“Why the long face, Mike? You’ve been home less than two hours.”
“On the drive back I was thinking about the Fall.”
“I thought that would make you happy,” Mom said. “Jocelyn will be at Taft with you.”
“What’s the phrase?” I asked with a sigh. “A curse and a blessing?”
“What could possibly be wrong that would cause you to say THAT about Jocelyn?”
“I get up on weekday mornings and run with Angie, then we say morning prayers. Lunch is with the gang, as is dinner. Angie goes to karate with me on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, as well as Saturday mornings. I meet after dinner with my study group, which goes until around 11:00pm. Then Angie and I say our evening prayers. I go out with Katy on Fridays, the gang on Saturdays and Melody on Sundays. Melody and I hang out in our free time, and she spends a couple of nights a week with me.”
“So you have no time for Jocelyn,” Mom said matter-of-factly.
“So I have no time for Jocelyn,” I sighed.
“You have no free time?”
“Six hours on Saturday when I used to work. Otherwise I have to take time from Melody.”
“That was an interesting revelation about her just a few seconds ago. Especially with the fact you’re dating Katy and Tasha.”
“It’s complicated,” I sighed. “If I could mix Angie and Melody into one person, I’d have the person I needed for the rest of my life.”
“I believe you know it doesn’t work that way.”
“I’ll ask a question which I believe is impossible to answer - if you had to pick just one girl to live the rest of your life with, who would she be?”
“I have no idea. And that’s why I’m dating Katy and seeing Tasha when I’m home.”
“Is Melody your girlfriend?”
“She thinks she is.”
“But you don’t?”
“We’re not exclusive, so I’m not sure I should use that word.”
“Then what do you call her?”
“I usually call her Melody,” I replied with a grin.
“Smart Aleck! What do you tell other people?”
“That we’re dating, but not exclusive. She knows I see Katy and Tasha. She’s not worried. She’s also not worried about Angie.”
“She’s either seriously overconfident, or you haven’t been honest with her.”
“I have!” I protested. “Melody is the one who pushed me to sort out my relationship with Jocelyn.”
“And have you done that? With finality?”
“And here I thought this was going to be a nice, relaxing, drama-free Summer.”
“I almost hate to say this, but you’ve made your bed…” Mom said with a semi-smirk.
“Now who’s the Smart Aleck?” I asked. “And I STILL have no idea what to do.”
“I suggest you start talking. To everyone.”
“Wonderful,” I sighed.
“What plans did you have for tonight?”
“None, actually. Jocelyn has something to do, and Dale isn’t coming to West Monroe this Summer. I was just going to hang out at home. Why?”
“Dad and I are going out. Mindy is coming over to hang out with Liz.”
“Then I think I’ll stay in my room and read while I listen to music.”
“Would you cook dinner for the girls?”
“I suppose I can do that,” I said. “What ingredients do you have?”
“We’re still in the Paschal feast, so you can make chicken; there are fresh chicken breasts in the fridge. We also have corn on the cob, and salad.”
“OK. I’m going to set up my stereo, then read for a bit. I’ll start dinner after that. Where are you and dad going?”
“To dinner and a movie. We’re going to see Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid.”
I left the kitchen and went to my room. I set up the stereo and then put away the rest of my things I’d brought home from school. I put on Combat Rock by The Clash and pulled out a book to read. I flipped the album when Side A finished, and after Side B finished with Death is a Star, I went back downstairs to start making dinner. While I was making dinner, Mindy arrived and she and Liz immediately went to the basement. When I had everything ready, I called them to the table.
“This is REALLY good!” Mindy declared about halfway through the meal.
“When did you learn to cook?”
“My mom has been teaching me for a few years, and I enjoying cooking, though I’m far from an expert and it’s not something I’d want to do all the time.”
“Not interested in being a ‘house husband’?” Mindy teased.
“No way!” I replied.
“Well, they do say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. I think it works the other way, too!”
“Yuck!” Liz said, making a gagging sound.
“Just for that, YOU can do the dishes!” I said in mock outrage.
“I was going to do them anyway!” Liz replied.
When we finished, we had some ice cream that I’d found in the freezer, and then I went back to my room to listen to music while Liz and Mindy did the dishes. I put on Marshall Crenshaw’s studio album of the same name. It had been recommended by the guy at the record store in McKinley, and, as usual, his recommendation had been spot on. I picked up my book, but then put it down a few minutes later because the issues I’d talked with Mom about earlier were swirling around my mind.
