Craig Ross sat quietly in the hard backed wooden chair, trying hard not to stare at the older woman sitting behind the desk in front of him. It was his first day at Eaglestone Communications and the last thing he wanted to do was get off on the wrong foot by having the personnel director catch him staring at her breasts. Not that they weren’t worth staring at, even if she was at least twice his twenty-two years. Almost as bad, he thought, would be for her to catch his eyes wandering the room or staring out the large window to his left, either action might demonstrate a lack of interest in his new position.
Instead, while she continued to check the small stack of forms that made up his newly created employee file, Craig kept his gaze on the small, hand-made nameplate on the corner of her desk. The metal letters that spelled out Estelle Jones had a few imperfections in them, leading him to believe that an amateur had made it. It reminded him of some of the projects he’d made in high school shop class. Every twenty seconds or so, he glanced upward to see of the dark haired woman was done with her review, and then returned to his study of her nameplate.
“Well,” Estelle said a long minute later as she finally laid down the last sheet and closed the folder, “everything seems to be in order.”
Craig was relieved that he had been looking up at the same time that she did.
“I just like to double check that all the forms are filled out right,” she said with a smile. “Nothing worse than having the excitement of your first payday ruined because some obscure box hadn’t been checked off and you didn’t get your check on time because of it.”
Craig returned the smile, surprised that she would take such an interest in a new employee. In fact, he was still surprised that he was here at all. Only a few months out of college, he’d put in an application at Eaglestone as one of a half dozen that day alone, never expecting to be called in for an initial interview, much less a second one.
The first interview had left him with the impression that it had only been a pro forma exercise, just to show that they were giving applicants a chance before they hired whom they intended to from the start. The second interview had been with Ms. Jones herself and her attitude had been totally the opposite. Suspicious of the change, Craig had convinced himself halfway through it that her friendly demeanor was designed to make him not feel as bad when he walked out of the meeting disappointed. Therefore, he was quite astonished when it instead ended with an offer of employment. It was all he could do to remember to say thank you.
“Mr. Brown, in whose department you’re going to be working, is out today, so there’s no need for you to report over there until tomorrow,” Estelle continued. “So we can use what is left of the day to introduce you to your mentor and let you learn a little about how things are done around here.”
“Mentor?” Craig repeated, not having heard the term in any of the prior interviews.
“Oh, it’s just a little program we instituted here at Eaglestone a year or so back,” Estelle explained, “geared specifically to new employees like yourself who are just entering the workforce. Just someone to help you adjust to how a business really operates as opposed to the theoreticall model you learned about in school.”
Having interned for two other companies during school, Craig thought he already had a good handle on that, but wasn’t about to contradict the personnel director.
“It’s important for you to understand that they don’t report to anyone, or have any input into the quarterly performance evaluations that all employees go through during their first year,” she continued. “All they are there for is to answer any questions you might have about how things operate, and perhaps guide you over any of the bumps along the way.”
“Isn’t that the kind of thing that you would go to your department manager for?” Craig asked, remembering one of his professors saying just that.
“Traditionally yes,” Estelle answered, “but we’ve found that sometimes a new employee might be hesitant to go to their immediate superior with some things, especially if they thought going to them might make them look bad or unable to handle a task they were given. By assigning them a go to person, as it were, to ask those not as silly as they thought questions, we avoid surprisingly many problems. Whatever you might think of the idea at the moment, it does work out quite well.”
Thinking about it for a few moments, Craig decided it might be a good idea after all. His thoughts flashed back to just that kind of situation during his first internship, when he felt more comfortable asking one of the other interns a question about his project rather than risking appearing ignorant in front of his boss. The problem was his fellow intern had known as little as he did and the advice she had given him almost proved disastrous.
“In fact,” Estelle concluded as she glanced down at the desk clock in front of her, “she should be here just about...”
Almost as if her words were a signal, the door to the personnel director’s office opened and an equally smartly dressed woman entered. Following Estelle’s lead as she turned her attention to the new arrival, Craig turned his head far enough around to see her as she approached the desk.
Standing five foot six, just an inch shorter than Craig, the forty-four year old had shoulder length brown hair, emerald green eyes and a pleasant smile. The finely tailored business attire she wore did little to divert attention from the decidedly female form beneath it, especially a bust that easily matched Estelle’s. This time however, it wasn’t a set of impressive breasts that drew Craig’s attention, but a face that was instantly familiar.
