Thanks to my dear friend blackrandl1958 for once again giving me the basis for this story, her advice, input and, of course, her editing. She is truly my sweet inspiration. Thanks to Crkcppr for beta reading.
Carrie Benton looked at herself in the mirror. She had really never been totally satisfied with her body. Getting out of the shower and noticing herself in the mirror wasn’t something she did often. Her big Cane Corso, Gabe, looked up at her with a jaundiced eye. A long drool clung to his floppy jowls as he lifted his head. Carrie sighed and got the rag to clean his jowls. She had drool rags in every room of the house.
“You love me, don’t you, baby?” she cooed to him. “That’s right; you’re Mama’s big boy. You think Mama’s pretty.”
She turned back to the mirror. She wished she had bigger boobs. Even a bigger ass would be nice. It wasn’t that hers wasn’t cute; she was still firm and bouncy, she just realized she would always be little. At five three and less than a hundred pounds, she was still as cute as she had been at twenty. Fifty-five was her next birthday and she was proud that she could still wear any of her clothes that hadn’t worn out since she was in high school. She could even still fit into her wedding dress. She’d tried it on last year when she thought she might marry Jeff. She knew she loved him. She had thought that he loved her. After Eric died, she hadn’t dated for five years. Oh, she’d gone on the occasional date, but she hadn’t wanted a relationship. Eric had been her first and last love, she had thought, then Jeff dropped out of the blue. He was the new insurance agent at the company where she kept hers, and when she came in to talk to Randall about her new car, he had been drinking a cup of coffee in Randall’s office. Randall introduced them and as she signed her new policy, she had noticed him checking her out. She was a little embarrassed and hurried away.
He had called her the next week and invited her to dinner. Carrie was doubtful; she still felt deeply in love with her late husband, and was comfortable in her solitude.
“Thank you, Jeff,” she said, “I appreciate the offer, but I really don’t think I’d be very good company.”
“Okay, I understand,” said Jeff, “Maybe some other time?”
“Maybe,” she said, not really thinking that she would change her mind.
Her high school friend, James Clark, stopped by for a visit, and Carrie told him about Jeff’s invitation.
“Why didn’t you say yes, Carrie?” James asked. “It’s been five years since Eric died, he wouldn’t want you to be lonely.”
“But I’m not lonely,” Carrie said, “Just because I’m alone doesn’t mean I’m lonely.”
“Okay, okay,” James laughed, “I understand, but just give it some thought, if not Jeff maybe someone else. If I wasn’t happily married to Emily, I’d be knocking on your door!”
Carrie laughed, “All right, James, you win, I’ll think about it, but I’m not making any promises.”
True to her word, Carrie did think about it, and the next time Jeff asked her out she said yes.
Jeff picked her up in a nice mid-level Toyota sedan and took her to Jimbo’s, a family-style restaurant with a varied menu.
“I was asking Randall how such an attractive young woman was unattached,” Jeff said, “and was surprised to hear that you were fifty-five; I was sure that you were much younger. Then he told me about you losing your husband, and I understood your reluctance to date. Do you want to talk about it?”
“There’s not really much to tell,” Carrie said, “We were your typical high school sweethearts. From the day we met at the start of our sophomore year, we knew we were meant to be together, and we never dated anyone else. Even when we had the silly spats that everyone has, it never got to the point of either of us dating anyone else.
“After we graduated from college, we got married and had all these big plans for our future, including many children, and five years later, we were thrilled to find that I was pregnant. We had a beautiful baby boy, David, but complications left me incapable of having any more children.
“We were disappointed, but we pulled together and came out stronger than ever, determined to be the best parents we could be.
“For the next twenty plus years we just loved on each other. David grew into a fine young man. He’s married with children of his own, living in California. We weren’t much for traveling, so we bought some land. We grew some wheat, and Eric let me raise sheep since I had loved them from the time I was a little girl.
“Around eight years ago, fate dealt us another losing hand: cancer. We fought it with everything we had, but I lost Eric five years ago, and have been on my own ever since.”
Neither spoke for a moment, then Carrie gave a wry smile.
