Only One for Lunch:
The Christmas holidays! It was busy, really busy and Charles was happy about that, the extra help, the plethora of shoppers, the bustle. It was his element. He walked slowly through the restaurant, and a number of people nodded at him. Some of them were those who worked here at the store and always had a kind word for the 'big boss', Mr Ward; some were acquaintances. Charles certainly had a smile for everyone.
He was perpetually upbeat and pleasant, even to those whom he didn't really like. It was a remembered mantra from his saintly Mom: "It never costs you a thing to smile at people, even if they don't suit you."
Charles remembered that and practiced it. The Christmas season also seemed to put everyone in a better mood that day.
He sat down in one of the booths and immediately a waitress came to him.
"Mr. Ward," she said. "Nice to see you today."
"Thank you, Judy," he responded. "How are you today?"
"Fine, thank you for asking," she said.
"And those lovely twins?" he asked next with a smile on his face. "Growing?"
"Like weeds!" she said.
"Photos to show?" he asked next.
"In my purse. If you don't mind, I'll get them and show them," she said, beaming at him.
"Make my day!' he said.
"Thank you, Mr. Ward," Judy said.
He ordered a caesar salad and a cup of coffee. It was his usual, when he came here for lunch.
The large department store, the biggest in the chain that he'd inherited from his Mom, Dad and Uncle Ken, had both a diner like restaurant and also a one star, upscale one. He made it a habit to stop in for lunch or even dinner at each of them periodically.
It can also be said that his well honed mind, which he'd inherited with the stores from the folks, helped him to keep in mind the names and situations of the people who worked for him.
Sitting in a booth across from him, he noticed a little girl, probably about 7 or 8 years old, he surmised, and a lovely young lady, he assumed it was her mother.
That assumption was proven, when he heard the little girl say: "This is so exciting, Momma! I like wishlooking! It's so much fun."
The young woman smiled at the little girl and said: "Yes, it is, honey, and when Mommie gets herself a job, we're going to really go shopping."
The little girl clapped her hands and said: "Oh, I like that, Momma. It'll be so exciting."
Just then the little girl was served a grilled cheese sandwich and a glass of milk.
The little girl asked: "Momma, aren't you going to have any lunch?"
"Sweetie," the young woman said, "Momma's really not hungry. You go ahead and enjoy your lunch."
"Thank you, Momma," the little girl said, picking up a part of the sandwich and eating it.
It was then that Charlie got up. He left a tip for Judy, and encountered her on the way out of the restaurant.
"Judy," he said.
"Yes, Mr Ward," she responded.
"The woman in the booth across from me with the little girl,"
"Yes," Judy said, "That's Stella Regis, a friend of mine, and her little girl is Melody."
"What's the story with them, do you know?" he asked.
"Hard times," Judy said. "Husband left and apparently faded into the woodwork. I saw them coming in and my suspicions were simply confirmed, when Stella told me that it would be lunch only for Melody. It is a kind of treat for the little girl, I believe."
"Yes," he said, "They're talking about wishlooking."
"Yes, it used to be called window shopping but these days it's called wishlooking."
"Okay, Judy, please do me a favor," he said.
"Yes, sir!" she answered.
He gave her, from his wallet, a $50 and said, "Please give this to Stella from me. You don't need to mention where it came from. She should at least have lunch."
"Aren't you the nice one!" Judy said.
Then he changed tracks and said: "What about those photos?"
Judy hurried off and returned in a few minutes with the photos of her twins.
"They're gorgeous!" he said, "Like their Mom!"
"Growing fantastically!" she said, grinning at him.
"Please let me give you this for their piggy banks!" he said, handing her another two $20 bills."
Now Judy had tears in her eyes, as she thanked him.
He left and she went down to the booth where Stella and Melody were sitting.
"Hey, girl!" Stella said to Judy.
Judy bent down and said very softly: "The man who was sitting across from you is Mr Ward, Charles Ward, the big boss here at CDWard's. He asked me to give you this for your lunch."
Judy passed to Stella the $50 bill and Stella gasped.
"What is it, Momma?" Melody asked.
"The man, the one who was sitting across from us, has given us money to pay for our lunches," Stella said to Melody.
