License – Chapter 56
Dixie lay, flopped like a rag doll, on the ground in Mike’s back yard, her eyes closed. Closed partly because she barely had enough energy to keep them open and partly to block out the bright sun that shone down on her from the bluer than blue late summer sky.
Mike lay next to her, equally flopped, his own eyes closed. Dixie thought he might have even fallen asleep. Finally she mustered the strength to sit up. She heard Mike mumble something and she grabbed his arm to pull him up into a sitting position beside her.
“Oooww!” he complained, wincing a little as he rubbed his upper right arm and shoulder with his left hand. And then he smiled.
They had started at 7:00 that morning. For the next eight hours they had dug and lifted and raked and watered and sweated. And now the fruits of their labors were spread out before them – A maple tree, two blue spruce and six variegated dogwoods planted in the back yard, and a crabapple, a forsythia and two boxwoods planted in the front.
“Look at it, Mike! It looks awesome already! Just imagine how it’s going to look in the future as things grow. And in the spring the crabapple will be pink and the forsythia will be yellow. It’ll be beautiful. I can’t wait!”
“I’m going to take some pictures and email them to Boyd. I want him to see I took his advice. Maybe almost two months later than he thought I should, but I still got it done this year instead of waiting till next! I’ll send him pictures of the almost finished hardwood floor too.
“Yeah, you know, for some reason I got a lot done this summer,” he continued, trying to feign confusion. But he couldn’t keep the glint of a tease from his eyes. And the smile that he tried to hold in kept popping out onto his lips despite his efforts. “I really don’t know what that reason could be though. Do you have any idea what that reason could be, Dixie?”
Mike gave way to his smile and leaned in close to give Dixie a kiss but stopped short, his lips barely touching hers before he pulled away.
“Was that supposed to be a kiss? Don’t I deserve something more major for all my help than a kiss that felt like a mosquito buzzing by my lips?” She tried to sound slighted but she laughed instead. She knew the reason for the peck instead of the smooch.
“Oh Dixie, you do! You deserve way better than that. And I promise, once I change from smelly, slick and salty into suave and sophisticated, I will give you the proper thank you that you most definitely deserve.”
“Me first!” Dixie shouted, jumping up and bolting for the sliding screen door, looking behind her at Mike as she ran. “I’m getting suave and sophisticated first!”
She rushed inside, laughing, and headed for the bathroom and the relief of a nice cool shower. The water flowed from the showerhead in a refreshing cascade. It washed cool over her sweaty upturned face, ran warm down the rest of her body and hit her feet almost hot. She was a sun, changing the temperature of the water on contact with her abundant solar power.
Suddenly the shower curtain slid open.
“I figured we’d save water,” Mike said innocently as he stepped into the tub behind her.
So they took turns. While one of them soaped up, the other one rinsed. While one shampooed, the other conditioned.
Dixie didn’t think they saved any water though.
It was running the whole time Mike gave her the proper thank you that she did most assuredly deserve.
Later, they headed up to Elwanger Beach Park for some ice cream.
The line at Crocus Hill Creamery was long. It snaked down the sidewalk and along the edge of the parking lot for what must have been half a mile. Everybody seemed to have had the same idea as Mike and Dixie. Enjoy summer’s warmth while it was still here. It was almost September, and although still officially summer, once September hit, the air always had an underlying touch of coolness to it regardless of how warm the thermometer declared it to be.
But efficiency was a top priority at Crocus Hill. The line moved quickly and soon they had their cones in hand; two scoops for Mike – Chocolate Brownie Blitz on the bottom and Eggnog on the top. And one scoop of Elderberry for Dixie.
They sat at a picnic table licking their cones as the day began to wane and the clouds took on shadings of pink and orange with the glow of the descending sun. Seagulls glided above or ambled about on the sparse grass or in the sand, screaming at each other and fighting over scraps of hot dog buns, stale potato chips and orange cheese puffs that had been left behind by messy picnickers.
One gull was struggling to pilfer a half-eaten ear of corn away from a group that was pecking at it together and claim it for its selfish own. Shrill shrieks and screeches accompanied jabbing beaks and sharp, taloned claws as they all fought now to gain independent ownership of the prized cob.
Dixie chuckled to herself at the spectacle. Winning for any one bird seemed a dicey prospect but she was rooting for the gull that had the gray head and one gray wing. He seemed to have a more diplomatic approach to the quest for cob-dom. There was reasoning in his screeches and he did less jabbing.
What a day it had been! Not only had the weather been perfect, bright and warm with cotton ball fluffs of cloud drifting across a magnificent blue sky, but she had spent the entire day at Mike’s side; useful, productive, creating beauty from plainness, soaking in nature’s wonders, reveling in sweetness, and embraced by love.
And now she started to get nervous. Because things were so perfect. Because perfect was what she had been waiting for. Because the perfect day was the perfect time.
Three weeks ago she had called her father to broach the subject of what she proposed to do.
