The Beach House – Chapter 12

“She was driving, Mr. Tomlinson.” Good God! She’s blaming herself. “The report listed distracted driving as the cause.” He paused for a moment, then continued when I didn’t interject again. “Ms. Perez stopped showing up for work after the accident and was terminated about four months after the accident. She had refused counseling, and the hospital had to let her go.” Another pause, then he continued, “In October of that year her home was repossessed by the bank. I was unable to find where she went next. About six months ago she surfaced at the Causeway Apartments. Suite Number 224. The “suites” are basically one room apartments paid weekly. The Causeway Apartments are in a seedy part of town.” Frank paused again. “Do you still want me to continue Mr. Tomlinson?”

“Yes.” I wasn’t feeling very well anymore.

“By the time she arrived there, she was addicted to heroin.” He paused again, then continued into my silence. “She earned money for her habit through prostitution.” He spoke the last sentence quickly and moved on. My hands were shaking. “She is currently two weeks in arrears for the apartment. Her belongings are now in storage on site, and no one knows her current location.” I wasn’t really prepared for this much. I now knew why she hated herself. I knew why she would never tell me everything. Fuck me! I still loved her. I had to find the out the rest.

“Frank, I really appreciate your discretion.” I paused while I collected my thoughts. “I just purchased a small boat to replace one Ms. Perez wrecked. Bob will have the owner information. I need to know what happened four nights ago when the boat was wrecked.”

“I can look into it, Mr. Tomlinson, but it’s my experience that these things never seem to get better.” He was a bit hesitant to continue. I think he sensed that I was more than just concerned.

“Just do it Frank. Double your normal rate and contact me only.” The rest of the world will just have to guess.

“It will take me a day or two. I’ll get back to you when I have something.” He was all business.

“Thank you Frank.” I hung up the phone. I wasn’t sure anymore about confronting Mia. There was a bit more pain than I was expecting. I wiped my eyes dry, put on a smile, and headed back to the house.

Mia was laughing with Bob when I entered. I caught a quick imitation of my expression attempting to swallow a vitamin on Mia’s face. New clothes, nice house, and normal conversation. She didn’t look like she belonged to her past anymore. I wasn’t looking forward to disturbing her new image. Wally saw me walking in.

“Thanks for the tour Dale.” He was all smiles.”I’ve got to get back to the grind. It takes everything I’ve got to keep that clinic going.” He patted Mia on the shoulder and headed toward the door. “I am so happy you’re doing so well.” Mia kissed his cheek and sent him on his way. As soon as the door closed her expression turned darker and she turned to me.

“Am I allowed to know what you two were talking about on the beach.” She had a determined look on her face, and I could sense a little fear behind it.

“Wally thinks it’s a bad idea that I’ve gotten so close to you.” I felt a little honesty would be best. I may keep things from her, but lying wasn’t a good option. She sighed.

“He’s right, you know. I’m not really a good person to get close to.” She looked at me with a sad expression.

“He wasn’t worried about me, he was worried about you. He was afraid I might change my mind and cause you to relapse.” I saw a shiver run up her spine, and a little fear appear in her eyes. I felt a little more honesty was necessary. I caught her eyes with mine. “I told him I was fully committed to you.” Mia dropped her guard and moved quickly into my arms.

“I don’t deserve you.” She was holding me very tight. I smiled inside knowing it was I who didn’t deserve her. I pissed on the world for so long that I should have died a lonely old man. I now saw a shared future. I had to get her to drop her past like she has gotten me to forget mine. I didn’t care who she used to be, I only cared who she was now.

“I have to go out and take care of some business this morning. Can I leave you alone for a few hours?” I smiled and gave her a quick kiss. She kissed me back a bit longer.

“I’m not going anywhere.” She was getting more comfortable with me. I could feel it in the way she caressed the back of my neck and the look in her eyes. God, I didn’t want to see her in tears again.

