Chapter 1

My father, Samson Corliss, died a week before I was seventeen years old. I am now eighteen. Father never showed me the affection as many men do toward their sons. Love was never mentioned. No hugs or anything such as that. Did I miss the affection? Not really. There was some affection in the family as I was growing up, but his affection was all for my mother. Father occasionally hugged her long and hard. Usually, just before he chased her into the bedroom.

Mom would hug me and I hugged her back. This was only in front of one or more of her friends. However, there was never anything loving in our feeling for each other and I knew her hugs were just for show. Mom would bring me out for a photo-op. She collected women friends by the dozen while my father was otherwise occupied. There seemed to be always an attractive older woman around the house for my hormones to focus on.

Father was a registered investment advisor and his interests were split unevenly between his job and my mother. His work took precedence. I believe he started teaching me about what he did before I reached kindergarten. By the time I was a thirteen-year-old, I could hold an intelligent conversation about money, with not only my father, but his peers and clients as well. Did Father demand that I learn his job and follow his footsteps? Not at all, but I had been with him so much, I knew the mechanics if I did not know the actual investments.

When I turned fifteen he said to me, "Son, I want you to use this knowledge about money as a fall back position during your lifetime. You will be going to college in a few years. I will be well enough off financially to educate you so you can take up any endeavor you choose to follow. The arts or whatever, but it is a good idea for a person to have a way to make money if he has to."

We held many conversations how money is used. He had an extensive client base and advised them in investing in different companies. "You buy stock and you actually own part of that company. You should not stop there. You need to be involved as well. Take an interest in every one of your investments and especially those who are in charge. Always know something about the men who run the company and who make the decisions. Go to the corporate elections and vote. Collectively, this is the main control the investors have."

This may have sounded somewhat pompous, but it was sage advice. It did seem a little pointless to me if you had $10,000 invested in a billion dollar corporation. The only way to protect your investment was to sell your stock if the corporation did not do well or buy more when it did. If that corporation was doing well, you might double your money in seven to ten years. I wondered though, as it seemed so impersonal.

As I got older, I had my own ideas about investing if and when I was able to make my own investments. I had decided by the time father died, I would do it differently than he did. I knew if I waited long enough, the right opportunity would present itself.

Father died from something he ate. Hamburg to be exact. Three others died eating the meat from the same source. Thirty-seven also became ill. We did not find out what caused father's death until after he was interred. Fortunately, he was the person to have his papers in order, so life went on for my mother and me. Father took care of mother with the exception of her having a bed partner. I knew without anyone saying so, that part of their life had dwindled in the later years.

Mother was calm. "Don't bother yourself about it, Cecil. I will find another partner after a decent period of mourning. Your father and I had often discussed about what we would do if one of us died prematurely. He would have told you the same as I have if he had eaten the fish and I had ordered the beef.

"You, of course, are named in his will, and you will also inherit a portion of his estate due you as a minor and dependent child. You are going to be a very well-to-do young man in a year. Do you have any plans? Understand I am not prying, for we have not been close. You are much like your father and I was never involved in his work.

"You were much in Samson's company and I am sure he was giving you advice about money and how to acquire it. He did not discuss with me what he thought you should do with your life when you come of age. I suppose now that I am directly responsible for your upbringing, I should hold conversations with you so I can advise you."

It was difficult for me to talk with my mother and have a normal, warm conversation with her. We talked, but the conversations were often stilted. You might hear this from anyone. "Mother, Father did nicely in preparing me for life even though it was cut short by his untimely demise. I am well versed in the use of capital, of which I will shortly have the management. I intend to follow a slightly different path than he did, although the same principles apply."

"Would you like to share your plans with me?"

"No, not at this time. I have not finalized them yet. After all, I will not have any capital to invest until I am eighteen. By that time I may go on at a different tangent than what I'm planning now."

"Can I help you in anyway?"

"That you can do. In a way, I have led a somewhat sheltered existence. I need to be comfortable around your many friends. I know they are mostly female, but still they need advice the same as men do. May I have the pleasure of being your escort to some of your functions? I need to get to know people. This is of course, until you find a new mate for yourself. I believe I can promise not to embarrass you."

"Won't you feel a bit overawed by these people who female and are of an older generation than you?"

"I might at first, but remember I'm depending on you to teach me the correct way to act in adult company."

Mother was an intelligent person. She wondered out loud, "There must be a different reason than what you have given me? Do you mind telling me what it is?"

"Mother, can you be discreet if I answer truthfully?"

"Of course."

I looked into her eyes and decided I could trust her. "Mother, most of your friends appear well-to-do. At least everyone thinks so. I know differently about some of them. From what I have heard from listening, some are right on the brink of losing everything. No one pays attention to a mere boy so your friends talk when they think I am not paying attention. They all have assets though, and all need their money invested to return to solvency and more. Father gave me the expertise to manage money. If I follow in his footsteps, I will need to deal with people such as your friends."

"Cecil, your father was an honest man. You aren't considering conning my friends out of their money are you?"

