Chapter 1

I guess no place is perfect but I had fallen in love with this house; so a few negatives were overlooked, like the price; but hey, you gotta live somewhere. I also did not like where it was; too many neighbors, too close together and too many spiders, snakes and what not slithering about. I made one change to the house, adding a large deck adjacent to the indoor saltwater pool; snakes just love outdoor pools so I had cut back trees, shrubs and bushes near it too; clearing almost an acre, just in case they liked indoor ones. That caused more of a stir in the ‘Association’ than I thought it had warranted.

Mine was the only house like it, a big ‘Texas Ranch’ smack dab in the middle of this mixed community. I say mixed because there were small vacation size tree-type homes mixed in with full size ones. Some were bigger than the one I bought but as I said, mine was the only one of its type here; we were not in Texas and we get snow in Virginia, thank you very much, another dislike of mine.

I’m a private person; not a recluse although some may call me that. I worked hard in making certain that thought crosses their mind though. So far I have been successful, no visitors or ‘Welcome Wagon’ were ringing the doorbell.

Isn’t there a saying that ‘all good things must come to an end’ or something like that. Well! When mine did, it ended up not a bad as you might think. For one, my wife, ex-wife rather, found another source of comfort other than me. That was not the only thing that changed; number two occurred a little after I moved into my new house.

The doorbell rang, actually it was a chime; I had never heard it before today. I just ignored it. Again it sounded; persistent bugger. I got out of the pool, wrapped a towel around my waist and dripped across the floor to answer the damn door.

After a peek to see if, it was the law or not, I opened the door and said “Yes, I already gave at the office”.

“Please excuse me I’m your neighbor Peggy. I’m so sorry that I have not been over to welcome you but I, I ... have had some problems. Is there anyway you or your wife could just watch my daughter a few hours? The babysitter I hired did not show and I need to find a lawyer to handle my divorce from that ‘Rat Bastard’ hopefully my soon to be ex.”

“Hello, Peggy Sue, how are you? Ah, sorry your name just reminded me of an old song. C’mon in Peggy, I might be able to help you out with some of your problem. My ex is a lawyer’, actually we used to have a law firm together but almost parted friends, well sort of.

I left for a few minutes then returned. “Here is her card, call, ask for her, tell the secretary you are Sam’s neighbor and need some legal help “ As she turned and walked out she was clutching the card like it was made of gold. The look on her face had changed from a frantic panic to something much calmer.

It was now 9:15 am and both the phone and doorbell were ringing. I took the wireless to the door and looked at the caller Id. It was my Ex, so I could guess it was Peggy at the door.

As I opened it I answered, “Sam’s home for wayward girls, are you picking up or dropping off?”

It was Peggy at the door but she was not alone.

“Nice technique Stud, I’m glad you finally got a hobby. My opinion of you changed a little today. That woman you referred me too was in a bad state. I think I spent most of the call just trying to calm her down. For some strange reason she thinks you’re a good guy, she should only know but you did the right thing for her. I’m seeing her later myself, although you are ‘the enemy’ I think what you are doing for her is points for you, she told me you are watching her kid so she can come in.”

“She is here now, let me speak with her. Help her if you can Hon, if you need costs covered let me know or just deduct it from my share of the house or business. My opinion of you went up too; I might not automatically kill, maim and mutilate your ‘lover’ on sight when I see her now. Bye and thanks.”

Today gave me the feeling that our divorce was the right thing to do. I recalled that song to ‘know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em’. I had thought she and I were no longer even ‘friends’.

I turned to the two still standing in the doorway.

“Come in Peggy Sue, bring your shadow with you, and is she another neighbor or a gift for my new ‘Wayward Girls’ endeavor?”

“I need to thank you, so much. I’m seeing your wife, err, ex wife later. She just listened while I rambled on. I feel so much better though, it feels like I have you and her on my side and it’s not me alone against the world now. I don’t care if she is the right one for me or not but I do trust her, and you too. In my book that means everything.”

“Well Peggy Sue, if she can’t help you no one can. Lee and Jefferson have over 200 lawyers pushing pencils. Her Maiden name is Lee, as in Robert E. and mine is Jefferson, Sam Jefferson. Those names still mean something around these parts so unless your soon to be ex husband wants to start another war, you won’t be without some clout. Sorry, Hon to speak ill of your Daddy but I sort of don’t know his side.”

