49. First Date

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Henry helped Sarah clear the kitchen table, storing the leftovers in a faded wooden ice chest by the back door. When they finished, he strode over to Albert, an apology in mind. But the old man was fast asleep, a light snore escaping past his fluttering lips. The newspaper had fallen to the floor beside the recliner. Henry picked it up and noticed the article Albert must have been reading: Six Reasons Why Henry Louis Will Fail the Pioneers! With a heavy sigh, he lowered the paper onto the side table.

Sarah tilted her head, gesturing to the back door. Henry followed her outside.

In the backyard, Sarah looked up at the evening sky, the clouds bathed in a lavender glow. "I don't know what's gotten into him. He never used to be like that."

"I suppose it's not easy getting old."

Sarah giggled.

"What's so funny?"

"Uncle Albert didn't even give you a chance to ask me out properly."

"No, he didn't."

Sarah didn't say a word for a few heartbeats. Henry opened his mouth to speak, but she beat him to it.

"I'd like to ask you out," Sarah blurted. "On a date." Her eyes widened.

Henry's brows shot up. "You're asking me out?" His voice came out a pitch higher, and he cleared his throat. "When?"

Sarah cast a glance at the motorcycle. "Right now."

Ten minutes later, Henry found himself on the back of that motorbike like a perched poodle, hands clamped onto Sarah's waist as she sped around to the front of the house and through the exit.

He wasn't exactly comfortable riding behind Sarah like this. This hadn't occurred to him until they'd veered out onto the main road, but now he could feel his cheeks growing hot. He wondered how incredibly strange it must have looked, a man riding behind a woman on a motorcycle.

Sarah revved the bike and sped up. Rounding a corner, Henry could feel his stomach doing flips, and he tightened his grip on Sarah's waist, hoping he wouldn't fall off. Trees and houses blurred past as the motorbike vibrated beneath him. The wind pounded against his face, whistled past his ears, and all the sights around him fused together, becoming one great streak of color. Sarah shifted gears and the bike accelerated once more. They zoomed past a sign, paint peeling from the edges, with the words:

HESTER PARK (COLORED SIDE)

Sarah slowed the bike and steered it up to the trunk of a large elm tree before turning off the engine. Henry brought his sweat-dampened torso away from Sarah's back and released his hands from her waist.

Sarah removed her tan leather helmet and tossed a smile back over her shoulder. "What'd you think?"

Henry stared at her, eyes bulging. "That was fun."

Sarah suppressed a chuckle. "You should dismount first."

Henry felt like a clumsy oaf as he brought a foot down to the grass and slowly swung his other leg over the top of the bike. Then Sarah gave the kickstand a sharp boot before she stood from the bike. She opened the wicker basket fastened behind the seat and removed a blue sheet that had been folded into a square.

Henry grinned at Sarah and extended his hand. She allowed a slight smile and placed her hand into his. Henry felt a shiver of nerves at the contact. Her skin felt so soft and smooth. He had expected her hand to be calloused from all of the time she'd spent working on automobiles.

They made their way into the park, passing through the opening in the short wooden fence. Then they drifted towards the rolling fields on the west side of the park. They stopped at the top of a tall hill. Sarah spread the sheet on the soft grass and settled down.

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