"Well, I'll Be John Brown"

Real stories about folks who have blessed my life with the joy and fulfillment of laughter. Long may they live.

Location: Atlanta, Georgia, United States

A Southern Boy - Born In Alabama, Reared In Georgia, and Matriculated, Married & Initiated Into Manhood In Tennessee.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

"Autumn Belle - Chapter 14"

Autumn Belle had kept a diary since the third grade. An entire section of her closet was stacked to the ceiling with the books from each year. Her love for writing compelled her to make an entry at the end of each and every day. No matter the length of the entry, the lateness of the hour, or even how tired she might have been, Autumn wrote something in her diary before pillowing her head every single night.

As a holiday ritual, she would spend the days around Christmas reading her entries for the year. It was great fun to go back and re-live the previous months, and years, of her life. She secretly hoped that one day her writings, and her life, would become the subject of a novel or movie.

When she got home from the ride with Beau, Autumn sat with her family for a while in the living room. They watched a few minutes of television together, exchanging stories about the day's activities and small talk during the commercials. Afterward, she got up and walked into the kitchen, opened a small stack of mail and then headed upstairs. She showered, washed and dried her hair, and collapsed on the bed. As she lay there thinking about the day and her new "relationship" with Beau, she marveled at how everything had seemingly gone so fast between them.

Autumn wondered about their future together.

How long would his leave from the Navy last? How bad was his mother's cancer? When he finally went back to active duty, how long would he be gone, and where would the Navy send him?

Autumn had never cared this deeply for any guy. It was pretty scary. They were from such different backgrounds. The only "seals" she had ever known were housed at the Atlanta zoo. She had never personally known anyone serving in the military. Though she had learned a lot about Beau from her talk with George Decker, and from their one, brief, afternoon together, there was still a truckload of things about him that she didn't know.

"Whoa, girl," she thought, "this is not like you at all...No one is going to rush you into anything...Take your time...Find out everything you can before you give your heart to this guy...You've got plenty of time."

Nodding self-approval to such level-headedness, Autumn reached for her diary. She was SO tired, but also determined to write something about this important day.

She began the entry with the date and normal greeting, but the rest of the words did not come so easily. She lay there staring at the ceiling, trying to decide how to best express all that was in her head and heart. She thought of the flowers, the Silver Skillet, the things Mr. Decker told her, the night at her party when they first met, spilling the drink in his face, the motorcycle ride, the first kiss, and then the second kiss.

She thought about how good he looked in just a t-shirt and jeans. She thought about how good he felt next to her, and about what their first intimate encounter would be like.

There are some nights when sleep comes suddenly. It is easy to be oblivious to the moment when the body and mind succumb. Such was the case with Autumn on this unforgettable night.

When Rhett Hamilton walked by his daughter's room on his way to bed it was a few minutes past 1:00 AM. He saw Autumn's light still on through the partially opened door. He called to her but there was no answer. He went to check on her, and found Autumn still in her housecoat, lying on top of the covers. Her diary and pen still cradled in her hands.

He tip-toed over to the bed, just as he had done many times when she was a little girl, and covered Autumn's feet and legs with a blanket. He gently slipped the diary and pen from her hands. As he was closing it, he tried to resist the temptation to peek at what she had written. As he was about to place the diary on the desk beside her bed, Mr. Hamilton could not help but notice the entry...

"Wednesday, September 14th, 1977: Dear Diary...I think I am in love."

Though her entry surprised him, he managed to muffle an amused chuckle. He shook his head, smiled, closed the diary and quietly placed it on the desk. Rhett Hamilton took a long look at his beautiful, grown-up daughter. He was thankful that she was still living in their home. But, he sensed that her time there was quickly coming to an end. She was a woman now. Life had a lot in store for her.

In many ways, Autumn Belle would always be his little girl. She always had been. As he stood there by her bed, Rhett Hamilton's mind drifted back across the years. Father-Daughter picnics and dates, watching her cheer at high school football games, and just lying on the floor with her when she was three or four years old, on lazy Sunday afternoons - playing dolls and putting puzzles together.

Where had all the years gone?

All fathers face this moment in time. Life erases the sweet, precious days of childhood, and replaces them with other days. Days when a younger man appears on the doorstep - asking for a beloved daughter's life and heart. Fathers must adjust and get accustomed to this reality. No one ever asks if a father likes it, or if they are ever ready for it.

It just happens.

Rhett Hamilton was curious and anxious to know more about this new love interest of Autumn's.
Who was he? Who were his parents, and what about his upbringing? What were this young man's intentions? How had they met? How long had they known one another?

There would time enough for questions in the morning, he thought.

With that, Rhett Hamilton wiped the tears that had gathered in his eyes, turned off the lamp, and gently kissed Autumn on the forehead.

"Good night, sweetie," he whispered, "Your old daddy loves you."