THE LETTER AND A VISIT
The letter lay open on the desk in front of him. He'd already had a busy morning and read the letter, after it came in with the morning mail, a few hours ago. His secretary/legal assistant Jane knocked on his door then and poked her head inside.
"She'll be here in about 15, boss." she said.
She hesitated then, as usual a good reader of moods, especially of his moods:
"Yes," he said softly. "I don't look forward to meeting with her but it's got to be done, if anything is going to be settled. It just sickens me, all of it. I've tried not to deal with it."
She was leaning against the office door as he recited and rambled.
"Sorry, Janie!" he said, "I won't go on."
"I know you're upset about it, and that's so unlike you and the way you are normally. Can I do anything?" she asked.
"No, Janie," he answered. "I'll deal with her. Though there is precious little to deal with at this point."
"Oh, yes," she sighed, "The will and all."
He gave a sardonic laugh at that point: "Great way to put it really; I mean the 'and all' part of it."
She smiled ruefully: "Sorry for my choice!"
"No," he went on. "It's really only a temporary thing. I'm fine and will be fine, and this will finish this little drama. I'll make sure of it, and I'm getting to the point of not really caring about it."
"Okay, if you're fine," she went on, "Then I'll be waiting and will ring you, when she's here."
She left him, then with his thoughts, thoughts about how it all happened, how it went and the shocking end of all of this business, what he thought of as 'his father's folly'.
He gave himself those few moments to think about it. He clearly remembered the initial shock of his father introducing a new 'lady friend', as his Dad had put it.
This was the kind of thing that he'd often read about, heard about but never in his wildest dreams suspected would happen in his own household, to his own father.
His dad, at the age of 77 had taken on this 20 some year old woman, as a 'woman friend' and in a short period of time had actually married her. He remembered that it didn't bear thinking about at the time. It was too absurd for him to get his mind around it. But it became a fact of life.
It was at that time that he'd moved out of the big house, after talking to his dad about giving them some privacy and went to an apartment. That had been the first hard part, leaving the home where his pleasant memories of his Mom and Dad were all lodged, and leaving with truly mixed emotions, which he hardly dared even to admit to himself.
He also recalled the shock of meeting her. He'd expected what he thought of as 'the usual', that is: blond, stacked bimbo! He was so sorry that his dad had succumbed to such a cliche late in life but realized that there was precious little that he could do about it.
His shock only increased, when he finally met Amanda.
She wasn't the usual; she wasn't what he expected. She turned out to be a quiet brunette. Very pretty indeed, and yes, 'stacked' but pretty much outside of the mold of what he'd been expecting. She'd been from the first, pleasant, very nice to him, almost apologetic.
"After all," he'd thought at the time, "She was in her 20'as and he himself was already 40."
That was was enough of a shock to his system. The other shocks came with a certain regularity, as the old man, his beloved father, proved to be enjoying a second adolescence with Amanda.
Then they'd married, in a quiet ceremony and only told him about it, once their 'elopement trip', as they called it, was finished. At that point his astonishment only grew and he began to mentally simply wander away from the whole incident.
Jered stopped his rambling reverie at that point and went to the office bathroom. He wanted to make sure that he didn't look as care worn as he felt. He ran a quick brush through his gray-dark curly hair and made sure that he looked spruce. He was determined that she would not have him looking tatty and morose, for this interview with the StepMom, as he thought of her.
He cut himself off at that point.
"No," he said slowly, "You're just going to let this go, all of it, and get on with your life. You don't need any of his money or the property. She got it and that's fine. What you make and have is more than enough for an older bachelor!"
He smiled ruefully about the 'older bachelor' comment, and promised himself to be careful to avoid self pity. It hadn't been part of his life up to now. It hadn't even been part of his life, when his dad had died and left everything to Amanda. He wouldn't make it part of his life now! He was determined about that.
