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3: First Encounter

3: First Encounter

A Chapter by barleygirl
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a story about my mom . . .

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Oliver’s first words of greeting were ignored by his sprightly fellow camper earlier, but he waits patiently for her return. Surely, she’ll be by after her walk.

He imagines following her down the campground lane later, surreptitiously, on his way to the far restroom where he can brush his teeth after he fries up some Spam for a sandwich with a beer. He wants to see which campsite she’s in and how long she’ll be camped nearby.

As an afterthought, maybe he should check to see if she has another male companion besides the young boy with a black-and-white dog . . .

“What the hell am I thinking? I’m a married man!” Oliver twists his wedding band, trying to remove it from his finger, but it’s impossible to take off after fifty-four years of marriage. “There’s no reason I shouldn’t just present myself honestly. I’m not a cad, after all!”

Arguing aloud with himself, he doesn’t hear the crunching stride of his camp intrigue as she returns from her river gander. Watching this silver curiosity pass by his campsite, he wonders if she might’ve heard him talking to himself. Probably not. She looks like the type who focuses straight ahead, that one. Look at how she marches with purpose!

By contrast, when Oliver moves, it’s more of a saunter. Watching such an energetic dash, he’s self-conscious for her to see how slowly he ambles.

Again, he is unprepared to flag down this dynamo. So, a little later, he strolls to the restroom across from her camp and on his return, he sneaks a peek at her card, discovering she’ll be staying in Hickey-43 for ten days. Yesss!

Oliver stands in front of a stranger’s camp trying to decide whether to interrupt her meal preparations. He admires her curvy countenance and how well-fitted her soft faded denims are, as she bends over and reaches into her ice chest for a handful of salad fixin’s. Suddenly flustered by his own lecherous leering, he turns and continues back to Hickey-53, trying to think of some way he can stop this ball of fire the next time she comes barreling by his campsite.

“Maybe I oughta pop the top on a brewsky and settle in on my tailgate tomorrow morning, sipping away like that’s what all geriatric vacationers do to wake up. She’ll eventually whizz by on one of her walks, right?”

This becomes a moot point the next morning when Oliver is presented with a stroke of luck. Perusing the news over cowboy coffee, he spots a medium-sized black-and-white dog coming through the bushes dragging a leash.

“Come, come, little one!” He puts his hand out slowly, not wanting to scare off this timely hunk of lady bait, “c’mon girl, walk by so I can grab your leash.”

Since Bordeaux is outgoing and friendly, Oliver has no trouble reeling her in and walking her over to the neighboring campsite with the blue car. With camp stove roaring and pans sizzling and cauldrons boiling, it looks like these industrious campers have been up for hours already.

“Good morning! Look at the cute thing who’s been over visiting my camp!” Oliver notices that there are just the two sleeping bags, each in a separate tent. “Wow! Are you cooking French toast over the fire? You’re quite the pioneer woman! A lady after my own heart!”

“Ben! Where are you, Ben?” Lila runs her fingers through a mass of silver curls and Oliver smiles to see so much shine and bounce catching the morning rays through the redwoods. “I’m sorry for our nuisance, sir. My six-year-old grandson is in charge of keeping the dog in camp.”

Bordeaux barks to endorse that idea.

When Lila tries to take the leash from Oliver’s hand, he won’t let go. She gives it a few tugs, looking down self-consciously at their two wrinkled hands fumbling while the dog dances between them. Finally, it hits her . . . Ben said it last night . . . this old guy is trying to reel her in and right now he’s using a dog leash.

Breaking free from her self-consciousness, for the first time Lila looks up into the bluest eyes she’s ever seen. Bluer than robin’s eggs, like her youngest daughter used to sing that old Joan Baez song. And this tall ruddy gentleman is looking down at her like he’s ready to scoop her up into his arms.

“I’m sorry. Where did my manners go? My name is Lila . . . Lila Lamar.”

“Oliver . . . my pleasure to meet you.” His blue eyes consume her hazel ones. “Oliver Quinn from Novato. That’s north of San Francisco.”

“Yes, I know Novato. Don’t they host the Renaissance Faire every fall?”

Catching a whiff of French toast just beginning to burn, Lila twirls around, grabs her spatula and starts scooping everything up from two cast iron griddle pans onto a large flowery platter. Introductions are lost in the shuffle.

“Surely you’ll join us for breakfast? As you can see, there’s plenty,” Lila swipes the full platter in front of Oliver’s face so the savory steam wafts up his nostrils. “There’s ALWAYS plenty of chow at Hickey-43.”

“From the looks of all these pots and pans, you must be cooking for more than just the two of you?” Oliver hands the leash to a young lad straggling into camp, “and you must be the six-year-old grandson?”

