It was his day at the shelter. He'd been spending his time there, odd days of the week and all, for about three months now. It was a promise that he intended to keep to himself. The promise was to be as generous as he could possibly be, with his time, with his fortune —- provided first of all by his wonderful Mom and Poppa but enhanced ever so much with his work at the manufacturing plant that he owned and where he worked. It was his promise to his lovely Momma and to Poppa and it was one he intended to keep.
There was also the crazy, crazy notion of his name. He was Stephen Nicholas Myra. Early in his life his Dad talked to him about the other Nicholas, that is Nicholas of Myra, with whom he shared his name.
He was enchanted from the start by the story of the wonderful Christian saint, whose name he shared.
It was also from those talks with his Poppa that he learned that St. Nicholas of Myra was the prototype for and the ancestor of the figure 'Santa Claus'.
He was impressed by this, and all that he was able to learn about the Christian saint who was noted for his generosity, his love and his care for the poor and for children, especially for children.
As a matter of fact, he also learned from his Poppa, who was an amateur historian, as well as a manufacturer, that St. Nicholas was the patron saint of children and brewers. This latter fact, made him chuckle.
He grew up with his Poppa calling him 'Santa'. His Mom scoffed at that silliness and rather used his name 'Nick'.
But Nick Myra liked being called 'Santa' by his Pop. It was their private joke.
As he grew and, with a good head start from his Mom and Poppa with what they willed to him, when they passed, prospered, his notion of his name sake was always on his mind.
He became more of a father type of figure for his workers than anything else. And Christmas was his most joyful time of the year.
He gave Christmas bonuses to his workers and always signed the bonus notes: 'From Saint Nicholas'.
Lately he had branched out his acts of charity. He still had some undeveloped plans on his mind and promised himself to work on fleshing out those plans. But in the meantime he began to spend time during the week at a kind of shelter, run by a local Methodist Church, where he was a member, which offered meals to those who needed them and shelter for those who were homeless.
He was noted and liked by one and all at the shelter for his pleasantness, his attitude and his sense of humor.
He worked out his schedule so that he might be on hand to serve meals at the shelter three or four times a week.
It's where he met Julie. It's where he fell for Julie. It's where Julie came into contact with Saint Nicholas.
The badge on his shirt, that he wore, while at the shelter serving, announced to one and all that he was 'Saint Nicholas'. That made people smile and make comments about 'Santa Claus' among them, once it was explained why he had the sign on his shirt.
At this point in his life, Nick Myra was 35 years old. He'd had a number of 'girlfriends' but never found any 'keepers', as he called them. But he never figured on anyone like Julie.
So, today was his serving day at the shelter.
Over a time period, his 'outreach' activities became more important to him. It was certainly all those wonderful conversations with his Poppa about the real 'St Nicholas' but it was as much, or more, Nick's realization that he had been blessed in his life time and that had with it an accompanying feeling that he needed to do more sharing. Taking time to work at the shelter was only one way for him.
MEALS AT THE SHELTER: A PRESENT NECESSITY:
Janie Markham began to bring her little love, Julie, to the shelter for meals, once things really began to close in on them.
She was frequently amazed, when not actually overcome, by the succession of events that had occurred to her and her lovely Julie.
There was Al's leaving and subsequent death, while on a 'ramble', as he tended to call his times away. The realities that came to roost quickly after Al was indeed dead and gone were more and more dark for them.
Al had taken everything and apparently just squandered it on his latest 'ramble'. He was always sure that prosperity was just around the corner in the form of one big financial success. It never happened.
He left Janie and Julie fairly destitute. Then her job faded, simply went away and unemployment only covered a relatively small amount of time. There were no jobs anywhere around that she could find. She'd been, to be sure, a stay at home Mom. Al had wanted it that way but now that decision was paying off in the difficulties that Janie and Julie were having.
It had come to this, this shelter, where they began to come to insure a good meal, while Janie juggled what little funds they had to keep a roof over their heads.
Janie was ruminating, and thinking about what to do next: where to go; to whom should she apply for help or a job. She was being stymied at it.
