The river was up and rising. They were expecting it to crest around thirty-two feet, putting six or seven feet under the house. It was now probably about a foot deep under the house and two feet deep by the stairs where I was docking. I was boating back in from the levee with groceries when I spotted someone kayaking toward me from several houses downriver. Come to think of it, that was the direction of all the noise, commotion and lights over the Memorial Day weekend a couple weeks ago. Well, at least the Independence Day holiday would be a bit quieter. Not many people come down to the river road cabins when the water was up. Out of all the places, more than a hundred, there were probably six or eight older guys, some married, who had decided to full time it. One might think I did, but I only did this to think, or get away, which was pretty often. I also had a home in the suburbs of Chesterfield where I hid at times.
As the kayak came closer, she asked me, “Sir, can I borrow your phone? I can’t find my charger, and didn’t know the river was coming up, actually. I think I may have a problem with my car, too.”
“How did you not know the river was coming up?” I asked her, with maybe a bit of snarkiness.
“Look, my parents told me to stay out here until school starts back up in August. They’re in Europe and the house is being remodeled, and I didn’t know about this river thing. I don’t spend time out here unless they’re here. Never mind. I don’t need the grief. I know I fucked up. It’s a bit more than obvious. Hopefully someone else...”
“Stop, hon. You’re fine. Tie up to the stairs and come on up. Have a seat, use my phone, charge yours, whatever you need. I didn’t mean to be a dick about it. It’s just that usually if you look at the NOAA hydrology reports they warn us when it rains a bit much in Minnesota and such, and they can tell the river is coming up. I’ll show you when you get your phone charged up. I’m getting ready to fix some lunch, you hungry?”
“I could eat. I had breakfast, but I was kind of hoping you’d come back soon. I saw you leave but wasn’t quick enough to get your attention. Anyway, I was hoping and waiting for you to get back and didn’t want to miss you.”
“Why wouldn’t I come back?”
“No one else did. This place is deserted. I should have been paying attention yesterday instead of sleeping off my stupid ... Never mind. He wasn’t worth it.”
“I can listen pretty well if you need to talk. Can we share names first?”
“Annie. Annie Frost.”
“Chuck Carpenter. You’re in school then?”
“Starting junior year in August. Wash U.”
“Your parents went to Europe and left you here?”
“Wouldn’t be the first time. I think since I turned sixteen, they’ve pretty much left me to be a free-range child. Even before that I was a latch-key kid. That may stop when the car is under water.”
“Oh, yeah. Hey. I have an idea. It’s not that deep yet. Let me get some stuff from under the house and we’ll see what we can do.” I had a couple chain winches, some trolleys, some pulleys, rope, straps, and such. This would be fun. “What kind of car is it, Annie?”
“Let’s go see if we can save it. We’ll try to pick it up, and worst case, you have to replace the plastic over the bumpers. We need to hurry, though.” I got my Little Giant ladder then got all the gear under the house in the boat, then we went over and gave it a shot. Her place had a higher concrete pad like so many people were putting in now, and the water was only to just under the chassis. It looked like we might be able to pull it off. Soft wide tow straps in the tie down eyes, then out and around the bumpers, up to chains, then to chain winches on the trollies, and in about a half hour, I had her car seven feet off the ground with the top almost hitting the floor joists between the piers. Any higher, and we’d have the windshield frame in the floor. It was a convertible, but top down, or up, it wasn’t going any higher. We would need to be careful putting it down, but it went from a forty-thousand-dollar problem to a two-thousand-dollar problem pretty quickly.
“Thank you. You are now Superman, my hero, to whom I will be eternally grateful.”
“I appreciate that, but it’s just some winches and some chain.”
“YOUR winches and YOUR chain, Superman! Uhmmm, Superman?”
“I think my phone charger is in the car.”
“Where it will stay. With the weight of the car on those straps on the bumper, I will guarantee you those doors won’t open. Guarantee it.”
“Uhmmm, Superman?” I acknowledged. “Can I use your phone charger? I think mine might be tied up for a while!” She giggled. I laughed.
“Come on, silly. Yes, you may. Let’s go grab a bit to eat. I think I teased you with that offer earlier. Anything you can’t eat?” She shook her head. “Good. Let’s go see what Chef Superman (I said in a corny French accent) can whip up.”
