Susan Pierce tripped on the next to the bottom court house step and fell headlong into a broad, muscular chest. Susan and the chest fell to the sidewalk in a tangle of arms and legs. She lost the paper crumpled in her hand but she really didn't care. She knew what it said all too well.
Susan could have blamed the tears that she was trying to hold back for the fall. She could have blamed the sunlight in her eyes or the gusting wind that was blowing or a million other things but she didn't. She had been a klutz all her life and at the ripe old age of 34 she really should start getting used to it. Most people have an awkward stage after they get their teen growth spurt because their brain hasn't learned to coordinate all the different sized body parts. Susan never grew out of that stage.
Susan's growth spurt didn't come until the beginning of her junior year in high school. Up until then she had been the laughing stock of the rest of her class. She was the little girl that never grew up and the girls in her class never let her forget it. Susan was constantly humiliated in the showers after gym because she had to walk in naked with her little girl body among all those round asses and bouncing boobs. Susan had looked like a ten year old right up until her junior year and her growth spurt didn't really do that much for her. She went from 4' 10" to 5' 0' even. Her boobs went from board flat to B cups. Her hips went from no shape to round but she still a tiny little thing. Her weight jumped from 85 to 100 pounds and that was on a good day. She was always small boned but after she sprouted her dad complemented her and said that at least she was well proportioned. He scoffed at the girls with the big jugs as he described them and said he would much rather be with a girl with small boobs and could think than a girl with big boobs that could offer nothing else. Her dad said her brains would carry her farther than a body would. Susan figured her dad was obligated to say things like that.
The teasing shifted from her little girl body to her clumsiness after her growth spurt. Susan could walk down a hall alone with nothing in the way and trip on her own feet. No one wanted her on their team during gym because she could take out half of her own team, and she had on more than one occasion.
There was only one time that Susan had used her reputation as a klutz to her advantage. The senior prom was a big deal in the little town of 10000 and no one was going to let it go to waste. The photographer was set up with his big camera to take the official pictures of the prom goers under an arch made of fake palm fronds. There were at least a dozen people, parents and students, taking pictures so the flashing lights were almost continuous. Susan and her date, Danny Rangel, were waiting to have their picture taken. They were right behind Nancy Grayson and her date, one of the football jocks. Nancy had been one of the more vicious teasers throughout high school. She was one of the in-crowd and Susan was her favorite target. Nancy had been wearing a frilly pink outfit with a full, flowing skirt that reached the floor. It was a pretty dress and it should have been. The rumor was that her dad had spent over $1000 to have it designed and tailored for his little girl from one of the fancy Scottsdale dress shops. Susan suspected that Nancy was the one responsible for that rumor. Susan took a short step forward just before Nancy and her date moved forward to take their place under the arched palm fronds. Susan's foot came down on the back of Nancy's skirt. Nancy stumbled as she tried to move forward and the skirt ripped lose and came off. The high and mighty Nancy Grayson was standing there in her frilly pink top and white panties that looked like they belonged on an old woman. The flashing lights of the cameras seemed to redouble at that moment and dozens of pictures of Nancy Grayson floated around town for the rest of the school year. There was the one of her just looking startled and her date looking down at the bare legs of his date. He was grinning. Susan's favorite was the one of Nancy trying to cover her crotch with the hand that had been holding her date's hand. It looked like she was pushing his hand between her legs. Susan still got a laugh out of the scene but it didn't make up for all the humiliation from the teasing she received before she developed or the teasing she received after she sprouted for her clumsiness.
The worst had been at her senior graduation but it really wasn't Susan's fault. She was wearing that long robe they make you wear for graduation and she had to climb the three steps to the little platform to be presented her diploma. Susan stumbled on the top step and fell against Mr. Crandall, the district superintendent and knocked him off the platform. He broke his wrist and leg in the fall and had to be taken away in an ambulance. Mr. Blankenship, the High School Principal had to take over and the whole graduation was delayed by over half an hour while they waited for the ambulance to take Mr. Crandall away. Susan still cringed at the way Mr. Blankenship had tried to keep his distance while handing the diploma to her. He had actually bent forward to hand her the document and shook her hand with his arm fully extended. The wary expression on the man's face became all to familiar over the years. Fifteen years later and people still pointed her out when she walked down the street. Even her daughters had asked her about how much of a klutz she had been in school. Apparently, Susan was a school legend. She couldn't lie because they knew she hadn't really changed that much and was still a klutz. She did tell her daughters that the prom thing had been kind of on purpose and she even showed them the pictures she kept of the incident. After all, they were dealing with Nancy Grayson's daughter, Sara Johnson, and their description of how the girl acted reminded Susan very much of her mother.
