Before she’d finished cleaning one stall, Paul snuck in the door and closed out the evening air.
He said hello then grabbed a shovel and started working on the stall next to her.
“I have a weird question for you.” Ashley didn’t stop shoveling, maybe as a way to avoid eye contact. “Would you like to go to a Pistons game?” She didn’t add the phrase ‘with Caleb’ to the end. She was afraid he’d say no if he knew who else was going.
“How did you get tickets to a Pistons game?” He sounded more surprised than accusatory, but definitely excited.
“Well, it’s not exactly me that’s inviting you.” She scooped another load. “Caleb has tickets and invited me and my brothers, and wanted to know if you’d like to come also.”
He stopped and leaned against his shovel. The excitement faded from his eyes and a flash of anger creased his brow.
“I promise that it wouldn’t really be like a date at all, more like just a group of friends hanging out at a game. Even my… sister is going to go.”
He chuckled and went back to shoveling, but Ashley put aside her shovel and came over to him. Paul stopped and stood up to look at her. He had a mixed expression on his face and she could tell that he was warring with the prospect of going to a professional basketball game, and having to spend the evening with Caleb.
“What do you want me to do?” he finally asked in a soft voice.
“I don’t know, I want you to come, but I understand why you wouldn’t want to be there.” She stopped and wrapped her arms around his waist. “I don’t know yet how to handle all this. You know that I’m in love with you. And I’m sure it’s very confusing to you that I want to date someone else. I don’t want to pretend that it wouldn’t be a little awkward, but I’ll try to just stay neutral between the two of you and not show either of you any affection.”
“I think that would be the hardest thing.” Paul wrapped his arms around her and looked down into her eyes. “It’s so natural for us to hold hands, and for me to give you lots of kisses.”
He leaned down with a playful look on his face and kissed her neck, tickling her and making her laugh. Then he pulled away and got serious again.
“How much affection do you show him when I’m not around?”
“Very little,” she whispered, trying to reassure him. “I’ve never kissed him, if that’s what you’re asking.”
He took a deep breath and let it out slowly “Well, I’m really glad to hear that.”
“I’m not promising that I never will,” she whispered. Ashley looked up at Paul with a soft expression she hoped was somewhere between apologetic and apprehensive. “We’re just not to that point in our relationship yet.”
“Yet,” Paul said. “I don’t like that word.” He pushed her away gently and lifted his shovel from where it rested against the stall.
Before he even took a single shovel of manure, he dropped the shovel, letting it fall to the floor, and grabbed her in a hug. She lifted onto her toes as he leaned down and their lips met. There was nothing in her life that compared with kissing Paul. When they finally separated, he leaned his forehead against hers and closed his eyes.
“I’m not giving up without a fight,” Paul whispered. His breathing was heavy. He pulled away and looked down into her eyes. “As long as you promise not to hold his hand or anything, I’ll come. You can let Sarah sit next to Caleb and I’ll sit next to you.”
“How about if I sit with Sarah, and you boys can sit together.” She felt peace and had a feeling they were all going to have a good time.