My priority HAD to be the new study group that Clarissa had organized. I simply could not take my eyes from my ultimate goal. I felt I needed to continue to go to church, do my daily prayers, practice karate, and run in the mornings. That meant time with Melody and Katy had to yield to Jocelyn. How that would happen I had no idea, but I honestly didn’t need to decide until the end of August. For the Summer, I could just do what I had planned - work, karate, hanging out with Jocelyn, seeing Katy, and visiting both Angie and Melody.
I pushed the thoughts from my mind and picked up my book. I read through both sides of Marshall Crenshaw and John Cougar’s American Fool. It had just finished when Mindy appeared in the open doorway.
“Do you like Jack and Diane?” she asked.
“Sure! And Hurts So Good. Both have been on the radio pretty often. The other songs on the album are good, too.”
“What are you doing?”
“Just hanging out. Where’s my sister?”
“Making popcorn. Do you want some?”
“Sure,” I said, getting up from the bed where I’d been reading.
I followed Mindy down to the kitchen where Liz was heating the ‘Jiffy Pop’ popcorn on the stove. I strongly preferred popping my popcorn in a large, covered skillet, but Liz preferred the ‘lazy’ solution. When the popcorn was ready, she tore open the foil and set the popcorn on the table. She got three Cokes from the fridge and we sat down to have our snack.
“Do you have any Jimmy Buffett?” Mindy asked.
“Sure. I have Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes and A White Sport Coat and a Pink Crustacean.”
Mindy giggled, then sang, slightly off-key, “Why don’t we get drunk and screw…”
“Ugh!” Liz spat. “Not you, too!”
“What?” Mindy asked. “I was just being goofy! My dad listens to Jimmy Buffett all the time. He’s been to a couple of his concerts and has all of his albums. It’s a funny song!”
I decided that I would play along because it annoyed Liz, and I hadn’t had much of a chance to do that since I’d left for school.
“That’s too bad,” I said.
“What? That my dad has all his albums?”
“No,” I said soberly, “that you were just being goofy. I thought it sounded like a great idea!”
“Cut it out, Mikey!” Liz insisted.
“Or what?” I smirked. “And besides, YOU teased ME about Mindy back in April! In fact, you even suggested I offer!”
“SHUT UP!” Liz growled.
I grabbed a handful of popcorn, my bottle of Coke, and went back to my room. Liz was sufficiently annoyed, but I didn’t want to push it TOO far. I put on The Beatles' Yellow Submarine and sat down on the floor, leaning against the bed. I finished my popcorn and Coke, then pulled out my book to read. About an hour later, Liz came to the door of my room.
“Why do you have to be such a jerk?” she asked, sounding very annoyed.
“Oh, come on, Liz. I was just being silly. And so was Mindy.”
“Bull! You’re going to screw another one of my friends, aren’t you?”
“Nothing is going to happen between Mindy and me. Period. Now, if you don’t mind, I’m going to get some sleep.”
“Famous last words,” she muttered, turning to go to her own room.
“Thanks for taking me to breakfast!” Jocelyn said as we sat down at IHOP in Rutherford.
“You’re welcome,” I replied.
“What’s the plan for today?” she asked.
“I really didn’t have one,” I said. “The only real plan I had was going to Vespers tonight.”
“Lunch at my house? And then dinner at Ponderosa after church?”
I could do that without causing any problems because Tasha and her family were away for the weekend.
We ate our breakfast and then headed back to West Monroe. At Jocelyn’s house she made a pot of coffee and put on some music, and then we sat on the couch.
“What did you and Melody decide to do about the Summer?”
Did I want to bare everything to Jocelyn now? Or did I want to wait until August? I didn’t want to upset her, and have her worry all Summer, which meant keeping the status quo, at least until later in the Summer.
“We’ll talk, and I’ll try to go see her in Youngstown. I’m planning to go see Angie in Cincinnati over Fourth of July.”
“Are you still planning on seeing Katy every couple of weeks?”
“That’s the plan,” I said. “They have a family vacation to Europe in July for two weeks, but otherwise I’ll probably go up and see her every other Friday.”
“What are your hours at the hardware store?”
“7:00am to 3:30pm, with thirty minutes for lunch. That lets me make karate at 4:00pm three days a week, so by 5:30 I’m free for the evening. With Dale in Wisconsin, I guess it’s a duo instead of a trio for the Summer.”
