I slept well, and woke with the sun. Then I smiled. My hair tumbled playfully as I sat up on Ed and Edna’s bed, and my head didn’t hurt at all. That meant Bill was close. That is why I smiled. I deeply wanted that, Bill close. And I reminded myself that, now, this was my bed, not Ed and Edna’s bed. I smiled again. Sleeping here was much nicer than sleeping on that old couch. Of course, I could only wonder how well Bill slept… on my couch… But, when I realized I was smiling, that made me smile even more! I thought I might be a mess today…

Still, I got up as quietly as I could. I already had work clothes on, so I walked to the door, and opened it slowly. Bill was still asleep on my couch, covered mostly by my sheet. I smiled even bigger, but tried to calm down. I walked slowly up to the edge of the couch, knelt down near his shoulders, and gently kissed his cheek. He smiled in his sleep, so I did it again. He smiled again. I kissed him again, then he started crying… He was reaching out, as if trying frantically to catch some elusive thing… I quickly wrapped my arms around his back, hugged him tight, and cried with him. “Bill, I’m right here…” I said this a few times.

Once he felt me there, maybe heard me, he calmed down. The first words he said “Thank you, Maude… Mornings have been excruciating for me for as long as I can remember… It really means a lot to have you near.” That just made me cry buckets, so he did too. Well, we needed to go to work, to the Diner, so we worked together on calming down. Maybe we would both be a mess today, I don’t know.

Bill was still mostly covered by a sheet, but I knew he didn’t have a shirt on, so I rummaged around in my clean laundry to try to find him a dark blue t-shirt, my uniform. Well, I found one, but realized it probably wouldn’t fit Bill’s larger frame very well. We had more at the Diner, I would have to look there. Bill asked that I go back into my bedroom and close the door, and he would get up and get dressed. I didn’t like going back into my room, but Bill didn’t take long. And Bill knocked on my door and waited for me to answer before he came in. Then he led us both back into my bathroom. He brushed both our hair, then we took turns brushing our teeth. I told him I had to try that out, and I gave him a kiss on the cheek. He just laughed. “Well, stay away from the men at the Diner” he said, half serious. I don’t think he worried about me, just what they might do. I sighed. I was so glad Bill was coming with me to the Diner today. I hugged him for that. I didn’t think I needed to explain.

But I did think that I should put the twine back in my hair, and pull it back like I usually do. I mentioned that to Bill. He momentarily frowned, then actually put a piece of twine in for me. I just sighed. “Oh, Bill, it will come out on the way home. Maybe it is a part of my job…”

“Maude, you are so beautiful either way” Bill answered quietly, seriously. “Maybe that was why I never left saturday night” he added slowly. We hugged again a few minutes. Bill needed that. Maybe I rescued him too, from that, from his plans that evening…

I locked the front door, and we were soon on our way, walking to the Diner. We were a little early, and I… We could walk slow now. Before too long, I was trying to catch Bill’s hand while we walked. Once he realized what I was trying to do, he just reached one of his arms around me, and pulled me close. We walked slowly like that for a minute maybe. Bill was thinking, then he softly said this. “Maude, are we taking this too fast? I mean… Be sure and tell me if I do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable…” My answer? I stopped him, turned him to face me, wrapped both arms around his neck, hugged him tightly (he quickly was hugging me too), then I sighed loudly. Then we started walking again.

We had not walked very far. “Maude, why are you doing this? I mean, ok, so maybe I am handsome to you. But I have spent the last year just trying to help other people, only to get stepped on or ignored. Then I met you, and… Now, you say you don’t ever want to go back. I don’t either but…” I am pretty sure Bill just couldn’t go on. We had been walking, but when Bill couldn’t continue, he stopped walking too.

But I honestly didn’t have to think much. With one arm tightly around his back, I looked at him, and I quietly said this. “Bill, for as long as I can remember, you are the first man I have met who was thinking only about me… Salesmorons have been working hard to just get me in bed with them, even though they would leave the next morning like it never happened. And, aside from the fact that you let me cry out many hours of pain on your chest, and you even cried with me, last night you just served me… You brushed my hair for over an hour, and again, this morning. I felt so cherished just from that. Bill, you…” ok, so I couldn’t go on, couldn’t remind him about the rattler even, and started crying quietly. I keenly felt everything I said. He pulled me close, and we just hugged for a minute or two there on the road.

“Well, I don’t understand it, and I don’t think for a second I deserve you… You really are so beautiful. But I think I really need you… You are like an angel to me or something…” Bill said this softly in my ear as we hugged.

