Song Struck

A girl often has a man eating out of her hand by keeping him at arm’s length” -Unknown

**********

Anna stood in the darkness while Tony shone in the bright spotlight.  She had been scurrying around backstage all night.  Her job as stage manager demanded that she be everyplace at once while keeping tabs on all activities at once.  However, there was one moment each night when she allowed herself to stop and really watch the show.  It, not coincidentally, happened every time that Tony sang his solo.

Anna was a powerhouse of a woman.  She was young.  Her five foot height and dark, shoulder-length straight hair allowed her to blend into the background quite well when others were taking up the limelight.  But when Anna wanted to be heard, all eyes turned on her.  The actors’ stage presence came from their wild gestures or disarming good looks.  Anna’s ability to command attention of everyone around her came through sheer confidence and intelligence.  When Anna gathered people around her and began to talk, there was no doubt that she knew exactly what she was doing and what others should be accomplishing.  She had interned at the theatre in college and had quickly risen through the ranks.  Now, five short years later, everyone that graced that wooden pedestal respected and adored her.

The allure of being an actress had never appealed to Anna.  She didn’t like too much attention.  She appreciated when people would listen and consider the ideas that she put forth, but she wasn’t about to step out on stage and flash a winning smile to a crowd.  She was there to make others look good.  Anna wanted each show went off without a hitch; that was all

Over the course of the twenty or so plays that Anna had been in charge, she had observed plenty of drama taking place on-, but mostly off-stage.  The actors couldn’t seem to keep their hands off each other.  He would date her, she would date him; and so it went.  Anna did her best to subtly remark that certain “shenanigans” shouldn’t be indulged at a professional theatre.  Yet, every so often, she would come across unmentionables.  Had she found them in dressing rooms then that would have been one matter.  She could almost pretend that those were props that had been left behind.  But she also found loose garments lingering around the sound booth, the catwalks, and in the audience when they hadn’t had any patrons.  It seemed that the actors loved only one thing more than struggling with their lines; struggling with their scene partners afterwards.

Anna rolled her eyes at the performers.  She was far too busy to let these men woo her or romance her.  As much as she liked her line-reciting compatriots, she had a certain opinion about them.  Actors, in Anna’s mind, enjoyed having the focus on them.  And only them.  In the social interactions that she had had with them after plays or late at night, they always seemed to lead the conversations back to themselves.  As a woman with actor friends, Anna was okay with that.  At the same time, she knew that it would never work as a romantic pairing.  Anna liked to have food cooked for her and her feet rubbed.  With the men that she spent her time bossing around, she expected to have her lunch absconded from the lounge and her toes stepped on in the darkness of backstage.

Still, as Tony stopped fighting with his fellow actress on stage, Anna couldn’t help but stare.  His short curly hair was adorable.  It wasn’t at all the type of hair that she pictured on a tall man with nice arms and a distinguished nose.  Somehow though, it worked for him.  He had the confidence that his fellow thespians did; he couldn’t have held his own on stage without it.  Yet, whenever she saw Tony, he always had a respectful way about him.  He actually stopped and looked her in the eye when he asked, “How’s it goin’?”  Most others, even Anna’s close friends, said such phrases in passing.  They never actually paused in going from point A to point B to get a response.  Tony not only stopped, he paid attention.

Anna, assuming her history with dating would maintain its tragic track record, told herself that Tony was gay.  It made sense.  He dressed well, he sang well, and he could dance.  He was nice to everyone and hugged anyone that needed it.  Anna told herself that he was not into women; he was just a perfectly nice person.  But that thought had been formed before the backrub of three weeks ago.

It had been an excruciatingly crummy day.  The lighting chief had been called out of town on a family emergency, ticket sales were lousy, and the next show was set to open soon.  Spirits were low and folks were grumbling as Anna tried to get everyone’s attention.  The director wouldn’t get off the phone and the lead actor refused to put down his latte and circle around with everyone else.

Tony, in all his charming brilliance, had done what any rational actor in the situation would have done.  He pretended that his butt was on fire.  He ran around the theater, patted his butt and screamed in comedic agony.  Anna found herself laughing along with all those assembled and caught her attention drifting to the supposed scene of the inferno.  She felt her eyebrows raise in satisfaction as her head bobbed along in agreement.  She was shaken from her physical critique as two strong hands came up behind her.

“Now that I have your full attention”, Tony’s strong voice boomed.  “I believe that the lovely Anna was trying to say something?  Anna, the floor is all yours.”

Anna had coughed in embarrassment, thanked Tony for the amusing introduction, and run down the clipboard of notes in front of her.  It hadn’t been the greatest meeting.  There had been some back-talk.  But the softening of the mood had clearly helped morale.

As the actors started to take their place on stage, Anna found herself sitting on her leather chair.  There were few sacred spots left in the tiny backstage area, but every person that walked around behind the curtain knew that the aged brown chair was off limits.  No one knew where it had come from.  Most assumed it was some prop pulled from The Man Who Came to Dinner, or some similar production.  Those that had tried it before its status as Anna’s seat had found the chair to be too small.  For the tiny stage manager though, the scratched, haggard, beaten up chair fit her just right.

As her petite figure collapsed onto the chair and her trusty clipboard fell onto her lap, Anna let her head fall back onto the top of the chair.  She closed her eyes, avoiding the sight of the numerous lights above that needed to be fixed.  It was then that the two strong hands returned to her shoulders.  The thumbs rubbed and dug their way into her tense shoulders as the palms pulled at the cluster of knots that had begun a summit on her upper back.  She felt the stress of the job lessen as her body went limp.  She moaned in contented pleasure.  “Ohhhh… that’s… yeah….”

“I’m glad you approve”, a familiar voice said.

“Tony”, she said without opening her eyes.  “Is that you?”

“It is unless you wanted somebody else to do this.  I’ve been told I can be a little too strong.”

“Mmmmm.  No”, she said, unable to wipe the smile off her face.  “You’re absolutely perfect.”

“I’ll remember that when I ask you out to dinner one day”, Tony replied with a laugh.

Anna’s constantly working brain shut down.  She didn’t think and she didn’t organize or plan; she let go.  The veins her forehead loosened.  The groups of knots and nerves released.  She felt herself falling asleep in the chaotic environment.  Anna couldn’t remember the last time she’d been so at peace at theatre.

“Oops, I gotta go”, Tony apologized as he stopped.  “They’re calling me for my death scene.”

Anna was almost unconscious and only managed to reply with a, “mmm-hmm”.  And then, as she was about to mentally clock out entirely, she felt something press against her lips.  This was no quick peck or gesture of friendship.  She could have sworn that the sensual touch had lasted a good ten seconds.

Anna fought to wake up.  No was standing near her.  Blinking her tired eyes, she saw Tony on stage in the middle of a scene.  She had obviously been out of it for a few minutes.  She started to wonder if she had imagined the whole thing.  Tony probably hadn’t kissed her. The stress of the day had thrown her for a loop.  The backrub had played tricks on her weary brain.  Anna knew that she had imagined that kiss.  That was the only answer that made sense.  Or was it?

Three weeks later and Anna couldn’t take her eyes off of Tony.  She wondered if he knew just how sexy he looked when he was singing to a full house.  She smiled at his voice, his smile and that cute head of hair.  She looked in awe at the way he kept the entire audience’s attention.  Anna knew she should pinch herself and get back to work.  She didn’t want to.  It wasn’t helping that Tony was singing one of her favorite songs.  She swooned each time she heard, “Just the way you look… tonight.”

There was one performance oddity that Tony had.  At first, like the kiss, Anna doubted if it was real or not.  Yet, it happened with insane regularity.   Every time that Tony sang his solo, without fail, he would glance off stage to Anna.  It didn’t matter where she stood, he somehow found her.  For one, fleeting moment, he would look right at Anna and wink.  Then he went right back to performing his tune to the audience with no one the wiser.  Anna tried to convince herself she was wrong, but she had been doubtful of that reasoning for a while.

She mockingly winked in return, half encouraging and half teasing the strapping man.  With Bambi-eyes and a cheerleader’s look on her face, Anna crossed her arms in front of her chest, stood on tiptoes, and exaggeratingly mouthed, “I love you!” in as obnoxious of a face as she could manage.  The first time she had heckled him, Tony had almost lost his concentration.  Like a pro, he took his surprise and turned it into a laugh, making the patrons love him even more.

Anna was afraid to admit it, but she was getting rather smitten with Tony.  She was going to have to confront him one of these days.  He actually listened to her.  He was undeniably attractive.  And the two clearly had similar interests; one doesn’t enter the theatre life for casual jollies.  Anna let her head rest on a breaker panel.  She had no desire to take her eyes off of Tony.  His song was almost over and she wanted to enjoy him glowing perfectly on stage for as long as possible.  Her cheeks started to flush.  Anna grabbed her handy clipboard and covered her face with it.  She couldn’t believe she was blushing.  Biting her lower lip nervously, Anna knew she’d have to corner Tony at the after-party.  She’d find some out of the way spot for them both to talk.  If nothing else, she was going to kiss that man with all her gusto.  Of all the performances being given tonight, Anna was determined that hers was the one that Tony would remember.

In the Blink of a Cursor

The trouble with worrying so much about your security in the future is that you feel so insecure in the present.” -Harlan Miller

**********

Thomas sat in front of his computer screen and pondered.  He knew what he wanted to do.  The computer screen glowed back at him, waiting expectantly.  Bandwidth was being used, but the keys remained idle.  Thomas clicked the mouse, typed in the proper command, selected the individual that was on his mind, and tapped the mouse button one more time.

“Are you sure?”  The screen asked what seemed like a perfectly benign question.  When the programmers created such a prompt, they surely only meant for it to be a double-checker.  Those nerds with their thick glasses and poor posture were adding one more layer of verification.  They had just been trying to prevent an accidental keystroke from bringing about embarrassment.  However, for Thomas, that was on more moment when doubt was allowed to settle in and take a nap on the couch in his mind.

He tried to tell himself that he was over-complicating things.  He knew what he desired to do.  Still, there were those times when what he felt like sharing and what he kept to himself were separated by only the narrowest of margins.