The look the tall, thin, blonde gave me might have come from a corpse. I went over and extended my hand. “Hi, I’m Sam and you are?”

“Sorry Sam this is Tara, my daughter. She is not taking the break up with her father well. I try not to say anything, Hell; I don’t know anything, just got served some papers and am being hounded to sign them. I’m seeing Bonnie later and...”

“Yep, that was her on the phone.” I took the girl’s hand. “C’mon Tara. I just moved into this house recently and, I don’t know what but feel it just needs something. Maybe while your Mom does what she needs you and I could look around and advise me what I might do to make this house more a home, OK?”

I at least got a nod and she let me take her hand. As I led her away to see the house, I made a ‘shooing’ motion to Peggy to go and do her thing.

Now Bonnie and I never had kids, we were always too busy then our interests changed hers especially so I will not pretend to know what I was doing walking hand in hand with Tara. I could however feel her hand tighten up from time to time. When we got to, what I called the ‘meditation room’, she put a ‘death grip’ on my hand. We stopped.

“This is one of my favourite parts of the house,” I said. “Let’s sit down and I’ll tell you a story I was told when I was buying this place. This set of rooms were a combination solarium, greenhouse and ‘Japanese sand garden’. It had three sections with sliding glass doors and on the far side another door that led to the pool.”

It was a big house, 7,600 square feet not counting the indoor pool, sauna, hot tub and changing room. The house sat on 12 acres with 3 being mostly flat land and the rest covered with dense trees, tall bushes, ferns and a stream running through it.

“Tara, when I saw this room I sat down like we are doing now and just looked around me. The realtor let me be and sat down next to me. She let me be for a while. I don’t remember how long we sat there but it was a bit. I do know that when I got up all the things that had me bothered; my divorce, all my business concerns, some personal devils, and my own doubts seemed to have disappeared. I felt like a new man. The realtor lady told me the man who built this place had a gardener from Japan and had him design this place when he had the house built so he could just sit and relax in it.”

I got a look from her that seemed to beg me to go on. She was still holding my hand but now was facing towards me, listening. The damn phone was ringing again. “Stay right here and relax while I get the phone Hon, then we can continue on and see the rest of the house, even have a walk through the garden room.”

Her response of ‘Yes Sir!’ worried me a bit. When I came back here, we would have to do something about getting her to feel better about herself.

“Yes, this is Sam’s home for wayward girls; currently we are not accepting any new lovelies!”

“Hello Sam, this is Penny, I got your number from Bonnie. I am so sorry again, I never even asked you about keeping Tara. Is she all right with you? I can take her with me if I have to or...”

“Relax Peggy Sue, Tara is fine, we are still looking around the house before I put her to work fixing up the place or have her join ‘me cache of lovelies; Grr-harr.”

“You know when I told Bonnie what you had done, her main comment was, and I quote, ‘I can’t believe the ‘SOB’ did that!’ She also told me that Tara probably filled a missing piece of your life since Bonnie and you never had children.”

How do admit to something like that, when I never realized it myself. “Nah, things were just slow today, nobody else called to drop off any new wayward girls, so I have time to tease and harass your daughter.” I gave her my best Snidely Whiplash (A US Cartoon Villain) scowl.

“Wait a sec, ‘a vast yee, I think I see ‘me lovely now’ (Changed to a Pirate voice again); how she got out of those chains I’ll never know! (Voice changed back now with), Tara, here for you, your Mom’s on the phone.”

She took it and I exited the hallway to give her some privacy. When she came back to the ‘Meditation Room’, I asked her if she was staying or was her Mom coming for her. It was the first smile I had seen on her face when she said. “Mom told me since I was a ‘Wayward girl’ that you would have to fix that. What did she mean by me being a ‘Wayward Girl”?

“Hon, I would have to guess about that. Did you have any thoughts about things that were bothering you when we were sitting down before?” She nodded her head.

“Well, maybe your Mom is worried about you and blames herself about those things. I know a divorce is not easy for us older folks so I can imagine that it is much more difficult for any children. How old are you Tara?”

“I’m still 13.”

“I would think you feel abandoned by your dad, probably changing schools this fall.” She nodded. “Maybe wondering what you could or should do to keep the family together even thinking the divorce is ‘all your fault, if only you... ‘ Right?”

Again, a nod, then head down and tears streaming down her cheeks.

