Sometimes in life the actions we take set in motion forces that lead us in some unintended directions. It's like entering a maze, you go in innocently enough, but you never know where or when you're going to come out. Carrie Kruger walked into one of these mazes once, and eventually came out somewhere where she never expected to be.
It all began when she went to a dinner dance her company held every January; it was supposed to help alleviate the post-holiday depression that seems to affect people after New Years. Carrie needed some alleviating, her twenty year old daughter had moved out in the fall leaving her with a severe case of "empty nest syndrome". Carrie's husband had left her eleven years earlier, and she'd been forced to raise the girl on her own. In that time the two had grown incredibly close, but the lure of job out of town proved to be too much for the girl and she'd moved on. They kept in close touch calling, texting, and using social media sites, but that didn't help Carrie's mood. She still felt completely alone.
That was her mind set when she arrived at the dinner with her girlfriends that night. She was alone, unattached, forty, with no immediate prospects; in a word, vulnerable. She shouldn't have been since she was actually an attractive woman. But, being a single mother, she had decided years earlier that it wouldn't have been right to do a lot of dating while raising her daughter. It had been important to her to set a good example, and bringing home a stream of "uncles" to meet the girl didn't fit that ideal. She had tried to be a paradigm of virtue and as a result had forgotten how to meet men. Most of the men she came in contact with at work were aware of her attempts to be a role model and respected it and the word had spread; this one wasn't available don't even try. The problem was nobody understood her situation had changed and she didn't how to put herself back in the game. So when Jim Roselli came over and asked her to dance she was thrilled and jumped at the chance.
Jim was a popular guy around the office, one of those that were graced with good looks and an easy manner, he enhanced his image by dressing impeccably and perfect grooming; one of those never a hair out of place kind of guys. She quickly discovered he was an also excellent dancer as he led her gracefully to the slow rhythm of the music. There was one question on her mind.
"Where's your wife tonight? I haven't seen her."
Ah, well, we've sort of gone our own ways." He paused then added, "You know how that works, right? I mean you're divorced."
"Yes, I do and I am." She pressed herself a little tighter against him.
"I hear your daughter moved out recently, how's she doing?"
"Fine, fine, but damn, that apartment is awfully empty without her."
"Yes," he responded, "I know what you mean. It gets pretty lonely when you're suddenly all by yourself. Trust me, I know firsthand."
With that, the hand on her back pulled even tighter, she laid her head on his shoulder, he rested his head on hers. They were the very picture of a loving couple, clinging to each other and moving leisurely to the music. One dance led to several, many actually as they spent the evening together. In Carrie's romantic way of looking at it they were like two lost souls who'd found each other. Thoughts of love began to enter her head.
As they danced she was facing a table where the "stags" were sitting, the unmarried guys who didn't have dates for one reason or another. She saw Ed Rakauskas looking over at them. He seemed to watching with interest, then turned to the other men, said something and they all laughed. He shook his head and sipped on the glass of beer in his hand. She was sure he'd made a joke about her. It was not all paranoia, she and Ed didn't get along. For six years they'd worked side by side in the purchasing department, and had developed an intense rivalry. So the idea that he was laughing at her was not too farfetched. Well the hell with him, she thought, this is my night and that jackass isn't going to ruin it.
It was more than just her night, it held promise of being something beyond that. Jim had talked about the possibility of them seeing each other and had asked for her number. Carrie happily gave it to him and told him to call her anytime, she would be glad to go out with him. Getting back into the dating pool was easier than she'd thought; one night and she was already swimming in the deep end. She felt that she wouldn't be alone for long. She was right, the next day he called asking if she would like to go out for dinner with him the following night; she accepted unhesitatingly.
They had dinner at a small out of the way restaurant that he knew and it was nice. It was the type of place that reeked of romance, candles on the tables, soft music, and a good wine list. She ordered Chicken Kiev, when it arrived she cut into it and watched the melted butter burst forth from it.
