I was sitting there on the side of the road, in a terrible downpour, a tire obviously failed. Flashers on, traffic passing by in rush hour fashion, fifty or so cars every time I blinked, all of them trying to get home faster than they should. I certainly wouldn’t be one of them. At least not anytime soon. Luckily, I was in the second to right lane when I heard the pop, and the flop flop flop, and was able to slow down and pull over. The good Samaritan behind me was able to slow down, seeing the commotion of the moment, signal so others would see, then let me over and onto the shoulder. What a love, but then, like the next four thousand cars, drove on as quickly as the rain, and the other traffic, would allow.
After switching the flashers on, I started to dial the Roadside Assistance number when I saw lights behind me. Bright ones. They pulled onto the shoulder right behind my car. I stopped dialing and waited. A knock. I lowered my window a bit.
“Miss Markwell? You look to have an issue. May I help you, or would you like me to call road assist, ma’am?”
“Feel free. What can I do, sir, and who are you? How do you know me?”
“Pop the boot, ma’am, and sit tight. I’m Billy. Billy Carson. From a meeting a few weeks ago. I remember the license from the parking lot. Near the door. MMRKWL. Madeline Markwell. Heir to and now COO of The Fashion Mark. Hold, and I’ll change the tire, ma’am.” I felt the movement, the change in angle, the jiggling, I heard a couple of curse words, then he came back. “That’s not a real tire, ma’am. You need to get to a shop tomorrow and let them know you’ve had a flat, OK? And, ma’am, don’t keep to the freeway. Take the back roads down there,” he pointed off toward the frontage road, “and get home that way. You don’t want to go fast on that little thing. And, ma’am, watch your braking, as you’ll pull a bit to that side, since it’s a hair smaller in the diameter. You be careful, ma’am. You want I should follow you home?”
“No, Mr. Carson. Billy. No. Here. My card. Call my girl in the morning and tell her what happened, please. She’ll take care of you. Thank you.” I rolled my window up, waving to him a bit, then pulled out and drove off, exiting and taking the back roads. I saw him following me, then pull away quickly when I hit my drive and he kept on going. He was either a nice guy with a good heart, or a stalker. Life is complicated.
The next morning I told Susie, my personal assistant, what had happened. She took notes, his name, time, and so forth. “A check for a hundred dollars, Maddy?”
“Sure. Why not. Sounds about right. He really was Billy on the spot last night. Can you check, though, Susie. Billy. Billy Carson. A meeting a few weeks ago. Here? He seemed to know me. From what I could see in the rain through the window, he’s young and not too hard on the eyes. Please, then let me know. OK?”
A note on my desk. The bathroom again. Written in the stall. Production shift manager brought it to me. I asked them to. I wanted to know what the troops were thinking. Shit! I’m NOT a bitch. Regardless of what they say in production, I’m fair, and I try to do the best for the company. That is almost always what is best for them, too. I’m doing my best to keep them employed. My job is to keep production up. I’m the Chief Operating Officer. Operate. That’s my job. I soooo wanted to be the CFO or the CIO, but no, I had to be chosen COO. Fucking will. Mother Fucking Last Will and Testament. My older brother was the CEO, my younger brother was pulled from a lucrative position as a CPA with a big firm downtown, my cousin Drew pulled from Cisco to run the information systems, and me, little ol’ me, was pulled out of my boutique to be the COO. Fucking airplanes. If the God damned thing had stayed in the air, I’d still be in my little women’s wear shop on the east side, Brian would still be who knows where, Barry would be counting beans downtown, Drew would still be running the freaking internet, and ... But we’re not. Fucking Hell. Maybe someday when I get through this I can clean my language up a bit. Angry words from an angry woman.
Where was I? I’m Madeline Markwell, Chief Operating Officer and fifty-one percent share holder of The Fashion Mark, a national manufacturer of brand name clothing sold by just about every retailer in the country. Even Walmart and Target carried some of our sub-brands. The flat tire last night was a wake up call for me. Twenty-six years old. Parents gone. Brothers and cousin are assholes, at their best times, and I had no one. Well, I had one, ONE, good friend who went off to fucking New York. She comes home for holidays. She runs a house in SOHO. MBAs from Mizzou, with undergraduate fashion degrees from Stephens in Columbia, and this is where we are. Her in a dream house in SOHO, and me in a corporate effing jungle in the Midwest.