“Hell girl, I don’t know how you could blame yourself. When I practiced Law, the few divorces I handled always were harder on the kids than the parents, especially if it was a contested one. I also never saw that the children were the reason they were splitting. Oh sure, some were so jaded or blamed themselves for what was going on, in one or two instances there were sexual advances made between them and the parents, usually as some attempt to try to keep the family together but it was never the main reason for the split. Hey, I’m paying you those ‘Big Bucks’ so we have more of the house to see then you need to get working on some ideas for the place. Think of this house as yours and tell me what should be done with it. No purple walls or ‘Jello’ in the pool though.”

By the look on her face, I must have said the right thing; then again maybe not she might have liked purple walls. She got up and took my hand in hers. ‘Jello in the pool’ I thought, ‘might be interesting!’

“Okay, ready; let’s see the rest of our house.”

Holding her hand made me realize, just maybe my ex was correct in what she said. Tara was filling a void in my life today, one I never realized I had. When we got to the pool, her hand gave me another ‘Death Grip”. To me there was nothing special here, but beyond the glass walls to the deck one could see all around just about every animal we had locally, the big ones that is. I had put a few salt licks and bins of food out in various places so it seemed that even natural enemies feed without any fighting. I heard her mumbling the names of our various visitors.

“You need some bird feeders and things for the small guys to eat at.”

“Yes Ma’am, as you command. Maybe we can got get some when your Mom gets back?”

That got me a funny look on her face. She saw the large BBQ Pit on the left side of the new deck. “Do you BBQ there Sam?”

‘Whoa’ I thought, ‘she called me Sam, not Sir, we were making progress’. “No not yet, this is sort of new territory for a newly single guy.”

“I know how to BBQ, you want me to cook something?”

“We sort of will need a few things, maybe when Peggy Sue gets back we can add food shopping to the list, then yes, get whatever you like; you can make dinner for us.”

I am not certain if the magic word was food, shopping or what but now there was a glow on the face of my ‘Wayward’ girl.

Peggy Sue, my name for her which she tried to correct me on several times, came back just after noon.

Sam, I gave Bonnie the divorce papers I received. She read them, laughed then had her secretary call the other lawyer. She merely told him to be in her office at 9 AM or we would see him later in court. Guess which option he chose?”

“So you’re going to be there too?”

“If I can get you to watch Tara again, I know it is an impo...”

“Should not be a problem I’ll have to check with my ‘BBQ cook and decorator Tara’ if that is agreeable. We also need to get some things today; she is making us dinner tonight.”

Now Peggy Sue was looking at me strangely. She started crying. “What have you done to my baby, in 6 months I could hardly get her to even eat anything, that’s why she is so thin.”

“I just told her she was in-charge here and if you agreed, we would buy whatever she needed for a BBQ. She seemed to like that idea. Oh, we need to stop for food for the animals too. Do you know what bears and foxes eat?”

“Bonnie said this was going to happen. She warned me that once Tara wormed her way into your home she would not stop there. She needs a male influence, God knows her father was never one and since he filed for a divorce she blames herself and maybe me for everything wrong in the world.”

(As she walked in) “Speak of the Devil! Tara, Peggy thinks I need to raise your salary if you intend to cook and decorate for me. What do you think is fair Hon?”

“All my favourite foods and to let me use the pool all the time, and ... and...”

“A hard bargain, let me think about it, I might have to check around if some other ‘Wayward Girl’ will clean the pool and hot tub too.”

“I’ll do that too.”

“Then if Peggy Sue says it’s OK, we have a deal Hon.”

I got a hit on the arm. “You’re spoiling her.”

“Hey that hurt, wait until she sees the kitchen stuff, she’ll want to cook and bake too.”

“Where’s the kitchen, we never got there before!”

“See. I might get a housekeeper out of this too. This way my dear, just add to the list of supplies we need, you’re in-charge of cooking any food I can’t microwave for myself.”

We drove to go shopping in my car. The Mercedes had a larger trunk Tara said. We would need it for all the ‘stuff’, ‘we’ just had to have for meals. I had a feeling her thin girl look would soon be outdated.

That summer, not only was Peggy Sue a free woman, but it seemed I now had an almost daily visitor to cook, clean and take charge of turning my ever changing house into a home. By now Tara even had her own key to use if I was not there. Yes, she was making my house into a home all right.

