Elaine Goodman looked at the clothes lying on her bed. Never had a selection of clothing seemed more important to her. She had to look mature enough to be thought sensible by not only her parents, but by Phil's parents as well. In addition, she had to be mature but not sexy in any way. She thought her selection was as good as she could manage.
She drew on the white blouse with its closed Peter Pan collar and three quarter sleeves. After she buttoned it she pulled out the thin gold chain with the natural green crystal cross so it lay demurely between her small breasts. She knew she risked a comment, as it was Phil's first present to her, but El always wore it on special occassions. She checked. Yes, the blouse was thick enough to hide the outline of her slip. El stepped into her pleated kilt of dark red and green and buttoned and zipped it. Her lowering of the hem worked fine. It broke right below her knees so that only a small bit of calf showed before her matching socks covered the rest of her legs. She slipped her feet into the shined brown penny loafers and turned back to the mirror at her dressing table and began to put her bright chestnut hair into a pony tail, her practiced hand working with the rubber band that was almost the same color as her bright chestnut hair.
With her hair properly prepared, she then took her palest lipstick and applied it lightly so that her lips just took on a slight gloss. She looked at her three bottles of perfume and decided that was not a good idea. Too many implications in perfume. She'd just have to smell like Elaine. Well, she thought, what was it Phil said that paratroopers yelled when they jumped out a plane? Geronimo. That was it. Okay, Geronimo. She opened her top drawer and looked at the military school cadet's picture. "Wish me luck, Phil. We're going to need it. And good luck to you." She was about to get up when the record player paused for the drop of the next one. What was it, she thought. And she heard the first notes of "The Wayward Wind," Phil's army brat song. A good omen, she thought and listened until the last wailing notes. Then she turned the record player off and left the safety of her room, headed downstairs and battle.
As El descended the stairs and turned into the living room she saw her mother standing by the piano. El looked straight at her mother, who still had her suit on from work. "You look very nice, Elaine. I sort of expected you to be wearing jeans and some old shirt."
El frowned. "And Dad's probably expecting me to wear ashort shorts and a tight sweater. This is very important to me, Mommy. I don't want to blow it." So I dress well and use slang, she thought. You have got to keep thinking, Elaine Dolores. If you want to be able to see Phil legally again, you have got to keep thinking. She scanned her mother's face but there was no sign of censor there.
"Elaine, are you downstairs? It's almost time for the Boydons to be here," her father bellowed from the kitchen.
"I'm in the living room, Dad. Talking to Mommy." She was sure they'd be right on time. Phil always was and he said he was always in trouble with his army father who thought two seconds late was unpardonable. Her father walked into the living room, devoid of his suit coat and tie.
"Well, Elaine, are you going to church this evening?" he asked.
"No, Dad. But I want to look nice." She didn't say that among other things, she had done a great deal of praying. Not on her knees, but lying on her bed, looking at pictures of Phil sent illicitly through the mail or taken to the drug store alone. El knew her parents were aware she had some pictures. She just didn't want to flaunt them or for them to know just how many she had. The doorbell rang and her father frowned briefly.
"This must be the Boydons," her mother said and headed for the door. "Elaine, you go sit on the love seat and stay there young lady. " El nodded her head and trudged over to the seat. Where would they put Phil, she thought. She gathered her kilt and sat down, carefully placing the pleats about her shut knees. "Come in," she heard her mother say.
Then there was Phil in the doorway, wearing chinos and a long sleeve white dress shirt. His shoes looked like they were the ones he wore at Newberry. He saw her and a faint smile crossed his face. She was sure he knew only she could see it. Not so with her and she sat motionless, eyes straight ahead, lips closed. Just like he must have to be at a parade, based on his detailed descriptions,
"Phil, go sit next to Elaine so we can all see you two at the same time. But no touching. You hear that, young lady?" her father said.
"Yes, sir," Phil said and marched towards her. She scooted towards the near arm just a bit.
"Yes, Dad," she said and thought. The train ride yesterday had enough touching to last for awhile. She had her memories and she'd lasted since the summer on their furtive week together while her aunt and uncle and grandparents camped.
Phil was pressed against the other arm, too. "Hi, El," he said.
"Phillip Matthew," his father snapped.
"Dad, I just said hi. Nothing more. Hello, Mister and Missus Goodman. "
El's parents nodded as the adults arranged themselves on couch and easy chairs so that they were on three sides of El and Phil. El smiled at Phil's parents. She meant it to be warm and friendly and hoped it was. "Good evening, Missus Boydon. Good evening Colonel Boydon. "
"Hi, El. You look lovely this evening," Mrs. Boydon said and El bit off a squeal of joy. For Phil's mom to call her "El" again had to be a good sign. it just had to be.
"Yes, you do. And not quite as uptight as you did last night," Phil's dad said and chuckled.
