A PERIODIC TREAT:
He escaped the office that afternoon and drove to his favorite ice cream store. His secretary, Janice, knew where he was going and said: "Enjoy yourself!" as he left the office.
"We're okay here?" he asked.
"Everything running like the proverbial Swiss watch," Janice said.
"Ice cream for you?" he asked.
"Oh, not sure," she said. "Don't like to look in the mirror as it is!"
"Oh, come on," he wheedled; "Ray's not complaining is he?" he said.
"Well, no, but I like to keep a watch!" she said.
It was a sign of the kind of relationship that they'd achieved over the 8 years or so that they worked together that they were so comfortable with each other.
"Janice, as usual, you're gorgeous!" he said, and she grinned at him.
"So, ice cream!" he said finally.
"Yes, please, chocolate!" she answered.
"You've got it!" he said, and sailed out of the office.
Jim Talbot habitually went back to the Friendly's in his old neighborhood. He loved the area and drew peace from being there now and again.
His manufacturing company had branches in a number of states but he chose to live here in the home town. There were so many nooks and crannies that held positive memories for him.
The whole area was replete with thoughts of his wonderful Mom and Dad, of being a family and gradually being prepared by his father, to take over the business. He did that and worked to morph the business into businesses but he never let that success alienate him from the home place.
Just going back to the area for lunch and an ice cream were great joys for him. His memories were gathered here, both good and bad. It was here that his Mom and Dad were buried along with his brother Alan, who had died so many years ago of a swimming accident. That painful memory was ever a part of his mind, no matter how much time had elapsed.
But Jim Talbot, CEO and guiding light of Talbot Industries was, in essence, a home town boy, born and bread, and he loved living here.
He had settled on a house in town, once he had made his decision to live here and run the company from the local facility. It was large and lovely, though it was only him and his faithful lab Willie.
Over the years, he'd employed a local woman, Mrs. Audry Worth, to be his housekeeper and that arrangement worked extremely well for him and Mrs Worth.
There had been a woman in the picture, a number of years ago but it had gone wrong, for reasons that Jim never was able to completely understand, though he had some suspicions. There certainly was something in life or at least in the life that he was living that Jennifer had wanted and missed, eventually enough to simply walk away, telling him that it wouldn't work between them.
He hadn't given a huge amount of attention after that to 'the romance thing', as he called it, when talking to Janice, as he did now and then. For him, for Jim Talbot, it was the business, living in this wonderful home town and his large house with Mrs Worth and Willie.
He payed attention to his exercising, since he had the example of his Dad and the heart problems that eventually took his Dad from them. He knew that he bore similar risks also and tried to be careful about his health, his diet and things like that.
At the age of 45, Jim was therefore in good shape, despite the occasional ice cream from the Friendly's down in the old neighborhood.
But going there was such an iconic event for him. He loved it and used it, time and again, to simply surround himself with the peace of the place.
He was sitting and enjoying his ice cream. The Friendly's wasn't crowded that afternoon at all. He almost had the place to himself.
He was distracted for a moment but then looked up as the door opened and an elderly woman shuffled into the place.
He was riveted to the sight of her immediately. He knew her.
In the old neighborhood, when he was growing up, that woman, they all called her Aunt Irene, was the local personality. She employed them to help around her grounds and was the champion of every one of the rag-tag gang of kids that lived in the neighborhood and ran wild around the area during the summer months.
Aunt Irene was the peace maker; she was the arbitrator of disputes; she was the furnisher of goodies; she was the very spirit of the neighborhood.
And here she was, looking older, much older, and frail, wandering into the Friendly's.
He watched for a few seconds, when she ordered ice cream and then he realized that she had no purse. She had no money. She looked confused, when the counter girl asked for the payment for the ice cream.
Aunt Irene was actually, Irene Bascomb. She was living with her niece, who'd promised her Momma, before that wonderful woman's death, that she'd take care of Irene, and she made the promise a reality.
These days Irene was fighting the dementia. It might have been Alzheimer's or not but she faded in and out of that kind of murky world, at times not knowing what was happening at all.
