I have a thing for redheads. I was standing in line at Walmart. I had a pack of light bulbs I needed for my home office. A whole dollar and fifty cents worth. I was second in line, eight or so people in line behind me, a cute little redhead in front of me. I realized I’d left my wallet in the truck, but had my keys. I got her attention while she was putting a few things up on the belt. I asked her, if I told her an unbelievable story, and it turned out true, would she marry me, or go on a date with me, or loan me two bucks until we could walk to my truck for my wallet? She smirked, then smiled and nodded. I told her I was down on my luck. My last invention was stolen by a competitor, and I can’t prove it until the police, the FBI, and the private investigators all get together. In any case it could be months. It hasn’t totally left me broke, but I need two bucks so I don’t have to wait in line again, and please, please, please? I pleaded with my puppy dog eyes. (I’m not harsh looking, not too ugly, thankfully.)
She smiled and said, “Sure. You look like even if you come up all lemons I’ll probably get my two bucks back, and your story and the drama is worth the price of that ticket, anyway. I’m Amber. Amber Richards. Do you have a name, or just that pout?” She giggled and set my heart beating faster. She was even cuter when she smiled.
“Chuck. Chuck Bancroft. Thank you so much. I swear, you’ll never be sorry you did this.” Her name sounded familiar, but I couldn’t place it.
“I’m going to hold you to that, Chuck Bancroft. Put your light bulbs up here. I’m still wanting two bucks, but it looks like I might make twenty-five cents on this deal.” She giggled at her own comment and the tinkling sound of heaven’s bells melted me to the core.
She checked out, using a Platinum American Express card, which I thought was strange for an obviously very young girl, but it wasn’t really any of my business.
I hustled around her, grabbed the cart, and slowly pushed it toward the exit closest to where I was parked, waiting for her to catch up. She was putting her card and her receipt in her purse. It was pretty hot outside, and she had some refrigerated stuff. I was worried a little about where she was parked. I asked her, but she said “Never mind that. I have a cooler in the trunk and this.” I looked back and she was holding a bag of ice. Cool. Literally. We got to my blue Raptor, my pride and joy. I opened it, reached into the cup holder for my wallet, fingered around my money, then pulled out and handed her a five.
“Sorry, Amber, but I lied. I didn’t mean to, but I don’t have two bucks, unless you want me to go through my change in the console, and that could take hours. Here, though, I really appreciate your help.” She took the offered bill and handed me the light bulbs. I helped her to her car and thanked her again, handing her a business card. Black with gold lettering. (I only used these with prospective customers ... Or dates. Both of them. Everyone else got the white ones.)
Bancroft Radio, LLC. Charles (Chuck) Bancroft IV, Pres & CEO firstname.lastname@example.org
“Chuck, this looks pretty impressive. Like you might make it through that little legal problem you have. Look, I don’t normally do things like this, Mr. Bancroft, but you also offered a date, and possible marriage, as well as the two dollars, if I listened to your story, and it turned out to be true. I need more data. It’s a little early for marriage, but how about I check my schedule and call, email or text you if I can get away sometime later in the week?”
“Miss Richards. I do certainly hope it’s Miss.” She smiled and nodded. “Miss Richards, that sounds like a plan. A good one. Do you need police reports? Investigative summaries? Any documentation I could bring with me when we meet?”
“No, Mr. Bancroft. I think your explanations have worked so far. We’ll go with those until you say something so outlandish that I feel I just can’t trust your spoken word.”
After she put the ice in the cooler and the refrigerated stuff on top of that, then the last bag in the trunk of her Civic, next to the cooler, I reached down took her hand, raised it to my lips and kissed her knuckles. “Amber, thank you. Seriously. Thanks. I really would like to hear from you.”
“You will, Chuck. I need to get this stuff home and in the fridge. I’ll let you know.” She wiggled her fingers, started the car and took off. She was the cutest girl, I think, that had ever spoken to me. Even Melissa in Junior High wasn’t as cute as Amber, and I still thought about her. A lot.
I took off for home. Out in the boonies, where I felt safe from the trappings of society. A little background. Many moons ago two things happened.
