Bobbie stumbled into the family room, hungover and wearing a frumpy bathrobe over a granny nightgown, and took in the disarray the celebration of the night of Christmas Day had left the room in. She did not normally celebrate the night of Christmas Day, but it had brought two things. The kids had left with their Aunt Ida as was the custom and would stay with her in Boulder until the day after New Year’s Day and Meg, Bobbie’s high school friend of twenty years from Kansas, had come to spend the week. Bobbie and Meg had spent the night playing old songs from their youth on the stereo and consuming as much of a bottle of Jack as they could and still stay conscious while sharing gossip about old classmates.
The near-empty bottle of whiskey sat on the coffee table with two glasses nearby, one still holding a mixture of Jack and long ago melted ice. Bobby lifted that glass, sniffed it, and then consumed the diluted contents in a gulp, grimacing at the taste but reacting positively to its effect. She then examined a bowl of party mix that remained, searched out the single M&M that remained in the bowl and popped it into her mouth.
The CD of John Denver’s Greatest Hits still played on the stereo and had been playing over and over again all through the night. A pile of sofa pillows sat on the carpet, and despite her urge to return the room to neatness, the headache part of the hangover quelled any move toward action to straighten the room.
Sunlight was streaming into the room through the large picture window as the drapes had not been drawn, and although anyone outside could take in how awful she looked in her worn-out robe and how bad the family room looked in its mess, this did not concern her as her farm was ten miles from anything in Colorado and the house was situated about five hundred yards off the little two-lane that ran in front of her farm.
Bobbie plopped down on the sofa, set her heels up on the coffee table and let her head fall back in resignation to the ill effects of the hangover. She closed her eyes and did not bother to open them when she heard someone else enter the room. “Good morning,” she croaked out.
“Good afternoon,” Meg corrected her. Meg wore a short sexy robe that barely concealed the baby doll nightie she wore.
“Good afternoon, then, although I’m not sure what is good about it. Merry ‘Tween Time,” she toasted with the now-empty glass she still held in her hand, her eyes still closed.
“What’s that?” Meg asked.
“Oh, it’s just what Warren and I always called this week between Christmas and the New Year,” Bobbie explained. “‘Tween Time. He wouldn’t take any hauls during that time and we would just lie around and vegetate. Didn’t matter what any company offered, which was near double. Given my obsession to make Christmas perfect for the kids, it certainly wasn’t restful. So when Warren, Jr. and Isabel took off with their aunt each year that was when the true holiday began, on December 26th. Gave me a chance to remember what a man smells like.”
“How can something so awful be so good?” Meg purred.
“Kind of like Jack Daniels,” Bobbie joked.
“Oh God, don’t remind me,” Meg begged.
“You don’t know how much it means to me that you got time off so you could come spend the week with me,” Bobbie said.
“Oh, I didn’t get time off,” Meg surprised her, “I quit.”
“Meg, how could you do that?” Bobbie asked with concern. “What are you going to do when you get back?”
“I’m not worried about that,” Meg replied. “Glen, he’s the manager for the supermarket, is the kind of guy who can’t help himself but stare at my chest. If I show back up with one button unbuttoned, he’ll hire me back in a second. Two buttons and he’s likely to make me an assistant manager.”
“You are so bad!” Bobbie clucked.
“It’s human nature, Baby,” Meg responded. “So I just fired up my old Buick and came. That old girl did pretty well until I got to that rut in your entry road just past the gate. I’m afraid to look as I probably ruptured the oil pan.”
“I am sorry,” Bobbie apologized. “I know it’s bad, but it’s one of those things that just keep mounting up that I always relied on Warren to fix. I fear one day they are all going to add up and the whole farm is going to suddenly disappear into a sinkhole of undone repairs. What’s an oil pan?”
“It’s essential,” Meg explained in simple terms Bobbie could understand.
“Oh,” Bobbie responded, as this was adequate for her understanding.
“Besides,” Meg continued, “I don’t know if I’m ever going back. With my folks passed on, there’s hardly any point to return to Kansas. Our little hometown is fading away. The population is half what it was when we were growing up. You know the high school football team could only field ten players this last year, a valiant but pathetic effort. The other teams went light on them because they’d rather rack up a big score than take a forfeit if one of our players got injured. There’s talk of a big ethanol plant that is going to be built come the new year that’s going to change everything for the better. But then the government is planning on importing ethanol from some damned foreign countries, so who knows how that is going to come out. Goodness, don’t get me started.” Then Meg changed the topic. “Let’s talk about you. Now what are the New Year’s Eve plans?”