They'd moved there from a small town a number of states away, because Al had a 'good feeling' about living there.
There were no ties behind them; no family or anyone to turn to. Janie needed to find a way for them, and needed to do that soon. She was at the edge, at times, of despair.
But while Janie was busy worrying, Julie smiled at the tall man, who was helping to serve the food and clean up some tables.
He grinned back at Julie who then waved. He waved back at her. They seemed to make a bond quickly.
Nick had noticed that they were there about three times a week for a meal. The next day was a Thursday and he expected them to drop in then. He wanted to be prepared for the lovely little girl who always waved to him and smiled.
They did come, as he expected. He found himself wondering what their story was, and in the back of his mind the conversations with his Poppa came back to him and he began to think that this might be his opportunity to reach out and share. He was also aware of not wanting to scare them with any of his intentions.
They were there for lunch.
"Hi," he said to the two of them and got an enthusiastic 'hi' from Julie and a softer one from the pretty momma.
"Who's St. Nicholas?" Julie wanted to know.
"That's who I am," he said, "Who are you?"
"I'm Julie and this is my Momma, Janie," the little girl explained.
"Pleased to meet you," Nick said, getting a surprise of a hug around the neck from the little girl, from Julie, and a soft handshake from Janie.
"Do you have time for me to tell you who St. Nicholas was?" he asked.
"Yes, please," Julie said and turned: "Momma?"
"Yes," Janie said, smiling. "We have time."
Nick sat then and told the story about St. Nicholas of Myra and how important and special he was.
"And do you know what we call Nicholas of Myra today?" he asked.
"What?" Julie said, entranced by his story.
"His current name is Santa Claus," he said with a grin.
Julie was excited by this. "Are you Santa Claus?" she asked, wide eyed.
"No," he said, "My name is Nicholas Myra, actually Stephen Nicholas Myra but because of my name they call me around here just St. Nicholas."
Julie laughed and clapped. "That's so nice," she said. "St. Nicholas."
"That's who I am," he said.
He moved away from their table then. His 'shift' was about to end and he had things that he had to do that afternoon. But in the meantime, he had one more thing to do.
"And guess what?" he said to Julie.
"What?" she said, a permanent grin on her face.
"St. Nicholas has something for you," he said.
"Really?" she almost squeaked.
He pulled from his pocked at a pink animal kind of figure. When it was shaken, it glowed with an inner light and made a bell sound. He put it on the table in front of Julie, who took it and looked at him: "For me?"
"For you, from St. Nicholas!" he said.
She demanded another hug and he gladly gave her that. Then he moved away. He tried to be sensitive to not taking up too much of their time.
Julie demanded another hug from him, at the door. Only this time, he got a hug from Janie also.
She spoke to him softly, as they hugged.
"Thank you," she said, "You've given her a happy day. I appreciate that. Thank you, St. Nicholas!"
She slightly kissed his cheek then and they were gone.
It swept through Nick's mind many, many times over the next two days. He was anticipating that they'd maybe be there again and he wanted to have a plan in mind.
Nick had a creative mind, that always served him well in his manufacturing world, but he was drawing a blank, when it came to what to do for or about Julie and Janie.
It did shake up his mind just a bit to realize that he'd said 'about' and not only 'for' the two of them. That alone awoke possibilities for him.
That night, the night of the day, when he'd given Julie the pink rattle animal, he made a phone call to his sister, Ruthie.
"Hey," Ruthie said. "Hows the mogul?"
"Fine, love," he said.
But she, who knew him well, put in then: "On, no; something's up. You'd better tell me about it."
"You're so wise," he said.
"Well, I know at least when you have an issue; so, let's talk," she said next.
They did indeed hash the situation out and Ruthie was pleased to find that Nick was attracted to the lady and the lovely daughter.
"What do I do?" he asked, finally, almost in a panic.
"What do you have in mind?" Ruthie asked first.
"Well," he said, "I don't want to scare them or make them think that I'm out to buy them or anything like that."
"How about something easy, and small," she said then, "Show your interest but not break the bank right away?"