“I’m Ben. My parents and brothers will be here later on . . . that’s why I have to stick around camp this morning.” He sounds peeved. He almost sits down at the table, but then sees his filthy hands and decides better of it. He hooks the dog’s leash on an upturned nail and runs across the lane to the community faucet, yelling back over his shoulder, “this is my first summer doing a camping overnighter with Grandma!”

“In all sincerity, mademoiselle, I’ve never seen such luscious French toast and lucky for me, I haven’t eaten today.” Oliver has been carrying an empty mug since he left camp, “do you have plenty of coffee? Can I swipe a swig?”

“Oh please, take as much of anything as you like.” Lila sets down an empty plate for each and serves up slices of toast and bacon. “This is just for starters. Please go back for more if you like.”

Ben dries his clean hands on his dirty shirt as he steps over the picnic bench and sits down to breakfast, “usually, my dad cooks breakfast when we go camping. My dad is Wally Wagner and breakfast is his domain. Dad fires up his two Coleman stoves and he’ll be flipping sausages and pancakes for two hours straight while everyone keeps shoveling it in.”

“Yeah, and each stove has two burners, so he’s got them screaming at high flame the whole time. I swear Wally goes through a gallon of white gas for every breakfast!” When Lila steps over the picnic bench, Oliver notices her shapely thighs hugged by the thin chambray of her pedal pushers.

“So, Waldorf must be your son-in-law, then?” Oliver asks around a bite of toast.

“Wally is my dad, Muriel is my mom, Grant and Gavin are the twins. Our last name is different than Grandma’s.” Ben crunches down a whole piece of bacon, chomping it repeatedly through his front toofers like a beaver. “I’m six and the twins are ten. I start first grade right after we get back and I will be going to the same school as my brothers . . . but only for one year.”

“Pardon my chatterbox. He’ll talk your leg off if you stick around long enough.”

Admiring Lila’s natural youthful glow, Oliver wishes to stick around as long as humanly possible. He hasn’t given a thought to his wife ever since he spotted a black-and-white dog dragging her leash into his camp just a bit ago. He wonders what this spry lovely woman and her grandson might be doing on their camping trip in redwood country.

“So, do you two have plans after breakfast?” Oliver is transfixed by the way this lively lady springs up from her seat again and again, stepping over the bench with mighty comely thighs, darting around for more toast or coffee. “I’d like to help you do the dishes, if I won’t get in your way.”

“Grandma will be taking her long honkin’ hike but we can’t go because we’re too slow. She doesn’t cotton to dawdlers. She hits the trail like a sledgehammer and she don’t drag no fools along.” Still chewing his last bite of French toast, Ben leaps up, grabs Bordeaux’s leash in a hurry and bolts toward the nearest restroom without another word.

“Your grandson is so precocious!” Oliver can’t remember the last time he saw his own two grandsons even though they live only about an hour from his house. Sadly, his middle daughter Jill has been smashed under the thumb of her domineering mate and he doesn’t allow her to drive his truck. “How many children do you have?”

“I have five kids and everyone is spread out all over the place, with twelve grandkids . . . but these are the only three grandsons I have regular access to.”

As Lila pours hot water from cauldrons into sudsy dishpans, Oliver stares at her strong arms and shoulders, “do you live near your daughter? I’m sorry, I can’t remember names for tiddlywinks.”

“I’m forgetful, too. My daughter is Muriel. I moved in with my daughter and Wally, back when I gave up my shop.” Lila tosses a dish towel at Oliver, waking him from a trance, transfixed by his fellow camper hovering around like a dragonfly that’s flitting river ripples.

“What kind of shop?” He dries dishes and stacks them on a dry spot.

“I owned a beauty salon in King City for thirty-two years.” She hands him the big platter and he puts both his hands over her soapy ones, lingering a few moments, wanting to make sure not to drop something treasured.

Overcome by a random wave of emotion, his blue eyes well up and his Irish complexion turns a shade ruddier, “what about that! I am also an entrepreneur! I sold insurance all my life! And I also have five children! My wife is in assisted care a few miles from where I live in Novato.”

“Next thing I know, you’ll say you used to camp here every summer with your five kids.” Noticing his moist eyes, her own follow suit.

“It’s true! I did! Every August we drove up here for ten days of camping.” Oliver trails Lila as she stacks the dry dishes into a rustic cupboard, a permanent fixture in camp. As if locked in a tango, he tries to maneuver closer while she invents any excuse to put the table or stove between them.

“That’s unbelievable. I wonder if we ever saw each other, long ago?” Lila gazes into his brilliant eyes . . . in the morning sun, they’re almost aquamarine . . . aquamarine is her birthstone. Shyly she looks down at her ring, twisting it self-consciously. Her hands are so wrinkled after shampooing for fifty years. She can’t believe she says this aloud, “surely I could never forget eyes the color of yours.”

