Haymarket, VA Barbershop (Luray Caverns-4)

Restaurant manager Ramon had seen 14 year-old Laurie sitting at the café table out front a few times before over the last several months. Arriving about 2 PM on Saturday afternoons she usually brought along her miniature Dachshund “Noodles,” and remained there until about 6 PM. It was at 2 that boy Carter came to work at Cane’s barbershop across the street.

From 2 till 5 business in the restaurant was usually slow so—after all the tables were set with fresh linen, silverware and china—he would take a break before the supper rush to read the paper, drink coffee and periodically look out the windows at the beautiful fall colors in the maples across the street. The leaves were particularly brilliant this year.

And—remembering his own teen years—he would study Laurie who sat watching the boy she loved sweeping the yellow and red leaves off the sidewalk, watering the potted shrubs, washing the big front windows and squinting to see him when he was working inside and passed in front of the shop windows.

Lately Mr. Cane had him freshening up the white paint on the front of building—working at it about 30 or 40 minutes each Saturday. Laurie watched him place a piece of cardboard on the sidewalk, pry open a can of white paint, dip the brush and begin painting. She felt a rush of guilty pleasure as she watched his tee-shirt pull up exposing his waist and the elastic band of his jockey shorts when he reached up high to paint above the windows.

When Carter was working inside and she could not actually see him, Laurie would re-play memories and spin fantasies. Her favorite memory was the day she first really took notice of him—the day she dropped her mitten as she came into the junior high school out of the winter cold. Carter had picked up the mitten and pursued her down the hall to give it to her.

She was stuffing her coat into her locker when suddenly he was standing next to her holding out the wet mitten saying something like, “Laurie, you dropped this outside.” He knew her name because they attended the same church and both had recently begun singing in the youth choir.

Before she could collect her thoughts he had vanished into the milling crowd of kids in the hall. As she put away the mitten and gathered her books for class she suddenly realized she was drawn to him. It was obvious however, he was just being polite and didn’t really have any interest in her.

The door of the barbershop opened, Mr. Cane stepped out and spoke to Carter pointing to some trim just below the eaves of the roof and gesturing—they were probably talking about setting up a ladder.

The afternoon of the day Carter returned her mitten—in the 4th period, cafeteria study hall she did something she had never done before—sent a note to a boy. She agonized over the choice of words—wanting to subtly hint she liked him without coming right out and saying so and chance making a fool of herself. She wrote and re-wrote the message on a carefully torn half-sheet of notebook paper over and over until she found the perfect words and got the little hearts over the “I”s just right.

It read, “Hi Carter—it was very thoughtful and sweet of you to bring me my mitten this morning—not everyone is so considerate. Thank you. Laurie.”

She watched a friend drop the tightly folded piece of paper it in front of him.  She pretended to be reading—but kept glancing up hoping to catch his eye when he finished the note and looked toward her. Bingo—she caught his eye perfectly—not too obvious—a sweet, casual smile that could be read as “I like you,” or just “Thanks for being a nice guy.”

Carter looked up, briefly returned her smile and went back to his math homework. She was disappointed he did not come over and sit in the chair she had kept open by her as she had hoped. But that was OK—these things take time—you can’t expect a boy to run up to you the first time you look at him. You have to be patient—these things take time.

Across the street Carter had finished his painting for the day and was washing out the paintbrush at the spigot on the side of the building—she stared appreciatively at the tricep bulge of his left arm. She thought seriously of forgetting this silly peeking game and just walking over—saying, “hi,”—and see where it went from there. She picked up Noodles intending to stand but sat stroking the little dog as he wagged his tail and jumped up to lick her face. She hugged the little dog but sat unmoving as she watched the boy carry his painting supplies into the shop.

She had entertained a number of fantasies—she was Cinderella and Carter the prince putting the glass slipper on her foot. She was Lois Lane and Carter was Superman catching her as she fell. In her favorite fantasy she was walking down a lonely road. No houses anywhere around—it is a beautiful, crisp, blue-sky fall day. Suddenly in the distance she sees the figure of a young man approaching. As he gets closer she sees it is Carter.

They are alone together in an idyllic rural setting, a small stream flows nearby, red and gold leaves swirl and tumble around them in the cool breeze. Carter stands silently looking at her—truly seeing her for the first time and is overcome with love for her. She looks deeply into his eyes. Carter silently takes her hand—kisses it then—as a golden sun shines through brilliant fall colors bathing them in a magical light—he draws her to him and kisses her.

Still holding the little dog she once or twice glimpsed Carter passing in front of the shop windows. The door opened and he carried a bag of trash out of the shop putting it in a barrel at the curb. This was usually one of the last things he did before leaving to go home to supper.

Six o’clock came. The autumn sun threw a pale orange glow down the street—fall leaves collecting at the curbs. Supper crowd cars were pulling into the parking lot, people filing through the front door of the restaurant—passing by Laurie as she sat with her dog.

Laurie had not seen Carter for half an hour—he’d probably left by the back door. He did that sometimes if he was going to stop at the store on the way home.

Noodles was becoming restless—she usually fed him about this time. She gathered up her things, wrapped the dog’s leash around her left wrist and headed for home several blocks away.

Passing under oaks and maples, the red and orange leaves underfoot, she could see in her thoughts Carter—standing before her in that place where there was only the two of them—looking deeply into her eyes—the brilliant colors swirling around them. Noodles tugged at his leash—impatient to be home.

Laurie reminded herself again—you have to be patient—these things take time.

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