Black Friday

by qhml1

Copyright© 2015 by qhml1

: The queen of my doublewide.

Tags: Ma/Fa  

The alarm went off at three in the morning. Why otherwise sane, intelligent women get up at such an ungodly hour, fight massive crowds, all just to get a 'bargain' is beyond my ability to comprehend.

But my wife loved it, and of course I loved my wife. So much so, that I got up with her, and cooked a massive breakfast while she got ready.

"Hey" called out my stepdaughter Amy, stepping into the kitchen and grabbing a cup of coffee.

"Hi, baby," I said, as she kissed my cheek. "Ready to conquer the masses?"

"Ha!" she cried. "We have a plan. And I have on the right shoes this time."

Last year an enormously obese woman stepped on her toes. They were bruised for weeks. As a joke, I bought her a pair of steel toed shoes. I was really surprised when she liked them enough to wear them.

"Morning Dad!," came a cheery voice, as my other stepdaughter Jane breezed in. I had the water heated and the lemon sliced, and soon she was sitting at the kitchen table with her Earl Grey, checking sales papers, reaffirming their route. I shook my head. If she could plan military campaigns as effectively, General Jane would rule the world.

"Uncle Frank!," my nieces Lori and Sandy came in next, kissed my cheek, poured coffee, and sat, looking over the plan Jane had set up. I made another pot of coffee.

My wife Debbie stumbled in, not quite awake despite the shower. She kissed me, demanded coffee, and took a seat. The other part of the group wasn't here yet, but since they were always late, and had been threatened with being left behind, I started plating breakfast. Eggs scrambled, if you wanted over easy you could cook them yourself. Bacon, sausage, and ham. Home fries, rice and gravy. And of course, two large pans of homemade biscuits. By the time I had finished serving, Amy's friend Jean and her mom Alice were sitting down, digging in without ceremony.

The last of the troop to arrive dashed in.

"Damn! Almost overslept, again. Did I miss breakfast?"

I laughed at my ex. She would be late for her own funeral. I handed her a sausage and egg on toast and a travel cup of coffee, grinning as she tried to eat and walk at the same time.

I was left with a massive pile of dirty dishes and lipstick smears from the kisses. Why in the world makeup was necessary at that time in the morning was a mystery.

I wiped my cheek while an enormous grin split my face. I was the luckiest man in the world.

Instead of going back to bed I sat in my recliner, thinking about how I got here and how lucky I was, before I dozed off.

I didn't always feel that way. eight years ago I considered life to be a miserable experience.

My wife had just left me. Not because she wanted to be with someone else, but because she just didn't want to be with me anymore. It wasn't totally unexpected, I knew something wasn't right, but never expected that. Seventeen years, shot to hell.

I was never exactly what she wanted, but she seemed happy. It was her second marriage, Amy was five and her ex had just disappeared, so maybe she considered me a fall back.

Amy was Amy, a sweet little girl without a mean thought in her mind. We were hesitant at first, I had no experience being a Dad, and she never really remembered her biological father, so we were on even footing. Pretty soon though, she was a true Daddy's girl. I coached her softball teams, cheered her at soccer, growled at her boyfriends when she was old enough to have them, and gave her away with tears in my eyes at her wedding. I think her mother was actually jealous at times.

She was a secretary, I worked in maintenance in the local factory. She studied at night and got her degree, something we were both proud of. I had an associates' degree in management, certificates in welding and plumbing, and was a licensed electrician. And to be an old guy, I was pretty decent around a computer. She still though her four year degree raised her slightly above me.

We saved, at my insistence, had 401 programs, she even had a profit sharing program at her job. On reflection, I really think she was just waiting to cash out. I didn't really fight it, just made sure it was an even split. I didn't want the house, so we sold it and split the money.

She went on a cruise, got a nice apartment and a new car, and lived the life of a comfortable divorcee.

I went back to work, got promoted to maintenance manager, rented a small house and saved. It was just me.

I didn't date, just had no interest. At forty six, I was so out of practice I didn't know where to start. I'd probably have died a lonely old man if I hadn't gotten cut at work and had to go to the emergency room.

