I asked my father to write the story about how he met Colly, the pretty girl who has been his loving consort for the past decade. The following is the recollection the two of them put together with a loving daughter's editing. My husband helped me publish this about a year ago on another site too, so some of you may have read it there before this edited and cleaned up version here.
The mall is a place to see people – mostly happy people. I put them into five categories. First were the speed shoppers; they knew exactly what they wanted and where to get it, and time was of the essence. Next were the window shoppers, probably with some money burning a hole in their pocket; they hit every store until they found the perfect 'thing' to take home. Third were comparison shoppers; they'd have a specific item in mind, and they'd go to each store that carried it and compared deals. The fourth group comprised kids who wanted to meet other kids and hang out. The mall was better for them because they could talk and even occasionally scream at each other and not have some librarian go ballistic.
I'm in the fifth group – people that need to get out of their homes just to remember that there is a civilization out there, and that they're not the only ones on the planet. I needed to see people, and maybe interact with a few. Were it not for the mall and a few shopping trips I could probably go a month or more without conversing with a single individual. I'm an old fart and a widower. I've been in this sad state for eight months since my Alice died from the 'Big C'. I've had time to get used to the idea that she's gone, although we'd been together nearly forty years – getting married in our early-twenties and thinking we knew everything there was to know.
Alice was the social one. Her friends became our friends, but after her passing, there was no her, so I became superfluous. Oh, a few called for a while to see how I was getting on, but after my one word answers – like fine – they gradually gave up and the calls almost stopped. Oddly, I didn't miss seeing a single one of them maybe because they all now seemed to think they had to fix me up with some other widow or divorcee. The few dates I got trapped into were pleasant, but I had no chemistry with any of the women. More than that though, I looked for a spiritual connection with love deep inside it, the same kind of connection I'd had with Alice. I knew when I met the right person that I'd soon see that connection between our souls – mind, body, and spirit.
The best bench in the mall sat at the bottom of an escalator just outside an entrance to J. C. Penny. On one side was a music store with everything from CDs to instruments, and even lessons for the inspired; beside that store there were a Radio Shack and a Brookstone's gadget shop. On the other side of the wide concourse were a Starbucks and a Victoria's Secret. From 'my' bench, I could watch people come down the escalator, select their store, read the look in their eye, and categorize them.
I commanded my bench. The general rule at the malls I'd been to seemed to be that if you had a bench you got all of it; no one would join you. No one would come and pass the day, or ask whether they could glance at your newspaper, or inquire where the computer store was, or complain about how long their wife or girlfriend was taking to shop.
I confess a lifelong affinity for girl watching. This mall had the prettiest women in town, a point my careful research had confirmed after only a few weeks of study. My ogling had amused Alice. She not only tolerated it, but as I got older she'd nudge her elbow into my ribs to be sure I saw some babe walking by, usually with a pair of unnatural tits; Alice was nice like that. She knew that I liked big tits. Alice didn't have big tits. That one afternoon, however, things on the babe front were a little slow.
I had drifted into my mid-afternoon daze – a glassy-eyed substitute for a nap for people my age – when I felt my bench seat shift with someone's weight. I woke up.
Beside me sat a teenage girl. I tried to guess her age but gave up – somewhere between fourteen and thirty was as close as I could get. I'd always been terrible about guessing women's ages. She was pretty but had done a dozen things to detract from her natural beauty. The most obvious detractors were her piercings: garish nose stud, eyebrow ring, lip ring, and a dozen ear piercings spread out on either ear. She wore makeup that made her skin look pale and pasty, almost like a cadaver on a bad day. Her cropped brunette hair that dipped over her right eye had broad stripes of bright red and blue luminescent paint in it. Partly visible on her right shoulder under the short-sleeve shirt she wore was a tattoo of some kind. She had a dozen bracelets on her right wrist, and an oversize watch on her left. I could see a scroll letter 'C' tattooed on the back of a finger on her left hand.