“I haven’t even thought about it,” Bobbie confessed. “I haven’t been out since Warren died. I’ll just stay here and watch Dick Clark’s ball drop on T.V.”
Meg erupted in laughter, pointing out to Bobbie, “Do you know what you just said?”
“What?” Bobbie asked in confusion and then the accidental double entendre that had tickled Meg became obvious to her. “Oh, you have a terrible mind,” she scolded with a giggle.
“I knew it,” Meg lectured, “I knew I was coming in just the nick of time. Five years is long enough. It is time we got you back in the land of the living.”
“Oh, Meg, I’m not ready for that,” Bobbie declined.
“You’re overdue,” Meg persisted.
“Besides, who has the time?” Bobbie insisted. “Between the kids and the farm, there is not one part of the day I’m not consumed with things to do. I mean it’s not like Warren left me in bad straits, what with the insurance and all. But being the wife of a long-haul trucker, I’ve gotten used to being by myself.”
“I don’t know how you could stand it,” Meg marveled. “I would have gone out of my mind.”
“Because when he was here,” Bobbie smiled at the remembrance, “he would fill up the whole house. You never got the chance to know him that well but he had a heart so big…” and then the sadness of her loss made her trail off, unable to say more.
Meg moved to Bobbie and cupped her hands around her friend’s cheek. “I know, Babydoll, I know. And with a heart that big, I’m sure he would have wanted you to go on.”
“I wouldn’t know what to do,” Bobbie confessed with an awkward giggle.
“That is why I’m…” But Meg was unable to complete the thought as a loud knock at the front door interrupted her.
“Who could that be?” Bobbie wondered aloud, pulling her frumpy old robe closed tight.
“Well, I’ll just go find out,” Meg answered, unabashed at the revealing nature of her own attire. She strode up to the front door and peeked out the peephole. “It’s a man,” she informed Bobbie with a sexual purr, “a good-looking one.”
“What does he want?” Bobbie asked, in hopes that the purpose of this rare visitor to make the trek off the highway to her door was evident in some way.
“He’s dressed in a postman’s uniform,” Meg observed, “so I think it’s a good guess that he wants to deliver the mail.”
“Don’t let him in,” Bobbie ordered Meg in a loud desperate whisper.
“Of course, I’ll let him in,” Meg laughed, ignoring her friend. She threw open the door and struck a coquettish pose in her sexy attire. Bobbie made a wild dash and curled up in a ball behind the sofa to hide.
The mailman stood looking in, and then embarrassed that he was staring at Meg’s enticing image made a vain attempt to avert his eyes. “Hi, I’ve got the mail,” he announced the obvious in confusion, not expecting this greeting at all.
“What a coincidence,” Meg purred, delighting in the effect she had created on the handsome man, “I like to get the mail. Come on in.” Bobbie meanwhile tried to not make a sound lest she be discovered in her frumpy old robe with no make-up and her hair a mess.
The mailman timidly entered, taking in the disarray of the room. “Hi,” he gulped to Meg, “Where’s Bobbie?”
“She’s hiding behind the sofa,” Meg betrayed her friend.
Curious, the mailman walked over to look behind the sofa and saw Bobbie’s back in her curled up position. He walked back to Meg saying, “You’re right, she’s hiding behind the sofa.” He looked back toward Bobbie’s hiding place, baffled by the odd situation and asked, “Why is she doing that?”
“Why don’t you go ask her?” Meg offered with a mischievous smile.
The mailman timidly walked back to see Bobbie behind the sofa. Bobbie had turned her head up and this time her eyes met those of the visitor. The mailman feebly waved hello to her, and feeling silly, she waved back. “Hey, Bobbie,” he said in his confusion, “Why are you hiding behind the sofa?”
“Because, Richard, I look a mess,” Bobbie explained in her embarrassment as she pulled herself up and left the now-insufficient hiding place.
“Not to me,” Richard emphatically argued, “You don’t look a mess to me.” He walked back over to Meg feeling the need to truly convince all that were there, promising, “She doesn’t look a mess to me.”