She lived with her niece, Jeannie Wentz and was very well cared for but now and then, not very often, only now and then, she slipped out and went off to the Friendly's. She knew the way and would make the trip, when she was feeling herself but that state of mind came and went with Irene and as often as not, she would lose her perspective in the midst of her journey to the Friendly's. That's what was happening today. She had gotten out and was dressed only in a house coat with a slip showing at the bottom of the house coat, and fuzzy slippers.
Jim went to the counter immediately: "Aunt Irene!" he said, and she turned to him, though her glance told him that her mind was wandering someplace and not really there.
"Yes?" she said.
"It's me," he said, "Jim Talbot."
The name was enough to shake her memory and she said: "Yes, yes, Jimmie Talbot! One of my boys from the neighborhood!"
"Yes," he said, "Lovely to see you, Auntie!"
"Yes," she answered.
He turned to the counter girl then and paid for Aunt Irene's ice cream and took her by the elbow to where he'd been sitting and having his own treat.
"How nice to see you!" he said. "It's been years."
"Yes, honey," she said, "It has but you're one of my boys! I know that!"
She seemed to fade then again. He recognized it happening and simply encouraged her to have her ice cream.
Then there was a voice from the door: "Aunt Irene!"
Jim looked up and saw that a lovely, younger woman was the one who was calling Irene's name.
"Oh, Aunt Irene!" the woman, now approaching their table, said. "I didn't know that you got out. I was so worried, love."
The woman had tears now on her cheeks, as she bent over Irene and kissed her cheek.
"I'm only sitting here," Irene said, fairly lucid again, "Having my ice cream with one of my boys."
Jim stood up and said: "Yes, I'm Jim Talbot; I grew up in the old neighborhood and was one of your Aunt Irene's gang."
Jeannie understood immediately.
"Thank you for being with her," she said softly, as Irene continued to have her treat, in her own world again.
"Won't you please sit, um..." he said.
"Oh, It's Jeannie," she said, "Jeannie Wentz."
"Hi, Jeannie Wentz," Jim said, taking the hand that she offered. It's a pleasure to meet you."
"Yes," Jeannie said, "I'm her, I'm Aunt Irene's niece."
"Oh, yes," he said smiling at her, "I had at least heard that there were beauties in the family."
Jeannie smiled and blushed.
"Sorry for making you blush," he said, "I'll mind my manners."
"They're fine!" she said.
"How did you come across Aunt Irene?" Jeannie asked.
"I was sitting here and having a treat, when I saw her come in. I recognized her right away and realized that she came without a purse or anything. I simply went and bought her the ice cream and was going to try to find out where she lived, when you came to the rescue, like the cavalry in the movies."
She grinned at him and giggled.
"He so handsome this one!" Irene said then and both Jeannie and Jim laughed.
"One of my boys from the neighborhood," Irene went on, a bit more lucid at this point.
"Yes, I am," Jim said, "You were the heart and soul of that neighborhood!"
"Thank you, dear!" Irene said and then turning to Jeannie said: "Shall we go home, Ramona?"
Jim just gave Jeannie a questioning look, as Irene finished her treat, having reverted to her own world then again.
"That was my Mom, her sister," Jeannie explained. "When she's like this, she constantly takes me for my Mom, Ramona."
"I see," he said. "A natural kind of association."
"Well," Jeannie said, in a tone that showed that she was reluctant to leave, "I have to get her home. Thank you so much for taking care of her, when she was wandering about."
"My pleasure!" he said. "It's a small bit of repayment for the many times that she took care of me in those days."
"I'd like to hear about that sometime!" she said, and blushed at the implication of her statement.
But he said immediately: "That would be lovely, and I'd love to be able to visit her now and again, after finding her this way."
The all stood up, and Jeannie helped her Aunt Irene to her feet.
"May I call?" he asked.
She smiled and said a quick 'yes'; that would be fine.
They left it there, although Jim insisted on a hug from Aunt Irene before they left. After hugging the elderly lady, he was surprised and pleased by Jeannie grabbing him for a hug also, and whispering "Thank you, thank you! I was worried. I take better care of her than this seems to indicate."
"I'm sure you do!" he said, smiling down at her and watching the two of them walk away.