Where am I now? Lost in the quagmire of family and corporate buttfu ... I don’t like it. But, I owe it to my parental units to do something to keep their name, The Fashion Mark, above ground. So, here I am.
“Miss Maddy. I found him.”
“Who, Susie? Who did you find?”
“Billy, ma’am. William Carson.”
“Maddy, are you upset with me?”
“God, no, Susie. I’m sorry. I’m just so ... I hate this. This is not me. You ... You’re wonderful. You’ve done so much to keep me from jumping off that bridge out there,” I pointed outside to the MLK bridge over the Mississippi river, “I’m sorry. I’m just a brat. Forgive me. What did you find, Susie?”
“William, Billy, Carson, The Carson Group, is a prospective buyer.”
“Good. Maybe the hundred is the wrong answer. Bring him back for a floor tour and put him with Gloria and Adalaine. Gloria could sell ice to an Eskimo.”
“Ma’am, not that kind of buyer. He was here at the creditors’ meeting. He’s thinking of buying the The Fashion Mark.”
“So, his father is one of the buyers?”
“No, Maddy. Mr. William, Billy, Carson, is one of the buyers. Duggan Brothers, Wilhelm and Sons, and The Carson Group. Those are the three that are looking. Maddy, the other two are large corporate outfits that send a crowd to look and talk. When Carson comes, it’s Billy. He’s it.”
“Oh! Susie, you know he changed my tire. In the pouring rain, no less.”
“Maddy, I know. I don’t think a hundred bucks or watching Gloria and Adalaine’s asses and legs walking through the plant is going to do it for him, although, as you know, it would do it for me...”
“You naughty little tart.” I had to giggle at her comment. “You’re a gem, Susie. Thank you. Try to get ahold of him. I’d like to meet with him to find out what he wants to do. He’s ... Susie, he’s different.”
“Yes, ma’am.” She left, and I noticed that I felt better than I did before she shared the information. I felt happy. Why?
At three o’clock, the phone beeped. Susie. “It’s Mr. Carson on line three, ma’am.”
I punched line three. “Madeline Markwell.”
“Yes, thank you for taking my call, Miss Markwell. I do hope it’s Miss.”
“Mr. Carson, how can I help you.” I was trying not to play into his hand, but he was looking. Looking for something. What was it?
“It was you, actually, that contacted me, Miss Markwell, but I would like to talk. Just the two of us. May I be frank?”
“Please. Raw honesty is always the best policy, Mr. Carson. Always. I don’t waver from that. Ever.”
“OK. You’re intelligent, you have an eye for fashion, you’re a joy to talk to, and as I warned you before, very frankly, I think you’re beautiful.”
I know I made a sucking noise when I gasped. “Mr. Carson...”
“For now, until I understand you, it’s Mr. Carson, and what exactly is the nature of this conversation? I reached out to you in order to thank you for helping me last night.”
“Only, and always. I mean that, Billy Carson. If you lie to me, you’ll never speak directly to me again.”
“I want to take you to dinner, get to know you, have you fall in love with me, and buy your company, in that order.”
“You are a fucking crazy man.”
“Yes, ma’am, but I’m honest. You asked for honesty. Where would you like me to take you for dinner?”
“Top O’ The Town. You know where I live. Pick me up at seven. Make reservations for seven-thirty. Use my name if you must.”
I heard him chuckle. “I doubt that will be necessary. See you at seven, beautiful.” Click.
Wow. He’s a bit forward and I don’t appreciate his style, but that didn’t explain why, when he picked me up, I was in a little black dress, silk and lace, with dark hose and heels, carrying a clutch to his car and being let in. Nice little car.
“Thank you for the compliment earlier, Billy, but I must ask, really, are you really for real?”
“Had a hard time in communications classes? Maybe it was the English prose that gave you difficulty. Really?”
We both broke up laughing, me first, then he followed. “I like the word, really, and I really overuse it. Really. Now, honestly, Billy Carson, why am I in a Bentley, on the way to my demise, or dinner, I know not which.”