She was dressed in black from head to toe, an oversized black t-shirt for a band I'd never heard of, atop black pants that overlay some kind of black ankle high boots. One silver waist chain offset the starkness of her style. She had a black shoulder bag that she dropped in front of her with a resounding thud.
Despite the detractions, I thought she was kind of cute. A screwed up pixie with a pretty face and a curvy shape, I thought. I felt friendly, so I made eye contact and nodded with a smile. As usual, I gave her my brief but secret ogle, trying to assess her shape beneath the bulky black clothing.
I got an insolent frown back, but didn't let that deter me.
"Care to look at the newspaper," I offered the well-read edition of the daily paper that I'd had with me since late morning. I smiled and held out the paper to her. "Sorry, but I've already done the crossword puzzle and the Sudoku."
'No," and after a long pause, "but thank you." The scowling behavior evaporated behind a friendly voice and a partial smile. The part grin made my whole day; a pretty girl had smiled at me and even talked to me – four words; I counted them.
I went back to minding my own business, and cataloged the young woman as belonging in my Category 4 – kids coming to the mall to hang out, although she seemed a little on the old side to be a teeny-bopper. I remembered reading somewhere about 'emo girls' – young women who jive on a certain kind of punk music, have that pixie haircut with dark hair but colors in it, cover part of their face with a wave of their colored hair, use lots of dark eyeliner, and indulge in lots of pins, piercings, and jewelry. Their image verges on Goth, but they apparently don't like that descriptor. A few of them even cut their wrists or post racy pictures of themselves on the Internet since they're supposed to be emotional. Many have inferiority complexes. The article I'd read said most of them were misunderstood, and generally nice kids.
Emo Girl sat beside me for a while, studied the other people, checked her large black and white watch several times, and appeared impatient. After ten minutes, she left without saying a word by flouncing off towards the other end of the mall. I watched her stomp off, apparently angry. I guessed that a friend had not shown up as promised.
I saw Emo Girl the next day, and she came and sat with me again the day after that too. Other than nodding at each other we said nothing on those two occasions.
The fourth time I saw her I was the paragon of conversationalists. I smiled at her and said, "Hi."
She nodded back and smiled. I didn't think emo girls were allowed to smile. She had a pretty smile with straight pearly teeth. She checked her watch, pulled out her cell phone, and did that magic typing with her two thumbs that probably would outpace a stenographer of old. After a minute, she uttered, "Shit!" She stood up and stomped away again.
Emo Girl became a regular at my bench at three o'clock every day. I got so that I eagerly awaited her appearance. On more than half her visits, she appeared to have been stood up. I wasn't sure about the rest. I felt sorry for her, and that her friends thought so little of her. I never saw her meet anybody.
After a week of this, and having missed seeing her on the weekend, I expanded my witty conversation. "Hi. You still waiting for someone to show up?"
"Yeah. I meet these guys on the Internet, and they're supposed to meet me here. I think they come by, take one look at me, gag, and then I'm toast. They won't even answer my texts after that."
"Sort of. It's just a way to meet people to see whether you like them. We swap instant messages around and decide if we want to meet." She posited, "Am I really that bad looking?" She looked at me as though she expected an answer.
I decided honesty was the best policy; I'd always had a blunt streak that Alice tolerated. "It's taken me a week to get used to your look. I'm on the much older side of things from you, and I know it's a fashion statement, but I've never known anybody with so many piercings or such ... pretty body art. Please show me your right arm."
Emo Girl held out her arm and pulled up the short sleeve to her shoulder. The arm had a colorful wrap-around design from her shoulder to just above her elbow – reds, blacks, and greens. The more I looked; the more I deciphered what it was.
I exclaimed, "Ah, I've met a girl with a dragon tattoo." I said it in a nice way, not to tease but to acknowledge.
Emo Girl said, "Yeah. I couldn't afford the whole body dragon. I've got a couple of others too, but they're much smaller." She showed me her left hand. As if to read my mind, she said, "I've got a few other piercings too, but like the other tats, they don't show."
