This is not a Halloween story. I just added the bit at the end in honor of the holiday. Hope you enjoy.
He just showed up one day, and the bar owner did everything but kiss his ass in front of everyone. He even set up a small table in the back near the restrooms, and no one was allowed to sit there except him.
The place had been a working class bar forever, but when the economy went bad and manufacturing dried up, all that was left were the unemployed and the retirees. The owner was just about to shut it down. He must have come up with some money, because he remodeled, brightened the place up a little, and put in a state of the art jukebox with an amazing sound system. Gradually it went from retirees to young professionals, because the drinks were reasonably priced, and the place was right on the edge of the business district. We were mostly secretaries, data geeks, and very junior management. Plus, the owner and his bartenders really kept an eye on things, diffusing trouble early on, taking keys, the owner sometimes poured one of us into a cab and paid the fare.
The man stood out, especially in a place where the clientele were usually under thirty, he was old.
Not ancient grandfather old, but old enough to have iron gray hair. It was long, I mean down past his shoulders long, falling in thick gray waves. And it wasn't dirty, it kind of shined. And he was neat, always dressed in tight blue jeans and a black t shirt that featured Harley dealerships from different states. His body was not grandpa either, he was borderline built. You could see the muscles ripple across his back and in his arms, and his stomach was tight. There was even a hint of a six pack.
I saw him smile once, surprised at his straight white teeth. He saw me looking and the smile immediately disappeared.
He would come in, talk to the bartenders for a minute, then sit down. He drank three beers in two hours on average. He always had a book or magazine in his hand. How he could read when the crowd showed up and the music started was beyond me. No one knew what he drove, he seemed to just appear, and then you'd look up and he would be gone. For a big man, I'm guessing a bit bigger than six feet and well over two hundred pounds, he moved like a ghost. I was on the back deck once and he walked right by me, and the shaky old floor never creaked or seemed to move. He was within three feet of me and gone before I even knew he was there.
Of course we were intrigued. We made up wild stories about him.
He was a hitman laying low, or an ex Navy Seal hiding from the Taliban. He was in witness protection. He was a cop, he was a mobster, and so on. We nicknamed him the Gray Ghost.
We had just about worked up the nerve to talk to him when an incident occurred that changed our minds.
Eric was big, six four and over two fifty, very little of it fat. He thought he was the meanest man in the place, the one everyone else walked around, especially if he had been drinking. And he drank a lot. The bartenders had already warned him, one more incident and he was barred permanently.
His asshole buddies, knowing how he was, waited until he was half wasted and started in on him over the Ghost.
"He's laughing at you, man. Bet he could take you down in less than a minute."
"Yeah, you can tell he's not impressed. Looks like there might be a new big dog in the pound."
Eric had heard enough. He staggered over to the table and leaned down, putting his hands on the table.
"Who the fuck are you? I hear you been talking shit about me."
He looked up, calmly, while he rolled the magazine he had been reading into a tight little cylinder.
"Who I am is none of your business. I'd have to notice you to talk about you, and frankly, you don't look interesting enough to warrant my attention. Now stagger back to your table like a good little boy, and we'll forget the whole thing."
Everyone had stopped talking. It was the first words any of us had heard him speak, and the calm tone totally belied his words. Had he really just dissed Eric?
Eric was confused for a minute, trying to process his words through his drunken brain. When he finally filtered it through he turned bright red.
"Asshole! I'm gonna fuc..."
That was all he got out before the Ghost poked him in the eye with the magazine, and didn't do it gently. Eric roared and staggered back, holding his eye.
"I'm gonna kill you!", he screamed.
The Ghost stood in one fluid movement and poked him in the other eye. Temporarily blinded, Eric swung wildly.
What happened next was a sight to behold. The older man swung the magazine, slapping him across the bridge of his nose. It rang out like a shot. Eric opened his mouth to scream, and he shoved the magazine down his throat, yanking it back quickly. While he stood gagging, the older man proceeded to rake the magazine back and forth across his face, the slaps echoing through the bar. Eric finally went down with a whimper.
