“Brenda, are you busy Saturday night?”
“Uhmm, Mr. Compton, isn’t that a bit inappropriate?”
“What, asking you to accompany me to a fundraiser? No, actually, I checked with Ms. Powell in HR and she said it would be OK, as long as the time you spent both preparing for and with me at the event counted toward your weekly hours, or if I wished and with your permission paid you overtime instead, and I didn’t coerce you into it. Call her. I’m desperate.”
“OK, I’ll call, but it seems weird.”
“Why? You’re my father’s administrative assistant, not mine, and you’re still single aren’t you? I heard you talking to Emily the other day while I was waiting to see Dad. I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but I guess you didn’t see me waiting.”
“Oh, that. Yes, sir. I didn’t see you. Yes. That was it.” She giggled and picked up the phone.
“Sandy, Mr. Compton, the younger, just asked me to accompany him to a fundraiser Saturday night. Should I, A., quit, B., sue him for sexual harassment, or C., go through my closet looking for something adequate? — I doubt I have anything.” She looked up at me. “Formal?” I nodded. “He says it’s formal. I think suing, then I can afford a nice gown and the next time I’ll have something to wear. — OK. I’ll be there in a bit. — Thanks.” She hung up the phone, opened her bottom drawer, pulled out her purse and stood. She looked at me and smiled. “Tell Sheila to cover for me and if she whines, tell her the truth. It’s your fault.” With that, she walked out. I didn’t see her until the next morning.
My administrative assistant came back from down the hall. “Sheila, you’re covering for Brenda. I may have caused a problem. Please don’t quit or be mad.”
“Tuesday, middle of the month, neither of you has any appointments today ... Could not have picked a better time. She covers for me all the time. Remember when Little Frankie was going through the lactose intolerance thing? Until they found out that’s what it was, I was out every other day. I owe the kid. She’s a sweetie. You could do a lot worse.”
“Sheila, stop. It’s a fundraiser and I can’t find a date. None of the regulars wants to do a formal. They all want jean shorts out on the lake. To be honest, I’m getting tired of it. I’m in the mood to meet a woman, not a girl. Don’t get me wrong, the boat is fun, too, but damn...”
“Oh, boy, did you hit the jackpot.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Seriously? Promise it stays between you and me?” I nodded. “The way Brenda dresses for work?” I nodded. “You like the way she dresses and comports herself, right? A lot like her suite mate, here?” I nodded. “That’s her. It’s not for work. High heels, stockings, skirts, all that. She’s a man’s woman, Charlie. That’s her all the time.”
“Wow. Can you call Ms. Powell and see why she left so suddenly?”
She picked up the phone and hit a speed dial number. “Sandy, it’s Sheila. The younger wants to know what you did with his father’s keeper. — Oh, OK. Thanks. Talk later.” She hung the phone up and looked up at me. She crossed her stockinged legs and dangled her high heel. She knew what she was doing, and how to tease her boss. “They went shopping. Just never you mind.”
Oh, I thought. Yeah, oh, shit.
The next morning, when I came in, Brenda looked up at me and smiled. “Thank you,” she said. She was in a truly good mood.
I replied, “For?”
“The gown and the shoes. They’re lovely. Thank you.”
“Your father would like you in his office at nine. Something about the upcoming launch next month. I think he wants you there as our liaison.”
I looked at her in question, eyebrow raised.
“Word got back to him that Frank got a bit ... Unprofessional last summer. Colonel Bill would rather someone else go. You’re the only one your father trusts implicitly. He’ll probably find someone else in upper management from operations to do it in the future, but ... You are probably the stuckee for this shot.”
She smiled at me as if waiting for me to say something else. “Something else you needed, sir?”
I was looking at her, still trying to process the charity ball, the shopping trip, the launch, Frank, and Dad picking me as Liaison. “Yes. Frank? Frank Anderson? Unprofessional?”
“Yes. You understand that anything said in this room is for the two principals and their immediate staff only, right?”
“Yes, Brenda, I understand what sensitive information is.”
“Frank’s wife caught him cheating on her last spring, left him just before the trip to Houston, and Frank didn’t report the situation to anyone, he just went and let his emotions rule his id. He’s in a bit of trouble, but these things take time. He’s being promoted downward, and if he refuses, he’ll be requested to resign. You know what happens if he refuses that, right?”