“Well, now that I’ve put a total damper on things,” she said, “Why don’t you tell me your story?”
“No,” Jeff said, “Don’t feel like that, I wanted to know about you, and frankly, that just makes me admire you all the more. Those are things that would destroy most people, but they seem to have only made you stronger.”
“Thank you, Jeff, but you still owe me your tale.”
“Well, it has nothing to compare with your drama,” he said. “Lilly and I also married young, maybe too young. I’m ashamed to admit that we were both unfaithful, and were divorced before our tenth anniversary. I don’t know if it’s a good thing, but we had no children, and the divorce was about as amicable as possible under the circumstances.
“Since then, I’ve been pretty much a free agent. I’ve had several short to medium term relationships, the shortest about a year, none longer than five years.
“I’ve reached a point in my life where if I don’t find the right woman soon, then I’m probably fated to be a lonely old man.”
Surprisingly, unburdening themselves enabled them to have a relaxing and pleasant dinner, and they made plans to go out again.
As she sat on her couch patting Gabe on the head, Carrie thought about some of the things that she and Jeff had talked about that night.
‘Yes, ‘ she thought, ‘I am comfortable in my solitude, ‘ but did she want to become, in Jeff’s words, “a lonely old woman?” She really didn’t feel that she would ever be lonely, but new possibilities had opened up in her mind.
After their third date, Carrie invited Jeff in for coffee. She was a little dismayed that Gabe didn’t quite seem to take to Jeff, but he wasn’t showing any signs of being in “protection mode,” either.
Jeff was a perfect gentleman and made sure not to push Carrie beyond her comfort zone. That first night they were sitting close together on the couch, listening to soft music and sipping coffee, when Jeff put his arm around her and kissed her gently on the lips. She wasn’t sure if the kiss was really so wonderful or if it was just how long since she had a romantic kiss, but she felt a tingle run up and down her spine and her nipples hardened.
She kissed him back and soon their tongues were dancing together. As her hands stroked his back, she remembered how good it was to hold a man in her arms. His right hand moved from her back, began stroking her left arm, and she felt the warmth grow deep inside her. When his hand moved from her arm to her breast, she stiffened slightly, but then gave herself over to the feelings. When he started to slip his hand under her top, she gently pushed him away.
“I’m sorry, Jeff,” she said, “This all feels wonderful, but I’m just not quite ready.”
“I understand, Carrie,” Jeff said, “You’re a very special woman, and I can wait until you’re ready.”
They returned to their kissing, but soon had to call it a night before things went too far.
They continued dating, and their post-date activities were getting hotter and hotter, though Carrie did notice that Gabe just never really warmed up to Jeff, and always watched warily from his blanket in the corner. Jeff had progressed to getting Carrie’s top and bra off, and was massaging her breasts and playing with her nipples. As he sucked and nibbled on her hardening nipples Carrie felt that she was losing her control a bit, so she slid down to the floor and got between Jeff’s legs. She reached up, undid Jeff’s belt and pants and pulled down his zipper.
Reaching into his boxers, she pulled out his semi-erect penis and began stroking it to full hardness. She rubbed first one cheek and then the other against his cock as it got even harder, smiling up at Jeff all the while. As Jeff moaned in pleasure, she kissed it all over before slowly, sensually, licking around the head, sticking her tongue out as far as she could. Jeff’s moans got louder and more desperate as she rose up a bit to start taking his cock into her mouth. She slowly moved up and down, taking more in with each stroke until she had her nose buried in his pubic hair. Though she hadn’t had a cock in her mouth for over five years, it all came back to her in a flash and she easily maintained her breath control as she brought Jeff ever closer to his orgasm.
When she could tell that he was close, she pulled her mouth off and finished him with her hand as he came on her breasts. As Jeff leaned back in post-orgasmic bliss, his eyes shot wide open as Carrie smiled at him while she rubbed his cum all over her breasts. Carrie stood up, gave Jeff a kiss on his forehead and went to the bathroom to do a quick clean-up of her breasts. When she came back, she had a warm damp cloth and towel to clean Jeff’s penis.