He made a mental note to keep his running appointment at the gym today. The run, the workout would, he thought, help him get through this final act in the comedy that had become his life-family lately. He used the workouts, the running, to keep him in shape and help him keep his perspective on things. It usually worked for him quite well. He was hoping that it would work today also, help getting all of this behind him and in perspective. He had, after all, always been able to see the reality of things and wouldn't make a difference with this situation. He lectured himself steadily about the fact that it was all his father's to deal with as he would and that was that.
It was then that Jane interrupted him to tell him that Mrs. Amanda Wilson was there for her appointment.
"Okay, Janie," he said, "Show her in, and you can probably leave now; I'll close up, when she and I are done. I'm going to the gym, after work."
"Do you good, boss!" Jane said. "But I'll be here for a bit; I have a few things to catch up on."
Then, with a knock on the door, Jane opened his office door and stepped back as Amanda Wilson, 'his StepMom', he thought caustically, hopefully for the last time, entered.
She was dressed demurely, in a black skirt and blouse ensemble, without jewelry, apart from simple diamond studs in her ear lobs, his father's gift, he supposed.
He stood and gave her a smile and went to her, extending his hand. It was awkward for a moment, when he sensed that she'd planned on a hug. But he was wary of that familiarity and wouldn't allow it. She shrunk back, he thought just a bit.
He cursed himself at that point: "There's no reason to be a brute about this. What has happened, by his will, is past and you won't gain your mental balance back by being surly."
"Amanda," he said pleasantly, "Nice to see you."
And of course there were things that he was choosing to ignore: mainly her stunning beauty: somewhat tall, though not as tall as he, rich, flowing dark brown hair, and the wide hips and prominent breasts were things that he simply almost manually pushed out of his mind, his inner thoughts. He would not let himself get caught in that kind of trap, even if it were so tempting.
He felt more calm, once he'd gone through these mental exercises, lasting only the fraction of a second and asked her to sit down in his seating area, where he too took a chair.
"Coffee? Tea?" he asked.
"No, thank you," she said, "I know that I'm imposing on your day, your time as it is."
"It's not a problem," he said evenly, "We probably had to meet and have a final go at all of what's happened."
He meant that as a prelude to what he was looking at as a finality, a closure of this whole episode in his life.
It was not apparently the way that she took it at all.
"Yes, I agree," she said, "And I'm grateful for your time, and wish to ask for your help."
"Help?" he asked softly, still wary but trying not to show it.
"Yes, Jered," she said, and stopped to think a moment. "How do I say this?" she mused, almost to herself.
He simply gave her time to collect herself and say what she had on her mind. He'd been a lawyer for many, many years, going on 16 now, and had a very lucrative practice and had had scads of experience in dealing with such situations. It was just so strange that this situation to be dealt with was his situation! (At least that's the way it seemed. But he put his mental brakes on that kind of thinking and leaned forward just a bit.)
She had tears in her eyes, and it made him wonder about her sincerity and her motives there. But he waited for her to get to what she wanted.
One thing was immediately apparent; she was nervous, really ill at ease. He said nothing but waited for her.
"Don't know exactly where or how to start," she began.
"Take your time," he encouraged, his professionalism kicking in and aiding in the process between the two of them.
"Thank you," she sighed.
She paused again and went on finally: "If you don't mind, I would just like to talk a bit about what's on my mind and we'll see if it leads me to where I need to be with this."
"Fine," he said, smiling at her.
(It was helping him to start seeing her more as a client than as his Step Mother; that, at least, helped to calm his own inner concerns.)
"Let me also tell you that I've been thinking about this in the month's since Dan's death. It's been on my mind a great deal and coming to you is about the only way that I can think of to do something about it."
"I thought of going to Mr Ramen, Dan's lawyer, but this seems to be a better idea to me. So, if you don't mind, I'm going to simply talk a little bit here."
He nodded again and she went into her story.
