Everything had gone perfectly. Autumn and Peter had a wonderful time. At Micky's insistence, Autumn and Peter had doubled with Micky and Autumn's friend Rhonda. The most oft uttered phrase of the night had to be "Help me, Rhonda." Any opportunity they could find to tease the poor girl was completely exhausted before they let it drop—for the next minute and a half, at least. Rhonda finally insisted that they take her home.
The constant banter didn't annoy only Rhonda. Other people trying to watch the movie didn't appreciate their continual chatter, either. The people in the theater, however, disliked one other patron more. The young woman couldn't stop herself from announcing the next song, and then singing along, horribly off key and amazingly loudly. She also enjoyed reciting entire scenes of dialogue. If Rhonda and that girl hadn't been there, Autumn, Peter, Micky and the other theatergoers would have probably been able to enjoy "Help!" But there was a lot more to laugh at this way.
Unfortunately, the movie still had half an hour remaining before it was over when Rhonda wanted to leave. The other three apologized, but Rhonda was adamant. They all walked Rhonda home. Once she was inside her house, Peter and Autumn tried, independently and unsuccessfully, to shoo Micky away, but he either ignored them or didn't get the hint. He tailed them straight up to Autumn's doorstep.
Incidentally, I will now explain why they didn't have the Monkeemobile—they didn't have it yet! That was relatively painless, eh?
Anyway, Micky was standing on the walkway and Autumn and Peter were on her front porch.
"I had a nice time," said Peter.
"So did I. Poor Rhonda, though. S he could have used some help," Autumn sympathized.
"So this has been my prize?"
"No, let's not count this as our hour."
Autumn shrugged. "I reserve the right to declare your 'prize' redeemed at any given time."
"I say when our hour's up."
"And you aren't right now?"
Autumn shook her head.
"Does this mean you'd go out with me again?"
"Of course! I wouldn't dream of turning you down."
Without realizing it, during this conversation, Autumn and Peter were inching closer and closer to one another. As if by some unspoken signal, they both retreated into silence. As Micky looked on, Autumn and Peter began to lean toward one another.
Just before they kissed, however, something came over Micky. "Autumn!" he shouted. Autumn and Peter looked at him, a little bewildered and more than a little upset. But more importantly, Autumn's house lit up faster than electric Christmas lights.
"I'm sorry, Peter, but you have to go now." Autumn half-pulled, half-pushed him off her porch. "Hurry," she hissed urgently.
Peter and Micky reached the end of the walkway before Peter spoke. "Mick, why—"
"You head on home. I'll go this way," said Micky, indicating the opposite direction. "I just remembered something."
"Okay," said Peter, and the two parted ways. Micky walked to the edge of the Carnem property and ducked behind a hedgerow. Sure enough, a few minutes later, Autumn walked by. Micky followed her.
She walked five blocks before stopping. They'd reached a cafe that had an outdoor serving area. Autumn took a seat at a table.
"Do you drink?" she asked abruptly, acknowledging Micky's presence for the first time.
Micky was caught off-guard. "Me? Uh, no. At least, not usually. But if you want, I could, I mean . . . never drink alone?"
"Orange juice, then?"
"Yeah," Micky said, relieved.
The waiter approached the table. "Good evening. How may I serve you?"
"I'd like a glass of orange juice," said Micky.
"And I'll have a screwdriver."
"Will that be all?"
"I'll be right back." The waiter scurried away.
"Would you mind moving your chair some? I'd like to be sitting next to you when I talk to you."
Micky moved his chair next to Autumn's, so that they were now both facing the street.
The waiter returned with their drinks. "Thanks," Autumn said. She and Micky tentatively sipped their drinks, hoping they had the right one. They didn't, and quickly switched their drinks.
"Okay, Micky," Autumn began, "go ahead."
"Why did you do that?"
"Oh. I dunno I guess I sorta lost it. I'm not sure why."
"Micky, when we went out—what was it, two weeks ago? Anyway, we dismissed our relationship out of hand. Do you want a second, second chance?"
"I don't know if it's that. I just saw you about to kiss one of my best friends. I was jealous, I guess. Maybe I do want another chance. I missed you a lot, y'know."
Autumn stared straight ahead when she spoke, but her voice betrayed her. "I missed you, too," she said softly, on the verge of tears.
"Are you okay?"
As Autumn nodded, she began to cry.
