Ruth stayed with us until Labor Day. The last time we were together was at the Harvestfest Dance at the Veterans Hall, along with half the town and the rest of my family. The hall was filled with everyone I ever knew, and anyone else who wanted to be seen wearing new shoes and blouses without sweat stains. New darts were added to skirts, shirt collars were starched, neckties were spritzed with warm water to rid them of their mothball scent. Flipp’s Drugs kept their doors open late, just to sell old-inventory lipstick and faux-French perfumes, and enough new aftershave to sink the Old Spice ship.
The interior of the hall was filled with orange paper streamers and yellow balloons. Tables were set up near the entrance, and women from the Ladies Auxiliary poured watery lemonade and sold tickets for the September potluck and bingo. At the back of the hall, two old men who wore military medals on their leather vest, served warm Pabst Ribbon to the men for fifty cents a glass.
Ruth and I came to the dance only because it was a family requirement. We barely spoke to one other since I saw her with Todd McCallister. Her nakedness never left my mind, and I was embarrassed to look at her. Embarrassed and frustrated. Ruth had become so quiet since, as if she knew what I saw. There was a sadness in both of us, as if something imperceptible had passed between us and then evaporated for no good reason. I wanted to forgive her and take her in my arms, wish a smile onto her face. I would have forgiven her, too, if she would look me again. A small little grin, and I would have forgiven her anything, everything. But her face was mournful, and she looked wilted, as if all her beauty had gone into hiding. Whatever moment we had for reconciliation was gone. We would never be alone together again. Or so I thought as we walked into the hall, separated by a cousin and an old lady who was adjusting her nylons, holding up the line for a cup of warm pink lemonade.