General Fiction posted September 7, 2014 Chapters: Prologue Prologue -1- 2... 


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Meet Mr. Anderson

A chapter in the book FRIDAYS

FRIDAY, AUG 18th

by Fridayauthor




Background
Reclusive Lucille Peabody, is freed from caring for her ailing mother. She journals her thoughts and daily life as she is maneuvered into a relationship she is unable to politely escape.
Friday Number One, August 18th
    
     A week has passed since I've taken time to pen words in this journal, but the volume has stared at me from my night table until I feel compelled to make some entry. Besides, last Sunday Father Hammond asked if I was making progress in my writing and I answered affirmatively. So here I am, making an honest person of my lazy self.
 
     I don’t mean to say the past seven days floated by in a sea of idleness. The carpenters continue to rumble with hammer and saw, to the accompaniment of loud and undecipherable music from a paint-splattered boom-box that has a coat hanger for use as an antenna. But I don't mind the noise and confusion. They speak of progress toward the emergence of my new world! And there are no demands on me to do anything, but sit back and watch the progress, occasionally nodding in agreement. I've even authorized work in mother and father's room where newly erected bookcases now line the walls from floor to ceiling; walls previously decorated with pictures of ancient relatives and long departed saints. Two coats of oil based paint displace the smells of death and disinfectant. Much work remains before the room is to my liking, but it is vastly improved now that my parent’s ancient bed is stacked against the wall, ready for removal.
 
     I plan to place a table in the center of the room where I can correct my school papers in peace and good light. I visualize a soft corner chair for reading. I have no need for a spare bedroom and if, perchance, my sister Emily comes to town, one of us will use my new sofa. I will fill the book shelves at my leisure from the scores of volumes packed away throughout the house and garage. The one remaining chore is to cast away the last remnants of my parents by cleaning out the dresser drawers and closet, as soon as I build up my courage.
 
     This week was not absent problems. What some would call a mild annoyance, to me was a worrisome ordeal. Mr. Anderson called and asked me to dinner; not once but twice. Usually, when an infrequent invitation of this type occurs, a simple no is sufficient discouragement. The offer is seldom repeated. I socialize only when necessity dictates and I’ve successfully avoided any involvement that might be described as dating. Most people who know me realize this and my limited social involvement does not expose me to many strangers, especially of the male gender.
 
      The situation with Mr. Anderson is peculiar. He and I have attended the same church all of our lives and nodded at each other on a thousand Sunday mornings. I was surprised when he called me. We smile in recognition if we pass on the street, if neither manages to look away in time. However, I don't recall we've ever exchanged a single word.
 
     My first declination was simple; I was preparing a class schedule and couldn't spare the time. Mr. Anderson took my rejection cordially, but I was sure he would try again. Mr. Anderson is a nice man, from what I've heard tell over the years, and I had no desire to antagonize him or hurt his feelings. He is a handsome gentleman and I suppose most would consider him the catch of the town though I think he may be nearly as shy as I. Sure enough, my phone rang yesterday afternoon and I'm afraid I made a botch of it.
 
     “Miss Peabody?”
 
     “Yes?”
 
     “Philip Anderson here. How are you?”
 
     Butterflies broke loose. “Just fine, thank you, Mr. Anderson.”
 
     “I was wondering if you'd care for dinner on Friday next week. Nothing special; I thought we could try Delaneys.”
 
     I’m embarrassed to say my heart began to pound. Any reasonable woman would have cheerily said, “I'm sorry Mr. Anderson, but between my garden, my house renovations, and the upcoming start of the school year, I'm far too busy. I appreciate your thinking of me.” What did Lucille Peabody say?
 
     “I'm sorry, but I can't.” I sounded like a stammering child. My dead mind failed to construct a plausible excuse, reasonably conveyed. It's as easy as pie now, with pen and paper and time to think. I should pin a list of excuses next to the phone for just such occasions, so I sound less like a fool.
 
     His response was perfectly sensible. “Why?”
 