As Lila says it, she bats her lashes up at him and nearly skewers his heart into a nearby tree trunk. She nibbles her lower lip in apprehension and such a temptation makes him long to kiss her.

Jolting from his fixation on her lips, “maybe we did . . . heck, we probably did. We always camped right here along the bluff, overlooking the river.” Oliver waves his arm, pointing at the nearby campsites.

His skull feels like he just sprouted a pair of rhinoceros horns . . . to think he might’ve met Lila before he got married! It’s almost painful for Oliver to imagine missing all those wretched years of Ginger’s alcoholism. Imagine missing all those years of cirrhosis, leading to her liver transplant some years back. And nowadays, having to watch cancer slowly destroy her replacement liver which had been so very hard to get and hold onto.

“We still camp in Hickey-43. The kids would revolt if we ever tried to camp anywhere else!” Despite her singsong voice and happy visage, a wave of shame washes over Lila as she imagines this fine soft-spoken gentleman having possibly met or seen her ex-husband, that hairy abusive beast from long ago. A side-by-side comparison of these two men is unthinkable. It’s humiliating to be reminded of the worst mistake of her life.

“I can’t believe it . . . five kids . . . camping at Hickey . . . and a business-owner, ta-boot.” Finally, Oliver gets Lila cornered in a cluster of young trees where her ice chest is parked in the shade. He waits while she rearranges food to open up space for a new block of ice. “You must be my kind of woman.”

Lila slams the ice chest closed, stands, and turns around. Oliver is so near, a kiss might be imminent. But then Ben comes thundering into camp, dog paws throwing pebbles, the boy shouting about his latest eighteen-wheeler conquest, “I got one to toot his air horn! He tooted at me three times!”

“You went to the highway without my permission?” Lila slips in between the tender firs and one sweet gentleman who’s frozen and flummoxed. She strikes a stance of authority, hands on hips as she reprimands her grandson, “don’t go near the highway unless you’re with an adult!”

“Yes, Grandma. You’re right. I’m sorry . . . but can you take me to the Peg House before you go on your hike? I’m gonna need comic books to pass the time since I’m stuck in camp waiting for mom and dad.” All the while, boy and dog swoop around camp chasing lizards while noisy blue jays back up their exuberance with plenty of cross squawks.

“Okay . . . I need a fresh block of ice anyway. Get the petty cash out of my cosmetics case and then lock up the car, Ben.” Lila kicks off her flip-flops and sits down on the log bumper in front of her car to pull on thick wool socks. Next, she pushes each foot into a soft leather hiking boot. Finally, she stands and bends down to tighten her laces.

Oliver watches and envies this nimble cloud of silver energy. If he sat on a log to put on his shoes, he’d probably topple over backwards! He sorely wishes he had the wherewithal to join her on a hike, or even a stroll . . . “can I give you some help carrying your ice across the highway?”

“You silly armadillo . . . I’m pretty sure we can manage. Thanks for joining us for breakfast. We’ll have to do it again, sometime.” Lila, Ben and Bordeaux take off at a frisky trot, heading toward the highway.

“The pleasure has been all mine. I’ll see you after your hike?” Oliver realizes the minute Lila snaps into hiker-maniac mode, everything else disappears from her notice. He doesn’t mind taking a backseat to her burning purpose.

He’s not going to be the one to ever stand in her way.



© 2021 barleygirl


Author's Note

barleygirl
Thank you for sharing . . .

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Featured Review

It might be a small detail, but the way Oliver twists his ring in guilt is very big to me. That shows so much emotion in one movement! The photos are absolutely gorgeous too, the writing is so wise feeling and appealing like a book you'd find in a library that you spend all day writing, and adore. It's that satisfying feeling of reading something that good. And it says a lot that Oliver is a rather calm person but is eager to meet Lila. It makes him far more than a one-note character. Not that he ever was, but the more little things about the story I notice, the deeper and deeper each character gets and they feel incredibly real, like you could reach through the words and see absolutely everything going on.

Posted 2 Weeks Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

barleygirl

1 Week Ago

One of the best compliments I've gotten from you & others . . . that Oliver isn't a one-note charact.. read more
Colacat

1 Week Ago

My pleasure!! (:



Reviews

I love how I jumped into this chapter as if I hadn't put the book down a week ago:/

Posted 1 Week Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

barleygirl

1 Week Ago

I am so freakin' forgetful, I always write a chapter like a short story, including everything about .. read more
I was immersed in the details and how both are getting to know each other. A beauty saloon owner and an insurance man is quite intriguing in the general sense. Could it be subconsciously he is seeking a lively beauty and she is seeking security and a good man after that abusive kind she was fed up with? Anyway, I can feel the beginning of a great relationship. He is a gentleman indeed and highly mannered. She loves life, family and nature . Amazing how you bring all those details to bear on your reader's appreciation.