I sat her in front of the TV letting her run through the channels until she found a soap opera she watched. Come to find out, the dorm she was in had soap klatches, and the girls that weren’t in class shared watching soaps and having fun with it. Silly, stupid hobby. I did the same damned thing when I was in the service. Running down to the Missile Control Complex for General Hospital when it came on at noon. God, that was a long time ago. Luke and Laura were so young, and she was so cute back then.
I put together some French Dip sandwiches and a salad, fed her, then we just talked a bit. I asked her what she was studying. “My father’s version of art appreciation. Mechanical engineering. Structural. My master’s thesis, if I decide not to jump off a bridge before then, involves earthquake preparedness in economical steel construction. I refused to go into law, so this was next.”
“What do you do, Chuck?”
“Electronics. Receivers. Transmitters.”
“Convince me to change career paths.”
“Electronics are lighter? I don’t need to weld very often? Solder, yes, but not weld. I don’t need a crane to build a receiver? I can design a transmitter inside out of the rain? Annie, I can go on forever, but I can’t build a radio over a bunch of people worshiping on Sunday. I have my limitations.” She laughed. I touched her funny bone. I didn’t think it was that funny, but I wasn’t the audience.
“Oh, Chuck, that’s funny. I think I probably will. Change, that is. I’ll have to re-do one class from last year, but I’m not into mechanical. Or civil. Electrical seems better, but it’s so ... Man oriented. Electronics. Communications. That seems more fun to me. I’ve been thinking about it all year. Dad will approve, as long as it doesn’t start with ‘Art’. He’s been telling me for years that most art appreciation and art history majors say ‘Do you want fries with that?’ a lot at work after they graduate. I understand. Every museum needs two or three of them on staff, but how many museums are there. One or two, maybe three per decent sized city. Oh well, I’m not fighting it. He only wants what’s best for his ‘Little Peaches’. Mom just wants me to get married and move on. She’s not my real mother. Mine died trying to give birth to my little brother when I was about two. Wow, I can’t believe all that just came out. I don’t generally talk this much.”
“I’m glad you are. You’re interesting and easy to listen to. I love your voice.” Annie Frost was not a beautiful woman. She had some cuteness to her, but was not, when I met her, a stunning beauty of a female specimen. More plain looking, with medium brown hair showing a tinge of shiny red, a substantial, yet regal, nose, and thin, but not unattractive, lips. What she was, though, was built with the form of a perfect goddess. There was not a blemish on her body, what I could see of it, which was most of it. She was wearing a snug crop top sleeveless t-shirt, very short cotton spandex workout shorts and flip-flops. That was it. If she was not commando, she was wearing the perfect stealth underwear. Her legs were long and gorgeous, her ass was to die for, her waist looked cinched, but was mostly bare, and her chest was perfect with small breasts, maybe a B size or so. I’m a leg man, and I consider conversation after the lights are out much more important than appearance, so I was looking at A, if not THE, perfect woman for me. And, even though it may have sounded like it when I described her, she was far, far, very far from ugly. She was perfect. Even her little innie belly button was cute. I’m telling you...
“Chuck? Mr. Carpenter!”
“Oh, sorry, you were saying?”
“Just asking where you worked.”
“Oh. Carpenter Systems, Incorporated. A little firm where we make stuff we are asked to design and then sell it to the people that asked for it. It’s mostly government stuff, so unless you have some bamboo splinters or a battery and some electrodes, that’s about all you’re getting.” That set her off again.
“You are too cute. I’m glad I found you. Are you going to be here for a while, or are you heading out?”
“Actually, doll, I’m hiding. I’ll go home in a couple days to do laundry and pick some stuff up, maybe spend the night, exercise and catch up a bit, but then, I think I’m coming back. Just so you’ll know, the river is going to be up for a while. If you want to hang out with me, you can, I’ll take you to town, drop you off with anyone if you want. Totally up to you. I understand your house is probably uninhabitable, but you have friends or family, don’t you?” She shook her head. Sadly. What’s up with that, I wondered. Even plain girls have plain girlfriends. “No friends to stay with? No family? No one?”
