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  Texas : Features : Columns : Spunky Flat and Beyond :

WHAT IF

by George Lester
George Lester
With great anticipation I headed straight for Mollyís house. The week we had been apart seemed like a month. Her mother and father were home so our initial greeting was somewhat subdued but I sensed that Molly had missed me as much as I had missed her. I brought her up to date on how things had gone down in Natchez and continued to chat with her and her parents for awhile.

I told them I had to find a hotel room for the night. I excused myself and told Molly I would be back later to take her out to dinner and a movie if she wished. It was a chance for me to be alone with her and I was glad she agreed. I breathed a sigh of relief because I wasnít sure what she would say considering the atmosphere surrounding our last parting when I left for Natchez.

After I checked into the hotel I drove to the West Monroe radio station. Even though it was a Saturday the manager and program director were there. I was hoping they would be. I received a much warmer welcome than I figured I deserved after deserting them the way I had. We sat around recalling all the wonderful times we had together. There were a lot of them. I didnít mention all the problems I was encountering in Natchez.

They told me they had attempted to continue the simulated live program I had been doing but they admitted it wasnít the same. It had taken me years to develop all the subtle nuances of the show and it wasnít fair to expect someone to duplicate it in a week. The manager assured me that my job was still open should I want to return. It would have been so easy to accept the offer immediately and just kiss Natchez goodbye. Something inside me just wouldnít let me do it.

The higher salary I was receiving in Natchez wasnít the only reason I didnít jump at the chance to return to West Monroe. It was more like when I lied about my age and joined the Marine Corps at age 16 in World War Two. When boot camp turned out to be much tougher than I had ever imagined I could have gone to the officials and confessed my deception and I would have soon been on my way home. I felt I had to take the challenge head on and stick it out no matter what. Later I was glad I did. I reasoned that staying in Natchez was a similar situation and things would get better if would just give it time.

I graciously declined the offer I wanted so much to accept.

The time had flown by and I knew Molly would soon be wondering what had happened to me. It was a sad experience for me as I shook hands with my good friends and left. The sound of their warm farewells echoed down the stairway as I headed for my car.

Molly and I had a beautiful evening together. We laughed and reminisced about the good times we had shared and the great relationship we had built together. She even smiled when I told her how the week would fly by and I would be back before she knew it. When I took her home and told her goodnight I felt that everything was in accord between us.

The next day I went by to see her again so we could have some more precious time together. It was a beautiful autumn afternoon so we decided to ride our bicycles side by side as we had often done before We pedaled for miles down country lanes and drank in the dazzle of the fall foliage. I felt at peace with the world. Molly seemed to share the feeling. We stopped to rest by a serene lake and watched the day slowly fade away.

I knew that Molly was a shy and complex person with deep hidden feelings. She didnít wear her emotions on her sleeve. It was difficult to know what she was thinking and how she felt. I thought everything was going placidly but when we started back to her house she suddenly stopped her bike and started to cry hysterically. She was sobbing so that I could hardly understand her. I finally realized she was telling me she didnít want to be left there with her parents. She said she didnít belong with them anymore and she wanted to just drop everything and go back to Natchez with me.

I wanted disparately to tell her to pack her bags but in the mid fifties people just didnít live together unless they were married. It simply wasnít done. In spite of how much I cared for her the trauma of the divorce I had gone through made me leery of getting married again. I tried to tell her how I wanted to wait and make sure we were doing the right thing. All the while I tried to justify my reasoning, the words seemed to ring hollow. A man is lucky indeed to have someone care for him as much as Molly did for me and here I was squandering a chance of a lifetime. I have relived that moment in my mind a thousand times. I have often wondered how different my life would have been had I just cast my fears to the winds and taken her back to Natchez with me that very night.

When we got back to her house I held her tightly and kept telling her everything was going to be alright. I didnít want to let her go but it was getting late and I had a long drive ahead of me. I whispered, ďuntil next week.Ē and kissed her goodbye. As I walked to my car and glanced back at her standing there silhouetted in the doorway I feared that my words of assurance had fallen far short of their goal. I was afraid that our relationship had suffered irreparable harm.

The journey back to Natchez seemed even longer than the trip up.

© George Lester
Spunky Flat and Beyond - A Memoir

September 15, 2007 column


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