Peggy Sue and Bonnie along with ‘Whatshername’ who broke up our un-happy home went out to celebrate her new lot in life. I got a call from what sounded like three very happy people, slightly, no, greatly inebriated people that Peggy Sue was not in any shape to go home, in fact no one was. I broke the news to Tara.

“Sam, can we talk?”

“As long as you keep feeding me and not tell me you have fallen in love and want to know where babies come from, OK.”

“Sam, I already had that talk with Mom; I know the ‘stork’ brings them.”

The smirk on her face was plain to see she was having fun with me, at least I think she was.

“Sam, in a way Yes, I do have those kinds of feelings for you, but, I don’t know what they all mean yet, you have been there for me all summer. What will happen when school soon starts?”

“What, easy, our food bill goes down; I eat more ‘Lean Cuisine’ and my pool turns green from neglect?”

“No, silly, but maybe a few more microwave meals, but can I still come over? Can I think of you as my other Daddy sometimes? I am so scared of what’s going to happen to Mom and me now. I think I need you in my life.”

“What’s wrong Hon?”

“Can’t say, I promised.”

“What did your Mom tell you that you can’t tell your sweet, wonderful and handsome ‘other’ dad?”

“Money, house, school, car, bills those sorts of things. The money from my father just is so far behind that, she does not know what to do. She is trying to get a job but no luck yet. She said we have to sell the house soon just to pay the bills.”

“Ok, those kinds of problems we know how to fix. My ex can get blood out of a turnip, you just need to concentrate on school and don’t worry your pretty little head about anything else; you got that?”

“Do you really think I’m pretty?”

‘Oh boy, now I am in trouble. How do you answer something like that without sounding like a... ‘.

“I think you will be the prettiest girl in school. I will curse the day you come over and tell me about so and so that is so good looking and asked you to be his girlfriend. I guess that is part of growing up though. Remember your Mom and I will be there for you to answer any questions you have.”

“I have one now, where does the stork get the babies from?”

I tried to swat her butt, but she was too quick for me. “Next time I’ll get you twerp.” Bullet dodged for now.

About the problem. I could call Bonnie but Peggy should call her. I gently, (sure) nudged Peggy to ask Bonnie what she should do to get what she was due. I think I mentioned before that the name Lee still had some influence in these parts. Not all were in the legal profession. Between the owners of the place Fred, her ex worked at and a couple ‘family’ type associates the options given him made paying up the lesser evil and less painful solution to solve Peggy’s problem. Bonnie went further. She offered Peggy a job.

Now that those problems seemed to be on the way to being solved, we had a new one. Yes, I said we, because in solving the one problem, Tara going to a private high school and no school bus created a challenge on how to be at work about the same time Tara needed to be at school. Her ‘other’ Daddy, me, became the solution. That day one of school was a lot easier than what followed.

Peggy, Bonnie and I prepared for that first day as if we were going to war. Pictures, phone numbers, addresses, POA’s and a dozen other consent forms were signed, sealed and delivered ready for the ‘powers to be’ at The Rollins School for Young Ladies. Peggy, myself and in an emergency, Bonnie were the only authorized people to drop off or pick up Tara. That my address was almost the same as Peggy and Bonnie’s card and mine both showed Esq. and were from Lee and Jefferson Law Firm did not go unnoticed.

Everything was just going fine for the first month or two then one fateful day the doorbell rang. Tara had her own key; Peggy never rang anymore but would call ahead then just walked in. I looked and froze up a might. It was Bonnie, my ex. She had never been to the house before, so why now I wondered.

I opened up. “I’m sorry, Sam’s home for wayward girls has an age restriction, I’m not certain you are old enough for staying here?”

“Hi sport, real nice welcome, you make a girl feel tingly inside ‘Daddy’.”

“Shu’nuff Honey, with looks like that I think I need to marry you!”

“Sam I’m sorry things worked out the way they did between us. I have some good news and maybe some that might be something we need to talk about?”

“Well, if you promise no blood will be spilled come in and if you’re hungry I think Tara left some food for breakfast, I’ll share it with you.”

“Sam, Honey, stop, please, you’ll make me cry. I still love you; you damn fool, just not enough to stay married to you. Peggy has been telling me what a Godsend you have been to her and Tara too. I have a check for you for your half of our old house; if you will accept my half of the house for your share of the business, I will gladly do that now. I’m not sure when I can sell the business for what it is worth and don’t have enough to pay you for your half of it. I do appreciate the way you have been about all this, not badgering me about what I owe you.”