She shook her head, looking down. “One friend good enough for that. Stanford. Summer classes. Pre-law. No family that would have me. I’m a latchkey kid and have been since I was pretty little. I meant to mention that. Thought I had. I’ve been a free-range child ever since my dad married the wicked witch of the west, and I don’t see that changing any time soon.”
“OK, then. Here’s the deal. I’ll teach you river survival skills, like looking up the hydrology graphs.”
She laughed again. “River survival skills, looking up hydrology graphs, that’s funny.”
“Funny? Funny? You, insolent little brat, your BMW is hanging from the bottom of your house ... You’re right. That is pretty funny.” That time I laughed with her. “Oh, and maybe fishing, but I don’t want to push my luck.”
“It’s all right. I have. I don’t really enjoy it, but I have. Not the end of the world. I’d just rather read Anne McCaffrey than watch the tip of my pole not move.”
“You have your priorities totally out of whack, young lady. Reading and fishing have been done together since the inception of the first light weight stone tablet. Just before the spinning reel was invented.” Again, she laughed. I had this girl’s number. “Do you need anything to get through this? It’s going to be a month or so.”
“Probably everything. Let me call my parents if you don’t mind and I’ll have a better idea of how screwed up things are.” She called out on her phone, still plugged into the kitchen wall, while she was looking out the window at the flooded area. “Daddy, is that you? -- Yeah, it’s Annie. – I think I am. -- The river flooded over the last couple days, and I -- No, I’m fine. I’m at the neighbor’s, four doors up, I think. -- No, I’m charging my phone. Oh, and he fed me. – No, it’s in the car. -- No, he hoisted it up under the house. It’s probably high enough. – He’s nice. Old, though. Like you. Ewwww. -- Oh, Daddy, you know I’m kidding. I love you, and you’re not old. – No, I just wanted to check and see if I could use my card for some clothes. -- They’re in the car, and we can’t get to them. Just some summer stuff. Shorts, blouses and some underwear. I’ll be good, I promise. – Thanks, Daddy. -- You do? OK, hang on. Chuck, he wants to talk to you.”
“This is Chuck.”
“Chuck who, if you don’t mind me asking?” Annie’s father asked.
“Chuck Carpenter. Light green house four up from you on the same bank.”
“You don’t mind helping our Annie out a bit?”
“No. No problem. I have to run home to do laundry anyway.”
“Where would that be?”
“Chesterfield. A little west of the airport.”
“Could you do us a favor and take her to the house so she can check on our construction project?”
“If you want. She can show me.”
“Thank you, I appreciate that. We just need to know if it’s on schedule.”
“Well, thank you. I hope she’s not any trouble. She’s not much, but she is my only child.”
I didn’t like the way he said that, but... “No, seriously. No problem. She’s a peach.”
“Yes, I call her my little peaches sometimes.”
“She told me. Thought I’d tease a bit.”
“Understood. Well, I’m Fred, Fred Frost. My wife is Gladys. We’d appreciate your help with her.”
“OK, Fred. I’ll do my best.”
“Thanks again. May I speak with her?”
“Here she is.” I handed the phone back to her.
“Yeah? – He will? OK. – I will. Just if we’re on schedule, right? – OK. Love you, Daddy. Have fun. Thank you! Byeee.” She pushed the phone off. “He told you, I’m sure, but I’m supposed to ask the contractor if we’re on schedule if you can take me by there.” I nodded. “You frowned. A bit ago. Problem?”
“No problem, Peaches.” I chuckled. I wasn’t about to tell her that her own father said, ‘she’s not much’. What a putz. She’s a peach. Literally. Cute, sweet, nice kid. Yeah, I think maybe Daddy is a putz.
“Stop. I thought you were nice. I lied to my Dad?” She giggled.
“Okay, the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question. You want to sleep here, and we’ll go to town tomorrow, or would you like to kayak home with your loneliness?”
“Couch? I’d love that.”
“There is a guest room with a real bed. It’s a two-bedroom house. There’s a lock on the door.”
“The least of my worries. I’m not a baby, Mr. Carpenter, and if you were going to rape me and kill me, you’ve had ample opportunity already. And anyway, you could do it there as well. One of the idiots at the party broke the door knob and it’s not been fixed yet. Father was NOT happy when that happened. ‘Drunken school kids anyway’, he snarled in the morning. It was a friend of the boy in the cabin down from us. Anyway, there I go rambling on again.”