My mind made some lewd assumptions about the location of her other piercings and tattoos that I kept to myself. I wondered what I would have thought about Emo Girl forty years earlier. Would I have thought she was cute and dateable? Would I have wanted to kiss her with a lip ring? Would her nose ring brush against my nose in a kiss? She was cute, and I decided that had I been forty years younger, I definitely would have shown up to meet this pixie.
I put a hand out. "My name's Doug."
Emo Girl studied my hand as though I'd just asked her to touch a spider as big as a tarantula. Finally, she shook it, "Hi, I'm Colette, but my friends call me 'Colly' because I'm so jolly."
"You're an emo girl? I've never met one before."
"Sort of ... well, trying to be, I guess; or I was. I'm about to change though; I'm getting too old, and I only like some of the music now. The few friends I have are deeper into it than I am. That's one of the reasons I thought I'd reach out and see whether I could expand my circle of friends."
I asked, "Did you put up a profile and picture of yourself?"
Colly blushed. "Sort of. My profile is pretty accurate, but the picture I put up is from a couple of years ago ... before I went emo."
I laughed, "So, no truth in advertising."
Colly sighed. "I know. When I had a picture of me up there like this no one, I mean no one, responded or wanted to IM with me in the chat rooms."
I shared my earlier thought, "I would. You're cute. Mind if I ask how old you are?"
"I turn nineteen next Wednesday. I'll have to stop being emo before I turn twenty; it's supposed to be a teen thing, but there are some oldsters that keep doing the emo thing, but they look silly. It's gross."
I made her laugh by promising I wouldn't go 'emo' on her. I asked, "You in school?"
"Art school, sort of. I signed up for a couple of courses at the college. I couldn't afford the full college tuition, so this is the best I can get – a few courses when I have the dough. I got a job, based on the courses I'm taking. I work in the arts and crafts supply shop downtown near the college. It's only part time, but I can live on it for now. I live at home with my mom."
I admitted college was expensive, and from there we had a nice conversation about her design and advertising courses, and that led her to ask what I did. Somewhat embarrassed, I explained that I'd just retired and was kicking around.
My own children were thirty-one – twins. They lived a thousand miles away and had their own lives: one married and the other engaged, both with demanding jobs, and on good career tracks. Both were also Plain Janes – no emo look to my kids, and that was their choice, not mine or Alice's. They were fine average looking, middle-class citizens who would start popping out grandchildren in a year or two.
Colly decided she had to go, but she told me that she again looked forward to seeing me the next day. I liked that she seemed to like me, so I reflected my genuine friendship back at her. At least, here was one sweet young thing I didn't scare off in some way, although she seemed to be scaring off some younger men. I felt as though I were coaxing a skittish baby bird into sitting next to me.
The next day, the two of us were back on my bench. This time I'd bought her a cup of black coffee. I figured if everything she wore were black, she wouldn't want cream in her coffee. She was pleased and grateful for my gesture. I got a smile for my thoughtfulness, and it warmed me to the core. I realized as we talked that I wanted to do things that made her smile at me.
We talked for over an hour that day, really getting to know each other. We were animated, attentive, and enthusiastic about learning about each other. We asked each other a lot of questions that showed we'd been listening, and caring about what each other said and felt about various aspects of life. I felt Colly really thought I'd led an interesting life, and I found her life, with the twists and turns of her crazy family, also interesting. The first half of the conversation was what I call all the public stuff – the parts of our lives that are public and that don't really reveal our inner selves. Where we live, grew up, went to school, traveled, worked, and such.
Colly lived at home with an alcoholic mother and 'some guy' her mother had latched onto as a boyfriend. She'd ignored Colly for the past ten years, and Colly had ignored her. Her father was long gone with no sign of him for over fifteen years. She'd made it through high school and got enough money from a job and taking routine trips to her mother's wallet to take a couple of art courses. She'd been 'trapped' – her word – in this suburban town all her life.
