CHAPTER Eight: GETTING READY FOR THE PROM

   She sat down beside him, and -without preamble – started in. “Since we seem destined to spend part of every Saturday – perhaps forever! – together on these porch steps, I think we need to clarify. First, this older man-younger woman thing: I looked in your personnel file, and found you were born October 27, 1943. I was born July 6, 1946, which makes you – by the calendar, anyway - 2 years, 8 months, and 11 days older than me. Everyone knows that women mature faster than men, so an average woman would quickly make up for a mere 2 years, 8 months, and 11 days. Ergo, we are the same age.”

      Greg looked at her, speculatively. He liked the view. “I don’t think I’ll comment on the possible criminal activity of an unauthorized civilian looking at a private personnel file. We’ll just let that go, at least for now. However, I think I do need to say that I didn’t know we had a ‘older man-younger woman thing’ to discuss. Did I miss a conversations somewhere along the way?”

   She smiled. He liked that view, too. “Well, if it hadn’t already come up, I knew it would and, see, now it has. We are confronting the fact that you are a college graduate, and I am a high school girl, and you think that is going to make a big difference.”

   He almost asked her what it was going to make a difference about, but he caught himself. Who knew what rabbit hole that would take them down?

   “Your point is conceded.” (Was it? He wasn’t really even sure what the point was!) So, let’s go straight to your premise. Chronologically, your calculations are correct. (And I’ll be sure to get your birthday marked on my calendar.) Also, it is generally understood that women mature quicker than men, but - after that - your conclusion is faulty. It is faulty because you based it on averages. I may be near average for males, but you are not for females. You are the brightest, most interesting, and most mature almost graduated from high school young woman I have ever known. Therefore, you are older than me; in fact, you may actually be too old for me.”

   That stopped her, but only for a moment. “Okay, how many almost graduated from high school young women – that’s too long, we should abbreviate it: how many AGFHSYW am I being compared with? How many do you know?”

   “Well, recently, not many, but I do recall a lot when I was an almost graduated young boy. My memory is probably not as sharp as when I was young, but I’m sure it is still adequate to identify a superior creature when I meet one.”

   “Are you joking with me, now?”

   “No, I am not joking with you, now. I’ve been aware since the first day we sat here – and you may recall, I was recovering from a bad hangover that day that wasn’t letting me be aware of much beyond my splitting headache –  Anyway, I’ve been aware that you are already brighter than many of the people I went to college with. You are smart and clever; you have the vocabulary of a college professor, and you even know what the words mean! You would be formidable on any debate team. The way you handled my tractor training was a clear example of your skill as a teacher.”

   He stopped. “Am I swelling your head too much?”

  “No,” she whispered, “but you may make me cry.” She did rub at her eye. “Do you really mean all that?”

   “Have I ever lied to you?”

   She giggled. “Have you ever done anything but sit on this stupid porch, and trade words with me?”

   "Point taken,” Greg said.

  

   They talked for awhile about the past week. Her Dad had told her about the water theft. She wasn’t sure it was right not to try to catch the crook. “Your Dad doesn’t think there’s any way to prove who the thief is. We’d almost have to catch him in the act, and it looks pretty clear now that he isn’t coming back. Anti-government feelings around here are already bad enough, without accusing somebody without proof – and your dad is probably right that some of our neighbors wouldn’t consider stealing water from the wildlife refuge to be that much of a crime.”

   “Well, that isn’t right!”

   “No, it isn’t, but sometimes diplomacy requires less than full justice. To change the subject, did you hear that the Johnson boys were flabbergasted by my new-found skill with the tractor?”

   “No! What did you do?”

   “I was out checking the water diversion, and I saw them working. I drove over, and offered to help them fence. They allowed as how my help wasn’t helpful.”

   “That wasn’t nice!”

