Lila searched for Bruce. He wasn’t in the classroom. She didn’t see him near the buses. She took a quick glance in the lunchroom and gym. No Bruce.
Coming back from the football field the only other place she could think to look was the library. But why ever would athletic, never-reads-a-book Bruce be in the library?
But there he sat, hunkered in a chair in the corner, almost as if he were hiding. He even held a book in front of his face. He really was hiding.
“Hey, Bruce, been looking for you. What are you doing here?”
He looked up, shrugged. “I don’t know.”
“What’s wrong?” Lila’s heart contracted. She knew what he would say before he said it.
“We need to talk, Lila.”
Lila about drowned in her own tears before she picked herself up and determined to live again. This time she would live her own life. No more guys, no more relationships. It hurt too much. So much for a first love.
Lila had dreamed of teenage girly dreams like all her friends. Meeting that special guy, falling in love, just like in the movies or the books she read. When football hero Bruce asked her to go to the county fair with him, she gushed the news to her mom and all her friends. She’d attracted one of the most popular guys in high school.
It had lasted all of six months.
Bruce gave excuses like the fact Lila was moving, but they had known that for months. Daddy planned on retiring and wanted to move to his little farm a hundred miles away, less stress of job and city.
Her dog came and laid his head on her lap. His big brown eyes gazed at her with love and loyalty. She rubbed his white head and scratched an ear. He lifted up on front paws and licked her in the face. “Oh, Skippy, you sweetheart.” Lila hugged him as they sat in the yard under the maple tree.
She sat under this very tree dreaming big dreams. None of her dreams had included a break-up and tears.
Her heart broke in that moment in the library. She would leave love and all her teenage dreams to the heavens. She refused to go through this again.
Lila didn’t want to graduate from high school in a new school, but maybe it was a blessing because no one would know of her deep hurt, her decision to have no more relationships with guys who made lame excuses.
Mom and dad bought a shiny new 1970 Chevrolet pick-up to celebrate the retirement thinking it would be a good addition to the farm. It was red with lots of shiny silver strips on it from grill to the bed of the truck. A big white stripe broke up the red on top and bottom. The family laughed and talked all of the hundred miles to the farm.
Lila forgot her hurts. Mama had told her it was part of growing up. “It hurts, honey, sure it hurts, but life is to live. Don’t throw away your one chance to live, Lila. He was one guy. There will be others.”
So Lila put memories of Bruce and his betrayal behind her, but she did say to herself, she intended to never let herself be duped again or trust. In spite of what her mother said, she determined to not let herself be open with another male. She sat with Skippy and told him all her woes. He pawed at her and licked her face. “Let’s go for a romp in the daisy field,” he seemed to say.
Lila laughed as she got up and ran with her dog through the open air under blue skies.
* * *
Lila stepped into the new school. A pretty blond girl approached her. “Hi, my name’s Emily. Can I show you around?”
She smiled at the friendly words. “My name is Lila. I guess it’s obvious I’m new. Thanks for your help.”
The two girls became quick friends. Emily introduced Lila to the small student body. “I haven’t been in such a small school before, but I think I’m going to like it,” Lila said.
She’d already fallen in love with the dry majestic hills surrounding her dad’s farm. They rose high bidding her to come to climb and explore which she spent many hours doing. She roamed through the sagebrush and rock trails that deer traveled from feeding patch to feeding patch. Skippy was her constant companion. He never questioned, just followed, tail wagging.
The girls turned the corner of the school on their way out to the bus. “Oh, Wyatt, this is Lila, she’s a senior like us.”
Lila stopped in mid-step as she took in the six-foot boy standing in front of her. She had to look up to see his bright, friendly eyes that reflected the smile on his lips. She couldn’t help but smile back.
“Hi. Lila, that’s a pretty name.”
She tipped her head in a greeting. But didn’t say anything. Hugging her books and folders as if protecting herself, she got on the bus with Emily close behind. Lila felt a bubble in her heart she didn’t expect. No, she was not going to fall for another guy. What was it about Wyatt that was any different than Bruce? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
But in the weeks to follow Lila found out the difference. Wyatt was a man, not a boy. Even though he was still in high school. He had his brain in the right place. He had plans for his future. He worked his family farm alongside his dad. Since his mother had died a few months earlier, Lila had heard, he determined even more to be the rancher/farmer he’d always wanted to be.
In bookkeeping class, Lila enjoyed putting numbers in columns and adding them, seeing them make sense. She noticed the girl next to her slap her book close and put her head on her arms. Lila heard a muffled groan.
“What’s wrong, Melissa?”
Melissa jerked her head up. “These numbers, I can’t get them to work out right. I hate numbers.”
“Hey, it’s okay. Let me see if I can help.”
Within a few minutes, Lila found the problem and had Melissa happily re-working her page.
* * *
One day Wyatt and Lila found themselves alone on the football field. “How about going to the dance with me Saturday?”
Lila felt the grip on her heart. She’d been so careful not to be overly friendly with anyone, except Emily. None of the boys for sure. One had tried his hand at asking if he could carry her books between classes.
Lila turned at the Bogart impersonator. Barry leaned against her open locker, hands in pocket, ankles crossed. “Excuse me, Barry, I need to get my books.”
