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?"
She was so cute that I had to laugh at the little sweetheart.
"Molly," said Allie. "I want to talk to Ross for a little while. After that I'll walk you to the park and you can go on the swings."
"Can Ross come with us?"
"If he wants to; that's up to him," replied Allie.
"Why don't we do it right now? We can talk and I can push Molly on the swing," I suggested.
Molly was all for it. It was a bit cool out, so Allie made sure Molly had her jacket on. Chuckling at them, I just waited.
Allie seemed troubled but was trying to put up a good front. "What's the matter Allie? You don't seem your happy self. Anything I can do to cheer you up?" I asked once Molly was in the swing.
"Yeah, find me a job. Our plant is closing down in June, sending the work to the Indiana office instead."
"Darn, sorry to hear that. What are you and your dad going to do?"
"Dad is taking early retirement. He has thirty years in the plant. I'm not quite that lucky, though I do have some options. I can move to Indiana; it's about three hours from here. I would have the same job and pay, but then it would be just me and Molly. Mom said maybe she could convince dad to move there too.
"There's a small severance pay I could take, but that would put me back to hunting for a job. I'm just not sure what I'm going to do. I hate to be so far away from my family and friends. Claire would be over two hours away in the opposite direction when she marries Bud. Maybe I can find a job in Akron and get mom and dad to move there. That way not a lot will change."
She laughed but it was obvious the entire situation bothered her a great deal. Changing the subject, we talked about Bud and Claire's wedding.
"If I ever get married I'm not jumping through all those hoops. Wedding dresses, flowers, a hall, band, invitations, guest lists, Claire and Bud have been putting together their wedding for over four months now and still not finished."
"How would you go about getting married?"
"I would go to a little church, say my vows and marry my lover," she said.
"What about your family? Wouldn't you want them there?"
"I would let them know when I was getting married and they could all be there if they chose to be. Maybe have a small dinner catered, maybe not. I don't think the wedding makes the marriage, I think it's the couple who does. Claire is entitled to the wedding of her dreams and I'm not knocking that. I would just do it in a quick simple way, that's all."
"I had a big wedding the first time around. It was nice but costly. I agree with you that it didn't make the marriage any better. If I ever get married again I would just do whatever my fiancée wanted. I'm pretty easy to please," I replied.
About the time we returned from the park, Bud was there to get me. I wished he would have been gone a couple of hours longer, but I said my goodbyes to Allie and Molly. After hugging them both, I reminded them I would see them at the wedding.
Bud had talked to his dad, and so he knew about Allie's job situation.
"I feel for her because if she moves farther away, I won't see them near as often. Allie has the smarts so the company would retain her, but I would hate to see her move away. Mom and dad mentioned they would probably buy a house near Allie so they could see more of her and Molly," Bud said on the drive home.
He had mentioned once that Allie was the youngest of his siblings, and he always tried to watch over her.
"If she could find another job in Columbus, there wouldn't be much change. At least we could see her more often. Indiana would be over a five hour drive, one way."
"I wish she would find a job in Akron so I could see her more often," I said.
"That would be great. Maybe she can give me some copies of her resume and I can pass it along. Who knows, maybe we'll get lucky," replied Bud.
It was a couple of weeks later when Bud gave me one of Allie's resumes. As I read through it, I felt as if she was smarter than I was.
Though I wasn't a brain, I wasn't really a dummy either. My uncle still worked at General Motors, where I worked, so I took Allie's resume to him. He was in middle management and well respected with thirty-three years of employment. The secretary in marketing was retiring at the end of the month and I was hoping that my uncle might be able to get Allie an interview for the position.
"Ross, you've been here over fifteen years and have never asked me for a favor or to forward an application for you. Are you serious about this woman?" he asked when I stopped in his office.
"She is a good friend who lost her job due to cutbacks. Her daughter is as precious as all get out, and her brother is my best friend. I would just like to help her out if I could."
I didn't want to tell my uncle that I was secretly in love with her, but he was no dummy—he could probably tell.
"I'll have to read through her resume and see if she qualifies before I do anything."
"I don't have a problem with that. I read it and I'm sure she could handle the position with ease. She's quite a woman Uncle Ralph."
When he smiled at me, I realized I gave myself away.
"Then I'll see what I can do, Ross."
"Thanks," I said and headed over to my job.
Bud and Clare's wedding was there before I knew it. Imagine my delight when they paired me with Allie. She looked so beautiful. And little Molly was adorable as the flower girl. I thought about Allie throughout the whole service, and was happy to finally get to the reception.