“I told you, Annie, I love your voice.”
“Thanks, Chuck, but you’re going to give me a complex.”
“I don’t mean it that way, I just ... Never mind. Don’t mind yourself. Just make yourself at home and we’ll be fine. I meant to ask before. What kind of grades are you getting?”
“I got a B in Physical Education. I’m not a jock. Sue me. The girl in right field playing softball? That’s me. I didn’t even go out for basketball. Can’t dribble. Track? Puhleeeze? I only wear Keds once in a while, and it’s not to run in. Give me a pair of pumps and a skirt any day. I’m just not an athlete. I’m a girl. Oh. Everything else is all As, or four point oh, if you will. I have a three point nine five overall and am on the Dean’s List. PE isn’t big in the technical schools. So they overlook some things. I’m obviously not obese and sedentary.”
“So true, that. What were you going to tell me about sleeping something off? You sounded a little down.”
“Oh that. You really want to hear about a pinhead?”
“I already told you. I want to hear you talk about anything. If not the pinhead, I’ll go get a cookbook you can read to me.”
“Take one cup of sugar, and stir slowly into one cup of flour...”
“Yes, like that. I love it. If you weren’t so damned young, and I wasn’t so damned old, I’d buy another cookbook.”
She laughed again. “I’m not a baby, Chuck. I turned twenty last month, in May, wow, time flies, and you’re probably about my Dad’s age. He’s NOT old, as you heard me tell him. Anyway, older men often aren’t pinheads ... Like Jeremy. We went out for a year, then I let him have my little gift, thinking he’d be around for a while. We had sex three or four more times, me thinking we were making love, him telling me I was the best he ever had, and then he’s off looking for better. It’s enough to piss off the Pope, but my story is the same as girls all over the world. I thought he was the right one, but he thought I was the next one. Now, I have nothing to offer my husband except my dowry. Yes, I think my stepmother would pay to marry me off.”
“How much? This might be worth pursuing!” She laughed again and handed me her phone. “Gladys Frost, in my contacts. Best offer I’ve had in ... Forever!” Another giggle.
“Don’t tempt me. I love your voice. You’re cute, and you have an absolutely drop dead gorgeous body. I’ll bet you know all that, though, don’t you?”
“I know I’m built. I know I dress to kill. I now know my voice turns a man on. At least one man, but that’s usually enough. And, I know my face won’t stop clocks, but I’m not beautiful by any stretch. I doubt I’m as cute as you say, but I don’t care. I’m me. I do know how to use a touch of makeup, too, and if I do that, you won’t recognize me. I’ve been told that, too. Doesn’t matter. I’m me without the makeup, and that’s the me my husband needs to love. Not the other one.”
“Let me know when you start taking applications, Annie. I like you. I think you’re neat.”
“I’ll do that, Chuck. I’ll do that. I like you, too. River survival skills, huh? This should be fun. ‘Show Me The Water!’” Another giggle. I like her more and more every time I see her smile.
I brought up the NOAA hydrology tables and showed her how to move up and down the river and showed where we would flood in relation to the gauges below us at Winfield and above us at Clarksville. I went back and showed her some historical data and how it rises, then falls, and what happens upstream to bring it up. She’s an engineer in training. She caught right on. She found an app she could put on her phone, but I just use the web site. I’m not a fan of apps yet.
“Thank you. Now I can watch out and not come up here unless ... Oh hell, now that I know what to look for, I won’t get caught again. That’s the issue.” We were standing in the kitchen as she still had her phone plugged in. She hugged me. “Thanks, Chuck. This whole thing makes me look pretty stupid, but I never thought about it, and Dad certainly never told me. Maybe we’ve just been lucky for the last five years. Who knows? I just want you to know it caught me in a moment of weakness, then that bastard Jeremy and his filthy lies, and I’m not really that stupid. Okay?”
“That’s quite okay. You aren’t the first girl to get lied to for sex, and you won’t be the last. Before I say anything else, though, Annie, I won’t ever lie to you. I know that may not mean much, as we’re neighbors, not lovers, but I don’t lie to anyone, and certainly not to a woman about anything but presents. Gifts and such.”
