"'Paying it forward' is the concept," Eli explained.
"Yes," Ed Wilson answered, "I've heard of that. From, what was it, the Starbucks thing; it was people in line paying for the coffee of those who were in line after them."
"Yes," Eli Noland said with great interest, "It also occurred, apparently when people were paying tolls."
"So, this is the way you want to do this?" Ed asked, still a little skeptical about the idea.
"Yes," Eli answered. "Think of it, Ed. Look at what I was born with. My Daddy presented me with a business on a silver platter and along with that business all sorts of money to back it up."
"Yes, but you've made it more of a success by a factor of 10 or more since then," Ed said, apparently trying to bring some 'sense', as he saw it, into the notion of 'paying it forward'. "That was your work!"
"Well," Eli went on, "That makes it even more a kind of necessity. I mean, look at all of it. Look, for example at how our business here has prospered."
"Yes," Ed said, acknowledging the truth of what Eli was saying about their business. "We're selling cars these days at a fantastic rate. And, by the way, we'll have a display in the major new mall this coming week."
"Great!" Eli said, "That'll give me a chance to see if I can put my plan into action."
"Just don't get into trouble," Ed warned,
"Trouble?" Eli replied, "I'm going to try to find someone who needs a car and go ahead and buy that person a car. That's how I'm going to start my 'Paying it Forward' adventure."
"Just be careful," Ed warned.
Eli laughed and kissed Ed on the cheek, which always disturbed his partner, giving Eli a reason to do it now and then. "That's what I love about you, Edward. You're so cautious!"
"And you're so scatter headed!" Ed said with a grin now.
"Yes, but there's all of this good fortune to go around," Eli said. "I thought Janie was the answer to my desire to give thanks this way for all of the bounty, I mean by sharing."
"Didn't do you much good in that situation," Ed said. "She must really be kicking herself now with the quick divorce, letting her share her stuff with a road sales man, for god's sake!"
"It was her choice," Eli said, both of them referring to Eli's wife, whom he'd married early and who ran off with a salesman and divorced Eli in what looked like record time, after that.
(Of course that was before Eli began his taking over of his Dad's business and before he ran that business into the conglomerate that it was today.)
"So this is my chance!" Eli said.
"Well, go get 'em, tiger, is what I say!" Ed said with a final laugh. "But you'll give whoever it is your card and I'll contact you. We're at least agreed on that much?"
"Yes," Eli said, "We can be as careful as you want. And I love you for being so concerned!"
"Someone has to watch out for you and your nitwit ideas," Ed said with a final laugh, which Eli joined.
PLAN IN ACTION:
Eli Noland had spent a great deal of his adult years being truly thankful to his Dad for all that he'd done to make Eli such a success. He taught him about business and growth. He encouraged Eli and helped him to learn from early mistakes, which were, to tell the truth, not that many. So that by the time his Dad followed his lovely Mom into death, a number of years before, Eli was a success. He never forgot that. He was always grateful for it, and lately he'd been thinking more and more about sharing the bounty that he'd accrued in his life.
He was 42 now and thought that it was high time that the sharing began. He was also attracted to the idea of 'paying it forward' and thought of ways to apply that to his own life and circumstances. He was secretly pleased that he'd done so well and was, therefore, so free to try to 'pay things forward' in his own way.
It was what his auto partner, Ed Wilson, had objected to. Ed thought that Eli was making almost a joke of this venture and he'd tried to talk him out of it. But for Eli it was a fairly happy way of trying to get his heart's desire done: this idea of almost random sharing.
In the end, Eli was determined to 'have fun' with the idea, as he put it and also in the end, Ed Wilson just shook his head and said that he'd go along with it.
Eli Noland, actually Elijah Barnes Noland —- the Barnes from his Mom's maiden name and the 'Elijah' because she was a Bible believer —-had been, in his late teens and early 20's a bit on the gawky side. He was thin in those days, and that, he believed, made the comparison between him and the salesman, with whom Janie had run off, not very favorable for him. But as some women blossom in their middle years, so it was with Eli. He changed, as he became more involved in the business, and was, in his 40's at this point, an exceedingly good looking man. But for years, it had been business, especially after the stunning rejection involved in Janie's running away and divorcing him.
