This idea for this story came from the "Who knew a postcard from a stranger could change everything?" Prompt I saw elsewhere on this site.
Henshaw had been living in Joe Morton's old apartment for a couple of years. He never met the guy but occasionally a piece of mail meant for Morton would show up in Henshaw's mailbox once Morton's forwarding order expired. Henshaw usually got bills and junk mail but today there wa postcard among the usual crap that caught his eye.
Unfortunately, the card was addressed to Morton. It featured a photo with "Johnny C's Diner, Hillsboro MA" as the caption on the lower right. Written on the back was the following message:
Hey You! It's been forever! This is where I am now. Nice place and nice people but I'm lonely and miserable. Please come save me! Even if it's only for a weekend – we can cuddle naked like we used to!
XXXOOO - Trudy
Her cursive handwriting was written in artistic script – extremely distinctive with a fine black marker that made it look like the card had been inscribed by a machine. Her fancy writing style caught Henshaw's interest and the message she wrote for Morton made him smile.
Henshaw was lonely and miserable too. He wished somebody would come and save him, willing to cuddle naked! He stuck Trudy's postcard on his bureau mirror and every time he saw it he'd glance at the message, occasionally flipping the card over and studying the photo of the diner captured on the front. He wondered what kind of place Johnny C's was and if Hillsboro was an interesting town to see.
Henshaw's job sucked but he showed up everyday and he went through the motions. His boss was a dick but Henshaw tried to treat the five person team working under his supervision with dignity and respect even though the warehouse assignment was not the most exciting job in the world.
Henshaw had some vacation time coming and whenever he saw Trudy's postcard staring back at him from his bureau mirror he thought about taking a trip to Hillsboro. It was an insane idea really – trying to track down a woman he never met and had no clue about except that she was lonely and miserable and liked to cuddle naked (at least with Morton).
Henshaw went so far as to map-quest driving directions to Hillsboro and then he actually put in for Thursday and Friday off to make it a four day getaway weekend. It wasn't until he woke up early on Thursday morning that Henshaw finally decided to take the ride and check out Johnny C's. He packed a couple of overnight bags and took Trudy's postcard off the mirror as he walked out of the apartment to embark on his crazy adventure. What was the worse that could happen? He wouldn't find Trudy and he'd head home no more lonely, miserable and uncuddle-able than he had been when he left.
Henshaw took the back roads to Hillsboro. It made the trip longer but he was in no hurry anyway. It was a scenic ride through small New England towns passing picturesque farm land, forests, lakes, streams, covered bridges, and pastures. Henshaw was feeling surprisingly mellow by the time he crossed the Blue River Bridge over the Blue River that led into downtown Hillsboro which looked about as Norman Rockwell as a Norman Rockwell painting could get.
Henshaw drove past Johnny C's Diner (which was easy to recognize) without stopping. He wanted to get a look at the rest of the town which included St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church, Fontaine's Family Grocery Store, Miller's Motors, Panther's Gym, Subway, CVS Drug Store, Johnson's Book Store, Serguci's Family Italian Restaurant, Hillsboro Pizza House, Hill's Barber Shop, Duffy's Tavern, and several other businesses, most of them located in handsome store fronts of buildings at least a hundred years old.
Henshaw circled back and pulled into the parking lot of Johnny C's Diner. The front of the diner was one of those old metal car diners but a large extension had been added to house a large kitchen, bathrooms, and more booths but as soon as Henshaw walked into the place he felt like he was stepping through a time warp back to a simpler easier time. An older gentleman was seated at the far end of the counter nursing a mug of coffee, a guy in a postal worker uniform was reading a paper in a booth, and a middle aged couple was finishing breakfast in another booth.
"Hey there," a middle aged waitress greeted Henshaw who was taking in the impressive surroundings. "Welcome to Johnny C's. Grab a stool or take a booth."
Was that Trudy? The woman was in her fifties, short and stocky with graying blonde hair and wide hips. Henshaw took a seat at the counter, still looking around. There were knick-knacks throughout the diner along with photos of local landmarks and people. A shelf featured Johnny C tee shirts, coffee mugs and postcards (like the one Trudy sent) for sale. The wall clock read 10:34 - the breakfast crowd was gone and the lunch gang hadn't arrived yet.
A second waitress came out from the back kitchen. Both women were wearing yellow T shirts with a "Johnny C's" emblem on the left breast. The first waitress was wearing a black skirt, the younger one had on tight designer blue jeans.
"You want to take your break, Sand?" The second waitress asked. "I can't take care of this guy."
"Sure," the first waitress smiled. "Thanks, Sweetie."
The first waitress disappeared into the back, leaving Henshaw with the younger server who looked to be in her mid-twenties. She had long blonde hair pulled up in a pony tail underneath a visor. She stepped up to the other side of the counter across from Henshaw.
"Do you need a menu?" She asked and as soon as Henshaw heard the melody of her voice and looked into her eyes he knew he was being waited on by Trudy.
"No, I'm good," he said. "I'll have eggs scrambled with a steak and home fries."
"Okay," she said, scribbling the order on her pad and Henshaw smiled when he saw the same artistic signature that was on the postcard and now it was confirmed: this was Trudy!
"You have a distinct handwriting style," Henshaw observed.
"Thanks," the waitress smiled. "I was an art major for a while."
She stepped to the soda machine and poured his coke, placing the large purple plastic glass in front of him before giving the short order cook Henshaw's request. She refilled the old guy's coffee mug at the end of the counter before returning to Henshaw's spot.
"You new around here?" She asked. "Haven't seen you in here before."
"I'm on vacation for a few days," Henshaw replied. "Stopped here for breakfast. I kind of like it around here. Thinking maybe I'll hang out for a few days."
"Where'd you come from?" She asked.
Henshaw hesitated for a moment. Should he tell her the truth? He wet his lips. No point lying.
"Oh yeah?" Trudy's eyes lit up. "I have a high school friend who lives there! Or used to, anyway. It seems I've lost track of him." She let out a sad sigh. "He went up there to attend Southern Maine University and I ended up here. I've been thinking about and missing him lately."
"This guy an old boyfriend?" Henshaw tested.
"No, not really," she blushed. "But we were close."
Henshaw nodded in understanding. Naked cuddling close.
"So," he said. "If I was to hang out around here for a few days, is there anything – besides you – worth seeing?"
Trudy smiled, appreciating the compliment. "You like baseball?" She asked.
"Sure," Henshaw replied.
"They play amateur baseball in an old ballpark called Beano Field," Trudy revealed. "It's about a mile from here. It's called The Serguci League and there's a game every night in the summer."
"Do you ever go?" Henshaw asked.
"Once in a while," she replied.
"Would you like to take me tonight?" Henshaw boldly requested.
"Wow, I haven't been asked something like that in a long time!" Trudy said with a huge grin on her face. She studied Henshaw for a long moment. "Let me think about it."
Trudy went off to do her job (instead of shooting the breeze with him!). She brought his breakfast to him when it was ready and then waited on new people entering the establishment. The other waitress returned from her break and a third one showed up to begin her shift as Henshaw was eating.
