Henry quickened his pace, heading down the long stretch of dirt road that led to Albert's car repair shack. An ivory-white butterfly hovered over the bouquet of yellow roses in his hand, and he felt the same flutter in his belly. He transferred the bouquet to his other hand as he reached Albert's property and hustled through the entrance.
Henry turned on his heels looking over the lot. A few more Model Ts had been added to the collection of beat-up cars parked on the property. He supposed Albert's business must be doing alright, even if his stock looked a bit disorganized.
A voice behind Henry gave him a start.
"Lovely flowers! How'd you know my favorites?"
Henry spun around to find Albert, leaning against the wooden porch extending from the front of the house. The old man wore a ragged white shirt and faded blue jeans. A mischievous look over his face.
"Evening, sir," Henry said, trying not to sound too nervous. "Sorry, these flowers aren't exactly for you."
Albert burst out laughing, shoulders wobbling, and he slapped his thigh. "Oh come on now," he said. "I'm just funning with you."
"That's a good one, sir." Henry gave a shaky grin and lifted his wrist to wipe a trail of sweat above his brow. The man was actually in a chipper mood, a whole lot different from his demeanor in their first meeting.
A smile eased into Albert's expression. "Well go on. Spit it out."
Henry tilted his head in confusion. "Spit it out?"
"That's right. What brings you here?"
Henry stared at the man. But it wasn't until he gazed into Albert's eyes that it became clear.
The old man didn't recognize him!
True, it had been several weeks since their first meeting. And Henry was sporting a blue collared shirt and khaki slacks now, a distant cry from the blood-soaked baseball uniform he'd worn back then. Not to mention his head wasn't all banged up.
Henry had played several scenarios in his head involving Albert's reactions and how he might respond to the question on his mind. "Not recognizing him" wasn't on the list.
Still, Henry wanted to forge ahead. He liked Sarah. She was interesting and beautiful. And she was worth the uneasiness he was currently experiencing.
"I've come to see Sarah," Henry said, holding up the bouquet. "I brought her these flowers to thank her."
The humor blinked out of Albert's expression, his face now a blank slate. "To thank her?"
"Yes, sir," Henry said. "I was here a few weeks back, remember? I took a baseball to the head, bled pretty bad, and your niece patched me up. I know I should have come by sooner, but just the same, I wanted to show my appreciation. Is Sarah around?"
Recognition seized Albert's eyes, and his expression turned angry. "Wait! I remember you now. You were here with that big gorilla of a fella."
"That's right, sir," Henry said.
Albert's expression changed again; this time to suspicion. "You brought her that fancy bunch of flowers just to thank her?"
"Well, yes," Henry said before shaking his head as if to erase what he'd just said. "I mean, no." He let out an exasperated breath. "Truth is, I was hoping to ask Sarah out ... on a date?"
Albert lifted a brow, a look of disapproval in his expression. "I knew that's what you came here for."
Henry felt a wave of disbelief crashing over him.
Albert jabbed an index finger at him. "No! Not a chance. You aren't taking my niece anywhere!"
This chapter (The Question) and the next chapter (The Answer) happen pretty much in parallel. The first chapter is from Henry's viewpoint, and the second is from Sarah's. I wanted to give both perspectives but keep these two chapters short, because two pretty important chapters are coming up, tentatively titled "47. The Dinner" and "48. The Date."
Anyway, would you have liked to have seen any other details in this chapter? If so, let me know.
And as always, thanks for reading! :)
All the best!
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Color (Completed)Historical Fiction
WATTYS SHORTLISTED! During World War I, a black baseball player gets a second chance to play ball on an all-white steel mill baseball team, an action that shocks and divides an entire town. Targeted by opponents, his own team, and mysterious vigilan...