The Night We Met
(From Her Perspective)
Why am I doing this…., again? I never win any of these things. All they want is “boobs”, and mine aren’t much to look at. I think tonight will be the last. I’ve wasted so much time on piano lessons, voice lessons, not to mention the expense. Pops is so patient with me though.
“Miss Gayle, you’re up next. Give ’em a big smile and …well, you know what to do, don’t you?” Well, here we go again…, into the breach !
She took a deep breath, smiled, and launched herself onto the stage. Swimsuits…, an excuse to size you up with as little clothing as possible and still be legal. Next would come evening gowns, followed by talent…if I last that long. Then it’s done…, permanently !
That guy in the third row…, he’s been watching me since the opening when everyone was out here…, not anyone else, just me. Do I know him ? Well, I hope he likes what he sees now ! Wait a minute…, he’s looking at me, not my legs, not my boobs. He’s looking straight at me, and not like I’m something…, but someone ! Wow ! Now that’s really something different. He’s kinda cute too. Not pretty. Not totally handsome, but just rugged good looking. Wonder what he’ll do if I give him a wink.
Aha! Caught ya! He’d smiled and looked away, embarassed…, but then turned right back to catch my eyes again and returned the smile and wink. Well, I guess you caught me! Now it’s my turn to stare.
It continued through the rest of the swimsuit part of the competition…, eyes meeting, and holding each other’s stares. Now was time for evening gowns. Hope he likes blue. What am I saying? What do I care what he likes? I don’t even know him. He looks like one of the airmen from the base.
The loudspeaker crackled… “Ladies and gentlemen, there’s been a bit of a change in the program tonight. Normally we would have evening gowns next, but we have changed the sequence and, will instead, after about 10 minutes, be presenting the talent portion of the program now”.
Oh, good grief ! I’m all dressed for gowns. Oh, well, I’ll just perform like this. Nothing to stop me from playing a piano and singing like this. Good thing I’m not in the first of the program, she thought, as she mentally ran through the song she’d be singing. It was an old standard and comfortable to sing. That’s why she’d selected it…, but wait, I’m going to do something they’ve never seen. I’m gonna give everyone a surprise.
She was fifth to perform and the spotlight followed her as the came from the curtain to the piano at the center of the stage. Ok, she thought, let’s get this thing going! After a quick sweep through the keys, she nodded to the judges and began…..
“I’ll be loving you, always…, with a love that’s true, always.”
…and the song continued until the end of the first stanza, and right where the refrain should have been came something totally unexpected…
“You ask me how much I need you, must I explain
I need you, oh my darling, like roses need rain
You ask how long I’ll love you, I’ll tell you true
Until the Twelfth of Never, I’ll still be loving you
Hold me close, never let me go
Hold me close, melt my heart like April snow
I’ll love you ’til the bluebells forget to bloom
I’ll love you ’til the clover has lost its perfume
I’ll love you ’til the poets run out of rhyme
Until the Twelfth of Never and that’s a long, long time
Until the Twelfth of Never and that’s a long, long time”
“Yes, I’ll be loving you, always…, with a love that’s true, always.”
The crowd was on their feet, cheering and clapping. And Gayle just sat there at the piano and absorbed it, happily. For her, this was better than winning the pageant.
He’s on his feet too, and what’s that…, a salute? …and where’s he going. He’s leaving! Decision time…, how bad do I want to meet this guy? He’s really piqued my interest, more than anyone has for just a long time. Go…, or do I stay and do the gowns and lose again? Well, this seems a no brainer. I’ll stop at the judges desk and withdraw on my way out. Maybe I can catch up to him…, maybe. She ran backstage and was into her shorts and top, and in no time was in front of the judges…, “I’m withdrawing from the pageant as of right now. I’ll stop back in a while to pick up my things.” They were confounded and began
to tell her she couldn’t do that, but she was already on her way up the aisle and headed for the door to the lounge.
She ran into the lounge and over to the piano bar, turning to survey the room. Not here! She turned to the player at the piano, “Did you see a guy come through here just a couple of minutes ago? He was wearing tan pants and a light blue shirt, short hair, sorta blue-green or kinda gold colored eyes?” The pianist nodded, “You must be looking for Paul. He said he was going to walk on the beach for a while, why, you interested? She smiled. “Go east, past Baricev’s and look for an old fishing pier with a bench at the end of it. Probably you’ll find him there…, or on his way to it. It’s one of his favorite hangouts. By the way, my name’s Barb…., and no, we’re not an item.” Gayle smiled her thanks and was headed out the door.
What am I doing? Why am I doing this? What am I going to say if I do catch up to him? I am soooo stupid! She continued up the beach. Is that someone walking out on that pier? No, it’s just a dockpost ! With that, she almost bumped into someone. Oh, god! It’s him! I am so embarassed.
“Excuse me. I’m so sorry. I wasn’t watching where I was going.”
He smiled, “No problem, I’m not that fragile.”
“Can we just start this all over?” She smiled, “Hi GI, would you mind if I walk with you?”
“Not at all, but how do you know you’re going to be safe with me? I could be an axe murderer.”