     His question shocked me. Why indeed? I might have dropped him a letter of explanation, though the weight of postage would break me, but to answer on the phone? Impossible, at least for me! My reason is far too complicated.
 
     “I don't know,” I mumbled like a dolt. The following silence became unbearable.
 
     Finally he thanked me and murmured something about seeing me in church that evening and terminated the call. I felt miserable and dreaded the evening ahead. It was the feast day of the saint for whom our parish church is named. There is always an evening getogether which us old timers religiously . . . pardon the pun . . . attend. I knew if I appeared I would have to face Mr. Anderson in person, at least across the room. I couldn’t bear to do it. Although I'd be eating the macaroni and cheese I'd cooked for the affair until Labor Day, I resolved to hide in the security of my home. It didn't work out that way.
 
     My doorbell rang shortly before six and there stood Mr. Anderson, in person, a nervous smile on his face.
 
     “I thought I'd stop by and drive you,” he said.
 
     Again, excuses eluded me. “It's only three blocks,” I answered.
 
     “Yes, but you always bring a dish.”
 
     When you're as shy as I am, conversation, as natural as brushing your teeth to everyone else, is a monumental burden to me. All common sense flees away like autumn leaves in a hurricane. I become very irritated with myself but nothing seems to help. Thus stymied, I saw no alternative and found myself in climbing into Mr. Anderson's old Oldsmobile. Mrs. Forsythe peeked out the blinds from across the street as we pulled away from the curb. It was the longest three blocks either of us ever rode.
 
     We had turned the corner of Hawthorne to Adams, riding in silence, when a pickup truck suddenly backed from a driveway, slamming into the side of a Buick two cars ahead of us. The vehicles spun around, blocking the entire street. The drivers jumped out of their vehicles, shouting and arguing vehemently. As we recovered from the shock, I found myself trapped in this stranger's company.
 
     Mr. Anderson finally broke the silence. “I owe you an apology for dropping in on you like that.”
 
     “No, it was . . . thoughtful.”
 
     “No it wasn't. It was rude. I just wanted an opportunity to state my case in person.” He smiled a kindly smile, amid the honking and shouting of the traffic snarl. He looked, not at me, but straight ahead as he spoke. It was almost as if he had rehearsed what he was about to say.
 
     “I think you should reconsider having dinner with me. I have no sinister agenda; I'd enjoy company once in a while; just friends. I've noticed you at church for years and admired the way you conduct yourself.”
 
     “Mr. Anderson, I really . . .” I didn't finish my sentence and he was quiet for a few moments before he spoke.
 
     “I'm not looking for a wife or a fun time or anything like that. I just think to be alone all the time . . . isn't healthy, for either of us.”
 
     Though I disagreed, I couldn't find the words to state my position so I sputtered. “I'm sure, it's just that. . . .” I could have kicked myself for speaking in idiotic half-sentences.
 
     “I'll remain Mr. Anderson and you'll be Miss Peabody. We shall respect each other's lives and wishes and jointly agree to anything we do together. We’ll have dinner and perhaps a movie. That isn't so bad, is it? Bargain?”
 
     I didn't answer. I couldn’t find the words.

     “We can even split the costs.” He smiled, making me feel like a child. How could I say no? I couldn't run away . . . put off the invitation until I'd had time to form a sensible response. We were trapped here together, by a rusty Buick and a pickup truck with no place for me to bury my head and think! And Amy, damn her, was whispering yes in my ear.
 
     I agreed, with little more than a nod. We'd dine, Dutch treat, on Friday evenings, and after, if it suited us, see a movie or a show, if the local community theater was in production. The schedule was established; not just a single Friday, as if Mr. Anderson thereby eliminated the need to duplicate the grueling process of asking me anew each week. Before the snarl of traffic was cleared, I became an unwilling partner to a weekly Friday social schedule. I dreaded making the pact as soon as the deal was sealed.
 
     My macaroni and cheese grew cold in the process.
 


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