She'd gotten the notice from the department store, and saw it that day after work. She was certainly shocked and more dismayed than anything else. She knew that she'd have to attend to it tomorrow.
She shook her head and whispered to herself: "Just one more problem! One more headache that he's left for me."
Just then a small voice interceded: "Momma, what is it?"
"Oh, sweetie," Chelsie said to little Rachel Ann, "I'm afraid it's another problem that we have to deal with."
"Poppa?" Rachel Ann asked, and, though Chelsie had been determined to not bring any of this to Rachel Ann's attention, over the past ten days, when these little surprises had been popping up, it was next to impossible to keep it all a secret, and it was obvious that Rachel Ann understood far more than Chelsie gave her credit for.
In the first place, Ben's leaving, just leaving, with no forwarding address and after cleaning out the bank account, one of the 'little surprises' of the past ten days, was just the stuff of nightmare.
Chelsie blamed herself for not realizing that something was wrong. But she knew that she didn't want to know that something was wrong.
She almost kept herself in the dark; at least that's what she'd been accusing herself of in the past two weeks or so. It didn't matter that it wasn't really true, it was at least one of the ways that she initially dealt with the shock of his fleecing them of their savings and the rest of the money and running off with some woman.
And, of course, next it had been a ten day period of finding out little subterfuges, little bits of problems that Ben had set up for her. Each of those problems generated an additional call for money, which, due to Ben's actions in taking the account money from the bank, was in paltry supply.
Chelsie had encountered one such problem after another, rent, the utility bills, the bank and now the department store. She had the bill in hand and simply knew that she needed to go to the store the next day to see if she could get out of the obviously large interest that might be due. It was one of those deferred payment things and the terms indicated that interest, compounded from the date of purchase, would be assessed, if the bill were not paid off on time. And not paying it off was one of Ben's little tricks, that Chelsie was finally discovering today was indeed the last of the grace period days.
There had been no word, and, as time went on, there would be no word. Ben was gone, pretty much vanished.
That much Chelsie could take but his lack, total lack of interest in Rachel Ann was more than she could comprehend.
And that was the third thing that had happened in the past ten days. Rachel Ann, at 9 years of age, was a very sensible and wise little girl. Chelsie knew that it was folly to try to hide from her the dire financial circumstances that Ben's leaving, and taking all their funds with him had caused for them.
They had had a number of talks. With them, especially with Chelsie and lovely Rachel Ann, this was part of the pattern of how they lived, and Chelsie was grateful now for having established that kind of open and clear relationship with her Rachel Ann. It was certainly serving them well now.
So, they talked about it. Rachel Ann had cried, when the truth of her father leaving both of them became a reality. They had cried together about it, and then, also together, they set out to try to deal with the situation.
At 26, Chelsie Karl's job was essentially for them the supportive one. She'd married out of high school and was pregnant with Rachel Ann right away. There was never much time for her to establish herself in the job market or get for herself marketable skills for working. Ben had been the main source of income for the family.
Of course, during these past ten terrible days, one of the things that Chelsie discovered was that Ben had quit, before leaving them. It was one more of the shocks that these days provided for Chelsie.
In a way, Ben leaving wasn't a real surprise. He'd made no bones about being unhappy for over a year. At the same time, he never wanted to take the time to talk it out and find solutions.
It provided Chelisie with some soul searching. She would stare at the mirror and ask, mentally, the questions that attacked her mind.
But Chelsie Karl was lovely. She was petite. She never ever got too big, when she was carrying Rachel Ann. She was good about exercise and strict with herself about indulgences. She was dedicated to helping them 'make it', which, to her at least, seemed to be what was happening.
But it was within the past year and a half that she became aware of the growing unease in Ben. He had some grand ideas about 'making it' and seemed to be willing to blame Chelsie for somehow holding them back and not allowing them to 'make it big', as he used the phrase.
But his up and leaving this way, even when he admitted, in that crappy note that he'd left, with another woman, "who," he said, "Was more sympathetic to his plans for something big," had never even entered her mind.
She had John Calhoun, her lawyer, also one of the necessaries of the past ten days, on her side. But she and John were finding out that Ben had planned this so well that he wasn't leaving a trail to be followed.
