This story was written as a prequel to "Quartet, Ingrid," or as it is now titled "Ingrid." It was not included in the original story, but it will help fill in some of the blanks.
The Walnut Creek rancher was heating up quickly and it was only eleven am. It was going to be another long, hot autumn day. Steve Inhalt was seated at his office desk, his hands propping up his chin as he studied another in a long string of financial reports. He was trying to decide where to move $50,000 U.S. from his moribund Grandee Gypsum account to something more active and upwardly trending. He was barely aware when Diana asked him if he wanted anything at the store on her way out to the market.
"No thanks dear."
In a moment, the screen door snapped closed. He heard the car start and move out of the driveway. He resumed his deliberations. It was something he had decided a few days ago. Get out of the building materials market for now and look for an unlikely new winner. He became conscious of the building heat and got up to turn down the temperature on the air conditioner. His concentration hadn't been very good this morning.
Diana White was his first and only girlfriend. He met her in his homeroom at high school at the start of Grade 11 and summoning up all his courage, asked her out on a date at Halloween. To his surprise, she accepted and even more to his surprise, they had a good time and got along very well. She was a slim, willowy 5' 8" attractive blonde with dark brown eyes, and a dark, almost Mediterranean complexion.
Diana was also blessed with very rich parents. He had no idea why she wasn't in private school. Her father was a well known architect and her mother was a socialite who seemed to have her name in the society columns at least once a month for one charity or another. At first, he felt somewhat uncomfortable around them. His background was much more modest. His father was a civil engineer and his mother a housewife.
Despite the social inequity, he and Diana became very close and were soon recognized as "a couple" at the school social events. Their sexual activity was limited to kissing, groping her breasts, fondling thighs, and once in a while, mutual masturbation. Diana lacked enthusiasm for the intimate moments. She wasn't cold, but certainly wasn't adventuresome. His frustration, combined with typical teenage raging hormones, sent him home many nights with a painfully rigid erection and little recourse but to relieve himself on his own.
When they graduated from high school, they both enrolled in the local college, and while Steve studied finance and economics, Diana took liberal arts courses with no clear sense of what she wanted to accomplish. At the beginning of their second year, Steve convinced her to share a studio apartment on campus with him to cut down on the commuting time each day.
They had become intimate that summer when Diana finally succumbed to his pleadings. It was messy and uncomfortable for them both and Steve felt guilty immediately afterward. Diana, strangely, was less upset and accepted their new relationship in a more equable state. She had changed, and it was obvious that she now thought of herself as a woman and not a girl. She still lacked a sense of adventure in their lovemaking, but was a warm and willing partner. Steve gradually got over his guilt and realized that he was now in an adult relationship with a lovely young woman.
He had put himself through college with his stock market earnings. It was unlikely that many other students at any university could say the same thing. He had begun investing as a spur of the moment decision with a windfall $1500 stake from his grandmother, and when it turned out well he got interested in doing more. It became his hobby first, but a few reversals soon taught him the facts of economic life on the stock exchange.
In his typical fashion, he began to analyze the market. First he broke it down into segments and then broke each segment down into winners and losers. Within a few months, he began to realize he had a knack for identifying winners. His choices included some big names, some small, and some in between, but in the end, he picked more winners than losers. Within two years, he had earned over $50,000 on paper. Not bad for a $1500 first investment. He cashed out enough to pay his tuition and living expenses for the first year of college and began to reinvest the balance. He would need to be just as successful next year and for the next three years to complete his plan and his education.
Diana had no such concerns. Her parents had paid her tuition and while they were not thrilled about her decision to live on campus, they reluctantly agreed to fund that as well. It took her some time to confess that she was cohabiting with Steve and that almost brought about an abrupt end to their living arrangement. With much pleading and cajoling, she finally convinced her father that she knew what she was doing and would be a responsible daughter. Her mother was less worried, and Diana was sure it was she who convinced her father to agree to the "modern arrangement." They had accepted Steve after some concerns about his modest social background. He proved to be bright, self-reliant, and ambitious without being aggressive. He was very easy to like.
They graduated from college a week apart and both sets of parents attended the convocation ceremonies, making Diana and Steve very happy. Steve's parents were divorced, his mother living nearby in San Francisco and his father in Eastern Canada. Both attended but didn't sit together, his mother leaving after briefly congratulating both he and Diana. She politely acknowledged Diana's parents.
Steve was still a Canadian citizen on a student visa. His father and mother had moved to the Bay area from Vancouver when his father was transferred by his international engineering company. His mother adapted well to the California lifestyle, but his father was unhappy with his job, combined with concerns about their safety and his dislike of U.S. Government foreign policy. He pleaded with Steve's mother to return to Canada but she refused, and eventually they recognized that separation and divorce were inevitable.
Steve was fifteen when his father left. Within a year, his mother had begun a relationship with what would turn out to be a string of "boyfriends." She was a young-looking thirty-seven year old woman and was enjoying the attention of a variety of men. Steve disapproved, but could do little to change her new lifestyle. They remained in touch, but somewhat estranged after he moved out of the townhouse and into his campus apartment. His father remained closer, often calling on the phone and encouraging him in everything he was doing. He had planned to travel to Ontario to visit him the summer after his third year, but with the extra pressure of his impending final year and graduation, the visit got put off until the next year. His father had not remarried, and as far as Steve knew, was not seeing anyone. As a forty-something bachelor with a good job, modest good looks, and a sunny disposition, it surprised Steve that there was no one new in his life.
After graduation, Steve had applied for and was granted a green card by U.S. Immigration. He secured a loan from a local bank using his securities as collateral and bought a house in Walnut Creek. It was a modest rancher with a single carport, but in a nice neighborhood. He had listened carefully to his real estate agent's recommendations and chose location over style.
The front and back yard were formerly grass, long since burned out. Steve had no gardening or landscaping skills while Diana was an accomplished gardener and loved the challenge of restoring the outside of the house. She had no plan to seek employment after graduation. Steve's investments and an attractive offer from a mid-size securities firm provided a good income. Thus, she could invest her time on the inside and outside of their new home. If she wasn't planting flowers and weeding the long forgotten rock-garden, she was painting the inside walls and buying curtains and wall coverings.
With a little muscle help from Steve, they installed an automated underground sprinkling system in the front and back and within a few weeks the lawn was green, the flowers blooming and the whole appearance of the property had changed for the better. Diana nagged Steve into staining the outside siding a pale adobe sand colour to complement the rustic brick skirt and front entrance. A couple of months later, their home looked like one of the more expensive ones in the neighborhood with only a minimal investment. Steve was very happy with the result and proud of Diana for the work she had put in to improve their home.
Steve realized that his relationship with Diana was still informal and knew that sooner or later he would have to face up to making their union legal. Diana, for her part, put no pressure on him to marry her. She seemed to be content with their common-law relationship and perhaps because California law protected her, she didn't feel insecure.
Steve felt their relationship was incomplete and would only feel more comfortable when they were married. Yet, something in the back of his head was nagging at him and prevented him from doing what would simply be confirming their union. Finally, one Friday evening, when he had returned from the office and they were enjoying a glass of wine on the back yard deck, he turned to Diana.
"Diana, I think we should get married." Just like that, he had blurted it out. "I've been thinking about this for a while and I think it's time we made it official."
.... There is more of this story ...