Antique store

Turn right in route 27. You have 10 minutes till your arrival came from the GPS on the phone.The street was lined with oak and maple trees. It was like stepping back in time on the cobble stone road. Looking down at his phone saying it was has past eight. Still have over a hour till he had to meet with Ms. Ridden about the apartment. Jeremy knew that it would be a while before he’d actually have to be in need of a job.   After his retirement from the military and the money his mother had left him. Jeremy wanted to enjoy life and fresh clean start, were no one knew of his family or his past.
Pulling into a diner THE GRIZZLY for breakfast.Jeremy thought he’d take his time. No rush,no demands nobody waiting, just him and what ever he wanted to do for nearly the first time in twenty-three years. Walking into the front door a young lady with purple streaks in her hair. Hey you can grasp a seat at the counter or next to the window and I’ll be right over. Sitting at the third both. A sigh of relief of being of the road.  Good morning and how are you this morning. Handing Jeremy a menu saying my name is Cameron. Looking at her with a bewildered look and thinking purple and blonde hair that would never fly with his strict Baptist and Chaotic home. It was all yes ma’am and no ma’am. Even to the maid and help. His mother demanded his respect.  Jeremy was always taught  to no matter how much you hate the person, the job and position and uniform deserves and demand respect.
Looking over the menu smiling telling Cameron he’d like a breakfast called the Rocky Express and a grape juice. Smiling at him Saying you not from around here. The Rocky is a heart stopper laughing. It’s ok if the Navy and Chief Fields did stop my heart nothing will. With the brightest smile Cameron had ever seen.
It had seemed like a month of Sunday’s since he’d had real eggs , not powder or liquid eggs but real honest eggs from a chicken. Looking down at his watch saying it was nine twenty-seven. Thinking I’ll have enough time for just one more coffee.
Waiting for his check Jeremy noticed that it had gotten a little crowded.  Laughing and joking with the customer in the next booth. Handming Jeremy a slip of paper that said your bill has been paid. Have a blessed day and thank you for your service in the military .
LOVE CAMERON.  
_______________________________

You have arrived came from the phone. Jeremy pulled his purple 54 chevy pickup; into a spot on the other side of the street from Memorable Treasures. Looking around the antiques. Seeing a mug the said West Virginia with a black bear on it and several cat eyes marbles big enough to shock a horse. May I help you said from behind the counter was a dirty redheaded young middle aged girl saying what can I do to help you . My name is Kellie Jo if you need anything. Thank you but I’m here to see about an apartment. Ms.Ridden stepped out to get some donations from Genesis Fellowshp . If you’d like we have a coffee counter in the back. Following Kellie to the back Jeremy said I like mine black and extremely sweet. Laughing Kellie told him that it couldn’t be sweeter because I’m pouring it. Sliding the cup of coffee to Jeremy asking what brings him here as the phone started ringing Kellie Jo sighs. Picking up the phone hello this is Memorable Treasures With a few ahh Haas
Ok I’ll tell your mom you called. Turning to Jeremy that was Tina Ms. Nadine’s daughter, she lives in Denver she recently gone though a messy divorce.
Kellie looked at a older gentleman that came behind the counter. Mr.Ridden this is Jeremy here to see the apartment. Let the woman take care of it ,I don’t have the time for all that foolishness said the older gentleman. Let her take care of it. Looking at Jeremy with a annoying grunt I guess you’ll be OK. You look fine and healthy unlike the other guff offs in town . Kellie Jo told Jeremy he could browse wail he waited. Looking around their was a set of old LPs and compact discs everything thing from Elvis Presley to Three Dog Knight and some lady by the name Amy Winehouse his time in the military was probably when she we out. There was a blue tea pot and cup set he could see a king and queen using. Pictures that appeared to have German or Irish scenery. As he was looking though a book shelf. This little older lady that had a warm motherly glow and smile he felt relixed. Hello my name is Nadine. Nadine Ridden. I suppose you Jeremy and here to see the apartment. Yes ma’am. You can enter though the back alley door. The apartment door is just to the left beside the office door in the back,you can come though the store during the day.
The apartment was up 12 stairs. As Nadine was showing the apartment he couldn’t keep from noticing the muriel of the wall of a forest and waterfall. Nadine was telling Jeremy her eldest son Robert had painted the when he was in high school back when it was a small town Caff’e. That is a beautiful piece of work. Smiling she said proud both of her kids were extremely talented. The Robert enjoys painting and woodworking that Tina played piano and guitar for the church since she was fifteen Tina also wrote poetry.
__________________________________________________

That following Saturday KellieJo knocked on the down stairs door asking for Jeremy’s help. Wasn’t like he had any plans. Looking through boxes with KellieJo going to the old chest type phonograph the had been there in the McAfee since she had grown up,but then it was in the back where the coffee counter is but was a small dance floor. Turning the radio on . Smiling Jeremy said music is always nice. Today is Saturday and the fair is up and running across town so chances are it will be just the two of us this afternoon. Smiling at Jeremy, KellieJo thought how she’d like to dance the day away in the arms of such a man as him. But Jeremy was so secretive about his past. Was he a murderous made man or in witness protection or just plainly hiding.
Handing Jeremy a cup of coffee and told him it was her specialty blend. We have five boxes to go through. Two are by the door up front and the three here on the coffee counter. After taking a drink and shaking of the hit of caffeine and sweet. Digging through the first box saying looking like all cloths in box one. Here is something that looks like something that my grandma would wear to Mass on Sunday but if a am remembering right. This one would not work at Mass grinning. Long Black and cut low enough to see a belle button and slit on both sides up to the hips. All the rest looks like jeans and more jeans.
Out of the last box KellieJo pulled out a eighties boom box . lets see if it works, pulling it to a plug behind the counter plugging it in and turning it till something came in loud and clear. Jeremy smiled at KellieJo look what is in the box a cassette tape that said only. DANCE TUNES . Putting it in was a voice say how he hated to leave to go to NYU but that he loved you so much, see you at Christmas and I LOVE YOU CHANTELL, the music started as the sky was growing gray. Offering his hand as True by SPANDAU BALLET may I have this dance. Soon after KellieJo and Jeremy lean in to kiss as Nadine open the front door ans saying good morning.
Neither one had relies they had dance through the evening and night. Smiling inconspicuous at Jeremy, Kellie Jo said with out thinking I’ll buy breakfast if you drive.

Lee queen of my heart

COPYWRITTEN BY J.GARDNER on July 27, 2021

All rights are mine and only mine.

Jacob barely noticed as a young woman sled into the booth beside him, slightly looking up from his laptop. Good morning came from across from him. Hello, My Name is Malee Neema Okonjo stretching out her hand. Her skin was cold and warm at the same time. My, I ask you, your name?  My name is Julius, shaking her hand. The soft sensual voice sent a chill through his body. Her eyes glistened with fire. She knew that she had him in her web with such little effort.

Jacob is smiling, telling her he is on his way to work and late as usual. Jacob felt a little strange as she hugged in goodbye, saying until we see each other again. Her accent had a soft  European African. She was staring out towards the Kanawha Rivers waterfront. Malee whispered to the cemented creature on the edge of the roof with a laugh. This one will be easy as Malee kisses the gargoyle on the head. Jacob had the cold chill like he was being watched.

Looking at the numbers on his laptop Malee’s voice haunted him.  More than once, he could feel as if she was there beside them as he sat. In the Weavers Financial Office. His job was to prepare the call list for the following day’s work—all depending on the markets around the world. Considering he only had two other financial agents with him, he was the Senior Agent.   The moon showed through the third-floor window as Jacob noticed it was only three in the morning. He hated working overnight and hated being called a creature of the night by the day shift investing agents.  

Malee watched The Kanawha River Coffee Bean hoping that Jacob would show his soft dashing face and smile this evening as he did last night. There he was, two blocks away. From that distance, Jacob still caught here breath. She Longed to touch his long black hair. He was wondering if the rings of thorns tattoo were his only tattoo. Malee didn’t usually like body art like her roommates and clan sisters. She had known both Amila and Bianca since she became a creature of the night over fifty years ago. Remembering it like it was just yesterday. Her father was a strict Swahili lawyer. Her mother I firm but soft-spoken Philippine. Malee snuck out of the house to go to Woodstock, even though she was twenty-four years of age. Desmond had no time for all the foolishness of drugs, free love, and Rock and Roll. Booth has said it was all foolishness and trouble. She knows they were right. That would the night her whole life changed. All Malee remembered hads lots of alcohol and a few joints. But she hooked up with a white guy that said he was a modeling agent. It was Maylee’s dream to be a beautiful black model. She remembered taking off her blouse due to the heat. Of New York in August. Recalling her first time, happened many times. The rest was the end and a new start to a different life.

A car horn from the street below brought her back. She was leaped from the top of the Rothstein Building and checking her hair and lips reflection in the window. She thought she looked good, dam good. But was it enough for Jacob? Walking in and ordering a Jasmine herbal tea. Hey there, cutie pie came out before she could catch it from falling out of her mouth. Looking up from a book, Jacob gave her a smile that made her adjust her setting position. What are you reading? Nothing that a girl would be interested in. Laughing saying that sounded so high school. Jerking the book out from under him. With a twinkle in her eye and soul thinking Yes!!! Oh, Bram Stokers DRACULA. I think you will like it. What part are you on? Asking firmly. Looking at her as he adjusts his long dark hair. I’m at the amount where he enters the corridor. So do you believe in vampires? No. Well, I read someplace, or many places do and are terrified of the undead. Laughing if they’re vampires, here we are out after dark and Friday the thirteenth, and here is my necked neck. Jacob is pulling the edge of his shirt down. Get me Dracula, get me laughing. Maylee wanted to take that as an invitation. She was feeling her fangs coming out. She sipped the herbal tea trying to conceal, the fire burning in her depths. As she was biting the edge of the cardboard cup. She thought it hard to control herself.

Hey, Hey, are you still here with me? as Jacob snapped his fingers. Yeah, I’m here, I m here. I was just revisiting the past. Jacob made small talk about the heat of July, then the summer festival, that the city had almost every weekend. As the short length of silence. That sounds like that could be fun. What? I thought you were asking me about a date this Friday. I mean we do having a meeting place, spreading her arms over the coffee house. we both are creatures of the night, for one reason or the other smiling, so we are sort of a couple. A couple of souls searching for something in the night. Giving Jacob a dark, seductive smile.

AMILIA

Amilia
After losing my job at Ford in Detroit my wife and I decided to take the buy
out and move back home to West Virginia and start over yet again. So we sold
most of everything we owned. Within 3weeks we were gone. ready to start over a
new life, as I drove we took our time to enjoy ourselves it had been years since
we have done that. See I work basically 7day a week 16 hrs a day.
Our son had grown and went away to the University of  Kentucky and we had made plans to stop and see in Lexington on our way to Charleston. As we sat at a rest area
my wife had grabbed some snacks and drinks out of the machines, walking to
the picnic tables, just relaxing enjoying the late spring breeze coming off
the hill that the area was at. As we started to leave my wife said I wanna “go”
before we leave. leaning over to kiss me and said be right back.
while I waited there I turn to watch the trees. when out of the corner
came a beautiful woman say at the oldest mid-forties came around and stand
and asked how I was doing? fine I replied. She said my name is
Amilia. I lived in Georgia and had to go to Columbus for my mom’s
funeral and the bus I was on must have left me here at the rest area. Can I catch a ride to get to Lexington so I can get a bus there?

She was wearing a red and
green plaid shirt and tight jeans (really tight) and boots with
mid-length silky curly black hair with secretary glasses.
very sexy but what do I know been married for far too long to know.
As I turned to look and see if my BABIEGIRL was coming,
focusing my attention back to Amelia she was gone I look on the
the opposite side of the vending area and then the picnic area and the
the information building and wondering “where the hell did
she go”.

Please I said I didn’t mind but
I’m married and I should speak to my wife. Amila said no never
mind I don’t want to be a bother. I replied NO I’m sure it will be
fine. It’s not safe for a lady to be out by her self these days, especially on a busy interstate. Touching my shoulder she NO not worry I’ll be fine and whispering
in my ear saying “I’m sure we will meet again” I got tired of waiting
so I went to the car to wait on my wife there was a note that said
” I’m forever your angel,” I thought how sweet BABIEGIRL did this
after the kind of last couple years we’ve had that was sweet.
As Babiegirl got in the car I kissed and said thank you
for the note,, What note? I showed her and she said
I didn’t leave it. OK sure you didn’t I said but I still
love you. Yea is your girlfriend coming to West Virginia with us,
laughing. I just have alway loved her sense of humor.

After about near a few minutes on the interstate. I told babiegirl about the lady.
She asked why I didn’t take her and leave me at the rest area.
Yea funny I said. But the funny thing I looked around and
didn’t see her and you’d think we would have seen her
walking on the road. Babiegirl said maybe she
went the other way. I replied she is going to Lexington.
so would we not see her. Maybe she sweet-talked some other
sap into a ride. Babiegirl said. Funny thing how I told Babiegirl
that she said ‘we will meet again’. Laughing she said “AWW my old guy
has a stalker”  We stopped to eat just outside Lexington to eat at Halls on the River. As I was sitting there I thought I saw Amila again walking past the quaint little diner.
The kind that gives the at-home feeling. Babiegirl and I sat talking
about how proud we were of our son Tyler going to the University of Kentucky
As we sat waiting on the check I told Babiegirl that I thought I’d seen her
outside that front window. Babiegirl looked kinda irritated. Oh, what now
you can’t get her out of her head?. You won’t see go get her. I’m sure she’d be
glad to see you again.I’m surprised you didn’t get up and rushing outside.

Boy, I blew that one…

Getting up asking the waitress if I could have a refill on my ice tea and I was
ready to cover my bill. Debbie the waitress said ok but sweetie there
was a little problem. Someone paid your half and left you this. Looking at the
note it said “I’m FOREVER ” you angel” signed Amila. Debbie leaned into
me and asked if I was ok or did I have another girl on the side. Giggled and
said you never ever should have you ladies that close together. As she patted
my hand says your wife’s part was $10.35. I gave $15 told her to keep the change.
She said thanks love winked she said: “be good” giggling with another wink.

As we were getting off the University of Kentucky exit on I-70 in Lexington. I could have
swore I saw her sitting her the backset of Kentucky State Troopers vehicle, then gone again.
But I didn’t say a word to Babiegirl, she was just calming down. We pulled out
onto the parking lot of Tyler’s dorm. We saw our little-kid had really become
a man. We got out as he was walking over with his arm around a nice
looking girl. he immediately walks over to hug mom
then coming over to give the old man a fist bump. Babiegirl asked who
the young lady was. walking up to me say “Hello my name is Macala giving
me a hug and over to babiegirl. then saying to her Tyler has told me
a lot about you hugging Babiegirl. Clearing her throat saying
“I mean you both he’s told a lot about you both”. Tyler had changed
his major yet again to engineering from political science. I looked
at him and said ” Good decision”
Macalla said yea I told him that also, but I think he liked the
history of politics. Both me and Babiegirl said at the same time
he was always was good at dates and history. Macala told us her
major was paranormal science.

Macalla said she had a class in an hour, but we all should have dinner
at about 6. Tyler looked and said that’s kool. But I could tell he didn’t
like the idea. So I said “It sounds nice would like to find out more about you but I’d like to get to West Virginia and our new house by dark.

So after a few awkward hugs and polite exchanges we were off to the
great unknowns of West Virginia, Haven’t been there since 1990 when
I joined the U.S NAVY. and I meet my Babiegirl in 1991 at a bar
in Mayport FL. My time in the Navy is a whole story itself. As we
stopped at a Convenient store in Mount Sterling Ky to fell up. I looked at
my wife and said I got to use the restroom and grab a few snacks
and I’ll be back. I asked the pretty little redhead at the counter
where the facility was, pointing to the cooler saying just past
the beer and down the hall big red door sweetie. Turning as
I was trotting faster saying “thank you”. As I opened the stall
door I got the strangest feeling as if I was being watched.
All of a sudden music started and it was ok I liked that song
(Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger) by Kelli Clarkston.
The room got deathly cold. Colder then a funeral home and hospital
combined. The door flew open and Amilia was standing there. almost speechless
I asked “What in the hell you doing in here, with an evil laugh she said I told
you would see me again”  and “I meant it” closing the stall door just so it was
me and her in the stall. she smiled an pointed at the door twisting her long finger and it sounded like the door had locked.

She looked at me saying “My name is Amila I have been following
you for years. I was in your 2nd, 4th grand classes, I was your
history teacher. I know you remember Ms.Holder don’t
you, my sweet” OK thinking to my self this is really getting weird.
You see I can read your mind and I know everything about you”.
I know about your childhood and the little secrets no but you and
I know things you never ever told even your cute little wife. But Amila
always gets what she wants, with a soft evil laugh say you’ll enjoy
this my sweet. Bending my kneck suddenly. putting a death grip on the
right side of my neck and biting the left side.
As she raised up licking her gorgeously red lips of my blood,
then learning back down licking what was draining down my neck and
kissing where she had just bitten me.  It burnt so bad as if
someone had put a flame on my neck. So as she got up turning to me.
I’ll be back then pointing at me saying “I always get what I
want, and you are it, my LOVE.” I clumsily pulled my paints up
walked out of the stall as I got up she was gone. not in the
hall, store and parking lot. I walked over saying Id like to pay for pump 8.
the redhead said “baby some brunette ’ paid for it.. your
wife came in said tell you to grab her an ALE-8 and chip”, and that
was paid for too.