I, on the other hand, had traveled the world in connection with my work. I'd been in fifty-two countries, had a master's degree, went to two prestigious colleges, and lived in the nice part of town. I'd been a business executive, entrepreneur, the CEO of my own company, and then I sold that in order to retire and care for Alice in her last days.
The second half of our conversation that day got into the less public stuff that makes up the real us. Colly got me talking about Alice, her death, how I grieved and felt now, and what it was like to be married for 'that long.' I heard about her coping with alcoholism in her family – how she got drunk for a while too, and then decided she didn't like that horrible feeling. She talked about how it affected her, and how it limited her life and whom she had as friends, and where she lived and went to school. Colly had made the best of a bad situation.
I felt little twinges deep inside me that announced to my inner self that I had found someone I had that special resonance with. I suppressed the feelings and surely didn't mention it aloud. My God, there was over a forty-year difference in our ages.
When we stopped that day, I regretted seeing her pace off towards the mall exit, and I felt some reluctance on her part to leave too. No excuses; just it's time for me to go. I went home too, and microwaved another cardboard dinner. I wondered what a nineteen-year-old emo girl ate for dinner. The dirty old man deep inside me also wondered what it would be like to have Colly as girlfriend – something more than she was already. I had feelings for this youngster, and then kicked myself around the house for having the most ridiculous daydream on the planet.
Colly had mentioned her birthday was the following week. I got her a humorous card with Snoopy on it and a gift certificate at a nearby spa for the 'works' – massage, sauna, manicure, pedicure, and hair styling. I went a little overboard, but I was curious what an emo girl would do with the spa package. I felt she'd never been pampered, and I wanted her to learn, at least once, what that felt like, especially when she didn't have to think about the cost. In a humorous way, I felt as though I was sending a confirmed punker to the opera.
Just before the weekend, right on time, Colly showed up at our bench. I gave her a cup of coffee I'd bought for her, and then presented the card to her. I explained I wasn't sure what her schedule was, and I didn't want to miss her birthday in case she gave up coming to the mall.
Colly took the cards and looked into my eyes with such a long questioning stare I wondered what was wrong. I nodded towards the envelope to encourage her to read the card. She tore open the envelope very carefully as though she wanted to preserve every shred of paper and scrap of even the envelope.
Colly read the card. I'd signed it, 'Happy Birthday to the nicest person in the world. Always your friend, Doug.' I even drew a little artistic heart next to my name. As she read the card, a tear rolled down her cheek, smearing some of her eyeliner. She opened the envelope that had been inside the card and read all the things I'd signed her up for at the spa.
Colly broke into a choked up sob. "Thank you." She threw herself against me, grabbed my jacket and buried her head into my chest. She started crying with huge and loud racking sobs and sighs to catch her breath before another loud sob. I put my arms around her in a polite way and tried to comfort her; I couldn't imagine what was wrong. I patted her back and kept asking her what was wrong, but that just seemed to make her cry harder.
Sitting as we were, in the most conspicuous place in the mall, people coming down the escalator or walking by were looking at the little scene: an older man with salt and pepper hair, nicely dressed, and obviously in good physical shape, holding a pretty young emo girl who was crying her lungs out – her sobs echoing down the mall corridor. I thought of all the situations and labels that must be running through people's minds, and none of them were favorable to me.
I kept patting Colly's back, and finally she got control of herself. I had two napkins in my pocket from the coffee shop, so I passed those to her. She wiped her eyes and further smeared her makeup around her face. After blowing her nose, she sat up straight and looked at me. She sniffed a few times and took a large breath.
"I'm sorry for falling apart on you ... but no one has ever given me a card before – a serious greeting card ... and a gift ... to a spa ... for all the things girls like to have done to them ... oh, you are such a darling man. You didn't have to do this. Thank you."