"No mother, I'm as honest as father was. It is just that as young as I am, I need to break into your circle of older friends. They will look on me as still a youth and I will need their trust long before I handle any of their assets. I can do that if they can see that I treat you with respect and deference."

Again, mother paused. I am sure she thought much of her friends. Could she trust me? Blood being thicker than water, she almost had to bow to my wishes. Had she looked at her son closely before this? Did she know me, or was I just an entity that came down for breakfast and said good morning. This time she did examine me.

I was tall, broad-shouldered and had dark brown wavy hair. The pimple stage had disappeared from my face two years ago. My voice was deep and melodic. I could see in her eyes the moment when my mother decided she might like to have her son for an escort. When I smiled it was then she said, "Okay Cecil, I have a semi-formal dinner tonight. You may escort me. Wear something dark as this is my first public appearance since your father passed." Sharon Corliss' friends and close acquaintances became mine that night.

I was often the only male at these functions of mother's. The women soon realized that I had more to say on several different subjects than just answering a question about how I was doing in school. I engaged mother's friends in conversation and made myself as charming as possible. You might say I was doing research using these women as subjects. It was not long before they forgot how young I was and I could make point and counterpoint when discussing their problems.

Remember now, I was still seventeen at this time. I did not play sports and I could not sing. I had played in a band in middle school, but found this did not hold much interest for me. No one could call me a nerd, but I did find my lessons easy. I spent my spare time reading newspapers, i.e. (Wall Street Journal) and listening to commentary on the TV (Public Broadcasting Station). These friends of my mother's were now of a different interest area to obtain knowledge.

For a long while, there were five women in the group and all were close friends. There were two widows like mother, one divorced, one woman who had never married, and one I could not catalog. I could not catalog that odd one because she had dropped out of the circle of friends shortly before father died. She had been my favorite and I did miss her. All were aged about forty, a year or two either side of it, and yes they were all attractive, but in different ways.

It took me a few months of meeting these women at various times to sort them into their own individual lives. I knew how they lived, their problems, their hopes, and yes, their dreams. Strange for a seventeen-year-old to be thinking like this? Of course, but then my father had given me an analytical way of looking at situations and at people. I had already decided what my life was going to be. In a few months, I was going to be of age and have at my disposal funds to implement what I had chosen to make of my own life.

I was aware that my mother was planning a bash for me after high school graduation. I had even seen the speech she was going to give about how she was relinquishing her responsibilities and how I would now be on my own. I also knew she would be commanding me to appear with a date. She was hoping I would pick a girl that would impress her friends.

I had never indicated I even wanted to date, giving the excuse that as her escort I had not had time to do so. Too late, she saw that her friends would think she had shirked her duties toward me and this would reflect poorly on her, hence the command.

Did I know any young woman that would fill this role? Of course I did. The girls I associated with were in some ways much like me with an agenda outside what was the norm. They had planned their future in life just the same as I had.

One girl, Roma Sadowski, was of Gypsy heritage. She aspired to become an actress. Whether she would, I had no idea. She had flashing dark features with sparkling black eyes. She was a sultry, beautiful girl, but poor. Roma was from a group of disenfranchised people for not only years, but for centuries. She showed intelligence and her goal was to become an outstanding actress.

Actually, in a way I bought her. I induced her to become my date by handing her money to go to a studio and provide a portfolio of different poses of herself. She could use this when applying for an open casting call. I also purchased what she would wear for the evening. When she left the beauty parlor, her good looks were enhanced. I chose Roma mainly because, although I did these things and she was a friend of sorts, she claimed to be gay. I did not want any romantic entanglements at this early stage of my life.

I suppose mother's friends had typecast me as a mama's boy just because I had been my mother's sole escort for the past year. That was not the case. Mother had indicated early on that she would find another mate. This graduation party was for me to go from student to man. I even moved that same day from my old room in the upstairs, to a two-bedroom apartment in the rear that had been servant's quarters in bygone days. This apartment had its own entrance and I could come and go as I chose.

The day of the dinner, I asked of my mother, "I want the seating arrangement to reflect one empty chair on your right. I am relinquishing my role as escort to someone whom you know slightly. He was one of father's older friends and just for the evening, he will take my place. It is appropriate that I dance the first dance with you. However, I feel I should have the last dance with my date."

"That is thoughtful of you, Cecil. It will show my friends the success I have had in raising you after Samson passed away. It will prove I was up to the task." I smiled to myself thinking, my father taught me much, but did not do much in the raising, even though I was constantly with him. Mother took credit for guiding me the last year, but I believe I did more about it than she. Did I mind? No, I was well pleased about the position I found myself in at eighteen.

The man I chose to replace me as mother's escort, Pat Herkimer, was a few years older than she was. He had a reputation as a ladies' man. This was my party turning me from boy to man. It also was my mother's first date after taking off her widow's apparel. He peered over his glasses at me when I approached him, "What have you in mind, son?"

"Nothing really. It is time for my mother to start enjoying her life again. I want to see if you live up to your reputation."

"What do you mean by that?"

"Mother has a large appetite for life. This was somewhat curtailed by my father's dedication to his life's work. She has substituted this lack of his attention by gathering a bunch of lonely women to her. She has felt like she was one of them. It is time she moved on. With your reputation as a ladies' man, you can do it if anyone can. However, I must warn you, if you want to get very far with her, you will have to give up smoking cigars. She hates them."

