Bagwell and Phelps (PG-13)

For years, it was Bagwell's Appliance Store in downtown Greenville but when my father took over for his father he added a partner and the store became Bagwell and Phelps' Appliances and Television.

I remember the store from the time I could walk. My mother worked the check out counter part time so I spent a lot of time at the place when I wasn't in school. I didn't mind one bit – the store was interesting and fun, crammed with stoves, refrigerators, television sets, stereos, and other equipment. I loved hanging around the repair shop in the back watching my father and a guy named Mac fix televisions and radios.

I often went with my father when he took one of the company vans across Blue County to make a house call, fixing some old lady's refrigerator or stove. Before cable ruled, he often climbed up on somebody's roof to fix an antenna. My father was a natural at customer service and everybody loved him. He was tall and good looking and he knew in order to keep the business going successfully, he needed the repeat customer. He made his presence – and the store's presence – known throughout Blue County by sponsoring little league teams, joining the Chamber of Commerce, and making his store available to all sorts of community events.

Mr. Phelps had been a college buddy of my father's and he worked at the store from the time he was eighteen. Mr. Phelps (everybody called him Wally) was short and plump – I was always reminded of Abbott and Costello whenever I saw my father and Mr. Phelps together! – and he had an infectious sense of humor. His laugh would bellow throughout the store and he was a great storyteller. He always had a cigar or a pipe in his mouth and I thought he and my father made great partners.

I was eight years old the first time I met Sundra Phelps, Wally's daughter. I had heard her mentioned before and I thought it was a unique name. I wondered what she looked like and then one day there she was in the store, a tall thin kid with long black hair. She seemed kind of quiet and shy and I don't think we talked the first few times we were in the store together but then one time I found myself in one of the vans with her and our fathers driving somewhere and I gave her half of my candy bar. We became friends from that moment on.

The Phelps lived about a mile from our house and I would pedal over there and hang out with Sundra whenever I could. The Phelps lived in a surprisingly run down old house and Wally drove a twenty year old car, a striking difference from our attractive ranch and my father's late model car. I assumed it was because my father had saved more money and was in a better position to afford a nicer house and newer car.

Sundra and I became best friends and we hung out together, either at the store when we were there or at our houses. Sundra and her family moved into a new house that was even nicer than ours and all of a sudden Wally was driving a nice looking late model sports car and his wife had a Cadillac. I always wondered how they became rich all of a sudden but I was happy that they had become successful.

Then about a year later Mrs. Phelps disappeared pretty much without explanation. Sundra never talked about her after that and I never asked what happened. Wally acted as if nothing had changed – he was still the same guy around the store but I knew something had changed. My mother knew this too and she was always inviting Sundra for lunch or dinner which allowed me to spend even more time with her.

When we were old enough, we started doing chores around the store for a small allowance: sweeping floors, washing the huge store front windows, dusting the appliances, carrying junk to the large dumpsters out back, and washing the vans mostly, usually together.

Sundra wasn't exactly my girlfriend but she might as well have been because she was my closest confident and the one person I trusted with my secrets and inner most thoughts even though she rarely shared hers with me. She was my first true love even though we pretended that we were just friends.

Because our fathers were Bagwell and Phelps we jokingly referred to ourselves as Bagwell and Phelps too and that's how we were known around school. I didn't mind because I thought we made a pretty good team!

When you know somebody from eight years old on, it is noticeable when things start to change. Sundra was actually taller than me when we first met but I soon caught up and eventually passed her. She was rail thin for a long time but when she hit adolescence she began to fill out some in the chest and hips and that became noticeable, especially in the summer when she wore tank tops and short shorts.

But Sundra was a tomboy at heart and even when she started developing 'feminine traits' she was still climbing trees higher than I did and riding her bike faster than I could. She was always a quiet girl but she trusted me and her shyness seemed to go away when we were together.

