bob. I was so angry and so disappointed. If Bob knew what I did he would be so mad at me.”

“What I don’t understand is how you thought ratting on Jon was going to do you any good.” I asked? “When it was over, why did Bob just leave you here and run off and join the Army? It makes no sense, none of it. Didn’t he know how much you loved him? Didn’t the two of you ever talk? Really talk?”

“I don’t know,” Gloria replied. “After I did it I wanted to take everything back, but it was too late. The damage was done. Bob was gone. I wanted to call Chris and tell what I had done, but I just couldn’t do it. The Lollars and my Mom could never believe I could do such a thing. I was so embarrassed about how stupid I was. It was just easier to pretend I had nothing to do with it. Make it look like Gloria was on the outside looking in, just another victim in the Lollar tragedy. Then you came along and started filling the void left by Bob. But, then I realized I was falling in love with you, but you were now a part of the Lollars and it was just getting too complicated with Bob coming home again. My leaving you WAS a lie. It wasn’t about Bob anymore. It was about my being found out and you hating me if you found out. Then Mom made me realize that I was making a big mistake letting you go. That if I really cared about you, really did love you, that I needed to tell you and be honest with you, like I am being honest with you now. No matter how much it hurts, I had to tell you the truth, even if it means you never what to see me again, or if you couldn’t love me any more.”

“I think Mom suspected from the start,” Gloria continued. “She knew I would have to figure it out on my own. I just didn’t think you could have figured it out so quickly. I just didn’t think anyone could care about strangers as much as you seem to. You seem too wise for your years. I just hope that over time you can forgive me. I really do love you and hope someday you can love me again.”

“Gloria, I do love you,” I respond lovingly. “I am not letting you go this time, but you have to make this right by everyone, especially Jon and Chris Tavy. As far as I am concerned they are the only ones how need to know anything about this. This will not change what happed to Bob or Cheryl by them knowing what you did. That is over. Bob and Cheryl have chosen their lives, better or for worse. I am in this with you all the way. We need to help Jon and Chris now. That is all that matters. They have a son to raise together. He deserves a Mom and a Dad.”

Gloria threw her arms around my neck, sobbing. “I do love you Billy Alan, I do love you,” said Gloria softly in my ear. “I am not going to let you go, ever”

She kissed me warmly. She softly caressed my face as she kissed me again.

“This is not going to be fun, is it,” she stated?

“No, I don’t think so, but we can get through it together,” I reply. “We can do this. Things can never be like they were before, but we can make this right for the Tavy’s. When Bob comes home this week, you can stop living in the past. So, Ms. James, would you give me the honor of accompanying me to Disneyland next week? I think that is where we should start. If you have any pixie dust I suggest you bring it along. What do you say?”

“I most graciously accept your kind invitation, Mr. Alan,” responds Gloria. A smile was creeping back on her face. ‘I do need to do this, not just for them, but for me too. This is really not who I am, you know.”

“I know,” I say sweetly. “If it was I couldn’t love you like I do. I have some things I need to tell you as well. For now, all you need to know is that I am madly in love with you.”

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