Evening on the Porch

Diane hears the truck drive up to the curb, but does not realize the significance. She hears the hurried footsteps coming up the drive, but she does not look up. She is drowned in her own sorrow. She hasn't checked her watch today.

A warm hand presses softly onto Diane's shoulder. Diane's head jerks upward, and her eyes meet Henry's.

"Mr. Hayes!" She exclaims, suddenly aware of her streaky face and strewn belongings. She moves to get up, but Henry's hand keeps her sitting.

"Please don't get up." He says, settling beside her on the porch.

"Oh, Mr. Hayes!" she cries, "I know that this must seem -"  Henry cuts in, putting a hand up.

"Ms. Brenneman, you don't have to try and impress me. And it's Henry, by the way." He hands her a handkerchief kindly.

Diane accepts it gratefully, trying to ignore the little zing that she feels in her stomach when their fingers brush.

She cannot avoid his warm gaze.

When Diane's sobs have reduced to sniffles, she tries to return the handkerchief, but Henry folds his hand over hers and admonishes her to keep it. Little jitters run all the way down Henry's arm, and he wonders what possessed him to be so forward. But he doesn't regret it.

Suddenly, Diane begins to tell Henry about her night. Perhaps it is impulse, perhaps just an instinct to feel understood.

 Whatever the reason, for the first time in her life, Diane feels listened to. Henry frowns at Diane's mother's demanding antics, he laughs when Diane throws the telephone, and his jaw sets in anger when he hears of Mr. Denson. When Diane recounts proudly the way she slapped Mr. Denson, twice, Henry whistles.

"Ms. Brenneman you certainly can take care of yourself!" Diane flushes at the compliment.

"Please, if you're Henry, then I'm Diane. And I think you ought to be credited with taking care of me, as well." Henry waves her off, but Diane isn't dissuaded.

"Ms, ah, Diane," Henry smiles to himself at the sound of her name, "All I did was deliver your milk late. Which, coincidentally, I left in the truck." He laughs. "I'll go get it."

"Wait, Henry. I really do owe you." She says, and then spontaneously, impishly, she leans over and kisses his cheek. Henry turns to her in surprise. Diane feels the stupidity and foolishness of her action coming back to slap her. "Oh, I'm so sorry." She whispers.

Henry smiles uncomfortably. "I never thought I'd be kissed by a woman like you." Diane senses his discomfort, but doesn't know what she has done - or how to fix it.

"And why is that?" He shrugs, not meeting her eyes.

"Not everyone feels comfortable with my complexion. Racism runs deep." Diane's brow furrows. 

"I don't see any difference between us." She says, eager to regain his cheerful demeanor   Henry clicks his tongue wistfully.

"I wish everyone saw the way you did, then." Suddenly he jumps up. Henry returns to the truck and retrieves the milk. He hands it to Diane. 

"Oh. Thank you." She says, realization hitting her hard. He doesn't want to be seen with a woman of different color, she thinks. Henry flashes her a sorrowful smile, People will talk about her if I stay.

"I have to go. You'll be alright?" He asks, knowing that he has nothing waiting for him, but desperate to escape.

"Yes. I'm alright now." Diane tells him, standing up. They shake hands.

"Good Night Mr. Hayes." She says.

"Good Night Ms. Brenneman." He returns.

Diane disappears behind the great oak doors, and Henry into the truck.

Both wonder what happened there on the porch, both wonder why it is over.




The End

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