I grabbed my keys and drove the SUV downtown. The navigator was off by few blocks so I had to circle around a bit. “Seedy” was a nice way of describing this area. I finally found the Causeway Apartments. It looked more like an old run-down hotel. There was an old guy in a grey beard on the front stoop rocking back and forth. It looked like he had deteriorated with the structure.

I wasn’t confident that my vehicle was safe parked here, but I had no good options. I should have paid Frank to come with me. I parked as close as I could get, hopped out, and locked it twice. I walked up to the old man. “Is there a landlord here?”

“More like the land king.” He started laughing at his joke. I could smell his foul breath even though I was a good five feet away. “First door on the left. Can you spare some change?” He held a liver-spotted quivering hand. Screw it, I thought, at least he provided the information first. I reached into my pocket and loosened a ten by touch. I didn’t want to pull out a wad of bills on this street. I handed him the ten.

“Watch my car, will you?” I just nodded to him as I walked past.

“Ain’t no one gonna touch it Mister. Not with Freddy on the job.” He was smiling pretty well. I saw that he was missing about half his teeth. Surprisingly, there was double door entry way to the place. It smelled like stale alcohol, but it must help with the weather. I pushed through the second set and was met with another smell. Unwashed dog was the only thing that was close. I wrinkled my nose and knocked on Suite 101 on the left.

A man slightly bigger than me in a stained wife beater T-shirt answered the door. “What you want?” He sounded like he grew up on the street and was proud of it.

“I am here to bring Mia Perez’s account up to date and pick up her things.” I wasn’t sure I should have put it quite that way. I felt it may have come off a bit snobbish. He just smiled.

“She don’t pay with money asshole, and I ain’t interested in no blowjob from you.” I wasn’t prepared for that. The image of Mia on her knees before this piece of shit hit my brain like a ton of bricks. My fist shot forward before I had a chance to consider where I was. I connected with his face before he had a chance to drop his shitty grin. He dropped on his ass like a sack of potatoes, and blood started coming out of his nose. I had never hit anyone in my life before. My hand was in extreme pain. I struggled to ignore it. The landlord’s expression promised my impending death. He rose, keeping a careful eye on me.

I pulled my money clip out of my pocket. “My investigator has told me that Mia has stayed here for six months.” I started counting out bills and he slowed his rise. “I have no idea what one of these dumps cost.” I kept snapping more bills off the clip. He returned to his feet and took a half a step away from me. His nose was dripping blood on the floor. He didn’t seem bothered by the fact. “This is five thousand dollars that says she was a model tenant, an angel of virtue, and always current with the rent.” I handed him the money. He understood immediately.

“I’m sorry I insulted her, Sir.” He took the money from my hand slowly. “I mistaked the name for someone else. Where would you like Ms. Perez’s belongings?” Greed is a wonderful motivator.

“The black SUV up front.” I handed him another hundred. “Hire some help if you need to. Lose anything that looks like it might be related to drugs or her old profession.” He nodded his head.

“Bobby get out here! We gots work to do.” He was yelling back into the apartment. A younger carbon copy of the landlord appeared from around the corner.

“Damn, Pops! Who did your face?” He was eyeing me with suspicion.

“I ran into the door. We got to load Ms. Perez’s belongings into this gentleman’s SUV.” He was pointing at me. The son didn’t grasp the “gentleman” reference and started to speak.

“You mean that whor…” His father’s hand moved much quicker than mine ever could and slapped his son across the face.

“We don’t make disparaging comments about our best tenants.” The landlord smiled at me and handed his son the hundred. “Let’s get her stuff loaded.” Bobby moved off with renewed vigor after pocketing the hundred. I returned outside to Freddy guarding my car. He was leaned up against it like he owned it.

“Thank you Freddy.” I smiled at him and received a toothless grin in return. It took the father and son team fifteen minutes to load up the five boxes that made up Mia’s life. Bobby must have heard the whole story, because he apologized to me at first sighting. After the SUV was loaded, the landlord came up and indicated they were done.

