It was the smell of the diesel fumes that always made her sick, and poor Kareem didn’t know why she suddenly wanted to go home. He was a darling, and a gentleman. He had chosen the perfect spot, and the perfect night, when the moon was the most iridescent of whites and danced off the moon flowers. It was perfect; except for his leaking diesel engine. But at least he had made the effort.
“How about we just take a stroll; it’s such a lovely night.” He persisted and she relented.
Kassie loved the moonlight. Ever since she was a child, she would circle the date on the cheap wall calendar, that had the picture of the full moon next to it. At first, she would sit on the patio and watch the moon follow its leisurely stroll from behind Mr. Whittaker’s barn till it was out of view just over her hen house. Mamma would never let her venture past the patio gate, and never past bedtime. Her innocent mind would always wonder who the moon was in such a hurry to meet. It was Mamma’s fault; she said the moon had a date to attend on the other side of town. But as she got older, and put away the childish fantasy, she never lost her fascination with her celestial constant.
As a teenager, it became her excuse for night time strolls with her friends. She would plan sleep overs for those nights, and with her girlfriends sit outside, armed with mosquito repellant and her small telescope to moon gaze. Growing up in farming country allowed for those nights, when the sky looked like a gorgeous woman dressed in the most amazing evening wear. Velvet blue, decked with glittering gems and the moon, always the moon, as the center piece. She loved everything about those evenings where her imagination would run wild, while her world would become silent. There was something mesmerizing and enchanting about walking through the cornfields when the moon was directly overhead. Vibrant greens that illuminate the tops of the leaves, and the dark deep mossy greens that allowed the smallest flicker of moonlight to filter through to the ground. She loved the feeling of being submerged underneath the foliage.
There were lots of cornfields in this part of town; but the truth was, she had not walked in the moonlight for years. Kareem was the first guy she had dated since moving to Dothan, and two days ago, he had invited her to get lost in the corn maze with him.
Alabama had lots of cornfields; and corn mazes. It seemed there wasn’t much else to do here. The entire day had been tremendous fun, and she had babbled on for hours about the moon and the stars. It was her passion and Kareem never seemed to lose interest as he was full of questions and allowed her to carry on unabated. Several times she found herself out of breath, a fault of hers as she would get excited about everything.
When he had asked her to come out again with him tonight, she hesitated. Two dates in one week would make her seem desperate; but she was, and he was such a nice guy. Besides, there was a full moon tonight, and she didn’t want to be stuck indoors all alone. Once she had left the truck, her mood changed. Kareem didn’t say much, it was as if he was waiting for her to start the conversation.
“The moon has a date tonight.” She broke the ice.
He giggled, anticipating something witty. She loved how he would roll his eyes when she spoke, and his face always seemed so animated. He had this gorgeous smile and rugged look, the typical all American athlete, but one that had a good grade point average. He was the first guy to even pay any attention to her.
“Well my mother said that to me as a child. Makes sense to a little girl.” She watched his face for a reaction.
“Is the moon male or female?” he smiled. It was a question that invited further debate. He never asked questions that had a direct answer.
“I prefer to think of it as a woman. Only women sparkle. Only women get excited by a first date enough to get dressed up.”
“Even for a maze run.” It was a shot across the bow
She had overdressed; or rather ensured that she looked nice. Her hair that she had spent time to put together, and her makeup, was a bit excessive for a maze run, but first impressions mattered. She felt silly but didn’t allow it to show. Tonight, she had not gone the extra mile; denim shorts and a white blouse, her hair up in a bun, and no makeup. The moon was to be the center of attraction. Who could outshine her?
“Some good all that dressing up did me. I sweat all the way through to my underwear.” She blushed as she said it.
That was not very lady like, but Kareem laughed. She was never much of a little lady. She hung around men all her life, and farm hands weren’t very romantic types. Her mother was always wearing garden boots, jeans, and a shirt. It was a different person in those framed wedding pictures that hung in their living room.
“I had so much fun the other day Kassie.” He ventured to hold her hand, but she elegantly avoided his. He didn’t force the issue.