I answered softly back “Bill, I feel exactly the same way…” We both sighed deeply, then started walking again, hugging tightly, of course. Right then, I remembered what Kacey and Tina had said about me last christmas when I stayed at their house. Well, they said I was very beautiful then, but I… It didn’t stick. But, hearing those words from Bill; I knew he honestly meant it. I really didn’t think he was capable of lying. And, on top of that, I felt exactly like he did. Bill was so amazingly handsome to me… I didn’t understand how all this happened, and so blindingly quick… But I absolutely knew, beyond any shadow of doubt, that I needed this man so much… For a few minutes, it was all I could do to avoid grabbing his t-shirt and crying buckets on his chest again…

A few minutes later, well, we had to talk about this. “Bill, I am anticipating that you actually want to help at the Diner, and not just sit there all day…” I got that much out, stopped, and just smiled, although I doubt Bill saw. I could easily guess his reply.

Bill pulled me a little closer, then said firmly “Absolutely. Watching you saturday… Maude, you are working yourself to the bone…”

Well, first I smiled again that Bill was even watching me that day. Then I asked him this. “Well, what ways do you think you would like to help? I think we should leave the cook alone to do his stuff, and I should probably continue doing the waitress things. I think that leaves cleaning chores, cleaning the tables, washing the dishes, things like that.”

Bill again answered as I expected. “Maude, that sounds fine. I will help you any way I can. I will do anything you tell me to do, even if it means washing toilets every hour.” The way he said it, he really meant that. Bill clearly didn’t mind such disgusting tasks…

But I also remembered that I didn’t, couldn’t clean the bathrooms last night because that moron was there, and I am sure he would have… given the chance… And I didn’t want to take any chances last night. “Well, you probably should clean both bathrooms first thing. I usually do that every night before I leave, but last night…” Well, that salesmoron really scared me, and I couldn’t finish, and started crying softly.

I think Bill understood immediately. He hugged me tightly as we walked. “Maude, I will be delighted to thoroughly clean both bathrooms as soon as we get there, and any other time during the day that becomes necessary.” I knew that is exactly what he would do, and he would smile the whole time.

I just had to say it again… “Thank you, Bill…” But my sniffling slowly tapered off; we were almost to the Diner anyway.

The cook arrived at the same time we did, gasped slightly at Bill (we were hugging still), then was polite as I introduced Bill to him. Bill jumped in himself, mentioned that he was probably on cleaning detail, and that the cook should let him know if he needed any cleaning chores done. Like I said, the cook seemed cool, but he was polite. He went in the back door, as Bill and I went around to the front door, and I let us both in. I showed Bill where the cleaning stuff was for the bathroom, then walked off, and got everything else ready. Within ten minutes, we had three tables going. An hour later, we needed fans and windows and shades carefully adjusted. But… Bill took that over right away. Well, he jumped into cleaning right away too. I had already put the chairs down, but he carefully washed all of the tables again. By that time, we were buried in the lunch rush.

Of course, having Bill around, doing all the cleaning, that made my job so much easier. I could actually focus on taking orders, getting the meals going with the cook, and actually taking people their food. I could walk slower. I think the limiting thing now was how fast the cook could make the food. I told him a few times to take his time, and that I didn’t want him feeling pushed. He just smiled at me and said he was taking his time.

Soon after the lunch rush calmed down, Bill was in the kitchen washing some dishes. As Bill had his hands deep in soapy water, the cook walked over to Bill waving a large, flat cooking knife or something. The cook spoke directly. “Look pal, I don’t know what you are trying to pull, but Maude is a sweet girl. I don’t want some overnight jumper to ruin her life…” I guess the cook ran out of words at that point. He was concerned of course, but he sounded irritated, too. I had just come up to the order up shelf to pick up a meal, heard the cook say that, and saw what was happening. I stopped and listened briefly.

Bill left his hands in the soapy water, but stopped washing dishes. Without looking up, he slowly and calmly said this.

“Maude is an amazing treasure. I have only known her a few days, and I can clearly see that she is easily one in a million…

“Sunday morning, I rescued her from a rattlesnake, ready to strike her… And last night, I rescued her from that disgusting, vile beast who followed her all the way home in his car, and said horrible things to her…

“I will do everything in my power, anything I can, to help her, protect her, to care for her, regardless how much it costs me…

“If my plan was to just ‘get her in bed’ (Bill clearly said this with disgust), I’ve already had a few chances for that… I will never…”

Bill broke down and just cried… Of course, I ran around to the back, into the kitchen, and was quickly hugging him tightly, we were hugging each other tightly, soapy hands and all.

The cook put the big knife down, and said quietly “I’m sorry, I just don’t want to see anything bad happen to such a sweet girl.”