We had our father's business partnership in common and the store itself so it was easy to relate to one another and be friends. But in the back of my mind I was aware that Sundra was a girl, especially after she started developing those 'feminine traits'. She smelled different and she looked different, even after she cut her hair to her shoulders when she was about fourteen. I wouldn't describe Sundra as beautiful, but she was attractive in her own natural way. She didn't wear make up much and she was content on just being herself which I truly admired. I was attracted to her personality just as much as I was to her physical appearance.

Even at fifteen, we were convinced that we were the future of Bagwell and Phelps – that we would become the new Bagwell and Phelps taking over for our fathers and running the business ourselves some day. We were serious about it and talked about it often and sometimes I wondered if one day it might even become Bagwell and Bagwell if Sundra and I became husband and wife as well as business partners.

Even though we pretended we were just friends, it was inevitable that we would kiss sooner or later, especially when our hormones kicked in and some of our friends started dating. We had a favorite walking path along the Blue River that we often strolled together and it was in the woods along the path one summer day when we first kissed. We were resting by sitting on a log watching the river flow by and there was just something magical about the moment with the sun shining through the trees onto Sundra's face and hair, a butterfly floating by, and the singing of the birds that compelled me to lean over and kiss her without saying a word.

I was relieved when Sundra wrapped her arms around me and kissed me back. I whispered in her ear that she was my best friend and we sat in the quietness of the woods for a long time without uttering a word, just holding on to each other and periodically smooching. It was the best moment of my life!

After that, the log by the river became our favorite place to be. It was nice to sit along the bank and be together in peaceful quietness. Sometimes we'd take a dip because it was a secluded place along the river and then sit on a nearby grassy knoll and let the sun dry us.

We were sixteen when we skinny dipped for the first time. It was dusk on a hot summer's night and there was nobody around when Sundra dared to take her bathing suit off and step naked into the Blue River. I couldn't take my eyes off her bare rear as I stripped out of my clothes and joined her in the river but we never made love, mostly because we figured we weren't supposed to. I respected Sundra and I didn't want us doing something we might both regret. Letting me see her naked was the biggest secret she shared and I was grateful for the opportunity to witness her natural beauty. That day we skinny dipped was one of the best days of my life.

We kissed fairly often, usually when we said goodnight to one another or if we hadn't seen one another for a few days. By the time we were sixteen, we had picked up more hours at the store. Sundra worked the front counter and cash register a lot and I was usually on the crew delivering appliances to people's homes. It really did feel like family working at Bagwell and Phelps Appliances and Television with our fathers always around and my mother working split shifts most days.

If Mr. Phelps had a problem with me spending so much time with his daughter he never said anything to me and my parents considered Sundra a daughter anyway so the work place environment was stress free, friendly, compatible, and happy.

For Sundra's seventeenth birthday, I took her out to dinner at the Sun Rise Lake Inn. She was never the romantic type but she enjoyed the meal and the evening and when we left the Inn, I grabbed her in the parking lot and brought her close to me, kissing her with newfound passion and it was the best kiss of my life.

After that wonderful birthday night, I was floating on clouds. I had the feeling that Sundra and I were really going to be good together and that we both knew we were destined to be together. I didn't think much of it when Sundra wasn't in school a few days later but when I got to the store for my after-school shift, it looked like somebody had died. My parents were sitting in the back office with Mac with pale faces and blank expressions.

"What's going on?" I asked.

"We've been robbed," my father told me.

"What!?" I asked with shock. "When? How? Who? Where are the cops?"

"Wally robbed us, sweetheart," My mother said, her voice breaking.

When my father explained how his business partner had been embezzling money from the business for years I thought I was going to throw up. But then only one thought crossed my mind: Sundra!

I dashed from the store and raced to the Phelps' house but nobody was home. I peered into the window and saw that the television and some of the other belongings were gone.

Wally and Sundra skipped town! I wasn't sure if Sundra knew what her father had done but it didn't matter. She was gone and I knew as I stood on the porch that stunning afternoon that I was never going to see her again. I felt like somebody had drop-kicked me.