“Here, I’ll carry them for you.” He reached over her head taking a moment to lean in close. Lila scooted away, standing in the middle of the hallway.
“No thanks, I can carry my own books.”
“Aw, come on. We’re going to the same class.” Lila reached for her book in his hand. He wouldn’t let go.
“Barry let go of my book. I’m not playing tug-o-war with you.”
“Well, why not, could be fun, sweetheart.”
The last bell rang. “Oh, great now I’ll be late,” Lila lunged for her book and this time grabbed it and yanked it from his grip. “Thanks, Barry. Gotta go.”
Lila nearly ran down the hall to the class just around the corner. She slipped into her seat as the teacher walked into the room with Barry on her heels. “You’re late, Barry,” said Miss Neilson. “Take your seat and open your book to page 154.”
Lila caught a glimpse of Barry searching for his book he had apparently forgotten. He gave her a smirk and raised his hand. “Miss Neilson? I need to go get my book.”
Miss Neilson sighed. “This is the second time this week, Mr. Stern. Go get your book, but you’ve earned an hour’s detention after school.”
At least Barry left her alone after that. And all the other boys did too. She heard snickers and low sounds of brr and shoulder shake. She knew they looked at her like she was an iceberg, but that was fine with her.
Word got around and no one bothered her. Which made her happy. Now here she was facing something worse than someone carrying her books.
“Wyatt, I don’t think it would be a good idea.” Her mouth felt all dry and she wasn’t even sure if she said the words out loud.
“It’s okay, just wanted to ask. I see something in you, Lila that I haven’t seen since my mom and grandma. I saw the way you helped Melissa in bookkeeping. I see you helping others quite a lot. Maybe you don’t even realize.” Wyatt took a step away. “I want to be friends, but I won’t push.”
Lila watched him walk away. Her heart did that bubble thing again, a flip-flop, almost missing a beat. She knew she shouldn’t. It was breaking her own promise, but he somehow drew her out, against her will. Was it possible? He was a good person, she knew that. And handsome and for some reason, he cared about her. “Wyatt! Wait.”
He turned and ambled back. He stood in front of her, waiting.
She took in his sandy colored hair, his deep blue eyes. “Okay, maybe I would like to go to the dance with you. Could we try it as friends as you say?”
Wyatt grinned. “Yep, sure could. I’ll pick you up at seven.”
Lila opened the door to Wyatt. He wore jeans and a blue plaid shirt. He smelled of Old Spice.
Lila wore her bell-bottom jeans that fit snug on slender hips and a white peasant blouse.
The dance at the Grange wasn’t fancy, just a teenage dance. The lights were low, the band played from the stage. Chairs lined both walls, but Wyatt and Lila didn’t take much advantage of them, finding themselves out on the dance floor most of the time.
Standing outside to get some cool air, the couple took in the high bare hills with the moon up in its atmosphere. Wyatt reached for her hand. Lila took it away. “Wyatt, just friends, remember?”
He shoved his hands in his pocket and sighed. “Did you know silver reflects our spirits?”
Lila glanced up to where the moon shone on one side of his face, a kind of silver reflection. “I hadn’t thought about it.”
“My grandparents had quite a love. I’d been told the story of how they met and my grandpa just knew she was the one for him. He gave her a silver rose necklace. It’s been handed down to my mom. She kept it to give to a daughter. But I showed up instead.” Wyatt kicked at some dirt with the toe of his cowboy boot. “I’m feeling the way my grandpa did.”
Lila turned to walk away. He followed.
Lila took a deep breath. “Wyatt, I like you. I like you a lot, but I just don’t know. I had a bad experience, his name was Bruce. He was I guess my first love. He betrayed me with lame excuses and I think another girl as well or at least I heard a rumor, but he’d already made the break. I don’t want to be hurt like that again.”
Wyatt nodded. “My mom told me she knew someone before my dad and she almost wouldn’t have anything to do with anyone else because the guy had hurt her. Told her it was all too routine for him. He could never settle down with one person. She vowed never to trust anyone again. But when she met my dad, well… she said she could tell the difference.”
Lila shrugged. “Maybe someday I’ll feel that way, but for now I don’t seem to have the energy to see it yet.”
“You’ll know when the times right. In the meantime…” He took his hand out of his pocket. The shiny silver chain sparkled in the moonlight. He cupped her hand and placed the chain in her hand with the silver rose in her palm.
Lila put her other hand over her mouth and fingered the delicate piece of jewelry. “Oh, Wyatt, I can’t. It’s beautiful. Why do you want me to have it? I’m not who you think I am. The other boys think I’m the ice queen. Why don’t you think that?” Tears dripped out she couldn’t stop them.
He held her hand with the rose and just stood there quiet.
Minutes later he whispered, “Yes, I do. You do too. Don’t let this Bruce guy or any of these boys around here take what is you.”
More tears came and she was in his full embrace. “Give me some time, Wyatt.”
“Take all the time you need. Do the things you want to do, go where you’d like to go. I’m not going anywhere.”
Lila clasped the necklace tight in her hand and held it to her heart. “I’ll hold on, Wyatt.”