After a while, Chelsie didn't care if he were discovered.
"I don't want him or anything from him," she'd said in disgust at one of her meetings with John Calhoun.
"Well, I disagree in principle," John Calhoun had said, "But it might just be the reality that you won't be able to get anything from him. He apparently planned this and planned it well. He's not leaving any tracks."
He hesitated then and said: "We could hire someone to find him."
Chelsie shook her head and said: "No, John, no! Let's not do that. He doesn't want us and we don't want him. That sounds like a cruel reaction but it's where I am now. He's robbed me and left me and that little girl behind. I want to leave it at that."
This had been another one of the necessary problems that had been faced in this terrible, terrible time that had just elapsed.
There was another talk with Rachel Ann that night and more tears for the two of them.
There was a hug for the two of them, after the talk, and Chelsie, feeling what might have been going through Rachel Ann's mind, said, with a kiss and in a voice laden with love: "Rachel Ann, I will never leave you or abandon you. It's you and me for life!"
That made Rachel Ann cry that much harder but the message was what she needed, wanted to hear just then. And, from that time, going forward, it was the two of them, and they sought to handle problems together.
The next day, that Saturday was going to be another such problem.
AT THE DEPARTMENT STORE:
Ken Sanders was there on that Saturday. He didn't need to be but his philosophy of work was to keep his hand 'in there' at the store. He tried to be open with all the employees and showed up on a regular basis. He was well liked, a very popular boss. He also had a great record with their corporate office for the way the store was handled and how profitable it was.
Retail had been his interest and his Mom and Dad, who had provided for him in such a fantastic fashion, let him follow his own lead in selecting a career.
He hardly needed the job with what they'd left him, once they had both died, but he loved the world of retail and being the boss of this large store, one of the flagships of the brand was a joy for him.
Ken was, at that time, 34 years old. He was a strapping 6'3" and 220 lbs. He kept himself well and had grey eyes and wavy hair. He was a favorite of the women at the store for sure.
He'd put his time into the business, the store, as a priority for his life and had never been a ready hand at romance. But he was a confident man. He knew that 'his time was coming' and he wasn't going to rush that time or search frantically for a romance in the meantime. His secretary, Jane Danton, told him time and again that he was just too genuine and caring to ever be overlooked for long.
"Well, if that's the case," he quip with her, "She'd better hurry up before she had to wheel me around in a wheel chair."
They both got a laugh out of that.
On that Saturday morning, Ken was wandering through the store, being greeted by everyone. He made his way through the store and finally went to the billing and finance department, where, he saw a young woman and a little girl talking with one of the finance ladies.
The little girl look worried and he could tell that the woman was on the verge of tears.
The finance gal was also looking extremely upset about what was going on.
With determination, he moved in that direction.
"Gloria," he said, "What is it?"
"Oh, Mr. Sanders," she began, not sure of how much of what she'd just heard she could divulge.
"Let me," said the young woman, wiping her eyes with a tissue.
He sensed a difficulty for her and said, softly: "Come with me and we'll handle this in a place more private."
"Thank you," Chelsie said, appreciating the fact that he was willing to not have them discuss the problem in public.
"I'll see to this, Gloria, and let you know what, if anything we need to do," Ken said, and Gloria smiled and thanked him. Before they went away, Gloria put her hand on Chelsie's and gave her a smile. Ken noticed and led the way to the office.
They got settled in the office and Ken asked if he could get them something to drink. He went and came back with tea for Chelsie and a hot chocolate for Rachel Ann, both of whom thanked him.
"Okay," he said, "How can I help."
"Ohh," Chelsie began, wiping her eyes again, "This is such a mess!"
"Momma!" Rachel Ann said, putting her hand on top of Chelsie's and Chelsie leaned over and gave her a kiss.
"My best support!" she said.
Then she indicated to Ken Sanders: "I'm Chelsie Karl and this is my lovely Rachel Ann.
He took the proffered hand that Chelsie gave him and gave his own name and said how nice it was to meet them. He got the same kind of warm greeting from Rachel Ann, who gave him also a smile that showed that an adult tooth still needed to fill in the front of her smile.