Henshaw watched Trudy work. She was friendly and personable with the customers and a team player with the other diner workers. She floated around the diner like a butterfly. She stopped to check on Henshaw several times as he slowly ate since he was in no hurry to leave, enjoying the atmosphere of the diner and watching Trudy.
"Is there a motel around here?" Henshaw asked when Trudy slipped his bill under his almost finished plate a good forty minutes after he first received his meal.
"Nothing in Hillsboro," Trudy replied. "You'll have to go to Greenville."
"Is it easy to find?"
She gave him another long look. "If you don't mind waiting around, I could show you," Trudy offered. "I get off at one."
Henshaw grinned happily. "That would be terrific," he said. "I'll just walk around and come back at one."
"Great," the waitress smiled. "I'm Trudy, by the way," she said, reaching her hand across the counter for a shake. "Trudy Hyrne."
"I'm Henry Henshaw," he replied. "Some call me Hen."
"Shouldn't that be Hen Hen?" Trudy joked.
"Or HH," Henshaw joked back.
"Nice to meet you, Hen," Trudy smiled. "I'll see you at one. I really should be working instead of gabbing with you!"
"Don't want to get you in trouble," Henshaw agreed. "Get to work. I'll see you later!"
One of the other waitresses took Henshaw's bill when he was ready to go as Trudy was tied up with a booth. She waved when she saw him leaving and he waved back with a smile. He hoped Trudy wouldn't be upset that he over-tipped her!
Just as it was a beautiful day for a ride, it was also a glorious summer day for a walk around downtown Hillsboro, a quaint and pretty old New England town, clean and well kept with a certain pride that was easy to see in the people Henshaw came across as he window shopped and stepped into a few businesses to look at a few items. Shop proprietors were welcoming, personable and friendly.
A few minutes before one, Henshaw made his way back to Johnny C's diner. He sat at the counter and patiently waited for Trudy to finish her shift and turn over to the afternoon staff. She was all smiles as she let Henshaw escort her out of the diner.
"I only live a few blocks from here," she told him. "Let's walk there so I can freshen up and change."
Trudy's apartment was in an older former tenement building, small but well kept and attractive with some of her art work displayed on the walls. She showed him an impresive mural in the hallway between the bedroom and bathroom that she had painted.
"You paint beautifully," Henshaw told her. "You're beautiful," he added sheepishly.
"Thanks," she gushed, grateful for the compliment. "But you want to know one of the first things I figured out at art school?"
"What's that?" Henshaw wondered as he examined the mural.
"Artists are a dime a dozen," she sighed. "Everybody wants to be a writer or a singer or an actor or an artist or a painter or whatever. Everybody thinks they're the best thing to come along since slice bread." She studied the mural for a moment. "I bet there are a hundred people in Hillsboro who could have painted this."
"Your version is still pretty good," Henshaw decided.
Trudy smiled and she squinted at him in the dim light of the hallway. "I'm still trying to figure out if you're being a nice guy or trying to pick me up," she said.
Henshaw couldn't help but blush. "I'm a nice guy," he let her know.
Trudy nodded and motioned for him to follow her into the living room area. "So, you're not trying to pick me up?" She teased as she gestured toward the couch pushed up against the wall.
"I'm glad you're willing to keep me company," he replied as he took a seat on the couch.
"Well, being from Portland, you can't be that bad," Trudy decided as she stood observing him.
"I actually grew up in New York State," Henshaw revealed. "I ended up in Portland mostly by accident."
"That's okay," Trudy smiled. "I ended up here mostly by accident too."
"Where you from originally?" Henshaw wondered.
"Keene, New Hampshire," she replied. Trudy peered at him. "Do you think it's too early in the day to drink?"
Henshaw hesitated for a moment. "I guess not," he decided.
Trudy disappeared into the kitchen for a moment and returned with a bottle of rum in one hand, a bottle of coke in the other, and a couple of Dixie cups held in her mouth. She grinned as she took a seat next to him and set the bottles and cups on the coffee table in front of them.
"You like rum?" She asked.
"Arrrrrrrrrrgggggg," Henshaw joked in his best pirate imitation voice.
Trudy laughed. "Ahoy, Matey," she said, filling both cups half with rum and half with coca-cola. She handed Henshaw one of the paper cups and took the other for herself.
"A toast," she said. "To the vacationing Hen who left Vacationland Maine to vacation in Hillsboro!"
"Hear, hear," Henshaw smirked. "Glad to be here." He took a swig from his dixie cup. "Good stuff," he said approvingly.
"A regular brought it back from Barbados for me," Trudy smiled.
"Oh?" Henshaw worried. "He must be sweet on you, huh?"
"Maybe once," Trudy sighed. "He was down there on his honeymoon!"
"Oops," Henshaw replied.
"I suppose this was his way of apologizing," Trudy remarked sadly. "Always the bridesmaid, I guess."
"Sorry," Henshaw told her.
"That's okay," Trudy said, taking a sip from her cup. Then she gave him a look. "You're vacationing alone?"
"Yeah," he admitted. "For a while now."
"That's too bad," she said. "Are you always the best man?"
"Usually the best friend," Henshaw confirmed.
"Ouch," Trudy smiled. "That's usually the worst."
"Maybe this is a chance for the best man and the bridesmaid to have their moment," he suggested.
"Maybe," Trudy grinned. "Let me freshen up and get the Johnny C grease smell off of me," she said. "You stay put. I'll be right back."
Henshaw nodded and watched as Trudy quickly downed her drink and then left the couch, heading for the bedroom. He thought she smelled nice and not like the diner. He glanced around the living room and saw several paintings and sketches piled on the floor. There were sketch pads stacked on a table and a box full of paper pieces, napkins, table mats and other scraps with various sketches on them. He leafed through some of the sketch pads - there were drawings of people - most looked like customers at the diner, some drawings of Hillsboro's Main Street, some landscapes and even a couple of nudes. Henshaw was no expert of art but he though her work was pretty good, at least as good as most of the stuff he saw.
Henshaw heard the shower running so he roamed around the room snooping a little bit to see if he could figure out what her life was all about. He knew she attended art college, was a waitress at a diner, and liked to draw. She wasn't with anybody and she lived alone in a small old apartment. He saw a few photographs of her - she was definitely pretty and attractive, perhaps a few years younger than him. He wasn't exactly sure what he was doing at her apartment and he was pretty sure he should keep the postcard part of his story a secret not wanting to be considered a stalker or mistaken as a perv if she found out he read her card to Morton. Henshaw was honestly acting on a whim and with curiosity and he was not trying to pick her up.
Henshaw was sitting on the couch nursing his rum and coke when Trudy returned from her shower. She was wearing a halter top and short skinny jeans with sandals. Her hair was still wet from the shower and she looked great as she took a seat on the couch and poured herself another drink. Henshaw noticed the vine tattoo on her shin, a butterfly on her exposed back shoulder and some sort of banner along the back of her waist which was also exposed.
"Tattoos?" He asked, sort of surprise.
"Ah, the guy I was with was really into them," Trudy explained with a wave of her hand. "Besides, I'm an artist, what'd you expect!?" Then she gave him a look. "Why? You disapprove?"