   “No, but pretty much true. Anyway, I said if they didn’t want my help fencing, maybe I could bring the trailer up closer to them – save them walking down the road, and bringing it up by themselves. After my previous efforts, they thought they would really enjoy seeing me fail miserably, once again. I got the Fordson, started it up, drove it to them, and backed the trailer – almost perfectly – right to the fence line.”

   Vic clapped her hands. “Bravo! So, how did you explain it?”

   “I didn’t. I just walked away and drove home. Obviously, my male pride wouldn’t let me tell them my instructor had been a beautiful young woman.”

   “Obviously. So I don’t get any credit?”

   “Only my undying gratitude. Now, on a more serious subject, we’re going to have to stop meeting on these steps.”

   For a brief moment, she looked stunned. Then, “Because you are giving up your house to the new woman.”

   “Your Dad told you.”  

  “He did. It sounds very interesting, but I think he’s pretty worried, too.”

   “Yeah, interesting is a good word. But I’m worried, too. There are so many ways this could go wrong, and she’s the one who could suffer for it.

   “Now, to get back to the really serious business, do you think you can adapt to Saturdays on the bunkhouse steps?”

   “Maybe. Maybe not. We’ll just have to try, and see.”

   Brief interlude, then: “Are you aware that tomorrow is Mother’s Day?" asked Vic.

   “I am aware, and I was aware in time to actually get a card sent to my mother. Is your family doing anything special?”

   “We’re going to all go in to town, and eat at the diner, then maybe go to a show, if there is a good one playing.”

   “You all should have a good time.”

   Vic had something else on her mind. “Are you also aware that I will not be joining you on these steps – or any other -  next Saturday – at least, not in the morning?”

   He looked surprised, but tried to cover the feeling that he was also strangely disappointed. “No, I wasn’t aware? Are you going to sleep in?”

   “Of course not! Friday is my Senior Prom, so I’ll be in town.”

   “Senior Prom, huh? Do you have a date?”

   “Of course. Actually, we have a Junior-Senior prom here, not just for Seniors, so Mandy and I will both be going  - with two brothers that we’ve known almost since we moved here. Dad will come in Saturday morning to pick us up and bring us home.”

   He was trying not to be too obvious, but couldn’t help himself. “Are either of these brothers long-term boyfriend material?”

   She gave him a speculative look. “No, not even short-term boyfriend material for me. I’m going to wait on a boyfriend until I really know what I want.”

   “That seems like a very good idea to me.” He paused. “So, you won’t be coming home Friday. You and Mandy will get into your dance regalia in town, wow everybody at the prom, stay in town overnight, and come home Saturday with your dad. When next I see you, you will be your beautiful self – as you are today – but I’ll miss the finery. That makes me a little sad.”

   She knew he was purposely laying it on a little thick, but was also pretty sure he was sincere. She didn’t need to respond, though, because he started up, again. “Here’s an idea: At the height of the prom, when you are at your gorgeous best, have somebody take a picture for me. It can be with your date, but have him stand just a little bit away from you. That way, when I cut him out of the photo, I’ll be sure to get all of you.”

   He caught her completely off guard, and she laughed. “So, you want me to tell my date that my boyfr… my other friend wants a picture of me without him in it?”

   “Well, that would be one way. Maybe there would be less chance of hurt feelings if you had somebody take a picture of you, all by yourself. No misunderstandings, and no need for me to trim the photo.”

   “We’ll see,” she said, as she got up off the step. “We’ve been here quite awhile. I better get going.”

   He stood up beside her. “You know I’ve enjoyed every minute of this, Vic.”

   “Maybe a little at my expense?”

   ‘No,  never. I may be hard to interpret sometimes – maybe when it comes to you, especially – but, believe me, I won’t ever say anything to you that I don’t sincerely mean.”

   She did believe him, and gave a tentative little smile before turning away.

   “I hope you and Mandy will have a really fun, special night. I am a little jealous.”

   She kept walking.

  “Maybe some day,” he said, maybe so quietly that she didn’t hear it. ”If it’s all right with your someday long-term boyfriend, of course - you and I can dance together.”


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