“So, let’s say we were married, and you were buying me a new car, but you’d tell me you were buying me a new softball glove?” I nodded. “My kind of man. Where’s this guest room you want to lock me in and have your way with me?”
“Why are you teasing me?”
“I’m not teasing. I’m broken hearted, on the rebound, horny as a two peckered billy goat, and you are the most handsome man in the building. I’m not teasing.”
“Can we talk, Annie?” She immediately went from happy Annie to sad Annie.
“Before we do, Chuck, I’m sorry. I’m not usually this outgoing, but I’ve got nothing left to save, and you look like a very, very nice person. I apologize. I’ll keep my remarks to myself and stop being so forward.”
“I think I understand what you’re feeling. I’ve been there. I can honestly say I didn’t see a woman and say what you did, but she ruined me. My second, and last one. I couldn’t think for weeks. I drank enough one time that I couldn’t stand. Almost killed me. Close to alcohol poisoning. That will never happen again. The next time, I’ll either be careful, or not become attached. I’m sorry. I did say you were a doll. You’re gorgeous. You are, but I’m not a love ‘em and leave ‘em kind of guy.”
“So, what if you stayed?”
“Persistent little thing, aren’t you?”
“Have you ever been with a really handsome man you are really attracted to after a really bad break up and he really saved you and your car from a really bad disaster?”
“Can’t say that I have. Has this really happened to you, recently? Really?”
“Yes. Kiss me, Chuck. Please. Tell me you don’t feel it.” I kissed her. Soundly. Unlike almost every kiss I’ve ever had. She was right. “I never felt that with Jeremy, Chuck. Never. I know what you’re saying, though. Go to bed. We’ll talk tomorrow. I’m sorry for sounding like such a slut.”
“You sound like a very, very heartbroken woman who needs someone to love her, Annie. I’ll tell you again. I’d like to apply for the position. When you’re ready.” She kissed me again and went to bed.
The morning brought sunshine. Such a dichotomy. A beautiful day over three feet of water. It was rising, still. I knocked on the guest room door. “Come in.”
“Rise and shine, sweetheart.” She looked sullen. I sat on the bed next to her and rubbed her arm as she lay on her side looking off toward the wall. “What’s wrong, Annie? Last night? You still worried about that?” She nodded. I leaned down and kissed in front of her ear. “Please don’t. Please. You’re too young and pretty to worry about your feelings for him, or for me, for that matter, getting in the way of your life. You are fine.”
“Hold me?” She started sniffling and crying, so I pulled her up into my lap and held her, rocking her, and petting her arm and her head. “I’m so sorry. I’m embarrassed. I’m ashamed. I’m worried that I might possibly have ruined a friendship, or more. I am really attracted to you, Chuck, and I’m afraid I might have driven you away.”
“I asked if I could apply for the job, Annie. You didn’t drive me away. I still think you’re the cat’s meow. A prize by any standard. Most certainly any I have. I’ll tell you what. Spend the day with me, make sure I’m not an axe murderer, or a juggling mime, or of trinary gender fluidity, and we’ll try again. Seriously, but I want you to make sure you could spend some long-term time with me if we do that, Annie. I won’t fuck you and run, I’m not that kind of guy. If I make love to you, there’s a good chance if it’s anything like that kiss last night, I’ll tie you to my bed and not want you to leave. Ever. That kiss was killer. I mean killer. You were right. I didn’t feel that way with either of my previous relationships. It was kind of electric.”
“As opposed to electronic. Another comparison. If a radio falls on you, you may live. Sorry. That was sick humor. Chuck, your kiss last night, I agree, was electric. I got heavy chested. I’ve never felt that, either. Love at first sight? No. Out on your steps when you gave me a hard time, I wanted to slap you with my paddle. But, Chuck, I want to see if we can make that happen again. The electricity. You have a deal. But the juggling mime thing? Now, that’s a show stopper. Icckkkk.” She giggled. I did too.
“Oh, no, men aren’t supposed to giggle. Maybe the trinary gender fluidity thing applies, too. Icckkkk.” She laughed, put her arms around my neck and hugged me, kissing my ear. I continued, “Thanks for understanding, Annie. You are going to be very easy to fall in love with. You are a special girl. I can feel it. Please don’t think I’m pushing you away. That couldn’t be farther from the truth, but doll, remember, I’m twenty-five years older than you. I just turned forty-five on the twenty-second of May.”