Posted 2 Weeks Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

barleygirl

1 Week Ago

I've been thinking about writing this book ever since these two married in 2004, so I've had lots of.. read more
Sami Khalil

1 Week Ago

Hehehe! Glad you like my interpretation. You are welcome muchly..m
It might be a small detail, but the way Oliver twists his ring in guilt is very big to me. That shows so much emotion in one movement! The photos are absolutely gorgeous too, the writing is so wise feeling and appealing like a book you'd find in a library that you spend all day writing, and adore. It's that satisfying feeling of reading something that good. And it says a lot that Oliver is a rather calm person but is eager to meet Lila. It makes him far more than a one-note character. Not that he ever was, but the more little things about the story I notice, the deeper and deeper each character gets and they feel incredibly real, like you could reach through the words and see absolutely everything going on.

Posted 2 Weeks Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

barleygirl

1 Week Ago

One of the best compliments I've gotten from you & others . . . that Oliver isn't a one-note charact.. read more
Colacat

1 Week Ago

My pleasure!! (:
A wonderful chapter. I enjoyed the conversation. I loved the photos. The people in the story. Interesting and wise. I liked the gathering of the family for 10 days yearly. Thank you dear Margie for sharing the amazing chapter.
Coyote

Posted 2 Weeks Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

barleygirl

2 Weeks Ago

I am on the last chapter now, chp 32. This story has come to me like a miracle. I swear, I had no id.. read more
Coyote Poetry

2 Weeks Ago

The story is wonderful dear Margie. I dream most of my work. I keep a journal near.
As expected, Oliver makes his move here, despite reservations due to his marital state. The chance to return Lila's grandson's dog gives him the excuse for entering her camping area. Interesting assessments made silently by both parties follow, and we see they are both favorably impressed. Oliver pays more attention to Lila's physical attributes, while she likes his manner. Both come out winners when compared to each other's spouses. This chapter is a continuation of the initial scene setting; we know there is more to come.

Posted 3 Weeks Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

barleygirl

2 Weeks Ago

Thank you for taking the time to read more of my long opus. It's a big investment of your time & I a.. read more
Women must realise by now when men just sort of innocently stumble upon them looking all innocent but frothing at the mouth in anticipation. Think Oliver deserves a kiss from Lila, they do suit each other under the circumstances.

Posted 1 Month Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

barleygirl

2 Weeks Ago

This is one of my favorite comments so far. I have another male horndog friend who loves that I didn.. read more
Great characters, getting to know them...but so different; Lila is a whipper snapper, and very organized, Oliver on the other hand, is calm, cool, laissez-faire, but eager to meet Lila, sort of sneaks around quietly until they strike up a conversation over cooked eggs. Interesting that they both have the same sad backgrounds, her husband, his wife; Looks like may be brewing here. But wait until Lila's family arrive, then what? We'll have to wait and see. LOVE IT!!! XO, B

Posted 1 Month Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

barleygirl

1 Month Ago

I wrote this book especially to capitalize on the way Lila & Oliver are as people . . . even tho eve.. read more
Betty Hermelee

1 Month Ago

You're on a great track with this!!! And I so enjoy reading it!!! I'm putting chapter 12 of COOL JOE.. read more
barleygirl

1 Month Ago

I've been writing for exactly one month today, I have 20 chapters done, 130 pages. That's about half.. read more
Aaahh the plot thickens, as Oliver and Lila begin their courtship maneuvers- very clever and engaging expansion of Oliver’s character in Chapters 2 and 3. Skillful storytelling, dialogue, interplay of opposite personalities sharing a chance meeting and serendipitous memories of their mutually beloved family campsite, as well as a breakfast we can see, hear, smell and taste. Margie your descriptive and writing skills are stellar. Every nuance, every foreshadowing is expertly delivered to be compelling to the reader. Ben steals my heart. Great write that has me looking forward to more!

Posted 1 Month Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

barleygirl

1 Month Ago

Pardon my overblown ego talking, but I've been working my entire life to get to this point, where I .. read more
Loved all three chapters
Very well written

Posted 1 Month Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

barleygirl

1 Month Ago

Thank you for taking the time . . . I know these long ones take commitment & I really appreciate the.. read more
Margie - you are building up to something sensational! I had a feeling and now I'm positive, Oliver and Lila will be getting together. You know that can hardly wait. You truly inspire me, I wish I could get my stuff published. Keeps yours coming, please - Dave

Posted 1 Month Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

barleygirl

1 Month Ago

Wanting to get your stuff published is a completely different feeling & motivation than writing pure.. read more

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Added on February 16, 2021
Last Updated on April 10, 2021


Author

barleygirl
barleygirl

Central Coast, CA



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Just loving life & sharing my blessings. more..

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