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Madcow

Oh Nostalgia

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Preoccupied by his own thoughts, Roman was idly pushing the nickels around on the counter with his toothpick that he had once again fished out of his pocket. A hum of excitement was running through his veins; the anticipation of his date with Colette tomorrow evening keeping a faint smile on his lips. He knew he probably looked foolish, the smile on his twenty-one year old face, reacting more like a thirteen year old girl asked out on her first date, but he didn't care. Hearing Henry's whistle, Roman turned on his stool, facing out and following his guiding nod to Henry's point of interest. His question at first out of place, Roman only seeing she was alone, but then seeing the preppy and stuffed up boy walking away, quickly making the connection. A nearly pensive looked crossed his face, as if he had to consider an answer.

"Nah man, never," he quipped back, studying the girl. She was pretty, quite slight and beautiful. A smirk crossed his face once he realized you couldn't leave a girl like that alone if she was yours because of guys like Henry. Any lad in his right mind would gobble up an opportunity to talk to someone like her. "Well, ya gonna take your shot?" he asked suggestively, nudging Hen forward, deciding it was Henry's turn to make some moves.

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Henry paused for a moment, glancing toward Roman's urging face before he stood, stiff after the long sit. "I guess I need to earn my nickel back," he said with a grin and a wink as he headed toward her. He wracked his brain for something intelligent to say to a gal like her. Would she laugh in his face? He had gone out with tourists before, but this girl, she was something else. There was something about the way she was sitting, or the way she had her hair tied up, or just something that made his heart hammer in his chest. His feet seemed to grow heavier and heavier with each step and he thought about walking past her, straight to the washroom instead, and if Roman hadn't been watching him, he was positive that he would have kept going. But, he didn't, he sat down beside her, staring at the bar for a moment before glancing toward her.

He had thought of it, the perfect thing to say to her, but that wasn't what he said, it was as though he had absolutely no control over his tongue as he blurted out, "That my sista's favorite kinda ice cream." Henry paused after he spoke, glancing toward her face as a slight heat crept up the back of his neck. He wasn't as smooth as Roman, never had been, but he had never been an oaf in front of a girl. At least, not like this. He rushed a smile to his face, knowing it was one of his winning features, as he attempted to hide the confusion that had settled in his mind. Where had that even come from? But, he'd already said it, there was no going back, so he continued, in his best attempt at casual, "Are you enjoin' yours? Everyone always says they make some of the best ice cream here."

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Alice stared down at her ice cream, wondering idly what Calvin do if she wasn?t there when he returned. She doubted that he would notice or care. He would probably just go on talking regardless of her presence. But she couldn?t ever just walk out with any notice, leaving Calvin alone at the diner, it would be terribly rude. And imagine how disappointed her grandparents would be, not to mention how the rest of Seabrook would talk if she were to do such a thing.

She was so caught up in her own thoughts that she notice Henry approaching, causing Alice to jump, startled as he dropped into the seat beside her. She made no remark at first, glancing down at the butter pecan ice cream in her bowl as she tried think of how she might be expected to respond. She probably should have politely asked him leave, after all it was clear that he didn't run in the same social circle.

But then she looked up. He was smiling and it wasn?t like any smile Alice had ever seen before. It had no agenda or hidden purpose. He wasn?t smiling because he was self absorbed or over-confident. He was just... smiling. It was so genuine, so earnest. She watched him, enthralled, wondering where such a smile came from. ?It?s very good, thank you,? Alice answered, her voice timid and soft, hardly more than a whisper.

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His expressive eyes watched her with amusement, her shyness surprised him. Henry had expected her to be like the majority of tourist girls he had talked to before, confident and sure of themselves; especially when they were talking to guys like him, guys that were beneath them. Though, the unexpected simply made his smile inch upward a little more. He rested his feet against the bar of his stool, jiggling his legs slightly, a new wave of nerves hitting him.

Henry wondered suddenly if she was offended that he had so forwardly come and sat down beside her. It wasn't something that he had ever thought about before, he and Roman had always approached girls like that, but there was something about her timidity that made him question the gesture. But he pushed all of this from his mind, his smile softening to a friendly grin, "Of course, just showin' some good ole hospitality." He paused for half a second, extending his hand, "Henry Scott ma'am."

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?Alice. Alice Monroe,? She answered, placing her small hand in his rough callused palm. Her posture relaxed as she realized why he was there. Whenever her family went out to eat someone from the restaurant would always stop by to make sure that everything was satisfactory with their meal. That had to be why this Henry had stopped over at the table. He worked for the diner. But he wasn?t dressed in a uniform so Alice supposed he was an owner or rather his parents were. It made perfect sense and she was able to relax a bit now that she knew he was only doing his job.

?That?s very kind of you. The ice cream is just delicious, really. The rest of your food looks wonderful too, I?m sure I?ll be back soon for a whole meal,? She told him, her tone warm and her words a little more sure now that she was in familiar territory. Alice smiled politely but it silly compared to Henry?s. It was more like a pretty upward turn of the lips, something that had been painted on, not a real smile like his.

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Henry nodded at her response, too distracted by how quickly she seemed to relax to note the way she worded her response. If he had, he would have realized that she wasn't interested in coming back for a meal with him. That anything along those lines would have been deemed absurd and he might have been able to save himself the embarrassment of continuing. But, even if he had heard he probably would have asked anyway. There was something about the emptiness of her smile, the way it didn't quite meet her eyes or flicker life into her face that saddened him greatly. All he wanted was to get a real smile out of her, and she had suggested getting a meal, hadn't she?