He always had reservations about his name but it was a favorite of his Mom's. It always presented the family a standing joke about 'saving a place at the table for Elijah' —-referring to Christian apocalyptic expectations as well as family hopes.
But now Eli was determined to enjoy himself as he looked around for someone, a stranger to his way of thinking, to share some of this bounty with.
This was his frame of mind, as he went to the mall that next week to look over the auto display there, some of which was put there by his and Ed Wilson's dealership.
Eli was also a keen observer of human beings. He noticed what people were like, from how they interacted with each other. It was one of the often basic reason for his being so good at business, his almost infallible way of summing up people.
He also intended to use this 'sixth sense' about people to guide him in going ahead with his present notion about 'paying things forward'.
He didn't know if maybe the idea of gifting someone with a car would serve to satisfy this desire to be liberal with his wealth but was willing to find out.
He had also come to grips with the idea already that merely donating to charities didn't really 'make it' for him. He'd certainly done that but the charities, even those that sent pictures of children who were being taken care of with the donations, seemed to be fairly remote to Eli.
So, it was with all of this in mind that Eli Noland was at the mall the following Friday. He was pleased to walk among the cars displayed, and idly wondering, if he were starting out and needing a car, what kind he'd want to have.
It was then that his universe and that of Margaret and Ginny Ackermann crossed.
Margaret and her daughter Ginny, Virginia, were out for a rare treat on that Friday night. They'd gone to one of the mall restaurants that they liked for dinner. It was rare for them, because their circumstances were strained enough that nights out to dinner were not often on the agenda.
They'd had their treat and decided to walk the mall a little.
Margaret Gaines had married Sandy Ackermann, while the two of them were still young. She discovered in the marriage, as time went on, that she was in fact the anchor. She kept them grounded and in touch with reality. Sandy was the dreamer, the 'let's try this' kind of guy. His ways kept the family, at times, on edge. Nor were all of his dreams that harmless. As time went on, Margaret began to realize that Sandy's schemes were getting them farther and farther in debt, huge debt. But Sandy was charming and always certain that prosperity was only right around the corner somewhere, and Margaret had difficulty curbing this kind of 'wildness' in him.
After the birth of Ginny, early in the marriage, Sandy had said that he didn't want more children, though Margaret thought that she might but the issue was left there.
In time, Sandy Ackermann had gone on to follow his dreams, realizing that the weight of a wife and daughter no longer suited his life style.
(It was in its own way, the same kind of pain that Eli Noland went through with his Janie)
So, Sandy had left, leaving his huge debts behind him, with no terrible thoughts in his mind about allowing his former wife and daughter pay for his ill conceived ideas. It put Margaret in a great deal of debit and though she did get a job in an insurance office, it put countless amounts of pressure on her to get those debts paid off. It was pressure that was still there.
That meant, of course, that with Ginny now 18 and going to school, even at a local school, Margaret was taxed to the maximum getting Sandy's debts finally paid off —- the amount was now 'down to' about $20,000 but that still was a mountain for her on her salary, especially with Ginny in school.
So, looking over the cars in the mall, after their dinner out, was an exercise in pure fantasy for them.
Margaret Gaines Ackermann was a willowy 36 year old. The marriage to Sandy had had its effect on her and she looked a bit tired around the edges because of it. She was a pretty woman and nicely built with rounded curves, but, since all of Sandy's shenanigans, she wasn't in 'the man market', as she put it, at all.
She and Ginny walked slowly among the cars displayed. There were sedans, and SUVs and pickup trucks but there was also a snazzy looking Mustang, that Ginny loved. They lingered around the Mustang, taking a close look at it and talking about it.
That's where they were, when Eli Noland came upon them. He was standing at a respectable distance and, while pretending to be interested in looking over the Mustang himself, heard them speaking.
"Isn't it wonderful, Momma?" Ginny asked.
"Yes, it is, love," Margaret said, and sighed.