“You do have a way with words. Madeline...”
“Maddy, please, Billy. If we’re on the way to dinner, at least let’s be on a first name basis.”
“OK, Maddy. I was taken with you at the meeting a few weeks ago. You probably didn’t even notice me back in the corner of the room listening, but I heard what I needed to hear. In any case, I was honest earlier. I want to take you to dinner; hence, we are on the way, then I want to get to know you better. I am hoping, beyond hope, that there Is something about me you like. I see that in you. A lot of that. I would apologize, but I can’t. Nothing to be sorry for.”
“Don’t. I still need to sort you out, but you don’t seem too awfully dangerous, so...”
“I am, Maddy. I’m very dangerous. Not only that, but I live dangerously. So much so, I will prove it and will let you order for both of us. THAT is dangerous and...”
“Are you a nut, or just...”
“Not really. I am a happy person, though. It’s just that I have no idea what to do here. It’s been since high school. Dating is not my thing. I’ve been chased by any number of girls, ladies and women, none of which bothered to get to know me. Dollar signs in their eyes. This is the first time, since high school, twelve years ago, that I have asked ... I did want to take you out, though, so please, please accept my gratitude for accepting.”
“Done. We may be in the same boat. I haven’t dated much either. My brothers ran off the good ones, and I ran off the others.”
“Speaking of that, can we talk business over coffee and dessert? Dinner first? And maybe some talk about you and me first, so we can get to know each other a little?”
“Yes. Sounds like a plan.”
We talked about our lives, losing our parents, each in the same boat that way, I guess. I had ordered shrimp for myself and a little steak for him. The sides of a salad and a vegetable went over well, so I guess I did OK. He could order his own and get a baked potato next time. We were sitting, looking at each other, when he blurted it out.
“I want you to run the company. All of it. Your brother is killing it. Barry is doing fine, numbers are numbers, but Brian is killing your parents’ dreams. Drew can be cut loose, too. His heart isn’t in it, and Cisco wants him back.”
“What the hell do you think...”
“It’s Madeline Markwell to you, Mr. Carson. Stay right where you are. I’ll get a cab.” I left. I was incensed. He was telling me that my brother was ruining the company.
The cab ride ended at my townhouse, with a lonely walk inside. How dare he? To insinuate that he knew better, than ... But ... Damn. He said the same thing I’d been saying. What a bitch I was. His card. Where is his card. I don’t have it. He has mine.
‘Ding.’ My phone.
A text: Are you OK? I’m sorry I upset you.
Me: I’m sorry I reacted like that.
Him: Can we talk?
Me: Yes. Come on over. Please. We’ll talk.
Him: Thanks. I mean no harm. I promise that. CU in a bit.
Ten minutes later my doorbell rang, and I was a wreck. I reacted so poorly, not only to a guy, but a man that could buy our company and keep people employed. I needed to regroup. Quickly.
I opened the door to a man with a smile, a flower, and his coat on his arm. Truly trying to be open and friendly.
“Billy, please, come in. I’m sorry about earlier. I got to thinking, and I went to call you, but you had my card. I didn’t have yours.”
“Let me fix that now.” He pulled two out and laid one on the coffee table and went to the kitchen bar where he saw a wall phone and left one there on the cabinet. “Done. Now, where was I in my effort to insult my date and ruin her evening?”
“You were telling me what a poor job my brother was doing running the company, and that you would like to get into my pants and have me run it.”
“Well, at least now I know why you got mad. Maddy, I think you’re a great person. I saw that at the meetings, I’ve seen that in public. I just do. I’ve been watching. Closely. Let’s separate The Fashion Mark from Maddy for a bit. OK?” I nodded. I had no idea what else to do. I had little experience with men, and I was losing ground quickly. “I would like to get to know you. This is different and totally separate from the company. If we don’t like each other, I’ll stop bothering you. I may still buy the company, though, and have you run it. Brian is a ... He’s not doing your parents’ legacy any favors. If we do like each other, I would like to buy the company, and have you run it. Your brother ... We’re back where we started. I see things in The Fashion Mark that others may not see. Maybe they do, but don’t act. I don’t know. I want to know what you would do, if you were in charge.”
