One Week In Hillsboro (PG-13)

College was a freeing change of pace for Terry Bailey. High school had not been the best of times so to get out of town and start fresh felt good. It was a 'do over' as Billy Crystal said in the City Slickers movie and Terry didn't have to worry about previous misconceptions, reputations, statuses, and stigmas as a college freshman far from home.

Terry's dorm roommate Allen Boswell was a nice guy from upstate New York and the two newcomers became friends as they figured out the campus and college life. In time, the duo met new friends and became part of a newly formed group of fellow freshmen who hung out together around campus. Allen met Katie Rogers who brought along Sasha Davis who was friends with Garrett Dzynski who hung out with Ken O'Reilly who was dating Maria Sanchez who had a friend Jodi Hamilton and that was basically Terry's new peer group. They eventually dubbed their little group "The Frosh."

The eight 'rookies' bonded together in an enjoyable small and unique clique of mutual survival, social, academic and friendship skills to get through their first year of college For Terry, it was redemption and renewal with opportunities for new beginnings without his past dogging him. He felt like he was a whole new person with a welcomed new identity being on his own with no history or reason to have to explain himself.

It was a good first year of college. Terry was doing well both academically and socially and he was grateful to have his new peer group of fun and interesting people who accepted him as he was and didn't worry about where he came from. Now they were 'Bose', 'Rog','Sash', 'Dz', 'O', 'Sands', 'Ham' and 'Bails'.

It wasn't as if Terry became Mr. Sociable overnight. He was still shy and quiet (especially compared to Rog and Dz) but as the year went on he became more comfortable with his new peers and he began speaking up more, displaying a sense of humor, and being a good friend to the others.

Spring break was upon them before Terry even realized how fast the school year had flipped by. Rog was going to Daytona Beach with Sash, Dz, O and Sands (there wasn't any room for anybody else!). Bose was participating in some outreach program with one of his classes and Terry was heading home for the week, leaving only Jodi with no real plans.

"Aren't you going home?" Terry asked as he walked with her on campus one afternoon. Just the fact that he was alone with a pretty young woman said a lot about how much he had changed since high school!

"It's too far," Jodi replied. "I went home for Christmas and I can't afford to go home again."

"You're just going to hang around the dorm here all week?" He asked.

She shrugged. "I guess."

The old Terry would have let it go and not said anything. But the idea of poor Ham being alone all week didn't set well with him.

"You know, you could come home with me if you wanted," Terry boldly suggested. "Hillsboro isn't anyplace real exciting or anything but at least you'd get off campus for a few days."

"Oh, Bails, thank you!" Jodi exclaimed, wrapping her arm around his. "That sounds great!"

They were platonic friends, of course, but given Terry's past lack of success in the romance department, he was glad to have a travelling companion as pretty as Jodi even though he was surprised by her easy acceptance to the invitation. Suddenly, Terry panicked, wondering if perhaps bringing Jodi home wasn't such a great idea after all. How would his mother react to a young woman in the house? What if they bumped into somebody from high school who said something stupid to her? But he had already asked and Jodi had already accepted so Terry figured there was nothing he could do about it now.

Terry and Jodi saw the others off as they piled into a station wagon bound for Florida and Allen gave Terry and Jodi a ride to the bus station for the three and a half hour trip to Hillsboro.

Jodi had her IPOD and she spent most of the bus ride preoccupied with that although she was sure to make a remark or comment at the passing scenery or on other people on the bus. Terry occupied his time reading. The gang often poked fun at him for having his face buried in a book but that was one of Terry's survival mechanisms in high school and he had become an avid reader as a result.

The sounds of the bus whizzing along the road comforted Terry and he looked out the window to enjoy the view during breaks from his book. Jodi had taken the window seat so he couldn't look out the window without looking at her too. She was quite attractive with black hair that shaped her round face and bounced off her shoulders. Occasionally, Jodi glanced at him and smiled and he felt like he could get lost in her deep blue eyes.

At one point, Jodi began to nod out and eventually her head slumped against his shoulder. Terry felt comforted by her closeness and he wished there was somebody on the bus he knew who would see him being so friendly with such an attractive girl. The bus reached the outskirts of Blue County and Terry spent his time looking at the familiar scenery outside the bus window.

Jodi stirred and slowly sat up in her seat. "Are we there yet?" She wanted to know as she rubbed her eyes.

"Almost," Terry said with a smirk, tickled by her cuteness. But then he turned serious. "I should probably tell you a few things before we get there."

"What kind of things?" Jodi asked, thinking he was going to point out some landmarks so she glanced out the window to see if there was something interesting to observe.

"You might hear weird stuff about me and my family," Terry said with a heavy sigh.

"Weird stuff?" Jodi asked, glancing at him with a frown on her face. "What sort of weird stuff?"

"Like how my grandfather killed my father when I was nine," Terry said, his voice barely audible.

"Which grandfather?" Jodi asked with surprise.


"Why?" She asked, dumbstruck by the revelation.

"My father was an abusive drunk and wife beater who abused my mother every day for as long as I can remember," Terry sighed.

"I'm so sorry," Jodi said with sympathy. "What happened?"

"My grandfather came over unexpectedly late one night to tell my mother that Aunt Mabel had died when he heard her screaming inside the house. He had a gun under the front seat so he grabbed it and ran inside thinking there was some sort of intruder or robber or rapist or something. He shot my father three times in the back when he saw my mother sprawled on the kitchen floor getting the shit kicked out of her. It was dark and he didn't realize it was my father."

"Oh My God!" Jodi exclaimed. "That's so horrible!"

"Yeah, it was a pretty big deal around here," Terry sighed.

"What happened to your poor grandfather?"

"Year a half in jail for involuntarily manslaughter," Terry revealed sadly. "The jury had a hard time with the fact my grandfather shot my father in the back."

"He was saving your mother," Jodi pointed out.

Terry shrugged but didn't say anything in response.

"How's he doing now?" Jodi wondered.

"He died of a heart attack a few years ago," Terry sighed.

"Oh, that's just so sad," Jodi said. "It must have been really hard on all of you."

"I grew up in a house of shame," Terry admitted. "Everybody knew the story. It was front page news for weeks. A big scandal. Gossip and rumors galore."

"I can only imagine," Jodi replied.

"So I was the kid with a murdered father and a grandfather in jail for killing him," Terry remarked. "Kids had a field day making fun of me and treating me like I was some sort of deviant or something. I was shunned and stigmatized and treated differently because of it."

"Oh, Bails," Jodi sighed. "That was so unfair."

"I wouldn't come back if my mother wasn't still living here," Terry confessed. "I don't know why she didn't move away when it happened."

The bus pulled into the Greenville Bus Station.

"We're here?" Jodi asked, glancing out the window.

"This is Greenville," Terry explained. "Hillsboro is the next town over. We'll have to catch the local bus."

They exited the bus and went inside the terminal so Jodi could use the ladies room. When she returned, she found Terry sitting on one of the benches in the lobby.

"I probably should have told you the truth when I first invited you here," he sighed guiltily. "I just didn't know how."

"It's okay," Jodi said with sensitivity as she took a seat next to him. "What does your mom do for a living?"

"She's an accountant for Donovan's Department Store which I don't know if you noticed as we drove in," Terry said. "She gets to squirrel herself away in a back office and not deal with too many people. We mostly kept to ourselves after the shooting."

"It must have been hard for you," Jodi said.

"I guess I experienced genuine pervasive sadness," Terry admitted. Then he glanced at her. "But don't worry, I'm not crazy."

"Bails, I've known you for eight months now and I can safety say that you're the most normal, down to earth, sensitive, compassionate, and nicest guy I've met at college," Jodi let him know.

"I probably vacillated between depressed and angry in high school," he told her. "I got picked on a lot by obnoxious narcissistic jerks who thought it was funny what happened. Sometimes I hated myself and my life. I hated what happened and what my father did and what my grandfather did."

"How'd you get through it?" Jodi wondered.

"My mother, mostly," Terry revealed. "I don't know how she did it but she never gave up on me and even though she had to be going through her own personal hell she made sure that I got up in the morning and went to school. She taught me about guts and perseverance and patience and courage and self pride."

"I'm glad she was there for you," Jodi said with a smile.

"I didn't socialize much in high school," Terry revealed. "It was easier to escape the ridicule and whispers by not putting myself into public situations. My part time job could be done through the computer at home so I didn't have to get out much. I learned to endure and survive school and I didn't get close to anybody."

"That's wasn't fair to you," Jodi complained.

"Trust me, it was for the best," Terry replied as a bus pulled to the curb outside the large lobby windows. "That's our ride," he told Jodi, motioning for her to get up as he grabbed her bag along with his and headed for the door.