"Oh, I know, Momma," Ginny said then. "You don't have to say anything and I know you won't but I realize that we're still so much in debt for Daddy's crazy things that no new Mustang is in the stars for us."
"I'm afraid not, love," Margaret said. Then, with just a few seconds of thought she said: "I don't mind paying those debts. I was married to him, when they were incurred and I was never able to succeed in curbing him. Maybe that's what I get for the failure."
"Don't say that, Momma," Ginny said. "You're just too good to even say a harsh word about how he left us with this debt and all."
She reached up and kissed her Momma on the cheek then, and got a hug from Margaret.
"But wouldn't it be great!" Ginny said, "You get the Mustang and I can have your Ford for school!"
"Great! Yes!" Margaret said, "And for special occasions, you could take the Mustang!"
They both giggled at the greatness of the fantasy that they were sharing and talking about.
Eli knew that this was his chance, the one that he'd been waiting for. He just wasn't sure of all of this but he realized that he was positively tingling about having found exactly the right people for his 'paying it forward' project.
The two women, the lovely older lady and the pretty young one, were just then walking away, when Eli stepped up to them.
"Excuse me," he said, and the two of them turned to him, giving him wary looks.
"Yes?" Margaret said, kind of stepping between Eli and her daughter, a thing that Eli both notice and appreciated.
"I'm sorry if it seems that I was listening in on your conversation but I hope that I can be of some help here," Eli went on.
"How do you mean?" Margaret asked softly, not trusting this good looking man.
"Well," Eli went on, "Let me introduce myself. My name is Eli Noland."
"Yes, Mr Noland," Margaret said, and, probable in reaction to his smile introduced herself: "Margaret Ackermann and my daughter Ginny."
"Pleased to meet you both," Eli said. "But as I was saying maybe I can be of some help here."
"I don't see how," Margaret said.
"Oh, Momma," Ginny said, liking the looks of this charming looking man right away. "Let him talk, Momma."
Margaret sighed and decided to listen, for Ginny's sake.
"Yes, Mr Noland!" Margaret said, encouraging him to continue.
"Thank you," Eli said, bowing his head to Ginny and smiled at Margaret and launched into what he wanted to say.
"You see, I am a partner at Wilson and Noland," he began.
"You mean," Ginny said, "The dealership that has put the cars here?"
"Precisely, young lady," Eli said, grinning at her.
He paused and said: "I noticed that you both were looking at the Mustang."
"Yes," Margaret said, "A beauty," and Ginny agreed.
"Well," Eli continued, knowing that this was the important part of it all, "I came here tonight to see if I could find someone, the exactly right someone for whom I could purchase the Mustang."
They just stared at him then.
"What did you say?" Margaret asked.
"I said," he repeated, "That I've been looking for someone, the right someone for whom I could purchase the Mustang."
"Why?" Margaret said, and Ginny was simply stunned and couldn't talk just then.
"Because, you see," he explained, "I have had in my life so much bounty, from my Dad in prospering and giving me a business and I've had such successes after that, that I've decided to 'pay it forward', as the current idea and phrase suggest. I've been looking for someone for whom I could do this and you seem exactly the right ones."
"You're scaring me now," Margaret said.
"Momma," Ginny said, trying to calm her Mom down and see exactly what might be going on here.
"Of course I am," he said, "I realize that! So, I'm going to leave now. I'll give you my card. It has my partner, Ed Wilson's name and number on it, as well as mine. I've told him that if I found someone for whom I could do this, that they'd call him and he'll make the arrangements."
Both women were just staring at him by then.
"You see," Eli concluded, "You have nothing to lose. You call Ed Wilson and if it's a hoax, you've found that out. If I'm telling the truth, which I am, you get the Mustang, and I'll be sharing the bounty of my life with you. It's that simple."
Margaret looked down at the card, and she saw that it did indeed have Ed Wilson's name and number on it too. By the time she looked up from the card, with Ginny saying a soft: "Momma?" Eli had walked away and was simply gone in the crowd of people at the mall.
"Momma?" GInny said again.
Margaret turned to Ginny and said: "I don't know what to do? That was so strange."