I snuck inside through a cellar window and drifted through the rooms. The house felt like a tomb. In Sundra's bedroom, her dresser drawers were open and it looked like she had grabbed her clothes in a hurry, leaving some behind. The closet door was open too and she had apparently taken only what would fit in the car. I saw the music box I had given her on her desk and I took that and a few of her other possessions for sentimental keepsake knowing it was all that was left of her. It was all I could do not to cry.

Wally had skimmed nearly $200,000 from the business during the past twenty years which explained the new house and nice cars. My father was forced to declare bankruptcy. Bagwell and Phelps Appliances and Television went out of business, ending a fifty-seven year run in downtown Greenville. Dad was forced to take a job as a floor salesman with a competitor in Miller City. My mother got a cashier job at the local Shop and Save. A friend of my father's gave me a part-time job as a delivery crew guy for his furniture business.

My senior year was a stressful, depressing time. My family had been scandalized and our way of life had been forever altered. My father's spirit never broke but it was a heavy burden carrying the loss of the family business and the betrayal of his best friend and business partner. The authorities never caught up to Wally or Sundra and Wally was never mentioned in our house again.

For me, it was a double edged whammy. I hated Wally for what he had done but I missed Sundra each and every day. I would drive by her house at least once a day (the bank eventually foreclosed on it). I couldn't get Sundra out of my mind.

I spent most of my senior year in a fog. Part of me half-expected to see Sundra walk through the door professing her love for me while the other half wished we got a phone call informing us that Wally was in jail. It was a sad time for all of us but my parents didn't lose the house and I was thankful for that much.

Still, I couldn't stop wondering about how (or even what) Sundra was doing and where she was. I always assumed we would go the senior prom together and graduate as the couple Bagwell and Phelps but I didn't go to the prom and I asked the principal to mail me my diploma. Months after the store closed, rumors, innuendos, and gossip continued to circulate throughout the community and all of us Bagwells kept a low profile. My father was left holding the bag for Wally Phelps' crimes and indiscretions. The store building was sold and a drug store moved into the premises. I couldn't bring myself to pass that store for years.

Sundra appeared in my dreams almost every night. In one reoccurring one, I am drifting through her old house which is always full of appliances from the store, usually stacked to the roof one on top of the other, stoves, refrigerators and television sets. Sundra is always standing at the top of the stairs, naked, her hair wet from skinny dipping. She's holding a bag of full of money and I always wake up before I reach the top of the stairs.

I graduated from Greenville High and went to Blue County Community College for the next few years, any hopes for a four year college dashed because of my parents' unexpected dire financial situation. I worked as many hours as I could at the furniture store and was able to transfer to nearby Greenville College for my final two years and I graduated with a Bachelor's in Education.

After witnessing the demise of Bagwell and Phelps and losing the dream of taking over the store with Sundra, retail was the last thing I wanted to do, especially after five years of busting my hump at the furniture store. So I went into teaching, landing a job at Hillsboro High School which was about as different a career as I could have ever imagined.

I did okay but there was something missing from my life. My relationships never seemed to last – I had a trust issue wondering if the woman I was with was going to disappear like Sundra had. In a truly pathetic admission, I was also hopeful that Sundra might reappear one day as foolish and unlikely as that was in reality.

So I dabbled in short-lived flings and one night stands, never committing and always looking over my shoulder. Diane Rowley was a co-worker at Hillsboro High and we got along well, flirting and tap dancing for several years until she finally invited me home after a Christmas party, another meaningless conquest, another lonely night. We didn't become an item after our long night of sex but we remained friends at school.

I was surprised at how often I thought of Sundra, even years later. I still had the reoccurring dream about her – or different variations – and I would wake up missing her all over again.

My father died of a massive heart attack at the relatively young age of 57 and my mother was convinced that it was the scandalous loss of the store and the betrayal of Wally Phelps that did him in. She became even more bitter about what had happened and eventually I moved back into the family house to help my mother out financially and keep her company.

After a few more years passed, I started to think that this was going to be the rest of my life: working as a high school teacher, having meaningless short-lived relationships, living with my mother for the rest of her life and then living out my own years in my parents' house, all because Sundra Phelps disappeared from my life when we were seventeen. I couldn't help but wonder what my life would be like if Sundra hadn't left.