Thomas and Thelma had conversed over this matter many times, but never came to full agreement over the topic.  Thomas wanted to shout his feelings to the world.  Thelma was the cautious one.  If Thomas dared to click “OK” on the screen, there was a chance that Thelma wouldn’t like to his actions.  It might even start a fight.  But what if she agreed?  What if he could finally shout from the rooftops what he’d been clamoring to share with his friends for weeks?  Shouldn’t they know what had brought him joy and bliss all this time?  Thelma liked keeping her light under a bush, but that could only last so long.  People would eventually notice the fire burning and investigate, wouldn’t they?

Thomas couldn’t take it.  He had to at least try.  And with that, he set the pointer on his screen loose on its prey.  The white arrow of determination was pointed definitively towards its goal.  It was ready to act.  With a deep breath, Thomas tapped boldly and with emphasis.  The screen brought up a new message in confirmation of his deed.

“You have now listed yourself as ‘In a relationship with Thelma Thorpwite’”.  The secret was out.  Now maybe the hiding could end.  Maybe he could kiss his girlfriend when they left work together.  Perhaps they could go to parties together knowing that they had someone to arrive and leave with.  Thomas nibbled nervously on his fingernail.  The malleable material merely bent under the pressure his teeth tried to exert.  He had taken the first step in declaring his love out loud.  Now it was up to Thelma to respond.  Thomas hoped she’d publicly join hands with him, but she could just as easily shun his declaration of affection and ask him to tamper his enthusiasm.

Dating, Thomas thought to himself.  It’s a wonder guys have any hair left when we get married.  Thomas started thinking about his relationship with Thelma in the long run.  He started to let his mind wander to five, ten years into the future.  It was at that point that Thomas knew that, as was his nature, he was over analyzing everything.  There was a time and a place to think things over.  There was also a time to shut up, grab some potato chips, and watch television.  Thomas walked to the kitchen cabinet, happy that the remote was something he could still have complete control over.

A Past Beau(ty)

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told.  Some will be fun, some will not.  Some will be great, some will be less so.  Some stories are true, some are merely possible.  This is one of them.

A Past Beau(ty)

A romance is a short period when two people cannot see too much of each other, followed by a long period when they do.” -unknown

Nancy couldn’t help but stare at the headline of the newspaper.  Patrick Helmswid- The Story Behind the Region’s Most Charming Senator.  She had known Patrick in another time, a more romantic one.  Unknowingly, Nancy found herself remembering the bond that the two had once shared.

It had all started out as most college attractions do.  Nancy was a chemistry major trying to get to class before the bell.  The rain outside had made the tile floor rather slippery.  When Nancy, loaded down with a backpack full of books, took a turn too quick, she had found the floor beneath her sliding away.  She flailed her arms in the air and tried to regain her balance.  Nonetheless, she found herself headed towards the floor.

That was when Patrick came on the scene.  From behind Nancy, the strong quarterback put out his arms, bent his knees ever so slightly, and caught her with soft but sure arms.  Finding herself at a forty-five degree angle, Nancy was struck with surprise at how she had avoided the hard floor.  She twisted and turned to find the handsome rescuer behind her.  She giggled nervously, he beamed with white teeth.  The two were quite taken with each other in that moment.

Nancy put down the newspaper and went to her shoebox full of photographs.  Photos had become a funny topic to Nancy over the years.  There were pictures that scrolled across the wallpaper of her computer monitor every day; a never-ending montage of joy that silently came and went.  Still, there were pictures that she saved for special occasions.  Many photographs that resided in the dingy and ugly cardboard box only came out once every few years.  Their rare appearances and the flipping-sound that they made as she ran her fingers through the glossy paper brought a smile to her face.  The representations of events gone by didn’t call out to be displayed on a regular basis, nor were they as clean and crisp as the shots taken with her high-tech digital camera.  And yet, these prints, lacking focus and out of date, were special to her because of the moments in her life that they recalled.

The picture at the top of her stack constantly brought a smile to her face.  There she was, wearing Patrick’s college jacket, while he stood there looking endlessly rugged in his muddy jersey, shoulder pads, and trademark grin.  She had often teased him about bleaching his teeth, but he repeatedly claimed that the pearly whites she saw were the teeth he had been born with.  Nancy didn’t know whether to believe him or not, and back then she hadn’t cared.  Her boyfriend was attractive, charming, and athletic.  She thought she had hit the jackpot.

Patrick had played the role of significant other quite well.  He had taken care of her when her appendix had almost ruptured on their ski trip in the mountains.  Patrick had carried her in his arms without complaint for the two miles it had taken them to get to a car, and then he had braved a snowstorm to get her to a hospital.  After all that, he stayed by her side, never sleeping while she recovered from surgery.  Whenever Nancy yearned for the Patrick of yesteryear, she always brought up those three days that he took care of her without a thought to himself.  Of course, that had been early in the relationship.

The trouble started around three months into their romance.  Patrick was becoming quite the star on the field.  He was already a prominent law student, now he was becoming an unbeatable player on the field.  He liked it when crowds of people gathered around and proclaimed how spectacular he was.  His professors praised him, the college kids cheered him, and the women were especially appreciative of having Patrick nearby.

Homecoming of their senior year was when Nancy knew she had officially lost Patrick.  She looked at the faded photograph in her lap.  There she stood, modeling her dress in her bedroom, entirely alone.  That was exactly how the night had ended.  In between the times of reflection there had been no longing gazes or kissing.  Nancy had to admit even now that the Patrick she remembered had looked especially dashing in his tuxedo, complete with red cummerbund and bow tie.  Nancy had cut his hair only a week ago.  He was, to all eyes in the dance hall, perfection.

The problem arose when Patrick left his pristine decorum in the back seat and let his hormones do the driving.  Patrick and the head cheerleader shared a wild dance while Nancy went for punch.  The football player showed off his fancy feet with a sorority girl as Nancy visited with her friends.  Tired of waiting for her boyfriend to glance her way, Nancy drove herself home.  Patrick hadn’t noticed.  He had somehow managed to hold two female fans inappropriately close as he pranced about with a girl on each arm.  Nancy never cut a rug with Patrick on the floor that night, but three hours’ worth of other females did.

Their relationship had only deteriorated from there on.  Nancy would wait outside the library for Patrick to meet her.  Late at night he would call with an excuse about an unexpected practice while giggles resonated in the background.  A promise to pick her up from lab and take her to dinner turned into a story about how the gasoline meter in his car had stranded Patrick in the middle of nowhere.  Nancy questioned him on how he had managed to be in the boonies when his roommate had claimed he was studying in the library.  Patrick bristled and yelled.  “Are you calling me a liar?”  Nancy had affirmed that she was.

Patrick had turned uncomfortably silent at the accusation.  Nancy had replied in a single sentence.  “One day, you’re going to realize what happens when you don’t treat people right.”  After a year of dating, those fourteen words effectively ended their relationship.

One large photograph sat at the bottom of the box.  The edges were curved and the picture was forever curved and warped.  The image of the graduating class in their green robes fit in the box about as well as the two thousand students had fit in a “neat group” on the football field.  Naturally, Patrick was in the center of the group, his full physique visible to the camera.  Throngs of beautiful women and robust men surrounded him.  Nancy had been off to the rightmost area towards the back.  Her arms were around two women that she still had coffee with every month.

Looking back, Nancy couldn’t muster up too much bitterness.  She had been swooned and enjoyed it.  For a time, Patrick had made her feel attractive and desired.  No matter what injuries the past had brought up, there had been plenty of good memories.  Patrick had been an excellent kisser.  He had looked great with his shirt off.  And there was that kind and affectionate Patrick that she had known at the beginning of their relationship.  She would still cherish that part of the man, even if his character had lacked later on.  If anything, Nancy would say that they started out having the time of their lives.  She saw no reason to diminish that fun with the harsher incidents that had come later.  With that, Nancy closed the lid on the past and pulled open the newspaper.

There, with a few more wrinkles in his face but still with that engaging smile, was Patrick.  He wore a black suit, white shirt, blue tie, and a look that exuded confidence.  The caption beneath his photograph told another story.  “Senator Patrick Helmswid; seen here moments before he was brought up on charges of embezzlement and campaign fraud.  The Senator dismissed the claims as ‘misunderstandings’, and promised that he and his lawyers would soon clear up matters to all parties’ satisfaction.”

Oh Patrick, Nancy thought to herself as she shook her head.  You really haven’t changed.

“Honey”, she called out to the man putting up decorations on their Christmas tree.  “Come see what that silly ex of mine has done now.”  Nancy had learned from her past a while ago and had found a life she liked better.  Patrick would, as always, change at his own pace.

The Woman in Red

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

The Woman in Red

(A certain blogger inspired this post, and she knows who she is.  And how she inspired it.)  😉

…how else can an intoxicated drop-dead-lady-in-red gorgeous girl survive being single?” –s1ngal

Chaz called himself a man about town.  If there was a new restaurant to visit, Chaz had been there.  Chaz somehow managed to adopt the newest hairstyle and the fanciest shoes before they appeared in the stores.  The man outclassed fashion week and had a history of being the go-to source for trends.  All at once he was the Alpha Consumer, Mr. Joe Cool, and a walking style magazine.  Put simply, Chaz had seen it all.

The metrosexual’s innate ability to out-do the fashion gurus had started in college and had served him well into his mid-twenties.  Chaz had no way of knowing that tonight would be the night that would finally catch him off guard.

Well-dressed in a slick blue shirt, black pants, matching belt and watch, and shoes with a fine polish to them; Chaz entered into The Bar.  (Any bar that needed a creative name simply wasn’t hip.  If one was going to a drinking establishment, there was no place quite as swanky in town as The Bar.)  He walked with a stride that was confident and familiar.  He nodded to the patrons and a waved to the wait staff.  This was Chaz’s scene.  He had a long history in this locale.  He exchanged handshakes and ticket swaps with the men, and phone numbers and pick-up lines with the ladies.  Chaz was in his element.  He was in control.  Mr. Smooth was ready for anything.

Then he saw her.

From across the room, the woman in red was clearly attractive.  A brunette of her caliber would have stood out in any room, certainly with the gown that she was wearing.   And it was quite the red dress.  There was no need for sleeves when the attention lavished upon her was guaranteed to keep her warm.  The dress wasn’t so much skintight as it was strategically cut.  All of her curves and charms seemed to be perfectly highlighted.  Chaz was not a shy man.  He made his way through the crowd to find out her name.