"I was born in an ugly place and the only light was my Momma. She was my treasure and my joy. As I grew, there was no poppa on the scene at all. As I grew, I had to continually protect myself from the lust of two much older brothers. They seemed to think that I was their property somehow. It was Momma that kept them at bay to a great extent."
She paused then to wipe away accumulated tears.
"Then she died, that lovely, wonderful, long-suffering woman. I left almost immediately. I was 17 and I know that they boys thought that I'd simply stay and take care of the house and their needs. It didn't look like much of a life for me. I just left. My one brother, Van, had a daughter, I remember but not well."
He was fascinated by what she was telling him. He never knew very much about her at all.
"Well, I moved on and took various jobs and slowly, more by an act of will than much of anything got myself a degree."
She looked at him then and said: "I guess you didn't know that."
"No," he said honestly. "What was your degree in?"
She laughed and said: "Now don't laugh at me but it was archeology!"
He gave her a surprised look.
"I know," she said, "I always wanted to be an egyptologist. So, my degree is in archeology with a minor in egyptology. Not very useful."
She gave him a smile then. The smile served to soften him a bit. He was getting a different kind of impression of her through this and beginning to feel self conscious about having judged her harshly. He pushed those thoughts away.
"As you know," she continued, "The university was one of your Dad's interests. It was there that I met him. I was helping with some special guests, showing them around and all. He was very nice to me but I thought nothing of it."
She smiled again and said: "I never took into account his tenacity about things that interested him. He was that way."
"Yes," he agreed, "Dad was that way."
"Well," she said next, "He was there on and off, during those college years, and always invited me to dinner, when he was there. It was always a treat. He was such a gentleman and interested in what interested me. He treated me as much like a beloved daughter as anyone ever has in my life. I liked that."
Here she teared up and had to stop to gain composure.
"He even came to my graduation. It was a big event. Otherwise, no one would have been there for me. It was so grand for me. He took me out to dinner and that was when he proposed." She stopped there for a moment.
"I can hardly tell you how shocked I was. The relationship had never seemed to be that way. But, I guess, all the time he considered that he was wooing me. I have to say that I already loved him in a special way."
She stopped at that point and looked over at Jered:
"I need to say all of this, so that you will understand what I'm trying to tell you here," she said softly. "Please don't be upset with me."
He realized that he was getting a totally different picture of this lovely, young woman, and also realized that he owed her an apology for not giving her a fair chance. He knew that he'd have to deal with that.
"I promise that I won't be upset," he said. "I just have to say, at this point, that I have not been fair at all with you in all of this. I've acted, I guess from my hurt. For that I am truly sorry."
She cried then, and they waited until she calmed down.
"Thank you for saying that," she said, "It means so much to me but I need to go on with this. I'm taking a huge amount of your time."
"Not at all," he said, giving her a smile to encourage her, "It's the end of the day. The only thing that I have to do yet today is run at the track in the gym."'
"Ohh," she said, smiling. Then she went on:
"He explained to me then about the marriage and the way that it would be. He wasn't, he said, sexual any more but hoped that it wouldn't keep me from honoring his proposal."
She waited a moment and then said: "I have to say, and I told him as much, that because of the hassles of my upbringing, sex had not meant that much to me. It was something, as part of his proposal, that I wasn't bothered about."
"He said that if that part of it were okay with me, he'd like to press his proposal," she said.
"I accepted on the spot!" she said next. "I was kind of surprised at myself but I thought of the possibility of being with this wonderful man all the time and it just gave me joy. That's the way that I looked at it."
"Yes, lovely," he said, beginning to realize special things about his 'Step Mom', in all of this.
"Well I need to tell you," she continued, "And please forgive me if I seem indelicate about this, I'm trying not to be, I never hid myself from him. He enjoyed what he called 'my loveliness' and I made that available to him as often as possible. He must have been a wonderful, wonderful lover in his earlier life. But I never knew that part of him."
She began to cry again at that point, and they waited.