“Bonnie, the fact that you and I can sit here and we still can be friendly means more to me than the money.”

“Sam, I keep hearing all the good things you have helped Tara and Peggy with, but they have also changed you. You’re not the same man, you’re so much better. You fall in-love or something?”

“Maybe the or something, I don’t know, maybe the fact that Tara feeds me and we both like the same kind of food is the reason. I was getting tired of Lean Cuisine meals”

“Ahh, that’s another reason you and I need to talk, it will affect you and Tara once in awhile.”

“Bonnie, as much as it may be every man’s fantasy, Tara is more like my daughter we never had any relationship and she is not some toy or plaything to sleep with.”

“Easy Buddy, from what Peggy tells me that girl is in-love with you but that’s not the problem. Peggy has been a super find for me. I want to promote her. The trouble is that will mean she needs to travel more, some overnight. Will it be a problem for you if Tara starts spending more time and even sleeps here?”

“Bonnie I don’t know. I never thought about it. She turned 14 last week and it seems each day she looks more and more like a woman than a girl, Hell you know what I mean; I’m a guy, I notice those things. I gave her a hug and kiss on her birthday, before that I’ve held her hand a few times as we walked around, but, but ... damn Bonnie I’ve never thought of her any way that would be a problem.”

“Sam, I’m just telling you, that girl is in love with you. Peggy knows it; I know it, only you don’t. When and if she starts spending time here, you, this house and your bed are all going to belong to her eventually; believe me, it may not happen soon but it will happen. I know how love can make you do things you might not think are normal. She’ll start claiming things around you first.”

“Right, I already told her to think of this house as hers and we go food shopping together, she likes the same things I do.”

“What’s next, your back scrubbed, hair washed and breakfast in bed? Oh Sam methinks the little girl is more along being a young girlfriend or even a wife than just a girl neighbor. That may not be a bad thing though, you’re a handsome sort, fairly well off once I pay you the money I owe you and you are a sight better today than when we were married so maybe getting closer to Miss Wannabe is not a bad idea.”

“Bonnie, stop it. Talk to Peggy, talk to her, there has to be some way to promote Peggy without sacrificing Tara?”

“Sam, let me ask you, when Tara goes to school or gets picked up, who does that?”

“Me, usually.”

“Who makes you breakfast in the morning?”

“Tara usually.”

“Do you let her in or does she sleep over.”

“It varies, sometimes she sleeps in her own room here or she has a key and the alarm code if she comes over before I am up.”

“She ever bring you breakfast in bed, kiss you good morning, call you ‘pet’ names, and accidently display some girly parts around you?”

“OK, Miss ex wife, you made your point, so now what? I admit, I don’t know what to do or say. Talk to Peggy Sue.”

“That not her name Bozo. It’s Peggy Ann, I already did, why do you think I am here, she said to ask you, she would do whatever you said. So how does it feel to have you own harem with two attractive female slaves in it, Oh Great One?”

“Bonnie stop it, what am I going to do, I just tried to be nicer than I was to you.”

“Ah, Shylock, that pound of flesh begins to draw blood, does it? I’m not the one to talk, I should have tried too, not run to the first person for comfort. You’re not a bad guy Sam. I can see what Tara does in you too, I’m a little jealous of her. Simple solution, I can have her ‘emancipated’ now, you wait until she is 16 to marry her, move to another place where even 12 or 13 is the age of consent or there are still a couple places that slaves are legal. You have so many choices you old goat.”

“Thanks a whole bunch former wife of mine, all this really helps. You left out the cup of Hemlock and slitting my wrists in a hot tub.”

“You stipulated no blood today, but those are options also to consider. Even easier, tell her she is just a kid, does not know what she is doing to you, you don’t love her and never want to see her again.”

Now these last words stated my tears steaming.

Bonnie held me. “Ok big guy, you have it bad for her I guess those last options need to be taken off the table. If it helps any, Peggy thinks you two already act as a couple, she says when she first came over Tara was like a deer caught in headlights. Now she acts so mature, Peggy wonders which one of them is the mother.”

Bonnie shook her head. “Don’t worry, we’ll work something out. Don’t forget to deposit this check, or has Tara taken that over too. Relax; just kidding, I think?”