Natalie smiled wickedly and ran her fingers along Chaz’s chest.  Betty made a point of nudging her hips into Chaz’s as she walked by with a tray full of drinks.  Brad and Tad slapped their pal on the back and cheered out his name.  Normally, Chaz would have stayed and welcomed the heaps of adoration that his clan lavished upon him; especially where Natalie was concerned.  Still, Chaz didn’t know this woman in red.  He couldn’t stand feeling out of the loop.  If there was this crowd of five guys gathered around her, she must have that special quality to her.  Chaz was determined to find out what he wasn’t privy to.

If it were any other man, a set of five glaring faces would have met him as he approached.  However, Chaz had that gift about him.  He wasn’t cruel.  He was charming and everybody liked him.  Guys wanted to watch football at his parties and women found him intriguing and handsome.  When Chaz walked up to this unknown woman in red, the other five backed off out of respect.  They had a notion of how the conversation would go.

“Hey there”, Chaz began.

“Hello”, the woman replied.

“I don’t mean to bother you, but I just couldn’t help it.”

“Oh?  And why is that”, the woman asked.

“I have this trait.  It’s a shame really.  I see an attractive gal and I just can’t let her walk away until she knows how amazing I think she is.”

“How long does that usually take?”  The woman raised an eyebrow of curiosity as she played with the two olives in her drink.

“With you; I think we’d be here a while.”

“That seems like such a pity for you”, the woman replied.  “I mean, you’re clearly popular.  All your friends look pretty eager to hang out with you.”

Pic from Blogspot. (One of the few PG red dress pics out there.)

“Maybe, but they can wait.”  Chaz normally meant that as a line, but the closer he got to this woman, the truer it became.   There was an undefinable quality to her.  Sure, she was gorgeous.  But at the same time, there was an air about her that he couldn’t put his finger on.  He tried to recognize a unique perfume or a look that completely captivated him, but that wasn’t it.

“I’d really just like to talk to you tonight”, Chaz admitted.

“A classy fellow like you could at least offer a gal another drink.”

“Would you like a beer?”

The woman in red grinned.  “Actually, I’m drinking martinis tonight.”

Chaz looked at the olives in her glass once more and shook his head.  “Of course you are.  I don’t know why I jumped to the beer conclusion.”

“I think I might be able to venture a guess”, the woman teased.

“Oh, could you?”

“Perhaps”, she said as she ordered herself another beverage.

Sensing their sensei’s need for space, the crowd around the two started to disperse.  There was no planning to it.  Somehow they all shared the knowledge that Chaz need a little extra space to operate this evening.  The closer wasn’t quite on his game.

His words were failing him, so Chaz went the action route.  Without fully knowing why, he reached up to her long wavy hair and ran his fingers through the colored strands.  He had never seen hair quite like hers before.  It was clearly brown, but there was something extra in it.  The hair was obviously recently conditioned, but another color seemed to be hiding beneath. It was soft, but in an ethereal way.

“I’m Chaz.  I have to ask, what is your name?”

“Molly”, she replied with a smug grin.

“Molly, what is it about you”, Chaz inquired.  “Why can’t I tear myself away from you?”

“I think there are many positive points to me.  I’m not easily scared, I swim like you wouldn’t believe, and I can do the crossword puzzle without any help.  Up to Thursday that is; a girl has her limits.”

“Oh, I think you’re the whole package”, Chaz agreed.  “But there’s something else, isn’t there?”

“I’ll tell you, but you’ll have to come in closer.”

“How close”, he prompted.

“Pretty close”, Molly replied as they leaned in.  Their faces were only an inch or two apart.  Molly ran her fingers along his pants leg as she stared him confidently in the eye.  “Do you want to know my secret?”

“Of course”, Chaz admitted.

“Earlier tonight, I showered in beer.”

For once in his life, Chaz had no clever response.  He didn’t know if the woman was joking or not.  Clearly she was confident.  She definitely exuded an approachable sexiness.  But was she crazy?

Molly laughed.  “It’s true.  I’ve been told that beer makes an excellent conditioner and a few gal pals told me it would lighten my hair.  I figured I would try it out.  It turns out the after-scent is like nothing else I’ve come across.”

Chaz felt a grin coming.  He felt like a fool, but he rather enjoyed it for once.  “You’re telling me, that all of these folks can’t do without you because you washed your hair in beer?”

“Well, it was the highest quality beer that money can buy, I assure you”, she assured him.

“Naturally”, Chaz laughed.

“So are you going to kiss me or what?”

“Huh?”  It was clear now.  This woman was operating on a whole other level.  Chaz didn’t know what act she would follow up with.

“Look, Chaz.  There’s more to me than just hair.  If you can’t keep up, I’m going to have to ask you to move along.  I’ve got boys to tease and dancing to do.  If you can’t match me stride for stride while sitting, how are you ever going to get me sweating on the dance floor?”

The man who had formerly been the coolest, most in-control person in the bar sat there dumbfounded.  Perhaps the beer scent had numbed his response time.  Maybe Molly was just too much woman for him.  Whatever the case may have been, Molly gave up.

“I’ll see you around, Charles.  Look me up when you’re ready for a challenge.”

With that, Molly got up, kissed Chaz on the cheek, and strode out onto the dance floor.  Chaz watched her move and laugh.  He didn’t know woman like her existed in the world.  Good golly, Miss Molly”, Chaz thought as he recalled the song lyric.

Chaz knew there was only one way to describe the woman in red with the beer-scented hair.  Molly was, perhaps more than any other female before her, absolutely intoxicating.

Relative Discourse

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

Relative Discourse

There can be no situation in life in which the conversation of my dear sister will not administer some comfort to me.” -Lady Mary Wortley Montagu

“There you are.”

“Oh c’mon now”, Joy said as she walked up a pathway to the bench.  “One of us has a husband who wants attention, a house that’s a wreck, and two small children.  The other spends most of his nights watching videos and chasing down Cheetos with Mountain Dew.  And yet you asked me to meet you in a park closer to your place than mine.”

“I’ll have you know that I’ve changed”, Jim said.   “I replaced Mountain Dew with Diet Mountain Dew.”

“Well that’s something.  Are you intending to go the Baked Cheetos route as well?”

“Ick.  White Cheetos?  Why would I do that?”

“I didn’t think so”, Joy replied as she sat by her brother.  “But you were insistent that I meet you as soon as possible, so I figured some big life event had taken place.  If you started living off of food that doesn’t have corn syrup as a main ingredient, that would certainly qualify.  You do know what real cooking tastes like, right?  It’s that stuff we eat when you’re over at my place?”

“Do you really think I asked you to come out at nine in the morning, on a Saturday, nonetheless, to get lectured about my diet?  I’m still somewhat thin, aren’t I?”

“Skinny doesn’t always mean healthy”, Joy said as she shook her pointer finger.  She looked at her hand and her eyes widened with horror.  “Oh no…”

“Yep”, Jim said as he diagnosed the gesture.  “Total Mom-move.  Congrats; you’ve turned.”

“You hush”, Joy said as she forced herself to put her hand down.  “Besides, we’re not going to talk about my domestic nightmares coming true.  We’re talking about the fact that you finally kissed her last night.”

“How did you know?”  It was Jim’s turn to have the whites of his eyes grow larger, only his expression came from astonishment at his sister’s apparently clairvoyant ways.

“It’s all over your face”, she calmly replied.

“She left lipstick on my face?”

“Ugh.  No, I was talking about the expression on your face.”

“Oh”

“Does this mean you didn’t wash at all since then?”

“It was only last night.”

“Shower.  Scrub your face.  Brush your teeth”, Joy lectured.

“Yeah, yeah.”

“How are you getting women to kiss you when you’re all grimy?”

“I thought you were trying to avoid sounding like Mom”, Jim retorted.

“That’s not being Mom”, Joy responded.  “That’s just common hygiene.”

“Uh huh.”

“So are we going to talk about this epic kiss or what?”  Despite the seemingly impatient tone in Joy’s voice, she was a woman of immense inner-calm.  Wearing a light fleece jacket, workout pants and tennis shoes, she was ready for whatever the world threw at her.  The busy life that she led meant that her shoulder-length black hair was always pulled back in a ponytail.  Only for formal family functions would she spend the effort to style her hair.  Her coworkers had only ever seen her trademark ponytail, even at fancier functions.  Joy simply didn’t have time. Also, she was genuinely self-confident.  She had a family that loved her, a career that challenged her and a bookshelf full of reading material.  By any standards, this woman in her early-thirties was a formidable, yet surprisingly soothing individual.

“Look, let me just get this out in my own way, would ya?”  If there was anyone who respected Joy, but wasn’t too impressed by her, it was Jim.  He was five years younger than her, which meant that she felt as though she was old enough to tell him what to do when they were children.  Jim was the little brother who was unwittingly talked into attending tea parties and playing with dolls.  Jim was the one who was told that it would be okay for him to sit on the handlebars while Joy bicycled recklessly down the steep hill by their house.  (“He said he wanted to do it”, had been Joy’s response when she had to explain how Jim ended up thrown into a series of blackberry bushes.)

Around the time that Jim was finishing junior high and Joy was starting college, the two started really talking to each other.  Their parents believed that the two just needed a little distance to appreciate what they liked about the other.  Jim started high school and wanted advice from his valedictorian sister and head of the drama department on how to survive the experience.  Joy, stressed by the demanding school load she had created for herself and frustrated by her slob roommates, liked recalling the simpler days of life.  When Joy graduated and moved back to the same area, the two siblings started visiting each other regularly.  If there was dirt to be had, the brother-sister pairing were the first to know.

“Has mom even met this girl yet?”

“Are you kidding me?”  Jim shook his head vehemently.  “Joy, we aren’t even a couple.”

“Wait, you’re not?  You haven’t shut up about this Cheryl person for three months.”

“I was wearing her down.  Don’t worry; your little brother can be a very smooth operator.”

“More like a very slow operator.  So what prompted this whole kissing scene?”

“Well, we had the talk in my car last night”, Jim explained.

“Wait, the talk?  As in the talk?  You’re sleeping with her?”

“No!  Good grief, how am I going to sleep with her if we just kissed?”

“Well, you said it was the talk.”

“I meant the ‘define the relationship’-talk.  Not the sex-talk!”