“Craig Ross, I’d like you to meet...” Estelle had started to say.
“Mrs. Parkes!” Craig exclaimed, cutting off the personnel director in mid- sentence.
“Craig?” the new arrival queried, her tone reflecting equal surprise.
“I take it that the two of you already know each other,” Estelle said a heartbeat later, having risen from her desk and already gone half way around it.
“Knew would probably be a better word,” Kay Parkes said, “but it must be four, no make that five years since the last time we saw each other.”
Almost automatically, Craig found himself nodding in agreement.
“Craig here went to high school with my oldest son, George,” Kay went on to explain Estelle’s unasked but certainly apparent curiosity about what connection she would’ve had with a then teenage boy. “But that was so long ago that I never made the connection when you mentioned his name to me.”
“Well, if it’s been five years, I can certainly understand that,” Estelle said. “But as it is, a past relationship, however indirect, might compromise the spirit of the mentor program. If you like, I’m sure I can find another volunteer easily enough.”
“I don’t see it being a problem for me,” Kay said after a moment’s reflection, “but the decision really should be left up to Craig I think. After all, he’s really the one who needs to feel the most comfortable with it.”
Both women turned to look at the still seated young man, putting him in the middle of his first professional decision. There were pros and cons to going either way, he quickly thought, but while there was no guarantee that Mrs. Parkes was still the same person he’d known back in high school, he was sure there would be little problem getting along with her.
“I don’t see it as being a problem,” Craig finally replied.
“Excellent,” Estelle smiled, “then we’re done here.”
It was obvious to Craig that both women were pleased with his decision.
“Since I know you have other things that you need to get done,” Kay said, “why don’t I take Mr. Ross here out to lunch and give him his first counseling session?”
“It sounds like a good idea to me,” Estelle agreed. The comfortable way the two of them interrelated caused Craig to think that, even in absence of any evidence thereof, the two women were friends as well as co-workers. “But be sure to point out to him that long lunch hours are hardly the norm around here and there will be plenty of days when even a short one will be a much missed luxury.”
As he rose from his chair and once again thanked Estelle, Craig was certain that her latter comments, while containing an expected truth, had been added more in jest than anything else. More proof of the relationship between the two of them.
“I seem to remember that you had a preference for Chinese food,” Kay said once they were in the corridor outside of the office, “does that still hold?”
“Most definitely,” the dark haired young man replied.
“Great, because there’s a truly excellent restaurant just around the corner and since it’s only just noon, we should have no problem getting a booth where we can both eat and catch up,” Kay said in turn. “Just give me a few minutes to get my coat and let my assistant know where I’ll be.”
As he waited in the empty corridor near the elevators for Kay to return, Craig wondered what her position was in the company that allowed her an assistant. Obviously, she had some authority if she could just leave when she wanted to, which only made it seem strange to him that she would be assigned as a mentor to a new employee like him. Not that he was going to look the proverbial gift horse in the mouth.
“Ready to go?” Kay said as she turned the corner, coat in hand.
While they rode the elevator down to the lobby, Craig asked Kay what it was she did here at Eaglestone. Her answer left him even more impressed.
“I wish I knew that you’d applied for a job here,” Kay said as they exited out onto the street. “I would’ve been happy to have written you a letter of recommendation, or at least put in a good word for you. Still, it does seem to have worked out fine so that’s all water under the bridge as they say.”
As she had expected, the restaurant had only a few patrons taking an early lunch and they had no problem getting a booth in the back where it was quiet enough to hold a conversation. She ordered for the both of them, then turned her attention to her guest.
“The last I heard from George was that you had graduated last spring,” Kay said as the waitress poured both of them a cup of tea. “He’s decided to stay out west in California, as I’m sure he’s told you.”
Craig said that he had. The two friends had gone to college on opposite coasts but had kept in touch via cell phone calls and emails. In fact, now that he thought of it, it had been George who had suggested that Craig add Eaglestone to his list of companies to apply to, but hadn’t mentioned that his mother worked there.
By the time they’d finished with their soup, Craig had pretty much brought Kay up to speed on his life since high school. There hadn’t really been that much to tell. He’d led the life of a typical undergraduate at City University, still lived in his parents’ house in Brooklyn, although he had moved into the basement apartment and now paid rent, even if it was far below what the rooms would get on the open market. Up until a week ago, he had also still been working in his uncle’s lumberyard while looking for a position where he could put his degree to use.
