Junior stood as I came down the stairs, he was quite a gentleman. I realized that Penny and Anna were not in the room and asked if they were out on the patio.
“They left.” Junior handed me a glass of red wine and cleared his throat nervously.
“Left?” I still wasn’t catching on… It had never crossed my mind that the handsome man in the living room had come with the intention of spending more time with me!
“Yes, they had plans.” His voice was deep. It rippled over my skin leaving little goose bumps behind.
“I’m sorry,” I was still under the impression that Anna had abandoned her visitor for something better like she had done so many times to Joe Haynes when we were young. “I don’t know what’s gotten into them.”
“Adeline,” Junior blinked several times, trying to find the right words. “I came to see you.”
My eyes grew wide when all of the details suddenly came together in my mind. I wanted to ring their necks! There was no way a man like Junior would want anything to do with me. “Junior,” I began, “I’m sorry. I just assumed you were here for Anna.” I didn’t know what else to say.
“Is it so hard to believe that I came to see you? I’ve seen you out on the beach a lot but never had the guts to come over until yesterday,” he swallowed hard, his Adam’s apple bobbing.
“It’s a little hard to believe.” I laughed, suddenly remembering my crazy grand entrance earlier in the evening.
“Especially after I stumbled down the stairs half naked.”
Junior laughed loud and I couldn’t help but laugh too. The old Addy would have found an excuse to make him leave, but the new one decided to see it through. We spent the rest of the evening sipping wine and getting to know one another. I had never had so much fun in the company of a man and knew that I was playing with fire. I felt pretty, smart, flirty, and interesting-- all the things that I had imagined Anna feeling as I squished my face against the screen watching her woo her teenage loves. It felt even better than I had imagined, and for the first time ever, I felt a piece of my hard that was dark and hollow wake up.
“So, tell me your whole name.” His hand was resting on the back of the couch, a few inches lower and it would be touching my shoulders. I was hyper aware of little things like that, which was a whole new experience for me.
“Adeline Mae Banks.” I hadn’t said my full name in many years. “What is your full name?”
“Thomas William Hanks, Junior.” he winced.
“Tom Hanks?” I grinned, not believing him for a second.
“I unfortunately started kindergarten the same year that Splash came out and decided to go by Junior instead of Tom Jr. As you can see, it stuck!” Junior rolled his eyes, and then broke into a huge smile. “You can call me Tom though, if Junior is too weird.”
“I like it.” I smiled, thinking that his story made his name even cuter.
“I like you.” It didn’t sound cheesy coming from him, and my heart skipped a beat.
“I don’t see why, but I’ll take it.” I felt heat rise in my face and knew that I was blushing. “You really saw me on the beach?”
“I did. I’ve seen you out there a lot, but I’m kind of shy…” If I didn’t know any better I would have thought he was blushing too. “Your Mom and sister told me that you are a writer?”
“My Mom?” I was taken aback and it took a second for me to register the fact that he thought Penny was my mother. “Oh, Penny! Penny is not my Mama, my Mama died… Penny was her friend.’
“Oh I’m sorry.” Junior shook his head and frowned. “My Mama is gone too, so I know how hard it is to live without a Mama.”
“I haven’t had to live yet without her, they carted me off to this beach house the day after the funeral…” I wondered what would have happened had they not stolen my keys, not even considering how crazy I sounded.
“Oh so she died very recently, I’m sorry to have mentioned it.”
“No, it’s okay…” I felt comfortable talking to him about it. “I’m at a good place with it. How long ago did you lose your’s?”
“When I was twelve.” His eyes filled with tears and he tried to blink them away. I stared at him, speechless. I didn’t know what to say. I knew how hard it was to lose a parent at twelve years old too. It had the potential to change you entire life. I reached over and took his hand. I didn’t know what else to do.
“And to answer your question, I write for a living, but I also paint and play the piano. All of them are my equal passions.” I had never imagined talking with a handsome man to come so naturally, especially not one who was interested in me. “What do you do?”
“I teach high school English.” I could imagine him teaching English. Mr. Hanks was probably the coolest teacher there was.
We spent the rest of the night on the couch talking, laughing, and learning as much as we possibly could about one another. I learned that Junior was a thirty-one year old who had never been married, who taught English and coached soccer, who loved the beach as much as me, who found me attractive and intriguing, and who was almost too good to be true. I say almost because luckily he was true! I expected to see much more of Tom Hanks, Jr and he by some strange twist of fate wanted to see much more of me!