Chapter 1: Stopping by the side of the road...
The sky was one of those high, impossibly blue cloudless skies so often found in Eastern Washington in May. Heading west, I was driving out of Spokane in my 21-foot Class C motorhome. I'd been visiting my son, his wife, and most importantly my three granddaughters in Spokane. The idea was to have a visit just before Memorial Day weekend. That way I'd miss the holiday traffic, they would see their dad and granddad, and Brent and his family would have the long weekend to themselves without granddad getting in the way.
It had been a great few days, nice break from the routine in Seattle. As always Brent and his wife Marilyn wanted me to stay over for the holiday. Made me feel good but now I was down. Since my wife's death 2 years ago after 37 years of marriage, I'd tried to avoid 'bothering' people. Sure, it was a sign of depression, so go take a hike. It was my depression.
To top off my blues, the beautiful 85-degree day was too hot for me after spending all those years in Seattle. Not that it really rains 12 months a year in Seattle, but anything over 80 degrees is a real heat wave over on the wet side of the state on t'other side of the Cascade Mountains. The drive hadn't really started yet but I decided to pull into the next rest stop, use the 'facilities' and get a cup of the free coffee handed out by the volunteers. Pulling in I parked on the 'heavies' side. Didn't need to, as my rig was only 21 feet long, but I'd gotten accustomed parking alongside the big trucks.
Pulling to a smooth stop then yanking on the brake I stepped out of the air-conditioned cab into a really beautiful spring day. It was hot on the asphalt but stepping onto the concrete sidewalk the hot oil stench disappeared, replaced by the aroma of newly mown grass. And the heat also became comfortable, even for one of us wet-siders as we Seattleites were called. Strolling to the large brick building housing the restrooms I counted, found a sign with 3 letters and walked in after exchanging my prescription sunglasses for my regular pair.
Leaving the dimly lit john I strolled back into the dazzle of the morning sun. When I turned toward where my rig was parked I was stopped in my tracks.
Just stepping out of her car maybe 100 feet from me was a 'Woman'. When I was younger I would have said it was love at first sight. That quick glance convinced me the world required I spend as much time as possible examining this treasure. Of course It was necessary I do it without making a complete jackass of myself. I'd that entirely too often in the past. Clumsily fumbling my dark glasses from the dark leather case on my belt I began trying to swap them with the regular glasses I had worn inside. Of course I had to keep stealing quick glances as she swayed toward me and I bobbled going for the cover of the sunglasses; surreptitiously I hoped.
By the time I swapped glasses she was maybe 40 feet away, and I felt safe turning toward her and beginning the business of ogling her good. She was wearing dark glasses too, so I figured I was safe. There was no way she could see where my eyes were directed as long as I just faced my rig and didn't look directly at her.
Now you've got to understand what I was seeing. She was wearing a sundress made of some kind of really clingy, swirling material. It had spaghetti straps which showed off her shoulders to perfection. Bright golden flowers were cheerfully splashed onto a lovely light tan background. The color combination was a perfect compliment to her dark blond hair and the lovely light tan of her shoulders. She wore her hair loose, hanging to her square shoulders. My take was that it was one of those expensive 'dos.' It gave her a wind-tousled or just out of bed look. You take your choice about which look you would pick. I knew which one I picked. The slight breeze was moving her hair, adding to the effect.
In my mind her hair was mussed from my fondling and our exertions.
The soft, silky materiel of the very modest dress swelled and clung where she swelled, then pulled in and clasped her where her curves dictated. As I said, it was a perfect compliment to her soft golden coloring. The way it clung to her bust, hips and very sexy little tummy was affecting me more than if she were nude. Some women know that truth, and she was one of them; a woman intelligently dressed can be far more attractive than a nude. Where the dress swelled over her breasts it made my palms itch. Her breasts were perfect for her frame. Just use your imagination and create the perfect shape, that was her.
And something marvelous in this day when the flat, athletic, near anorexic body is worshipped, she had this little tummy. It was accented by the dress that made me want to kiss and lick it, and then rub our bellies together.
I guessed she was 35 or so; not a young hard-body with limited experience that she assumed was all there was to know. Instead this was a woman who had been there a few times and felt the heat. In her case the world had turned out a superior product.
Her hips, and legs, the way she glided across the ground, the poetry of her every movement, the big wide grin she threw at me when she was about 8 feet away... Oops! Oh God! I'd been busted! She damn well knew where my eyes were directed. Perhaps it was the drool coming out of the side of my mouth that gave me away. Embarrassed at being caught, I gave her one of my big, friendly, embarrassed grins and we both said hi as she passed me.
I slunk over to my rig, forgetting about the coffee I was going to pick up at the volunteer stand, and consoled myself that she hadn't been one of those that picked a fight with a man for admiring her. She'd very obviously been amused, and I could only hope she was secretly pleased at the compliment my admiration had paid her.
