Alex Acheson sucked in a deep breath and raised his hand for a series of light, rapid knocks on the Rudy’s door. He nervously scratched at the back of his head and then ran his hand over his dark, coffee brown hair to smooth away any possible cowlicks that may have cropped up. Why was he so jumpy? Hadn’t he been to this house about a million times in the past year? Well, give or take a few. He stared up absently at his fisheye reflection in the porch light fastened to the right of the door and tried to slow his thoughts.
“Calm down, Alex. Remember this is just like every other time. . . right?”
Who was he kidding? Of course it wasn’t like every other time! This time was completely different. This time. . .
He heard footsteps approaching. Jerking his attention to the door, he watched as it squeaked open, Mrs. Rudy holding the knob.
“Oh Alex, come in!” she greeted cheerily. Her cheek held smudges of flour and she had an ovenmit on one hand. “I’m so sorry I didn’t come to the door sooner, I was putting my pie in the oven.”
“Sounds delicious.” He commented, trying to keep his smile genuine.
“Don’s in the garage,” she said in her usual joyful way, “You can go right out. He may even need your help on the car he’s working on.”
“Uhhh . . . sure. Thanks.”
“She’d never expect me to be here to see Felicia,” he thought as he walked to the garage door. “Maybe I should see her dad first anyway.”
He played out how the conversation might go in his head. They’d small talk for a few minutes about engines and transmissions and then he’d say casually, “Hey, Mr. Rudy, that new Christian movie will be playing at the theater on Thursday, and I know Felicia really wanted to see it. . .”
Yes, that’s what he’d do.
“You can do this Alex. Don’t wimp out now.”
In the garage, he was met with the familiar sight of Mr. Rudy hunched over the open hood of a vehicle. Hearing the door close, Mr. Rudy glanced up from his tinkering and welcomed Alex with the same million watt smile that his wife had.
“Well if it isn’t my favorite apprentice!” he let out a booming laugh and gave Alex a firm, greasy handshake. Alex looked at his now black hand and they both laughed.
“Sorry ‘bout that.” Don apologized, “But hey, what brings you by?”
This was it. Alex stood tall and squared his shoulders.
“Well sir, I was wondering. . .”
Don interrupted. “Don’t tell me.” He crossed his arms and grinned knowingly. “You’re here to see my baby.”
His baby? He’d heard Mr. Rudy refer to Felicia as his “baby girl” before, but never directly.
“Well - yeah, kinda.”
“I don’t blame you. She’s a real beauty.” He winked. “Soon I’ll have every young man in town knocking on my door just to get a glimpse of her.”
Alex was stunned. Sure Mr. Rudy was proud of Felicia. She was certainly beautiful as well as modest, but when had he started bragging on her like that? He shook off his astonishment.
“Yes sir, she’s lucky she has you to protect her.”
“Oh I protect her all right. I hardly ever let her out of my sight.” He leaned closer to Alex. “My wife thinks I worry a little too much about her, but I’m determined to keep her out of harm’s way at all times.”
“That’s very admirable, Mr. Rudy.”
He chuckled, “Ah, not really. You’d probably treat her the same way.”
Alex’s heart leaped with encouragement. This was going to be easier than he thought. If Mr. Rudy trusted him that much with his daughter then he shouldn’t have any trouble getting permission to take her to a movie.
“You wanna see her?” Don suddenly asked.
Wow, he was being really direct.
“Actually sir, I was wondering if you’d allow me to take her to the movies on Thursday.”
Mr. Rudy gave him a peculiar look that made him wonder if he had antennas growing from his forehead. Then he seemed to ease a little. “Well son, I do trust you.” He patted Alex hard on the back and smiled. “I suppose you could take her for a drive.” He jumped up from his leaning position on the car. “Come see her. She’s the best Cadillac I’ve ever had!”
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