Debbie was my nurse. She dressed my wound, after the doctor put in ten stitches, giving me a sympathetic pat on the wrist. That probably would been it if she hadn't gotten stranded.

It was pouring rain, and being late October it was also cold. She was standing outside the door on her phone.

"Damn it!" she said, starting to cry. I'm a sucker for a crying woman, couldn't help it. I took her arm gently. She looked around in surprise.

"Are you all right?" I asked, as gently as possible.

I think the sympathetic look pushed her over the edge.

"NO, I'm not all right. My piece of junk car just stopped running, leaving me without a way home and my daughter without a way to class. To top it off no bus runs near my house, and I don't have money for a cab. I don't even have an umbrella."

She looked borderline hysterical. I took both her hands, shocking her a bit, I think.

"Hush now. No man with any decency would leave a nice woman like you stranded. If you can put up with riding in an old truck with someone who isn't exactly the greatest conversationalist, I'd be honored to escort you home. Please. I couldn't rest tonight if you refused."

I think that last part got her. She looked at me and actually giggled.

"I'd hate to come between a man and his rest. It isn't far, if you really don't mind."

"Please," I said, "I'd be honored. Now you stay here in the dry while I pull around."

Her eyes widened a little when I pulled up. I don't know why, I wasn't lying about the old truck. I just didn't tell her it was a '61 Studebaker, completely restored to showroom condition. My pride and joy, and my main hobby for the last year.

"My great uncle had one of these. Didn't look nearly as nice as yours," she said, after settling in.

"My latest project," I told her proudly. "I usually restore something and get rid of it, but just can't seem to do it with this one."

This led to an interesting discussion about old cars and favorites we had owned in the past. All too soon we were at her apartment. She seemed reluctant to get out.

"Thank you so much," she said, about to open the door, "and thanks for letting me ride in this cool truck."

I looked at her and decided to be honest.

"Look Debbie, I'm probably going to suck at this because it's been so long since I've done it, but would you like to have dinner with me some evening? Provided of course you're not married or in a relationship. It's been a long time since I've been around anyone as nice as you, and I'd love to get to know you."

She was probably offended, given the stare she was giving me. I guess I made a mistake.

Suddenly she started talking.

"I don't see a ring. Are you married?"

I shook my head.

"I was, for seventeen years. Haven't been for the last two. Amazingly, there was no cheating, no horrible fights. She just woke up one morning and decided she wanted to be single again. Refused counseling. Refused to talk about it. In the end she hinted that she was just bored. Took a long time to come to grips with that."

Her eyes had widened.

"That seems even more painful than if she had cheated. My story is much more mundane. He wanted to stay married, and date regularly. When I objected, loudly, he disappeared. We haven't seen him in twelve years."

She shrugged.

"What was, was, for both of us. Come in, meet my daughter, have a cup of coffee. I'll give you my decision before the second cup. I even have homemade pound cake."

She introduced me to her daughter Jane. She was studying nursing, with an eye towards being a nurse practitioner when she was done. Carrying on the family tradition.

The apartment was small, but neat as a pin and had a really homey feel. She made a good cup of coffee and the cake was excellent. I told her so. She was so pleased she gave me two slices to take home, even happier when I didn't even pretend to object.

Jane was preoccupied, worried about school.

"I have a way home, I just need to get there."

Her class started in forty five minutes.

"How do you feel about old trucks?" I asked, while her mother smiled. "If your mom will accompany me, I'll take you."

She must have really wanted to get to class, because she started gathering her things.

"I'm sure your truck is just lovely," she said, while Debbie grinned.

She was impressed, I could tell. Debbie didn't seem to mind in the least sitting close to me. I quietly said a prayer in praise of bench seats. I was disappointed when Jane got out and she moved over.

I stopped in front of her apartment. She sat for a minute before reaching over and giving me a nice kiss on the cheek.

"Friday. Six o'clock. I really like seafood." And then she slid out of the seat and almost ran into her apartment.

