“Are you still carrying that old rock?” Rose picked up the stone from the new dresser where he left it when he emptied his pockets to take a shower.
Jim resisted the urge to grab it out of her hand. “Yep, still carrying that old rock. You remember the day we found it?”
Rose put the stone back among the loose change and detritus from his pockets and turned toward the door. “Not really. I know you’ve been carrying it since Junior High, but I didn’t know when you found it. Was I with you?”
“Yes. You were with me.” How could she forget our first kiss?
“I’ll have to get you a tray or something to put your pocket stuff in. This is going to scratch up the dresser.”
Jim watched her retreating back disappear through the wide door . She didn’t look back, even though he was taking off his shirt, getting ready to go into the bathroom. He had fantasized about that first shower at home, the privacy, the never ending hot water, Rose scrubbing his back, kissing her way down his chest . . Oh well, that wasn’t going to happen.
He couldn’t believe it when they pulled up in front of this enormous godawful house and she said, surprise, we have a new home. He wanted to say lots of things then, lots of things. But the driveway was full of cars and trucks, and they were parked up and down both sides of the street. Everybody Rose or his parents, had ever known was there ready to welcome him home. It was a party, a big party and he was expected to smile and act happy to see all of them and even more impossible pretend that he really had arrived home.
He was dirty, tired from the long trip. All he wanted was a warm shower, maybe a big hamburger and Rose. The old Rose. Not this new fancy dolled up business woman who picked him up at the airport. She didn’t look anything like the picture he carried in his wallet, and even less like the picture he carried in hi s heart. Her hair was different, a different color and straight, all the wild curls gone. And she was wearing too much makeup. And there was something else, something indefinable that just didn’t feel like the old Rose. She was like some of the women he met in the marines, all take charge, and taking care of myself sort of attitude. That was fine for a woman marine – but hell, it wasn’t the way Rose was supposed to be.
He made quick work of the shower after he figured out how to turn the water on – what happened to knobs you could just turn, anyway? Rose had laid out clothes for him to put on. He was ready to go back to civvies, but this suit? She expected him to wear a suit? There was another door beside the bathroom door, didn’t Rose say that was his closet? The door opened smoothly and he stepped into a long space that was almost as big as their bedroom back at the cabin. His old clothes were there, organized by type and color. He found a pair of jeans and a western shirt and pulled them on.
He didn’t touch the clothes Rose picked out for him