I nodded. “Frank? Dad’s friend Frank?”
“Yeah. That’s why this is so rough on your Dad. If he lets it go, he’ll be the laughing stock of management. That can’t happen. Not while L&M is looming, threatening to buy your mother out.”
“Oh, yeah. That. We’d be a third owned by a minor competitor. Not a good time for an IPO, that’s for sure. I need to talk to her. Sheila, can you see if Mom is available for dinner tonight?”
“Yessir.” I heard some mumbling in the background. I was still looking at Brenda. Why couldn’t I take my eyes off this girl? “Six thirty. Her house. Leftovers. Bring a friend if you want and a bottle of something sweet and white. She said it better not be milk.”
“Thanks, doll. Brenda, thank you, too. I’ll try not to bore you to death Saturday night.”
“I’ll be fine, sir. I’ll be fine.” Finally, I was able to break my gaze and passed by Sheila’s desk on the way to my office. She looked up and smiled at me. She shook her head and giggled.
I sat at my desk pondering the information from Brenda. My phone rang. I just grabbed it, not looking at the screen. “Compton.”
“Yes sir. I forgot to tell you. Royal blue and silver. The gown and the shoes. Sandy told me to tell you, so you could wear a matching tie and cummerbund.”
“Oh. Yes. Thanks, Brenda. I’m looking forward to Saturday. I really am. Brenda ... Frank? Our Frank?”
“Yes, Charlie. Frank. He’s always been a drinker, but when someone has a significant emotional event in their lives, it tends to ... Exaggerate things, so to speak. He just drank too much. Three times. Chuck has been talking to him. It’s really between them and Sandy now. Don’t say too much. Especially to your dad. He’s really hurting over this. You know better than I how far back those two go.”
“Yeah, I know. Thanks for that. It helps if I know what’s going on.”
“Well, as I said. What happens on mahogany row stays on mahogany row. Charlie?”
“I’m sorry about yesterday and being a bit, uhm, coy and bratty. I’m looking forward to Saturday, too.”
“I’m really glad to hear that. I was hoping I wasn’t about to snap your elbow twisting your arm.”
“Oh, God, no. There are much worse ways to spend Saturday day night than at a formal with ... Your boss’s son.”
(“Oh Lord, that was close, Bren.”) I heard in the background. Sheila was razzing her. Funny.
“Good. Probably better than Netflix and chill with your cat or something, right?” I chuckled.
“Exactly. Ooops. Boss is here. I guess it is already almost eight. See you in a bit. Meeting in his office at nine, don’t forget.”
“Got it. Thanks again, Brenda.”
“No problem, sir.”
The meeting with Dad went as planned. Frank was being demoted to Production Manager, down from Vice President of Operations. I’d fill his shoes until a decision was made on a replacement. He warned Dad that if he went through with this, that he’d start looking elsewhere for an executive position. Dad welcomed that. He knew it strained, if not cracked their friendship. Frank had no idea how much Dad hurt making that decision. He was distraught, to say the least.
I was to cover the launch, accompanying, or in my case, more so transporting and delivering the payload from the factory to the launch pad, then proceed to the control center to help verify operations of the package onboard. He did something I didn’t expect next. “Son, there are three people in this company now that I trust enough to turn loose on recovering our dignity and respect. I’m not counting your admin in those three, so it’s actually four. Sheila is like a daughter to me. The sister we couldn’t give you, if you will. You, Brenda, and Maria. I can’t let Maria go, because she has to run the tests on the receivers and the clone. I want you to take Brenda with you on the trip. She’s cleared, available, and willing. I’ve already discussed it with her.”
“I’m certainly happy someone has pre-approved the plan!”
“Don’t be a brat. I see the way you look at her. I used to look at your mother that way. End of conversation. Just do your job and quit bitching.” He laughed. “You did hear the part about delivering the package, right?”
“Yeah. I’m going to take Friday to fly around a bit. It’s been a month. I need to spend some time...”
“Yes. Please. And, Charlie, take her with you. Better yet. SHEILA?” She opened the door and stuck her head in. “Does the brat have any appointments today?”
