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Authors: Ann Herrick

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BOOK: It's All in Your Mind
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Before I got out of the car, I checked my hair in the rear-view mirror. It was all wind-blown, but a quick comb with my fingers settled it in place. I wondered if Nolan was here yet. I had no idea what kind of car he had. I tried to imagine what a starving-yet-promising young folk singer would drive. Scattered across the parking lot were an ancient station wagon, two pick-up trucks, a big, black, motorcycle loaded with chrome trim, and a beat up, slightly-rusted sports car with the top down. Did one of them belong to Nolan? There was only one way to find out.

I headed for the restaurant door and hesitated only slightly before stepping inside. It took me a few seconds for my eyes to adjust. It was as dark as
a movie theater in there. After a minute, I could see enough to look around. If Nolan was there, I couldn't find him. There was no sign saying I should wait to be seated, so I plopped down in a small booth.

From there I could see, through the doorway of the bar, a shadowy figure slide off a stool and stroll over to a juke box. Then I heard the clink of quarters, followed by
Tom Dooley
by The Kingston Trio. The shadowy figured emerged from the bar and revealed himself as Nolan, wearing a T-shirt, tight dungarees, and black boots. Definitely different from last night. Very James Dean.

"Hi." The beginning of a smile tipped the corners of Nolan's mouth, and he slipped into the booth, right next to me.

My heart turned over in response. "H-hi. I didn't realize you were old enough ... um, I mean, I'm not—"

"Relax." Nolan held up a hand to silence me. "I'm twenty. I just sneaked in there to feed the juke box. I left my fake ID at home. Joke." Nolan's face grew dark. "I don't smoke or drink." For a moment it looked as if he would say more, but he didn't.

"I ... I'm almost eighteen." Okay, it depended on how you define "almost." I felt my face turn red and hot.

Nolan scanned me. "You look older."

Suddenly two menus hit the table. "Are you here for lunch?"

I glanced up at the waitress. She looked like one of the new Barbie dolls with her jet black hair pulled back in a ponytail, eyelashes coated with several pounds of mascara, and a figure that came remarkably close to Barbie's extraordinary proportions. About the only difference was that she was about five feet tall instead of eight inches.

"No lunch," Nolan said. "Just coffee. Two. One black and ...." Nolan looked at me.

"Oh. Um. Cream. And sugar. Please." Anything to kill that coffee taste.

"Two coffees it is," the waitress said in a silky voice, as she picked up the menus and walked behind a counter to get our coffee.

"So
...," said Nolan. "Tell me about your past."

"My past?" I barely had a past.

"You know, past boyfriends."

"Oh. Right. Well. Let's see
.... Well, truthfully ...." Boyfriends. What boyfriends? I never had any boyfriends. I never even had a boy notice me. I smiled, hoping I looked coy. "There was never really anyone one guy who was, you know, special." Close enough.

Nolan raised one eyebrow. "So you just played the field?"

"You could say that." I couldn't, but he could.

"What about your name? Vija?"

I explained that it was Latvian, that I was born in Latvia, that we came to Chatfield when I was eleven.

"Latvian, huh?" was all Nolan said.

"Here's your coffee." The waitress leaned across Nolan to place my cup in front of me. I couldn't help noticing her generous cleavage peeking out from the V at the top of her uniform. I tried not to notice Nolan noticing.

"Thank you," Nolan said. "By the way. You have a great walk." He smiled his approval. "Very graceful."

"Thanks." The waitress smiled at him, then tossed me what I thought was a tiny glance of triumph as she plunked a small pitcher in front of me. "Here's your cream. Sugar's over there." She pointed to the sugar shaker, and
gracefully
walked off to take an order from a guy a couple tables down.

I felt a stab in my chest as I silently spooned sugar into my coffee, and then poured in some cream. I took a sip and tried to think as I felt the steamy liquid slide all the way down to my stomach. Why was I feeling this way? Nolan had complimented the waitress. So what? He was probably just being nice. Yes, that was it. And so what if the waitress looked at me the way she did when Nolan complimented her? She was just
... just making eye contact. That was normal. Wasn't it?  Wasn't that normal?