"I'm sure they would set ya up real well. 'Specially if ya were with a local who knew the menu pretty well," he said with a friendly wink, trying to make her reveal herself a little bit to him. Not the shell of herself that she was presenting right then. "Afta all, s'not everyday a gal like you walks in here."

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?Oh, I don?t think I know any locals,? Alice told him, her pale blue eyes clouding with confusion. She wasn?t sure exactly what he was getting at. It almost sounded as if he was offering to take her out to eat. She wasn?t quite sure why he?d want to do that, maybe it was just the southern hospitality that she had heard so much about. And she was't sure whether she actually wanted him to be asking. He was nice enough, nicer than Calvin at any rate, and he had that smile. And there was something about the way his warm eyes focused on her as if they were reading a book and not just looking at a pretty painting. But her family wouldn't want her to spend her time with someone like Henry. So she wasn't sure how she would answer if he was, in fact, asking her out to dinner. But of course Alice had never really felt entirely sure of anything.

For example, she wasn?t quite sure what he meant when he said a girl like her. What did Henry think she was like? And how could he know what she was like just by looking at her when Alice wasn?t even sure she knew what she was like. He made it sound as if it were a compliment though, and that alone was enough to color her cheeks with a rosy blush. Naturally, she wasn't sure how to address the comment so she didn't. Instead, she lifted a careful spoonful of her ice cream to her pink lips before glancing back up at him.

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Henry couldn't help the amusement that leapt across his face at her response, it was so innocent, so naive sounding. She was obviously not used to the kind of attention he was paying to her and he wondered if that was because of her family or because she really was with the guy who had just left her. He thought about it for a moment, and determined that it had to be her family, there was no way that she was with him, she would have asked him to leave the moment he sat down. But he realized he was quickly losing his moment of opportunity and he was unsure whether or not to take it, he didn't want to make her any more uncomfortable than he already had. His eyes met hers when she glanced back at him and tilted his head to the side, weighing whether the possibility of rejection was worth the risk.

"That's an easy fix ma'am," he said sincerely, deciding quickly that the risk was always worth it, "I would gladly introduce ya to some people tomorrow if ya'd like. We can even eat while we do it." Henry tried to word it carefully so that it didn't sound like a full flung date, figuring that would probably scare her off more than a casual meeting to introduce her to some of the people she'd be seeing around town throughout the summer. He unwittingly held his breath as he waited for a response, his features holding the ghost of his smile as he anxiously awaited a response.

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?That?s awfully sweet of you,? Alice answered softly, letting her hands fall to her lap as she carefully considered his offer. She just didn?t know what to do. She was torn between her compulsion to do exactly what was proper and expected and her inability to say 'no'. Alice had gone through years of etiquette lessons and knew the proper way to turn down just about every invitation she might ever receive but never, in her entire sheltered existence had she ever actually said no. And now, in the one time that she probably should have, she wasn't sure that she wanted to.

?I think I?d-? She had been about to tell him that she would quite like that but before she was able to, Calvin was back and she?d lost whatever small piece of confidence she?d summoned. She dropped her gaze and ran her hands over the carefully ironed pleats of her dress as if to smooth out any wrinkles, a nervous habit.

A competitive glint came into Calvin?s eyes as focused his gaze on Henry and rested his hands casually on the back of Alice?s chair, standing possessively behind her, ?Excuse me, but I think you?re in my seat.?

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Henry could feel her about to agree when Calvin's voice broke the bubble of their conversation. Frustration filled his features as he glanced up at the yuppie looking guy, though it was just a flash before he smoothed them back to his usual friendly way. He was about to challenge his comment, or at the very least, make some sort of retort but then he glanced at Alice and his body language softened. There was no sense in making her any more uncomfortable or making a fool of himself in front of her; plus, why would she chose him, a simple-minded lumberjack when she could probably have the world with this other guy? "Apologies friend," he said in his easy way before he licked his drying lips and turned his gaze to Alice, "Just think about what I was sayin' Miss Monroe, ya don't have to answa me now, I'm sure we'll be seein' one anotha again."

With that he slipped off the bar stool, feeling a mixture of satisfaction and displeasure as he walked away. He jerked his head at Roman, not wanting to stop and sit back down. There wasn't a shred of doubt in his mind that she had been about to about to agree which satisfied him to no end. Even though he didn't have a set date, like Roman, he knew that something was bound to happen with Alice. She made him want to pull her out of the shell she so obviously hid herself in and he was fully set on showing her just how much fun life could be. But, there was the other boy to deal with, the one that left him with the bitter taste in his mouth. "Hold on to my nickel, will ya? It'll be mine soon," he said once Roman was within earshot, falling into step with his friend as they headed back home.

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Roman sat quietly at the bar alone, pushing himself from side to side with his foot on the rotating stool. Most of the time his eyes were wandering, people watching the other locals a the few tourists that were still there. He knew a lot of people and sometimes gave the occasional friendly nod, but he didn't speak with anyone. Every once in a while he glanced over at Henry, gauging how his encounter with the pretty tourist was going. She seemed much more reserved than Colette, a tougher pick. He could tell Henry wasn't going down without a gentle fight either. Henry wasn't with the girl very long, five minutes of so before coming back in his direction, but obviously not looking to hang around any longer. Seeing his cue, Roman stood and followed Hen out of the diner. He could tell it hadn't gone as well as he had planned.