"I will keep that in mind. Do not worry yourself about it. I'll deal with that in my own way." (He did. I saw my mother light a cigar of her own less than a month later.)

I guess the four other women had scraped the bottom of the barrel for escorts. I will not embarrass them by naming any of them. Pat Herkimer and I carried the party and made it enjoyable for the women. Roma, my date, did her part by struggling through at least one dance with each of the other men.

Mother led me aside as Roma was dancing with one of the other men. "Cecil, your date is a most charming young lady. Have you known her long?"

"A few years."

"She seems older than you. Is she one of your teachers?"

"No Mother, I met her through one of my other classmates. She was often in the crowd I associated with."

"That's nice. I would envision someone like her to become your wife."

"Not possible. I believe she will be going far in her chosen field. I doubt I will be included. My life will be right here in this city."

"That is too bad, Cecil. I do believe you should talk to her and try to convince her to have you in her life."

"I may to some extent."

I related this conversation to Roma during our next dance. "Cecil, please don't tell your mother this is all an act for me, but I do feel comfortable in the role you have cast me. It is too bad I do not have the money to go to acting school. I could reach my goal so much sooner. I am in a touring stage company this summer. Maybe something will come of that."

"Roma, I have a suggestion. Instead of me taking you home tonight, why don't you stay over in my guest room and we can explore some possibilities concerning your future."

"I would like that. You do know I will not be getting into bed with you. I like you a lot, but I can't consider it."

"I know how you feel about the opposite gender. I wouldn't think of trying to convince you otherwise or impose myself on you in that way."

"You are a true friend. I would like to hear what you have in mind."

Roma fulfilled her role admirably, she coming off as a sophisticated young woman a few years older than I. This solidified my mind about my date and I thought she just might make it as an actress. I would finance her quest to become an actress if it was called for. This is what I intended proposing to her.

The evening wound down. Several of my mother's friends had had enough and left early. Pat and mother were now constantly in each other's arms. I was dividing my time between Roma and Constance Williams, mother's closest friend. Constance's date was a small, dumpy looking man about Constance's height, named Georgy Cameron. This was a man who worked for her. I asked her about him.

"He works for me in my knitting shop. He is a confirmed bachelor and a real nice person. We will not be working together much longer I am afraid, as I'm just about bankrupt. You know my husband was sick for a long time. I loved my husband very much and his sickness drained the resources from my store. Cindy and I are hardly getting by. I guess I will have to give up and go out on the street and sell my body."

She paused and then laughed. "That is a sure way to starve. Look at my body, I am so skinny no one would buy it. I do get so horny though I could scream." Again, she paused. "You don't need to hear this, and I don't know why I'm telling you that much about me. I am just worried and lonely. You are such a nice young man and Sharon is my dear friend."

"Cindy is your daughter?"

"Yes and such a sweet person. She was a year behind you in school. You haven't met her?"

"I don't think so. Not to know who she is anyway."

"I must apologize for sharing my troubles with you, but you are so easy to talk to. You appear to be interested and you are a good listener."

"That's fine. If you would like, I could stop in for coffee sometime and listen some more. I am at loose ends now that school is completed and I might suggest something. Shall I come to your shop or to your home?"

"You really wouldn't mind?" I shook my head, no. "Come to my home this coming Wednesday about seven and let me cry about my life. Who knows I may get an inspiration how to improve things for myself. Cindy will not be there and I can let my hair down. Now you had better go grab your lovely date from Pat Herkimer. He is a ladies' man and looks on any woman as a possible conquest. I do wish he was my date instead of Sharon's." She giggled and pushed me away.

Roma noticed how quiet I was during the last dance. I replied, "It is nothing. After some research, though, it may turn into something more. Mother is leaving so let's go along home. I will go by your place so you can get whatever you need."

"Thank you, Cecil. It will only take me a minute." Roma lived in the poor part of the city. She lived with her mother who was seldom at home, being a leader of her neighborhood. I did not ask about Roma's situation, as I did not want to make her uncomfortable. I did know more than I let on about her home life and it was not good. I could not help but do a bit of research on any subject, person or investment. I had devoted some time to Roma after we became friendly.

We arrived at my apartment and I showed her the guest room. "You may want to take off your party clothes. I'm going to change into something comfortable myself."

Twenty minutes later, we both entered the small sitting room that the apartment afforded. Roma had on a dress I had seen several times at school. It was quite faded.

"Would you like something to drink? I noticed you didn't take anything alcohol at the party."

"No thank you. There has been too much alcohol in my family. I had an older brother who died driving drunk. I have never had a father that I can remember. I do not need a crutch of any form. If I make it as an actress, I'll want to know what I'm doing every minute of the day."

"If you can stick to that, you will be so far above your contemporaries. Alcohol and drugs can destroy your focus. Let's discuss your future just a little. What are your intentions? Be specific, because I'm interested."