There were only a few people on the bus and Terry and Jodi took seats half way down the vehicle.

"You didn't play sports or anything?" Jodi asked.

"No, I laid low mostly," he admitted. "I did well with grades but I didn't get involved in extra curricular activities."

She nodded with understanding.

"I hope all this hasn't weirded you out too much," Terry sighed as the bus moved along.

"I'm glad you told me, Bails," Jodi replied. "But please don't feel bad. Every family has scandals and secrets and problems and issues."

He wanted to ask her what her family secrets were but he let it go, worried that he had already ruined the home visit before it had even begun. Neither said anything more as Jodi took in the scenery from the window and Terry stared blankly ahead wishing they were on their way to Daytona Beach instead of his mother's house in Hillsboro.

"That's the Blue River," Terry told Jodi as the bus crossed over the Blue County Bridge.

"It's definitely blue!" Jodi commented as she looked down at the river.

"And this is my hometown, Hillsboro," Terry said as the bus came off the bridge and travelled down the town's main street.

"Very quaint," Jodi remarked as she glanced around.

"I guess maybe that's why my mother stayed," Terry realized. "It is a nice place to live."

The bus pulled to a stop in front of the town hall and Terry and Jodi piled off the bus with the handful of other passengers.

"The house is about a mile from here," Terry said. "Would you mind walking? I'll carry your bag."

"It's a nice day out," Jodi agreed. "A walk is fine."

They started out on the jaunt with Terry giving a quick overview of the town.

"The hill up there is called Hilltop," he said. "When the town first formed, most of the upper class-homes were built up there by the people who owned the banks, stores, railroads and factories down here where the tenements were built to house the lower class workers. The river brought shipping, logging and railroad businesses and Blue County became one of the major shipment points for coal, lumber, cement and locally quarried stone. Factories and sawmills were built along the river to take advantage of the water."

"Just like a lot of New England towns," Jodi remarked.

"We're walking toward the flats section of town," Terry said. "Most of the people who came here were poor immigrants. The French dug the canals. The Irish built the buildings. The Germans and English worked in the mills. And the Polish farmed the land and worked as laborers." They used to call this area Polish Town or Pole Town or Polackville."

"That's not nice," Jodi commented.

"That's Saint Stanislaus Kostka, the Polish Parish, on the hill behind us."

Jodi glanced behind them and saw the church sitting on the hill overlooking the flatlands. A cement boardwalk led up the side of the hill to the church campus.

"You probably noticed the Irish church St. Patrick's on the Main Street," Terry said. "There used to be an Army Supply Depot around here. All that's left of it though is the ball park and an old warehouse."

"I like Hillsboro," Jodi decided. "It has a real home town feel to it."

They walked a few more blocks without saying much. Jodi was admiring the various house styles and Terry was wondering what his mother was going to say when he showed up at her doorstep with a girl in tow.

"This is where I live," Terry said as he stopped in front of a small yellow bungalow that looked slightly out of place nestled among the larger ranches.

The house was small and old but well kept and Jodi smiled at the appearance.

"It kind of looks like a doll house," she said.

Terry led her up the front walk to the porch and he rang the doorbell as they stood in front of the door which opened momentarily to reveal a middle aged woman with graying brown hair pulled back in a pony tail. She was wearing slacks and a sweater and her eyes went wide when she realized who was standing on her porch.

"Terry!" She exclaimed, bolting out the door to give her son a hearty hug. "Why didn't you call!? I would have given you a ride."

"I didn't want to bother you," Terry replied as he returned the hug. "Mom, this is my friend Jodi from school," he said as he stepped back and motioned toward Jodi standing next to him.

"It's nice to meet you," Mrs. Bailey said happily, taking Jodi's hand in hers. "I'm glad you came." She turned her attention back to her son. "It's so good to see you!"

"Thanks, Mom," Terry smiled. "It's good to be home."

Mrs. Bailey led the two visitors into the house. "Take the bags up to your room, Terry," she instructed. "Jodi and I can visit for a few moments."

Terry's face went white. "Ah, I figured I'd sleep down here," he said, gesturing toward the couch in the living room.

"Nonsense," his mother laughed. "Your bed is plenty big enough for two."

"Mom, we aren't dating or anything," Terry sheepishly explained.

"So what?" His Mother wanted to know. "You're friends, right?"

"Its okay, Bails," Jodi spoke up. "We can share the room."

Terry look embarrassed as he took the two bags up the narrow stairs. Mrs. Bailey grabbed Jodi by the hand and led her into the living room.

"He's never brought anybody home before!" Mrs. Bailey marveled. "This is unprecedented!"

"I'm honored," Jodi said with a diplomatic smile.

"Sit," Mrs. Bailey said with excitement and both women took seats on the white couch against the wall. "Did Terry tell you anything?"

"Just that he had a few…..challenges…..growing up," Jodi answered.

Mrs. Bailey rolled her eyes. "Yes, some serious challenges that he still needs to resolve," she remarked. "I gave him all the time he needed to heal and I'm glad he's finally started to move on."

"Because he brought me home, you mean?" Jodi asked.

Mrs. Bailey nodded.

"He's been great at college," Jodi told her. "He's a terrific guy and he's part of the little clique I belong to too," she reported.

"That's good to hear," Mrs. Bailey said with obvious relief in her voice. "He didn't socialize much in high school. I worried about that."

"He's fine now," Jodi assured her.

"I guess time can heal just about anything," Mrs. Bailey commented.

They heard Terry's footsteps on the stairs and both women looked up as he entered the room.

"I have a casserole in the oven," Mrs. Bailey announced before heading for the kitchen.

Terry took a seat in the easy chair kitty-corner from the couch.

"I can sleep down here," he said.

"I'm not kicking you out of your room, Bails," Jodi replied. "This is your house."

"I just don't want to make things awkward for you," he reasoned.

"I'm a big girl," she replied.

"My mother didn't say anything stupid did she?" Terry worried.

Jodi smirked, happy to be able to tease him. "Stupid?" She asked innocently.

"She probably thinks I'm a dormant gay," Terry sighed.

"Are you?" Jodi tested

His face turned red and he looked away in humiliation and that made her feel guilty for making fun of him.

"I was only kidding," she said quickly.

"It's okay," he mumbled. "I'm used to it."

"I'm not like that, Bails," Jodi assured him.

Terry ran his fingers through his brown hair wondering if this trip was a good idea after all. Having her here in his house. Having her share his bedroom. This was all awkwardly new and strangely different for him.

"Sorry, I overreacted," he said, forcing a smile. "I was such a loner when I lived here."

"Listen, if you hadn't told me any of that stuff on the bus I never would have known," Jodi told him. "You're a personal, sociable, friendly guy at college."

"I guess I was mostly faking it," he revealed.

"Maybe you just needed to get away from your past for a while," Jodi suggested.

He glanced at her and half-smiled. "Maybe," he said. "I hope you're not too disappointed in me."

"Will you cut it out?" She groaned. "I'm happy to be here."

"Even knowing what you know?" He worried.

She sighed. "What? You think you're the only one with family drama? Why do you think I'm here with you instead of home with my family?"

"Because you couldn't afford the airfare," he replied knowingly.

"I lied about that," she confessed.

"Oh," Terry said with surprise. But he didn't say anything else.

"My mother is on her third marriage and my father is with his new trophy wife who's like five years older than me," Jodi revealed. "I have two younger half-brothers from my mother by two different men. The guy my mother married after my father was cheating on her."

"Oh wow," Terry sighed.

"Now she has a three year old with the third husband who travels like 180 days a year," Jodi sighed. "Going home isn't always a lot of laughs. "

"How come you don't have a boyfriend?" Terry asked bluntly.

She gave him a deadpan stare. "What do you mean?"

"You're very pretty," Terry observed.

"It's hard to have a boyfriend when your step-father is chasing you around the house," Jodi remarked, staring at Terry as if she was daring him to say something in response but he remained quiet. "You're not the only one with shame," she whispered.

He nodded with understanding. "I don't think you have anything to be ashamed about," he decided. "You didn't do anything wrong. He's the pervert, not you."

"One of the reasons I like our little clique at college is because I don't have to worry about all the romance and sex stuff," she said. "We're all friends and we hang out and there's no pressure and I feel comfortable when I'm with you guys and it wasn't until you told me your story today that I realized I wasn't the only one carrying around baggage."

"I'm glad you feel okay being here," Terry said. "But I really can sleep on the couch."

"Will you please shut up about that!?" She groaned.

Mrs. Bailey returned to the room. "I hope you like tuna casserole, Jodi," she said pleasantly.

"Oh, I do," Jodi insisted.