Then Stella turned and thanked Judy.
"No," Judy said, holding up a hand. "You need to thank the big boss!"
"Oh, can I?" Stella asked.
"Yes," Judy said, happy to be squealing on the boss, "Take the elevator to the 7th floor. It's where he hangs out, when he's not prowling the store."
"And acting like an angel!" Stella said.
"Got that right!" Judy said, and then: "What'll it be for lunch? And Mr W has already tipped me for your lunch too."
"He's grand!" Stella said, "And you said the 7th floor?"
"Yes," Judy said, moving away to put in Stella's lunch order.
A SPECIAL HUG:
They were finished with their lunches and walking in the direction of the elevators.
"Momma," Melody asked, "Why did that man leave the money for us?"
"Well," Stella answered, "He must be a really nice man. I think that we need to go and say a 'thank you' to him. Don't you?"
"Yes, Momma," Melody said, smiling, "I agree that we should."
"We'll keep the balance of this money for another day," Stella said, "Things have got to get better soon; I hope."
"I'm sure they will," Melody said with great faith.
They came to the bank of elevators and went in and pushed the button for the 7th floor. On the sign by the buttons it said 'Administration'.
"I guess that's where we need to go," Stella said.
"Yes, Momma," Melody agreed.
The elevator let them off in a kind of a lobby, where a young woman was sitting and typing.
"Yes, can I help you?" the young woman asked.
"Well, ... um..." Stella began, when Melody spoke up: "We're here to see the nice Mr Ward, who bought our lunch."
The young woman behind the desk, Cindy, smiled at that. She knew that it was a typical gesture that Mr W had made with people.
She spoke into the intercom: "Mr. W, a young woman and a little girl here to see you. Say that you bought their lunch and want to say thank you."
Melody Regis was a demonstrative little girl. She loved hugs and loved to be able to give hugs.
So that, once Charles Ward came out of his office, before he knew what was happening, the little girl had him in her clutches and was hugging him.
"You're so nice!" Melody proclaimed, so that all in the area could hear what she had to say.
He got over his shock and said: "Thank you, and you are very, very pretty! It's such a treat to get a hug from a pretty little girl!"
"Give my Momma a hug too," Melody said, "She's pretty too!"
"Well," he answered, "She certainly is!"
"I'm Melody and that's my Momma Stella!" Melody said next.
And then he had Stella in his arms for her copy of the hug.
Stella was saying softly to him: "Thank you for the gift. I'm afraid that we had money only enough for Melody to eat."
She looked up at him and the look on his face gave her a kind of a courage that she might not otherwise have.
Just then the young woman at the reception desk got up and said: "Melody, I have something in the next room that I'd like to show you. Can we?"
"Momma?" Melody asked.
"Yes, sweetie," Stella said, "Go with her, Mr Ward and I will be right here."
Melody went hand in hand with the young reception gal into the break room, where there were some sweets to be had.
Charles sat then and gave all of his attention to Stella. With Melody not in the room, Stella's face now showed the worry that was part of her every day life.
"I know it sounds empty-headed," she began, "I mean to go out to lunch, when there is so little money available but things have been so bad. I mean, my husband, Melody's Dad has simply run away. No trace of him anywhere and there is precious little money left. I am having trouble getting a job to get us on our feet. But Melody needed the treat so we've been out 'wishlooking'."
"Yes," he said, "Wishlooking! Judy at the restaurant was telling me about 'wishlooking'. And from the sound of it, Melody was certainly enjoying her 'wishlooking' adventure."
"Yes, and you've made it so nice with your kindness, and the money!" Stella said, beginning to sob.
Charles gave her his handkerchief then, and she went on: "I intend to pay you back; I promise that. As soon as we are straightened out!"
"Hush with that!" he said, holding up a hand. "'A kindness given is a kindness that is always returned immediately, '" he said. "It's what my Momma always taught me."
They sat in silence for a few minutes and then he said to her: "But there must be more."
EXPLANATIONS AND A PLAN:
"Oh," she went on, "Money is almost gone; it's rationed and after I pay the rent, which is coming up, we're going to be in trouble." She was on the verge of tears again then.