“He was supposed to meet with Frank about the schedule, but I guess he can just go in his office and talk to himself. Wouldn’t be the first time.”
“He’s leaving. You’re covering for Brenda again. We need to see if she gets air sick.”
“Boss, you know she has a PPL, right? Her dad flies one of those fast little turbo things.”
(“TBM 850, Sheila. A turbo prop. Get it right. Some girls.”) We heard Brenda in the lobby laughing.
“Oh, yeah,” Dad said. “That was on her resume. We need to get her set up on the plane. That might be handy. She’d probably want a raise, but ... Let’s see. BRENDA?” She opened the door and stood next to Sheila. “Take the brat out to the airfield. You two need to go up in the plane and put in some hours. You are going to Vandenberg and Houston together, so you might as well start getting used to each other now. Go on. I have work to do. Sheila, can you have Sally bring me a snack, please.”
“Yes sir. Be right back.”
I looked at Brenda, cocking my head. She looked at me, cocking her head the same way, which was opposite me. Little did I know. Visions and motions of the future.
“See you later, Dad. Thanks. A bunch.” He laughed.
“See you in the morning, sir. Anything before we leave?”
“No, hon, I’m good. Take care of my son. I’m getting low on family.” She nodded, and we left Dad’s office for her desk.
She grabbed a small bag out of the bottom drawer where she keeps her purse, got it, as well, and let me know she was ready. She asked if she could stop in the ladies’ room quickly on the way down. I told her to go ahead and use the one in my office while I got my jacket. She came out wearing slacks and some two-and-a-half-inch soft sole wedge heeled loafers that were quite cute, as well as obviously functional. I noticed she shrunk about two inches, but her appearance still set me back.
I’ve thought she was beautiful from the first day she came to work for Dad. Not the glamorous beautiful, but the pretty kind. Cute. Pretty. Long light brown hair, dark hazel eyes, a pretty smile, thin figure, large up top for her thin frame, and legs. Oh, her legs. Sheila said she always wore the clothes like she did at work, all the time. It was her. Her legs were the beneficiary. In a skirt, stockings, and stiletto pumps, she had the prettiest legs I had ever seen. Slender ankles, shapely calves, smooth knees, thighs that were just perfectly matched. She’s a very pretty woman, and Sheila, my sister, by Dad’s proclamation, was right. I could do worse. But ... What did Brenda think?
“I’m ready. You?” I nodded, and off we went. We said our goodbyes to Sheila as we passed her in the hall taking Dad a little breakfast plate.
I pitched Brenda the keys and had her drive. There were a couple things I needed to do on the way to the airport, not the least of which was letting the FAA know we were flying today.
“Have you been in the plane before?”
“Yes. I flew with your mother and father to LA for a program conception meeting once. A couple months ago before ... A while back. It was fun. It’s a nice plane.”
“So, your dad flies?”
“Yes, he has a little courier service on the east coast. Kind of an ‘I need it 15 minutes ago’ delivery service. Wouldn’t work on the West Coast, or here. No one is that impatient, seems like to me, except out there. Charlie?”
“Wuuup, Sirens behind us. Hang on.” She pulled to the shoulder as an ambulance and a fire truck whizzed by.
“You were saying?”
“Hmmm. Forgot. It was either a lie or not important enough to remember. That’s what my mom used to say.”
“Well, if it comes to you, let me know. We have a lot to learn about each other. Next month we’ll be spending about a week together. Let me know if I can do anything for you while we’re traveling, Brenda. I know it’s a pain. Always is for me. I like it, but that doesn’t make it easy.”
“OK, thanks, Charlie.” We showed our badges for the airport at the gate. She had her own because she drove out here delivering dad or myself a lot. They let us through and we went to our hangar. The Phenom 300E was on the left and the King Air 350ER we used for larger projects on the right. This package would fit in the luggage bay of the 300E and only weighed about 80 pounds. We should be OK.
We did the preflight together, her asking me a few questions. I handed her the checklist for it and had her guide us through. It was obvious she was a pilot. As soon as she had the checklist in her hand, she went dead serious. I could have asked her about Frank’s affair, she would have said ‘later’. The way it’s supposed to be.