By now the older man was breathing a little heavier. He looked over at the table of guys who had put Eric up to the confrontation.
"This dumbass isn't smart enough to do this on his own. Which one of you assholes put him up to it? I'd like a word with that individual."
He started walking across the floor, idly popping the magazine across his thigh. They all looked at Tom, the ringleader, and realizing he had been made, he turned and fled out the door, the magazine hitting him in the head before it swung closed.
The bartender was helping Eric up, telling him loudly he and all his friends were barred permanently, and not to ever come back. Ghost hadn't even stopped, calmly walking through the door and into the night.
I glanced down and saw the magazine, and picked it up. The Smithsonian, a little highbrow for this crowd.
Two weeks later I stepped out of my car. It was pouring rain, matching my mood.
"Great" I thought, "just great. I'll look like a drowned rat before I get to the door."
Suddenly It seemed to stop raining. I'd already had two beers at home, and it confused me. I looked up, seeing a large umbrella. I followed the handle down to the arm, and the arm up to the face. The Ghost!
He didn't say a word, taking my elbow gently and escorting me to the door. As I entered he actually smiled, before disappearing into the night.
My life was a mess. Kelly Pinckney, dweeb extraordinaire. Twenty five. No college degree. No great career. No lover. Well, not anymore.
I actually went to college, still needed a year to get my degree in finance. I loved numbers, loved the research I did, trying to determine the variables of the stock market in this economy. It was all just for my amusement. I had no money. Had no prospects to get any, holding an entry level position that was very little more than a glorified secretary.
My love life was now nonexistent. Had a boyfriend, was thinking long term when he surprised me by dumping me.
After I cried and whined he told me the truth.
"I don't want to hurt you any more, but the truth is you're boring, in and out of bed. You don't want to try new things. You haven't changed your hairstyle or bought different clothes since I met you. For God's sake, Kelly, you're twenty five, not fifty five. If we stay up past eleven you're nodding."
He waved my attempt to argue off.
"I'm sorry, I really am, but it's true. You have potential Kelly, but you won't do anything about it. I think there's passion in there somewhere, but you won't let it out and I've given up mining for it. Find an older guy, someone more your style, pop out a couple babies. Be a housewife. It'll suit you."
He didn't know how close to the truth he was. I DID want to be a housewife, with kids. But I wanted a loving husband, passionate, skilled, who could help me reach the sexual heights I desired.
In the end, I wanted taken care of. I know, terribly old fashioned and out of date. I wanted a man who would look out for me, make the hard decisions, surround me with love. Like I was ever gonna find someone like that.
I determined to drown my sorrows. My friends knew I had been dumped and were supportive, but I saw the looks they gave each other when they thought I wasn't looking. Loser. It may as well been tattooed on my forehead.
The jukebox started up, and my friends got asked to dance. No one asked me, I guess one look at my face told them I wasn't in a dancing mood.
I had switched to whiskey, not a good thing. I was getting maudlin, also not a good thing. I was thinking abut calling a cab, going home to my tiny apartment and cry into my pillow, knowing I was going to be alone the rest of my life, I could tell. Maybe I should get a cat. Wait, my lease wouldn't let me. I really was going to be alone. Damn, damn, damn.
I had to pee, really bad. I got up and semi staggered to the bathroom. Washing my face, decided fixing my makeup was a waste of time, and started back to my table, to finish my drink and wait on the cab, when I saw him.
The Ghost. Somehow he had slipped in and was at his table, reading a book.
I looked around the bar. The girls in their flirting clothes, the men, mostly professionals, in their conservative casual. Only two had on jeans, and they were designer, to be seen, not worn.
He had on Levi boot cuts, a pair I bet he had owned for quite a while, judging by the fade.
"Now there's a REAL man" I thought, and before my brain knew what my body was doing I walked to his table and plopped down.
He looked over the book in surprise, before a slow smile took over his face.
"Hi. I'm Kelly."
I stuck my hand out. To my surprise he took it gently, just holding it instead of shaking it.
"Well, good evening to you, Miss Kelly."
