20 2 2

"Marina," Father asked her Sunday morning at breakfast, "is your beau going to be at church this morning?"

"I don't know. He didn't say anything about it yesterday."

"How was the ballgame?" The question surprised her. He was never interested in what she was doing, unless it involved her school marks. "You weren't out very long, certainly not enough for a ballgame, much less a picnic."

"I don't really know," Marina admitted low. "I don't understand the game. And he brought his friend Gene, who doesn't seem to like anything." In fact, he seemed downright mad. It had made Dot so uncomfortable, Marina had asked Trey to take her and Dot home, claiming chores she had to do that she'd forgotten about.

"He must be bringing his friend for Dorothy," Father said approvingly.

"Well, he doesn't like her."

"It's difficult for a man to respect a wild girl like her," he replied gently. "Perhaps you can suggest she behave more circumspectly."

Marina was just about to blurt out that when Gene was around, Dot was so circumspect she turned into a shadow of herself. She didn't flirt, didn't look him in the eye, barely spoke to him. Gene did and said all the right things, but he said them as if he were—

"He acts like he's being paid to round us out."

"If Trey has to pay someone to put up with Dorothy," he said, "then he must be serious about courting you. I for one am pleased," Father said gravely. "And you, Mother?"

"Of course," Mother said shortly.

As much as Marina was envious of Dot's ease with boys, she didn't like this Dot at all. No life, no smiles, no ... confidence. Gene sucked out everything that made Dot the girl Marina loved. She was going to have to discuss this with Trey and she didn't want to. She dreaded it, the way she dreaded any confrontation at all.

But this was a man who was courting her. Would he stop wanting to keep company with her if she confronted him? He was her beau and she wanted to keep him that way.

It had been difficult to remember that at school Thursday and Friday because boys still flocked to Dot, who was her usual sunny, flirtatious self, while looking right through Marina. Marina didn't have a boy hanging around her at school being conspicuous about going with her.

I have a beau! she wanted to scream. He's a man not a boy and he's MINE!

But neither she nor Dot had said anything about Trey, not to each other, not to anybody else. For one, people would think she was making up wild tales. For two, Trey was a sore point between them and Gene was going to be a bigger one.

After breakfast, Marina put her apron on over her lovely summer church outfit and did the dishes, her mind in a whirl. She didn't want to lose Trey, but what if he didn't like her challenging him about Gene's presence? On the other hand, she couldn't ask Dot to tag along on their dates without a fourth and Dot didn't like any one boy enough to ask to make an even party to put up with his sense of conquest.

If she had to choose between Trey and Dot, she'd choose Dot.

Which made Marina very, very sad. Trey was her first beau and though Dot hadn't ever had one, it was only because she didn't want one.

Marina didn't think Trey would be at church because he'd made it clear he was uncomfortable with her services and didn't think he needed a preacher at all, except to talk theology with. Marina couldn't remember the last time a man had come to the parsonage to discuss questions of theology with Father. There were a few women in their congregation who did but that was because, Father said, though their husbands were men of God, they could not satisfy them. The husbands were not to be blamed or judged, as every man had his strengths and weaknesses. A woman ought not be deprived of knowledge just because her husband couldn't give it to her.

1520 MainRead this story for FREE!