General Fiction posted September 12, 2014 Chapters:  ...3 4 -5- 6... 

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Wednesday with her church group, Friday with Mr. Anderson

A chapter in the book FRIDAYS

Friday, Sept. 8th (Part Two)

by Fridayauthor

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     Friday, September 8th  (Part Two.)
     Even Wednesday evening was interesting. The hens have relinquished all other topics of gossip to usurp poor Mr. Anderson to their pulpit agenda. They do not inquire directly about our relationship through some established code of decency. However, they are bursting with curiosity and I firmly believe, at least in their minds, they have published our banns of marriage since I first alighted from his car, cold casserole in hand.
     Why he chose Lucille Peabody remains as much a mystery to me as ever. I continue to wonder if Father Hammond played any part in the choice. I suppose the hens also wonder, unless they know more than I. However, as a result of their clandestine investigations, I am embarrassed to say I too have learned a great deal about my Friday evening escort. This knowledge results from nothing more than passive action on my part.
     Hen Myrtle Toomey seems the best informed of the flock. “My cousin Harriet knew him in high school. Did you know he starred in football, basketball and baseball and a slew of colleges were after him?”
     This the matronly woman reported after Catherine Winter introduced the subject after casually mentioning seeing my gentleman friend in the super market.
     “But he didn’t go, did he?” asked our stalwart leader, Bertha Ryan. Agnes McNaught, who had first seen us together, stole a quick glance at me before answering. I continued to knit, though my effort was designed only for a chore to keep me occupied.
     Agnes nodded her head knowingly. “It was because of Philip's father.”
     “Homer Anderson was as limp as a three-used tea bag,” piped Phoebe Shaw, the most outspoken hen. She added, “And a drunk, if there ever was one.”
     “Phoebe!” cautioned Bertha, but her smile belied her chastisement. “That sounds so harsh. We are in church.”
     Phoebe huffed. “You can call a pot a pan but it still boils water. They would have lost the entire sporting goods business if young Philip hadn’t stepped in. I remember buying a baseball glove for my grandson when senior stocked a wonderful store, before that drunk nearly ran it into the ground. Philip saved his bacon”
     Myrtle reentered the fray. “It cost the poor boy his education. That and Ethel.”
     As if to build the drama, the subject was dropped in favor of a modicum of church business, leaving the mysterious Ethel to imaginations. I worried naught. I knew these ladies couldn’t hold something this tasty meaty from the gossip grinder. Ten minutes later, Agnes resurrected the subject.
     “Poor Ethel Kuklinski, marrying so young.”
     Phoebe gave an as-if-she-had-a-choice harrumph and caught another finger shaking from our moderator. Other hens’ fingers seemed to be counting months. The hens did not come out and say so but they smiled as if to intimate the counted days until the birth of daughter Becky did not equal those necessary to satisfy their socially accepted standards.
     “Pretty healthy baby for a preemie, as I remember,” Agnes said in a lower voice we could all hear clearly.
     Talk segued to fast girls the hens had known back in the day, although they failed to so much as hint at painting Ethel Kuklinski with any red letters.
     “Then cancer got Ethel, just like your mother, Lucille,” Catherine said as she looked directly at me. It was a clear move to draw me into the conversation but I found a particularly intricate stitch in my knitting that demanded my concentration.
     “Give the young man credit, he did the right thing,” said Myrtle. “Raised those two children, all on his own.” She peeked over at me. “And he mourned poor Ethel all these years.” When no response was forthcoming, she continued. “I guess it’s about time he start looking around.”
     Catherine Winter stifled a giggle but failed to contribute. Bertha observed but didn’t comment either. Myrtle took the non response as a rebuke.
     “It’s true!” countered Myrtle, defending her assessment. “My cousin Harriet swears on her rosary Philip Anderson never stopped mourning Ethel, until . . . Well, she thinks he’s a one woman man . . .”

     “One at a time, I suspect,” Phoebe added with a smile.
     The hens' gossip continued to confirm no evidence existed that Mr. Anderson had been anything but as chaste as I since Ethel's passing, or, at the very least, successfully discreet. It was reaffirmed there is no recorded instance of his so much as dating, and if he'd not been previously married with two children, he'd have been thought “peculiar,” the hen’s acceptable term for you-know-what. Rumors must have been rampant in earlier years but now the consensus opines his love of wife Ethel was so overwhelming it broke his heart when she died so young, and thereby making her irreplaceable.
     Mr. Anderson never mentions Ethel, a fact that doesn't bother me a mote.  Whether or not he continues to harbor undying love I do not know. He's given no hint one way or another. Personal topics have not been on our agenda except to chronicle our closer relatives in the most general terms.
     I have come to number our Fridays, commencing with the night Mr. Anderson asked me to dine with him, so most recently we celebrated Friday evening number four. It was a most enjoyable encounter. We again dined at Delaneys and the waiters are beginning to recognize us and smile in acknowledgment. Conversation, though still not candid and easy, is far more pleasant than the first dinner when “Did you enjoy the meat loaf?” was the hight of our repartee.
     This past Friday neither of us was interested in the movie playing at Sea View's one remaining theater so we decide to walk along the beach. The cool weather is starting to slide us into fall but the ocean remains warm from the summer so it is most pleasant to walk the sand this time of year. We must have hiked nearly four miles but neither of us was tired when darkness finally chased us home. He held my hand as we walked and it felt quite natural.
     Lest you think this is the beginning of a blossoming romance, let me put your thoughts to rest. I'm no urchin with nose pressed to the toy store window, drooling after treasures outside my grasping reach. Instead, I remain steadfastly riveted to the secure compact life I have so carefully constructed. I have been shunned by intimacy like an Amish harlot. I am firm in my resolve to hold Mr. Anderson to his promise of a limited friendship. I want nothing further of our relationship than what we’ve developed.
     No, I didn’t ask Amy’s opinion.

Earned A Seal Of Quality

Lucille is age thirty-seven and a near-recluse. Her mother has recently died. Lucille is redoing her lifetime family home in an effort to be rid of the ghosts of the past. A friendly priest has strongly suggested she record her thoughts and feelings in a diary and she is doing so. She has reluctantly accepted having Friday evening dinners with a church acquaintance, Mr. Anderson and is learning more about this widowed man. Part of her, whom she calls Amy, is enjoying his company while her more conscious self is fighting any hint of intimacy.
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