I grinned all the way home.

I went into work the next day, more to avoid having my accident written up as lost time than anything else. I stayed until lunch, and then took the rest of the day off. It occurred to me we hadn't exchanged numbers, so I went by on the off chance she was there. She wasn't, but Jane was. She was outside, her head under the hood of a car.

"You don't strike me as a mechanic," I said.

She didn't hear me coming and jumped, banging her head. That sent her into a cussing fit. Then she realized who I was and went bright red.

"What do you want?" she said with an accusing tone.

"I didn't get your mothers' phone number. We have a date Friday, I wanted to check and see if the restaurant I picked would be all right with her. Here. Ask her to call."

I handed her my business card. It also had my private numbers on it. She looked it over.

"Maintenance manager, huh? Know anything about cars?"

I just grinned.

"Let me have a look."

By the time Debbie got off I had it fixed. A broken belt. They had killed the battery but I jumped it off, had Jane drive it around awhile to charge it up. It was also two quarts low on oil, and the air filter was filthy. I replaced it and topped the oil off. I taught Jane how to check oil and transmission fluid levels, lecturing her the whole time.

She was appreciative, even hugged me.

"Have your mother call," I admonished, as she got in to drive away.

"Yes sir!" she said, grinning, "and thank you."

I grinned back. "Scoot. Don't make her wait."

I got a very nice call. She thanked me profusely, to the point of embarrassing me. Insisting she pay, she asked what the cost was.

"I'll let you in on a personality flaw. I love to barter. It gives me a lot of satisfaction to avoid paying cash and make a deal that makes both parties satisfied. Let's do that on your car."

Her voice got very cold.

"What do you want to trade for?"

Oh shit. She had the wrong idea. I paused, then thought I'd have some fun.

"Something intimate, something I hope you don't do for a lot of men."

I heard her sharp intake of breath. Before she could explode, I laughed.

"Here's the deal. I haven't had a real home cooked meal in almost two years. That's my price. And nothing fancy, meatloaf or a nice casserole, something along those lines. Dessert would be an unexpected bonus. Does that sound acceptable?"

There was silence, I thought she may have hung up.

"I make killer fried chicken. Garlic mashed potatoes, steamed broccoli good for sides?"

"My mouth is already watering. Name the time."

I could feel her smile.

"We'll decide Friday. How do you feel about chocolate pie?"

"Hold on, I'm getting light headed. I haven't had a good chocolate pie in years."

I looked at myself in the mirror. I had no illusions, knowing what I looked like. A little belly, probably fifteen pounds overweight. Still, I was in pretty good shape, being a hands on manager. I had scars all over both arms, from working with equipment and being pretty clumsy when I was young.

I was bald and kept my head shaved. No facial hair. I had been generously described as having a rugged look. And I was terribly near sighted so I wore glasses. You wouldn't find me in a contest for Prince Charming lookalikes.

Still, I made an effort. Suit, tie, polished shoes. I even drove my car, leaving the truck in the garage.

I thought about her on the way over. She was no beauty queen. I was pretty sure she'd never see forty five again. She had the pear shape most women get with age. Maybe thirty pounds overweight, but it had settled well.

Still, she was attractive, in an older soccer mom kind of way. And there was something about her smile that made me feel warm all over, and an inner beauty that shone through.

She opened the door, took one look at me, squeaked, and ran into her bedroom. I was standing at the door trying to decide whether to leave of not when Jane came out, smiling.

"Please, come in. You'll have to excuse my mother, she just realized she was under dressed for your night out. She'll be here in a minute. Sit. Can I get you anything? Water, soda, beer?"

I sat, uncomfortably. I had the feeling she was amused.

"No, but thanks. I haven't had a beer in almost ten years."

She looked at me oddly.

"Have a problem with alcohol?"

I flushed. "Yes, I don't like the way it tastes. Other than that, no, no problem."

"Mom is gonna love that. Her last beau liked to indulge a bit too much. One of the many reasons they don't see each other any more."