Sticking the toothpick back in his mouth, he fiddled with it as he listened to Henry's hopeful comment, a soft smirk crossing his features. A friendly had pat Henry on the back, not quite sympathetic, just encouraging. "I got faith in you," he retorted, noticing that this couldn't be just any other girl to Henry. He seemed stuck on her, a bit like Roman was on Colette. Quite the coincidence for one night. "She that special?" he asked, wanting to hear the confirmation from Hen's mouth, not just his own musings. He gave a sideways glance at Henry, his feet slightly scuffing the gravely road that led towards their houses just outside town.

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Henry shoved his hands in his pockets as they walked, the cooler evening air chilling the somewhat chapped skin. He chuckled at Roman's retort, the hand that fell across his shoulder, combined with the words, boosted his confidence a little bit. The question was a bit more difficult for him to respond to because he didn't instantly know the answer, or the right response. There was a quiet pause while he thought, the whirring of cicadas almost deafening the farther from town they got. It was going to be a hot one the next day. His mom swore that the louder the cicadas, the hotter the next day would be. Henry wasn't sure how accurate the statement was, but he always went along with it.

Finally he shrugged with indecision. Of course she was special. Hadn't he seen her? Then again, he hadn't heard the sweet, shy way she spoke, like she carefully thought about every single word that left her pretty pink lips. God those lips. At the same time, would he be able to get her to open up to him so that he could sincerely get to know her. He felt like she had been heading in that direction before Calvin showed, and they hadn't spent much time together, so maybe. "Different kinda special," he said back, flashing a playful grin. That was probably the best word to describe Alice compared to all the girls he'd ever gone after, different.

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Alice had nodded at his words and her eyes followed Henry as he left the diner, ignoring Calvin?s words they swirled around her. She tried turn her attention back to what he was saying, but she just couldn?t stop thinking about Henry. Everything about him had been so genuine and open and just so entirely happy. Even Calvin?s unfriendly attitude hadn?t seemed to bother him. She wondered if there was some sort of key to being that happy. If there was, Alice hoped he would show her; and, if he did, she hoped that her smile would be as nice as Henry's.

Curiously, as Alice grew more distant and distracted, Calvin became more attentive. He?d learned at an early age that something is only worth having if it?s fancied by everyone else so Henry?s interest in her had made her more beautiful and alluring. And so the conversation became a little less one-sided as Calvin walked her home through the quiet town. But his charming attempts at engaging Alice in conversation did nothing to redeem him and at the end of the night Calvin wasn?t the one she was thinking about when she fell asleep.

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The hum of the cicadas gave Roman a deep sense of calm, the cool air leaving him without a care in the world. It was nights like these spent with Henry, walking down the familiar streets of Seabrook that made Roman realize he couldn't be happier any where else in the world. It was the simple life they led, the predictable days at work and families they had waiting at home that kept Roman satisfied. He honestly couldn't really ask for much more. The silence that hung between them as he waited for an answer from Henry left Roman musing about their easy lives and the small yet significant events of the day. They had both had luck finding a gal for themselves, one pretty lady for each of them to brighten their thoughts. It was these early stages of reeling the girl in that Roman enjoyed. The chase, the thrill, would get his heart pumping in a way different than any other.

When he finally heard Henry's reply, a reciprocated grin crossed his own features, catching a glimpse of Henry's playful features. "Well that's the perfect kind," he added, knowing that Henry deserved a girl like that to match him.

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"I agree," Henry said with a quiet smile that he kept to himself as he thought back on Alice. He breathed in the fresh night air, feeling somewhat renewed by the outdoors. He had always felt more at home where there were no walls than in a building, no matter how large. It must have something to do with how long he'd worked outside. Kicking a larger pebble out in front of him, he thought back over the night, impressed that both of them had managed to meet the type of broads that they had. He was excited for his friend and his date the next day with Colette, she seemed lively and effortless, a combo that was sure to keep Roman on his toes.

"See ya at work tomorrow Ro," he murmured, clapping Roman's shoulder as the reached his house. Henry grinned at him one last time before entering the small gate and heading up to his house. He slipped quietly inside, the rest of the house silent, but he knew it was just a facade; his mother never slept until he was home. Henry took the steps as quietly as possible, not bothering to change as he fell into the small bed. He found his thoughts running toward Alice again, and her pink lips. The next morning dawned earlier than usual, his father shaking him awake.

The early morning was spent helping his father and the rest of the morning and afternoon was devoted to working at the lumberyards. He embraced the promised heat, relishing the feeling of sweat tricking down him, soaking his shirt. There was something about physical labor that couldn't be beat. He and Roman saw one another for a moment during lunch where he had asked him about the finalized plans for the evening.

Henry had been planning on a quiet evening at home, whittling or reading, but Joan ruined those plans the instant he walked in the door, begging him to take her into town. He took a fast shower and they were on their way into town. She was quick to turn their walk into a game as they walk and Henry went along with it, embracing her imagination for as long as he could. In the end, Joan ended up on his back all the way to the candy store where he bought her a piece of chocolate and they sat on the bench outside the shop so she could eat it.