"We'll set the table, Mom," Terry volunteered, climbing out of the chair.

Jodi followed him into the kitchen and she helped him set three places around the table. The bungalow was surprisingly small, with just the kitchen and living room and a small closet on the first floor and two bedrooms and a bathroom under the sloped roof on the second floor.

Jodi excused herself to use the bathroom and Mrs. Bailey threw her son a bemused look.

"Terry, she seems like a wonderful girl," she gushed.

"She is," Terry replied warmly but then he gave his mother a stern look of warning. "Don't get any ideas, Ma. We're just friends."

"Yes, of course, dear," Mrs. Bailey replied innocently.

Jodi returned and the trio enjoyed Mrs. Bailey's casserole while the two college students filled Terry's mother in on all the happenings at college. They also described "The Frosh" clique with pride and laughter.

"It sounds like you're having a wonderful year," Mrs. Bailey observed when they were done telling their stories.

"We are," Jodi confirmed.

"I was so worried you'd be home by Thanksgiving vowing never to return," Mrs. Bailey admitted, tossing her son a look.

"I knew I couldn't," Terry replied knowingly. "Grandpa left me the money to do something useful with my life."

Terry and Jodi helped Mrs. Bailey clean up and do the dishes and then they returned to the living room to watch the Red Sox on the television. Mrs. Bailey was a huge fan but Terry was only a casual follower and Jodi didn't know much about the sport at all but the two Baileys gave her a crash course and they watched into the 8th inning, Jodi sitting on the couch with Mrs. Bailey while Terry manned the arm chair. The Sox had a comfortable lead and when Jodi yawned several times Terry suggested maybe it was time to go to bed.

"I'm staying up until the last out," Mrs. Bailey vowed. "I've seen the Sox blow too many games late."

"Well, goodnight then, Ma," Terry replied, giving his mother a peck on the cheek before nervously leading Jodi from the room.

"Sleep well!" Mrs. Bailey called after them, her words mixed with laughter and amusement.

Terry led Jodi into the room he had grown up in. It was relatively small and nondescript – a double bed, a desk by the window, a dresser along the wall, and that was about it. There were a couple of Walmart-looking framed paintings of scenery hanging on the walls and faded green curtains on the window. A bookcase in the corner was over-jammed with books and there were also a couple of stacks of them piled on the floor.

"It's kind of boring, I know," Terry said with some embarrassment. "I wasn't one of those kids who plastered the walls with posters and signs and pinups and all the rest of it."

"It's fine," Jodi said as she went to her suitcase that Terry had placed on the desk earlier and fished out her pajamas and some of her toiletries. "I'll be back," she said as she left the room for the bathroom.

Terry took the opportunity to quickly change into some sweats and then sat on the edge of the bed waiting his turn to use the bathroom. Jodi returned wearing a pair of pink silk pajamas and Terry headed for the bathroom.

When he returned, he found Jodi laying in the bed.

"Can I have the left side?" She asked.

"I can sleep on the floor," he said. "I think there's an old sleeping bag in the closet."

"You don't have to sleep on the floor," Jodi groaned. "I don't mind sharing the bed."

"Okay," Terry sighed. "I just want you to be comfortable."

"And I want you to relax," Jodi replied. "This is no big deal."

She peeled the covers back on his side of the mattress. "Come to bed," she said.

"I'm not very good with this sort of stuff," he confessed.

"Sleeping?" She asked with a perplexed look on her face.

He sighed and slowly walked to his side of the bed, slipping under the blanket with his back to Jodi, his accidental bedmate. He didn't know what to say so he didn't say anything.

"Good night, Bails," Jodi said softly.

"Good night, Ham," he replied quietly.

He felt Jodi reaching over to turn off the bedside lamp and the room went dark. He could hear her breathing but he didn't say anything as he drifted off to sleep trying to pretend there wasn't a beautiful woman in his bed for the first time ever.

### ###

The bed was empty when Terry awoke in the morning. It took him a moment to collect himself and he rolled out of bed, getting dressed before making his way down to the kitchen where he found Jodi and his mother seated at the table eating pancakes. Jodi was still wearing her silk pajamas but Mrs. Bailey was dressed in a pants suit.

"You two deserve some home cooking for a change," Mrs. Bailey said when she noticed her son eyeing the food. "Sit down, Terry. I made plenty."

"Thanks, Mom," Terry replied, taking a seat opposite Jodi.

"Did you sleep okay?" Mrs. Bailey asked seductively as she went to the oven to retrieve the warming pancakes.

"I slept like a baby," Jodi grinned.

Terry scratched his top lip but didn't say anything. He actually didn't sleep well at all knowing that Jodi was next to him. He kept waking up worried and anxious, wishing he could roll over and hug her and feel her and smell her and touch her. It was almost torturous to be 'so close yet so far'.

"How 'bout you, Terry?" His mother wanted to know as she placed four pancakes on a plate.

"It was nice to be in my own bed again," he said.

"Oh, I'm sure it was," Mrs. Bailey replied with a smile as she put the plate in front of him.

Terry glanced at Jodi who shook her head with amusement while she continued to eat her breakfast.

"So, what are your plans all week?" Mrs. Bailey asked as took her seat again.

"We really don't have any," Terry muttered as he doused his pancakes with maple syrup made locally at Hould's Sugar House in West County.

Mrs. Bailey laughed. "Well, I'm sure you can figure out something."

"I'm sure we can," Terry agreed.

"Terry didn't have a very happy childhood," Mrs. Bailey told Jodi. "He didn't get out much."

"I've blocked most of it out of my memory," Terry revealed.

"That's probably good," Mrs. Bailey remarked. Then she gave Jodi a look. "And what about you, dear?"

"I come from a broken home too," Jodi sighed.

"Well, it's none of my business anyway," Mrs. Bailey said. "Besides, you seem like the type of person who solves her own problems and takes care of herself."

"I guess," Jodi replied.

"I should get ready for church," Mrs. Bailey said, standing. "You two will clean up when you're done?"

"Of course, Mom," Terry replied.

His mother left the room and Terry glanced at Jodi.

"I'm sorry if she said anything that offended you," He said, scratching his jaw. Jodi smiled. "It takes a lot to offend me!"

"Anyway, is there anything special that you want to do today?"

"You tell me!" She grinned. "It's your hometown! You're the host! I'm the guest!"

"Well, I could show you around," Terry volunteered. "Things don't change much around here."

"Sounds like fun."

They finished the pancakes and then cleaned up the table and washed the dishes. Mrs. Bailey returned and said her friend Harriet was picking her up and she'd be going out to lunch after church services.

"Can we use the car?" Terry asked.

"Of course, dear," Mrs. Bailey replied. "Keys are right there as always." She gestured to a hook by the back door.

There was a honk outside and Mrs. Bailey hurried for the door. "Goodbye!" She shouted back at them. "Have fun!"

"You don't go to church?" Jodi asked once Mrs. Bailey was gone.

"There was just as much ridicule and callous remarks made there as anywhere else," Terry reported. "I resented the hypocrisy so I stopped going."

"But not your mom?" Jodi wondered.

"I guess she found solace there," Terry said with a shrug. "I think Harriet is the only real friend she has."

"Well, let me take a quick shower and we can be on our way," Jodi said.

They were done with the clean up and Terry followed her out of the kitchen.

"I'll wait here," he said, watching her hop up the stairs as he collapsed onto the living room couch.

A girl taking a shower in his house! Wow.

Jodi returned in due time wearing jeans and a sweatshirt. It was seasonably warm for late March but still New England cool. Terry sprang off the couch, grabbed his jacket, and led her out the back door, grabbing the car keys as they went.

A fifteen year old white Toyota Camry was parked in the single-bay garage.

"I used to have a motorcycle in high school," Terry revealed as they climbed into the car.

"Really?" Jodi asked with interest. "You were a biker!?"

"Well, it was just a small thing to get around on," he admitted with some embarrassment. "It wasn't a big Harley and I wasn't some tough guy or anything!"

She laughed.

"I did like to take rides on it though," he said as he started the car and backed it out of the driveway. "I think I've been on every back road in Blue County!"

"Sounds fun."

"It's not the same in a car though," he admitted as he put the car in drive and headed down the street.

"What happened to your bike?" Jodi wondered.

"Sold it to the kid down the street when I left for college," he said.

They made small talk as Terry drove them around town, pointing out the various businesses and other areas of interest. They crossed the bridge and went to Greenville and then up the road to Sun Rise Lake and then over to Mount Griffin, down through West County and into South County and then over to Miller City and Riverside before finally making the trek back to Hillsboro.

"Red's Tastee Freeze opens abnormally early in the season," Terry told her. "You want a hot dog or something?"