First, I was left in charge of a company that builds little black boxes for agencies that use little black boxes. I had two sisters, neither of which could balance a checkbook, and my mother was still living. Living well, I might add. Dad’s last will and testament turned seventy-five percent of the company over to me, but I had to keep Mom’s checking account topped off since she had the other twenty-five percent. It wasn’t too hard, really. She wasn’t a crazy widow running around spending money or anything. She did pass money to her daughters out of hers now and again. She refused to date yet, even though she did still golf, and every once in a while, was in a mixed couples thing. She wasn’t even sixty yet, so she was still physically spry and getting around.
Second, when I got back after eight years as an Air Force pilot, a girl from high school convinced me I was in love with her. Whoa boy, did that come close to ending badly. In a really bad marriage. That was five years ago.
If she calls, Amber will be my third or fourth date since then. Depends on how you count them. Bottom line is, I just don’t trust women anymore. With the possible exception of my mother. The first ‘after the fall’ date was someone who knew me pretty well, so they just made it known they wanted me for my money and got it over with. My mother was the one who tried to get us together. She also hinted to someone else’s sister that I’d be a fun date and a good husband and father. That went horribly. I trust my mother with everything, EXCEPT my love life.
I’m now thirty-five, live alone in a nice house in the country. Not too far outside the city, but far enough that I don’t hear traffic, gunshots, or airplanes except those waaaay up there just starting their descent into the landing pattern. I have all the amenities a guy could want, including the most important on these hot days ... A pool. Big enough for laps but small enough that I can take care of it myself.
The sisters live elsewhere, one in California, and one in Washington state. They can stay there. They were pretty terrible to me growing up. They are two and four years older and did nothing but torment me. It never stopped. After them, it was a wonder I could get close to any woman, let alone almost get married. They didn’t treat Dad any better, hence the reading of the will and Mom getting to take care of them out of her share, if and when she desired. They get Mom’s share if anything happens to her, but since they live quite a ways away, I don’t fear for my mother’s life. I told you. I don’t trust women. At all.
I got good news from my lawyer a couple days later. The FBI had found, arrested, and the Federal Prosecutor had charged, the culprits that stole my plans. Seems I was one engineer short now, but he and the owner of a subcontractor to one of my competitors were both being held on several charges including espionage, mishandling of classified information, larceny, plain old theft, and a couple of miscellaneous charges that lawyers understand and electronics engineers maybe don’t. I didn’t. I didn’t care to. If I did, I’d be a lawyer, not an engineer. I didn’t want to be a lawyer, and didn’t care, as long as I never saw either of them again and I got my years of hard work and millions spent in research and development back into the correct corral.
Then, I got even better news from a new friend, I hoped, the next day. She was free tomorrow night, Thursday night, and wanted to know if we could meet for dinner. I tried my best not to scream ‘YES’ into the phone. It worked. I asked her if Thomaso’s would be OK, to which she asked if we were staying after dinner.
“I was hoping so, Amber, but I didn’t want to be presumptuous on a first date.”
“I’ll try dancing with you. It will tell me a lot about you, anyway. Also, it gives us more time for you to tell me this outlandish tale of corporate thievery.”
“About that ... Amber, it’s gonna be in the news, probably tonight and tomorrow. Maybe even out here away from the city. In any case, you’ll get a lot more information than you really want, before this is all over.”
“Wow,” she said. “So, you are for real. I was hoping. Let’s talk tomorrow night, OK?” She gave me her address, then we agreed I’d pick her up at seven on Thursday.
I was stoked up pretty well. She was cute. Super cute. Bordering on beautiful, but really cute. I got my best gray wool suit out and made sure it was OK. I had to steam one of the sleeves. I texted the number she called me on.
“Is gray OK for me?”
“pink shirt and tie”
Perfect? Perfect is pretty good for a first chance. I was a nervous wreck for twenty-seven hours. The most nervous the last 5 minutes. I pulled up to the apartment building, and knocked on the door.
