Note from Jake Rivers:
This is my seventh semi-annual "invitational." The initial one was based on the Statler Brother's song, "This Bed of Rose's." The most recent invitational included songs written or performed by Willie Nelson. The current effort consists of stories based on song titles that have a weather term in them, such as "Stormy Weather, "Foggy Mountain Top," "Dusty Skies", "Heat Wave", "Summertime Blues," and "Ballad of Thunder Road."
I've chosen 'Over the Rainbow' as my weather song. Performed by numerous singers, I feel a sense of hope and happiness whenever I hear it. This is definitely one of those songs that can bring tears to my eyes.
My submissions page shows a previous story about Ross: 'The Santa Claus Suit ' and The Santa Suit, The Sequel. This is a stand-alone story and begins with Ross's life after he played Santa at his friend Bud's family gathering.
Alaina, Bud's youngest sister, invited me along as her date to a special New Year's Eve bash. We were double dating with Bud and his girlfriend, Claire. Being as heavy as I was, I could play Santa without a pillow. So it truly surprised me that someone as beautiful as Alaina would ask me out.
"Ross, I think I'm going to pop the big question to Claire tonight."
"What? You're going to ask her to marry you? Are you sure about it?"
It was New Year's Eve and my best friend Bud and I were going to a party. We dressed in country and western style outfits to go with the country theme.
I wore tan jeans, a western shirt with tassels, and a tan cowboy hat to match. The big buckle on my belt had a horse in the center. Bud's outfit was similar only he wore a black hat and black shirt.
"The reason I've never talked about her very much was because we were on and off for the last two years, but I really care for her. Most of our disagreements are about not seeing each other often enough. It's over a two hour drive one way just to see her. With my work schedule, it's hard to see her all the time.
"I can't tell you how much I miss being with her. That revenge thing we did on your ex last year made me feel as if I was cheating on Claire. Even though I hadn't proposed then, the whole thing bothered me later. I'm hoping she feels the same way about me. I'm going to pop the question shortly after midnight."
"Damn, Bud. I sure hope it works out for you. Where will you be living if she says yes?"
"I'm hoping she'll move to Akron where I work. She sells real estate and shouldn't have any trouble finding an agency there. In fact, the one she works for now has offices in our town. I just wanted to give you a heads up."
"I wish you the best Bud; hope it all goes your way."
"Let's go see if Allie is ready," he said when we got to his sister's house.
Alaina was dressed in a beige western skirt and blouse. I noticed it was similar to the color of my shirt. Damn, she looked cute in cowgirl boots.
Bud introduced me to Claire once we got inside. Her outfit was very similar to Al's, but it was all black to match Bud's.
"Hey cowboy, how about a date?" asked Claire smiling at Bud. They looked good together.
We all laughed and then headed over to the huge hall that was holding the party. I had never been to such a big gala. We sat at a table near the dance floor and ordered a round of drinks.
There was so much noise we were more like yelling at each other than talking, but it was fun. I had worried how Allie would react with me since I was heavy, but she didn't seem to mind. When we started dancing, she laughed and said she couldn't believe I could move so fast for a heavy guy.
I knew I was showing off because I always liked dancing. Watching Allie shake her booty made me move that much faster. When a slow song started, I wanted to rest. But I wanted Allie in my arms even more.
After a few songs, we sat out a while. Soon a fast one started, and the two women danced while Bud and I watched.
The night went way too fast for me. I loved being around Allie. At midnight we kissed, and I fell head over heels right then. I figured she would be my secret love. No one would know about it but me, not even Allie.
Shortly after midnight, Bud took out the ring, got on one knee, and proposed to Claire.
The DJ saw something was happening at our table and came over with the microphone. Bud repeated his question to Claire, who was in tears. Hard as it was to believe, the place was quiet as they waited for her response.
"My god Bud, I don't know what to say. We've never talked about it," replied Claire.
"Do you love me, Claire?"
"Yes, you know I do. I have for a long time."
"Do you want me to wait and ask you another time so you can think about it?"
"No, I'm just so surprised. Yes, Bud, I'll marry you."
