The Invitation

An excerpt from The Plains Diaries
James R. Muri
Copyright 1999

   Helen, Sunday 5 June 1942
   Jake was over for supper again.

 Daddy likes having him around.  "Why don't you just move in, son?  We got a extra room now that Carl's killin' Japs.  You could be a big help around here until you have to go back to college.  I'd pay regular pay, too.  What do you say?"

I was shocked at this wildly unexpected offer, but Jake knew Daddy was just being hospitable.  "Well sir, that's the best offer I've had in a long time, but I can get here from home pretty easy. Maybe I could work here from time to time, help out, though.  I've been looking for some work."

So it was settled.  Jake's going to be working around here, helping out.  Then Jake asked me, right there over pie and in front of Daddy and Carrie, if I would like to see the college campus this week.

"I'll give you the tour, Helen.  Take a few days, you can stay in the girl's dormitory, I have a friend there with an empty bed in her room.  Look it over, talk to people, see if you might like to go there in a couple years.  We can go dancing, or something, evenings.  We could leave tomorrow, come back Thursday night, maybe."

My mouth fell open at this second shocker in less than an hour, and Daddy's eyebrows went up alarmingly.  "Well, now, that's -"

Carrie interrupted Daddy.  "Jake, why don't you and Helen take a walk around the garden, see what's getting ready for picking.  Helen's dad and I will talk about your trip to the college."

So we went for a walk.  We all knew that nothing is even close to ready for harvest yet.  "Tell me about college girls, Jake.  Are they fun?"  Simple conversation, just filling the pounding silence.

"Yep.  Lots of them, too.  More than guys.  Probably because so many guys like Carl are off fighting."

"They kept you pretty busy, I guess."

He reached down and took my hand, held it while we walked.  "I thought we were exclusive, Helen.  So I didn't take any of them out."

Well you can imagine how that made me feel.

"It's OK if you dated once in a while.  I'd understand.  You don't have to try to make me feel good."

"I just thought we were still exclusive, is all.  Spent a lot of time studying, getting good grades.  Even weekends, most of the time.  They want you to do lots of writing and reading in college, Helen.  Takes lots of time if you want to get good marks."

We walked along some more.

He brought it up again.  "What do you think about going to Lawrence with me, Helen?"

"You really intend to show me the campus, Jake?"  I was suspicious of what he really had in mind.  I wasn't sure what I felt about that suspicion, but I did want things clear.

He nodded.  "Yes.  I said so."

"How long will that take, really?"

"Oh, three, maybe four hours."

"You mentioned staying until Thursday."

He turned and looked at me.  "I want to make sure we have enough time for plenty of research, Helen.  There's lots to find out."

I blushed.  "Do you really have a friend in the dormitory with an empty bed?"

He stopped and faced me, took my other hand.  "I might."

I looked up into his face.  "Or you might not, right?"

"I promise you that, one way or another, you'll have a roommate, Ice Cream Girl."

Well that certainly made it clear.  "One way might be better than the other, Jake."

"That's what I think, too."

I was blushing something fierce, Clara, and Jake was standing there, a nice smile on his face, waiting for my next question.

"What's happening, Jake?"

"Why don't we finally find out, Helen?"

"In Lawrence?"

"Yes.  First."

"My folks won't let me go, Jake."  My voice carried disappointment thick as sorghum, and I cast my eyes down, away from the affectionate heat of his gaze.

"We'll let them tell us that.  Do you want to go with me?"

I looked up again, felt the smile spread itself across my face.  "Yes, Jake.  I do."  And suddenly I felt a little dizzy, then free-soaring and deliciously naughty and terrifically happy all at the same time.

Someone was taking me seriously for a change!

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