“Seriously?” He nodded. “Expand the lingerie, provocative club wear, yoga and exercise lines, and hit the skirts and hot pants a bit more. I see them coming back. Cute button up blouses could use a bit more rack space as well. Shorter jackets and skirts on the business wear line would help. High heels are on the rise, again, too. Even some of the thicker heels, the early fifties styles, are being sought out. Femininity is back and being enjoyed by both sexes, or all sixteen genders, as some say, regardless of what NOW says at their protests.”
“And, that, my dear, is why, number one, I want to get to know you, and number two, I want you to run your company. Can we try dinner again, tomorrow evening? Again, your choice.”
“Same time, same place. Billy, how did you get that booth, at seven-thirty on a Wednesday?”
“Really want to know?” I nodded. “It’s my booth. Long story, but ... Suffice to say, unless the governor or the president are in town, I can get that one or the one next to it with an hour’s notice. More later, but it’s OK. I’ll be back at seven tomorrow night. Maddy?” I looked at him. “I was serious. It may be out of line, but I do think you are a beautiful and wonderful person, and I do want to get to know you. If the company gets in the way, I’ll drop it, if you’ll still go to dinner with me. You are that important. I can find another great company to save later.”
“Same time, same place. Go. Come back tomorrow. It’ll be Thursday. Prove you are real. That booth would be impossible for me to get, and I know people.” I giggled and made him smile. He rolled his eyes, and as he did it made an adorable face. I knew then that I’d give this guy a chance.
“Maddy, would you please kiss me goodnight? Just a small one if you like, but at least something to let me know I’m not a total loss and waste of time for you.” Those words did it. He was trying so hard to be a good person, a good business representative, a good man. I had to.
I walked him to the door and told him, “Billy, thank you. You are a breath of fresh air.” I kissed him goodnight. My tongue touched his lips. His touched mine. Our tongues touched. Gently. Briefly. But, oh, so, powerfully. We both felt it. Each of us jerking a bit, but not away from each other.
“Thank you, Maddy, for this opportunity. Goodnight.” Then off he went in his little Bentley. Darn, that thing was quiet. It purred, like a cat.
I hung my dress up, put my heels on the rack, got ready for bed, and climbed in, thinking about that young man. Obviously not for long...
“I need everything we have on Billy Carson. Everything. Please, Susie, keep it between us.”
“Yes, ma’am.” I was keeping this one. Come hell or high water, I was keeping this one.
“Susie, you may not know that I know you were my mother’s right hand. I do know that, though, and I appreciate not only that, but that you’ve done nothing but help me. What do you think, honestly, about what the company is doing?”
“Before I speak of that, I want a guarantee of at least five years salary, and I keep my work computer.”
“Three years. No one gets five. And yes on the computer, but you’re not taking that big printer.”
“Your brother is a putz and will ruin the company within two years. There’s a pool. March, year after next, is available if you have five bucks.”
“That’s not funny.”
“I’m not joking. People in fear of losing their jobs will bet on anything.”
“Billy Carson asked my opinion and wants me to run the company.”
“Don’t hesitate. You have the eye and the outlook. Please take me with you? I don’t want to get stuck with one of your siblings, and God forbid I wind up with Drew. The color of my lingerie is none of his damned business.”
“Good point. He’s a pig. His cousins aren’t much better, are they?” Susie shook her head.
“Get him on the phone.” She left and several seconds later my phone buzzed. “Billy on one for you, ma’am.”
“Billy, we need to talk tonight. Serious talk. If I get angry, remind me of this conversation. We need to talk.”
“Good. Now, maybe, you’ll let me get to know the real Madeline Markwell. That, my dear, is my main goal. Saving your parents’ company for you ... That is secondary. But important.”
“See you at seven.”
“Yes, Maddy, you will.”
The day flew by. I compared numbers, looked at things he had done in the past with other companies. This was his second go at a fashion business. The last one doubled it’s worth in two years and was purchased by a super store chain as their main line. His other endeavors faired similarly. He didn’t keep them long after he turned them around, and I wondered about that, but here he was, asking me to help him buy it and run it.
I met him at the door, this time in a dark green silk number. A prettied-up shirt dress I loved for the comfort, but it also made me feel a bit sexy. Not naughty, but sexy, still. He obviously had an eye for style, and most probably similar to mine. He looked me up and down as he held my hands out in front of him.
