“Well, Romeo, I think it is time for you and I to take a little walk” Leslie said one morning when Jarrell made it to Elsie’s pizza place late, frowsy looking and sporting some industrial-sized hickies on his neck.
“Who is going to run the show?” Jarrell asked, basking in the golden glow of….whatever.”
“It can run itself for a while. Everybody knows what to do. By now we are just a formality” Leslie said.
Leslie and Darwin had batted around the idea of talking to Jarrell or Merlot, either together or individually.
Ordinarily, Darwin would have taken on the task of talking to the young man. Darwin was a Marine from the old-school. Other fathers might joke around with young men about what might happen to them if they “hurt my little girl”. There was no ambiguity or uncertainty when Darwin talked to young men. There was no “might” about it.
Leslie was not sure that Jarrell and Merlot being together was a bad thing, as long as certain things were understood. A team of two, one-hundred pound wolves working in unison can take down a 1200 pound moose. A single wolf, even if it weighed 200 pounds, not a chance.
It was a beautiful morning for a walk. The migrating robins were stripping the Washington Hawthorns of the berries that had hung-on through the winter. Somewhere a kill-dee was talking up a storm. Jarrell seemed blessed with a hyper-acuity of senses. He could see and smell flowers...flowers that had no right to be blooming in early March...from a hundred yards away.
After walking a few hundred yards, Jarrell asked “So, whaddya wanna talk about?”
“My sense of you is that you are a ‘planner’ by nature” Leslie started out.
Jarrell nodded in agreement. That was a pretty fair assessment of his personality. Prior planning prevents piss-poor performance and all that.
“I am not going to speculate what you and my daughter are doing on the nights you spend together” Leslie said.
That surprised Jarrell, that a mother might have any concern what her adult daughter did with adult men. In his mind, both people were adults and in his mind it was none of Leslie’s business.
“Why does that matter?” Jarrell asked.
“Because I love my daughter. Because you are doing “it” on my property. Because things can happen, even when you are taking precautions” Leslie said.
Jarrell recalled that Merlot was not a planned child, so he had to concede that Leslie’s concern was authentic.
“Do you want us to stop?” Jarrell asked.
“Would you stop? I think not. It would just make you sneaky” Leslie said. “While that might make me feel righteous, it would not be a loving thing to do to my daughter, to make her sneak around and lie to me.”
Jarrell noticed that Leslie’s calculus had nothing to do with the relationship between him and Leslie. He could respect that. They had not known each other very long.
“So what would you have me do?” Jarrell asked.
“You are a planner. Have a plan. If Merlot becomes pregnant…” at this point Leslie raised her hand to forestall any denials by Jarrell “...plan on doing the right thing.” “
“Why would she become pregnant?” Jarrell asked, mystified.
“Have you been in the drug store lately? There is nothing on the shelves” Leslie said. “How much longer do you think you will be able to buy a box of condoms or spermicidal jelly or birth-control pills? Use your brain.”
The drugstore in Eaton Rapids was a scant block from Elsie’s Pizza Place. Of course Jarrell had been there...to buy condoms among other things. Leslie’s observation was a bald statement of the obvious.
"She could have an abortion" Jarrell said, hating himself as he said it.
"She could, if there were safe ways to do it. But are you that kind of 'man'?" Lesie said.
“So what is the ‘right thing’?” Jarrell asked.
“When Melody tells you she is ‘late’, you propose on-the-spot. You don’t hesitate a second” Leslie said.
Jarrell frowned in consternation. “That is SO old-fashioned.”
“Look around you” Leslie demanded. “Does this look like 2019? Where are the cars? The lights? The people heading off to work?”
“This is more like 1919 than 2019” Leslie continued. “Maybe you grew up without a ‘dad’ and turned out just fine. But there is a damned good chance that a child you conceive with my daughter will not grow up without a dad.”
“And I won’t let that happen to my grandchild, or my daughter. And neither will my husband” Leslie said.
“If you get Melody pregnant and decide to skip town, you better run fast and never stop running. Because he will never stop hunting you and he will kill you when he finds you” Leslie said. Once again, it was delivered in a tone of voice she used when making a simple statement-of-fact.
Jarrell had twelve hours to process Leslie's speech before Melody showed up at his door.
Part of what turned over in his mind is that most men marry at some point. Ashley had shown every indication of turning into Krystal, her mother. Or worse.
Melody showed signs of turning out something like Leslie. Jarrell really liked Leslie. Leslie's feet were firmly planted in reality. If push-came-to-shove, he wanted somebody like Leslie at his side.
When Melody knocked on his door, Jarrell invited her in. He had a plan.