I was beyond pathetic. It had been twenty years since Bagwell and Phelps ended. I was living in my childhood bedroom. It was not the way I imagined my life turning out, especially when I recalled how Sundra and I would talk about running Bagwell and Phelps when we were old enough. Maybe that's what we'd be doing now if she hadn't disappeared from my life.

I made the mistake of going to our twentieth high school reunion in Greenville, partly because I fantasized that Sundra would show up even though nobody knew what in the hell ever happened to her and couldn't contact her to tell her about the reunion in the first place.

I chatted with several old classmates, most of whom were married with children. Diane Rowley had been kind enough to attend with me just so I wouldn't appear as big a loser as I felt I was. I wasn't a loser being seen with her. Diane was thin and tall with wavy blond hair and even though she was in her late thirties she looked ten years younger.

"Everybody probably thought you'd be married by now," Diane told me as we sat at a table late into the evening.

I laughed. "Everybody but me," I said.

"Because of Sundra," Diane stated.

Diane was well aware of the Sundra story. I had pined and sighed to her about it for years. I took her hand in mine. "You are a beautiful woman, a terrific person, and a wonderful friend," I told her.

"But that's good enough," she sighed.

"I'm such a fool," I admitted.

"Yes, you are," Diane agreed with a sad smile.

We had a weird relationship. We'd sleep together when we weren't with somebody else or when one of us was feeling particularly needy. Diane had been married briefly when she was young and she never committed to anyone else after that either, so ours was a friendship of convenience. My mother liked Diane and she was welcomed at our house, even spending the night on occasion but neither of us seemed to be able to move beyond our pasts and we were therefore stuck in our unhappy present.

I went back to Diane's place after the reunion. I didn't want to be alone.

### ### ###

It was a typical Saturday morning. I was helping my mother clean the house as usual, vacuuming, dusting and washing the windows when the doorbell rang. I opened it without expectations and saw a woman around my age standing on the porch wearing a flowery blouse and black slacks. Her hair was frosted blonde but there was something strangely familiar about her as I peered at her with uncertainty.

"Can I help you?" I asked politely.

"I'm hoping I can help you," she replied nervously.

Her voice sounded oddly familiar. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks. It was Sundra!

She studied my face. "Hello, Jim."

Suddenly, I was being transformed through a time portal as if the last twenty years had never happened.

"Is it really you?" I asked with shocked disbelief.

She nodded but didn't say anything, looking away with embarrassment.

"What are you doing here?" I practically whispered.

"I came to make amends," she replied quietly.

I was speechless. I couldn't believe it was her. After all these years of waiting, hoping, fantasizing and wanting, finally there she was standing on my front porch. And then a wave of fear and panic rolled through me. What was my mother going to say? How was she going to react? I would hate for Sundra to be the victim of my mother's misplaced pent up resentment, anger, wrath and bitterness toward Wally.

Sundra rubbed her hand across her face nervously. "Uh, can I come in?"

"Jim, who's that?"

It was my mother's voice behind me. I turned to see her peering at me with puzzlement.

"Ma, it's Sundra Phelps," I announced bluntly.

"Wha…?" My mother looked as stunned as I felt.

"Can I come in, Mrs. Bagwell?" Sundra asked, her eyes teary.

I stepped back so my mother could get a clear view of Sundra standing at the door. The two women looked at each other for a long moment.

"Yes, Sundra, please come in," My mother finally replied before she practically collapsed onto the couch.

I was half-expecting my mother to slam the door in Sundra's face or explode with screaming, swearing and insults, but my mother seemed surprisingly calm though drained as she sat on the couch.

"Um, come in, Sundra." The words fell out of my mouth heavily. "How have you been?" I asked stupidly and both women looked at me as if I was crazy.

"Sorry," I mumbled, realizing how dumb that sounded. "Would either of you like something to drink?" I offered as Sundra took a seat in the chair opposite the couch.

"I could use a Brandy," My mother replied.

"Ma, it's ten o'clock in the morning," I laughed.