I wasn’t ready to see what answered the door. Amber was a vision in a light blue-green A-line cocktail dress, matching satin high heels and aquamarine necklace, earrings, and tennis bracelet. She wore a large diamond wedding set on her right ring finger, and a large wedding band on her thumb. Her hair was done up on top with strands on either side of her face, framing it. She was beautiful. Still a little cute, but way more beautiful. She looked very, very adult, as well. Not the cute little redheaded girl I met in Walmart.
“Amber, I just tried to come up with some funny line about how beautiful you are, but I can’t. You’re just ... You’re amazing. You’re really a beautiful woman.”
“Why, thank you, Mr. Bancroft. Oh, OK. I’ll stop then, too. Thanks, Chuck. I actually feel beautiful, being dressed up and standing in front of a good looking, well dressed guy like you. You look really nice, too. Very handsome, and I love that suit. Seriously. You do pink really well.”
“Thanks. Ready?” She nodded, grabbed a small satin purse, the same color as her dress and shoes, off the little table by the door, and took my arm. I walked her to my Taurus, set her in the passenger seat, and closed the door. This was my test car. It was a newer one, not the round one, but, if a prospective date commented on it, in an uppity way, or if they knew too much, I didn’t want to see them again. It had only happened twice, but the test worked those times, so I stuck with success.
We cruised to Thomaso’s, using the valet. I didn’t want her to have to walk in heels, but then thought later, ‘she’d be dancing in them’. Bad call on my part. What the heck? We were seated at a really nice table. She commented on that.
“Nice table, Chuck. Hopefully you didn’t have to give your first born for it or anything?”
“No, Amber, but thanks for noticing. It was for you. Honest. I want our first date to be nice. I used to come here a lot, and I still bring business dinners here whenever I can. Let’s just say they know of me here.”
Not many people knew that Tommy, oh, Thomaso, was my Dad’s cousin. He wouldn’t poison me. I was able to help him out once and we’ve been close, even as cousins go, ever since. He was a lot younger than Dad. I made him promise not to have a damned heart attack, like his cousin Charlie did, until I got my money back, too.
A waiter I had seen before but didn’t remember his name came over to let us know he would be serving us this evening. I asked for a bottle of Asti and water with lemon. “And for you, Miss Richards?” Whoa Up Doggies! The waiter knew Amber.
“Just water with lemon for now, Steve. I may grab a sip of Mr. Bancroft’s wine, though.”
“I’ll bring two glasses for that. For sure. Just make sure to stick it in your ... Never mind. Your purse is too small. We’re all going to jail together tonight.” Steve laughed and went for our drinks.
“Help me here. You know the waiter?”
“I knew them all, at one point. We used to eat here a lot. I still come now and again. Mom and Dad loved to dance, and when I turned fourteen, they started bringing me so I could learn. I have seen you in here at least once before. I recognized you in the suit, but not in the store last weekend. How do they know ‘of you’ (she made air quotes)?”
“Thomaso, or Tommy, as they call him in the family, is my late father’s cousin. I have a stake in the place after helping Tom out with a building problem a few years back.”
“Ahhh. I missed that. I looked you up to make sure I wasn’t going out for dinner and dancing with an axe murderer. You passed with flying colors, by the way. I tried to look into your Home Depot account for an axe, but I couldn’t hack your password.”
“Should I be concerned?”
“No. You proposed to me in the checkout line at Walmart. I have every right to look into who you are. In addition, I caught some of the news on the Bancroft technology theft. Very little said about the thing stolen and a lot about the thievery and the thieves. Of course, with all those government contract news releases, I should say so. Maybe when I grow up you can hire me. I’ll be looking for something in the technical fields.”
“When you grow up??”
“Chuck, I think I know more about you right now than you do about me. Amber Richards, only child of William and Mary Richards, drowned in a boating accident spring before last off Cabo. I miss my parents, terribly, all the time, so I wear their wedding rings, almost all the time. I’m on my own, going to Washington U. for an electrical engineering degree. Just finished my Freshman year. I’m thinking of changing my path in life to a smaller venue, to wit, electronics, but don’t have enough data on that.”