With a look on her face. “You really don’t have to worry until she starts asking about babies and...”

I looked up at her.

“Don’t tell me, she already has, no has she, no not already? If she has you are a lost man Sam.”

“Just once. She said her Mom told her the stork brought them. She wanted to know where the stork got them from.”

“Sam, dear sweet gullible Sam what does she wear to bed or when she swims here?”

“To bed I’m not sure, she keeps some sort of nightgowns in her room or sleeps nude like me. To swim; I told her no one can see in the pool area so she doesn’t need to wear anything when she goes for a swim. She usually wraps a towel around herself when she goes to the hot tub and I leave or stay out then. The few times we get a chance to swim together she usually wears a white or beige swim thing or quickly puts them on when I come in if she is not wearing anything.”

“One or two piece?”

“Two I think, with the beige one, it’s hard to tell really I usually swim after I take her to school now and later at night, we keep the lights low then so I can’t always tell what she has on.”

“Like you can’t even tell if she is wearing anything, right?”

That thought turned me red a bit. Of course I can eventually tell, if she forgets I tell her to go put her things on.”

“Oh Sam, those are the ‘accidents’ I was referring to. She is testing you; she wants you to notice her, to see that she is changing into a woman and for you to want her.”

“Hell Bonnie, a blind man would notice her. She was already taller than her Mom when we met, now she is getting curves and hair in places that no one could not recognize her becoming a woman.”

But you never saw those ‘slight’ changes in her huh. Boy Freud would write two books on you. As your lawyer, to protect yourself, bring her in one day and I’ll get the papers ready to ‘emancipate’ her, at least then she won’t be a minor should you forget that too. I swear if I knew how easy it would be to manipulate you, we could have stayed married. Now I really am jealous of her.”

Sure, I had said it was no problem having Tara spend more time with me, even to sleep here. When school started in the fall, I actually missed her being around. One thought was to find some work to fill my day up. I was not broke but my half of the Law Firm was worth several million dollars, enough to do many things I hesitated to now. I also knew that Bonnie could not easily sell the whole business that had her name on it.

Tara was also more and more on my mind. She would be 15 this next year and even if she would be emancipated soon, getting her a driver’s license was not going to be easy. If I only knew though then what I know now.

Tara was a smart girl. In the last year she blossomed and not just her brains. It was hard to think of her as an almost 15 year-old because of the way she looked and acted. Our swim time was more separate now than before, she knew why, so did I. She was becoming a very beautiful young woman. I needed to find that work and soon.

Peggy was no help, neither was Bonnie when I told them of my concerns. The comment that ‘She would soon be an adult and could choose whatever’, did not solve my problem. I actually interviewed for some work. Driving in with a fairly new MB and wearing custom tailored clothes did not make my interviewers very sympatric to my cause. How was I supposed to tell them I needed to escape from a 15 year-old houseguest?

The month of May saw an event that was the ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’ and my resistance as well. When Tara slithered up to me in the pool one day, placed her hands on my neck and asked me for a favour, a whole lot of thoughts and yes, a few evil wishes, came to mind.

“Sam, I need to go to the Junior/Senior Prom. Will you take me?”

I wished she would have rephrased that request. By then she could have asked me for anything and I would have agreed to it. My throat dried up, I could not speak, just nodded my big head complacently. By the smirk on her face, I could only imagine what her next request was going to be.

Dinner, dance then ... then... , she told me it would be a ‘surprise’. I told Peggy and Bonnie what I had agreed to with Tara; telling them what had been agreed to had been done in a moment of weakness, and now what should I do about it?

“Flowers, hire a nice Limo, reserve a suite at the Ritz-Carleton and plan to be gone a few days with her; she has been waiting for this a long time Sam. Protection may be a good idea but I don’t think you need it with her.”

I drove up to Tyson’s Corner to see a former client. He owned, along with a few other things, the hotel I wanted a room at. Prom night was not just her high school; it was many others, so rooms were almost gone. Sal laughed when I told him what had happened.

“Did you need the ‘Honeymoon Suite’ in Vegas too or only the one here? I expect an invitation Sam.”

Not very funny I thought, then again...

‘We’ went shopping. Yes, ‘WE’ Tara and I for everything she could possibly need. I fulfilled my male role and paid for her purchases. Even a ‘wife’ could not cost that much I thought. She patted my hand then dismissed me to wait in the food court while she attended to some ‘girl’ things at the ‘Secret’s’ place.

