Marianne Arkins

No matter the decade, always Happily Ever After





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Thanks, Mom

By Marianne Arkins

Savannah fingered the twenty-year-old photograph as she waited impatiently at the small café table. The picture showed a young boy and girl playing happily in the dirt of a newly tilled, and yet unplanted, vegetable garden. She was the girl, and the boy in that photo, Lyle Brock, should be here any time. Too bad she didn't know what he looked like.

That morning, Mom had called and said the Brock family was in town for a vacation. She’d promised that Savannah would be thrilled to show Lyle around town. After all, hadn’t they been inseparable as preschoolers?

After reminding her mother that preschool was twenty years ago, and under great duress, she’d caved in and agreed to meet him at the corner coffee shop that night. She’d be the one in the blood red shirt and long face. Savannah leaned back and sipped at her mocha latte, remembering her childhood friend.

At fourteen-months-old, she'd been part of a play group at his house. Over the next few years, children had come and gone but she and Lyle always had remained constant companions. The corner of her mouth lifted in a smile as her memory played a slide show.

Holding hands with Lyle at the local petting zoo. Their first ride on the kiddie coaster at the carnival. Lyle pushing her on the swing, somehow knowing just how high to push without frightening her.   The time he broke his arm falling down the basement stairs and she’d scribbled her five-year-old signature on his cast, surrounding it with a big heart. The desolation when he and his family moved two thousand miles away just before her seventh birthday.

For a several years, their mother’s had helped them keep in touch with short, hand-written notes and photographs. He sent a picture of his first place science experiment in third grade—something involving chickens. She sent a picture of her first ballet recital.

He shared a picture and story of riding a sheep at the rodeo. She spent that summer at a girl’s camp at the cape, learning which fork to use. She liked ballet, Lyle preferred line dancing.  She looked down at the second photo she carried, one of him at eleven-years-old, proudly holding the enormous silver belt buckle he'd earned calf-roping at the local rodeo.

She nibbled at the tip of one newly manicured fingernail and wondered what they could possibly have in common. How would she find a way to kill the two or three hours they’d be together? What could they possibly have to talk about?  She knew nothing about the grown up Lyle.

She dropped her head to the table for a moment, forgetting all decorum. One good thump of her forehead against the marble table top and her memory of proper behavior returned. She sat up straight and looked around guiltily. She'd been raised better than that.

She glanced at her watch and noted that it was five past the arranged meeting time. She took a lazy look around the room, wondering if he was already here somewhere.

Was he that guy? The one leaning over the coffee bar and ordering from the cute college girl with the pink hair? Oh. Ick. She hoped not, considering he just reached over and tweaked the girls lip piercing. She moved on.

Maybe the guy in the low slung jeans? His tee shirt snug around his muscular chest and only tucked in part way. One hip jutted out as he shifted his weight and looked impatiently around the room with a sneer, clearly searching for someone. Was he Lyle?  Savannah slouched down in her chair, hiding her shirt as much as possible. There was no way she was spending an evening with a guy that arrogant.

Why couldn’t he be the guy sitting at a chair in the corner?  He’d been there longer than Savannah, sipping and reading a newspaper. She’d watched him jump up to open the front door for a woman with a stroller. She’d seem him smile and press a tip into his server’s hand. Dressed in Dockers and a dress shirt with sleeves rolled up to his elbows, his green eyes caught her gaze over the top of the paper.

She glanced away quickly, then looked back. The paper was lowered now and he grinned. She cocked her head to one side and couldn’t stop the smile she shared before staring back down at her coffee cup.

Just her luck to see Prince Charming on the same night she was supposed to hookup with Cowboy Joe. Taking a deep breath, she chose to do her duty as always. She sauntered to Mr. Sneer and stuck out a hand. “Are you Lyle?”

The man looked at her face and then at her outstretched hand. “No. I’m Tad and I’m not interested.” He turned away.

Savannah’s sigh of relief blew her bangs out of her eyes. “Thank heavens.” She looked at her watch. Ten minutes after the hour. She could leave now and not feel too guilty.

She looked over her shoulder one last time as she stepped out of the shop, dismayed to find Prince Charming gone. Cursing her bad luck, she swung around quickly, lifting a hand for a cab. Before it made it all the way up, it hit human flesh. With a gasp, she turned and discovered she'd backhanded Prince Charming right smack across the face.   He grabbed his nose and stumbled back a step.

“Oh no!”  she cried out.  "I am so sorry.” She moved toward him, not sure what to do, but knowing she had to do something.

His green eyes crinkled at the edges. Savannah hoped that meant he was smiling under his cupped hands. “Nothing’s broken,” he said, his reply muffled. “Are you Savannah?”

She froze.  It couldn’t be. “Lyle?”

He lowered his hands. “I’ve been watching and hoped it was you. I knew I had to meet you after you pounded your head on the table, even if you weren’t Savannah.”

“You saw that?” She pressed her cool hands against suddenly hot cheeks.

“Yeah. I’m glad you did it. When my folks put me up to this, I didn’t want to come.  I was sure you’d be stuffy.”

She laughed. “I was afraid you’d be a hick.”

“Pleasantly surprised?” He poked his elbow out at her.

“I am.”  She linked her arm through his. “My name is Savannah, and I'll be your tour guide this evening. Do you have anything in particular you'd like to see or do?”

“How about a walk and some conversation? We have a lot of catching up to do.”

"Twenty years worth,” Savannah agreed as they started down the street. She smiled and sent positive thoughts to her parent’s house.

Thanks, Mom.

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