While I was in the store the sky had grown dark. Babiegirl said
“Looks like a storm is headed our way” and putting out her cigarette
on the sole of her shoe. I leaned in and kissed her saying” You do know I love you
right?” Has I was rubbing my neck she took the keys saying I’m driving.
you sit and relax. As we got back on I-64 I leaned my seat back. Realizing, it
doesn’t seem like I’d been out that long but Babiegirl” pocked my face and
said wake up sleepy head, we are here our new house. She tossed me the keys
said “you have the honors” Just as I started up the steps of our new abode
Two ladies yelled from across the fence. The tallest of the two stretched out
her hand saying HI I’m Missy and this is Denise. We hope guys enjoy it here. It’s
a nice place other than that cemetery, pointing across the street.
Denise said that no one had been buried there in years. saying goodbye
we went into there house.

Later that night I couldn’t sleep so I went outside to sit. As
I was sitting a cool breeze started blowing. I looked across the small
cemetery and I saw movement. as it got closer and close I could tell
it was that Lady Amela as I turn to run inside. I heard a whisper
stop you can’t run from me. I slowly looked over my head and seen her
leap over the fence. as I was reaching for the door she was right there in front of me.
I told you, you can’t run from me, grabbing my neck and holding  me at least a
foot in the air she turned opened the door and throw me to the floor.
You will never disobey me again my love Understand. Standing over me and
lifting me to my feet. Her green eye turned red and she said
“Don’t ever make me mad, You will not like when I’m made.”
shoving me against the wall under our staircase. she turns my head
and bit me again, With a sexy smile after liking her lips and smiled
saying “better than last time’ than kiss my lips passionately I could not be
controlled so I somehow kissed her back. Smiling she patted my cheek.
saying “Good boy” grabbed me leaping, we were at my wife’s bedside.
such a pretty thing, but you can do better. and I’m her. Restwell with
her my sweet it may be your last, I haven’t decided yet and she was gone

The next thing I heard the alarm from Babiegirls cell. I jumped out
and heading to the shower as I was washing my hair. I heard a Babiegirl
singing I said nice voice today sexy. I heard her say thank you and
the door slide open and it was that sexy vampire Amilia wait what was
I thinking. I rushed getting the shampoo out and raniseing off.
I stepped out and on the streamed up mirror was written the next bite
you will be mine forever with a heart beside it

As I heard my Babiegirl say you up yet?? I was thinking if
I’m not beside you I’m up. and I rushed whipping the mirror off
running to her side saying “.Goodmorning sunshine” kissing her
on the lips and neck and for some reason I bit her on the neck. Pushing
me off are you crazy I have a job interview at the bank at 10.
As she was saying that I heard a whisper Im proud of you my sweet.

We both got dressed had a nice little breakfast and where out the door.
I again heard a voice saying to let her drive. Tossing the keys I asked
“wanna drive”, opening her door for her and shutting it. As I passed the back of the car I heard a voice saying
soon real soon my love, real soon, shaking it off as I got in and she backed out of
the driveway.
As we were just getting off the interstate heading toward the bank, she
was hoping to get a job. a sports car sideswiped us sending us into
the oncoming rush hour traffic all I heard was screaming and the sounds
of breaks and metal.
I started groaning in pain. the next I thing remember is saying my wife’s name
Patty where are . all I heard was hushhh it will be fine from the other side
of the room curtain. when it opened it has her Amilia in a white nurse uniform
hushhh she said as shes was closing the curtain and then I’m sorry my sweets
she didn’t make it neither will you, unless you come to me. Climbing on my hospital bed, she kissed my forehead and then nose and then my lips saying with a seductive sexy smile, I could see her fangs and she crawled towards my neck saying “I’m gonna enjoy this my love and so will you” and It went dark and all I saw after that was Amilia and myself walking toward a large stone mansion hand in hand….

Copywrite 5/31/2013
By.J.R. GARDNER

Little changes for big Jim

James Decker is at the end of his rope until there’s a knock on his door.

———1——

As he turns the gun towards himself, looking down the barrel, there is a knock on the door. Thinking of all the times, he needed someone, there was nothing. But now that he had made his plans. There are a few more knocks on the door. He placed a Colt 45 revolver on the shelf. Opening the door, there’s his ex. Hi, Jim I know it’s been a long time. Yes, it has, but you’re the one that disappears into thin air.

standing beside her was a little girl that couldn’t be more than five years of age. May I come in? Coming in as she asked. I need your help, and we need to talk. She was standing in the hall. She pulls out an iPad out of her purse, telling Nikkie to play while mommy talks to her friend. She was walking into the kitchen, putting her cigarette out in the kitchen sink, and reaching into the top cupboard gripping a  glass and bottle, and pouring herself a second shot. Somethings never change Debbie says with a I’m better than you smirk. Well, you’re the one holding a bottle of Jim Beam at nine in the morning and I stopped smoking last year.

Nicole is your daughter. I am in trouble, and I need you to take care of her for a while and hands Jim a set of keys; these are to my car and townhouse. There is a locker over on Roosevelt with everything and an explanation. Turning as quickly, she goes to her daughter’s side. Look, Nicole, mommy has to go out of town for a while. But this guy here, his name is Jimmy. He’s a great guy, and he’ll take excellent care of you. He is a good cook and likes cartoons just like you. Pulling the smiling girl kissing Nicole on the top of her head, fighting back tears. Mommy loves you.

In the hall, as she opens the door kissing Jim on side of his lips. James, I guess I’ll always love and trust you. As she rushes down the stairs. A dark-gray SUV pulls up and Debbie gets in with tears streaming down her face.

*******

Jim turning to close the door. Jim sees Nicole standing in the doorway of the living room and hallway. Crying, I want my mommy; where’s mommy. Leaning leaning down, wiping her tears. Your mommy had to do something very important.  Mommy’s do things like that sometimes.  But I bet you hungry, holding her hand, leading her to the kitchen, lifting her and placing her in a chair, and telling her that she looks good in a big girl chair.  How would you like a PB&J? With a curl on her nose, asking what that was. Twirling his finger in the air, yeah, think like a kid. Nikki, may I call you Nikki?  A little giggle, yeah, if I can call you, Uncle Jim. Smiling saying he’d like that. Well, Nikki, a PB&J is peanut butter and jelly sandwich.    Yea, I like those. Smiling Jim tells Nikki that I like them too. I think there is Grape or Strawberry jelly here.   Nicole looked puzzled.   Tell you what I like grape with my PB&J, correcting himself  I mean peanut butter and jelly.   Yeah, I want that too giggling and smiling.  Mommy said you was funny.  Doing a made-up happy dance carring the two sandwiches to the  table.  Handing her a soda.  I can’t have that mommy says I’m a growing girl I need milk, making a muscle with her right arm.  Oh really pretending to smack himself in the head. Well mommy’s are always right so I’ll have milk too doing the happy dance.  Nikki starting laughing at him you are funny Uncle Jim.…

The sound of the front door closing interrupts the get-to-know other conversation. As a woman enters the kitchen, Nikki gives her a wave, waving back mouthing the words “What the hell” to Jim”.  Nikki this is Amanda one of da, Uncle Jim’s special friends. “You mean like mommy” comes from the table.  Yeah Like mommy.  Pulling Amanda into the living room. Look, I was in the chair this morning, looking at the gun in the locked glass case, and there’s a knock on the door. AND BOOM, there is Deb and this little girl. In a state of disbelief and shock.  Is she yours Amanda asked? Looking at his hand as if he was counting, I believe so it sounds about right. Deb said she was. Debbie said she’s in a lot of trouble and needs a safe place for Nicole.

And you were about to do that pointing angrily at the gun in the glass bookcase.

Coming from the kitchen, Uncle Jim may I have another one.came the small voice. Would you like a bite lady. Holding it out towards Amanda.   Looking a Jim as he shrugs.  I’d very much like one. Taking a small bite.

——-2—–

He was pulling into the Roosevelt U Store. Jim looks a the key with an imprint on it, A46. He was droveg to the rear of the lot.  Jim sees a sign on a building saying. Roosevelt, small storage.   Unlocking the door Jim, following the aisles, nurmatically Row G, H turning in the opposite direction. C, B, A. Walking to locker 46. With a deep breath, not sure of what was on the other side. Opening the door, Jim turns the locker’s light on.  The storage locker had only two large duffle bags in it with an envelope taped to the wall.

Putting the two heavy black duffles on the table. Jim asked, looking at Amanda. Where’s the kid?  Pointing to the couch, the little thing was so scared and tired I let her fall  asleep.  So what was so important in storage. Shaking his head, struggling his shoulders, and patting the bag these and this and handing Amanda the envelope. So what is in the bags? Unzipping a bag, money seemed to flow out; three bills fell to the floor.  Picking them up and smelling, examining them, Jim said a fifty, two twenty’s.  There’s got to be over a million dollars here looking in the bag. Looking in the other bag were twelve outfits looking like they’d fit Nicole.  Two marked on Friday, and one said ain’t days and tree littles sets of shoes. Monday And a phone. Speechless, Jim looks at Amanda as he thought WHAT, HOW, most importantly, WHY.

Maybe this will explain a lot.  Opening the envelope, pulling out a piece of light blue legal paper. Amanda begins to read.

    Jim.  I hope you are reading this and not my sister or mom.  The day after, I found out that I was pregnant, only in my twenties and in my second year of law school. I freaked and out and ran to grandpapa and grandma in Miami, Florida. They are my ex stepdads parents; It was like my mom’s fourth, or was it the fifth anyway. They live down in Little Havana in Miami. Well, Grandpapa is a leader of a block of streets. Papa’s neighborhood is called UNO RACHO because of the six restaurants in the area. If he were in New York, Papa would be the boss of one of the five families in New York City. Papa was and still is a mighty man in the area as well as lower Maimi; nothing happens without him knowing or being part of it it. He and grandma took me in and took care of me, calling me his Lilli Chichi. As a kid, the kids called him father time. You would probably be dead if he knew that I was carrying your child. I continued law school at the University of Miami and came back here, joining the Man-Gaven Law Group. While in Havan, I saw and heard a few things that I knew were less than honorable.  Last month I noticed his name, Alvaro Martinez, on papers from the U.S. Marshalls office.

Papa is wanted by the federal government and the Cuban governments for smuggling, drugs, and counterfeiting. The paperwork stated. So I’m figuring that I am also being watched by the Castro, FBI, CIA, and who the hell else knows—needing to clear my name here and in Miami. Even though we were never blood, I consider him as a grandfather, one I never had. I got a Christmas card every year with “a little something.” Even that Mercedes-E-Class just showed up with a note. “Good Luck, ChiChi.” It seems like he always has an eye on me or watching me.  Look, Jim, I don’t want to be on here too long.  Just tell Nichole that mommy says I love her and will be back.

——3—-

Well, that sounds interesting. Do you feel safe, Jim?

It looks like everything is here car title, deed to the townhouse, and paperwork to enroll Nikki in school.  Nikki and Jim stand in front of Nelson Snow Elementary. Jim looked down at the little girl and the inspiration that had to change his life inside out and Jim’s new reason to continue living.  Are you sure you’ll be ok, hon?  You are me, and Auntie Amanda can go somewhere else. Looking over the schoolyard and school, this place seems so big. Let’s ditch this and go get some pancakes.

Reaching for Ms.Torris’s hand Nichole, like you and mommy and auntie, Amanda says I am a big girl. Mr. Decker, I’ll call, but everything will be fine.  Jim hears the tear, a tear of heartbreak starting to fall, and a bell rings, and the double doors close.

Jim was looking at the school’s fall portrait.of Nicole standing in a pile of leaves.  Jim hits send on the send bar on the text app to the last number on the phone. The phone was the only link between him and Debbie.   The townhouse seemed much, then his two-room AMERICAN DUMP.

As Amanda walks Nicole to the townhouse left to them by Nicole’s mother and Jim’s formal lover, friend, and his one-time dream. Nicole giggled as she climbs the final step. The little witch had purple stockings and a purple hat. Closing the door to the locked position. Sending Debbie the picture of a little witch, he could help feeling lost, a bit unsure like he was being watched. Deciding it must be the fell of the chill of fall in the air.

A ding diverts her attention, pulling up a picture of a little witch standing in the door of the townhouse she once shared with her baby girl. Now that baby girl was sharing it with her dad and his girlfriend. Nicole reaches into her pail of teats. She was looking through it, like a kid himself saying. Ooh, I like these and pulling his hand out of the pumpkin pail. What’s this? He pulls out a small paper saying Nicole’s College fund and looking at the page.

Bank of England, the about said twenty thousand pounds. That paper is mine, right, Uncle Jim? Yeah, Yeah, Honey, it’s yours. But do you remember who gave it to you? I don’t know who it was, Uncle Jim, but he was real old, he had white hair and a big stick in his right and said he was father time, he was smoking one of those big brown silly smelly things. I want get away it smelt really bad Uncle Jim.

Looking at Amanda. Mouthing that she didn’t remember anything.

