It felt good to Jed to have the full crew together for the evening. Life seemed to take a pause for a while and he was ready to enjoy the shit out of it. Gathered in their favorite Irish pub, they all sat chatting about light hearted stuff and swilling adult libations. Joey, freshly back from the Dominican farms looked at Jed and said, “oh, by the way, Luciana is upset that you didn’t come with me on this last trip to the farm.” With an ornery grin Joey continued “apparently, she has taken a liking to you, something she doesn’t do”.
“Seriously?” asked Jed taken back by the news. “I never thought for a minute she wanted anything to do with me, she only spoke short sentences to me and not too often either” he said with a nervous laugh.
“Luci is extremely shy, she has had so many men hit on her over the years that she is reserve and quiet preferring to just stay to herself. You on the other hand gave her space and you are a gentleman to her and her father, she likes that. If you feel the same, you need to know a few things before you pursue her”.
“Awe shit, Jed’s got a girl friend!” laughed Billy.
“I hope she ain’t nothing like Ashe!” said Brian signaling Sarah, their waitress, for one more beer.
“That makes two of us!” Jed said as he rolled his eyes at the mere thought of another class five clinger. “So what is it I need to know? Because honestly, I would love to see her” said Jed as his mind began to race with the prospect of being a boyfriend to the Dominican princess.
“First of all, Joey began, you have to bring a gift to her, something she wears like a bracelet, dress, etc. but you first have to present it to her father to get his approval. If he approves, the item is taken and placed in her room. If she is interested, she will wear the item to dinner that night. If she isn’t, well, you are in for a long night of embarrassment and you know the farm crew will be brutal when they roast you!” Joey laughed.
“Gee, thanks Joey!” laughed Jed, “nothing like a little pressure”.
“Naw, I think you should be okay. Besides, we are heading down again the day after tomorrow to meet the new rollers, so you have time to shop!” laughed Joey patting Jed on his shoulder.
“Brother Jed is wound up tight now” laughed Brian. “Look at it this way; you will at least find out once and for all if this woman likes you or not. Kinda like sticking your fingers down your throat to force yourself to hurl, you hate the thought of the situation but feel better afterward!”
Later that night Jed found it difficult to sleep. The prospect of actually getting to find out if Luciana truly was interested in him kept his mind busy. Jed never had to work much for the affection of a beautiful woman though easy women were a turn off to him. Now he was in a whole new area of courtship he wasn’t entirely comfortable in but rather enjoyed the feel of an old school courtship.
After a night of animated slumber, Jed woke to a morning fair and cool in the South Carolina lowcountry. He felt the need to get out and walk a little bit as his mind continued to dwell on the thoughts he fell asleep to. It was a little before midmorning when Jed stumbled upon a tiny dress boutique tucked away on a side street off of the bustling Meeting street packed with annoying tourist.
It was the obnoxious tinkling of the old brass door bell that alerted the meager staff at the over priced women’s boutique that a customer finally arrived. Jed tried to slip through the door without much attention being brought to himself but a six foot something with jet black hair and piercing blue eyes is hard to hide in a den full of middle aged sex deprived women.
Most women worked at the shop to pass time from when their doctor or lawyer husbands 20 years older than them left for work to the time they came home. It was hard to be a successful southern mans wife; if you behaved yourself and stayed hidden until they needed you to dress pretty and out do the other men’s wives at the latest charity ball, you got a decent allowance to buy more clothes or jewelry. Such is the life of the social elite in a small, southern city.
As Jed browsed the scant, over priced dress selections he could feel the eyes of every woman in the place. The auto timed spritz of lavender he smelled throughout the shop did little to lessen his uncomfortable, out of place feelings. Jed likened it to him being a piece of raw, red meat in a den full of starving cougars. He scanned the establishment for a woman that looked half as much a predator as person who may be able to help him.
He was there to buy the perfect dress for Luciana, his lady in the Dominican Republic and loathed the distractions the situation produced. “Yes, what can I help you find my dear?” asked the slightly older than middle age woman as she surveyed Jed from head to toe but mostly in between.
Wanting to say “my eyes are up here” Jed opted for “I need to find a dress for a special lady. It has to be conservative yet fitting for a lady less than 30 years old.”
“My, what a lucky young lady she must be!” the clerk said as the other women swarmed around him nodding in agreement. “do you know what size she wears?”.
“Uh, no, not really” answered Jed. “But her waist is about this wide” he said as he formed an oval with his large hands. One of the women produce a cloth tape as quick as a gun slinger in a show down at high noon.