He grinned at her. Then he turned to Rachel Ann and said: "Honey, would you like some ice cream, while your Momma and I talk about this?"
Rachel Ann looked at her Momma, as though hesitating to abandon her but Chelsie, smiling at the little girl, nodded her head.
"Yes, please!" Rachel Ann said.
Ken called his secretary Jane on the intercom and, when she came in, he said:
"Jane, this is Rachel Ann; is it possible for you to take a few minutes to show her where she can get ice cream in the employees' cafeteria?"
"Sure, boss!" she said with a smile and then extended her hand to Rachel Ann, smiling, at the same time, at Chelsie.
"Hi, I'm Jane!"
"Hi, Miss Jane," Rachel Ann said, causing a grin from everyone.
"Ice cream?" Jane asked.
"Please!" Rachel Ann said and got up and took the hand that Jane offered.
"Put it on my bill," Ken said, and Jane nodded.
"Okay, let me tell this!" Chelsie said.
Ken nodded and said: "Take your time, take it slow. What's the problem."
She was teary in the telling but Ken was patient. She went into the declining character of her relationship with Ben.
"I did everything I could think of to try to fix it," she said, wiping her eyes. "Even sexy underthings!"
She said that and got a stricken look on her face, and said quickly: "Sorry to tell you that!"
He was grinning at her and said: "No, just tell it the way it feels best."
"Yes, thank you," she said, "I'll try to keep it clean." She gave him the first real grin that he'd seen from her.
Next though she went into the maneuvering that Ben had done, behind her back, to prepare for leaving, and in the process leaving her and Rachel Ann without resources.
"You see," she said at that point, "I've been taking courses and trying to get better skills. Right now I'm an add on to the accounts department at work but I hope that I can get a better position."
"I see," he said.
"So, for the past 8 days or so, Rachel Ann and I have been living with such terrible shocks and messages. I mean he didn't pay the rent; he didn't pay the utilities; he emptied the bank accounts; he's cancelled the credit cards..."
By that time, Chelsie was crying, and couldn't go on for a moment.
He simply moved and stood her up. He towered above her 5'4" frame but he enfolded her with his arms. She sighed and cried against the front of his suit and shirt and tie.
"Getting you wet!" she said, sighing.
She had the immediate thought that this was the first comfort in all of this that she'd known.
She was a bit better then and continued: "Oh, I know that the marriage was over a long time ago. He wasn't romantic, he wasn't interested."
She smiled, blushing and said: "The undies didn't seem to mean anything to him at all."
Ken grinned at her and said: "Can't imagine that in my wildest day dreams!"
Then Chelsie went on: "And now we found out yesterday that he hadn't paid the store bill. It was a time purchase kind of thing that Ben had insisted on, and now, with the bill not paid on time, the interest will accrue to the beginning of the purchase date, which is back interest for almost three years."
She was crying again now, and he put his hand on hers.
"Sorry..." she began to say but he put up his hand and wouldn't let her continue her apology.
"No sorries," he said, "We'll just take care of this."
"Oh, thank you!" she said.
It was just then that Jane and Rachel Ann returned. They were talking and giggling with one another.
"Sounds like someone had a nice time!" Ken said and Jane grinned.
"Yep, me and my pal Rachel Ann have just livened up the place," she said.
Rachel Ann then gave her Momma hug and said: "Momma, Janie is such a great pal!"
Chelsie smiled at Jane and mouthed a 'thank you'.
Then Ken broke in with instructions to Jane: "Jane, please have the amount on this bill transferred to my personal account. We'll just expunge what Mrs. Karl owes."
Chelsie's first reaction was to put her hand to her mouth and get teary eyed again.
"Will do, Ken," Jane said and taking Rachel Ann's hand said: "Come on, Pal, I'll show you how we do this! You can be my assistant."
The two of them went, with Chelsie smiling at Rachel Ann and nodding to her.
As soon as they were alone, he held up a hand and said: "I apologize for maybe insulting you. It certainly isn't meant that way."