-----

Colette hadn't been able to sleep at all, she'd simply tossed and turned on the large bed, pulling the sheets and comforter from their hold. It was always like this the first few nights without her father in the house. She knew other people were there, the live ins and sometimes members of the extended family, but it made no difference; the house wasn't safe unless her father was there. At least, that's the thought she assumed kept her up until she accepted that nothing was going to happen to her if she drifted off. She was up with the sun the next morning, and the early start meant that she was done with her daily responsibilities a little earlier than normal. The entire day, no matter what she was supposed to be focusing on, her mind constantly sought out Roman's face and the thought of the date that evening made her smile with anticipation.

She spent a little longer than usual getting herself gussied up for the evening, perfecting her already perfect curls and reapplying the soft pink lipstick over and over again. Colette wasn't sure what to expect for the evening so she selected a simple, dove colored, short-sleeve button-up blouse and a deep blue a-line skirt that accentuated her slender waist. The evening hummed with energy as she stepped out the front door, thanking the driver as she stepped into the back of the car. She preferred driving to being driven, but she didn't want to worry about a car coming back and she could always call if she needed a lift.

Her hand fell into the driver's as he helped her out of the car, thanking him with a kind word and warm smile. Colette was in town just before seven and arrived at the diner at precisely the right time, her brown eyes instantly beginning to search Roman out.

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"Goodnight," Roman bid Henry as farewell, waving him off as he watched him turn down the driveway. He didn't linger long at Henry's, making his feet carry him quickly down the road another five minutes to his own house where a single light lit up the farmhouse. His mother always left a light on in his room before she went to bed if Roman was still out. The simple gesture left a smile on his face, thankful to have such a sweet and thoughtful ma. Once inside he quickly readied for bed, tired after a long day in the sun and the fun evening. His mind was restless, though, as he contemplated the planning of his date with Colette. Usually he just took the lads out to dinner or a movie, but this time he wanted to make a bigger statement. His thoughts ran together until he slowly drifted off to sleep.

The next morning came fast and he readied for work in a practiced pattern. He was off to the lumberyard in the warm morning heat, knowing it was going to be a long hot day. The simple labors of the job kept Roman busy, sweating through the hot afternoon. It passed by fast per usual, and it wasn't long before he was making his way home, soaked and sticky. He freshened up and changed into one of his nicer outfits, grey slacks and a white button down, the sleeves rolled up to his elbows. His ma was in the kitchen, helping pack some food into their family picnic basket. Roman had just pulled the stuff out, but she had been sweet enough to figure it out and help him get everything ready. Realizing the time, Roman thanked his ma with a kiss on the cheek as he gathered everything up and hurried out to the pickup.

Roman still had a half hour before he planned to meet up with Colette, but he wanted to have everything set up, ready for their date. He drove out to the old mill, laying out an old tablecloth on the grassy bank next to the river, setting the basket on it and quickly setting up two plates, silverware, glasses and napkins. It was about as good as he was going to get it, knowing nothing was probably as nice as she was used to, but hoped the gesture would be enough. Leaving it, he took the five minute drive back to town, parking across the street at the dime store. He was still ten minutes early, but they were part of his plan. Heading in, he went to the glassware section, searching out exactly what he was looking for. It took him longer than he had hoped to find one, but once he found it, he paid swiftly and quickly. He knew he was a minute or two late, but he hoped Colette wouldn't mind. Walking across the street, an empty blue vase in hand, Roman spotted Colette waiting right where he had been expecting her.

"You look quite beautiful tonight Miss Rawlings," Roman greeted with a large, genuine smile, reaching her just as he spoke. She was sight, her perfect curls and plump pink lips ? he couldn't keep his eyes off her. "This is for you... I know there ain't nothing in it yet, but there will be soon," he added, holding the empty vase out to her. He knew it might look a bit silly now, but hopefully once his plan was executed it would put a smile on her face.

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Alice had been excited, at first, when her grandmother told her that they would spend the day shopping. Not because she particularly enjoyed spending the day in front of mirrors while saleswomen chattered on about how all the Hollywood starlets were wearing this style this summer and how she would have a line of men all the way down the block waiting to propose to her when they saw her in such a dress. No, she had been excited because her grandmother had a sweet tooth and she was certain that she could convince her to stop at Henry?s diner for an ice cream.

But they had driven straight through town without shopping, for a whole hour and a half into Savannah where the shops would have the current fashions. They had spent the whole day in the city and returned with so many boxes and bags that Alice was certain that tomorrows headlines would read ?Economy Fixed: Depression Over in Savannah.? Of course, according to Daddy, the economy was nearly fixed anyways thanks to all the work he and the President and the Congress had done. Not that Alice or anyone she knew had been affected by the Depression much.

The Monroe family wasn?t home long before Alice?s grandparents left for an evening out with friends. There would be no young people for her to socialize with this time, so Alice thankfully did not have to attend. Alone, with the exception of the help, Alice felt restless. She didn?t want to stay at the house, she wanted to meet people, do something, anything. So, feeling uncharacteristically impulsive, she changed quickly into one of the new dresses with a pretty blue floral pattern and pinned back her hair. Her grandparents had taken the car, but it would only take a few minutes to walk into town. It wasn?t until she was on Main Street that Alice realized she wasn?t quite sure what she intended to do while she was there.

Realizing how silly an idea her whole adventure was, Alice had been just about to turn around to go back to the house when she noticed a figure on a bench just ahead of her. It was Henry and a little girl who looked so like him that she could only be his sister. She lifted a hand, giving a shy tentative wave as she approached.