"I don't have definite plans. The goal I am reaching for is to be an actress. Not just any actress, but an excellent one. You must know that I do not have a way to get there and reach the level of skill I hope to attain. I know it is going to take a lot of training and I do not know how I am going to pay for it. I'm hoping to pick up a sponsor this summer that will help me while I'm touring with the stage company."

"What are you willing to give up in return for this?"

"I'm hoping the sponsor, if I find one, will be a woman. If it is not, I suppose I will have to settle for a man. I will just remind myself that I'm playing a role. Actresses do that. It will be something I won't enjoy, but if it furthers my career I can do it."

"I think I have faith that you will succeed in reaching your goals. I would like to invest in your future. Roma, I have just come of age. I have inherited some money and I think you will be a good risk. Listen to this, what if I paid your tuition and paid some of your board and room? Would you give up a portion of your future income in return for my investing in this future you are going to have?"

Roma stared at me. Then she asked for clarification of my meaning and repeated what I had said, "You mean like a percentage of my income?"

"That is what I'm saying."

"What would you want for collateral? There must be more you want from me. You are promising a lot. Is it sex?"

"No sex. I want you to have the chance to be the best that you can be. If you do find what you need in a different sponsor, I will just be your backup. I will support you for two years. What my return on my investment would be? I am thinking ten percent of all your future earnings after you graduate from acting school. You will be paying an agent at some point and they get fifteen percent. That will leave you seventy-five percent, which will be adequate if you are a success."

She looked into my eyes. "May I think this over tonight?"

"Of course. You will not begin acting school until fall. For now, you should apply for admittance to some reputable institutions. If you are accepted, then will be the time to take me up on my offer. In the meantime, why don't you stay here and use this address."

"You don't know how much your offer to stay here means to me. This is a wonderful thing you are providing."

"Think nothing of it. I am just protecting my investment. Hey, it is late and I am tired. I'll see you in the morning. Do you drink coffee?"

"I do."

"There is a good kitchenette here and it should fulfill what we need to feed ourselves. I have coffee, but we need to go shopping. We will take care of that tomorrow. Goodnight, Roma."

"Goodnight, Cecil. God bless."

I lay in bed thinking before I went to sleep. Most people would think I was crazy to advance money to someone who on the surface had so little prospects. Father had always said to research the stock you anticipated investing in thoroughly. Sometimes you had to go with your gut feeling. He cited Microsoft and Apple as examples.

I did what I could in researching Roma. Her school marks were in the 96 percentile. She certainly was not boy crazy and she kept her proclivity for the same sex contained and hidden. What she had for a home life was terrible, but it did not seem to deter her from her goal of becoming an actress. She certainly did well in the school dramas where she usually had the lead in female roles. Her drama coach and the teachers who had produced the plays had only good things to say about her and she took direction well.

Her beauty was such that I knew if she had the chance, the public would take her to heart as the new American darling. She was my friend and I wanted her to succeed. I also could afford to lose the money I invested if not all panned out. Father had also impressed on me not to buy something if you could not afford to lose it.

I went for fresh bagels before Roma was up. When she smelled the coffee, she came and sat at the small table in the nook. She had on a ratty old robe, tied tightly around her. I poured coffee. "Good morning, Cecil. I slept well and had heavenly dreams last night. Oh, bagels, my favorite food." I had chosen a pineapple cream cheese spread and she enjoyed that.

We set about deciding what we would need for groceries. Neither of us proved to be big eaters and had no trouble making up a list. There was nothing exotic for food on the list, just healthy. When we went to the grocery, we chose a half chicken to roast in the oven for our dinner.

We did not stock very much to eat, as Roma would be joining her stage company within a week. Roma began rehearsals before school let out. One play was stage ready, one was in rehearsals, and the third in their repertoire was being read now. Roma was to be the understudy for two of the female leads. I am sure as dedicated as she was, if anything happened to the lead, she would be ready.

We had cucumber sandwiches for lunch and then later in the afternoon Roma went about preparing dinner. It was my mother at the door just before we sat down at the table. I was alone in the kitchen. "Cecil, I could smell food cooking. I finally realized it was coming from your apartment. I won't interrupt."

"Come in, have you eaten?"

"No I haven't." She was puzzled for there were two places set on the little table.

I stepped to the door of the guest room. "Roma, we have company." Roma came out with a glad smile for my mother.

"Hello Mrs. Corliss. I must tell you I had a wonderful time at the party last night."

"Thank you, Roma. Somehow you look much younger than you did last night."

"No, I'm the same age. Maybe Cecil neglected to tell you, but I am aspiring to become an actress. I was playing a role last night. Actually I am a few days younger than he is."

"I wouldn't have believed it. You looked so mature. Are you two a couple now?"

"Not in the sense that you suggest. However, I do love him for what he is doing for me. He is helping me with my career. I am staying here this week and then I am going on the road. I belong to a stage company. We are showcasing one play before we leave. May I get you a ticket for Friday night?"

"I'm sorry, but I have other plans. I am sure you will do well. I say this remembering how you pulled off looking so mature last night."

I broke in, "Mother, would you join us for our dinner? There is plenty."

"You do tempt me, it smells so good."

