From the Sky - Part XV

Did her words that day lead to Joe getting my fist in his face years later? I wonder at times. And I'm sure Aunt Rae wonders as well. Her words to an impressionable young girl certainly made it easier for me to wallop the old bastard's son in the groin just a month or so ago. Of course, I know now that Aunt Rae's advice had its roots in what Madame Béatrice once told my Dad. I admit that the fortune teller's advice worked for him. I just don't think I'll pass it on to my boys. I'd rather they find some other way to solve a problem than bashing someone in the face. Sometimes, after all, people bash back. Or worse.

I remember the song that came on the radio after Aunt Rae gave me her boxing advice: I Got You Babe. Sonny and Cher. I remember thinking they sounded so sweet, so in love. Forever love. That's the kind of love I wanted. Doesn't every girl? Didn't my aunt want that once as well?

I looked over at her, and she looked back.

"Were you ever in love, Aunt Rae?"

She laughed softly and patted my cheek once more.

"A little bit, just once," she answered.

"Can you be a 'little in love?' Doesn't Aunt Zia say that's like being a little bit pregnant?"

She laughed again, a bit louder this time, and looked at me, her eyes softening. There was no gray in her hair back then and no wrinkles across her forehead. I don't think she ever looked more beautiful …more majestic …than she did at that moment. I was already forgetting about Evan as I waited to hear about Aunt Rae's one love. She turned her head a moment and glanced out the window as Evan's bus slid by us.

"There was a boy when I was a senior in high school. He was the one. His name was Thomas, and he was a year older. He worked at his father's garage. He used to come to the bakery every day just to see me. He liked Dr. Pepper. He always came in with a bottle from the machine at his father's gas station on Sycamore. He would buy a package of cold pizza and eat it at the counter until Papa or Uncle Gio chased him away. I will tell you a secret if you like, Renata. Something my sisters don't know. Would you like to hear it?"

"Yes."

"I used to sneak out my bedroom window at night to be with Thomas. I would climb down the tree outside my window …you are not the only climber in this family, young lady. I would meet him in the park, or maybe on the River Commons, and we would walk and hold hands. If it was a warm night, we might swim in the river. Other nights we'd sit under a tree, watching for shooting stars. We would hold hands, and sometimes we even kissed. He was so handsome! His chin had this deep dimple, like Kirk Douglas. If we went swimming, I would see his bare chest in the moonlight, his delicious silhouette. Oh, Renata I loved him so!"

"Did you want to marry him?" I asked. I also wanted to ask if she went home in wet or dry clothes after swimming in the river, but I didn't dare. To this day if someone mentions 'skinny-dipping' Aunt Rae's cheeks redden ever so slightly. Perhaps …just perhaps …my best shot at a cousin was with Aunt Rae!

"Oh, Renata… marriage! Yes, I did. I very much wanted to marry him. But he went away."

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