Bobbie pulled the old robe tight, hoping that Richard did not notice that she wore on old granny nightgown beneath, and muttered, “I guess it doesn’t matter now.”
“I brought your mail,” Richard repeated in his awkwardness, then added, “but I nearly bottomed out my truck out in that rut in your entry road.” Having mentioned the hole in the road, he immediately regretted bringing it up and was ready to kick himself for registering a complaint when the last he wanted to do was put Bobbie on the defensive.
“I’ve been meaning to get that fixed,” Bobbie apologized then added, “You could have left the mail out in the box at the gate.” Having mentioned leaving the mail out at the gate, Bobbie was ready to kick herself for blathering about that, when the truth of the matter was, despite her discomfort with her appearance, Bobbie was pleased to see Richard and was glad he had ventured up the drive.
“Well, you’re the end of my run,” Richard explained, “and I was hoping you might have a cup of coffee for me.” This request for coffee surprised Bobbie, for she knew Richard as one of Warren’s friends and only occasionally had spoken with him in the last five years when farm work landed her near the mailbox when he was making his rounds, or in cordial greetings after church services in town. “I didn’t know you had company,” Richard apologized.
“Richard, this is my best friend from high school, Meg,” Bobbie made the introductions, “and, Meg, this is Richard.” Bobbie then realized how enticing her friend looked in her short sexy robe and her heart dropped in fear that this attire would lure Richard’s attentions to Meg.
And Richard was at the same time extremely uncomfortable, cursing himself for succumbing to the instinct to gaze at Meg’s attractive figure and legs, and praying that Bobbie failed to notice his wandering eyes. His struggle to not look made him appear so helpless to the ever-confident Meg, who tried to rescue them all from this awkward moment of introduction, suggesting, “Why don’t you get the man a cup of coffee, Bobbie?”
“Sure,” Bobbie answered, and then she realized she was still standing there staring at Richard so she repeated, “Sure, I’ll get you a cup, Richard,” and then stumbled off to the kitchen feeling like a fool.
“Her being out here all alone,” Meg explained, wanting to draw Richard’s attention to Bobbie and not herself, “it’s hard for her with things like ruts in roads.” But then the instinct to use her sex to manipulate a man kicked in as she purred, “I don’t suppose you’d know anyone that could help her out?”
As Meg stroked her fingertips down his chest as part of her entreaty, Richard stammered out, “My brother has got a backhoe. I suppose I could borrow and come out this weekend and fix it up.”
Meg hollered out so that Bobbie could hear her in the kitchen, “You hear that, Bobbie? Dick wants to fill your hole.” She delighted in the double entendre, which turned Bobbie a bright red in the kitchen as she hollered back “Meg!” in reproach.
But Richard was in too much a state of confusion to catch the sexual drift, and oblivious he responded, “No one calls me Dick. I’m just Richard.”
“Sorry,” Meg fake apologized, “all the Richards I’ve known have been Dicks,” continuing on with the joke.
Bobbie returned with the coffee, still red-faced to hear him say, “Well I’m not a Dick, just plain old Richard.”
“Well that’s encouraging,” Meg replied to him, winking at Bobbie.
Richard turned all of his focus on Bobbie, resisting the urge to look at Meg, saying, “So if you’d like, I could come out on Saturday and have your old road fixed up in no time.” Richard was happy for this opportunity actually, for it helped him forget the shyness he felt about the true intent of his visit.
“That would be nice, Richard,” Bobbie spoke warmly, and then without taking her eyes off of Richard she directed at her friend, “Meg, didn’t you say you had something to do?” praying Meg would get the hint to leave her alone with Richard.
But Meg was having fun playing with these two, and she answered, “No.”
“I could have sworn you said you had something to do,” Bobbie tried again to give her friend the hint to leave.
“I already did it,” Meg lied, laughing inside at Bobbie’s vain attempts to get rid of her.
Bobbie gave up on getting the privacy she wanted and turned her attention to the mailman, offering, “Richard, would you like to sit down?”
But Richard’s shyness got the best of him as he felt he was unable to express himself well to Bobbie with an audience and he replied, “No, I shouldn’t stay, you got your friend here and all.”
“But you haven’t even touched your coffee,” Meg pointed out.
