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Chapter 26

The morning after the dance, Ken sent a dozen pink and white carnations to Peggy. He realized that carnations last longer than roses. He needed Peggy to know he was in this for the long haul. He signed the card, ‘love Ken.’

He figured he had to get out of her dog-house someway…. . He didn’t dare call her Saturday or Sunday. He figured she needed some time to cool off……Boy, I wished I had told her in advance about my date with Sue Ann……What a mistake!

When Peggy woke up Saturday morning, she felt guilty. I wasn’t very nice to Ken at the dance. As I think about it, I was just as much at fault for the clash as he was. . . . Did we have a fight? I guess it was…… Maybe it was only a disagreement. A fit of jealousy perhaps?

I wonder if he kissed Sue Ann??? Admit it Peggy, Sue Ann looked striking even if that dress was way too much for a faculty/staff dance. Did my snarky remarks cause Ken to rethink matters and untie that bow?

Time for honesty, Peggy. I’m blatantly jealous. Which is a strong indication that Ken means far more to me than I’m willing to admit.

About eleven that morning the doorbell rang. It was the florist delivering flowers. A bouquet of carnations with a card that said ‘love Ken.’ Whew…. I guess things aren’t too bad between us. I can hardly wait until he calls.

When she received no call on Saturday, she became concerned. When no call came Sunday, she was even more bewildered. The fact that he sent the flowers helped, but why hasn’t he called? I wonder if I should call him? I could thank him for the carnations…. . When in doubt, maybe just waiting is the safest course.

Finally, Monday around ten at night the phone rang. Peggy picked it up immediately.

“Am I still in your dog house?”

“That depends…. Did you untie her bow?”

“Would you care if I did?”

“Way more than I thought I would.”

“Peggy, do you think I’d have sent you flowers if Sue Ann was able to seduce me?

“Maybe so, maybe not.”

“What do you mean maybe not? After all this time, surely you know how deeply I feel about you.”

She decided it was time to quit the banter. “Yes Ken I do know and well, the carnations helped a lot. The question is, why haven’t you called?”

“I was really scared you were mad at me and I wanted to give you time to cool off.”

“I missed your phone calls.

“Are we still on for Saturday night?”

“As far as I’m concerned, Saturday night is fine.”

“Great, we have lots to talk about. I’ll meet you at the bank at 1800.”

“Ok, it’s a date.

The week dragged. Ken was anxious to talk to Peggy and to feel close to her again. On Saturday morning, he needed to kill time until the date began at the bank parking lot. He climbed into his car and started driving west.

He stayed on the small roads avoiding the expressways. eHe wanted to see the fall colors and relax.

As Ken approached the tiny town of Elvaston, he spotted a ‘Corn Maze’ sign. He drove in to check it out. A farmer had cut a maze through a cornfield. He would sell tickets to folks who wanted to walk through the tall corn rows and find their way out. A hayride with a horse drawn hay wagon was also available to customers, for a modest fee. When Ken discovered the Maze was open at night, he became elated. He felt certain this would be the perfect activity for their date that night.

About 1600 hours, he rang Peggy’s house. Fortunately, Peggy answered.

“Sorry to call when Ned’s awake. I totally forgot. I just wanted to tell you to wear warm clothes and bring a jacket tonight. We’re going on a hayride. Goodbye.”

When Peggy hung up, Ned asked, “Mom was that your boyfriend?”

Peggy replied, “Ah, well, Ned, it’s a man I have been seeing lately.”

Ned walked off in a huff.

When Ken and Peggy hugged in the parking lot that night, whatever strain had been on their relationship seemed to melt away.

As they got into the car Peggy asked, “Ok, I’m convinced you didn’t untie the bow……But…. did you kiss her?”

“I managed to avoid it. I have to admit, it took considerable maneuvering on my part. That woman needs a man. Hopefully, she snared a couple of single males at the dance who are interested …. . Did you kiss him?”