He then bought ice cream for Janice and went back to his office.
TALKING WITH WILLIE:
Jim Talbot found himself distracted for the balance of the day. Things, right then, were going well for the company and there were no problems that presented themselves at any of their locations. It gave him the freedom to go over the meeting at the Friendly's in his mind.
In the mid afternoon, Janice came into his office and said: "Okay, I don't know what's bothering you but you're only taking up space here, boss. So, it being Friday and all, why don't you go home. I'll keep the money machine in operation."
"Aren't you the best!" he said. "One of these days, I'm going to stop working and only collect the profits from the businesses and let you run them!"
They both laughed about that, and he packed up and left, realizing the truth of what Janice had been saying about him that afternoon.
Mrs. Worth was surprised to see him home early but he simply told her that things were quiet and he'd decided to begin the weekend.
She offered him some iced tea but he said that he had some thinking to do and was going to allow himself a beer. He got the beer and went to the screened patio on the back of the house, after changing from his suit. He sat there idly scratching Willie's ears, with the dog's tail beating a tattoo on the ground, as he received the treasured attention from his Jim.
"Well, old man," he said, companionably to Willie, who responded by thumping his tail. "I don't quite know what to say. This afternoon some strange and interesting things happened."
He went on then to talk about discovering 'Aunt Irene' from the old neighborhood.
"I've told you about her in the past," he said to the dog, who was paying attention as though he were understanding it all. "She was really important to all of us kids in that neighborhood and to see her again today, even though she is frail and kind of cloudy in her mind at times, was a treat."
He hesitated then and took a drink of his beer, enjoying the afternoon treat.
"But let me tell you the best part, and this is the part that I don't know what do do about," Jim went on.
"Her niece came to find her and we met and talked, and before she left, she gave me a hug for helping with her wandering Aunt Irene," he continued.
"She's flat out lovely, Willie!" Jim said then and the dog barked, hearing its name. "Flat out lovely!"
He was saying only the truth. At that time, Jeannie Wentz was a lovely 33 years old. She was a free lance writer and worked from home, which gave her the opportunity to take care of her Aunt Irene.
She'd been married right out of college but the marriage had gone the way of so many others these days, and by the age of 30, she was divorced and not really looking for a man. Her relationship with 'him', as she tended to call her ex, had cured her of being really interested in a man. At leas that was her outlook at the time.
Jeannie Wentz was 5"6" and had short dark hair with reddish highlights. Her most winning feature was her smile, which simply radiated.
These were the traits that Jim was tossing over and over in his mind, as he drank his beer and talked to Willie about having met this gorgeous young woman.
"Well, what do you think, pal?" Jim asked finally. "Shall I plunge right in and call her?"
Willie made a kind of moan.
"Yep, friend," Jim said, "You're right. I need to give this some thinking time. It might just be an important step and I want to be sure about it, and so I'll think about it for a day or so.
Jim felt pleased in his mind about the decision and decided to give himself some time to think it all over and then make the phone call.
Interestingly enough, Jeannie Worth was having the same kind of conversation with herself, the point of which was if Jim Talbot would call her or not.
"Oh," she said silently to herself, that night in bed, "I hope he does. I just hope he does."
In the meantime, while Jim was giving himself some thinking time, Jeannie replayed the whole scene again in her mind. She was aware, more and more, of the potential for disaster that was present in the situation, with Aunt Irene wandering away like that.
She also chided herself for not watching better. It was a really rare and isolated incident, because she took such good care of her Aunt Irene but the fact that it happened was unavoidable.
She decided, based pretty much on this strain of thought, to go and thank Jim Talbot in person.
It was a few days later; he was still in his 'thinking time'. Jeannie had a friend sit with Irene for enough time for her to go to Talbot's and thank Jim in person. She'd even taken time to bake him a cake.
Jim was in his office doing some routine work that afternoon. As usual, things were humming in all of the businesses and plants and nothing was pressing.
Janice's voice came over the intercom: "Boss, there's Jeannie Wentz here to see you."
"Really?" he said into the device phone, unable to hide the enthusiasm from his voice.