“I removed some stuff you didn’t want to see.” He looked down toward me. He had a tissue stuffed his right nostril. “Everything else is there; we ain’t no thieves.” Honor among slime, I thought to myself.

“Thank you,” I said. I entered my vehicle and drove away. As soon as I was out of sight, I took a good look at my throbbing hand. It was beginning to bruise and was a bit stiff. I flexed it and figured there were no broken bones. I remembered the feeling when I saw the landlord fall on his ass. It felt good to defend Mia’s honor even though it was unwarranted. I conveniently forgot that I would be in the hospital if the landlord wasn’t so greedy. I drove home the victor.

I found the house empty when I returned. I panicked, kicking myself for leaving her alone. I ran to each room and checked the bathrooms. I grabbed my phone and was about to dial Monica when I spotted some black hair at the top of a lounger under the umbrella. I stopped to catch my breath and laughed to myself. That is exactly where I would be if I were her. I donned a set of swim trunks and headed down.

I found her sound asleep with her finger three chapters deep into The Hobbit. “My fantasy woman” was my only thought. I moved the umbrella to extend her shade time and pulled the other lounger close. I quietly lay on my side to watch her sleep. She was wearing one of the new swimsuits we bought yesterday. I wished it could have been the white bikini. This was a full suit that still revealed her curves. I loved those curves. I watched her chest go up and down slowly almost in time with the waves. My beach was so much better with her on it. It took only a few minutes before I nodded off.

I was awakened later by a soft set of lips kissing my hand. I open my eyes and was met by a quick kiss. “Whose face did this to your hand?” She was lightly caressing my now black and blue knuckles. It looked a lot worse than it felt. There was concern in her eyes. I was about to lie about how it happened. It would just be insulting; she knew why my hand was bruised.

“I don’t want to tell you right now.” I looked into her eyes and prayed she wouldn’t push. She shrugged her shoulders.

“Then I probably don’t want to know.” She grabbed my good hand and pulled up. “It needs some ice though.” She was leading me back to the house. She looked good in her suit. I was hanging back half a step watching her cute butt cheeks go up and down as she made the incline. She caught me out of the corner of her eye. “Stop watching my fat ass,” she said, smiling as she spun around, hiding her behind.

“Sexy butt, sexy breasts. I don’t care which way you walk.” I laughed as she began to blush. The way she filled out the suit, I wasn’t sure if I would prefer the bikini. She built an ice pack inside of a wet towel just like Grandma. I sat on a stool. She pulled up next to me and placed the ice pack across my knuckles. She held it there while she stroked my arm with her other hand. I felt a tremor in her hand as she caressed my arm. I looked up and realized she was putting things together. Her eyes were beginning to water.


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A Unique Gift – Chapter 19


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Another Life – Chapter 19

Barbara and I got together the following weekend. We had a couple of drinks, and just like at the party, the conversation flowed freely. I lost track of time of time (much easier to do when you aren’t checking your phone every three minutes. Barbara took it as a compliment.

A few nights later, we went to see a band who specialized in Led Zeppelin covers. The guitarist was pretty good, but it was the lead singer people paid to see. She was female, very attractive, and could really belt it out.

By our third date, I was getting very comfortable with Barbara. She was easy to be with, and a very pretty lady. The combination of dark hair and light eyes never failed to stir me.

– “It’s getting a little noisy in here.” I said. “Want to have a drink at our place?”

Barbara smiled. I wasn’t fooling anybody with my attempt to be clever.

– “That sounds great.” she said.

I took her hand as we walked back to the apartment, and she gave my fingers a squeeze. It wasn’t very cold out yet, so we didn’t have to hurry.

But as we passed the bakery, and turned into the lane, I saw someone sitting on the step in front of our door. The person stood up, and took a step towards us.

– “Joe?”

It was Sam.

“Can I talk to you?” she said.

A hundred thoughts raced through my head. I’m not sure how I did it, but I kept my cool. I turned to Barbara.

– “I’m sorry.” I said.

She understood immediately. And she handled it with pure class.

– “Call me tomorrow?” she said, softly.