"No, no," she responded, "Ben was our experience, our touchstone and being helped, having someone on our side was never part of the picture with Ben, I'm afraid."
"Will you please just let me do this?" he asked.
"Why would you?" she asked softly.
"My Poppa once told me that, whenever I'd come across someone who really needed help, that I should never forget the fact that others have helped me. And I've taken that to heart," he explained.
"Well, yes, then," she said simply, tears still in her eyes and then she went on: "Thank you."
She followed the 'thank you' with a hug, holding onto him fiercely, her arms around the middle of his back and her head against his upper chest.
"Yes?" she said looking up at him, a ghost of a smile on her face also.
"It's like the old cartoon 'Mutt and Jeff'," he said.
"Yes," she answered, giggling, "I've heard of them. Am I Mutt?"
"Well," he said, grinning, "I'd never call you that."
She laughed and said: "Got out of that one, big boy!"
"Clever, aren't I?" he said.
"You are goodness personified and certifiably clever!" she said, grinning now.
It was at that point that Jane and Rachel Ann came back into the office.
"All done, boss!" Jane said, "And my assistant helped me out!"
"Well, thank you, both you Janie and also your lovely assistant Rachel Ann."
"We're off to home now," Chelsie said, turning to Ken for another hug before she left.
When their hug broke up, Ken found himself being hugged by Rachel Ann also.
"Thank you, Mr Ken," she said, "I think I love you!"
He smiled and answered: "Well, I love you too, sweetheart."
"That was nice!" Jane said, once Chelsie and Rachel Ann were gone.
"It seemed like someone needed to help out," he explained.
"It also seemed like someone was thunderstruck!" Jane said with a grin.
"Did it show?" he asked, with some sign of true distress in his voice.
"To me it did but she was so upset by her circumstances that I doubt it showed to her," Jane explained.
"Oh!" he said, sitting, and taking in the truth of what Jane was saying. "What do I do?"
"You're creative," Jane said, "It's one of your best qualities. You'll think of something. But be bold, is what I say!"
"Yes," he said, shaking his head in agreement, "Be bold!"
TWO PIZZAS AND SPECIAL PLANS:
It was that evening. Ken was as nervous as possible. He'd spent a good part of the afternoon working over the thought of having been absolutely 'struck' by this lovely woman, and, he realized, her equally lovely daughter. He got to the point where he simply didn't want to, or couldn't deny the fact. He knew that he had to act on it.
As he stood outside of the apartment door, he kind of shuffled from foot to foot, his nerves kept him in motion.
He listened carefully to hear if someone was coming to answer the door. He rang the doorbell only once and was fortunate that, at the building entrance, someone was going out and let him, with his bag of drinks and his two pizzas into the building. He'd then consulted the listing of people that lived there found which apartment was listed to 'Karl', and had gone up.
Then the door opened and his reveries ended and he began to talk immediately. Chelsie stood there and, with a surprised look on her face, stared at him.
"Um, Chelsie," he said to the surprised looking young woman. "I know that this might just seem creepy. I realize that but I just decided to go ahead and do what I wanted to do here. I, um, have these pizzas and no one to share them with and I thought that you and Rachel Ann might just need a pizza lift."
It was just then that Rachel Ann appeared. "Momma," she said, wondering who was at the door.
"Oh, it's Mr Ken," Rachel Ann said with a broad smile on her face.
"I'm sorry," Chelsie managed then, "You surprised me."
"I know," he said. "But my Poppa once told me to follow my best instincts, when I've discovered what pleases me or what I want, as long as it doesn't hurt or bother other people."
"Very wise, that Poppa of yours," she said.
He was still kind of dancing from foot to foot, when she said: "Well, Ken Sanders, would you like to stay to dinner? We have a great deal of pizza that we're going to have for dinner and I'm sure that there will be enough for you too."
"Really?" he asked, faking his surprise. "Pizza? I love pizza! I'd love to stay. I'm so glad that you have lots of pizza for dinner tonight."
She grinned at him and stepped aside to let him into the apartment. She quickly mentioned to him: "I know it looks bare but we has some of our items on a time payment. It seemed the best way at the time but again Ben simply didn't make the payments and the place is pretty bare now. It's just a nice thing that the bedroom furniture was from your store!"