Colly kissed me on the lips. I had never been kissed by someone with a lip ring. I could feel it, and I also found her kiss delightful. My God, here I was just past sixty, and a nineteen-year old had actually kissed me in friendship. That suppressed glimmer of a deeper connection reappeared, but I pushed it away again.
Before I could even react, she said, "I knew you were so nice the moment I saw you, but I didn't think you'd ever do anything like this for me. I didn't think you'd do anything for me other than say 'Hi, ' and then you bought me some coffee ... and now this."
I admitted, "Well, I do think you're special. I've never known anybody like you. My own kids were ... are ... pretty conservative: no tattoos, no piercings, and no flashy hair colors. I like that you feel comfortable in being a little outrageous and flamboyant. I wish I'd been like you when I was younger."
Colly snuffled a little. "I'm not sure all these emo quirks are me either. I was just trying to fit in with one of the groups at school, and then since I graduated ... well, trying to find someone to hang out with."
I laughed, "So you come to the mall, and hang out with an old guy like me? You're so pretty, when your mascara's not running, and you have a delightful personality. I'm glad you hang out with me, but there's surely some handsome young prince out there waiting to sweep you off your feet."
"I don't need a young prince; I have you as my friend." Colly squeezed my hand with obvious affection.
"I'm deeply flattered."
Colly excused herself and ran off to the ladies room to fix her makeup, and when she came back she wore almost none. The bright blue hair with a few red streaks looked a little less pronounced too.
She sat down beside me and immediately took my right hand again, and held it in her two hands in her lap. She announced, "I feel better now. Your card and gift touched me so. I've never even been in a spa before. Have you?"
I confessed, "A few times. I've had massages, and once even got a manicure, but for the most part I left the spa treatments to my wife, although she didn't go that much either."
"I'm sorry your wife died. That must be hard." Colly had remembered our earlier discussion.
"I've become philosophical about it now. Death is the price we pay for life. I do believe in karma and reincarnation – that we're spiritual beings having a human experience, so I expect Alice will come back in some way and our paths will cross again and again in some way. Maybe she'll wait for me, and we'll come back together, maybe as brothers or sisters or one of us the parent of the other."
"Cool concept, almost like science fiction."
"No one knows for sure, so maybe it is. If I think about it that way the loss isn't as depressing. Kids your age shouldn't be thinking about death anyway; as I'm sure everyone tells you, you've got your whole life ahead of you. You just became an adult, so life is what you make of it now."
"Yeah, kind of scary whenever I think of it, like if I make one bad decision now it'll haunt me the rest of my life."
"So, make good decisions."
"How do you know how to do that?"
I thought a minute and reached back into my mental archives. "There's an old spiritual Native American story in which a father tells his child about the huge battle between two wolves that live inside each of us. One is evil. It is anger, jealousy, guilt, inferiority, revenge, lies, arrogance, intolerance, and ego. The other is the good wolf. This one is joy, peace, hope, harmony, serenity, kindness, empathy, truth, faith, and most of all love. The old man is quiet for a while, and the young child asks, 'Which one wins the fight?' And the wise old Indian tells him, 'The one you feed.'"
Colly thought about that for a while. "I get it. Base my life on the characteristics of the good wolf, and I'll make good decisions."
I nodded. "Sounds pretty black and white, but the world comes in many shades of gray, so you'll find there are some tough calls here and there. I guarantee you'll make some bad decisions if you haven't already, but don't lose sleep over them – you're human and screwing up occasionally is part of what makes us who we are. Many people have said that the test of your true nature is how you recover from your screwups."
"Have you ever screwed up? I mean, when you were my age?"
"Oh, sure. I wasn't a bad kid, but I did some nasty things now and then, just to see what they were like – vandalism, for instance. Afterwards, I felt really bad. A few times I went back and made what I'd done right. If it involved someone I'd hurt in some way, I went and apologized or tried to mend the situation. I remember breaking up with one girl to date another; I regret doing that because I never got to apologize to her. I was learning how to feed the good wolf, but back then I was learning by trial and error. As you get older your moral compass becomes a little more evident in your decisions – your value set and how you think about others come into play."