Share the road

It was about 4:00 one late spring afternoon, and I was driving casually up a country road on the way back to town after doing a soil stability analysis on a rural site. I was coming up on a bicyclist headed the same way, half watching them ensure I wasn’t crowding the rider with my F250. The rider was wearing one of those tight, ugly unisex cycling outfits, and I had given up checking out cyclist’s rear ends after a couple of occasions of discovering, on passing the rider, that the cute butt at one end of the bike had a beard at the front. I’ve got no problem with gays, but I’m not, and I can’t help it if I found the experience disturbing. I stuck to watching them just enough to be sure I was sharing the road relatively after that. I had just swung out to pass the rider with plenty of space when a black and white blur flew out of the roadside bushes and hit the front wheel, sending the rider ass over teakettle. I slammed on the brakes and turned to see a big, ugly dog snapping at the downed rider as they tried to fend it off with the bike from a sitting position. Well, that’s ridiculous; I grabbed my hawthorn walking stick from behind the seat and jumped out, waving and yelling. The dog turned to me and got a couple of good whacks in the ribs before it put its tail between its legs and ran off yelping. I turned to the rider. “You hurt?” I looked a little closer. Female, even under the eyesore cycling outfit. She pulled off her helmet, releasing a tangled mass of strawberry blond hair, and looked up at me. “Scraped up but nothing worse, I think. Where did that thing come from?” “Must belong to one of those hillbillies out here. Let me help you up.” She started to take my hand and then winced. “Darn, my hands are scraped up.” “OK, let’s try it this way.” I held her upper arm to keep her steady as she picked herself up. She took a couple of steps and then staggered, almost going down, and I threw an arm around her waist. Not a big score, I noticed in passing. She let me take her lightweight. “You hit your head or something?” “No, I think it’s just adrenaline aftershocks. That was scary.” “No kidding.” I dropped the tailgate, and half lifted her onto it. “Just sit there for a few minutes and get your bearings. Let me see your hands.” She held them out. Both palms were well scraped up, with a couple of pretty deep cuts that looked like they had gravel in them. Excellent hands otherwise, long fingers well cared for. “I need the first aid kit. Sit tight a second.” When I came back, I noticed a line of blood running down her leg. Potentially attractive legs under better circumstances. “Looks like your knees took a hit too. How do they feel?” She swung her legs a little. “Just scraped and bruised, I think.” She sucked on her lower lip. Cute gesture on her. “I’m putting you to a lot of trouble here. Don’t you need to go someplace?” “What am I going to do, leave you ten miles from town injured and with a busted bike? I work for myself, so there’s no one tracking my time. I’ll take off if you insist, but I wouldn’t feel right about it.” She smiled. A smile that should be registered as a lethal weapon, even though the streaks of mud and swept across her face. “I appreciate it. I just hate to be such a bother.” “Forget it.” I pulled the Leatherman off my belt and folded out the tweezers. “Let me see those hands again.” I quickly removed the gravel and applied Neosporin and a bandage, and then did the same to her knee. “You’re pretty good at that.” “I was a Devil Doc years ago. Once you’ve learned to deal with IED injuries, a scraped hand is pretty easy. Ready to walk to the door of the truck?” “You don’t have to do all that.” “As I said, I can’t leave you out here stuck. Go hop in.” She carefully walked to the door of the truck, keeping one hand on the side for balance, while I tossed her bike in the back and climbed on the other side. “First things first. Hi, I’m Ben McLoughlin.” She started to stick out her hand and then thought better of it. “Jill Williams. I’d normally be glad to meet you, but this way of doing it is painful.” “Hope it doesn’t often happen- at least the bike wreck part of it. So, Jill, should I take you home or to the doctor’s office?” “Home would be great. I just want to get cleaned up and get some rest. I live over on Decatur Street.” I tried to make small talk on the way, but she was worn out and struggling to hold up her end, so I let it go and finished the ride in silence except for the directions to her house. She lived in a small house in an older but comfortable part of town and had a Miata parked in the driveway. She lifted herself out of the truck gingerly, and I climbed out of my side. “Where do you want the bike?” “Just set it next to the garage for now. Look, you’ve been great.” “No problem.” “Well, thanks again.” For the last half of the ride, I had been debating whether to suggest that I’d like to see her again. I decided to skip it- she wasn’t in any mood to be flirting after the crappy day she’d been having, and it would be sleazy to act like I was expecting something for helping her out. “Glad to do it. Good luck.” As I drove off, I wondered if I was making the biggest mistake of my life. A couple of days later, I found an unfamiliar cell phone under the truck’s seat while I was looking for my spare batteries. Nobody on my crew recognized it, but one had the same model and charged it up for me. None of the names in the directory looked familiar, so I took a chance and pushed the “Home” button. I got a female voice. “Hello?” “Uh, hello… I’m not sure who I’m calling here, but I think I have your cell phone.” Slightly suspicious. “Who’s this?” “My name’s Ben McLoughlin. I found this thing in my truck.” The voice warmed up like the sun popping out from behind a cloud. “Oh, Ben, this is Jill Williams! Remember you saved me from that dog and gave me a ride home?” “Of course I remember. You must have dropped your phone. How would you like me to get it back to you?” “Can we meet up tomorrow?” “Well, tomorrow’s Friday. I have to be out in the field most of the day. How about I buy you a drink after work?” “Sounds good, but I’m buying. It’s the least I can do after you were so helpful.” “You don’t owe me anything, but we’ll figure something out. Say 6:00 at Anthony’s?” “Works for me. See you then.” Anthony’s is a seafood restaurant and bar on the waterfront boardwalk, making it a great place to have an after-work drink and watch the sunset. I got there early enough to grab a table at the window overlooking the marina and ordered a beer while I waited. As I idly watched a seal in the harbor, I heard a low whistle from the following table. I turned and saw most of the men in the bar looking in the same direction. A stunningly beautiful woman in elegant business clothes had just walked in and appeared to be looking around for someone. Some guys have all the luck. Her strawberry blond hair was in a neat French twist- wait, strawberry blonde? I looked again, and she saw me, smiled, and strode toward my table, making me the target of all the envious looks for once in my life. I stood up and held her chair. “Jill? Wow, you clean up well!” “Thanks. I wasn’t at my best the other day.” “No surprise given the kind of day you were having. How are your hands?” “No problems, just waiting for them to heal.” She showed me her palms, which did look better. Graceful gold watch, no hint of a ring- this was looking better all the time. “What did you say you were? A Devil Dog?” “No, a Devil Dog is a Marine. I was a Devil Doc- a Navy corpsman attached to a Marine unit. That was a long time ago, though.” “Sounds scary.” “Not really. I got out before 9/11. I spent most of my service in Korea. Sometimes I thought that every new Marine had to learn the hard way not to fight with Korean civilians. I patched up more drunk jarheads on Saturday nights than I care to remember.” There had been some pretty scary nights along the DMZ, but why bring up a downer like that? “You in medicine now?” “No, I’m a civil engineer. The Navy was more a growing-up experience than a career choice. So what do you do?” “I’m a lawyer with the state Department of Justice.” “How did you get into that?” The waitress came by, and Jill ordered a glass of Chardonnay for herself and another Red Hook for me. The conversation never slowed down, and before we knew it, the sun was down. “Want to order some dinner? Any other plans tonight?” “Dinner sounds great. All I was going to do tonight was read a bunch of work files.” “Sad thing for a pretty woman to be doing on a Friday night.” She shrugged. “Thanks. I’m too busy for much of a social life outside of work, and I learned the hard way that dating other lawyers is a dead-end street. The legal community gossips more than my college sorority. This is the closest I’ve come to the date in months.” “So, is this a date or a friendly dinner?” She winked. “Depends. Are you going to try to kiss me goodnight?” “Should I?” She rolled her dark blue eyes. “Never ask a woman’s permission to kiss her. Just try it if it feels right and see what happens.” “So we’ll know if this is a date or not at the end of the evening?” Her eyes twinkled. “I guess you’ll have to try it and see what happens.” Dinner was good, although I don’t remember a bit of what we ate. I was too busy talking with Jill about anything and everything to notice. “You always carry a big stick in your truck?” “I got out of the military partly because of a knee injury. It usually doesn’t bother me, but sometimes I have to cover some rough ground for my job, and it helps. Not to mention it’s useful for some other things, as you saw.” “Any good stories out of the injury?” “It was just a dumb accident. They didn’t even give me a Purple Heart for it.” “What happened?” “The unit was taking our turn patrolling the DMZ. One night some dumbass lit a smoke in the open, and of course, some North Koreans took a potshot at the light. The guy started screaming for a corpsman, and I came running and stepped into a hole. It turned out later the round bounced off his helmet and didn’t even draw blood, but the way he was screaming, we thought he was dying. I was the only one injured.” Jill shook her head. “What happened to him?” “The gunny told him that he was too stupid to be out on patrol and made him the permanent shit burner- excuse me, latrine orderly- for the rest of the rotation. It was summer, and he was a lot smarter by the time we rotated back to Seoul. Look, when I start talking about the service, I unconsciously start talking like we did back then. Sorry.” “Nothing I haven’t heard before. Don’t worry about it.” About the third time, the waiter asked if we wanted anything else, the hint sank in. “I think they want this table back. Want to go for a walk on the boardwalk?” “Sure. Let me go grab my coat.” I settled the bill and met her at the front door, and we strolled out toward the point. About the third time, our hands bumped, our fingers got entwined and stayed that way. This was going better than I would have thought possible. Jill was intelligent and enthusiastic about life, making her a real kick to hang out with despite her great looks. No idea what she wanted with an average guy like me, but she seemed to be having as good a time as I was. We paused at the end of the boardwalk, looking back at the lights of town. “Kind of windy out here, isn’t it?” Jill shivered slightly and moved in front of me out of the wind, leaning back a little against my chest. I wrapped my arms lightly around her slim shoulders and looked down to find her looking back and up at me with her eyebrows raised in a slightly challenging expression. I remembered something one of my professors used to say about “a tide in the affairs of men, which, when taken at the flood…” Oh, the hell with that; I leaned down and captured her lips gently. She didn’t resist, thank God. I felt a slight smile as the initial wind chill faded against my mouth. She rotated in my arms enough to reach up and run one hand through the hair behind my ear, cupping the back of my head slightly. The spicy, flowery scent of her perfume was faint but still nearly knocked me out. I kept it light; she wasn’t the type to appreciate being groped and mauled in public. By the time we broke, though, it was clear that she had no problem with a public kiss. She still had a smile on her face. “That was nice.” “You’re the master- or maybe the mistress- of an understatement. I’m not sure I can feel my legs. I guess this is officially a date?” “Well, to make it official, you’re going to have to walk me to my car and see what happens when we say goodnight. This has been a lot of fun, but it’s late, and I do have some things to do tomorrow.” I checked my watch. “My God, I never realized it was this late. That car of yours doesn’t turn into a pumpkin, does it?” “Not in the five years or so I’ve had it. First time for everything, though.” We turned back toward town, and her hand naturally fell into mine. Neither of us was in any great hurry to get back to her car. I knew the evening was going to end there, which didn’t bother me, but I was enjoying her company. Eventually, we got to the parking lot. She unlocked her car, opened the door, and looked up at me. “Well…” She glanced around at the empty lot. “Don’t ask, Ben, just try it and see what happens…” I slid my arms around her waist, and her arms locked around my neck. This was a far more profound, more passionate kiss than the first time, and our hands were starting to wander by the time she pulled back. She smiled at me. “I think that officially makes this our first date. You wrote down my phone number before you gave that cell phone back, right?” “Give me credit for some intelligence. Of course, I did.” “Good. Call me, and we’ll make plans to do this again.” “I can’t wait.” “Neither can I. Good night.” With a quick final kiss, she was gone. It took me a few seconds to figure out why I woke up smiling Saturday morning. Then I spent the next half hour or so reliving the previous evening in glorious detail before getting up and starting my regular Saturday bachelor chores. It seemed hard to believe that such a beautiful, classy woman would be interested in an average guy like me, but her actions spoke louder than words. I waited until Sunday afternoon to call her, and she sounded happy to hear from me. “Ben! What’s up?” “I was just thinking about you and wanted to see how you’re doing. I also wanted to say thanks for going out with me the other night. I haven’t had that much fun in a long time.” “I had a lot of fun too.” The next step was evident, and I had to take it. “You said something about doing it again.” “I’d like that.” “You like sailing? I have a sailboat, and I thought we could take it out next weekend. Maybe run out to Johnson Island, have lunch, and bring it back.” “I’ve never done much sailing, but I’d like to learn. Saturday?” “Saturday would be good. Let’s plan on it.” We agreed to talk later about specifics, chatted a while, and rang off. When I looked at the clock, I realized that we had been on the phone for a solid two hours. That girl was so easy to talk with that I constantly lost track of time. Strange feeling, but I enjoyed it. The following week was a busy one. An old college friend was now a lawyer in town, and he was involved in a lawsuit over the failure of an old earthen dam back in the hills. A couple of farms had been flooded out, and now the lawyers were arguing over who would pay for the damage. Ed had called me for help understanding the failure analysis reports. Before I knew it, I was listed as an expert witness and had to sit for a deposition. I met Ed the day before to get ready. “Remember, you’re the guy in the room who understands the science here. Be ready to justify your conclusions, but don’t go beyond what the data and analysis will support. Whatever you do, don’t let them make you mad.” “I’ll be fine, Ed. What are a bunch of lawyers going to come up with that’s worse than what I dealt with in the service?” I was thrown for a loop, though, when I walked in and saw a familiar head of strawberry blonde hair on the other side of the table. Ed did the introductions. “Angus McLoughlin, this is Jill Williams, the attorney for the State Water Division.” Jill stood up and extended a hand. “Glad to meet you, Angus.” She had a strange look in her eyes, and I quickly decided to follow her lead and not expose her private life in front of all these other people. We sat down and got started. Some lawyers try to intimidate witnesses with word games and snotty attitudes, but the better ones make sure they know their stuff ahead of time. Jill was one of the good ones; she hit every point where there was room for a difference of opinion and made me acknowledge it while I explained why I thought my opinion was the stronger one. It turned into almost an academic discussion instead of a cross-examination. She had been studying the engineering issues thoroughly, and by the end, I was about ready to offer her a job as a trainee if she got tired of practicing law. Once we got through the facts, she started the personal questions. “How much of your work is as an expert witness?” “This is the first time I’ve done it. Ed’s an old friend and asked for help.” “What are you charging for your time?” “Nothing. I got involved as a favor to Ed, as I said, and wasn’t expecting it to go this far.” “So you’re working for free?” “Ed’s clients are decent folks who didn’t deserve to get their farm and livelihood wiped out because someone else was careless. I don’t need to make money off them.” I looked at Ed and shrugged. “For the record, though, Ed owes me a bottle of Laphroaig when this is all over.” “Of what?” “It’s a single malt whisky from the part of Scotland my grandfather came from.” “You’re doing all this work for a bottle of whisky?” I shrugged. “I think you lawyers call it pro bono. The Scotch is just a guy thing.” She looked surprised, and possibly impressed, and quickly wrapped up. When it was done Ed, and I went back to his office to debrief. “So what was that odd look you and Ms. Williams gave each other at the start?” I sighed. He didn’t get where he,was by missing much. “I had dinner with her Friday night.”

THE MAGIC SHOP. Complete

The Magic Shop Ivy fly’s down the sidewalk of the main street, her glasses bouncing on her nose as her feet pump the peddles of her bike. If she doesn’t hurry, she will be late to meet Cloey, her best friend. They were supposed to meet at the corner of Thirteenth Street, where they both lived. Ivy is running late. She had to pump up her tires after letting the bike sit all winter. This was going to be their first bike ride of the year.  Ivy slid to a stop and realized she had beat Cloey. She took a seat on the bench at the bus stop waiting for her best friend to get there.  She looked across the street, and something caught her attention. The storefront that had been empty the day before when they’d gotten off the school bus was filled with a bunch of stuff, and a new sign hung over the door. The store was called Abracadabra, and the sign in the window in big  rainbow swirls said “MAGIC INSIDE.” Chloe rolled to a stop beside the bench. “Ivy, what are you staring at?”  Ivy pointed across the street. “A magic shop.” Chloe squealed, “That’s awesome. It wasn’t there yesterday, was it?” “I don’t think so. It’s like it appeared by magic overnight.” Chloe started across the street. “Come on, let’s go check it out!” The two of them enter the shop, hearing a bell jingle as the door opens and closes. They wander through the isles, looking at all the wonders the shelves hold. There are magic wands, both the black and white like you see in magic shows on tv, and the wooden kind like was in those Harry Potter movies. Some shelves held brooms and books on how to ride them. Still, other counters were full of bottles with eyeballs and strange animal parts. There were packets of dragon scales and ground unicorn horns. A big bottle sat beside the cash register and glowed a weird red color. The label said “Dragon’s Tears,”  But the thing that caught the girl’s attention most was the Black Silk Top Hat sitting alone on a shelf behind the sales counter.  The Tag on the hat said, “Official Magicians Top Hat. $20.00.” Ivy pulled her money out of her pocket, and so did Cloey.  As they counted out what they had on the counter, they realized neither of them had enough. Ivy had $5.00 that her grandfather had given her after church Sunday morning for helping carry his Bible out to the car. Chloe was a bit richer than her. She had eight dollars left from her allowance and five more she had made washing old lady Gardner’s toy poodle. Both girls were disappointed. “ Oh, Poo! Even if we put our money together, we don’t have enough.” Just then, there was a poof and a cloud of purple smoke formed at the end of the sales counter. As the smoke cleared, there appeared a  salesman. He was dressed like a stage magician. His shirt was red, and he had on a big Chloe blue bowtie. His jacket was black and had a long tail just like they expected a magician to look.  “Look, Ivy, he looks like a real magician, and looks how tall he is!” Ivy’s eyes got big. “I know he reminds me of that giraffe we saw at the zoo last week.” Both girls giggled at that thought. The salesman walked over in front of them. “My first customers, Welcome young ladies.  I see my Magicians Hat has caught your eye.” Ivy nodded while Cloey spoke. “Yeah, it’s cool, but we don’t have enough money for it.” The salesman laughed, and shivers ran up both girl’s backs. His laugh sounded just like the villain in their favorite cartoon.  “Well, this must be your lucky day, girls. Since this is my grand opening, I’m having a half-price sale. That hat is only Ten dollars today and today only.” clapped and cheered. “Yah! I have enough.” The salesman frowned  “Now, Chloe, that wouldn’t be right to sale it to you and not to sale Ivy anything; after all, she found my shop for you.” Ivy smiled. She had just been thinking that very thing. Chloe pouted. “But she doesn’t have enough money. I do!” “Well, I tell you what. Both of you give me five dollars, and then you can both share the hat. How does that sound?” Both girls looked at each other and smiled as they handed the man their five dollars each. With a flourish, he took their money and handed them the Top Hat. “Now, you both be careful with that hat. Its magic is strong.” Both girls giggled. What fun it was to pretend that magic was real. They waved to the salesman as he scampered out of the store.  They hopped on their bicycles and started towards home. They stopped at the corner to cross the street and heard a loud poof. They looked back at the Magic Shop only to find an empty storefront just like the day before!  The two girls started peddling as fast as they could towards home. The disappearance of the store had scared them both. After all, magic was pretended. Once in Ivy’s room, they sat looking at their Magic Hat. “, magic isn’t real, is it?” Chloe looked at Ivy, then looked at their Top Hat. “Only one way to find out.” She waved her hands over the top hat and yelled, “Abracadabra!!” Both girls jumped in fright at the hat tipped over, and out hopped two black rabbits.           By JR Slicer            January 4, 2015

SMART HOUSE. Complete

Simone Foster attempts to gain the attention of her husband Preston, asking if he’d like some milk or sugar for his tea. He was leaning over his shoulder, kissing the left side of his cheek. Saying I can’t believe that after five years we’re looking for our own house. He was kissing Preston again, this time on his lips as her long bright red hair tossed his shoulder. You smell nice, Preston said as he inhales in the essence of her long red curls. With an inward sigh, Simone leaning in, kissing her overachieving doctor husband. She got close enough so that Preston could feel the heat and curves of her upper body. He was pulling away with a teasing smile and wink. Not now we need a home before children. Besides, you have to be at the hospital, and I have an interview for an assistant and a lecture on government control of the private sector. He was rolling his libel eyes, saying yeah, and sipping the earl gray.

Watching her walk up to the upper level of the townhouse they have rented since before they exchanging of their vows just under five years ago,


Townhouses. Simone often thought of how nice it was there, with the pool and gym with all the amenities. All the hot bodies, both male and female. Plenty of people to chose from, if you did have ideas

****

But deep in her heart Simone know she had everything she ever wanted. But the old crazy cat lady to the right and to the left Jacque, who’s cooking, you could smell through the walls and vents. The cats and obnoxious French food smells had taken their toll on both Preston and Simon.

****

Walking across campus at West Virginia State University, Simone looked at her phone. In bold red letters was Patricia. Answering saying Hi. Hey, Simone, this is Patricia over here at Tech Real Estate Offices. I have a place that just came on the market that id like you and your husband to see this evening. Simone’s heart guggled with a pump of excitement. She was catching her breath, saying that Preston wouldn’t be able to make it this evening, Agreeing to meet Patricia at six-thirty on Hudson Avenue. Putting her candy apple red OUTBACK into drive, tapping her finger on the staring wheel, saying, call Preston’s office. Hey, Hannah, Simone would tell Pres that I have a meeting with the realtor around six, and I’ll let him know how it goes. Ask him not to be too late; I hate going to bed alone—Hannah is learning why Preston was sometimes a bit late.