"Oh, I'm making such a mess of this!" she said. "I knew that I would."
He moved to hold her hand then and she gave him a very grateful smile.
"Thank you for being so nice!" she said, "It's so obvious that you are Dan's son." She said this with a radiant smile and then seemed ready to go on with her story.
"Well, that's the way it always was. Our relationship was intimate, in the usual way only once," she said, smiling then to herself. "He called it one of my greatest gifts to him but was never really up for that again."
(His lawyer's mind immediately checked off the possibility of 'annulment' as out of the question, and he found himself being ashamed of even having thought it. He got hold of himself again, and let her continue.)
"I am trying to tell you something but thought that you needed to have all of this information first," she explained. "I'm sorry if it's rambling."
"Tell it your own way," he said, and got a radiant smile from her.
"Yes, your Dad's son!" she said gently.
He found himself liking what she'd said and the way that she said it.
"I will get to the point now," she said with determination, "Or I'll have kept us here all night at this rate."
He smiled at her and she said: "Is tea possible? It might help."
He went to the desk and buzzed for Janie.
"Jane," he said, when she came in, "Could you get me a cup of coffee and a cup of tea for ... er ... Mrs. Wilson."
"Of course," Jane said, leaving to do that.
"Would you please call me Amanda?" she asked.
"Is that what Dad called you?" he asked softly.
"Well, actually," she answered, "He called me 'Mandy'." When she said that, she began to giggle.
He looked at her with a question on his face and she explained: "He often sang me that old song 'Mandy' about a 'minister handy'." She laughed softly at the thought.
"Nice memory!" he said, and she shook her head.
Jane was there then with the tea and coffee. They sat for a moment then and drank the tea and coffee a bit and she finally, with a look of determination on her face said:
"I will come to the point now. It's the reason that I'm here, and I need to say this to you. Need you to hear it."
He nodded and settled back, feeling much more comfortable with her now but wondering what her visit was really about. It was obviously something that she put great, great store in.
"I need to tell you also that there was only one thing that your father and I didn't agree on. We spoke of it several times but it was a point on which he was stubborn. I made my wishes known and hoped, hoped that he was going to listen and take my wishes into account. He did not." She had a very earnest look on her face, when she said this.
He leaned forward a bit, totally entranced now by what she was saying and not aware at all of what she was leading up to.
"My Momma taught me to never take anything that belonged to someone else. She might have failed with my two no account brothers but it is ingrained in me. I am so much more like her, I guess than my father. That's why I argued with your father about his wishes with his will."
It dawned on him then what she might be talking about, leading up to but he couldn't believe what he was suspecting was true. She went on:
"Bless him and his memory, and even taking into account his expressed wish to 'take care of me', I think that it's a scandal that he left everything to me: the house and all the money etc. A scandal."
He guessed that this is the feeling that the British referred to as being 'gob smacked'! He was, despite some thoughts leading him in that direction, absolutely taken aback by what she had just said.
She was intent upon her point. And now she was crying again:
"It's just so wrong!" she almost wailed. "For me to move in and then walk off with everything that should have been your heritage! I don't do that! I wasn't raised that way! And I can't let it go on that way; I just can't."
She cried for a bit and he let her cry, knowing that she was really not quite finished. He put his hand on hers for a moment and her crying lessened.
"You probably think that I'm a common gold digger and inserted myself into an old man's life to take away all his money, property and goods. And, if I don't do something to correct what he did with the will, then you will be right!" she said with great earnestness.
She looked at him, red-eyed now but still amazingly attractive for all that. She reached out and touched his hand.
"I'm sorry to be this way but there was so much beauty in my relationship with that wonderful man, and I bless him and his memory for the thought of 'taking care of me' but I can't, I won't live with such a wrong on my conscience. It's why I've come to you. I'm here to ask you to fix this. Draw up something; I don't know but make a more equitable distribution of what he had to give. I don't need very much. I'm asking this as a favor; I'm almost begging."