We were eating salads at this point. We had ordered, her a petite filet and veggies, me a strip and a potato. Neither of us ordered Italian. Tom’s steaks were the best around for a long ways, and by a long shot.
“Oh, and I’m only seventeen. Just turned last month.” It was June. She just turned seventeen last month, in May. And starting her sophomore year at WashU? Seriously? She has to be a genius.
I tried very hard to act like I wasn’t amazed. I had her pegged for at least a few years older when I saw her dressed the way she was when I picked her up tonight. “What day? Sorry, but I need to stay away from that while planning the wedding, graduation, and hiring ceremonies.” We laughed at that and ate salad for a bit.
“The twentieth,” she said, just as stoic as she could. “You are thirty-five, thirty-six next month, and almost married my mother’s secretary’s daughter back about five or six years ago. I didn’t know that until last night. Good call, by the way. When cleaning out my mother’s files, her partner found out that Nancy’s mother had been stealing from them. A little at a time, but it was happening.” ‘WOW’ immediately went through my head. She continued. “We have so much in common, yet, I’m sure you wish we didn’t. Please tell me if I say something I shouldn’t.”
“Amber, at this point, I don’t care. I love listening to you talk. Even you saying her name kept it from grating my very soul like nails on a chalk board.” She giggled. “Seriously. Your voice is beautiful. Like the rest of you. I will admit, I was taken aback a bit by your age, but since you are still here, it seems not to be bothering you very much.”
“Not at all. I’m not looking for anything specific in age, so age doesn’t matter. I am looking, however, for something very specific in communications, intelligence, drive, common sense, and romance. I was hoping for a sixty percent or better find, but it looks like I’ve found an eighty.”
“Most men of your intelligence don’t rate so high with common sense. You are doing very nicely, but I need more data on that as well. I’m hoping after we dance tonight, and we find ourselves somewhat compatible, that you will allow me to collect more data.”
“Well, Miss Richards, I certainly do not want to become your science experiment, but providing data might be fun, still. What did you have in mind?”
“Wait ‘til after I’ve stepped on your feet a few times, Mr. Bancroft, then we’ll see if you are still willing.”
“I think I’d like that, Miss Richards. Your stepping on my feet, I mean. Sounds like a good way to get closer to someone, but for some reason, I think you’re jerking my chain and will probably pull a Ginger on me.”
“A remark about my hair? Really, Mr. Bancroft?”
“Oh, God, NO! Sorry, Amber. I meant pulling a Ginger Rogers and dancing as well as me, only backwards and in high heels.” She giggled at that.
“Good, I thought my hair might have turned you off.”
“Oh, Good God, no, Amber ... Miss Richards. Quite the opposite. I find it fascinating. Beautiful, and fascinating. You are a gorgeous woman, Amber. You look perfect with red hair, however, if it were purple and green, I’m pretty sure I still would have sat by the phone waiting for you to call. Oops. Let the cat out of the bag on that one, didn’t I?”
“So, you sat by the phone from Saturday to Wednesday waiting for me to call?”
“Yes, in my office, working, and while I was sleeping, and cooking, and eating, and driving, and in the pool, it was right there next to me, waiting for you to call. Yes. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Actually, Amber, it’s true. I was smitten with you at the store and did hope for realsies that you’d call me. I was afraid the age thing might be a turn off for you, but I’m so, so glad you called.”
“Me too.” She smiled and didn’t say another word for about ten minutes. She just looked at me, off and on, while we ate. Like she was judging me on her five attributes, or sizing me up for a collar. I couldn’t tell, but it was one or the other. Or possibly both. “Split dessert with me? Chocolate cheesecake with some ice cream back?”
“You sound like a bartender, Amber. ‘Whisky, water back!’ You’re a lot older than your seventeen years, aren’t you?” She nodded. “I’d love that by the way. Let Steve know and we’ll enjoy it together.”
Again, she nodded at me, then motioned Steve over and ordered the cheesecake and ice cream. “And, Steve. One spoon. One spoon only.” She said it with a Russian accent that was just hilarious. Then in her normal, pretty voice, she said, “We’ll only need one spoon, since I think I’m going to kiss him tonight.” Steve grinned, she giggled, and I turned three shades of red.