Carrie shrugged back into her top, not bothering with her bra. When Jeff reached for her waistband, Carrie backed off.
“What’s the matter, Carrie?” Jeff asked, “I just want to return the favor.”
“It’s okay, Jeff,” she said, just barely keeping herself under control, “I just wanted to do something for you, to thank you for being so patient with me.”
“Well, I guess I had better be going,” he said, “As much as you turn me on, if I stay here much longer I don’t know if my will power will be able to restrain my lust!” He gave Carrie a gentle kiss on her lips and made his way quietly out the door as Carrie leaned against it, wiping the sweat from her brow.
“Whew,” she said to Gabe, “Where did that come from?”
Gabe just tilted his head and looked at her quizzically.
‘God, ‘ she thought, ‘why didn’t I just let him fuck me? God knows I need it!’
Carrie went to her bedroom, shedding her remaining clothes as she went, and pulled her vibrator and KY out of her nightstand drawer. She had only used it about two or three times a year, on her and/or Eric’s birthdays and sometimes Valentine’s Day, but tonight’s session with Jeff had her so hot that she needed some release.
She had come down a little bit, so she began by running the tip of the vibrator around her nipples, quickly re-building her lust. With her other hand, she began rubbing her pussy, feeling her lips begin to part. Putting down the vibrator for the moment, she squeezed some lube onto her fingers and began to rub them up and down her slit. As her pussy lips parted some more she re-applied the lube and began to probe her vagina slowly, then gently massaged her clit as it shyly peeked out from under the hood.
Carrie then picked up the vibrator and applied a generous coating of lube to it. After turning it on low, she began to stroke her labia gently, but she really didn’t have the patience and quickly began rubbing it on and around her clit, quickly coming to a shuddering climax.
After a brief respite, she was still wound up, so she re-applied the KY, turned the vibrator on high and quickly plunged it up her pussy. ‘Yes, ‘ she thought, ‘Pussy. It had been a long time since I thought of my vagina that way, but tonight that’s just what it was.’
She plunged the vibrator more vigorously in and out until she came explosively and fell asleep with it still inside her, barely remembering to turn it off.
She woke up, still not sure exactly what had gotten into her; besides the vibrator, of course. She removed the vibrator, setting it aside for cleaning later, and went to take a nice hot shower. As she washed her breasts, they were still sensitive and sent chills throughout her body. Her pussy was even worse. She managed to get through her shower without turning it into another masturbation session, and wrapped herself in a big, fluffy robe. She retrieved the vibrator, washed it off and returned it and the lube to the nightstand. She saw her message light flashing. She checked and it was from Jeff, asking her to call him. She decided that it could wait until she had her breakfast, and put the coffee on.
After a nice breakfast of bacon and eggs, she called Jeff back.
“Hi, Carrie,” he said, “I was wondering if you would like to go out to dinner tonight?”
Carrie thought that he might be rushing things, and put him off to Friday night.
Jeff picked her up at 7:00 and took her to Excalibur, one of the finer restaurants in town. Carrie had a feeling that something was up.
The dinner was exquisite, as was to be expected, but the conversation was a bit forced, and Jeff seemed to have something on his mind. It could really only be one of two things, and the venue made one much more likely than the other.
Jeff was unusually quiet during coffee, as he seemed to be trying to make his mind up about something. When the check arrived, he seemed to have come to a decision, and rather than wait for a credit card to be processed, simply left cash with the check, took Carrie’s hand and left the restaurant.
Carrie had her antennae up when Jeff drove to a nearby park rather than either of their homes. Sitting together on a bench, Jeff put his arm around Carrie and pulled her close.
“Carrie, honey, you must know that I have developed very strong feelings for you. You are a very special woman and you are very special to me.”
“Yes, Jeff,” she said, “You’re very special to me, too.”
Jeff then got down on one knee as he took a small blue velvet box out of his pocket. Setting the box aside, he took her hands in his and said, “Carrie Benton, you are one of the most beautiful, most wonderful people I know. Would you do me the honor of being my wife?”