“It sucks, doesn’t it?” Jocelyn sighed.
“Totally. Even though we had over a year to prepare for it, it’s just not the same without him here; no offense.”
Jocelyn smiled, “None taken. You and I are special together, but Dale was the perfect addition. As I said last Summer, I didn’t realize how important it was that we be together. And I’m not just talking about our failed love affair.”
“What would you call it?”
“I don’t know,” I sighed. “I just don’t want to think about anything between you and me that I would call ‘failed’. Do you think things are different now between us? And are they better or worse?”
Jocelyn cocked her head to the side, “Different? Yes. Better? In most ways, I suppose. And on the plus side, neither of us are virgins!”
I chuckled, “And it was FAR more meaningful than Dale’s fling with that girl in Madison. But I always thought you felt that Dale and I were far too focused on losing our virginity.”
“You WERE!” Jocelyn laughed. “You’d have gone with any girl who offered!”
I shook my head, “No, I wouldn’t have. You know that. April? Carol? No.”
Jocelyn smiled, “I was waiting for the right man to come along. He did. And, truthfully, you and Dale were different. He was what I said; you, on the other hand, were waiting for the right girl.”
“I suppose that’s true. I haven’t exactly been a monk since, though.”
“I wouldn’t have expected you to be a monk; at least once you got past your mental block.”
“And you?” I asked.
Jocelyn smirked, “I’ll take you upstairs right now if you want!”
“So ‘failed’ isn’t the correct term after all?” I grinned.
“Not in THAT regard! But Melody more or less put an end to that, didn’t she?”
“I suppose so,” I sighed.
“What’s bugging you, Mik? I can tell something is.”
I nodded, “I’m trying to figure out how to balance things in August.”
“You’re afraid I’ll come between you and Melody?”
I shook my head, “At first, but now I’m pretty sure the fear is that Melody and Angie will come between us.”
“But not Katy or Tasha?”
“I see Katy once a week and Tasha only when I’m home, and that’s limited by her dad.”
“I don’t think Angie will be a problem; not at least from everything you’ve said about her. You know I’ll go to church with you if you ask, and I don’t think she’d object. You two are very close spiritual friends, but that’s it, right?”
I nodded, “Yes. Very much so. At first, I thought we’d end up as a couple, but that’s not something she can contemplate at this point. We’re the closest of friends, well, except you and me.”
“She’s filled in for me, at least somewhat, I guess?”
“I guess; but nobody can replace you. I suppose my real concern is having enough time for you and me. Our new study group is for pre-med, though a couple of our friends who are majoring in biochem are going to join us. Not hardly something that fits your pre-law curriculum.”
“Maybe I’ll have some classes with Melody; she’s pre-law, right?”
“Yes. She’s majoring in political science, the same as you are. But I’m not sure…”
“You don’t want your girlfriend and your best friend to be friends?”
“Is it that simple?” I asked.
“Why not? You, Dale, and I did just fine.”
“But you weren’t sleeping with Dale!” I objected.
“No, but would you and me sleeping together have changed things with Dale?”
“I think it might have,” I said. “Us as a couple and Dale with a girlfriend would have changed the dynamic.”
She cocked her head and smirked, “Then I’d have had to sleep with him, too, to keep the trio a trio?”
Jocelyn couldn’t keep a straight face, and we both broke up laughing.
“I do love him dearly,” she managed to say through her laughter, “but not THAT much.”
I just nodded.
“Certainly not to drive a wedge between us like that.” she said softly.
“But you’d consider it, otherwise?” I asked.
Jocelyn shook her head, “Dale? No chance. He is NOT my type. I’d have been a notch in his belt, nothing more. With you? It was something altogether different.”
“Was?” I asked.
“Don’t toy with me, Mik,” Jocelyn warned. “Melody won’t accept THAT and you aren’t going to give up on Melody, are you?”
“I’m not sure,” I sighed. “It’s, well…”
“Complicated?” Jocelyn asked.
“At this point in your life, that’s pretty much what I’d expect.”
“Jos, I love you with every fiber of my being, and I’ll never, ever let anyone come between us.”
“Your wife will,” Jocelyn said. “She HAS to.”
“A fair point,” I said. “The problem is, at least as I see it, Melody will see you as a threat.”
“Because you love me.”