Over the main course, Kay told him how, after her husband Jim had passed away, which he of course knew about, she had sold their house in the old neighborhood and moved to Manhattan in order to devote more time to her career. She had been with Eaglestone for four years now, having been promoted twice in that time. It was a good company to work for, she told him, then proceeded to spend the better part of the next hour explaining just how the company ran.
Craig knew about office politics, of course, but never imagined just how large a role they really played. Once again, he considered himself lucky to have Kay to explain things and answer his questions. Someone who didn’t know him as well might not have been so forthcoming.
“You’re lucky to have drawn Chester Brown as a boss,” Kay said as she ate. “He can be hard to work for at times, but he doesn’t demand any more from the people under him than he does from himself. You’ll learn a lot from him.”
Craig asked another dozen questions, until finally Kay said that she thought they’d covered enough for his first day. It was important that he form his own impressions of things and not just base them on what she had told him. There would be plenty of chances for her to confirm or correct his observations in the future.
“Anyone special in your life?” Kay asked, changing the conversation away from business. “I remember you were pretty close with Sandy Rice back in high school.”
Like so many high school romances, Craig explained, his and Sally’s hadn’t stood the test of time. There had been a few girls in college, but he never got too serious with any of them, preferring to give his education as much of his attention as possible.
“That’s not a bad attitude to carry on into your professional life,” Kay said, a comment that he found quite surprising. “I’m not saying you should live the life of a monk, but don’t get too involved either. At least not during your probation period. Better to keep any relationship on the casual side.”
Craig wondered, but lacked the nerve to ask, if that was an attitude Kay carried over into her own life. He remembered one night in college when he and a couple of friends were a little into the sauce and their discussion about girls on campus had somehow shifted to older women. As reluctant as any of them might’ve been to admit it while sober, it turned out that just about every one of them had some older woman in their past that they’d fantasized about. In some cases it had been a teacher, others a friend of the family, and in a few cases, even a relative. In Craig’s case, it had been Kay Parkes.
That revelation was something that he had never shared with anyone, least of all his best friend. After all, he doubted even the closest friendships would survive the admission that one of you were thinking of the other’s mother while pleasuring himself. All of this was in the past, of course, and he was now an adult, not the virginal teen who had harbored such fantasies.
“George has himself a girl and I think it’s pretty serious,” Kay said, snapping Craig out of his memories. “Of course he hasn’t told me that, but I’m pretty sure she’s the reason he’s staying in California. A mother knows.” she added with a smile.
George had emailed Craig a photo of his girl, Connie Travis was her name, a few months back. If leaving her behind was the price of coming back home, Craig was sure he’d have stayed in California as well.
“Well, as much as I’ve enjoyed both the company and the conversation, I really do have to get back to the office,” Kay finally said, after the waitress returned with the check and she put in on her company credit card. “There’s no reason for you to go back though, so why don’t you head home and get yourself together for tomorrow.”
Craig definitely had no problem with that suggestion, thanking Kay again for all her advice.
“Oh, one last thing,” Kay said just before they went their separate ways outside the restaurant. “When it’s just you and me, its fine for you to call me Kay, in fact I insist on it because you’re much too old not to be using my first name. In the office, however, it might be better if you use Mrs. Parkes. It’s one of those office politics things, familiarity equates standing, I hope you understand.”
“Of course,” Craig replied.
“And be sure to give my best to your parents,” she added before turning and heading back to the office.
When Chester Brown strode into his office the next morning, a half hour before the workday normally began, he found Craig sitting outside waiting for him. The gesture helped get him off on the right foot with his new boss. The insights into Chester’s character that Kay had shared proved invaluable, as he was able to see through the bluster during his welcoming monologue and pick out what was important. No time was wasted in giving him an assignment and as he exited the office, Craig was sure it was a test of his ability to get it done.
Sure of what he needed to do, Craig decided not to check back in with Kay. Only later would he realize that he was doing exactly what Estelle had said the mentor program was designed to prevent, only in his case he was afraid of looking bad in Kay’s eyes instead of Chester Brown’s. Thinking that might turn out to be the case, at least initially, Kay took the initiative and called him that afternoon to check up on him. She listened as he described his assignment and how he planned to proceed. A surge of relief filled him when she said that not only had he understood his task perfectly, he had picked a solution to it that not only showed that understanding but a certain creativity in his methodology. An assessment that Chester almost grudgingly agreed with when he turned it in two days later.