Dessert was fun, and tasty. It really was good, but it was surpassed, superseded, and overshadowed, by her teasing and the kiss afterward. Her lips were warm and soft, and even though it was short and chaste, it was probably the nicest kiss I can remember. Wait! No! It was the nicest kiss I can remember. The band was getting ready to play so we pulled the bottle off the ice and had a second glass of Asti. When they started the first number I stood and held my hand out for her. No words were spoken, but she smiled, she took it and accompanied me to the dance floor. Like we had danced together forever, I held her hand, put my arm around her waist, and she followed. This little girl could dance.
“Ginger,” I said, “you’re marvelous.”
“Thank you, Fred.” She looked up at me and puckered for another kiss. Afterward, I held her a little closer and exaggerated some moves. We were the only ones out there for the time being, and had the floor to ourselves. It was fun to open up and move like that. On the second number, several couples joined us. Some I knew, some she knew, so we were saying ‘Hi!’ to quite a few people. We even knew some of the same ones. “It’s odd we’d never met before with all this in common. I’m glad. It would have been too early. Whatever we’re doing now, it feels just right.”
“I agree. Thank you.”
“Oh. My pleasure. Really. I’m pleased. My pleasure. You’re a nice man, Chuck. And a good dancer. All around fun date. I’m very glad we met at the store. I’m glad I bought you your light bulbs, and I’m glad you answered the phone, when ‘that girl’ called. Thank you as well. Dance me back to the table, please?”
I did, and we sat and chatted for a bit. When a faster number started, she rose and pulled me to the dance floor. Afraid she was going to do some rock dance shimmy thing, I looked in askance, and was treated to a foxtrot. She also got me swinging. My kind of girl. The night was like that. Dancing with a pretty girl. An exceptionally pretty girl. Chatting about the past, the present, the future, and what we were, but mostly she was, looking for. She wanted an education and gainful employment doing something fun. That was four to five years down the road, though. She wanted an MSEE first. Maybe more. She said there was far more to her life dreams than that, but they were second or third date material, or for after further discussions of marriage. Certainly not first date fodder.
I say mostly what she was looking for, because I had found what I was looking for. Or it found me. My business, a niche in the world I enjoyed. A way to help keep fighting for the freedoms I started fighting for in the air fourteen years ago, when I was just out of college. I had almost everything I wanted, and with her at the table, I was a lot closer to having ‘everything’.
We left while the last set was still playing, but were very happy with the evening. I was. She said she was, and I had no reason to doubt her words. On the way home she asked if we could meet for lunch tomorrow, since she wasn’t busy. I explained that I mostly worked from home, only going into the lab or manufacturing facility once in a while, and that I’d be free. “Amber, I’m not being too forward, I hope, but I was going to hang around the house tomorrow, work a little in the morning on a project I’m playing with, then just goof off in the pool when it got warmer and catch some sun. You can join me if you like. I’d love that, or I can come to town. I’m golfing Saturday and Sunday is yard work and laundry, but tomorrow, I’m pretty free.”
“That would be nice. I’m off tomorrow, but have plans Saturday with friends. So, you wouldn’t mind me coming to your house and using up all of your sun and dipping to cool in your pool, to relax a little and chit chat about tonight?”
“No, Amber, I’d love it. Muchly. Anything you can’t eat, or don’t like?”
“No, Chuck. I can’t think of anything.”
“OK. Fresh tuna salad on a salad, then. Nice and cool lunch on a hot day.”
“Please don’t go through a lot of trouble for me. Ham, cheese, and miracle whip on sandwich bread would be OK for my tastes.”
“Let me. It’ll be fine. I need to show you that I can pull a strong eighty while I work on the common-sense thing.”
She laughed. “Don’t put too much store in my concerns. You just be you, and your life will probably work out for the best.” We pulled up to her house, I walked her to the door. She looked up at me for a kiss, which we gladly shared. “Oh, your address. I can find it on my phone, right?”
I took her phone and put it into her google maps app. “Yes. Right there where that blue pin is. Show up whenever you want, but in my opinion, the earlier, the better.” Then kissed her again. “Good night, amazing, beautiful woman.”