"Please join us." Over dinner, we conversed. "Mother, tell me what you thought of your escort of last evening for dinner and dancing." Mother flushed bright red at mention of Pat Herkimer.

"Cecil, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. In fact, Pat has asked me for a date. He claims he always admired me while I was married to your father. He also tells me when you approached him to be my escort, it was like a dream come true for him."

"That's fine. You should begin to go out. After all, you are a relatively young woman. Your past and its responsibilities to me are now behind you. You can take up living again."

"You certainly have given me a chance to begin. What about you two?"

Mother looked from Roma to me. I answered, "Mother, we are just friends. I'm helping Roma over a rough spot in her life that is all."

Roma explained just a little more. "Mrs. Corliss, Cecil is opening a door for me that I couldn't open alone. I have a partial scholarship and he is helping with the remainder. I love him for that, and he is not asking for more. We are so young, we feel it is too early for any kind of relationship."

"I think that is so wise. Young people today seem to want everything immediately." Mother did not stay long and Roma excused herself to study her lines.

I wrote up at Roma's request, what she and I had agreed to, not really knowing if it would hold up in a court of law. I admit I was taking her on faith, but I did believe she would follow through. I complied with her wishes when she told me to write it down. I could still hear her practicing her lines as I shut the door to my bedroom.

Roma had breakfast prepared when I came out of my room in the morning. "Cecil I could concentrate so well last night. I can remember my lines better when thoughts of my home life do not intrude. I'll be ready for Thursday night's final rehearsal in plenty of time." I smiled at how happy Roma was.

I dropped her off at the playhouse and pressed cab fare into her hand for her ride home. She said she did not know what time, but that was okay with me. I went by Constance's knitting shop to see what her situation was. She was not there, just her date of Saturday evening. I asked Georgy to show me around and explain things to me.

The store was definitely lacking in inventory and had space for 70% more stock than at present. There was another room off the main shop that was used for storage. It was now empty. What impressed me was the location of the store. It was a small separate building close to a shopping mall.

Leaving there, I went to another shop across town and looked around, asking many of the same questions as I had of Constance's clerk. There was a young woman with colored hair for an employee. She was chewing and snapping her gum waiting on the customers. I could see her appearance turned the older patrons off.

Next, I went into an appliance store and asked questions about sewing machines and knitting machines. The manager in that place was very helpful. By noon I was home perusing the Internet, searching for prices on the various items I had inquired about. I also made several phone calls to get a sense of what these same items would cost at wholesale.

Tuesday I worked up a proposal for Constance. During this time, I barely saw Roma, as she was very involved in her acting. I did make sure there was salad and sandwich materials for her to have when she came home from the playhouse. I did sit with her and drive her there after we had coffee and bagels in the morning.

Wednesday evening I knocked on Constance's door presenting myself at the time we had agreed. "Cecil, I can't believe you came to listen to me tell you my troubles. Come in. I had hopes you would, so I do have soda on hand."

"Thank you Constance. Is that how you like to be addressed, or do you prefer Mrs. Williams?"

"Call me Connie. It makes me feel younger."

"Okay."

Connie went to the refrigerator and got me a Pepsi. I began the conversation. "So tell me in detail what your problems are. I think I can guess most of them and I have a few observations. I did go into your shop on Monday and talk with Georgy for a few minutes."

"He said you did. He was curious why you came in. I am too."

"First, tell me what your position is? You intimated you were near having to file for bankruptcy."

"I am. I do not have enough stock to sell to make ends meet. The profit on the stock I have will not go far. I am behind on my lease of the building. I even have a hard time buying groceries for Cindy and myself. She would like to have friends in for a sleepover, but I can't afford to do that, as I can't afford snacks. She is good and understands, but I hate to deny her. She volunteers afternoons in the shop without pay and that bothers me having to ask her."

"What is the business including the stock worth at present?"

"I'd estimate it at about $30,000, but I doubt I could sell it for that. It was worth at least $55,000 before my husband became ill. I need $15,000 to bring my stock level up to where I can make a profit. I have almost $4,000 in back bills on top of that, so I need $20,000 to survive."

"Would you consider selling half the business?"

"Who would buy it?"

"I would. I have some money to invest. I think I could get a good return on my money. Better than the 1.5 % that it is drawing now."

Connie stared at me. "You are serious aren't you?"

"Very much so. I have some figures we can go over. Understand that I will be in this to make my money work and generate a good return on my investment. From what I have seen, you are a good manager besides being the owner. I imagine Georgy is due for a raise. We will have to advertise just as if someone new purchased the business. That will be to make the public aware you are expanding and have an exceptionally full inventory."

"Cecil, it would be better for you if you bought the whole business and I went to work as your manager. I'd sell everything right now for $20,000."

"No. I only want half of the business. I will give you $30,000 for half interest. I will also invest another $30,000 in a new line of inventory. This is to be paid back out of the future profits, plus 6 % interest. There are a couple other things I would like you to listen to and I will present them if you agree to my purchasing half the business."

"Cecil, I have a pen. I trust you, and your mother is my friend. I will sign if you are serious."