Ginny was simply staring and said: "Why don't we call this Ed Wilson. It's what that Mr Noland said to do. That's easy enough."
They went to a bench and sat down, and Margaret got her phone out.
"I'm nervous about this!" "she said and Ginny put her hand on her Momma's arm to calm her.
"Just call!" Ginny said.
"Hello," the voice said, "Wilson and Noland"
"Is this the Ford dealership?" Margaret asked.
"Yes, Ma'am," the voice said, "it is."
"Um, may name is Ackermann," Margaret said, "A Mr Eli Noland asked me to call about a Mustang."
"Oh, yes, Ma'am," the voice said then, "We've been expecting this call. I'll get Mr Wilson for you."
Margaret, while she waited, explained to Ginny what the woman at the dealership had said. Ginny was getting really excited about it.
"Ed Wilson," the voice said then.
"Hello, Mr Wilson?" Margaret asked.
Then Margaret explained to this Ed Wilson what had just happened and what they were supposed to do.
"Okay," Ed said, "Eli told me that he was going to do something like this one of these days soon. What I'd like is for you to come to the dealership and we'll take care of this."
"Mr Wilson," Margaret said, "Is this some kind of trick or a joke?"
"No, Ma'am," Ed said, "It's totally on the up and up. It's something that Eli said he was intending to do. Said that he wanted to 'pay it forward' or something like that."
"Yes," Margaret said, getting excited now herself. "He used those words."
"Can you come here, Ma'am?" Ed asked then.
"Yes, yes," Margaret said in a soft voice, "My daughter and I will be right there. It's just that I'm shocked."
"I know, Ma'am," Ed said, "We'll take care of all of your questions, when you get here."
"Thank you," she said then to Ginny. She gulped and said: "Ginny, honey, I think that he meant what he said."
"Oh, Momma!" Ginny said as they hugged.
The next hour and a half were a whirl for both Margaret Ackermann and Ginny, as they discovered that Eli Noland had indeed been on the up and up with his notion about 'paying it forward' by buying the Mustang for them.
They were greeted by Ed Wilson and he personally helped them look over the cars and pick one that they wanted. They were constantly moving between being in a fog and being down right elated.
At the finish, Ed gave them the paper work that showed that the Mustang was theirs, and then they finally did believe what had happened to them.
At that point, Margaret constantly was wiping her eyes, to keep the tears from flowing and Ginny was just a hint away from breaking into uncontrollable giggles.
Ed told them to come back in about an hour to an hour and a quarter and it would be ready for them. During that time, they travelled home and left Margaret's older car at home and took a taxi back to Wilson and Noland's. They were still skeptical. But when they arrived, the Mustang was waiting outside for them; it was white and had black trim with tan leather interior.
"Ohhhh," Margaret said, now giving way to the tears.
She turned and hugged Ginny and didn't even know what to say at that point.
She did have enough presence of mind to say to Ed Wilson: "May I come back soon and talk about this just a little?"
"Yes," he said, "I don't see any harm in that."
"I'm just too overwhelmed to say anything rational right now," Margaret said, and Ginny held her Momma's hand to help keep both of them calm.
"I understand that," Ed said, "Come back any time."
They drove away together, with Margaret driving the first half of the way home and Ginny driving the second half. They were silent, stunned for the first half of the trip home and positively giggly for the second half.
They got home and parked the new Mustang in the garage and both of them walked around it for a while and fussed over it.
"I am so shocked!" Margaret said.
"Oh, Momma," Ginny said, "We need to find this Eli Noland to say a proper 'thank you'.
"Yes," Margaret said.
A PROPER THANK YOU:
In the days that followed, giggling together for Margaret and Ginny seemed to be the order for the day. It was something that Ginny said, a few days after the incident with the new Mustang that uncovered a new kind of truth.
"Momma," Ginny said that morning, before she went to school. "You look so radiant recently. This car thing has certainly helped it seems."
"I don't know, love," Margaret answered, "It seems to have lifted at least some of the gloom. I just feel it!"
"You look it too," Ginny said, giving her Momma kiss on the cheek. "Well," Ginny concluded. "I'm off to school"
"Have a good day, sweetie," Margaret said, "I'll be getting ready for work myself."