“That’s about a size five honey, how tall is she?” asked the tape measure lady.
“Well, I recken about here on me” as he held his hand against his wide chest.
“She is almost six feet tall and a size five, may I ask what she looks like?” she asked.
“Ma’am, it would take an eternity to describe what I saw when I met her but I can say this; she has perfect skin, lightly tanned but well tended. Her eyes are the most beautiful hazel, thoughtful and kind. Her hair is a reddish brown with sun streaks of light sand and she shines with a simple life of grace and a peaceful wisdom” he said as he starred off into a corner where his heart saw Luciana standing.
The women stood as if stricken dumb that a man that looked like Jed could possibly see anything beyond a woman’s exterior. After a moment, a younger lady presented him with a possible dress and held it out in front of her.
“That is right pretty ma’am but I need a full length to the ankle and maybe a bit light in the material”. The woman nodded and left to find another dress.
“Is she a local girl?” asked the older clerk.
“No ma’am, I met her in the Dominican Republic and I am going back see her tomorrow. Apparently it is a custom for a suiter to first ask the father if the gift is allowed. If it is, then the lady will wear it to dinner that night with the family if she is of the same heart” said Jed with a hint of nervousness in his voice.
You could hear the collective thud of every woman’s heart hitting the floor of the old historic building as he spoke. Men didn’t do this sort of thing in real life yet here is a living , breathing prince charming.
It was about late morning when they were able to find the perfect dress but one problem remained, they needed to make sure it fit. Jed only knew one girl that came slightly close to the height and build of Luciana and he was going to open a vein and bleed out before he was about to call Ashley to model, not that she would oblige anyway.
“I know the perfect girl!” exclaimed one clerk as she whipped out her cell phone and called the model. “She will be here in five minutes” confirmed the clerk.
“No disrespect ma’am but what might this model’s name be?” Jed asked with a nervous laugh.
“Kimberly” answered the clerk.
Jed’s wheels began to turn. He then pulled his cell and dialed Ray. “Hey Ray, are you busy?”
“No, what’s up?” asked Ray.
“I think Kimberly is going to model a dress for me but I didn’t want you to not be here, you know, respect” answered Jed.
Ray laughed and said “I know, and I am driving her there now, small fuckin world huh?”
When Kimberly arrived, she made her way to where Jed was standing, patiently waiting and answering mundane questions from the shop keepers who could not seem to keep their eyes or hands off him. Kimberly smiled at his situation as he pleaded with his eyes for her to hurry.
After an agonizing wait of what seemed eternity, Kimberly emerged from the dressing room. Her long beautiful golden hair resting on her partially exposed shoulders, Kimberly looked at Ray and said “well, what do you think?” Ray, who had been sitting near the window scanning an old copy of Charleston Magazine stood as if looking at an angel. It was no big secret that he was harboring strong feelings for her but quelled the urge to tell her reminding himself of the age difference.
Kimberly looked at Ray and saw in his eyes for the first time his inability to hide his heart, she blushed a smile and realized she felt the same.
“I appreciate you doing this for me miss Kimberly and I am sorry if I disrupted your day” Jed said in earnest. He reached into his pocket and handed her $200. “For helping me” he said as he placed it in her hand.
“Thank you but no. I am helping a friend, that doesn’t have a price” she said as she handed the money back. “Luciana is a lucky lady” she said as she stood on the tips of her toes to kiss Jed on the forehead.
Jed looked nervously at Ray who only nodded in approval with a smile. Confidence knows nothing of jealousy.
Jed made his purchase but anxiety settled in at the uncertainty of it all. He was still new to the cigar business and had only been to the farm a few times and spent less time than he wanted with the girl of his dreams. He hoped it would all go well but knew there were no guarantees.
Through another sleepless night, Jed rose with the sun to get ready for his big day. Today, Jed’s heart would soar or crash and burn all at the mercy of love, a prospect he was neither familiar nor comfortable. As the antiquated, twin prop sputtered to the end of the runway, Ray wondered just how many flights the old plane had left in her.
Jed moved to get their luggage from the hold of the old plane as a Ford Excursion pulled up to the tarmac. Two farmhands leapt from inside the truck and quickly loaded all the travelers gear onto the roof rack and secured it for the final leg of the trip.
As each passing mile brought the men closer to the farm Joey looked at Ray and shared a smile at the nervousness of their friend. Jed on the other hand stared out the trucks window contemplating what the evening would bring.