The place went crazy when the DJ announced the engagement. Bud and Claire were busy hugging and kissing each other and Allie was crying for her brother and her best friend. I put my arms around her and just held her.
After the party we dropped Allie off first. I walked her to the door and thanked her for the wonderful time. She said she hoped to see me again, gave me a kiss, and went into the house.
Bud asked me if I would be interested in going over to his parent's house the next morning. He was going to break the news of their engagement to his family. When he said Allie would be there, he didn't have to ask again. I never expected to see her so soon.
He dropped me off at the motel and told me he was going to spend the night with Claire. I could see Claire was a bit embarrassed. Bud and I were originally going to share the motel room.
He picked me up about noon the next day. Everyone greeted me as I entered the house. When Allie saw me, she smiled and gave me a hug.
"I didn't think I would see you so soon. I'm glad you came," said Allie.
Her daughter, Molly, stood behind her, so I stooped down and said hi to her.
Allie introduced me as her friend. I talked to Molly for a few minutes. Bud's family was surprised when he announced their engagement. Soon everyone was talking about when and where the event was going to take place. Other than Bud saying I would be best man, I stayed out of the conversation. I noticed Molly was sitting by herself.
"What's the matter, Molly?" I asked.
"No one wants to play 'Candy Land' with me."
"I'll play 'Candy Land' with you. I had the same game when I was just a little boy."
Molly smiled and set the game up on a little table. She sat on a chair and I sat on the floor. She was so happy to have someone to play with. After the first game Allie came over and asked what we were doing.
"Mommy, Ross is playing with me. Do you want to play with us? There's room for you by me."
Allie sat on one of the little chairs and the three of us played 'Candy Land' for the next hour. I pictured myself with them forever, and was almost sad when we stopped playing. But it was time to eat, and then Bud and I would have to hit the road. We had more than a two hour drive back home.
Allie gave me a kiss when I left. Mollie hugged me and thanked me for playing with her. Bud and I talked on the way home. He told me they would be getting married in June, and Claire was moving to Akron. Asking me again to be the best man, he mentioned that Allie was Claire's maid of honor.
In the months that followed, Bud went to see Claire every couple of weekends. On one trip he asked me if I wanted to go along for the day. At his reminder that I could visit Allie and Molly while there, I jumped at the chance. When we got to Allie's house, her car wasn't there. He drove me over to her parent's house and we saw that her car was there. He dropped me off and said he would see me in a few hours.
Allie's mom answered my knock.
"Hi Mrs. Duling, is Allie here?"
"Ross, I'm sorry, she isn't. She had a ... prior engagement."
"Oh, I'm sorry; I should have called. I just rode up with Bud. He went to see Claire. My I use your phone and I'll have him come back and pick me up."
"Nonsense, come on in. Molly is here and she's always talking about how you played games with her."
I went in and little Molly came running up to me. I stooped down and she gave me a big hug.
"You want to play games with me? I brought a whole bunch over to play with Grandma."
"Molly, maybe Ross doesn't want to play games today."
"It's all right, Mrs. Duling. I'd love to play a few games. I have a couple of hours to pass."
My entertaining her granddaughter gave her some time to relax. For me it was another chance to learn about Molly. She was such a happy little girl and seemed very smart for a four year old.
She told me her mom went out with Richard. According to Molly, Richard was a doctor and good friends with Allie. Her words hit me like a brick. Now I knew why Mrs. Duling hesitated when I ask about Allie.
I kept up a happy face because of Molly. There wasn't much more I could ask about Richard that Molly would know. To her, Richard was just mommy's friend, sort of like me.
Bud came to pick me up and said hi to his family. He seemed surprised that Allie wasn't there. He later apologized to me but I told him it was all right. I enjoyed visiting his family, especially Molly.
It was April before I went with Bud to Columbus again. This time Allie was home. She apologized for not being there the last time, but didn't mention Richard. Molly came up to me and gave me a hug. Damn, I already loved that little girl.
"I missed you, Ross. Will you play a game with me?"
.... There is more of this story ...