We got our clearance and I had her shadow me on the controls as we left for a trip to Colorado Springs. I asked her if there was somewhere else she’d like to eat, and after getting a negative response, I took her to the Texas T-Bone off of Chelton for lunch.
“Can we talk, off the record, Brenda?”
“Somewhat. I’m not going to spill any of your father’s personal secrets.”
“Not that. He tells me too much already. About you. You’re gorgeous. You dress like a woman. I like that. It’s a personal preference for me. Most of the time, I think you’re stunningly beautifully dressed, and other times, just very, very pretty. Like now. Slacks. For a reason, I understand. You look so nice in your dresses and suits. I just wanted you to know that. You make a wonderful impression on visitors and, come to think of it, probably the other employees that come up to the head shed. And, we have managers that don’t dress as well. How do you do that? I know what you make, and it’s about a third of what they do.”
“I know what they make, too, Charlie and only most of them are worth it, not all.” She giggled. “How do I afford it?” I nodded. “I buy Jessica Simpson and Steve Madden instead of Louboutin and Prada. Penney’s and Macy’s instead of Nordstrom and Saks. Lots of ways. I’ve even hit thrift stores. You have no idea the treasures there. I have a corset ... Never mind. I do it to feel good, not to look good. This is for me, Mr. Compton, not for your father. I’m a woman. I want to feel like one.”
“Well, I’m glad. You are a wonderful addition to the office. You really don’t mind going with me to the gala for the hospital?”
“Are we still off the record?” I nodded. “Not at all. Charlie, I see you look at me when you come in the office. Your father told me you wouldn’t bite. He also told me that’s how he looks at your mother when they’re together. I hope they mend that soon. It’s driving me nuts.”
“You? I’m stuck in the middle. Come to think of it, you up for some overtime tonight? I’m supposed to be at Mom’s in about six hours for dinner. Five hours, actually. We gained one coming over; it’s actually one now.”
“I won’t be very hungry, but I’ll go with you. Maybe if she sees me with you she’ll stop teasing him about hiring me.”
“Is that a thing?”
“You have no idea. I don’t think it’s jealousy as much as a way of Barb telling him she is watching him. Oh, well. Maybe they just need a second honeymoon or something.”
We got done eating and I paid our server then on the way out to the Uber, I asked her, “Does it have garters?”
“The corset you found at Goodwill or whatever. Does it have garters?”
“Charles Compton, the Third. Stop that. Right now, this instant. You are bad.” I handed her in and got in as she scooted over. I guessed we were still off the record. “Sir, Cutter Aviation at the airport, please.”
“Got it.” The driver told her as we pulled out.
We pre-flighted and as we were running the engines up, she put her hand on my wrist on the throttles. “You mind?” I shook my head. It felt good. Having a woman just touch me without wanting something in return. In a break from the seriousness in the cockpit that I never expected, she said, “Yes, it does. Six of them. It’s a pretty one. Black with pink ribbons and lace.”
“Thank you. Will you go out with me Sunday? Just to do something not work related?”
“Does it matter what?”
“Wear shoes you can walk in, but you wear heels a lot, and I love to see them on those legs, Brenda. You are a very pretty woman.”
“Thank you, Charlie. If we’ll be in civilization, I know just what to wear. Are we going off the beaten path, or staying on the sidewalk?”
“You got it. Looking forward to it.” She squeezed my wrist lightly.
I got clearance from the tower and took her to Mom’s apartment for dinner. She made us chicken noodle soup, homemade, of course, noodles and all, and French dip sandwiches. Sometimes I wish all three of us were back together and not just the two of them working on it.
“Mrs. Compton, thank you for that meal. That was really scrumptious. No wonder your boy grew up big and strong.”
“Yeah, he did that all right. Just like his daddy. What are you two doing out and about together anyway?”
“Mom, you want the official version, or the unofficial version?”
“She’s a nice girl, Charlie. Let me have the real reason.”
“I needed some flying time, and I’m taking her with me to the hospital thing Saturday night, so I took her to lunch in the Springs so we could talk. She’s helping me transport a project to California and then keeping me in line in Houston, too, so ... Oh, the real reason. She’s pretty and I want to get to know her. I figured if I brought her home to Mom, we’d get that square checked right off the bat.”