Our conversation took a new direction into less profound areas. I worried about getting a little preachy, so I put the ball back in Colly's court to get her talking about things she was interested in. After about ten minutes, Colly headed off to the rest of her life, and I gave up my people watching for the day. I felt good that I'd made her happy.
Colly didn't appear for the next couple of days, and when she did she looked depressed and not in her usual spirits. Her eyes were red, and I guessed she'd been crying.
I patted the seat next to me on my bench, "What's wrong?"
"Mom ditched me – my own mother. I'm on the street – entirely on my own. She left town with her flaky boyfriend, and turned the apartment back to the landlord. I have until tomorrow to move out, and then I will be living on the street. She went to California without even saying goodbye – just left me a note."
"Can't your friends help, put you up for a few nights or weeks?"
"Tried, but no deal. Some of them are worse off than I am."
"Well, if you want, you can stay with me. I have plenty of room at the house. You can come and go as you please. I won't mind."
The words were barely out of my mouth before the cautious and practical me could intervene and say to the conscious me, 'What are you thinking? Are you out of your mind?' I had a four bedroom house with three-and-a-half baths, living and dining rooms, kitchen, family-media room, pool, and Jacuzzi, on a nicely landscaped half-acre with a view across two fairways on the local golf course, but the only people who had ever stayed there were Alice and me, plus our two kids when they made one of their rare visits – rarer now that Alice was gone. For the most part, I lived in the kitchen, family room with TV and computer, and the master bedroom.
Moving someone into my house – someone I barely knew – seemed like a bad idea. I didn't know whether Colly was trustworthy, whether she did drugs, or whether she'd be a complete slob and scatter her belongings from one end of the house to the other and resist all suggestions to clean up her messes, or worse a request to move out when I found her intolerable. Might her claim of abandonment be a ploy to gain entry to my home and make off with my valuables? Would the police end up knocking on my door looking to arrest her for some major felony?
Colly said thoughtfully, "You're being too good to me again, but I need a place to stay. I accept but only under a couple of conditions. First, if I'm a bother in any way, just say the word, and I'll be gone with my stuff within a day. Second, I can't pay you much in the way of rent right now, but I can surely help out around the house by cooking and cleaning. I know how to do that stuff; I'm pretty domestic when I try. I promise to be neat and not take over your house other than the space you assign me. I'll be a good lodger – I don't smoke, drink, or do drugs either. If you see something you want me to do – or some way you want me to be – please, just let me know."
My impulsive voice spoke again before my brain engaged, "OK. Let's go get your stuff." I even sounded enthusiastic at the idea of having a roomer.
I finally got my head out of my own concerns for a new housemate, and started to wonder what Colly must be thinking about the situation she was in. 'I'm screwed over by my alcoholic mother, and have nowhere to live. The few friends I have can't help me ... or won't help me. I have no money to speak of. This nice older guy who's old enough to be my grandfather and who I barely know, has offered me a place to stay, and I don't know where he lives and have no one in particular I could tell where I'm going in case he attacks me or locks me up as a sex slave or something weird. Can I trust him? What does he want from me? Might he want to steal my stuff – ha! What stuff? Will he come on to me?'
Colly's apartment was run down and reeked of cigarette smoke. Colly explained her mother was the smoker, and reminded me that she didn't do cigs or drugs. Colly filled a couple of trash bags with her bits of clothing, packed up an empty liquor box with some other belongings, and I drove her to my home with all her worldly possessions in the back seat.
As we pulled in the driveway, Colly exploded, "Hoooooly shit – Oh, excuse me! Your home is a friggin' palace. I love it. I've never been in anything this nice – ever! Oh, I've met you and now this; I'm the luckiest girl in the world."
I had to admit I did live well. I'd done well in my career and investments, and now had the rewards – a comfortable retirement spread on a prestigious golf course.