"Sure," Jodi replied.

"I think you pretty much saw everything there is to see in Blue County," he said as he pulled the car into the Tastee Freeze parking lot.

They ordered a couple of hot dogs and some sodas and got back in the car. Terry drove them to the river and he parked the car along a scenic part of the Blue River. There was a little park by the woods overlooking the picturesque river.

"It's very pretty here," Jodi noted.

"I used to come here sometimes just to think and be," Terry said as they ate their hot dogs and enjoyed the view.

When they were done eating, they climbed from the car and walked along the path by the river.

"This really is a nice place to live," Jodi remarked. "I'm just sorry it was hard for you emotionally."

"I used to have nightmares," Terry said. "Of gun shots, mostly. Sometimes my grandfather was killing my father. Sometimes my father was killing my grandfather. Sometimes my mother was killing me. Sometimes I was killing one of them."

"Oh, Bails," Jodi sighed.

"But now it feels different for some reason," Terry realized.

"Oh, that's because I'm here now," Jodi teased and Terry laughed.

"Yeah, that must be it," he joked back.

"I am glad you're doing better though," Jodi said seriously.

"What choice do I have?" Terri wondered, turning to face her.

She nodded in understanding and then her cell phone buzzed. She pulled it out of her pocket and read a text.

"It's from The Frosh!" She laughed. "They finally made it to Florida!"

"Good for them."

"Sash wants to know how it's going here," she smiled as she started punching on the keyboard.

"What'd you tell her?" Terry asked after a few moments.

"I told her that Blue County is Paradise," she reported with a smile.

"Only without the bikinis," Terry laughed.

"Who said I didn't bring my bikini!?" Jodi smirked.

"Blue River would be pretty cold," Terry replied.

"Isn't there an indoor pool around here!?"

"The Y in Greenville," Terry said.

"Do you think the old ladies would hate me if I showed up there in my bikini?"

Terry looked at her and grinned. "I wouldn't!"

"Wow, Bails, that's the first time you've ever been…..playful!"

"None of this is easy for me," Terry admitted seriously. "I've never been around a woman like this before. I don't know what I'm doing."

"Relax," Jodi told him. "Everything's fine."

"I guess," he said.

"I've felt comfortable being with you all year long," Jodi said. "And now it feels like I'm right at home here in Hillsboro. I usually don't feel all that safe but when I'm with you I feel like there's nothing to worry about."

"There's not," Terry replied.

Terry was glad that Jodi felt comfortable and safe with him but that didn't exactly make him feel desirable or wanted. Did she seem him as a brother and friend only with no chance for anything more? He had been the lonely boy for so long that he wondered if he would ever find romance.

"This is very nice," Jodi said as they turned around and began walking back along the path in the direction from which they came.

Terry nodded and smiled but inside he was feeling sad and increasingly depressed. He finally had a beautiful woman in his presence but he was her bodyguard more than anything else.

Terry had grown quiet by the time they returned to the car and he drove them home in silence. Mrs. Bailey was waiting for them when they returned.

"Harriett says you can use her father's car this week," Mrs. Bailey announced as soon as the two college students walked through the door.

"I don't want to cause an inconvenience," Terry replied.

"Actually, you'd be doing her a favor getting it out of the yard," Mrs. Bailey said. "Paul is pretty senile these days and he's not driving anymore."

Mrs. Bailey took the keys from Terry's hands. "Come on, let's go get it."

Terry and Jodi followed Mrs. Bailey back out the door and she drove them to Harriett's house on the other side of town, Jodi sitting in front and Terry in the back.

"How was church?" Terry asked.

"Very nice," Mrs. Bailey responded pleasantly.

"And lunch?"

"Delicious," She reported. "What did the two of you do?"

"Oh, Bails gave me the grand tour of Blue County!" Jodi laughed.

"She's seen everything there is to see around here," Terry said.

"Did you have lunch?" Mrs. Bailey wanted to know.

"Hot dogs at Red's!" Jodi exclaimed.

"Oh, a gourmet treat," Mrs. Bailey said sarcastically as she pulled the car into a driveway.

Terry recognized Harriett's car but there was also a second car parked backwards on the grass by the side of the garage. It was a twenty-five year old black Cadillac in pristine condition.

"Was Harriett's Dad a funeral director?" Terry wondered.

"Or a pimp!?" Jodi laughed.

"Be nice," Mrs. Bailey warned as she climbed out of the car.

Harriett came out of the house and gave Terry a warm welcoming hug. "Terrance!" She said gaily. "It's so wonderful to see you!" She was a short stout woman with gray hair pulled behind her head and granny glasses.

"Hello, Mrs. Cormier, how are you?" Terry asked.

"And who is this lovely thing!?" Harriett exclaimed with wide eyes when she noticed Jodi standing next to Mrs. Bailey.

"A friend from college," Terry replied readily. "Mrs. Cormier, this is Jodi Hamilton. Ham, this is Harriett Cormier, my mother's dearest friend."

"Well, hello sweetheart!" Harriett said with amazement, looking back at Terry with disbelief. "Terrance, how did you find this beauty queen?"

"I found him," Jodi replied with a smile.

Harriett shook her head with a wide grin on her face. "Absolutely lovely," she said happily and Terry wasn't sure if Harriett meant Jodi specifically or the situation in general.

Harriett handed Terry the keys to the caddie. "Why don't you see if it starts?" She asked. "It's been sitting there for a while now."

Terry nodded, took the keys from her and climbed behind the driver's wheel. The motor cried and whirled for a few moments but finally the engine coughed to life and Terry let the car idle and warm up for a few minutes.

"You sure you don't mind us borrowing your father's car?" Terry asked Harriett cautiously as he climbed out of it.

"Terry, I want you to have the car," Harriett announced.

"Oh, I couldn't," Terry said with wide eyes.

"Consider it an indefinite loan," Harriett insisted. "It's killing the grass sitting here and it should be put to good use."

"But what about your Dad?" Terry worried.

"Believe me, his driving days are over," Harriett replied. "Go," she said. "Take it for a ride. Use it this week. Take it back to college and use it there. If I need it back, I'll let you know."

"But what about the plates and all that?" Terry asked.

"Keep everything the way it is," Harriett replied with a wave of her hand. "I'll keep paying the insurance. Don't worry."

"You're being very generous, Mrs. Cormier," Terry said, feeling guilty.

"Enjoy," she said with a smile, but looking at Jodi instead of the car. "Your mother is going to stay and visit for a while," she said. "You two scat."

Terry gave Harriett a hug before motioning for Jodi to follow him to the Caddy.

"It was nice to meet you, Mrs. Cormier," Jodi said politely.

"Likewise," Harriet said happily. "I hope I'll see you again."

"Oh, you will," Jodi said with confidence before joining Terry at the car.

"They sure do look like The Odd Couple, don't they?" an amused Terry said as he noticed his tall thin mother standing next to the short stalky Mrs. Cormier.

They climbed into the car and Jodi looked at Terry with a broad smile.

"This is the nicest thing anybody's ever done for me," Terry admitted as he stared at the dashboard of the car. Then he glanced out the windshield and smiled at Harriett. "She was always so nice to me," he sighed. "I never heard her say a bad thing about my father or my grandfather."

"I'm glad she was there for you," Jodi remarked. "Sounds like you had two very strong women as your role models growing up."

Terry bit his lip and nodded in agreement. "I don't know what I would have done without them," he admitted.

Terry took a few moments to familiarize himself with the car before he finally put it in gear and slowly drove out of the driveway as his mother and Harriett waved happily after them.

"This is a nice ride," Terry said after they drove a few blocks.

"I just hope nobody mistakes you as a pimp!" Jodi laughed.

"Well, nobody's going to mistake you as a prostitute," Terry replied.

He didn't even think of how that might sound and he was horrified at what he had said. He turned to her with a red face.

"I'm sorry," he said. "That was a pretty stupid thing to say."

She gave him a bemused stare. "Were you trying to insult me or compliment me there, Bails?" She wanted to know.

"Compliment you, of course," he said quickly.

"Are we going somewhere?" She asked and Terry realized they were driving around town without any real destination or purpose.

"Are you hungry?" He asked.

"A little," she admitted.

"Pizza?" He asked.

"Not after a hot dog," she said. "Two junk food meals in one day probably isn't a good thing."

"Right," he agreed. "Well, do you like Italian?"

"That's not pizza?"

"Serguci's Family Italian Restaurant is pretty good," he said.

"Is it expensive?" She asked.

"Don't worry about that," he replied.

"Oh sure, Mr. Moneybags!"