We were dancing when she gave me a little grin.
"What's your favorite song?"
"Why do you want to know?"
"So I can request it from the band," she said.
"My favorite song has always been 'Over the Rainbow'. When I was just a kid I saw 'The Wizard of Oz'. It has always stuck with me. I don't know why I love it so much; I guess it's kind of a girly song."
"No, it's a beautiful song of hopes and dreams. I could use some of them right now with my situation."
She slipped out of my arms and disappeared into the crowd. I thought about going to our table, but she was back before I moved.
"May I have this dance?" she asked, looking into my eyes.
Right then I heard the band begin singing 'Over the Rainbow'. Allie came right into my arms when I opened them to her.
Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high
There's a land that I heard of once, in a lullaby.
Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue.
And the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true.
The dance floor remained crowded, but I could see Claire and Bud, mom and dad, and Mr. and Mrs. Duling, all dancing to the beautiful song. I had tears in my eyes by the end. I always reacted to it that way, though I didn't know why.
Everyone had a nice time at the wedding and reception. But I wondered if I would ever see Allie again. I suspected she knew I cared for her, but probably not to what extent.
Molly was tired from partying so I carried her out to the car. I said goodnight to the Duling's as well, saying I hoped to see them all again soon. Then I gave Allie a hug and brief kiss.
Back at work I hadn't heard from Uncle Ralph, but I just hoped that Allie at least would get an interview.
One afternoon a co-worker told me they were interviewing for Mrs. Brewer's job. We were near a window and could see people going in and out of the office. Seemed like a lot of people were being interviewed, but I knew good jobs were hard to get.
When I looked again, I saw Allie. I said a silent thank you to Uncle Ralph for getting her the interview. She seemed to be in there for quite a while, but I decided that was a good thing. Later that night I got a call from Bud, telling me Allie had gotten an interview. He said she thanked him over and over again for turning in her resume. I guess he didn't mention that I turned it in for her. It didn't make any difference as long as she got the interview.
It was about a week later when I saw Allie again at the plant. I think my eyes began to tear up. About an hour after that, I got a call to go to the reception area. Curious about why, I went right over there. The first thing I saw was Allie sitting there, beautiful as ever. She got up and gave me a sweet kiss and a big hug.
"Thank you. I know it was you who turned in my resume. I had no idea you worked in this plant."
"How did you find out? Did Bud tell you?"
"No, your uncle did. He asked to meet with me the last time I was here, even though I had no idea who he was. That's when he told me you asked him to turn in my resume. After reading it he was pleased to see I was what they were looking for. He added some remarks to my resume and then took it to human resources.
"They interviewed numerous others, but told him that if I was chosen they would give him a call; they were very nice to me. Well, I got the position and start next week. My salary is more than I was making at the other plant, and I have you to thank for it."
The way she beamed at me then made me feel really good. I wanted her close to me, but I knew the job was important to her.
"When I asked them if I could speak to you for a minute, they had me wait here in the reception hall. I just wanted to thank you again. You are such a wonderful, warm, and kind person as well as a very dear friend."
Before she left, she kissed and hugged me once again. I felt great that she would at least be in the area.
Over the next few weeks all kinds of things were happening. Allie and Molly were staying with Bud and Claire till they could find an apartment. Allie's parents put their house up for sale and Claire found them a nice home in the area. They decided to move so they would be near Allie, Molly, Bud and Claire.
Allie found a nice apartment within walking distance of my place. Molly would be starting school and Mrs. Duling was going to watch her while Allie worked.
Bud and Claire invited me to a housewarming they had for his parents. They always made me feel like part of the family, so I looked forward to going. The night of the party, I was sitting on the couch talking with Molly
"Ross, why are you so fat?"
Allie heard her and spoke up. "Molly, that's not a nice thing to ask."
"I didn't mean anything bad, Mommy." She was almost crying. "There was a man on TV who said fat people die sooner, and I don't want Ross to die."
"Honey," I said to Molly. "I've been heavy my whole life. I guess I eat too much and don't exercise enough. Maybe I'll try and lose weight so I can be around to see you grow up."
"Mommy and I walk every night. You can walk with me. But sometimes I ride my bike."
"You're welcome to join us, Ross," said Allie.
Maybe that was the incentive I needed, I thought as I hugged Molly before I went home that night.
We started the next day. I walked to their house and then we went another mile or so together. Molly often rode her little bike. It was nice being together.