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Bill jerked his hand back as the rose thorn punctured his thumb. Sucking on it, he looked at the row of bushes his wife had planted, many years ago. He never enjoyed all the care they took. But, he had kept them looking tidy & lovely, 22 years later, as they gave him one of the best memories of his wife, Ann, and it was a memory that did not come with pain.
He had been driving the two of them home after their friend’s birthday party. They both had each consumed a few drinks over a couple hours. Bill had never convinced himself that he could not have avoided the herd of deer that ran out of the woods on that rural highway.
He had swerved right to miss the second one, when the third one came through the windshield. The car went off the road, and slammed into a pine tree on the driver’s front corner. Cars of the 90’s weren’t nearly as safe as they are now; doctors said Ann died instantly from the deer hit. Among those friends that Bill had told the story to, they knew he had suffered a broken ankle & leg, fractured ribs, some internal injuries, and a concussion.
It was only occasionally that he even noticed the slight limp. Now the suffering was all in his memories. Bill had tried dating a few years after the accident. Some of the ladies that had offered condolences to him while was recovering in the hospital, had suggested they go out. Later, after recovery from most of the injuries, he had finally dated several of those that had asked him out. It was soon clear that a couple of them were husband hunting, hoping to snag him in his loneliness.
The other was quite appealing, but Bill realized he could never satisfy her the way she deserved and desired, so he ended it after a few dates. That same concern had been with him since, so he had not dated anyone in over 18 years.
Bill had tried the common things to help make the day-to-day pain of Ann’s loss go away. He had given away all her clothes, shoes, and costume jewelry. He sold her good jewelry and the few furniture pieces that held his strongest memories of her. The remaining things that tied him to her, he had donated. Except for the house itself with its roses, some photos of them, and souvenirs of their travels; all other physical items that reminded Bill of Ann, had been removed.
This expunging, plus time, had ridded him of the worst pain. Bill was down to loving memories and occasional longings. These he could control enough to keep himself out of depression. Happiness was a harder thing to sustain, so he often focused on mental exercises to improve his mood.
One of the best exercises was to fight his normally shy and reserved nature, and force himself to cheerfully talk to neighbors and strangers while out in his front yard. He was often there, given the frequent needs of the rose bushes. While this plan started out with him feeling animated, he eventually began to enjoy the interaction for its own sake. He no longer was he using it to avoid memories; he liked it just for the brief companionships it provided.
Today, it was Melissa that was walking past the picket fence, which was the limit that Bill would let the rose bushes advance towards the sidewalk.
“Hey Mel, what is making you look so happy today?”
She had been walking by, fairly regularly, for the last 5 years. He had seen her grow from a skinny 12-year old, to a petite, presumably 17-year old, young woman. They often chatted, for short periods.
“Hi Mr. Haerth!” she chirped. She held her smile as she said, “I got an ‘A’ on my science test.”
Her big, friendly smile was quite a contrast to the Goth look she seemed to be practicing with. The somber character of her long, black hair, black lipstick, and heavy black eye makeup, just looked wrong with a happy grin residing in the middle of it.
“Well, congratulations! Your hard work paid off. Are you aiming at a college degree in science?” Bill asked, genuinely.
“Yeah, but I am only a junior, so college is well over a year away.”
He responded, “I was guessing you were 17, now?”
“I am, but my birthday falls just after the cutoff, so I am about the oldest student in my class.”
“I suppose that just gives you more time to decide what you want.”
She replied, “I guess. I wish I knew more of what I wanted…Well, I have to get home to mom. Maybe see you tomorrow, okay?”
“Great. Bye Melissa.”
Bill had to wonder what had made Melissa turn toward the Goth style in this last year, and concurrently, want to be called just Mel. She had been filling out nicely with age, from the earlier gangly kid. Right when she seem to be perched to blossom into a rather cute, petite, slender young woman, the Goth style had arrived, and buried all the hard work nature had done to give her attractive qualities.
The following day, Mel came past Bill’s house a little later than usual. He was relaxing on the porch, sitting in a chair. He waved as Mel looked his Kurtköy Escort way.
Mel gave her usual, “Hi Mr. Haerth.”
He noted, as she stood at the gate post, that this time there was only a simple smile on her face, and no bounce in voice. “Everything okay, today? You seem to have lost yesterday’s cheerfulness?”
