Over breakfast Billy told Shen, Hannah and Ham that the Dallas County officials were locking down the area the next day because of the coronavirus. Shen shook her head and almost stood up. She needed to get home to take care of her mother.
For the first time since Shen had known him, Billy wasn’t smiling. “Care facilities aren’t open anymore,” he said. “No one goes out and no one is allowed to enter. Seems the virus is really hitting North Texas hard. There’s been a run on grocery stores. Panic is settling in. On the other hand, we’ve got enough supplies here to last six months. You’d best stay put.”
Shen protested. “But my mother…”
Ham stepped in at this point. “I’ve already reached the staff and they’re setting up videoconferencing, so you can talk with your mom whenever you want to. Billy’s right, for once,” he chuckled. “It’s better for you and your mother for you to be here.”
Shen was too weak and overwhelmed to argue. Billy asked Ham if he thought she could use some fresh air. “Great idea. Hannah, do you want to help her back to her room and let Billy boy know when she’s ready to sit out on the porch? They can watch our renegades party in the pool. I have to get back to the hospital and prepare them if the virus heads our way.”
When Shen arrived later on the terrace, Billy was waiting for her. He’d picked out “the best seat in the house,” a cushy chaise lounge couch for her to sit in the shade. It had a pretty spectacular view of tree-covered hills. He pointed out a pair of white-tailed deer near the house. “I’ve had salt licks put out to attract them,” Billy said. “I suspect they know they’re safe here.”
Sitting next to her, he took her slippers off to massage her feet. Claimed that a football trainer had told him that physical recovery benefited from working the stress out of the farthest extremities.
This little tactic made Shen laugh, recalling Billy’s theory on drinking tequila. “I bet he scored more points off the field than on the scoreboard. Let me guess: You were a jock in high school.”
Billy saw an opportunity to impress her. “Yeah, I lettered in baseball, football and track. Were you a cheerleader?”
Shen had offered him the bait and he had taken it. “No, I was a nerd. You wouldn’t have noticed me?”
Billy was puzzled. “Why?”
With a know-it-all look on her face, Shen answered, “Because cocky jocks aren’t smart enough to spot the real deal.”
Billy did a counterpunch. “Well, I was smart enough to get you to come to Athens. By the way, why did you run away Friday night?”
She owned up to the “girlfriend” drama. Billy stopped his foot duties and nearly fell off the couch.
Returning to his foot massaging, he shifted the subject ever so slightly. He asked, “So, are there any significant men in your life?”
Looking wistfully to the sky, she sighed, “No, not really since Teddy Fleming. He said we’d be together forever.”
Billy looked down. He didn’t like the idea of playing second fiddle to this Fleming guy.
She knew she had gotten to him because the massaging had gotten more intense. Sighing, she delivered the knock-out punch — “We’d planned to marry, but then his family moved away when we were in the third grade and I never saw him again.”
Shen burst out in laughter. But that moment came to an abrupt end when he pinned her down on the couch and kissed her.
“Hey, watch it. Remember, Ham said to go easy with me.”
“Yeah, but you’re playing with me.”
She smiled and said, “I can’t help it if you like being played with.”
Shen asked about the other night. “What happened after I took your advice and took a deep breath? I mean, besides me passing out like a stupid sorority girl.”
He told her how he’d put her in bed, called Jeff, who was bailing Ham and the rest of the band out of jail, and had them pick him up at the cabin. “They had a heck of a time trying to find the cabin, but at 5 in the morning there weren’t many with the lights on. Sorry I had to duck out, but we were booked in Austin for a gig that night.”
“No bother. In fact it was just as well. My tequila sunrise was painful. But how did you know I would return the medal in person?”
“Because I’m the best thing you ever met.”
That last comment sounded familiar. Shen had heard it somewhere before.
… to be continued Friday, June 26