– “I will.”

Barbara squeezed my hand, and then turned to go. She only had six blocks to go to get home, along a well-lit main street. I probably should have walked her home, but I couldn’t be in two places at once.

Sam could tell from my face that I wasn’t pleased.

– “I’m sorry.” she said. “But I can never get you on the phone – I leave messages, but you never call me back. I’ve missed you …”

I took Sam inside, and made us some coffee. Fortunately, my roommates were all out.

Then I took Sam to the little table where our phone sat. I showed her the scribbles on the wall, where Laurie had (sort of) left me messages.

– “Rose always gives me the message.” I told her. “With Laurie, sometimes I get it, and sometimes I don’t. Ronnie never tells me that you phoned. But you already know that.”

I had her sit at the kitchen table. She looked more achingly pretty than ever. But her looks had never been the problem.

“Sam, if you want to call me, that’s fine with me. I won’t ever duck or dodge your calls.”

She nodded. She believed me.

“You know that I like you. You’re a beautiful woman. Sex with you is… was … fantastic. And you know that I liked being with you even when we weren’t … having sex.”

“But I can’t be your boyfriend, Sam. We can’t be a couple.”

That was hard for her. She knew it already, of course, but it wasn’t what she’d been hoping to hear when she sat waiting for me. She started to cry a little.

– “Do you have to go home – or do you want to stay over?” I asked. “No sex – but you can stay with me tonight if you want.”

Sam sniffed back the tears. “I’ll … stay.”

I turned off the coffee, and took Sam to my room. I put her to bed, and held her in my arms while she had a good cry.

Eventually, she fell asleep.


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Murder Mystery Weekend – Chapter 20


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The Beach House – Chapter 11

For someone so concerned with what I thought of her, she had no inhibitions with other people. The poor guy at the cash register at the clothing store was left in a terrible state.

“Ma’am, these panties are short a pair.” He thought he was being helpful by pointing out the missing merchandise.

“That’s because I’m wearing one.” She said it with a straight face, never offering any reason as to why. He was a little flustered but kept ringing up the other items. He ran through a couple of bras and then found an unattached bra tag.

“Ma’am, there’s no …” Mia just smiled and winked at him. He rang up the missing bra and continued through other missing items, never asking again. Mia was looking good in a new pair of khaki shorts and a light blue pullover shirt. She had on a nice pair of sneakers that made her look a bit energetic. I liked the new Mia. The clerk rattled off some total, and I handed him my card.

“Horrible suitcase accident.” I smiled at him. I think he believed me. Mia was snickering. We moved to the pharmacy down the street. Mia embarrassingly told me she was going to get me a new toothbrush too. Seems she had been secretly using mine. I laughed. It was kind of sexy to me. She thought she was being gross. I had no idea why sticking her tongue in my mouth was okay, but using my toothbrush was gross.

It took us two trips to bring all the booty inside the house. I was pleased when she started to put it all away in the master bedroom. I was afraid she might try and claim her own bedroom. I was relegated to the bottom shelf in the medicine cabinet. I just sat on the bed and watched her continue to mark her territory in the closet and dresser drawers. I remembered that she must had done it before with Carlos. It was just natural for her. I simply loved the idea of her becoming part of my life.

We ordered in Chinese and spent the evening watching movies. Mia ate a lot of rice, and I scarfed down most of the meat and veggies. I wanted to pop a bottle of wine but thought better of it. Any drug right now would be a bad drug. To me, Mia looked fully recovered, but I knew the effects of heroin would be with her for a long time.

When the last movie ended, Mia grabbed my hand and took me to the bedroom. I was grateful that she didn’t purchase any pajamas. She disrobed to all her glory. We cuddled ourselves to sleep again. She was my ocean.

The morning brought Dr. Wally Williams back. He examined Mia in the bedroom and returned with her about twenty minutes later. “I’ve got to say Dale, you’re a hell of a nurse.” He was smiling at me. “Mia is in much better shape than should be expected. Her vitals are back to normal, and she seems to have skipped of few days of ugliness.” Mia was obviously pleased with results. “I have to say Mia, you look a lot happier than most of my detox patients at this stage.”