With only the slightest hesitation, Carrie nodded happily, and with a big smile said, “Yes, Jeff, I will marry you.”
Jeff picked up the ring, placed it on her ring finger and they stood up, fell into each other’s arms and kissed passionately.
When Jeff took Carrie home he wanted to come in and consummate their relationship, but Carrie put him off with two objections.
“Jeff, the last man I made love to in this house was my late husband Eric. I realize that is likely to change, but I have another reason as well.”
“What would that be, Carrie?”
“When Eric and I were courting, we were very much in love, probably even more than you and I.”
Jeff made a small frown.
“But more importantly, as young and in love as we were, and as passionate as we were, we were still able to save ourselves for our wedding night. I feel that I owe it to Eric’s memory to show the same restraint with you. I’m sorry; I hope that that you can understand.”
“Well, I can’t say that I’m not disappointed, Carrie,” Jeff said, “but you are a treasure worth waiting for, and so I will.”
Carrie threw herself back into Jeff’s arms, kissing him all over his face.
“Thank you, Jeff, thank you! I promise you, you won’t regret it!”
With a rueful smile, Jeff said good night and made his way back to his car.
It had all been going so well, until Randall called her and told her he had fired Jeff. He had been taking kickbacks from a roofing contractor to fix hail-damaged roofs from the last storm, even though other contractors would have done the job cheaper, and got caught with his hand in the till.
She immediately broke off the engagement, but he had the nerve to call her a few times. He wouldn’t take no for an answer until she got James to pay him a visit. James had played football in college and become a professional wrestler for fifteen years. He was huge and intimidating, but he was a big teddy bear to the people he liked. He had a temper and Carrie told James she didn’t want to know what happened.
One night Jeff was walking from a bar to his car in a dark parking lot when he was shoved up against his car and his arm was bent painfully up behind his back.
A muffled voice said, “If you don’t stop bothering Carrie Benton I’ll be back, and I won’t be so nice next time. Nod if you understand.” Jeff winced from the pain, nodded quickly, and his arm was released. When he turned around, nobody was there. If it wasn’t for the pain he still felt in his arm, he would have thought he had imagined it. Imagination or not, Jeff never bothered her again.
Carrie was pissed off and pawned the engagement ring he had given her. She felt pretty good about that, and put him out of her mind.
She knew she couldn’t stand there gazing at her own navel all day, so she shook off her reverie and got dressed. She went outside and lowered the tailgate of her truck. Gabe jumped in with a grunt and she drove out to her west forty acres. She owned a section of land. There were two quarter section wheat fields and the rest was in pasture where she kept her sheep. She loved sheep and Eric had loved her, so he let her raise them. Two of them were missing the last time she counted. She drove around the fence and spotted them grazing on the young wheat. There was a hole in the fence and she parked to drive them back in. Ralf, one of her Great Pyrenees that stayed with the sheep came up and when Gabe jumped down, they sniffed butts in greeting.
“Stop that,” she chided them. “Nasty dogs!”
They looked suitably chastened, so she took Ralf and Polly, her other Great Pyrenees and rounded up the two strays. They helped her herd them back through the hole and she got out her tools and fixed the fence. She saw one of the Rawlinses leaning on their corral watching her. She didn’t like them. They had been embroiled in a property dispute for a few years, and she was sure that they were responsible for the hole in her fence. They always had some immature comment to make when she ran into them and she hated the way they looked at her. There was an older father and two adult boys and the older man was the worst of the lot. She felt sorry for his poor wife. They were very afraid of Gabe and they usually never bothered her when he was around. Mostly she ran into them in town and they annoyed her. She wasn’t afraid of them. She had a concealed carry permit and the nice little 9 mm in her purse or in a thigh holster if she was wearing a dress made her confident and calm. Gabe was very suspicious of people unless she reassured him, and that was why she loved him.