***

Hannah’s light caramel skin tone. With her long spiral curls that had gold and red highlights. She knew it would only be a matter of time till she and Preston would be together, but this time, it would be forever.

Will do Simone, so the house hunting is going good asked Hannah? It’s going well, Hannah. Turning on to Hudson Avenue, almost halfway down the avenue, Simone spotted Patricia standing in a yard, looking at her tablet. Looking up, Patricia smiled, waving at Simone pointing into the driveway. Greeting each other, Simone said how much she liked the marigolds and Boston terms and how they stood out from the houses to their gray painted frame, the stone rainscaping that ran beside the spacious driveway to the street.

I must tell you Ms, Foster; this house has a fully equipped kitchen. I fact, the entire house is fully automated with artificial intelligence. The previous owners call her Sophia.

*****

As she puts her hand on the black chrome box, then unlocking and turn the doorknob, Patricia winks at Simone, saying, wait till you see this. She was opening the door and walking into the spacious living room. “GOOD MORNING” Patricia spreads her hands in the air. Good morning Sophia, it’s me, Patricia. Out of the walls came a female voice, WELL, HELLO PATRICIA. MAY I ASK WHO YOUR FRIEND IS? Sophia is Samone, holding Simone’s arm as if she was introducing Simone to a natural person. WELL, GOOD MORNING SIMONE. Smiling with a shocked and puzzled look on her face saying Hello house slowly.

A HAHA came from the interior SIMONE; YOU MAY CALL ME SOPHIA. MAY I SCAN YOU TO GET TO KNOW YOU BETTER? Sure, I guess Simone said with a touch of fear in her voice.

OK, I AM FINISHED,

Pointing at the three cameras on the wall. Patricia said to “talk about a security system.”

She opened the closet door just to the left before the two steps up from the living room floor. Opening the double doors, this is Sophia. There was nothing but wires, black boxes, red and green lights. The brains of the house, she is a plus. They say that Sophia can sense if there is a fire, glass being broke from the window if something is left open, and she can, out of somewhere comes. No, PATRICIA WAS GOING TO SAY READ YOUR MIND AND FINISH YOUR SENTENCES. I’M NO DIFFERENT FROM YOUR T.V OR YOUR SMARTPHONE. I REMIND YOU OF EVERYTHING TO HELP YOU LIVING A HAPPY, FULLER LIFE. SPEAKING OF SMARTPHONE, SIMONE YOUR ABOUT TO GET A CELLPHONE CALL FROM PRESTON.

Semone’s phone rings. Hey, honey. Yeah, I just got here. Patricia is showing me the house now. It’s lovely. I can see this house has, well, has its kind of personality, winking at Patricia. Ok, we will talk later. Love you too. Bye.

I’m not for sure what he will think about a computerized house, though. I’m sure he will like Sophia after a few days.

The main room here has fully furnished with an HV vacuum built into each room; hook the vacuum to the outlet, hit clean, and the house practically cleans itself. Moving into the hallway, Patricia explains the hallway is the only spot in the house that Sophia does not fully support. It’s a quiet place. Walking into the fully equipped kitchen, Patricia points to the fifteen-inch screen above the kitchen’s stone island. Saying you could read any cookbook or recipe or catch the news or talk show while performing any cooking task. Pointing out the high-tech features of the refrigerator and stove As Patricia points out the small brick oven that sat right of the conventional oven. Simone likes the two iron chandeliers that hung in the hallway, saying It gave a mid-eval feel to the hall and the mahogany paneling giving it an even darker feel.

Sophia even lets you know if the fur babies need feed. Yes, I do. I can ever order the food for you ahead of time. The typical electronic buzz came from Simone’s bag.

*****

Ms. Foster, this is David Jeffers from West Federal Credit. Your and your husband’s loan request for a home loan is approved. So the two of you can start house hunting. Well, Mr.Jeffers, myself, and Preston have been looking at a house we are interested in which you are interested. That sounds wonderful; we can start the paperwork.

******

I’m glad you liked the house as much as I did. And I think Sophia likes us too, as Simone pats her two-month belly bump. Simone shook her head so slightly, thinking, Did I hear that. Another whisper, yes. I DON’T THINK HE LIKES ME, WE GIRLS NEED TO TOGETHER. GO INTO THE KITCHEN SIMONE

HOW ABOUT A CUP OF ONE OF YOUR FAVORITE COFFEES? I HAVE IT BREWING IN THE KITCHEN. Touring from the stairs and walking in the kitchen, The table sat to the door next to the vast bay window,

******

The Keurig beeped once. NOW THE TWO OF US ARE ALONE. SIMONE, YOU AND PRESTON HAVE LIVED HERE FOR ABOUT SIX MONTHS. BOTH OF YOU SEEM TO BE MORE AGGRESSIVELY IN LOVE NOW THEM THEN. Yeah, we are even happier now. But it seems like his patients and office are claiming more of his time.

*****

AH-AH comes from the screen mounted on a mahogany shelf. I’M SENSING YOU STILL FEEL A LITTLE EERY TALKING TO ME, BUT SIMONE, THE THREE OF US WILL BE HERE TOGETHER. OR YOU AND PRESTON LEAVE, WHICH I DO NOT WANT TO HAPPEN, OR SOMETHING HAPPENS TO THE HOUSE. I WILL DO MY ABSOLUTE BEST, BUT WE ALL NEED TO KEEP OUR COMMENTS, THOUGHTS TOGETHER AS IF WE ARE A FAMILY. SIMONE, I SENSE YOU ARE GETTING TIRED. GO TO SLEEP, AND ILL KEEP PRESTON AND YOUR HOME SAFE. Pulling her long red hair into what she calls her bedtime bun—pulling the lime green sheet up to her shoulders. The light goes out, the emptiness of the room. The one corner light comes on as it dims. GOOD NIGHT MS. FROSTER. GOOD NIGHT SOPHIA.

****

As the alarm went off, Simone sighed not this early, Sophia. It’s a Saturday and eight in the morning. Sophia said SIMONE; YOU SOUND LIKE A EIGHT-YEAR-OLD REFUSING TO GET UP FOR SCHOOL. BUT VERY WELL. The room and house was silent. The inter-house was. Simone woke in a panic seeing the clock said ten thirty-three and rushing down for coffee. Simone and Preston stop in passing for a passing kiss in the stone-walled hall next to the kitchen. Grabbing each other, still embracing each other, locked in a kiss. Preston barely bites Simone’s lower lip, causing her to drop her book to the hallway floor. Gasping to breathe, Preston pressed his beautiful redheaded wife to the cold stone wall.

Where did that come from? Smiling. Simone, said smiling Has Simone caught her breath? Picking up her latest book. (RED SUMMER PASSION). Just letting you know that I love you as Preston turns to the stairs. Pouring her cup of what she considers her morning cup of Joe. Simone felt the passion starting to calm down to a steady heartbeat. From the kitchen come to Sophia”s A.I. voice come Ms. Foster. I AM SENSING A FAST HEARTBEAT, MORE THAN NORMAL. DO YOU NEED MEDICAL ATTENTION. Sipping the coffee, Simone says No, thank you. With a slight pulse, Preston and I were talking for a minute. Too embarrassing to admit what she was feeling to Sophia, that she was getting aroused in a bit of passion. How do you tell a computer that? With a deep short chuckle. I’ve got to be going crazy, or this house is making me think she is real. OL, I AM REAL, SIMONE, VERY REAL.

*****

CHRISTMAS WITH BIGFOOT

Shawnette and Dillon sat in front of the fireplace at their grandmother’s house one snowy Christmas week as grandma handed them some hot cocoa. Abbie settled into her chair next to the fire.

Grandma Abbie start is saying we all have Christmas memories, some good, some bad, and some just sort of scary  This is mine.

I was about seven years old when we went to spend our Christmas vacation. At my grandma,  Goodall’s up in Elkins, West Virginia. You see, grandma and grandpa had an old cabin in the Allegheny Mountains, a place called Dolly Sods.

It seemed like my daddy (your grandpa) drove forever. I remember it was snowing almost the whole trip as daddy drove through the city. I was in awe of all the Christmas lights and trees.  It was so pretty; I wish you two could see have seen it. A lot of things have changed. Grandma stopped sipping on her hot Coco once again.  Grandma and Grandpa decorated the cabin so pretty it was delightful to my little eyes.  Grandma and I made cookies and all kinds of sweet stuff.   For some reason why mommy and daddy had to go back home for some sort of emergency or something.  So grandpa took me out in the field behind the old  Christmas cabin.  In the area just behind the large kitchen window where grandma watched us. Grandpa pointed to the edge of their yard to a line of Christmas trees without decorations or lights. They were just covered in snow, lots of snow. Grandpa said never to go there that there was all kinds of magic beyond those trees, excellent and scary things with animalstoo. So do not go beyond those trees. As I recall, there were about ten trees. It was really dark at the line of trees. I played in the snow all week. I saw a big deer a few times that week. It looked like one of Santa’s reindeer. One morning he was looking in that window beside the bed. I thought he was watching me for Santa.

Grandma always said all those sounds coming from behind the trees. Where animals are talking to each other, I told her that they were telling Santa Claus where I was and what I was doing. Grandma just hummed, smiling. Grandpa and I went out to bring firewood in. A noise came from the trees. It sounded like someone playing horn and a dog barking. Grandpa laughed, grabbing my belly, saying to be good or whatever that was would get me. It made me giggle. Looking over grandpa’s shoulder, there was Santa’s reindeer and something that looked like a monkey. It was taller than I was, even tall than daddy and grandpa. I told grandma as she tucked me into bed; grandma said it was just my childhood imagination. Kissing my forehead and closing the bedroom behind her.

I was watching the moonshine through the slates of the rooms window. I heard that sound again. But this time, it was closer. I looked out and seen it again, but this time it looked smaller. Like me, a kid. I got up and seen grandpa sleeping on the couch watching television, and grandma was reading her Bible at the table in the kitchen, she always read it at night. Putting on my boots and gloves, I snuck out the back door. Walking to the edge of the trees, I saw it; i’d never saw anything like that before. I walked up to whatever it was, patting its shoulder. Turning around, it was covered in hair, like my dog Groucho. Then it said hello, Abigail, my name is Cruty. Us girls need to keep each other safe. Would you like to meet my mom and dad. she took my hand, asking me to follow her. It was like talking to my friends at school.

The snow was getting deep when we saw the mouth of a cave. Pulling my hand saying come on, this is where I live.

****

Abigail your lunch is ready, come on. Before it gets cold. Grandma yelled from the back porch of the Christmas cabin.

Cruty and I enter the opening of the cave. Cruty yelled, which sounded like nothing heard. But for some reason, I understood what she said was, grandma Abbie leans in towards us, sipping her cocoa. I understood her say, Mom, I’m here and I have a new friend.

COVID NURSE. complete

Code Blue, Code Blue Elliott heard from the fifth-floor hallway of Mercy General Hospital. Elliott had been to Mercy four times since the worldwide pandemic started ten years ago. Trying to keep an eye on all the chaos going on in the world, channel  fives Lisa Kidman was making it sound as she had everyday since the world had gone sideways.

Saying if I were you, Mr.Hostetler, I’d read it carefully. This is Elijah’s last offer. I was turning and rushing out, nearly knocking a nurse to the floor.  Her portable computer and workstation spin across the floor as they crashed into the wall. As Elliott gets up to help, another nurse rushes to her aid.  Hi, I’m Emily from the ER. As Aerial composes herself. I’m Aerial thanks for the help. I wonder what the hell his problem is. Covering her mouth, saying, oops, I’m sorry; I forgot I was at work for a minute looking at Emily and Elliott Hostetler. Both Aerial and Elliott laughed.  Elliott said, that’s my boss’s dad’s lawyer. I’m trying to sue both and their company.

Aerial finished his vitals, fluffing Elliott’s pillow and filling his water.  Adjusting a few items on the hospital side table and saying my name is Aerial and I’ll be your nurse for the next twelve hours. Please don’t hesitate to ring for me, as she handed him the paging cord.

Hey, there, I’m from the Emergency Department, and my name is Emily. You were a patient down there a few years ago, not long after the whole Covid thing started.  I just came up to check on you up here; you’re a legend down there in the E.R. department. It seems like you’ve captivated some attention up here as well.

It looks like your not sure what I’m saying, patting Elliott’s arm. Tell you what my shift is over at elven. How about I bring you something to eat, something other than this stuff Mercy likes to call food.

  ******

This the fourth time today.  Laughing Elliott said I’m trying to be funny looking at nurse Aerial. With a soft hum, Nurse Aerial says she’s seen funnier things down in the morgue.  Now that’s funny said Aerial. All your vitals are good.  You must be a fortunate man. From what I’ve heard, you have had a brush or two with the other side—now surviving an  accident. You’re pretty lucky.  Aerial winked and asked if he was some sort of spy or muscle for a mob boss. Just continue to get some rest, and I’ll see you tomorrow.

Starring out the hospital window, Elliott starts to question his life and this choices he had made, especially since the whole pandemic started.   Hey, there your awake. As Emily walks in carrying a brown paper bag that said PINE STREET DELI.

I hope you enjoy this, this is one of my favorite sandwiches from Pine Street.  Handing a foil covered sandwich to Elliott. Pulling a bottle of soda out of her purse.  Unwrapping the sandwich. Elliott said he loved Philly’s.

So nurse Emily tells me how we know each other.  I’m not too sure that I remember you, sorry for that.

It was Halloween night the year the pandemic started. Emily stated telling Elliott. It was your standard night. A stabbing, car accidents, people coming in for sniffles. It was about eleven-thirty.  When we got a call  saying that they had a stroke victim with apparent symptoms of the COVID-19 virus. So the five of us went into gear when the medic said that the patient had stopped breathing and with a faint heartbeat.

I stood in trauma bay four as you were brought in.   Doctor Mansfield with us started trying to save you from dying and bringing you back to a normal heart and breathing rhythm. As soon as the Doctor started to call your time of death.  You grabbed my arm screaming for help, she’s chasing me, she’s chasing me.

With suddle yet a considered smile, asking Elliot if he remembers anything.   All I remember is being chased by a girl and a tall black man singing and dancing around a Christmas tree. A tall guy pushing my head to the ground.

Emily looked at the floor deep in thought.  We Elliott you did put up a good fight while we were trying to intubate you. You would not let go of the arm till you were put under.  As far as it goes I do believe there a plastic or rubber tree in front of your room.   The tall guy would have been the doctor.   And singing the probably be the janitor Dwayne, that man started singing Christmas song early to early if you ask me.   But as far as you being chased it must have been the paramedics.  If I recall both were female.   I was also one of the nurses that took you up to the Intensive Care Unit.  

Replying to Emily that he remembers waking up to an older shaving him.  Not sure who that would have been. Elliott said just my luck, but I think we talked about the show Law and Order.  

Good Morning Aerial said as she entered room 562. Doc. Edens thinks we can get rid of the  IVs. Bandaging his arm, Aerial asked if he’d like to be cleaned up or take a shower as long as he was careful. 

It’s a nice warm day out there. How about a walk, or I’ll walk you ride patting a wheelchair.  As Emily wheeled Elliott out of Mercy General. A warm breeze hit them as they turned onto the hospital’s river patio.  So, may I ask what the reason for the interest in me is. 

  Well, the minute I saw you after you came too, I just knew I had to kiss you. Elliot laughed, asking. Isn’t there a rule about nurses and their patients?  There is, but you are no longer my patient. Leaning in, kissing Elliot on the lips and a small flick of her tongue meeting his and taking the breath of both of them. Emily looked down, catching her breath, feeling the heat of either passion or embarrassment.  Gripping Elliot’s hand, say I’ll get some for us to drink. Looking at Elliott, she knew she had more than just one kiss. Elliott watched the water flow. He knew that Emily was something special.

Elliott took a deep sigh; I was in research and development for the Breedlove Corporation. They mainly invest time, energy, resources in other countries. Mr. Breedlove sent me to Wuhan, China, for a research project.  I asked my wife to accompany me along with four others. One of which was Mr. Breedlove’s wife.

Not long into our trip. Nancy and my wife started getting sick, so both Nancy and Courtney came back to America.   Shortly before our return to the United States, both Nancy and my wife had been brought here to Mercy General Hospital. With breathing and flu systems.  After nearly twenty years of marriage, she really didn’t care who I was with, what I was doing, or when id be home. As long as I brought home a paycheck, she was fine. You can say we put on appearance for appearance’s sake.

Within two weeks the world was heading into a full-blown pandemic.  Within a month I started feeling sick. But by then my wife and Ms.Breedlove were dead.  That jackass Breedlove blamed me for Nancy’s death.    After the security guard found my wife dead in our front yard from 6 gunshot wounds. I knew Breedlove had, had her killed.

After he fired me of embezzlement and selling a business idea to the companies rival. I’ve been trying to get him on false termination. I once again caught the virus, and I guess that’s where we met.

   Your dinner is severed said a nurse. Elliott chuckled asking if it looked better than breakfast did. Lifting the plastic lid, Elliott says I think I’ll pass to what looked like a cross between something Chinese and dog food on a bed of something that looks like rice but with a reddish-orange color.