Of course a woman looking like she did must be accustomed to male attention. There were several ways people so physically blessed reacted, both men and women. Some took it as their due for the superior being they were. Others were ruefully amused at the attention people paid to what they considered their least important attributes. From my blonde's reaction, I suspected she was one of those rare women that had been truly blessed physically who accepted their physical gifts and recognized how shallow such gifts really were. She would know her worth extended far beyond her shape, compelling as it was. She enjoyed her assets, was proud of them, but knew the skin-deep gifts were unimportant compared to the mind and heart where her true value was found. It was usually true of such people that their minds and talents were very great and rare indeed.
What my blonde had seen was a man just under average height at 5 foot 8. He carried a tad bit too much weight, had short iron gray hair and a full, short-cropped beard now turned almost pure white. The weight was distributed evenly over a square, wide shouldered frame such that while my 210 pounds was too much, it fit the nick-name given me when I was younger, "Fireplug." But what was most important was the smile I had thrown at her.
Over my 6o plus years I've learned I can usually charm almost anyone with my smile and grin. The one I'd thrown at her had the desired effect. When she saw my grin her smile had turned to an open mouthed wide grin. What made that grin effective and probably my greatest tool for making friend, was that I was sincere.
I prided myself in being fit for my age, but could never be mistaken for someone my blonde's age. So while I admired her immensely from afar, I knew it would only be from afar. Even if we became good friends my admiration would still have to be at a distance.
Back in my rig I decided to wait and treat myself to watching her return saunter to her car. That would make the whole day more pleasant.
She was that good looking.
Maybe 5 minutes later she exited the ladies and turned her long strides toward where she had parked her car, a gleaming dark blue BMW parked alongside the curb between the red brick building and where I waited in my motorhome. About half way to the car a man called to her from one of the bank of phones standing against the brick building. She stopped and waited for him as he marched briskly to where she now stood, regally waiting for him.
He was an officious looking man, carrying too much weight in his belly and ass, dressed in pressed tan chino's and wearing a lemon yellow golf shirt. His shoes looked like Gucci's from where I was sitting. His face wore a determined and self-important look as he bustled over. I knew at a glance that the 'Entire Weight of the Future of Western Civilization' rested on his 'Square, Strong, Competent Shoulders'. At least that was his opinion.
He started speaking before he reached my blonde. I could see her shoulders tense all the way from where I was sitting though I couldn't hear what he had to say. By the time he was standing before her she had brought her feet together, squared her whole stance and crossed her arms in front of her breasts.
She was in a classic angry, defensive, closed posture position. Anyone paying the least bit of attention to her body language knew this was one angry upset female. She was fighting mad. I made a little bet with myself that unless one was very observant or knew her, she would not let anyone know how truly pissed she was.
The man paid no attention to the signs, I wondered if he even saw them. Once standing before my Queen he paused to inform her brusquely of whatever he had to inform her. Then the fat ass about-faced and marched back to the phones. Officiously pulling a small address book from his pocket he picked up one of the phones. As I watched, he snapped orders to someone on the other end of the line before standing rigidly, looking at his watch while keeping the phone loosely pressed against his ear with his shoulder. The lackey at the other end of the phone connection was going to be held responsible for every second the great man was kept waiting.
My blonde friend spun on her heel and stomped to her car. Surprisingly it was an older BMW, but it looked like she had driven it new off the showroom floor this morning. There she leaned back against the right front fender with her arms crossed, still very angry.
I didn't know the lady, nor did I know the man. However I already disliked the egotistical son-of-a-bitch, just on general principles. I have never been fond of men giving off the aura he was sending, detectable from 25 yards away.
Slipping quietly out of my motorhome, I strode purposefully to the stand where volunteers from the Kiwanis and their ladies were handing out free coffee. Once there I asked for two coffees, one black and one with cream and sugar. With a cup in each hand, I walked back toward my rig. Near the BMW where the blonde stood fuming and leaning against the fender, I turned and walked directly over to her.
"Do you like your coffee black, or with cream and sugar?" I asked when I reached her.
"What?" she snapped at me, breaking the angry glare directed toward her traveling companion as he stood studying his watch. Startled, she stared at me as I saw her trying to puzzle out where she had seen me before.
"Well, I came to ask your forgiveness. Do you like sugar and cream in your coffee, or do you like it black?" I asked again as I held both cups out for her to choose.
"Uh, how do you drink yours?" she asked while she studied the two cups, one obviously black the other what I call a milk shake.
Smiling, I answered, "This is for you, what I like isn't important here. I'm guessing you like black, but I thought I'd better come prepared just in case."
Glancing up at me she answered, "You're right, I prefer it black. But, why are you asking forgive... Oh yeah! You are the guy I caught inspecting my wardrobe. Sorry, but I'm married, that's my husband over there, so I fear you struck out again." And she smiled at me, but a much-reduced plastic smile, not at all like the happily amused one with which she had graced me when she caught me staring.