What she didn't tell Ginny was that she intended to take her lunch time to go to Wilson and Nolands to talk to Ed Wilson again. She felt a deep need to say a proper thank you to Eli Noland for his kindness, completely unexpected and shocking kindness.
During her lunch time, she did indeed drive to Wilson and Noland's and asked for Ed Wilson. He smiled, as she was shown into his office. He was also a bit surprised at how different this woman looked from the way she'd looked, when she came about the Mustang.
"Ms Ackermann," he said, in a pleasant voice, standing to greet her. "Please sit. What can I do for you?"
"It's just, Mr Wilson, ' she said, and he interrupted her to ask her to call him 'Ed'.
"Yes," she said, smiling, "Ed; I need, we need, Ginny and I need to say a proper 'thank you' to Mr Noland."
Ed Wilson smiled. He had already decided that he wasn't going to shelter Eli from what he'd done. Ed had made that decision even while they were talking about whether Eli was actually going to do it or not. And, truth to tell, there had been a part of Ed's mind where he never actually believed that Eli was going to go ahead with his 'pay it forward' scheme and find someone to buy a car for. But here she was sitting here, looking, he had to admit, fairly radiant today.
"Well fine," Ed said. "He's certainly in his office today and I expect will be there until about 6 PM; it's his usual schedule, and I promise not to tell him that you're coming to see him. I'll let that be a surprise."
(In his mind, Ed was thinking that it would serve Eli right to 'take his medicine' for the craziness of his scheme about the Mustang.")
He gave Margaret the information that she was seeking and she left him with a broad smile and a 'thank you'. It even left Ed Wilson sorry that he'd not been the originator of the idea to buy this woman a Mustang.
Margaret was normally off of work by 5:00 PM; she drove to the address that Ed Wilson had given. She found it an office tower, that showed on the lintel above the door that it was the 'Noland Building'.
"Oh my!" she said, wondering about her courage in the face of this kind of money but she was determined. The car had meant so much to her and Ginny and they'd been in such shock that Mr Noland hadn't been properly thanked.
She went in and was directed to the offices on the upper, top floor. Once there she was met by a secretary, who asked whom she was seeking. Margaret told her that she wished to see Mr Noland, and the secretary went to carry her name to Mr Noland.
In a very few minutes, the secretary came out but she was followed by Eli Noland himself. Margaret steeled herself to not be overly embarrassed and make a fool of herself.
"Why, Ms Ackermann," Eli said. To which she replied: "Margaret!"
"Margaret then!" Eli said, taking the hand that she was offering and welcoming her.
"What a treat it is to see you!" he said. "Will you come into my office?"
"Thank you, Mr Noland," Margaret said.
"No, no," he said, sticking his hand in the air, "If it is to be Margaret, then it must be Eli or Elijah, if you must!"
Margaret giggled at the 'Elijah', as they went into his office. She was impressed with it immediately.
"A favorite biblical name of my Mom's," he said, "So, I just live with the 'Eli'."
"Lovely name!" she said.
"Yes, thank you," he said.
"And," she went on with a sudden inspiration, "Everyone is always waiting for you to come to dinner!" She giggled at the end of this sentence and he laughed with her.
"Precisely!" he said, "Save a chair, set a place setting for Elijah!"
"Makes you welcome everywhere!" she said.
He asked her to sit then, and she did.
"Margaret," he led off, "I am a plain spoken man, and I want to say right off that you look extraordinarily lovely today."
He filed, for his own use those words, because they weren't just polite talk. Eli was positively struck by how pretty she looked that day.
She blushed but said 'thank you' to him.
"I have to say that the gift of the Mustang, about which I've come here, has taken a great weight off my shoulders," she said.
"Good!" he said, expecting more, and Margaret was prepared for this; she'd thought in advance about what she wanted to say to him.
"I don't wish to bore you with my stuff," she said.
"Please," he said, "Let's be open and frank; we're friends, after all."
"Yes," she admitted, "Friends."
Then she went on. She talked a bit about her situation.
"I simply need you to know why the gift of the car was so important for me and Ginny," she said.