“At least I see where he gets it. ‘Oh.’ That was the best I got out of HIM a couple times earlier today, too.”
“And how do you feel about this ruffian trying to court an honorable lady such as yourself? I assume you are honorable?”
“I’ve never robbed a bank or failed to pay my bookie. What do you mean, Mrs. Compton? Honorable?”
“Are you after my son for his money?”
“God, no. You couldn’t pay me enough to hang out with an asshole, but I would like to get to know your little boy. I doubt things will get that far since we travel in different circles, but you could always do the prenup thing and hold me to what I go in with and a crisp fifty-dollar bill. That’s enough for a bus back to Ashville. God knows I wouldn’t be able to stay here if he dumped me.”
“You think he’d dump you?”
“It wouldn’t be the other way around. If I ever say, ‘I do’, ma’am, I will never say I won’t. That to me is the pinnacle. The sword we die on, if you will.”
“I like her, Charlie. I’m going back to your father, Charlie. You need to know that too, you little hussy.” They both giggled. Must be an inside joke. “Now you’re fiddlefarting around with both of my men. As soon as I figure out how to tell him I’m dying. Will you help me with that, Charlie?” I dropped my glass. Brenda ran in the kitchen, grabbed a rag and cleaned it up while I was moving.
Mom and I have always been close, but not as close as what I did next, and I didn’t even realize I did it until after I did. I picked her up, took her to the couch and rocked her until I stopped crying. Until ‘I’ stopped crying. Mom used a hand and ran it through my hair trying to comfort me. Brenda was beside me rubbing my shoulders and holding Mom’s hand.
“That, dear Brenda, is why I left Chuck for this last while. I don’t think I can do to the man I love even more than my son what I just did to my son. I dread doing this to the only man to ever touch me. The only man besides this one I’ve ever loved.”
“Can you tell me, Barb?”
“Pancreas, liver, and now metastasized into my brain a bit. A cell or two got loose, they say. A year. Outside. Six months, maybe even less, on the low end.” I sobbed again. Brenda hugged my head then put it back with Mom’s.
“Barb, I know there isn’t much I can do, but would you please let me know if I can help in any way. Not empty words, Barb. Your husband had faith in me and hired me. Your son sees something in me. Anything I can do for you to help you, I will.”
“Promise?” Brenda nodded. “Pinky swear!” They did. “I’ll give you two million dollars to take care of them after I’m gone. You’re the only woman besides me Chuck will listen to, and like you said, evidently Charlie sees something in you. I’m not asking you to get close to this one, just take care of him. This isn’t dirty money, Brenda Taylor, and it’s not blood money. I want you to take care of them. One way or another. It has to be done.” They hugged. Mom kissed Brenda on the lips. “You swore.”
“Yes, I did. You have my word. Do you want to do it here, or at your house?”
“Myrtle Beach. Next weekend. Charlie, can you help me with that? Second honeymoon. Not a word said until we’re in their room, after dinner and settled down to talk. I’ve seen this done before. I’ll pay for the damages to the hotel out of my babysitting money.”
“Like hell you will. He breaks it, he fixes it. It’s a plan. Let my husband know. Oh, God, this is going to hurt.” I carried Mom to bed, Brenda wiped my eyes, we did the dishes for her and left.
I took her home and told her I’d see her in the morning. She held my cheeks and kissed me lightly on the lips. “We’ll work on this in the morning. You’ll be OK. Your father will be OK. We’ll be OK.” I wrapped her up in a hug that I almost didn’t let go of, kissed her back and left. I didn’t pull away until she was inside.
The next morning, I found Brenda and Sheila head to head working on something. Brenda looked up at me. “Sir, can I speak to you in your office, please?” We went in my office where she closed the door. She wrapped her arms around my chest and looking up at me asked me if I was OK.
“If I get some sleep tonight I’ll be OK for the weekend. I’ll need some Friday night, too. But I’ll be OK. Been a while since I couldn’t sleep. This was a doozie.”
She reached up for my cheeks and pulled me down again. She kissed me lightly like last night. “We’ll be OK. Charlie. Trust me. Next year, the year after, you will be OK. I promise. You don’t think so now, but you will be OK.” She kissed me again.