Before it could get any more awkward Debbie came back out. She was wearing a burgundy dress, high neckline, two inches below the knee. I thought she looked sensational.

"You look very nice." I said, meaning every words. She colored while Jane giggled.

"I had to change" she admitted, "it's been a long time since I was out with a man in a suit."

Jane gushed, trying to ease the tension.

"I think you look very nice. You too, mom. You'll turn heads at the restaurant."

I took it as a cue to go, so I offered Debbie my arm. She stopped when she got outside, looking for the truck. I grinned for the first time that night.

"Surely you didn't think I'd dress up in a suit and drive my old truck? Let me get the door."

I had driven my little Lincoln, pearl gray with a darker gray leather interior. It was ten years old, but I kept it spotless.

We went to the most popular seafood place in town. Debbie seemed uncomfortable when she looked at the prices.

"We could go somewhere else..."

I shut her down.

"This place is where I wanted to take you. Do not worry about the cost, and if I think you're not ordering what you really want, I'll change it to the most expensive thing on the menu. Do you understand? I don't eat out often, so I tend to go for the better places. Now let's order."

We both ended up with seafood platters, mine large, hers small. We had to get a doggie bag because there was so much left over.

I told her about my life, she told me about hers. Her ex left her saddled with debt she was just now getting out from under. She had lost her house, I could tell by the tone of her voice that had hurt her terribly. She had tears in her eyes when she described her flower beds and bird feeders.

I talked about my wife leaving me for adventure and exciting times. She had not been careful with her money, and the expensive cruises she took every year came to a halt. I talked about my little house, about my hobbies of gardening and restoring old cars. I rented space in an old garage to work on them until they were far enough along to take them home.

She seemed shocked when I told her it was the first date I had been on in two years.

"Why?" she asked, full of curiosity.

I shrugged.

"Haven't wanted to. You're the first woman I've met in a long time that interested me."

I think she smiled a little, thanking me for the honor.

We talked after I got her home, about everything and nothing, as we sipped coffee and I destroyed two pieces of cake. At eleven I got up to leave. She walked me to the door, and we shared a very nice kiss. No tongue wrestling, no groping or grinding, just a simple kiss. It still was the best thing I'd felt in ages.

After maybe twenty seconds we both pulled back, a little embarrassed. She squeezed my hand.

"I usually serve dinner around six thirty. Wednesday good?"

"For a home cooked meal I would make it good. Wednesday will be just fine. Should I bring anything?"

"A good appetite. I hate to see food wasted."

Looking around my little house when I got home, I noticed for the first time how empty it seemed. I was thinking of her as I drifted off.

Jane answered the door with her usual grin.

"She took today off, and has been cooking since three. You better appreciate this."

"Judging by the smell, I'm sure I will. What should I do with these?"

I hated the thought of showing up empty handed, so I had stopped and bought a bunch of flowers on the way over.

"Why, give them to Mom, of course. How long has it been since you wooed a woman?"

I thought the choice of the word 'woo' was charmingly oldfashioned.

"Probably since before you were born, and I wasn't really good at it then."

Her grin got bigger.

"Don't worry about it. I'll give you a nudge now and then, to keep you on the right track. This is the happiest I've seen her in a long time."

She suddenly got serious.

"Don't hurt her, okay? Life hasn't been too kind to us in a long time."

I was about to answered when Debbie came bustling out of the kitchen.

"Jane, who was at the..."

She stopped when she saw me, and the flowers. I held them out.

"Hello, Debbie. I thought you might like these."

Her hands actually shook a little as she took them. Seems it had been a long time since anyone had gotten her flowers. I made a note to plant some flowers next spring.

"These are lovely," she said, passing them to Jane. "Honey, put these in some water, please. I have to get back to the kitchen. Supper in twenty."

I think she surprised us all when she stood on tiptoe and kissed my cheek. Then she fled back into the kitchen.

Jane and I talked. She was twenty, just starting on her second year of school. She was focused on her goal.

"Luckily, it doesn't cost much at the community college level, but it will go up substantially when I transfer. I'm hoping to get a scholarship. It'll be really hard if I don't"

Debbie called us to the table before we could continue.