“Oh, well then you call your talks different things.  Just, y’know, take it slow.  Respect her needs too.”

“I know, Joy.”

“No really, pay attention to her.  You aren’t the only once dancing the horizontal polka.”

“Joy!”

“And please, for all of our sake, wear some protection.”

“Joy!  Stop!”

“I know you want to make Dad a grandfather again, but he’s in no big hurry.”

“I’m going to smother you in your sleep.  Charlie will understand when I explain how his wife tortured me.”

“And when you get up afterwards to get some food from the kitchen?  Make sure you offer to get her something.”

“Oh.  Dear.  Word.”

“Hey, somebody’s gotta stand up for this new girl in your life.”

“Ladies and gentlemen, I apologize for my sister’s sick sense of humor.  She can’t be stopped.”  Jim stopped addressing the imaginary audience and turned his attention to Joy.  “Do you want me to tell Mom the truth about the car crash of prom?”

“You’re just jealous.  That raccoon story was genius and you know it.”

“So that’s it?”  Jim proceeded with caution.  “We’re done talking about my non-existent sex life?”

“That’s what you get for giving Charlie the talk”, Joy replied.

“The talk?  Ew, I would never have a sex talk with Charlie.  That’s gross!”

“Oh good grief.  Not that talk; you really gotta figure out these conversations.  Remember, when you threatened to have all your hockey friends meet him in a dark alley if he hurt me?”

“I also recall telling him that that conversation was just between the two of us.  I was hoping that he understood that it was an accord between gentlemen.”

“Uh huh.  Well the way he tells it you were wearing a Goofy t-shirt when you pulled him aside to chat with him.”

“Don’t knock the shirt.  That shirt is awesome.”

“Is that what Sharon thinks?”

“Sharon happens to like Disney movies quite a bit, yes.”

“But not in the creepy way?”  Joy leaned in close and poked Jim in the shoulder.

“How so?”  Jim couldn’t tell if his sister was teasing or not.  Either way, she had succeeded in making him curious.

Photo from Wikipedia

“Oh, there are two kinds of Disney fans.  There are the ones who like the movies as well-told stories and a cherished part of their childhood.  And then there are those that have Minnie Mouse wallpaper and keep four stuffed animal characters on their beds and wear the same Disney costumes to every Halloween party.”

“She’s not like that.”

“I should hope note.  Every party, Jim; it’s not pretty.”

“No, Sharon’s not that crazy.  I get enough of that from you.”

“And I got chickenpox from you.”

“I still maintain you gave it to me before I gave it to you.”

“That doesn’t even make sense.”

“That’s how devious you are.  I’ve seen your paystubs; I know how devious you’re paid to be.”

“Sharon.  You.  Kissing.  Talk.”  Even Joy’s patience had its limits.

“What, you want the details?”

“Do you know how long it’s been since Charlie and I made out in a car?”

“No, and I don’t really want to…”

“Three years.  Three.  We dropped off Nick after our first night alone since he was born and we spent two hours of the night just making out in the car.  Those kids’ll suck the life out of ya.  Just you wait and see.”

“…hear about it.”  Jim shook his head at his sister.  “Why are we having this conversation?”

“Because I’m still cooler than Mom.  And Dad’s head would explode.”

“Oh man, it so would.”

“Sharon.  Kissing.  No stalling.”

“Well, one of my friends gave me tickets to see a play.”

“What kind?”

“Shakespeare.”

“Unnh.  Tragedy?”

“Comedy.”

“Better.  And did you tell her they were free?”

“No.”

“Perfect.  Dinner?”

“Uh, that Italian restaurant on fourth?”

“The one by the gas station?”

“I think so?  It’s new.”

“Jim, that opened like four years ago.”
“Well I hadn’t been before.  It was her choice.”

“Good.  And you paid?”  Joy was using her voice that meant there really was one correct answer.

“Uh huh, but we agreed she’d cover the tip.”

“Very good.  You’ve learned.”

“A glass of wine in the face has that effect on a guy.”

“Dating a wacko like Susan will have that effect too.”

“True, but she was fun”, Jim replied.

“There’s ‘fun’, and then there’s ‘spend a night incarcerated while the cops at the border search your vehicle for drugs’.  Not a phone call I want repeated.”

“Well Sharon isn’t like that.”

“Points to her”, Joy said.  “And what’d you wear?”

“Polo shirt.”

“Hrrm.  Blue one or black one?”

“Black one with jacket.”

“Oooh, much better.  You are learning.  And did you get her flowers?  Was this a ‘date’-date?”

“Flowers, but not large, intimidating ones.  Simple daisies.”

“Very good.  And she liked the play?”

“I think so.  We kinda started to fall asleep towards the end.  It was two and a half hours with no intermission.”

“Ah, yeah that would do it.”

“So we started using each other to keep awake.”

“Oh really?”  A mischievous smile took over Joy’s face.  “How so, Mr. Cool?”

“We only had the one armrest, which I let her have for the first two hours.  But then I snuck my hand on top of hers.  Y’know, let my fingers rest in between hers?  A little light sliding of my finger along hers.  And then I did a subtle scooting in my seat towards hers”

“And did she take the bait?”

“Her head was soon on my shoulder.”

“Jim!  Look at you, my little brother does have some moves.”

“I’ve been telling you that for years.”

“Yes, you’ve been wrong many of those times.  Now you’re starting to figure it all out.”

“So then we went back to my car after the show.”

“Did you open the car door for her?”

“Naturally.  I also let her borrow my jacket when we walked out of the theatre in case she was cold.”

“I was going to say…”

“Yes, yes.  ‘Take the jacket off or she’ll call the date off.’  I remember.”

“So you’re sitting in the car together.  Front seat or back?”

“Front. Why would we be in the back?”  Jim saw the shrug of his sister’s shoulders and suddenly understood.  “What is wrong with you?”

“Hey, I’ve had some fun in back seats over the years.”

“Joy!”

“Oh, relax.  It was all perfectly PG-13.  No R-rated.”  Joy paused.  “Actually, I take that back.  Steven was probably getting close into R-terrain.”

“Joy!  C’mon!”

“What, he was very affectionate and he played football.  Nothing like ‘that’ happened.”

“You had much more fun in high school than I did.”

“How else would I be able to dole out this much wisdom in your time of need?”

“Right.  Anyways, Sharon and I just sat there, looking at each other.”  Jim was much more comfortable talking about his own escapades than reliving his sister’s.

“And?  Lemme guess, you ran your fingers through her hair and then put your palm on her cheek?”

Jim was stunned.  “How did you know?”

“Guys always do that, especially when women have their hair down.  It’s like guys think they just have to touch it.  It’s only hair!  But the hand on the cheek is always nice.”

“Well I leaned in…”

“And she leaned in?”

“Yep.  I told her that I really liked being around her.”

“You talked before you kissed her?”

“Yeah, I wanted to tell her how I felt.”

“Jim, that’s very sweet.  But just shut and kiss the poor girl for goodness sakes.  She’ll get the idea.”

“I like talking.”

“Yeah, but don’t you like kissing?”

“Sure.”

“Trust me on this.  Kiss first, talk later.  Then kiss again.”  Joy paused and then punched her brother lovingly in the shoulder.  “How was it?”

“The kiss?”

“No, the pasta sauce.”

“Very nice.  Soft, moist; simple.  Not a make out-kiss, just a tender coming together.”

“Man, Mom and her movies from the forties really softened you up.”

“At least I don’t watch The Notebook.”

“Well then you’ll never understand how great it is”, she said as she stuck out her tongue.  “Seriously though; do you like this girl?  Sorry; woman.  I still don’t think you should be old enough to be dating women.  Stupid aging.”

“Yeah.  Yeah I really do.”

Public domain due to age.

“And she likes you back?”

“Well we’ve already texted about four times since then.”

“A nice sign.  So you’re happy?”

“I am.  I really am.”

“Then that’s all I need to know.”  Joy hugged her brother and then sat back against the park bench.

She watched two little ducks interacting at the edge of the grass.  One clearly thought it was in charge of the other and nudged it along with the top of its bill.  The smaller duck quacked in protest, and the two waddled side by side back into the lake.  With two little splashes, the small ducks pedaled through the water in search of adventures they could share.

Words with Girlfriends

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

Words with Girlfriends

My proudest moment as a child was the time I beat my uncle Pierre at Scrabble with the seven-letter word FARTING.” -Tina Fey

“’O’, ‘B’, ‘L’, ‘I’, ‘Q’, ‘U’, ‘E’, ‘S’.  Obliques.”

“I can’t believe you.”

“So that’s eighteen points, on a double-word square makes it thirty-six.  Then of course, it’s a bingo…”  Chuck let his voice trail off as he finished reveling in the victory.

“Really.  We’re done”, Kelli replied.

“…which would put me at eighty-six points.  If we were keeping track, that is.”

“I don’t think you should make that move”, Kelli said.

“Wait, why?  Because it opens up the top row for you to get a triple?  I think I’ll be okay.”

“No, I think for the sake of keeping your girlfriend happy, you shouldn’t move there.”

“What, are you joking?”  Chuck took his eyes off of the board.  It was evident by the way Kelli had leaned away from the board and crossed her arms that she was not kidding.  Her brows furrowed in a way that they met her ebony bangs just right and Chuck found it adorable.  However he didn’t feel that now was the best time to tell his significant other that her look of angry defiance was cute.

“You’re already something like seventy points ahead.  Now you’re going to win by one hundred and fifty.”

“I thought you weren’t letting me keep score?”  Chuck was confused.  He had a great fondness for the game.  He had it with him at all times.  He played it on his phone while waiting for the bus, he played it online against friends and family members; it was like the world needed more words to be spelled out and Chuck was only too happy to oblige.  Oddly enough, it was the physical board and tiles that he used the least often.

Kelli, his girlfriend of the last five months, was less enamored with the game.  It had taken some thorough cajoling to get her to play.  Backrubs had been promised, along with the solemn decree that no points would be written down.  Despite how it felt at the moment, Chuck’s intentions had been for this to be fun.

“I don’t have to use a pen and paper to figure out that you’re beating the pants off of me.”

“Now that’s an entirely different version.  If you want to start doing that, then I’ll definitely…”  Chuck stopped himself.  Kelli wasn’t smiling.  He wasn’t sure what a more severe version of a frown was, but Kelli had it.  Daggers were shooting from her eyes to Chuck, then the board, then back to Chuck.  If there was such a thing as an anti-laugh, that was what Kelli had on her face.