"Please don't apologize," he said, "It's fine."
She led him into the kitchen, where he set the pizzas and the bag of drinks on the side board.
"Brought pop, beer and wine," he said.
"Oh, covering the bases," she mentioned.
"Yes, trying to," he said, grinning.
They sat to the pizza then and it was Rachel Ann who said: "Momma!"
"Yes, love," Chelsie said.
"We didn't pray!" Rachel Ann said.
"No, I guess we didn't and we want to show how truly thankful we are," Chelsie said.
"I'll pray!" Ken said, "If you don't mind an Episcopalian prayer."
"The very best kind!" Chelsie said.
Then, with their heads bowed, Ken led them in the grace for the meal.
They ate companionably and then, after the dinner, both Ken and Chelsie settled down to talk.
"Honey," Chelsie said, "You can go and play, while Ken and I talk. Okay?"
"Yes, Momma," she said, giving her Momma a hug and then one also for Ken.
"Thank you, princess!" Ken said, making Rachel Ann giggle.
"I know there's something on your mind," she said to him.
"Well, yes," he said, "It's part of that advice from my Poppa!"
This made her grin: "Your Poppa's advice again."
"Yep!" he said, screwing up his courage to go on. "Poppa told me that when I found the right woman, that I should take care of her and treat her the way she should be treated.
At first, Chelsie was taking what he was saying with humor, but as he spoke, it hit her, the significance of what he was saying and it left her close to tears.
"Oh, you'll think I'm a baby, crying all the time!" she said, wiping her eyes.
"I'll think how wonderful, emotional and wonderful you are and always remember that you're the Momma of that beautiful little girl in there, whom I love to distraction already!" he corrected.
She did cry then and he put his arms around her and let her.
"Thank you, thank you for saying that!" she said, and then, following her instincts, she got on her tip toes and reached up, pulling his head down to her and kissed him.
It was softer and more beautiful than he ever could have imagined in all his waking days!
"Ohh," he sighed, "Can you kiss!"
"Found me out!" she said, smiling at him.
"Now," he said, "Plans!"
"One more kiss first! Please!" she said, "To see if it was only a fluke!"
It wasn't. They kissed and it was as electric as the first kiss had been. This time, at the very end of the kiss, she slipped the tongue out of her mouth and licked his teeth and lips.
That left him wide eyed with the pleasure of it.
"Now," he said, "Plans."
"Oh, okay," she answered, "Plans."
She sat down with him, a good natured look on her face to hear what he had to say. It got serious immediately for both of them.
"Okay," he said, taking a deep breath. "First, the rent."
"Yes," she said.
"You mentioned to me that he hadn't paid the rent lately," Ken said.
"No, he hadn't. They've given me a little time to get it together," was Chelsie's reply.
"Fine," he said, "That's where we'll begin. I will pay the rent, and keep paying it until you're back on your feet."
"Ohhhhhh," she said, realizing that this conversation was going to be at once wonderful and also very emotional for her.
She got up, not able to talk yet, and got a box of tissues.
"Please don't think that I'm buying you or anything like that," he said, earnestly. "I will admit that I have been struck almost dumb and blind by you and need to follow my instincts here.Never really believed in the love at first sight' kind of thing but I'm so stunned by this, by you and Rachel Ann and my reactions!"
"Yes," she said softly, smiling though her tears, "Poppa's advice! Not sure if I ever subscribed to 'love at first sight' either but here we are."
"Yep!" he said.
"We'll just take care of the rent then!" he went on, getting back to the subject.
"Thank you!" she said.
"Then," he said next. "I've taken the liberty to add your name to an account at the bank that I've established. We'll both be able to draw from it. It's set now at several thousand dollars."
She was almost beyond shock by then, and simply staring. He hurried on, sensing that he was on a roll just then.
"As a matter of fact," he said, "I will get us debit cards fixed to that account."
She had absolutely no words at this point.
"Chelsie," he said quietly, "You never know when you'll need some money; we both know that. It'll be there for you, if you should need it."
She was still emotional and silent, though nodding her head now.