"I could still use a Brandy," My mother informed me.

"Me too," Sundra spoke up.

I wasn't going to argue with either of them so I went to the cabinet in the corner and poured two glasses of peach brandy, placing a glass on the coffee table in front of each of them.

I still couldn't believe it was really Sundra Phelps sitting in front of us. After all these years it finally happened. It seemed surreal. I wanted to grab her, hold her, kiss her, shake her, slap her, scream at her, hug her, and cry with her.

"What do you want?" My mother asked coolly while taking a sip of her brandy.

"I don't blame you for hating me," Sundra replied sadly.

"I don't hate you," My mother replied calmly.

"Well, my father then," she said.

"Yes, him I hate," My mother replied truthfully.

I had never seen my mother looking so evil. Her burrows were frowned and there was such a look of disgust and hatred on her face that I was momentarily taken aback. My mother was usually a pleasant, cheerful and friendly person, well trained from all those years at Bagwell and Phelps.

"He's dead," Sundra announced.

"I'm sorry," I said instinctively.

"I'm not," my mother replied honestly.

"He died a couple of months ago," Sundra explained. "I've been settling his estate."

"I'm sure it's pretty substantial," My mother said bitterly.

"Not really," Sundra replied.

"So, all our money is gone?" My mother sighed.

"A large chunk," Sundra confirmed.

"Did you know?" I asked softly, afraid to hear the answer.

"Not at first," Sundra sighed. "But I knew something was going on. The new house. The nice cars. And then my mother left. They had a big fight and I remember her saying 'I'm not going to jail'. I didn't know what she meant at the time but she must have found out about it or something."

"She should have come to us," My mother complained.

"She was driving a Cadillac," I pointed out.

"I just think she wanted out of everything," Sundra said. "Even me."

There was a long moment of silence with nobody saying anything, remembering the lost girl Sundra who spent her teenaged years without her mother.

"So, what happened?" I finally asked, desperate to known why she left that day so long ago.

"My father woke me up in the middle of the night," Sundra reported. "Said we were leaving."

"Did he say why?" I asked.

Sundra shook her head no.

"We were having an audit done," my mother told me. "Your father had concerns. Wally knew he was going to be found out."

"I didn't know any of that," Sundra said. "I knew he had done something wrong but I didn't ask and he didn't tell."

"Where did you go?" I asked.

"California," Sundra revealed. "He was Walt Peterson and I was Sandy. He got a job at Disneyland and nobody asked who we were or where we came from. I finished high school, went to college, got married, had some kids."

I felt my head spinning. She hadn't waited like I did? I was crushed as I stared at her but she wouldn't meet my eyes.

"Dad got sick about a year ago and when we found out he was terminal he came clean about what happened," Sundra told us.

"You let twenty years go by without asking any questions?" I asked angrily. "Without trying to contact us? Without coming back?"

Sundra wiped a tear from her eye while shaking her head. "I'm sorry," she whispered. "I knew when we left that night there was no coming back."

"You're back now," my mother pointed out.

Sundra reached into her pocketbook and pulled out an envelope. "I wanted to give you this," she explained.

"We lost the store, you know," I said bitterly. "No more Bagwell and Phelps."

"Did you know that Jim's father passed away?" my mother asked. "Losing the business killed him."

Sundra stood and handed my mother the envelope. "This is everything that was left," she said.

"Do you know how much he took?" My mother asked.

"I know it was a lot," Sundra said.

"$207,483.27," My mother answered.

Sundra looked dazed as she fell back into the chair. "Oh my God."

My mother opened the envelope and pulled out a cashier's check. "$43,207?"

"That's everything," Sundra sighed. "After paying off all his debts, his funeral, and burying him. There was a small insurance policy. I kept a little for my kids college fund, but that's everything else."

"We appreciate the gesture," I said. "You came all the way out here from California just to give it to us?"

"I thought it was the least I could do," Sundra said, standing again. "I'm sorry for your loss. I'm sorry for your pain. I'm sorry for what my father did. I loved Bagwell and Phelps. I thought it was going to be a part of my life forever."

