More than 200 days. Almost eight months. And they would finally see each other again, this time, more than friends.
Dean didn’t know how it would unfold. He’d said in his letters that they would go out on a date, but they couldn’t. Not in Briston. Not in public. Not unless they wanted to be arrested.
They were lucky that they could find safety in Benny’s Bar in West Briston. They were lucky that Benny accepted them. Benny had no choice, really, with how much Kandy gushed about Dean. Every time she got a letter, she would tell him about it, and Benny’s wife had to refrain him from telling her to go away.
Kandy didn’t have anyone else to tell. None of her friends would accept the fact that she’d fallen in love with a white boy.
Maxine, Benny’s wife, helped her get ready the day Dean was coming home for spring break. With some convincing, Benny had finally agreed to let them have a date in his bar. Well, it was a bar, but it was the best they would get.
“Do you think he’ll kiss me?” Kandy wondered.
“Lord, I hope so,” said Maxine. “You been pining for him over the past eight months. He better make some of this worth it.”
Kandy smiled at her reflection, fixing a few curls. Maxine allowed her to borrow some earrings for the date, and at 7:30, she headed next door toward the bar. To her surprise, Dean was waiting.
“I thought your train wasn’t getting here until eight!”
He stood immediately. “Got in early,” he stammered, surveying her outfit.
Nerves sparked in her stomach, and they inched closer to each other, aware that they hadn’t been this close since they’d kept their feelings at bay. The tension was fragile, and her heart leaped when he slid his fingers through hers.
“You look beautiful,” Dean whispered.
“You, too,” she said quickly, then shut her eyes and heard his laugh, the laugh she hadn’t heard in months. “You know what I mean.”
“I do. Come on, let’s eat.”
Just then did Benny stomp downstairs from his office, shutting off some lights along the way. “All right, kids. I’m out of here. Lock up when you’re done, and I’ll be coming back to check on ya frequently.”
“Why?” asked Kandy, not wanting any disruptions with the little amount of time she had with Dean.
“Because, Kandy,” Benny started, “I don’t wanna find you in the bathroom with him getting in a quick one, when I found you in there last year with Julian.”
Kandy blushed and felt Dean tense up. “Benny, when will you get over that?”
Benny slammed the door behind him.
Kandy and Dean sat down to eat, feeling the awkward tension float back and forth. It wasn’t like the letters. On paper, they’d let everything go, revealing the most intimate details as to how they felt about each other. On paper, they were closer than ever. But two feet apart, they’d never felt further from each other.
“We’ll get over that,” Dean reminded, reaching across the table and taking her hand. “This is new, and we’re not used to it, just like if it were the other way around: being so close, like now, for months and not used to the long distance. It’s just flip-flopped, but we’ll adjust.”
Kandy nodded and put her hand over his.
When he got to his feet to grab some more drinks from behind the bar, she stood and followed him a moment later. She decided to take a leap. Who knew the next time she would see him? Summer? He’d said in a letter that he might be doing an internship, and she didn’t have enough money to fly to him. Dean and his family had spent the holiday season up north, and Dean was taking extra classes, therefore she hadn’t been able to see him then.
“What’s wrong?” he asked when finding her behind the bar beside him.
Her response was her lips against his. He was hesitant at first, but set the bottle of wine down and wrapped his arms around her waist, melting into the kiss.
The next moment, the bar’s door slammed open, and Benny came hobbling inside, round and paunchy.
“Oh, hell no. Both of y’all, out. Now.”