“You seem to be doing that a lot.”
“Think about that. It’ll give you something good to think about. I hope it’s good. I’m not a terrible kisser, am I.”
“No, Brenda. You’re perfect. A good kisser, too.” She slapped my chest very lightly and walked out.
I needed to keep my wits about me. Today was Thursday, then one more day in the office, Saturday yard work, then the gala, then Sunday walking a couple malls, maybe the Galleria, with Brenda.
After work I was visiting with Mom at her place when there was a knock on the door. It was Brenda. Of course, I let her in. She went straight to Mom, hugged her, a little peck on the lips, then over to me to sit beside me. “I figured I’d find you here. I’m thinking leaving at noon Friday, dinner at the restaurant in the hotel. Upstairs with cocktails, then let the axe fall. The three kids can go in the next room until you two talk it out, but we’ll be there for you both. I’ll come get your mom. We’ll meet at the plane. We’ll be taking Sheila. She’ll go with you and Chuck. She has her mom watching Frankie. With the three of us, there shouldn’t be anything we can’t handle from there. Worst part is only being three weeks from launch at that point, but we’ll have all the comms available. Sat phone, cell phones, laptops. We should be OK. It’s not like we’ll be on vacation, so no guilt trips.”
“Little tart has it all figured out, doesn’t she?” I nodded and chuckled. “I made a good deal last night. A bargain at twice the price. Brenda, come with.” Mom went in her room with Brenda following. They were in there together for a couple minutes, then came back out and took their seats. Brenda had a few homeless tears. I went to the kitchen for a napkin and helped her with them.
She whispered. “I Ubered over. Take me home when you’re ready to leave.”
“My liver’s shot, not my ears. If you kids need to go, do that. I’ll be fine. After next weekend I’ll be back at the house with the old man. I hope to shit he forgives me for walking out on him when I didn’t have the courage to face him.”
“He will, Mom, he will. Take your pills. I’m putting you in bed with the TV on timer. I’ll be back tomorrow evening.” She went in the kitchen, took a bunch of pills, then walked back to her room with a glass of water. I kissed her goodnight, as did Brenda, then we left.
I took her home, getting the same kiss I got before. I waited ‘til she was safely behind her door then went home myself.
I had a text just as I arrived. “You OK?”
“Yes TY VM”
“YW CU n AM”
I think Charlie has a GF.
I stopped for coffee on the way in and got four large cups. If anybody wanted any they could have it. Dad came in. I was talking to Sheila in the lobby area. “Brat, Brenda, how’s Barb doing?”
“Just fine. Detectives, or locals?”
“Locals. I wouldn’t do that to your mother, son. I just want to know she’s all right. You don’t need to tell her I asked. She’ll talk to me in her own time.”
“Head shed picnic next Friday. Pack light. Casual only. One full day. Two nights. Leaving just after lunch. Call it a management seminar.” He looked at Brenda. She nodded. “The boss agrees. OK then.”
“Company money or personal at the hospital tonight?”
“Company. You’re representing all of us. You think fifty is OK? We had a pretty good year.”
“Yessir. That’ll buy some band-aids. Brenda, can you have Stan cut me a check. Dad’s signature block. They need to know he was there.”
“Yes, sir. Be right back.”
“Sheila, go with her, please.” Sheila stood and followed Brenda out the door. It was Dad’s tone of voice. He was not taking any guff this morning. I handed him a coffee. One sugar. Just like mine. “I’m not asking anything, just listen. I’m going to let her tell me in her own way. I’m not a stupid fighter jock, son. I’m a stupid fighter jock with a doctorate in communications engineering. I can use a bubble chart. No, don’t say anything. I shouldn’t have even told you I knew anything was going on. We’ll go to on your picnic and when we get home she’s going home over my shoulder.”
“That’s the plan.”
“Good. Conversation over. Get some work done. As the VP of Operations, you should be reading something or throwing something, or something.” He hugged me and went in his office, closing the door.