“Unfair question. Girls don’t tell.”

“Peggy, you asked me. I have equal rights do I not?”

“Well, if you really want to know, yes I let him kiss me……. I allowed the kiss in order to find out for sure if I just like kissing, or if I only like kissing you. Jeb’s kiss was about a two. When I kiss you, it’s at least a nine or even a ten. I’ve decided…. what lights my fire is you!”

“So I’m officially out of the dog house?”

“You were never in the dog house. That is, once you explained about Sue Ann’s challenge to help her lose weight. I’m ashamed to admit it, Ken but you were right. If the situation were reversed, I’d have accepted the date also.”

“I should’ve explained it after she called in early October and told me she was on schedule to make it into that ‘not’ dress.”

“Yes you should have…. . And I should’ve explained my need to accept Jeb’s invitation when I broke our date for last weekend. So, are we OK?”

He pulled the car off the road, reached over kissing her tenderly. When he broke off the kiss, she pulled him back for more.

Afterward he said, “I guess we’re OK.”

As he resumed driving he said, “Did we just have our first fight?”

“Are you sure we should call it a fight? I was never angry with you, only jealous.”

“Maybe it was just a disagreement.”

“I guess that’s what it was. I learned one thing.”

“What’s that, Peggy?”

“I don’t like to have disagreements with you! I felt awful all week.”

“Me too.”

The corn maze turned out to be a ball. The more lost they became, the more they laughed. Finally, with the help of another couple who came along, they succeeded in finding their way out of the Maze.

They ran from the Maze to the hayride. Once aboard, they piled onto a soft spot at the rear of the hay wagon. Ken put his arm around her as they lay side by side in the hay. Because of the fall chill in the air, she had to snuggle close to him. There were others in the wagon of course, so they didn’t say much. They simply rode along snuggling together.

Finally, Peggy whispered, “Ken, You make me happy.”

As he looked, he found tears in her eyes. “You really mean it don’t you?”

She nodded. He kissed her gently. Peggy kissed him back. For a few precious minutes, they didn’t care if someone was watching.

As Halloween approached, anyone could tell the citizens of Hamilton were into the spirit of the day, big time. Decorations were everywhere. The kids in Ken’s neighborhood were all psyched to go ‘trick or treating’.

A cautious Peggy still kept Ken under cover. He anticipated the day would come when Peggy would allow their relationship to become public. As Ken drove home from work on October 30th he realized he’d never even been inside her house.

An idea popped into Ken’s head. He stopped in the drug store and bought a full-face Pirate mask. There was a plastic sword on display so he bought that too.

When ‘trick or treat’ night was in full swing in Hamilton, Ken got into his costume and drove over to Peggy’s house. He parked a few doors away but made sure he could see her front door. If Ned was handing out the treats, his idea was dead in the water. If Ned was out trick or treating, Peggy would be home alone.

While he waited, he looked over Peggy’s house. A colonial, two story home. It probably had three bedrooms upstairs, a living room, dining room and kitchen downstairs. He’d delivered papers to many colonials in Chicago with the identical floor plan.

He watched for some time. Every few minutes, Peggy came out onto the front porch. She dropped candy into the sack of the costumed revelers. After a few minutes passed, it was time to act. He put on his mask, gripped his sword, and slowly sauntered toward Peggy’s house.

A group of five kids came by, all in costume. As they headed up Peggy’s walk, Ken pretended to join them. He lingered at the back of the group, as if he were a parent chaperoning a child in the little group.

When the kids yelled ‘trick or treat,’ Peggy opened the door. She dropped a small candy bar into each child’s bag. She was wearing a red sweater that flattered her figure. When the children descended the steps, he stepped aside to let them pass.

As Peggy started to close the door, Ken raised his voice an octave screeching, “trick or treat.”

Peggy opened the door further eyeing Ken suspiciously, “Aren’t you a little old for trick or treat?”