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Colette couldn't help the upward turn of her lips when she spotted Roman heading straight toward her. She could feel the heat rising to her ears at his praise, the precise reason she hadn't attempted to pin it back. As the vase was passed into her hands she took the time to study it, his words making her think of a thousand things he could have planned. The fact that it was blue, instead of clear or any other color could merely be because it was the only one the store had, but the fact that it was her favorite color was not missed - even if he wasn't aware of that fact. Her brown eyes glanced up to fall into his green ones.

"You're going to spoil a girl, between the compliments and the presents," she teased amiably. Colette had never mastered the sense of proprietary, least of all around people near her age. But her charming mannerisms could almost always smooth things over if she made a grave decision in who to be at ease around. Of course, she was almost instantly at ease with everyone. "What are the plans for the evening, Mr. Donovan? I hope you didn't go to too much trouble?"

-----

Henry was watching the town as he listened to Joan go on about her day. His eyes were sweeping along the sidewalks so rapidly that he almost missed Alice and her small wave. But then she was coming toward him and he wished he had gone to a little more trouble when picking out his clothes. He stood without much hesitation, meeting her about halfway with Joan in tow.

"You really know her?" Joan was asking as they approached. Henry nodded but didn't respond to her, he couldn't say yes, because he didn't really know her but he couldn't say no because they had met an he wanted to get to know her.

"Miss Monroe," he said gaily, tipping his chin slightly in a more formal greeting. She looked absolutely stunning, prettier than his memories had been able to recall.

"Your dress is beautiful," Joan admired, her honey eyes genuine and relaxed.

"This is my younger sista, Joan." Henry was at a loss for a moment. It was so coincidental to meet like this for the second night in a row. It had to mean something more, didn't it? His smile lifted at the thought and he winked at her as he continued, "I told ya we'd be seein' one anotha again."

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"I wouldn't want to have it any otha way," Roman replied to her first comment. It was true too. He didn't just want to come on strong so he could prove his fondness to her, but it was truly just how he felt. His green eyes watched as she examined the present, almost getting nervous when the thought that she might not like it crossed his mind. Yet she seemed as delighted as ever and he decided he was probably doing things right so far. With Colette, he didn't want to pull out all his charms and try to woo her like he was trying to play her, but pull out all the right ones, the ones that would prove himself dedicated to getting her for the keeping, the long run. This was one gal he wasn't going to let just slide on by.

"Well nothin's trouble when it's done for you," he insisted, giving a smile that made his eyes sparkle as they stared back into hers, "but I got us somethin' special planned." He paused, the things he had planned running through his head real fast. "So let's get this evening started," he added, holding out his arm for her to take in the most gentlemen of ways. He didn't want to be too forward, but he wanted to show off his manners.

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Alice nodded to Henry, politely acknowledging his greeting before she turned her attention to his sister. ?Thank you! I picked it because of the flowers,? Alice told the younger girl, lowering her voice as if she didn?t want anyone else to hear her. She wondered if this was the sister who shared her love for butter pecan ice cream or if Henry had even more siblings. She smiled kindly and extended her hand, ?And it?s lovely to meet you. You can call me Alice, if you like.?

She glanced at Henry as she told his sister to call her by her first name. She wanted to be friends with him, and friends didn?t go about adding prefixes to one another?s names. ?If you ever want to change careers you ought to consider fortune-telling. You seem to have a bit of a knack for it,? Alice told him, nodding seriously before her cheeks turned pink as she realized what she had said. She wasn?t sure what had possessed her to say such a thing but she was certain it was the silliest statement she had ever made.

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Without hesitation Colette's hand and armed slipped into the arm he offered, walking in the direction that he dictated. He was so unlike boys that she knew. It was more than just his lack of money or title, but rather the sincerity that was behind each word and each gesture, like he was trying to please her but wasn't trying too hard, or that he cared about what she really felt or thought about something - even something as small as a present. She nudged him gently, a smooth smile on her face, "Does that mean you aren't even going to give me a hint?" Colette loved the idea of it being a complete surprise, she had always been a sucker for things that truly surprised her because it was such a rare pleasure in her life.

Her body hummed with excitement and energy, eager for the upcoming events and pleased to be so near Roman again. She had a good feeling about what was about to happen, that something real was about to happen for her for the first time. Her father hadn't had a say in the matter, which empowered her somewhat, knowing that she didn't have to rely on his approval to make a good decision. Warm brown eyes glanced over at Roman's features, confirming her thoughts that it was a good decision.

-----

Joan nodded seriously at Alice's words, "The flowers are beautiful."

A sickening mixture of guilt and elation shot through Henry. He felt guilty over the fact that he knew they could never buy Joan a dress like that, no matter how much of his money he set aside for her. But he felt elated because Alice had indicated that he could call her by her first name, a pleasantry that definitely shifted them toward friendship. Henry wanted to use it as soon as possible but before he could think of something to say Alice was talking again.

He guffawed at the thought of him being a fortune teller. He had only seen one once, when a carnival came into town one summer and the woman was there. She was painted up and wore extravagant clothing in deep yellows and reds, including a strangely shaped hat. But, the fortune she'd read off had been a good laugh and overall a decent experience. His warm eyes found hers, dancing merrily until he noted the blush that ran across her cheeks, as though a simple joke was an unusual thing to cross her pretty lips. This idea made him feel more drawn to her as it was the complete opposite of him and he could almost feel her wanting to come to light, the real her. "I'm not sure I could predict a future that wasn't mine, and even that's difficult. So, I think I'll keep my day job," he said with a grin, softening as he became a bit more serious, "I'll definitely be keepin' it in the back of my mind, because who knows where the world'll take us."