“I’ll just drink it down and be on my way,” Richard responded and in his nervousness he quickly tossed down the coffee and then vainly tried to cover the pain that the too-hot liquid created in the passage down his throat. He wheezed, “So I guess I’ll be on my way,” and then stepped toward the door consumed by choking coughs.
“Oh, Richard, you’ve burned yourself,” Bobbie said with touching concern as she patted his back gently to help ease his choking. “Meg, please go get him some water,” she requested, but Meg stood there not wanting to miss anything until Bobbie’s icy glare made it clear that she needed to leave the room whether she came back with water or not.
As soon as Meg left, Richard turned toward Bobbie and began, “Oh, Bobbie…” but then he looked in Bobbie’s eyes and got distracted from continuing his thought.
After a moment Bobbie prompted him, “Yes, Richard?”
But all he could do was utter, “Uh…Uh…” unable to collect his thoughts.
“You were going to say something,” Bobbie pressed him again.
And then it poured from Richard, “Yes, yes I was. Now no disrespect to Warren because I liked him a lot, but I was wondering, Bobbie, if you would like to…” and then he fumbled again for a second before continuing, “You know they have this big old New Year’s Eve party at the Cowboy Time Bar every year with dancing and contests and music and all and I was hoping you’d like to go?” And then he added, “With me I mean,” in case he had not been clear of his intent.
“Well, thank you Richard, but Meg will be here…”
Richard jumped in before she could finish her explanation with, “She could come, too,” then quickly added, “They have line dancing.”
Meg had eavesdropped on this latter part of his invitation so she burst back in the room saying, “Line dancing? I love line dancing. We would love to go with you, Richard.”
“Meg!” Bobbie scolded.
But before her friend said one more word, Meg had grabbed Richard by the arm and rushed him to the front door, allowing him only a quick gulp of the water she had brought before pushing him outside saying, “So we will see you on Saturday to fix the road and then again on New Year’s Eve and you better be working on you Texas Two-step because I intend to steal you away for myself part of the evening.” Then she gave a cute little goodbye wave and closed the door.
About five seconds passed as Bobbie stared at Meg in disbelief before they could hear a loud “Yahoo,” shouted out by Richard that echoed down the canyon.
“Meg, what did you do?” Bobbie blurted out in panic. “What did you just do?”
“What comes natural,” was Meg’s only excuse.
“I can’t do this,” Bobbie firmly stated.
“Oh, yes you can,” Meg argued.
“You don’t understand,” Bobbie scolded.
“Oh, yes I do, Darling, all too well,” Meg shot back. “I understand well what it is like not to have a man in one’s life and it isn’t like they are essential, but sometimes they can be damn pleasurable.”
“No you don’t,” Bobbie argued back in anguish. “When I lost my Warren, it ripped a hole in my heart, and I don’t think I ever want to feel that pain again.” Bobbie sat down on the sofa and deep sobs started to consume her.
Meg rushed to Bobbie and held her friend around the shoulders in consolation, saying, “Oh Baby, I know, I know. And no one is going to fill that hole ever. But at present, I don’t think that is the hole that Richard is interested in filling.”
In between sobs, Bobbie couldn’t help herself but laugh at her friend’s naughty joke and clucked, “You are so bad!”
“I know that, too,” Meg confessed. “You can’t live in the ‘Tween Time forever. Eventually the New Year has got to come. And no one is ever going to take that place in your heart. But one day, just maybe, someone might find a nook in there that they can occupy. And that isn’t going to happen until you get out there back in the world.”
“I can’t do this on my own,” Bobbie said, “You are going to have to stay and see this through.”
Meg touched her fingers to her friend’s cheek and said, “I’ve got nowhere else to be.” Then she promised, “I’ll be here as long as you want me to be.”
Bobbie suddenly jumped up in panic exclaiming, “Oh my God, what am I going to wear?”
“There it is,” Meg noted.
“What?” Bobbie asked, not comprehending.
“A sign of life.”
John Bolen is a novelist/playwright/actor living in Southern California. He has been published by Scars Publications, The Write Place at the Write Time, OC180news, and YouthPLAYS. He has just completed a collection of holiday-themed short stories, Nothing for Christmas & Other Holiday Tales, that are adapted from his plays that have been produced throughout the USA. John is the Producing Artistic Director of the New Voices Playwrights Theatre & Workshop.