“Hi, Dixie! What’s up?”
“Can I get your opinion on something?”
“Sure. I’ve got plenty of opinions. Which one do you want?”
And his response had been more than positive.
“I say go for it! I think it’s a great idea. I’m with you one hundred percent. You’re your own woman, Dixie. Good for you!”
But behind all his words of approval and encouragement, Dixie had felt like he wanted to laugh! She could picture him, trying not to grin and then, when he remembered that she couldn’t see him, letting that smile out, so big it almost fell off his face. And once he let the smile out, now he had to work at holding his laugh in.
What would have made him have a reaction like that? It made no sense! Surely, she must have been imagining it.
She was gazing off into the distance wondering about this curiosity when she realized Mike was asking her something.
“So, do you want to, Dixie?”
“Want to what?”
“Go on the Merry-Go-Round!”
“Okay! Yeah, let’s go! Sounds like fun!”
Mike took her hand in his and they walked the path that led to the carousel.
The perfect day, the perfect time and now the perfect place! Flittering flutters started to tumble about in Dixie’s stomach. Her heart began to pound. As they waited in line for the ride, Dixie rehearsed in her mind what she was going to say. She made a conscious effort to keep part of her mind attuned to Mike’s possible conversation but he was quiet, content just to stand by her side holding her hand and watching the horses, pigs, goats and rabbits go up and down, up and down and round and round.
Normally, Dixie would be watching the carved and painted animals too, trying to decide which one was her favorite, the one she would make a mad dash for when it was her turn to ride. But today was a different kind of day. Round and round was good. Up and down did not fit her plan. This time she was going to suggest they sit together in one of the carriages instead.
When the merry-go-round stopped and the line was moving forward to board, those words were just about to pop out of her mouth when Mike beat her to it!
“Let’s sit in the carriage, Dixie.” And he rushed over to it, hoping no one else would get there before him.
She scooted in beside him just as the calliope began to play and the wooden animals all about them jerked to life for their roundabout gallivant, her heart beating even faster than it had been before.
“Mike, I’ve been …” Dixie started to speak the words she had rehearsed only Mike had started talking at the very same time.
Not talking really, but singing! Quietly, so the only person that could hear him was Dixie. “And the seasons they go round and round and the painted ponies go up and down. We’re captive on the carousel of time. Have you ever heard that song before, Dixie? The Circle Game by Joni Mitchell? It’s a classic. Joni compares life, time, to a merry-go-round. Each year of your life is one rotation on the carousel. And I wanted to ask you, Dixie, if you’d ride on that carousel of time, together, with me?”
Mike reached into the left pocket of his cargo shorts then and pulled out a little cream colored velvet box. He cupped her chin in his right hand, leaned in close and kissed her lips softly. Then he opened the velvet box. Inside the box was a ring – a simple diamond set in white gold bordered by two glittering green emeralds.
“Will you marry me, Dixie?” His voice was hushed, hopeful, and full of love.
It was so beautiful. So perfect. All of it. Everything. Mike’s words. Mike’s voice. Mike’s face. The ring.
“Oh, Mike,” she whispered, love welling up in her heart along with the tears that were welling up in her eyes.
And she was going to say yes. Of course she was going to say yes! But before she could form the word, she started to chuckle and the chuckle became a little laugh and then she tilted her head back and laughed out loud.
Now she understood her father’s reaction. Mike must have called him to ask for her hand before Dixie had called him to ask his opinion. Her father had known the whole story. And now so did she.
But Mike had no idea why she was laughing! He was staring at her, incredulous, bewildered, confused.
Before he could get the wrong idea and his bewilderment started to turn to hurt. Before he could start to think she was having another ‘curly’ day, she took his face in both her hands and kissed him. Then she reached into her purse and brought out a plain white box, about the same size as the velvet box that Mike had taken out of his pocket.
She opened it. Inside was a gold band shaped like the encircled twig of a tree.
“Darling, darling Mike. You have taken my heart. And now, you have taken the words right out of my mouth. I was going to ask you the same thing. Will you marry me, Mike?”
Smiling and laughing, they put the rings on each other’s fingers, ‘yes’ sparkling in dual eyes and whispered from dual mouths. And then, as the merry-go-round continued its journey round and round, they kissed.
They were still kissing when the carousel stopped. Their ride on the merry-go-round at Elwanger Beach Park was over. But a new revolution on the carousel of life had just begun.
MEET THE AUTHOR – Local Author Book Fair – Barnes and Noble – Greece Ridge Center – Saturday, April 8 – 2:00-4:00PM. For More Information stores.barnesandnoble.com/event/9780061856358-0
All previous Chapters of License are available on Home Page – Click on Archives in the links located upper right corner. Search – License – Chapter #
Print editions available at Lift Bridge Book Shop in Brockport & Simply NY on Culver Road. Online at Amazon and Diane’s website. Comments, Questions? Contact Diane Rivoli through her website www.dianerivoli.com.