“Good night, handsome, wonderful man.” She went inside and I heard the door lock.
I think I like this girl. A lot. I went home, put my suit up, threw everything else into the hamper, and crashed. I was thinking about getting a drink and watching the news, but the next thing I knew, the Saturday alarm was going off.
Eight o’clock, and time to get the tuna baking. I got it into the oven to cook, then went to the office and played around with my little receiver idea. Communication devices were getting smaller and smaller, and I was not keeping that from happening. HUDs, heads-up displays, for foot soldiers are nothing new, but I was adding some additional capabilities and qualities that I thought would make a difference. Comms with nods and headshakes were another enhancement I was working to perfect. Hopefully enough of a difference to make the one more purchase I wanted. I told myself a long time ago, don’t even consider buying a plane ‘til you can afford fuel and engine rebuilds for twenty years without eating ramens, or affecting your capital. I had a formula. I was close. Very close. I have kept my licenses current and was still a certified instructor, and would stay that way for some time to come. One thing I loved more than fishing or building electronic gizmos was flying. That wouldn’t stop until they medically disqualified me.
At nine, the oven timer went off and the tuna went into the fridge to cool. I wanted it cool enough to bone and make into tuna salad. I make lots. It’s edible frozen then thawed, although better fresh. I also had some fish that I’d smoked recently that I wanted her to try.
At ten, the driveway alarm sounded, and looking out the front window I saw a little Honda coming down the driveway. Amber’s. I went out through the garage and had her park under the tree. She got out and hugged me. “I’ll hose off any problems, but this will keep your car out of the sun.”
“Thanks. That’s sweet. It won’t hurt the grass?”
“Nothing has yet, and that’s where I wash the cars when I do them myself.”
“Maybe I need to bring my car out here when it needs washed.”
“Anytime. That would be my pleasure. It’s a pretty small car, so...” She giggled. I loved that sound.
“OK. I’ll probably take you up on that someday. Show me your humble abode, Mr. Bancroft.”
“Follow me, Miss Richards. I would like to mention you look amazingly beautiful this morning. Your shorts, the top, those heels. You are a very, very pretty girl, even without the evening gown.”
“Thanks, Chuck. You really aren’t chopped liver yourself. Hey, seriously, I had fun last night. You are an excellent dancer. Even my teacher, Mom, and my other partner, Dad, would be in awe. It was really fun when we were alone and you kinda went bonkers. Moving like that is a lot of fun when you don’t have to dodge anyone else.”
“I enjoyed it, too. Immensely. Amber, there is a guest room that way, it has an ensuite bathroom if you’d like to change and it’s fully equipped with a shower and a lock on the door for after swimming if you like. Can you stay for dinner, or do your plans for tomorrow start tonight?”
“Actually, later this evening we’re driving down to a campground on the Niangua. It’s a rafting and canoeing trip with high school friends that are getting together after being apart for the year. It’s nothing I’m not going to be open with you about. Chuck, we just met, but I’m not dating anyone right now, except you. I don’t plan to, unless we find we’re not compatible, but I’m pretty much a one person girl. That’s me. That’s how I feel about it. I’m not directing you or implying you should have the same standard, just letting you know how I feel about it. If you are seeing someone else, my job, if I want you, is to win you over. If not, I move over, or at least out of the way. Right now, I’m inclined to win you over, if you are seeing anyone else.”
“Miss Richards, I do declare I appreciate your sentiment. Totally. I’ll tell you a story and make you a deal. Want a drink? It might make this easier.”
“A beer or white wine would be good. I’m hoping to be here long enough for it to wear off.”
“Moscato?” I asked. She nodded.
We walked to the family room while I talked to her. “Amber, I’ve been on three real dates since I found out Nancy, your mother’s secretary’s daughter, from what you told me, was scamming me. I don’t trust women. At all. Not even my mother. Not completely. I’ve had a couple of other encounters with women, but they didn’t get that far. Yours was date number three. The others were more than two years, and three years in the past. I’m not looking for a woman. I wasn’t looking for a mate. You snuck up on me with your charm, gorgeous red hair, pretty smile, and wonderful disposition.” I handed her a glass of wine.