“Don’t try to change the subject.  You’re being inconsiderate.”

“How is that?”

“You should be letting me win.  It’s the chivalrous thing to do.”

Chuck had to shake his head and blink a few times.  “I’m sorry, I’m not chivalrous?  I thought I was all kinds of gentlemanly around you.  The flowers, the car door openings, the making of breakfasts?  When did I stop being chivalrous?”

“When you played that word”, Kelli replied.  “If you were a truly nice guy, you’d take that move back.”

“But”, Chuck stammered.  “That’s the best move to make.  If you can make a word with a ‘Q’, especially on a double word spot, and certainly when it’s an eight-letter word, then you make it.”

“I wanted to play there.”

“Okay…”

“Look”, she said turning her tiles to him.  “I was going to spell ‘SIN’.  I put the ‘I’ by the ‘’Q’ and the ‘N’ by the ‘U’.”

“I get that, by why not just put it at the bottom of ‘FIGHT’?  Or you can use just the ‘S’ and the ‘I’ and get a double-word out of ‘SIX’?  Why do you care if I use the ‘Q’?”

“I want the ‘Q’.  I like that word”, Kelli replied in a matter-of-fact tone.

Chuck waited in silence until he was sure no further explanation was forthcoming.  “That’s it?”

“Yes”, she said.

“You want me to cheat, to take back a word… just because?”

“Yes.”  Kelli’s voice had a dangerously calm tone to it.  She wasn’t merely explaining, she was stating.  Whenever she stated, it was a firm stance that she would not budge from.

“What happened to women being treated as equals?  Aren’t I supposed to give the same opportunities to both genders?  Do you really think a guy would get to tell me where I would play if we were facing off across the board?”

“We could play it that way”, Kelli said.  “If you want this relationship to go how it goes with your buddies, then we can do that.”  Leaning over the board that was between them and arching her back just enough to show her intent, Kelli whispered in Chuck’s ear.  “I don’t think you really want a ‘friend’ kind of arrangement here.  Do you?”

“You’re serious, aren’t you?  You want me to take that move off the board.”

“Yes”, Kelli replied as she returned to her side.”

“And you have no problem with me going easy on you instead of playing to the best of my ability?”

“Golfers have handicaps”, Kelli countered.  “You’re more of an expert at this game, so why not give me the edge so that I have a shot?”

“Am I supposed to double check every move with you before I play?”

“If you want”, she replied.

“That was a rhetorical question!”  Chuck was filled with disbelief.  “If anything you were supposed to say ‘no’.”

“Yeah, but I didn’t.”

Chuck stopped and fought off his urge to argue logic.  Kelli was the heart of the relationship.  She was the one who rolled around on the floor with her nieces, she was the person who would stop and ask the checkout clerk at the grocery store how they were doing, and she was the one that would run marathons for charity.

Chuck was the book-type.  He wanted precision and he wanted accuracy.  If they were leaving for a movie or a play at seven, he was in the car with his seatbelt fastened at six fifty-nine.  He always knew how to spend less on electricity.  He factored out which gas station would have the lowest price and whether or not its distance from Chuck’s residence warranted the cost of driving there.  Kelli wanted the world to be a better, friendlier place while Chuck wanted the world to make sense.

Somehow, their differences worked with the other.  Chuck’s attention to detail made sure that Kelli never felt forgotten.  Her birthday had been celebrated, he listened to gift suggestions and acted upon them four months later, and he worked to put her priorities at the top of his agenda.  In return, Chuck saw how people reacted to Kelli and was immensely proud to be with someone like her.  She always made him feel like the world was a decent place.  Some days Chuck couldn’t make sense of why things were happening or why people acted the way they did.  When he turned to Kelli, he saw a source of hope and he could believe that things would work out.

Now Chuck was analyzing the data put in front of him.  If he continued to play the way that he liked, then he would win and victory was his.  Even if he took back his move, Chuck was a sure bet.  Yet, if Chuck took back his move, Kelli would probably see it as a sign of affection.  He considered the act as something akin to giving her a boost when she couldn’t reach a tree branch.  Was it really so bad to let her have a leg up once again?

“All right”, Chuck said.  “I’ll capitulate.”

“What?  Is that like a catapult?  Are you going to throw your tiles across the room?”

“No, I’m just throwing the game off.”  Chuck flipped the tiles back into his fingers and made his move towards the other side of the board.  “’B’, ‘O’, ‘X’, ‘E’, ‘S’”, he spelled.  “BOXES.  There, now the ‘Q’ is all yours.  Happy?”

Kelli glowed with delight.  “Yes, yes I am”, she said as she put her three tiles down.  “Thank you for understanding.”

“Now hold on there”, Chuck said as he felt himself smiling along with Kelli’s infectious grin.  “This was a one-time thing.  If I get another good word, I’m going to play it.  Understood?”

Kelli leaned over the board and kissed him quickly.  “Yes”, she said as she put her hand on his cheek and rubbed it with her thumb.  “I still like the gesture, though.”

Kelli sat back down on the carpet as Chuck picked four new tiles out of his bag.  He cursed under his breath.  If he played his tiles correctly, he would be able to spell “SUBTITLE”.  At least it wouldn’t use a “Q” or get double word points.

Taking Work Home with You

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

Taking Work Home with You

The amount of women in London who flirt with their own husbands is perfectly scandalous. It looks so bad. It is simply washing one’s clean linen in public.” -Oscar Wilde

Byron couldn’t help but look across the ballroom at the woman standing by the painting. She was like some sort of temptress from a spy novel.  Her olive skin and regal posture made her stand out amongst the well-to-do in their formal attire.  As if asking for more attention, she was the only one wearing a dark green dress amongst a sea of black with white specks tossed in here or there.  And the dress… Byron gulped.

The dress was an impressive combination of fabric and engineering.  The neckline plunged to an extreme depth would put any natural chasm to shame.  Byron saw many V-neck dresses around the room, but none of them went down to the belly button.  It possibly dipped even lower than that, depending how the woman stood.

Byron decided that the dishes at the other end of the grand dining table needed to be cleaned off first.  The closer vantage point to the woman in the green dress didn’t hurt his decision either.  He smoothed the apron in front of his slacks and tried to quietly gather the gold-plated dinner ware while taking in the view.  Her eyes were wide-open and perfectly round.  While others had started wobbling from too much champagne or dragging their polished-shoes as a sign of exhaustion, this woman maintained her perfect pose.  She carried herself with sure strides and led with her chest.  Byron was starting to notice that there were other quite round attributes to the woman in green besides her eyes.

“You know those aren’t real, right?”

Byron almost dropped the dishes on the table.  As it was, he struggled to regain the load he had been carrying and the clattering sound caused the woman in green’s head to turn.  Byron nodded to her and faced the woman next to her.

“Seriously, those were store bought maybe half an hour before this shindig.  It looks like they were made on the cheap too.  I mean, c’mon.  Does she really think she’s fooling anyone?  These people know their high-value accessories and she went the bargain basement route.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about”, Byron whispered back to Allison.  An angry tone was present underneath his hushed voice.  “I was just…”

“You were just what?”  Allison wrinkled her nose and elbowed Byron above his kidney.  “So you’re saying you weren’t scoping out the emerald earrings?  I’m telling you, those things aren’t real.  I have costume jewelry that looks better than those.”

Byron laughed in relief.  “Yeah; those earrings.  I don’t know what she was thinking.”

Allison put her hands on her hips. The black apron and white dress shirt were a match for Byron’s, but somehow her disappointed attitude shown through.

“Really?  Those things?  That’s what you were looking at?  I hate to tell ya, bucko, but those aren’t real either.”

Byron started to push Allison towards the catering area.  He didn’t think that the woman in green had heard, but he wasn’t in the mood to be embarrassed or get in trouble.   He hurriedly pushed the door open and ushered Allison inside.  Their two fellow caterers were headed out and Byron closed the door behind them.

“Are you trying to get us in trouble?”

“Oh c’mon.  She didn’t hear me.  You’re just upset that I interrupted your ogle-fest.  One more time; those breasts aren’t real.”

“You’re upset that I’m enjoying the scenery?  At least I haven’t been slipping extra fish fillets to the old guy.”

“I’ll have you know that his name is Reginald”, Allison replied.  “He owns a house in the country and three around the world.  He’s already invited me to go horseback riding with him.”

“And you’re going to let the grandpa cradle-rob you?  Please.”

“He’s not old, he’s distinguished.”

“He’s bald.”

“I’ve told you time and again that baldness is a sign of extra testosterone in the body.  I would hope that you’d find that comforting, what with the little Friar Tuck spot you’ve got going up top there.”  Allison smiled as he reached up and ran her fingers through Byron’s hair.

Byron cocked his head at an angle, raised his eyebrow, and sighed.  “I shall consider myself thoroughly chastised.  How about we go back to work now, please?  We can both not get fired and we can go sit on the couch with our loved ones of choice.  Deal?”

“Alright, but don’t come crying to me when she turns you down and I have plans to go yachting tomorrow.”

Allison left her coworker alone to compose himself.  Byron adjusted his tie, looked at the clock on the wall, and took a moment.  Just one more hour, he told himself.  The crowds will be gone in an hour and you can get out of here.  Maybe with a little company, if she’ll let you.  You’re so close.  Byron brushed off his apron and opened the catering door.  Standing right in front of the door, her fist raised and ready to knock, was the woman in the green dress.

“Oh, hello”, she said.  A smile started to form on her face.  Byron had seen society women smile like that before.  It was a dangerous smile.  The woman couldn’t have been any older than Byron, but she clearly had years of experience perfectly that seductive and terrifying smile.  “I was wondering if I might be able to get an extra napkin from you.  I seem to have gotten a drop or two down my dress.”

Byron gulped.  He nodded and reached for the pile of napkins that was thankfully right by the door.  The woman in green took it with a nod of her head and dabbed at her chest and stomach.

“That’s the problem with this dress”, she commented.  “It looks great but you have to take care of it.  One false move and I’ve got dinner all over me.  We wouldn’t want that now would we?”

The woman in green laughed as she tossed her head back.  Her long black hair fell behind her shoulders and Byron caught himself looking at the sleek curvature of her neck as it flowed towards other curves and slopes.