"Car?" he asked next.
She shook her head 'no'. "Bus!" she said, barely able to talk.
"I'll give you one of mine to use," he said. "I have an SUV and a sedan. You can use whichever one you like."
She held her hand over her mouth then and fairly went to pieces. He moved to hold her and it was then that Rachel Ann came into the room.
"Momma?" she asked, concern in her voice.
Chelsie spread her left arm out, never letting go of Ken and pulled Rachel Ann into the hug.
"He's being so nice to us," Chelsie said, kissing Rachel Ann on the head. "He's taking care of us! That's what he's doing!"
"Good!" Rachel Ann said, "I love you Mr Ken!"
He kissed her on the head.
"How about going out for a treat for us?" Ken asked then. "Ice cream!"
"Yippee!" Rachel Ann shouted, "Ice Cream!"
"Yes," Chelsie said, taking a tissue and wiping her eyes. "Ice cream."
They went outside and to the car. Chelsie and Ken buckled Rachel Ann into the back seat of the car and then he went to where she was standing by the passenger door in the front.
"You drive," he said, softly. "This is for you to use." While saying that, he gestured to the white BMW sedan and she clung to him again.
As they hugged, he said softly into her hair: "I know that this is like an assault on your senses; it's so quick, sudden and all."
She nodded 'yes' to that.
"I really am trying to pace myself here; I'm so afraid of losing you, now that I've found you, and I certainly don't want that. But, despite my fear about this, I want to give you time to simply think about it. Will you?" he asked.
"Yes," she said, "It's such a new way of being treated. I have to have some time with it."
It's what they did. They went and enjoyed their treat at the Culver's Ice Cream store, chatting amiably. Then she drove Ken to his house to let him off.
"Oh, this is lovely!" she said to him.
"Bachelor Central," he quipped.
"Big!" she said.
"Yes," he said, "My taste in houses. I always suspected that I'd be able to fill it up more some day." He grinned at her, when he said this.
"You just keep pitching, soldier!" she said to him with a grin on her face.
"Oh, I will!" he said, "It aways pays to know one's mind."
"Yes, I'm sure it does," was her answer.
She got out of the car then and they shared a hug and then a kiss, a long kiss, in the driveway by his house.
"Momma?" Rachel Ann said, from the back seat of the car, as she watched the two of them kiss.
Her Momma only turned in her direction and grinned, and then kissed Ken again.
When the kisses were finished, Chelsie got Rachel Ann from the back seat and settled her into the passenger side of the front seat.
"This is so nice, Momma," Rachel Ann said.
"Yes," Chelsie answered, "He's giving it to us to use."
"Oh, goodie!" Rachel Ann responded. "We don't need to worry about the bus anymore."
"Nope, don't need to worry," Chelsie said, turning and sending an air kiss to Ken, who was watching.
"Think!" he said. "I'll be waiting."
"That's certainly good news!" she responded, as she climbed into the car.
As they drove off, Rachel Ann said: "Momma, don't you just love this car!"
"Yes," Chelsie responded, "His car!"
Ken had decided to back off a bit. He knew that he'd done what he thought was necessary; necessary, that is, to get them back on their feet. That process, with what he'd provided, would begin right away. He was pleased about that.
He wasn't trying to hide from himself how 'smacked' he was by this woman, and her little girl. The 'and' here was one that was totally outside of anything he'd ever considered. He smiled as he mused about that: the fact that finally he met a woman that stirred him about as deeply as possible, and she had a daughter, one as lovely as Rachel Ann Karl. It left him grinning, as he went into the house.
For her part, for Chelsie, it was a kind of divided time. She needed to pay attention to what she and Rachel Ann needed to get on their feet again and get back to normal.
The ensuing time was filled with such items: settling the apartment again in a way that it was comfortable for the two of them.
She and Rachel Ann had constant talks in those coming evenings, and they were gradually becoming aware of what they'd need to make the apartment 'livable' again, after having it emptied due to Ben's neglect. They made a list and were giggly about the possibilities. Nor was Chelsie afraid to do some more 'time' kind of buying, since she'd be in charge of the payments. She just constantly warned that they'd need to be a bit careful. They both agreed on that.