Even his voice was sexy. A light baritone, with a hint of a Southern drawl. He still held my hand.
"And you are?" I prompted, anxious to draw him into conversation.
He started a bit.
"Please, excuse my manners. I'm..." he paused for a few seconds before grinning, his perfect white teeth shining in the dimness of the bar, " ... The Ghost."
I gave my own little start. His grin got bigger.
"People talk" he said, "and the more alcohol the looser and louder the tongue. Now, Miss Kelly, what do you want?"
I looked into those warm brown eyes, and for once in my life decided to be truthful.
"I want a man. A real man." I gestured around the bar. His eyes widened, he probably didn't expect that.
"Not like these guys. Oh, they're nice enough, but they live in their own little universe. I want to meet someone who has been out in the real world. Been places, done things. Someone to show me how life really is."
I stopped suddenly, embarrassed, realizing what I had said. I looked back at my table, to see my friends staring at me, mouths open. Take that, I though, how does Miss Pitiful look now?
"An admirable ambition, Miss Kelly. But what does that have to do with me?"
He still hadn't let go of my hand, not that I minded.
"Nothing. But you're obviously older, and you're dressed for comfort, not for show. For lack of better words, you look like you've experienced life, like you don't have to prove anything to anybody. I'd just like to talk to you, if you don't mind."
He finally released my hand, and leaned back, obviously thinking. After a bit of silence while he held an internal debate, he nodded.
"All right. Please, join me." He signaled a bartender.
"Another Shiner Bock, Sam. And an Irish coffee for Miss Kelly, minus the Irish."
He looked at me.
"I believe you've consumed enough alcohol this night. If you want to talk, you should at least be able to remember it. Now, tell me about yourself."
So for the next hour and a half I spilled my guts, pretty much going back to high school. He listened attentively, asking a question now and then. When I got to the part about being dumped, he frowned.
"Did you love him?"
"I thought I did. Now, I'm not so sure. But it still hurt, mostly because of what he said, and the fact that it was the truth."
"And what do you want now?"
"To prove to myself and the world that he was wrong. I want adventure. I want to embrace life. I need a guide. Will you let me talk to you some more?"
He held out his hand.
I handed it to him. He punched his number in.
"Here. If you're serious, call me tomorrow afternoon. Now, I have to leave, and you should get back to your friends. I'm sure they have questions. My advice, say I invited you over, that I'm obviously interested in you, but stop there. Their imagination will fill in the blanks."
He stood, pulled me to my feet and into a hug.
"I'm going to kiss you now" he whispered, "half the bar is watching. Don't act surprised."
He cupped my face in his hands, lowered his mouth and gave me a slow sensuous kiss, for at least five seconds. Both of our faces were flushed, and I was a little light headed.
He grinned, gave me another small kiss on the cheek, and strode away. I watched him all the way to the door.
My friends almost dragged me back to our table.
"God Almighty, girl! What got into you? The Ghost? Is he as sexy looking up close as he is from a distance? Is he a good kisser? Never mind, I can see by the look on your face he is. Is me..."
I held up my hand.
"Slow down, Heather. He's just a man. I went to the bathroom and he struck up a conversation with me, invited me to sit. We talked, had a drink. And yes, he's a very good kisser. Years of experience, I suspect."
The girls chattered happily, and were impressed when I told them he had gotten my number and was supposed to call the next day. A lie, of course, I was supposed to call him, if I could work up the nerve. I could feel the 'L' fading from my forehead.
I only stayed a few more minutes. Now sober, I felt safe driving home. When I got outside the rain was gone, and a full moon floated serenely in the sky. I took it as a good omen.
I woke the next morning with a slight headache, wondering if I'd dreamed last night. Checking my phone, I was relieved to see his number, under "Ghost".
I did my normal Saturday morning routine, cleaning my tiny apartment, went grocery shopping, Had my little Honda washed. Back home I stared at the clock, debating on whether to call. He seemed like a nice guy, but I didn't know him, and the little episode with Eric showed me he could be forceful if provoked.
At 12:05 I decided it was far enough past noon, and hit send. He picked up on the third ring.