“No”, Byron said as he tore his gaze away.  The fire extinguisher on the right wall needed all the attention he could muster.  Byron focused on that red cylinder and nothing else.  The fire extinguisher; it was clearly the most important thing in the room.  There was no reason to look at the exotic woman in front of him.  No reason whatsoever.

“I remember the first time I wore this dress”, the woman in green said as she reached over and turned Byron’s chin towards her.  “Why, I turned the wrong way too fast and the dress nearly fell off.  Can you imagine?  It’s amazing to me how easily and how quickly some dresses can come off.  But sometimes it can be rather convenient, don’t you think?”

Byron started to walk sideways away from the woman in green.  “I’m sorry Miss, I really wouldn’t know.”

“Vanessa”, she corrected as she stepped sideways to match his location.  “Call me Vanessa.  I’d like you to know my name so we can become better acquainted.”

“Well thank you Miss, but I really do need to attend to those dishes.”

Vanessa shook her head.  “No, I think not.  I know the organizer of this gala; you’re fine.  Focus on me.  Give me your undivided attention and I’ll make it worthwhile.”

“Oh, I think you’re quite fascinating Miss, but I really should…”

“Look”, Vanessa said as she stroked Bryon’s bicep.  “Have you ever seen anything quite like me before?”

“I think it’s pretty safe to say that I haven’t”, Byron admitted.

“And you are attracted to me, yes?  The windows in this room reflect the lighting quite well.  I saw you taking me in.”

“You are a stunning woman”, Byron said.

“So you’re saying that you don’t want to get out of here?  Go back to my place and admire me some more?”

“I would have to respectfully decline”, Byron said.

“Why?”  Vanessa was indignant.  “You really think you can do better than me?  You think some sexier woman with more money than you’ll ever see is going to come up to you?”

“I don’t think that at all.  I just have other arrangements that I need to see to.”

“I told you”, Vanessa purred.  “Your job will be fine without you.  I’ll take care of it.”

“And I appreciate that”, Byron replied.  “But there’s someone I’d like to spend the evening with.”

“Not me.”

“No, but it is a very tempting offer.”

“You’re turning me down.”  Vanessa’s flirting ways had turned into indignant anger.  “You’re a caterer, you’re nothing.”

“I would respectfully disagree with you Miss.  But she’s sort of everything a guy could want, so what can I do?”

Vanessa sent an icy glare straight into Byron’s eyes.  He felt a chill go through him as the formerly beautiful woman transformed into a heinously bitter person.  The scowl on her face made Byron’s blood run cold.

“You’re a fool.”  Vanessa reached for the nearest glass, threw it in his face, and stormed off.

Byron sputtered and wiped the liquid out of his face.  At least at had been water and nothing more.  He noticed the room’s attention turning to him.  He twisted and ducked back into the catering room.  A few seconds later, Allison burst in after him.

“What happened?”  Her eyes were wide with panic and concern.  “Did you do something wrong?”

“Apparently”, Byron said as he held out his arms and displayed the large water spot on his uniform.  “Hand me a towel, would you?”

Allison complied but she wouldn’t stop staring.  “What did you do?  Did she catch you staring at her?”

“Yeah, but that’s not why she was mad.”

“What do you mean?”

“She was mad because I wouldn’t sleep with her.”

“What?”

“Apparently Vanessa has quite the hots for me.  I would have considered it a better compliment if she hadn’t ended our conversation so abruptly.  I’m going to guess that she has anger management issues. What do you think?”

“She wanted you to leave with her.”

“Yes.”

“And go back to her place.”

“I assume so.  We didn’t really go into specifics.”

“And have sex with her?”

“Very much so.”

“And you said no?”

“I believe that is what happened.  Why?”

“I saw the way you were staring at her.”

“Yeah, but you weren’t supposed to see that.  I was just going to glimpse and walk away.  It’s like holding your breath.  It’s a fun little diversion for a bit, but after a while it becomes dangerous.”

“So you didn’t want to ask her out?”

“Well, maybe a part of me did”, Byron admitted.

“And the rest of you?”

“A good ninety-four percent of me would like to go back to my place and watch a movie with you.”

“Ninety-four?”

“It was like ninety percent before, but then she had to go and throw the water on me.  That’s just rude.  Either way, you won; by a large margin.”

“You really like me that much?”  Allison’s eyes were starting to water just as Byron’s apron was drying off.

“What have I been telling you these past seven months?”  Byron put his hands on Allison’s shoulders and looked her straight in the eyes.  “Yes, Allison Allons.  I like you that much.”

“Thanks, you’re pretty great when you’re not ogling other women.”

“Oh come on now, what about you and Alfred Hitchcock over there?”

“He’s not that big”, she said with a giggle.

“He’s not small”, Byron replied.  “I think he got so rich because he sits on small children until they give him their lunch money.  Is that who you want to spend your weekend with?  A child squisher?”

“He happens to be a very nice man.  He’s just lonely.”

“Well it would be nice if you weren’t so attentive to him.”

“Then I would appreciate it if you wouldn’t stare at other women when I’m around.”

Byron pulled Allison close to his wet apron.  A few tears found their way to his apron and dabbed a series of watermarks onto his uniform.  He wrapped his arms tight around her and hugged her.

“I think that can be arranged”, he offered.  “Of course it wouldn’t hurt if you wore dresses like that.”

“Unnhhhh”, Allison groaned as she pulled free just enough to look Byron in the face.  “Honey, no one wears dresses like that.  Not even mannequins.  But I think we can work something out.”

“Fair enough”, Byron replied.  “In return, I shall do my best to go bald since you clearly like that sort of thing.”

“Oh no, you’re doing just fine.  Another year or two and you’ll be all caught up with him.  You’ll be completely bald in five years; guaranteed.”

“Remind me again why I’m turning down a night with a stunning woman who thinks I’m rather stud-like?”

“Because I’m classier and cuter and funner.”

“Funner?”

“Yes.  I caught you gawking, so I get to use bad grammar.  Funner.”

“Alright”, Byron said.  “You’re funner.”  He looked to the clock on the wall again and noted the time.  “Forty-three more minutes.  Then we can go do whatever we want.”

“Think you can make it through with a slightly damp apron?”

“Hey, I’m not the one whose butt is about to get pinched.”

“What?”

“I’m telling you, the old man that seems so nice is about to get frisky.  They can get away with it because they’re ‘harmless’.  Keep a safe distance there, missy.”

“Now would be an excellent time to shut up and kiss me.”

“Yes ma’am.”  He leaned forward, as did she, and they felt their lips brush together.  They immersed themselves in the moment, broke off their embrace, and headed back to work.  Byron was irked that their affection had to be put on hold, but he was confident that they could pick up where they left off.

A Prom(ising) Date for the Brave

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

A Prom(ising) Date for the Brave

The prom is like the Olympics of high school. You wait four years, three people have a good time and everybody else gets to live on with shattered dreams.” –Prom

Michael opened the refrigerator door for the umpteenth time that afternoon and stared down the corsage.  As with every other time that day, the floral arrangement gave no sign that it noticed the onlooker.  The red roses sat there with their deep, rich colors; the silky texture refused to wave or yield for the teenage boy.  The corsage remained passive, its emotions as hardened as the plastic box that served as its temporary home.  Soon, the corsage would find its real home, its true place, resting on a lovely young woman.  Of course, all that depended on Michael keeping his resolve.

The whole evening made less and less sense to Michael the more he thought about it.  He still had a hard time believing that Noelle had said yes to him.  The head of the track team was newly available, thanks to her boyfriend’s “indiscretion” behind the gymnasium.  Neither Michael nor his friends really thought that the famous redhead would have deemed him worth her notice.  But, with the promise of free cafeteria chicken burgers for a month, Michael had taken the dare.

He had walked up to the tall girl, her uncontrolled hair blocking Michael from her peripheral vision.  When he cleared his throat to signal his approach, Noelle had turned around with a piece of lettuce still protruding from her lips.  Michael had turned his eyes away in embarrassment and Noelle’s friends had giggled excitedly at what they guessed was coming.  Somehow, despite Michael’s awkwardness and the unromantic status of the conversation, he had managed to squeak out the question.

“Hey Noelle.  I’ve always thought you had a quality about you…”

“Quality?”  Noelle raised an eyebrow.  “What sort of quality, Michael?”

“Well”, Michael said with a pause.  He was shocked that she even knew his name.  They’d had classes together, sure.  Still… she knew his name?  “You seem, I dunno… nice.  And confident.  I admire that about you.”

“Thanks”, she replied as she put down her fork.

“And you’re hot.”

The table erupted with laughter at that.  Michael felt that the table had lost all interest in eating their lunch and was no focused solely on him.  He swallowed his throat and put his finger in the neck of his shirt.  The t-shirt had always sat loosely on him before, but now he found himself suffocated.  He considered caving to the utter humiliation of the scene.  Then he noticed the way Noelle was looking at him.  There was that kindness he liked about her, sitting right on her face.  He took a breath and tried again.

“I mean, attractive.  I suppose you could say ‘hot’.  All the guys do.  But, I mean, it’s more of a grace, y’know?  Like you’re pretty and all that, but you walk around without knowing it.  Even when you’re running, you’ve got this calm poise about you.”  Michael felt himself rambling.  “Does that make any sense?”

Noelle’s expression became very quiet.  If she had been considerately attentive before, she was now fully engaged in their conversation.

“Thanks”, she repeated.  “I really appreciate that.  Did you come all that way to say that?  Did you maybe have something, you know, else, that you wanted to ask me?”

“Actually, yeah”, Michael said, picking up the ball that had been gently lobbed at him.  “I was wondering if you’d feel like going to the prom with me.”  Michael had never felt more awkward in his life.  Noelle had certainly been respectful and kind, but that was no guarantee that she wanted to spend an evening with him.  Fortunately, Michael’s waiting was short-lived.

“Sure”, Noelle replied as the cafeteria gasped in response.  She pulled an unused napkin from beside her plate and nodded towards Michael’s constantly full shirt pocket.  “Mind if I borrow a pen?”