The food was excellent, as I expected. We talked about everyday things, our interests, our families. I told them about my older sisters, and their family, all girls in both instances. They had no close family locally, and didn't go see them often. I don't think it bothered them much. Before the night was over, we had a date for a movie Saturday. I hadn't gone to a movie in ten years.

I let her pick, so naturally we went to see a sappy romantic piece. I didn't really mind, because she held my hand almost from the time we were seated. She had tears in her eyes at the end, sighed and leaned against me.

"I just love happily ever after, don't you?"

If she'd said she wished it had turned into a slasher film halfway through and everybody got eaten by zombies, I would have still agreed. We went to a small Italian place she knew of and had pizza, boxing up the extra slices for Jane.

She asked me in.

"Jane's on a date, and I'm kind of nervous being alone. Do you mind?"


We sat on the couch, sipping coffee, snuggling after a bit. She reached up and gave me a little kiss. I was right in the middle of giving her a big one when Jane got home. We had just enough time to separate. She took one look at our flushed faces and her mussed hair and giggled. She went into her room, telling us it would be easier for us to 'talk', but the fact she was there made us behave. Did get a nice goodbye kiss, and a date for the next Saturday. And supper on Wednesday.

It became a pattern, date on the weekend, supper on Wednesday. About every third time I took them out. Nothing fancy, a nice buffet restaurant or barbeque place. They seemed to enjoy being spoiled a bit.

I really looked forward to seeing both of them. I missed family. In my mind things were sailing along quite smoothly. We were in our fifth month and hadn't gotten intimate yet, but we had come close. To me, it was long term. It hit me when I went to Sears to buy a new tool. I walked in the mall entrance on the opposite side, and passed one of those jewelry stores, and before I knew it I was looking at a display of engagement rings, wondering which style she would like.

Steeling my resolve, I walked in, and before I knew what was happening, a young sales girl had talked me into a ring she said older women really liked. I bought it on the spot, after being assured if she said no or didn't like it I could return or exchange it. It was early March, and I thought I would surprise her, maybe have a June wedding. I read women really liked that.

She had gotten me to take her to church every Sunday. I wasn't much on organized religion, but she was serious about her faith. I have to say I actually enjoyed it, to the point of occasionally helping out at an odd fundraiser or remodel project. I even took to going to the mens' breakfast every other week.

I was happy and I thought she was too.

It all fell apart the next Wednesday. We had just enjoyed a nice meal, and were enjoying dessert. I asked her what she'd like to do over the weekend.

She had an odd expression in her eye.

"I'm sorry, Frank, but I've already made other plans. One of the doctors at work wants me to go with him to some fundraiser at the Country Club, and I accepted."

It couldn't have hurt worse if she'd slapped me. The pound cake I had just enjoyed suddenly felt like it weighed a ton as heavily as it sat on my stomach.

I know I stuttered when I spoke.

"Oh ... Oh, all right then. Maybe another time."

I made a few inane statements and left. Without a doubt I was hurt, but I hadn't said anything to make her think we owed each other fidelity. She hadn't made me any promises, and I hadn't asked. I guess I just assumed she felt the same for me as I did for her. Wasn't the first time I was wrong.

Saturday I sat and brooded. I was mad at her, mad at myself, mad at the situation. Just plain mad.

I've been told a time or two by about everyone who's ever known me I can be stubborn. She wanted a doctor? Fine. She could have him.

I didn't go to church Sunday. Nor did I call or show up Wednesday. Thursday she called me, I took one look at the number and let it go to voicemail. Deleted the three messages on the home phone without listening to them.

I didn't talk to her on Friday either. She called and left a message wondering how to dress for Saturday for our date. I waited until I knew she was at work to leave her a message that I had made plans for this weekend and didn't remember asking her out. Sorry if I led her to believe otherwise.

