“Hi,” said a distinct voice, “It’s Trace from the other night just callin’ to see what you’re up to.
You know when you meet somebody and you realize they’re a slice of heaven? Yeah, that’s what I thought about you the other night. Then you left me that whopper of a message like you hadn’t talked to anyone in a month of Sundays and I thought, ‘I’m going to call that man back.’ And here I am!
There’s line dancing at Billy‘s later tonight if you’re not afraid of spending time with a bunch of rednecks. I’m not much of a dancer myself, which makes it all the more entertaining…”
She went on for the next few minutes about stomping and vines and other words used in line dances, all of which went over Eddlin’s head and caused the lightheadedness to return at the thought of both left feet making contact in any routine let alone one set to music.
Eddlin sighed in relief of her equally extended message. She had ended by relating a joke about two guys walking abreast, which she couldn’t even finish because she was laughing so hard and that’s when the message cut out.
Country line dancing tonight at Billy‘s, it was. Supposing it began sometime after 7pm seemed a safe assumption, Eddlin thought.
He rustled through his limited wardrobe. Two pairs of jeans and six shirts, with one button down that would do.
Eddlin felt his hands shake. He wouldn’t let himself imagine kissing her lips, the softness around her eyes as she laughed, or the touch of her hand on his. He busied himself out back on the porch, tidying up the chairs and table, setting out the candle in it’s decorative conch shell - some leftover he found under the sink in the kitchen. Just in case, he thought.
By the time 6:45pm rolled around, Eddlin had been sitting on the sofa looking at his watch and the front door for over an hour, smoothing his hair into his ball cap and checking the crease of the shirt sleeves. He was trying not to sweat.
Billy’s was a half hour walk to town. If he left now he would be fashionably on time, but not early. The knock at the door startled him to his feet.
There she was. At his front door.
“Wanna ride?” she asked as he peaked out at her through the glass.
“You gotta open the door first, Eddlin.”
She tapped on it with an inpatient finger. “Hi,” he said, cracking the door.
“Well hi yourself, cowboy!”
She was wearing a pair of cut off shorts and a red t-shirt that read: 1985 Boys and Girls Club Basketball Champions. He tried to avoid admiring her in it.
“You all set?”
“Sure am,” Eddlin replied and they set off out the door.
“Bronco’s a good truck,” he said quietly as he stepped up into the passenger seat.
“I had it repainted the original turquoise and white. It was my daddy’s. He gave it to me when he went to jail.”
She paused and looked over at him and laughed.
“I’m kidding, I don’t come from criminals!”
He smiled broadly at her, his hands on his knees, trying to maintain a cool sense of calm, taking it all in. She was a force all of her own. He felt her pushing and pulling him along with the conversation, he felt his entire self relax in her easy presence. She turned on the radio and soon enough, God only knows how, but they were both singing along to the Dixie Chicks.
“You’ve got quite a voice on you,” she smiled at him as they pulled into Billy’s.
Inside, the bar was a dark place with a couple of pool tables in the back doing a brisk business. The band played Florida country rock on a small stage away from the bar.
He got a couple of beers. (Trace said she only drinks Busch and none of that bullshit light beer, either) He headed back over to where she was standing by the dance floor, eyeing the couples two-stepping.
“You think you got this, honey?” she said motioning to the dizzying effective of a dozen people moving perfectly in unison.
“Absolutely not, just let me drink a bottle of bourbon and I’ll give it a whirl,” he said in her ear, the proximity of her causing his heart to beat heavily in his chest.
“You don’t need all that,” she said, and took his hand in a yank and there they were, his hands in hers, holding them in a totally awkward manner, twisted over her shoulders in what must’ve been some gentlemanly way a million years ago when two-stepping became a thing.
He tried to look at what everyone else was doing but she stopped him and said the only one he needed to look at was her.
With that, he blocked out the others and let her take the lead. He had no idea what his feet were doing but she was spinning in his arms, taking them around the circle.
When the song ended everyone clapped and he pulled her to his chest, thrilled in a way he hadn’t been before.
On the ride back with the windows down, the air was thick and salty, they walked down to the beach in their bare feet and stood under the stars. “You’re picture perfect,” he told her, putting back a curl behind her ear. She reached up and kissed him lightly, lingering for a moment, taking all of the air with her when she pulled away.