“Yeah…well, sorta okay. Just not a great day.”
“Anything I can do to help?”
“Ummm…would you mind if I asked you a question?”
“Ask away,” he assured.
“I, kinda, don’t want to ask it this loudly. Can I come up on the porch with you?”
“You are welcome anytime, young lady. Can I get you some of my fresh lemonade, made fresh from my lemon tree in the backyard?”
“Yes, please,” she said, as she reached to the back of the gate post, and lifted the release.
“Here you are,” he offered, as he came back out the front door, and handed her a tall glass, with a flex-jointed straw.
“I will help you anyway I can Melis…MEL,” he added.
“You always have been nice to me, Mr. Haerth, and easy to talk with. On the porch here, you can call me Melissa, if it easier. Actually, I still like that name, but I just don’t like the way some kids at school say it. My mother gave me that name because, in Greek mythology, there was a princess of Crete who learned how to gather honey, but she got changed into a bee. So my name means ‘honey bee’!”
“No wonder you always liked my roses.”
“Very funny!” she said with a sarcastic grin, “Anyway, as you may know, I don’t have a father. My mother has her problems, and is hard to talk to about some stuff. I DO love her, a bunch, but talking about some girl-boy things just…doesn’t work…ya know?”
“Sorry about your father’s death, and mom’s difficulties. I think I understand what you mean. It has been many years, like 45, since I was 17, so I hope I can offer something useful for a teen of today.”
“No apology necessary about my dad. My mothe…sorry, he died…five years ago, and I wish it had been longer than that. If I hadn’t needed him to create me, I would wish he had never been born.”
“That has got to be tough having a father like that. He was that bad, was he?”
“He was a terrible person, Mr. Haerth. Mom said he was better before I was born. But, then he just got worse every year after that, no matter what we tried to do.”
“By the way,” Bill said, “most people pronounce my name incorrectly, as if were spelled “H-a-r-t-h”, like you would pronounce the hearth of a fireplace. Actually, the first part is pronounced like ‘Hair.’ But, let’s make it even easier, and you just call me Bill. Okay, Mel?
“Deal, Mr…Bill,” she giggled.
Bill thought to himself, “What a wonderful sound, a giggle, and so long since I remember hearing one.”
“Alright,” he said, “I assume you came up here for another reason than to give me some family history?”
Her sparkle dimmed a bit, and she said, “I thought, maybe, you could offer a little perspective…on boys?”
“I will try. But, they will only be my well-aged opinions.”
“Fine…Well,” she continued, “There is this boy at school that has been patting my butt as he walks by. Not all the time, but when the hallways are not so busy. When I turn to look at him, he quickly turns away, and keeps walking.”
“He doesn’t say anything?”
“No. A couple times, I have said, ‘HEY’ or ‘Don’t,’ but he never says anything.”
“Do you know his name, or anything about his personality?” Bill asked.
“I think his name is Ted, and maybe he is a little shy or weird, as I don’t see him hang with the cool group, ya know?”
“How does he dress?”
“Usually, just regular jeans and collared, short-sleeve shirt,” she explained.
“Okay, here is my guess,” Bill sighed, “Since he doesn’t hang with the cool crowd, and has not followed up on his pats with any suggestive remarks, or anything at all, my guess is that he probably is shy. A guy that was trying to hit on you would probably either smile, wink, or say something, plus he would not avoid your eyes. Is this Ted someone you think you might like, or at least, not dislike?”
“I don’t know, really. I don’t think I would dislike him, other than the patting.”
“What you might try, then, is this; when you see him in a hallway, say ‘Hi, Ted,’ with that lovely smile you have. If he stops to talk to you, and isn’t rude, then he probably likes you, and just learned a very inappropriate way to show it. If you can talk, and you seem to like him, then tell him that if he likes you, then he should just say so, or at least hand you a note if he is too shy. And, that patting your butt is not flattering, and is not appreciated. Oh, and thank him for talking to you.”
Bill continued, “This way, you show confidence, and have a way to both judge what he wants, and to communicate your preferred method of interaction, while discouraging the inappropriate method.”
What if he pats me first?” she asked.
“Then call after him with his name, to try to get him to stop and talk to you. Maltepe Escort If he avoids you, and just keeps going, then I would say loudly, or even yell, ‘Do it again, and I will report you!’ and then do report him, if he does it again. One way or the other, his patting you has to stop, ASAP. Make sure you have told him to stop, and it is best if you do so publically, before you report him.”