He screeched, “Yes Mam, but my heart is young.” He held up a bag, which he’d brought along for exactly this instant.

Peggy, still suspicious, dropped in a piece of candy.

Still screeching Ken spoke, “Gee, I was hoping for a no calorie sweetener.”

Peggy looked extremely puzzled. “Do I dare ask what a no calorie sweetener is?”

Speaking in his normal voice, Ken replied, “If you let me in I’ll demonstrate.”

“Ken! What are you doing here?” She looked around; saw no one watching, so she opened the door wider. “Get in here quick before someone sees you.”

Ken stepped into the hall closing the door behind him. The second he removed his pirate mask, she was in his arms, hugging him tightly. Ken whispered, “All this time I’ve been under cover I’ve never even been to your house. I figured on Halloween I could at least get a peek into your living room. Maybe a hug will be offered and maybe a low calorie sweetener.”

Peggy replied, “I think I’ve figured out what a low calorie sweetener is. Here you are.” She pulled his face down to meet hers and kissed him deliciously.

When they broke apart Ken exclaimed, “See, sweet and no calories!” Ken continued, “Is Ned out trick or treating?”

“Yes. Unfortunately, he is due back any second.”

“I’d better leave.” He kissed her once more, put on the pirate mask and left.

As he walked off the porch Peggy called, “You have the nicest way of making me feel happy. Good night!”

Ken called her as soon as he returned home. Halloween had fallen on a Friday. It was time to plan their date for tomorrow.

“Did you enjoy ‘trick or treat’ night?” he asked, when Peggy picked up the phone.

“I did. One visitor brought me a treat. I’m still glowing from it.”

“When did you figure out it was me?”

“I really had no idea who it was, in fact, I was afraid it might be Ralph Tarrance. The second you dropped your voice to normal though, I knew it was you. You and your no calorie sweetener.”

“How’s Ralph been acting lately?”

“You know, I’m really scared. He has been sickeningly polite. I’ve the feeling it’s the calm before the storm.”

“Is the recorder working all right?”

“Oh yes it works fine. I rewind the tapes each day so I’m always prepared. So far, nothing incriminating has happened. But you need to be assured; the recorder is giving me a lot of comfort.”

“Peggy, any ideas for tomorrow night?”

“Do you think the hayride’s still open now that Halloween’s over? I’d go again in a minute.”

“I don’t know. Surely, he wouldn’t close until after this weekend. Let’s go for it.”

“You have a deal,” Peggy replied, “1800 hours at the Bank.”

The corn maze and hayride were still open but; the size of the crowd had diminished. The smaller crowd made it even better. They walked the maze hand in hand. All during the hayride, they hugged each other.

As they drove into the dark employee’s parking lot behind the bank, Ken stopped the car. He placed his hand lightly on her knee to stop her from getting out.

Ken said, “I want to ask you a question. Please don’t answer it until you have slept on it and thought it over.”

She turned to face him. His rugged face looked almost handsome in the half-light from the car dashboard. His hair was all messy. Pieces of straw from the hayride clung to his shirt. As he looked at her, his eyes were radiant. Peggy was hoping for a kiss. She was sure Ken knew what she wanted but, for some reason, he resisted.

“I guess it’s really two questions,” he murmured. “Please don’t answer tonight, I definitely want you think it over.

“The first question is, if you had a serious problem and needed help, who would you call?”

He continued, “The second question is, who is your best friend?”

Peggy smiled at him. She repeated the questions promising to reflect on her answers. They spent a long time kissing goodnight.

Peggy began reflecting on Ken’s questions the minute she left the bank parking lot. The first one, who would I call to help with a serious problem has to be him. I mean I’m already talking with him about Ralph Tarrance and he’s a serious problem.

The answer to the second question regarding my best friend is undoubtedly my son Ned. I wonder if family shouldn’t count in my answer?

If family doesn’t count, who is my best friend?

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