"Burley, would you come in a half hour early this afternoon? I want to go over some things with you."
"Sure, will two-thirty be soon enough?"
I came in when I said I would. Now I was out the door. I should have seen this coming. The old man's nephew had been training on days. Now the nephew was starting my shift and I was walking toward my car. I would be twenty-six tomorrow. What a birthday present.
Mom's estate was almost settled. Mom willed Sis the house and she was moving in with her family in two weeks. I promised I would be out by then. I did have an equal amount of cash to compensate, so I wasn't feeling bad. I was happy for my sister. What I owned for personal stuff wasn't much and I had it all in storage already. I had to get on the ball and find a place to live though.
I drove down the street and on the spur of the moment pulled into a parking space in front of the city common. I walked over and got a drink from the fountain, turned away and looked for a bench to sit on. It was a nice day and most of the seats were occupied. I spotted someone I had gone to school with. Nadia Newsome something or other was sitting by herself. I couldn't recall her married name right off.
We had never been friends, but I knew I could sit by her and she wouldn't push me away. Let's see, I remembered her being married a few years ago. Seems like her name was in the news lately as well. I tried to think in what context, but couldn't recall before I sat down beside her.
"Hi Burley Squires. Sit and take a load off. Beautiful day isn't it?" She said this, but it didn't make her look happy. Maybe a little lost.
"Maybe yes, maybe no. Can't tell yet. I was just let go from the filling station. Powers' nephew just took my place. I don't blame the old man much. He is keeping it in the family, you know."
"Geesus, that's too bad. You've been pumping gas since you were a kid, haven't you?"
"Yeah, about that. All except when I pulled a hitch in the army when I was eighteen. I had trouble right after I got in, so it was a short hitch." I grinned. "Shit nobody wants me." I changed the subject. "What are you up to?"
"Nothing really. Killing time you know. I have a week off. I have to move and am looking for an apartment. I received a good settlement in the divorce and can't make up my mind where to live."
"That's right, divorce ... that was what was in the paper. I was trying to remember. How long before you have to move?"
"Two weeks. My ex-husband got the house and a lot of good it will do him, at least for awhile."
I started laughing, thinking I might put a smile on her face. "Hey, I have to move in two weeks too. It looks like you and I are in the same boat. I even have my stuff all stored until I find a place."
"Good for you. Mine is too. I might live out of a motel until I decide."
I had an inspiration, "So if we are both free from having to be anywhere, let's go on a vacation." I think Nadia was thinking I was kidding, but I wasn't. What I had tried to remember about her came rushing back to me. Four months ago, Nadia's husband had beaten her up and he had been arrested for domestic abuse.
Not much had come of that, but later she was out with some lady friends and her husband found her laughing with a man sitting next to her at a bar. This time he beat the crap out of her. Too bad for him, two off-duty cops came in while he was throwing her into a corner and was seen kicking her. Seems like he was going to be sentenced next week and he might get up to five years.
"You're serious, aren't you? It is weird, I've been divorced a week, but I feel like I am still married. I'm kind of leery of men right now." I could see she was getting some tears in her eyes. "I guess I had better pass. I'd be a lousy person to be on vacation with and you'd have a terrible time. It sounds like fun though."
"I don't think you'd be much of a drag on me. I was discharged from the job I planned working at forever. Look, I have to go to the bank and deposit my final paycheck. I'll swing back by here in an hour and you decide. You can tell me your decision then. I usually rent a camp up north on Lake Karen. We could lie on the beach and let our cares float away. Please think about it."
I was hoping she would still be here when I returned. She definitely needed cheering up. I felt like hugging her, but as she had said she was leery of men so that wouldn't work.
I thought back over what I knew about Nadia Newsome. She had married a man by the name I now remembered. Stanley Brinkley and he was a big guy. He was much taller by three inches than my 5 foot 9 inches. Nadia would never win a beauty prize as her hair was a dirty blond color that curled around the side of her face. Her face was pleasant enough with full soft lips. She had a pug nose that didn't seem to fit with the rest of her features, but unless you caught her profile, you didn't notice.