"Okay," he said softly, "Tell me about yourself."
She told her story, including the kind of work she'd done all along, during their marriage, until the company that she'd worked for had closed.
"That just seemed to be the beginning of the bad times," she said. "I had no idea that he was restless or anything like it, and suddenly, with a note to the two of us, he was gone."
She was wiping her eyes then and said: "And he took it all. We had a joint bank account and he emptied it and cancelled the credit cards. It left me in shock and with only the month's food money. He did it so well, and so craftily that the ruin was fairly complete."
He sat and waited for her to continue.
"It's been hard on Melody," she said, "She's got such a bright spirit but the rejection has been hard; I can tell."
"Well, she certainly does have a bright spirit," he said.
"It's been a few weeks since then," she said. "We don't have family. I mean that there's no one to really 'fall back on' kind of. It's just been us, the two of us. Pretty much alone."
"Yes, but that time is over," he said.
She simply looked at him then.
"Let me explain," he said. She nodded.
"Why don't you take Melody home and come tomorrow. She will be in school, since tomorrow is Monday, right?"
"Yes," she said.
"Then we'll fit you up with a job and get this process reversed. That much I promise," he said.
She fairly sprang at him then and had her arms around his neck.
It was then that Cindy and Melody came back into the room.
"Momma," Melody said, "We had treat! It was lovely."
"Thank you," Stella said, and Cindy smiled and nodded.
"Yes, thanks, Cindy," Charles said.
Then Melody gave her Momma a penetrating look and said: "Momma, are you okay?"
"Yes," she said, "It's just that Mr Ward said that he'd have a job for me, when I come back tomorrow."
"He's wonderful!" Melody said, and Charles blushed; Cindy laughed and clapped and Stella said: "Oh, yes, he is, sweetie!"
"Can we go and do some more wishlooking, Momma?" Melody asked then and Stella agreed that it would be an excellent thing to do.
Before they left, Melody insisted on another hug with Charles, and then it was Stella hugging him too.
"Stella," Charles said, "Why not give your information to Cindy, so that we can contact you, if we need?"
"Fine," Stella said, still hugging him and finding herself loath to let him go.
She told herself that she'd store that and just think about it. She didn't even know if he were married or not. She just pushed those thoughts away.
She and Melody, after giving Cindy their information, wandered away and went on their 'wishlooking' expedition. There was a totally different feel to it for Stella. She realized that, and simply let her mind dwell on the loveliness of what he'd done for them and was planning to do.
"I wish there were a way," she said to Melody, "To thank him properly."
"Invite him over!" Melody said.
"Maybe we should!" Stella agreed.
At this point in their lives, Charles Ward was 42 and a bachelor. There had been a number of girlfriends but no one that he was serious about. He'd devoted a great deal of his time and energy to the store, and, in the process, had watched it grow and prosper. He'd taken what he'd been given and made it so much better. Charles was 6'1" and handled his 190 lbs very well. He had mixed dark and gray curly hair, and was sighed over by any number of the ladies at work.
Stella Regis was just recovering from the disaster to whom she had been married, who wanted neither Stella nor their daughter Melody. He proved himself to be both a crafty sneak and a fairly low dealing jerk. He left the two of them really high and dry, when he'd gone, having taken time to do away with credit cards that they shared, and clean out bank accounts too.
(It needs to be said that in the near future, Stella was able to easily get a divorce for abandonment.)
Stella was dark haired and rather pretty, though just now with all the problems, a bit worn around the edges but better fortune and being taken care of might well heal that quickly. She was 27 and had been married to the jerk for about 9 years.
When she thought of that, it seemed like 9 years thrown away, but that thought was tempered by her lovely Melody, who was the joy of her life.
A NEW DIRECTION FOR STELLA AND MELODY:
She was cautiously optimistic, when she got to CDWARD'S. Of course, things had been that bad and so negative lately that a part of her, used to the many downturns of late, refused to be really optimistic.
She went to the 7th floor and said a tentative 'hi' to Cindy at the desk. She wasn't sure if she'd even be remembered.
