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Chapter 22

After the game, Ken went to the Hamilton shopping mall searching for a high quality women’s clothing shop. When he found one, he took a deep breath before he entered. Walking into a women’s clothing store was not something he had often done.

The sales girl approached. Ken inquired about a woman’s suit jacket with big pockets. The clerk led him to a display. He began searching for something he hoped Peggy would enjoy wearing.

When nothing appealed to him, the sales clerk suggested, “We have some more expensive jackets in the next room. Do you want to look there?”

“Why not, I don’t see anything I like here.”

The clothes were a lot more expensive in the next room. Ken could feel the difference as the salesclerk led the way past displays of dresses and sweaters.

In a moment she stopped in front of a rack of camel hair jackets with patch pockets. “Perfect, Ken exclaimed, “How much?”

The girl replied, “$399.95.”

“I’ll take it.”

“What size does she wear?” asked the clerk.

“Good grief, I haven’t a clue.”

The sales girl suggested, “Why don’t you look around? See if you can find someone about her size.”

Ken looked. The sales girl’s too skinny; the woman over there’s too tall and too broad shouldered. After a few minutes, a middle-aged woman walked by whose figure looked similar to Peggy’s.

Ken stepped up to the woman. “Excuse me, Mam, I’m buying a present for my girlfriend and I don’t know her size. You look about her size. Would you be kind enough to tell me what size you would wear in a jacket of this nature?”

The woman turned. When she saw Ken pointing at the rack of jackets she exclaimed, “This must be a very serious girlfriend if you’re planning to buy her a camel’s hair jacket. I’m going to enjoy just trying it on.”

As she walked over to the rack she remarked to the sales clerk, “I can take an eight if its cut full, otherwise a ten is more comfortable.”

The sales girl handed the woman the eight. She tried it on, then declared, “This is a tad too tight. Let me try the ten.” The size ten fit perfectly.

Ken thanked the woman who helped pick out the size. She wished him good luck as she left.

Ken told the salesperson, “Assuming it can be returned, I’ll take it with me.”

“Do you want it gift wrapped?”

“No, I’d rather wrap it myself.”

Ken’s phone rang as he entered his house after his shopping trip. He hoped it would be Peggy, but he was disappointed.

“Hi Ken, this is Sue Ann Hennessey. How are you?”

“Sue Ann, nice to hear from you. How are you?”

“You’d never believe how hard I’m working. I run twice a day and eat next to nothing. Actually, Ken, I’m on schedule to get into that size 12 dress by the date of the dance. The date is actually October 17th. I hope you’re available that day because I’m determined to make it.”

Ken looked at the calendar. “The 17th is a Friday night. Consider it saved.”

“You’ve no idea how a date with you inspires my weight loss. But that isn’t why I called. I’m planning to move on Saturday morning to my new apartment. It’s way past time for me to leave home. I need to move a dresser, a bed, some clothes and a bunch of boxes. Any chance you could help me?”

“Do you have a truck?”

“My dad says we can get it all in an open trailer which we happen to own. My apartment’s only a few blocks away and the prediction for Saturday is no rain. Do you think you could help me out for a couple of hours?”

“Tell you what, Sue Ann. I’ll get a couple of my baseball players and meet you at your house at 0900 Saturday.”

“You’re totally awesome, Ken. Thank you so much.”

Ken never knew it but when Sue Ann put down the phone she chuckled to herself. My dad always taught me if you want someone to like you ask them to do you a favor. Ken Lister, you just fell into my trap!

After Ken ended the call, he called Billy Riley. “How would you like to help a nice young lady move on Saturday morning at 0900 for about two hours?”

“Be glad to help, Coach. Got nothing on Saturday morning.”

“I’ll pick you up at your house, Billy. We probably could use one more man. Do you think Buzz would help?”

“Buzz’s too small to do much heavy lifting, I’ll call Shorty.”

“Shorty’s a better choice. I’ll swing by your house at 0845 Saturday.”

“Thanks, Billy.”

When Ken saw Sue Ann, he was astonished. She really had lost a lot of weight.

“Wow, you have really been working at it haven’t you?”

“You don’t know the half of it. I hope I’m proving that I’ll do anything to go dancing with you!”

Ken elected to remain silent.

The move went quickly. The trailer was big enough that they could move everything in two trips. As predicted, it wasn’t raining so the open trailer wasn’t a problem.

When they’d emptied the second load, Sue Ann offered to take everyone to lunch. They piled into Ken’s car and headed to Rosie’s Ice Cream Parlor. As they ate, Sue Ann kept making eyes at Ken.

It began to dawn on him that after losing all that weight Sue Ann might be deeply disappointed when he told her he was involved with someone else. Would she crash and head back for the chocolate box? This situation could be ticklish. Ken felt as if he was walking a high wire without a net.

When they returned to her new apartment, she invited Ken to come in and visit. “Sorry, Sue Ann, I have to get Billy and Shorty back. Some other time, perhaps.”

She whispered, “Why did you invite those two kids? If they weren’t here we could be in my apartment alone.”

“Not going to happen, Sue Ann.”

Before she had a chance to object, Ken drove away with the two boys.

Billy asked, “Coach, is that your girlfriend?”