“Magnificent. You are such a beauty, Maddy. Come. Let’s try this again.” He was such a handsome fellow when he smiled, and he was looking pretty good, too. His tie, Kelly green, was close enough to the color of my little frock, that he ... No, couldn’t have. I didn’t tell anyone what I was wearing. Not even Susie. I didn’t even tell her I was going with him that night. It was pure coincidence.
He helped me into his car, a different one this time, more of a normal thing. The Bentley sports car, with even what little I knew of cars, was a bit of a stretch to call a normal thing. This was an Audi, and a big one at that. This guy knew cars. Good. I didn’t. Daddy always took care of that for me and told me what I should and shouldn’t buy. Then he helped me take care of it, reminding me to take it in for a service, or picking it up for me and doing it himself. He did good, though, and I still had the last Lexus he picked out for me. Even after all these years, I loved it. It reminded me of him. The test drive where he took me out and as I followed his directions he talked about what was what and how it all worked. I still feel him in the passenger’s seat.
“Maddy? Madeline? Are you OK?”
“Oh, yes. Sorry, Billy, I was just reminiscing about my father, and cars and such. I loved my parents, Billy. I truly did.”
“Yes. Understood. That’s good. I loved my parents as well and losing them was horrific for me. I’m so glad my father took me in and showed me the secrets to success and my mother showed me how to treat a woman. Those two things, and the gift of life ... Let’s just say we have a lot in common, you and I.”
“Billy, what did your mother teach you about women?”
“It would take longer than the ten minute drive to the Top to explain it, but I can sum it up with one word. Respect.”
“I see. Smart woman. What about your father? What did he teach you?”
“Several things. Like the fact that some people are just plain evil. He told me to always remember, a coin has two sides, as do hills. In the case of hills, one side goes up and the other goes down. He said, ‘The harder you work, the luckier you get’, and above all else, told me to remember that unless someone proves otherwise, a neutral relationship is best.”
“Neutral?” I asked him.
“Yes. Neither trust nor distrust, like nor dislike. Just neutral, until you know who you are dealing with.”
“Oh.” That was a telling statement, since he was trying to woo me out of my stockings. We arrived at the restaurant where he once again turned the car over to the valet, came around to get me and helped me up. Just for kicks, I gave him the glimpse. I knew we’d see each other again, so I figured it wouldn’t hurt anything. He saw the welt of my stockings and I saw him smile, then our eyes met.
“Fabulously stunningly gorgeous. Thank you for letting me try, Maddy. I really appreciate it.” I nodded and stood. I felt I was on top of the world right then, my brothers, the company, all of it behind me, for now.
We made it through dinner this time, as well as dessert. He asked if I’d stay for a bit and maybe dance one or two songs with him. Why not. I might remember a bit about moving around the parquet floor. “Billy, it’s been a while, but I’d love to. Please be patient, and let’s start a bit slowly, OK?”
“Yes, certainly Maddy. It’s not a normal thing for me, either, I just thought after our first successful dinner together, I might try to push my luck. If you find me shuffling a bit, it’s because I don’t want to step on your feet. Especially not in those gorgeous satin shoes. Have I told you yet tonight how pretty you are?”
“Yes, Billy, but a girl likes to hear it now and then.” He wasn’t a bad dancer. Top O’ The Town had a small band that played to the older crowd, thankfully. I had no intention of bumping hips with Billy Carson, ever, let alone on our first ... I guess I’d have to say date. On our first date. On our first ‘successful’ date, that is. Funny, a few years ago, the year before Mom and Dad died, I was up here with a date, but she was a she. I wasn’t happy around men, other than Daddy, so I tried that avenue for a while. Jennifer was pretty, but she turned out to be a man in hiding. True dyke material, and, well, that wasn’t what I was looking for either. I met what they call a lipstick lesbian later, and we had a few nice times, but she was, and she was totally up front and honest about it, wooing another woman that just hadn’t quite decided what she wanted yet. Damn it, the woman fell off the fence and right into Sheila’s arms. So much for the perfect woman. Not perfect if she belonged to someone else.