"Ahhh. Good coffee," Nolan said.

"Mmm? Oh. Yes. Great coffee." Maybe it was. How would I know?

"Anyway, I think it's important for me
to tell you about my past girlfriends," Nolan said, picking up the thread of our conversation—or lack thereof—of past relationships. "The more we know about each other, the easier it will be for us to bond."

Bond
. He wanted us to bond! That sounded promising. I looked directly into his peacock-blue eyes. Maybe talking about old ... friendships was what people did when they were heading in a serious direction.

"I've had nineteen relationships, but only three were serious," Nolan said.

Nineteen relationships? "Only" three were serious?
For a second I had trouble breathing. But then, I reminded myself, Nolan was older. And he was a folk singer. Artistic types, performers, they were very ... emotional. Wasn't it the emotion in the songs Nolan sang that pierced my soul? So, naturally, being emotional, he—I suddenly realized Nolan was continuing and I hadn't been listening.

He must have gone on for at least twenty more minutes describing Sarah, Danielle, and Elizabeth. I picked up on a common theme. They all did something artistic
—Sarah, ballet; Danielle, painting (watercolors); and Elizabeth, piano (she not only played, she composed music). And what had I done by the ripe old age of seventeen? I trimmed hedges, read novels, played field hockey, and collected ceramic horses. Not very glamorous.

Another
common thread was that Sarah, Danielle and Elizabeth were all dark-haired, petite, and graceful. I was getting very depressed.

"Say," I heard Nolan say through my cloud of depression, "have you ever thought about dyeing your hair?"

For a second my tongue refused to move. I was somewhere between hurt and surprised. I considered my hair one of my few good features. I collected my wits and used the standard defense. "My parents would kill me."

"Strict, huh?"

"You could say that."

Nolan shrugged.

I decided that meant dyeing my hair was not that important to him. After all, what had he said? He hadn't asked me
to
dye my hair, only if I ever
considered
it.

Nolan placed his hand on my shoulder. "Here's what I've got planned for the rest of the afternoon."

The rest of the afternoon?
My heart be still! 'Til now, I didn't even know there was going to
be
a "rest of the afternoon." I waited breathlessly.

"There's a Town Fair over in Sachem. We'll go there."

I nodded, too excited to speak. I'd come to love the old-time New-England atmosphere of Town Fairs, and I knew from articles I read in the newspaper that Sachem was a beautiful town set on a high ridge of land jutting out onto Long Island Sound.

Nolan signaled for our check, paid, and left, I noticed, a very generous tip for only two cups of coffee. When we walked outside, I blinked as my eyes adjusted back to the bright sunlight. Nolan took my hand, and I drank in the sight and smell of him. I felt airborne.

I saw we were heading toward the beat-up red sports car. I pictured us cruising along Route One, my hair blowing in the breeze, a romantic song playing on the radio. No, wait! Nolan
singing
a romantic folk song.

We zipped right past the red sports car and stopped in front of the motorcycle. Nolan ran his hand over the handlebars. "Meet my pride and joy."

In one of those life-flashing-before-my-eyes moments, I ran through all my options. One, offer to drive us in my car. Two, flat out refuse to ride the motorcycle, pulling, for the second time in only minutes, the my-parents-would-kill-me defense. Three, act as if riding a motorcycle was something I did every day. I selected option three.

"Nice." I tried to sound both enthusiastic and knowledgeable enough about motorcycles to conclude that it was, indeed, nice.

Nolan climbed on the motorcycle. "Hop on!"

I hesitated, then swung my leg over the seat, settled myself behind Nolan, and gingerly put my arms around him.

Nolan looked over his shoulder at me. "You gotta hang on tighter than that."

I hugged him tightly, slightly embarrassed as my breasts pressed against his back.