"My father had a small estate and my grandfather left me a pretty impressive inheritance for college," he said. "Plus I worked all through high school and never spent much money so I'm doing okay."

"I get an allowance from my father," Jodi acknowledged, sounding embarrassed. "I see the guy maybe twice a year but he pays for most of my stuff. Should I feel guilty about that?"

"No," Terry replied as he pulled the car into the restaurant parking lot.

Jodi thought the restaurant was nice and Terry explained why there were so many baseball photos and paintings on the wall, telling her about Beano Field which he had showed her earlier in the day and how the Serguci family had purchased the former Army Supply Depot stadium from the Government, renamed the park Beano Field after a son killed during World War II and then established the amateur Serguci League to be played in the park.

"My grandfather was an original Beanster," Terry said proudly. "And my father played a couple of years for the Browns when he was in college."

"What did your Dad do?" Jodi asked.

"He was an insurance agent," Terry replied. "You know, he was well educated and came from a good family. Domestic violence is a strange thing. I don't know what made him so angry."

"My father is a surgeon," Jodi informed him.

"Wow!" Terry said, impressed.

She nodded. "He has the most delicate hands I've ever seen," she said with a proud smile. "But he isn't the greatest Dad around," she added with a sad blank look.

"Well, at least he's still around," Terry noted without any real bitterness in his voice.

"I know," she said. "I know I'm fortunate. I guess I just resent him for leaving my mother and now he's married to a bimbo."

Terry was staring at one of the waiters working another section of the room.

"What?" Jodi asked when she noticed.

"I went to school with that guy," Terry sighed. "I hope he doesn't say anything."

"Like what?" Jodi asked. "You know, you're not nine anymore, Bails," she pointed out. "If some asshole says something stupid to you about what happened, it's okay to stand up for yourself."

"I try to avoid confrontation," Terry replied.

"When's the last time somebody actually said something to you about it?" She challenged.

"It's been a while," he admitted. "But they don't have to say anything."

"Oh, you mean they're thinking it?" She asked sarcastically.

"People don't forget, Ham," Terry sighed. "I'm always going to be associated with that incident."

"I think you think about it too much," Jodi replied. "When you were away from here I bet you didn't think about it at all."

"Not to much," he agreed.

"But when you're here you're nine again," she said. "It doesn't have to be that way."

"I know," he said but she could tell he was bothered by the waiter being in the room so she changed the subject and they talked about the Serguci League for the rest of dinner.

Terry parked the caddy on the grass next to his mother's car when the got home from a very delicious and enjoyable dinner. Mrs. Bailey was still up, watching the ESPN Sunday Night Game of the Week baseball game (Orioles at Yankees) and Terry and Jodi watched a few innings with her but this time she turned in first because it was a work night.

"I guess I'll head up too," Jodi said and Terry gave her some private time by watching another inning or two of the game before turning off the lights and television and heading upstairs.

The bathroom was empty so Terry washed up and brushed his teeth and he felt awkward when he went into the bedroom to find that Jodi was still awake, propped up in bed scrolling on her IPOD. She looked as beautiful as ever and she was wearing the same white pajamas as the night before.

"Who won?" She asked.

"It's not over yet but the Yankees were ahead," Terry reported as he found his sweats from the night before and went back into the bathroom to change in private.

He returned to the bedroom and slid into his side of the bed, pulling the covers up to his chin.

"You slept like a board last night," Jodi told him.


"You were in the exact same position this morning when I woke up as you were last night when I turned the light off," she observed.

"Oh," he said.

"It's okay to relax, Bails!" Jodi laughed. "I don't bite. I'm not going to kill you in your sleep. I sleep pretty soundly so it's okay if you move around." She stared at him. "Okay?"

"Sure," he said, trying not to feel embarrassed.

"Good!" She smiled, turning off the IPOD and setting it on the table next to her. "Are you going to read or should I turn out the light?"

"I'm pretty beat," he decided. "You can turn the light off if you want."

He settled down his pillow and waited for her to kill the light, turning his back to her just like the night before.

"Good night, Bails," Jodi said quietly as she turned the light off

"Good night, Ham," he replied in the quiet darkness that engulfed the room.

He lay in the awkward silence for a couple of minutes, mostly listening to her breathe.

"Thanks for a great day, Bails," Jodi whispered. "I had a wonderful time."

"Me too," he replied softly.

"Bails, I like having you in my life," she told him drowsily.

"I'm glad."

"And I like having you beside me like this."

He glanced over his shoulder in the dark but he didn't respond.

"I know you're really not used to having somebody around like this and you'd probably much rather be alone, so I appreciate what you're doing for me."

He still didn't respond.

"Bails?" Jodi turned to face him even though it was dark and his back was to her. "Aren't you going to say something?" She asked.

"I just can't believe that you would want to be with me like this," he admitted.

"Geez, just my luck to get stuck with an insecure basket case," Jodi muttered in a teasing voice.

Terry felt hurt by her comment but he didn't say anything. After a few moments, he felt her hand brush along his cheek. "You know I was only kidding, right Bails?"

"Sure," he mumbled.

"Did I hurt your feelings?" She worried.

"No," he said in an obvious lie.

"I don't want to make you feel bad." She took his hand from underneath the covers and tenderly kissed it. "I'm more relaxed with you than I've been with any other guy," she told him.

"Yes, I'm safe," he said sarcastically.

"Yes, you are," she agreed. "You're also a great guy, fun, attentive, sensitive, respectful, interesting, nice…."

"I've never been anything, Ham," he sighed with defeat.

"I wish that you could see yourself like I see you," Jodi replied sadly.

He didn't say anything so she lay down and eventually drifted off to sleep. Terry tried to do the same, wishing he could roll over and hug her tight.

### ###

The bed was empty when Terry awoke in the morning. He feared that perhaps Jodi was upset with him and that she had left the bed to get away from him. He showered and used the facilities, changed into fresh clothes and went downstairs. His mother had already left for work and he found Jodi camped out on the couch in her silk pajamas and slippers drinking tea from a cup while reading the morning paper.

"Good morning," she said cheerfully, giving him a bright and wide smile.

"Everything okay?" He asked with concern.

"Of course!" She smiled. "Your mom said to have a good day!"

He nodded. "Did you have breakfast?"

"Your mother made muffins," she said. "There's still a few left."

Terry went into the kitchen and poured himself a glass of orange juice and returned to the living room with a muffin in his other hand, taking a seat in the chair kitty corner her.

"Did you sleep okay?" He asked.

"Like a baby," she grinned. "You?"

"Sure," he semi-lied. He had tossed and turned during the night, afraid he had upset her and also longing to want to touch her, feel her, smell her and spoon her.

"So, what are our plans today?" Jodi asked with interest.

"I thought I'd show you the Green College campus in Greenville," he replied. "Since you're a college girl!"

"Sounds great," she said. "How come you didn't go there?"

"I really needed to get out of here, Ham," he said. "My father went there too. I definitely don't want to follow in his footsteps!"

"Well, Champlain College in Burlington Vermont is pretty far away!" She laughed. "That's a lot of footsteps!"

"How did a girl from Chicago end up in Northern Vermont?" He asked.

"I guess for the same reason as you," she said after thinking about it for a moment or two. "I wanted to get away too."

"Does Lake Champlain remind you of Lake Michigan?"

"Sure," she said. "Not just as big!"

He laughed and she sprang from the couch. "I'll go shower and get ready," she said.

"Okay," he replied, waiting until she had hopped up the stairs before sighing at the thought of her getting undressed up there and standing under the spray of the water. A naked girl in his house.

Terry had finished reading the paper by the time Jodi reappeared, dressed and refreshed and ready to go. "The pimpmobile awaits!" She joked.

Green College was only a ten minute ride away and Jodi liked the feel of the campus with its green yards and large trees. They visited the library and walked around campus even though it was spring break there too. They had lunch in a small café in downtown Greenville and then they walked through Donovan's Department Store, an old fashioned historic New England family owned department store.

They stopped in and saw Terry's mom in her small office on the second floor, snuggled at the end of a long hall with various storage rooms and other offices. It was crowded and claustrophobic but Mrs. Bailey seemed to be comfortable in it. She was happy to have her visitors and she gave Jodi a whirlwind behind the scenes tour of the old building which freed Terry up to do some exploring of his own.

When they were done with Mrs. Bailey and Donovan's, Terry drove them to Blue County Community College for Jodi to see, a much smaller school and campus but attractive for its own merits and then he drove them to the same spot along the Blue River in Hillsboro as they had visited the day before.

They walked along the path again and Terry reached into one of his pockets and pulling out a small red case.

"I bought this for you when you were with my mother," he revealed, handing her the case.