Over the next few weeks, Craig came to fully understand what Estelle had meant by missed lunches, but he hardly minded. He found the work both interesting and challenging enough to give him a sense of satisfaction at the end of the day. Busy as he soon was, it became impossible to check in with Kay during the workday. That was a problem easily solved when Kay suggested they meet at the end of each week for an after hours drink at a local bar. This gave him a chance to voice any concerns about his progress and for Kay to alleviate those concern.
Weeks turned into months quickly enough and before Craig knew it his first quarterly review was upon him. It happened to be a Friday afternoon when he was summoned to Chester’s office, making him late for his regularly scheduled drink with Kay.
“So how did it go?” Kay asked when Craig finally arrived at the bar, knowing full well why he was late.
“It went great,” Craig said with a broad grin, quite satisfied with himself, “but then you probably knew that already.”
“Not at all,” Kay countered as she sipped her drink. “Remember what Estelle told you the day you started, I have nothing to do with the review process. Whatever we talk about has just been between you and me.”
“Oh, okay,” Craig replied, not sure if he believed it or not.
Either way, he took the drink she had previously ordered for him and quickly told her about the review as well as the events of the past week. Twice Kay caught him glancing at his watch, prompting her to ask after the second time if he was late for something.
“I sort of have a date,” Craig said, feeling funny for saying it but not really knowing why.
“Anyone I know?” Kay casually inquired.
“Julie Madison, she works in accounting,” Craig replied.
“Pretty girl,” Kay said, taking another sip of her drink as she visualized the shapely twenty-year-old blonde. “This the first time the two of you are going out?”
“Actually, we’ve been going out for about three weeks now,” Craig expanded.
“Sleep with her yet?” Kay asked quite unexpectedly.
“What?” he replied, certain he had heard her wrong.
“You heard me right,” Kay said, “and don’t think of me asking that question as someone who used to have you sleep over at her house when you were sixteen. If I’m supposed to help keep you on track, it’s a perfectly valid question. I’m sure if one of the guys in the office asked you that question you’d have no problem answering it.”
“No, I haven’t, but...” he started to reply.
“But you’d like to,” Kay completed his sentence.
Craig didn’t have to say anything to confirm that statement. He was a guy, what other answer was there?
“And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that,” Kay smiled. “You’re a healthy young man and she’s certainly a healthy young woman. In fact, if I were into girls, or if I was a man, I’d certainly want to sleep with her too.”
Under no set of circumstances could Craig ever visualize Kay as a man. As for the other suggestion, that wasn’t a place he even wanted to go. Not after one of his college buddies had screened some old 80’s adult films at a stag party one night, and he realized that the woman on the screen bore a striking resemblance to his best friend’s mother. They even had the same first name and a similar last name.
“I’m only mentioning it at all because I want you to remember what I said about keeping any relationships casual right now,” Kay went on. “You’re doing great, and now is not the time to get distracted.”
“I guess not,” Craig agreed.
“All I’m saying is, before the two of you take it any further,” she concluded, “you should make sure she knows you aren’t looking for a serious commitment right now. If she’s fine with that, all the better. If not, then it’s better that you’re honest up front.”
“You’re right,” he further agreed.
“I know I’m right,” Kay said with a knowing smile. “Now finish your drink and go off on your date. Have fun.”
Putting her own now empty glass on the bar, Kay turned and headed for the door and the street outside.
If Craig had thought his first three months at Eaglestone had gone by quickly, the second quarter seemed to go by twice as fast. Once again, he found himself summoned to Chester Brown’s office for his review, the results of which matched or exceeded the first. More importantly, to him at least, this time his high rating had also come with a raise.
As he had promised Kay that night at the bar, Craig had been quite honest with Julie about his not wanting to get into a serious relationship. To his delight, it turned out that neither was she. Even better, she had no qualms about taking what they did have to a more physical level, beginning with that very night. He and Julie continued to sleep together for the next four weeks, and the sex was so good that Craig wondered if perhaps Kay had been wrong about making the relationship more permanent. In the end, however, it turned out not to matter as, while Julie was indeed both quite uninhibited in bed as well as non- demanding relationship wise, she also eventually grew tired of having the same man in her bed and moved on. Still it had been a lot of fun while it lasted.