"Exactly!" he said, enthused now. "What?"
"Well," she said, "We have two great minds between us let's use a little of that and see what we come up with."
A PLAN BEGUN:
Between them they did form a kind of beginning plan, with the idea that he'd consult her about how it went and what to do next.
"Ruthie," he said, with some emotion, "I love you."
"I love you too, Nick; just you start to show some of that emotion to Julie and Janie."
"I will," he concluded.
He was available the next day and went to where the shelter was located. He stood around just only a little while, when he saw them coming, the two of them.
It was Julie who spotted him.
"Momma, Momma," she said with great glee. "It's St. Nicholas."
Janie looked in the direction that Julie was pointing and she too then was all smiles.
"Hey there, Santa," Janie said, when they got to where he was, with Julie running the last portion of the block to hug him.
Their attitudes helped Nick out a great deal. He realized that he was nervous, nervous in spades about this little adventure. In the board room, on the production floor, with the workers, he was fine, cool, calm and always a 'go to' kind of guy. Here and now he had sweaty palms and was as nervous as a love-lorn teen.
"Hi," he said, their attitudes and obvious glee producing smile on his face.
"Here for lunch?" he asked.
"Yes, I'm afraid so," Janie said. "Still necessary."
"I'm wondering," he said, stumbling just a bit but it was, again, her smile that encouraged him, "If you might let me take you two out to lunch? I'd like that."
"Oh, Momma," Julie pleaded, "Lunch out with our favorite St. Nicholas, can we please?"
Janie smiled at both Julie and at Nick and said: "We'd love to; it'll be a treat for us, a special treat."
Nick now was all grins,
"Okay, my beautiful companions, where to?" he asked.
Again, it was Julie who piped up: "McDonalds!"
Nick looked at Janie, who nodded her head.
"McDonalds it is then," he said, "My sleigh is right here."
He led them to his car, a bright red Mercedes and opened the doors for them. They arranged Julie in the back, buckling her in and then it was Janie in the front seat with him.
"Nice sleigh, Santa," Janie said. Julie only grinned at him in the rearview mirror.
"Yes, giving the reindeer the night off, and when I do that, I use this," he said with a grin, getting grins in return.
They got themselves settled at McDonalds. Janie insisted that Julie go to wash her hands. He was a bit surprised by the fact that Julie said a brief prayer for them before they ate.
He felt, as they ate and talked a bit, that he needed to explain something about what he was doing. He only hoped that he didn't fall all over his tongue.
"I wanted to say," he said, directing his words at Janie, "That I'm not doing anything shady here. I ... I wanted to simply do something nice for you is all."
Janie smiled and said a soft: "Why us?"
"Well," he said, "Because I guessed that you need it, and I certainly know that I have enough to be kind and generous and I fell in love with Julie right away."
This left Julie grinning from ear to ear. "I love you too, Santa," she said, hugging him around the neck.
"I mean to say that I have no other plan in mind here," he clarified.
Then he plunged into what was really the deep end of the pool: "Do you mind if I ask you about your situation, I mean coming to the shelter and all?"
He held up a hand then and said: "I realize that I'm in a strictly 'need to know' kind of situation here."
Janie smiled. She also realized that she did have confidence in this man, for whatever reason, and, she suspected, it was not merely because he was being nice to them. She also realized just then that she was saying that to him. It made him smile.
She told him about Al then and his big plans and periodic 'rambles' that were all directed at a 'big score', as he would have put it.
She also told him about the futility of that kind of outlook and how it kept them just above the poverty level, until Al went on his last 'ramble' and took everything with them.
"I realize only lately," she said, and there were tears gathering in the corners of her eyes.
Julie interrupted her and said: "Momma, you okay?"
"Yes, honey," Janie answered, "Only telling our story here."
When she was finished and had mentioned to him the necessity to, for only a while, she hoped, seek out help from 'the Shelter' for meals now and then she did indeed brush the tears from her eyes.
They decided that he'd take them home at that point. Their house was an ultra small one that they were renting. He sat in the driveway with them and talked a bit, having come to some conclusions himself.