“You’re not an axe murderer, Paul. You don’t even have an axe.” Hmmm, he looked really surprised that I knew his name. “Well, am I invited…, or would you rather be alone?”
“I’d be honored if you’d walk with me, Gayle.”
“Gayle Marie Latimer, Pass Christian, MS, 18, singer/pianist…., it was on the program.”
“Ok, that was a scary moment. I thought for a second that you knew my whole life history. Now, Mr. Paul, what’s your resume’?”
“Fair’s fair, I guess, Paul Barton, Lafayette, IN, 18, farm boy/airman. Why don’t we walk on out this pier and sit down where we can talk. I think I’d like to get to know Gayle Marie, singer/pianist better.”
“Sounds good to me. I’d like to get to know y’all better, Paul Barton…., farm boy ???!”
Well, he seems nice so far. Farm boy ! Oh, dear lord, wat am I getting into here. He seems like a rough cut gem, maybe if I can scratch past the surface there’s something really worthwhile below the surface. Time to bait the hook and see what kind of information I can reel in. He seems a quiet type, at least at this point.
“Gayle, what are you doing out here? Shouldn’t you be back in there at the pageant? You could have won, or at least placed. Your talent performance really rocked the place…., not to mention that I think you’re one of the prettiest girls up there tonight…, maybe the one prettiest.”
“Guess that deserves an answer. I withdrew from it. I’ve been competing in these shows for the last three years and haven’t won anything, or even placed, for that matter. Thanks for the compliment. That’s sweet of you. I just decided that it was time to stop wasting my time…, and my father’s money. Besides, and I really couldn’t explain why, but I really felt like I wanted to meet you, ok?”
He’s smiling. That’s at least a positive. Wow…, his eyes…, they seem to change color every time I look at him. Brown, blue, green, grey…, what’s with them.
“Your eyes…, what color are they…, really?”
“My gram calls them hazel. Says they change with the color of my clothes or the sky, or whatever’s around me…., sometimes with my mood. Never thought much about it.”
“Paul, tell me abut Indiana and where you’re from. I’ve never been more than a hundred miles from home. I have no idea what the rest of the world is really like…, except the South…, Mississippi.”
The story went on for a while…, the farm, school, football, college, and then the Air Force. He’s not giving me a lot of detail on anything…, just enough for me to ask questions for more information. Hope he won’t feel that I’m prying into his private life if I ask more. Curious though, he didn’t say hardly anything about family.
“Your turn now, Miss Gayle. Tell me about your adventures.
“What can I tell you? I’m just a simple southern girl. Grew up as an Air Force brat, My father moved us all over while I was a baby and toddler, and then we settled down here and he resigned his commission and went into state politics. He seems to know everybody in Jackson. I went to grade school and high school in Gulfport. The “Pass” didn’t have any schools. I was a cheerleader, and that’s about all. Oh, I did go for a semester to “Ole Miss” but I really didn’t like it. Couldn’t concentrate on studies either. Left college with a low C average.” Not very exciting, eh? What do you do at the base?”
“Student, Commander in Chief of the transient barracks, and anything that the First Sargeant can think of when he gets in a foul mood. Wow, it’s dark out. Hadn’t realized it was so late. It’s quarter after 10, Gayle, and I have to be back on base by 11. How ’bout I walk you back to the hotel?”
“Sure. Time really flew by, didn’t it? I don’t know ’bout you, but I really enjoyed meeting you, and talking, Paul. Could we…, again?”
“I’d like that too. I just don’t know what my schedule is for the next several days. There’s always school Monday thru Friday, but it’s the extra duties that are the problem. I never know when a new group of students is coming and I usually have to be there when they check in. I always try to come down to the beach when squadron duties are over, if it isn’t too late. I don’t have a phone available, except in the orderly room and that’s the most unprivate place in the world. How about next weekend. I could meet you here at the hotel, or, if you trust me with your address, I’d pick you up at home.”
I don’t know if I want him coming to the house just yet. Probably best if we meet at the beach or the hotel…, safer for my purposes.
“Paul, if you go to the beach a lot, maybe we could just meet there some night during the week. I could come there around 5 o’clock or later…
“Ok, we’ll try that…., or there’s always the weekend. I really have to go now, Gayle. Hope to see you soon. He took her hand, raised it and kissed it softly.., “Good night, beautiful girl.” He turned and was gone…, just that quickly
“Good night, Paul.” He’s gone. Damn! When he kissed my hand he sent chills all the way up to my brain. Well, what did we learn tonight? Good looking, really nice guy, a bit shy, really private, funny, and can laugh at himself, and nice manners. There’s just a ton more hiding behind those smiles and quiet eyes, and it seems that he gets evasive about family. Have to explore that one. Well, enough here that I think I might like him, at least for now. I really need to know more. Bet he’s probably thinking the same thing about me. I need to collect my things and get home now. Have to tell Pops I gave up trying to be a beauty queen too. He’s been trying to get me to do this for a long time now.
This is based on a conversation we had with each other
quite a long time after we met. Both were curious about what happened
that night and how each of us felt about it. It was a revealation fo me as
it told me a lot about how she decisively committed to her choices and decisions.
(excerpt from a first copy manuscript)
Good Night Everybody !