She started for the door.

"Wait!" I said. "You just can't leave."

"I know I'm not welcomed here," Sundra said painfully, a sob stuck in her throat. "I don't blame you for hating me."

"We don't hate you," I said, chasing her across the room.

"Let her go, Jimmy," my mother said. "She has her family back in California."

"When are you going back?" I asked.

"I have a flight out tomorrow," she said.

"Where are you staying?"

"The Super 8," she said.

"Don't go," I begged.

"I don't belong here." Her voice was full of pity and pain, tears in her eyes.

"Look, you just can't waltz in here after twenty lonely years, drop off a check, and then disappear from my life all over again," I protested.

"I just wanted to make amends as best I could," she explained sadly. "I know the money doesn't make up for all the suffering but I hope it means something."

"It does," I assured her. "But can't we talk, at least?" I asked.

"There's nothing to talk about, Jim."

"Aren't we still Bagwell and Phelps at least?" I wanted to know.

She burst out in a sob and I wrapped my arms around her. I saw my mother take her glass of brandy and the check and leave the room.

"I always thought you'd come back some day," I whispered.

"I'm sorry I left," she said through her sobs.

"Do you remember how we were going to take the business over?" I asked.

"Un-huh," she said sadly.

"Did you ever think about that when you were gone?"

"Yes, I thought about it, but its way too late for any of that."

"As long as you thought about it," I said. "As long as you thought about us."

"Bagwell and Phelps," she smiled.

We left the house and walked silently to our favorite place on the path along the Blue River. The log we used to sit on was long gone but we found another one not too far away and we sat there instead.

"Do you think it would have worked?" I asked.

"What?" She asked.

"Us running Bagwell and Phelps," I said. "Us being together."

"I'd like to think so," she said with sentimentality. "It was the best time of my life."

"My life was never the same after you left," I told her.

"You shouldn't have waited for me," she sighed. "I can't believe you did, didn't you?"

I nodded affirmatively.

"And I didn't," she sighed, holding up her right hand to display her wedding ring.

"Are you happy?" I asked.

She shrugged. "The last twenty years of my life was a lie, Jim," she confessed. "I knew we were on the run. I knew Daddy did something terrible. But I couldn't look back. I had to live my life."

"He's a nice guy?"

She shrugged again. "I have two children I wouldn't trade for the world," she said.

"Nor should you," I advised.

Sundra leaned her head against my chest. "I'm sorry I ruined your life," she said.

"You didn't," I assured her. "I just couldn't let you go."

I ran my hand through her hair as she brushed a tear away from her cheeks before squeezing my arm.

"I never stopped loving you," she whispered.

"I'm glad," I smiled.

"It's just that my life took on a destiny that I had no control over," she sighed as we sat there on the log, her resting against me, me stroking her hair. "I should have told Daddy I wouldn't leave. I should have run away. I should have come back. I should have saved Bagwell and Phelps."

"You couldn't betray your father," I said.

"I know," she whispered. "So I betrayed us instead."

"You did what your father asked of you," I reminded her.

"I was thoroughly ashamed of myself," she said. "You don't have to be so willing to spare my feelings. You don't owe me anything."

"I don't blame you for anything, Sundra," I let her know. "I always knew you wouldn't have left if you had a choice. I always knew that you loved your father and that you would protect him."

She gently put her hand over mine. "Thank you for that," she said.

We sat there for a long time just like the old days enjoying the peace, quiet, beauty and tranquility of our secret favorite spot.

"You didn't take anybody else here, did you?" Sundra wanted to know.

"Not even to skinny dip!" I assured her.

She smiled at the memory before she stood. "I went by my old house," she said as I stood too and we began to walk along the path.

"I still drive by there sometimes," I admitted.

"I went by the old store too," she sighed.

"It's still hard for me," I confessed.

"Are you seeing anybody?" She asked after a few minutes.

"I have one person who is important to me," I revealed.

"That's good," she said.

We walked back to the house without saying much and Sundra pointed toward the rental car when we arrived.

"I should go," she said.

