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Winnie’s apology swept my anger away faster than it had materialized. My wounded pride was still telling me to upbraid her in retribution for having embarrassed me but without an emotional element I was able to push aside my vindictive desire and answer sincerely, “No, I don’t have to rush off; not unless you want me to,” while stepping forward and brushing her cheek with the back of my right hand.

Winnie reached up, took my hand in hers, squeezed it and likewise stepped forward. “Good,” she said softly, looking into my eyes and smiling, “I was afraid that I may have pushed you too far.”

‘You did,’ I thought, but said, “I’m not gonna lie. I was plenty steamed. Your little friend Margaret was rude and disrespectful before you showed up. When I walked in the place she told me to sit anywhere and then she and Tanya both ignored me for ten minutes. I practically had to jump up and down to get any service and when Tanya finally came over she didn’t even apologize. If I hadn’t been meeting you I would have left.”

“Really?” she responded, voice thick with concern. “I’m so sorry. I know that Maggie can be a little fireplug sometimes but they always treat me well; advantage of being a regular I guess. But that really doesn’t matter. I mean, it does! They shouldn’t do that to you, to anyone, but what I meant was that I should have graciously allowed you to leave the tip of your choosing. I’m sorry I said anything and I’m especially sorry that I made a scene in public; nobody likes to be on the receiving end of a public humiliation. Forgive me?”

The last question was punctuated by her raising my hand and kissing it. I had already forgiven her and was ready to let the water run under the bridge but in response I reciprocated her hand kiss and then drew her to me for a quick hug and cheek peck. “Of course, I do! Don’t be silly. Sorry that I acted so surly.”

“So,” Winnie said looking up to the blue sky and saying, “the moon’s a nice crescent, the day is deliciously warm and I have a little bit of a walk to my house. Care to walk me home?”

I smiled in response, looked up at the sky with its shimmering pale crescent, slipped off my jacket, slung it over my left shoulder and offered Winnie my right arm. She slid her left hand around my right bicep, squeezed it for a second and asked me, “Ready?”

“Absolutely,” I answered, not sure what I had just declared readiness for, “you lead, I’ll follow.”

“Just stick close by,” she declared, drawing me to her, “and I’ll make sure you don’t go astray.”

“Hmmmm,” I said, pulling my arm in to squeeze her hand to my side and holding it tightly there for a few seconds, “I’ll just hang on to you until you tell me to let go; how’s that sound?”

“Reasonable. This way,” she said, leading us up the main street. “It’s great to be back on daylight savings time, isn’t it? Do you think we’re through with winter?”

“Not a chance. March Madness starts tomorrow; seems like we always get at least one big snowfall during the conference playoffs. Goodness, I’ll be happy if we don’t get any snow in April.”

Winnie sighed, “Yeah, you’re right, but a girl can dream, can’t she? Speaking of dreaming, do you think Iowa can win?”

“Against Temple or the whole thing? Because my answer is yes to Temple but I hope that’ll be their only win. Nothing against the Hawkeyes, it’s just that I’ve got Villanova going all the way.”

“Temple? Aren’t we playing Iona?”

“Oh! The Cyclones! I think they’ll do better than the Hawks but my money is on the Wildcats.”

“So, Villanova is pretty good?”

“Pretty good? I sure hope so, I got a hundred bucks in our work pool that says they’re gonna go all the way. Of course, you never know, right? Some of these tiny schools have really wreaked havoc on my picks before.

“You take these things pretty seriously, don’t you?”

“Who, me? Nah. I know guys who do fantasy football and bet on basketball and tally stats out the wazoo. Not me, I just watch the games and get a feel for who I think is going to do well. Plus, I had a friend who went to Villanova, so I lean that way.”

Winnie slowed, squeezed my arm and asked, “Good friend?”

“Ha! I wish! No, not like that. A girl I used to work with back in the dark ages; and I do mean girl. We’re talking high school and she was two years older, which is a lot when you’re only sixteen. Plus, she was Ivy League and I was State School so no, not a special friend. You follow sports?”

“I enjoy a good game but I’m more likely to go to a concert or a play than a game. How about you?”

“Sports or concerts? Mostly I watch sports on TV. When Anne and I were first dating seems like we went to concerts at least six, seven times a year, then less; you know? Haven’t been to a concert in years except for my kids’ school concerts. Same with plays. Eddie got in a couple plays and Lizzie was in like six. Drove me nuts with her rehearsing. She’d practice her lines with ear buds in and would just start quoting dialogue out of thin air. Weird as hell at first but then when I saw how well she did in her roles I thought what a smart cookie. Good kid. Both of them. Lizzie’s pretty active in community theatre in Lincoln. I went to see her first show there but I haven’t been back. I need to but it’s uncomfortable, you know? Not so much with Lizzie but definitely with Anne.”

“I do know. I fantasize about killing both my ex and his new wife; not that I ever would!

“Iowa State has a good theatre department,” she continued. “April and I caught the Sunday matinee of Dangerous Liaisons just last week. Oh! And last October we went to see Spring Awakening. ‘Totally Fucked’?”

Truly taken aback I stuttered, “I, I beg your pardon?”

“Sorry!” She said with a laugh. “‘Totally Fucked’ is a song from Spring Awakening that I really enjoyed. They sing it when the jig is up and a boy is caught red handed in a lie. Dark play but with lots of energy. I’ll play you the song when we get home if you’d like?”

I smiled, nodded, said, “Sure, that would be nice,” and thought, ‘Well, it doesn’t sound like I’ll be left standing outside on the front doorstep, now does it?’