I packed up my truck and went up to the mountains. Trout fishing always relaxed me, but this time I couldn't concentrate. I caught two fish in ten hours, both too small to keep. Ended up grilling a hot dog for supper. Sat watching my fire later, wondering how I could ever compete with a doctor. Sighing, I rolled into my sleeping bag, glad I had bought the double height air mattress. Surprisingly, I slept really well.

Monday afternoon I was greeted by a furious Jane when I got home.

"Where the hell have you been? Mom has cried for most of the weekend, over you."

I was still pretty pissed.

"Why don't you go back to your mom and ask her to get her doctor over to console her. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have things to do."

She ignored me, following right into my living room.

"This is what all this is about? You idiot. She didn't want to go. She wanted you to tell her not to, that you wanted her exclusively. She wanted to move you forward to something more permanent."

I stopped her in the middle of her rant.

"Did she go out with the doctor?"

Jane hesitated for a second.

"Yes she did. And if it makes any difference, she had a terrible time. She only wanted to make you a little jealous, dummy."

"Go back to her and tell her it worked. And tell her I'm too old, too dumb, and too set in my ways to play teenage games. All she had to do was ask, and I would have told her I wanted her all to myself. If it makes any difference, I was making long range plans. Together forever plans. But if she can pull stuff like this, what will she do down the road when things don't go exactly her way or if I make her angry over some little thing? I don't have that much of my life left, and be damned if I'll spend it like that."

Jane stood openmouthed during my little rant.

"Oh my God! You love her, don't you? News flash, idiot, I think she loves you more. Please Frank, talk to her. Get over this, and I'm sure she'll make you a very happy man. Promise me you won't go anywhere. I'm going home and tell her about our talk. Please, Frank, if you care for her at all, answer the phone when she calls. Please?"

I looked at her. She seemed so earnest.

"I don't have any plans for this afternoon or evening. I'll be available to answer the phone."

She jumped int my arms, kissed me, and flew out of the driveway.

An hour later I was mowing my grass. I had set my phone to vibrate to make sure I didn't miss a call. It never went off. Oh well. I guess Jane was mistaken. Maybe she didn't want to talk after all.

I made a round and as I turned I saw her car come flying into my drive. She was going so fast she didn't get stopped until she was twenty feet into my grass. Looked like I had to do a little replanting.

Luckily she put it in park, because she was out and moving pretty fast. I had time to turn off the mower and stand up before she jumped on me, causing us both to fall. She was crying pretty hard.

I couldn't really understand what she was saying. "Sorry," and "forgive," came up a couple of times in her babbling. I shut her up the only way I could think of. I kissed her.

To say she kissed me back would be an understatement. I think she was trying to devour my face.

I finally got her calmed down enough to let us get up and lead her to the porch swing. She was a true mess, hair disarrayed, lipstick smeared, loose grass all over her clothes. I wished I had thought to take a picture. Then again, I'm sure I looked a mess too.

Once I got her arranged, I started our conversation.

"So. Jane said you wanted to talk? About what?"

She started crying again. This time I just let her cry it out. I may have cuddled her, a little. I really don't remember. Finally she settled.

"I need to apologize, Frank. What I did was childish, and looking back, downright stupid. I didn't want to go on that date. I wanted you to tell me not to, that I belonged to you. Looking back, I realize I did it all wrong. I should have told you he asked, but since I was seeing you I didn't want to answer until we talked. That would have given us both a way to state our feelings. Please, please, forgive me. I was afraid to say it before, but I love you."

She looked so pitiful and yet full of hope at the same time I couldn't stand it.

"Next time you even attempt to do something that stupid, I'll take you over my knee. You belong to me. Exclusively. Do you understand? And just so you know, I love you too."

That led to another round of crying and kissing. When she calmed down, she made me a solemn promise that if she came anywhere near being that stupid again, she'd supply the hairbrush.

She finally settled down, snuggled so tight she was almost on top of me. Timidly, she asked what was really on her mind.

"Honey, Jane hinted around you had something serious you had to say to me. Can you tell me what it was?"

I didn't answer. I got up and went to the truck and opened the passenger door.

"Get your butt in the truck, woman. I have something to show you."

