Through the Looking Glass, Part Eight

Saturday came quietly for Crystal who slept in. Saturday came very noisily for Jack who woke early to the pounding on his front door from his youngest brother. A water pipe had burst in Mr. Wolff’s attic apartment and the troops were being marshaled.

Climbing the stair without having so much as a glass of orange juice yet, Jack wasn’t in his best humor. Arrival didn’t improve things. The toilet supply was the one that had given way – turning off the water was the first order of business. Evidently, ancient werewolves aren’t very knowledgeable about plumbing.

Four hours, two trips to the plumbing supply place and some tricky welding later, the new supply line was in and Jack finally got to have his breakfast. His mother’s cold bagels, a couple quickly scrambled eggs and some sausage did wonders to improve his mood.

Jack’s day was consumed with family and building DIY. Crystal’s day consisted of some helping around the house, cleaning her own room and spending the rest cramming like crazy for her first test in Intro to Logic on Monday. Only once did she peek outside and that to claim the morning paper for her father.

Jack did his own share of studying in the afternoon as he got in some more reading of the books Crystal had loaned him. It was nearly four when he slammed the book shut, his brain overloaded with facts about things he would previously sworn were fantasies. He felt like everything was over his head. He debated going back upstairs to see if Mr. Wolff could make it clearer but a glance at the clock nixed that idea. Jack grinned to himself – tonight was the night!

Crystal fared better with Intro to Logic, even if she wasn’t as confident as she’d have liked to have been. But at five the alarm rang and she promptly dumped the book back into its bag. She smiled and began to hum as she went through her closet.

Jack showered, shaved, and finished his grooming. He already knew which suit he would wear – his mother had picked it out for him in one of those ‘momma services’ that he would never admit to permitting. But for once, he didn’t mind – his mother’s fashion sense was superior to his, after all. She had laid out the suit and matching tie. His only decision was hat or no hat – and it took him twenty minutes to make up his mind.

Crystal got out of the shower and started her make up. Her mother tapped on her door, signifying that it was half past five. Crystal debated then grabbed the curling iron for a few touch ups. By five forty-five Crystal was slipping into the light green evening dress she’d chosen.

At five forty-five, Jack had finally decided for the last time which hat he would wear. Most guys didn’t wear hats anymore but his father almost always did whenever he was taking his wife out. Jack had his father’s flair and the kind of face that went well with a good hat. The fedora might be old but the classic look went well with the suit, in Jack’s estimation. He glanced at his watch and gathered his things, including his brother’s car keys. One final glance in the mirror and Jack was out the door.

Crystal made her final jewelry selections as her mother knocked again. Five til, Crystal knew. She would be ready on time but she would not be the one to open the door. That was her father’s job and Crystal knew better than to deny him the privilege.

Jack wasn’t surprised that Mr. Abernathy answered the door but somehow it made the butterflies worse than they were already. He followed the elder man into the study and promised solemnly to have the young lady home by ten. Jack kept a straight face but it did occur to him that any other guy from his generation would simply have honked the horn in front of the building. He doubted that hypothetical guy would have gotten to take Mr Abernathy’s daughter anywhere.

As if on cue, Crystal appeared in the study doorway. It was a good thing he was sitting, Jack thought, as she was breathtaking. Both men rose to their feet and Mr Abernathy gave his blessing to the young couple before seeing them to the door.

Once in the car, Jack turned north. His date was a newcomer and there were so many places to show her. But he would start with his favorites, a local theater that had once been a vaudeville theater and now had movie screens and a little Greek restaurant not far from the theater. Jack grinned at Crystal as he drove and was delighted to receive a big smile in return.

Jack wisely chose a drama that had good reviews. He could enjoy it okay and Crystal would probably like it. She smiled when he told her so that was promising. Why was he so danged nervous still?

Drinks, candy and popcorn along with some strange looks from the pimply teenager behind the counter. Jack resisted the urge to smack the brat. Stupid kid probably never had a real date in his life…

Crystal ignored the ogling from the usher. It was a beautiful theater, restored well from its heyday. Crystal could easily imagine a time when all the theater’s patrons would have been dressed for the evening, unlike the casual attire of the rest of the crowd tonight. She didn’t regret the choice – after all, there was dinner still to come.

The movie lived up to its reviews, much to Jack’s relief. he was really more interested in stealing glances at his lovely companion but he was careful to pay enough attention that he’d be able to talk about the movie. After all, there was probably going to be a test afterwards.

Jack gave Crystal his arm as they left the theater, much to the amusement of the the under seventeen crowd. Not that either noticed, both more interested in each other than the other patrons. Neither did they notice a few girls looking on wistfully, wishing their dates had similar class.

The maître d’ recognized Jack, much to Crystal’s surprise and Jack’s pleasure. They were given an excellent table near the large picture window to the side of the building overlooking the East River. Crystal loved the view and Jack identified various sights for her. They ordered, Crystal being careful to stay away from the most expensive items despite Jack’s magnanimity. Then the waiter left and suddenly neither could think of a thing to say.

An awkward silence ensued. Both struggled to think of a topic, any topic. They had discussed the movie on the drive to the restaurant. Neither wanted to ‘talk shop’ since they’d been doing that for a week now. Books? TV? Sports?

Jack finally spoke, "Um, so, er, what’s your favorite book?"

"Er, right now "Death of a Doxy" by Rex Stout. I love old mysteries." Crystal sputtered, trying not to sound like a geek.

Silence resumed. They stared at one another. Suddenly, both burst out laughing.

"Kinda sad, huh?" Crystal gasped.

"Which? That neither of us could think of anything to talk about or that both of us like Nero Wolf?" Jack asked slyly.

"You’re a fan?!?! I thought I was the only kid my age that knew about Nero Wolf!"

"A&E did a TV series when I was a kid. My sister Donna got me hooked." Jack admitted. "I still comb through thrift stores looking for his books."

"Me too! I just found "Death of a Doxy" about a week before we moved up here. I read it on the trip."

"Haven’t read that one. Have you read the one where…"

At five minutes to ten, Jack stood on Crystal’s doorstep once more, this time holding her hands as they said good night. With a dozen or more prying eyes peeking at them from across the street, Jack gallantly kissed Crystal’s hand and watched her disappear behind her door. The peanut gallery would have to wait – if and when there was a first real kiss, it wasn’t going to be for public display.

With a sigh, Jack trotted down the stair, ignoring the quickly closing curtains in several windows of his home building…

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