"No, not at all," Henshaw replied. "They're very…..colorful."
Trudy laughed as she took a sip of her rum and coke. "I know everybody doesn't always find them attractive, especially on women."
"It can be an acquired taste," Henshaw agreed.
Trudy nodded. "I don't suppose you have any?"
"No," Henshaw admitted.
They nursed their drinks but neither spoke for a spell. Trudy finally threw him a look.
"So what really brings you here?" She wanted to know.
"What do you mean?" Henshaw asked nervously.
She turned sideways on the couch and examined him. "Why would you leave scenic Maine and end up here?"
Henshaw shrugged. "It seemed like a nice day for a ride," he said. "And I pulled into this particular town because I was hungry."
"You weren't headed anywhere specific?"
He shook his head no. "No place to go, really," he confessed.
"Oh." Trudy took another swig from her Dixie cup. "Me either," she sighed.
"How'd you end up here?" Henshaw wondered.
"A guy, of course," Trudy groaned. "After I dropped out of Art School I met up with this guy and we travelled around for a while. We ended up here because he knew somebody but then he took off without me so I just stayed. Didn't know what else to do."
"Why'd you drop out of Art school?"
"A guy, of course," Trudy laughed with embarrassment, emptying her cup and refilling it.
She was already on her third drink and Henshaw hadn't even finished his first. He was getting the impression that Trudy hadn't been very successful at love, art or life.
He watched as she topped off his drink with more run.
"You trying to get me drunk?" He teased.
Trudy laughed. "Maybe."
"I don't need to be drunk," he let her know.
Trudy nodded. "Okay."
"Are you okay?" He asked.
She shifted on the couch and she took another swig from her cup as her eyes watered up. "What do you mean?"
"You don't seem very….happy," Henshaw observed.
Trudy nodded her head. "I guess not," she admitted.
He was curious now. "How come?"
She glanced down at the floor and then at him with a sad smile. "Why would you want to know how pathetic I am?"
"I'm sure that's not true," he replied.
"How would you know?" She asked sarcastically.
"I've seen your art work," he replied knowingly.
"You like it?" She asked hopefully.
"I do," Henshaw replied.
"I've been able to sell a few things at local shows," she announced proudly. "And my boss Birdy Braft lets me hang stuff in the diner to sell," she added with appreciation.
"That's good," Henshaw remarked.
"You know, I come from a very well off family," Trudy revealed. "My father is a surgeon and my mother a trauma care nurse. It was assumed I would follow in their medical footsteps."
"But you didn't," Henshaw said.
She shook her head. "I insisted on going to art school instead," she said. "They weren't very happy with me, especially when I dropped out."
"For a guy," Henshaw remarked.
Trudy shook her head sadly, taking a drink from her Dixie cup. "How stupid is that?" She groaned. "I told you I was pathetic." She looked at him with a strange smile. "I'm broken hearted too."
"Oh," Henshaw sighed. "That's too bad."
She shrugged and poured herself another drink. "What can you do?" Trudy asked with defeat.
Henshaw thought about telling her she had enough to drink but he didn't know her well enough to be so forward. Instead, he took the bottle of rum and slid it out of her reach, placing it on the floor underneath the far end of the coffee table.
"That's subtle, Hen," She frowned. "What's the story there?"
"My mother was a drunk," he revealed. "I guess I have low tolerance for excessive drinking.
"Sorry," Trudy replied. "I didn't know."
"We all have our challenges," Henshaw replied with a shrug.
"Yeah, I guess we do," Trudy agreed.
"So, who's the guy you're so broken hearted over?" Henshaw asked.
"Ah, let's not talk about that asshole," Trudy decided. "Why would you want to hear about my pathetic love life anyway?"
"Just thought maybe it would help you to talk about it," he offered.
Trudy sighed. "I think I'm done ranting and raving and crying and screaming over some guy," she decided.
"Maybe it's time to move on," Henshaw suggested.
She looked at him with a droopy defeated frown. "Do you want to know how many times I've moved on?" She asked acidly. "Let's face it, I suck at love."
Henshaw nodded with understanding. "Join the club," he muttered and this time it was him pounding down the last of his drink.
Trudy tossed him an interested look. "What's your sob story?"
Henshaw shook his head. "You don't want to know."
"No?" She smirked. "Try me!"
"I just don't want to deal with the bullshit anymore," he said.
"Who does?" Trudy wanted to know.
"Let's just say I didn't have a lot of great role models and mentors when it came to forming stable long lasting loving relationships," Henshaw sighed. "It was easier not to try and I got used to being on my own."
"I hate being on my own," Trudy admitted.
"Why didn't you go home to your folks?" Henshaw asked.
"Because I didn't want to give them the satisfaction of telling me 'told you so'," Trudy grumbled. "I'd have to grovel and own up to being a failure and I just didn't want to go through that. So I stayed here and I'm a waitress."
"You're an artist," Henshaw corrected her.
"Right," she replied sarcastically.
They let silence fall between them for a long moment.
"Anyway," Henshaw finally said. "I think all those guys missed out on something special."
Trudy looked at him with amusement. "You think?"
"I'd say you're something worth keeping."
"Says the guy who doesn't even try," she noted cynically. "Besides," she added with a frown. "You hardly know me."
Henshaw shrugged. "I'm pretty good at observing."
"I'm sure you are," she said sarcastically. "But how are you at participating?"
Henshaw felt hurt by her comment and he sat back on the couch, folding his arm across his chest. "I'm here, aren't I?" He asked snarkly.
"You are," she admitted, feeling bad for being mean. "Sorry I'm such a bitch. I guess I'm just bitter sometimes."
"I think it's a safe bet that neither of us are perfect," Henshaw remarked.
"I'm mostly ambiguous," Trudy said. "Daring sometimes," she admitted. "Spontaneous. Foolish. But passionate too."
"All good traits of an artist," Henshaw told her.
"Thanks," Trudy blushed, catching his eye.
She gave him a small smile and he grinned in return.
"I guess you're kind of cute in a sort of lost puppy dog sort of way," she decided.
"Thanks," he said with a squint. "I guess."
"Don't mind me," she sighed. "I've been drinking. I tend to get mushy and gushy when I drink. All the lust, hurt and loneliness comes splashing out."
Henshaw nodded with understanding. "Loneliness is hard," he said.
"Sounds like you have some experience in that area," Trudy noted.
"I left vacationland, didn't I?" He remarked, running his hand through his hair. "How do you like Hillsboro so far?" She asked.
"I think it's very beautiful," he answered, looking right at her.
She blushed but she didn't say anything in response, leaving Henshaw to feel awkwardly embarrassed. He sighed and tried to think of something else to say.
"You know, there are a lot of towns around here," Trudy spoke first. "Greenville. Riverside. Miller City. Mt. Griffin. Sun Rise Lake. West County. South County. Why'd you pick Hillsboro?"
"No reason," he lied. "I saw the Blue River Bridge and decided to see what was on the other side. Then I saw the diner."
"What did you think you'd find here?" Trudy wondered.
"I had no idea," Henshaw answered truthfully. "But I like what I found."
