Her name was Brenda and she lived another half mile south of the church. Her father owned the feed store back in the big town of Groveton, Texas. There was maybe a thousand people in the town, but for us that was big city living.
As usual her mother hadn’t worked since the end of the war and spent her time taking care of the kids. Her baby brother, Wallace, had only been with them for a few months when he suddenly died in his sleep. His death was hardest on Brenda. She did not know how to cope with such a loss while her parents were much more desensitized from losses during the war and general the bruises of life.
By the time I met Brenda her brother had been gone longer than he was alive. But I never questioned her pain or her attachment. I always just wanted to help her turn those feelings of loss into memories of fondness.
That was the last summer that I spent much time with Harry, Will and Joe. I spent most of my days trying to find ways to get down to Brenda’s neck of the woods and it was only so many times that I could convince the boys to make the trek back down to that little pond. Even the mention of the Hellfire Chaps only worked a few more times.
That summer was just the beginning. I spent a lot of time with Brenda, walking though the fields, playing games like horseshoes and hopscotch. It was a pretty innocent time. To the point that I met her family sometime that fall and there was no expectation that I had any ulterior motives.
We were trying to figure out how to climb the church so we could see the view from its steeple, but as we tried to find a way up the structure we were met with thunder and rain. She took my hand and drug me through the fields back to her house where we were able to hide from the rain.
I remember walking into her front porch which had screens all around it making it a makeshift room. We were soaked and she was concerned that we would get yelled at for getting the wood floors wet, so she stripped down to her undergarments and threw on a pair of shorts and an oversized undershirt.
She did it without thinking as if we were both toddlers and everything was fine. I tried to play it off the same way, but I was nearing thirteen years old and it was the first time I saw a girl in nothing but her panties and bra. Just the short amount of time I was exposed to the sight I realized that what I was interested in was not just a friendship. The girl excited me, attracted me, made me want to see what else life had to offer.
I remember staring at her after she had redressed. She looked up blushing a bit, knowing that I had been staring, but she leaned over and grabbed another pair of shorts and undershirt. She held them out and waited a minute before she got impatient. “Go on! Switch into these so we don’t make a mess in the house.”
I snapped out of my daydream and quickly followed directions trying my best to not show my embarrassment of disrobing in her presence. But it was a quick moment and we were inside.
She burst through the screen door heading through the main living area. She waved at the woman on the couch as she headed directly to the hallway, “Hi mom. I brought a friend over.”
She skipped through her small house heading to her room when she froze. She looked up at a large man who was blocking our way in the hall.
Trailing behind, I stood right behind her as I waited for her to introduce me to who I could only imagine was her father. There was an anxiety that held in the air as the two stood there in each other’s paths. “Sorry sir. It was raining out and I thought I would bring my friend home to play in the house.” She said this with her head down and a sense of shame in her voice.
“Where did you meet?” The large man’s deep voice rumbled my gut a bit.
“At the church.” She answered.
“Yes, the Chapel of the Virgin Birth. Daddy, his name is Bobby.” She responded with a bit more excitement.
Her father gave me a half smile, “Go along then.”
She slid beside him down the hallway to her room while I gave the man a quick wave and attempted to follow Brenda. We turned the corner into her room. It was a plain room with very little decoration. She had a set of dolls in the corner, a white desk that matched her small bed. It felt like the room of a temporary resident.
“Sorry. I thought my dad would be at the feed shop. I wouldn’t have brought you here if…”
I cut her off, “It’s fine.” We sat down on the hard wood floor as she grabbed some jacks and a ball. “He seems kind of stern, but so’s my old man.” I was digging for something. The encounter was odd, I felt it, but I did not know why.
“He’s not always that nice.” She stated it simply as if that explained it all. And I let it go. Afterall, I had realized that I really liked this girl, met her parents, and found her in an odd mood over the course of ten minutes. It was a lot for my young mind to take in at once.