Bill was tall and gangly, at least 6 ft and weighed approximately 150 lbs. reminded me of Alan Jackson, a well known country singer. I had gotten into country music when I worked in the laundry room as a nurses aide at the nursing home in Highland Ks. Every time I'd go to the basement to do laundry a radio was there and it always had country music on. I tried changing the channel every time but after a while I started listening to the music and found out it wasn't my Mother's country music anymore. It had the same beat as the music I had listened to in the sixties. When I was a senior in high school I listened to a country music station, KUSN, which is where I had met my DJ friend who went by the name of Jimmy Links whose real name, was Harold. He lived in Wathena Ks on a farm with his Mom and Dad. I had gone out with him once to the Pizza Hut when Daddy was still alive but Mama and Daddy didn't trust him, as well they shouldn't have, because I had asked him to take me to the prom and he stated he couldn't go because he had to work. I found out that he had been talking to many other girls on the phone besides me and had gone out with those girls too.
When Charles and I had started dating and had been dating for about six months, I had gotten a phone call from,"Jimmy" aka Harold and he asked me out. I broke a date with Charles and went out with Harold instead. We went to the movies. He gave me a choice to stay with him or go back with Charles. I wanted to stay with him but family intervened and I decided to stay with Charles. I’ve always wondered what my life would have been like if I'd gone the other way.
Harold told me(he never let me call him that) he had married a girl after Daddy died and while I was going with Charles, but that she had cancer and would be dead by Christmas. It sounded fishy to me even with my naiveté and my sisters told me he was lying so I believed them. When Charles and I lived on north fifth St and Jenny was 2 yrs old, I was working at Sammy's Drug store on tenth. Harold came in to the store and saw me there. I asked a bit sarcastically "How's your wife?" He got a horrified look on his face and his eyes welled up with tears and said, “I told you she had cancer and died around Christmas time in 1971!" I could tell he was telling the truth. He didn't even know who I was at first. When I brought up his wife a kind of grey shadow slid across his face.
Bill and I went everywhere together. We went to Bluff woods. This was a conservation area full of forestry and high bluffs. There were paths and creeks to cross. There was a short way up the bluff that was straight up or you could go the long way around across wooden bridges and by crossing a rocky creek. While standing on the last bridge that covered the creek there was a small waterfall to the right cascading down the embankment making a small pool of water about 1-2 ft deep.
Green fronds of plants and algae were everywhere. There were rocks to cross to get to the pool and little tadpoles swam about looking for the many insects that landed in the cold clear water. We climbed up and up until we saw signs leading us to the Pine Tree. The pine tree was huge, reaching up and up several stories above the bluff. Young, thin, and agile Bill proceeded to climb to the top. He was explaining the magnificent view to me and I so wanted to see it but with my acrophobia I knew I'd never see what he was seeing. I couldn't even get up to the first limb! I picked up a pine cone from the many that were scattered about and read the sign on the tree dedicating that site to someone who had died. I always wondered if they had died climbing that same tree to the top as Bill was doing now and begged him to come down. He led me to a path that led to a huge rope that swung out over the bluff and through the many trees growing there. I wanted to swing and he helped me to get over myself as it were and after several minutes of getting up the nerve I jumped from the side of the hill and swung back to his waiting arms. He helped me up the embankment and held me to steady me for the climb back to the path. Once there he found an old dead tree, scraped the bits of bark off it and proceeded to carve our initials. He made a heart around:
When Charles and I divorced I went back to being Darlene Dennis again. We went back to that tree many times that summer and took Chuck with us one time. Unfortunately he took after his mother and was afraid of heights too. Bill had to help him down the bluff and put the rope in his hands but I can't remember if he ever jumped or not! I’ll have to ask him! The rope swing finally was too rotten to use anymore and I think the parks department cut it down for safety's sake.
The summer was long and hot and the air conditioner in my trailer didn't work. Bill was used to air-conditioning and he couldn't stand it there. We stayed over at his nice cushy house in St Joseph when his Mom and Dad weren’t there. We watched movies and he'd show me his room. He’d turn on his television and he'd try to get me to watch the sci-fi channel. One favorite of his was "Dune".I couldn't make heads or tales out of it, mostly because I wasn't interested. All I could think about was him. He was eight years younger than I.I had lost a lot of weight and could wear short shorts and tight jeans with the best of the younger crowd. Everyone couldn't believe I was 39 and turning forty the following April. His mother knew. She didn't seem too keen on the idea of him seeing me. After Charles' mother I could take just about anything a mother could throw at me. She and Bill's father did seem to like the fact that I had more in common with them than Bill; I brought over a VCR tape of Red Skelton I had bought. They loved the old shows as much as I did.
One day we were at his house alone when he put in a tape of Beauty and the Beast. I thought it was the most beautiful Disney film I had seen and I cried at the right moments and laughed at the right moments. It wasn't long before he took me in his arms and kissed me there on the couch in the living room. He stopped the tape and we went upstairs to his room.
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