Trudy smiled. "So, what do you do in Portland?" She asked, genuinely interested.
"I'm a shift supervisor in a wholesale grocery warehouse," he replied. "Not the most glamorous job around but it pays the rent."
"Did you go to college?"
"Joined the Navy," he said. "I was stationed the Naval Air Station in Brunswick when I got out so I stayed in the area and got hired by the warehouse."
"The Navy!?" She sounded impressed.
"I wasn't a war hero or anything," he told her. "I worked in the public affairs office. Took a lot of photographs."
"Well, that's sort of artsy," Trudy said.
"I guess I have a pretty good eye," Henshaw admitted with a sly smirk.
"Ever do any nudes?" She asked.
"Not a lot of calling for that in Navy public affairs," he smirked.
"You didn't want to moonlight?"
"I did some birthday parties and weddings for friends," he said.
"I've drawn nudes for people," she said, hopping off the couch.
Trudy went through various stacks of sketch pads and pulled a couple out. Henshaw didn't want to tell her that he had already snooped through some of them. She returned the couch with the pads in her laps and began turning the pages so he could see her work.
"Who are these people?" Henshaw asked.
"Other waitresses," she said. "An occasional customer. Guys who think they're hunks. Drawings like these are a pretty special and intimate gift."
"I don't know if I'd be that daring," he admitted.
"Oh? You're shy?" She teased as she closed the last pad. "Anyway," she said, leaning over and laying across the couch with her head in his lap. "I was up at five this morning and now the rum has put me to sleep. Is it okay if I catch a quick power nap?"
"Sure," Henshaw replied, surprised that she was willing to use his lap as a pillow.
Trudy closed her eyes and she was asleep almost instantly. Henshaw felt nearly paralyzed as he sat on the couch, afraid to move. He put his hands on her head and gently brushed her hair as she slept. He felt himself become tight between the legs and he hoped he didn't poke her in the head with his excitement. How embarrassing. He felt like he was sixteen again being turned on by just the idea of having someone near him.
Trudy was a peaceful sleeper and she barely moved and neither did Henshaw as he sat staring at her beauty. Her skin was soft and tanned, her mouth was curved, and her nose had a slight dip to it. He memorized every pore on her skin, every mark on her scantly clad body, including the exposed tattoos.
She slept for nearly two hours. Henshaw was getting sore sitting in one position but he didn't want to wake her up by moving around so he sat watching her sleep and listening to the sounds of summer outside the window. He studied the paintings on the wall and counted the fabric bumps on the rug on the floor. He could hear the ticking of a clock in the kitchen and the gentle sounds of her light breathing. He could look right up her nostrils and he had to fight he urge to lean over and kiss her. This wasn't exactly cuddling and they weren't naked but it was about as intimate as he had been with any woman in a long time.
Trudy finally began to stir and she seemed startled when she opened her eyes and saw Henshaw staring down at her. But she relaxed when she remembered what was going on and who he was and she smiled at him with contentment.
"Hello, sleepy head," Henshaw greeted.
She slowly sat up and briefly held her head. "I shouldn't drink rum from Barbados in the afternoon," she groaned.
"I need to pee," she said as she slipped off the couch and headed for the bathroom.
Henshaw stood and stretched out his muscles and limbs and a moment later Trudy returned as she downed a couple of aspirin with water.
"Feel better?" Henshaw asked.
"That rum went right through me," she replied sheepishly. "I could use a walk."
"Okay," Henshaw agreed.
He quickly used the bathroom to rid himself of the rum he drank and then he followed Trudy from the apartment. She pointed out various buildings and landmarks as they walked, telling stories about the town and some of the people she knew here. The day remained glorious even as late afternoon approached and after walking through several neighborhoods, they rounded a corner and Henshaw saw the old ballpark in front of them.
"Wow," he said, taken by surprise by the structure that seemed out of place. There was a tavern in the building as well.
Trudy explained the history of the park – how the entire area had once been a Army Supply station and when the army pulled out the Serguci family bought the land and kept the park while building the surrounding neighborhoods in the 1940s and 1950s.
They went into the tavern and ordered an early dinner. Henshaw could see the field from "the bullpen" park of the establishment that faced the field from the right field perspective. The tavern had all sorts of photographs of professional and Serguci League players hanging on the walls and there were at least ten television screens throughout the premises.
"I was never really into sports," Trudy admitted as they sat together at a table in the bullpen area. Some ballplayers had arrived at the park and were doing stretching exercises on the outfield grass. "But there is something magical and wonderful about his place. You see the same people at most games and it's a nice place to watch a ball game."
Henshaw nodded in understanding. He talked about his abbreviated high school football career cut short when he got kicked off the team for fighting and violating other team rules.
"I was a pretty pissed off teenager," he explained with some embarrassment. "I was acting out a lot back then."
"Did you ever hit a girl?" Trudy asked with concern.
"No, I wasn't like that," Henshaw assured her. "But I could be a jerk," he admitted.
"You don't seem to be a jerk now," she observed.
"You learn to stop being a jerk when you realize how messed up it makes your life," Henshaw told her.
"Well, nobody's perfect," Trudy replied. "I've made more than my fair share of mistakes too."
"You seem to be doing okay now," Henshaw said.
"Give me time," she remarked with a sigh. "I'll screw something up."
They ate their sandwiches. Trudy had a couple of beers but Henshaw stuck with soda. He didn't drink much and he definitely didn't want to get drunk in front of Trudy and say or do something stupid. When they were done with their meal, they strolled to the park gate, paid a buck to get in, and sat along the third base line watching the game. Henshaw could see where they had been seated in The Bullpen Tavern eating their supper a little while earlier.
The Beansboro Beansters were playing the South County White Sox and the competition seemed pretty good to Henshaw. The Sox won 12-8 in a slug fest and it was dark by the time Henshaw and Trudy left Beano Field. She had spent most of the game telling him about the teams and the people she recognized in the stands. Several had stopped to say hello.
They walked back to her apartment building on the quiet and warm summer evening.
"You still going to show me where the motels are?" Henshaw asked when they reached the front door.
"Oh Christ," Trudy groaned. "I don't have a car so you'd have to drive me back after I showed you how to get there."
"You could just tell me, I guess," Henshaw remarked.
"Why don't you just sleep on the couch?" Trudy suggested. "I have to get up at five o'clock but you could sleep in and maybe come to the diner for lunch and then we could do something when I get off at one."
Henshaw liked the idea and he agreed to it right away.
"Some vacation," Trudy laughed, rolling her eyes.
"This is very nice," Henshaw assured her as he followed her up the stairs and into her apartment. "I feel like I'm Andy Hardy or something."
"Who's he?" Trudy wondered. "One of the Hardy boys?"
"No, he's a character from the old movies," Henshaw laughed. "Mickey Rooney played him. He was a kid from a small town like this one."
"Oh," Trudy replied. "Guess I missed them."
Trudy gave him a sheet and a pillow and said her goodnights. Henshaw stripped down to his boxers and collapsed onto the couch. He lay in the dark listening to the stillness of the apartment. Trudy had left her bedroom door cracked and he saw a light coming from behind it for a while. He saw her shadow when she went into the bathroom, closing that door and after a while she returned to her bedroom and a moment later the room went dark.
