"You want me to do what?" Mrs. Boydon sat up in bed and looked at her husband lying beside her, cloaked in darkness.
She could see his mouth in the light thrown from the street light outside their quarters. "I want you to agree to let Phil see Elaine again. We've tried to keep them apart. It hasn't worked. We've got to try something else." He spoke softly, maybe because Phil was in the next room or maybe to keep the authoritarian military officer father out of the discussion. He really did try to do that, sometimes.
"Matt, I just don't see how I can. How can we trust them together? They tried to -- do it at thirteen. Twice. Now they're fifteen and you want to let them see each other? No." Beatrice Boydon flounced her pillow, shook her head and rolled over, putting her back to her husband as she drew the covers up to herself. She heard a snort, and then he settled back on his side of the bed.
It seemed so strange to her. As Phil had grown up, she had been the shield when Matt had occasionally acted as though their son were a soldier and not a boy. Now her husband was suggesting that Phil be allowed to associate with a girl that she'd accidentally caught naked in his bedroom. Was it that Matt couldn't quite visualize two groping naked children? Or was it that he was a man and looking at this as though his son had almost had a triumph which she had spoiled?
She'd been worried about the relationship between Phil and Elaine for at least two weeks before she'd caught them. They had been obviously infatuated; no question about that. She'd seen them kissing a few times, and they were no longer little pecks, but long, deep, passionate kissing such as she had not begun to do until she had been in college. Once she'd been sure she'd seen Phil's hand on Elaine's small breast. But Matt had laughed off her worries, sure that it was a quick puppy love junior high romance which wouldn't last the summer, especially since Phil knew he would be off to boarding school in September.
She heard a low snore from her husband who had to fly in the morning. Well, he would fly and she would take some time from work. She'd have to go in as there was a deadline. But she could go late and leave early if she could juggle other things. Work was important, but their son, home on Easter leave from military school was far more important. Especially when the girl he felt he loved was but minutes away now that she had a driver's license. If only she could call the Provost Marshall's office tomorrow early and make sure the MP's at the gates would not let the red headed siren in. But what about Phil's friends from when they lived off post? Which of them would sneak that girl in? Or sneak Phil out?
Why did kids have to grow up? Phil had always been a good boy. Why did he have to fall for this girl? It wasn't like she was a raving beauty. From the brief look she'd had of Elaine when Phil had brought her off the train they'd schemed to ride home together she still was petite at the very most. She did have a pretty smile and she wasn't plain. But not a beauty. Was Phil still after her because of sex? Maybe he thought that only Elaine would, what was that word she'd heard, "put out" for him. Phil was rather shy, a further burden for an army brat, she was sure. How could her husband sleep so soundly with a problem this big? But he did, and so must she.
As she drifted off to sleep she wondered again how she could not think of that girl as "El" as Phil called her, but only as Elaine. Did that child have some power over her?
The next morning Phil came down dressed in jeans and a flannel shirt just as his father was about to leave.
"Hi, Mom, hi Dad. Guess I slept through reveille this morning," he said.
Matt Boydon adjusted his tie and smiled. "You heard it?"
"Sort of. But I went back to sleep. I didn't hear Denny complain, so I knew I was home."
"And how is your roommate?" Beatrice asked.
"Oh, he's just fine, Mom. You'd like him. He's always trying to get me to date some girl or other."
"Follow his advice, Phil. I need to get out of here. Take off is in two hours. You help your mom out."
"Sure, Dad," Phil said, talking to his father's back as he went out the back door towards the detached garage.
"So what do you want me to do, Mom?" Phil asked as he sat down at the kitchen table and began to pour a bowl of cereal.
"I'll be here for awhile. I'm going in late. But you can help clean up breakfast stuff. Do you have any plans?"
Phil looked at her, almost, she thought as though he wanted to know which flag pole to salute. "Not really, Mom. Thought I'd walk to the PX after it opened." He began to eat the Cheerios in the bowl.
Beatrice Boydon paused at that. Was he planning on meeting a friend there so he could rendezvous with Elaine Goodman? "Why, Phil?"
"I need to get some stuff for school. It's cheaper here and I promised Denny I'd get it."
Beatrice nodded. "I'm sure your roommate doesn't expect you to get what you need the first day."
Phil looked down at the table. "Sunday's Easter, Mom. I was going to get El a corsage. They'll deliver it. It won't even have my name on it." As he talked his voice got softer and he stopped spooning the Cheerios from the bowl, almost as though he expected an explosion.
She stopped and looked at her son, no longer all spruced up in uniform, but a little shabby and seeming tired, sitting at a beat up table in the kitchen of quarters that no telling how many families had lived in, most of them with teenagers. How many had gone through this problem she thought. How many had a son who still obviously loved a girl who had hardly been seen for two years? Many would have had separation by moving. But Phil hadn't. His was separation by banishment, not transfer. He had plenty of opportunity to date at Newberry. Yet he was still fixed on this girl, this rather ordinary girl from her physical appearance. Was it possible that he overlooked her appearance because he saw something more; that it was not sex?