“Oh, God, you are old. Eewwww.” She giggled again. “We have the same birthday. Kiss me again, Chuck. Like you mean it. Like you want me. Like you were me, kissing you.”
Oh, what an invitation. I did, and we kissed for about ten minutes. I held her and touched most of her body. Petting her back, her arms, her legs, and at one point, her feet, made her shiver a couple of times.
“Application accepted. Let’s go check the juggling mime thing and see what we come up with. You live near any shopping centers?”
“Boone’s Crossing is on the way.”
We ate and motored over to her cabin, so she could shower and change. She had a blouse and a slightly longer pair of short shorts. Then we headed for the levee and my truck. Once we got into town, she shopped for shorts, skirts, cute tops, heels, some underclothes ... Wait ... Heels? Never mind. I’m in love. I took her to my house, showed her around and asked if she wanted to spend the night. She agreed, then we made sure all her new clothes fit, threw in some laundry and went into Clayton to find their house. There were a couple of people there working, looking like they were doing some trim work on the windows.
“Hello? I’m Annie Frost. My father sent me to talk to the contractor?”
“Yes, ma’am. Bill Meyer, Meyer Construction. How is your parents’ trip to Europe going?”
“It’s fine, sounds like. I spoke to him just yesterday, and he asked me to stop by and see if all was on schedule.”
“When you speak to him, you can tell him we’re actually one day ahead, but we have a month to go, so it’s looking good, but the baby doesn’t know it yet. No, bad joke. We just had a new one. My wife and I. Don’t tell him that. Tell him everything is fine, one day ahead at this point with twenty-five days to go.”
We were both laughing lightly at the baby joke. “Okay, Bill, I’ll tell him. Don’t mean to keep you, just checking. Thanks.” They said their goodbyes and off we headed to the supermarket. I wanted to make her a nice dinner. Lunch was at Red Robin, then shopping. I asked, but got no suggestions, save that anything was okay. She said if I wanted her to feed me, she would, but she really didn’t care what I made. Asparagus to zucchini, and all the meats, breads, fruits and vegetables in between were fine.
“OK, smart girl, if you were feeding me what would you buy?”
“A whole chicken, lemons, poultry seasoning, pepper, baby Yukon potatoes, brussels sprouts and a bottle of Asti. Oh, and your favorite ice cream.”
“Butter pecan. Prairie Farms or Blue Bunny.”
“How many nights off the river? One, or two.”
“Two. One to prove you’re not an axe murderer, and the second to make sure you don’t paint your face white and play with bowling pins. The gender thing doesn’t worry me. As nice as that kiss was, I don’t care if you’re a boy, or a girl, or a boy/girl, or a girl/boy, or ... Trinary is three. What’s four?” Another giggle. It didn’t take long. Chuck Carpenter had fallen in love overnight with a very nice, troubled, needy, soul.
“Fourinary? Hell, doll, I don’t know. That’s a social thing. I’m an engineer. We don’t know anything about people.” A smile, and her putting her arm around mine and kissing me below my shoulder as I pushed the cart around Schnucks just about made my day. We picked up the stuff for her chicken meal, and I got enough for steaks, plus we hit up the deli for sandwich meat, co-jack slices, and some faux crab salad for lunch. I had eggs and some bacon at home for breakfast, so with a loaf of sourdough in the cart, we were about fixed.
“Chips and dip, or popcorn for a movie? Netflix and chill?”
“Both, baby doll. Pick your poison. I’m very, very easy to please in the snack department.”
She grabbed some national favorites and we were set for the movies.
Back home, she told me to please sit at the kitchen bar which was on the back of the island and direct the destruction of my kitchen. What she really needed were directions to find different pans and utensils. She got them, while I sipped an old scotch, about her age, neat, and she sipped a gin and tonic every time she passed the bar on the way to, from, or around the island. She had a chicken split in half, cooked, and veggies on the side like she was a pro. She’s been living in the dorms, so this is a talented girl. And it was a five-star meal. Done, seasoned perfectly, and I even got a bite from her fork. Could not have been any better.