"Good afternoon, Miss Kelly. How are you this fine day?"
Damn he sounded sexy. I actually stuttered a little greeting him. After that I let thirty seconds of silence go by.
"Miss Kelly? Are you still there?"
"Yes, yes, I'm here! Sorry, I just didn't know what to say. Can we meet? Talk some more? How about lunch? I'll buy. Unless of course you've already had lunch. In that case..."
He interrupted me, gently.
"Easy now. Lunch would be fine. And I'll buy, my daddy would skin me alive if he thought I'd let a woman pay. Can you be at The Bistro by one?"
The Bistro. One of the hottest restaurants in town, impossible to get into, and outrageously expensive. No way in hell we could get in on short notice, even for lunch.
"I can, but I doubt we'd get in. How about someplace else?"
"The Bistro. One. Don't be late."
He hung up.
I freaked, knowing I didn't have time to get ready, and probably wouldn't be eating there anyway. My dressiest jeans, nice top, white sandals with a two inch heel, minimal makeup. I ran out the door, and was in the parking lot by 12:55.
I didn't see him until he took my arm gently. How does he do that?
He had on black jeans, well worn black cowboy boots that were highly polished, and a peach short sleeved button up shirt. His hair was neatly woven into a braid and tied with a little leather strap. Wow.
He greeted me, guiding me along. We passed a motorcycle and I actually stopped and looked it over. I knew from watching television that it was a 'chopper'. It looked like a rolling sculpture. bright orange, yellow, and gleaming chrome. It also looked very expensive.
"Nice, isn't it" he said, with a grin.
"It's beautiful. You know, I've never ridden on a motorcycle."
"Really? I'll see if I can find someone to give you a ride."
"No, no, I'm afraid I'd be too scared to be a good passenger."
"We'll see" He said cryptically, ushering me inside.
Much to my surprise, the hostess smiled and said something in French. Some one answered her, and I looked to see who it was. Damn, he speaks French too? The hostess ignored the line, picked up a couple of menus, and led us right to a table. It was in the outside dining area, visible from the street.
He asked for water with a twist of lemon, while I got unsweetened tea. He frowned at my choice.
"What? Is it not good here?"
"I'm sure it'll be top notch. No, where I come from, tea isn't tea until it's about half sugar."
"You must be from the Deep South then. My company sent us down to Charlotte once for training. It was like drinking syrup. I wasn't keen on barbecue, but I became addicted to catfish. What does fish camp mean, any way?"
"Shame on you! You've obviously never been fed true barbecue. I'll have to make sure your education includes a taste of the real thing."
"In the old days, if you went fishing, it took coordination. You had to get a neighbor to watch your livestock, tend your crop. You were expected to return the favor when it was their turn."
"You went in a wagon to the river and usually spent a couple of days. You smoked or salted your catch for later eating. Of course, word would get out, and you'd have people stopping by at suppertime, to enjoy fresh fish before they went home. So, you camped and fished. When electricity came along and fish restaurants popped up, people called them fishcamps, after the old meaning. It was where you went when you didn't have time to fish yourself. There's your Southern history lesson for today."
He had ordered for both of us, without asking.
"I want you to taste this" he explained. "If you don't love it, you can have anything off the menu that tickles your fancy."
It was a roast beef sandwich, but not your typical roast beef sandwich. Herb roasted, hand sliced, thick chunks in a crusty roll, with homemade mayonaise tinged with horseradish, garlic roasted baby red potatoes and a tomato salad. There was also a small bowl of beef broth to dip the sandwich in.
The tomato salad was eight different kinds of tomato, cut into small cubes with a vinegarette dressing and basil, served in a parfait cup. It was probably the best meal I had ever eaten.
My phone vibrated and without thinking I checked it. A text message, from Heather.
"The Bistro? WTF?"
I looked around to see her standing on the sidewalk. Before I could reply there were two more messages.
Cindy: "The Bistro? Nosh?" Nosh was her shorthand for no shit.
Janey: "OMG! He's gonna get some!"
I looked up to see him frowning.