She put away her tools and drove back to the house. She was going to the grocery store and she got a bottle of water, changed her jeans for a flowered sundress, picked up her grocery list and let Gabe get out for a drink. He rode in the back of her truck with her nearly everywhere she went, and he wouldn’t get out unless she told him he could. He wouldn’t bother anyone and kids often came up and petted him. He kept an eye on people who were close to her, but he was otherwise friendly and he loved children. She stopped at the gas station to fill her tank. She was filling up her truck when she saw a silver and black sports car pull up behind her at the pump. She liked it and wondered what kind of a car it was. A very large man got out and swiped his card.
“Hey, Carrie,” a voice called her. Damn, it was Carver Hawk. Aside from the Rawlinses, this was the only guy in town she didn’t like. He was the football coach at the high school. Her son, David, had played for him and hated him. He’d hit on her several times, even when Eric was alive and she despised him.
“You look good today,” he said. He was coming out of the store with a soda and his shaven head glistened in the sun. He had sunglasses on and he always walked with his arms sticking out ridiculously to show how strong he was. He had been quite the hero in high school, but had flamed out in college. David said he always talked about how he could have gone to the NFL if he hadn’t been injured.
“Mr. Hawk, how many times do I have to ask you not to call me Carrie?” she said. “You’re not a friend of mine and I don’t want to talk to you.”
“Aw, don’t be like that, Carrie,” he swaggered over. “I was just wondering if you might like to go see a movie with me some time.”
“You’re married, Mr. Hawk; and if you weren’t, you are the last man on earth I would go to see a movie with. Maybe you should ask your wife.”
“Why are you always such a bitch?” he sneered.
“Hey, buddy,” it was the large gentleman with the sports car. “I think the lady said she isn’t interested. Take your line down the road.”
Hawk started to bluster and Carrie interrupted him. “Mr. Hawk, I think I’ll just call your wife and ask her if she would like to go see that movie with us. Do you remember the last time I called her? I think you should leave now. That guy looks bigger than you and bullies like you don’t want to risk their reputations as tough guys.”
Hawk gave her a glare and stalked off. She turned and looked at the man behind her.
“You’re very gallant, sir, but I don’t need your help handling little boys like him.”
He chuckled. “No, I don’t guess you do. I’m sorry I said anything. I didn’t realize how fierce you were. I thought you might need a hand.”
“That’s very kind,” she looked at him closer. She liked what she saw. He was very tall and very muscular. He was probably a foot taller than she was and he had dark hair that was beginning to turn gray. “I’m a big girl though. I can take care of myself.”
He looked her over and she blushed. “You look like a little girl to me, but I’ll have to admit you shut him down pretty good. It looks like that bear you’ve got in your truck might have eaten him anyway. Do I know you from somewhere?”
“No, I don’t think so,” she assured him.
“You look familiar,” he said. “Hey, I remember you now. You have my name on the back of your truck.”
She saw Dodge on her tailgate. “Your name is Dodge?” she was bewildered. Why would she be familiar to him because she drove Dodges?
He laughed. “No, that’s not what I meant. You bought your truck at the dealership I own in Oak Lawn. See, it says Tony Mitchell Dodge down there. I’m Tony. I think we sold you a white Chrysler 300 with the hemi about six months ago, too. You’re Carrie Benton.”
She smiled. “Well I don’t remember meeting you, but you’ve got me. I did buy my vehicles from your dealership. We don’t have a Dodge Dealership here and my late husband was passionate about Dodges. I still drive them.
He walked over and extended his hand. She gave him her little hand and it was swallowed up in his huge one. She looked up at him and realized that he was very handsome. He was tanned and obviously fit. He had piercing grey eyes and she became flustered at the way he was looking at her. She flushed and felt hot and sweaty. Damn those hot flashes! She had thought they were getting better, but she was definitely feeling one now.
She took her hand back and was spared further embarrassment by her pump clicking off. She hung up the hose. He hadn’t moved when she turned back around.
“Ms. Benton, would you think I was being too bold if I asked you if you were in a relationship?” he smiled at her.
She was definitely feeling that hot flash now. “Why would you want to know that?” she asked.
“Because if you’re not, I was going to offer you free oil changes on your vehicles,” he said. “After you got the oil changes, I was going to have my guys detail them up so that you’d know I’m a really nice guy. Then I was going to ask you to have dinner with me.”
