Paul would never refer to Ashley’s dad as anything other than Mr. Hardman and he didn’t intend to stop until he was legally allowed to call him ‘Dad’. He wasn’t sure that was ever going to happen, in light of the day’s current development.
He’d been accustomed all his life to hearing Ashley’s dad called Brother Hardman, or in recent years Bishop Hardman, but never had anyone, besides Paul’s own father, called him Stan.
Paul watched as Caleb and Ashley’s dad talked for a few minutes and Caleb opened the driver’s side door to let Ashley’s younger brother Greg hop in to grip the steering wheel and dream a little.
Ashley stood back dutifully waiting for the men to finish their male bonding ritual so that she could be escorted to the passenger side and be whisked out of Paul’s life, at least for the next few hours anyway.
He decided that he didn’t want to just stand by and let that happen without putting up at least a little resistance. He pushed himself away from where he was leaning against Ashley’s truck and began a slow walk over toward Caleb’s fancy black Porsche.
“Don’t you know that you’re not supposed to drive foreign cars in Michigan?” he asked Caleb in a subtly hostile tone, but one that invited an introduction anyway.
“Well, my father took me over to Zuffenhausen and I just fell in love with the Cayman. I got to tour the factory there and watch one be built; it was really cool.” Caleb stepped over to Paul and extended his hand. “Caleb Rogers. You must be Paul.”
They shook hands, and in a form of truce Paul offered back an acknowledgement about the fine craftsmanship of the German automobile industry.
“It wouldn’t help me pull a trailer full of horses though, would it?” Paul smiled at him a little smugly as if pointing out the fact that he was far superior in his ability to accommodate Ashley’s lifestyle. Nothing about Caleb’s Ralf Lauren sport coat, Cole Haan loafers, or Breitling watch fit in with the girl Paul knew and loved.
“No,” Caleb said with a laugh. “I suppose that would pose a challenge.”
“So, what sort of plans do you have in store for my girlfriend this fine evening?” Paul stepped back and stuck his hands in the pockets of his work jeans, suddenly aware of the distinction between them and the crisp, black jeans Caleb was wearing.
“Now, now boys,” Ashley practically cooed at them. “Let’s not fight, or I’m going to have to stick you in opposite corners!” She gave Paul a playful little shove as she moved past him to approach the passenger side of the vehicle.
Caleb positioned himself in between Ashley and Paul as he opened the door for Ashley, then walked around to the driver side and waited patiently while Greg clamored out of the front seat with a grin.
“Thanks for letting me play with your car!” Greg smiled up at Caleb.
“Yeah, maybe I’ll let you take it out for a spin sometime,” he responded and patted Greg on the shoulder.
“Really?” Greg looked like a little kid all of a sudden, instead of a seventeen year old boy. “Cool. Have fun tonight, Ashley!”
Paul crouched down beside the Porsche so that he was eye level with Ashley and waited for her to roll down the window to talk to him. She looked up at him and smiled. Paul didn’t stay there too long, but looked over at Caleb with a warning look as if to say keep your hands off my girl, then whispered to her.
“Don’t stay out too late… my beautiful Ashley.” With that, he pushed away from the car, stood up and took two steps back, holding her gaze.
“Don’t wait up, Paul.” Ashley grinned, and even winked at him again. Caleb squealed the tires a bit as he threw the car in reverse.