Connie and I both agreed to this proposal and skipped to what else I wanted. She was anxious to see what else I had in mind. "What other things are you talking about?"

"Let's sign the papers on the business first. I had a lawyer draw them up this morning. They are just as I said. I am not about to con a woman who is a widow, but I do have a couple of stipulations. This is just so I can learn the business while working in the store for a month or so. After all, I am the half owner and should know it all. This will be for just a short period and then I will resign from the store. Also I want to stipulate that I remain as your silent partner."

"That won't be necessary."

"Yes it will be. Do you agree to all of this?"

"Of course I do. Is this where I sign?" In a few moments, I was half owner of the Button and Bows Knitting Shop.

"You said there was more you wanted to speak about as soon as I signed?" Connie asked.

I looked directly into Connie's face. "Yes, but this is strictly personal and you don't have to agree to any of what I am proposing. You said at the party last week that you were, and I quote, 'horny as hell.' I would very much like to capitalize on that situation. You see I am still a virgin. I would like to change that. I would like to hire you to educate me in the ways of sex and I am willing to pay for the education."

"That would make me a prostitute!"

"It would if you looked at it in that context. Looking at it as if you were teaching, say English, and your students were willing and tried hard and were dedicated, would you categorize that teacher a whore? She gets paid."

"I'm more than twice your age!"

"Yes, and I'm sure very experienced, too."

"What would people say?"

"That is another area where we would be silent partners."

"I couldn't accept money if I considered it."

"You wouldn't have to. Cindy had a college fund that you had to drain to pay for your husband's illness. I heard you tell my mother how it bothered you. I would replace it with a like amount. You wouldn't have to even know about it."

"I would want to know."

"Okay, I have a check with me."

"I could be convinced we never had this conversation." There was a long pause. Connie moved around as if she was uncomfortable. Maybe she was. I awaited the outcome. "Christ Cecil, who are you? I am doing everything you want me too. Yes, and if you could know how I feel right now, you would know I am anticipating becoming your teacher. Cindy will not be home. Do you want to start your lessons tonight?"

"I'm in your hands, Ms. Williams." I used the Ms. rather than Mrs. to delineate her widowed situation and show her that I felt her attractive as a person and as a teacher. Was I too subtle? I did not think so when I received a broad smile and she took my hand to lead me to the room that had a bed. This became my classroom.

I arrived home a much different person just as Roma was pouring coffee. She thought I was still in my room sleeping in and was getting ready to rouse me. She examined my face. "It is about time. By the looks of your face, you have found there is a way to find a little more joy in life. Congratulations."

I was weary and felt wrung out. "I'm hungry. Will you cook me breakfast?"

"I can do two eggs, two sausage links and two slices of bacon. Will that be sufficient?"

"Maybe two slices of toast with jam."

"Okay, but I have to leave soon."

"Drive my car. I am sleeping in. If I decide to go somewhere, I'll grab a taxi."

"Thank you. I think I had better plan to take a taxi. I'll call for one." There was a smirk on Roma's face as she closed the door when the cab honked for her. I was almost too tired to notice.

I did meet Connie's daughter, Cindy, when I started hanging out in the store Friday morning. She was a pretty girl, more so than her mother had ever been. Connie came up to me Saturday before closing. "Cecil, you are showing much interest in the store's operation. Would you like to work here? I have secured some financing to increase my inventory. I feel I am able to hire a new clerk now as we will soon be busy."

This conversation was all for Georgy and Cindy's benefit as Connie and I had agreed what tack we would take beforehand. I declared I thought I would like to come to work here. She continued, "Will you stay over a little while tonight and I will show some more of how we keep track of our inventory, ordering of new, etc. We may even be able to sell to other stores at a discount. Our profit will be smaller, but should be more stable."

This was a new direction for the business, but Georgy immediately wanted to show his support, "Connie, I can show Cecil most everything."

"I know Georgy, but it will be better at first if I show him what I expect from him. You will still have to teach him the finer points."

"Okay, but I could do it."

"Humor me, Georgy."

He was disappointed, but Connie was the boss. I suspected he also was in love with her. "As you wish, Connie." When Connie locked the door after the last customer and Georgy left, we were immediately in a clinch.

"Christ Cecil, you have been like a disease to me and I have caught it. You do not know how hard it has been to act normal around you. I'm on fire, and I need you to put it out."

I grinned, "Well let's run through what you taught me on Wednesday. If I can put the fire out, then you have done well as my instructor."

"Okay, time to review your last lessons before we get to the new ones."

Sex this night was a little more difficult as we had no bed, but we were able to make do. Connie declared, "I'm ordering a daybed Monday. It should be set up by next weekend. By the way, Cindy is going to be absent from home both Tuesday and Thursday this coming week. Does that give you any ideas?"

"Yes, more lessons come to mind."

Last Wednesday night was behind me. I felt more confident and Connie certainly was an excellent teacher. Yes, and I could read her feelings and adjust to what she wanted. She deserved from me to give my all. I owned half her company now didn't I?"

I was feeling a little constricted on Monday. Georgy caught me once for a minute when there were no customers. "You didn't work yesterday. How come? We do a lot of our sales on Sunday."