I texted Brenda. “All clear”
A smiley face came back. I went in to check on the reports on the launch schedule. I saw one area on the production timeline where we may have an issue, so I set up a meeting for first thing Monday morning. It wasn’t with the current package, it was the next one. If that timeline slipped, we’d be out millions and miss our ride. Uncle Sugar would NOT be happy. We had a few months, but there were schedules to meet.
Close of business came. I was running a bit late, but nothing serious. Sheila normally waits for me, or makes sure I don’t need anything before she leaves. “Boss, I’m going to run. I need to keep OT to a minimum on Grams so I’ll have her next weekend. She’d never say anything, but I don’t want to wear it out. She’s a good natured old broad, but I don’t want to take advantage, you know?” I nodded. “Brenda’s here, though. Your dad left a few minutes ago.”
“Thanks, Sheila. Leave the door open, please?”
“Yeah. ‘Night, sir.”
I finished reading the last few pages of charts and put them back in my safe, throwing the latch and spinning the dial.
“Done?” Brenda startled me.
“Your call. I’m good either way. I don’t care anymore. I used to. I don’t, now. You want to see me, or you don’t. Either way, I get two million fifteen thousand and custody of your daughter’s thirty-thousand-dollar necklace to wear tomorrow night, and any night after until she turns sixteen.”
“If I told you my daughter was going to be beautiful, would it scare you?”
“A little. I take it you know her mother.”
“Not yet, but MY mother does. You’ll be wearing proof tomorrow night. Oh, what was the fifteen thousand, might I ask?”
“Your grandmother’s brooch and earring set.”
“My mother knows my daughter’s mother. No bout a doubt it. Congratulations. You need to keep trying until one screams with a slightly higher voice. Can’t stop until that happens. What is my daughter’s mother hungry for?”
“Your daughter’s father, but I have it on good authority he doesn’t run anywhere he hasn’t been before and won’t dive unless the water is quite clear and very, very deep.”
“Hold on a sec.” I called Mom and had a very short conversation, asking if she was OK and telling her thank you and that I loved her. She asked what I was thanking her for, so I told her “Everything, but we’ll talk more tomorrow. Good night, Mom. I’m taking a special lady out for dinner.” We ended the call, Mom giggling on the other end.
“My daughter’s grandmother is a very bright woman. She knows her grandbabies’ daddy very well. Come on, Brenda, we need to get to know each other. Vinnie’s?” She nodded. “That way you can pick. Steak, or Italian, but either way, I won’t be the bad guy. I don’t think he makes anything there that people wouldn’t fight over.” She laughed. We held hands and locked the doors behind us. Each in our own vehicles, we drove to Vinnie’s. The plan was for me to follow her home after the evening’s activities as it was on my way home as well.
We talked about nothing work related. Her mother died of cancer. That’s what she meant about knowing I’d be fine. She’s been through this. Her father was much older than her mother. Another reference to her present life. And this time, mine. He flew his way out of his misery scaring everyone for months that he’d get despondent and make a one-point vertical landing.
We sat and talked for two hours after dinner. We had quite a bit in common, philosophically, musically, and our love of flying. She missed being able to help her dad make runs up and down the eastern seaboard. Finally shop talk intruded. We talked about our planes and I made it clear Dad wanted her to be at least a backup pilot if she wanted it. She had to understand that it was a volunteer thing, though. We needed her where she was, but as an additional duty ... She was fine with it. She had one stipulation. If she was training, she was on the clock.
“I couldn’t agree more, but that’s shop talk.”
“We had to broach the subject. Can I start in the King Air? Let me get twins down, then the jets. I know it’s not that much slower, but it would make me feel better.”
“Who’s in charge of your Air Force, anyway?” I grinned. “Oh, crap. I think I knew that.” She laughed. A band started. I held my hand out for a dance and didn’t get her home until a little after midnight. We did okay together. She loves to follow and did so. Gracefully. Have I mentioned she has beautiful legs? Well, as my friends from ZZ Top would say, ‘and she knows how to use ‘em.’
I hadn’t had such a wonderful evening in many, many years, and looking back, my time with Nancy probably wasn’t this enjoyable. That would put this one in a runaway first place seeding. We’d see, but Brenda seemed to fit me better. She could certainly converse about more entertaining subjects, and she danced like a star in a classic musical. I’d have to ask about that someday.