"And get your feet up."

I was blowing it! I looked down to see where to put my feet. I had barely taken them off the ground, when Nolan revved up the motorcycle and we took off with a roar. I clamped my arms around Nolan so hard I was afraid his heart would pop out of his mouth. This was worse than a roller coaster, and roller coasters terrified me.

Every time we went around the slightest curve in the road I was sure we'd tip over or I'd go sailing off. The wind tore through my hair. So much for my fantasy of being serenaded in a gentle breeze. But I was with Nolan. We were going to a Town Fair. That's what mattered.

 

 

Chapter
Three

 

The motorcycle sent up a cloud of fine brown dust as we zoomed into the dirt parking lot just outside the fair. When we finally stopped, I unfastened my arms from Nolan and let out a sigh that was half relief, half exhilaration. The sensation of tearing along the road on the motorcycle had been both terrifying
and
thrilling. It was a sense of freedom greater than I'd ever felt cruising around in Karl's old Chevy.

As Nolan and I dismounted, he put his hand under my chin, turned me toward him, and smoothed my hair. "By the way
...." He flashed an irresistible smile. "On the motorcycle, you should lean into the turns, not away from them."

"Oh. Sorry. I didn't know
...." I closed my eyes, hoping to shut down my embarrassment.

As I opened my eyes,
Nolan touched the tip of my nose with his finger. "It's okay." The warmth of his smile echoed in his voice.

Nolan caught my hand in his. I wondered if he could feel the tingle of excitement in my fingers.

We stopped at a line of people just outside the gate to the fair, on top of a rolling hill. Spread before us on the other side of the gate were grassy lanes lined with booths and tents. Towering elm trees edged the lanes, providing shade and shelter for picnic areas. Beyond that lay green pastures, roped off for the horse pulling, oxen pulling, tractor pulls, and pony rides.

The line moved, and next thing I knew, Nolan and I had strolled down one of the grassy lanes to the game booths. From loudspeakers, Moonglow, the beautiful theme from the movie "Picnic," flowed through the air.

People working in the booths wore straw hats and bow ties. Nolan stopped in front of one booth with balloons tacked up on a board at the back. A sign said, "Win a prize! Three darts for a quarter!" A collection of small, fuzzy stuffed animals sat waiting to be won.

"You look like a talented young fella," said the man in the booth. "Wanta try yer luck?"

"How many balloons do I have to pop to get a prize?" Nolan asked.

The man held up three fingers.

Nolan pulled a quarter out of his pocket. "Nothing for two?"

"Just the satisfaction of poppin' two balloons." The man took off his straw hat and wiped his forehead with the back of his hand. "Come on, young fella. Win yer girl a prize."

Nolan smiled at me and plunked down his quarter.

Did that mean that I
was
his girl?

Nolan took aim, threw, and popped a balloon! Then another, and another.

"And he's a winner!" the man in the booth cried loud enough for other fairgoers to hear. "Okay, young fella. Choose yer prize for the little lady!"

Nolan looked over the stuffed animals and chose a fuzzy white bear with a blue ribbon around it's neck. He bowed as he handed it to me. "For you, my fair maiden."

If there had been any doubt before, there wasn't now. I was in love!

For the next hour I followed Nolan around, as he won prize after prize, all for me. He knocked over bottles with baseballs, threw rings around posts, shot basketballs through under-sized hoops. You name it, he did it, and collected a prize each time. Kewpie dolls, figurines, more stuffed animals. At one booth I finally begged for a sack in which to carry them all.

At one point I offered to pay for some of the games, figuring a starving artist might run low on cash pretty quickly. But Nolan waved me off. "I've got plenty of bread." Some of his gigs must've been more lucrative than I thought.

"Okay!  Step right up! Ring the bell and win a diamond ring!  A ring for a ring! You, mister!" The barker pointed to Nolan. "Win your lady a diamond ring!"

BOOK: It's All in Your Mind
5.12Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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