“Yes. I suppose she’s going to have to get used to us spending time together. I just have to figure out when that’s going to be.”
“Because you’re so busy with class, studying, and karate?”
There was no point in denying it now, only to raise it later. The conversation hadn’t gone anything like I’d expected it to, but it didn’t seem to have caused any issues between Jocelyn and me.
“Yes,” I agreed. “We’ll work it out. It’s just a new dynamic.”
“Jos and Mik, the Dynamic Duo!” Jocelyn replied contentedly.
“Thank you for agreeing to work on the holiday, Mikael Petrovich!” Mr. Orlov said on Monday morning. “It’s the best day to do a complete inventory.”
“You’re welcome. Where do you want me to start?”
“Work with Amelia on the power tools. One of you work the floor, the other the stock room.”
“Amelia?” I asked.
“A young woman from a new family in our church. They were Roman Catholic but chose to be received into the Church. She’ll be here any moment now.”
“OK. I’ll get right on it. I’ll start in the stock room.”
I picked up a clipboard and an inventory sheet and the headed to the stock room. About five minutes later a girl who looked to be around my age came in and introduced herself as Amelia Riley.
“I just finished my Junior year at Ohio State,” she said. “I’m a physics major.”
“I just finished my Freshman year at Taft. I’m a biochemistry major planning to go to medical school.”
“I don’t remember you from High School. You went to Harding High, right?”
“Yes. But you were two years ahead, so I’m not surprised. I wasn’t involved in much of anything except the chess club.”
“Marching band. I played euphonium. Anyway, I guess we’re doing inventory.”
“Yep. I’ll start in here. If you count the items on the shelves and the floor, then we’ll add everything up and compare it with the count. Once we’re done, I’m sure Mr. Orlov has more for us to do.”
“I bet!” she laughed.
She left and I began counting the power tools. When we finished we added up the totals and compared them to the list Mr. Orlov had, and found several discrepancies. We noted them, then moved on to begin counting the gardening items, which included hand tools, fertilizer, grass seed, flower seeds, and a number of other items. That took us until lunch, which Mrs. Orlova provided.
“What are you going to do with your degree in physics?” I asked as we ate sandwiches in the break room.
“Get a Masters and a PhD and do research. I hope to work for NASA or one of the labs doing high-energy physics research. Do you know what kind of medicine you want to practice?”
“Trauma,” I said.
“I take it that’s a difficult specialty?”
“Somewhat. Surgery, especially cardiac and neuro, are probably more challenging in some ways, but trauma is what I want to do.”
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to sound demeaning; I don’t know much about medicine.”
“I didn’t take it that way,” I replied with a smile. “I’m doing what I want to do, just as you are. I know some pre-med students who want the most challenging specialty, whatever it is. Others want something specific, such as pediatrics or internal medicine. But, in the end, only the National Match matters. You can make your preferences known, but there is no guarantee you’ll get what you want. It’s all about top grades, good reviews for your training in the last two years of medical school, and good interviews. How does it work for you?”
“The undergrad and Masters degrees are pretty straightforward. Getting into a PhD program requires finding a sponsor, and then having my research approved and accepted. It can take years, especially in high-energy physics. Most likely, I’ll end up someplace like University of Chicago or Stanford. Where will you go to medical school?”
“I’m hoping to go to McKinley Medical School. Eventually I hope to do my Residency at the affiliated hospital. I’d prefer Rutherford, but they don’t have a teaching program.”
“There’s training after medical school?”
“For me, it’ll be three years. If I were to do surgery, it would be seven or eight, depending. You are a doctor when you graduate medical school, but you’re an intern first, then a Resident. Eventually, you’re an Attending Physician. Or, if you wish, after your internship year you can become a General Practitioner, what you know as a doctor you see for your physical.”
“So they train in a hospital?”
“Everyone does. The rules vary by state. In Ohio, you have to do one year as an intern and then one year as a Resident before you can get your license to practice independently.”
“So ten years? That’s probably about how long it will take for my PhD.”
We finished our lunch and then began our next assignment, finishing as planned at 3:30pm. The dojo in Rutherford was closed because of the holiday, so I headed home.
“You’re sure you’re OK with having dinner with my parents?” Katy asked when she greeted me at the door on Friday evening.
“Yes, I’m sure. They leave us alone for the most part, so spending time with them occasionally isn’t going to upset me.”
