Teresa and I were walking the beach. We needed to talk about her staying behind. We had to talk about us. She was clear where she stood. "I don't know what to do."
I could tell she was being torn apart inside. I pulled her into me. I wasn't sure what to say to her. Her head nestled against me, I just began to run my fingers through her hair and on the back of her head. She even started to cry a little. "We'll figure something out." I assured her. "Don't cry sweetie."
We resumed our walking when I thought to ask. "How did he take it?"
"He's really mad at me." She said. "I'm hurting him. I'm hurting you. I'm hurting myself."
"You told him about me?"
"I couldn't lie to him."
It was this moment when I realized how out of control the situation had become. I actually began to question myself. I should have done something to prevent this from happening. How could I have known this would happen though? One look at her face and I knew, there was no way I could have prevented it from happening. For me, I would love to wake up to that face for the rest of my life.
One of the questions I wanted to ask her was how long she would be staying with me? I had no idea if her staying with me was a permanent decision or a temporary one until she could decide later. In my heart of hearts, I began to wonder if she could even answer that question at the moment. I also wondered if I wanted to hear the answer. I was fairly certain she was probably asking herself that question. So no, I didn't ask it. Perhaps now, in hindsight, I should have.
We kept close to each other all through the weekend. It appeared neither of us could stand not touching the other for very long. We were on the couch, my head on her lap as I laid down and she was sitting when Karen and Sanoki returned from taking Andi home. Karen was practically screaming at the top of her lungs. "We're getting married!" She was flashing the ring on her finger.
Teresa and I both jumped to our feet, with Teresa racing up to her and the two girls celebrated by holding hands and dancing circles. "Oh, my God! No way!" The two of them ran into my bedroom and closed the door behind them with Teresa saying, "Tell me all about it."
I turned to Sanoki. "You sly dog, you. It's the quiet ones we have to watch out for." I offered him my hand and he took it. "Congratulations, Daniel. Way to go."
He just smiled as I rubbed his head before pulling him in to give him a manly hug.
That happy news brought everything back to life. It took my mind off my situation and I think it did the same for Teresa. I quickly got to cooking some dinner and we all four sat at the table talking about it. I know Teresa got the story, but I hadn't yet and I wanted to know. Karen was still excited enough to share it again. "He asked me at a rest area on our way to Georgia. Andi and I both were freaking out."
I looked across at Dan. "A rest area?"
He shrugged his shoulders. I turned back to Karen. "What do you parents think about it?"
"I don't think they were too thrilled about it, but they like Dan." She told me.
"That's wonderful." I declared. "Look at us, two happy couples. And Glen."
"Where is Glen, by the way?" Karen asked. No one had a clue. This is when Sanoki announced, "Hey, Carroll, I hope it's okay with you, but we're going to go looking next week for a place of our own."
I didn't mind. "That's fine, dude. So, when are you getting married? And where?"
"We can't afford anything extravagant," Karen explained, "so we thought maybe we could just get married at the courthouse. We want you and Teresa there as our witnesses."
She and I agreed with that. "It looks like you two have it figured out then." I assumed. I then encouraged everyone to raise their glasses for a toast.
That night in bed, Teresa was still in a bit of shock over it. "I can't believe it. My little sister is getting married."
"See how easy it is?" I responded, looking at her. She rolled her eyes while smiling. "It's not that easy with us." She replied.
"It could be." I suggested. She looked at me. "You would marry me?"
I looked back at her. "You want me to ask you right now? Because I will. Just let me go out to my car real quick."
She kept her hand on my chest, preventing my effort to raise up. I was really going to go to my car and get the ring I was going to give to Lori. "Hold up." She fought me. "Are you serious?"
"Yes, I'm serious." I answered. "Just let me go to my ...."
"Now wait a minute." She interrupted. "You're not going anywhere. No, Carroll, don't ask me. Please?"
We sat there smiling at each other. "I would." I told her. "Marry you that is. In a heartbeat."
She could see in my eyes that I was serious. "You love me that much?" She asked.
I brought her in for a kiss. Upon release. "More."
"Well, don't ask." She again stated. "I might say yes."
I laid my head back down on the pillow and drew her closer. "Chicken shit." I mumbled. She slapped me playfully. We laid there for a few minutes before she broke the silence. "What's in your car?"
I was bouncing off the walls the next day. I reported to my school brimming with smiles for everyone. I was feeling great. It was a great day. That night, when I entered the apartment, Teresa had a little surprise waiting for me. It was called, dinner. "I fixed you dinner." She gleamed ear to ear, very proud of herself.
"I thought you said you weren't a very good cook?" I did cautiously tread.
"I thought I would give it a try. I've been watching you closely."
She sat me in a chair and placed herself up on the table. She reached to her side and picked up a plate. "Here, I'm going to feed you." I was feeling a bit ridiculous, but went with it. She scooped some food on a spoon and brought it to my mouth. "Take a bite."
I did as I was told. Upon swallowing, my eyes lit up a little. "Teresa, that's actually pretty good sweetheart."
"You like it?"
"Yes, I do." I reassured her.
"Here, have another." She insisted.
I was surprised at how good it was. "Really, Teresa, great job."
"Now try some mashed potato's." She requested. "I spent all day peeling them. The gravy is can bought, but I heard you say once that even you don't mind can gravy." She placed it in my mouth before I could respond. Once swallowed, "It really is good babe."
She placed the plate down on the table to her side and turned to the other side of her where she picked up a glass of milk. "Here, wash it down with some milk. I made it as you like it, half chocolate and half white."
I was impressed. She placed the cup to my lip. "I can do this myself." I said. She wouldn't hear of it. "I got it, I got it." She fumbled, lifting it up slightly. She brought it down to allow me to swallow it then quickly raised it back up again. This time, it spilled on either side of my mouth, practically choking me. "Sweetie." I cried out, laughing. "It's all over me."