I suggested that before we empty the car with her stuff that Colly take a look at what I had in mind for her room, and see if she could live there. She didn't know it then, but if she had any reservations, I'd decided to get her a good room somewhere so she could safely live. Colly's mouth hung agape for the entire house tour, and when we hit the backyard, I thought I'd lose her because she wanted to go into the pool immediately.
Colly raved about the house and 'her' bedroom, a posh place compared to her mother's apartment, that we'd kept as a guest room instead of turning it into a home office or craft room. We moved her belongings into her bedroom, and I moved some clothing from that closet to a couple of others to give her space to hang her clothes.
Having another person in the house seemed strange after so long a period living alone. Even when I left her to unpack, I could sense her presence, almost as though I could hear her breathing from the other end of the house. I heard the bedside radio tuned to some music – popular stuff I didn't mind listening to. She kept the volume low, but I was still aware of the sound. At one point, I could hear her singing along to a song she knew; Colly had a pretty voice.
I started to put together a spaghetti dinner, something within my range of cooking skills: boil water for the noodles, and heat up some sauce. I even had Parmesan cheese to sprinkle over the top.
I opened a bottle of wine, and poured myself a glass, and then set the dining room table. When Colly appeared, I asked, "Care for a glass of wine?"
She looked surprised, "I'm not twenty-one. Really?"
"I don't think we'll kill off too many brain cells with one glass. I have diet Coke too."
"No. No. A glass of wine would be so nice. I've only tasted wine a couple of times in my life. One time it did me in, but I drank a whole lot in a short time. I guess I was learning by trial and error as you called it."
I poured a glass and handed it to Colly. She took a sip and gave me a broad smile. "Thank you, this tastes good."
"For future reference, please don't tell anyone I served you. I don't want to go to jail for contributing to the delinquency of a minor." I laughed, but there was a serious edge to my voice.
Colly nodded. She said, "Funny, here I am nineteen, and I can vote, even run for office, join the military, and I can make decisions about my sex life on my own and even get married without anyone's consent, but I can't drink. It seems crazy, like a puzzle missing one piece."
I ventured, "I think it has to do with so many young people getting in car accidents when the age was younger and they'd been drinking."
She nodded and looked around, "Hey, how can I help with dinner?"
I watched Colly carefully, trying to understand how she must feel about what she was seeing and experiencing. She found enough in the refrigerator to assemble a side salad for us. We had a good dinner, the first I'd shared with a pretty girl in eons.
Over dinner, we talked about her art school studies: how she'd get to class, timing, how she'd get around, her job and hours, and how she could help out with the cleaning and meals at home. She genuinely wanted to carry her part of the bargain as the quid pro quo for her rent. Because of my flexibility I could readily adapt my empty schedule to hers. I volunteered to be her chauffeur since we were well off the public transportation routes.
Colly had never learned to drive. I felt that one important skill I could teach her was how to safely drive so she could get around on her own. Once she got her license, I had a surprise for her, at least for as long as she stayed with me.
The next day, on the way to her art school, we stopped at the Registry of Motor Vehicles and got Colly a learner's permit. That evening, after her art shop closed, I started her lessons in the parking lot of an abandoned church. Colly was a fast learner, had good motor skills and eye-hand coordination, plus she proved to be a good student with the little manual about driving rules and regulations in the State.
Two weeks later, Colly went and passed the driving test on her first try. She was bubbling over with appreciation again after her test, and I got a beautiful kiss from her as she came running out of the Registry waving the small laminated license in her hand with a radiant smile that lit up the east coast. The kiss wasn't just one; it was a series of kisses as she pushed herself against me. Oh, I liked this too much. The memory of that spiritual connection I felt with her surfaced again, and I again pushed it away. The list of reasons was long, and most revolved around our ages and what we should be doing at our age instead of what I'd thought about.
Once back at the house, I led the two of us inside, and then through the kitchen to the garage. In the garage was my wife's unused car, a seven-year-old Toyota that I drove around once a week so it didn't freeze up or get square tires. I pointed to the car and handed the keys for it to Colly. "It's yours while you're here."