"Really!" she said. "Instructions?"
"Please send her in," he said, getting up from his desk to greet her.
Janice opened the door, giving Jim a grin; she'd heard the tone of his voice and was tickled by what it seemed to mean.
"Jeannie!" he said enthusiastically.
She blushed, as Janice closed the door and said: "I wanted to come and thank you for taking care of Aunt Irene the other day."
He smiled at her.
"And I brought this for you!" she said, handing the cake over to him.
"Why, thank you!" he said enthusiastically. "Please come in. Do you have time?"
"Yes," she said, taking a seat in the sitting alcove in his office.
They sat and had some cake first. Janice got plates and utensils for them, and had some cake too. (She and Jeannie became, quite soon, great friends.)
Once they'd had the cake, they sat and had some time to talk.
"Am I taking too much of your time, Mr Talbot?" Jeannie asked.
"Hey," he said, holding up a hand. "It must be Jim. We're going to be friends."
"Yes, thank you," she said, "It's just that with the setting and all; I mean your office; the headquarters of your business and that. I just thought that Mr Talbot would be the right thing."
"Nope!" he said. "It's Jim please."
"This certainly is impressive," she ventured. "I mean I've never actually been to the nerve center of a large business."
He smiled and said: "Shall I tell you the secret?"
"Yes," she said, aping his smile.
"The secret is in the other room! It's Janice. She's a one woman gang and keeps the place and all the others oiled and running well," he explained.
"Aha," she said, smiling, "So that's it!"
"Yes," he answered, "It's why I can take time off now and then to slip out for ice cream!"
"And to rescue my fuzzy minded old Aunt!" she added.
"Yes, something like that!" he said.
There was a knock and Janice entered to take away the plates and utensils.
"I was just telling her that you're the secret of our success," Jim said to Janice, smiling at her.
"I'm the one, along with poor Willie that strives to keep you in line so that we can keep making money around here!" she quipped.
He held up a hand and said: "Guilty!"
"Willie?" Jeannie said.
"My dog, an adorable, black lab! Greatest pal in the world. When I have a problem or thoughts to talk about, Willie is always ready to lend an ear and hear me through," he said then.
"He sounds like a treat!" she remarked.
"Oh, he is!" she said.
Then she launched into what she had to say, telling him how she realized that there was great potential for disaster in her losing sight of her Aunt Irene the other day.
"I want to thank you for making sure that such a disaster didn't happen," she said.
"Don't mention it," he said. "I remember Aunt Irene from the neighborhood."
"Yes, I got that impression," she said.
He went into it then, talking about the old neighborhood and her Aunt Irene's influence on everyone's life, and what a positive influence she was.
"For me to see her the other day," he went on, "Was a true treat of major proportions! A true treat!"
"You know," she replied, "I'm sure that in part of Aunt Irene's mind, she appreciated it too! She kept saying that you were one of her boys."
"Indeed I was!" he said, "She had a positive influence on my life; I can tell you that."
They wandered into other topics then. They both had a sad story to tell about relations with the opposite sex: Jim and his recalcitrant girlfriend and Jeannie with her loser husband.
"He seemed like everything that I wanted, at the beginning," she said, sighing. "Then it was as if, once we were married, he no longer had to try!"
"Yes, I know that tune!" he said.
He told the story of Jennifer walking out and leaving him with no clear picture of why she was leaving and what was missing in their relationship.
"I only found out about her and her girlfriend later. And since then," he said next, "It's been the business."
"Which from every indication," she replied, "Is doing great."
"Yes, unlike the relationship with Jennifer!" he sighed, "Ah, old history!"
"I really want you to know that I do take good care of my Aunt!" she said, blushing. "It's important that you know that. She has these changes of mind and slips out now and again, only very rarely though. She almost always heads for the Friendly's and I go and fetch her. This is about the third time."
"Glad I was there this time," he said.
"Yes," she replied, "I'm glad also. And, by the way, I have a friend with her now. She told me to take as much time as I needed this afternoon."
"How nice!" he said. "Then how about dinner? You've already provided the dessert and now let me provide the dinner."