"Connie understands that I am a young man and other interests intrude. I have to have some life outside of here."

"I wish I had one. I do not know as I really mind. To tell the truth, I like it when she and I are here alone."

I studied him until he became uncomfortable. "Have you told Connie how you feel?"

"God no, she would fire me for being presumptuous. That is not admitting that I do love her, of course. Look at me, I am overweight and kind of dumpy looking. She'd laugh me right out the door if I spoke up."

"Maybe you don't have to come right out and tell her. Do it by making suggestions on how to improve the store. I am going to be moving on in a few weeks. There will have to be someone to replace me. The store will need even one more clerk soon after that if the business picks up as I think it will.

"Ask Connie to make you the store manager. Make some suggestions about buying more advertising. You know what works. Look around, see if the store needs new counters or equipment, and point that out. She has financing available.

"In the meantime, start watching your diet. Go to the gym. Practice some new dance steps so when you ask her for a date you can wow her on the floor. That would be one way to get to hold her in your arms. Don't forget to ask for a kiss when you take her home."

"I can't do that. You did not know her husband. He was tall and well proportioned. I am most certainly the opposite of him. There is no chance for me."

"Don't sell yourself short as far as Connie is concerned. She is now older and less pretty from caring for her husband. Her chances of finding love are diminished greatly. She tells me she has secured unlimited financing to rebuild her business. Step in and help build the business with her. I would say you have an excellent chance with her."

"She won't see me that way."

"Make her. Become more of a take-charge kind of person. Say, I know what would be a good beginning. Demand in front of her that I address you as George instead of Georgy. Soon she will as well."

"I doubt it will work. She even looks at you with lust. You are young and virile. Why would she choose me over you?"

"I am far too young for her, and she is aware of how her friends would look at her if she took up with someone as young as me. Besides, I do not plan to work here very long. I'll leave the playing field wide open for you."

"I like you, Cecil. You know I might try all of these things you have suggested."

"You can do it. I have faith in you. Now remember, demand in front of Connie that I address you as George. She will be in soon, so don't hesitate for long."

An hour later, we put this little ploy into play, and Connie looked at George with some surprise, but did not say anything. As the shop closed for the day, she said, "Good night George, business has been better hasn't it? More like it used to be."

"It has Connie, and it will get better."

Tuesday night Connie and I only paid attention to why we were meeting. We did not mention the business, because we were too busy. I was staying with Connie for a shorter session every time we met. That was fine with me. I was working everyday and I was planning more investments. When I was with Connie, I was involved with her to the exclusion of everything else.

Connie whispered to me before I left the shop that she wanted to talk to me concerning the business when we met in the evening. This would be the fourth time we had met. I do believe I had the basics of how to perform in the bedroom down pretty well. No, I did not consider myself an expert, but Connie was loudly exclaiming her pleasure.

We started out fast and furious and soon were both satiated. Connie said, "Cecil, I have been so long without a lover, this has been total pleasure for me. How long are you going to want lessons from me?"

"Connie, we can let this be the last time if you prefer. I'm so appreciative of what you have taught me, I won't be demanding we continue."

"Oh. I would like a few more sessions."

"I will be in the store for two more weeks. If you have time for me two or three times more during that time, we can leave each other with fond memories."

"Damn it Cecil, if you were a little older I would go after you for a husband. You certainly are mature beyond your years, but if I did, my friends would disown me. I'm thinking of your mother, of course."

"Connie, I do love you, but as a friend for a friend. Let's leave it at that. We both have gained something from our meetings." Connie kissed me soundly and made a date to meet on Monday of next week.

"Cecil, George came to me and asked to be made the manager of the store. He said I was working too hard and he wanted to relieve me of some of the more mundane details. What do you think?"

"Actually, it was my idea and I suggested he approach you. I think he would make a good manager."

"It did surprise me a little and I wondered. You should be the manager, but you say you are leaving."

"Yes I am. What are your thoughts?"

"George seems more forceful, somehow. I asked him to stay over tonight, but he claimed he had an appointment at the gym down the street. Was that your suggestion as well?"

"Yes. Remember, I have purchased one-half of the business. When customers come in, they look to see what the clerks are like. I figured George would help the business if he acted more in charge. He has a good mind and can explain the new knitting machines better than anyone else except you. You won't be present all of the time."

"So this is all about making the business more profitable?"

"Maybe. Also, remember I am very young and I am a little worried if my investments are going to do well. It was just a thought that is all."

"I do believe you are on track to succeed in life. Now, I have taught you about sex. Let me show you about love. I am going to miss you terribly you know when you leave. Stay another two hours, if you can't stay the night." I did stay for a few more hours. I was not aware of this at the time, but staying later this night was to have consequences.

I slept late in the morning, as I did not have to be at the store until afternoon. I realized I could smell coffee so Roma must be here. I was right as she was sitting in the kitchenette. "Good morning, Cecil, another one of those nights?"

"Yes, but I'm not comfortable discussing it."

"I'm sorry. I was not prying and I certainly do not want any details. I was making small talk. I said that instead of commenting on how tired you looked."