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As Colette took his arm, the brush of her skin against his sent a shiver through him, the best of feelings. A permanent smile sat on his lips as he led her carefully across the street through the crosswalk, heading in the direction of the truck. The mill was a bit too far to walk, it would take too long. The potential this night had was fantastically exciting, his mind reeling with broad ideas of what could happen. Everything he saw run through his head was the best scenarios, he wasn't one to worry about what could go wrong. Colette was one in a million to him and he wanted everything to be perfect. Her quick question made him glance over at her with a mischievous smirk as the neared the truck.

"It wouldn't be special if it wasn't a surprise," he quipped, leading her over to the passenger door and opening it for her. Roman helped her up into the old thing, knowing it probably was the worst thing she had ever set foot in, but he hoped it wouldn't set her opinion on him back ? she had to of known he wasn't no rich folk like herself. Gently shutting the door once she was settled, he went round the front, patting the dirty pale blue hood as he skirted around it. Hopping in, he fired it up, the roar of the engine filling his ear momentarily before he got in gear and headed out of town, opposite the direction of his house. The mill was just two miles up the road, off to the east side by the river. He passed the five minutes with small talk and before they knew it he was pulling down a gravel road, the long winding driveway that led to the mill.

Yet, instead of pulling all the way in to the mill, he parked on the side of the road, a quarter mile away from the building. If you walked straight out in the woods from the road, it was a shortcut to the river bank, shorter than winding down the drive. He killed the engine, hoped out quickly and back over to her door, opening it and holding his hand out her help her down. "Don't forget your vase now," he reminded, the gift crucial to their walk through the woods. There was no way to see it yet through the dense aspens, but there was a meadow a mere hundred feet inside the woods, flourished with the prettiest wildflowers in all of Seabrook. It was a local secret, only known to those who dared venture to the mill and that was very few.

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Alice said nothing in response to what Henry said. After all, she knew exactly where the world would take her. It would take her to school where eventually she would meet a man, maybe at a school function or a dinner party. He would be like Calvin- a few years older, probably in law school, and from a good family. And they would get married and have children- a son who would be named after her husband and a daughter who would be named after his mother. They would live in a big house and summer in a town like Seabrooke. She would be an active member of the Junior League and the DAR. She would play bridge and host dinner parties. The future was laid out quite clearly before her, now she was just waiting for the specific names and dates to be filled in. That?s the way it had always been and Alice couldn?t imagine it any other way.

So, instead of answering, Alice turned her attention back to Joan, ?You?re lucky, you know. You don?t need a dress like this to be pretty. You?re lovely all on your own,? She told her, nodding with the same seriousness that the young girl spoke with. ?And you look like you?re very smart too. That?s much better than just being beautiful and if you weren?t so kind I?m sure I?d be terribly jealous of you, Joan.? Alice wasn?t quite sure why she had added this last part. Maybe because she wished someone had said that to her when she was Joan?s age. Because maybe if someone had told her that she was something other than beautiful, she might have believed them and she might have actually become something more than a pretty thing to look at.

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She didn't press the issue at his response, already acutely aware that she would love it. Colette thanked him when he helped her into the truck. hardly worrying about the state of it. Her fondness for Roman swelled when he patted the hood of the car, not many boys she knew would take the time. The small talk passed easily between the two as they drove, her warm eyes only leaving him when she occasionally glanced around to see where they were going. She noted that they were getting farther from town, which was hardly bothersome to her, she felt safe with him, even if he was a stranger.

The vase had spent the entire ride clasped neatly in her lap and she only released it with one of her hands to accept his. The callouses on his hand were the same as she remembered, a welcome change to the smooth, forgettable hands of the boys that had come before him and the warmth that radiated through her even more so. She said another quiet thanks as her feet touched the ground, her hand slowly, reluctantly, slipping from his and settling back around the vase.

Colette took a moment to take in her surroundings, her eyes wide with interest as she tried to take in, and memorize, every detail. They were on a gravel drive, though she couldn't see what it lead up to, and they were surrounded by trees. She glanced back toward him after a moment, somewhat confused by what they could possibly be doing in the woods, but the eager glance in his face soothed the confusion, replacing it with excitement. She was thankful that she'd selected a pair of wedges as they didn't sink into the soft ground and would help her keep her balance if they were hiking very far."What are we doing here?" she asked, her curiosity getting the best of her.

-----

Joan's features lit up as Alice focused on her, her words making a wide smile cross her face. Her features weren't delicate and beautiful like Alice's but rather angular and maybe a little hard, with thick eyebrows, her softest feature was probably the honey eyes, which almost seemed out of place. She tugged her long, wavy, black hair over her shoulder, glancing at Henry, who nodded with encouragement before looking back at Alice. Joan wasn't exactly shy, especially after she had met someone once or twice, but she didn't hold conversations with strangers well.

"Jealous?" Joan repeated quietly, as though she'd never heard the term before. She had, of course, but only in the sense that she had experienced it before, not that anyone else had admitted to being jealous of her. "But you're so pretty," she said, her slender fingers resting on the slight hip that was starting to form, "And I betchu you're smart and you're kind. Well, nicer than any of the other gals he's introduced me to." She took another moment assessing the petite girl and then said, rather decidedly, "You should come home with us'n play. It's game night."