“Maddy, you’re off in the distance again.”
“Sorry, Billy, I was just thinking about the last time I was up here dancing. She was a great dancer, but more of a man, it turns out, than you are, most probably, and you appear to be all that and a bag of Ruffles.” I giggled, he chuckled back, and I tried to pay more attention to my date and less to my past.
“Maddy, I know it’s early, but how am I doing?”
“Fine. You’re a very good dance partner, too. You have a natural rhythm and lead well. Thank you for this. It’s nice. Billy, did you know it was me, out on the highway?”
“No, Maddy, not ‘til I pulled in behind you, got close and saw the plate. I saw what appeared to be someone in trouble, and I stopped. If you had been someone else’s third-grade teacher, or a soccer mom out for groceries ... No, Maddy, I was stopping to help a person in need, that’s all. I felt like I won the lottery when I saw the plate, though. I would have called Road Assist for anyone else, believe that, but for you ... For you, I just had to skin a knuckle and do it myself.” He showed me his war injury. I laughed. He pouted then took my hand and smiled.
“Oh. Thank you, again, Billy. Please, dance with me again? Please?” I took a sip of my drink, a rather stout Tom Collins, took his hand, and followed him to the dance floor. As he put his arm around me and moved me with the music, I felt safe. I felt trust. I was sure he was telling me the truth. There was way too much traffic out there that night, and in the rain no less, for him not to be. It was, at a minimum, serendipitous.
“Gorgeous, are you really terribly busy on Monday and Tuesday?”
“I don’t think so. I can check my calendar at the table. Why?”
“I need to attend a meeting, and was wondering ... How would you like to have a cup of coffee with me? Monday morning? In Malaga?”
“Malaga. Malaga, Spain? Seriously? Really?” He nodded. That cute little smile I liked so much appeared. “Yes. I’ll make it happen. If I have any conflicts, I’ll reschedule. You’ll leave for that when? Sunday morning early?”
“Yes’m. I can pick you up at home at eight or so and we can fly into the sun, then get some rest and I can meet while you look around, or accompany me, whichever you like. I’d like the latter, so we can do the former together. Might be fun.”
“Yes. It might. I like that idea. Thank you for the invitation. Do we need to get reservations, or...”
“No. I have reservations at the hotel, I’ll add a room. We’ll go over in my plane, so that won’t be a problem.”
“Sounds fun. Thank you, Billy. We’d better get home so I can catch up tomorrow if I’m going to be gone until Wednesday.” We finished our drinks and he took me home, walking me to the door and ending our evening with another wonderful kiss. He placed one hand on my hip, his other on my neck, under my ear, a finger rubbing the skin by my hairline. I know I shivered. I didn’t care if he knew or not at that point. Our lips met, then our tongues, lightly, then a bit more than last night, we meshed. Tongues together, I could feel the electricity, the nerves, the butterflies, the passion. I’d never felt that before with any man, or woman, for that matter. The softness, the wetness, shared, touching, rubbing together. I could feel my pussy dampening. Yes, meeting Billy was serendipitous, to the extreme. If a kiss from this man was going to make my knees weak, my chest hurt, my elbows shake, and my panties wet, it was more than a date, more than a meeting by chance. It was much more, and I wanted to know how much. He was affecting me. Mr. William, Billy, Carson, may just get his wish. All I needed from him was honesty.
He waited until he heard the door lock to leave, as I heard the faint footsteps on the townhouse stairs just after the thunk of the deadbolt lock extending into the doorframe. A complete gentleman.
It took me a couple hours to get to sleep after that, and I had to rely on Bob to help me. Not a normal thing for me, as I was usually either too busy or just not caring that much, but the thought of him holding my neck and rubbing his finger under my ear got to me. It seriously made me wet. I had to finish what he started. As I was close and getting closer to the edge, I did something I’d never done before, and didn’t even realize it until I was done. I stuck my thumb, the one I had been rubbing over my mound, in my mouth and sucked on it, pushed Bob the Wonder Vibrator into my twat, almost through my cervix, and used my other thumb to push my clit and its entire protective hood up against the vibration gizmo inside Billy’s soft but firm, life-like silicone shaft. I almost bit my thumb off.