Had we gotten to the point of being a family? I was no longer sure what it was but I had gotten a credit card in her name, which might have been in a moment of weakness too. Did I tell you Tara could suggest anything and I would go along with it? So far, no sexual lines had been crossed but I was not so sure if she was taking her ‘boyfriend’ to the Prom or just me. I know that when I drove her to school the last 5 or 6 weeks, I got a kiss and a hug when she left or entered the car, several times with an interested audience watching us.

Duly relegated to ‘wait status’ while my ‘date’ finished her shopping I sat down with a terrible coffee and did just that, I waited. Clothes shopping with Tara was not as difficult as it had been with Bonnie. My one concern during that 2.5-hour fashion show was why she threw in casually looking at a ‘Wedding Dress’. Yes that got my attention and made me sit up and pay special attention trying to hear what she whispered to the attendant.

While patiently waiting I stated talking to the guy two tables away. “Brooks Brother’s Custom Shop? I asked pointing to his suit and tie.”

“No, I got this from my tailor in London.”

“Opps sorry, never been there and don’t think I will, not working right now.”

“Ah one of life’s blessing and a curse at the same time.”

About that time Tara came strolling over, she bent down, have me a kiss not meant for public consumption and said, “Feed me, I am literally famished, so not here, a real place.”

“Looks like I have more to do, thanks for the chat but I think I have to feed this poor thing.”

“No problem, she is... ?

“Tara, my hungry neighbor. Tara this is... ?

Bob, Bob Simon.” He handed me his card.

I extended my hand and gave him one of mine. “Samuel Jefferson pleased to meet you.”

He looked at my card, it had the Esq. and Lee and Jefferson Law Firm on it. “Call me; I think I may have a place for you. You may get to London sooner than you think.”

He looked at Tara and shook his head a bit.

“Who was that?” asked Tara.

“Just met him while waiting on your highness to finish shopping. Now I have to feed you too. Let’s go to Da’s, (Da Dominica’s was a Restaurant in Tyson’s Corners VA) it’s just on the way home.”

Home, I had said home without thinking for now my place truly was a home and Tara made it that way. ‘Don’t say that to her’, I thought. By the look on her face and taking my hand, I imagined she thought that too. Nope, she just wanted me to carry all the bags from the store to the car. I had said she was growing up, I wondered what that credit card would look like next month. No, not really I thought, ‘she couldn’t spend that much, could she?’

It was a week before the big Prom at her school. I had just gotten back from taking her to school when the chimes sounded. Still dressed I looked out and saw someone holding a bag. I opened the door.

“I have a delivery from ‘Laura Ashley’s’ for Mrs. Tara Jefferson.”

I took the hanging bag and was looking a bit dazed. ‘WE’ needed to talk. That happened two more times, shoes then a big box, all for Mrs. Tara Jefferson.

When we got home, Tara explained she wanted the delivery here, to ‘OUR’ house not to where her Mom lived. It was for Friday, she explained.

Friday was not to school but for hair, nails and more last minute shopping. I did the man thing, left Tara at the mall and went home. My cell rang on the way, the William Tell Overture, it could not be Tara so soon, and then I saw the name on the caller Id.

I answered.

“Sam, it’s Bonnie. A Bob Simon called here asking to speak to you. I did not know him and did not want to give out you numbers. Do you know him?”

“Slightly, I met him while taking Tara shopping; he said he might have some work for me. Since you can’t pay me for the business yet, I decided getting a job would allow me to eat more than beans and franks.”

“How’s little Ole Miss Wannabe, she set any date yet?”

“It’s hard Bonnie to keep civil with you if you insist on saying things like that.”

“Peggy told me she changed her address to yours at the Post Office.”

“That is news to me; she did get some things sent here for the Prom coming up.” not telling her about how they had been addressed.

“Oh, ‘OUR’ former client, Sal, you remember Sal don’t you Dear, called to confirm a suite here and tell you a plane to take you and your ‘LADY’ to Vegas is his gift. Sam, Sam, should her mother and I expect an ‘invitation’ to anything?”

“No! I’m hanging up Bonnie, Bye Bonnie. Thank you soooo much for the messages.”