"I know we're at least a generation apart, but where I come from it's considered rude to ignore a dining companion to answer the phone."
"You're right. I apologize." I said, turning off my phone and sliding it into my jeans. Let them stew.
I was thoroughly satisfied with the meal and thanked him. He grinned.
"we're not done yet. Time for dessert."
The blueberries were in season, so we had Blueberry Fool, fresh blueberries stirred into blueberry jam, and layered alternately with creamed whipped at the restaurant, topped with fresh blueberries, in a large champagne glass. The whipped cream was tinged with lavender. I ignored the screams of my calorie counting conscience and cleaned the glass.
I leaned back with a sigh.
"Thank you for lunch. I think I'm going to need a nap now."
He just smiled.
"Oh no, not happening. You're here to broaden your horizons, remember? Now, run along to the restroom. I see your hands trembling, text your friends back and meet me out front. I'm about to put something exciting between your legs."
Before I could frame an answer, he was striding towards the door.
It took me five minutes to text back, giving cryptic messages, following his advice from the night before. Let them use their imagination to fill in the blanks.
I walked outside, not seeing him. There was some guy on the chopper we had noticed going in, wearing a black t shirt and matching bandana, talking to Heather. I walked towards her looking around for him. When I got close, I almost had a heart attack. He got off the bike and met me.
"There you are, babe. I was starting to worry. Look, it's your friend Heather. She wants me to give her a ride, what do you think?"
I glared at Heather until she flushed slightly. Claim jumping little bitch, she better back off. I reached up, pulled his head down, and gave him a nice kiss. He covered his surprise with a grin.
"We don't have time right now, sweetie. Maybe later. Now Heather, I'd love to stay and talk, but we're running just a bit late. See you at work Monday."
She stuttered through a goodbye and walked down the street.
He was pulling something off the side of his bike. A helmet.
He put it on me gently.
"Why do I have to wear a helmet?" I asked.
"Because this is your first time. You should always wear protection your first time."
He grinned while I processed the innuendo laced statement.
"Besides, it'll make you feel safer. And I'm always careful when I'm transporting precious cargo."
I blushed all the way down to my toes.
"I'm afraid. What if it scares me too much or I don't like it?"
"Then I'll stop immediately. I'll go around the block first, make sure you can handle it. But you have to get on, Heather is down the street snapping pictures like mad. You'll look like the scared little girl you think you are if you don't at least go round the block."
I made a decision and took the helmet off.
"Let's give her a show then. I think I can make it around the block without a helmet."
Hi grinned again.
Wondering why, I complied. I felt his hands in my hair, pulling and tugging for a couple of minutes.
"There. All done. Look in the mirror, tell me what you think."
I looked. He had done my hair in a braid, just like his, down to matching leather ties.
"Unrestrained hair doesn't work on a bike. After a mile your hair would give Jamaican corn rows a run for their money. It would take you days to get the tangles out."
"Now, when you get on, sit still. Don't wiggle, try to stay directly behind me. I'll go slow, but feel free to hold tight."
I climbed behind him, feeling the vibrations from the motor against my bottom.
After a few seconds to let me settle, he let the clutch out and we rolled gently away. We were half way down the block when he suddenly hit the gas. I shrieked and scooted as tightly as I could into his back. He slowed down half a block later, turned the corner, and pulled over. I was breathing heavily.
"Heather was still snapping pictures, so I goosed it. I hope she got the shot, especially of you practically climbing my back."
"Asshole! You scared the shit out of me."
I realized what I said and tried to apologize but he cut me off.
"Don't. I didn't take offense. And if we spend any more time together, I expect you to voice your feelings and opinions like the confident woman you should be. Understand?"
"Now, do you want me to take you back to your car, or would you like a ride?"
I couldn't wait and told him so. He made me put the helmet back on, to my disappointment.
"You don't have eye protection, and it would make me feel safer. Next time, if you want, I'll get you some goggles, all right?"
I would have agreed to anything to ensure a next time.