Elliott hadn’t seen Emily in a day or two. A tall redheaded woman walked into Elliot’s room. She sat in our briefcase on the foot of the bed. She was introducing herself as Sahara Douglas of the Douglas and Douglas law firm. I’m here to inform you of your case, and we have settled.  Here is a check for seventy-five million and if you’d sign here and here. Our business is done, and by the way, you now have twenty-five percent of the company.  Turning around at the door, she said congratulations; you’re a wealthy man.

The good news is the doctors say you can go home as soon as tomorrow afternoon as long as you follow his orders.                         He wants you to pursue physical therapy and have someone to aid you till you are a hundred percent.  Smiling Aerial mentioned that she’d bet his wife would be happy to get you back home.  I’m no longer married. Ah, Ah, my wife passed away two years ago of a COVID-related death if you would happen to need anything or just someone to talk to, handing Elliot a blue post-it note and saying Aerial Hudson 533-7927. You have been an excellent patient. Elliot looked at the post-it again. Saying he’d keep that in mind. As she left, Elliott thought how sexy he thought she looked, just a bit young for a forty-seven-year-old man.  Aerial couldn’t be more than thirty. 

I hear you had some good news today. So going home tomorrow, are we.  Smiling Elliot, you bet. I can’t wait for a beer and hot tub.

Standing by the hospital window Emily sighs saying she thinks maybe Elliott should stay with her. Turning around leaning with her back to the window. You know Elliott I think you do need some sort of in-home care or you could come to my place. I have a magnificent view of the city skyline.

Looking out over the city Elliott tells Emily how beautiful her top-floor apartment is.  Elliot curiously asks Emily where he’d be sleeping. Well, Emily said leaning in and giving Elliot a kiss that sent both of their blood boilings. Or you can have the fold-out and watch the city all night. I’m sure you’ll make the right decision by rubbing Elliott’s upper thigh. Kissing him once again with even more fire than the first. That was something Elliott and Emily haven’t felt in a long, long time.

As soon Elliott was on his feet, he suggested that he return home. Begging for a couple more nights. Elliott agreed knowing fully well what she meant. As the fire in the fireplace crackled, shearing their third glass of wine. Emily learned in for just a few more kisses, Elliott reach for the buttons on her blouse.  

Waking to the sound of thunder. Emily woke Elliott saying she was lonely, and the storm woke her, peeling off her shirt, with nothing else on.  Both the fireplace fire and fire on the couch roared through the night.

Looking at the date on his smartwatch. Elliott had realized it had been nine months since he had left Mercy General Hospital. Between Emily’s mid-city penthouse and his own mountain cabin. He was almost back to normal. Elliott took a sip of brandy. Looking at his cell was a text saying “Because of the snowstorm I’m pulling a douple her in the ER.  See you soon”. Elliott looked out the cabin window, watching the snow falling Elliott picked up the phone punching 533-7927.

The winter sun shines through the window. As the morning turned afternoon, the snow continued to fall. The lights from the Christmas tree softened the harshness of the falling snow.

Elliott was leaning back in the hot tube as she tosses her top at Elliott.  Streping into the streaming water, climbing onto Elliot’s lap. As both Elliott and Aerial make passionately make love.

The door opens to both of their surprise. There stands Emily; the cold winter wind and snow fallow her into the cabin.  Aerial jumps off Elliott’s lap.  Showing everything that she had, including her red Christmas panties. Grabbing Aerials long red hair and throwing her into the snow.

Emily turned, ready to let all of hell loose on Elliott. Elliott is standing there with nothing but a mischievously naughty and a sorry smile. Emily, how wonderful it felt to be with Elliott. Ascending down into the streaming water, gasping Elliott, pulling him back down into the water. Kissing and forcefully asking him never to see her again. Saying she is young enough to be your daughter of at least your younger sister. Kissing Emily back, saying I’ll try. She was smiling at Elliott, saying that a good boy. Grabbing where Aerial had sat moments ago.

As Aerial watched the two, wishing it was her instead.

Elliott grabbed a blanket off of the couch and letting Aerial in, sitting her in front of the fire. Telling Aerial he was sorry, and it was his fault.

Aerial wakes to the sound of Good Morning. As Emily hands her a cup of coffee and a plate of breakfast. Whispering me

Smiling kissing Aerial on her morning lips. Saying see you at the hospital. Sitting next to the blue and red Christmas tree Emily played with her so-called spinach casserole. Excuse me, may I sit here. Smiling sure I guess. Still toying with her food.

Hello, my name is Daniel Bryan; I’m new here at Mercy. She was extending her hand to meet his. There was a long pause as Daniel sat, saying he’d just started in the cardiac unit. Really you’re a cardiologist? No, I’m a cardiac nurse. However, I’m am still going to medical school. Impressive, Emily said as Aerial approached the table. Emily introduced Aerial as a nurse in the Intensive Care Unit, continuing saying that she worked in the Emergency Room.

Elliott sat comfortably in his new SUV outside of Laroys French Bistro. Aerial pecks on the window of the SUV, smiling. Opening the door, kissing Aerial saying that it has been too long since they’ve been together. Yeah over a year, returning the kiss.

Looking at her phone there’s a text message saying DONE all in capital letters. Aerial kisses Elliott, say she had a very important appointment she absolutely had to be at. Elliott downs his seventh Guinness Dark. Tipping the brunette a hundred dollars.

Yes, sweetness, I’m on my way. Pick you up at the emergency room doors. By the way Emily I brought you a little something. Looking at the red swede box he held in his hand. Wondering Elliott thought how much longer could he get away with seeing Aerial behind Emily’s back. Especially when he was going to ask Emily to marry him tonight.

Listening to the local 80’s station turning left to go down Tyler Mountain to go to the hospital. Ready to slow halfway down Tyler Mountain, The SUV wouldn’t stop going off the edge dropping to the valley below.

As two champion glasses clink. A voice call across the overhead This is your captain James Danforth. Your fight should arrive in Dublin, Ireland on time. Another click Emily said I can’t believe we got away with it. Kissing Daniel Emily laughed look at the diamond ring Elliott was holding as the paramedics found him. Moments later Emily gets a text saying HE’S ALIVE.

Detective

It was one of those days that comes along in early fall, warm but not too warm, bright but not too bright. It should feel like fall. It didn’t fit. Nothing fit anymore. COVID was walking the streets and I was packin’. I carried a mask and some hand sanitizer. A man can’t be too careful.

It was noon and a man needs something to tide him over. I walked into my neighborhood joint. The usual characters were standing by the wall and we nodded. That’s what passes for banter in the COVID times. The girl behind the bar was cheerful… too cheerful. I ordered my usual: a chipotle chicken club on oatmeal. I was in no mood for surprises. I’d had too many of them lately. As I paid my tab, I noticed the sheet of paper taped to the bar. It read, “The Little Detective Agency. Every case $3.” It was a local firm and they worked cheap. I like cheap.

I called and made an appointment. They sounded eager and it made me nervous.

When I got to the office the door was open. I didn’t know if that was a good sign. I walked in and they were waiting for me. Their office was comfortable, not too sparse. It was their parent’s living room. Their desk was unfolded and neat, maybe too neat. Maybe they needed the case. They sat beside each other with their hands on the desk where I could see them. That was a good sign, no surprises that way. They looked young, too young, maybe 10, with 4 years in the business. They met me with hardened stares.

They spoke in short monotone sentences. “Mr. Words?”

“That’s me. Just Words.”

“Nice to meet you, Mr. Words. What can we do for you?”

“It’s my dog.”

“Your dog?”

“Yes. I think she’s cheating on me.”

“Cheating? Like, playing poker?”

“No. I think she’s getting petted by someone else.”

“We see. What do you want us to do about it?”

“I want you to follow her, check her out. See whose petting her and when.”

“Then what?”

“Just tell me. I’ll take it from there.”

They looked at each other uncomfortably. “We aren’t in the business of breaking the law, Mr. Words. If you’re planning some kind of revenge, we won’t be a part of it.”

I’d seen this before. I’d pay them for the information, but they wanted no part if it got messy. Typical gumshoes. I could see the gum on the soles of their shoes. Their feet didn’t reach the ground. It looked like Dubble Bubble. Bad form. I liked it.

“No revenge. I just need to know.”

They exchanged knowing glances. I guess they decided I was legit.

“Do you have a current picture of her?”

“Better than that. She’s waiting outside.”

“We understand. Will you bring her in?”

Without turning, I called out, “Penny! Come in here!”

I heard the click click click as she hurried into the room. The doll knew how to make an entrance.

They liked what they saw and for an instant there was something in their faces that bothered me. Penny has that effect. She’s a looker. They nodded to each other.

“Come here, Penny! Here girl! Good girl!”

She left my side in a flash without even a glance in my direction. No hesitation. She knew what she wanted, and she wanted them. She trotted around the desk like she belonged there. Maybe she did. Dames are like that.

They call themselves professionals! They were as bad as all the others. They both started petting Penny, my Penny, like she belonged to them. They were giddy as schoolgirls. Well, they probably were schoolgirls. Penny responded and was lapping it up. She couldn’t get enough of what they had to offer. That bitch! She buried her face in their laps. She was betraying me. A man should never have to watch that sort of thing.

Now I knew it was true. Penny was a flirt, and she couldn’t be trusted. They wanted her and she was willing to play. I guess I had my answer.

The detectives composed themselves and turned to face me. “I think we have the information you were seeking.”

Typical gumshoes. They were in it up to their necks and still they were going to charge me for the information.

“That’ll be $3, Mr. Words.”

“Here’s $6. I need to know if she gets on the furniture when I’m gone.”

SPINSTER

SPINSTER 1

I’m telling you under the circumstances you’re doing the right thing Julie” her friend said to her as they sat sipping their coffee.

“I know you’re right Lauren, but it’s so difficult. After all these years, heck my whole life really. I’m thirty seven years old and I’ve never made an adult decision on my own. Now I have to decide everything for myself and I’m so overwhelmed.”

“I know Jules, I know, but truthfully you should have been more independent earlier. I’m not saying you should have abandoned her for God’s sake, you just should have spread your wings a tiny bit. She didn’t do you any favors by “protecting” you from the world, she just isolated you to keep you with her all these years. Now she’s gone and in some ways you’re almost helpless.”

“Mother meant well Lauren and she did it out of love no matter what you think. After what happened in her marriage she just was doing what she thought was best for me so I didn’t get hurt like she did. That’s why she moved us from the city to a nice small town so I could have a safe life here.”

“Listen I’m glad you moved to Juneberry or I’d never have met you. I’m just saying you have to live life not seal yourself up in plastic to avoid anything bad from happening to you. That’s not living, it’s just existing.”

“Well be that as it may I have started to move forward some. I left a notice on the bulletin board at the supermarket as well as one at the library and the church. Plus I left my cellphone number as the contact number. Hopefully I’ll get a reply from someone who isn’t afraid of hard work.”

“Wow I’m impressed and to think that a little over a year ago I had to almost force you to get a cell and join the twenty first century.”

Julie let out a tiny laugh and she smiled before replying to her younger friend.

“Yes you were right there as well but I told you that soon after I first got it smartypants.”

Lauren was still thinking of a reply when the bell rang announcing that their break was over and the next class would soon be starting. The two high school teachers exited the faculty lounge and with a friendly goodbye they headed in separate directions for their respective classrooms.

Ten minutes later Julie was going over her review of the Romantic poets for the upcoming test on Friday. She’d always favored giving tests on that day to help her students remain focused on their studies the whole week. For the most part they seemed to be paying attention though no doubt some were bored to tears and if she weren’t mistaken Rachel Hughes was playing with her phone, no doubt the pretty cheerleader was texting someone. Well as long as she sat in the back quietly and didn’t bother anyone else then Julie would just ignore her.

Of course she should warn her or even give her detention but Julie was too softhearted for that and truth be told that girl had a way of making her feel two inches tall. There would be times where she would be conversing with her friends, all popular, pretty girls like herself, and she would make some mocking veiled comment that was obviously about Julie who would be within earshot.

Julie tried not to take it personally as Rachel was indiscriminate in her insults and everyone but her own circle of friends or ‘hot guys’ would be subject to her withering comments. After all Julie was used to it and had received such treatment since she was a student in the same school from her own classmates who’d openly mocked her frumpy wardrobe and lack of social skills.

A few hours later Julie was in the parking lot saying good night to Lauren.

“Are you sure you don’t want to come along Jules? You know you’re always welcome.”

“No I don’t want to be a third wheel Lauren. You and Jeff enjoy yourselves. Besides I have papers to grade and in case someone replies to my ad I really should start to prep things so work can begin.”

“All work and no play makes Julie a dull girl and you know if you just give the word Jeff could arrange for one of his co-workers to come as well so we’d be a foursome.”

“No I’d just bore him as school is all I know how to talk about. But have a good time and I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Lauren made a grimace at her friend’s reply. She had been trying so hard to break her out of her shell as well as away from that mausoleum she called a home. Well Rome wasn’t built in a day and in the past year progress had been made but Lauren had hoped now that Julie was alone she might hasten the process.

“Okay my dear be that way if you want. But if Jeff’s friends are unacceptable what about one of the men from your church?”

“Now that’s funny Lauren. Let me tell you that I’m like one of the youngbloods there. There are no single men within ten years of my age. There’s a couple of elderly widowers and a handful of men far too young for me. So that idea though no doubt well intentioned is going nowhere.”

“Well maybe one of the young studs…” Lauren began but she stopped when she saw the shocked expression on her friend’s face. “Okay fine Miss Goody Two Shoes and I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Julie climbed behind the wheel of her little Honda Civic and started the ignition. She waved to Lauren as she pulled from her parking space and drove off. Fifteen minutes later she was parked in her driveway and getting out. Before she got halfway to the door a gray ball of fur streaked towards her legs coming from the overgrown hedge that bordered her and her neighbor’s yard. As Julie proceeded to the front door the feline rubbed against her ankles affectionately.

“Hello to you Emily. Did you have a nice day sleeping in the sun and stalking prey?”

Julie spoke from first hand knowledge as the little furball had often deposited ‘little gifts’ of torn and bloody rodents and birds for her mistress and seemed to enjoy the discomfort they provoked. Julie unlocked the front door and followed Emily in, picking up the mail on the floor from beneath the slot. Julie deposited both the mail and her bag on a table and headed to the kitchen with Emily eagerly trailing.

The cat food rattled against the dish as Julie poured some in before placing it on the floor mat near the sink and then added some fresh water to the other bowl. Julie then headed upstairs so she could change from her schoolmarm clothes. She entered her bedroom which hadn’t been updated since before she had returned from college. Her high necked white button down blouse was the first thing she removed then she unzipped and slipped out of her long pale blue skirt leaving her in her plain and modest white undergarments.

When she reached for a sweatshirt her eye caught her reflection in the mirror. Julie stopped for a moment and studied her reflection. She saw a pretty woman wearing no makeup except for a trace of pink lipstick staring back at her. There were a few very faint lines by the corners of her big brown eyes but good genes and clean living made her appear years younger, thirty at the most.

On a whim she reached back and unhooked her bra and slid it from her shoulders exposing her small perfectly shaped bosom. They were pert and slightly upturned topped with pink nipples. Julie turned one way then the other as she dispassionately took in her appearance. She had always been tall and slim, a skinny Minnie her mother always said in a pitying manner, but Julie had remained the same dress size since college while many of the girls she’d attended school with had become larger the older they got. In fact some of her fellow students now had children whom she taught and it gave her a tiny bit of pleasure to see how the popular crowd hadn’t aged quite so well though she felt guilty about her reaction. Not quite what a good Christian should feel but some of them had been so cruel to her.

Ok She slid the sweatshirt over her long brown hair as she pulled it on. It felt nice against her bare nipples but she tried to put that out of her mind, no time for such thoughts now. Maybe if she had time later after taking care of things first she could treat herself later. But first she had work to do. As she pulled sweats on she couldn’t help but notice that her walking and stair climbing was paying off.

At school she would often walk the stairs between classes and there were times she would spend a free period doing that or walking around the track in good weather. Julie had realized that as she got older she had to do something or nature would take its toll so she had started an exercise regimen. As of yet she hadn’t even confided in Lauren that she was doing it but Julie had noticed that from her calves all the way to her buns she was firming up. Not that there was anyone, meaning a man, to notice and appreciate her hard work.

‘Hold on Julie, stop feeling sorry for yourself. There are plenty of people worse off than you. You should be grateful for all your blessings’ she chided herself.

Next she twisted her long locks and slipped a scrunchy over her hair leaving it in a ponytail so it would be out of her face. A pair of sneakers completed her outfit and then she headed up to the attic. The attic had been cluttered since she could remember but if she was going to get the house in order she had to tackle it as well. A few hours later Julie was dirty and sweaty and her arms and back ached from her efforts but she’d made a dent she realized. She also knew that maybe she needed to add some upper body exercises to her regimen to balance things out because she was really feeling it from the work she’d done.

In the freezer she removed a Lean Cuisine frozen dinner which she popped in the microwave. She ate it while she graded papers and she continued grading long after she was finished dinner. Finally a crick in her neck made her stop for the night and she slipped the papers in her bag and stood. Wearily she climbed the stairs after first checking that the doors were locked and turning off the lights.