She talked about Sandy and how he'd left them, and the fact that he'd totally disappeared, after their divorce and all, but she was left with the debts.
She gave a rueful smile and said: "I've been paying those debts for a few years now, and am getting them down but there's a long way to go and with Ginny going to school, even the local school and staying at home it's been that extra burden. A second car has become more and more of a necessity but out of the question."
She looked at him, and the rapt attention he was paying and said: "Your grand gesture to 'pay if forward', I guess is the phrase, couldn't have come at a better time."
She thought for a few seconds and said: "I'm sorry for burdening you with my woes, Mr, er ... Eli."
He put up a hand and said: "No, no 'sorries' now, Margaret; we're just talking."
Of course what she said was giving him even more ideas but he stored those.
"But the gift of the car, so unexpected," she concluded. "Is a great, great help to both of us."
"I'm glad about that," he said.
"We intend to share the use of it," she said and giggled a little, making him grin too.
DINNER WITH ELI:
Then he turned to her and said: "But look at the time; is there any possibility that I could take you to dinner?"
She blushed and realized right away what a treat that would be.
"I didn't mean to be taking so much of your time," she said, softly.
"Spending time with a beautiful woman is never a waste of time!" he said.
She covered her mouth and giggled again.
"No one has said anything like that for a long time!" she said, appreciative of his comment.
"Then the world has been neglecting its duty! Is what I say!" was his comment. "Where would you like to go?"
"You choose," she said, "And it will be fine with me."
"Good," said "The Steak Hut? Or maybe someplace vegetarian? I don't know what your preferences are."
"It's a treat for me anywhere," she said.
"Fine," he said, "The Steak Hut it'll be."
She put in a call to Ginny to tell her that she'd be going out to dinner with Eli Noland.
"The Mustang man?" Ginny said, in an almost explosive voice.
"Yes," Margaret said laughing. "I'll see you later!"
"Go get him, Momma!" Ginny said, and Margaret laughed again.
Margaret turned to him then and saw that he had raised eyebrows.
"Oh that was my daughter acting the fool!" Margaret said, giggling. "She called you 'the Mustang Man'."
He laughed and said: "I know that I deserve that but I am really appreciative that you allowed me to work out my 'pay it forward' desire with you. But there's more, isn't there?"
Margaret grinned and said: "She also said 'Go get him, Momma!'"
He laughed and said: "I can't think of a time when being in danger seemed so pleasant."
They both grinned at that and he said: "We'll take my car, if it's okay. We can come back for yours later."
"Yes, fine," she said.
It turned out to be an evening to turn her head. Eli introduced her to Al, the manager of 'the Steak Hut', and Al was expansive in welcoming her. Their dinner conversation was laid back and very easy. Eli talked about his Mom and Dad and all the advantages that they'd given him.
Margaret, when it was her turn, talked in depth about Sandy and the mess that he'd left them in, and her hopes for a brighter future for Ginny, giving him even more material for plans he was already making, and had lodged in the back of his mind.
"You must be the world's greatest Mom," he said, and she blushed.
"I bet Ginny would agree with that," he said.
They went back to the office tower, where her car was parked. He walked her to her car and chuckled: "Here we are two grownups who now have to wrestle with the age-old teenage dilemma about to kiss or not to kiss."
She turned to him and said: "I do know this much; I'm not letting you get away without a hug and maybe a kiss."
They hugged and also kissed.
"Oh, she said, as she clung to him, "Eli, all that I wanted was to say a proper 'thank you' to you and here you go and make me feel like a Princess!"
"My only plan!" he said. Then he leaned down and kissed her again and said: "Good night, Princess!"
Margaret was in a kind of a tizzy on the way home. She didn't know what to do or what not to do. She didn't know if she should call him again or if he'd call her again or what the status of what they'd just gone through actually was.
AT HOME AND THINKING IT THROUGH:
Ginny was waiting for her, when she got home. She put the Mustang in the garage. (They left the older car out these days and kept the Mustang in the garage.)
As soon as Margaret went into the house, Ginny was waiting and was grinning from ear to ear. Margaret immediately matched her grin with one of her own, and opened her arms for a hug.