El managed a grin. "I've had all day to think about this, Colonel Boydon. You didn't just catch me." She'd almost said, "caught me with my pants down." That would have been a disaster. After all, Phil's mom had caught her that way two years ago, almost. And in the train car, well, her pants had stayed on. And so had Phil's. But that was about it.
That of course was what their parents worried about. In a way she didn't blame them. Yet she and Phil had managed to be together several times, to kiss, to neck, to even pet and she was still a virgin. He was too, or so he said, and she believed him. Just like she believed that he was as serious as she about waiting until they were married to finish what they had tried to do two summers ago.
"We aren't sure exactly what to do. We hate to send Elaine away, but that might be the most sensible thing to do. Maybe you'll go to some other army place soon, Colonel Boydon?"
El focused her attention back on what the adults were saying.
"I don't think so. With my promotion and new assignment, I'll probably be here another two or three years. By that time these two will be out of high school. I'd thought of sending Phil to his grandmother's or requesting a transfer, but I'm not sure either of those ideas will work. We may have to think of something different."
"Mom, Dad, Mr. and Mrs. Goodman, if you let El and me see each other, at home, with one of you there, I promise we won't try to do anything else. Just let us see each other."
El shook her head. "No, Phil. If we are never to be alone, why bother? We can just continue to write and send letters and things. It doesn't have to be long, but I want to be alone with you ever so often. And I know you want that, too." She raised her hand, palm towards Phil and nodded when he did the same, keeping his palm inches from hers.
"That's just it. Your boy molested my daughter. I can't let that happen again."
El half rose in her seat, ready to protest.
"Ralph, I'm not going to defend Phillip's behavior. He was wrong and he knows he was wrong. But El Goodman was not molested by Phil Boydon. No more than Phil Boydon was molested by El Goodman. They were both as innocent and as guilty. At least I think that's so."
"Phil's dad is right, Dad. Phil didn't do anything I didn't want him to do. And he hasn't since, either. " She stopped. Well, obvious that yesterday's train ride wasn't the only time. "Mommy. Dad, we've been alone a few times that you didn't know about. We snuck around. We lied and hid out. But we didn't do what you are worried about."
"We're worried about anything you two do, Elaine," her father said.
"True, but there's one thing that worries us most," Phil's mom said. "Pregnancy."
El choked on that word. "Mrs. Boydon, it won't happen. I know better now. Phil isn't going to try and I'm not going to let him. Until we're married. Right, Phil?"
Out of the corner of her eye, El saw Phil nod and open his mouth.
"Just a moment, Phil," his father said and El felt her stomach churn even as a moment before she felt a rush of happiness when her father'd been challenged. What was he going to say that he had to cut off Phil?
"My wife and I talked this over. Like I said, we considered asking for a transfer or sending Phil to live with his grandmother. And we decided that neither were going to work. Our children honestly think they are in love. They probably aren't, but they think they are. Too much restriction and we may have runaways on our hands. Or teen age parents.
"That's unacceptable. I think we need to back off a little, agree to let them see each other under close supervision. And if anything, anything untoward is even suspected, we'll figure out something else very drastic.
"We don't particularly like this situation and Phillip faces punishment for his train trick, but I think it is the best we can do. " Phil's dad smiled faintly. "In my profession we like to know where the enemy is. Obviously it's been sneaking through the bushes together when we thought it was on two far away hills. "
"No. I can't allow that. And it's not just pregnancy. Too many people think Elaine was too easy once. She's regained her reputation I believe. I don't want her to lose it again." El watched her father shake his head, blushing as he did and glowering at Phil.
"Dad, I have my driver's license and some of my friends do, too. I imagine Phil will get his when he gets home for summer leave. It's not like when we only had bikes." She tried to keep her voice calm, but she knew she was making her father mad as his eyes closed and his lips firmed into a straight line.
"Yes, sir. We don't want to do anything rash or stupid. But we can get married in North Carolina now. And we can get there," Phil said even as El cringed. Like she'd threatened to do so long ago, the day they'd been found nude in Phil's bed by his mother.
"Elaine, I want to see you in the kitchen," her mother said. "Without another word." El turned and looked at Phil, wanting assurance from him for some inexplicable reason. She felt relieved, somehow, when he nodded. She got up off the love seat, still being careful to avoid him and followed her mother into the kitchen.
Once there her mother motioned El into a kitchen table chair. "You remember when I took you to your grandmother's after you and Phil were caught?" Her mother stood and looked down at her, a hawk sizing up the rabbit far below.
El nodded, wondering what was going to happen. "You remember what I said would happen if you were to get pregnant?" El nodded again, feeling miserable, knowing her mother was about to tell her privately to give up all hope of seeing Phil, even with both parents present and she and Phil in handcuffs. "No, Elaine. Answer me."