“Congratulations,” Kay said, raising her drink to him as they sat at the bar for their weekly libation. “It’s well deserved,” she said of his raise.
“Thank you,” Craig replied, tipping his own glass to hers before taking a drink.
“So, what are your plans to celebrate your good fortune?” Kay asked.
“I guess this is it,” Craig said, looking down at his drink and wondering how the glass has already gotten so empty.
“No, that’s not right,” Kay insisted. “You should call up a few of your friends and go out.”
That sounded great in theory, Craig explained, but the truth was that he had fallen out of contact with most of his college friends, as well as those he knew from the old neighborhood. In addition, he had been spending so much time working on all the projects Chester kept assigning him to, he hadn’t been able to hang out with any of the guys in the office, much less find a replacement for Julie.
“Definitely not right,” Kay repeated. “An occasion like this should be marked by some sort of celebration.”
“I’m open to suggestions,” Craig said, realizing for the first time in weeks that he had fallen into the old all work and no play scenario.
“Well, if you wouldn’t be too embarrassed being seen with an old lady, we could go out for dinner and maybe take in a movie, or if you’re really feeling daring, I know a club where they play some great old time rock n’ roll.”
“You mean like a date?” Craig asked, unsure of what she was suggesting.
“No, not a date,” Kay smiled, “although I’m somewhat flattered that you’d even think such a thing. Just two friends spending time with each other. We are friends, aren’t we?”
“Of course,” Craig smiled back, “and I think that’s a great idea.”
“Let’s be off then,” Kate replied, picking up the excess bills from the bar top, leaving enough for a tip for the bartender.
Stepping out into the street, Kay was lucky enough to flag down a taxi that was stopped at the light right outside. As Craig followed her into the back seat, she gave the driver an address down in the East Village. The driver somewhat grunted his acknowledgement and pulled out into traffic.
“I hope you don’t mind if we stop by my apartment for a few minutes first,” she said to Craig. “Just long enough for me to freshen up and get a change of clothes.”
“No, not at all,” Craig replied, glancing down at the casual shirt and slacks he was wearing.
“Don’t worry, what you have on is fine,” Kay assured him. “I’m the one that overdressed.”
Luck in the form of light traffic was with them and they pulled up in front of a six story red brick apartment building on the corner of East 9th Street a short time later. As Kay paid the driver, Craig looked up and down the street at the variety of buildings.
“Nice block,” he said as she joined him on the sidewalk.
“I like it,” Kay replied, then added with a gesture that the entrance to the left was hers. “No elevator, I’m afraid, and I’m on the fourth floor.”
“Not a problem,” Craig smiled.
The apartment was decorated in much the same style as he remembered the Parkes’ house back in Brooklyn. In fact, some of the items he spotted in the living room were familiar as being from there. On the far wall was a set of shelves filled with a number of sports and academic awards. Craig knew that most of them belonged to George; the rest had been won by Kay’s younger son, Steven, who had enlisted in the Navy after high school.
“Do you live here alone?” Craig asked, thinking that in all of their talks he had never heard Kay mention a man in her life.
“I have a roommate,” Kay said casually as she draped her suit jacket across a chair, “but she’s away for the evening.”
“Oh,” Craig replied, finding it a little funny that someone Kay’s age would have a roommate.
“It’s not as funny as you think,” she said as she noticed the look on his face. “Both of us spend so much time at work that we’re hardly ever here at the same time, and splitting the rent and utilities works out great. You wouldn’t believe what they charge these days in a neighborhood like this.”
Actually, Craig would believe it. A month after he’d gotten the job at Eaglestone, he’d entertained the idea of relocating to Manhattan. It only took two days of apartment hunting to convince him that living in his parents’ basement wasn’t so bad after all. At least for the foreseeable future.
“Make yourself comfortable while I take a quick shower,” Kay said, “There’s six hundred channels on the cable and cold soda, or beer if you like in the refrigerator. I shouldn’t be more than fifteen or twenty minutes.”
“I’ll be fine,” Craig insisted as he sat down on the couch and picked up the remote.
It didn’t take him long to realize that with six hundred channels, it would take forever for him to find something that actually interested him. There was a TV Guide on the coffee table and he picked it up to narrow it down. On the front was an address label and the name wasn’t Kay’s. It said Estelle Jones.