She sobbed a bit more then and said:
"It just takes something that was lovely in his and my life and makes it so shoddy! I won't have that, live with it!" This last was said with determination.
"I want to say one more thing and then I'll let you reply," she said then. "I've already decided that if nothing can be done, then I'm going away. I've started out anew before and know how to do it. I'm not afraid of that possibility. It's what I'll do, if nothing can be done. I don't want his money. I don't want to take away what should have been your inheritance. I just don't."
She stopped then, obviously finished.
He was quiet for a little bit, and just looked at her. He'd given her a tissue for her crying but was suddenly and totally at sea.
"How could I have been so wrong," he asked himself, "In judging her?"
He was determined that that at least must be set straight right away.
"Let me respond," he said quietly and she gave him her attention.
"Dad was right in one respect," he said, "I am set quite well in my position and what I earn. I will admit that. I really don't need his money and the house. But, having said that, I have to admit and it's with chagrin that I do admit it, that I was, have been angry with you for the very reasons that you site. I had, have taken you for a gold digger, robbing me, essentially, of my inheritance, no matter whether I needed it or not. It's the way I've felt and the basis for how I've treated you, when I've bothered to treat you at all! I am shamefacedly sorry and disgusted with myself for that, for acting that way. My Dad would have been so angry with me, and he'd be right. So, before anything else..."
He took her hand then, and she was looking at him intently.
"Before anything else, I apologize for being pig headed, narrow minded and prejudiced against you. If you hate me, you are absolutely right and it's what I deserve. But here you are with an offer that is the most generous one any person has ever presented me with and I'm left fairly speechless about it."
"Thank you," she said. "One of the things that I want very much is to be your friend. He loved you so!"
"Yes, and he was a good judge of character," he said, "That much is obvious."
She smiled at him then and he noticed, was it for the first time, how beautiful she was, when she smiled.
"Lovely smile!" he said without thinking and she blushed and thanked him.
"Well," he said then, gathering some kind of strength to go on. "I hardly know what to say. Let me maybe ask some questions that can maybe be a guide here."
"What is it that you want, do you know?"
"Well, first of all," she answered, "I do know that I want you to come home. It's what he would have wanted and I hate the idea that you've lost your home. It's so big. Too big for me, unless you think that it would be inappropriate for us to be there, in which case, I'll find a place for myself."
He held up his hand: "We're not going to begin by having you move out or leave or any such thing. We're going to honor Dad's wishes, in so far as we can, and will seem right to the two of us."
"So, you'll come home?" she asked softly.
He realized how important that step was to her and he answered:
"Yes, I will. That's how we'll begin this."
"Yes, good," she said and she cried again. "You're being such a help to me."
He took her hand, still absolutely amazed at how she was and the earnestness with which she took all of this. He also realized that he was giving in, ever so slightly but surely, to feelings that he had buried, denied and kept to only himself. Feelings about her. He pushed that aside, as usual.
"What do you want from the estate?" he asked then.
"I don't know," she said, "That's why I came to you. I want you to decide. You'll know what's fair and all. I trust you in that totally. He told me that I could, trust you, that is, rely on you totally. He was right!"
He was decisive then, more back on an even keel with himself, once the shock of her presentation was past.
"So, here's what we'll do," he began. "I will take care of the arrangement about the apartment, and I will move back home. I thank you for that offer. It's a very, very nice one, one that I'll like. I love the place, always have."
She smiled then, a huge smile.
"And," he continued, "I will give the rest some thought about how to do it and what to do. Is that okay with you?"
"That's just fine," she said.
"Then we'll work the rest out," he said.
"Oh, thank you!" she said, apparently totally relieved.
"May I ask you something now?" she asked.
"Yes?" he said.
"Do you have plans, uh for later?" she wanted to know.
