Sandra shook her head and sighed as she listened to her daughter talking to her boyfriend in the next room.
"You have got to be kidding me, right?"
"C'mon Jen, it'll be fun. Ron and Angela and Wendy and Greg will be there."
"A stupid protest? Please."
"We could end up on T.V."
She cut him off. "You know what? I'm done. I am so sick of your stupid causes and ... Just forget it. We're through."
Sandra winced at the sound of the front door slamming, immediately followed by a great sigh and the springs of the couch squeaking. She peeked around the corner from the kitchen doorway to see Tim sitting on the couch with his head in his hands.
Once again, she shook her head. Tim had been on the football team, graduated in the top of the class from high school, and had held down a job since he was sixteen. He had a bright future ahead of him, and her daughter had just tossed him away like so much refuse.
He looked up to see her standing in the doorway. "Oh, hey Ms. Reynolds. I guess you heard, huh?"
Sandra stepped into the room and walked toward the couch. "Yes, and for what it's worth, I think she's making yet another big mistake. She's never known when she had it good."
Wearing a half-hearted smile, he stood up. "Thanks. Well, I guess I'll see you around - at the store at least."
To break the uncomfortable silence that followed, Sandra asked, "So what is the protest about, anyway?"
"The strip mall they're wanting to build over at Greeley's woods. There's all kinds of other places to build it, and they want to cut down all the trees and stick it there."
Sandra frowned. "I'd heard about it, but I didn't know that they were building it there." Though the spot had lost the distinction in recent years, during her youth, the little stand of trees was a popular make-out spot. Sandra had many fond memories of the place, and the thought of it vanishing forever didn't sit well with her.
"Yeah, it sucks. We're hoping that a protest on Earth Day might get some news coverage. Lots of people are going to be there."
The more she thought about it, the more the whole situation offended her. "Could you use one more?"
Tim's smile widened. "Sure. You want to come?"
"I can clean out the refrigerator tomorrow. That is, if you don't mind having an old lady there."
"You're not old," he argued.
"You are too sweet," Sandra responded with a little shake of her head. "So when does it start?"
"In about an hour. You want to ride with me?"
She gestured toward the stairs. "That's fine. Let me go change."
Though she'd felt a little self-conscious on the drive over, Sandra had quickly relaxed upon discovering that the protest encompassed far more than teenagers. The cameras from several local television stations had caused her nerves to act up again, but she'd eventually relaxed. She was chatting with an acquaintance from the other side of town when Tim returned with two paper cups of punch.
"Guess what?" He handed her one of the cups. "Somebody was listening to the radio and heard 96.1 asking the developer about this place. It sounds like they're hesitating. This might have actually done some good."
"That's wonderful. I'm really surprised at how many people showed up." She took a sip from her cup and then looked up at the sky. "I have a feeling that I know why the crowd is thinning and the reporters have all packed up, though."
"Yeah, looks like rain. We've got a pretty long walk back to the car. Wanna head that way?"
"We probably should. It's been a beautiful day, but I imagine that rain will be as cold as ice."
Most of the gathering appeared to share the same opinion, because a general exodus was underway along the side of the road where everyone had parked.
Tim downed his juice in a quick chug, and then tossed the cup in a trash container nearby. "I'm just going to run this over so they can load it up in the truck real quick."
Sandra nodded. "I'll be right here."
The dark clouds continued to creep across the sky, driving a wave of protesters fleeing for the safety of their cars before them. A few sprinkles were falling by the time Tim returned.
"Maybe we'd better make a run for it," he noted with laughter in his voice.
Sandra laughed as he nodded toward the car and walked that way. Not quite a minute later, his jest turned into reality. The sky opened up, and huge chilly drops of rain descended in sheets. Despite jogging the last hundred yards to the car, Sandra was soaked to the skin when she pulled the door closed behind her. Tim snatched the sign off the windshield and joined her a second later.
After a little chuckle, Sandra said, "I can't remember the last time when I ran anywhere."
