Chapter 10

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During the long drive from Columbus, Barlow wondered about the possibility of bumping into Pet, how he would handle it, and what he would say. Here she was, standing right in front of him, smiling, looking mighty fine in a red dress. The way he felt inside made him realize how much he missed her.

"Petronia Henning." He said her name in a steady voice that belied how he felt. His heart raced. "You cut your hair...What are you...How are you..." He couldn't form a complete sentence.

She took his hands. "Shhh. Questions later. Dance with me." She led him onto the small parquet dance floor, joining a half-dozen other couples who swayed in front of the band. She pressed her body against his.

Holding Pet came easy for Barlow; he had done it so often before it was like muscle memory. He knew where all of her curves fit into his, exactly how her head rested against his shoulder, and how she moved to a slow dance.

As if taking a trip back in time, he closed his eyes, relishing every moment until the song ended. When Pet pulled away and squeezed his hand, he felt the ring on her finger.

"I'm by myself at a corner table," she said. "Come. Sit with me."

Barlow followed her, dumbstruck, and they took seats at the table across from each other.

She got the attention of a passing waitress. "Another wine, please. Barlow, what are you drinking?"

He had been drinking beer, but under the circumstances... "Whiskey, please."

Pet raised an eyebrow.

"And a beer chaser."

The waitress walked away. The two of them took each other's measure. Then their gazes met and held.

Barlow broke the silence. "I can't help but to notice you're wearing a ring."

"I can't help but to notice you aren't."

"Yet, you're here by yourself."

"So are you...apparently."

He thought of Caroline. Although they weren't officially exclusive, he didn't want to appear like a loser in front of Pet who obviously was married. "I have a girlfriend...back Ohio."

Pet said nothing.

Barlow glanced at the bar. Where was that waitress? "Do I know your husband? Did he go to school with us?"

"He grew up in Dauphin County. You probably don't know him."

"Where are you living now?"

"I have an apartment outside of Newport."

"Your parents, uh, do they still live at the same place?" He had seen the name on the mailbox and figured they did.

She nodded. "My dad passed. Mom still lives at the house."

"Oh, sorry about your father."

The waitress returned with their drinks. Barlow downed his shot of whiskey and took a drink from his beer mug.

Pet fingered the stem of her wineglass but held off on drinking. "Am I making you uncomfortable?"

More like breathless. Overcome with emotion seeing her. Realizing how much he missed her. "No, of course not." Wanting to change the subject, he added, "My father also died."

The news seemed to stun her. She pressed her lips together for a moment before resuming her pleasant expression. "I didn't know. When did it happen?"

"A few days ago. It's the reason why I'm back. To settle his estate."

"I see." She took a sip of wine and wore a blank expression.

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