"Well, I always have a run in our basement gym after work," he said tentatively
"Oh," she said, "I've been looking for a place myself to work out. Do you think it would be okay if I..."
"Of course," he said, "It's as much Dad's building as it is mine and you're his widow and entitled to such privileges."
"Thanks," she said, "But that's not what I was going to ask."
"Oh?" he said.
"Can I ask you to dinner, on me, to say 'thank you' for being so nice and apologizing and helping me out with this. It's been a burden for me!" she said next.
He discovered that he was pleased. "Yes, that would be nice!" he said, "And I appreciate it."
"So a work out and then dinner out?" she said to him with a smile.
"Precisely!" he said.
"I must go and get my running clothes," she said, "They're home and I'll be back."
"I'll wait," he answered and showed her to the door.
Just before they got to the door of his office, she turned around and launched her self into a hug. She was shaking.
"Thank you for being so much Dan's son!" she said softly, and then was gone.
Jane watched him, as he walked her to the door. Then she looked at him, giving him an inquiring look.
"You'd better come in," he said, "I need to talk to someone; you will hardly believe what has just happened.
She followed him into the office and sat in the same chair that Amanda had just used.
"Well?" she prompted him, realizing he was lost in thought.
Then he explained it to her. His narrating of it was interrupted time and again by Jane's noises of surprise.
"Well, well," she finally said, once he was finished. "We certainly had her figured out wrong!"
"I guess we did," he said, "Especially me!"
"What do you think?" he said then.
"What are you going to do?" she wanted to know first.
"Take her at her word," he said. "I'll move back home; I do love that place. But apart from that, what do you think?"
She told him how she'd do it.
"Why in heaven's name," he said, "Does anyone need me around here with you making such sense at a troubled time? You're worth your weight in gold!" He stood to give her a hug then, having decided to do what she suggested.
"I'll tell Stan that, and see if my husband agrees with you!" she said, laughing.
"And now?" she wanted to know.
"Oh, I'll wait for her and take her to show her the gym. She's coming back to work out here."
"Maybe she's coming back for you, boss!" she said, grinning.
"Well, if that's the case," he replied, "Then I'm a gonner because she's so much better at this than I am!"
They both ended up laughing about that.
It was only a short while later that Amanda was back. He was, he realized, pleased to see her. He showed her the gym in the basement of the building. It was a fully equipped and lovely facility. They agreed to meet on the track in just a few minutes.
He waited but was certainly not ready for her, when she finally came out of the women's locker area. He was immediately, as soon as he saw her, assaulted by thoughts that he instantly felt he shouldn't be having about his Step Mother. She was drop dead gorgeous in her outfit.
He also was aware instantly that it was as much in reaction to her absolute loveliness, and his complicated feelings about that and about her, that he moved from the house and got an apartment, as it was about any thoughts that he might have had about the appropriateness of a relationship between her and his Dad.
He pushed those thoughts away and went to her. They wouldn't be still, however. She was wearing a tee shirt and a pair of black, skin tight running capris. He tried not to stare, and realized that he was doing a bad job of that.
"What is it?" she asked, smiling as though she knew.
"Don't quite know where to look!" he said, and regretted saying it, not wanting to get off on the wrong foot by insulting her. But her reaction was to giggle!
He liked that: she giggled! But he made a major effort then to get a grip on himself, since he thought that he was acting like a teen ager here.
"I'm sorry," he said, opting for simple truth. "I was not quite ready for how lovely you are!"
She made what sounded like a squeal of pleasure and hugged him. It had the benefit of preventing him from ogling her but added the extra difficulty for him of being this close to her.
"We'd better run!" he said, and she laughed.
"I guess we had," she said, her eyes twinkling.
The thought kept pounding through his brain that she was a widow, she was indeed his Dad's widow and he'd better straighten up about this. It didn't seem, however, to help at all.
They ran a couple of miles and she was easily able to keep up with him, showing him that she'd been serious about keeping in shape.