"Okay," he began, "First, I will say that you need to come to me at work tomorrow and I'll fit you up with a job. That's where we'll start. How's that? Bring the Julie and we'll have someone take care of her, while we're looking around the place."
"Great!" Janie said, again brushing the tears away.
"I'm also going to do this," he said, taking his wallet out.
He extracted several hundred dollars from his wallet and said: "I'm going to give this to my girlfriend Julie from St. Nicholas. I don't want people to think that I'm doing anything underhanded with you."
He handed the money to Julie, who said: "Thank you, Santa," right away and then handed the money to Janie with the words: "Here, Momma, you'd better keep track of this."
They got out and then he had two weeping females in his arms.
He said to them, before they went in: "We'll figure this out. We're only at the beginning here. I'm just trying to find my way here without insulting you."
"Oh," Janie said, kissing his cheek, "You're not insulting at all; you're Santa Claus, that's who you are!"
That made him smile as he went back to the car.
The call from Ruthie came almost as soon as he was home.
"Hey," Ruthie began, "How did it go?"
He explained to her how the contact went, and the fact that he'd given them some money.
"Don't just know if that was wise," he said miserably. "She might just think that I'm trying to buy them."
"You know," Ruthie replied,"I don't really think so from what they said, "But let's see, when she comes in for an interview today."
"Good," Nick replied. "You'll talk to her first?"
"Yes," Ruthie said, "It's the way we'll do it."
"Yes," he agreed, "And here you are pulling my cookies out of the fire, so to speak."
"We just take care of one another," Ruthie replied, "And I've never seen you smitten like this. It's kind of nice!"
"It's kind of scary," he replied, and Ruthie laughed.
Ruthie was in fact the COO of the business. Both she and Nick actually ran it. They had both been prepared, coached and brought up for it by their Dad, and ran the business well. It was normal, in the flow of authority for them, for Ruthie to interview new applicants and that's the way that they decided to do it that day.
Janie and Julie were there that morning. There was in fact a place where employees could bring children to be taken care of. It was one of the services that the firm provided.
Once Julie was taken to the care area, Janie was directed to the office of the COO. The secretary announced to Ruthie that Ms. Markham was there to see her, and Ruthie directed her to show Ms. Markham in.
As Janie came into the office, Ruthie got up from her desk and greeted a very nervous Janie, taking her to a seating area in a bay window kind of alcove.
"Rachel," Ruthie said, "Coffee for me, and for you, Ms Markham?"
"Oh, could l please have a cup of tea?" Janie responded.
"Yes, tea for Ms. Markham," Ruthie said.
Ruthie began then and said: "I know that you're nervous, Ms. Markham..."
Here, with an apology, Janie asked Ruthie to call her by her first name.
"Yes, Janie, thank you," Ruthie replied.
Then Ruthie led into it. "First of all, Janie," Ruthie began, "I want to tell you that no matter how you react to what I first want to talk to you about, we will have a job for you beginning today. Please understand that."
Janie nodded her head and said a soft 'thank you' but was mystified by what Ruthie had said.
"So, let me tell you this. If you knew my brother, Nick or St. Nicholas, I guess, as your Julie calls him..." here she paused and smiled at Janie, who was a bit wide eyed with surprise.
"But if you knew him, this wouldn't be a surprise. He is the salt of the earth," she went on, holding her hand up and saying: "Prejudiced opinion from doting sister. But he is almost terminally shy with women. It seems that your Julie has brought out the best, and most loving part of him."
"Yes," Janie agreed, "They did seem to hit it off."
"What a wonderful thing," Ruthie said. "You see, Nick is afraid that he has committed a terrible blunder in giving you money to help you out."
"Oh, no," Janie said, "Not at all. It has saved us for now in so many ways: I mean the rent, and some utility bills. I guess I need to tell you."
She went on then to describe to Ruthie what Al had done in abandoning them and leaving them with no job, no resources and no money.
"It's been so hard," Janie said in conclusion, and Ruthie handed her a tissue to dry her eyes. "St Nicholas helping us out has been a great and wonderful gift. The simple truth."