As all good things do, the evening came to an end and I followed her home. Once there, I walked her up to the door and once she had it unlocked, I took her in my arms and kissed her deeply. Not one of the pecks or chaste, yet demonstrative kisses of the past, but our first lovers’ kiss. I licked her lips and like it was the key to the gates of heaven she opened her mouth to mine, and our tongues met. An emotional joining to say the least. We both felt it, and I heard her groan as I did a silent gasp. That kiss put paid to any questions. Our daughter’s grandmother was a sage and a seer.
We parted, I told her, “Thank you for this evening, Brenda. I think you know where we stand. I’m quite smitten and might as well announce I would like the chance to see if you could handle me in your life. May I be so bold as to ask you if we can start that journey, and date, and really get to know each other, and be open about it in public?”
“Let me think about that, Charlie. You’ll have an answer soon, I promise, but I will tell you, I have no other at this time. No other man as a love interest, I mean. When I say yes, it will be with open eyes and an open heart. OK?”
“Fair enough. I’ll leave you with this: Thank you for making my mother happy. You most certainly have.” I kissed her lightly, again, and went back to my car. She waved and went inside. Off for home I went, wondering if I had just blown it and ruined my chances by moving too quickly. Sheila called her a man’s woman. She wouldn’t make rash decisions, would she?
My phone chimed an incoming text. “yes xxoo”
I pulled over to the curb. “TY ttynam xxxooo”
“xxxxoooo goodnite, love (lips)”
I guess I didn’t blow it.
First thing in the morning, I ate and texted her. “morning! Yardwork. Busy?”
“No. watch you mow?”
“be right there xxxooo”
She drove up about fifteen minutes later and floored me when she got out of the car. Cuffed short shorts, a little knit top, and four-inch-high heeled sandals. What a babe. I’m telling you, the Lord himself made this girl. She was an angel.
“You are so gorgeous.”
“Thank you. Do you have any coffee left?” We went inside, and I made her a big mug, then we went out back by the pool and sat for a while. “It didn’t take long after you left to decide, Charlie. Your mother, your father, my friend Sheila. They all love you and think the world of you. Even Little Frankie thinks you’re a nice guy. Your mother told me to be careful with you, that it wouldn’t take much to break you, but I don’t plan on doing that. I certainly don’t need your money anymore, and the only reason not to date you would be spite. Especially since I think I’m already in love with you. Ask Sheila. Months ago, I asked her what kind of girl you liked. She looked at me and laughed. She pointed at me and said, ‘that kind’. It was really funny at the time. She went on to tell me how years ago she started dressing the way she does and that you would compliment her and such and it made her feel good. So, she kept it up. No wonder I fit right in. There is a huge age difference, though. Is that going to cause a problem for you, Charlie?”
All I could do was smile. “No. Will you kiss me again?”
I finally got the yard mowed. She left at about three to go get ready for that hospital ball. I was picking her up at six. Cocktails started about then, dinner at eight. Festivities then dancing around nine-thirty or so, probably. Royal blue and silver. I’d gotten just the thing.
At a couple minutes ‘til six, I rang the bell. She opened the door and very literally set me back. A beautiful ankle length royal blue silk gown slit to mid-thigh on both sides. Her stockinged legs ended in cute little silver sandals on a small platform with four, or more probably, five-inch stiletto heels. Mom’s, I mean my daughter’s, necklace adorned her upper chest, just below her slim gorgeous neck, the matching earrings, short dangles, setting off her face and upswept hair do. She was a vision of unquantifiable beauty, no doubt about that.
I walked her to the car holding her silver-gray shawl in my hand, her holding a small silver sequined clutch. Handing her into the car, she chose the perfect time to show me just exactly what kind of hose she was wearing. Naturally, with a silk, and close to formfitting. dress, garter tabs would not work. She showed me the lace tops of her thigh high stockings. Knowing exactly what she had done, she looked up at me and smiled. I returned it with a grin, shook my head, closed the door, went to my side and off we went. Damn, she was pretty.
“You are a stunningly gorgeous woman, Brenda. Thanks for coming to the gala with me.”
“You’re looking pretty good yourself, mister. That cummerbund looks like it came with my gown.”