"Sprint the last lap?" he asked, and she nodded and took off.
He didn't start after her immediately, watching instead the wiggle and sway of her butt cheeks, almost mesmerized by it. Then he did take off after her and drew along side of her.
"Watching me run, counselor?" she said breathlessly and giggled again.
"Got me!" he said and then put on some speed. He was a good sprinter, had always kept it up and she wasn't able to keep up with him, when he did. They finished with a walking lap.
"I apologize for taunting you," she said, laying her hand on his arm.
"I apologize for ogling!" he said.
"Don't you dare!" she said, giggling again.
"Dinner?" he said.
"Yes, and remember that I'm paying!" she said.
"Kept man!" he said, more at ease now with her manner and enjoying it, he realized.
"Something like that!" she said. Then she thought and said: "No, you're my lawyer."
Over dinner, she brought up the subject from his office earlier. He knew that she would and had some things to suggest to her.
"First of all," he said, "I will be coming back home. I'd truly like that. And I will stay out of your way there, I promise."
"Oh, let's just let it develop as it will," she said.
He liked that and agreed to it. "It's a large house," he said, "It should be easy to give each other privacy. We can probably be adult about this!"
"Yes," she agreed but then, with a pixieish look on her face said: "But ogling is allowed."
He laughed and said: "Stop now!"
"Got the counselor on the run," she said enjoying herself.
"Yes," he agreed, "But it's supposed to be the other way around."
They settled to their food for a bit.
It was she that started again.
"Do you mind if I talk?" she asked.
"No, of course not," he replied.
"Tell me if you want me to stop," she went on.
"Granted," he said.
She got a misty look on her face and said: "He was so wonderful. I was swept away by it, by him, his attitude. He'd say to me that he didn't intend to compromise my 'maidenliness', it always made me laugh. Called me 'his beauty'. And I made it a point to be around him..."
Here she hesitated.
He sensed her need to get personal about and, with great will said: "It's okay, Mandy."
The tears were on her cheeks immediately, when he called her that, and she kissed his hand.
"I made it a point to go into his den, the library in the evening, when he was invariably working or studying. I'd wear maybe only a robe, or only panties and heels. I varied the costume. He told me that I constantly kept him on the run. It was lovely. That part of it. It almost didn't matter that we were never really physical with each other very much. He talked to me about that time and again, often enough apologizing for my having that kind of life. But I need to tell you that life with him was wonderful and I never regretted any of it. But I also never wanted him to give to me, leave to me all of it, taking from you your ... your inheritance."
She was crying again, softly, and he held her hand and then she apologized and promised to get hold of herself, and went on to ask if he had any suggestions for her.
"Yes, I do," he said, "And I have to give my assistant Jane credit for coming up with it quickly. I think it will work."
"Good," she said, "Please tell me."
"We'll declare the entire estate a family trust and designate you and I as the joint owners. Then we will get new financial instruments, new cards and simply use it both of us. If that is what you had in mind."
She was visibly pleased by the suggestion: "Oh, that's exactly what I had in mind. It makes me so happy. I am so fortunate about him, about that man, your Dad, and now I'm finding that you're so much like him. It's almost too wonderful for words."
Now it was his turn to blush, and, almost spontaneously he apologized again:
"Amanda, Mandy," he began, "I need to say again at how sorry I am for being pig headed about this and never giving you a chance. It was mostly my shock at what he did, and it disposed me to not give you a chance, to write you off as a gold digger who'd made a strike. I can't believe how wretched I've been."
He sighed then, and she took his hand.
"There is so much of your Dad in you!" she said. Then she got a twinkle in her eye, which told him that something outrageous was coming.
"What?" he said in a wary voice and she giggled.
"Just be careful to keep the library door locked in the evening if you're in there working!"
By the end of it she was laughing so hard that she could hardly finish her words.
"Stop it!" he said, laughing too.
But she went on, still laughing: "You never know who's going to show up or what they're going to be wearing!"