However, as soon as Cindy saw her get off of the elevator, she got up from her desk for a hug and said a bright and cheerful: "There she is! Stella the Momma of my pal Melody. Hey, girl!"
Stella grinned at her, and said: "Hi, Cindy!"
"I'll tell him that you're here," Cindy said.
Cindy noticed that Stella was a bit nervous and said: "Don't worry the old bull is not roaring this morning."
Stella put her hand over her mouth and giggled at that and said: "Good, I'm glad."
"Oh, if we had to," Cindy went on, "We'd tame him right enough."
They both giggled at that. Just then Charles' office door opened.
"Ruckus?" he said.
"Nothing, boss," Cindy said, "I was just assuring Stella that 'the old bull' isn't roaring today."
"Old bull?" he said with suspicion, and Cindy added, in a very pleasant tone of voice:
"Oh, Mr Ward, Ms Regis is here to see you."
"How nice," he said, "Thank you Cindy. Seeing Ms Regis makes this old bull happy."
The two women went into giggles again and a grinning Charles led Stella into his office.
"First things first!" he said, as they walked into the office. "How's that lovely little girl?"
"Oh, Melody is fine," Stella said, "She's as pleased as I am by the possibility of a job that'll get us on our feet again."
She sobered up a bit then and said: "It's been so hard on her. I mean him not wanting her at all, and just leaving."
"No little girl should have to go through that!" Charles declared.
Stella had tears in her eyes then and said quickly: "I"m sorry to be inappropriate here!"
"Hey, enough of the sorries!" Charles said, "We're simply going to take care of the situation, every part of it, as we see it."
The tears were coming then and she hesitated but he didn't. He went to her and pulled her into a hug. Her tears of relief and joy did come then.
"Sorry," she said, as the hug broke but he put his fingers to her lips and silenced the 'sorry'. "I think I need to wash my face," she said then.
He went to the door and, opening it, said a soft: "Cindy, can you give us a hand."
Cindy recognized immediately the probable cause of Stella's outburst and took her by the hand, leading her to the ladies room on the other side of the office area.
"We'll be right back, boss," Cindy said, getting a 'thank you' from Charles.
When they came back, Stella was more composed and had another apology on the tip of her tongue, which he, again, wouldn't allow.
"Okay," he said, "Let's talk. From what you said in our conversation yesterday," he began, "I'm going to hire you for our accounting department."
"Oh," she said, "How nice."
"I'll take you there presently but first let's discuss the details."
"Yes, please," she said.
He went over the details of salary for her, and she was really pleased by what he was offering.
"That's so grand!" she said, "But you are too!"
He grinned and she blushed, putting her hand to her mouth to hide her own grin.
"Are you okay with starting right away?" he asked.
"Yes," she said, "I came prepared for that."
"Good," he said.
He hesitated then and said: "Stella, there's another thing."
"Yes?" she asked.
He opened his drawer and pulled out an envelope with her name on it.
"I want to give you this to hold you until your first pay check," he said softly.
She teared up again. "Oh," she remarked, "I always seem to be crying around you!"
He waited until she got herself under control again, and gave her the envelope. When Stella opened it, she found $500 in it.
She looked up with a look of shock on her face.
Now it was his turn to get red in the face. "Stella, I'm not trying to 'buy' you or anything like that."
"I know you're not!" she said, and then a grin flashed across her face, and the old Stella appeared for a few seconds. She said, before properly censoring her thoughts or words: "Even if it's a good idea!"
She giggled then, and he said: "Well, hold that thought for the future!"
Then she went to him and had him surrounded by her arms. "Thank you, Charles!" she said. She kissed him very quickly, a light brush of his lips with hers.
"You are magnificent! A best friend!" she said.
"Precisely what I want to be!" he said. "Well, let's do the tour."
He walked the store with her, all parts of it, showing her shipping and where merchandise, after it had come in, was stored in their large warehouse section. He finished with a tour of the employees' cafeteria. She was pleased at the cordial way that everyone greeted him, as they went along, and he made sure that he introduced her everywhere. The greetings that she got were down right friendly. Stella was pleased.
She remembered her nervousness of the morning and was tickled at how this was all working out for her.