BILLY!?! SHIT!?! Billy my ass. What the hell did he do to me that I thought of him so deeply in me and pushing his cock up against my pleasure button. I actually screamed. I came twice, on a vibrator. It was supposed to be Bob. Now it was Billy. Shit. Fuck. Shitfuck. What now? He just asked me to go to Europe for a three-day getaway. I hope he was the gentleman he showed me to be, because it wouldn’t take much. He was so forward, so unprofessional, but then, the reason he gave, it made me wonder. He thought I was the shit. The cat’s ass. Me. He wanted to get to know ME. I had just masturbated to his image ... Twice. What the hell!?!?!
I fell asleep, realizing I was falling for him. Ouch. Well, there had to be a first.
I was happy when I woke. Brightly looking at the future. The sun shone brighter. Thank God it was out that morning. What a bummer to be that happy and have it be cloudy or raining. I got to work on four new tires, the little ‘donut’ Billy put on packed back in the trunk, taken care of by the shop before we went on our date last night. Seems I was due, as they were all only borderline safe. I’d had the car for a while, so I wasn’t surprised.
At work, I thought, seriously, about whether I really wanted to do what I was doing, or if I wanted my little shop, and my freedom. “Susie, is this all true, really?” I was browsing over the file she brought me. Clippings, news releases, pictures, descriptions of company takeovers and the resulting issues, good and bad.
“Yes, Maddy, it is. He is the person you see there. Young, rich, successful. The Midas touch, if you will. He has approached your lawyers and your little brother with an offer. It came in this morning. Just before you got here. I got a peek at your copy. It’s generous. It includes personnel changes. It includes the payoffs, Maddy. He’s offering your brothers twice their actual valuation, a dime on a nickel, to leave. The only realistic offer is yours. You lose nothing. Give up nothing. You maintain fifty-one percent control and the title of CEO and board vice president. Yes, he wants the board. He left a private note for me to read to you. ‘I’m serious.’ That’s all the card says. Maddy, I beg you, take me with you. I’ll run your dry cleaning, get your coffee, I don’t care, but I was there for your mother, and I want to be there for you.”
Susie, the thirty-two-year-old cutie that worked for Mom and Dad, was, in a word, incensed with my siblings and my cousin. She had been my mother’s PA for about 6 or 8 years. She was about six years my senior, and as I was clearing college, just a bit early, she was coming into herself as Mom’s ‘girl’, as Mom called her. Upon Mom’s death, she pulled me to her, took me in, figuratively, and I knew, under no uncertain terms that she was to keep me going, on the right path, that of my mother and father, and she just basically stuck in there to make sure any problems I had ... Went away. Someday, if it was in my power, she’d benefit from ... Everything. So, I broke down and told her everything. I asked her to please keep it between us. The three of us, naturally, and I’d tell Billy that Susie was OK to talk to.
“Your schedule is clear, Maddy. You’re free to go. Please come back, though. Don’t leave me here with these animals.” She started laughing and hugged me. “Maddy, I’ve never been good at this. I’m not good with relationships. I couldn’t keep a man and now I can’t even keep a girlfriend very long, but follow your heart. I see your eyes when you speak of him. I saw that yesterday. I saw it before you told me about the invitation to Europe, the kiss, the date. I saw you glow before that. Follow your heart. You need help shopping, Maddy? Holler if you do. I could get out myself.”
“Yes,” I told her. “Lots of it. You can help me pick out some cute, sexy clothes for the trip without making me look like a freaking slut on the make. I like the way you dress, to be honest. I do. Yes. I’ll pick you ... No. Come over in the morning. I’ll feed us, and we’ll go out into the world together.”
She nodded, we hugged, and went to work. We had a plan.
Billy called me that evening. “Do you mind me calling you?” he asked.
“No, I don’t think so. Are you going to mind when I ask you over for dinner tomorrow night, or will you be busy?”
“That depends on what you plan on serving.”
“A chicken and noodle casserole favorite of my mother’s, and probably broccoli or cauliflower.”