Nadia was never one to flaunt herself and even today as warm as it was, she had on a heavy dress so you couldn't tell what her figure looked like. She never played sports where others would see her less than fully clothed. She was shorter than me by three inches or so. I heard she worked in a restaurant somewhere.
Me, I was shorter than the general male population and this brought its own problems. I had been harassed in school and when I graduated, I found I wasn't much better off out in the so-called real world. Even my stint in the armed services was hell. I was released early to cover up an incident that occurred during basic training. They tell about not crossing the thin blue line in the police department, but it can happen in the service as well.
I was different now. Not many people harassed me physically. I took steps to learn how to take care of myself. It wasn't obvious, but it gave me a confidence that others could sense in me whether they could see it or not.
I parked in the same space when I returned from the bank and didn't see Nadia sitting where we had been. I walked around the park and found her on a bench in the back facing away from me. I sat down beside her. "Hi."
"You came looking for me. I'm surprised. I thought you weren't serious so I moved."
"I am serious. Shall I call and see if they have a cabin?"
"I guess so, but you probably will be sorry." There was concern on her face and I took it she didn't want to spoil my vacation.
I dialed the number from my cell phone. I had taken the time to find it while at the bank. I made a reservation for a week. "Burley, are you expecting me to sleep with you?"
"No, not if you don't want to. Well, I mean I don't expect to be intimate with you. The cabin only has a double bed, but I can stop and get an air mattress somewhere." She didn't want to start a relationship and wanted that made clear before we went anywhere together.
"That won't be necessary. We can make out somehow without bothering each other. How much is the cabin? I want to pay half."
"We can split the cost when we leave if you want. Remember I invited you so I planned on this being on my tab."
"No way. Is it okay to tell my best friend where I am and who I am with?"
"Sure, good idea. We have cabin number nineteen and the phone number of the campground is right here." She pulled out her phone and dialed someone telling her that she was going on vacation. After a minute she answered some questions put to her.
"No, I have a restraining order against Stanley. I won't be at his sentencing. Who am I going with on vacation? Burley Squires. We went to school together. I haven't seen him since before I was married and I ran into him today." She flashed me a smile. "Actually he is kind of cute. You know his sister, Beth. Beth Johnson. She is moving back to the home they grew up in. I have to run. I'll talk to you when I get back. Bye."
"Cute am I?"
"I had to say something to make her curious about you. We both know your sister, so you had better be good." I grinned and didn't answer. If Beth knew these women, then that was a recommendation by itself. Now Nadia was showing interest and a little excitement.
We set about putting things together for our vacation. We were going to take my car. Her car was old. She said Stanley had a newer one, but it was being financed. She giggled. "If Stanley gets five years, it will be about the same age as mine is now when he gets out."
I told her I had a couple of light sleeping bags and we probably wouldn't need much else. That way we could zip them up and sleep in the same bed. We went into the grocery and stocked up and then went by her house to pick up her stuff. She came out with a small suitcase and a thin garment bag. I took it that it held a dress. I sat in the car waiting as she did this. I was supposed to blow the horn if I saw Stanley coming. Thankfully he didn't show.
I went by my home and came out with the same size suitcase. I had towels and a swim suit, sun block, and shaving stuff. I did bring extra blankets so we could lie on the beach. I also packed some clothes to wear if we went out in the evening. I got my large plug-in cooler to put the groceries in. I also loaded up some wood for a campfire.
"Before we go, do come look in the garage. I want to show you my pride and joy." I lifted the door. There was a restored '57 Chevy hard top, parked there in all its glory. "I'll take you for a ride in it sometime. I don't drive it much. It cost me too much time and money to get it into this condition to go someplace where it could be damaged or stolen. Sis says I don't have to move it yet, so it stays until I find another garage."
"That's smart. I would love to ride in it."
.... There is more of this story ...