“Are you in a relationship?” she asked.
“I was ten years ago,” he said. “She decided her career as a State Representative meant she didn’t need to come home to have a ... relationship.
“Unfortunately, for her, her constituents had a different view on ... relationships and she is no longer a State Representative. Now she’s just an ambulance chaser and I haven’t seen her in three years. I hope fervently that God spares me that event.”
“I see, well that certainly is more information than I needed,” Carrie said. “To answer your question, my truck needs its oil changed, but my car doesn’t. I’d be happy for you to do all those things to them, but I won’t have dinner with you. I’m not in a relationship either and I don’t want to be in one.”
“That’s very sensible,” he said. “Relationships are perilous things. I wasn’t asking to have a relationship with you, just dinner. I love the way you handle yourself. You didn’t need my help to send that creep packing and I’d just like to be friends with someone like you.”
“Will you give me a big discount when I trade in my truck?” her eyes were laughing.
“Only if you take the bear out first,” he laughed. “My God, what kind of beast is that? He looks like he could swallow my head.” He looked at the two long, white, foamy drools coming from Gabe’s lips. “He looks like he’s already eaten someone and their shoestrings are hanging out of his mouth!”
“He’s a Cane Corso, a type of Italian Mastiff,” she said. “He would eat you if he thought you were going to harm me and he drools a lot. If he likes you, he’s a very good friend.”
“Will you introduce me?” he asked.
They walked forward and Gabe stood up. “This is Mr. Mitchell, Gabe,” she said. “He’s my friend. Friend, Gabe.”
Gabe’s little stump of a tail wagged furiously. He sniffed the outstretched hand and gave it a lick. Tony drew his hand back and looked at the slimy substance covering it.
“I think I’ll add this to your oil change,” he said. “It’s so slick you’d never need to get it changed again!”
They laughed together. “What time should I pick you up?” he asked.
“I never said I was going,” she smiled up at him. “Give me your card and I’ll think about it.”
“Do you have a phone?” he asked.
“Give it to me and I’ll put my number in,” he said.
She got in her purse and he punched in his number and saved it. “Please don’t forget,” he said. “I’ll be waiting.”
“Don’t push me,” she said. “Friends don’t push their friends.”
“You’re right,” he said. “I’m sorry, but friends hang out, too.”
She laughed and touched his cheek. Her little fingers left a trail of fire across his cheek and she got in her truck and drove away. Carrie was very unsettled by their encounter. She liked Tony, but she had friends and she was very cautious about making new ones. She didn’t feel comfortable going to dinner with him and she buried her thoughts in her busy life.
She continued on her way to the grocery store, and almost turned around when she saw the Rawlins boys hanging out by the front door. She ignored their leers and grabbed a cart to do her shopping. She didn’t look, but she could feel them watching her as she shopped.
When she pushed her cart filled with shopping bags to her truck, Zack and Zeke Rawlins ‘God, ‘ she thought, ‘Couldn’t they come up with anything more redneck to name their evil spawn?’ confronted her.
“Hey,” said one, she could never tell them apart, and couldn’t care less, “You’re not bad for an old bitch, why don’t you ever want to play with us?”
She couldn’t help laughing in their ugly faces. “I’m not a bitch,” she said, “I’m THE bitch, that’s Ms. Bitch to you. Why don’t you just crawl back into your hole?”
Zack got pissed off and grabbed her left arm, “Listen, you old bag, you should be grateful we want to play with your old pussy!”
Carrie kept her cool. “If you don’t want to lose that arm, I suggest you let go of mine,” she said.
Zeke grabbed her other arm. “Just what do you think you can do about it,” he snarled.
Carrie just grinned. “Oh, little ole me? Oh, I’m not going to do anything.”
The two assholes just grinned.
“Gabe, protect!” she said. There was a blur of black fur and teeth as Gabe leaped out of the truck and sank his teeth into Zeke’s butt. Zeke shrieked in pain, dropping her arm, flailing at the monster attacking him.