She placed the cup back down and reached for a napkin. "Here, I'll get it." She began to clean me up a bit before reaching back for the plate and feeding me one more helping. I took it and swallowed and gave her some more compliments. "Honestly, sweetheart, it's really good."
"You mean it?" Her loving eyes sought for approval.
"Yes, I mean it." I confirmed. "It's the best meatloaf I ever had."
Suddenly, her eyes and mouth opened wide. She stared at me like that for a moment. Finally, she found some vocabulary. "It's not meatloaf."
Suddenly, my eyes and mouth opened wide. "What?"
"You ass!" She squealed with laughter. I fought playfully in my defense. "Wait, did I say meatloaf, I meant to say ...." But she didn't let me finish. She scooped some more food on the spoon and began flinging it on me. "It's not meatloaf, it's not meatloaf." She repeated. Before I knew it, she had dumped the entire plate into my lap. I could barely move, what with me laughing so hard. She then reached for the cup of milk. "Let's wash it down." She insisted, pouring the contents all over me. I grabbed her off the table and we stumbled onto the floor, laughing and wrestling with food all over us. I stared down at her when the horse-play began to cease. "It's not meatloaf." She again spoke in a whisper. I gave her a kiss. "I don't care what it is." I told her. "I love it. I love you."
We came together once again for a longer time when Karen entered and was hovering over us, looking down. We gazed up at her. She studied the kitchen before going to the fridge and getting a Pepsi. On her way back to her and Dan's bedroom, she made it abundantly clear. "I'm not cleaning this mess up."
A couple nights later, we all went putt-putting. We weren't halfway through the course when she came up to me. "Why are you keeping score? Nobody cares about the score."
"Keeping score is the fundamental part of the game." I tried to explain to her. She held a different view. "You're only keeping score because you're winning. God, you're such a big baby."
"Just take your shot." I encouraged her. "It's your turn."
She bent over and placed her ball on the ground and was staring me down when she took her whack. The ball rolled in a jiffy and was bouncing all over the place when she turned and watched it go into the cup. Her mouth opened wide again, along with her eyes as she jumped up. "Oh, my God, a hole in one! Did you see that, Carroll? A hole in one! I got a hole in one!"
I was happy for her, but was more interested in her seemingly uncontrolled jubilation swinging that putter around like she was. I moved in towards her to take it away from her. "Yes, I saw it sweetie, great job. Now, hand over the weapon before you whack some kid in the head with it."
She released the putter over to me while jumping up into my arms and latching onto the back of my neck. "I got a hole in one and you didn't." I kissed her on the cheek. "Good for you, babe." I uttered. "But we're not keeping score, remember?"
She hopped off. "God, you're such a baby."
That weekend, the two happy couples went to Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia. We had a great time. We spent the night in a motel, each couple with their own room. Man, what a weekend. I can't recall having so much fun before. Time was flying by so fast.
That Monday was the start of my second week in barber school. No sooner did I report for class when I was called into the office of the school officer, Mr. Riekle. "Have a seat." He offered. He was looking in a file and glancing up at me off and on before getting down to business. "As you know," he began, "we have two separate classrooms here."
"Yes." I acknowledged. Which we did. There were six students to each class.
"The instructor of the other class has taken ill. He may not return before the end of the month." He revealed.
"Sorry to hear about that, sir."
"I'm faced with a couple of options. I thought I would run them by you and get your thoughts on it."
"Okay." I carefully responded, still in the dark, but eager to find out what he wanted with me.
"Option one, we shut down the classes. Obviously, one instructor for both classes is asking too much. Option two," he continued, "I find a second instructor. I've been going through your file, Carroll, it says here you've been cutting hair now for almost a year."
"At my command, yes sir."
"I also see you were in the Army Reserves for a year prior to transferring?"
"Yes sir." I confirmed for him.
"I'll get right to it." He now asserted. "How would you like to help second class petty officer Davis with instructing your class so he can focus on the other class a little? Be an assistant? With your background and experience, you're the most qualified to help us out here. I'll make a note of it in your records. It could help you when promotion time rolls around. What do you say?"
I was slightly overwhelmed. What could I say? "Sure. Yes sir, I would be more than happy to help out."
"Excellent." He exclaimed, standing up on his feet and extending his hand. I stood up and took it. "I really appreciate it."
"No problem, sir. Thanks for the opportunity." I started to make my way out when it dawned on me. "Sir?"
"Would it be possible to maybe cut out about an hour early tomorrow? I have a friend from my command who is getting married at the courthouse and ..." He didn't allow me to finish. "Sure, no problem, just make sure you let Davis know."
"Yes sir. And thank you sir." And out the door I went. Oh yes, the universe was being kind to me. Too kind in fact. I don't know why it is, but every time things start to appear as if they are going my way, it's usually a set up for a big fall.
That night, I sat in a chair at the kitchen table while Teresa was trying to give me a trim. She was sitting on the kitchen table again as I explained the events of the day to her, and Dan and Karen, who were sitting on the couch. "That's great, babe." She said, steadying her hand to cut some hair off my ears.
"You two excited?" I asked them, keeping myself as still as possible with those scissors ever so close to my ear. Teresa was also glancing into my eyes periodically.
"I can't wait to be Mrs. Sanoki." Karen expelled. This is when Teresa nipped my ear. "Ouch." I squinted. "I'm sorry." She apologized, pulling back a little to address my little flesh wound. I leaned into her and kissed her on the chin. "Don't worry about it."
She stared at me for a second and smiled. She placed the scissors down and dropped into my lap to hug me and kiss some more. "I love you." She whispered.
Oh, yes, the universe was being way too kind to me, indeed.