“Doll, that’s going to be hard to beat. Steaks, baked potatoes, and asparagus may not make the grade.”
“You’ll be fine. Just kiss me before we eat. It’ll be great.” I think she’s falling in love, too. This is way, way, too fast. I want to be afraid, but the kid in me is in love and I just want that even more. I really do.
After the movie, and popcorn, we turned in, her in the guest room. I showered, liking this one much more, as the water heater at the cabin tended to cycle hot and cold, and I hadn’t figured out why or been able to fix it yet. In any case, climbing into that bed was nice, and I fell asleep quickly, thinking about what it would be like to wake up with Annie. At one o’clock in the morning, she climbed into my bed, in a long Hello Kitty t-shirt, pulled my arm around her and told me, “I don’t think you’re a mime. I don’t think you have it in you. You’re too nice. Hold me, Chuck, and go back to sleep.” I did.
Morning came to me waking up with her in my arms. She showed me what it was like, and I wanted that. That was my final answer. I was going to make sure we were on the same wavelength, but I wanted Annie Frost. “Annie Frost, one more night, to prove I’m not an axe murderer, then I want to date you. I want to woo you. I want you. I’m sorry, but in two days, I’ve fallen utterly in love with the being that is Annie Frost.”
“Good, that will make this easier. Kiss me, love.” I kissed her. “I thought I loved Jeremy. I was with him, in many ways, for almost a year. In two days, I feel more with and for you, and you haven’t touched me yet. Really touched me, if you know what I mean. If that doesn’t tell somebody something, they aren’t listening. Chuck, no more axe murderer jokes. I want you to court me. Date me, woo me, make me yours, but please, don’t let me go. Two days. How is this possible without large amounts of alcohol in large cities in Nevada? A glass of Asti each does not a drunken sex filled romantic stupor make. We’re sober and falling in love. In two days. Kiss me again.” We kissed, and when she softly bit my tongue, my God, I thought I’d lose it in my pants, although I wasn’t wearing any. Jesus! “Breakfast and coffee. Show me and you’ll never have to again. The coffee, that is. Breakfast can be many things to many people.” More sweet giggles.
I showed her where the coffee maker was. They had one similar, same brand, so no problem. Dump water in, close the lid, coffee comes out. Good coffee. I made bacon and eggs, then she put together the toast. We sat and ate, asking each other over and over if this was moving too fast or if we both just finally found what we wanted in life. We both opted for option B and went from there. I took her shopping again, for a dress and shoes. I wanted to take her out to dinner, we could stretch our visit, do steaks at home tomorrow night, and go back to the river house the next morning. She asked if she could pick up a little make up kit, on me, so it wouldn’t show up on her dad’s credit card bill. Hell, yes. No problem. We found a little blue number, she got some hose, some sexy black high heeled sandals, and the makeup kit she wanted. As we were leaving the store, I saw they were having a sale on some jewelry, so I looked over and begged her to let me buy her a serpentine chain and a little pendant charm to hang on it for a necklace. She caved, then picked out a nice sapphire pendant. She said it was way too early in our relationship for a diamond pendant, but to bring her back next week. She giggled, I laughed, the sales lady thought we were crazy but was told it was nothing too weird, and off we went. It was her way of again acknowledging how fast we were falling in love, but that she wasn’t putting on the brakes, so much as just steering a little.
I got us a reservation at Florentine’s, a dinner dance place I went to quite a bit. I used to go a lot for both, but still go there for dinner quite often. I haven’t been dancing since number two did the ‘CUL8R’ thing. There was more to the message, but that’s how it ended. Not complicated, just something like, ‘I’ve met someone else that doesn’t work so much. Have a nice life, cul8r’. I got home and there was no sign of her. She didn’t live with me, but stayed over often, had a key, and kept a lot of stuff there. It was all noticeably not there when I got home that night. Just a key on the bar by the sink. Enough bad memories. I was starting over.
She retired to the guest room to get ready for our night on the town. I was wearing a dark blue suit and picked a tie that was pretty close to what I remember her dress looking like. I fixed us each a drink, then took them to her room. I knocked and was invited in. She had on one of the many guest robes, and she looked completely different. Her makeup, and it wasn’t shoveled on, believe me, changed her. It highlighted every one of her qualities to make her a stunningly beautiful woman.