Dinner gave them a chance to get to know one another better. Jim said that he simply had to tell Mrs. Worth that he wouldn't be home for dinner. Jeannie said that she'd call her friend and tell her that she was going out to dinner and would be back later.
"It's okay then?" he asked.
"It's fine," she said, smiling, "Though I'm sorry that I didn't dress with dinner in mind."
"Looking gorgeous from where I sit," he said, and she blushed and thanked him.
Their dinner evening was a true treat for both of them. They continued their talk about their separate backgrounds. Jim went into his feelings for the town and the old neighborhood, and how those feelings, rooted in his Mom and Dad and the family, plus important characters like Aunt Irene, caused him to make sure that his main center for business was here in the town.
Jeannie talked about being raised basically by her Mom, Ramona and her Aunt Irene. Her father had died very early in her life and it was the three of them from then on.
"But," she quickly said, "It was a very loving home! And I promised my lovely Mom, when she was dying, that I'd take care of Aunt Irene and I've done that. She slips into her private twilight zone now and again, and these days, more and more often. But she's always been a love!"
"That I can well believe!" he said. "She certainly came across that way in the neighborhood!"
She looked at her watch then and said: "Oh, I'm afraid..."
"Of course," he said, "Let me get you back to the office and you can get on home. This has been a rare and wonderful treat for me!"
"Thank you for saying so," she replied, "And thank you for the dinner!"
When they arrived at the parking garage for his business, he stopped where her car was. Then he got out and she got out also.
By this time, with nothing said about it between them, they simply hugged and, he, leaning back a bit, and staring into her eyes for a few seconds, kissed her.
She had her arms around his neck and was on her tip toes and responded to the kiss avidly. She opened her lips ever so slightly and licked at his lips with her tongue.
He responded with his own tongue, causing her to moan, softly in her throat.
When the kiss broke, he said: "Wow!"
"Wow! I guess," she said, "Never expected that!"
"Well, Willie and I have been hoping for it," he said.
"Yes," she said with a grin, "Give my best to Willie!"
"You need to meet him sometime soon," he answered.
"Love to!" she said.
"And Mrs Worth!" he said.
"Mrs Worth?" she questioned.
"Yes, my house keeper and doer of everything," he said.
"You surround yourself with women who take over things for you!" she said with a grin.
"Yes, great isn't it?" he said, and she giggled.
"Don't tell anyone but it's one of the benefits of money!" he said next.
She laughed. "Oh, am I latching onto a rich one?" she asked.
"Looks that way!" he said.
"Goodie!" she said and kissed him again.
AGAIN AND FATE:
It was a Tuesday, the following week. It had been an intense 'thinking time' for both Jim and for Jeannie, by mutual consent. They were determined to be sure of what they wanted before they went ahead with each other. It seemed to be a very adult decision.
Fate, of course, had other intentions for them, other plans for that day and for the immediate future.
Jim had slipped off, again, to the Friendly's that afternoon for an ice cream. He had been working hard at his physical workouts lately and liked to reward himself with ice cream at least once a week.
He sat there as the door opened and Aunt Irene wandered in. She was wearing the same housecoat and slippers.
Without missing a beat, he called out to her: "Aunt Irene!"
She looked over and recognized him immediately. He went to her and took her back to the booth where he'd been sitting and asked her what she wanted. She responded that she'd like a small dish of vanilla and some chocolate syrup.
"A cherry?" he asked.
"Yes, dear," she said, "Thank you."
He brought it to her and took out his phone.
"I'll just call Ramona, so that she won't worry," he said, and she thanked him for that.
"Hello?" Jeannie's voice said.
"Jeannie, it's Jim," he said.
"Oh, hi, you!" she said.
"I'm at Friendly's and have Aunt Irene here!" he said.
"Oh, damn!" she cursed. "You'll think that I don't mind her at all!"
"Nothing of the sort," he said, "She's having her ice cream and I told her that I'd call and tell Ramona, so that's what I'm doing, Ramona!"
"You're so nice!" she said. "I'll be right there."
"I can bring her home to you, after we have the treat," he offered.
"That will be grand!" she said. "It's so comforting that it's to Friendly's that she always goes."