“I think they’re afraid we’ll get into trouble,” she smirked, “if you know what I mean!”
“I do!” I said, pulling her into my arms for another kiss.
“Dinner’s almost ready,” she said.
She led me to the great room and we sat down for about five minutes before her mom called us to the dining room. Her parents greeted me and we sat down to eat. As I’d expected would happen, I was peppered with questions about my first year of college, my future plans, my family, my friends, and just about every topic under the sun. In some ways, it felt like an interview, in others, like an interrogation. It made me wonder if they knew, or suspected, that Katy had started taking birth control pills.
When we finished eating, Katy and I volunteered to do the dishes, both having the same idea that it would let us talk a bit privately.
“I suppose I’m prepared for my medical school interviews!” I chuckled as I washed a plate and put it in the rack.
“I’m really sorry,” Katy replied. “I didn’t realize they were going to give you the third degree! The only thing missing was the bright light in your eyes!”
“It did have that feel,” I said. “Did something happen?”
“Not that I’m aware of.”
“Do you think they know you’re taking birth control pills?”
Katy shook her head, “I don’t think so. I’ve been super careful and they don’t snoop in my room.”
“Are they concerned about me? I mean, because I’m in college?”
“You’re less than two years older than I am, and they didn’t have a problem when I dated a Senior when I was a Sophomore. And it’s not like you’re a burnout or loser!”
“True!” I laughed. “It almost feels like Mrs. Sokolova said something to them about us being a ‘match’.”
“Mom and Dad don’t believe in those stupid ‘Old Country’ traditions!”
“No, but Mrs. Sokolova does, just as Mrs. Orlova does at my home church. And you know what those «бабушки» think! And what they say!”
Katy laughed, “I’m sure Mrs. Sokolov has us betrothed and ready for a crowning ceremony! But I’m still in High School! Mom and Dad are right about those ‘Old Country’ ideas.”
“Things are a bit different here.”
“You weren’t planning on asking me to marry you, were you?” Katy asked with an arched eyebrow.
“Not at this time,” I said with a grin.
“A VERY safe answer!” Katy laughed. “You don’t commit to anything, and you don’t upset me by saying ‘no’ which could be taken wrongly!”
We finished the dishes, then joined her parents in the great room. We played Rook, with Katy and me winning more than half the games. When it was time for me to head back to West Monroe, Katy walked me to my car as she usually did. I took her in my arms and held her.
“I’m sorry we didn’t get to spend any time together alone,” she said.
“It’s OK, Katy. I’m not upset.”
We exchanged a soft kiss.
“See you in two weeks?” she asked.
We exchanged another soft kiss, then I got into my Mustang and headed back to West Monroe.
When I arrived home, Mom and Dad were sitting in the kitchen drinking lemonade and I joined them.
“How was your date?” Mom asked.
“We spent the evening with her parents. During dinner it seemed like I was having a complete background check for a ‘Top Secret’ security clearance!”
“I’d say they think you and Katy are getting serious, or, rather, Katy is very serious about you. They’re sizing you up as a potential son-in-law.”
“She’s seventeen-and-a-half!” I protested. “And her parents aren’t anything like Tasha’s.”
“They’re parents, Mike,” Dad laughed. “Parents of a teenage girl! You didn’t deal much with April’s dad, and Jocelyn’s parents didn’t see you as a suitor until you were eighteen and they had known you for thirteen years.”
“We’re both WAY too young to consider anything like that,” I said. “We’re not even steady at this point!”
“No, but I suspect they believe that’s going to happen, and want to be sure you’re suitable for Katy to date seriously.”
“Have you talked to Jocelyn about the Fall?” Mom asked.
“Yes,” I replied. “All we can do is see what we can work out. The potential problem will be Melody being worried about Jocelyn.”
“If you and Jocelyn plan to be that close, then you’re going to have to make sure your girlfriend is OK with it.”
“I know. Jocelyn made a point about not coming between me and my wife, when I eventually get married, but I don’t want to lose my best friend!”
“It’s going to be a struggle, Mike. Guys having girls as their best friends works right up until about High School and then things start to become strained. April wasn’t too worried because it was always you, Dale, and Jocelyn. Now it’s just you and Jocelyn.”
“Wonderful,” I sighed. “I think I’m going to bed.”
“Good night,” both Mom and Dad said.