Henshaw liked Trudy. She was pretty and attractive, friendly and nice but there was something…..sad…about her, damaged maybe. She certainly had her fair share of guys before and her willingness to allow him to sleep on her couch proved that she was pretty relaxed about that sort of stuff. This wasn't quite the vacation Henshaw had expected (not that he expected anything upon his arrival) but he was having a nice time just the same. He hoped Morton didn't mind.
Trudy was gone when Henshaw awoke in the morning. The summer sun was shining through the window and he was surprised he hadn't heard Trudy making noise when she left. He realized that his bags were in his car and the car was at the diner so he brushed his teeth with his finger and took a quick shower, smelling Trudy everywhere in the process. He put on the same clothes he had been wearing and he saw that it wasn't even ten o'clock yet – he missed breakfast but it was too early for lunch.
Henshaw walked to the diner and grabbed his bags, hoping it wasn't too presumptuous of him to bring them back to Trudy's apartment. Once there, he changed into a set of new clothes – khaki shorts and a Portland Head Light Tee shirt - and he read the morning newspaper he bought from one of the vending machines on the street until it was time to return to the diner for lunch and to wait for Trudy.
She was wearing the same blue jeans and a fresh Johnny C's tee shirt, her blond hair once again pulled back in a pony tail underneath a visor. She smiled when she saw him enter the diner and he sat on the same stool he used the day before.
"Hey there, sleepy head," Trudy greeted as she put a glass of coke in front of him. "What are you having today?"
He ordered a hamburger club with fries and watched her work as she moved around the counter and to a couple of booths. The diner was busier than the previous day which was good news for Trudy as that meant more tips. Henshaw noticed some of her paintings on a far wall which he had missed the day before and he smiled. He bought one for forty bucks – a painting of the diner – pretty much the same shot as the postcard but with a few people in the windows.
"You didn't have to do that," Trudy said when she saw him standing at the cash register with the drawing in his hand.
"I know," he smiled. "I'll see you at one."
Henshaw left the dinner and put the painting in his car that was still parked in front of the diner. He took another walk around town and returned at one o'clock for Trudy who was eating a hot dog by the door waiting for him.
"Would you like to take a walk?" Trudy asked when he arrived.
"Perfect day for it," Henshaw agreed.
She led him to the bicycle/walking path that ran parallel to the Blue River through a park and they walked the path to the end, but a dirt path continued into the woods and they continued walking. Trudy seemed familiar with the path and she told him a few stories about earlier walks and how she liked to draw along the banks of the river.
She noticed his tee-shirt of the famous Portland Head Light. "My friend told me about that lighthouse," she said. "I always wanted to go up there and draw it."
"You've never been to Portland before?" Henshaw asked with surprise.
"No, but I wanted to go," she said.
"Maybe you can sometime," he said hopefully.
"Now I have two reasons to go," Trudy smiled. "Assuming Joe's still there," she added with a worried sigh.
"My high school friend," Trudy explained. "He lives – or lived - on Deering Street. Do you know where that is?"
"Sure," Henshaw replied, praying to god she didn't ask him what street he lived on. "Portland is a yuppie town. There's the old port section off of Commercial Street that's been redone – all the old empty factories and other buildings were remodeled into shops and stores and restaurants. It's very nice. You should come visit sometime."
"Maybe I will," Trudy smiled.
Henshaw wondered if that meant he needed to move to a different street and apartment now!
Trudy had led them onto several different paths and they came across a stream deep in the woods that had been dammed up to form a pool.
"Some kids made this years ago," Trudy said. "It's a great place to cool off after a long walk."
The pool of water maybe twenty feet wide and thirty feet long.
"You want to take a swim?" Henshaw asked with surprise.
"It's a nice day for a dip," Trudy said with a shrug as she began peeling her tee shirt off over her head.
"What if somebody comes along?"
"Everybody who swims here skinny dips," Trudy explained. "Don't worry about it." She dropped her tee shirt to the ground. "It's no big deal, right?"
"Right," Henshaw replied bravely.
She unfastened her bra and put it on the ground on top of her tee shirt. Henshaw noticed a couple of tattoos on the insides of her breasts – a rose on one and the universal sign for medicine on the other. She stood straight and looked at him, her hands by her side.
"The medical one was a stab at my parents," she explained when she noticed him looking at her breasts (and maybe the tattoos).
Trudy unsnapped her jeans while kicking off her sandals. She pulled the pants down off her legs and her panties quickly followed. Henshaw saw the pitch fork tattoo by her pubic bone and when she turned to drop the panties on the rest of the clothes Henshaw saw the red kissing lips tattoo on her bare ass.
"Those are interesting tattoos," he remarked.
She glanced over her shoulder at him. "I told you I've made some mistakes," she said. "I hope this isn't one of them."
"Not at all," he assured her as he started peeling out of his clothes too.
She waited for him to disrobe and when he was naked he joined her by the bank of the pool. He sensed she was checking him out as she glanced at him standing next to her and he hoped she wasn't disappointed. She took his hand and they helped each other down the side of the bank and into the water which was cool but refreshing.
Henshaw was overcome by a sense of calm that felt natural and right. He submerged himself under the surface of the water and when he resurfaced he brushed his wet hair out of his face, slicking it back on his head.
"I usually come here by myself," Trudy told him. "It's kind of my secret place. I feel intruded upon when others show up."
"Yeah," Henshaw replied. He didn't have to tread water because it only came up to his chest. "I don't want anybody else coming here either."
She laughed and nodded with understanding. "I think kids party here at night but it's usually deserted during the day."
"Good," Henshaw remarked. "I wouldn't want to get arrested for indecent exposure and lewd behavior on my vacation," he answered.
"You think this is lewd?" Trudy asked with surprise. "The human body is natural and beautiful."
"Well, yours anyway," Henshaw agreed.
She looked at him and smiled. "I'm glad you think so."
"Why the lips?" He asked.
She rolled her eyes. "That was during my rebellion stage," she explained. "You know. Kiss my ass?"
"You regret it now?"
She shrugged again as she kept her legs bent and treaded water. "It's kind of funny, isn't it?"
"I suppose that depends on who's doing the kissing," he answered, tossing her a look.
"The tattoos kind of explain me, I guess," she sighed. "At least who I was at the time I got them."
"Who are you now?" He asked.
Trudy sighed and looked away. "I guess that's the $64,000 question, isn't it?"
Henshaw wasn't sure what to say so he dared to wrap his arm around her waist instead and he gently pulled her against him. She looked at him and waited so he leaned in and kissed her and she pressed her breasts against his chest. He felt her arms move around his neck and she kissed him back, only much more passionately and intensely than his friendly peck.
Trudy wrapped her legs around his waist and he put his hands under her ass to keep her anchored against him as they made out, naked in the water. When their lips finally broke free, they looked into each others eyes in a dazed fog and Henshaw kissed her again, causing her to laugh out loud.
"How's your vacation going, Hen?" She wanted to know.
"Perfectly," he replied, his voice raspy as he squeezed her buns.
