I sat in the church, stone-faced. It was the only way I could control my emotions. I was oblivious to the words the minister was saying. It was grief that was causing the way I looked and felt. The casket was only four paces in front of me, and its contents held all the hopes, dreams and happiness as well as the body that had been in my heart for the last three years. Now my heart was empty of everything. At least I had the chance to say good-bye. That was something to be thankful for even as her soul slipped from this realm and the Lord whisked it away.
Angie and I had for three years a unique union filled with love. I met her on the side of the highway asking for work so she could buy food. I needed a housekeeper and I stopped and hired her for that position. Within months and before the summer was over, we were in love. I was and still am a teacher and she was waiting on her first teaching position. At the time I was coming out of a relationship that had ended in divorce shortly before I met her. Nearly the same thing was happening to Angie except she wasn't married to the man. Her break-up was much worse than mine in the sense she had aborted the fetus she was carrying at the time.
I was four years older than Angie and I suppose that much more settled and mature. We both needed something and we found it in each other. With the same common interests in teaching it was easy to make a happy life together.
That first summer was special for we tutored some teenage students who each had their own problems, and we guided them in growing into adults. Angie and I still received cards and e-mails from most of them. Two of them, Pete and Gail, had matured into young adults and last year they were married. The love between them had blossomed the first time I went camping with my students. Never in God's world would I have believed the attraction that turned to love would last. In fact the words of advice I gave them cautioned them that it wouldn't last when they fell in love so young. But then Angie and I had set an example and they followed it. Angie was there for Gail and participated in the wedding as her matron of honor.
Betty, one of the younger students, graduated and now eighteen, had become a model of some renown and had steady work. She was under contract to three different agencies as a clothing model. Her success she said was due to our help in getting her started. Andy, also one of Angie's students, who was destined at the time to become a basketball player, injured his knee on the court as a senior and couldn't finish out the season. Taking it in stride, he turned to other interests and was presently planning on a career as an architect. These students kept in close contact with us and were in the congregation sitting behind me.
Pat, one of the other students we tutored, was playing college football and was being scouted by some of the national teams. He was here as well. Debra, the last of the six students--I tried to keep my thoughts away from her. Especially here today with Angie's body right in front of me. Angie had known where Debra located after she graduated. When we were first married Angie mentioned her quite often.
One evening when we were cuddled up on the couch as close as could be I said, "Angie, if you don't mind, I wish you wouldn't talk about Debra so much. Before we were married, I was attracted to her. There was an attraction, but she was so young. Maybe it wasn't so much physical, it was just that we seemed to understand each other. I don't want to be reminded of it. Can you understand where I'm coming from?"
Angie sat up and turned the light on full and looked into my face. "Hank, I thought you would be happy to hear about her and what she is doing. Is your attraction for her still there?"
"I wouldn't think so. I'm totally happy with you. I'll admit at one time I did fantasize about what it would be like to take her in my arms and make love to her. That night we went out to the club to dance was when I was just a little uncertain that I could control my feelings. Before the night was over I told her I was going to ask you to marry me. From that moment on she became a friend--a mature and understanding friend. You notice when we dropped her off at her door she just kissed me on the cheek. I do know she was attracted to me as well, but she knew my love was elsewhere.
"I know you talk to her over the phone. I imagine you talk about me some." I grinned and added, "You are always talking about me to everyone. Let me ask you not for myself, but for her. Does she ask about me or do you just tell her about me? If she doesn't ask about me, maybe she wants to forget me like I want to forget her. Would you think about it?"
"You do love me don't you? You love me and you want to make sure nothing comes between us. Oh, I'm so lucky to have you. I'm going to keep you forever."
A couple of weeks after that conversation Angie said, "Hank, one time I'll refer back to our conversation about Debra. I've talked to her twice since we spoke about her. You were right. She never asked about you at all. Before our last conversation was over, she seemed to change. I think she is much more my friend now than when I gushed about you all the time. You don't mind if I continue to talk to her do you? We even might get together sometimes. Friends do that, you know." I had some little doubt about this, but I let it go. If these two women wanted to discuss me out of my presence--so be it.
"Do it. I have no objections at all. Just keep me out of it." This happened two years ago. Angie, three or four times a year, went to visit Debra in Washington. I was welcome to go with her, but I always declined. I won't say I forgot Debra, but then I pushed the thoughts away and she became just the student I had taught in the past and one I remembered fondly. Angie seldom mentioned her again. I didn't know what she was doing or where she lived other than it was in DC.