Oh, this is awful, El thought and mumbled, "Either I'd give up the baby for adoption or I'd get an abortion and it would get killed." She looked away from her mother and felt her cheeks burn.
"You remember. Good. That happen to any girls at Mount Vernon this year?"
El hesitated. That Jane somebody, the senior. And Carla Smith who'd been in her World History class one day and gone the next. "Yes, ma'am . And some of the girls called them sluts and worse. "
Her mother nodded, and El felt her mother's hand on her chin and had her face gently turned until El was looking at her again. "We don't want that happening to you." Then her mother was kneeling, hugging El. "Your dad is mad and hurt. But I think Phil's dad is right. I want you to promise me something, Elaine Dolores Goodman."
"What, Mommy? I'll try."
"I want you to promise me that you and Phil will not try to do what you did before. That you will stop short of that. I know if you see each other alone you will do more than kiss. But that you will, oh what is it that Ann Landers said? "Keep all four feet on the floor" I think that's what she said. And that most importantly, if something goes wrong and you do, that you will tell me at once. I mean that very night. Will you promise me that, Elaine?"
El felt her cheeks burning. Her mother was talking about petting, obviously. But it sounded like her mother was giving in.
"Yes, Mommy, I promise. And I'll get Phil to promise, too. Call him in here. Please." Lord knows she didn't want her mother to think she was being ordered around.
Her mother looked at her for a moment and turned. "Phillip," she commanded, "come in here."
El saw Phil's face drain but he jumped up and took a step and stopped and looked towards his mother. She nodded and he marched across the living room and into the kitchen. "Yes, ma'am?' he said.
"El has something to say to you. I'm going to go back into the living room. You two just stay by the door. " She turned, then El felt her mother's hand on her shoulder again. "Make it fast, Elaine. And don't be foolish."
"Yes ma'am. I won't. This is too important. " Then her mother was gone and she turned to Phil and looked him over from his short blond hair, past his lake blue eyes, his smile, all the way down to his shoes. She smiled and puckered her lips at him. "Mommy will support us if we both promise that we won't try to, you know, do it again." She felt shy suddenly, despite their past intimacies. Maybe because of what her mother had said. "She says that if we do forget or go overboard I'm to tell her at once. She didn't say what will happen if we do. We both have to promise. "
Phil smiled. "Deal. You suppose by next year they'll let us hold hands again?"
She felt her smile. "I think so." Then she turned and marched back into the living room. "Mommy, I agree. Completely. I promise."
El felt Phil's presence beside her, even if she didn't feel his flesh. "Mrs. Goodman, I promise, too. In fact, if we break your rule, I'll tell you before El can. I swear it. "
El saw her mother give a wan smile. "Okay, Ralph. I agree with the Boydons. I'll let Phil see El again. In our house or in his, with at least one parent around at all times. No more than ten minutes out of sight, ever. Must be sitting or standing at all times. No mussed clothes or hair. No flushed skin. Ever. "
"We can't do this. This is our daughter, our baby. " He shook his head. "He's not the one who'd get in trouble, it's Elaine. She's the one who'll get the shame and ridicule. "
"Sir, I won't allow that to happen. And she will never be without me. I promise."
Phil sounded like John Wayne when he was a drill sergeant in that World War II movie , she thought.
There was silence. El wanted to scream and then her father said, "I have a shotgun and I know how to use it."
Phil's dad laughed. "You may borrow mine, too. Phil you heard those rules. You will follow them? "
El watched and Phil drew himself up. "Yes, sir. I swear."
Again his father laughed and nodded to his wife. "Phil, you have your father's and my permission to see El again. You must abide by these rules. "
El didn't know whether to laugh or cry. She looked towards her father. "May I touch his hand, Dad?" she said, sure the request was a mistake. She could see her father was not happy, but he nodded and she reached out and took his hand, right hand to left.
"Phil has a corsage for El to wear to church tomorrow at Easter. If it is okay, we'll bring him over tomorrow to give it to her," his mother said.
"I'm sure she'd like that. Would you like to invite Phil to come with us to church, Elaine?' her mother said.
Unable to speak, scarcely believing how this day ended, Elaine nodded, even as she felt tears well in her eyes.
They flowed again the next morning as she stood in church to sing. Next to her was Phil in uniform, a brass buckled white belt around his waist, stripes on his sleeve and a medal on his breast, holding the hymnal for her as she adjusted the orchid corsage. They sang together,
"God hath brought his Israel into joy from sadness;
Loosed from Pharoh's bitter yoke Jacob's sons and daughters...
'Tis the spring of souls today; ..."
This is our song, she thought. A hymn. It's a sign. We will keep our vow. I'll never have to wake Mommy up and tell her that we'd failed her. Phil looked at her and smiled. He knew it, too. It would be all right.
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