Five -- Echo from Mount Royal
I had no excuse for not telling my parents about Sol, but I hadn’t told anyone – not even Jackie. I’d had a premonition that telling anyone would tempt Fate. Now, seeing my father standing in the hall, I recognized Fate in disguise.
“Dad? How come you’re still up?” I tried to sound nonchalant.
“I was waiting for you to get home. I was worried.”
“I said I’d be out after work—”
“You told your mother you were meeting a friend after work.”
“I did. Sol’s a friend.”
“The only Sol I know is eighty-three. Where did you meet him?”
“Robert introduced us at the dance last weekend. They met at McGill.”
My father hadn’t anticipated Robert’s involvement. He hesitated long enough for me to apologize. “I’m sorry I worried you.”
“Despite Robert’s vote of confidence, we expect you to tell us about the person you’re dating. And where you’re going.”
“But Papa,” I said, using the name I’d called him as a child in more innocent times. “If I were away at college, I wouldn’t tell you about every person I dated or every place I went.”
“But you’re not away at college, Rebecca. You’re living at home with the same rules we’ve always had.”
“You wouldn’t have made Robert follow that rule if he’d lived at home.”
“That’s different. Robert is a man.” His tone of voice did not invite negotiation. “Life isn’t fair.” He was out of patience.
“I’m sorry. I’ll tell you next time.” I hugged him, partly to hide my irritation.
“Your mother and I love you too much to risk anything happening to you.”
I nodded. “I know.”
“We’ll talk more tomorrow,” he said.
Following him upstairs, I took a deep breath and blew it out slowly, ruffling the hair falling across my forehead. Next year I’d find a better job and move into an apartment with friends.
The next day at school, I thought about our date from every angle. Sol was generous and thoughtful. I’d never been treated so well on a date. But, I wasn’t prepared for his physical distance as if he were watching me through glass. I felt dissatisfied. Had I not lived up to his expectations? I didn’t want to tell Jackie about Sol if I’d never see him again.
When I got home, my mother was in the alcove under the stairs, hanging up the phone. “Where have you been? A man has been calling you all day. I don’t think he believed me when I said you weren’t here. Who is this Sol?”
“Robert introduced us at the dance the other night.”
“Oh,” she said, making the connection, “the man your father said you were out with.”
“Did he leave his number?”
“Yes, but you can wait and call him after dinner. He won’t be calling again this evening.”
“Why? What did you say to him?” If this was another example of parental love, I’d had quite enough of it.
She headed back to the kitchen. “I finally told him to stop calling.” She opened the oven door, its hinges squealing. “Wash your hands and set the table.”
After the dishes, I called Sol back.
“Please apologize to your mother. I know I was a pest, but I couldn’t stop thinking about you.”
His words banished my uncertainty. In the background, I heard engines and men shouting. “Are you at work? Have you been waiting there all this time?”
“I have plenty to keep me busy. Tell me what happened with your father? Should I call and apologize?”
“Oh, no! That’s not necessary,” I said, not wanting Sol to learn I’d dated him behind my father’s back. “He just happened to be downstairs when I came home.”
“I guess I’ve started out on the wrong foot with your parents.”
“They’ll get over it,” I said, “but I’m not home during the day. I’m either at college or working. Have you already forgotten the exciting details of my life?”
He hesitated and, when he finally spoke, sounded chastened. “I’m sorry. I didn’t remember.”
“Oh, Sol, I’m teasing you. I hardly talked about myself.” Not exactly the truth since I’d told him about my classes and my job at the library. Perhaps my beauty and charm were too distracting. “You’ll have to get used to my sense of humor.” And I’d better learn to rein in my sarcasm. “Why are you still at work?”
“The drivers are loading the delivery trucks. We’re in the middle of a sale, so everyone’s working overtime. I’m supervising, which means I sit around until there’s a problem.”
“That’s a nice job. Lots of time to read.”
“Don’t remind me. I have dozens of catalogs to study. My father wants my recommendation for a line of carpet for the New Year. And we start selling a style of wood flooring which—”
I interrupted to tell him how much I enjoyed the previous evening. “I’ve never been so spoiled in all my life. The meal was delicious, but I don’t remember a thing about the movie.”
He laughed. “Neither do I. I was only thinking of you.”
And thinking was mostly what he’d done. The only physical contact was holding hands in the theatre, and I initiated that. Bringing me home, he remained on his side of the car. Had I provoked a case of first-date jitters?
“—would you enjoy that?”
I hadn’t been listening. “The connection was bad. What did you say?”
“There’s another dance at the YMHA, if you’d like to go. We didn’t have a chance to dance together last time. But I warn you, I’m a terrible dancer.”
“I’d love to go. And I’ll leave my best shoes at home.”
“Only punch and cookies at the dance. No candles or wine this time.” He rang off.
I imagined a slow dance with his strong arms pressing my body against his. Hand holding will only be the start if I have anything to do with it. I sighed. With my luck the music would be all rock and roll.
I ran up the stairs to my bedroom to cool down. I was suffocating from the heat. Had my mother turned up the furnace? I opened a window and drank in the cold air. I must be turning red, I thought. What if our skin turned colors with desire? Talk about first-date jitters!
Abiding by the house rules, I told my parents about my next date with Sol.
“Don’t let your school work suffer” was my mother’s only comment. My father asked nothing, said nothing, and read me like one of his books.
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