And now here she was. Susan was sprawled on top of a broad, muscular chest on the side walk in front of the court house. She had just been evicted from the dumpy little trailer they had been living in. The paper that had disappeared with a gust of wind in the collision was the official, court certified eviction notice. She had lost her job as a bookkeeper two months before just because she had accidently spilled coffee on the computer that had all the company records. Susan was pretty sure that she could have talked them out of firing her if it had just been the lost data. It was the fire the incident caused that shut down the furniture store during tax return season that was the final straw. It wasn't much of a job but it paid enough to make ends meet when her salary was combined with the infrequent child support payments that she received. It wasn't much of a place to live either but it was all she could afford and now she had seven days to find someplace else to live for her and two teen daughters.
"Are you OK?" a deep male voice rumbled the question.
Susan could feel the vibration of the words against the whole front of her body. The vibrations felt good and seemed to emphasize all the problems that she was having. She couldn't help it. She really tried but she couldn't stop herself from bursting out in tears.
Bill Miller wasn't a small man. He stood 6'4" and he weighed close to 250 pounds, none of it fat. Bill was 39 years old and half owner of a small construction company. His brother Jack was the other half of the company but, since Jack was married and had kids, Bill was the onsite project manager for their jobs by default. Jack took care of the bids, supplies, and all the back office details from the Phoenix office that Bill hated. The thought of a nine to five desk job gave Bill cold sweats. The Phoenix office consisted of a little office trailer on the construction lot adjacent to Jack's house. Their parents had left the property to both of them so technically Bill was half owner of it all but he considered it Jack's house. Jack had won a bid on a construction project in Show Low, AZ and Bill was here to get it started. He was looking forward to the job because it would last through the whole summer. Summer in the Arizona White Mountains at 70 to 80 degrees was certainly nicer than the 110+ heat of Phoenix. Unfortunately, all the paperwork for the permits had to be presented in person which is what Bill was trying to do when he was knocked down. He watched forlornly as the 25 pages needed for local licenses and permits swirled in the wind like large snowflakes and disappeared down the street.
He looked down his nose at an unruly mop of brown curls against his chest about two inches below his chin. He could tell it was a girl or a woman because of the hard twin pressures poking against his stomach just below his sternum. It was probably a girl because she was so light. She didn't weigh much of anything. Her weight was almost negligible with her lying on top of him like that. She must have hit him pretty hard to have knocked him down. Some very big guys had tried to take him down on construction sites and none had been successful yet. For this little thing coming out of nowhere to flatten him was surprising. She must have been moving fast.
"Are you OK?" Bill asked as he looked down at the brown curls. He noticed how good the curls smelled, like the fresh smell in the woods. He noticed how good the slight body felt against him and regretted breaking up with his girl friend a few months before. Well, not really regretted it. After all, he had caught her with two guys behind the place she worked serving drinks. He did regret not having her services for the last few months though. And now, this girl laying on him felt good but he ignored the good feeling. He didn't mess with kids and it had to be just a little girl.
Bill's words must have triggered something because the girl suddenly burst into tears. Bill hated a girl crying worse that just about anything. He would do anything to stop her from crying. Bill tentatively patted the girl on the back with his big hand and it almost covered her whole back. She kept crying and her hands gripped his shirt. Bill wondered what to do next.
"Ah, honey, ah, are you OK?" Bill asked again.
The girl cried even harder but responded by shaking her head no.
"OK," Bill thought to himself. "She's hurt." Aloud he asked, "Where are you hurt honey?"
The girl shook her head again and continued crying. Bill didn't know what to do. He was afraid to move because if she were really hurt bad then his movement could hurt her more.
It took a little longer but after a minute the girl sniffled, "I, I, I'm OK." She sniffed again. "I'm not hurt."
"Well, can I sit up then?" Bill asked. "People might think it is kind of strange with us lying on the sidewalk like this."
"They won't think I'm any stranger than they already do," the girl cried piteously. "But you can sit up."
She didn't move so after a moment Bill just sat up. It wasn't an effort sitting up because she was so light but she continued to cling to his chest and cry. He looked around for some help but, though a few people glanced at them curiously, no one paid them any particular attention. One woman shook her head in disgust and kept walking.