It was at that point, at the end of 'the tour', that he called Cindy to take her to accounting and get her settled.
One of the women in accounting, an older woman named Mary took Stella 'under her wing', so to speak, and walked her through their procedures, promising Stella training in the next few days to get her up to speed.
Stella opted for a late lunch, before she needed to go and meet Melody at school to bring her home. As she ate her salad, someone came to her table. She looked up and was pleased to see Charles standing there with his own tray of food.
"May I?" he asked.
"Oh, please!" she said with a large smile. "Lunch with the boss who is my personal magus! What a treat!" she said.
He grinned at her. "Lovely words!" he said, "Thank you."
"Only too true!" she said back to him.
"I have to warn you," she said, "That Melody wants you to come and visit us at our cubby hole. She intends to get her hands on you."
"Yes, Melody the great hugger!" he said.
"She is that!" Stella said, "Can you soon?"
"Whenever you say!" he said.
"Tonight for some ice cream?" she asked.
"Lovely," he responded, "May I bring the ice cream?"
"That would be nice!" she answered. "About 6:30?"
"Yes, grand!" he replied with a smile.
They chatted over lunch like two old pals. "Lunch time is over for me," she said finally, "Have to go or they'll tell the boss."
"No," he quipped, "You don't want to fall into his hands!"
She looked at him and a moment of absolute truth occurred between them: "I think that I already have!" she said earnestly.
She kissed her fingers and pressed them against his cheek, making sure that her back was to the room, so that no one but the two of them saw.
A NEW PLAN:
Charles had a personal habit of giving great amounts of energy to ideas and, at times, problems that came along for him. He worked on an issue until he had it in perspective, and, if a solution were wanted, would work until the solution was obvious.
He was that way with what Stella had said about their 'cubby hole'. It struck him, the use of that kind of language to describe where they were living but he also realized that what she'd told him about the things that they'd recently been through pointed in that direction also. He guessed that he shouldn't really be surprised that their place was less than ideal.
He twirled the thoughts around in his mind and came up with what he considered a great solution. He only needed to bide his time and see exactly what their apartment was like first.
He did discover also that her words did describe their apartment pretty closely. It was a tiny apartment. She even apologized for it, when she met him at the door that evening.
He held up a hand and said: "It's a treat to be invited; that's simply the truth."
"Melody!" he Mom called out and then, as Charles and Stella stood there, Melody came running down the hall way.
"It's Charles!" she called out, as she approached, "Mr Ward! Hi!"
She got to him going fairly full steam ahead and he caught her and twirled her around, with her giggling all out.
"Weeeeeeeeeeeee!" she yelled, as he was twirling her, and her Momma looked on with a large smile on her face.
He kissed her on the forehead, as he put her back down on the floor and then she was hugging him, holding onto him and proclaiming: "Oh, Mr Ward, Mr Charles, I love you!"
It was obvious that what she said affected him greatly and he bent down and kissed her on each cheek, and said to her: "Yes, honey, I love you too! You are so grand! You and your Momma both!"
"Good," Melody said, "Then give my Momma a kiss too."
Charles laughed at the direction, which caused Stella to redden up a bit but he went to her put his arms around her and kissed her too on each cheek.
Right then, as though it were the most normal thing in the world, Stella moved her face and actually kissed Charles. He responded to the kiss in kind. It only lasted a half a moment but it affected both of them. There was that kind of look in their eyes, once the kiss was finished.
Charles picked up the package then that he'd previously put on the floor. He held it up and declared: "Ice Cream! Several different kinds!"
"Yayyyyyyyy!" Melody said, clapping her hands, and taking him by the hand pulled him in the direction of the kitchen.
It was during this trip to the kitchen that Charles realized that the description of their apartment as a 'cubby hole' was fairly correct. It was small. They had a tiny living room, and one bedroom and a bath. In the bedroom were two twin beds for Stella and Melody.
"Sorry it's so tiny!" Stella said softly.
"Well," Charles said, realizing that this would lead to what he wanted to talk to them about. "We need to discuss that."
Stella just looked at him and he said: "After we have the ice cream, we'll talk."
"Yes, fine," she said, "We'll talk."