The other part of her 'divided time' was taken up with thoughts about Ken Sanders. A little part of her mind was still agog at how he'd stepped in and began to help them get their life back and on track. She also constantly ruminated on what he'd said about 'love at first sight'. That part of it had her agog.
Those thoughts, constantly running through her mind, were extremely pleasant. After the first day, when those kind of thoughts were running through her mind, Chelsie called Ken on the phone.
They were in touch, during the next week to ten days —- her 'thinking' time —- constantly. Chelsie made sure that for almost everyone of those calls, Ken got a chance to talk to Rachel Ann. Rachel Ann and Ken spent a good deal of their phone time giggling and laughing with one another.
After one such call, Rachel Ann simply gave her Momma hug and said: "Oh, I love him, Momma."
They made their plan finally. It was a Saturday and they wanted to get in some shopping for the apartment. They needed some comfortable living room furniture and were determined to get a tv for the living room also.
Chelsie didn't know if she should approach Ken about this or not. Doing that seemed to her to be so blatant and she didn't want to be that way. She didn't want him to think that she was a kind of 'gold-digger'. She wasn't.
His sources, however, informed him, that Saturday right away that Ms Karl and her daughter were in the store.
She and Rachel Ann were browsing in the furniture department, when they saw him coming.
"Momma!" Rachel Ann said loudly.
Chelsie turned and saw him approaching and she got a huge smile on her face. She went to him and then he was holding both of them and kissing Rachel Ann on the head and then just kissing Chelsie.
"Get you in trouble here at work with the manager!" Chelsie said with a giggle.
"I am the manager!" he said proudly, "No trouble here."
"Coffee? A treat?" he asked and they wen to the employees' cafeteria for something.
"So, what's up?" he asked.
"We need some furniture and stuff for the apartment," Chelsie said, softly.
"Good idea," he replied.
Just then Rachel Ann took their dishes to the dish window; she loved to see the tray and dishes go whisking down the belt at the window.
"Ken," Chelsie said, "I didn't want to ... you know ... um ... presume. I just thought that we'd kind of shop."
His voice was calm and he put his hand over hers. "Of course you wouldn't be 'presuming'. It's a simple matter. I intend to take care of you."
"You do that so well!" she said. Then she gazed at him and said: "And you never make demands in return."
"Demands aren't part of this!" he said in return.
"No, that's so nice!" she answered, "Giving me time; I mean time to think and all."
"Yes," she said then, after reflecting for a number of seconds."You've given me that."
"And?" he prompted.
She smiled and said: "And I like being your girl!"
That caused him to grin at her. "Is that who you are?" he asked, smiling broadly.
By then Rachel Ann was back, and she heard.
"Momma," Rachel Ann interjected, "Is Mr Ken your boyfriend?"
"Yes, he is!" Chelsie said. "Isn't that grand?"
Rachel Ann was hugging her Momma then and saying : "It's the best news possible!"
Then she went for a hug to Ken.
"I'm afraid," he said, "That I need to prowl the store. See that all is going fine."
"Thank you for the treats!" Chelsie said.
They walked then with Rachel Ann between them, holding his hand on one side and her Momma's hand on the other.
He walked them back to the furniture department. They were met there by a slightly older lady named Romaine.
"Hey, Romaine," Ken said.
"Mr Sanders!" the woman said in a polite and pleasant voice.
"They need stuff to outfit their apartment. Please put this on my bill." He smiled at Chelsie and gave her, from his wallet, his store card for her to use.
"Just contact me," Ken said to Romaine then, "I'll be available to sign."
"Will do, Mr S," Romaine said.
He got another hug from Chelsie and one from Rachel Ann, before walking away.
As they were hugging, Chelsie said: "I'm going to be coming for you, Mr S!"
"Bring it on," he said with a grin.
"Dinner at the apartment tonight?" she asked.
"Love to," he replied.
"Help us get all set up!" she said next.
"Can I bring something?" he asked.
"You, your appetite, and you!" she said.
"You've got it!" he said, smiling as he walked away.
"Oh, Momma," Rachel Ann, said, as they watched him walk away, "I love him!"