Once the water was to the right temperature Julie stepped into the steaming shower. For the first five minutes she just let the water hit her right between her shoulder blades helping to loosen and relax her tired and sore muscles. Finally when she gained some relief she actually started to wash herself running the washcloth over her body. However when the rough material brushed against her sensitive nipple she felt a jolt that traveled all the way to between her legs.

From that moment on Julie hurried up and within five minutes was wrapping herself in her terrycloth robe. She padded back to her room and after slipping her flannel nightgown on slipped under the covers. She made a pretense of reading the book that sat on her nightstand at first but she knew what she needed. Putting the book down she reached to the bottom drawer and pulled out her laptop and turned it on. In a few minutes she was on a certain website – her guilty little secret that Lauren had told her about.

It was a triple-x adult site that had both videos, which she couldn’t bring herself to watch after witnessing the misogyny she had seen the one time she tried as well as erotic stories which were more to her liking. There were many that weren’t to her tastes due to non-existent writing skill or unpalatable themes but there were some hidden gems located there that really got her juices flowing. With pleasure she realized that one of her favorite female authors had just posted a story and she eagerly began to read.

It was a tale heavy on romance but with some very hot sex included and according to the author was based on true people and events. Whether that was true or not and Julie certainly had her doubts it turned her on without question. By the time the characters were naked in the barn making love Julie was very aroused herself. She shut the computer off and put it away before she pulled her nightgown up past her chest and lay back.

Her trembling fingers first lightly brushed her nipples sending signals to nerves across her body. Julie closed her eyes as she always did and let her imagination take over. In her mind she wasn’t alone but her mysterious lover was beside her. She had never pictured his face but she knew he was devastatingly handsome the way all literary romantic characters were. He had dark, thick hair and was tall of course and she could picture his body – muscular but not bulky and perfectly proportioned.

He existed only to bring her pleasure and he was good at his job. His strong yet gentle hand cupped her breast and squeezed it with just the right amount of pressure to stimulate without discomfort. As her passion grew his actions increased in intensity. A hand found its way between her legs and stroked her wet sex. Her legs involuntarily parted wider and Julie threw her head back and moaned softly as her juices flowed freely now. Both her breast and clit were being manipulated expertly and exactly as she preferred.

Her slim fingers slid into her moist furnace making her gasp as her thumb now circled her nub. Julie could feel herself getting close to release so she increased the tempo of her fingers pushing them deeper and faster. Her tunnel clung to them as they worked in and out making a sucking sound with each thrust.

Right when she reached the precipice her thumb and forefinger pinched her nipple as hard as she was able to. That touch of pain in combination with her fingers reaching as deep as they could go was more than enough to send her senses reeling. Julie bit her lip so hard that a drop of blood escaped and rolled to her cheek. She thrashed on the bed for a minute, her limbs writhing like serpents, as her climax overwhelmed her.

It took a couple of minutes before Julie opened her eyes revealing that she was back in her own room again and alone. She withdrew her fingers which were wet with her dew and pulled her nightgown back into place. Her breathing had also returned to normal by now and only her still flushed cheeks and satiated expression gave a clue of what had just happened. Julie switched off the table lamp and pulled the covers around herself. Emily had not appeared and Julie wished that she had as it would be nice to cuddle with something alive now. But that’s how cats were – if you wanted them then it was unlikely they’d appear.

Julie arrived a trifle early the next morning and after putting on sneakers she had climbed the stairs until her calves ached dully. If she got an opportunity she wanted to ask her friend Mrs. Deen who was a phys-ed teacher for some advice about some upper body exercises that might work for her. She could just imagine what her mother would have said about this if she’d still be alive. Obviously she wouldn’t have approved. Julie could hear Mother’s voice in her head saying so.

‘It is very unladylike to perspire especially when doing physical activity like exercise or labor. Perhaps for those who have no intellectual capacity it can be forgiven partially but I suspect even then it’s a sign of moral turpitude.’

However that had never prevented her from working Julie like a mule when it suited her. The number of times Julie had rubbed her hands raw scrubbing the wooden floors or doing garden work was beyond count. But there was no sense being bitter Julie thought as she headed to her classroom. The morning moved by quickly and before she knew it she was having lunch with Lauren.

So how have the monsters been behaving today?” Lauren asked.

“Don’t call them that, its not nice” Julie replied before letting out a tiny giggle.

“Oh come on you know its true, at least for some of them.”

“Most of my students are very nice and the rest are just misguided and in need of direction” Julie answered as she delicately nibbled on a corner of her tuna salad on whole wheat sandwich.

“Yeah okay but if you just had the class I did you’d be singing a different tune honey. Not only did I have to stop an argument before it became physical but one of the geniuses told me in response to a question that the Magna Carta was a sixties rock group.”

Julie couldn’t help but laugh at that tidbit but she still felt her friend was being too harsh.

“Lauren they are still kids and you are being a trifle too cynical I think. Well anyway how did last night go, did you have a good time?”

“Yes I did as a matter of fact, more than once in fact” Lauren told her before winking.

Julie put her hand over her face in mock embarrassment though by now she was used to such comments from her younger friend. It was that openness that had helped Lauren break Julie out of her shell if only partially.

“Well I’m happy for you.”

“Thanks and what about you, have an exciting night doing paperwork Jules?”

“I’ll have you know that I also got a lot accomplished organizing some things to help with the house.”

“How exciting. Speaking of that any responses to your notice?”

“No I haven’t and frankly I’m surprised. What with the economy so bad you’d figure I’d get a little interest but not one call.”

Lauren sat there with her brow furrowed which she often did when she was thinking before her expression changed.

“Don’t take this the wrong way Julie but is your phone even on? You have the habit of leaving it off for days at a time. More than once I’ve called it only to get your voicemail.”

With a sheepish look Julie opened her bag and rummaged around until she pulled her phone out. Unwilling to meet her friend’s eyes she took it from its case and turned it on. Once the screen went up Julie saw that she had three voicemails.

“Oops maybe I did get some responses and don’t you say you told me so” she told Lauren to cut her off at the pass.

Lauren just sat there with a smug expression as Julie went to her voicemail and listened.

“Hello my name is John Colt and I’m inquiring about the ad for work. I’m skilled in carpentry and I can certainly paint and move things. I’m competent at least in electrical and plumbing and I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty either. Hope to hear from you.”

The message concluded with him leaving his phone number and had been left the day before. There was something about the voice that stirred her memory but she couldn’t quite place it as the phone started to play the next message. This one came from an actual contractor whose business must be hurting if he was answering her ad but there was something about the way he spoke that she didn’t like. It was as if he sounded drunk and wasn’t even attempting to mask it. Finally the third message came on and with a start Julie heard it was the first caller again.

“Umm, hello this is John Colt again. Sorry for calling again but I was just wondering when I might be hearing from you. The thing is I just received an offer for a job but it’s from out of town so I need to make a decision. Thanks. Uh and by the way I could be wrong and if I am then I apologize but the ad said Miss Jones and I was curious if you’re the Miss Jones who taught an English class of mine. Either way hoping to hear from you soon.”

For a minute Julie was speechless. No wonder his voice and now his name seemed familiar to her. He had been in her class six or seven years ago and last she had heard he had moved out of town soon after graduating. Well he must be back she thought as memories from then came back to her.

“Hello earth to Julie, are you here or in space somewhere? And what are you smiling about?”

Suddenly Julie realized she was grinning like an idiot and quickly changed her expression to a more normal one.

“Sorry Lauren I was just thinking about something and how it really is a small world.”

“And what made you come to that conclusion, one of your messages?”

Julie nodded in assent to her friend’s query before speaking.

“One of the people calling about the work is a former student of mine if you can believe it.”

“Why not Julie, I don’t doubt that a large number of people in this town have been taught by you. It was only bad luck on my part that you didn’t teach me as well. So anyone that I know?”

“I’m not sure, he’d be younger than you by a few years. His name is John Colt.”

“Johnny Forty-five! You got to be kidding me Julie. Of course I know him, he and my younger sister used to run with the same crowd back in the day.”

“Johnny Forty-five?” Julie said with a puzzled expression on her face.

“Duh yeah. You know like a Colt .45 gun. I swear Julie sometimes I wonder about you. I remember he was quite the hottie back then. My sister and her friends drooled over him I can tell you that. Are you going to hire him?”

“I don’t know Lauren, I haven’t talked to him yet but I didn’t like the sound of the other applicant. I guess I’ll give him a call and we can discuss it.”

“Well if you’re going to meet with him give yourself a little time to fix yourself up first.”

“Lauren first of all I’m looking to hire him to do some work for me not for romance. Secondly he was my student and he’d be much too young for me even if…”

Lauren held her hand up to stop Julie from continuing and arched her eyebrow as she did.

“Let me tell you something. One – I saw your face when you were listening to his message and you didn’t seem to be considering his job qualifications. Secondly he’s not your student now and in case you haven’t heard Julie, older women/younger men is all the rage these days. Cougars and their cubs and all.”

As her friend went on Julie’s face turned as red as a beet and she cast her eyes down.

“I knew it, I knew when you were thinking about him earlier that something was going through your mind. Go on tell me Julie as you know I’ll get it out of you sooner or later.”

“It’s not like that Lauren, really. But you are right that he’s very good looking, I do remember him always wearing one of those black motorcycle jackets. And he is actually smart as well.”

“That’s a new one to me, I had no idea about that.”

“I doubt he advertised that fact, maybe it wasn’t cool for him to show that side of himself. I mean I don’t ever remember him raising his hand in class or volunteering an answer. But I graded his tests and he had a high average and there were a few times he answered an essay in such a manner that I couldn’t help but to be impressed with his mind. And we’re talking about poetry Lauren. No he is actually intelligent.”

“There you go then. We agree that he’s handsome and he’s also smart and knows poetry. Sounds perfect for a single friend of mine, she should call him.”

“You’re hopeless but I will call him – about the work.”

After saying that Julie sat in silence for a couple of minutes until Lauren spoke up.

“Well what are you waiting for? Oh I get it you don’t want to do it in front of me. No problem Jules I have things to do.”

Lauren rose to her feet as soon as she was finished speaking and picked up her bag from the table.

“Lauren you don’t have to go” she said but her friend just smiled as she headed for the exit.

Still having a little time remaining in her lunch period Julie swallowed hard then punched in the digits of John Colt’s number. She was ready to hang up after three rings when suddenly she heard his voice.

“Hello” it said and for a second Julie’s mouth wasn’t working. “Hello is anyone there?”

“Y-y-yes I’m sorry. Am I speaking with John Colt?”

“Yes you are and this is?”

“Hi John this is Miss Jones, Julie Jones returning your call. And before you ask it was me that taught you in high school.”

“I knew it, that’s so cool. So your ad said you needed a lot stuff moved with some painting and minor repairs as well. Is that right?”

“Yes, my Mother passed during the past winter and I’m trying to get the house in order and there is a lot to do. It’s been many years since anything was updated and I’m afraid a lot of things have been accumulating.”

Loop“Well I’m sorry to hear about your mom. The thing is as I said in my second message I do have an offer from out of town. Do you have an idea of how long this job will take and to be honest what the pay would be?”

“The pay would be competitive I’m sure as I do have adequate funds available to draw from. The length of time however I’m not sure about. Truthfully I don’t know how long it will take, that depends on a lot of factors including how much repairs and updating gets done as well as how fast you can do the work. Maybe if you look at what has to be done you could give me an idea on how long you think it will take.”

Julie heard him chuckle before replying.

“Good thing you said that to me and not some people. Some might hear that and exaggerate the difficulty to jack up their price. Tell you what, is it okay for me to come by today and take a look? Then I can give you my best estimate of the time involved and we’ll go from there.”

“Um okay John. I should be home around three thirty so anytime after that will be fine. Let me give you the address.”

The rest of the day seemed to crawl by it was going so slowly. Every time Julie looked at the clock it seemed not to have moved. Finally her last class concluded and the students filed out. As she gathered together her belongings Julie heard a noise and looked up to see Lauren approaching.

“Well?” she asked.

“Well what?”

“Don’t try and be cute Julie. I saw you on the phone as I was leaving so tell me everything.”

“There isn’t much to tell” Julie began trying to act nonchalantly about it all. “He agreed to come and take a look so he can let me know how long he thinks it will take. Then I guess we’ll discuss money and if possible come to some kind of agreement.”

“Mmm and when is this all going to take place if I may ask?”

“Later this afternoon” Julie answered in a low voice which prompted a near shriek in reply from Lauren who then covered her mouth for a second.

“Sorry about that Julie but my God you move fast. I’m proud of you and thankfully you have me to help you.”

“Help me in what way?” Julie asked nervously as her friend went and closed the classroom door before returning with a smile on her face.

Lauren opened her purse and removed a small zippered bag from inside and put it on the desk.

“To fix your face of course and make you even more attractive then you already are. And don’t say anything as you have no say in the matter. Don’t worry Julie, I will be very subtle. Even your own mother wouldn’t have been able to criticize you for looking ‘whorish’ I believe is the term she liked to use.”

“You know I told you how sorry I was about that Lauren, but Mother was set in her beliefs. I did get cross with her and told her off.”

“I know sweetie and believe me it didn’t bother me really. Good thing she didn’t know what a sex maniac I am or she would never have let us be friends. Just kidding, now you sit back and let me work my magic.”

Reluctantly Julie sat back in the chair and closed her eyes. Soon she felt Lauren applying something around her eyes and a short while later brushing something soft across her cheeks. Though not much time had passed, certainly under ten minutes, Julie started to get apprehensive when she heard Lauren’s voice.

“Okay all done, now take a look.”

Julie opened her eyes and saw her friend standing there holding a small makeup mirror which she gave to her. Fearing what she’d see Julie held it up to her face and was pleasantly surprised, in fact she was elated. Whatever Lauren had done made her eyes stand out in a good way and the only other change she noticed was just a hint of color on her pale cheeks.

“So Julie what do you think? I went for a very understated look, just a tiny bit of rouge to give you some color and I highlighted your eyes to make them pop. I think they are one of your best features but what do I know. Your skin is so healthy and fair that you really don’t need much for it. Sometime if we get the chance and you let me I’d like to go all out you even if afterwards you wash it right off.”

“Thank you Lauren, it really does flatter my eyes. Who knows, maybe I will let you experiment on me some day. But thanks and I really appreciate what you did. Well what you always do for me, I don’t know what I did to deserve such a good friend.”

“Oh stop I’m not a saint or something and you’re a very good friend to me too, you know. Anytime I ask for something you’re there for me. Damn that time I had the flu you kept coming over and bringing me soup that you made yourself. I’m the lucky one.”

The two women hugged after Julie stood and together they headed out to the parking lot. Once they said goodbye they went their separate ways. As Julie approached her house she observed a big black pick up truck parked in front with a man leaning against it. She pulled into the drive and killed the engine then seeing her reflection in the mirror smoothed her hair. Though it was foolish she felt very nervous and delayed getting out until she could calm herself.

Breathing in a controlled manner she climbed from the car taking her bag with her. As soon as she emerged the man straightened up and headed in her direction. With a tiny gasp Julie realized that John was even better looking than she recalled and that his body had filled out since school. Years of hard work had made him muscular but he still appeared lean. When he reached her he extended his hand in greeting.

“Good to see you again Miss Jones. Wow you haven’t changed a bit since school.”

“Likewise it’s good to see you John. I’m afraid that I can’t agree with your assessment but you look well.”

While she spoke Julie noticed that John had discreetly run his gray eyes the length of her body as men tended to do though usually not to her. He flashed a perfect smile before answering her.

“I stand by what I said Miss Jones and believe me I studied you a lot in class.”

Julie blushed from his frankness and turned toward the house at a loss of how to reply. She wasn’t used to being flirted with, even of the innocent variety since her college years. That was the only time in her life she had been away from home and had acted somewhat free.

“The house is impressive Miss Jones, how old is it?” he asked to try and change the subject since he had seemed to embarrass her. ‘You idiot’ he thought to himself ‘you see her for the first time in years and you make a fool of yourself and even worse offend her.’

“It is quite old John” she said happy to be talking about anything but her appearance “I believe it was built in the 1880’s or 90’s. Thankfully they built them solidly back then or it would have fallen apart long ago from the lack of attention it’s received recently.”

They walked to the front door as they spoke but John continued studying the house as they approached. What she said was true about the neglect to the building and he noted more than a few items needing repair or replacement.

“I know that what we discussed was about the interior but I can’t help noticing that there are some exterior issues as well” he said as she fished her keys from her purse.

“Oh dear John, I hope nothing too serious” Julie replied as she opened the door.

Like clockwork Emily decided to appear but seeing the stranger she hung back until the door stood open at which time she darted past them both. He was surprised as the feline seemed to come from nowhere but Julie paid no attention to the cat. John regained his composure and began speaking again.

“Well the gutters look to be in bad shape and the chimney has a few cracks at the least. It’s hard to tell from the ground but if that’s all it can be repaired easily. Now if it was me, and the budget allowed for it, I’d say install new gutters as well as many windows as possible. Those old ones must be very drafty and inefficient and you’d recoup the money with lower energy bills.”

“Yes during the winter months it’s very hard to keep the house as warm as I’d like. Can you do these things? Because to be honest I hadn’t even thought about such things. I’m afraid I’m not very knowledgeable on such matters.”

“I could certainly do the window and gutter work though obviously it wouldn’t be cheap. Just the cost of purchasing the windows will add thousands as you have a lot of windows. Then depending on the style you want will affect it as well.”