Henry turned a light pink when Joan mentioned other broads, not that Alice probably cared, but still. Especially when nothing had been wrong with them, not that they were even close to being Alice, but they weren't awful. The pink darkened slightly, his gaze quickly shooting to Alice before turning to Joan. His tone was gentle, but firm, "Joanie, I'm sure Mi - Alice has plans for the evening." Joan looked away from the older girl at her brother's voice, "But it's my turn ta pick. And Alice would like Candyland," her eyes swept back to Alice, "Have ya played before?" Henry's glance was apologetic as he looked at Alice, though anticipation swelled inside of him. It wasn't ideal, his family was a little, crazy, especially during game night and they would probably look absolutely ridiculous to her, but it meant spending more time with her.

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Her petite hand, soft as velvet on his made his adoration of her rise, just another small thing on a list of many that compelled him to pursue her. As it fell away, his smile flickered away, like a candle caught in a passing wind, but as he watched her hold tightly on the blue vase he had bought her, a passionate smile resumed it place, reveling in the fact that she seemed so attached to the gift. Roman already felt like there was no way he could fancy her any more than he already did, but her innocent curiosity cancelled that thought. His eyes had been fixed on her completely since she had come out of the car, finding it impossible to look at anything else. The wide look in her eye as she took in the scenery, somewhat like a child at their first candy store, had him completely fixated. It was a moment before he realized she was waiting for him to answer her question and it left him in the snap of a moment when someone catches you watching them ? embarrassed. He just shrugged it off, giving a huff of a laugh, rubbing his neck in the way that people caught in a sticky situation did before responding.

"Spare one minute, by then you'll know," he replied, smirking. One hand found it's way to the small of her back, the other gesturing forward to the woods directly in front of them. "This way," he beckoned, a bit showman like. He led her gently through the woods, keeping an eye on the brush at her feet, making sure he wasn't leading her directly into a difficult path. It took just over a minute for the trees to start to scatter, parting ways to the expansive, lush meadow, gleaming in the late afternoon light. There were wildflowers of almost any color imaginable, pink, purple, orange, red, any color nature could offer. It almost looked unreal, the way the green grass glittered in the sunlight, the flowers swaying in the breeze. The meadow was almost perfectly round, no more than two hundred feet in diameter. It was quaint, beautiful and breathtaking. Even Roman found himself a bit in awe of it.

"For your picking pleasure, Miss Colette," Roman nearly cooed, his voice soft and light, after he let the sight settle between them. His eyes bounced to hers quickly, wanting to see every reaction that crossed her face.

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?Thank you,? Alice replied softly. Joan didn?t know her at all and if she didn?t she surely wouldn?t be so kind or sympathetic, but she appreciated the girl?s words all the same. She watched curiously as Henry turned pink at the mention of other girls. She wasn?t sure why. Of course he was dating. She knew she wasn?t the only person who had to start thinking about things like marriage and family. And he was handsome and sweet and certainly quite a catch, for another girl, of course.

At the mention of game night, and Candyland, Alice?s brow furrowed in confusion. It lasted only a moment though, because she had been reminded countless times not to crease her forehead so unless she wanted to wrinkle prematurely. ?I?m afraid I haven?t,? She answered. The game had only recently been released but that made no difference. Alice had grown up in a house full of adults. She was the youngest Monroe by several years and, somehow, she had never learned how to be a child. Never having played any games, Alice glanced hesitantly towards Henry, ?Do you think so? Would I like it??

She wasn't sure why she looked to Henry for reassurance. Their friendship, if you could even call it that, could be summed up in a short paragraph or shown in a movie reel lasting only a few short minutes. He didn't know her at all. And yet, somehow, Alice felt that he knew her better than anyone else she knew.

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She grinned when it took him a moment to respond to her question, his embarrassment endearing and humorous to her. Colette was even more thrilled when he refused to give into her repetitive questions. She appreciated the fact that he didn't seem to want to take his eyes off of her, if she wasn't so intrigued by her surroundings she was pretty positive she would be doing the same thing. Her heartbeat quickened when his fingers pressed into the small of her back and she followed him, eager to find out what they were doing. She had been trained to not glance at her feet while walking and maintained her composure, trusting Roman to lead her on a clear path. The woods thinned quickly, the last rays of afternoon sun stretching across the opening.

A gasp escaped her lips when she got a full view of the meadow. The flowers were absolutely breath-taking. She was stunned by the beauty of it, especially in the vibrant evening colors that gracefully heightened the allure of the meadow. Colette's eyes widened, melting with the warmth of the view. She very nearly missed what he was saying, too enraptured by the scenery to comprehend much else. Her eyes glanced between him and the meadow, shaking her head slightly, resting her hand on his bicep as she leaned toward him.

"I couldn't," she said earnestly, her voice soft and light, "I would ruin its beauty." Colette was being completely serious. She was sure that her picking the flowers would somehow distort the meadow, that the flowers would never grow back. Which was absurd, she knew in reality they would. But she also hated the idea of taking something so wild and capturing it in a vase.