Bill said through his tears “I don’t either…”

Bill and I both calmed down soon enough, but the cook was much more friendly the rest of the day. Of course, it helped that Bill did a number of cleaning chores, and even a few cooking chores for the cook during the dinner rush. I guess Bill realized that helping the cook helped me too.

And Bill and I both munched quietly on leftovers during the day. Well, Bill and I both had some soda. Actually, we shared a cup. I was glad about that for some reason.

At about the middle of the afternoon, I realized that I had paid no attention, either to the fans, shades, or anything like that. And, even though it was hot outside, it wasn’t almost unbearable in the Diner like it usually was when I did it. And I never saw cooking smoke haze… Bill was taking care of all of that, and did a far better job on his first day than I ever did. He said something about prevailing winds that made little sense to me. It didn’t matter. A few of the locals even asked, half seriously, if we got our AC fixed. I didn’t know what AC was, and so I asked Bill. He laughed, then explained it to me. I gave him a kiss for that.

Well, we didn’t kiss or hug much at the Diner, that first day anyway. It just didn’t seem… Except that one of the ladies in town, one of Edna’s friends, Angie, when she saw me, she knew immediately that there had been a major change in my life… or something. She said all she had to do was look at me, and she knew! I almost started crying. Wow, was she right. Well, she wanted to know. I snagged Bill, who was cleaning up a nearby table, and I introduced him to her. We both blushed, I think. I don’t know why, Bill said softly “Watch this…”, then he took a steak knife from a nearby table, and gently cut the twine out of my hair, and guided my hair down over my shoulders. That lady said loudly “Oh my goodness! Maude, you are adorable!” Bill said quietly in my ear “Beautiful…” and I just blushed… and melted… Bill was quickly back to work, cleaning, washing… Much to the enjoyment of the locals, my hair stayed down the rest of the day.

Well, the locals weren’t the only ones who noticed me, who noticed my hair. A few salesmorons did too, but I just told them my fiancee liked my hair like this. Of course, I was talking about Bill. Did I say I was so grateful that he was with me that day? Well, the moron from last night came back again too, in the middle of the dinner rush again. He noticed my hair down right away, and made a LOT of noise about how good that looked. He was loud and obnoxious, just like last night, and making a scene. I was standing right there, wilting under his raving, just trying to get his order on a busy night, and things were just going from bad to worse… Then that moron stood up… I instinctively backed further away…

Bill told me later that it was the cook who sent him out. Bill also told me later that he had a very difficult time controlling himself. Well, it didn’t take long for Bill to realize what was going on, and what needed to happen, really, what I needed. And I am positive Bill recognized the man… There was easily space; Bill walked up, and slid right in front of me, and immediately faced that terrible moron… for me… I backed away, turned, and walked calmly back into the kitchen, and was soon weeping softly. These tears were joy; I think I had my first inkling… I didn’t think I would ever have to deal with a salesmoron by myself again, as long as Bill could help it. Well, right before I went through the swinging doors, I heard Bill say forcefully “NO! You will NOT talk to a lady like that. And only a horrible bully would try to just take from a lady… Sit down.” Bill sounded a little upset; that made me smile. The moron slowly sat back down. Again, I think Bill’s presence really surprised him, and what Bill said… After maybe a very quiet minute in the whole Diner, Bill asked calmly “What would you like to order?”

Before that man could even answer, the ENTIRE diner, everyone in the Diner, erupted into thunderous applause. Most had been watching this already, and I think a few wives were about to get their husbands off their duff, one of the ladies said. Bill took care of all of that. Bill took care of… me… Then everyone started clapping. Embarrassed, the yelling vile salesmoron got up quickly and left. We never saw him again. But I think Bill sensed a little more what needed to happen. Once the moron was gone, Bill asked me to come back out. Then he asked me to introduce him to the rest of the Diner, to everyone in the rest of the Diner. I don’t know why, but I picked up a fork, and tapped a glass briefly, to get everyone’s attention. Well, Bill and I had that already! And I was crying by the time I was done introducing Bill as the most important thing in my life. Bill and I, we were hugging and crying. The folks at the Diner erupted in applause again. I guess it was clear to everyone else what was going on, both before and now. This is a small town, and word travels quickly. I think Bill got the approval of the townspeople that night. And nobody else ever questioned his devotion to me.

I don’t know why, but locals stayed much later than usual that night, and on a weeknight, no less. Maybe Bill and I gave them plenty to talk about. After the last local left, Bill told me he would do all the cleaning. I guess he had already helped the cook with his cleaning, and the cook was almost done. I had other stuff to do, but not a lot. The cook said good night and left before I was done with what little housekeeping I had yet to do. So I watched ‘my fiencee’ do my cleaning for me, and sighed a lot as he worked. I followed him around as he moved from room to room. I don’t know, I just liked being around him. Boy, I guess that is an understatement, I think that is the word.