"For me!?" Jodi asked with surprise. "Can I open it?" She asked hopefully.

"Sure," he said sheepishly.

They stopped walking and Jodi opened the case and pulled out a silver chain with a blue, green, yellow and brown medallion in the shape of the sun on it.

"The colors of Blue County," he explained. "The sun is for Sun Rise Lake."

"Oh, Bails," she sighed happily. "This is wonderful! Put it on for me?"

She turned her back to him and he fastened the chain around her neck.

"Now you'll always be able to remember your week in Hillsboro," he said.

"I will," she said with confidence as she spun around and faced him again with a happy smile on her face. "Thank you, Bails!"

Jodi reached up and tenderly kissed him on his cheek.

Terry blushed and they continued to walk without saying anything.

Mrs. Bailey was already home when they arrived at the house and she cooked them American Chop Suey in the crock pot for dinner which they ate sitting around the kitchen table.

Jodi told Mrs. Bailey all about their day and how she could have seen herself at Green College. "It's much smaller than Champlain College," she noted.

"But there's no lake!" Terry joked.

Jodi and Terry did the dishes and cleaned up and watched a few innings of the Red Sox game with Mrs. Bailey in the living room. Once again, Jodi and Mrs. Bailey retired first and Terry played it safe by remaining downstairs for a good hour after they had left.

When he stepped into his room later, Terry was relieved to find that Jodi had fallen asleep, a People magazine lying open on the mattress next to her pillow. He changed into his sweats and brushed his teeth in the bathroom before returning to the bedroom, removing the magazine from the bed and turning off the bedside table lamp.

Terry was trying to force himself to relax and not be so nervous around her when it came to sharing the bed. Jodi was deeply asleep and didn't stir when he slipped into the bed next to her. Terry burrowed himself underneath the blankets and this time instead of turning his back to her he boldly cuddled next to her as she lay on her side with her back to him, nestling his hips close to her and feeling the roundness of her rear pressing against his thighs.

It almost felt like a dream, a pretty girl like her willing to be with him like this. He sighed knowing he really wasn't good enough for her but he tried not to think about that as he drifted off to sleep.

### ###

Terry slowly opened his eyes and stretched, feeling a body wrapped tightly in his embrace. This was the first time he awoke to find Jodi still in the bed with him and he panicked when he discovered that he had a tight boner that appeared to be pressing against Jodi's leg that was drooped over his thigh. He looked into her blue eyes and was surprised to see that they were wide open staring at him.

"Good morning, Bails!" She smiled.

"Morning, Ham," he replied sheepishly. "You slept in today."

"Yep," she agreed with a mischievous twinkle in her eye. "Guess I was tired! And comfortable," she added after a beat.

"We should probably get up," Terry said nervously.

"Ah," she moaned, rolling partially off him and kicking off the covers as she sat up on the side of the mattress. Her silk pajama bottoms and slipped down just enough to show a hint of the beginning of her ass crack and her top was pushed up enough to exposing a fair amount of midriff on her back.

Terry wished he had the bold courage to reach his hand out and rub along her naked spine or maybe even tug down her pants for a better look at her fanny but of course he didn't move.

Jodi turned and smiled at him. He noticed that the top two buttons on her top were undone and from the way her breasts were angling she wasn't wearing a bra underneath. He also noticed that she was wearing the chain and medallion he had given to her the day before. As if reading his mind, Jodi reached up and absent mindedly played with it between her fingers.

"What time is it?" Terri wondered.

"Nine-thirty," Jodi reported, glancing at the clock radio on the bedside table.

"You want to have breakfast at Johnny C's?" He asked.

"I guess," she replied. "I'll go shower first," she said, standing and inching up her bottoms to hide the top of her buns and hint of the crack.

"Okay," he replied, sitting up in the bed.

Jodi grabbed a change of clothes before heading for the bathroom and as soon as she was gone Terry fell back on the bed and groaned. He heard the shower turn on and pictured her tugging off her pajama bottoms and what the rest of those wonderful buns and ass crack looked like.

"What a loser you are," he mumbled aloud. "You slept with her but that's all that happened. Sleep. You're such a pathetic loner so terrified of people that you can't even touch her. You're afraid to try anything or risk love because you're incapable of satisfying her." Terry sighed heavily. "You're safe alright. Safe to be a friend but not a boyfriend or lover. You're just not good for that…"

He sighed again as he listened to the water running in the bathroom. Jodi was the prettiest and sweetest person he knew but she might as well have been in Daytona Beach with the rest of The Frosh for all the good it was doing him because she felt that far away when it came to intimacy or having a chance with her.

Luckily, Terry had stopped talking to himself by the time Jodi was through using the bathroom. She returned to the bedroom brushing out her hair, dressed in a fresh change of clothes.

"Everything okay?" She asked, noticing the funny look on his face.

"Everything's fine," he lied as he stood from the bed.

Jodi gave him a funny look as he left the room to take his turn in the bathroom. Terry was in a better mood when he finished his shower. No use feeling sorry for himself - he needed to appreciate Jodi's company and not wreck their week in Hillsboro. He found her waiting for him in the living room and she smiled when he entered.

"Ready to go?" She asked.

"You're going to love Johnny C's," he said. "My mom and I used to go there for breakfast on Saturdays sometimes."

Terry led Jodi to the pimpmobile and they drove to the downtown diner. The breakfast rush was long over so it wasn't crowded at 10:30 on a Tuesday morning and getting a booth was no wait. A waitress was at their table within moments - Johnny C's had a reputation for great food and great service. The waitress looked to be their age and Terry noticed that she was giving him a long look.

"You're Terry Bailey, right?" She said, wearing the traditional Johnny C's tee shirt as part of her uniform.

"Yes," Terry replied nervously.

"I'm Savannah Jarrett," she said. "We went to school together."

He remembered her - he just didn't recognize her with her new hairstyle and grown up look.

"Hey," he mumbled with blushing embarrassment.

Jodi burst out in laughter at his nervous reaction. "Geez, Bails!"

"What?" Terry asked defensively although he knew he was acting like a thirteen year old.

"Hi, I'm Jodi Hamilton, Terry's friend from college," Jodi told the waitress.

"Welcome to Hillsboro," Savannah said cheerfully, handing the two customers their menus. "I'll be back for your order in a few minutes."

Savannah left and Jodi stared at Terry with an amused grin.

"That's the first time I ever spoke to her," Terry said. "I guess I was having flashbacks about how I pathetic I was back then."

"You're still traumatized, aren't you?" Jodi asked with surprise.

"I didn't even go the graduation ceremony," he sighed. "I had the diploma mailed to me. I just couldn't face all of them."

"Well, you're in college now," Jodi remarked. "I think Savannah was impressed."

"I think she was impressed to see me with you," he mumbled.

They reviewed the menu for a few moments and Savannah returned with two glasses of water.

"So what was Terry like in high school?" Jodi asked Savannah, whose blonde hair was cut in a pixie style. Terry was horrified by the question.

"Quiet," Savannah replied. "Kept to himself. Always had a book in his hand."

"I'll have the waffles with sausage and a large orange juice, please," Terry said quickly, hoping to change the subject.

"Scrambled eggs with bacon and coffee for me," Jodi said with a pleasant smile while eyeing Terry. "Funny how Terry is never quiet now," she said, glancing at Savannah. "And I can never get him to keep to himself. A book is the last thing he has in his hands now, if you know what I mean!" Jodi winked at Savannah who smiled knowingly and Terry tried not to blush.

"I'll get this orders in right away," Savannah said, taking the menus and leaving the table.

"You didn't have to say that," Terry said. "Especially since it isn't even true."

"It's sort of true," Jodi replied. "Anyway, you did notice that she didn't say anything about dead fathers and killer grandfathers, right?"

"She was being polite," Terry grumbled.

"Maybe," Jodi agreed. "But at least she didn't say anything. You're not a kid anymore, Bails. People aren't going to be as mean, cruel, rude and insensitive as they were before."

"They'll still be thinking it though," he sighed.

"Oh well," Jodi replied with a shrug. "Can't control what people think."

Terry peered at her for a moment. "I guess I do need to move on," he admitted. "It's just hard to change after being one way for so long."

"I know," Jodi said as she glanced around the diner. "This place is neat."

Terry gave her a brief history of the diner as they ate their breakfast which Savannah brought after a few moments. The diner opened in the 1930s as The Hillsboro Diner (early photos of the place hung on the wall by the main entrance). John Carlisle bought the place and renamed it Johnny C's and a guy named Birdy Braft took over a few years ago, although Johnny C still hung out from time to time. Terry explained how the diner was the town's meeting hub and a great place to eat and see people.

"Nobody bothered my mother or me when we were in here," he said with admiration.