"You're kidding, right?"
"Nope. Take it for a spin. I added you to the insurance. You're covered."
"But..." She started jumping up and down in her excitement.
"Go." I opened the garage door for her and nudged her to the car.
Colly backed up carefully, and drove away from the house, only to return a few minutes later after a traverse around the block. She carefully pulled back into the garage.
She got out, "This is such a sweet vehicle. I love it. The radio is great, and everything works." With that, I got another series of kisses and a full-body hug from her. Damn, every time she did that I not only had impure thoughts about this cutie, but also the feeling of a spiritual connection with her.
Colly did something else that stimulated my impure thoughts about her. She loved the swimming pool; however, she didn't have a swimsuit. Consequently, she'd show up poolside wearing undies and a thin bra. After her swim, her clothing would be nearly transparent, and it took a lot of will power for me not to gawk at her pretty body, because I could see just about every inch of it.
I realized I was truly a dirty old man, when I didn't even think of suggesting that I buy her a swimsuit or lend her one of Alice's. I liked her swimming in her transparent underwear. She had a gorgeous body that I enjoyed ogling. I think she knew, too. Why guys were turning her down was beyond me.
During the first couple of weeks with me, a couple of other things started to change about Colly. She removed the loops that pierced her lower lip and eyebrow, and stopped coloring her brunette tresses. The large stud in the side of her nose changed to a tiny diamond-like gemstone that I felt looked really attractive. The all-black outfits gave way to an occasional splash of color with a scarf or off-black piece of clothing, and the boots were often left behind in favor of flats.
One evening, when Colly got home from working at the art store, I suggested we go out to dinner at the Golf Club. Colly knew enough about country club life to realize that going in her black emo style might get us expelled.
Colly said shyly, "I don't think that's a good idea. I have no nice clothing that would let me fit in there. I'd embarrass you, and I don't want to do that." I felt her genuine concern for me. I'd felt the same care in other interactions with her as well. I knew she liked me.
I stood looking at Colly, and then I took her hand and led her through the house into the master bedroom, and then into the walk-in closet that remained filled with most of Alice's clothing. I could never bring myself to clear out her things, donating them to some charity. I had planned to get my daughters to do that sometime when they were visiting.
I said, "I don't want to freak you out, but you're about the same size Alice was. I haven't been up to tossing any of this stuff, so if you see anything here you would like to wear, it's yours, and I'd be proud to go out with you in any of it. If the idea of wearing my late wife's clothing spooks you too much, don't worry; I'll eventually toss it or donate it, and for tonight we can go get a pizza. I'll buy you a nice dress tomorrow so we can go to the club another time."
Colly looked in awe at the high-end clothing my late wife indulged in. She said in a small voice touched with reverence, "I'd be honored to wear Alice's clothes. They're all beautiful." I could see Colly's eyes get all glassy as tears formed at the honor my invitation implied.
Colly turned and hugged me, and then gave me my reward again – a series of lovely kisses and we held each other close. After that encounter, I said, "When you kiss me like that, it makes me want to give you things all day long." I was slightly embarrassed with my confession, but just blurted it out.
Colly laughed, "That's the idea." She added in a more serious tone, "Really, I don't expect any of what you're doing for me. You're so generous and kind, I just want ... to kiss you because of the person you are, not because you give me things. I like kissing you. I feel a special connection with you."
On that note, my heart skipped many beats, and we started another series of kisses as we stood in the closet. The kisses made my heart flutter and messed with my mind in a whole lot of ways. I hadn't stood and necked like this with a woman for forty years or more. Alice and I had long been out of the custom, and I realized in kissing Colly how much I'd missed this expression of affection. Moreover, Colly felt some kind of special connection the same way I did. Maybe she felt the spiritual connection and love between the two of us.
When we broke apart I moved away slightly and asked, "Should we be doing this? Shouldn't you be out finding a young man your own age?"