"I'm glad," Ruthie said.
She paused then and finally said: "You know, I'm going to leave it all there. He was afraid that he'd messed up whatever chances he might have had with you and Julie."
"Okay, work," Ruthie said then. "We could use some help in our personnel department. How does that sound?"
"Wonderful," Janie said with a smile.
"Our usual procedure, with our new hires is for them to have a short interview now with our CEO Mr. Myra," Ruthie then explained.
Ruthie grinned then and said: "Please be gentle with my little brother."
Janie's reaction was to put her hand over her mouth and giggle.
They talked a bit and then Ruthie sent her to meet with Nick. She walked her there and introduced her to Nick's secretary, Rena.
"Rena," Ruthie explained, "This is Janie Markham, we're taking her on to help us with personnel."
Rena got up and greeted Janie and said: "I'll tell Mr. M that you're here."
"Thank you," Janie said and then, turning to Ruthie, who was going back to her office, she simply hugged her and said a 'thank you' into Ruthie's ear.
"You're welcome," Ruthie said.
"I'll remember what you told me," Janie said then with a grin.
"Good," Ruthie responded, "But go get him." Janie grinned in response to what she said.
When she entered his office, she was aware of the fact that Nick was nervous. For him this was certainly a personal thing and not only business. If it were merely that, the hiring of a new employee, for instance, it would have been fine. He was still haunted by the possibility that in giving her money he'd committed a serious error that would make any further personal contact between them impossible.
She knew that also, from her talk with Ruthie, and hoped that she was prepared.
He stood and greeted her: "Ms Markham," he said.
But she knew what she wanted to do, and, before he could react, she went to him and was hugging him.
"Sorry, if this is inappropriate but I need to give St. Nicholas a hug from me and my Julie for saving us. That's what I need to do," she declared.
"Thought that I'd been too brash and ruined everything," he said into her hair
"Haven't ruined anything at all," she said. "Just being a Christmas angel is all."
"Ohh," he said, suddenly intensely pleased.
They got her settled into the job and gave her a tour of the facilities. She also was assigned to someone in the personnel department to 'take her under her wing', so to speak, and get her started.
It was a grand day. Nick was pleased and Janie was also. She and Julie even went out to dinner that night to kind of celebrate.
PROBLEM AND PLANS:
It was evening a few days later. Nick had fixed himself a light meal and did the clean up. He'd also decided maybe on a movie for the evening.
Just as he was settling down to the movie, the doorbell rang. He went right away and was surprised to see both Janie and Julie on his doorstep. He noticed right away that they had small suitcases with them. Julie was in tears.
"What?" he asked, bringing them in. "What is it? What has happened?"
"Major water main problem," Janie said. "Now water at all. I didn't know what to do."
Now Nick had two teary women to deal with. He was hugging both of them and the hug lasted for many minutes, while Julie was sobbing outright.
"Of course, you should come here," he said. "Come on and give me those bags. We'll settle this and get organized, but first of all, tea? Hot chocolate and then we plan."
"Tea," Janie said. "Thank you."
They had their tea and chocolate in the breakfast area. It was off of the kitchen and had floor to ceiling windows and an octagonal table that fit into the alcove. As they sat to have their drinks, Janie glanced around and said very softly: "This is very nice."
"Needs a woman's touch," he said, smiling.
"Don't know when the water'll be fixed and okay again," Janie said, going out of her way to not presume.
"No," he interrupted. "We're just going to make this change, and make it right now. Let me show you. We'll look around."
He wanted to show them around but realized what his priorities for them were.
"Okayl," he said. "Upstairs we go."
They went upstairs.
"First things first," Nick said. "So, here's what St. Nicholas has for you. First we look for a room for pretty Julie." This made Julie clap her hands and make happy noises. They went down the hall with him showing the various 'guest' rooms and Julie got to pick out a room of her own. She was overwhelmed with the size of it and the fact that it had its own bathroom.
Janie decided to take the other room on that side of the hall.
"Is this okay for you?" he asked.