Noelle proceeded to write down her number and Michael hazarded a look over his shoulder.  He turned to his friends who were four tables away and flashed them the double thumbs up.  The table pumped their fists in the air silently, but then a look of alarm spread over some of their faces.  They made wild and panicked circling gestures with their arms until Michael finally caught on.  He returned his attention to Noelle to find that she was waiting, a bemused look on her face.

“Here’s my number.”  She said, handing the previously ordinary napkin over and bestowing upon it the rank of sacred treasure.  “Why don’t you call me tonight and we can talk.  Sort of, discuss plans, and all that.”

Michael grinned sheepishly and took the napkin which he handled carefully.  He nodded and starting walking back to the normal table where he belonged.  It wasn’t until he was twenty feet away that he remembered his manners. He turned, yelled, “Thanks!” and was met by his friends with a round of high-fives.

That had been three weeks ago.  Michael had been too terrified to call Noelle right away, so he waited until his nerves had calmed down to a somewhat reasonable level.  For the day’s purposes, “reasonable” would have to be defined as stammering only once every five words.  Still, Michael had managed to take a deep breath and dial up Noelle’s number.  He looked at the number on the napkin one more time to be sure, but his retinas had already burned the number into his brain from an afternoon spent studying its writing.

The phone conversation had been surprisingly easy.  Noelle seemed much easier to talk when Michael didn’t have to look her in the eye.  They had ended up talking for a good half hour and even had talked some since.  Sometimes it was a simply text message from Noelle asking how Michael’s day was going.  One time they talked about college and summer plans for almost an hour.  Michael couldn’t understand why she was being so nice.

The weeks of nervousness had all given way to today.  Michael had followed Noelle’s instructions and had purchased a corsage that would match dress.  She had tried to explain the details of how beautiful it was, but he admitted that he couldn’t keep up.  Once he heard the words “red” and “strapless”, his brain started to shut down.  All he knew was that he was taking the greatest gal at the high school to prom.  Even the jocks had stopped flushing his gym socks down the toilet.

Michael paced back and forth in his living room.  His parents had promised to be gone when Noelle showed up for their drive to the prom, but Michael was suspicious.  They seemed to continually find errands that needed to be done around the house that would, “only take a second”.  He didn’t feel that the kitchen lights and the top of the cupboards required dusting, but they were adamant.  If nothing else, Michael’s father had been useful in helping with the formal attire.  Michael had never worn a cummerbund before.  He figured it was some sort of royal sash.

The limo was due to arrive in half an hour and Noelle was supposed to appear in fifteen minutes.  Michael gulped for the umpteenth time that night.  The doorbell rang and Michael could feel himself sweating through his dress shirt.  As he walked to answer the front door, Michael noticed that both his parents were watching from around the kitchen doorway.  When they realized they had been discovered, they ducked back into the other room.  Michael rolled his eyes upward and moaned in annoyance.  He took one more breath, placed his sweating hand on the doorknob, and opened it.

“Hey, Michael. Are you ready?”

Michael tried to respond, but he couldn’t speak.  There, standing in his doorway, was Noelle.  To call her stunning was over-simplifying things.  The sleek red dress hugged her body while the slit down the side showed off her legs.  Her usually unkempt curly hair was pulled back and swept up, giving way for a red piece of fabric to drape under her chin and down by her shoulders.

“You… you look great”, Michael replied.

“Thanks”, she said with a smile.  “You too.  Very handsome.”

“I like your scarf”, he offered.

“Oh, this?”  She laughed and put her fingers to the loose fabric.  “It’s actually a wrap.  I thought it added a little dramatic flair.”

Michael nodded and stepped away from the door into the living room.  It was the closest Noelle was going to get to an invite to come in, and she understood it as such.  Michael couldn’t believe that Noelle was here.  In his house.  About to go on a date with him.  His curious nature got the better of him.

“Can I ask you a question?”

Noelle had been taking in her surroundings.  She stopped and turned to Michael.  “What’s up?”
“Why are you here?”

“What…what do you mean?  You asked me out?”

“Yeah”, Michael replied.  “But why did you say yes?”

“You’re a nice guy aren’t you?”

Michael only shrugged his shoulders.

“I’ve found that there aren’t a lot of nice guys in college.  I’ve noticed how you clean up after lunch when someone leaves a mess.  You helped Mrs. Nolan get around and got her chair for her when she had that surgery on her hip.  You take care of people.  Why wouldn’t I go out with you?”

“You’re pretty out of my league”, Michael offered.

“We may not have the same friends, but that’s not much of a reason, is it?  And just because I look confident when I’m running, doesn’t mean I’ve got it all figured out.  We all have our baggage, Michael.”

“Really?”  Michael was intrigued.  “What kind of issues?”

Noelle laughed.  “How about we get through this date first?  Maybe we’ll talk about our shameful quirks on the next one?”

Michael had a hard time believing what he was hearing.  A second date?  That lunchtime dare might have been the best thing that ever happened to him.

College Learning Put to Use

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

College Learning Put to Use

Dating is like trying to make a meal out of leftovers. Some leftovers actually get better when they’ve had a little time to mature.” -Lisa Kleypas

Joel thought Trisha was pretty cute.  Everything about her was round.  She had round eyes, round cheeks, and a rounded off chin.  If there was anyone that had soft features and an attitude to go with it, that was Trisha.

Trisha in return often told Joel how much she appreciated his attentiveness.  Trisha was always the caring one, the friend who took care of everybody else.  For some reason, Joel took it upon himself to take care of Trisha.  He was liked by their fellow church members, he hugged when asked, but he did not actively seek to help out anyone except Trisha.  He ended up sharing a pew with her in church one Sunday, held the hymnal for her, and his willingness to support her sprang from that.

Thus began a rather pleasant friendship.  The two shared conversation time after church, though both would have been quick to say that no profound topics had been discussed.  When two teenagers have active social lives, homework, and a family to ride home with, it is hard to dive into every aspect of the other person.  They each thought the other was fine, and they were fine with that.

Many high school friends drop out of touch when college life begins.  Trisha and Joel were no exception.  They had expected to keep in contact, but they had both underestimated how busy they would be.  E-mails went unanswered.  Whenever one was home for holiday or summer break, the other was off on some wild trip or simply working a few extra shifts to pay for the increasing cost of tuition.  The two friends that had once been quite cordial eventually lost touch entirely.

Joel kept very busy.  Nicole saw that as her mission.  She found Joel sitting in the back row of their Advanced Applied Chemistry class and decided on the spot that she had to have him.  Nicole was not the sort of person that sat around and mulled over cause and effects; she had enough of that in class.  In life, when Nicole wanted something, she went after it with all the gusto she could muster.

Joel had to admit that he found the attention very flattering.  He had never been doggedly pursued before and he rather enjoyed it.  He did not think that Nicole was someone he would have selected as his “type”, but she was certainly attractive.  The multiple nose and facial piercings had given him pause, especially when paired with a head that was shaved off on the right side with bright pink spikes on the other.  However Nicole was adventure personified and Joel found the ride to be fascinating.

To say that their relationship was wild would be understating it.  Joel found himself trying to recuperate after each outing.  But Nicole would always grab him by the hand and yank his arm, along with the rest of him, off to some epic trip.  There was the time that Nicole hopped onto the field during a baseball game and Joel spent three hours trying to get her released from jail.  The Great Grand Canyon Adventure taught Joel what it was like to be lost in the wilderness for three days with no compass and not nearly enough food.  The howling animals at night and his fear of snakes had not helped matters any.

Joel’s logical side constantly warned him to turn and flee in the other direction.  Then there was the other side, the side that most college fellows listen to quite often.  That was the part that Nicole nudged along every time she offered to reveal a new tattoo.  Their own personal chemistry was beyond anything that Joel learned about in class and the two had some rather steamy nights.  The whole thing should have been tremendous amounts of fun for Joel.  However, after almost a year of being sucked into the force of nature that was Nicole, Joel finally figured out what the problem was.

Nicole was always the one in charge and Joel did not mind that.  However, in her eagerness to try new things and perhaps get a few new bumps and bruises, Nicole never consulted with Joel.  He was often too tired to care where they went and Nicole had a long list of things that she wanted to do while she was still young.  The result was that Joel never felt like himself.  He was the “plus one” in the relationship.  Nicole suggested something then he went along with her.  As that year came a close, Joel felt his identity slipping away.  He did not like it.

The break up took thirteen hours, none of which Joel thought went well.  They started out in a greasy burger restaurant.  Joel told Nicole that he felt she was overpowering him, overly reckless, and therefore their relationship should be over.  Nicole responded by over-reacting.  Dishes were thrown across the dining area and they were asked to leave.  The yelling started on the way back to Joel’s place.  For the rest of the night there would be apologizing, making out, fighting, and more yelling.  When it had all wrapped up just after sunrise, Nicole was off to go steal a motorcycle and Joel wondered if hiding under his bed was allowed.  His fear of further retribution proved to be unwarranted, but with Nicole one never knew.

Playing Pool by Kristel Rae Barton

Joel spent the rest of college being single for the most part.  He would go on a date or two, but nothing really clicked.  There were the nice gals that were uninteresting and the darker gals who had heard about him and Nicole.  Neither scenario ended with Joel feeling like himself or caring deeply for the other person.

Joel focused on his studies.  He worked on the school’s grounds crew to help with tuition.  He studied until his eyes were red.  And after many hours of lectures and tests, he graduated.

Summer came, final transcripts were printed off, and Joel found himself heading back home.  He did not have a job yet, but he felt that he was capable of being hired soon.  For a few weeks Joel just wanted to relax.

In all the years of college and all the nights out with Nicole, Joel had never once played pool.  In the back of his head he always pictured playing pool with a glass of beer nearby to be part of the college experience.  That was why, a month after he returned back to the town he had been raised in, Joel walked up the stairs of the town’s only pub and made his way to the pool table on the second story.

When he found the pool table, he saw that it was occupied by a single player.  A woman whose back was turned to Joel was muttering to herself.  Joel watched as she talked to the table, re-aimed the pool stick a few times, and finally bounced the white ball along the red-felt surface until it struck the nine-ball.  The end result was that the nine-ball ricocheted off of the side of the table and then rolled to a stop just short of the pocket.

“Close shot”, Joel commented.

“Thanks”, the woman answered without turning.

“Would you like someone to compete against?  Although I should probably warn you I’ve never actually played pool before.”

The woman turned around, a smile appearing slowly on her face.  “If that is the voice of Joel Braden, then I would love to thwomp you soundly.”

