|Subject: #6 : (11 March cont.)
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Date Posted: 12:49:07 03/15/09 Sun
Evan watched as she pushed a strand of hair from her face. He loved sitting outside with her during lunch, on the old weathered-gray picnic table beside the gym. She was in her element with the breeze brushing her skin and playing with her silky hair, and the branches above partly sheltering her from the sun. Susie had always loved the spring, when leaves and grass boasted their new green and the air was freshly cleansed by winter’s cold.
He was glad she asked to come in with them so they could have this time together, even if they weren’t alone. Duncan wasn’t saying much, though he often gazed at Susie from across the table, so they had time to catch up on what they missed during the busyness of the prior week.
Having exhausted conversation, she watched children on the nearby playground. Evan glanced over to find her focus and grinned about the small boy pushing a smaller girl on a swing. “Remind you of anything?”
She looked back and smiled. “You know, I always knew how to do it myself. I just wondered how long you would believe I couldn’t.”
He set a hand on her back. “I know. And I knew then.”
“You did not.”
He didn’t argue. His silence would answer as well.
“Then why did you keep pushing me?”
“Jeremy thought it was funny.”
“He knew that you knew? Why didn’t he tell me?”
“Because it was nice to see you smile for a change.”
She let her eyes wander back to the children. Her expression turned to thoughtfulness.
“Jeremy … your brother?”
Evan pulled his attention from her to answer his friend. “Yes. They were cohorts. Now and then I regretted teaching her sign language.”
“Sign language?” Duncan crossed his arms on the table in front of him and waited for an explanation.
Evan noted Susie’s glance, but he had to answer. “Jeremy was born deaf. She learned to talk to him much faster than we expected.” And she was wondering why he hadn’t told Duncan his brother was deaf, but she didn’t ask.
“Was tha’ the cause of the accident? Because he did no’ hear the car coming?”
“We’re not sure it was. The guy was driving so fast, it likely wouldn’t have made a difference.”
She looked at him again, then looked away. After all these years, Susie still couldn’t discuss it. She’d been the one outside with his brother at the time. Even with all their assurances, she wouldn’t stop blaming herself. She was twelve, Jeremy two years older. He knew better than to be on his bike after dusk, even if he did like splashing through rain puddles. It was his own mistake. She at least had the sense not to join him in his mission. Evan could have lost them both.
“You were friends with his brother also?” Duncan was studying her.
She hesitated. “Yes.” Her mood changed meeting his eyes. “And it was really unfair to Evan how we ganged up on him.”
He couldn’t help chuckling. “Yeah, and how many guitar strings did I lose that way?”
“Oh, you didn’t lose very many. We gave most of them back.”
“And some were still usable.” Evan took a swallow of his Coke and explained. “They used to untie them while I was away and refuse to give them back until I took them to the park. Occasionally, they got used for other things first.” He threw a look at Susie.
She tried unsuccessfully to hold back her laughter, reminding him of the fragile little girl he first knew. No matter how old they both got, he couldn’t imagine ever losing that image.
“You know….” She raised her own Styrofoam cup and sipped ginger ale through the straw. “I never told you this, but he proposed to me when I was eleven.”
Evan studied the profile of her face as she sipped more of the drink. Was she serious? Did his little brother beat him to it? “He what?”
She shrugged. “He said I was the only girl he could talk to, other than his mom, so if I didn’t marry him he wouldn’t be able to get married. I guess that was logical to a thirteen-year-old.” Susie looked down at her hands, playing with her napkin. “I told him to ask me again when I was his age because I wasn’t old enough yet.” She took a deep breath. “That was the first thing I thought of the day I turned thirteen. He’d said he would ask me again on that day.”
Less than a year after they had lost him. Evan wondered whether his brother would have actually asked her again. Knowing Jeremy, probably so. They had been very close.
“And wha’ would you have said?” Duncan waited until she looked up. “If he was around t’ ask you again? Would y’ have married him?”
“Well, thirteen isn’t as old as it seemed when I was eleven.” She was avoiding the question.
“No, bu’ would you still be together now? Engaged maybe?”
She was silent a moment. “Together as friends, I would hope, but not engaged. He was my buddy, like Stu. It wouldn’t have been more.”
Evan wished he could thank Duncan for asking what he wanted to know. He never would have. If she’d answered differently…
“Well, I need to get back to work.” She stood, gathering the discarded papers from her take-out sandwich and her still-half-full ginger ale.
He and Duncan did the same and followed her to the picnic area trash can, then to the well-worn path leading to the gym and studio.
“What time are you off?” Evan set a hand on her back before letting her walk away.
“Six.” She stopped. “Oh, you’ll have to wait an hour. I’m sorry, I didn’t think about that last night. I can try to get a ride from someone…”
“Angel, it’s fine.”
“You have practice at seven. That won’t give you much time…”
“I have things to do, anyway.” He looked at Duncan. “You mind staying until six?”
“No’ at all. I do no’ have plans.” He was watching her.
Other than practicing with them, Evan hoped. He hadn’t said for sure.
Susie pulled her eyes away from Duncan to answer. “Okay. I’ll come over as soon as I’m done.”
“We’ll meet you at the studio.”
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