She almost ran, scrambling into the truck. I didn't have to, but I buckled her seat belt and gave her a kiss.

We drove in silence for about twenty minutes, before I pulled into a drive and got out. I unlocked the gate and drove through.

It was a long, twisting drive, between thirteen stately old pecan trees. At one time there were fourteen, but one succumbed to a lightning strike. The drive ended in a huge yard. She could see a barn and several outbuilding a bit farther on, but no house. I opened the truck and handed her out.

"Where are we?"

Her eyes seemed to shine. I ignored her.

"Twelve acres" I said, waving my arm around. "Five wooded, three in pasture, the rest field and yard. The house used to stand right here before vandals burned it down. Still has the well and septic tank hooked up."

"Who owns it?" She asked, hope shining in her eyes.

"We do. Or at least we will when we get married. I bought it a year ago, but couldn't see putting a house on it just for me. And I'm smart enough to let you pick the kind of house you want. But first..." I got down on my knee, no mean feat for some one my age, opening the box I had put in my pocket, "you have to say yes. Debbie Martin, will you marry me?"

She went pale. I seriously thought she was going to faint, but she pulled herself together, screamed "YES" and launched herself at me, again. For someone our age, we were spending a lot of time rolling on the ground kissing.

She held my hand all the way back to the house. She went into the bathroom and I heard her on the phone. Later I heard the shower start up. Just before she got in, she cracked open the door and called out.

"Honey, will you wash my back?"

I couldn't get into the bathroom fast enough.

Like I said before, she wasn't a beauty queen. But she was beautiful to me. She managed to get me into the shower with her. We soaped each other, getting familiar physically until the water started getting cold.

I don't know how long it had been for Debbie, but I hadn't been with a woman in two years. My ex was obsessed with her weight, and remained thin to the point of skinny all our married lives. Debbie was very well padded, soft, yielding, a delight to touch. And I touched a lot.

We made love, we didn't have sex. Words can't describe it, so I'm not even going to try.

As we cuddled, she started crying again. Boy, I hoped this wasn't going to be permanent. I may be a little slow, but I was smart enough to hold her, whispering words of love, until she cried it out.

She didn't leave until the next morning. When my alarm went off I was alone. It was very disappointing. My smile would have illuminated a large city when I found her in the kitchen, wearing one of my tees, cooking breakfast.

"Morning, love" was all she said, as she sat a plate in front of me. Of course the kiss she gave me said all I needed to hear.

As I ate she kept up a constant chatter. Nerves, I guess. Before I left she made me give her a house key.

"I need to shop. You don't keep much in the way of groceries around here. How can I feed you with a bare pantry?"

I think she went into shock when I asked her to wait so I could go with her.

"Okay honey. I called in, took two vacation days. You need to let me drive your truck today so I can move some of my stuff, all right? And this is important, I need to keep paying the rent on the apartment, Jane can't afford it. Do you mind?"

Apparently she was moving in. I don't think I could have smiled any wider.

"No, I don't mind. I'll drive the Lincoln. Love you, babe. Gotta go, or I'll be late."

The goodbye kiss was so long I ended up being ten minutes late anyway.

That afternoon we went grocery shopping. Such a simple mundane thing, but it filled me with great joy. I was never a picky eater, so I went along with pretty much everything. The bill was over two hundred dollars. Apparently I was out of everything. She was fumbling with her debit card when I stopped her.

"Here" I said giving her mine. "We need to go down to the bank so I can add you to the account. Luckily, they're open on Saturday morning. We'll go then."

Damn it, she started crying again. Over dinner she brought up closing her accounts and combining with me. She was surprised when I told her no.

"Not now, honey. Right now you need to focus on Jane and her education. And I don't want to pay her rent forever. When we go house shopping, make sure it's at least a three bedroom. And a plan where the master bedroom is on the opposite end of the house would be a good idea, give a little privacy to all of us."

She was crying again. Maybe I needed to stop talking.

Jane came charging in right after we had cleaned the kitchen. She grabbed me and gave me a quick kiss.

"Hi, Dad. Any supper left?"

