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If you were debilitated by shyness but you somehow managed to make a friend of someone whose company you truly enjoyed, then you would look exactly like she did: delighted, contented, and happy. It was the expression her face was made to wear.

Society (In The Shadow)

The school year was now officially in session.  Ellery’s first day as a senior looked like it went off without a hitch.  Though, she seemed embarrassed as she watched the school bus approach.  There was this look of uncomfortable self-consciousness about her while she was standing there.  As I thought it through I decided that it had to do with her very shy nature, and the necessity of mixing in society at high school in order to acquire her education.  I felt sorry for her discomfort, but so very thankful that she wasn’t home schooled.  If she was, she might never see the light of day, and I might never see my personal sunshine: golden, warm and bright.

Her high school environment was the one hole in our surveillance program that Ray had been working tirelessly but unsuccessfully to patch.  I suspected what he really wanted was for me to volunteer to play a senior myself, and then arrange to be in most or all of her classes.  I couldn’t deny that I would love that.  Then, due to such daily close proximity, we would be more than schoolmates, surely.  I would make absolutely certain of that.  But it was the time outside of school and away from its relative safety that was most crucial to our program of surveillance and reporting.  And since besides Ray I was the most adept at the art of transparency in information gathering we had to settle for an alternative to what truthfully would have been a fantasy-come-true for me.  As I watched her stepping on board school transportation I mused over the idea that in such a scenario she and I would even catch the bus together!

Finding the right person for that inside job had proven surprisingly elusive.  I felt indifferent about it.  I knew there was nothing particularly of interest or dangerous going on from seven to two on weekdays in Ellery’s life.  Plus I felt certain that if and when we finally brought someone on to fill that role I’d probably hate them out of pure jealousy.

The need for an inside agent became clear, though, when our delicate and lonesome little mark made her first friend, and it was evident that the attachment was developing into something that looked permanent and not fleeting as we all had initially hoped.

There is truth—demonstrated everywhere in nature and sometimes even in human relationships—in the axiom ‘Opposites Attract’.  My exquisite, angelic, pure and natural looking Ellery had made friends with her opposite.  I discovered this in an alarming way the second week of school, as it was letting out one afternoon, when she failed to get on her bus.   Since the buses were on a schedule, the people riding them were usually the first to leave school property, and those who had come in their own vehicles tended to trickle out at a more leisurely pace, especially given the traffic jam they faced at two thirty, which made rushing totally pointless.

One of my daily pleasures, when I was on duty, that is, was to watch Ellery walk from the school building out into the daylight across the lot to her waiting bus.  It was when she looked her happiest, and it was the highlight of my day in most cases.  So I was quite aware of her missing status the time her bus pulled away without her.

I resisted the urge to get out of my car.  I was parked in an adjacent lot, behind a fence, off school property.  There was nothing I could do on foot, no matter how nervous the situation was making me.  So I chose to settle in and scan the lot, while keeping an eye on the doors for her departure as a car-rider.  After what seemed like an eternity, where the flow of escaping students had nearly dried up, the doors opened and out came the sun:  arm in arm with a figure from a horror movie!

The person, (I could not initially discern their gender), was at least a foot taller than Ellery, clad completely in black.  It wore theatrical looking makeup, reminiscent of circus style or death metal music.  The later was a closer approximation of genre because heavy profuse metal piercings lined the nose and ears of this totally inappropriate companion for my delicate sweet girl.

But it was the look on Ellery’s face that told the story and stopped the call for alarm and heavy reinforcements.  She was smiling and happy and totally content.  There was completely new and appealing body language coming off her form and I decided it required further observation before any interference could be justified.

I took some photos of their approach to a very nice, new SUV before they drove away with me in close, highly concerned pursuit.  We all rode into Middletown as I contacted Ray to fill him in on the situation.  He was strangely, and I thought inappropriately delighted, and dropped what he was doing on the sixteenth hole at Valhalla to come join me in the pursuit.

By the time Ray and I connected they were finished with their business at the drive thru of the Dairy Queen picking up Blizzards ‘to go’ and sitting at Miles Park, just east of the Gene Snyder Freeway on Rt. 60, very close to home.

It was a nice park, particularly to take a walk, and Ray had brought along one of Lidia’s Bichon Frise puppies for that very purpose.  She had two in different colors, cream and ‘apricot,’ and admittedly, they did come in handy for having a legitimate purpose in providing a measure of cover during open air surveillance operations.

It was amazing to me the kind of changes I’d seen in Ray since Lidia had taken hold of him.  He had never been an animal lover, to my knowledge, but he fussed over those excessively friendly, excitable little dust-mops as if they were his biological children.  Ugh!  If any of his buddies from the Marine Corps ever got wind of this he’d be on the receiving end of a Code Red that would make even Jack Nicholson squirm.  And I would probably get a duplicate helping of it as well, simply by association, and for not upholding male dignity by taking him out myself.

It was a gorgeous September day.  The air was warm and the afternoon shadows were stretched out to impossible lengths as the sun was making its way beyond the western horizon.  There was a slight breeze that made the leaves on the trees rustle in the most appealing way.  Some were beginning to change color, phasing into yellows and oranges in a preemptive bid for attention from human eyes that deciduous trees sometimes make in early autumn.

The girls, (it was clear now that Ellery’s companion was female—a minor relief), had their school books spread out across a picnic table, in preparation for an out of doors study session as soon as they finished off their ice cream treats.   From where I was sitting in the car with Ray I was struck by the marked change in her overall appearance.  Nothing about her looks had changed, and of course, there was no way to improve them in any case, but it was her demeanor.  I understood it perfectly.  If you were debilitated by shyness but you somehow managed to make a friend of someone whose company you truly enjoyed, then you would look exactly like she did:  delighted, contented, and happy.  It was the expression her face was made to wear.

Though it was not playing out in a way that I would have ever expected, or would have directed if I were somehow able to orchestrate such a thing, I was still glad for her in this.  Her happiness was inseparable from my own.  But I had rather hoped that I would get to be the one to fill that role of special friend for her, being the reason for that delight and contentment in her expression someday.   Now I had to reassign my aspirations to the only position still available, but certainly the most supremely important:  one who would be the cause of her happiness and joy on a completely different plane—a romantic one.

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