“I love the look on your face right now. I told you this would happen. Oh, by the way, this is how models do it. This is how a lot of singers do it. I could name a few that are barely cute without, but boys fall in love with them in their makeup. One of them has the initials T.S. and was born in the late eighties. She’s more like me until she touches up this, that, and the other, then she’s devastatingly effing gorgeous. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan and I’d definitely do her if I was so inclined, without the makeup, but it does enhance her innate beauty.”
“You’d do her?”
“I told you the gender thing didn’t bother me. I’m falling in love with you, Chuck. If you’re gay, or a girl, or a whatever, I’m still falling in love with you. Wouldn’t that be fun, though. The three of us?” She giggled. “Is one of your legs feeling longer than the other, yet?”
“You little shit. I’m falling for you too, doll. Trust me. Here’s a drink for you. Take your time. We have a little over an hour and it’s only a few minutes away. Kiss me?” She did. “Jeez, Annie. You thrill me.”
“Same here, sir. I’ll be out in a bit. We can sit and chat for a bit then head out. Almost done. Really.”
I left her and went in to sit at the bar contemplating this firestorm of a relationship. I heard her leave the guest room and turned. Wowser. I could not believe the difference. She went from a nice-looking girl to a knockout, in a very short length of time. Amazing what a little makeup could do. When she came out, and down the hallway, it was worse. Better. Hell, I didn’t know. The blue dress, the necklace with the sapphire pendant, the stockings, the high heels. She was gorgeous.
“The look on your face is sooo worth any effort this was. Chuck, thank you. Your smile is compliment enough. Seriously, thank you.”
“Fabulous. You look fabulous. I like this you, Annie. I really do, but remember, I’m falling in love with the other you. The real you? This is a real you, too ... Open mouth, insert foot...”
“Stop, Chuck. I know what you meant. This is what I talked about. My love, my husband, my mate, will love me like that, the real me without makeup and hair-do, and like me like this. Exactly as you said. I remember Jeremy asking me to wear my makeup a lot. I should have known about him a long time ago. Girls are silly. Boys are assholes. Whatcha gonna do?”
“Come, love. Let’s go show off a little. You are gorgeous. Next time ... Oh, never mind.”
I looked at her. “Sorry. I was thinking was that next time I could take the other you and these people would have me pegged for two gorgeous girlfriends. You look that different, honey. You really do.”
“That would be mean. And fun. Count me in, if you want to do that. Do you know people there?”
“A few. I see friends there once in a while. Not always. Never mind. It was a silly idea and I shouldn’t have mentioned it. From here on out, the girl that walks out and holds my hand is the one I’m taking dancing. Period.”
“We’ll see. Chuck. Uhmmm. There’s another one, too. It takes a bit longer on my eyes and I do my hair a lot different, but if you want three girlfriends, I can help you out. I’ll be your pimp and provide you some strange now and again.” She giggled. I turned three different shades of red. “Sorry.”
We pulled up to the club and thankfully I had regained my composure. The valet came around as I was getting out. “Good evening, Mr. Carpenter. Welcome back to Florentine’s.”
“Evening, Chad. Thank you.” I handed my date out of the car and into the building we walked.
“Hey, Annie. How are you this evening?” the girl at the door said to my date.
“Oh, hi! Becky, I’m doing great. Good to see you. How are you doing these days? Long time no see.”
“Fine. Attending off campus at Maryville down the road while Mom is laid up. Oh, hey, Mr. Carpenter. Nice to see you again as well. Together? Annie? Mr. Carpenter? Oh, my Lord, the moons have aligned on the Aphrodite System.”
“Hi, Rebecca. Yes, we’re being seen together. Please tell your mother I said ‘Hello’. I hope she’s better soon. They ever catch the guy?”
“I don’t know how, but yes. A forensics auto body specialist somehow found his car in a garage in Arnold. He’s in jail. He was drunk, in his truck, when they pulled him over. He won’t get insurance again after they pay for what he did. Go on in. Annie, Mr. Carpenter can fill you in. It’s really good seeing you again.”
“You, too, Becky.” They hugged then we went inside.
“You know Rebecca?”