She said it like she had been saying it to me her whole life. It affected me greatly

"Maybe a little. You need to show up on time if you want it hot."

And just like that, we were a family.

It was supposed to be a small, intimate marriage, but when the reverend announced it at the end of his service, it got away from us pretty fast. She had been a member since she had moved here, and nearly everyone loved her. The ladies of the church took over and towed us along. The church was filled to the rafters with our friends, my family, and most of the congregation.

It was a short reception, for us. We left while the party was in full swing, to catch the boat for our honeymoon. No sandy beaches and hot locations, we were going to Alaska. It was her choice. Her first honeymoon was a beach trip. So was mine. We wanted something fresh.

We enjoyed it, when we came out of our room. Even at our age, a honeymoon is still a honeymoon.

When we got home we went house shopping. I had a friend who worked for a company building modular houses, and I was impressed with his. I suggested it to Debbie, and we weighed the pros and cons of modular versus stick built, and modular won.

Debbie asked me what I most wanted in a house.

"To be able to live in it with you," was all the answer I had, and apparently all I needed to say. Soon she and Jane were visiting local dealers, comparing companies, until she found the one she wanted. Three bedrooms, seventeen hundred square feet.

She pulled me along to a model, and I was impressed. We started talking price, and I soon decided I didn't like the salesman. He was too busy telling us what we needed to listen to what we wanted. I politely asked for the sales manager.

"I'm going to save us a bunch of time. We want this model, in the colors my wife chooses. Tell me what your price is. If it's in line with your competitors, we'll start the paperwork. I am not tying up our land in the deal. I will probably put down at least sixty per cent. Give me a good price, a decent interest rate, and we'll have a deal. And[I pointed at another salesman]I want him to handle us from here on out."

With that kind of a down payment they were all over us. Deb and Jane picked the siding, shingle, and shutter color. She talked them into upgrading the master bath at no extra cost, including a large whirlpool bathtub.

"For our aching muscles" she said. I looked at the tub, imagined us in it together, and had a good idea which muscle would be aching.

She seemed shocked when I told her no to a prenupt. She thought I would want one since we were using up most of my savings to get the house.

"Have you already forgotten our wedding vows?"

She looked confused.

"Remember the part about 'all my worldly goods I thee endow'? I don't know about you, but I was serious."

I was watching her pretty close. A good thing, or we would have ended up rolling around on the ground again.

We settled into married life pretty easily. Neither of us were demanding. We didn't fight for power or play games. If she was better at things, she took the lead, and I did the same. She took care of the house. I took care of the cars, the yard, all the outside things. Anything that fell between we shared.

I gave up my rented space at the garage and fixed up one of the outbuildings as a workshop. I also kept the barn in good shape, never knowing when I might need it.

The lease on her old apartment ran out, and Jane moved in with us. It was a slight adjustment, but we knew it wouldn't be permanent.

She had graduated and was a registered nurse now. She needed to get a masters degree to realize her dream of being a nurse practitioner, if she could find the money. She was in line for a partial scholarship, but it would cover less than half. She considered taking a year off and working full time to save money, but the catch was if she did there was no guarantee the scholarship would still be there.

I had bought a 1970 model Chevrolet pickup pretty cheap. I had rebuilt the engine, the body work was completed, all it needed was painting, something I couldn't do.

I sat them down at the kitchen table on a Saturday morning. It was where we made most of our big decisions.

"I've thought about this a good bit. I put my fist daughter through college. I can't see slighting my second. Jane, this is for you."

I gave her a check. Twenty eight thousand dollars.

"Where did this come from?"

Hder voice was trembling while Debbie looked on in shock.

"I sold the Studebaker. I've got the Chevy, and it will be far more practical. It was time, and the money will be put to good use. Between this and the scholarship, you can focus on your studies. We'll keep gas in your car, make sure you have money for your needs. All you need to do is graduate. That, and we expect free health care."

I said the last with a grin. I don't know who was more shocked, Jane or her mom. Then the tears started. After that came the hugs. Later came the loving from my wife.

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