While Zack was watching what was happening to his brother, Carrie reached under her dress, pulled out her pistol and stuck it in his face,
“If you want to remain upright, I suggest that you release my arm,” she said.
Zack immediately let go and backed off, putting both hands up in the air.
“We dint mean nuthin,” he said, “We’s jest havin’ sum fun!”
“Well, it wasn’t much fun for me,” she said, rubbing her arms where they had grabbed her. “Gabe, release.” He reluctantly released Zeke, but sat beside Carrie, ready to spring into action if his owner was threatened again.
Just then, the police finally arrived, and Zeke and Zack were falling all over themselves, trying to claim that Gabe attacked them and that Carrie pulled a gun on them.
Fortunately, all the bystanders who did nothing while Carrie was being accosted came forward with the real story, and Zeke and Zack were hauled off to jail. The cop gave Carrie his card and told her she would be contacted to see if wanted to press charges.
She thanked him, told him she would think about it, loaded Gabe and her groceries into the truck and headed for home.
Her friend Gloria called her about a week later. They were neighbors, and Gloria invited her to a barbecue at her house. She liked Gloria and her husband Sam a lot. Most of the neighbors, hopefully excluding the Rawlinses, would be there. Gloria teased her.
“Are you bringing a date, Carrie?”
Carrie was a little annoyed, but she was used to Gloria trying to set her up with someone. “I might, so don’t invite some dreadful man to be my dinner companion,” She said. “I actually have someone in mind. What should I bring?”
“We’re roasting a pig, so if you would bring some of that delicious potato salad you make and some sweet tea, that would be nice,” Gloria told her.
Carrie looked at her phone for a long time, ambivalent about what she was about to do. She scrolled down a little in her contacts and called Tony.
He answered on the third ring and she almost hung up. She hadn’t said anything after he said hello and he finally said, “Carrie?”
She gasped. “How did you know it was me?”
“I was hoping you’d call and I don’t know anyone else who might call and then change her mind about whether or not to talk to me,” he said. “Besides, your number wasn’t one I knew, but I knew it was from Fair Grove. I’m glad you called. Are you ready to go to dinner with me?”
“Actually, I was wondering if you might want to go to dinner with me,” she giggled. “My neighbor is having a barbecue and I need an escort. Do you know anyone who might volunteer?”
“I’ll bet you could get your admirer from the convenience store,” he laughed. That made her giggle again and he loved the sound of that cute little laugh. “I’d love to come. Can I bring anything?”
“I don’t know, maybe some beer or something?” she said. “I’m bringing enough for you and me and about ten other neighbors. I really don’t think Gloria needs much. I’m sure the ladies will bring plenty.”
“I’m not a freeloader,” he said. “I’ll figure something out. Am I picking you up?”
“I think you should come here and ride with me,” she said. “I kind of live in the country and so do Gloria and Sam. My house has a 911 address but theirs doesn’t. The county line is between me and them, but you can use your GPS to get to my house.”
She gave him her address and he told her he was really glad she called. She realized that she was glad, too, after she ended the call. She was kind of excited. She heard a splashing sound coming from the bathroom. When she looked, Gabe was drinking out of the stool.
“No, naughty dog! That’s disgusting,” she scolded him. He tried to slink away sheepishly but she caught him and wiped his mouth. “You have perfectly good water in the kitchen,” she said sternly. “Why do you insist on drinking out of the toilet?” She pointed at his cage and stomped her little foot. The 140-pound beast slunk away to his cage and looked up at her with sad eyes. “That isn’t going to work,” she told him. “Stay there until you can learn some manners.”
She soon forgave him and he curled up on her feet while she was doing a drawing. Carrie loved to draw with pencils and she tried to spend some time every day doing that. She was drawing a portrait today. Her little neighbor girl, Samantha, was sick and she wanted to cheer her up. Sam had Hodgkin’s disease and she planned to visit her when she was in the hospital this weekend for treatment and give her the picture and a nice new purse. Her iPod was playing a new album by Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, and she was singing along with “Cecilia and the Satellite.” She felt her phone vibrate and she had a new text. It was from Tony and it said he was looking forward to the barbecue. He sent her a cute little emoji that made her smile.