“Dale has been taking good care of me.” Mia and I shared a smile that was not lost on the doctor.

“Mia was telling me about your beach. Mind taking me for tour?” I saw Mia fold her hands across her chest, and she seemed to lose a bit of confidence. She sensed she wasn’t invited. The doctor was already heading toward the sliding glass door, not waiting for my agreement.

“Sure Doc, it’s a quick walk.” I gave Mia a reassuring look and followed the doctor to the door. He waited until he was sure he was out of earshot of Mia.

“Dale, it looks like you two are living together.” He made it sound like it was bad thing. I wasn’t really concerned about his moral opinions. I just wanted him to make sure Mia was physically okay.

“And it’s done both of us a world of good.” I was sporting a relaxed smile. I was committed to my course of action and I wasn’t even sure convincing him was worth the time. He paused for a moment considering my response.

“How smitten are you?” He wasn’t beating around the bush. I could almost hear the gears moving in his head as he analyzed the situation. I saw no need to hide the obvious since he suspected anyway.

“Fully and completely.” I gave him the same confident smile.

“How do you think she feels?” I didn’t expect that question. I thought he was going to just lecture me on how foolish I was. I had to think a second.

“She’s terrified I will find out about her past.” I didn’t add that I thought she was falling in love with me albeit a bit slower than I was. He stopped walking and thought deeply.

“This can go badly for her. All though she doesn’t look it, she’s fragile right now. If for any reason she thinks you are rejecting her, she will return to her old habits.” He sounded like he didn’t like the whole situation. “You don’t even really know Mia. What if you don’t like what’s in her past?”

“I’m pretty sure I won’t like it. I won’t let it stop us though.” I stopped smiling as the doctor tried to put doubts in my head. “In fact, I think me knowing is absolutely necessary.” I had already started on this train of thought. This conversation was just solidifying it. Wally shook his head and smiled.

“This was not what I was expecting at all.” He wrapped his arm around my shoulders. “You are an insane man, Dale. I truly hope this works out for the both of you.” We started walking again down towards the beach. “She’s not going to want to tell you everything, you know.”

“I’m working on finding out myself. I have some people looking into things.” I wasn’t sure why I was confiding in him, but he seemed to have Mia’s health and well being on top of his list. He just chuckled.

“Damn you live dangerously.” He was shaking his head again. “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere near her when she finds out. You really love her, don’t you?”

“With all my heart.” I stopped walking. I just admitted it out loud again.

“I did not expect this at all.” He looked at me. “You know a lot of people aren’t going to understand this.” I laughed.

“Wally, I am very practiced at ignoring people. I couldn’t care less what anyone thinks about Mia and me. They will just have to get over it.” It felt good to think that my past isolation had a purpose. We continued down to the beach.

“This is actually pretty nice. Kind of peaceful.” Wally was admiring the view as the waves gently crashed at the breakers. “You’re going to have to find out why she tried to kill herself.” I didn’t like hearing it put that way. I knew it was true, but I wished he would use more tactful language.

“I know, and I will.” I wasn’t looking forward to that part. I didn’t want to think about it right now. I felt my phone buzz in my pocket. I didn’t have any friends, so it could only be one reason. I pulled it out and saw a text from Bob Farring that contained only a phone number. “I have to make a phone call, Wally. Meet you back at the house?” He agreed and headed back up. I tapped the number.

A gruff voice I didn’t recognize answered the phone. “This is Dale Tomlinson; I’m looking for Bob Farring.” I kind of expected a receptionist or Bob.

“Mr. Tomlinson, I’m Frank Talbot. I was hired by Bob to look into some issues for you. Due to the direction the investigation took, I felt I should talk to you directly.” He was speaking rather quickly. “I felt some discretion may be required. Are you related to Ms. Perez?”

