Peggy walked down the aisle of the church on the arm of her Navy beau, home on leave. Jack’s buddy followed looking like a third wheel. When they slid into the pew behind me, Peggy leaned forward and made kissy sounds in my ear. I tried really hard not to giggle.
Sister Margaret’s ample form hid Daddy’s entire body from my view while she led songs. He leaned slightly left around her square rump and glared over his horn-rimmed glasses, hymn book held in a way that only those near me saw the look intended for everyone who sat with his daughter.
After church, the young people gathered for root-beer floats. Jack and his friend were the center of attention in their gleaming white uniforms. Peggy introduced me to Shaun and eventually we wandered to the swing under the big oak tree and chatted.
His charm and sense of humor drew me out of my shy shell. By the end of the night, Jack and Peggy were setting up a double date. Daddy arrived to pick me up and Jack introduced Shaun.
“Sir, this is Shaun,” Jack hesitated briefly, “this is Reverend Jameson, Linda’s father.”
“Hello, Reverend. It’s good to meet you.” He firmly shook Daddy’s hand. “I enjoyed your message tonight. I find it interesting that your favorite scripture verse is also my Grandfather’s. The enemy comes to steal kill and destroy…it’s a good reminder for us to be on guard at all times.”
“Well, thank you. It’s good to know you paid attention,” Daddy winked at me. I dropped my eyes and stared at my saddle shoes.
Daddy stuffed his hands in his pockets and rocked back on his heels, then forward on his toes. I knew he was surveying the situation. “How long are you in the Northwest?”
“We sail for Southern California for further training next week, Sir.”
My heart sank, but Daddy seemed to like his answer.
Jack spoke up, “Peggy, Shaun, and I were thinking of catching the ferry over to Seattle on Friday, enjoy some seafood, walk along the waterfront, and catch the sunset ride back on the ferry.”
“That’s nice,” Daddy nodded. “The wife and I always enjoy the ferry at sunset.”
“Do you think Linda could join us, Sir?” Jack boldly asked.
“A double date?”
“Back on the nine o’clock ferry… home by ten-thirty?”
“Sounds about right, Sir,” Jack agreed.
I couldn’t believe my ears. Daddy agreed to let me go on a date…with a Navy boy, no less. Peggy and I planned and plotted; what to wear, where we’d go. I wondered if Shaun would hold my hand, or perhaps even put his arm around me on the ferry deck while we watched the sunset colors on the water. I daydreamed all week. He’s handsome, polite, chivalrous, handsome…did I say handsome already?
I waited in my room for the bell to ring with my heart all a-flutter. I heard Daddy answer the door, my cue that it was appropriate to come downstairs. Shaun’s pearly whites lit up the room as he watched me descend.
Mother quietly slipped in beside Daddy.
“Mrs. Jameson,” Shaun gently shook her hand.
Mother’s smile faded instantly. She reached back and rubbed the nape of her neck, looked up at Daddy, and shook her head. She turned to me wide-eyed, “I’m sorry, Linda. I can’t let you go out tonight.”
“Well, Shaun, it appears Mrs. Jameson isn’t quite ready to let our little girl go out on her first date,” Daddy covered for Mother. “I’m sorry.”
“Mother! I would expect this from Daddy, but…” Mortified, I ran upstairs to my room.
Later, Mother slipped in and sat on the edge of my bed. She dabbed her swollen eyes with a handkerchief. “Linda, I know you may never forgive me for this night, but you have to know something. When that boy took my hand, my skin bristled. I’ve never felt anything like it. I’ve discerned the Holy Spirit’s prompting before, but this time He screamed to me don’t’ let her go. I sensed pure evil from him. I hope someday you’ll understand and forgive me.”
Early in the morning, Peggy barged into our house. “Linda!” She screamed hysterically, stumbling up the stairs.
“What is it?”
“We got Sharon to go with us last night…” She stuffed the morning newspaper into my chest, her eyes filled with terror. The headlines read: Navy Man; Rapist Murderer.
I stared at my almost first date…in handcuffs.
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