“I had fun too Kareem; and these moon flowers look amazing.” She was distracted again.
The owners of the farm had allowed the moon flowers to over run their wooden fence and the bloom lined the entire path he had directed her to. ‘Why wasn’t she afraid to walk alone with him?’ She was thinking to herself as this was crazy behavior by her standards and then some. She shivered and folded her arms across her body.
“You cold?” he draped his blazer over her shoulder and she accepted it.
“Does that mean I’m expected to be your girlfriend now Kareem?” she said it with the best Texan accent she could muster.
“Hey, if a guy gives you his blazer, it means you’re his girl.” He rolled his eyes again.
They both laughed and this time his arm lingered on her shoulder and she didn’t resist him. Part of her wished she could be his girlfriend, but it was still too early to be thinking that way. Kareem was probably trying to earn a few more conquests before he graduated. Besides, she was only seventeen, there was still plenty of time for boyfriends.
“I thought you would have refused a second date.” This time he nudged the conversation along.
“Should I have done that?”
“Well, I didn’t think I had made a good first impression.”
Was he revealing some insecurity? She wouldn’t buy it. He was a known player on campus, and she had heard all the stories about the line-backer sitting three rows behind her, most of them from his own lips. So many broken hearts he had left in his wake. She was not about to become another one.
“I am easily impressed Kareem. Besides, I have shared a classroom with you for an entire semester. I know what you bring to the table.” She felt like she had insinuated too much.
“Whoa, easy tiger.” He giggled and stopped walking, allowing her to stand a few feet from him.
She smiled and winked at him. Men were so predictable. “C’mon, it’s getting late and colder.”
He placed his arm back around her and they headed back to where he had parked his truck.
“Why’d you want to leave as soon as we got here?”
Did she want to tell him? It was so long ago, and it was nothing really. But maybe it was all too soon. Kareem would graduate in a few weeks and then that would be the last she would have to worry about him. She shook her head, and curled her arm around his waist. She liked being around him, and he was different in private than he was in the classroom. There, he was a noisy, inquisitive, disruptive but tolerable joker. Everyone loved him, even the lecturer, but she realized now it was just a mask. During the first date, he was this caring, funny, sensitive, and intelligent man that simply allowed her to be herself. That was so refreshing.
“I love walking during the full moon.” She glanced up at the moon overhead and he followed her gaze.
“I know. It was all you spoke about for the entire day.”
“I used to follow the moon on her dates when I was younger.” She leaned her head into his shoulder and slowed his pace.
He caressed her shoulder and squeezed her closer to him, and she sighed. Maybe she should tell him after all.
“How old were you when you followed the moon?” he laughed as he asked it. It was such a silly thought and she knew it.
“I was about seven. But I always wanted to know where the moon would be walking to every night.”
“And did you find out? Do tell.” He was being playful but enjoying her story.
“The first time I only got as far as our hen house. Mamma, wasn’t having any talk of me walking in those cornfields alone.” He giggled and he nodded as if he approved.
“The next time, I got a lot further on my moon walk.”
“Did you get lost?”
“No. It was our own lands; I’d played them fields for hours every evening. I knew where every rabbit hole, bird nest, snake pit and fishing pond were. I knew it like the back of my hand.” She held up her hand to the moon light, her promise ring long since removed.
“How often did you run away?” He was full of questions.
“I never ran away. Just would dip out for a few hours when my folks would finally fall asleep. But I stopped going for moon walks when I was about thirteen.”
“Did you finally get caught?”
“Sure did, but it wasn’t by my folks.” She stopped her walk and hesitated a moment.
“Law enforcement?” he was teasing now.
“They eventually found me Kareem.” She swallowed hard. Some things were best left in her past.
He finally had no questions, at least none that he was willing to verbalize. She could sense that she had made him uncomfortable. He pulled her tighter as if he was saying in his manly way, that it was okay.
“You don’t have to talk about anything you don’t want to Kassie. The moon ain’t as beautiful if you ain’t smiling.” He spoke without breaking his stride.