She snorted and stared at him. "I'm often this impulsive," she explained with a sigh. "You probably think I'm a sleaze."
"No I don't," he told her, kissing her nose.
She pushed herself into his body and rested her head on his shoulder as he continued to hold her under her rear as he stood in the water.
"This is nice," he whispered.
She mumbled in agreement and he wasn't sure how long he stood in the cool refreshing water holding her while she rested her head against him with her eyes closed. He was naked with the postcard girl in an afternoon skinny dip, the last thing he expected to be doing when he began this adventure. He kissed her on the top of her head and sighed with contentment realizing they were cuddling naked just like she had wanted.
Henshaw wanted to mention this to her but he couldn't take the chance that she would figure out that he had intercepted her postcard to Morton and think he was some sort of stalker.
"Trudy," he replied happily.
She lifted her head and looked him straight in the eyes. "You should probably go back to Portland."
"What? Why? What are you talking about?" A confused Henshaw asked.
"I'll just screw it up," she sighed knowingly. "I always do."
"Why?" He asked.
"I don't know," she admitted sadly. "I just do. I say the wrong thing or do the wrong thing or pick the wrong guy or do something stupid or impulsive, always chasing a dream that never comes true."
"Maybe I'm not the wrong guy this time."
She studied him for a long moment. "But I could be the wrong girl."
"Maybe we should give it more than a day," Henshaw suggested.
"It was foolish to do this," Trudy decided, pulling off of him and swimming toward the bank.
"I don't regret any of it," Henshaw called out, swimming after her.
She climbed up the bank and he admired her beautiful nudeness, accented by her revealed tattoos. She grabbed her clothes and quickly dressed and Henshaw sighed as he joined her on the bank and dressed along side her.
"We should head back," she said blankly.
"What are we doing for the rest of the day?" Henshaw asked.
"I should probably show you how to get to the motel in Greenville," Trudy replied as she started to walk to the path
"I was hoping I could stay with you," Henshaw said as he followed.
"You don't want to stay with me," Trudy told him as she walked quickly along the path, her clothes wet from not drying off before dressing. Water was also dripping from her hair.
"Come on, Trudy," Henshaw said as he rushed to keep pace with her. "Why are you freaking out?"
"I'm not freaking out," she insisted with a huff. "I just changed my mind about all this, that's all."
He wanted to grab her by the arm and stop her from fleeing and shut her up with a kiss but he didn't react as they walked along the path. "Let me take you out to dinner," he offered hopefully.
"No," Trudy snapped. "Don't try to be nice to me."
"What happened to you?" Henshaw wanted to know.
"Nothing," Trudy replied. "Just leave me alone."
They didn't talk the rest of the way. The trail rejoined the bicycle path and they walked a quick pace to the diner. Henshaw eyed his car still parked in front of Johnny C's but Trudy didn't slow down so he didn't say anything as he continued power walking with her to her apartment. She didn't stop him from entering with her and she gave his bags sitting on the living room floor a long take as she walked through the room.
"I'm taking a shower," she announced as she headed for her bedroom.
Henshaw nodded and took a seat on the couch trying to figure this all out. One minute he's cuddling with the naked Trudy in a refreshing pool of water and the next minute she's as cold as ice. Was she insecure? Bi-polar? Overly-cautious? A big second guesser? A victim of something awful? He wondered if he should just grab his bags and get the hell out, leave her be, and forget he ever saw her postcard in the first place. Maybe this was a mistake and he needed to bail before things really got awkwardly uncomfortable (not that they weren't already).
"You can use the shower if you want."
Henshaw glanced up to see Trudy standing in the hallway wrapped in a towel drying her hair with another towel before she disappeared into the bedroom. He grabbed his bag and headed for the bathroom, reluctantly washing off the river water and smell of Trudy underneath the shower spray. When he was done and dressed, he returned to the living room where he found Trudy sitting on the couch wearing a pretty sun dress and sipping what he guessed was another rum and coke.
"Sorry about before," Trudy sighed nervously. "Sometimes I panic about stuff."
"Don't worry about it," Henshaw replied, taking a seat next to her.
"We could go to Serguci's for dinner if you wanted," she said. "It's only a couple of blocks from here."
"Sure," Henshaw smiled. "Sounds great."
"You sure?" Trudy asked, glancing at him. "After my little drama earlier, you sure you want to be seen in public with me?"
"I'm used to drama," Henshaw replied. "My mother made Sarah Bernhardt look like a hack."
Trudy smiled and they exchanged mother stories - Trudy telling Henshaw about her prim and proper mother who kept the house spotless and insisted on no drama because of all the blood, gore and trauma she saw working as an emergency room nurse. Henshaw shared a couple of horror stories about his mother's drunkenness, including the time when he brought a girl home only to have his boozed out mother totally humiliate the girl by asking her all sorts of rude and inappropriate questions about her sex life and making disparaging remarks about her family.
"I never saw the girl again," Henshaw sighed.
"Your mom would have a field day with me," Trudy remarked. "An artist who paints nudes? All my old boyfriends?"
"I don't have a lot of quality time with my mother anymore," Henshaw said sarcastically. "It's one reason why I live in Maine."
"You hungry?" Trudy asked, standing. "We can head out."
"Okay," Henshaw agreed, getting off the couch. "Can I get in like this?" He was wearing jeans and a white polo shirt.
"You're fine," Trudy assured him.
It was a nice evening for a walk and Henshaw liked walking with Trudy.
"You like Italian?" She asked when they reached Serguci's Italian Family Restaurant.
She smiled and they entered the restaurant, greeted by the Hostess who showed them to a corner table. Trudy explained how the restaurant was owned and operated by the same family that ran the baseball league where Henshaw and Trudy watched a game the night before.
Henshaw could listen to Trudy talk all night. There was something magical about her and he was enjoying every moment of being with her. He wasn't sure why he was so smitten by the postcard writer but he wasn't going to question it either.
Henshaw ordered the chicken Parmesan while Trudy went with vegetarian lasagna. She also had a couple of glasses of wine while telling Henshaw waitressing tales and him sharing some of his warehouse adventures, mostly the characters he worked with and the jerk boss.
When they were done with dinner, they took a walk down by the river and they sat on a bench facing the river. Trudy realized she had drunk too much wine and she hoped she could stay composed.
"It's very scenic here," Henshaw observed, taking in the surroundings.
"It's a great place to draw," Trudy agreed.
"And to take photos too, I bet," Henshaw remarked.
"There's a famous photography school not far from here," Trudy told him. "I see students with their cameras around here all the time."
He nodded. "I'm sure they're good."
"I bet you are too." She glanced at him, waiting for him to respond.
"I should get back into it," Henshaw remarked.
"You should," she agreed. "You could take pictures of me drawing," she teased.
"And you can draw me taking photos of you," he grinned.
She considered the idea for a moment, wondering if such a scenario could ever play itself out. "I'm tired of being heartbroken," she confessed. "But I'm afraid to take another chance."
"That's why the panic attack earlier?" He guessed.
"Probably," she sighed.
He nodded with understanding. "I've had my own disappointments," he understated.
Trudy raised her hand to her breast. "I don't know why I'm so full of anxiety over loss and failure," she admitted.
