Clarice gave John an appraising look. “You’re wearing a tux.”
“Sorry. I went into a bit of a panic and couldn’t decide what to wear. Then I saw my tux from last night and—” John shrugged. “—-I figured why not? It isn’t something I can wear every day or to church on Sunday morning. It’s an exclusively special occasion kind of suit. And this is a very special occasion.”
“Well! I am sure glad you went with it.”
“It doesn’t look too wrinkled?” He self-consciously patted down the black jacket. “I did iron it as best as I could.”
Clarice gasped softly.
Oh, this poor precious heart! I want to protect him with all my might.
She put her hands on top of his hands. “It looks wonderful.” She smiled. “And so do you, John.”
“Say my name again.”
He leaned forward and kissed her.
She lost herself in the bliss and joy and peace of his kiss. It was like they were completely alone. They could have been any couple. They could have been anyone. Anywhere. Any place. Any time.
They could have been standing on the top of the moon – feet on the ground, heads high in the darkened sky.
John ended the kiss and they opened their eyes at the same time.
“I’m so glad you came.” she said warmly.
“So am I.”
Little by little, their surroundings reappeared – tables and chairs, friends and relatives, talking and laughter.
The five women sitting at her table.
Clarice smiled. “I guess I need to do some introductions. I don’t want my dearest friends and relatives to think that I’ve grown wild stuff in my greatly advanced years.”
“Greatly advanced?” John shook his head. “Not at all. You’re so young hearted. You’re amazing.”
Clarice imagined him raising Barbara all on his own.
Doing all of the house chores.
Making sure Barbara was adequately dressed and fed.
Making sure she got to school on time and was picked up on time.
Teaching and guiding her throughout her life.
Ironing his tuxedo to make it look presentable.
“I’m not as amazing as you are, John, and that’s a fact. So, don’t go disputing it.”
The corners of his eyes crinkled as he smiled. “I won’t.”
Clarice shifted in her seat to face her five fellow tablemates. “Everyone, this is John Addleston. He and I are dating. I guess you could call him my boyfriend.”
That was all the five women needed to hear. They fired rounds and barrels of questions at him.
Clarice admired him as he answered them all with aplomb and humor.
John, you are super amazing.
I hope you know that.