"Oh nuts! I guess I deserved that. No, I'm not trying to pick you up, but I wanted to ask forgiveness for being caught ogling. Nothing wrong with ogling, but being caught is very impolite. Please, take the coffee and my apologies for both the ogling and placing you in a position of needing to get rid of a masher. You do it very well, and gently may I add," holding out the black coffee. "Besides," I added, "it's free," and smiled back at her.
She hesitated for a moment then reached to take the black coffee, blushing prettily. "I guess I should offer my apology for jumping to conclusions. I did find the approach pretty smooth by the way. Can I ask a strange question? How did you guess what kind of coffee I prefer?"
"Oh boy, now I am in trouble," and here I paused for just a moment to think how to put this. "A couple reasons, the first is very straight forward. I have found a lot, not all by any means, but a lot of well-centered, self-confident women seem to prefer their coffee black," and then I stopped, pretending that was both reasons.
"Very well said, now I want the other shoe please," she demanded, looking me straight in the eye.
"Uh, well this sounds like it contradicts my professing to not being a masher. Sure you want to hear it?"
Chuckling she said, "Even more so now, buster. What gives?"
"Boy is this going to sound weak, but it's the truth." I took a deep breath and continued, "No one as sweet as you is going to need or probably even want more sweetness," I replied and kind of looked at her from under my eyebrows. "There's a lot more to it than that, but that's the gist of my thinking."
A deep, blustering voice from behind me interrupted, "Helen, who is this yahoo? Buster, get clear, that's my wife and she is definitely not available."
I turned, holding the sugar and cream coffee in my hand. It had to be the lady's husband. At least I now knew her name was Helen. I was either going to pour the coffee over his pants, or throw it in his face, whichever was appropriate and if needed.
Instead I heard the jerk say, in a totally different voice. "Oh! My god! It's Duncan Handsworth! I heard you speak at that conference in Hawaii what, three years ago! I never had a chance to meet you then. Helen, you never told my you knew Mr. Handsworth!" He sounded like a 'yes man' sucking up to the boss.
Smiling slightly, I answered him, "Oh, we're just casual friends. I'm sorry..."
With a twinkle in her eye, Helen broke in, "Duncan, I'd like to introduce my husband, Gerald Conningham. Darling, when Duncan saw me leaning against my car he brought me the coffee. I think I looked kind of lost, and he thought that maybe he could help. Gerry what in the world came up? You promised you wouldn't bring your cell phone so we could have these two weeks just to ourselves."
Conningham puffed himself up a bit, looking officious. "Dear, I left my phone at home as promised but I did take my pager along in case there was an emergency and there was a buzz from it about 5 miles down the road. That's why I stopped here, to see what the buzz was about." Here he smirked at me, to see if I had caught his word play.
I smiled at him and gave a polite chuckle to let him know I heard. The near quip didn't deserve more than that. Helen was standing half behind me where her husband couldn't see her hand, and she poked me in the back, giving a little snort her husband couldn't have heard. My mannerism hadn't fooled her.
"Anyway, dear, there has been a problem in Manila that I'm afraid I have to handle, and then I've got to go to Peoria to handle things on this end of the line. I shouldn't be gone more than three weeks. If it's any longer I'll let you know, OK?"
Helen looked like Mt. St. Helens two days before it blew, swollen with searing hot acidic ash and molten rock ready to explode. "How soon will you be leaving?" she asked him, speaking very slowly and enunciating each syllable clearly.
"I'm sorry dear, but I have a flight out of Spokane International in four hours. Plenty of time for you to drive me there and I can pick up anything I need once I get to the Philippines. I brought my traveling suit with me, so I'll change into that at the airport. It will work out well. You can still go on to Chelan and enjoy the lake."
"Yeah, maybe," was Helen's answer.
Good old Gerry opened the passenger door of the BMW and climbed in. Helen looked at the coffee still in the cup I brought her, grimaced, then threw it out as she gave me a tiny smile. Then she walked around behind the BMW and opened the door. I followed behind her on my way to my rig while admiring her walk. Opening the drivers door, she gave me a genuine smile, "Duncan, your apology for running into me is unnecessary; you're the only good thing that's happened so far today. You can, run into me again, any time." Then she slid into the car. Her dress riding well up her thighs as she did so, giving me a wonderful look at legs that deserved to be called gams. They were among the nicest I have ever seen. Smiling mischievously she pulled her legs slowly into the car before shutting the door. Watching those long, long legs I thought my heart was going to stop. Giving me another tiny smile she cranked the engine and pulled smoothly away from the curb. She was going well past the speed limit of 70 when she whipped onto the freeway just a moment later.
Sighing I tossed the extra coffee into one of the concrete trash receptacles before moseying back to my motorhome and following in her tire prints, albeit a whole lot slower. Motorhome's just aren't built for that kind of speed. The day was brighter from having met her, but with her departure the grass was a touch less green, the sky a smidgen paler a blue. She would be driving west toward Ritzville and then slingshot around to head east back to Spokane at the first off ramp. She would be passing me going back the other way before I ever got close to Ritzville. Meeting her had been a real pleasure.
Meeting her husband had been a pain, but she more than offset loudmouth's irritating ways.