"Amanda!" he said with as much sternness as he could muster but he couldn't override her pleasure in teasing him:
"Or what she won't be wearing!" she said going into all out giggles.
"What am I going to do with you?" he moaned.
"Well, leave the library door unlocked and you'll see!" she said and broke down into laughter altogether.
She apologized then: "I'm sorry, Jered," she said, "But you're so much fun to tease."
He grinned at her then and she said: "If I were teasing!"
That brought him up short but she held up a hand and said: "I promise to stop! For now!"
"Oh dear," he moaned, "Am I in trouble!"
She giggled and took his hand across the table then.
The papers were drawn up and signed, and they, in effect entered into a partnership with the foundation that contained all of Jered's Dad's considerable wealth and properties.
The next order of business for them, which they also went on to quickly enough was his moving back into the house. He took up residence in his old area, his room with attending bathroom suite and all, while she was in the other extreme end of the house in what had been the master suite.
They settled down then and began the task, delightful task, as it was turning out, of living together, at least under one roof.
She proved to be a good cook but was pleasantly surprised to discover that he too was quite a good cook. It was one of his minor hobbies and he paid close attention to it. It made life there variable and pleasant.
Jane, at the office, often asked him about how it was going, and he invariably would indicate that it was fine. They were giving each other room and privacy and it was working alright.
They also began to make some plans for the future. He'd asked her what she wanted to do:
"I realize that we're well off enough that you don't, strictly speaking, need to 'do' anything but I was wondering."
"You, know," she said, "I've been thinking of going back to the university and beginning a track for a masters and doctorate.
"Egyptology?" he asked.
"Oh, yes," she admitted. "I'd love that so much."
It was decided then that she should do that and plans were made. It changed their life style but only by a little bit, as she went back to school and plunged into her specialty seriously.
The next hint, or indication of any movement came in a short conversation that Amanda had with Jane, one day, while waiting for Jered to return to the office and take her to lunch.
"Hey!" Jane said, as Amanda entered.
"He here?" Amanda asked.
"Not back yet, sit; care for coffee?" Jane asked.
Jane got them coffee and they sat. The relationship between the two of them had always been very good from the start, when Jered's Dad, Dan, had brought Amanda around. Jane, for her part, could never see why Jered didn't see the all out loveliness in this woman.
"How it going with him at home?" Jane asked.
Amanda smiled and said: "Good, actually too good. He is so scrupulous to stay out of my way. I don't think he's gotten over the 'step mom' thing yet at all."
"Oho!" Jane said, grinning, "Sounds like you need a strategy!"
Amanda perked up at that: "You know, you're exactly right! I need a strategy. Talk to me!"
They talked for a few minutes and were giggling back and forth, when the door opened and Jered entered.
"Why is it that I think that I'm in trouble here?" he said.
"Nonsense, boss!" Jane said, "We're just two girl friends having a chat."
"Yeah!" he said suspiciously, "As if I believe that."
Amanda took his arm at that point and said: "You promised me lunch and I'm hungry!"
She turned him around and walked him out of the office but, while walking out the door, she turned back to Jane and mouthed the words: 'Thank you'.
Jane gave her a thumbs up, as she watched them walk away.
"Watch out, Boss," she said to the empty room. "You're in for a ride!"
They had indeed hatched a plan between them in the short time that they spoke, and Amanda, pleased with it, was determined to put it into operation.
She was fully aware of the reason behind the tension between them, and was determined that something be done. She also suspected that Jered's reticence about his step mom was what was keeping him 'at bay' so to speak. She intended to follow up on Jane's suggestion to see if the tension couldn't be breached.
It was a Friday evening. She was away of his propensity to have a glass of wine late at night in the kitchen before turning in.
She was ready for him that night, when it did, indeed, come into the kitchen to get a glass of a chilled Rhine wine. He entered the kitchen and stopped dead in his tracks.