"It's wonderful," she said. "I hardly know what to say."
Upstairs there were in fact four rooms along the hall way, two of them shared a bathroom, and two had ensuite bathrooms, as did the master, at the very end of the hall. Janie and Julie each had a room with an ensuite bathroom.
Julie was simply giggly excited about this and Janie's face was wreathed in smiles.
He took them then on a tour of the lower level of the house. The downstairs had a large kitchen with its adjacent breakfast nook, a living room and a kind of tv/game room, like a family room. Off to the far left, across from the kitchen and dining areas was Nick's study.
"This is where Santa does his work," he said, getting a smile from Janie and a giggle from a still very excited Julie.
In addition there were some unused basement rooms, four of them. Nick did use one of these for his workout equipment.
"Momma," Julie asked then, once the house tour and the decisions about bedrooms was finished, "Do we live here now?"
Janie didn't know exactly how to answer that but Nick stepped in: "Yes," he said. "Isn't it great to live with St. Nicholas?"
"Oh, yes, yes," Julie said, again clapping her hands. "Living with Santa Claus! How marvelous."
"Look," he said then. "I'm going to get out of your hair and let you get settled. I'll be in my den; let me know, if there is anything that you need."
Julie wanted a hug before he went away. She simply pressed her face against his stomach and said a fervent 'thank you for letting us be here.'
He kissed her head, while smiling at Janie and said: "You're welcome love. St. Nicholas takes care of his own." Then he was hugging Janie and having a really strong reaction to it. He realized it and moved away before she might realize it too. As it turned out, his movement was too late for that and Janie simply smiled and made inward plans about her and St. Nicholas.
They spent some time then getting settled in their rooms, and after that, it was time for Julie's bath. Janie oversaw the bath and then got Julie into her nightgown.
"Let's go and see Santa," Janie said, with Julie agreeing and giggling about it.
They knocked softly and, when he said 'come in', they went in. He rose from his desk, where he was working on house finances, a task that he rather enjoyed.
"Spiffy!" he said, "Spiffy clean, is what I say."
It made Julie grin at him and rush to him for a hug.
He kissed her hair, with her Mom looking on and smiling at the scene that the two of them made.
"Thank you, thank you, Santa," Julie said, "For letting us live here. It's so nice. I just love it!"
"You're welcome, sweetheart," he replied, getting somewhat chocked up by what she'd said. He kissed her hair again.
"You going to be alright?" he asked.
"Yes," she said, "My room is marvelous; thank you."
Then Janie moved in to join the hug and it was, for a few moments, the three of them hugging.
"It's like the book, the Lord of the Rings, says," he went on. "Heed no nightly noises!"
"Oh, I love that book," Julie said, smiling up at him.
"I'll be here," he said to Janie then, as the two of them went out to get Julie settled in bed.
Later, about fifteen minutes later, there was a soft knock on the door. When he said 'come in', he saw Janie come in. She was now wearing a thigh length robe.
"Pretty Janie," he said, smiling.
"She okay?" he asked.
"Yes," Janie answered, "I think I'll slip into bed with her just in case; I mean new house and all."
"Good idea," he said.
Then he said to her: "Glass of wine in the kitchen? We should maybe talk about things."
"Yes," she said, "That'll be nice and I guess it's necessary."
They went together to the kitchen. When they got there, he got them each a glass of wine and they settled at the table for their talk.
He spent a good deal of time at first simply talking to her about how he'd gotten to the point that he was then.
"They left the plant and all to me and Ruthie and we run it. It's expanded since then and is doing just fine."
"Yes," she said, "I spent some time with Ruthie and really liked her."
"Well," he said next, "That brings me to what I want to say and I will admit that I'm nervous."
"Please don't be," she said, "It's only the two of us here."
"Yes," he said, sighing, "The two of us."
"Momma and Poppa, but especially Poppa talked with us, with me in particular, many times about being thankful for what we have and continue to get," he began.
He smiled then and said: "As a matter of fact, often enough, when Poppa talked with me about such things, he couched it in the framework of me being 'St. Nicholas'. It was a constant little thing between us."