“Mishka!” Tasha squealed when she greeted me in the narthex following Vespers on Saturday night.
“Hi, Tasha! Ready to go on our first official date?”
“Yes! Dad is OK with us going to see Star Trek.”
“That was never in doubt,” I chuckled. “But are YOU really OK with it?”
“Yes, of course! I told you it was OK. Science fiction is fine, so long as it’s not a horror movie like Alien.”
“I didn’t go see that,” I said. “It’s not something I like, either. And I assumed your dad wouldn’t be OK with Poltergeist because of the supernatural story.”
“He would probably have to see it first, but I doubt he will. Star Trek is FINE, Mishka! And dinner?”
“How about Friendly’s in Rutherford? It’s close to the theater.”
I walked over to Deacon Vasily to let him know what we were doing and promised to have Tasha home IMMEDIATELY after the movie, as he clearly emphasized with his tone of voice. I also promised to call immediately if I had car trouble or any other issue. Once he was satisfied, Tasha and I walked out and I helped her into my car.
“He’s an old fuddy-duddy!” Tasha groused.
“I wouldn’t complain too much! He is letting us go out!”
“I’m surprised he isn’t having someone tail us, you know, like in a spy movie!”
“What exactly does he think we’re going to do?” I asked.
“You know very well what he thinks we’re going to do!” Tasha giggled. “Because that is what we WANT to do!”
“Perhaps,” I teased.
“Perhaps?” Tasha spat in outrage. “Perhaps? Mikael Petrovich if you want to take me home, then do so!”
“Relax, Tasha!” I chuckled. “I was teasing! But that’s not going to happen tonight.”
‘Or anytime soon,’ I didn’t add. Crossing that line with Tasha was an irrevocable decision and I was in no position to do that. And she’d made me promise not to allow things to escalate that far, at least at this point. I had the same general concern about Katy, though with her, it might not be a commitment at that level, though I had no doubt it would be a commitment to be exclusive.
“No, I suppose it won’t,” she sighed. “Someday…”
In the distant future!
“Let’s focus on what’s possible now,” I said.
“Dinner, a movie, and very nice ‘good night’ kisses!”
“I think that sounds good!”
We enjoyed our meal at Friendly’s, then drove about a mile down the street to the movie theater to see Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan. We both enjoyed the movie and I felt it was far better than Star Trek: The Motion Picture, which I’d seen with Dale and Jocelyn a few years earlier. When the movie finished, we left the theater, Tasha stopped me as I opened her car door.
“I think I should give you your ‘good night’ kiss here!” Tasha said.
I took her in my arms, and she melted against me, and we exchanged a deep, sexy French kiss. Tasha didn’t break the kiss and squeezed her arms tighter and tighter, mashing our bodies together. I had an involuntary reaction which there was no way she could miss, given how tightly she was holding me. When she finally broke the kiss, Tasha was breathing hard, and I was too; but not just breathing! She didn’t relax her arms, but simply put her head on my shoulder.
“Did you like the kiss?” Tasha asked impishly.
“Very much so!”
“Good! I want another one! Then you can take me home before Dad calls out the National Guard!”
We exchanged another deep, sexy kiss, hugged for a moment afterwards, and then got into the car for the drive back to her house.
“Mike?!” Mom called up the stairs. “Telephone!”
I left my room and went down to the kitchen to take the call.
“Hello?” I said.
“Mike? It’s Becky van Dorn!”
“Becky?! How are you?”
“Good. How did your semester go?”
“Straight A’s for the year,” I said. “How was the rest of your Senior year?”
“OK. I got all A’s and B’s, though it was a bit strange because of going to school in Ohio for a few months, but they worked it out. I told you I was accepted to Central Michigan and I’ll start in the Fall. I’m undeclared right now, but I’m thinking social work.”
“Cool. How are your sister and brother?”
“Jake is doing fine. Abby is doing about as well as can be expected. She’ll be moving here in a week or so.”
“So what’s up?” I asked.
“I was wondering if I could come visit?”
“I suppose,” I said.
“If you don’t want me to, I understand.”
“No, that’s not it. You just kind of caught me off guard.”
“Do you have a steady girlfriend? Is that it?”
“No. I’m dating, and there is a girl I spend a lot of time with at school, but we’re not steady.”
I chuckled, “No. A girl named Melody. When were you thinking of coming to Ohio?”