“Amber, my dear, I’m still not looking. There is no other woman in my life. My sisters can stay where they will, and my mother needs to be, and stay, out of my love life. You are it. Well, maybe the cashiers at the stores, but those aren’t serious relationships. Just money changing hands.” I smiled at her and she grinned back.
“Humor, too. You’re shooting for a hundred and twenty percent, aren’t you? I never advertise that one. I just take samples and mix it into the overall score. It’s nice to know how funny life will be, going years into the future.” She laughed and punched my arm. “Let me change, but first, I’m not going to be accosted and have my virtue sullied by a heathen, am I?”
“No, ma’am. Guest room, lock on the door. No heathenistic sullying to be done today. Later? Mehhh.” I opened my hand and wiggled it. “We’ll see, but you’re safe today.” She smiled and walked away
I yelled behind her, “Come out the sliding glass door. I’ll be out back.” I grabbed a beer and a can cozy and out I went. I had my sunglasses on, and I was mighty glad. When she came outside, she floored me. She was in a bright green underwired bikini. The top was full. The bottom was full. The entire side of the pool was full of her. Larger than life. She looked beautiful last night. She looked twice that good in this little bikini and her legs. Oh, My Lord, her legs. In those four-inch heels, natural leather strappy sandals, her legs looked to go all the way up to her armpits.
“Unreal! And this,” I held my arms out toward her, “just told me she was dating only me, until I ran her off. I think I’ll not be running her off. Please kiss me and let me take one sensible picture. Just in case I die tonight. No one will believe this in heaven.” She put a hand on her hip and smiled. Click. “Amber, you are stunningly gorgeous.” She kissed me lightly.
“Thank you, but I’m about ten pounds overweight.”
“Are you one of those ‘women have to be in charge’ type of women?”
“Not at all. Just the opposite, actually.”
“Good. You’re perfect. And, don’t backtalk me, little girl.” She giggled when I laughed. “You’re beautiful, hon. You really are. Come on over. Take up a lounger. Are you driving tonight or riding?”
“Riding. I have no driving responsibilities for quite some time.”
“I’m getting you another wine. I’ll take you into town tonight and drop you at home or anywhere you are supposed to be.”
“Thanks, Chuck, are you sure that’s not too much trouble?” I shook my head and went inside to get her another glass of wine. They were in acrylic tumblers that held the cold quite a while. I came back out and handed it to her. “Actually, I can go straight from here, after I change back and shower. I’m not wearing this tomorrow, so I thought about leaving it here, if you are going to invite me back out.”
“Leave it here. Done deal on inviting you back out. By our own admission, we’re exclusive for the time being, and I didn’t see a pool at your place, unless it was in the back yard.”
“Nope, no pool at my complex. That’s just for the summer, anyway. Investment property I own through my parents’ trust they left for me. I actually live closer to the university during the school year. It’s a madhouse, but it’s close to school and has room to study sometimes. Our family house is in the process of being sold, so it’s not really habitable right now. It’s all a mess until I can get things leveled out a bit.”
“Would you think me a stalker if I told you I own a lab, a manufacturing facility and a house down in that area? Near the University.”
“I stay there when I’m working late hours. I have a relationship with Washington’s Electronics Engineering Department. Just saying. Maybe we do have a lot in common.”
“OK, I’m receiving data on many fronts right now, but the main thing to remember is, this relationship is just one week old tomorrow. Let’s let it grow a little. So far, I’m hearing nothing but good things from you, Mr. Bancroft. I like that. I kinda wish I wasn’t going to Lebanon tonight to tell the truth, but it’s been planned for months.”
“I’ll be here. You call me when you all get back to town, I’ll come get you and bring you out for a meal and to get your car.”
“That, sir, sounds like an excellent plan. Chuck, thank you again for last night. That was special. It really was.”
“You’re welcome, hon. Really. It was for me, too. Let me know if you get a little hungry or anything, OK?”