“Ah, no, Frank. I am just concerned about her.” I was quite sure I wanted him ignorant of my desired relationship.

“I want to warn you that you may not like what you hear. If she means anything to you, you can’t un-hear it later.” What the hell is he preparing me for?

“Just give me the report Frank.” I braced myself.

“Ms. Perez was an RN about 3 years ago at St. Vincent’s. She was the sole survivor of a car accident that killed her family on March 23rd, 3 years ago.” Survivor? I thought she said she was at home. I interrupted.

“She was in the car?” I had to know everything.


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A Unique Gift – Chapter 18

The night of the party arrived and Jack met up with Abby outside before they went in. She checked he had the collar and her eyes fluttered for a moment when he said yes. They made their way in, loud music made Jacks ears hurt until he adjusted to the volume. It was hot and there were people everywhere, all of them college students wanting to forget about the week and just get drunk. By the state of a few they were already well on their way. They made their way to a large table lined with drinks.

“Move,” a voice rang out as Abby was pushed to one side. Jack spun round to find himself face to face with Amanda. He sighed, this would be fun. She was the most popular girl on campus. Intelligent and attractive with huge tits and an ass kept firm by hours of working out.

“Hey!” Abby cried out. Amanda looked at her as if daring her to say something. Jack had an idea and stepped forward. A few people were watching as he approached.

“Hey, apologize to my friend,” Jack demanded. Amanda just looked at him and laughed.

“And who are you?” She sneered.

“I’m her friend and you owe her an apology,” Jack continued.

“Yeah right, get out of my way,” Amanda replied with a sharp edge in her voice. She did not like people not doing as she said.

“Tell you what, since you’re so smart I’ll make you a bet,” Jack began.

“What’s the bet?” Amanda replied, she didn’t really care but couldn’t be seen to have her intellect challenged by some nobody.

“If you figure out how this bar trick is done, we’ll leave and I’ll even apologize to you BUT if you can’t you have to say sorry to my friend and wear this for the evening,” Jack smiled, producing the collar.

“Do you have some kind of fetish or something?” Amanda smirked as she saw the collar.

“Hey if you don’t think you can figure it out you can walk away now,” Jack replied, goading her.

“Fine, deal. What’s the trick?” Amanda asked dismissively. Jack grabbed a bowl of olives off the table and poured a few out into a pile.

“Ok it’s simple, we each take turns taking olives from the pile, you can take one, two or three at a time. Whoever takes the last olive is the winner,” Jack explained. Amanda looked at him before looking at the olives for a moment as if thinking. Abby was grinning, she knew this trick.

“Alright, fine,” Amanda replied. She was good with numbers and this was just a numbers game, she just had to work out how many to take each turn. She began taking two olives, so Jack took two as well. She then took three and Jack only took one. By now a crowd had gathered and Amanda looked worried. In her hubris she had agreed to something she now realized was a bad idea but she couldn’t back out in front of all these people. They each continued removing olives until Jack took two of the last three. She sighed in frustration at losing.

“You cheated,” she accused Jack.

“I didn’t, you just agreed without thinking it through. All I had to do was make sure that four olives were removed each round,” Jack explained. It was a trick he had learnt from a regular at the bar where he worked. He had used it more than once to persuade drunk customers that if they couldn’t beat him, they were too drunk to have another drink.

“Fine, you win,” Amanda relented.

“Follow me, lets go somewhere quieter where Abby will be able to hear your apology,” Jack smiled. The trio made their way through the crowd and into a bedroom. They shut the door and the sound of the music dulled significantly.


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Another Life – Chapter 18

On the night of the party, our apartment was jammed with people. They were hanging off the balcony. I counted eight people in my bedroom, at one point. The party overflowed into the parking spots behind the lawyer’s office.

Luckily, because of our location, we weren’t going to disturb anybody. The bakery was closed, as was the carpet store on the other side of us.

Ray and Karen did drop by, early on. They had a beer with me, said hello to my roommates, and then headed off to another party.