“In a couple of weeks, if it’s OK. My grandmother would want to talk to your parents, but I told her how nice you were when everything happened and how much you helped me.”
“We don’t have a guest room, so we’ll need to work that out, but I’d love to see you. How long would you stay?”
“A couple of days. Just to hang out and talk.”
“I work weekdays from 7:00am to 3:30pm.”
“Then a weekend is probably better, right?”
“Probably,” I said.
“Let me talk to Grandma and call you in a couple of days. Are any weekends out?”
“Just Fourth of July. I’ll be in Cincinnati visiting a friend.”
“No, she lives in Youngstown.”
“OK. I’ll talk to you in a couple of days!”
We said ‘goodbye’ and hung up and then I went to find Mom.
“That was Becky. She wants to come visit for a few days. She’s going to figure out when and then her grandma will call to talk to you to make sure it’s OK. I can sleep on the sofa bed when she’s here and she can have my room so she has some privacy.”
Mom smiled, “I don’t believe that’s how it worked out last time.”
“Things are different now,” I said. “I told her about Melody.”
“Yes, but WHAT did you tell her about Melody?”
“Never mind,” I said, shaking my head. “I’m going to get ready to go to the pool. Jocelyn and I are taking Liz and Mindy, and Emmy is meeting them there. Liz did clear that with you, right?”
“Yes. Keep an eye on her, Mike. Don’t be overbearing. If she’s talking to teenage boys, that’s fine. If she’s talking to adult men, you need to step in.”
“Which will make me EVER so popular,” I sighed. “But I’ll do it.”
I went upstairs and put on my bathing suit and a t-shirt, grabbed a towel, and let Liz know I was ready to go. She came out of her room, we said ‘goodbye’ to our parents, then went out to my car. We picked up Jocelyn and Mindy, in that order, then headed for the public swimming pool in Rutherford where Emmy was waiting at the gate. The three girls hugged and went off together while Jocelyn and I found a couple of chairs where we left our blankets and shirts and got into the pool.
“The scars don’t show with this particular cut of suit,” Jocelyn said, referring to her black, conservatively cut one-piece suit.
I shrugged, “They never bothered me, and, honestly, when I’ve seen you naked, I was looking at OTHER things!”
“Pig!” Jocelyn laughed.
“Says the woman who couldn’t take her eyes off my erection when we were in Cincinnati!”
“Double standard, Miss Mills?” I asked with an arched eyebrow.
“Maybe!” she laughed. “Don’t look now, but your sister is flirting.”
“High School guy? Or older?”
“I’d guess seventeen or eighteen.”
“Mom’s OK with that. If you see her talking to an older guy, then we have to intervene.”
“What’s up with Mindy? She was all doe-eyed when she got into the car.”
“She flirted with me a bit the day I got home, and Liz has teased me about her. But my limit on High School girls is Katy and Tasha. And Tasha’s a special exception because she just finished her Sophomore year.”
“Is that Melody’s doing? Or yours?”
“Me, mostly. A couple of people commented on it, and it is a bit of ‘two different worlds’, if you know what I mean. With Katy and Tasha, we have church in common, and Katy’s less than two years younger. Tasha is about two-and-a-half.”
“Emmy is still banned from your house?”
“Oh yeah! The minute we let ‘those people’ into our house, it was as if we had the plague or something. Like being black was contagious, or something.”
“Racism is just stupid. Well, any kind of discrimination is stupid.”
“We both discriminate against stupidity and being a burnout.”
“That’s different,” Jocelyn laughed. “It’s OK to discriminate against those things!”
After about thirty minutes in the pool we went to the deck chairs, put on suntan lotion, and relaxed in the June sun.
“What’s the plan afterwards?” Jocelyn asked.
“I figured A&W,” I said. “We can take the girls with us or take them home. I’m sure they’ll want to go, and I’d rather not go all the way out of my way to take them back to West Monroe.”
“That’s a change from last year!”
“I know,” I said. “I’m trying to be nicer to Liz, though I do give her grief.”
“That’s what brothers are for!” she laughed. “And best friends!”
“I’ll give YOU something, if you aren’t careful!”
“Hmm,” she smirked. “Seven inches long, hard, and VERY fun to play with?”
“I thought we agreed that was off limits,” I replied.
“You don’t want that. I don’t want that. MELODY wanted that. True?”
“That’s basically true,” I admitted with a small sigh.
“Then it’s your move, Mik,” she said.