We met at the Coldwell Banker Real Estate office. She was looking at pictures of houses for sale on the bulletin board that was hanging on the wall. A sales person came out and ushered her into a small office. The realtor addressed her as Miss Billings.
My eyes followed her as she went across the room. She knew it too. She turned to close the office door and her glance held mine. The woman looked like she was a hippy, but that movement had been dying out after its peak of twenty-five years ago.
My mind stayed on her though, while I was waiting. Her clothes looked to be homemade and all except her skirt was hand-knitted. She was even wearing a small, knitted, round hat. Her skirt was of a loud, flowered print. I didn't get a good idea of her figure, dressed as she was, but she was tall and had pleasant features. She just looked as someone I would like to know.
I had no idea I would ever have a conversation with her. I wasn't one to push myself forward onto anyone. I guess I looked well enough, for people never hesitated to approach me. I was all right then as long as someone else made the first move.
It wasn't but a few minutes before another salesman came out and introduced himself to me and ushered me into another office. Single family homes, I found, were priced out of my range. I had a decent job as an accountant, but no established credit history. I guess I would be renting for awhile. The salesman was shaking my hand in the reception area, telling me he was sorry he couldn't sell me a home.
Just then the door opened and Miss Billings came out and I was hearing the same words as I had just heard from my salesman. "I'm sorry about this. You wouldn't be interested in half of a duplex, would you? We have several of those listed and they are only half to two thirds the cost of a stand alone."
"No, I don't think so. I wouldn't have any control over who owned the other half, would I?"
"Only if you purchased first. We have a couple with that contingency."
"May I see what one looks like?"
"Come back into the office. I have pictures and stats."
My salesman asked me, "Is that something you would consider? I'm fairly new as a salesman and didn't think of that as an option."
"I'd look, but I would have the same concerns as the lady who is looking at them in the other office."
"Maybe you would like to look at them together. That would solve some problems for both of you. I'll ask."
He knocked on the other office door and stuck his head inside. I was far enough away so I couldn't hear what he was saying, but soon he motioned to me. "Come in Mr. Bennet. If you and Miss Billings see what you like, we can all go view it together." Introductions were made as I entered the office. I met Diane Billings and she met me, Billy Bennet.
We did agree on a duplex to look at. It would be tomorrow afternoon before the realtors could arrange for us to see it. We made the appointment, and as we were leaving the realtors, I asked Diane if we could get to know each other a little more over dinner.
"I would like that. You aren't an axe murderer are you?"
"Nope, I'm not. Not on the first date anyway. Seriously, if you are concerned, call my mother in the phone book listed as Mildred Bennet. You don't have any old boyfriends around that are jealous do you?"
"No. I do have a few who I have remained friendly with though."
"I can see why. You are quite attractive."
"Thank you, you aren't so bad looking yourself. Where will we be dining?"
"There is a little place on Elliot Street just off Main that I frequent."
"Would what I am wearing be appropriate?"
"Definitely." This was one of the most expensive places to eat in town. For some reason I wanted to impress Diane Billings.
Over dinner I found out more about Diane. Her parents lived in Manhatten NY and were originally hippies. She confided they still were and living much as they had back in that era. At one time they had lived in a commune not far from here. Grown up now, Diane had come up to Vermont looking for the places her folks talked about so often. She found a few of the people that were friends of her parents and decided to stay. Diane had just landed a position with a law firm as a paralegal.
When I found out where this law firm was located, I burst out laughing. I was only two doors away at the accounting firm next door. "Hey if we buy a house together, we can go to work together. We could alternate driving and save half the cost of driving into town. Where are you staying now?"
"A motel near exit one. How about you?"
"I live in Putney with my mother. She has a companion after three years of being without my father. He died suddenly from a heart attack and I think it is time I move out. I hate to cramp my mothers activities. She is relatively young and although she loved my father, she realizes it is a long time alone if she doesn't find someone to replace him."
"That's too bad. How long were your mother and father married?"
"Twenty-three years. Why?"
"I asked because, I have a thing about marriage. I think two people shouldn't be together more than twenty years. My parents are married and fight all the time. I wish they would divorce and start over with someone new. They still have different sexual partners just as they did when they lived out at Johnson's pasture in Guilford twenty some odd years ago."
"Maybe they love each other."
"Love. To me that is a word that has no meaning. If I have a sexual partner, that is one word I won't want to hear. It is too abstract and just for writers and poets to obsess over to sell more books. I can see where two people can have an attraction for each other, but it is just a cover for lust that happens between us animals."
"You are entitled to your opinion, but think about it. Look at me. Do you see anything about me to love that doesn't have lust attached to it?"
"I agree with the lust part, but I don't know you yet. Love could come after we are together awhile."
"I doubt it. Okay, say we have sex and you like the feelings that brings to you. Don't you get the same rush with the first bite of a creamy cone. After that the flavor diminishes and by the time you get to the last bite, you are wondering why you didn't buy the small cone instead of the bigger one. The joy and flavor just doesn't stay with you. So, say a particular woman is yours for twenty years. The taste and flavor is gone or severely diminished. Time for a change, wouldn't you say?"
"You're all wrong. What about your parents? Don't you feel any filial love for them? Or how do they feel about you? They must feel love for you."
"My parents have never said how they feel about me. They made sure I was fed and clothed and they paid for my education and handed me a check to help me find a place to live. What do I feel for them? Well they gave me life and I'm thankful for that. What am I supposed to feel? I am the same as the rest of the animal kingdom. When I was old enough, I was pushed out of the nest and stopped being nurtured. So I'm thankful and I said that to them. Let's stop this discussion right here."
"Someday, Diane, you will change your mind. I doubt it will be me that changes it though. If you and I hooked up, I would know I would be gone in twenty years. I want more from a woman than that."
"In the meantime though, I bet if I offered myself to you for sex, you would take me up on the offer, wouldn't you?"
"Maybe, but as I said before, I don't know you yet."
Yes we did buy the duplex together. Two bedrooms in each half. It was located in Newfane. This was convenient to our places of work as we came down Rte 30. Diane could pull right into her law office. I had to drive around the common and park. I could look across and see where she worked. When we were in her vehicle with her driving, I just walked to work from her car.
Diane rushed to furnish her new quarters, whereas I took my time. I was in no hurry, so I just purchased a king-sized bed to sleep on. I was into antiques and reproductions and planned on adding a piece as I could afford it. She was horrified at how I was living and invited me over for meals or to watch television.
"You wait. I know what I want and if I can't find it in a reasonable length of time, I will build it. I have all of my Dad's woodworking tools and he taught me a lot about building things. You'll love what my home looks like when I finish furnishing it."
"Love! You said that word and now you are using it to describe feelings for an inanimate object. This whole concept just doesn't fly with me" I shrugged refusing to debate with her.
In return for the meals I received from my neighbor during the week, I took Diane out for dinner on a weekly schedule. When I ran out of high class restaurants in Brattleboro, we traveled to Keene, NH. Winter came and I convinced Diane that we only needed one snow blower and I would use this to clear our driveways, hers and mine.
I finally found a 1950's green and yellow enameled kitchen table and set about building four straight chairs to put around it. They were simple, solid, and serviceable. These were painted in the same shade of green as the table, with the fiddle backs of the same shade of yellow. I striped the legs and the rungs the same way. They were pretty damned attractive sitting around the table when finished.
.... There is more of this story ...