I was nervous, but it was controllable. Soon the vibrations and the wind calmed me, and I enjoyed it immensely. We soon left the city limits behind. An hour later he was pulling into the fairgrounds of a neighboring county. The parking lot was packed, and getting fuller.
People stopped and watched as we parked. I was taking my helmet off when a couple of young girls, late teens at best, came by.
"Nice ride" one said.
I grinned. "Yes he is, and the bike is fun, too."
Shrieking with laughter, they ran towards the grandstand. I turned around to see him laughing.
"There you go! Kind of fun saying what's on your mind, isn't it?"
"Glorious. Now where are we?"
"Carver County Blues Festival. Some nice bands, but I really want to see a new duo, Freeman Feelbad, Jr. and Sweet Thang. You should see their stuff on Youtube."
I was never into music that much, so I had no idea what the blues were. By the third act I was a fan. When the act he wanted to see came on, I was impressed. The woman looked to be about thirty, and I'd bet the man was over forty, but their voices were good, and they blended perfectly. She was a gifted guitar player, but he did things with slide guitar that was amazing. They closed their set with a Romi Mayes song, After The Show, the mans' slide guitar work complimenting her rhythm work perfectly. It brought the crowd to its' feet. They came back later, apparently they were part of a band called Hatchett Job, another guitar player, keyboard, and drummer. Almost everyone sang lead, and the harmonies were amazing.
Before I knew it I was dancing in the aisle, flinging my hair and wriggling to the beat. I looked up and saw him smiling, and just kept dancing. He bought us both tee shirts on the way out.
"Damn, I wish I'd put this on." I said, as we moved towards the dark parking lot.
"What's stopping you? Step behind that building, no one will see you. And if they do, I'm sure they'll enjoy it."
I could see the challenge in his eyes.
"Watch for me" I said, unbuttoning my shirt. I turned my back, slipping the shirt off and tossing it over my shoulder. "Catch! I giggled.
I was just slipping the tee over my head when I heard clapping and cheering. I popped my head out to see four guys and two girls standing there. I was red, but I did a little curtsey.
"Next show is at ten" I yelled, as I strutted back to my man. My man? Did I ever like the sound of that.
He gave me a big hug. "I'll have to file away you like the color pink" he said, referencing my bra.
"You peeked?" I gasped.
"No, babe. I stared. Very nice view, too."
I was hoping he didn't see my blush in the dark.
In due time he delivered me back to my car in the parking lot of The Bistro, kissed my cheek, and roared off. I was disappointed, before reality hit. To him I was just a foolish little girl, playing at being grownup.
I called him the next afternoon, but it went to message. I didn't see him until Tuesday night at the bar.
He had his usual table and stood as I approached. Damn, I could get used to manners. He kissed my cheek. I had had enough of that foolishness, so I pulled him into a long kiss.
"I'm not a baby, Ghost. Stop kissing me like one."
He grinned. "Instructions noted. Have a good day at work?"
"Wonderful! Let me tell you about it."
I wasn't at work fifteen minutes before Heather was all over me.
"Spill! Who is he? Where did he come from? Is he in good in bed as he looks?"
"Nosey much? We're like the military. I didn't ask, he didn't tell. We had a ball after you saw us, you should really should get someone to give you a motorcycle ride. The feeling is awesome! Look."
I showed her a photo on my phone. Me, sitting on the bike, wearing my blues shirt, the tail tied tightly below my boobs, He had put his bandana on me, I thought I looked wild and sexy, like a real biker babe.
She was awed.
"So, are you his bitch now?"
"No" I giggled, "at least not yet. Working on it, though."
She snatched my phone and sent it out to all our friends. I didn't know it, but she sent one to my ex. My phone went off all morning. I spent all my break and most of my lunch answering texts.
I called him Monday night.
"Hi." I said, suddenly getting tongue tied.
"Hey" he said, in that warm Southern drawl, "how's my adventure partner tonight?"
"Looking for another adventure. Wanna go for a drink?"
"I'd love to, Miss Kelly, but I'm out of town. I had some business to take care of. I should be back by tomorrow, but I'm not sure enough to say."
I was disappointed.