"Because it hurts," Henshaw said.
She smiled sadly. "I suppose."
Henshaw wished he had something profound to say to her. "So," he said lamely instead. "What do you think this means?"
"What?" She asked, confused.
"This weekend," he clarified.
She shrugged. "Nothing, probably," she sighed. But then she looked at him with seriousness in her eyes. "Why? What do you think it means?"
Henshaw wanted to tell her that it was fate that her postcard meant for Morton fell into his hands, drawing two strangers together but he thought better of it. "It could mean something," he offered instead.
"It's stupid, you know," Trudy warned. "To read too much into things."
"Maybe," he said, wishing he could tell her that he read her postcard to Morton. Henshaw scratched his chin and then rubbed his hand through his hair. "But I'd like to think things happen for a reason."
"Oh?" Trudy asked, glancing out across the still river in the night. "So what was the reason your mother became a drunk?"
"So I wouldn't," Henshaw replied with a self-deprecating laugh.
Trudy looked at him with surprise. "I read somewhere that half of all children of alcoholics become alcoholics themselves."
"I'm the other half," Henshaw said, giving her a look.
"And they tend to pick drunks for lovers," she added, throwing him a look. "Maybe that's why you're attracted to me."
"Are you a drunk?" He boldly asked.
"How many glasses of wine did I have tonight?" She wondered.
"I wasn't counting," Henshaw replied.
"Well, it's not as if you're staying," she said dismissively. "So it really doesn't matter anyway."
"I could come back," he said hopefully.
"It's a long ride."
"And you could come visit Portland," he told her. "Maybe you could look for your friend."
"You wouldn't mind?"
Henshaw shrugged. "Should I?"
"There's no point thinking about something that's not going to happen," Trudy commented.
"What would you like to happen?" He tested.
"It doesn't matter," she replied. "It never happens."
"Maybe it's happening now" Henshaw told her.
"Maybe what's happening?" She wanted to know.
Trudy sighed heavily. "I think I already used up all my chances." She quickly stood. "We should get going," she announced. "I have to work tomorrow."
"On Saturday?" Henshaw asked with disappointment as he stood too.
"Good tips," she replied. "I have Sundays and Mondays off."
He nodded and walked her back to the apartment. It was after ten on a Friday summer's night and there were plenty of people out. Once back in the apartment, Trudy found the rum bottle and poured herself a shot, not bothering to ask Henshaw if he wanted to join her.
"I still haven't shown you where the motels are," she realized, giving him a long look as she stood with her back to the kitchen counter with the shot glass in her hand.
"I'm getting used to your couch," Henshaw smiled, standing in the doorway.
She downed the shot. "Maybe after our little swim today you deserve to promote up to my bed," she said.
"That would be nice," Henshaw agreed.
"Just to sleep though," she said with authority. "I'm tipsy and tired."
"Maybe we could cuddle," Henshaw said.
She gave him a funny look. "Cuddle?"
Henshaw shrugged. "We kind of cuddled in the water," he said. "Naked."
She stared at him for a long moment and Henshaw held his breath, hoping he just didn't blow it.
"Yes, we did," she agreed, putting the shot class down on the counter and then walking past him out of the kitchen without further comment.
Henshaw followed her into the bedroom and saw that she was lying on the bed, still wearing her sun dress although she had kicked her sandals off. It appeared that she had fallen asleep that quickly. Henshaw took off his shoes and lay on the bed next to her, draping his arm around her waist with her back to him.
Trudy was gone when Henshaw awoke in the morning. He was surprised he had slept through her departure but he was on vacation and sleeping was always a big part of that vocation. He was now on his third day of his Trudy experience and he wasn't sure what was going to happen before he had to leave tomorrow - and after.
He showered and changed his clothes. He straightened out the apartment, took a walk, and then headed for the diner. He always felt excited whenever he saw her and it was no different on this Saturday morning when he entered Johnny C's and saw Trudy busy at work. The diner was much more crowded than he had seen on his previous visits and Trudy couldn't spend much time talking with him. Henshaw ordered an omelet with corn beef hash and a coke and read the local paper while watching Trudy who occasionally glanced his way and smiled.
He waited for her on a bench across the street when he was done with his meal and she looked tired when she finally emerged, once again wearing skin tight jeans and this time a green Johnny C's Diner tee shirt. She collapsed onto the bench next to him and let out a sigh.
"Looks like it might finally rain," she observed glancing up at the cloudy sky.
"It could," Henshaw agreed, leaning into her and smelling her hair.
She pushed him away. "I smell like bacon and hamburger and french fries and liver," she warned.
"I think you smell great," he replied.
"That's because you like to eat," she frowned.
Henshaw grinned and brushed a loose strand of hair that had popped out from under her visor away from her eyes "So, what are our plans for today?"
"Laundry," Trudy groaned.
"Sounds fun," Henshaw smirked.
"You really need to get a life!" Trudy said, rolling her eyes.
They walked back to her apartment and she gathered her dirty clothes into a trash bag which Henshaw carried for her. The Laundromat was only a few blocks away and Henshaw watched as she loaded a machine (she wouldn't let him touch her dirty clothes).
"How was your shift?" Henshaw asked once the washing machine was going. They were sitting on a bench along the front of the building.
"It was okay," Trudy replied. "Busy but the day goes by faster that way."
"Do okay with tips?"
"I generally do," she smiled.
"You're a good waitress."
"The jeans don't hurt," she smirked.
"No, they don't," he grinned. "Maybe I should pay you what I would have spent on the motel," Henshaw suggested.
"Don't be silly."
"I really appreciate you letting me stay," he said.
"It's only because I couldn't be bothered to show you where the motels are."
"Was that the only reason?" Henshaw wondered.
"What other reason would there be?" She wanted to know.
"None," he answered diplomatically.
Henshaw wondered if it was strange to be sitting with her in a Laundromat. Was this the best way to be spending his vacation days? Was there any point to any of this? Would he ever see her again when he left tomorrow? Would she not want to cuddle naked with him anymore?
"I'm having a nice time," he told her
"Right," she said sarcastically, looking at him with suspicion. "Hillsboro with a waitress is my idea of the premo vacation."
"I'm glad you agree!" He laughed.
"Would you stay a few more days if you could?" She asked.
"In a heartbeat."
"Liar!" She groaned, elbowing him in the ribs.
"Seriously, I would," he assured her. "Hillsboro is a nice place."
"Portland is a nice place too," she said.
"You're not in Portland," he replied.
Trudy looked away. She didn't want him to like her. She shouldn't have cuddled naked with him in the water yesterday. She should have shown him where the motels were. She shouldn't have offered to take him to Beano Field. She didn't want to get close to anyone again even though Hen seemed like a nice guy. She couldn't even work out relationships with guys who were sleeping in her bed. How was she supposed to find happiness with someone who lived 150 miles away? But here he was sitting next to her in a Laundromat waiting for her clothes to wash. Oh well. He'd be gone in another day and she could forget about him.
"You should come to Portland," Henshaw told her again.
"We've already had this conversation."
"Wouldn't you like to come?"