-----

Henry was quietly observing Alice with his earnest gaze, trying to decide how she was going to respond before she actually did. Learning her mannerisms was probably his best way of getting to know her. He wanted to learn when she was going to lie to him or try and hide something from him before she actually did it. Her furrowed brow, which she quickly whisked away, was not lost on him. But he was surprised when she asked him whether or not she would like the game. At the same time, he was pleased, it meant that she wanted him to get to know her.

He shrugged, not wanting to lie to her. "We've only played it a couple of times," he said honestly, clapping his hands over his sister's ears in a teasing way as he lowered his voice, "We don't let Joanie do the pickin' very often." He released his sister who was giggling in his hold. Henry studied Alice for another moment, the serious way she debated playing a game made him continue quickly though, "But I think ya'd like it, yeah."

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Roman felt a bit smug as he watched her reaction, proud of his achievement of putting her in complete awe. The sight was enough to make anyone's jaw drop, but he only cared about making Colette's drop. There was that calm moment where they both took in the view, just enjoying each other company in the beautiful place. Her soft hand on his arm, made his eyes glance down, the sensation and sight making him grin just a hair more. He wanted to just envelop her in his arms, hold her tight to his chest, feel her soft breath on his skin and smell her sweet head. He knew he couldn't do that, not yet, they barely knew each other and it was on the first date, but already he felt the need to hold her. It was her swift comment that snapped the pleasant thoughts.

She what? She couldn't pick the flowers? It was the simplest idea yet he could not understand it. How could she say no? He thought every woman would jump at the opportunity to pick wildflowers in a beautiful meadow like this. Her reasoning was fair, but still outlandish in his mind. At first he was almost shocked, but then he held a bemused smirk and looked down into her warm brown eyes.

"Just think of it as you're borrowing the flowers, borrowing their beauty," he suggested, trying to make it sound as justly as he could. He already thought picking them were fine, but if Colette needed convincing, he'd do it 'til he turned blue.

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Alice watched the easy and playful way that Henry interacted with his sister. Both siblings seemed to be so happy and full of life that it almost seemed infectious. She felt lighter, just from being near them, like the corners of her mouth might creep upwards at any minute. And to be around the whole family, because surely they would be just as fun, imagine how much of that might rub off on her!

With all this in mind, it was quite easy for Alice to make her decision. ?Okay,? She nodded, surprised by her own decisiveness. Not wanting Henry to think her too forward or rude, she quickly added, ?As long as you?re quite certain that no one will mind having an extra person. It?s awfully last minute and I?d hate to be a bother.? Alice knew her mother hated having last minute guests, and their house was always kept in impeccable condition. She hoped his mother would be all right with her being there.

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Colette never moved her attention from his eyes, until she saw the less than positive reaction and lowered her gaze to his nose, expecting some sort of rebuke. Instead his tone was gentle and his suggestion valid. She knew how ridiculous the feelings that had initially overwhelmed her. They were just silly flowers. It had probably just been the shock of seeing something so lovely that had made her say that. Her hand slipped down his arm, finding his fingers, a playful grin crossing her features as she tilted her chin and gently tugged on the ends of his fingers before stepping out of his reach. "You have to help then," she said decidedly, making sure that he was following her before she turned all the way around to walk into the meadow.

Between the grass and the weeds that ran rampant between the wildflowers, the vegetation danced up almost to her knees. She glanced down at the fingers, bending over slightly to take in the fragrance. It was delicious. Colette turned back to find him, a wide, happy smile on her face, "How did you find this place?" she called out to him. It was probably silly, he had lived there his entire life, it was probably a well known secret throughout the town. But she wanted the story of how he'd found it, if it'd been with a friend - or with another girl. She squatted down in front of a cluster of barely bloomed, pale yellow flowers. Her second favorite color.

-----

"Ah nah, Ma will love it," he said honestly. His mother was used to Roman joining them unexpectedly and was always prepared with plenty of extra food and love. She always welcomed everyone openly. His father and brother wouldn't care one way or the other, they'd be friendly, but they'd be more interested in finding out whether she was any competition. He stuck his hands in his pockets as Joan grabbed for Alice's hand, eager to lead her to their house. Henry walked quietly behind them as Joan rambled on and on about the finer points of the game.

Henry knew Alice didn't have any interest in him, but he also knew that the house she was about to walk into was probably the size of her front entrance. He moved a little faster so that he was walking beside Alice, though he stayed quiet until they approached the house. Embarrassment wasn't the right word for what he was feeling, he knew where he came from, he was proud of his parents, of his roots. It was more anxiety, he was anxious that she would instantly write him off - if she hadn't already - once he saw what meager means he truly came from.

"Home sweet home," he said with a grin, quickly moving up the stairs so he could hold the screen door open for the two of them. Inside the house was small, but not cramped. It was comfortably lived in, warm and inviting. "Ma?" he called through the house, leading the way though he already knew they would be in the back right room, where the big table was; it was where they always played. "This is Alice," he said, finishing introductions quickly.

His mother, elegant looking beyond her class, rose from her chair instantly walking toward Alice, she wrapped her in a warm, motherly hug, not giving her the time to protest. She pulled back with a friendly smile, her pale grey eyes warm and happy. "Well hey honey! Aren't you just darlin'. Come on in. You're a brave gal for comin' on game night," she said, her voice sweet and warm. She directed the girl into a chair on the outside, his father and Paul greeted her just as kindly, but they were already in game mode. Henry took the seat across from, wishing he'd taken the time to apologize in advance as they set up the game.

Edited by ClassicCrime

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