"Maybe tomorrow then. I downloaded a bunch of blues songs today, it's all I've listened to."
I could feel his smile over the phone.
"Good. I'll share some of my favorites next time we're together. I've got to run now, I'll see you later."
"Promise. Sweet dreams Miss Kelly."
The next day I was surprised to see Ron standing at my cubicle. I looked at him, trying to decide if I was still sad that he had dumped me. No, not really. He was right. I was dull. But I'm working on it, too bad he won't get the benefit.
"Ron, hi. What's up?"
He stood for a minute before showing my picture on his phone.
"Was there a point to this?" He actually sounded a bit upset.
"I'm sorry Ron. Really. Heather had my phone yesterday, she must have sent it. It doesn't mean anything, the bike belongs to my date that night. He took the picture."
I don't know what upset him more, the fact that I was dating, or that I was dating someone with a cool bike. Why should he care?
"Well, nice bike."
He stood around for just a minute.
"Anything else, Ron?"
He shook himself.
"No. See you later, then."
I watched him go, wondering about the whole exchange.
The Ghost grinned when I told him.
"He's jealous. He expected you to mope and feel pitiful, and you shook yourself and jumped right back into the dating game. Does he know it's me?"
"Were we on a date Saturday?"
He looked surprised.
"Of course we were. I asked you out. You accepted. We dined, attended an event. I think that qualifies, don't you?"
"Definitely. A very nice date. It was so nice I'd like another, please. Give me another nice surprise. And he has no idea who it was."
His smile was priceless.
"I'll see what I can do. In fact..."
He stopped, looking behind me. Heather. What was her deal, anyway?
"Heather" I said, noncommittally. She took that as an invitation and plopped down. Seeing it, Cindy was soon there, and then Janey. The little table became really crowded. He was polite, but I could sense his irritation. Janey was on one side, Heather on the other, and they were both bringing out the big guns, touching, flashing cleavage. Damned cows.
He stood suddenly.
He walked around the table, pulled me up, and led me back across to his chair. He sat back down, pulling me down onto his lap.
"That's better. Now everyone has a little more room. Much more comfortable, don't you think, honey?"
"Definitely" I coed, "I like the upholstery a lot better." I wiggled sensually for a second.
"But there's a hard lump in the middle. Oh well, if I wiggle enough I can find a comfortable spot for it."
The girls were glowing, and he had a slight blush, even as he grinned. I stopped wiggling, suddenly aware there really was a lump underneath me. I turned red, but his arm kept me firmly anchored. Every time I'd start to calm down he'd rock forward a little.
We talked, I don't remember about what. He would caress my cheek, and I'd hold his hand and kiss it. The girls excused themselves after a bit and left us alone.
"Don't laugh, don't laugh, don't laugh" I repeated over and over, like a mantra. One look at his face and I exploded. He gave in, and was laughing right with me.
"What was that all about?"
"Jealousy? Of what?"
"Come on, Miss Kelly. Tell me Heather hasn't always been the hot girl, used to getting the best guys and all the attention. Am I right?"
"She's jealous. All of a sudden you're not a follower. You've got something she thought you incapable of, and she can't understand why you have it and not her. That's what tonight was all about, to see how serious I am about you."
I started getting mad. He stopped me.
"Relax. When I put you on my lap she took the hint. But I'd bet you my motorcycle she'll wait until you're not around and make a run at me."
"I'll yank that fake blond hair out of the bitch's head!"
He took my hand.
"Don't. I think I'll string her along, make her think I'm being swayed, then dump her for you. That'll give her a reality check."
"I don't like it" I said stubbornly.
Because I want you. You're mine, understand? Because I'm afraid you'll like her more and I won't be able to keep up. Her boobs are bigger, she's prettier, and I bet she knows a lot more tricks than I do.
I didn't say any of that of course. What I did say was that I wasn't comfortable being that cruel. Instead of an argument, he smiled.
"You passed the integrity test. You're a lot more mature than you give yourself credit for. Now, it's time to ramp up the wow factor."
"I'm afraid to ask."
He eyed me critically.