When they were done with their breakfast, Terry and Jodi walked around and Terry gave her a brief touring history of the town. The Panther Gym was once owned by a former NBA basketball player (who had since died). Fontaine's Family Grocery Store was among the last of the locally owned family grocery stores around. The Hillsboro Pizza House had the best pizza anywhere. Hills' Barber Shop gave great cuts.

"But this is my most favorite place in all of Hillsboro," Terry said proudly, stopping in front of Johnson's Book Store. "I practically lived in here."

"Big surprise," Jodi laughed.

"Wanna go in?" Terry asked hopefully.

"Sure," she said with a smile.

Terry led her into the store which was meticulously neat, orderly, organized and welcoming with several chairs and couches throughout the long store for sitting.

"Terry!" A middle aged guy wearing a Hawaiian shirt with long graying hair pulled back in a pony tail greeted him.

"Hi, Phil," Terry said with a smile.

"Haven't seen you in a while!" Phil said as he came around from the desk at the front of the store.

"I'm off at college," Terry said. "This is my friend, Jodi. Jodi, this is Phil Golinski. He runs the place."

"Well, hello!" An impressed Phil said, shaking Jodi's hand. "Terry's never brought a young lady with him before!"

"We met at college," Jodi said warmly.

"Very nice," Phil replied, looking quite pleased and satisfied. "Well, do your thing, Terry," Phil laughed. He smiled at Jodi. "He always roams the shelves and spends a few hours in here," he explained.

"Sounds good to me," Jodi said easily.

And that's what happened. Jodi and Terry split up and Jodi went through all the shelves, reviewing titles, glancing through pages, taking a seat and reading a chapter or two of a particular book. She noticed how immersed Terry was as he walked through the books and she didn't bother saying much to him.

Customers came and went but Terry barely looked at them. Phil struck Jodi as a interesting guy so when Terry was in the back of the store buried in some book, she walked up to the desk in front of the store.

"Hello," Phil said glancing up at her.

"Was Terry really as quiet and a loner as he makes himself out to be?" Jodi asked.

Phil smiled. "His books were his best friends," he acknowledged.

"And did he really get harassed about what happened to his family?"

"People can say things they shouldn't say," Phil admitted. "But it's been a while now. I don't hear so much anymore."
"He needs to stop worrying about what people think," Jodi sighed.

"I think the fact that you're here with him now says a lot about that!" Phil said with a grin.

Jodi smiled. "Thanks."

They must have spent three hours in the book store before Terry was ready to leave, purchasing a few titles to add to his collection. Jodi bought a book too and they walked back to the where the pimpmobile was parked after chatting with Phil for a few more minutes.

"I hope you weren't too bored," Terry said, sounding guilty and remorseful. "That book store was always my sanctuary."

"I enjoyed it," Jodi assured him. "So, Phil's a friend?"

"He was always nice to me," Terry replied. "Fellow book guy and all that. Plus he's gay so I think he knew how I felt being sort of an outsider."

They reached the car and climbed in.

"How 'bout we cook dinner for my mother tonight?" Terry suggested as he started the vehicle.

"An excellent idea!" Jodi replied.

"We can swing by Fontaine's and pick something up," Terry said.

The cooks decided on a baked chicken and they bought all the necessary accessories before heading home and going to work in the kitchen cooking the meal. It felt good to be working along side Jodi and Mrs. Bailey was thrilled when she came home from work to find that her son and friend had made a meal for her.

They ate at the kitchen table as usual, making small talk, reviewing the day, and enjoying the food. After Terry and Jodi cleaned up following the meal, they joined Mrs. Bailey in the living room for a few innings of the Red Sox before turning in for the night. Terry let Jodi go upstairs first alone for her privacy and when he went up later she was sitting in the bed reading the book she had purchased earlier in the day.

Terry used the bathroom and then slid into bed beside her. It still felt awkward and weird to be sharing a bed with a woman but he was getting used to it.

"I hope you're enjoying your time here, Ham," Terry said once he was in the bed. "I know it's not Daytona Beach or anything."

"It's nice to relax and be on the down-low," Jodi replied, glancing at him. "What about you?"

"All of this stuff is new to me," he answered.

"What stuff?"

"Having you here. Doing stuff. Being together. Sharing a bed."

She giggled. "We're like an old married couple!"

"You didn't have to do any of this," Terry said.

"I wanted to," she insisted.

"I just wanted to respect your privacy," he let her know.

He heard her suck in her breath in dramatic fashion and he looked over at her to see that she had become ashen.

"Something wrong?" He asked with concern.

"Bails, can I tell you something personal?" Jodi asked quietly. "Something I never told anybody else?"

"What?" He asked nervously.

She chewed on her lip for a moment. "When I was thirteen, my step-father assaulted me," she whispered.

"Assaulted?" He frowned.

"I was in the bathroom taking a shower and he pulled back the curtain and…..touched me," she revealed.

"Oh, Ham, I'm so sorry," he said, laying his hand gently yet tentatively on her shoulder.

"I felt so humiliated and violated but I didn't know what to do so I ran out of there as fast as I could and hid in my room."

"He didn't come after you?"

"Not that time," she said. "I cried myself to sleep so many times about what he did to me but I never told a soul."

"I'm so sorry," Terry said.

"How can you trust someone who betrays you like that?" She sighed. "How can you believe in love when somebody your mother loved does something like that?"

"I don't know."

"I was always so…..timid…..after that," She said.

"I understand," Terry replied.

She looked into his eyes. "You're timid too, aren't you?"

"I guess," he mumbled with embarrassment.

"It's okay," she said with a sad smile. "I like that about you. You're the first guy who hasn't tried to get me in bed."

"I already have you in bed," he joked and that made her laugh.

Jodi brushed away a tear and sucked in her breath. "Anyway, I thought you should know."

He nodded and then slumped down to go to sleep. Jodi read for a while and then he felt her repositioning herself on the mattress and turning off the bedside table. This was their fourth night sharing a bed and he kept his back to her once again to quash any temptation to try anything although he secretly wished she would try something. But now he understood why she didn't.

### ###

It was raining when Terry awoke in the morning and he found that the bed was empty when he rolled over. He used the bathroom and then went downstairs to find Jodi sitting on the couch in her pajamas reading her book.

"Good morning," she greeted, looking up at him from the pages. "I saved some breakfast for you."

"Thanks," he replied, heading for the kitchen and removing a plate of hash from the oven rack.

He returned to the living room and sat in his usual easy chair where he at the food.

"Looks like a rainy day in Paradise," Jodi said with a smile.

"Yeah," Terry replied, glancing out the window at the downpour.

"Guess today's a good day to a load of laundry," she said.

"Sounds like a plan," he agreed.

Jodi waited for Terry to finish eating. He washed his plate and went down to the cellar for the laundry basket which he brought back upstairs, following Jodi to his bedroom on the second floor to gather the dirty laundry. He tried not to blush when he saw her dirty underwear and bras which she dumped into the laundry basket along with some other clothes. Terry tossed in his clothes too and the two went down to the cellar where the washing machine and dryer was.

The washing machine was in the corner and Terry loaded with the load they had brought down.

"Sorry I saw your intimates," he said.

She laughed, amused by his comment. "Intimates?" She teased. "Gee, now you know what kind of underwear I wear!"

"I know it's none of my business," he mumbled.

"I'm sure I'll get over it," Jodi said with amusement. "Hey," she realized, pointing to the pajamas she was wearing. "I should wash these too."

"Go upstairs and change and bring them back," Terry suggested.

"That's too much work," she decided with an amused look on her face as she started to unbutton her pajama tops.

Terry's eyes went wide and he felt his face heat up. He started to look away when her top opened and her missile shaped breasts were revealed.

"It's okay," Jodi said, reaching up with her hand to touch his cheek and gently turn his head back to her. She looked into his eyes with a pleading look. "I want you to see me."

When Terry didn't immediately respond she lifted up her mouth until her lips met his.

"Do you want to be timid together?" She asked.

"I don't know what to do," he confessed with humiliated embarrassment.

Jodi hesitated for a moment and then she put her hands on her waist band and tugged her pajama bottoms down her legs. She kicked them off her feet, caught them in mid air, and then dropped them and the tops into the washing machine.

"Its okay, Bails," she said quietly. "I really do want you to see me."

Terry took the opportunity to appreciate her naked beauty standing before him but he couldn't bring himself to say anything.

"Don't you want to wash those sweats too?" Jodi asked.

Then she reached out and took the waistband of his sweats and boxers and tugged them down his thighs, exposing him for the first time to any girl. Terry sucked in his breath as he instantly went hard. Jodi tossed the sweats into the bin and motioned for him to remove his top. Terry nervously did what he was told, dropped them into the machine, dumped some soap into the tub, closed the top and started the wash.