"Eli Noland, eh?" Ginny said, and they both giggled again.
They sat and talked for a little bit, with both of them having a cup of tea.
"I'm tired," Margaret said after a while and Ginny, smiling said: "Hey, Mom, let's bunk together and we can giggle about the Mustang Man.
Margaret smile and agreed.
"Give me time, love, to take a bath and I'll be ready," Margaret said.
"I'll already be in bed waiting for you," Ginny said and they hugged, as Margaret went off to take her bath.
Margaret had a king sized bed. It was actually one of the only things that Sandy had wanted that Margaret was positive about. She liked the room and the big bed gave that certainly.
She went into the bedroom from the bathroom, with her comfy flannel nightgown already on, and did indeed find Ginny already in bed.
(Their ages were not that far apart, since Margaret had had Ginny at a relatively early age and they were, these days, often as much like girl friends as Mom and daughter.)
In the dark then, with each of them facing one another from their separate pillows, Ginny asked, softly, as though someone were listening in: "So, Mom, what do you think about Eli Noland?"
"I don't know what to think," Margaret answered. "The dinner out was a treat and might well have been only a polite thing, if it weren't for the way that he acted, once we got to his office."
Ginny giggled, and soon enough Margaret joined her in the giggling.
"I bet he likes you!" Ginny said.
"Ohhhh," Margaret groaned, "How is someone to know that? I'm so out of practice! What does he want with someone like me anyway! Every time I even think of a handsome man with all that money, it makes me kind of shrink into myself inside."
"Hey, hey," Ginny interrupted, "No more of that; just because Dad was a selfish shithead..."
"Virginia!" Margaret said, shocked.
"Well, Mom, he was!" Ginny said and this time Margaret only nodded her head in agreement.
"But just because he was that way," Ginny repeated again, only this time omitting the swearing, "Doesn't mean that it says anything that's true about you. You are a babe!"
Margaret reached out for her then and said: "Oh, thank you, sweetheart! You make me feel so good!"
Ginny grinned then and said: "And I bet that the Mustang Man makes you feel good too!"
Margaret grinned and let out a giggle.
"Don't know what to do or how to act," Margaret said, "I mean a man with all that money."
"Just be you," Ginny said, "And forget about the money; concentrate on the man."
"Sage advice for someone so young," Margaret said.
"So, what was it like? I mean the date and all!" Ginny asked.
Margaret hooted and said: "I never thought of it that way; was it? I mean do you think it was a date? Actually a date?"
"Of course it was!" Ginny said, grinning at her Mom, who was now grinning too.
"It was so nice!" Margaret said, "He was easy to talk to and pleasant. He listened and was very attentive!"
"Really different from Sandy the shallow!" Ginny said.
"Love," Margaret said, "We're not going to keep on talking about your Father that way!"
"I know, Mom, and I'm sorry," Ginny said, "It always makes me so mad that he left you on the vine, so to speak."
Margaret nodded her head and Ginny went on: "But at least the Mustang Man seems to be out in a mood to pick from the vine."
This caused another round of giggling from both of them.
"So, what's next with him?" Ginny wanted to know.
"Don't know that there is any 'next'," Margaret said. "He certainly didn't say. I hate to be expecting anything; you know!"
"Yes," Ginny said, "It's always best to play it cool; but give him a little time and you'll see. I bet he'll do something soon. He seems to be that kind of man."
She gave Margaret a huge grin and Margaret gave her daughter a kiss and they said a soft "Good night!" to each other and settled down.
They were both settling into a sleep, when the phone rang.
"Hello!" Margaret said, a bit concerned, and Ginny was looking on with her head propped up on her hand, supported by her elbow.
"Margaret?" the voice said.
"Yes, Eli, is that you?" Margaret asked.
"Yes," he said.
Ginny heard him and was grinning then from ear to ear.
"I wanted to make sure that you got home okay and didn't realize the time. I've been at the office working. Did I catch you at a bad time?"
"No, not really," Margaret said, "Ginny and I have just been talking."
