CHAPTER Twenty-four: BOOKS AND SUCH

   Greg had been washing up some dishes when Vic appeared Saturday morning. He greeted her at the door, dish towel in hand, with “Good morning, Victoria darling,” and a light kiss on the cheek.

   “Wow! That reminds me of a professor of Greek odes that I might meet some day.”

   “Let’s try another possible greeting, then. How about ‘Hey Vic, nice to see you. How are you today, babe?’ So, do you have a preference?”

   “Well...”

   Before she could answer: “What if, after greeting you that way, I immediately wrapped you in my arms?” He did. “Then, kissed you very soundly?” He did. “Would that influence your decision?”

   He was still holding her, with their lips separated by about two inches. “Well, they both have their merits. Show me the second one, again.” He did. She lingered a moment, then broke away. “Let me think about it while I get my tea started.”

   With tea and coffee in hand, they went out on the porch steps. It was a lovely, blue sky morning, but the temperature was already nearing 80 degrees. It was nice at the moment, but the early heating suggested more warmth and maybe thunderstorms, later.

   “Well,” Vic began, after they got settled on their step, “I’ve given both greetings some thought. I’d like to suggest a few changes.  Now, here’s how I picture it. You’re not drying dishes – in fact, you haven’t even had breakfast yet, because ever since you woke up, you haven’t been able to think about anything except seeing me. You’ve been pacing the floor, occasionally going to look out the window to see if I’m in sight, yet. You know it’s not time, really, but you’re desperately hoping that I’ll be early. You hear my footsteps on the porch, and you rush to open the door.

   “’Vic!,’ you cry. ‘I think I would have gone mad if I had to wait another moment. God, you’re beautiful!’” She paused. “Then, I think keep the second part of ‘option number two’ as you just did it.”

   Greg seemed to be considering. “Yeah, okay. I think I can do that.”

   “Well, you know, you don’t have to use the exact words. I’m just offering you my thoughts as an illustration. I think if you just do it a time or two, you’ll find that something similar just starts to come naturally. And, I won’t mind if, once in a while, you call me ‘Vic, darling,’ or ‘Vic, my one and only love.’ I mean, those would work, too.”

   “That’s good to know. Maybe I can work out a routine, using both greetings.”

   “Okay, but I want it to be spontaneous, so only practice when I’m with you.”

   They sipped in silence. “So, how was your week, Gregory dear?”

   “Pretty routine. We saw each other often enough for you to know that I didn’t get far from the office. I had planned to do bird surveys Wednesday - and then Thursday - but those big thunderstorms came just at the wrong time both days. Those were pretty fierce, as you know; lucky there was a lot of rain with the lightning, or we would have had a lot of range fires in the vicinity.

   “And how was your week, Vic darling?”

   “About like yours. I guess you know the big news: that we did get the rental house in town that we wanted.”

   “Yeah, your dad said. That must be a relief for everybody.”

   “It is. We can’t actually move in for two weeks, but that will still be in plenty of time to get settled before Mandy starts school on the 30th.

   “Oh, I haven’t had a chance to tell you. I finished “Courts of the Morning” over a week ago.”

   “How did you like it?”

   “Some of the war stuff got pretty hard for me to follow. There were so many different people, and quite a few of them were in disguise at various times, and I was getting confused by all the names.”

   Greg laughed. “You know, I’ve read it five or six times, and I still get confused about who is who, and who is pretending to be some other person. If I stick with the several main characters, I eventually figure it out.”

   “Other than that, I love the Buchan characters. Archie is great, of course, and really able to show off his special talents in this story. I take it Blenkiron appears in stories I haven’t read, and the mysterious Sandy must be a Buchan staple in other series. I like Babs – Barbara – a lot, and I’m glad that she and Sandy are going to get together. That should make for some interesting adventures.

  “And then, of course, there’s me – well, Janet. Other than continuing to portray me – well, her - as some cute little blonde, Buchan is showing that I’m – or, she’s - not just some gorgeous beauty, but a deep, clever, compassionate person. Someone else besides Archie (and you, of course) falls in love with me – or her - for who I am – or, who she is - not what I look like – or she looks like. It’s all very nice.”

   “I doubt that anybody but me – or Archie – could follow all that, but I – or we – can, and agree with your assessment. Buchan has definitely captured your – or her – essence.”