Joel had to look, and then look again to confirm what he could scarce believe.

“Trisha?”

The two hugged and laughed at finding each other.  Apologies for not keeping in touch were made, memories were recapped, and degree information was soon exchanged.  The two lingered near the pool until they picked up their pool sticks and faced off.

Joel watched Trisha play and found himself feeling captivated with her.  He remembered Trisha as having lots of nice curves in her face.  Yet now he realized that the rest of her features followed her face’s lead.  As Trisha leaned and maneuvered around the table, Joel wondered how his hormonal high school-self hadn’t seen what was so completely obvious.  Trisha was unequivocally stunning.

“What shall we do when we finish off this game?”

Joel found his train of thought interrupted by Trisha’s question.  “Did you have something specific in mind?”

“Oh, you know me”, Trisha replied.  “I always have a few fun ideas up my sleeve.  But what about you?  Surely there is something that we could both enjoy?”

With that gesture of consideration, and with the way she kept running her fingers along his arm, Joel was quite taken.  For some couples, love at first sight works out fine.  With Joel and Trisha, a double-take was more their style.

An Affair Worthy of the News

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

An Affair Worthy of the News

Be faithful to your love and you will be recompensed beyond measure.” -Albert Schweitzer

“What do you think we should do?”

“Make out.”

“Tom”, Gretchen said with exasperation.  “We made out yesterday, now we need to be serious.”

“You think I’m not?  Well if you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m always serious about making out.  I am all about serious.  I think we should do some serious making out.”

“Funny guy”, she said.  “But we need to come up with some sort of a resolution here.”

Tom lay on his side looking at Gretchen who was doing the same.  The weather was far too nice to be ignored and the couple had taken a blanket to a small patch of grass.  Tom saw his relaxing day off turning into a, “we need to have the talk” ordeal.  He took his right hand off of Gretchen’s hip and reached all the way around her back.  He rolled her on top of him and locked his arms tightly behind her lower back.

“What are you doing”, Gretchen asked.  A smile eked out of the corner of her mouth, proving that she was only partially resisting.  “We’re supposed to be talking out a plan of action here.”

“I am”, Tom replied.  “I just want to make sure that I have your full attention.  I know how you get distracted.”

Gretchen’s penchant for being distracted was what had caused the two to meet in the first place.  She had decided that the life of a reporter would be enough of a hustle to keep her brief attention span occupied.  The bosses liked her enthusiasm and had asked Tom to show her the works.  Neither of them had meant for anything to happen, but they certainly weren’t complaining at the results.  Tom had started off by showing her the press box at the arena, showing her the best secret places around the city, and generally sharing with her the secrets that came from years of reporting in they city.

In return, Gretchen had let Tom have an outlet for his playful side.  At work he was seen as reliable and professional; one of the true grunts that would work until the job was done.  Gretchen loosened him up.  Whenever she rushed off to explore some new sight in the city, she grabbed him by the hand and took him racing along with her.  Her laugh, the way her long hair bobbed up and down in the loose ponytail as they darted from one place to the next; it was all too much for Tom to resist.  Everything had come to a head at the boxing match.

Despite Tom’s protesting, his editor had enlisted him to help out while one of the sports writers was on maternity leave.  Things were quiet in the features section and the boss assigned Tom the wrestling match.  When Tom started to vent his annoyance to Gretchen over their morning cup of coffee, she excitedly revealed her secret love of the spectacle.  A quick call to the stadium resulted in a second press seat being obtained.

Tom was astounded by the fun he had at the event.  Gretchen was the main reason why.  She reached a level of excitement Tom could scarcely believe.  She screamed and cheered, calling each wrestler by name and crying for such attacks as “the whirlwind of destruction” and “the bang-town boom”.  Tom had tried to understand the actual proceedings for the first half hour, but he ended up watching Gretchen.  She was clearly having the time of her life and she only became more enthralled as the night went on.  Finally, as the victor pinned his weary opponent, the crowd echoed in one massive cheer.  Gretchen clutched her hands in front of her, her tiny hands balled up into eager little fists of glee.  She looked to Tom, unclenched her hands, and lunged at him.  Her right hand grabbed the back of his head and she pulled him close, her lips fiercely pressing against his.

Tom felt her warm kiss send sparks throughout his body.  He hadn’t expected this kind of attack at the arena.  Gretchen pulled away, realized what she had done, and blushed.

“Sorry” she apologized.  “The spandex, the chaos, the crowd”, she gestured around her.  “I guess I sometimes forget to censor myself.  Please don’t be mad?”

The reply came quickly as Tom put his hand through her hair and leaned close.  “I won’t if you won’t.”  Slowly, making sure he was okay, Tom pulled her towards him and the two enjoyed their exchange in the madness around them.

Ever since that night of kissing, the two had been having the time of their lives.  Their different assignments and pre-existing obligations kept them from spending as much time together as they liked, but they managed to sneak in a date or two each week.  If nothing else, they tried to always grab a quick cup of coffee at work.

Work, although it was the reason the two found each other, was also the biggest problem looming in front of them.  Gretchen had stated in her interview that she had big ambitions, and she had meant it.  From the day she sat down in her business suit and answered the questions asked her, the goal had always been present in her mind.  She wanted to be an editor.  She wanted to be the one making the shots and keeping tabs on all the activity around town.  She cringed at the idea of being trapped behind a desk, yet that was a sacrifice she thought she could handle.  That drive and passion was appreciated by the higher-ups.  But the part that they bristled at was the obvious affection that Gretchen had for Tom.

The newspaper had a rule.  The rule made sense.  The rule was strict.  And for Gretchen and Tom, the rule was a problem.  The rule stated that no employee should be in a relationship with an employee that could be answerable to the other.  Tom showing Gretchen around town and taking her places; that the bosses could excuse as a professional courtesy.  However two employees out and out dating while one made choices that could affect the other; that they wouldn’t have.  Gretchen had made informal inquiries to Anne, an editor she had grown to respect and like.  Anne explained it as softly as she could; management wouldn’t let an editor date a reporter, even if they weren’t assigned to the same sections.  The company wanted to avoid any and all appearances of nepotism, no exceptions.

Gretchen had tried to have fun with Tom, and that part had succeeded entirely.  The choice they would have to make soon continued to loom over their heads like a giant typewriter.  Any day it was going to fall and one of them might be crushed.  Gretchen warned Tom as they walked towards the park.  A decision had to be made.  She would prefer it to be made today.  Tom nodded quietly; a sign that he was trying to figure out a way to phrase the thoughts in his head.  That was one of the things Gretchen loved about Tom.  His thoughts always came out perfectly formed because of all the time he spent developing and arranging them in his head.  Tom rarely went through drafts or needed revisions; his writings, just like his conversations, emerged from his head ready for their audience.

“Here’s what’s going to happen”, Tom said.  He watched as Gretchen tried to pull away, but he wouldn’t let her.  She pulled her long hair out of Tom’s face, only for it to fall back towards him after she had readjusted it.  “Leave it”, he said.  “Here’s what we will do.  We will continue to fall deeply and madly in love.  It’s that simple.”

“Okay, she said as she ran her thumb against the line of his jaw.  And when I become editor?”

“Then I’ll quit”, Tom said quietly.

“Wait, quit?”  Gretchen broke free of Tom’s arms and sat next to him.  She stared down at him in disbelief.  “You can’t quit.”

“Sure I can”, Tom replied.  “People do it every day.”

“You can’t quit”, she repeated.  “You’re great at your job.  You love it.  You’ve spent years developing all those contacts.  What would you do if you quit?”

“I could still write”, Tom replied.  “I put some feelers out and there’s freelance work available.  Plus, my agent seems to think that there’s a book or two in this noggin of mine.”

Gretchen was stunned.  “You talked to your agent?”

“Well yeah”, Tom said has he sat up.  “You’re not the only one who’s been thinking this out.”

“Do you really want to quit, though?”

“No, I don’t”, Tom replied sadly.  He saw Gretchen was about to argue, so he spoke first.  “But I will.  You and I both know that editor jobs are rare in this city.  The media outlets just aren’t what they once were.  If you think a job is going to open up for you, then you have to seize it.  Period.”

“I don’t want you to have to quit”, Gretchen said.  “You’re good at your job.  You enjoy it, I know you do.”

“Very true”, Tom replied.  “But I enjoy you more.  And I care about your happiness more than a job, no matter how good I am at it.  Of course, if you ask my current editor, he may disagree with just how talented I am.”

“Don’t do that”, Gretchen snapped.  “I hate it when you put yourself down.”

Tom smiled.  “Yeah, I do.  Sorry.”

“You really plan to quit?”

“The way I see it, I have two choices.  I can keep seeing you, keep building on this wonderful stretch of, what, seven months?  Or I can have my job.  My job is interesting, but it isn’t everything.  I’d rather have no one calling me, offering jobs, than not have you call me at the end of the night.  It’s really that simple.  I’m supposed to support you, right?  Cheer for you when you want to have something for yourself?  Well then, consider it done.”

“You”, Gretchen said as she choked up, “are amazing.”

“No, the version of me that’s with you is.  I like myself more when I’m with you.  You make me feel more happier, smarter, and more confident.  Life is better when you’re with me.  It’s that simple.  You make me feel attractive, and it’s not just because you’re so stunning.  Which in case I haven’t told you today; you are.  The sun shining through your hair?  It’s pretty great.”

“You’re not so bad yourself”, Gretchen replied.

“Oh, I know.  I’m kinda perfect”, Tom said as he lay back on the blanket.

“Says the guy who forgot my birthday last month”, she retorted.  Gretchen lay back down and nestled next to Tom.  She put her head on his chest as they watched the few clouds above float lazily by.  A large cumulus in the shape of a sitting camel seemed to wink at her, wishing her the best.

“I did forget”, Tom admitted.  “But I promise to buy you flowers when you get promoted.  I’ll have them delivered to the office.  It’ll be a grand spectacle sure to embarrass you.  Hey, maybe you can use it as a reason to fire me?  Wouldn’t that be a fun story for our coworkers to gossip about?”

Gretchen rolled her eyes and sighed.  She wanted to be annoyed at his bad joke.  She couldn’t; Gretchen was far too busy enjoying a quiet day with a man who truly loved her.

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