Bill easily got to his feet with the girl still clinging to him. He tried to support her but didn't know where to put his hands. "How much trouble can a grown man get into with his hands cupping the butt of a kid he doesn't know in front of the court house?" he wondered and shivered.
"Ah, honey, where are your parents?" Bill asked nervously.
The girl froze for a moment, still sniffling, and then looked up at him. The wild brown curls framed an almost elfin looking face with green eyes wide with outrage. She was not a little girl.
"My parents," the girl/woman sputtered as she tried to get coherent words out around her sniffles. "Where are my parents?" she sputtered repeating his words and she made them sound like a whip crack. She pushed away from the big man and looked at his belly just a little above his belt buckle. Her eyes traveled up as she continued to splutter until, with her neck craned back to see his face, she finally said something semi coherent. "Why don't you ask me if I want a lollypop too so I will quit crying you, you, you giant," she asked sarcastically.
Susan didn't think calling this hulking man a giant was far off the mark and didn't think it was derogatory but she couldn't think of anything bad to call him that fit. Today was the culmination of everything bad that happened over the past two months; over her whole life.
"Ah, I'm sorry miss. I really didn't mean to offend you," Bill tried to apologize. Even in his confusion and consternation he saw that she didn't have a ring on.
"Men," Susan said but the way she said it sounded more like a four letter word than a description of half the human species. She shook her head and looked down the street where the eviction notice had disappeared. She shook her head again as she decided she didn't need it. She knew that she had to get out of that dump and didn't need a piece of paper to remind her.
Susan turned on her heel and stomped to her POS car still sniffling and mumbling to herself. POS means 'piece of shit' for those of you that are uninformed. Susan's car certainly fit that description. The title said that it was a 10 year old Ford Taurus but there were many parts on it that were a lot older. The hood was a different color than the sides, except it did kind of match one rear door in a faded blue sort of way. The front passenger's door was a different vintage altogether and wouldn't stay latched unless it was locked. But, the car passed the safety tests and the pollution tests and it was paid for. "Maybe we can live in the car for the summer," Susan mumbled as she slammed the door. She liked slamming doors when she was mad. She had to close it again because she forgot to hold the handle when she closed it. The driver's door wouldn't latch unless you held the handle. She put the key in and turned it in the ignition.
Rer, rer, rer, rer ... rer ... rer ... rer ... click, click, click.
Susan released the key and sat back in the seat. She stared at the dash. She felt her lip trembling again and could feel the tears well up in her eyes. Susan wasn't a crier. She couldn't remember the last time she had cried. It was probably at her parent's funeral nearly nine years ago. She hadn't even cried when she divorced that two timing jerk, Danny Rangel. Yes, the same one from the prom. He was supposed to be the love of her life. He was the father of her children. He also needed WD-40 on his zipper to maintain the speed he needed so he could use it with every slut within 100 miles of Show Low. It just seemed like everything was overwhelming her right now. She didn't know what to do next.
Bill watched the small woman stomp towards her car and let out a sigh. He had tried to apologize hadn't he? There wasn't anything else he could do. Bill looked down the street in the direction all his papers had gone and decided that it would be faster to print off another packet and fill it out again rather than try to round up all those papers. "Another six hours of hated paperwork," he thought shaking his head. Some of them were probably half way to New Mexico by now. He heard the sound of a car trying to start and turned back to see what the woman would do next. She settled back in the seat after the last click and just sat there staring. Bill could see her clearly because she didn't have any of that sissy tint on her windows. Not even the thin band of tint at the top of the wind shield that all cars had now. He could see her lower lip start to tremble and her eyes glisten with the promise of more tears. Bill sighed again in resignation and walked over to the driver side of the car and tapped lightly on the window.
Susan turned her head to the side at the tapping sound. The big man was standing beside her car and was tapping on her window. She slowly rolled the window down. Her windows were manual. She told her daughters the manual windows provided badly needed exercise that they would miss out on if they had push button windows. Besides, the push buttons were just something else to break and the manual windows were fragile enough. Neither rear window would roll down. Susan just looked at the man after the window was all the way down.
"Ah, Lady, do you need a little help?" Bill asked.
The question seemed to hit Susan's funny bone or something. She started to laugh. The tears started again but she was laughing at the same time. She knew there was a touch of hysteria in the laugh. She could tell from the look on the big man's face that he recognized it too.