“If you do both, I’ll come. I love them both, and together with some butter, or Cheez Whiz, you could ... Lordy, Maddy, I hate to say this, but this is the kind of life I miss. Chicken and noodles, home cooking, stuff our parents did. Before I left for college, the service, I remember all that, then for the couple years I had with them, I went to their house for dinner often. A lot, really,” he chuckled, “really, I worked at spending time with them while I could. I’d love to be there.”
“Good. Come over at five or so, and we’ll spend some time together.”
“Thank you, gorgeous. See you then. G’night.” Click.
He sounded excited. Go figure. Over chicken and noodles, no less. What an easy target. A pot roast would have him jumping off bridges for me. One thing I could do was cook. I don’t eat much of what I make, but I love to cook.
His excitement led to a little of mine, so with Little Billy’s help; Bob had been replaced. I finally got some sleep, starting with a smile on my face. I woke early, got cleaned up and dressed, breakfast started, and right on time, Susie showed up to spend the morning with me. Once we were fed and she teased me about having a boyfriend, we took off for my favorite shopping centers. I was lucky in finding that they were hers, too. Different stores, but she found some delightful outfits for me to wear, cute, enticing, pretty, but not salacious or slutty. She also helped me with a green, almost modest, underwired bikini set with a modified Brazilian cut bottom. I passed the Susie test with flying colors, so, I bought it, just in case our trip included any time at a pool or beach.
So, with short shorts, miniskirts, both brief and long stretch tops, high heeled sandals, some Sketchers to kick around in, one set of matching lace and satin lingerie, complete with garter belt, stockings, and a new LBD cocktail dress, we were set. She helped me try everything on one more time, remove all the tags, check to make sure it was all perfect, then I packed for the trip as the chicken was boiling for the casserole.
Susie let herself go, just a bit, and I noticed that she was a bit more outgoing with me than maybe she should have been. I was going to ask her about it, but instead, I told her, “Susie, you and I need to spend more time together. We do. I hope that’s OK with you. I don’t want to keep you from anything else, or any ONE else, and I know I get you fifty or so hours a week, but I mean as a friend, not as my PA.”
“Nothing would make me happier, Maddy. Nothing. You know ... Never mind. I’d love to. Really.” She kissed my shoulder and went down the hall to the bathroom. I hoped I wasn’t causing any issues, but I felt like she wanted to be closer, and I wanted whatever she wanted. She meant that much to me. As a friend, and my mother’s friend, as well as, or even more so, than as an employee. I relied on her, but I got the sense it went the other way, too.
She came back with red eyes and got me into the kitchen where I started in making the noodles. We talked a bit more, then she thanked me for thinking about her and the plan to spend more time together, then wished me luck with Billy, kissed me on the lips briefly, then ran out the door like a whirlwind. She didn’t know it, but it didn’t bother me that she did that. Oh, boy. I need to think about all this at some point.
At five straight up, the doorbell rang. I checked my face and outfit in the mirror, pulled a stray bit of hair behind my ear and answered the door. Like a little boy on his first date, he stuck his handful of flowers at me and said, “Hi, Maddy, I hope I’m not late.”
I pulled him in the door, took the flowers, and kissed him, all in one smooth sweeping motion, pulling him in toward the kitchen so I could find a vase for the flowers and sit him at the table there. I had no intention of being pretentious and serving us chicken and noodles in the dining room. It seemed neither necessary nor appropriate. This was just two people, trying to get to know each other, and after the discussion on the phone the previous night, about the simpler things in life, it seemed casual would be the order of the day.
He loved the meal, or so he said, and thought it a treat that I actually listened and made both veggies and let him pick. He chose CheezWhiz. Over dinner he told me a couple of stories about his youth, in one how he would sneak a finger full of CheezWhiz out of the open jar in the fridge and then get in trouble when it came time to use it and there wasn’t enough left. As he was leaving to go to Air Force Officer Training School, his mother fessed up that she’d known he’d been doing that since he was about six and big enough to get the lids off the jars. She asked him then, ‘Why do you think there was always another jar or two in the pantry, young man?’ A tear fell from each eye as he told the story. I stood and went to him, wiping them with my napkin.
“Thank you, Maddy. Sorry for the tears. That was one of my fondest memories of my mom. She told me then that I had gotten away with nothing, and that she knew about all of my foibles and loved every one of them.” He pulled me into his lap and we just held each other for a bit.