She looked at him as if he was nuts. "Don't they have girls in Portland, Hen?" She asked.
"None like you," he replied.
She felt another panic attack rising in her chest. "Seems kind of ironic that a guy has to drive a 150 miles to find a girl he likes."
"Isn't it worth it?"
"No," she answered straight away.
She shrugged. "The thought of a long distance relationship strikes me as pathetic."
Henshaw knew she was right. He was being desperately romantic, hopelessly lonely, and forever wishful. He honestly believed her intercepted postcard was some kind of symbol or sign, a call to action on his part and that's why he found himself sitting in a Laundromat with a woman he just met two days before when he could be doing the exact same thing in Portland.
A new wave of loneliness shot through him when he realized he was going to fail at love again. The idea that he was going to leave Hillsboro and most likely never see Trudy again pained him. Meanwhile, Trudy was thinking that this guy was another lost cause. She had failed with boyfriends and this relationship appeared to be dead before it even started. She had gotten naked with him because she had nothing to lose but now that he was starting to act all silly putty on her she realized that she needed to reject him before they both screwed it up.
The washing machine cycle ended and Trudy transferred her clothes into the dryer, tossing in a few dryer sheets too. She returned to the bench where Henshaw was sitting, watching her. He wondered if it was intimate to watch a woman dry her underwear.
"I know you think I'm some sort of weirdo," Henshaw sighed when Trudy took her seat.
"I don't think that," she lied.
They watched some of the other people do their thing in the Laundromat. A haggard looking mother with fourteen tons of laundry. A young couple making out while waiting for the wash cycle to finish. A middle aged couple in the corner fighting over something that sounded pretty stupid.
"I bet you think I'm pretty messed up," Trudy said.
"Not at all," he replied.
"Well, you should," she told him.
They didn't say anything else, continuing to people watch while waiting for the clothes to dry which was as real as any reality television show could be.
"Not a whole lot of high class people use Laundromats," Trudy observed after ten minutes of silent watching.
"There's a couple of machines in the basement of my apartment building," Henshaw replied. "But you have to pick weird hours to find the machines empty."
Trudy's dryer clicked to a stop. She went to the machine and dumped her clothes into the trash bag and then lugged them to a large folding table where she methodically folded each item while Henshaw stood guard. They didn't talk and Henshaw tried not to look when she was doing her undergarments.
When she was done, Trudy carefully slipped the clothes into the bag and Henshaw carried them back to her apartment. The rain had held off but the air felt damp. Once inside, Trudy took the bag from him and brought her clothes into the bedroom.
"I'm going to shower," she announced and Henshaw dropped onto the living room couch to wait for her to finish.
Trudy appeared a while later dressed in cut offs and a halter top.
"Are you significantly bored yet?" She asked as she went into the kitchen and returned with the rum bottle, along with a coke bottle and Dixie cups.
"I've had fun with you these past few days," Henshaw told her from where he sat on the couch.
Trudy shook her head as she joined him, pouring some rum and coke into two Dixie cups, handing him one. She took a long sip from her cup.
Henshaw wanted to tell her about the postcard but thought better of it. A sad sense of finality was beginning to overwhelm him as he realized this would be their last night together and that his idea of romance was quickly slipping away.
"Do you want to go to a movie or something tonight?" Henshaw asked.
"We could," she replied flatly.
He sighed. "You don't sound all that excited."
Trudy glanced down at the drink in her hand. "What's the point?"
"To enjoy a movie?"
She looked at him. "I -" But she didn't continue.
A sad smile crossed her lips as she took another swig of rum. "The movie always ends."
Henshaw ran his hand through his hair and took a sip from his cup. "But you're not a movie."
She nodded. "I always have an unhappy ending though."
"Will it always be like this for you?" He wondered.
"I don't know," she sighed honestly. "I haven't had a stable relationship in forever."
A pall of sadness engulfed the room. Henshaw wanted to grab her and kiss her. He looked at her longingly thinking this was it, the end of the story. Maybe he should just get up and leave now. Suddenly he was feeling the same anxiety she experienced in her panic attacks and it felt like the room was closing in on him.
Trudy turned to face him knowing she was watching a train wreck. She has blown it again, this time before it even got started. She was overwhelmed by frustration and defeat. He saw how sad she looked and he couldn't stop himself any longer. Henshaw leaned in and kissed her. He felt relief and happiness when Trudy opened her mouth and returned the gesture. He pulled her close and jammed his hands into her hair as they quelled their loneliness and despair.
"Just," she murmured into his mouth but he kissed her again to block the words from coming out.
But Henshaw had to eventually break for air and when he did Trudy pulled away.
"Would you like to cuddle?" She whispered.
"Yes," Henshaw replied.
"Naked?" She asked.
"Okay," he agreed.
So that's how they ended up naked on top of her bed holding one another, hugging, and cuddling and when Henshaw felt wetness against his chest he realized that Trudy was crying.
"It's okay," he whispered, stroking her hair with one hand and rubbing his hand along her body with the other.
"I haven't cuddled naked like this in a long time," Trudy sighed. "I find it very comforting."
"You don't think I'm crazy?" She needed to know. "Not having sex but just huddling up naked in the raw?
"I like it," Henshaw assured her.
She let him examine each of her tattoos and she gave the story behind each one. The butterfly was from a scene in the movie Patch Adams she liked. The vine on her ankle was because she liked wine. The banner on her back reminded her of wall paper in the house she grew up in. The pitch fork near her womanhood was a sarcastic symbol of her failed sex life. The lips on her ass spoke for themselves.
Trudy was honestly not planning on having sex with Henshaw but that didn't stop her from initiating it when she felt herself being her usual impulsive self and when it was over the two of them lay in the settling dusk of the bedroom, exhausted and soaked in perspiration and other body fluids. Trudy was lying on her side with an arm and leg draped across Henshaw's body. He was flat on his back running his hand through her hair and gently kissing her.
"That wasn't supposed to happen," Trudy told him.
"I'm glad it did," he said quietly. "Do you believe in taking chances now? In fate? In things happening for a reason?"
She shrugged. "I don't know," she admitted. "But I'd like to hope so."
"Yeah." Henshaw cupped her face in his hand and stared into her eyes. "I'm going back to Portland and I'm going to quit my job," he announced suddenly.
"I'm going to break my lease on my apartment and I'm moving down here," he told her.
"I've decided Hillsboro is where I want to live," he grinned. "If somebody had sent me a post card of this place, I would have said 'Gee, you know, I think Hillsboro looks like a great place to live."
"You would not!" She told him.
"If somebody had sent me a drawing of you, I would have said 'Gee, you know, that's the girl I want to be with."
Trudy closed her eyes and fought back the tears. "Fate can be cruel, Hen," she warned.
"Won't know if you don't try," he reasoned. "So," he said with a smile. "Would you like to go to a movie?"
"No," she said. "I want to stay here cuddling naked all night. "I'll have a pizza delivered and we can finish the rum. And we can have wild drunken sex all night long."
"Okay," he agreed.
"You'd really leave Portland for me?" She asked with disbelief, snuggling close to him.
"In a Hillsboro minute," he said. "You're my postcard."