"Yes, I went over there immediately and the lady, Mrs. Walsh, rented me a room. I asked for a month because I have some other matters that interest me here, besides just looking the town over. I met a young family today that I would like to help. They seem to be in a crisis right now. He is a veteran like me, only he has more problems than I do. Tell me more about your family. It seems like you had a little brother, and an older sister. How are they doing?"
"My older sister got married and left home, and my little brother is kinda getting into trouble quite a bit. He is locking horns with my Dad and Mom. He seems to like the rock music that is so popular now, and it irritates my folks. He has started staying out late, and we don't know what he is into anymore. His clothes are outrageous, and he seems to be tearing the family apart even more than Dad's banged up hand. I don't know what we are going to do. He is sixteen and out of control."
By now she was weeping silently, brushing away the tears with her table napkin. I reached over and took her hand in my own, patting her, trying to comfort her.
"Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to put a damper on our evening. Excuse me, please!" She jumped up and left the table hurriedly, heading, I supposed, for the Ladies Room.
"Now you've done it!" I told myself. "You sure know how to throw a monkey wrench into what was supposed to be a perfect evening!"
Miserably, I sat waiting for her return. Ten minutes later, she returned smiling, as though nothing had happened. I could see that she wanted to behave as though she had just taken a regular break, so I did.
"I'll bet you would like to know where we went so suddenly eleven years ago," I quipped. "It was supposed to be an adventure for me and my sister, but turned into a permanent move for the family."
I went on to explain what had precipitated our move, and she seemed to find the whole tale fascinating.
"I can't believe you were such an adventurer, Zeb! You certainly didn't appear that way in school. You seemed to keep to yourself, mostly, and tried to stay out of trouble. I felt so bad for you when your father was murdered. The other kids pointing at you and making fun made me angry for you. Then all at once, they stopped."
I simply smiled at her. I would not speak of that right now; she would think I was boasting. Maybe later.
We had talked for what seemed like hours until she looked at her watch, and said, "I need to get home. I am a working girl, you know, and we open the bank for a few hours tomorrow. It has been wonderful spending some time with you and catching up on each other."
"When can I see you again? I'm not going to be in town very long, and I'd like to renew our friendship."
"You remember where I live, don't you? Over on Cedar Lane? Just a few streets over from where you used to live; from where you live now. Come over for supper tomorrow evening. Please?"
"Why don't I just walk you home right now? I can't have you out wandering around by yourself this late at night."
"All right," she smiled. We walked kind of close to each other on our way to her house. It was quite cold, and so I put her arm through mine. It was a wonderful night, though, as far as I was concerned.
When we got to her house, she got out her key and put it into the lock, then turned and kissed me on the cheek.
"See you tomorrow," she whispered.
Well, I guess that settled the question of whether to kiss her goodnight or not.
(To be continued)