"Looks good, but every time I eat this stuff, I worry about all the butter. It's the best part but I keep thinking of that old line, 'a minute on the lips, a month on the hips', I'll have to hit the health club after this decadence."
"You don't look like you have much of a weight problem, enjoy. Besides, isn't the wine supposed to counter the fat intake?"
"I don't know, I think that's only red wine." She held up her glass of German white. "Don't know if it works with this stuff. Still, I have every intention of enjoying it."
"The chicken or the wine?"
"Both," with that she ate a piece of the chicken and washed it down with a sip of the wine. "And they're both delicious."
"Good. You mentioned a health club, are you into that sort of thing?"
"Not really, I belong to one but I never seem to have the time or inclination to go regularly. Usually I get feeling guilty and go for about two weeks, then I get bored and skip it for a couple of months. A waste of money I guess."
"Oh, I don't know. You seem to be in pretty good shape and I'd hate to think I was running around with one of those butch health nuts."
"Running around together now, are we?" She smiled at him.
"I think so, what else would you call it?"
"Running around is fine. It was just that this is the first I've heard of it. It sounds nice, actually."
"Good," he said. "That makes it official, we're running around together."
Throughout the rest of the meal, he was the perfect gentleman and the perfect date; funny, attentive, a good conversationalist, an even better listener. Carrie could not have asked for better, in fact she began to think he was too good to be true. When he took her home, he walked her to her door. Standing in the hallway outside her apartment, he quickly made plans for their next outing.
"I'm busy tomorrow, but how about we go out the night after and take in a movie, maybe have a few drinks?"
"Sounds good to me, I'd love to. Call it a date."
"Great", he smiled at her. Then he leaned down to kiss her good night.
When their lips met, both slightly parted, the tips of their tongues touched each other lightly. Carrie felt an erotic shudder run through her as her stomach muscles tightened. Knowing there would be more of this in their future, she was looking forward to the next date. She went into her small apartment and sat down in an easy chair, smiling to herself. She'd already decided if he wanted to go to bed with her, she was ready and willing to get laid. It was just a matter of timing. Again, she couldn't believe her good luck.
The next day at when she arrived at the office, Ed Rakauskas was already at work. They exchanged their usual cold empty good mornings as Carrie turned on her computer. It was just another day, undistinguished from all the others in the last six years. As she opened a file of purchasing orders, Ed turned towards her.
"I hear you're seeing Jimmy Roselli."
She looked at him indifferently. "What of it?"
"He's a friend of mine, but I've got tell you, he's a player. I think you ought to know that. I hope you realize what you're getting into, that's all. If you don't you might get burnt."
"Some friend you are. But be that as it may, I'm an adult, a grown woman and quite capable of taking care of myself, thank you. Frankly, I don't see what damn business it is of yours."
"Yeah, you're right. It's absolutely no concern of mine. What was I thinking?" He returned to his work.
Carrie paused for a moment, feeling the anger growing inside her. "What do you think, like you're my father or something? You go around butting in on everybody's lives, or just mine? I'd like to know. Because, honestly, you're the last person in this office I'd want advice from. In case you haven't noticed, you don't appear to be doing so well in the relationship department yourself."
Without looking up from his work he replied apathetically, "You're right, physician heal thy self; now excuse me while I tend to my own garden. Forget I said anything, I already have."
"Bastard", she muttered under her breath as she returned to her work. She hoped he'd heard her.
So, the next night, despite Ed Rakauskas's warning, or maybe because of it, Carrie decided that Jimmy was going to get lucky. If he wanted her, she was going to offer herself up on a platter. She'd never been very much of a predator sexually, and she found it exciting. After the movie as they drove from the theater complex, he suggested they stop somewhere for a drink.
"Yes," she replied, "or we could go to my place. I have alcohol."
"Sounds good to me," he was smiling, almost to himself.
.... There is more of this story ...