They both stood naked in front of the washing machine and Jodi leaned up and kissed Terry like he had never been kissed her before. She took his hand and raised it until it was on her breast and he looked at them with wonderment, amazed by the way her breast felt in his hand.

"I usually try to hide my body from guys," she sighed. "I always had so much shame."

"You have nothing to be ashamed about," he whispered, barely able to form the words in his mouth.

"I wanted to take it slow and easy with you and give you a chance to get used to me, Bails," she explained. "We've known each other since September and we've been together non-stop since we left Burlington on Saturday."

"We have," he agreed.

"But I can't take it anymore," she admitted. "I want you."

She threaded her fingers in his hair and she rested her head on his chest. Terry massaged one of her breasts with his hand and after a couple of minutes of tender, gentle rubbing, Jodi began to relax. It was hard to tell who was the real novice in the situation. Terry was tentative and unsure while Jodi was hesitant and uncertain but they could both hear each other's breathing

Jodi planted a soft kiss on Terry's cheek. "Can we go upstairs?" She whispered desperately.

"Yes," he said.

Jodi led him toward the stairs and a moment later they were in his room and she fell onto the bed on her back. A nervous Terry slowly knelt on the bed and she pulled him down until his face was near hers and she kissed him long and deep.

"Have you wanted me as much as I've wanted you?" She asked between the kisses.

"Yes," he said, trying not to cry.

Jodi kissed him again and this time she put her tongue in his mouth. He looked into her eyes and saw what he had always hoped for. Jodi took his hand and put it back on her breast and Terry took his other hand and rubbed it along her stomach. Jodi let out a happy sigh as he played with her breasts squeezing and rubbing and exploring. She gasped when he massaged her nipples and proceeded to pinch them. Her breathing grew heavy as she took one of his hands and led it down her stomach to her waist, showing him the way to her love nest.

"I've waited for this for so long," Terry sobbed.

"I know," she said leaning up and kissing him hard. "I'm glad it's me, Bails."

He looked up and down her body, from the top of her head to the tip of her toes, admiring every inch of her, marveling at her round firm breasts and especially her visibly wet area between her legs. She leaned up and kissed him, running her tongue around his.

Terry grabbed her and pulled her close, his hand finding her buns behind her and he squeezed hard. Jodi murmured with delight, pressing herself closer while rubbing herself against his stiffness. She looked down at his hard manhood.

"Nobody's seen it before," he admitted.

"I'm glad I'm the first," she replied with appreciation.

"I've never felt like this before," he told her. "I've never been with anyone before."

"It's okay," she said, pushing him back on the mattress and then rubbing herself against his stiffness again.

"Oh, Ham," he gasped as she grinded him.

"It's okay," she whispered with tenderness. "We both want this. We both need this."

He jumped when she reached down and took him in her hands.

"Jodi!" He bellowed

"Shhhh," she said calmly as Terry kissed her in thanksgiving as he began to physically shake. Jodi lay down beside him and spread her legs. "Let's do it," she said.

Terry rolled on top of her and she helped guide him into her. The feeling was beyond description and Terry screamed out with fascinated stimulation.

"We're finally connected," Jodi sobbed.

Terry stared at the happiness on her face, watching her breasts roll as she moaned and screamed. After a while, she forcefully rolled him over so she was on top and she straddled him, moving up and down, both of them moaning and groaning. Her breasts bounced with every movement and then she leaned back and screamed louder than ever as her orgasm flowed. Just then, Terry felt something he had never felt before as he released and she screamed again with a mixture of laughter and sobs as Terry bucked, almost tossing her off of his lap.

"Oh, Bails!" Jodi sobbed happily as she fell on top of him and began to cry.

Terry rubbed her hair and kissed her forehead and held her close.

"Thank you so much," he said with a breaking voice, his hands finding their way to her backside which he rubbed with newfound joy and pleasure.

Jodi eventually rolled off of him and she cuddled against him naked, looking up into his face.

"No regrets?" She feared.

"My only regret is that I had to wait this long for you," he said, kissing her nose.

Terry noticed the rain battering against the window. It probably had been doing so all along but because he had been so distracted, enthralled and happy he hadn't heard.

"I'll always remember the way the rain sounds because of now," he said.

She smiled and rolled over to look at the rain out the window. She bounced off the bed and went to the window, kneeling on the window seat to look out and watch the weather. Terry grabbed a blanket and followed, patting her on the fanny before draping the blanket around her shoulders and cuddling her against him as he knelt beside her and they both stared out the window.

"It's not Daytona Beach," he observed.

"It's better," she said. "Don't get me wrong, I love The Frosh but this was personal and private and wonderful and joyful and the most intimate moment of my life."

Terry kissed the top of her head.

"I'll never forget Hillsboro now," Jodi said happily.

"Me either," Terry said.

"So, I guess I didn't lie to Savannah the waitress after all," Jodi giggled. "You weren't quiet a few minutes ago! You didn't keep to yourself! And a book was the last thing in yours hands, if you know what I mean!"

He laughed and squeezed her buns that remained uncovered beneath the blanket that only went half way down her back. "I guess that's true," he said.

### ###

The rest of the week in Hillsboro was a continuous high. Neither Jodi or Terry had been happier in their lives and Mrs. Bailey knew the sharing the bed idea had paid off although she would never admit to contributing to the sexual success of her social inept son. She could see the breakthrough in the eyes and smiles of her son and his guest although she didn't ask and they didn't tell.

Terry was uncomfortable making love with his mother sleeping across the hall so for the next few nights he and Jodi cuddled and spooned, sleeping bottomless under the covers with tops on just in case Mrs. Bailey happened to enter the room to announce the house was on fire or something. They played touchy feely but refrained from making noises his mother might hear.
But in the morning, after Mrs. Bailey left for work, Terry was like a kid on Christmas morning or somebody who had made a new discovery (sex). Now he was happy to be a rabbit humping at free will.
"It's like riding a bicycle," he told Jodi after a prolonged lovemaking session the second morning of their new found relationship. "You just don't want to get off or stop pedaling!"
"So, are you finally over it?" Jodi asked as they cuddled naked on the bed after doing it yet again.
"Sex? Never!" he joked.
"No," she said, sounding serious. "I mean everything else."
He sucked in his breath and thought about it for a moment. "It doesn't bother you?" He asked with worry. "What happened?"
"It had nothing to do with you, Bails," she reminded him. "You're not your father. Or your grandfather."

"Who am I then?" He wondered.
"Terry Ryan Bailey," she answered.
He nodded with understanding. "I think I'm finally over it," he decided.

"That's good," she said.

"Thanks to you," he realized. "You've taught me so much during this week in Hillsboro together."

"Do you want me to teach you so more?" She giggled, rolling on top of him and kissing him.

And she did. By the time they were ready to return to Burlington, Terry was well versed in just about every sexual position and act imaginable.

"What are we going to tell The Frosh?" Terry asked Jodi later in the day when he was lying on top of her nearly pounding her head into the headboard as he pumped her like there was no tomorrow.

"I don't think we're going to tell them anything," Jodi answered between moans as she wrapped her legs around his pelvis and helped him drive into her.

They were naked on the stripped bed and her hands were tugging on the sides of the mattress sheets as he continued to thrust and she skidded her rump along the sheet.

"Don't you think they'll figure something's up?" Terry asked.

"Let them, Bails," she said as she struggled to keep her breath. "I'm sure they can handle it."

Mrs. Bailey insisted on taking them out for a fancy dinner on Friday night to the Sun Rise Lake Inn. She and Jodi both get decked out for the meal and Mrs. Bailey seemed quite pleased with herself all through dinner.

"What's going on, Ma?" Terry finally asked, wondering if his mother had a few belts before leaving the house.

"Nothing," Mrs. Bailey laughed, amused by her son's reaction.

"You seem so…giddy," Terry observed.

"Well, I am!" Mrs. Bailey said proudly.

"About what?" Terry asked nervously.

"About you, Terry," she answered seriously. "Actually, I'm relieved."

"Relieved about what?" He asked with puzzlement.

"You," she revealed bluntly.

"Me?" Terry asked with surprise. "What did I do?"

"You finally found your smile," Mrs. Bailey explained. "I never thought you'd find it again."

Terry nodded in understanding and glanced at Jodi.

"I guess a week in Hillsboro can do that for anybody," Jodi replied with a smile of her own.

"Just be sure you take it back to Burlington with you," Mrs. Bailey said. "Both of you."

"I don't think that's going to be a problem, Ma," Terry said with a happy grin.