"Yes!" Chelsie said, she understood that.
JOHN CALHOUN HAS NEWS AND LOVE IN THE NIGHT:
Chelsie had a phone call that afternoon from her lawyer, John Calhoun.
"Hi, John," she said brightly; she was always pleased to talk to him. She considered him a great help and support in all of this.
"Well, it's done," he said.
"Done?" she asked, hoping that she knew what he was talking about.
"Yes," he went on, "The divorce decree will be rendered this coming week for abandonment."
"Oh, John," she said, "That is such good news. It's been so long in coming with him and now I can get on with living."
"Exactly the right attitude!" he said, "I'm so glad to hear you talk that way."
"Can you come and see me on Monday?" he asked.
"Yes," she replied, "Around noon?"
"That will be fine!" he answered.
"John, thank you so much for this. It means to much to me; this has just been a painful time coming at the end of about 4 painful years!"
"I know that," he said, "And you've been so strong through all of it!"
"Thank you for saying that!" she said in parting.
"Only the truth," he replied.
She was clapping positively excited from the news. Her noise brought Rachel Ann then, and the two of them talked about it.
It was one of the topics of conversation that evening among the three of them.
Ken Sanders was on time and showed up with flowers for Chelsie and a gift for Rachel Ann. He was met at the door by a grinning Chelsie.
"Well, you certainly look happy!" he said, greeting her with a hug, a kiss and the flowers.
"Oh, thank you; they're lovely!" Chelsie said.
Then Rachel Ann came into the hall and hugged Ken and then whooped, when he gave her his gift. He'd bought her a new iPad from the local Apple store. She was beside herself with the joy of it.
"Can I go and try it out, Momma?" she asked.
"Yes, love," Chelsie said with a smile. "Internet connection is paid for," he said, and got another hug from Rachel Ann, and extended fervent 'thank yous'.
Then Chelsie turned to Ken and said: "I have news!"
"Yes, lovely woman?" he enquired.
"Had a call from John Calhoun, my lawyer," she said next.
"And?" he prompted.
"Divorce become final next week!" she said grinning.
"What good news!" he said, and they hugged.
"So good, so glad to be truly and finally rid of him," she said into his upper chest.
"Good for you!" he said.
"Feels like I, Rachel Ann and I really have a future now!" she said.
"Ah, yes," he responded, "A future! How grand!"
She hesitated then but knew, sensed that it was time for a declaration on her part: "And you're a large part of that!" she said softly.
His response was to kiss her, and say: "I really want that! I don't, didn't want to rush you or anything like that but I really want that. I've tried to keep an eye on the speed of this, this relationship and how it's developing. But this is what I want, you, Rachel Ann, it's what I want."
"Oh, yes," she said, kissing him again, a soft but now passionate kiss. When the kiss broke, she was grinning widely:"Can you, will you stay the night and help me celebrate this?" she asked softly. "Want to?"
"Love to! Want to! Will!" he said to her.
"Oh, good!" she said and kissed him again. Then she said: "Dinner should be ready."
"Good, hungry here!" he replied. They went arm in arm into the kitchen, where they'd eat their dinner. They were soon joined by a smiling Rachel Ann.
When she entered the kitchen, she went to him immediately and hugged him.
"I love the iPad!" she said fervently. "Thank you so much!"
He kissed her upturned face, on the forehead and said a soft: "You're welcome, sweetheart."
But what Rachel Ann said next kind of set the tone for the evening and, in a way, simply opened the future for the three of them.
"I want you to be ... I wish you were my Daddy!" Rachel Ann said, and, as she said it, there were tears in her eyes and on her cheeks.
"Oh, sweet love," Chelsie said and went to them and then the three of them shared the hug. Ken had picked Rachel Ann up and the three of them were in the hug, face to face to face.
It was a transforming moment.
"Hold that thought!" Ken finally said, with a smile.
"Yes, love," Chelsie said, and then she said softly: "Dinner now."
"Goodie," Rachel Ann said, recovering, "Hungry!"
They sat to eat and Chelsie asked Ken if he'd say the grace. They prayed and ate companionably.