General Fiction posted September 8, 2014 Chapters: Prologue 1 -2- 3... 

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Dinner at Delaneys

A chapter in the book FRIDAYS

Friday, August 25th

by Fridayauthor

Reclusive Lucille Peabody is freed from caring for an ailing mother. She is maneuvered into a relationship she is unable to politely escape as she accounts her thoughts and feelings in a journal.
            Friday Number Two, August 25th
            It is Friday, just before midnight, and I'm sitting in my living room, and, in spite of the heat, trying to settle myself with a cup of hot chocolate before traipsing off to bed. Settling Lucille Peabody is no simple chore after the past week. I am a bundle of nerves. I have taken up this journal to give my fingers something to do before I pick my nails to the bloody quick. I suppose, as usual, I'm also writing out of a sense of guilt. It has been a full week since I've penned any jewels of wisdom to these pages and Father Hammond inquired again last Sunday of my literary progress. Before I chronicle the highlights, I’ll dismiss the mundane.
            Monday and Tuesday were spent unpacking and cataloging books, long boxed away in my crowded basement, and stacking them willy-nilly about the living room. They will go on the new shelves in my parent's room, as soon as I bring myself around to the postponed chore of cleaning out the quarters. As a teenager I worked in the city library and the habits of order have plagued me ever since. In my robot-mind I must sort to author, content, etc. before I'm satisfied with my small library. In between time I tended my garden and even managed a walk or two along the ocean. On Wednesday eve I followed my usual routine and attended the Ladies Alter Society meeting at our church.
            I call my fellow members of the society the hens. The hens are all much older than I, but I continue to attend their biweekly Wednesday night meetings though we have little in common and they consider me more their child than a peer. I've heard them refer to me as Mildred's daughter when they didn't realize my ears were perked to their comments. I sit in a corner, the quietest hen in the chicken coop. My membership is automatic as I’ve attended for years, first with my mother and then, when she fell ill, as her surrogate. My sole reason to be there may be a deep seeded need to periodically expose myself to conversation above the seven-year-old, second grade, level.
            I should be involved with women my age but those in other church groups are mostly concerned with the religious education of their children, and of course, I have none. Besides, the hens usually demand little by way of conversational participation on my part. An occasional smile or nod is sufficient. Little religious business is conducted other than assignment of mandatory functions such as preparation of the church linens and periodic altar and sacristy maintenance. My prime responsibility, aside from filling a seat on the scheduled Wednesday evenings, is supplying flowers in season, which I do with pleasure.
            The ladies are kind hearted souls and quite generous, although at times they are prone to cattiness. They have been particularly kind to me these past weeks, assuming I remain in deep mourning over the loss of my mother. I accept the hen’s solicitude in silence. It gives me a respite from their questions and their attempts to draw me into conversation.
            Their questions came in droves after my little bus vacation, as the hens were anxious to hear of shy Lucille’s venture into the outside world. I was tongue-tied to offer more than minimum responses.
            At first I thought it a coincidence that this week the hens began discussing Mr. Anderson shortly after I arrived. Then I remembered hen Agnes McNaught had seen me alight from his car at church last Friday evening. Still, I said nothing, allowing the ladies to believe I thought my secret safe. Although I felt pangs of guilt listening to their chatter, I learned much about the gentleman with whom I had reluctantly scheduled dinner.
            Mr. Anderson has been a widower for fifteen years, a fact I generally knew. His wife Ethel died of cancer, leaving him to raise two children, Philip, Jr. and Becky, both now living away from home. Becky was recently married and her brother will be finishing college in Michigan next June. There appears to be no recorded instance of Mr. Anderson seeking female companionship in any form since his wife's passing. This fact was put forth by Miss Emily Baker, with a quick side glance in my direction.
            Anderson's Sporting Goods is an institution in Sea View, started by Mr. Anderson's grandfather, and nearly ruined by his father who was prone to drink, as the ladies describe it. The present Mr. Anderson was both a scholar and fine athlete in high school but he failed to further his education at the college level. The hens gave him high marks for raising two children practically unassisted after his wife's passing. I should have felt proud he had chosen me as his coming-out companion, but I was far too nervous to feel anything but acute trepidation.
            I’ve experienced waves of nausea for most of the week, every time I thought of how I had subjected myself to Friday night dinners. My head ached from Amy screaming in my ear how silly I am to be concerned with something so trivial. I know she's right as usual but it didn't help to keep my meals on the proper digestive path.
