Kiss the After Christmas Blues Away...
Christmas was a let down. Not the gifts, or family, or the decorations. The food was great. It's just since Jane achieved becoming a young woman of a certain age, adulthood immediately separated the men from the boys, with most of them in the latter category. Christmas as a single was the pitts.
If it was true as they say, "Girls mature faster than boys," didn't they ever grow up? Maybe it was that she had always hung out with her older brother and his friends, and they had always seemed way ahead of the class of boys her age. She looked up to them, well, most of them anyway.
Over the Christmas break Jane went out a couple of times, to the movies and to dinner, but there was no one she wanted to even receive the obligatory peck on the...she learned to quickly turn so it was on her cheek. She was still waiting to be swept off her feet. No one made her heart beat faster.
She hadn't felt that way since Adam, her brother's best friend, told her to wait for him when he was eighteen and she was thirteen. Now she knew it for the joke it was. Then she took it for a promise and loved him with all her infatuated adolescent heart. It kept her from dating until her senior year when he still never gave her a second look and usually had a girlfriend, someone or other she would overhear him talking about. Instead of always hanging around their house, the guys had gone off to college. Now graduated, Adam didn't even work in the hometown and was rarely home, sometimes just on holidays. Jane even quit asking her brother about him since it hurt her heart in a ridiculous way.
When she saw him now, they just exchanged a sock on the arm for old times sake.
So one day while she was bored, she was mindlessly flipping through a magazine in front of the fire. The decorations were still up though the tree was dropping needles faster than a porcupine with mange. Everyone was off doing gift exchanges at the store or catching after Christmas sales. Jane liked all her gifts and did not have money to shop. When someone knocked on the door, she answered.
Adam was standing there. He had grown so tall she had to look up past his neck, up past the shadow on his chin, past his crooked grin, up to his eyes that seemed surprised to see her. "Hey, dolly."
He had always called her that since the time he caught her playing with her barbies in grade school.
"Hey, Fig." She guessed she'd named him that after a bout of teasing when young, and had said he must have looked funny hiding in fig leaves like the first Adam in the Garden of Eden. Childish, but it stuck. Some of the guys began calling him that too.
She stood there staring at him until he asked if he could come in. "Sure, but no one else is home."
"Mind if I hang out and see if your bro shows up?"
They kept looking at each other nervously until she jumped up to offer him a soda and some leftover Christmas treats.
"Tell me about your job. Is it what you thought it would be after all those years of school?"
"Yes, and no. It is work, but I'm feeling comfortable finally. There're opportunities for advancement."
"How come you didn't come home to work?"
"The company will have more openings for the areas I'm interested in there in the city. Eventually, I might be able to transfer closer to home doing what I really want. How about you? Are you a senior?"
"Yes. I'm trying to decide whether to go for my credential. I'm feeling so done that you could stick a fork in me though. I doubt that I will go on right now. I don't think it would be smart to add a grad degree to my student loans if I'm not sure that's what I want."
"Yeah, I was glad to be done in four years and move on. So, no ring on your finger? You only have a few more months to get it done before leaving school."
"Are you kidding me? The crop of guys in my circle doesn't look too promising. I'm not going to get desperate like some of my girlfriends who are settling for Mr. Less Than They Hoped For." How about you? Was it Gwen, or Fiona, or Elizabeth?"
He laughed. "No, I left them all back at school. It's not the same starting out in a new job and getting into the dating scene."
"Haven't you met someone at church in a college/career group?"
"Actually, I'm helping a friend plant a church. Not many singles in our group."
"How about Betsy or Hannah. You could look them up. I hear they're back home."
"What are you, some kind of Match.com? You're going back to ancient history. Hey, I'm kinda hungry. Want to go grab a hamburger or something?"
Jane could feel heat rising up her neck to flush her cheeks. "Yeah, I guess so. I'll leave a note for my brother so he can catch up with us."
"I'll see him when we get back."
"Oh, okay. I'll get my coat." Jane checked the mirror and put on some makeup before coming out.
He was waiting for her outside with a snowball. A short-lived battle ensued with red cheeks and laughter.
She suddenly felt tongue tied in the cab of his pickup. All her girlhood fantasies had her riding in this old red Ford. Now she was there and not just a tag along with her brother. Jane told herself to stick to the truth, he was just being polite, and was hungry.
Instead of a fast food place, he took her into one of the new specialty places that served really good burgers.
"Hmm," she rolled her eyes, "that was the best mushroom burger I've ever had." They gorged on home fries too.
"Pretty good. Glad to see the old home place has gotten some new businesses."
"Yeah, it was sad when A&W went out, then Al's Diner. But they weren't even in this category. I've never eaten here before."
"I've eaten here a few times since I've been home. Mom's not much for cooking these days since Dad died, and she went back to work. I don't cook much when I'm in the city either, but I don't like to eat alone."
"I'm sure. Thanks for inviting me."
He looked at her for a long moment. "You sure have grown into a beautiful young woman, Dolly."
"Thanks, Fig. You didn't expect me to stay in pigtails, did you?" Jane could feel herself blushing.
"No, but I guess I kinda thought you'd stay a runt."
"A lot of years have gone by. Look at you. I guess I always thought you'd still be wearing your high school sweat shirt. Do you have to wear slacks and a collared shirt at work?"
"Yeah. At least it's not a suit and tie. It's nice to wear a pair of Levi's again here at home. Hey, how about if I show you how I clean up and take you to another new place. It's really nice, not a hamburger joint."
Jane's mouth was hanging open. "You mean my brother and I?" Her heart was pounding.
"No, he can find his own date."
"You mean a date?"