"Yes, keeps her locatable!" he said.
Jim and Aunt Irene sat companionably, without much talking, and had their treats. When they were finished, he got up and gave her a hand in getting up and said: "Okay, Aunt Irene, let's get you home again."
"Yes," she said, "I appreciate the help, young man, but you're one of my boys; I know that!"
"I sure am!" he said proudly and, taking her by the arm, walked her out to where he was parked.
Jeannie had given him the address and a brief explanation of getting there and it wasn't very far at all. On her journeys, Aunt Irene simply didn't have very far to go to get to the Friendly's.
They stopped at a small but neat house set back from the road with a one car, detached garage. Jim pulled into the driveway and parked. He went to Irene's side of the car to help her get out and Jeannie was out the door and coming to them right away.
It had caused a stir in Jeannie's already overloaded feelings. She went to Irene and hugged her, saying: "Oh, I wish you'd simply ask me about these little trips, Auntie Irene. I'd be happy to go with you."
"I'm fine, dear," her Aunt said, quite lucid now, "One of my boys was there to take good care of me; he got me a treat and has brought me home."
"Yes," Jeannie said, still holding onto her aunt and with tears streaming down her face. "He's so nice!" She looked at a beaming Jim Talbot, as she said that. He smiled broadly.
Next was a hug for Jim. Jeannie gathered him into her arms, and gave way to her pent up frustration. She simply wept. Aunt Irene stood there with her face drained of emotions and her mind off into some other place or zone. She just stood there.
"Oh, sweetheart!" he said into her ear. "We're fine here; just fine."
"Thank you, thank you for being so marvelous!" Jeannie said.
"It's so easy to be marvelous to you!" he said softly to her.
She glanced at Aunt Irene, who hadn't moved and gave Jim a quick kiss.
"Let's take her inside!" she said, and the two of them took her into the house.
He stayed for a little while, and they got Aunt Irene settled with some favorite daytime tv.
"I'm sorry but I have to go back to work!" he said.
"Sorry to see you go!" Jeannie answered, "I miss you, when you're not around." She blushed as she said it.
"Good to hear that and it means that I'll have to be around you more!" he said smiling. "And, by the way, if you can arrange it, Mrs Worth and his majesty Willie want to meet you. Dinner at my place?"
"Grand! Just grand!" she said. "When?"
"This Friday," he said, "Is that okay?"
"It's fine!" she replied, "I can get someone to sit with Irene, and she goes to bed early in any event."
"Fine, we're on!" he said.
Friday seemed, to the two of them, to come around fairly slowly. Mrs Worth was excited that, first of all, Mr Talbot had a female 'friend', and secondly that she was coming to dinner on Friday. She made plans for a special dinner and said that she'd be going to her apartment, which was in a different part of the large house, after it was served.
"I'll simply do the clean up the next day," she said to Jim.
He kissed her cheek and said: "You are a true gem!"
"Why thank you, Mr Talbot," she said, blushing from his adulation.
Jeannie, for her part, struggled with exactly what she should wear for this dinner. She realized too that she was nervous, and, taking a look at the nervousness, came up with the conclusion that she was indeed nervous because she wanted this to work out, she wanted that badly.
She had a friend in to take care of Aunt Irene and worked on her own bath and preparation. She wore, for that evening, a white pleated skirt and a red silk blouse. They both enhanced the color of her dark, red highlighted hair, and she was pleased.
He had insisted on coming to fetch her and she was ready for him on time.
She slid into the front seat of his car, a cream colored cadillac and smiled. He leaned to her and got a quick kiss from her.
"Lovely car!" she said.
"Thanks, Willie and I tend to indulge ourselves," he answered.
"I see," she said, "Well, you're doing it rather nicely!"
The both chuckled then.
She was also impressed by the size of his house. He pulled around to the back and parked the car in the garage, where there was also a new white Jeep Wrangler.
"That's for fun! And work." he said.
She smiled at him and said: "I see; fun!"
"Yep!" he said. "You'd best be ready; Willie tends to be a bit effusive at times."
"Oh good!" she replied.