Eli was a hoot. He had strapped an Atari game system to his chest, and had wires wrapped around himself. He was also wearing stereo headphones.

– “What are you supposed to be?” asked Laurie.

– “A lie detector.” said Eli.

– “Oh, brother.” she said.

– “Here, try it.” he said. He passed her the loose connection from his headphones. “Let me ask you: is this not the most original costume idea you’ve seen tonight?”

Laurie had to laugh. “Alright – I’ll give you that one.”

– “She speaks the truth.” said Eli.

“I think she likes me.” he said, once she had gone.

– “You’re an idiot.” I told him.

– “False.” he said.

I helped Rose serve some of her snacks. On one of my runs through the kitchen, threading my way through the people stacked two deep in the hallway, I ran into Laurie again.

– “Joe!” She grabbed my arm. “Do you remember my friend Barbara?”

Next to her was a girl dressed as a very sexy vampire. I did remember meeting Barbara, at the last Christmas party. I thought she was pretty then, but tonight she looked … stunning. She wore a black wig – the contrast with her light grey eyes was outstanding. Barbara was also showing a bit of cleavage (common today, but quite naughty back in the day).

– “I do. How are you, Barbara? You look … amazing.”

– “Thank you.” she said. “You look great, too.”

I was dressed as a pirate – nothing special. Laurie grinned at me, and then slipped away.

– “Where did you get your costume?” I asked. “It’s fantastic.”

Barbara grinned. “Glad you like it. I made it myself.”

– “You’re kidding.”

– “No. I wanted something … special.”

– “Mission accomplished.” I said.

She grinned again. “You’re sweet.”

– “Hmm … I’ll bet you’re much sweeter.” I said. After a few beers, I lose whatever shyness I have left – and most of my inhibitions. Fortunately, Barbara was in a receptive mood.

I don’t know who was flipping records in the living room – Ronnie, maybe – but The Pretenders’ “Precious” came on. Everybody knew it. The kitchen suddenly became a dance floor, with everyone gyrating aggressively. Barbara put out one hand, to steady herself – it landed on my hip.

She left it there.

I returned the favor, and we began to sway together. Everybody knew the lyrics, and shouted them in unison: “Trapped in a world that they never made … But not me, baby – I’m too precious … fuck off …”

Barbara and I were grinning at each other. When the song ended, I fought my way to the fridge, and got myself another beer, and a wine cooler for Barbara.

– “Want to go downstairs?” I asked her.

We worked our way down the stairs, which were packed with people. It was considerably cooler – and quieter – outside. Barbara smiled, and said: “Much better.”

Barbara worked in a record store. I asked her about it, and she told me about the highs and lows. Then we got into a discussion about the latest groups.

It was effortless, and quite wonderful. Barbara was a beautiful woman, dressed in a sexy costume. But more important, at that moment – she was easy to talk to. Our conversation was a give and take between equals, and I found most everything she said interesting.

I registered the difference at the time, and certainly thought about it later. Time flew by. It seemed like only a few minutes later when Barbara’s friend Rina came looking for her.

– “Barb? We have to go.”

Barbara smiled at me. “I’m sorry. I wish I could stay later. I’ve really enjoyed talking to you. And dancing.”

– “So have I.” I told her. “I hope I’ll see you again.”

– “Me too.” she said.

After she left with her friend, I went back upstairs. It was already past 1:00. The party was still hopping. I helped Rose pick up dishes, and even managed to create enough space in the kitchen to wash a few of them.

Eli found me, and started one of the weirder conversations I’ve ever had. I pitched a towel at his head. He managed to dry dishes while spouting the most frightful nonsense. When he started quoting Nietzsche, I sent him home.

Laurie came through the kitchen.

– “Hey!” I called to her. She came closer.

“Thank you.” I said. “For … re-introducing me to Barbara.”

– “You’re welcome.” said Laurie. She just grinned.

– “I mean … you set me up. But … I’m glad you did.”

– “Of course you are.” she said. “Do you want her number?”

I grinned at Laurie. “Yes, please.”


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