"That is okay. I am just not awake yet. I need coffee. Thanks for brewing some." I said this as I was pouring a mug full. "So, what are you doing home? How are your fellow actors doing?"

"The troupe is doing great. I am home working on the third play while the tour goes on. I now have the part of a major supporting role. I will be going for rehearsals every day for the next week. Two weeks from tomorrow we open downtown at the playhouse." Roma was excited. She paused and then said, "Cecil, I want to thank you for making this all possible for me."

"I haven't done much for you yet. I know I have promised a lot, but you haven't needed much so far."

"You have done much more than you realize. I have a decent place to call home. You are not hitting on me all of the time. I run into that constantly. My mom is doing better because I am not living with her. She wants to be a good mom, but she feels so guilty when I am around because she hates for me to see what she has become. She does not realize that I love her no matter what."

"I can arrange it so she has better living conditions. I would be glad to."

"I know you would, but she won't leave her neighborhood. Actually, she is the neighborhood. Cecil, what do you know about the Roma people? Actually, I'm sure you know I'm speaking of Gypsies."

"Not much. I do know in this city they are congregated on the edge and are mostly poor."

"And?"

"And they are reputed to be shady."

"You are so right. Actually, they are like the American Indians in one respect. If they can gain something for nothing or put something over on somebody, it makes them looked up to by their peers. Money as such does not mean too much to most of us. We do have leaders among us and some of them are rich. The rest of us rarely see any benefits. We all are expected to contribute, though."

"Will you have to contribute from your income?"

"I will be expected to. What would really raise me in the people's estimation is to use you for my education and then not pay you back. So be warned." Roma smiled disarmingly.

"Should I be worried?"

"No, I will play it straight with you. I will tell you why. Mama is a princess, but only a small one. She sees both sides of our people. She is tired of people looking down on us and the filth and squalor we live in. She says we are just a bunch of beggars, panhandlers and worse. Our people are believed to have as high, or a higher percentage of crooks as any other ethnic group. She wants me to break the chain. She and I act as if we are estranged, but I will tell you that is not the case at all. I love her and she loves me."

"I still wish I could do something for her."

"You can't, not now anyway. Maybe someday in the future. Cecil, I looked at my mail when I got here last evening. I have acceptance at two different schools of acting. I have to make a decision which one to choose. Both are well reputed. One is more expensive than the other."

I broke in, "Expense is of no consideration. If it is the one in New York, you should choose that one. I have been checking out living quarters close to all three schools where you applied. In New York, there is a room in a house near the school. A widow who was a friend of my father's lives there. I stayed in it a few times when her husband was alive. She would love to have a young woman using it. She was thrilled that I remembered staying there when I was younger. It was at her suggestion when I was inquiring about finding you a place to stay."

"Cecil, is there no end to your largess?"

I grinned, "I'm just protecting my investment. When you get a day off, we will go to New York and you can tour the school and I will have you meet her." Tears were in Roma's eyes when she thanked me.

Cindy Williams started work full time for her mother in the knitting shop on the next Monday. She was going to be a real beauty as she matured. Connie told me Cindy took after her father's side of the family. Where we had been friendly at first, now suddenly Cindy acted as if she hated me. Never did she have a civil word for me. Connie soon realized there was friction between the two of us. She spoke to her daughter about it.

"Cecil is just a sneaky rich kid playing at what interests him for the moment."

"You don't know Cecil at all. He is the son of my best friend and I won't have you treating him like he was something to be looked down on."

"Well, I don't like him."

"Cindy, I can't help how you feel, but you will treat him with respect while he is here. He has already given his notice and will be here only two more weeks. I warn you that he is always welcome anytime, so dispel the thought of ever seeing the last of him."

George was puzzled hearing how Cindy felt toward me. "I can't understand it. The girl has always been so sweet to everyone and even you at first."

"Don't worry about it. I'll stay away from her as much as I can." Connie apologized how her daughter's dislike of me had manifested itself. This marred my last tryst with Connie.

"Connie, she isn't here with us. For tonight, please put it out of your mind. I want to make our last time together enjoyable."

"This is our last time. We won't be repeating this again?"

"I don't see how it is possible. Cindy would certainly get onto us eventually and then all hell would break loose."

"I guess you are right. Cecil, you must know I love you, but I know that continuing this part of our relationship would be unwise. We do have to meet occasionally to discuss business, though."

"I know that and I will rent a small office where I can keep my investment records. You will just have to meet me there."

Connie grinned while asking, "May I be your secretary?"

I laughed. "If you were we would never get any work accomplished."

"I know and that is what I was thinking." She paused before saying, "George asked me for a date for this Saturday. I put him off, but I'm going to tell him yes." She looked at me.

"Connie, I'm going to be a little bit jealous, but George is certainly more suited to you than I am. I have not been able to ask you out on a date because of our age difference. Convention should not dictate, but it does. That is sad."

"I know, but in this case it is the best for both of us." We snuggled together for a nap. I was home by two in the morning. I knew I was going to miss my teacher! I liked the lessons, too.

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Story tagged with:
Ma/Fa / Consensual / Romantic / Heterosexual / Slow /