“Oh dear now my head is spinning. It seems like I haven’t really thought this out well.”

“Listen Miss Jones I’m sorry for confusing the issue. That wasn’t my intention. You’re the boss about what gets done and if all you want to worry about is the interior that’s fine. It’s a big house and just painting the inside will take time. But if for example you decided to replace the windows it would make sense to do before painting the interior of the room.”

“That seems practical I must admit. Well how about at the least you see what has to be moved either to be thrown away or given to charity and also get an idea about the size of the rooms to be painted.”

“Good plan, lead the way.”

For the next hour they walked the house from the crowded attic to the damp cellar and all in between. Julie had felt very self conscious when they had entered her bedroom as she hadn’t made her bed that morning and her flannel nightgown was lying across it but he didn’t say a word. After they were finished with the inspection they went to the kitchen where Julie first fed Emily before joining John at the table.

He had been going over some numbers on a pad, figuring both the time required and how much materials would be needed depending on what Julie ultimately decided to do. Finally on a separate sheet of paper he wrote what he would require for himself though he did give her a break there. John slipped the papers across the table to Julie. When she noticed the price her eyes widened a bit but she didn’t comment.

“Now feel free to shop around but do understand that I will need an answer soon. I’d prefer to stay in town as one of the reasons I returned was my Father hasn’t been well but I can’t go any lower as it wouldn’t be worth my while financially.”

“No I understand John, I just have no experience in these matters. However it seems reasonable. I tell you what, at the least I want to do what was originally mentioned plus replace at least some of the windows.”

“Great, then I tell you what. I can start tomorrow morning and the first few days I’ll be busy just moving a lot of the accumulated stuff from the attic and other rooms. Then whenever you get an opportunity you can look at some paint colors and window styles and we’ll go from there. So what time do I have to be here tomorrow so you can let me in?”

“Well I usually leave at seven thirty so can you make it before that?”

“No problem Miss Jones and it’s really good to see you again.”

“Likewise John and I’ll see you tomorrow.”

She walked him to the front door and saw him off, waving as he drove away. When she closed the door behind her she leaned against it a minute and definitely her heart was beating rapidly.

‘Stop being silly Julie’ she told herself ‘not only is he far too young for you but I really doubt you’re his type and no doubt he was just being polite about your appearance or more likely was complimenting you to help him get the job.’

Still Julie stayed in a good mood that night even singing aloud more than once. She labeled a lot more items to go as since she was turning over a new leaf she decided to go all out. Only when she went to her mother’s room did she turn somber. Ever since she had discovered her mother there that morning she had hated the room with a passion. Because of this she decided to put off working there for now and once she left her mood improved.

The next morning John arrived at seven fifteen dressed in jeans, work boots and a black t-shirt which matched his short dark hair Julie thought. He carried a small cooler and a support belt for his back.

“Just my lunch” he told Julie as way of explanation holding up his cooler.

“There’s no need for that John, my refrigerator has plenty of room. In fact it’s usually half empty. Give me that and if you want some coffee there’s a little left in the pot.”

She opened it and put the items inside including one beer bottle.

“Just a beer with lunch, hope you don’t mind. If you prefer I won’t drink it.”

“No John its fine, I’m not much of a drinker myself maybe a glass of wine when I’m out to dinner with friends sometimes. Mother never approved of spirits.”

“Well a glass of wine is good – after all Jesus drank wine right?”

She smiled as she answered. “That’s true I guess. I have to go and you have my number if there’s a problem. One last thing, you met or at least saw my kitty Emily yesterday. She tends to come and go as she pleases but now that the weather is getting warmer she’s out a lot. But if you hear her scratching on the door could you let her in?”

“No problem Miss Jones and have fun at school.”

“Thank you John and have fun moving things” she replied and started to leave but she stopped and turned back to him. “And since with you working here for a while and certainly no longer a student you can call me Julie if you prefer.”

“Okay Julie and that’s a very pretty name” he said and just managed to stop from saying ‘for a pretty woman’ but after embarrassing her yesterday he was being careful.

“Thank you” she said quietly

For the next few hours he worked his ass off and managed to make quite a dent removing material from the attic. Most of what he got rid of was labeled trash in Julie’s neat flowery script and this he placed on the side of the driveway. He wasn’t sure what day the house received trash pickup so he thought it best to leave it there for now. The remaining items Julie hoped to donate to charity, with the majority being furniture along with some items in boxes. These he transported to her garage which she only used to shelter her car during the winter months. It was during one of these trips there that he saw a face peering through the hedge that bordered the property.

“Good morning” John cheerfully called out.

The face disappeared like a shot causing John to laugh but he put it out of his mind and resumed work. Later he needed to retrieve a tool from his truck to help him break a large piece of furniture into sections so it would be easier to move. As he closed the truck door he couldn’t help but notice that there was a couple sitting on the front porch of the house next door.

“Hello” called out the man as he stood and waved to John who returned the wave. The man gestured for John to come over with a motion. He had no idea why but he’d been going non-stop so he welcomed the break and turned up the neighboring sidewalk. When he reached the porch the man extended his hand and gave him a hearty handshake.

“How do you do. My name is Jack Russell and this lovely lady is my better half Edna.”

“Glad to meet you, my name is John Colt” he replied and nodded at the gray haired bespectacled woman who sat close by and who he recognized as being the person who had been watching him earlier.

“Not to be nosy but the little woman told me that you seem to be moving some things out of the Jones place.”

“Yeah that’s right. Just trying to get the place in order for Julie, uh Miss Jones.”

“And you’re a friend of hers?” Edna Russell inquired eagerly as she leaned forward.

Truthfully I’m working for her though I’m a former student of hers” John replied to which Edna sighed and clucked her tongue before answering.

“That’s too bad, she’s such a nice girl but she seems to be unlucky when it comes to love.”

“Now dear maybe you’re just projecting what you think is best for Julie” Jack told his wife.

“Who are you fooling you old goat, you know that you agree with me. I blame her mother, God rest her soul. She was just too overprotective and now Julie is past the age where she’ll find Mr. Right probably.”

“Well it was nice meeting you but I should be getting back to work” John said as he felt uneasy with where the conversation had gone.

“Now look at what you’ve done, scaring John away with such talk” Jack said to Edna.

“No really it’s not that. I just need to get back to work is all. But the job just started so I’m sure I’ll see you a lot. Take care.”

That afternoon as Julie ate her lunch Lauren had peppered her with questions about John. She had replied truthfully though her answers didn’t seem to satisfy her friend.

“What do you want me to say Lauren. He’s there working and that’s all there is to it. Sorry to disappoint you but this isn’t a story from you know where” she said, lowering her voice for the final part.

Lauren smiled wickedly at a thought that came to her after her friend’s declaration before she spoke.

“If I was you Julie I might be a little nervous with a strange man alone in my house. If he’s anything like men from stories on xnxx.com then by now he’s jerking off into a pair of your dirty panties. Can you imagine?” she said with a laugh.

“Oh my God! Don’t say that Lauren, even kidding around. He’s not like that, is he? What do you know about him that you’re not telling me?”

Looking around to make sure that no one in the lounge was listening first Lauren replied to her friend.

“I’ve never heard anything like that but you never know with men, they’re all beasts. But I did remember something I heard about him. If you’re interested that is?”

“Of course I am Lauren. Tell me” Julie whispered as she leaned closer to her fellow teacher.

“Well one time years ago when I still lived at home I happened to overhear a conversation between my sister and one of her friends. It seems they were at a party and John and his girl at the time had gone into a bedroom for some privacy if you get my meaning. I guess the girl was a bit loud and not just moaning but she was a talker as well. Some pretty wild things were said but the thing is some guy being a smartass happened to open the door while they were going at it. A lot of people including my sister managed to see into the room and from what I heard there was another reason they called him Johnny Forty-five. It seems he has a BIG gun if you follow me.”

“Oh my God Lauren! What are you saying? Never mind” Julie said, her face crimson.

Lauren just smiled in a knowing way at her friend.

When Julie arrived home that afternoon she was surprised to see how much had already been accomplished. The amount of stuff removed boggled her mind but what really shocked her was that when she went into her house she found John sitting in the kitchen with Emily sprawled on his lap purring as he stroked her behind her ear.

“Hi” he said as she walked in the room “I hope you don’t mind but I was just taking a break and Emily decided to hang with me. We kind of became friends when I gave her a little of my lunch earlier.”

“Why would I mind but she doesn’t usually warm up to most people quickly so I guess that means she approves of you. I saw you managed to get a lot done today. It’s a good thing I hired you because it would have taken me a lot longer to do and it probably would have put me in traction on top of that.”

Yeah in that at least it makes sense. The way things are going I’ll be done tomorrow with removing stuff from the house and you’ll have to make your decision on how many windows you want to replace and what style so start to think about it. I guess I’ll call it a day and I’ll be back bright and early tomorrow. Have a good night Julie and I’ll see you too Emily” he said as he gently put the cat on the kitchen floor before standing and departing through the kitchen door.

Emily yawned and stretched before rubbing her nose against her mistress’ ankle as she waited for her supper. Julie fed the cat and scratched Emily’s head as she chowed down.

“What do you think Em, about John I mean? You like him and he seems nice and here I am asking my cat for advice. God I’m losing it.”

Julie walked the house again looking for things to get rid of that she might have missed in her initial survey while also inspecting and taking a count of her old drafty windows. She made her final decision on the colors she wanted a number of rooms painted as well. Satisfied with what she’d done Julie had her dinner while doing schoolwork the rest of the night.

That night she didn’t sleep well, tossing and turning then waking up bathed in perspiration. Unfortunately she knew the reason why. Her dreams were causing this reaction and not only were they of a sexual nature but John featured prominently in them. Finally desperate to get some sleep she pulled her nightgown up and let her fingers do the walking. For the first time her mystery man had a face and it appeared identical to her former student and current worker’s. And he delivered an earth shaking climax to her after which she sank into a contented sleep.

In fact Julie slept so soundly that she snoozed right through her alarm clock (yes, an old fashioned kind) and it was the ringing of her doorbell which awakened her the next morning. She pulled her nightgown down though she clearly remembered doing that last night before again going to sleep. She rushed downstairs and threw open p door to see John standing there looking gorgeous holding two cups of coffee.

Sorry I’m running late” she said “have to hurry.”

Julie left him at the door and ran up the stairs in a panic on her way to the shower. She took a quick one then brushed her teeth and practically bolted out the door. Unfortunately at that moment John was carrying a box from the attic and had just emerged into the hall. They collided though John managed to turn his body lessening the impact with the only casualty being that Julie’s robe which hadn’t been fastened securely came somewhat undone.

John had been about to apologize when his jaw dropped as he caught a glimpse of Julie’s charms – two small and perfectly shaped breasts topped with bubble gum colored nipples. He managed to close his mouth and turn away. Mortified from what had just happened Julie pulled her robe together and fled without a word to her room where she swiftly dressed.

Fortunately for her he remained in the attic allowing Julie to slip out of the house with the tattered shreds of her dignity. By the table near the front door sat a cup of coffee with a sticky note labeled Julie. She took it in passing as she left. In between figuratively kicking herself as she drove, Julie took some comfort in the thought of John bringing her the coffee which then triggered her embarrassment anew.

She just made it to class before the first period bell rang and she was not at her best. Since it was Thursday that allowed her to tell the class to review their lessons to prepare for the following day’s exam. She sat there seemingly going over her own notes and lesson plans while actually replaying the scene over and over. That would have been bad enough but it actually started to arouse her knowing that John had seen her breasts. No man had since her college days when finally freed of her mother’s control she had actually lived life a tiny bit.

There had been mixing with the opposite sex and dates with college boys and even a couple of short term boyfriends during those four years. It was when she had lost her prized virginity, taken during a frat party when she had one too many glasses of spiked punch. The worst thing about it was she barely remembered the actual incident but it was also the last time she heard from Kyle who had deflowered her. Still she hadn’t let that stop her from continue trying to live life.

About that night she vaguely remembered there had been some pleasure involved on her part which she wished to experience again. Unfortunately the next boy she dated named Harold had been more than willing to sleep with her but he had not a clue when it came to a woman’s erogenous zones. Fumbling clumsily with her breasts a moment as he positioned himself was the extent of foreplay and once he was in her he would thrust weakly for a couple of minutes before pulling out and ejaculating on her aroused yet unsatisfied body.

On a few occasions she had delicately tried to broach the subject of her enjoyment, or lack thereof with him, only for him to respond that any girl who thought in such a way must be a slut. Since that was the last thing that Julie wished to appear as, she let the matter drop. They continued to date until the end of the semester at which time he informed her that he had transferred to a college closer to home and they wouldn’t be seeing each other again.

Maybe she should have been offended but truthfully Julie felt relieved. The thought of continuing to date and maybe one day marry Harold left her cold. He was smart and not bad looking but he was dry and boring with a very narrow view of things. In no uncertain terms he’d informed her that no wife of his would work and she had set her sights on becoming a teacher. Even worse was the thought of years of marital relations when her desires would get scant attention.

That had been the full extent of her sex life. Once she’d returned home after college her mother had reasserted her control, not that the men had been breaking down the door to get to her. Still from then on Julie dressed and conformed to what her mother thought was proper. The skirts she had worn in college that ended just above the knee were thrown out as they were too revealing even to be donated to charity. Julie had retreated back into her shell and the only time she felt alive was when she tried to impart her love of literature and poetry to successive classes of students.

It was when Lauren had joined the staff and befriended the painfully introverted English teacher that again Julie felt a yearning for something more. Of course by then her mother was in poor health which gave her another means to control her daughter but though Julie complied she lived vicariously through Lauren. They would talk and tell each other everything though as Julie confessed she didn’t have much to reveal. Still it was from Lauren that she learned about masturbation and that there was nothing wrong with a woman achieving orgasm. And now Julie couldn’t wait for lunch so that she could again confide in and ask advice of Lauren.

She was waiting anxiously at their regular table when her friend breezed in. Right away she sensed that Julie was on edge as she sat down by the way her eyes were darting around and by the fact she was continuously twisting and untwisting a strand of her long brown hair.

“Okay spill it! I can tell something’s bothering you Jules.”

“I really made a fool of myself this morning and I’m hoping you can do me a big favor” she began. “Is there a chance you can come with me to my house after school?”

Lauren raised an eye brow at the suggestion and shook her head.

“Julie, Julie what have you done that you need my protection for?”

“Well not really protection, we’lll maybe a little, but more for moral support.”

Julie proceeded to tell Lauren everything from how she had dreamt about John and actually relieved her stress fantasizing about him and her to where she overslept because of that and up to the point where her robe opened revealing her breasts to him.

“I don’t know how I’m going to face him again and the job has just started” she concluded.

Lauren had listened to everything her friend said with a mixture of amusement and concern and thought a few minutes before replying.

“If you want Julie I’ll come with you but in my opinion you should go alone. It doesn’t matter if it goes anywhere. You should just get some. How many years has it been? Go have fun.”

“No I can’t. Lauren you’re right that I need it and all but I can’t. Just throw myself at him I mean. Especially after what happened this morning. Come over to pick something up and that way I won’t be alone with him because he’ll leave once I get there.”

“Fine if that’s what you want.”

That afternoon Lauren followed behind her friend’s car as she drove home. The two of them entered the house together and John soon came downstairs. He was sweaty and dirty but he smiled when he saw them.

“Hey Julie how are you?” he asked and his eyes narrowed when he saw Lauren. “Hey I know you, don’t I?”

“Hello Johnny, I’m Lauren and you hung out with my sister Trish back in the day.”

“That’s right, how is she doing? I haven’t seen her or really a lot of the old crowd since I got back to town.”

“She’s good, married now with a little boy. They live over in Andersonville a few miles away.”

“Let me get you that book” Julie said to Lauren as she slipped away. As she headed upstairs she heard the two of them gaily chatting about the past. When she came down she handed Lauren her lesson plan book though she had been carrying it the whole time with her.

“Thanks Jules and I’ll see you tomorrow. Nice seeing you again Johnny, I’ll be sure to let Trish know you’re back in town.”

“Yeah cool Lauren, I better go now as well and let Julie have her house. Goodnight Julie. ”

She closed the door behind them and watched as they walked to the street where they both were parked. They talked for a minute more before climbing into their vehicles and driving off. The next morning Julie made sure she was up early and in fact she was ready to leave before he even arrived. When he did she attempted to hurry past when he stopped her.

“Julie before you go we need to talk.”

“Okay” she said with her heart in her throat, dreading what he might say.

“Well I’m kind of at an impasse with the work. Until you let me know what windows you want done and which rooms to paint first, as well as the colors, then I’m almost out of work. I have a few more hours’ worth and that’s it. We really have to discuss it.”

“Sure no problem, I understand John. After school today we’ll talk” Julie answered, relieved that was what he wanted to talk about. “See you later, have to go.”

With that she was gone leaving John alone. He shrugged helplessly as he really wished to talk about more than that but wasn’t sure how to broach the subject. It was fairly obvious that after yesterday morning Julie was uncomfortable around him. He could understand it especially given her shy nature but it had been weighing on him as well. Last night all he could think of was the sight of her naked breasts and how much he wanted to suck on them.