We laid in the sun, then swam a bit. We dried off in the sun, then went to the screened in porch where I brought out the salads and some unsweetened iced tea. She asked about the hot tub and I told her that was in fact one, but I didn’t use it much in the daytime in the summer. Evenings after mowing was a different story, though. She complimented me on the tuna salad, telling me, “It actually tastes like tuna. That’s good, Chuck. Don’t tell me you caught them.” I had to nod. “Where?”
“Gulf. I have a boat I keep down there.”
“Anything you don’t have?”
“A beautiful wife and an airplane. I’m actually working on getting the plane. As I said earlier, I’m not working toward the other, but if it happens, I’m not going to run away. As long as I trust her, and it’s you. Other than that, I run. Don’t let that scare you, I’m just not pursuing a wife, mate, woman, whatever. You, a little, yes. The other, no, not so much.”
“I understand. I need a man like a fish needs a bicycle, but I found me a really pretty bicycle the other day at the store, so I’m gonna check it out real close. Chuck, I’m the same way. I wasn’t looking. I’m not looking. I’m not going to hide from you, but I will tell you, if this doesn’t work, I’m not looking.”
“Good. Maybe if I screw it up I’ll get a second chance before you find a better model with a bell on the handlebars.”
“Count on it. Thank you so much for lunch. You really are good at this aren’t you?”
“I don’t know about that, but I don’t starve. I don’t eat junk food, and I don’t starve. I like to cook. I do wish I had someone to share it with. Maybe someday.”
“Yes. Maybe. What was this about an airplane?”
“I’m looking for an airplane. I was ... I am a pilot. I’m sure that came up on your background check. I flew fighters, tankers, and VIP transports for about eight years. I love flying.” She raised her hand. “Yes, Miss Richards. Question?”
“I do, too. I am taking lessons off and on when I can fit them in. Have been since last summer. Daddy always wanted me to fly. He liked it. We’d rent planes and go on vacation. They wound up leaving a plane in Cabo, actually. A little turboprop. Four of them went down together. Thought it would be fun. I’m sure it was.” Her head dropped. I went over and sat on her lounger and put my arms around her.
Rocking her, I told her, “Let it out. Don’t fight it. Don’t hold it back. Cry for me, honey. Cry for me.” She lost it. Bawling in my arms, then calming after a while. “Honey, that’s going to happen. Let it. Having a glass of wine now and again will loosen it up. Let it out. After five or six years it’ll get better.”
Between sobs, she asked, “You’ve been through this,” sob, “haven’t you?”
“Yes, hon. For quite a while. Dad and I were close. More like brothers, but closer. I still miss him every day. I always will.”
“Oh, Chuck. Thank you. You really are a good guy. Hold me a bit longer, please.” I held her and rocked her, finally pulling her up into my lap and covering her eyes from the sun. She fell asleep for a few minutes. “Oh, my. I went away for a second there. It felt so good. I haven’t had that since Daddy would snuggle me. Don’t worry. I’m not going to fall apart again. I do miss them. We were close. Very close. Only child, spoiled, all that.”
“I totally understand. My sisters treated Dad and I like crap. So, we kind of banded together. I was Dad’s only child, in some ways. They have their own lives now, so we don’t cross paths very often. It’s best. But I understand the closeness with the parent. That was my point. You OK?”
“Yeah. Thanks. I’m sorry for falling apart.” I shook my head.
“Never apologize to me for that. You need to do that. To open up and cry. To let it out. It provides equilibrium. Trust me. You need it.” She nodded. She climbed up out of my lap, kicked off her shoes and jumped in the pool. I was smitten. Even her feet were pretty.
I jumped in after her. “We were talking about airplanes,” she said.
“I’m looking for one. The perfect jet. Single pilot capable, twin engine, lots of room, and a bathroom. Lavatory if you will. Something to think about, if we keep dating, hon. I’m a flight instructor, too. So, if you’re not tied into a certain instructor, or school, I’d love to help you out if you want. That would make a nice pre-date date. You know, flying off to Kansas looking at planes or something, then dinner at a steak house in Wichita. Just an idea. Nothing firm yet.”