She made a huge bowl of potato salad and a large pitcher of sweet tea. She decided at the last minute to make chocolate chip and oatmeal cookies and the last of them were still in the oven when she saw Tony’s car pull into the driveway. She was a little flustered that she had on an apron over her yellow sundress and there was a smudge of flour on her cheek when she answered the door. Tony thought she looked adorable and he dusted the flour off when he came in. She blushed furiously and took him into the kitchen. She got her oven mitts and got the last sheet of cookies out. Gabe was very interested and he and Tony waited expectantly as she put the cookies in the container. She looked at them and their expressions were identical begging looks. She laughed.
“Oh, okay; just one then.”
Tony grinned ruefully and took a cookie, giving one to Gabe, too. Gabe gulped it down almost without chewing and Tony ate his a little more decorously. He helped her carry her things to the truck and brought a cooler and two large boxes, putting the cooler in the back.
“What’s in the boxes?” she asked him.
“I made cupcakes,” he said.
Carrie was impressed. “Thank you, Tony.”
“Got to pull my weight,” he smiled. He lowered the tailgate for Gabe and they drove the two miles to Gloria’s house.
Sam had four picnic tables set up and they carried their food to the appropriate tables. Carrie introduced Tony around and he became a big hit with the men when it was revealed that the cooler was full of Miller ponies. Gloria was unmerciful and teased Carrie relentlessly about the “gorgeous man” she had brought. The guys rescued the pig from the smoker and they were ready to eat. Carrie went through the line with Tony and they sat side by side while they ate. They played croquet and board games all afternoon and Carrie was very pleased with her companion. He was polite and attentive and he made her laugh. He thought it was hilarious when Gabe carried his croquet ball off, and Carrie was a little jealous when Gabe lay on his feet most of the time they were sitting down. They ate leftovers for supper and she was a little sad when it was time to go.
She was quiet on the ride back to her house, but he kept up a lively banter. When she pulled up, he asked her if there was anything wrong.
She smiled. “No, it was a perfect day,” she said. “I had a lot of fun, Tony. Thanks for coming with me.”
“I did, too,” he said. “Most of it was because I was with you. You’re a special lady, Carrie. Do you trust me enough to go to dinner with me by ourselves now?”
She blushed and laughed. “No, but Gabe does. He’s a pretty good judge of character.”
“Can we go Sunday?” he asked.
“No, I’m going to the hospital Sunday,” she said.
“Are you sick?” she could sense the concern in his voice.
“No, but my little neighbor girl is, and I always try to visit her when she’s in the hospital.”
“What’s wrong with her?” he asked.
“She has cancer and she’s the sweetest little thing. She’s six, and she’s starting to lose her hair. She’s pretty sad about that.”
“Can I go with you?” he asked.
Carrie was surprised. “Are you sure?”
“Positive,” he said. “When should we go?”
“I want to take her parents lunch,” she said. “I was going to make spaghetti and garlic bread with a salad.”
“I’ll bring the salad,” he said. “What hospital will she be in?”
It turned out to be in Oak Lawn where he lived, about twenty minutes away from Carrie’s house, and they arranged for her to come to his house and he would drive them from there.
He came around and opened her door. She let Gabe out and they carried her things in the house. She offered him a drink, but he declined, saying that he was driving, and she walked him to his car. He seemed to pause for a minute before he got in. He seemed undecided about something and she watched.
“Oh, hell,” he said. “I’m going to do it.”
Carrie was surprised when he pulled her to him and kissed her. She went rigid for a minute and then let herself relax in his arms. It felt really nice and she felt her nipples stiffen. He let her go and she staggered a little. He steadied her and grinned. “I’ve been wanting to do that all day,” he said. “You’re just too cute to resist, Carrie. I hope I didn’t scare you off.”
She felt her cheeks flaming and her hand went to her mouth. “No, I ... I ... Gabe! Why didn’t you protect me?” she accused him.
He looked sheepishly from one face to the other.
Tony laughed. “He knows I’ll never hurt you, Carrie. I’m looking forward to Sunday.”