"Ah, yes," he said, "Well, I didn't want to interrupt; I was just concerned that you got home okay."
"Yes, I did, and I want to thank you for a lovely evening," she said, "All of it!"
"Yes," he said, "I understand; your daughter is there."
"Yes," Margaret said.
"Bet the two of you are already in bed," he said.
"We are," Margaret said.
"Well, sleep well; good night, Princess!" he said then.
Before she could answer with a 'good night' he said loudly: "Good night, Ginny!"
"Good night, Eli," Ginny said and then he and Margaret shared another 'good night' and she hung up.
Ginny was giggling and Margaret soon joined her. "He called me 'Princess'!"
"Told you so," Ginny said and Margaret said: "Good night, Virginia!"
Ginny kept grinning and leaned over and gave her Mom a kiss before the two of them faded.
Eli had not, in fact, been working on business things. He had been taking time to search his mind about Margaret Ackermann. He always thought that he did his very best thinking at the office, and so, he stayed and chased the ideas around in his head.
He knew full well that it had started as his desire to share some of the bounty of his life but it didn't feel like it was that kind of thing anymore.
He remembered holding his breath, after asking her to dinner, hoping that she wouldn't refuse him, and dreading that she would, just from thinking him so strange.
Then he took time to go over, in his mind, all that they'd talked about and he began to write down things that he needed to do, wanted to do. When the list was done, he planned how he'd act on the list. Part of it would be easy to carry off and part of it would involve digging. But he had friends, associates, who could do the digging for him, and he decided to do that.
The big item, the central thing in his mind was his growing understanding of how lovely she was. It stuck in his mind and caused ideas to bloom and blossom. They were ideas about how she'd look with no clothes on or maybe just in her underwear.
"Get a steady grip, Elijah!" he said to himself at that point, not wanting to allow himself to run amok in his thoughts. But the ideas that had been spawned did make him smile, almost a smile of anticipation.
"We'll see," was all that he would allow himself.
In the end, with all of this in mind, he made a few decisions about what he'd do now, in his campaign with Margaret Ackermann, or 'the Princess', as he now thought of her.
He had a business trip that week but took time one day to track down Ginny at school. She was surprised but pleased to see him, and, when he told her what he needed, she agreed to become a co-conspirator right away.
By the end of the week, he had it all ready. He spent some time, during the week on the phone with Margaret, and apologized for his busy schedule that week. She was, however, so pleased that he'd taken the time to get in touch with her that she said it was no real problem.
He was going to spring his next big surprise on Friday. Ginny knew that, being in 'cahoots' with him and she waited for it with a barely suppressed kind of glee.
On Friday night, at her usual time, Margaret announced that she was going to take a hot bath and then get into her nightgown and then she'd watch a movie with Ginny.
"What about the Mustang Man?" Ginny asked innocently.
"Don't know," Margaret said, "We talked yesterday but he had that business trip and all. So, it's a bath and movie for me."
It was about the time that Margaret emerged from the bath and had her nightgown, her favorite, comfortable flannel one on —- a baby blue flannel it was —-that the doorbell rang. Ginny went to it, and greeted a grinning Eli Noland with a hug and a cheek kiss.
"Is she here?" he asked quietly.
"Yes," Ginny said, "Just out of the bath and wearing her favorite, comfort flannel nightgown."
"Oh!" he said, smiling, "What a great picture that creates."
He kissed Ginny on the cheek and said: "I really appreciate your help with this."
"It's so cool!" Ginny said, "And I can't think of anyone who deserves it more than my Mom."
"The Princess!" he said.
"Ginny," Margaret called from the bedroom, her voice getting nearer to the living room, where Ginny and Eli were. "Is someone here? Who are you talking to? Phone?"
"No, Momma," Ginny said, grinning now at Eli, "It's the Mustang Man!"
Just then Margaret appeared in the door way from the bedroom.
"Whaaaaat?" she said in a loud and shocked voice. "I'm not dressed!"
"Sure you are, Princess," Eli said, moving in her direction, "And you look so warm and cozy!"
He gave her no time to recover but had his arms around her quickly, with Ginny looking on and grinning.