She felt relieved, as she didn’t think it was necessary to burden him. Then he kissed her forehead and stroked her hair, and that broke her. The tears began to streak down her face and she cried silently, hoping that he would just keep walking. His truck was in sight now, and the thought returned.
“His hands smelled of diesel.” She whispered it, but he had heard her. He slowed down and asked her to sit on the grass next to him.
“I never saw him coming until it was too late. He wore these dirty blue dungarees that smelled like an old farm tractor. The moonlight gave him away and he panicked once he knew I had recognized him.” She couldn’t believe she was finally telling someone about her last moon walk.
“Did they find him?” Kareem didn’t want to know the details.
“They found him before they had found me. He thought he had killed me and left me for dead in the cornfields. Not satisfied with a virgin teenager that looked like a little boy, he made his way to the Whittaker farm and found old aunt Whittaker. The fool got drunk and fell asleep in their barn. Their son found him, then his dead mamma. It was big news in these parts.” She finally lifted up her head. Kareem was just staring at her with his big brown eyes. He was unsure about what to say.
“My daddy never said a word when he came to the hospital. All he did was kiss my forehead and stroked my hair like he always did. Mama… well she never made it through the trial. The stress of it all was too much for her.”
“I’m sorry to hear about all of this.”
“I’m okay now. He didn’t… violate me, but I’ve been terrified of going out in the dark ever since.” She felt like she needed to choose her words better.
There was an awkward silence for a few minutes. She could tell Kareen was lost in his own thoughts, perhaps she shouldn’t have said anything. She watched as he tugged on a blade of grass, and then another.
“You know, when I was younger, I was always in or around church. My daddy was a preacher, so attendance seemed mandatory. Prayer was his answer to everything.” He shook his head.
“I’m sorry if I made you uncomfortable.” She felt nervous saying it.
“It’s just sometimes you wonder if prayer is always the best response. Where does faith and hope fit into all of this?”
“It served its purpose. Other than my counselor, it felt like God was the only person I was comfortable talking to about things. The things that I couldn’t really put into words you know?”
“I guess.” he seemed sad.
“I see you reading your bible in the library every morning. But never would have guessed you were the son of a preacher-man. So many broken hearts.” She winked and pretended to back away from him, and instantly felt like she was being judgmental.
“I am so sorry. That came out wrong.” She squeezed him tight. She wanted to kick herself.
“Oh, not at all Kassie. It’s probably something I needed to hear anyway. But I should be the one apologizing.”
She smiled and ruffled his hair, and he allowed her to harass him without putting up a defense. She was being playful again.
“How did you get past all of that? I mean, looking at you I would never had guessed?” He finally had more questions, and she didn’t see judgment in his eyes, nor even curiosity. No… it was admiration, why? And how could he possibly see that in her?
“You know, the moon took a beating all those eons ago?” she looked up at the moon again, shaking her head as if ignoring his question.
“Yes, all those craters, and we don’t even know what’s on the other side.” He seemed happy she had changed the topic.
“As a kid, when I watched the moon going for her date, I never saw her craters you know? I only saw her glowing, and dazzling. And I imagined the excitement she must feel, anticipating what was awaiting her at the end of her journey.” She finally allowed her gaze to return to his eyes. He was smiling again. The all-knowing smile he had as he understood where she was going.
“It happened a long time ago Kareem. And while it has left a few scars, some which are visible and some which aren’t, but that’s another story; I refuse to let it steal my glory.
So, I live life like there’s always an exciting date coming up.
“Umm but you’re wearing my blazer missy.” He teased again.
“Not much longer if you don’t do something about that car scent you’re rocking.” She waited to see if he had any more question and when he didn’t say anything she leaned in and kissed him.
“What was that for?”
“Just for listening, and not being the classroom clown on our date.”
“I thought you liked that guy?”
“Perhaps I do, perhaps I don’t. But I’ll keep that guy in prayer for a while.”
She grabbed his arm and led him back to the truck. The moon was already half way through her walk, which meant it was way past her bedtime. But she didn’t mind. It was good to be out for another walk after so many years.
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