“How about that,” Craig mused, thinking his now long ago assumption about the two of them had been right on the money. They’d been not only friends, but also roommates.
Even with the guide, it proved impossible to find anything that caught his interest and Craig turned off the television. He’d heard the water from the shower already turn off and figured that Kay would only be a little while longer. Looking around the apartment, he spotted a familiar framed photograph on the bookcase and got up to get a better look at it.
The picture that had caught his attention had been taken about five years back, in the backyard of the Parkes’ house in Brooklyn. That had been the summer that he and George had turned eighteen only a few weeks apart and Mr. Parkes had thrown a barbecue to celebrate. It saddened Craig to think that George’s Dad died only two years after the photo had been taken; he’d always been nice to him.
“The two of you were so cute back then,” Kay said from behind Craig, having reentered the room so quietly that he hadn’t heard her. “I almost envied all the girls in your class.”
Craig smiled as he turned around, his eyes flashing wide when he realized that Kay was wrapped in only a bath towel, one that looked just a bit too small to contain the body beneath it.
“But you’re even cuter now I think,” she grinned as she leaned in and kissed him on the cheek.
Craig actually blushed, not sure if it was the kiss that did it or her partial state of undress. Kay’s response seemed to think she considered it the latter.
“You’ll have to forgive my appearance,” she offered as she glanced down at the amount of cleavage the towel failed to cover. “I probably should’ve taken a robe into the bathroom with me, but when you live practically alone you forget about things like that. Normally I just would’ve walked out of the bathroom naked, if you could imagine such a thing.” she laughed.
The image of such a thing was enough to leave Craig speechless.
“Just give me ten more minutes and we’re out of here,” Kay promised as she dashed toward her bedroom.
“Wow!” Craig exhaled quietly as he watched her disappear behind the closing door.
True to her prediction, Kay was out of her bedroom in just under nine minutes. Wearing a pair of dark blue jeans and a light green top, the top buttons of which undone just enough to give a hint of what lay below, the forty-four year old was even more impressive than in the business attire he had become accustomed to seeing her in.
“Now that didn’t take too long, did it?”
Craig just shook his head no.
“I already called for a cab on my cell,” Kay said as she pulled a light suede jacket from the closet and put it on. “It should be downstairs by the time we get there.”
Five minutes after they exited the building the expected cab pulled up and as they climbed into the back seat, Kay gave their destination to the driver. It was only a ten-minute ride, but would’ve taken two or three times as long if they’d taken the subway.
The club was situated under a dry cleaning store and if you didn’t see the small, barely illuminated sign, you’d have to have already known it was there. From the amount of people filling the tables once they were inside, Craig surmised that quite a lot of people knew that it was.
“I think we might have to stand at the bar,” Craig said, failing to see a single empty table.
“Nonsense, I’m sure we can find...” Kay started to say, then spotted some familiar faces and instead called out to a middle-aged couple sitting a half dozen tables away.
Her voice couldn’t quite carry over the music, but the man at the table evidently saw her waving and returned it with a motion for them to join him and his companion. With only a small space to maneuver between the tables that was easier said than done, but they did so with a little effort.
“Kay my dear, how wonderful to see you again,” the older man said as he pulled out a chair for her, “it’s been far too long since we’ve seen you in here.”
“Well, you know how busy work keeps me, Carl,” Kay said as she settled into the offered seat.
Craig pulled out the remaining seat and sat down as well, earning a smile from Carl’s companion, who was now directly across from him.
“Craig, I’d like you to meet Carl and Lana Castleton, they’re old friends of mine,” Kay said in way of a quick introduction, and then after turning to the couple said, “I’d like to introduce Craig Ross, who not only has the good fortune to work with me at Eaglestone, but happens to be my son, George’s best friend.”
Hands were presented across the table and following a brief flurry of exchanges, during which Carl inquired just how Kay’s son was doing, the foursome sat back to enjoy the music. A waiter appeared to take drink orders and Carl, after having heard that they were celebrating Craig’s raise, ordered a bottle of champagne for the table.
The music was, as Kay had mentioned earlier, old time rock and roll. Craig had developed a great appreciation for what Mrs. Parkes had always referred to as the classics when he and George had been growing up. Enough so that when someone mentioned Elvis, he knew they were talking Presley and not Costello.