“Great ideas. Also is this smile I should use?” she asked, smiled broadly.
Bill laughed, and said, “Yes, that one, or its little brother! Your smile is one of your best assets.”
Mel looked at her watch, and exclaimed, “Oh, mom will be wondering where I am! I had better go. Thanks for the great advice, and delicious lemonade. Can I ask you other such questions, another day?”
“You are welcome, anytime, Mel. If I am not outside, just knock or ring the doorbell.”
She said “Bye!” as she closed the gate.
He found he enjoyed talking with her, quite a bit. To him, she was rather cute, had a nice sparkle in her eyes, a heartwarming smile, and a rather bubbly character, with mischievous bits of humor.
The next day, Mel stopped at his fence, and said, “Thanks a lot…Bill…You were right. I talked to Ted, and he was just shy. He apologized, big time, for patting me. I think I made a friend, but I doubt it will be more than that. See you later!”
“You are welcome, Mel. I am glad I could help,” he said, as she waved and walked on.
Over the following weeks, approaching summer vacation, she would always say “Hi” when she saw him outside, and once or twice a week, she would stop and ask his opinion on various aspects of student interactions & personalities.
Close to the end of her junior year, Bill was startled by a knock on his door. He got up, and went to the door. He found Mel there, looking slightly concerned. He opened the door, plus the screen door, and said, “Hello Mel.”
She looked down, and said, “I need your help.”
“Anything, Mel. Would you like to come in?”
She stepped in, and looked around, as this was her first time inside his home. She spoke up, “Thanks. Nice home. Looks a little plain in here, though, if you don’t mind me saying so.”
“When I got rid of the things that reminded me of my late wife, Ann, I never bothered to add new things.”
“You never told me you were married before. Is it okay to ask about her?”
“As long as we do not talk about her for too long, I can handle it,” he replied.
“What happened to her?”
“Twenty…twenty-two years ago, actually, we were driving home from a friend’s party. We hit a deer on the highway, north of town. Ann was killed, and I was in the hospital for quite a while. I have gotten rid of most of the things that reminded me of her, for my own sanity. But this is the same house we lived in, and the rose bushes were her second love.”
“I’m sure you miss her a lot. Not like me and my dad,” she responded, quietly.
“Yes,” he replied, “I think it is time for a new subject, before my eyes well up.”
“Sorry,” she added, “Actually, my problem, today, is a want to know how to show a boy that I might be interested in him?”
“Have you spoken to him before?”
“No, I just see him at school, usually in the lunch room.”
“So, you still eat lunch at school; not out with friends?” he asked.
“Yeah. Mom doesn’t have the money for me to go out to McD’s, or somewhere, more than once or twice a month.”
“Has this boy done anything to indicate that he is interested in you?”
“Well, I catching him look at me, often, but then he turns his head away when I look at him.”
“Have you tried flirting with him?”
“Do you give him ‘The Eyes’ to bait him?” he asked.
“The eyes…huh?” she responded, with a puzzled look.
“Oh, boy…we have some work to do. I may be 62 years old, but I don’t think male-female flirting has changed that much. Hasn’t your mom told you how to get a guy’s interest?”
“Nah…that is what mom cannot talk about,” Mel added, while lowering her head.”
“Don’t Move!” Bill said.
“Keep your head where it is, but look up at me.”
“What?” she queried, while doing as he asked.
“Now give me a small grin, but no teeth.”
She added a rather flat smirk.
“That is not a grin. I want you to look like someone is threatening to tickle you!” he chided.
The edges of her mouth curled up, the twinkle in her eyes joining the smile.
“That…right there! Remember that. Head down to show you are a bit shy; eyes up to show you want to look at him; and that little, WARM smile. That says to the boy, ‘I can’t help but smile when I know you are looking at me.’ Don’t look at him for more than a second; look away for a few seconds, then look at him again.”
“I feel silly!” she said.
“Would you like a juicy cheeseburger, now?” he inquired.
“Wow, yeah, thanks!” she said, as her head came up, and a big smile appeared.
“And do you feel silly, now?” he asked.
“You Tuzla Escort think it feels silly to show a boy you are interested in him, but you had no trouble showing me how exited you were about the hamburger.”