They went through the back door and Jeannie saw an older lady coming toward them but first she was accosted by Willie, a wiggly, enthusiastic and overtly loving Lab. Willie was all over the place, making noises and rubbing up against first Jim and then Jeannie.
"This is Willie!" Jim said.
Jeannie went down on a knee and gave Willie special attention, which he seemed to really appreciate.
"Friend is made!" Jim said, and Jeannie smiled up at him.
"And, Jeannie, this is Mrs Worth; she runs everything here! Mrs Worth this is Jeannie Wentz."
Mrs Worth stuck out a hand and said: "Ms Jeannie, it's such a pleasure to welcome you here. I'm really pleased."
Before dinner, Jim gave Jeannie a kind of tour of the house and the grounds outside. She was impressed with the loveliness and size of it. Willie was their constant companion.
"Just a companion or is he protecting you too?" Jeannie asked with a smile.
"Both, I guess," Jim answered, "But you will be quickly one of his concerns too!"
"How nice," she said. "Sleeps with you?"
"'Fraid so," Jim answered and smiled.
She gave him a dazzling smile and said a soft: "Don't blame him!"
He read her smile but let it go at that.
After dinner, they sat out in the back of the house in a screened patio and had coffee. Willie accompanied them. Mrs Worth had already gone to her apartment with a promise to complete the cleanup tomorrow.
"She's so nice," Jeannie said.
"I'm glad you think so," he said, "It's important to me that you kind of approve."
"Thank you!" Jeannie said softly.
Then she asked: "So, tell me, how long have you lived here?"
"Oh, a few years," he said. He thought for a moment and then began an explanation:
The incident with Jennifer was a stunner for me. I never knew at the time why she felt the breakup was so important. Only found out about that much later, once I discovered that she was now living with a 'girlfriend/partner'."
"Ohhhh," Jeannie added.
"My reaction at the time was to concentrate on the business. Things grew at that time and it took most of my time. I had, of course, Willie and I decided to ignore the part of me that was hurting from Jennifer's decamping."
He thought for a few seconds and then went on: "I made a decision about that time, when I was so wrapped up in the business. I decided to treat myself to a lovely, big home. I'd been living in a smaller place but Willie and I went looking and came up with this house. Shortly after that, Mrs Worth came on board to help run the place. I bought it as a flat out indulgence, you see. But I've grown to love it."
"Yes," she said, "I can see why! It's just so different from what I'm used to. I mean the house is small but it's what we need and I can keep a better eye on Aunt Irene there. And, yes, I know she slips out but I'm being more watchful about that these days."
He smiled. "Well, I'll provide whatever help I can. I'm certainly up to buying her ice cream at Friendly's."
"Yes, I appreciate that," Jeannie answered. "It's so fortunate that she goes only there, when she strolls."
He gave her a penetrating look then and said softly: "Wish you could stay the night!"
She sighed and kissed him. "Wish I could too!" she answered.
"Can't think of anything nicer that waking up with you!" he said.
"What a lovely thing to say," she said, punctuating her words with another kiss, and licking his lips with her tongue.
"And just think of all the things that we could be up to between bed time and waking up!" she said.
"Woohoo!" he said, "Dirty things!"
"Precisely!" she said, moving toward him and leaning against him.
They were sitting in a metal settee and it allowed her to lean against him directly. They kissed then, and she took his hand from her waist and placed it on her butt cheek.
"Mmmmmm!" he said, into her lips, "Perfection!"
She giggled and said: "Jim Talbot, you're just trying to get into my pants!"
"I am," he answered brightly.
"How do you know I'm wearing any?" she asked, giggling.
"Because I just felt the outline of them!" he answered triumphantly.
"Well, feel free, big boy!" she said, kissing him again.
She slipped a hand down into his lap as they kissed and framed the outline of his erection with her hand.
"Look what I found!" she said.
"Clever you!" he said, smiling at her.
"Yes, clever me!" she said rubbing his erection through his pants.
"You're going to make me have a accident here!" he warned her.
She giggled and said: "But once you take me home and are back alone with Willie, I want you playing with that big thing and thinking of me!"
She gave him an earnest look then and said: "Jim, I really would love to stay. But I have to go and soon."
