The story so far:
Whoever is in charge of such things must have decided I had suffered long enough and arranged to have one of my screenplays purchased by an LA producer.
One of my first calls was to Ben to share the good news. Since reconnecting after 59 years, we spoke on the phone maybe once a month. Rini was usually mentioned since we had this plan to one day surprise her by just showing up.
As it happened, Ben had a lady friend, Roberta, who knew Rini. Both were active in Palm Springs society. When he told Roberta our plan, she thought it was terrific and said leave everything to her. She'd have Rini at the appointed place at the appointed hour. As soon as Ben called to tell me we were set, I booked my flight.
Ben and his lovely wife met me at the airport and 45 minutes later we were relaxing in the pool behind their gorgeous home. She knew we were planning to surprise Rini, but not all of the details.
The next afternoon, dressed in money as were most of the men in this town, Ben and I headed off for the Desert Palm Hotel, the location for our upcoming little surprise.
Once there, Ben led the way. He knew how to get to the patio without going through the hotel itself. I have to tell you, I could feel the butterflies bouncing around inside my stomach. I felt transported back to my days when we all lived on Fuller, remembering the summer when Rini grew breasts and stopped being one of the boys.
As we walked toward the table where the two women were seated, I knew which one was Rini right away. Her once golden blond hair now a shimmering white. No peroxide for her.
As we approached, Roberta spotted us. "Ben! What a lovely surprise."
We walked to the table and Ben leaned down to kiss Roberta on the cheek. "Hi, Roberta. Say hello to an old friend, Manny. He's here from Miami"
Roberta held out her hand and we shook. "Hi, Manny. Gentlemen. Say hello to my dearest friend, Rini Wilger." I was closer to her so I held out my hand. "Hi, Rini."
"Hi, Manny. I love your town."
Then Ben shook her hand. I looked at him looking at her. Looking at the girl from the shed. It was time. Ben did the honors.
"Rini. My last name is Benson and when you knew him, this guy's name was Harrison."
The look on her face was worth the years of waiting, wondering. She jumped up, gave Ben a big, long-lasting hug, looked up at him. Ben was six four so it was a long look. "God. You look terrific."
Then, arms still around him, she looked at me and her expression changed. Their was a softness in her eyes, the tiniest hint of a smile. She let go of Ben, put her arms around me, held me very close for a moment before moving me back a bit, saying. "Manny, dear Manny. You've gained weight. It looks good on you." Then she hugged me again. When she let go, Rini looked at the grinning Roberta.
"You bad girl. You did this. I didn't know you could keep a secret."
We joined these two amazing ladies for lunch, just getting caught up. I kept looking at Rini. Would I have the guts to ask about the shed? She caught me a few times, smiled, and once laid her hand on mine.
As the four of use were walking back, Rini sipped her arm through mine, said, "Ben. Can I keep him for awhile. I'll drive him back."
Ben said sure, enjoyed hugging them both, walked away.Then Roberta looked at us. "You two obviously have some talking to do so I'll leave you to it." She then gave me a hug, smiled. "It was good meeting you, Manny. Hope we get to see you again before you have to go back."
"Count on it." And off she went. Rini still had her arm through mine and we began walking. She led me to a picnic area now deserted, sat down, looked up at me. She could not possibly know the raging torment going on inside my head. Or could she? I sat next to her.
After some required small talk, I took my first step on the road I was determined to follow. It was time.
I asked what went through her mind that day on Catalina Island when she had asked me to sit in the balcony and I said no. She laughed. A deep, sensual laugh. "I knew you'd say no. You were afraid of me."
Oh my God! She knew that?
"Then why did you ask me?"
"Just to see what you'd say. I was disappointed."
"Yes. When you said you couldn't see from up there, you meant it. That was why you said no. Not because you were afraid of me."
I looked at her for a long time. Was I about to make a supreme fool of myself by asking her about the shed? I didn't care. It had taken 60 years and a cross-country flight to get me here to this moment.
"Rini? There's something I have to ask you. I've wondered about it, off-and-on, since the day it happened."
"You want to know about the shed, don't you?"
It was the strangest sensation. I felt suddenly lighter. Then I saw the smile. Oh boy. Why was she smiling like that?
"Let's play a game. Ask me yes or no questions and I'll give you yes or no answers."
"You can't answer the first one yes or no."
"Okay. I'll give you that one."
"Why did you invite Henry instead of me?"
"He wasn't a virgin."
"But when he got sick...Ben told me I..."
"No one else was left. You ready to play now?"
"Did you kiss them?"
"Did you let them, feel your breasts?"
"Did you take you shirt off?"
I had to take a moment here before continuing.
"Did you let them kiss your breasts?"
"Did you take your skirt off?"
"And under that?"
"Did you let them touch you, there?"
"And then, did you let them...?"
"Manny. That was the whole idea. To make love to them."
I stood up, paced around, looked at her. She wasn't smiling now.
"Okay. This is the part I really have a problem with. Why did you need two guys?"
She stood up, walked over to where I was standing.
"I had done it with Ben, twice. With Henry, once. I had something special in mind for you. I don't suppose you realize I had a huge crush on you."
"God. You were such an innocent. How old were you when you finally did it for the first time?"
Which she found hilarious. "Twenty two! Oh my God! You were even more innocent than I thought."
And with that, she hugged me. When she stepped back, arms still around me, "My plan for you was to wait until you gradutated from that catholic boys high school, and turn you into a sinner by giving you me as a graduation present."
"I would have still been a virgin."
"Not for long. But in your senior year, you and your mom moved away and you never got your present."
"That would have been the best present ever." And I hugged her. We stayed like that for a long time, then when we separated, "Now you can stop wondering about what happened in the shed."
'Except for that one part."
"I wanted two boys because I felt like it."
Flying home toward the east, sunset came a bit quicker. I looked out at the clouds, I saw what the setting sun was doing to the highest parts. I had missed out getting my first kiss from Rini. making love for the first time with Rini. I tilted the seat back a little, adjusted the pillow, closed my eyes, let the gentle hum of the jet engines lead me off to sleep. I know I was smiling when sleep did come.