            Social graces escape me; I am totally inept at which fork to use, how to make small talk and what is considered appropriate conversation. I quake at the thought of barging in a door before it is held for me or waiting for the holder who never moves. The few times I've dined with strangers at school functions, I've dreaded making a fool of myself, passed up soup for fear of slurping, salad for choice of dressing or desert for looking like a pig.
            My mind has been as cluttered as my house with questions of why this man chose me as a weekly companion. Did Father Hammond have a hand in it? I blanched at the idea my parish priest might think me so poor and lonely a waif as to force an embarrassed widower to waste his Friday nights in my company!
            Friday began with a trip to the drugstore for the ingredients to perm my hair. The chore took hours to complete. I never visit a beauty shop, even cutting my own hair, as my mother had done before me. The project took most of the day; that and trying to decide what to wear. I kept telling myself I wasn't Cinderella going to the ball; our destination was Delaneys, The Family Restaurant, and a simple platonic meal. There was no one to impress. In my heart didn't I hope Mr. Anderson wouldn't be impressed and cut off the whole business after one embarrassing session?
            I dress to please myself these days, although most of my wardrobe is purchased with my school position in mind. I don't suppose I'm in style, but then, I never have been. Growing up, no one showed me how and I pay scant attention observing what the rest of the world is wearing.
            My sister Emily telephoned on Friday afternoon. I chatted with my hair in rollers. I would love to have sought her advice on dress. However, I dared not tell her of my evening's activities for fear she'd hop in her car, drive all night to Sea View, and tie us both in bed until we produced a bevy of nieces and nephews! Emily's pet peeve in life is my failure to produce scores of tiny relatives for her pleasure.
            My sister has always looked like Vogue cover model without effort, while I dress like a refugee waif from a famine-starved country. She is taller with a model's figure and takes care to dress in style. If asked to describe myself, the only word that comes to mind is ordinary. But my Friday conversation with Emily was restricted to trivial things and my opportunity for fashion consultation quickly passed.
            As usual, I was ready nearly an hour ahead of time, thus having to endure more misery until my escort arrived, which he did, promptly at the prearranged time of six o'clock.
            The ten minute ride to Delaney's Restaurant produced the minimum of compliments on appearance and comments on the weather. It was obvious we were both quite uncomfortable. Mr. Anderson looked very nice; grey suit, maroon tie and polished shoes. He even wore a subtle scent of after shave. I continued to wonder why he was doing this; escorting shy Lucille Peabody. Surely if he wanted female companionship, there were far more attractive candidates than I. He must have suspected my capacity for casual conversation was as on a par with a Trappist monk. If the hens were correct, this was his first social venture in years. I found myself curious in spite of my discomfort.
            During the first twenty minutes of the meal, the waiter had more to say than either of us. Finally, between salad and the main course of meat loaf and mashed potatoes, Mr. Anderson broke the silence.
            “I don't mean to make you uncomfortable, but I'm sort of shy by nature. I figured you were a lot like me and together we could perhaps help each other out.” He looked down at his bread plate, like a young Lindbergh. I was stunned. Here was this handsome man, admitting his shortcomings to me, who had far less social grace than the dinner roll he began to butter. As usual, I didn't have a clue how to respond. He continued.
          “That's why I asked you out for more than just one Friday evening. I figured we'd have such a rotten time tonight you'd never agree to do it again.” He smiled and I couldn't help myself; I laughed out loud.
            His candid comment broke the ice. No, we didn't enter into a rattle of comfortable chatter, but we seemed to sense there was camaraderie between us and we needed each other's assistance to make the evening bearable. We talked, at least a little. He too liked books, mysteries, but more the detective-police genre than the British manor house tales I favor. He spoke briefly of his children and I could tell he missed them very much. I spoke of Emily, and a little of my school. After the meal, we both agreed to a movie, I believe we realized we wouldn't have to talk for the two hours.
            After the show we had coffee, something I never drink that late in the evening but I was too obliging to decline. We discussed the movie. He tended to look at the show purely as entertainment while I secretly analyzed it in detail, but we both enjoyed it in our own way. He held my arm while I climbed into his car but that was the extent of our physical contact. When he walked me to the door and said good night after reaffirming the following Friday engagement, I let out a sigh of relief. I had made it through the evening without blunder. It was almost fun.

Earned A Seal Of Quality

This is Lucille Peabody's story, from her point of view. While her life is unexciting, I feel she has something to say as we learn more about her as a person, and how she became what we see.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

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