“No, Billy, she is just a friend.”

“That’s what they all say,” Shorty muttered.

Once again, Ken elected to remain silent.

Later, when he phoned Peggy, he asked what she would enjoy doing on their weekly Saturday night date.

Peggy hesitated. Ken asked, “Do you want to come over here for dinner and a game of chess?”

“Absolutely not.”

“Why not? The unanimous consent rule is still in place and I’ve been totally trustworthy.”

“You don’t worry me, Ken. I trust you completely. What I don’t trust is my reaction when I’m around you. Let’s drive over to Warsaw. We can find a movie or go for a walk.”

Ken pondered her remark for a minute. “I think I really liked what you just told me. OK, I’ll meet you at the Bank parking lot at 1800. Ah, 1800 means 6:00 P.M., Peggy.”

“No you won’t,” Peggy replied, “Mom can’t come over until 1830 to be with Ned. Let’s make it 1900. How’s that for proper use of military time!”

“OK, 1900 hours it is. Oh, you might expect a small gift. I had a conference with my banker. She told me my finances were strong enough to buy gifts for all the girlfriends I wanted.”

“She did not say that. She said you could only buy gifts for very special girlfriends.”

Peggy drove into the empty Bank employee’s parking lot at 1900 hours the next night. She found Ken, standing by his car holding a big box. He looked like a little boy on Christmas morning.

As Peggy got out of her car, she frowned at him. “How can a small gift require such a large box?”

Ken’s excitement over the present meant Peggy had to open it right away. Placing the box on the hood of the car she began to unwrap it……. When she pulled the jacket from the box she was so astonished she was literally speechless! “Oh my God Ken, this is so soft it is so”……Nothing came out. For once in her life, Peggy Waldren was without words!

Ken lifted the camel’s hair jacket out of the box, slipping it over her shoulders. It fit perfectly. She spun around slowly to show off the jacket.

She went up to him, her eyes moist with tears. “This is no small gift. I should be really mad at you. But I’m way too thrilled to do anything except throw my arms around you and kiss you.”

Which she did.

It was after the kiss that Ken noticed a big bruise on Peggy’s cheek. It was a nasty blue color about the size of a coffee cup.

“What happened to your face? Did that Terrance bastard hit you?”

“My bruise? That is your fault Ken.

“My fault? What are you talking about?

“You’re the one who told me to give Ned boxing lessons. Well, he’s getting pretty good. During our last workout he nailed me with a fast left hook. I want you to know, that I blame it entirely on you! The only trouble is, I can’t be mad at you when you just gave me this beautiful jacket.”

They both snickered.

As they got into the car, Ken decided to ignore the boxing issue. He switched the subject back to the camel’s hair jacket. “I’m hoping you can wear the jacket at the bank. The pockets will hold the tape recorder. You told me the only thing you owned with big pockets was an old blue number. I didn’t want Tarrance wondering why you always wore the same jacket. Is this light enough to wear inside the bank?”

“Ken, it’s absolutely perfect! The camel’s hair is so soft. I love it. It fits perfectly too. How did you know what size to buy?”

“Well I figured you were a perfect number ten woman so, naturally, your jacket size had to be a ten.”

“Ken you’re preposterous! Now tell me truly how did you find out my size?”

He shared the story of the ‘shopper he borrowed’ to try on the jacket. He whispered, “The shopper told me, “If you’re buying her a jacket like that, your girl must be very special……She spoke correctly, Peggy. You are very special.”

Peggy took a deep breath. “Ken we shared a really deep conversation at your house last week. You told me you understand, and I feel you do. It’s going to take some time for me to work this out. Could we just hang out with no serious conversations? Let’s just have some fun, OK?”

“I can live with fun together. Please remember, Peggy, I’m here for you whenever you need me.”

Peggy reached over, squeezing Ken’s leg as a way of acknowledgement of his remark. “What am I going to tell my friends at the bank when I walk in with this gorgeous camel hair jacket? They’re going to wonder where the money came from to buy it.”

Ken joked, “Why not tell them Ralph Tarrance gave it to you because he is trying to seduce you? A rumor of that nature would get around the bank in a heartbeat!”

Peggy giggled. “I’d love to do it……. . Definitely not a good idea.”

Ken thought a minute. “Maybe you could tell them working the late shift has made you depressed. You felt you needed to splurge to get your spirits back up.”

“I ought to be able to sell that idea.” She hugged herself deeper into the new jacket. After a few minutes, she looked at Ken. “Sometimes I wonder if you are real.”

They held hands during the movie. Afterwards, they went for a walk around Warsaw. The evening turned into a warm loving interval for each of them. When it was time to say goodnight in the parking lot behind the Bank, Peggy hugged him tightly for a long time.

Finally, she looked up into his eyes, “Thank you for the jacket, thank you for a fun time together but most of all, thank you for being the wonderful person you are.”

She kissed him softly, hopped into her car and drove away. Once she was on the road, she felt acutely lonely. I miss him already and we just parted a minute ago.

When Ken got home, he called in spite of the hour. Peggy picked up the phone right away.

“I just needed to tell you I miss you already, Peggy.”

“I’m feeling exactly the same way, Ken. Thanks again for my lovely warm jacket.”

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