"When was the last time you changed your hairstyle, got new clothes, shoes, a makeover? Do you own any sexy lingerie, cute shorts, belly shirts? Cast off your rags, Cinderella. Time to go to the ball."
He kissed me after another half hour and stood to leave.
"I'll be out of town again tomorrow until next week. Sorry, can't be helped. Call me, and we'll talk."
A little kiss and he was gone. The tribe was ready for me when I joined their table. Heather was a little catty. I thought it was funny.
I called him almost every night. After the fourth call he started calling me. We talked. Talked about everything. When he asked me how I saw my dream life being I was embarrassed.
"It's kind of dull."
"If it's your dream, it can't be too dull. Spill."
I took a deep breath.
"Ron was right about a lot of things. One of them was telling me I should find a man, marry, pop out a couple babies, and be a housewife. I know it's terribly old fashioned, especially when todays' standard of living almost requires two incomes, but it's still my dream. I want to take care of the house, nuture my babies, and love my man with all my heart. You can go ahead and laugh now."
There was enough silence I wondered if the call got dropped.
"Ghost, are you still there?"
His voice sounded a little raw, like he was trying to stifle something.
"Yes, yes I'm here. And it's a beautiful dream, baby. I hope it comes true one day. I have to go now, we'll talk some tomorrow."
Before he rang off I heard something that sounded suspiciously like a sob. I stared at the phone, wondering.
The next night I told him abut my old dream of being a financial analyst, how I had to drop out of college when the money ran out, how much I hated my job. Instead of pretending to humor me, he led me into a two hour discussion on finance, the debacle Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac turned out to be, and how the housing boom, based on thin air and exaggerated numbers, spurred on by savvy Wall Street investors and terrible leadership from Greenspan had lead to our current situation.
"Damn, Miss Kelly, it's almost midnight. You need to sleep, work tomorrow and all that. Good night."
"Ghost?" I said in a little girl voice.
"Would you stop calling me Miss Kelly? It makes me feel like I'm fourteen."
"Sorry, I never thought. Anything special you'd like me to call you?"
"I really like it when you call me babe, but if you just drop the miss, it'll be fine."
"I could feel his grin through the phone.
"all right then. Goodnight, babe."
I held the phone smiling for two minutes before I hung up.
He finished his trip early, to my delight. He never said where he went, and I knew better to ask.
We met at the bar. The bartenders had started treating me a little better. They would have my drink ready when I walked in the door, and would have it on his table, whether he was there or not. I could tell this irritated Heather no end.
I had always been her wingman, getting her leftovers and castoffs from college onward. The fact that I had stepped out of her shadow was something she had a hard time with.
He had called to tell me he was in town, and asked me to meet him at the bar. I wore my new black skirt, two inches shorter than I had ever owned, and it still looked conservative. I had a new blouse on, red, silky and shining. I left open two buttons more than I had ever done before.
The approval in his eyes made it worth every dime.
"Damn Kelly, you really are a babe. Nice outfit."
I laughed it off.
"This old thing? I've had it for..." I looked at my watch, "about two days."
His hug and the light kiss he gave me made me feel boneless.
"Do you have a nice evening dress? If not, get one. We have an event to attend tomorrow."
"What kind of event?"
"One that's a surprise. I'll pick you up at seven, all right?"
Before I could ask anymore questions the girls invaded. Before they could pull up another chair I hopped into his lap. Heather looked like she had kissed a pickle.
"So, are you going with Kelly to the company picnic next week? If she's busy, you're welcome to join us."
"Picnic, next week?" He had a glint of interest in his eye. I locked down on his hand.
"I was going to tell you tonight, honey. Rest up, I want to win the three legged race."
He gave them a smile.
"We'll see you there, then."
They took their cue and left.
"Company picnic?" He said, with a raised eyebrow.
"Were you going to invite me?"
"No, because I wasn't going. I never have a good time."
"Well, babe, you're going now. I'll make sure we have fun."
He turned serious again.
"Don't forget. Tomorrow. Seven. Formal."
He gave me a nice kiss and disappeared.