A second bottle soon followed the first and both the conversation and music seemed to get better with the passing hour. Craig was surprised how the age difference among the four of them, the Castletons had to be at least ten years older than Kay, seemed to fade away. He was having as much fun as he might’ve had sitting in a club with his peers.
“Let’s dance,” Kay said.
“What?” Craig replied, a sudden rise in the music level drowning out her words.
“I want to dance,” she repeated, “and don’t dare tell me that you don’t know how to dance to this kind of music because I know better.”
Grinning as he remembered summer afternoons when Kay Parkes had taught a number of neighborhood kids how to dance, Craig worked his way out of his chair and turned to pull out Kay’s, only to find she was already on her feet. She took him by his hand and navigated a path among the tables until they reached the dance floor.
It had been a while since he’d danced to the music of the sixties and seventies but it quickly came back to him. Kay, on the other hand, seemed to fall right into step as if she went dancing every night. Her body moved in time with the music, demonstrating a carefree abandon that one normally didn’t associate with someone of her position.
“Don’t you just love it,” Kay said, leaning close enough so that she could be heard over the din.
They continued into a second song, and then the house band segued into a slower, love song. Craig hesitated for a moment as the couples around him drew closer to each other and embraced. Turning back to Kay, he saw her reaching out her hand, not intending to relinquish her place on the dance floor.
As their bodies moved in time to the music, Craig was all too aware of the press of Kay’s breasts against his chest and the warmth of her cheek against his face. Somehow, he thought it would be different seeing whom she was, his teenage fantasies not withstanding. The final proof that he was only seeing her as a beautiful woman came when he realized the nearness of her body had produced an involuntary reaction in his own, one that she couldn’t fail to notice. A moment of panic followed, one that Kay quickly dispelled as she lifted her head for just a moment and told him not to worry about it at all. They continued through that dance and the equally slow love ballad that followed, until Kay suggested they return to their table.
The next two hours were as enjoyable as the two before it and it was only with reluctance that they decided to call it a night. Hugs and kisses were exchanged as well as the promise that they must do it again soon. The night had turned even warmer and Kay suggested they walk a little to help clear their heads.
The walk, and the conversation with it, proved so pleasant that they wound up walking all the way back to Kay’s block. It was nearly two in the morning, but neither of them felt tired at all.
“I hope you had a good time,” Kay said as they reached the door of her apartment house and she fumbled in her bag for her keys.
“I had a great time,” Craig said with a broad smile. “In fact, I can’t remember the last time I’ve had this much fun.”
“I’m glad,” she said with an equal smile as she undid the outer lock.
As the door opened, she paused and turned back to him.
“Would you like to come up for a cup of coffee before you head home?” Kay asked.
“That might not be a bad idea,” Craig said, thinking that while the long walk back might indeed have burned most of what he’d consumed at the club out of his system, some strong coffee might help even more.
Once back in the apartment, Kay told Craig to make himself comfortable on the couch and she’d have the coffee up in a minute. While he waited, he noticed the light on the answering machine flashing and called out to Kay that she had a message.
“Be a dear and hit play for me,” Kay said as she walked back into the room carrying a tray with a coffee service on it.
“Kay, it’s me, Estelle,” the voice said after he’d hit play. “I’ve decided to stay out here at Paul’s tomorrow as well, so I won’t be home until Monday. I’m going to go directly to the office, so please do me a favor and bring in my blue suit so I can change once I get there. You’ll find it hanging in the hall closet with the other dry cleaning. Thanks love, see you soon.”
“I guess I should’ve mentioned that Estelle and I are roommates,” Kay said as she poured the coffee.
“I already knew,” Craig replied, picking up the TV Guide with her name on the label.
“I guess I also should say that she didn’t know I knew you when she offered you the job,” Kay added as she joined him on the couch and poured two cups of coffee and handed him one. “I did say a white lie when I claimed I didn’t recognize your name when she asked me to mentor you, but everything that you’ve accomplished these last six months has been your own doing, I want you to know that.”
“I know,” Craig said as he slipped his coffee, “but I do appreciate all the helpful advice you’ve given me over the last few months.”
“I was glad to help,” Kay said, sitting down next to him with her own cup in hand.
They silently drank their coffee for a moment or two, then Kay remarked that it was a pity that her mentorship was at an end.
“It is?” Craig asked.