   She gave him a contented grin. “I’m ready for another.”

   “Book, or kiss?”

   “How about both?”

  “How about a change of pace with the book?” Greg asked, after taking special care of half the request. “I’d like you to read my co-favorite with ‘John McNab.’ Do you know Nevil Shute?”

   “He’s ‘On the Beach,” isn’t he? I saw that movie. It was really scary, but very good.”

   “The book is really good, too, but I had in mind another of his, called ‘No Highway.’ It’s quite a different proposition than ‘On the Beach,’ but it’s more typical of most of Shute’s novels. They made a movie of it, too; called ‘No Highway in the Sky’, which follows the book very closely. The story has two heroines, not just one. Neither is quite heroic in the ways that you – and Janet - are, but still very worth the title.”

   “What’s it about, other than heroic women?”

   “I don’t want to say too much, because the whole book is about one thing. A scientist named Mr. Honey works on airplane structural issues. He’s the complete egghead, entirely wrapped up in his research. He has a hypothesis that there are serious flaws in a new airplane, flaws so serious that the metal in the tail could completely disintegrate after a certain amount of flying time, causing the plane to fall out of the sky. It’s going to take several more months of testing before he knows if he’s right or wrong. He’s not concerned that some of the planes are already carrying passengers across the Atlantic; it’s just an academic exercise to him.” He paused. “I’m making him sound kind of heartless, but he isn’t. He’s just completely wrapped up in his work. Before the end of the book, he shows that he’s not heartless, at all. I think you’ll like it.”

   “It sounds like I want to read it.”

   Greg went into the house to get the book. When he came back, it was obvious that Vic had something more important than novels on her mind.

   “Do you realize that there’s only one more Saturday before my family moves to town?

   He sat down next to her. “I hadn’t thought about it in that way but, yes, I knew the time was getting close. We still have a month before you leave for school.”

   She turned to face him. “But don’t you see? Daddy’s going to be out here, but I’m going to be in town most of that time. I need to be there, to help Mom and Mandy, and also to get myself ready for school. But I need to be with you on the weekends. We can’t give up three of our Saturdays, especially at a time like this!”

   “I’m beginning to see the problem. You could be out here with him during the week, but then you’d be going to town just when we want to be together.”

   “That’s it! I could spend the work week with him here, but one, I really shouldn’t leave Mom and Mandy on their own all that time; and two, finding some time for us in the evening is nice, but this...” She patted the step between them. “This is the real Greg and Vic time and place. This is where we’re ourselves – where we can just be us, talk about anything we want, dream about the future... Whatever. I can’t give that up before we really have to.”

   “So, what are our options?”

   “Oh, I already know what I’m going to do. I’m going to tell Mom and Daddy that I have to be here on the weekends. All it takes is for you to be willing to pick me up in town on Friday, and take me back to town Sunday morning. Will you?”

   “Of course, I would be your taxi driver any time, but...”

   “I know you hate that drive.”

   “But my love for you is far, far greater than my hate for the road. But, Vic, do you think they’ll agree?”

   “I’m not going to be asking for their agreement. I’m going to be telling them how much I – how much we – need this. I’m going to remind them that they raised responsible daughters, who can be trusted away from them. If need be, I will also remind them that, in one month’s time, they won’t have any idea what I’m doing. They will have to trust me, then!”

   “Vic, I want us to have our Saturdays, and I’ll do everything I can to make them happen. Just remember, this is your family you’re dealing with. I don’t think it’s about trust with them; I think it’s about worry. Parents worry about their kids. They worry about their sons, but they worry more about their daughters and, unfortunately, in this world, it’s a legitimate worry. This is a hard time for all of us.”

  Yeah, I know.”

***

   Vic showed up at Greg’s door Sunday morning. “I don’t have time for my preferred greeting from you. We’re on our way to town for the day. So, give me a quick, but very un-brotherly, kiss, and I will depart happy.”

   He obliged with the un-brotherly request, but not the quickness.

 “Thanks for yesterday, Greg. It helped with my perspective, and I even slept pretty well. Obviously, I didn’t talk to my parents yet. I figured with you and Daddy tied up with the inspection tomorrow and Tuesday, that would have been an unneeded distraction. Also, we decided to do the family trip to see my college on Thursday so, again, it’s not a good time to stir up bad feelings. It’ll keep for a little while.


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