We walked home together, under the light of a high, full moon. We walked slow, both because Bill was on the lookout for snakes, and because, well, I think we both felt better, inside, when we hugged. Well, I had never felt so cherished, so cared for as this man had done, for as long as I could remember, even if that wasn’t very long. I didn’t want it to end… ever… Then we sat on the porch for a while when we got home. Bill had me curl up against him in his lap, as he leaned against the wall. I didn’t want that to ever end either! He wrapped his arms around me again and we both cried softly. I think Bill was right. We needed each other, a lot.

And, while sitting there in his lap… And I know I reverted to that scared little girl as I said this. Well, what Bill had said this morning… From the bottom of my heart I absolutely knew I… Bill needed to understand this. Saying this was hard, and I was near tears before I even began… “Bill, what you said this morning… about how you look… to me… I… Bill, I’m… I don’t want you to think I am putting up…” I lost my way, so I just said what was in my heart. “Oh, my goodness Bill, you are so amazingly handsome to me… Please know that I honestly feel that way…” Then I did cry…

Bill did too. While crying, he said slowly “I am honestly amazed, but… Maude, I don’t think it is within you to ever lie. I consider that an amazing compliment. I will never question your feelings about that again.” Well, that was my only goal, and Bill realized that immediately. Then Bill added this. “And, please… Maude, you are so amazingly beautiful to me, too… How did I ever…” Then Bill cried pretty hard. We cried together for a while…

We did finally go inside. After Bill brushed our hair, and we both brushed our teeth, I had Bill sit on the end of Ed and Edna’s, well now it was my bed. I pulled a small box out of one of the drawers, one of Edna’s drawers in her closet. Inside that little box was two silver looking rings. I showed them to Bill, and said hesitantly “Bill… I think… Well, it might keep the salesmorons away of we wore these rings… I told everyone today you are my fiancee, and I think that helped, but…” Well, I just wasn’t sure what to say after that.

I thought at first that I had actually upset Bill, because he was quickly working hard at not crying. He took the smaller of the two rings in his hand, then got up and knelt down facing me. His blue eyes met mine, and he gently picked up my left hand. “Precious, priceless Maude, most amazing woman in the universe, will you marry me?”

Even with Bill looking up at me, and near tears, it still took longer than it should have, for me to realize that Bill had just asked me to marry him. But I was soon crying buckets, shouting “Yes! Yes!” as he put that small ring on my finger. Next, I clumsily pushed the larger ring on his finger; because of my tears I couldn’t see very well. Then I jumped off the bed, on top of him, and he rolled us onto our sides, and we hugged and cried together right there for a long time… I didn’t want this to ever end… I just wanted Bill… And my head didn’t hurt at all for any of this… We hugged and cried together there on the floor for a while. We didn’t move, we didn’t want to move. Maybe we couldn’t move. I… Never in my wildest dreams… We cried together, hugging for over an hour easily.

Well, we did need to work tomorrow. Still, it was clear that tonight was a very special night for us. Neither of us wanted to be away from the other, and we both doubted that would change any time soon. Bill told me to stay right where I was. He got up long enough to grab two pillows from Ed and Edna’s, well from my bed, and he put them down on the carpet right where we were. It was a warmish night anyway (summers are like that), and we both hugged a lot and kissed some, well, as long as we wanted. We didn’t kiss on the lips just yet. Bill said he felt a little old fashioned in that regard, and he hoped I wouldn’t mind. I didn’t mind at all, just being around this man was amazing to me!

We woke up the next morning, still dressed of course, there on the carpet, with our heads on the same pillow. At some point in the middle of the night, I had rolled over to face the other way. When I woke up, Bill’s arm was around me, and he had pulled me closer to him. We had slept most of the night like that. And, as soon as I was awake… I was greeted by a different song weaving slowly, quietly through my thoughts(2). I don’t even know why I even hear that… It didn’t sound exactly like a song though, well maybe… It was a welcomed change. It was hard to avoid crying just because of that…

Still, Bill was already awake when I woke up. I just sighed loudly, and moved a little closer to him.

“I love you, Maude… I love you so much…” Bill said this softly in my ear. I knew he was holding back tears… I knew he meant it… That was the first… I… can’t remember anyone ever saying that to me before… that really meant it… that had so clearly showed me he really meant it… That… I just cried like a baby… We both did…

————————-

1. Maude: Meanderings is copyright 2017 by Shysage.

2. “Angelic” from the “Exodus” CD copyright by Andy Hunter. Please purchase this tune, and play it in the background as you read.

 

 

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