She smiled at that, and nodded.
"Lately," he went on, "Things with the business have done so well that I have had that thought of being thankful and reaching to others in my mind frequently. It's why I volunteer at the shelter and kitchen."
He stopped then and, trying to find his way forward, put his hand up in the air.
"Please don't get me wrong; that's what I'm most afraid of. I'm not advocating charity for you and Julie here. That's not what this is about at all. What I'm trying to say, badly, I'm afraid, is that I want to share with you, with you two. She has entered my life like a sweet, overwhelming cloud of love..."
He paused and Janie was smiling broadly at him.
He found his words then, and her smile gave him the courage to forge ahead: "And you, Janie, are the most beautiful woman that I can, or could ever imagine."
She was going say something but he held up his hand. "Please," he said. "Let me finish; if I don't now, I never will and this isn't easy for me."
She smiled and nodded and, reaching out, kissed his cheek.
"I don't want it to seem as though I were patronizing you here; I'm just not. I am so taken and I only want to take care of you. That's my plan. I mean: live here and we can decide, week by week, if it's still okay. I want to know what you need and want. I want to take care of those things. I guess like making lists and working on those."
She still sat and smiled.
"It's like, for me, your robe," he said, catching her by surprise. "It's lovely but I want you to have the most gorgeous silk robe that we can find. That's what I want and all sorts of things like that."
She was getting a bit teary eyed now.
"Look," he said, winding up, "Let's talk about my situation; where I am and all those kinds of things. I want us both to understand that."
"Yes," she said to him softly.
It kind of took some of the tension out of the air, since it put him on the firmer financial ground. He spoke to her for the next fifteen minutes about his financial situation: the business, what he had set aside and all those kinds of things.
When it ended, he was shaking his head. "I can't imagine why this should be so hard for me."
She moved then. She moved from her chair and went to sit on his lap. When she was on his lap, she put her arms around his neck and hugged him.
"Can I, maybe, be your girlfriend?" she asked into his ear.
"The grandest idea imaginable!" he said.
She kissed him then, and the kiss simply took his breath away.
She whispered to him then: "A pink silk robe."
"Yes, exactly!" he said with vehemence. "A pink silk robe."
"You're so nice!" she said. "Never expected this in any age of this world."
"You are so beautiful," he countered. "Can we take time tomorrow to talk about lists and things that are needed?"
"Yes, we can," she said.
"I mean silk robes and things," he said, smiling.
"Silk robes and things," she echoed and she licked his lips.
"Oh, Janie," he said, directly into her lovely hair, "I am so out of my depth here."
"Julie and I will take such good care of you," she answered, kissing him again.
OF PINK ROBES AND THINGS:
"I'm going to go and check on Julie," she said. "Might lie down with her a bit to make sure she's settled."
He watched her go away and let his mind dwell on the possibility of a pink silk robe. He knew that he'd have to talk to Ruthie about that one.
When she went into 'Julie's room', she found her still awake.
"Momma," Julie said, "Can't sleep; lie down with me?"
"Yes," Janie said.
They lay there and Julie was snuggled up against Janie's side.
"We were talking," Janie said.
"Yes," Julie answered. "I love him, Momma."
"He is wonderful," Janie answered.
"Can we stay here?" Julie wanted to know.
"Yes," Janie said, "We did decide that; we'll just see how it works out."
Julie slipped into sleep quickly after that, and Janie simply stayed with her for the night.
When he got to the kitchen next morning, Janie was already there and had breakfast for Julie, who was then off to school.
"Well, this is a treat," he said, entering the kitchen.
"A bit of breakfast?" Janie asked.
"Yes," he said smiling.
"I need to get to work a little early today but will be home in the mid afternoon by the time the scholar is home from school," he indicated.
"The scholar," Julie said. "That's me!"
"Yes, love," he said to her.
"I'll be in to work on time," Janie said next. "Don't want to get the boss angry."
"Heavens no," he said. "He's a bear!"
Both of the women laughed at that.