Tim started the car. "That rain was a good motivator. The heater warms up pretty quick." As most of the crowd had beaten the rain, he had little trouble pulling out onto the road. "Mind if I turn on the radio?"
"No, go right ahead."
Sandra was a little surprised when he tapped a preset button and one of her favorite songs from high school sounded from the speakers. She had to fight the urge to sway to the music, and noticed that Tim was tapping his fingers on the steering wheel in time with the song.
Curious, she asked, "You like this song?"
He chuckled a little nervously. "Yeah. Dad sort of got me hooked on this stuff. Everybody laughs at me, and Jennifer hated it."
"They just don't know what good music is." She gave him a little wink.
The rain tapered off about half way back to the house, at about the same time as the heater kicked in. Sandra shivered as the warmth hit her, and glanced over at Tim. Her breath caught when she noticed how his soaked shirt was clinging to him, giving hints of his muscular torso.
What were you thinking when you broke up with him? She mused while continuing to look out of the corner of her eye. It was only then that she considered her own soaked clothing.
Oh dear, she thought as her face grew warm. The white blouse and sheer bra was proving a poor choice of attire. Between the chill and the saturated material, her nipples were plainly visible. She shifted her shoulders forward and quickly tugged the blouse away from her skin, which helped, but she wonderedhow much he'd seen.
Fortunately, they were nearly back at the house, saving her embarrassment. He pulled into the drive and parked.
"Do you mind seeing if you can find my letter jacket? Jen had it."
"Not at all. Come on in. It shouldn't take a second."
After unlocking the door to let him in, Sandra said, "I'll be right back," and headed up the stairs to her daughter's room. True to her prediction, the jacket was hanging in Jennifer's closet and took only a moment to locate. She pulled it off the hanger and headed back to the first floor.
The sunlight streaming through the front window dimmed as she reached the bottom of the stairs, immediately followed by the sound of rain pounding the house.
Tim groaned. "Looks like we just outran it by a bit."
She handed over the jacket and asked, "Why don't you just stay until it lets up?"
"It's okay. I won't melt or anything."
"Please. Let me go change and I'll make some sandwiches or something."
"I am a little hungry."
Once again, Sandra's face warmed. Just as he responded to her, his eyes had darted down to her breasts for a fraction of a second. She turned toward the stairs to hide her blush - and her attributes. "Just go have a seat in the kitchen. Don't worry about getting the chairs wet."
As she hurried up the stairs, Sandra had the feeling that someone was watching her. Is he looking? Don't be ridiculous. There's no way he's looking at your fat butt. She shook her head in an attempt to chase the thoughts away, and focused on reaching her room to get out of the wet clothing.
She felt far more comfortable when she returned downstairs, dry and no longer on display for the whole world to see. That lasted right up until she walked into the kitchen to see Tim leaned back in his chair, his shirt still clinging to his torso in the most eye-catching way.
She locked her eyes on the fridge and said, "Well, I think I have some ham and cheese. If that's okay?"
"Sure. Anything's fine."
Once again, she felt the sensation of eyes upon her when she bent to retrieve the sandwich fixings from the drawer at the bottom of the refrigerator. This time, she couldn't stop herself from looking back, and saw Tim turning toward the kitchen window as if to look outside.
Just your imagination. The certainty of her mental voice in no way matched the way her body was reacting, though. Her nipples stiffened - and not from the chill of rain-soaked clothing this time.
Sandra sat Tim's sandwich and glass of tea down in front of him just as the phone rang. She nodded when he said, "Thanks," and then went to answer the phone.
"Mom, I'm going to stay at Christine's tonight. We're going to watch the late movie."
"I assume that you at least asked her mother if it was okay, since you're not bothering to ask me?"
"I'm eighteen. Jesus. So can I, or whatever?"
Not in the mood to argue, Sandra answered, "Fine. I'm going to call later, though."
"Yeah. Okay. Bye."
The line went dead and Sandra put the phone back on the charger, shaking her head and sighing in exasperation.
Tim had already wolfed down his sandwich by the time she returned to the kitchen. "I guess it was good?"
.... There is more of this story ...