Placing his hand on Autumn's forearm to comfort her, Micky silently stared out at the empty street. He was surprised to feel fingertips softly brush the cheek that was further away from Autumn—fingertips that were unmistakably hers. Micky began to lean against her hand, but Autumn suddenly pressed the palm of her hand against his cheek, forcing him to look at her.
She was a lot closer than he'd expected. Autumn wasn't crying anymore—her eyes weren't even red.
Kiss him! clamored one part of Autumn. Another part, however, wished it was Peter in front of her, another part felt said, and another guilty.
Whatever part of Autumn that encouraged Autumn to kiss Micky won out. Before Autumn even knew what was happening, she was in the middle of the sweetest, most tender kiss she'd ever imagined. When it ended, Autumn felt like she'd been taken to a strange place. And she was pretty sure she didn't like it there.
Again!!! yelled the first victor.
No, said Reason. You'll hate yourself for it. You'll lead him on. Simply tell him how you feel, then go from there.
Reason would have its turn right then. "Micky," Autumn began softly. "I really don't know what to say."
Micky surveyed her critically. "You're still good at that."
Autumn was taken aback. "Thanks, I guess. I've been out of practice for a while."
"Who was the last person you kissed?"
"You," she lied.
Micky was silent for a second. "Oh." He lapsed into silence again as Autumn downed half her drink. "You aren't going to get drunk, are you?"
Autumn shook her head. "Tipsy, maybe. But reeling, no. When I really drink, I drink it straight, and I drink alone. And it usually involves Jon."
"What do you mean, 'It usually involves Jon'?"
"Oh, a particularly disturbing or annoying action on his part may prompt me to sneak out late at night and drown my sorrows. For such a 'lucky' person, I seem to have a lot of very buoyant sorrows."
Micky let the reality of Autumn's words set in. "How often do you get drunk?"
"Once a month, I guess. What's worse—and what my parents really hate—is my 'running the streets with all those' a-hem! 'liberal, long-haired weirdoes,' to quote my father."
"Long-haired weirdoes," Micky repeated, not quite understanding her meaning.
"Sure—people like you and the Monkees and the Beatles, and anybody else with 'long hair' that's against Vietnam. You're against it, right?"
"Well, yeah, of course." Micky changed the subject back to drinking. "How much do you drink?"
"Not a whole lot," Autumn said, purposefully vague.
"Enough to float your wisdom teeth?"
"Enough to tell?"
"Can you walk home afterwards?"
"Yes." Sometimes I need just a little help, though. "Micky, this doesn't worry you, does it?"
"Some. I mean, I can't imagine you . . . drunk."
"Not that I would recommend it. I don't know why I drink, other than taking my mind off Jon. I agreed that I'd marry him in two years if I'm still living at home."
"Why don't you move out?"
"They're my only source of income."
"You could get a job—lots of people do, y'know."
"I dunno, Mick. I'm used to a pretty extravagant lifestyle."
"You could live with me until you could afford something better."
"No," Autumn declined quickly. "Something won't let me—move out or work, I mean. Right now, I just feel lucky to be able to sneak out with you and Peter, and to 'run the streets.' And, I may as well give in now to a tortured existence—I'll be lucky if being married to Jon rates as high as that."
"You're really going to marry him?"
"I'm fighting mind, body, and soul, but it does no good. He and my parents are insistent. I'd better get home—my parents might check on me."
Autumn tossed money on the table without looking at it. Micky walked her home.
"Good night, Micky," she said when they reached the hedgerow that Micky hid behind earlier that night. "It's over, right?"
"Then I loved you."
"I loved you, too." Micky embraced Autumn. "Remember that, okay?"
"And try not to feel trapped. There's always an out."
"Forget it." Autumn laughed softly as she rose from the table, leaving Micky to ponder her words and a five dollar bill to pick up the tab. Micky Dolenz and Autumn Carnem had finally broken up properly. And Autumn had a lot to think about.
Autumn didn't sleep much that night. She stood on the diving board of their backyard swimming pool, contemplating the events of that night. There's always an out. Micky's words echoed through her mind.
Finally, Autumn made a decision. She knew what to do about Micky and Peter, and a vague idea about Jon and her parents. Fully dressed, she dove into the pool and began to swim laps. She had a lot of energy she had to work off before she slept. And many miles to go, too.
And on to The Surprise Party