You could hear her laughing when I hung up. ‘Now what?’ I thought. Rather than plan what to say, to err, ask Tara about the address thing I took the path of least resistance, at least until after her Prom and called the number on Bob Simon’s card. It took a while; the number seemed to be answered then was routed elsewhere, several times. I finally got an answer.

“Where can you be reached, Mr. Simon had informed me that he wanted to speak to you.”

I left my cell number with him; the home line was still to be a private line.

Bob Simon called back a short time later and we made a tentative appointment to meet in my former practice next week Wednesday; he should be ‘in-country’ he said. Since I still owned half of the firm, I did not think it was going to be an issue. I called Bonnie to confirm. No, it was not going to be a problem.

Tara called; she was just finishing and ready to be picked up.

When we arrived at my place, the first thing out of her mouth was, ‘God it is so good to be back home. I am so nervous about this weekend I hope ... I want this to ... to...”

“Tara, relax, think of this as a ‘dry run’ for your senior year, no matter what happens it will be OK, I want you to enjoy everything.”

With that the crying started. “Oh. I’m such a fool, I...”

“No your not, look everything will be fine, after all, look who you got taking you.” I pretended to polish my fingernails on my shirt. She laughed. “Ok, do your thing; eat something light and the car will be here at 7 pm. Some packages came here for you; do you need help carrying them home?”

“I’m sort of ‘home’ already and everything is here, are ‘WE’ getting a room for ... for later ... I mean if...”

“We have a suite, or we can come back home after, this is your night Princess.”

Tara’s bedroom was upstairs; I had the master suite on the first floor. I half expected to get a call or two to go up and hook this, button or zip up something for her, Bonnie needed that kind of help when we went out. Not with Tara, at least not tonight. As she strolled down the stairs I understood her not needing my help; there was not much covering her. For all intent and purposes it was that proverbial, ‘Little Black Dress’. No back or bra you that you could see and slit up both sides to near the zip up.

With her hair done up, the make-up and that dress going to the Opera House or Monte Carlo would have been more in order. Maybe we needed to take Sal up on his offer of a plane to Vegas.

I stood looking at her with my mouth open, trying to get out some kind of words. The door chime roused me up. Peggy and Bonnie came in for the obligatory photos. It seemed the arrival of the car and driver ended what might have become sheer mayhem. Bonnie carried a black wrap and handed it to Tara. As they left, Peggy had tears in her eyes, Bonnie something else, jealousy perhaps. Tara was a tall girl; with the heels she wore tonight, she seemed eye to eye with me. Walking though caused a bit of a problem, she had to grip and hold on to me while walking to the car.

Getting in the car was an eyeful; she sure had long legs and I expected getting back out of the car to be the same show. Perhaps her ‘Victoria’ stuff would prove interesting, that is if she was wearing anything under that dress.

Walking into the dance, she held onto me the same way she had going to the car. BTW, the dance was at the Ritz-Carleton not at the school. She was shaking so I guess she might be a little nervous going with an older guy to the Prom.

Well now, brothers and sisters, when we got into the ballroom I did not feel older any longer. Rollin’s girls it seemed were a tad bit different from when you and I went to high school. We, my beautiful date and I met baseball, football, tennis and a couple of film stars who were as old as or even older than ‘Moi’. Apparently junior and senior girls there were a sought after commodity by many men.

Calling this night a ‘Cotillion’ would be a more appropriate term for this event than a Prom. We heard the names and background from each girl and her escort called out as each was presented. We were in the South and there was a slight gasp when Lee and Jefferson Law firm was called out as my background. I knew if ‘Dixie’ would be played tonight, I would stand up proud. My eyes were a bit moist and when Tara looked into them, she just smiled and rested her cheek to mine. I said she was a tall girl. I should have known for certain then that I was a ‘lost man’.

The dances that evening were mostly, if not all slow ones. We started out with her holding on just for support, then more and more for survival with those 4-inch heels she wore, until finally off they came and she finished the last dances in bare feet. I told her we had reservations upstairs or we could eat via room service. She wanted to go to the room and change, shoes at least I thought and ‘freshen up’ a bit.

She did look good in that dress though, I did imagine what she looked like without it, of course she did ‘accidentally’ show me glimpses of her sans clothes in the pool and hot tub at home, but that did not count.

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Ma/Fa / Ma/ft / Romantic / Fiction / War / Military / Revenge / Slow / Caution / Violent / Politics /