"You could stay and visit," I said, trying not to sound desperate.

"I don't think your mother is happy with me," she said. "I don't blame her. I'm a reminder of my father."

"Not for me," I assured her.

"I'm glad I came back," Sundra said bravely. "I feel like I've been absolved and I resolved and I made amends and I came clean and I've finally moved on."

"I'm glad you came back too," I said, trying not to get choked up.

She gave me a hug before climbing into the rental car. "I love you," she whispered through the glass before she drove away.

I don't know how long I stood there watching after her long after she was gone. I couldn't believe she had driven out of my life almost as quickly as she had re-appeared and something felt unresolved between us. I knew she was married with children and she was going back to her husband and her family but part of me didn't even care about that. I just wanted to be with her.

I moped around for the rest of the day and my mother wasn't very pleased with me. She admitted that the check for forty-three grand was a nice gesture and that Sundra had done the stand up thing but she was still bitter about what Wally had done and about all that had been lost.

"Your father trusted that man like his own brother," Mom complained with resentment. "He made him a partner even though he didn't have to. And what did the bastard do in return? Stole our lives away from us."

"That wasn't Sundra's fault, Ma," I replied with a groan.

"She's married, Jimmy," my mother groaned in return. "You've got to finally get over her. You have Diane waiting for you. Don't blow it again waiting for something you can't have."

My mother was right, of course, but I didn't want to hear it. I was approaching forty, living in my childhood bedroom, sharing my mother's house, sad, alone and lonely, teaching when I would much rather be selling televisions like my father, and now I was pining all over again over a girl I lost twenty years ago.

It was after ten that night when I drove to the Super 8 and Sundra opened the door as if she was expecting me. She was wearing a flimsy nightgown and she didn't say anything as I stepped into the room and closed the door behind me.

"I knew you would come," she said knowingly.

"I can leave if you want me too," I said.

"I don't want you too," she whispered.

My basic instincts told me to trust her just as I hoped she trusted me.

"I don't want to sleep by myself tonight," I told her.

"I don't either," she assured me as we both stood in the center of the room.

I leaned in and kissed her and she gladly kissed me back. We made out like it was twenty years ago and eventually we fell on the bed and I was hiking up her nightgown and fighting to get her panties down. She was gasping for breath and she tore her night gown off and she was naked for me as she desperately tried to get my clothes off of me.

I helped her and we lay naked against each other, no longer ravaging each other by gently and quietly exploring one another. After we made peaceful and serene love for the first time, we hugged each other and said goodnight. Sundra turned her back to me and I snuggled against her warmth, her naked skin pressed against mine. I had waited all my life for this moment.

The next morning, I awoke to see Sundra heading for the bathroom, her naked rear end outlined in the light from the bathroom. A few minutes later, she came back still in the nude and she saw me looking at her. She smiled as she slipped under the covers.

"Good morning," she said pleasantly. "How'd you sleep?"

"Wonderfully," I assured her.

"I need to get going," she sighed. "My flight leaves in a few hours."

I sat up and took her face in my hands, studying every line and mark there was too see. Slowly, our lips met and together we fell back on the bed to make love once more

"I love you Bagwell," she whispered.

"I love you too, Phelps," I told her.

### ### ###

I waited a week after Sundra returned to her life in California before I sought Diane out. I found her in her empty classroom after school writing her assignments on the blackboard for the next day's class. "Ms. Rowley" was sprawled across the top of the board. Diane was surprised when I closed and locked the door behind me and quietly stepped toward her.

"Your mother told me," Diane revealed, her voice flat.

"Told you want?" I asked gently.

"That she was here," Diane answered.

"She's not now," I replied.

"Are you finally over her?" Diane wanted to know.

"Yes," I told her.

"How can I be sure?" She demanded.

I pushed her against the wall, held her by the back of her head and gave her the most seductive, passionate and emotional kiss I could muster. She kept her eyes opened and stared at me as we kissed and she didn't protest when I hiked her skirt up and found her womanhood with my hand.

"I was thinking we could become Bagwell and Rowley," I let her know.