Meanwhile Melody was busy getting the bowls ready for the ice cream. Charles had also brought peanuts, and chocolate syrup, in addition to the vanilla and chocolate ice cream that he brought.
Charles from an early age, especially in business, trusted his instincts. That's what he was going with now. They sat companionably and had their ice cream.
When the treat was finished, Charles said: "Is there enough time before Melody's bed time to take a little trip with me? I want to show you something."
Stella was a bit nervous, not knowing what was going to happen but she agreed.
They went in Charles car.
"This car is so nice," Melody said. "Isn't it, Momma?"
"Yes," Stella said.
Charles turned to Stella and said: "It's okay, Mom; don't be nervous."
It caused to break some ice. Stella gave a short laugh and began to relax, especially when Melody piped up and said: "I love this car, Momma; I want one like it!"
"Yes, love," Stella said, giving Charles a side glance that caused him to wink.
They stopped at an up-scale apartment building. There was a man on the desk, a security guard.
"Hey, Tony," Charles said. "Charles!" the guard said with genuine affection.
"The key please to 6B," Charles said and the guard handed over the key.
They went to the elevator and rode upwards.
"They really seem to know you here," Stella said, as much to fill in the silence as any other reason. But she certainly wasn't expecting his answer:
"They should," Charles said, "I own the building but please don't tell anyone or everyone will be harping at me. This left both Stella and Melody giggling.
They got to the 6th floor, the top of the building, and he hesitated at the door of 6A.
"This is where I live," he said. "Now I have to warn you that something strange might happen, when we go in but no one is in danger."
"Oh!" Stella said, and both she and Melody stayed behind Charles as he entered the huge apartment.
Almost as soon as they were in the apartment, a cat's voice could be heard and a large tabby flashed into the entrance way, made a noise and thundered away, up a flight of stairs to the balcony and then down again, leaping across a couch and came to rest at their feet. Then the cat sat and idly licked its fur, as though nothing happened.
Stella and Melody were ringing with laughter.
"Happy to see you too, Gerti!" Charles said, "But we have guest, so you can calm down." He motioned to the cat and said: "This is my Gertrude." Then he turned to the cat again and said: "And, Gerti, this is my lovely girlfriend Melody and her pretty Mom, Stella."
"I'm not your girlfriend!" Melody said, "My Momma is!"
Both Charles and Stella reddened a bit at that. Then, without a word, Melody knelt down and began to give Gertrude scratches. The big cat simply rolled on its back and let its belly be rubbed.
"We need to sit and talk a bit," Charles said then.
"Stella, please let me explain fully before you react; okay?"
"Yes," Stella said wondering now what he had in mind.
"This apartment is half of a huge penthouse apartment that's on the top floor of the building. From the very first, I decided to take the penthouse for me and Gerti," he began.
While she was listening, Melody was playing with and petting Gerti, who was reacting with purrs and closed eyes.
"I quickly discovered that the entire floor was too much for me and I moved out of the other side. That's 6B, the other side. It's been empty since. I'm very fussy about who shares this floor with me."
He hesitated and then went on: "I have always been a man who follows his instincts. It almost never fails me. It's what I'm doing now. I want you and Melody to live in 6 B. it is the mirror image of mine here."
Stella was dumbfounded. She absolutely didn't know what to say at that point.
"Oh, Momma!" Melody fairly yelled.
Charles turned to Melody then and said: "Honey, can you give your Momma and me a moment to talk? How about if I show you where the computer is?"
"Oh, yes," Melody said. "That'll be great."
"Excuse me a moment," he said then to Stella, who was struggling from the shock.
He came back in a few minutes, having gotten Melody settled on the computer.
"How much?" Stella asked immediately. He knew, of course, what she meant.
"Oh, Stella," he said, "I own the building and I certainly don't need the money; I would never charge you and Melody rent for the apartment."
Stella cried then. "Sorry! Sorry!" she said, waving a hand.
He moved over on the couch to where she was then and she went into his arms and cried.
"It's never been like this!" she said softly into his shoulder and neck. "I mean, it's been Melody and me and no one has ever bothered, ever to take care of us."
"Until now!" he said.