As they were hugging, just before he left for work, he whispered into her ear: "Lists and things, today."
"Yes," she said, "Lists and things today."
"Oh," she went on, "Ruthie called and is picking me up for work."
"Yes," he said, "I'm so scatter brained; we'll take care of that today."
She smiled and kissed him lightly as he was about to leave.
During the day, as usual, Ruthie who helped him out, telling him where to go to shop for the pink robe. It was as if, to him at least, and maybe to her also, the pink robe was a symbol of what they were trying to generate for each other, for the growing relationship.
The robe that he found was both expensive and flat out lovely. He was ultra pleased with it. He detoured to home before going back in to work and put the robe on the bed in Janie's room.
He also made sure that he was home in plenty of time for Julie's arrival from school. He met her bus and they walked, hand in hand home down the street from where the bus let her off.
They sat and had hot chocolate and talked about Julie's day.
"I like living here," she said to him, softly, after a sip of her hot chocolate.
"I like having the two of you living here," he answered.
It was then that Janie got home, given a ride by Ruthie.
"Hey," he said happily, as she came in the door.
"Hi, Momma," Julie said, "We were having hot chocolate."
"I'll be right down," Janie said, "I just need to put some of my things in my room."
When she came back down, she had a broad smile on her face. Julie was in the other room. She went to him and put her arms around his neck.
"I see that Santa Claus was here," she said.
"Was he really?" he answered, with a fake surprised look on his face.
"Yep," she said. "Gonna show you later."
"Goodie!" he said. "Getting me all excited."
"Like that idea, I do," she replied and kissed him.
"Janie," he said next, a chagrined look on his face. "I am such a dunderhead. I have, in the garage, three cars and never got around to offering one to you."
She just looked at him.
"It's the next item on our pink robe list," he said.
"Yes," she said, "The pink robe list."
"I simply want you to pick the one that you want," he said to her, "Or if you don't like them, we'll trade one in for what you do want."
"I don't know what to say," she said.
"Please let me do this," he said, "It'll make me so happy."
"Another visit from St. Nicholas!" she said.
"Yes, exactly," was his reply. "Shall we go and look?"
"Oh," was her reply, "This makes me so tingly. The pink robe was out of this world but this has me just shaking."
He held her then and they did indeed go to the garage, where she really liked at white SUV that he had. He presented her with the keys and said: "It's yours. I'll do the insurance on it and we'll get the papers transferred."
She was clinging to him then and sobbing. "I just don't know how to handle this," she said.
"I'm having such a good time," he said. "Now the pink robe list?"
"Yes," she said, wiping her eyes, "The pink robe list."
What ensued was, on the one hand, strange and on the other, a kind of fulfillment of a hope, a wish that had long existed.
They talked about what she needed. They had a long talk about it. They came up with a list that included clothes for both her and Julie, phones, and other objects. Once the listing began, they both became free enough to work on it.
For Nick it was the happiness of working on what his Poppa had talked to him about, during those St. Nicholas/Santa Claus talks about sharing his goodness.
For Janie it was the unlikelihood of actually meeting someone who's point in life and in their association was taking care of her and her Julie.
One of the conclusions that they came to very easily was that Janie would begin to take over the cooking and grocery shopping. Nick showed her where the food money would be and said that he'd put it there regularly.
While all this was taking place, some other and very important movements in their relationship took place.
It was about a week after they'd moved in with him. Julie was already off for the school bus and Nick went to take a morning shower.
Janie decided to take him a second cup of coffee. She knocked lightly on the bathroom door in his suite and just went in.
He was in the shower. He was fantasizing about Janie and had his erection in his hand. His head shot up, when he saw her.
She was wearing the pink robe.
"Whatcha doin'?" she asked pleasantly.
"Um," was all that he could manage.
"Know what you're doin'," she said grinning at him, and then she took the pink robe off and hung it up.
She was now naked except for an impossibly tiny pair of yellow, nylon panties. The panties had a patch of yellow material hardly covering her butt crack in the back and another tiny yellow triangle of material in the front from which, in all directions, pubic hair was escaping.