"Mister, I could use more than a little help but if you can just help me get this heap started then I would be forever in your debt," Susan finally gasped out.
Bill hesitated a moment and wondered if he should try to get away while the getting was good. The woman sounded more than a little hysterical and people like that could be dangerous. He looked at her size again and shrugged. "She couldn't even carry a big gun," he muttered before saying, "Pop the hood and let me look."
Susan looked at the big man sharply. She thought she heard him muttering something about a gun but she did need help. She leaned forward to pull the hood release lever. It wouldn't budge. She pulled again and nothing happened.
The big man sighed and said, "Let me try it."
Bill leaned into the window and reached down to the lever and pulled. The plastic lever snapped off in his hand. He straightened slowly looking at the broken piece of plastic in his hand in disbelief.
"Damn," he muttered.
Bill walked around to the front of the car and looked under the front of the hood. He straightened and gave Susan an accusatory look as his hands did something by the grill. Finally he raised his hands with the piece of bailing wire that was holding the hood down.
"I don't think your hood latch worked," Bill called sarcastically before lifting the hood.
The springs didn't hold the hood up which Bill discovered when the hood settled on the back of his head after staying up just long enough to fool him. He held it up with one hand while he inspected the engine compartment. Bill decided that it was pretty amazing that the car ever worked. He recognized parts from at least seven models of cars and three different manufacturers, one of them Japanese. He saw a wisp of smoke coming from a canister looking thing attached to what he thought was the starter coil. He didn't recognize what the canister was supposed to do or where or what it came from but he was pretty sure it shouldn't be smoking. He was shaking his head when he closed the hood.
"I'm sorry lady. I don't even know where to start under there," Bill called.
Susan stared at Bill blankly for a moment before calling back, "Does that mean you can't get it to start?"
"Ah, well, yeah. That is what it means," Bill said. He didn't want her to start crying again and it looked like she was about to.
Then her shoulders slumped and she looked down. "Ok, thanks for trying," she called back in a quieter voice. She just sat there looking at the dash board.
Bill knew that he should just walk away. He had done everything that he could hadn't he. This woman had already caused him another six hours work. He had to get back to his 5th wheel to print out another license packet and start filling it out. The project hadn't even started and he already lost a day thanks to this woman. Bill told himself to walk away but his feet carried him to the driver's side window again. His feet were one of his bodily parts that were always getting him in trouble. They were always taking him someplace that he should probably avoid. He wasn't sure what he was going to do. He didn't know what he wanted to do but he did know that getting away from this woman was near the top of the list. Bill couldn't believe it when he heard himself ask,"Lady, do you need a ride someplace?" His mouth was another body part that got him in trouble.
Susan looked up at the big man for a moment before replying hopelessly, "I guess I could use a ride home."
"No problem," Bill said smiling. He liked the outraged green eyes better than these listless green eyes.
Susan grabbed her purse and got out of the car. She slammed the door and Bill noticed that it didn't latch. He also noticed that she had left the keys in it and the driver's side window rolled down.
"Em, Lady, Don't you want to take the keys and roll up the window," Bill asked?
Susan stopped and looked at the car for a long moment before saying, "No one in their right mind would buy this thing. I have been told that thieves are pretty stupid so maybe one will come along that is stupid enough to steal it, if they can figure out how to start it. If they do, that would probably save me the ticket I am bound to get if I leave it here very long. Since I can't afford the ticket, let's hope," she said with a matter of fact tone. She looked back at Bill and continued, "So let's leave the window down and the keys in it. Maybe I will get lucky because I really am due for some luck."
Bill could see her backbone straighten and her shoulders square as she spoke. Her eyes had some of that fire back in them when she looked back at him and he thought he was glad. She might be a little thing but she wasn't a softie and he liked the sound of determination in her voice and the way she bounced back.
Bill smiled at her and pointed towards the end of the parking area. "I am parked down that direction." He hesitated a moment then held out his hand. "My name is Bill Miller," he introduced himself.
Susan smiled back as her hand was engulfed in Bill's big hand and said, "I am Susan Pierce." A chagrined look crossed her face and she continued, "I'm, ah, sorry for calling you a giant."
Bill grinned and it made him look like a little boy. He looked like a very big little boy but a boy none the less. "If that's the worst thing I am called this week then I think I can survive," he said with a deep booming laugh as he shook her hand.