"Yes," she said, now wiping her eyes and nose with the handkerchief he gave her. "Until now."
"Stella," he went on, "I realize that this is like an assault on your senses. And we can go as slowly as you want to, to give yourself time to deal with what's going on. And if it's not what you want, I mean you and me, if that's not what you want, the offer of the apartment still stands. Will you please let me do this for you?"
"Yes," she said, "Especially because of Melody. She loves you so much already!"
"Good for me!" he said with a smile.
"And I think that I'm beginning to join her in that feeling!" Stella said tentatively, and she kissed him. It was a wonderful kiss.
In the middle of the kiss, Melody came into the living room.
"Ohhhh!" she said, standing still and staring.
"Come and give Charles a kiss, honey," Stella said, "He's being so good to us."
Then the three of them were hugging. When the hug broke up, with Stella still wiping her eyes, he said: "So, 6B?"
"Yes!" Stella said.
"Momma?" Melody asked.
"It's where we're going to live!" Stella said with a smile.
"Goodie!" Melody said, "Right next to Charles and Gerti!"
"Yep," he said then, "Right next door to me and Gerti!"
They went out to the hallway then and he let them into apartment 6B. It was, like his, huge and wonderful. There was a gorgeous view out of the living room windows, letting you look over the entire city. It had a lovely master suite with its own bathroom and, on the other side of the hallway two guest rooms with a connected bath between them.
At one point, Stella said that she just had to sit down for a moment and let it all sink in. She sat on the stairs, while Charles and Melody looked around, hand in hand.
Then they had the joy of picking out a room that was for Melody. The little girl was beside herself with glee at the thought of having her own room.
"When?" Stella asked, still struggling for control.
"Why not tonight?" he asked, and Melody was clapping and shouting again.
"Yes," Stella said, "Right away."
"Tell you what," he said, "I have air mattresses. Why not bring suitcases of clothes and toilet article here tonight and I'll bring in the air mattresses for you each to have a bed? Or!"
"Yes, or?" Stella prompted.
"Or, you can just have the large guest suite in my place tonight and tomorrow, which is Saturday and there's no school, we can shop. I'll turn you loose at CDW's and let you choose the things that you need."
He immediately saw the doubtful look on her face and pulled her into a hug, saying: "Hey, let's not begin to worry here. I'll turn you over to my shopping specialist, Mrs Kerr, and they'll put the purchases on my bill. I promise."
"Ohhhhh!" Stella sighed, holding on to him.
"Momma," Melody said then, "You hug Charles an awful lot!"
Both Charles and Stella laughed about that.
Stella bent down to kiss Melody and said: "Yes, I do; isn't that wonderful?"
"Yes," Melody said, "I like hugging Charles. I wish he was my Daddy!"
Both Stella and Charles were struck silent for a few moments. Then he was down on one knee and giving the little girl a kiss. She had her arms around his neck and said an emotional: "I love you, Charles! And I love Gerti too!"
"We love you too honey," Charles said.
Then Stella had the little girl in a hug and Melody was saying: "Momma, I only was saying a wish."
"I know, honey," Stella said. She glanced up at Charles and said: "We'll send that wish to Santa Claus!"
"Oh, can we?" Melody, who was a real fan of Santa Claus, said.
"We can!" Stella said, "Right, Charles?"
"Yep, we can!" he said.
"So," Charles said then, "We're off to get your stuff and then it's overnight with Charles and Gerti and guess who Gerti's going to want to sleep with tonight?" He grinned at Melody as he said it. It caused her to jump up and down and clap. That sent Gerti into one of her fugues and she was off running around the apartment, with all three of them watching and laughing.
CARS, ARRANGEMENTS AND A SPECIAL NIGHT:
"Wait," Charles said, "I have to get something, before we go."
He went to his desk drawer, in the room he used as a den, and came back with a handful of keys.
"I want you to have these," he said to Stella.
She took the keys and just looked at him.
"It's this way," he explained. "I have the Lexus that I use most of the time but I also have, for some reason, a Lexus SUV. They're both always in the garage downstairs in stalls 1 and 2, unless I'm using one. You just feel free to use them any time you need.We'll simply be in touch about who's using what. Okay?"