“I am not sure I get it?” she responded.
Bill explained, “Your reaction to the hamburger, was genuine. It was enthusiastic, and fully positive. There was no doubt that you wanted it. Flirting is more subtle, but you need to make your reaction appear genuine, and positive, even if you feel you are acting. It is your way to tell him that, yes, you do want to meet him.”
“Well, that is, unless the boy is too shy to act upon an obvious flirt,” he added. “Now, do the ‘The Eyes’ again!”
Mel gave a small sigh, lowered her head, looked up and grinned.
“Remember the tickling! …Yes, that’s it. Can you feel the smile in your eyes?”
“You have got to have your large eyes involved in the smile. It is you ace in the hole! You may not have runway model looks, but you have a killer sparkle in your big eyes when your smile reaches them. Added to your great smile, they are your best ammunition to entice boys, sway teachers, and even influence adults.”
“You really think so?” she asked, with a bit of true shyness, her head still down.
“Yup, and here is lesson
. Keep your head down, where it is, but keep your eyes on me as I move to your right…Now, can you still see that I am looking at you?”
“I think so.”
“Good. That is your second tool. If the boy is off to your side, don’t look right at him. Try to keep your face straight ahead, and use your peripheral vision and glances, to see the boy. Add your killer grin. So, head down, side glances, and add the grin,” Bill instructed.
“Alright,” she said as she sucked in a breath, “Like this?” She lowered her head, turned her eyes, and added a grin, which she adjusted to get it right.
“You got me! I am melting where I stand!”
“Bill!” she laughed and blushed, “Thanks…So do I get the hamburger, now?”
“Won’t your mom be making you dinner?”
“Nah, tonight is PTA, and she left me a frozen meal. She won’t be home for a couple hours or more.”
“Then burger it is,” Bill said with a sparkle. As they were going out to the garage, he was asking, “Single, Double, Jalapenos, Fries or Tots…?”
When they got to Bill’s favorite burger joint, “The Burger Joynt,” they went inside. Bill ordered for them, and they sat down.
He asked, “Mel, may I ask you a personal question?”
“Well, I have been talking to you for, something like, five years, when you walk by my house. I have watched you grow, and I really expected this year to be the year you blossomed into a young woman. But you came out with this dark Goth style, or whatever is called. Why? It doesn’t seem to fit your cheerful personality.”
“I don’t know…”
“No, my Mel is a smart girl. You know there is a reason. Just take your time, think, and tell me…Oh, after I get our food order though; they just called our number. Right back,” he said, as he was rising.
When he returned and set the food down, she did not reach for it right away. Bill looked at her, seeing her looking down, with a couple tears coming down her cheeks, making her heavy mascara run.
He said, “You don’t have to tell me about the Goth thing, if it is that hard?”
“…my…Mel…?” she sniffed.
Bill was puzzled by her reactions and the question. “Well…yes. I feel like we are friends, now…Is that a problem?”
Melissa shook her head, while daubing her tears with the napkin she had pulled from the dispenser on the table. She just wanted to escape from the strength of these emotions she felt, while at the same time, she wanted Bill to hold her tight, so she could really cry. About what, she was not sure.
“Take all the time you need, my dear,” Bill said, trying to sound comforting.
He added, “You still want to eat, or should we take it back to my house?”
She sniffed out a “Let’s go.”
Bill picked up their meals, and went to the counter to get the food put in take-out bags, plus the drink holder. Melissa came up to him, and they walked outside. As they started towards his car, and balancing the food order, he tentatively put his arm around her shoulder. She leaned into him.
As he was driving the few miles back to his house, he finally asked, “Are you going to be okay?”
She slowly replied, “Sorry for the tears…My father beat my mother…many times. He tried to attack me when I was twelve. I guess I just got too emotional when you called me ‘yours.’ Not something I have heard before, from a man, you know?”
“Well then,” he said, “I claim you. You are my Melissa now!”
Mel nodded slowly, while looking away from him, out the window, and drying more tears.
When they got back to Bill’s house, she excused herself to clean up.
He spoke up, “Can I ask a favor?”
“For me: Would you wash that make up off, and take off the studded dog collar?”
She smiled and nodded.
Waiting for her to come back, he set out two TV trays, and set them side-by-side in front of the couch. When she joined him, she removed her leather jacket, and sat behind the tray that he had set up with her food on it.
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