"Why don't you forget her, Phil?" she asked.
"I can't Mom. Some times I almost wish I could. But I can't. She's my girl; she's the one for me and she thinks the same about me." Phil took a spoonful of cereal, raised it from the bowl, then put it back. He looked up, his blue eyes looking full at her.
She looked at him straight, not blinking. "Maybe you think it will be easier to finish what you tried to do?" She tried to keep her voice firm and parental. She wasn't sure it was.
He smiled. "Mom, if that was all I wanted, I could go down to the Itch Theater at school and pick up a town girl there."
She sighed. "I guess you could, from what I hear. At least I wouldn't know about it." She took a sip of her coffee. "I've never told you this, Philip Matthew, but do you know what I did the night after I caught you two?"
"No, Mom." Phil's eyes squinted and his lips drooped as though he knew something bad was coming.
"First I drank far more than I should have. Then I cried, Phil. Cried for my son's lost innocence and my guilt. I could see the two of you were too much together. Going too fast. And I didn't stop it. Until it was too late. Nice girls just don't do things like that. Especially at her age." Phil looked at her and she swore there was a tear in each eye corner.
"I'm sorry Mom. We didn't want to hurt you or anybody. But El is a nice girl. She's number five in her class at Mount Vernon. She's secretary of the sophomore class and in the glee club and the band. She's in her church's youth group and helps at her parents' store. I told you we vowed to never do that again until we are married." She watched as Phil took out his wallet and then a piece of paper and opened it. Even from the other side, she could make out the neat letters written in green ink. "Listen to her latest letter, Mom: 'I've a surprise for you, Phil. We'll have several hours alone together before you go back to Newberry at Easter. I promise. But we have to be careful. We can not break the vow. If it means we are just alone together and nothing else, we have to keep the Vow. Agreed?' Isn't that a nice girl, Mom?" She was sure he thought so; it did sound honest.
"And when will these hours be, Phil?" she asked.
"They were, Mom. On the train." He took up the spoon again and ate. "And El and I could have last summer." He dug into the cereal bowl, not looking at her.
She caught her breath and tried to sound calm. "How so?" He looked down at the cereal again, so that all she could see was the top of his crew cut blond head. Meanwhile she tried to absorb what he'd been saying.
"Remember when I camped with my old scout troop last summer? El was there. We were with each other a whole week, Mom. We could have 'finished', Mom. But we didn't. And we aren't until we're married. That's the vow."
"Your father thinks you two should be allowed to see each other. Like you begged for in the car last night, coming home from the train where we caught you two," Beatrice said softly. "He might change his mind if he heard that. You disobeyed us doing that, you know that."
"Yes ma'am. Mom, if you force us, we will again. And Mom, tell him we had a small compartment, a roomette on the train. We could have yesterday. But we didn't. We were wrong before. We know that now. We'll wait until we marry." He looked full in her face. "I love you Mom. And Dad, too. And I'll obey you in anything except not seeing El. I'm sorry Mom, but I have to see her. No matter what." Then he looked down at his bowl and his cheeks seemed to redden as though he were shocked at his own impudence. But somehow it didn't sound impudent to Beatrice; rather a plea for help.
Beatrice saw Phil continue to look down on the old table. He fed cereal in like a machine gun's belt now, not looking at her, but with cheeks that seemed to glow red. He loved the girl, that was sure. A whole week with her, with unsuspecting adults. Rode in a roomette, a Pullman sleeper with a bed. And that note about their vow. Last night he'd sworn they hadn't done anything and offered to pay to have Elaine examined. He was either the greatest liar she'd ever met, something she couldn't believe, or he had learned a hard lesson almost two years ago.
Considering the moon, if Elaine was regular, it could be that Mother Nature had a hand in their celibacy, at least last night, she thought. But his honesty, his determination was obvious. Matt was right. Their attempts to keep Phil from Elaine had failed. And she couldn't help but be impressed by the obvious maturity both displayed when they'd walked up from the train to waiting parents . "What kind of a corsage were you thinking of, Phil?" Beatrice said quietly as she dug into her purse.
"Maybe a few small roses or something like that, Mom. I have a bit over two dollars. But I want something for her for Easter, even if I can't be with her."
Beatrice Boydon bit her lip and took three dollar bills from her wallet and pressed them into her son's hand. "You should be able to get a nice corsage with this and what you have, Phil." She kissed his forehead. "Go to the PX and order it for Elaine. If I have anything to do about it, Easter morning you will pin it on her dress."
She looked at his face glow as he stumbled to his feet and hugged her like he hadn't in five years. She knew that this was either the best or worst decision she'd made in twice five years. Phil's face seemed to say it was the best. Her heart said the same. Now to convince Elaine's -- no --, El's parents.
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