"I know that, love," he said, kissing her one more time.
He drove her home shortly after that. They sat in front of her house for a bit.
"I need to tell you that I have to travel a bit this coming week. I do regular inspections of the other plant locations. It's my week for that."
"Please be in touch!" she said.
"I promise!" he said, kissing her one more time.
As he kissed her, he swept his hand up and under her skirt, seeking out her secret places and the softness of her. It made her moan.
"Gives me something to think about too!" she said.
"Good," he replied, "Then I want you to do the same thing that you told me to do!"
"Yes, sir!" she said grinning.
"Got you under my control!" he said matching her grin.
"You're in so much trouble, Mr Talbot!" she said softly.
"I'm beginning to realize that, love!" he said. "I'll miss you my Jeannie!"
"Here's something to remember me by," she said, taking the hem of her skirt and pulling it up to her waist, displaying a pair of delicate, white lace panties.
"That image is burned into my mind!" he said.
"I'll miss you too, and I'll have to keep an eye on Aunt Irene, without you to intercept her at Friendly's," she said before sliding out of the car.
They were in touch every day, while he was traveling. He was awakened by the phone, on his bedside table, early on a Tuesday morning. He struggled from sleep and looking at the clock, as he grabbed his phone, saw that it was 3:15 AM.
"Hello," he said, "Talbot."
"Oh, Jim!" Jeannie said, crying as soon as she heard his voice.
He was awake immediately.
"What is it, love?" he wanted to know.
"It's Aunt Irene," Jeannie said, "She just died! I heard a strange noise and went to her room. She's gone; just gone!"
Jeannie just started to cry.
"Honey, listen to me," he said. "I'm in Tuscon but will be getting up now and will be there in a few hours."
"Please come!" she said.
"I'll see that you're taken care of!" he said next.
"Thank you," she said, and then, giving in to the overwhelming feelings that had been growing in her more and more lately, continued with: "Jim, I love you!"
"I love you too, Jeannie," he said, "And we'll just take care of this."
It was about an hour later. Jeannie was up and the paramedics had been there, discovering that there was nothing to be done for Aunt Irene. The doorbell rang and Jeannie went to answer it. Mrs Worth was there. She hauled Jeannie in for a hug immediately.
"Oh, my poor dear!" Mrs Worth cooed to Jeannie, letting her cry.
They went inside and Mrs Worth insisted on making them tea.
"I can find my way around the kitchen," she said to Jeannie. "You just sit. A cup of tea will do you good."
After a few minutes, the phone rang. Mrs Worth answered it.
"Ms Jeannie," she said, "It's Mr Talbot for you."
"Hello, you sweet man!" Jeannie said. "Yes, she's here and I need to thank you for taking such good care of me!"
"I have one of the company's planes here and will be there in just a little bit of time," he said.
"Oh, good, I want you here so badly!" Jeannie said.
The next few days were a whirlwind of stress and activity. Jeannie was absolutely overjoyed to see Jim, once he got there. Mrs Worth was taking care of the details of getting ready to greet people, after the funeral was to be held.
Jeannie was looking out, when she saw his cadillac pulling into her drive. She exploded out of the house and was holding on to him for all she was worth.
"Oh, my sweet love!" he said, "My sweet girl! My lovely one! I'm sorry that I was away!"
"You're here now," she said into his neck, "And that's what counts!"
Mrs Worth greeted him then and he gave her a hug and thanked he for stepping into the situation to help.
The funeral and hosting the group of friends and well wishers that were there was a task that they shared, especially Jeannie and Jim, with Mrs Worth providing support at every turn.
That evening, when people had already gone away and Mrs Worth saw to the cleanup, Jim and Jeannie were sitting on her back porch together.
"Mr Talbot," Mrs Worth said, from the kitchen doorway.
"Yes," he answered.
"We're done here and I'm going back to our house," she said.
He got up, and so did Jeannie.
"Thank you, Mrs Worth," he said, "For everything."
"It was my pleasure!" she said, and then she was holding Jeannie, who was crying again.
"Thank you, thank you, thank you!" Jeannie said, though her tears.