"Don't you remember? You promised to wait for me," he said with a wink.
"You actually remember that? I waited for years before realizing that you were just joshing."
"I'm glad I said it now. Any guy would be happy to be with a gorgeous girl like you, Jane."
Jane did not remember when he had last called her by her name. "I'd love to, Adam."
Getting ready that night, she was more nervous than a goldfish in a tank of sharks. All those years of dreaming about Adam were swirling in her head.
"Hey, what's up with you and Adam?" Her brother stood in the doorway. "I heard he's taking you out. Imagine that, my kid sister on a date with Adam. Don't let him kiss you though. I think I would throw up."
Jane threw a hair brush at him. "Do I look okay?"
"No, I want something that goes past your knees, up to your neck, and long sleeves. He's a real lady killer."
"No, I'm just kidding. He's as nice as they come. You'll be safer with him than any of my other friends. It's just taken me by surprise."
"I think he's always had his eye on you though. He's always asking what you are doing and the whole nine yards."
"I didn't know."
"I didn't think much of it until last summer when he kept watching you at the Fourth of July party. Didn't you notice? He seemed jealous of that James guy. I kept waiting for him to punch him when he hugged you too tight."
"James was a jerk, like most of my dates have been. I thought Adam was mad at me since he never said two words to me."
"Yeah, we decided that if you went out with that guy again, we'd insist on a double date: Adam and me with you and James."
"That would have been a more fun than just James and I ever had. He's dead to me now."
"Hey if any guys ever bother you, make sure you tell me and Adam. We'll take care of them for you."
"What guy didn't bother me? I was thinking about swearing off dating until Adam asked me out. I went into shock. I can't imagine going out with such a nice guy."
Just then the doorbell rang and her brother ran to get it. She was too weak-kneed for a minute to let go of the bathroom counter where she searched her face one last time. Then she went down to find him in a sports jacket and slacks. A real man. She always thought Adam was handsome with his brown hair and dark eyes but never imagined him looking like this, classy.
He seemed to swallow hard when she came down the stairs that she had always come down since childhood. This time he had eyes only for her.
"You look beautiful, Jane."
"Whoa, down boy. This is still my kid sister," her brother protested.
"You haven't looked at her lately then, hot shot," Adam teased back.
Her parents came from the kitchen, "Nice to see you Adam. You two have a nice time."
"Thank you. I hope we do."
He held open the door to his truck. "You can sit in the middle like you used to between your brother and I. I won't bite."
She slid over to her old spot, very conscious of his nearness.
"This is nice, Jane. Thanks for agreeing to go out with me. It's taken me all these months since I saw you at the Fourth of July to get my nerve up to ask you out."
"You're kidding me!" I wished I'd known sooner!
"No, I didn't know if you would ever consider going out with one of the gang. We weren't always very nice to you."
"No you weren't. Actually you are the only one I'd ever consider going out with. I think the others started partying too much in college, didn't they?" Besides, all other men pale beside you.
"Yeah. It was kind of sick to see them sink into that whole scene." I'm so glad you didn't sink with them Adam. I prayed for you all those years.
"I'm proud of you sticking by your Christian principles, Adam." I really, really respect you.
"It got kind of lonely sometimes. Nice girls are hard to find. Like I said, there aren't many singles in my small church. I hate spending Christmas alone. I hope I never have to again." I hope so too, Fig. You don't know how much I hope so.
"You have your mom."
"Yeah, she still misses Dad something fierce and could hardly celebrate. Like I said, I hate spending Christmas alone."
"Me too. It's the worst being single at Christmas. I'm glad you're still available. I would be crushed if I never got a date after waiting all these years." I would feel like Romeo died.
He reached out and took her hand. It felt all kinds of warm. Their shoulders brushing sent a kind of shock that she was pretty sure wasn't static electricity. She was feeling twitter pated and wondered if he did too. They were quiet until they got to the restaurant. When Adam turned off the truck, he turned to say something but looked down at her face, her lips, and bent and gave her a kiss. Her hand reached up to his neck she had always wanted to feel his hair where it curled up off his collar.
The car windows were steamed when they broke apart.
"Wow, Baby Doll. That was more than even I imagined, though I've thought about kissing you for months now."
Jane covered her face with her hands. "I'm so embarrassed." I've wanted you to do that forever!
He pulled her hands down and looked into her face. "Don't be, please. Did you mind it so much?"
"No, I've just never felt that way. It's a little scary." Crazy scary, but wonderful!
"We're late for our reservations, unless you'd rather stay out here?" He grinned at her.
She hopped out before he even got out his side and checked herself in the rear view mirror and saw blushing cheeks.
His hand claimed hers again. "I'm thinking I'll be coming home more often now to see you, if that's okay, Jane. Do you mind if I ask you if you will be accepting dates from any other guys, 'cause I think I'd be pretty jealous. I'd like to think of you as my girl."
Jane smiled up at him. "You have exclusive rights, Fig."
He beamed. "I'm glad you'll be out of school by June. You aren't looking to move away are you when you find work?"
"No, the preschool where I've worked every summer wants to hire me. They've hinted they'll be looking for an administrator when Mrs. Smith retires in a year or two."
"Good. I'd hate to have to chase you around the country."
"You'd do that, Adam?"
"To the end of the world and back."
"To the moon and back, Baby Doll."
"Just so you know, you're worth the wait all these years."
"Since you were thirteen with braces and pigtails. I could tell you were going to grow up to be something special even then."
"You did know I was infatuated with you, didn't you?"
"You're not now?"
"I always have been and probably always will be, Fig."
"Good, because I'm falling so hard, I don't think I'll ever be able to get up again."