He hadn’t lied when he told her he studied her back when he was a student. Julie was a lot more attractive than she gave herself credit for he thought and though she did her best to conceal the fact, her slender body was sexy as hell to him. Plus he fondly remembered the way her face would get wistful or passionate when she would read certain poems back in class, usually a love poem by one of her favorites. It was true he wanted to stay in town due to his father but the other reason John took the job was he hoped now that he was older he might have an opportunity to tell her how he felt and maybe have a chance with her.

Since there was nothing to be done about it until later John went to work. He finished removing the remaining unwanted items before noon, leaving him precious little to do. He next took accurate measurements of all the downstairs windows in case she wished to replace them. Finally he measured the windows upstairs including in the bathroom as well as in Julie’s mother’s room and the spare bedroom which was used as a storage room. Her bedroom he avoided as he didn’t wish to invade her privacy in that way with how things were at the moment.

John killed time playing with Emily for some time, dragging a string across the floor and watching the cat pursue it until finally the feline got bored and wandered off to take a nap in a sunny window. When Julie arrived that afternoon she was surprised to see John sitting on the porch next door sipping lemonade with the Russell’s. They waved to her and she returned the greeting but she made no move to join them instead standing at the curb with her arms folded.

“Time for me to go it seems, thanks for the lemonade folks” John said as he rose from the wicker chair.

“You’re welcome anytime John and you let Julie know the same. Here we are next door neighbors and we rarely talk to her these days” Edna told him as he departed.

Once he reached her at the sidewalk Julie made a sour face before asking “So what’s up with the busybodies next door, trying to squeeze you for information about me?”

John kept his face serene as he answered her. “No, not really Julie. I mean the other day when they first saw me they asked if I was doing work ‘in the Jones house’ but I think that’s kind of normal under the circumstances. They see some strange guy moving stuff out of your house and all.”

“Yeah okay but you have no idea how nosy they can be. That’s why Mother planted the hedge after we moved in so it made it harder for them to spy on us.”

“I think it’s good for neighbors to watch out for each other’s houses. By the way they told me to tell you that you’re always welcome there.”

Julie rolled her eyes from that little tidbit and John couldn’t help smiling at her reaction as he expected something along those lines from her. They had moved up her walk as they talked and now went inside. Emily was no where in sight and it had been a while since he had seen her.

“So have you made any decisions on the windows Julie?”

“So have you made any decisions on the windows Julie?”

“I’ve decided that it makes sense to do them all now. I have the money available so what’s the point in doing some now and then doing more down the road. I’m not sure what style to get yet though.”

“I think you’re making the right decision Julie. And as far as the style, you take a look at the styles and costs and decide from there. You might get some of a cheaper model for some rooms and nicer ones for others. Personally since you have an older house with nice woodwork I’d suggest you get the kind where the interior section is wood and the exterior is vinyl so it blends in seamlessly in appearance. Some have built in lattices or other features but they add to the cost so it’s up to you. I took the liberty of measuring most of the windows as I ran out of work earlier. I just need the dimensions of your bedroom windows.”

“So have you made any decisions on the windows Julie?”

“I’ve decided that it makes sense to do them all now. I have the money available so what’s the point in doing some now and then doing more down the road. I’m not sure what style to get yet though.”

“I think you’re making the right decision Julie. And as far as the style, you take a look at the styles and costs and decide from there. You might get some of a cheaper model for some rooms and nicer ones for others. Personally since you have an older house with nice woodwork I’d suggest you get the kind where the interior section is wood and the exterior is vinyl so it blends in seamlessly in appearance. Some have built in lattices or other features but they add to the cost so it’s up to you. I took the liberty of measuring most of the windows as I ran out of work earlier. I just need the dimensions of your bedroom windows.”

They proceeded upstairs where he took the measurements as she stood just inside the room. A few minutes later they were again on the street where John unlocked his passenger door to allow Julie to get in. As they drove he figured now was the best time to broach the subject.

“About yesterday morning Julie, I apologize. If I had waited until you left before starting to work…”

“No John, it wasn’t your fault. If I was watching where I was going instead of rushing blindly into you like that, so no apology is necessary and we won’t mention it again.”

He knew there was no way he could forget what he saw even if he never mentioned it but he held his tongue – for the moment at least. With a sidelong glance he noticed that Julie’s face was red as a beet so he continued to keep his face turned straight ahead as he drove.

You have an idea of what color paints you want?”

“Uh huh, for the most part.”

“Well then you just have to decide what rooms you want done first. If you want I can work tomorrow and get a number of windows done if they have them in stock which will allow you to have the rooms painted according to your schedule. I figure when I paint your room you might want to sleep somewhere else for a night or two because of the smell.”

“I’ll think about it but I probably want my room done first if that’s okay” she said softly.

Whatever you want Julie.”

Things worked out well at the home improvement mega-store. She was able to get all the paint colors she wanted and they actually had some of the windows she chose in stock. The bathroom window wasn’t available as it was an odd size and the glass needed to be opaque but the rest of the second story windows and the paint were soon loaded in his truck. On their way back John decided to try something.

“Julie, with all this running around what do you say I take us to dinner? There’s a nice Italian place coming up and we can work out a timeframe for the work as we eat. What do you think?”

Her initial thought was to say no but instead she surprised them both with her reply.

“All right but I insist that we split the cost.”

“Fine if that’s what you want” he said with a big smile, just happy that she accepted his offer.

They settled in and ordered dinner. At first they discussed what rooms she wanted tackled first with her bedroom the number one priority followed by the kitchen. As the meal went on however talk turned to other subjects aided no doubt by the carafe of wine John ordered. Julie learned that he had been living in Las Vegas before his recent return to town.

“Things were booming at first when I went out there, there was construction everywhere. When things went south I still did all right for a while as the company I was with had some contracts with the big developpers or on government subsidized jobs but after a while the jobs were completed and the new ones weren’t coming in like before. Work started becoming infrequent and soon I was just looking to do anything to tide me over.”

“If I had been able to dance I’d have been able to earn money but unfortunately I have two left feet so that didn’t work out. I actually worked with a magic act where I stood on stage with no shirt and I’d assist the woman who would be levitated or sawed in half. Me and another guy would lift her or help her get into position in the box or whatever. Lousy pay and hours and certainly no future in it though the work was easy. So that was my career in showbiz. Things got worse after that and I knew I needed a change.”

“Then my uncle contacted me letting me know my Dad wasn’t doing too well. Of course he never would have let me know himself. Since my sister moved to Florida with my Mom when my parents divorced there really wasn’t anyone here but my uncle. So I came back and here I am.”

“Wow I never could have done that” Julie replied “just moving halfway across the country to where I didn’t know anyone or anything about the place and to Las Vegas too. Was it like in the movies?”

“Well there are all kinds of movies and it is more than one place too. There’s the strip and the casinos and hotels but for the most part that’s a desert mirage unless you live in that world. There’s also the real part where most of the people live and work. Besides I missed the seasons changing like they do here. The desert is beautiful in a way but I like to see the leaves change anid even the first snowfall.”

They sat silently after that for a few minutes until the server came and asked if they needed anything further.

“Just the check please” he answered.

On the way to her house he took a couple of quick peeks at her face and her eyes were shining as brightly as the stars. When they arrived he began unloading as Julie opened the front door. Once everything was inside John paused to ask Julie a question before leaving.

“So since I’ll be back tomorrow what time should I come? I know its Saturday and I figure you want to sleep late.”

“Honestly I get up at the same time on weekends John so come whenever you want. I’ve been putting off tackling Mother’s room as I’ve been dreading it but I can’t anymore if you’re going to paint it and replace the windows. So don’t bother with bringing coffee, I’ll make some and breakfast as well. Deal?”

“Deal” he answered.

She opened the front door and stood leaning against it as he passed by. John turned to say good night to her when something he read in her expression caused him to change his mind. Suddenly he leaned in and brought his mouth to hers. Her lips were soft and yielding and he found himself kissing her with passion. For the first few seconds Julie had remained passive but as time passed she responded fiercely. Her arms twined about his neck and she eagerly returned his kiss and in fact it was her tongue that slipped into his mouth where it tentatively explored.

John’s arm wrapped around her back and pulled her body to his and he thrilled from the feel of her pressing against him for the first time. In fact it had too much of an effect as he felt himself began to harden. Not wishing to move too fast and scare her John reluctantly broke the kiss before it was too late. He gazed down at her and as he watched she opened her brown eyes and stared back at him.

“Wow Julie” he said “that was something else.”

“Yes it was, very nice I think” she said as she continued to press her body against his “and I think I feel the something else.”

After saying that for a moment she gyrated her pelvis to his leaving no doubt about what she was talking about but she then took a step back and grabbed the door for support.

“Good night John and I’ll see you in the morning” she told him before slowly closing the door.

He stood there for a minute as his mind whirled from what had just happened before he headed to the truck. It seemed to him that his feet didn’t touch the ground until he climbed in the cab. For her part Julie was experiencing similar emotions, in fact when Emily came to say hello Julie lifted the puzzled cat up and danced with her in her arms as she sang a song.

With it still being early and him being pumped up John didn’t wish to return home yet so he stopped off at the local watering hole. As he sipped his drink John replayed the kiss over and over in his mind and enjoyed it a little more each time. It was when the waitress came over to see if he wanted another round and mildly flirted with him that he realized he should go home. He politely declined and left her a nice tip as he headed out. No sense in taking a chance on being stupid when it appeared he had an opportunity of a lifetime awaiting him. His father was surprised he was home so early but he told him he had to work early the following day.

The next morning John was up at the crack of dawn and had to restrain himself from rushing out the door. He shaved deliberately and actually put on more cologne than he would going out for the night. He fought to take his time and not arrive too early. Finally at eight a.m. he couldn’t wait any longer and headed over. True to her word Julie was up when he arrived and opened the door shortly after he rang.

John swallowed hard when he saw her wearing a cute little girly-t showing her arms and a snug fitting pair of jeans with her long hair pulled back in a pony tail. As he entered the aroma of coffee brewing wafted across the air to his receptive nostrils.

“Come to the kitchen” she told him leading the way.

For his part he was glad to follow as for the first time he was able to observe her cute, little butt not hidden under a loose skirt or sweatpants and he strongly approved.

“Sit down and I’ll get you some coffee John. How do you take it and is eggs and bacon good?”

“Black, one sugar please. Yes that’s fine Julie, thanks” John said as he slid into a seat in the cozy little kitchen.

A minute later she placed the cup before him then slipped an apron over her head and tied it before beginning to cook breakfast.

“Did you have a good night’s rest?” he inquired as he lifted his cup.

“Yes wonderful, I feel very refreshed, and you?”

“I had a hard time falling asleep truthfully. No matter what I did I felt just too excited to relax. I couldn’t wait for the morning.”

“Oh!” Julie said and he noticed the blood rise to her face.

They ate in an awkward silence, filling their mouths between longing stares and meaningful glances. Once she was finished Julie rose and started to clean up the dishes. When John was done he headed out to his truck to retrieve his compound miter saw, tools, wood and some tarps.

He set up the saw on a tarp in the garage and headed upstairs and after placing a tarp under a window in her room John went to work removing the old one. Things proceeded smoothly and he was on the second window when she stopped in the doorway to say hello.

“I see you’re busy and getting things done so I won’t bother you now. I’m just off to work on clearing Mother’s room so I’ll see you later” and with that she was off.

He continued his work and as the morning progressed he made good progress. John was now caulking around the second of the newly installed windows when he was startled by a loud cry and the sound of something crashing onto the floor. Immediately he dropped what he was doing and hurried to where the noise came from.

He found her standing by the closet door of her mother’s room clutching some yellowed envelopes in her hand while an old and now broken cardboard box sat nearby with its contents spilling onto the hardwood floor. She turned as he entered the room and he read shock and pain clearly on her face.

“Julie are you hurt?” he asked with the concern sounding plainly in his voice.

“No it can’t be, it just can’t. How is this possible?” Julie wailed and as she stood there her eyes welled up with tears which began to roll down her face.

“Do you need help Julie?” he asked, unsure of what to do and unaware of what had caused this

reaction.

How could she do this to me John? Why would she do it, to lie to me my whole life like that? What did I do to deserve this?”

Sobbing uncontrollably she fled past him and into the hall. As she did Julie dropped one of the envelopes to the floor in passing. He watched as she ran down the hall and into her room. Prompted by the idea that there must be a clue to her sudden mood lying there John bent down and lifted the envelope up. It was unsealed and a card was partially sticking out of it.

When he scanned the writing on the front of the envelope he saw it was addressed to Miss Julie Jones and the address was not only in another town but in another state. He noticed that the postmark was from over twenty five years ago. He removed the card and saw it was a girl’s birthday card. Opening it he read the handwritten message which was longer than most cards contained.

To My Princess Julie:

Happy Birthday sweetie and I hope you’re well and your big day goes great. A girl doesn’t turn ten everyday so it truly is special. Sorry I’m not there with you but your mother informs me you still aren’t ready to see me again.

I wish you would let me talk to you Julie, we used to be so close. I know you’re hurt about what happened between your mother and I but that has nothing to do with us. I don’t want to make you sad so I’ll say no more now except to tell you how much I love you and whenever you want I’ll be waiting. Happy Birthday again Julie! And don’t spend all the money on candy.

Love, Daddy

As John returned the card to the envelope he saw that there was a neatly folded twenty dollar bill enclosed. Placing the envelope on a table near the door he headed to Julie’s room. Cautiously he peered in and saw Julie huddled on her bed sobbing softly. He couldn’t bear to see her like that so he slowly approached her until he stood by the side of the bed. His hand reached out and gently touched her shoulder. She turned her face to him but he appeared blurry through her tears. Sitting next to her on the bed John spoke.

“Are you all right?”

“No I’m not” she practically screamed in reply “all my life has been a lie. All these years I thought my Father had abandoned me, that he wanted nothing to do with me anymore. That’s what she told me and I believed her, the lying bitch!”

He was shocked as not only had he never heard her use foul language before, but back when he was in school people used to joke about how proper and polite she was. It was so out of character he didn’t have any idea on how to reply to it.

“A lie, all a lie! No wonder we moved around so much back then, she was trying to hide us, to hide me from my Father! Why Mother, why?” Julie cried out in anguish.

Unable to think of anything else to do John wrapped his muscular arms around her and hugged her to him. She pressed her face to his chest and continued sobbing and after a minute her arm encircled his waist tightly. His hand stroked her hair soothingly and he murmured in her ear.

“It’s alright Julie, go ahead and get it out. That’s it you just cry sweetie and let it all out.”

How long they stayed like that he had no idea but slowly her crying lessened then ended. Through it all he continued to stroke her hair and whisper encouragement. Finally with a loud sniffle she removed her face from his chest. He gazed at her and saw her eyes were still wet with tears but her sobbing had stopped.

“Yes please” she replied before adding “Oh John I got your shirt all wet, I’m so sorry.”

He laughed at her concern over such a trivial matter before reassuring her.

“Don’t be silly Julie and worry about that. It will dry, now how do you take your tea?”

“With lemon and honey” she managed to get out.

“Okay wait right here and I’ll be back.”

He headed downstairs and put on the kettle and as he waited he absentmindedly fed Emily. It seemed inconceivable to him that someone would deceive in the way Julie’s mother had but the evidence was clear and so was her reaction to it. He couldn’t imagine what she must have been going through at that moment finding out that since she was a little girl she’d been lied to and about something so important. It was the kettle whistling that had roused him from his musings so he hurried to the stove.

Two minutes later he was again entering her room where he found her now curled on the bed fast asleep. Not wishing to disturb her he left the cup on her bedside table and tiptoed out of the room. Unfortunately that left him with no work to do as the other rooms upstairs weren’t prepped. Silently he closed the door and went back to her mother’s room.

He gathered together all the spilled letters and papers and put them on the bed, glancing at them as he did so. There were many cards and letters all written in the same neat handwriting and all addressed to Julie. There were multiple addresses on them confirming that they had moved around a staggering amount of times before finally settling in Juneberry. He shook his head again at the thought of what had happened

to her.

He went downstairs for a little while but with no work he headed outside. After seeing her car sitting in the driveway he decided the least he could do was to wash it. He wound up wet from that but her little car gleamed when he was done. After going back inside John decided to check on her so he returned to her room. Julie was on her back now and had a peaceful expression on her face and was breathing quietly. He sat on a chair by the bed and watched her chest rise and fall gently.

The shadows were lengthening on the walls when Julie rolled to her side before stretching the full length of her lithe body before then sitting up. She looked around like she was confused until she discovered him sitting silently nearby. Then her face brightened immeasurably and Julie smiled. It wasn’t a full smile but it still warmed his heart.

“Hi” she whispered as she stood.

“How are you feeling?” he asked while intending to get up as well but she prevented him by unexpectedly sitting on his lap.

“Better, not one hundred percent but better than I was. I had a nice dream and when I woke up it came true because you were here. Thank you for that Johnny.”

Then before he could answer and truthfully before he even thought of a reply Julie leaned in and kissed him. Sparks flew as their lips met again. Both had a strong hunger for each other which could not be sated easily. Her fingers ran through his hair as they continued kissing and soon their tongues were twined together. Julie shifted her body until she felt his hardening member push into her at which point she settled on top of it provoking a muffled groan from John. His arm circled her tiny waist and pulled her to him where she encountered his still damp shirt.

“What happened John?” she exclaimed after reluctantly breaking their kiss “I know I cried on you before but I didn’t do all that, did I?”

“No silly, I got a little wet washing your car.”