Stella's hand went to her mouth, as he, once again, overwhelmed her with his goodness.
She shook her head 'yes' and took the keys, while he explained that one of the keys was also to the lock on the front door.
They went downstairs then in the elevator, taking it to the garage. He showed them where 'their' cars were parked. Stella was, as can be imagined, overwhelmed, as he showed her the 'ins and outs' of the Lexus SUV.
"You've got the keys," he said, "Why not try it out?"
"Ohhhhh, yes!" Stella said, grinning at him and then at Melody.
Then they were ready. Stella drove, saying time and again how lovely the car was.
Charles turned to Melody and said: "Your Momma likes her new car!"
"Oh, Momma, is this your car?" Melody asked.
"Yes, it is!" Stella said, "It's really our car; we share with Charles."
"Charles is so nice, I love Charles!" Melody said.
They went out to the 'cubby hole', where they packed their clothes and took some special things and loaded them into the Lexus and were off, back 'home'.
When they got into the car, Charles said to Stella: "Home, James!" It made her giggle.
By the time that they got the luggage and items back to Charles' place, it was late and Melody was tired.
"How about a bath for you, love?" Stella asked and got a 'yes, Momma' answer from the little girl.
Stella oversaw the bath, and then tucked her into bed, with Gerti in attendance, and after kisses and hugs from Charles.
"Let me get some linens for you," Charles said, going to look for towels for the bathroom that they'd use.
At that point, Stella declared herself ready for a bath too and went, with the towels, to take it. Charles told her that he was going to the den and had some things to do.
He was in the middle of those 'things', when there was a knock on the door.
"Yes?" he said.
The door opened and Stella came in. She was wearing a short, yellow silk robe.
"Don't you look lovely!" he said.
"And clean!" she said with a grin.
"I want you to know," she said then, "That it's not anything that you've done in all of this 'sweeping me off of my feet' stuff; it's not anything like that. It's you! I've come for you! It can be a short time thing; it can even be a once and done thing. I'm not making demands of any kind but I've come for you, Charles Ward, who is beloved of my sweet Melody! I've just come for you!"
When she finished that, she shrugged her shoulders and let the silk robe slide off of her, leaving her only in a pair of yellow bikini panties. She caught it and made a slow scene of folding it and putting it on a chair, while he stood and just stared at her.
"My, don't you look wonderful!" he said, going to her, and folding himself into her outstretched arms.
"I think that I'd rather opt for this being more permanent than any of that," he said, holding her.
Then he was snuffling her.
"What?" she asked, with a giggle.
"It's you!" he said, "You smell so nice! You smell all tasty and nice! And you are a world stopper in those panties!"
She was slowly coming to grips with what he'd said.
"Oh, Charles," she breathed into his neck. "Yes, and yes again. It's what I want. All of this, it's been so quick but it is, has been wonderful. All the helping and taking care of us has been wonderful, every bit of it. But it's you that matter, and my having you here and getting you in my clutches! That's what's wonderful!"
"Then I want your panties!" he said. "I want to have them! I want you to take your pants down and give them to me! I want you here and now to be bare assed naked! That's what I want! And I want it right now!"
She giggled. "I love it, when you make demands!" she said.
"Oh, I can do that!" he said, and watched as she put her thumbs under the waist band elastic of her panties and pushed them down, down and off, exposing, as she went, slowly, her dark pussy triangle. It had him grinning.
"See anything you like?" she asked. "Anything you want to taste?"'
"Indubitably!" he said and she giggled.
Then he was kissing her neck and then her shoulder, and then he pushed her arm up in the air and was kissing and licking her armpits, while she giggled and sighed.
He stopped then to kiss her properly and through that kiss she said: "Don't stop!"
"Don't intend to, not ever!" he said.
"Oh, yes!" she sighed and he was at her breasts then, with a nipple in his mouth, worrying it and licking it and then scraping it with his teeth, giving her shivers and making her tremble from it.
He moved then again and was kissing down her side; then he went, with his kisses, across her stomach, stopping to lick at her belly button, again getting giggles and sighs. Then he worked on her other side, kissing his way up to her armpit and working on it.