My mind returned reluctantly away from Angie and Debra to the present. The services were just about over. The minister was asking if anyone wanted to say anything about Angelina Rawlings. Several students stood and tried to say something about their teacher, but most were incoherent because they were crying so hard. None of the students from our first summer school said anything. Her father Frank spoke. He just said that Angie had been troubled in her youth, but had found a wonderful man who had made her happy for the last three years. He was thankful that she had found joy in her work and in her home life. I couldn't look at him for that would have broken the shell I had built around myself to get through the ordeal today.
Soon it was over and those behind me came down the aisle and filed by the casket. The majority were crying. Was this the measure of what people had felt about my wife? She was so young and her life had been wiped away so unexpectedly. She was well-loved and would be missed by all who had known her.
As my ex-wife filed by, I put my hand out and pulled her and Lyman to my side. "Shirley, please stay by me until this is over. I need some support at the cemetery. I still can't believe this has happened. It is just not fair."
"Of course Hank. We'll be with you." Shirley and Angie had never become more than acquaintances. Angie felt that Shirley had treated me like dirt and no one treated her husband like that, even if it happened before she came on the scene. That was between Angie and Shirley. I had an easy friendship with both her and Lyman. He who had taken Shirley from me. We didn't socialize at all, but occasionally Lyman and I had a beer together. I was so happy with Angie that I sometimes forgot that I had once been married to Shirley.
I struggled through the committal service and returned to the church for some lunch that was put on by the ladies. Gail and Betty were by my side and I derived solace from them. Shirley could see that although I had asked her for support, these two young women were those I clung to, they being so close to both Angie and me. Frank and Helen, Angie's parents, were as lost as I was and turned to Shirley, who they had known when I was married to her.
Finally the last of those who had come to the funeral slowly came to me expressing their regrets and eventually I was left alone with Helen and Frank. They were staying for a few days in the now empty and lonely home that I had shared with Angie. Gail told me before leaving that she had sent an e-mail to Debra about Angie's death, but had not received a response in return.
None of us were hungry. There had been food supplied by the church ladies, but we hadn't eaten anything then and didn't want anything now. The three of us sat in the living room and stared at the floor. Finally Helen asked, "What are you going to do Hank? What are you going to do about the woman who killed Angie?"
"What am I going to do? I don't know. I guess Angie being gone hasn't hit me yet. As far as the woman that ran into Angie, I'll most likely do nothing. She has her own problems and I'm not going to add to them. She lost her child in the accident. She was clearly at fault and I imagine the law will deal with her on that. You're wondering if I'm going to sue? No. Her insurance company will cover my material losses. I lost Angie and they can't replace her. Money would remind me of what I lost and I'm sure it would remind me of the mother and father who lost their baby.
"It is odd. I always wanted a family and kids. I've had two wives and both are gone. It looks as if it isn't in the cards for me. I'm soon to be thirty-one. Do I want another wife? I just don't know. I do know one thing. You two will always be my in-laws whether I marry again or not. We have been through so much together. You know, I have always called you Frank and Helen. I wouldn't like to change anything between us."
"Of course Hank, you became our son when you married Angie."
Frank and Helen stayed with me for four days before heading north and home.
In a way I was glad to see them leave because Frank couldn't mention Angie without breaking down and shedding a few tears. As of yet I hadn't done that. I was waiting to be alone in my grief. The first night alone I went to bed just after the ten o'clock news.
It had been an unusually warm day and as the house cooled off it moaned, and there was some snapping in the attic from the night-time cooling of the building. I felt it was Angie talking to me. Tears poured forth as I carried on a verbal conversation with her. Finally exhausted, I slept. I dreamed then of Angie by my side and we did all the good things that made our life happy together. The camping at the lake and the picnics she planned. Times when she became uninhibited as out in a boat on the lake by taking all of her clothes off and daring me to do the same. Times with her parents at Christmas--only three of these, but they were the happiest of times.
I lingered in bed and didn't want to get up, knowing when I did my Angie might never return to me ever again in my dreams.
I smelled coffee. It must be one of the neighbors or Shirley who had come in. I raised out of bed and went into the bathroom. I looked like I felt. I quickly showered and shaved. I even put on some after shave and carefully combed my hair. No one was to ever know how bad my night had been if I could help it.
When I went into the kitchen it was empty, but the coffee cup was filled. I sat down and took a sip. Suddenly my eyes were covered by a pair of hands. Slowly some lips came down and bussed my neck. And then as awkward as it was, they came around and kissed my lips. The fingers felt my eyelids and brushed them shut. I understood I was to keep them closed. I could hear the woman walk around to the far side of the table and seat herself.
I waited just a moment and then I opened my eyes. Debra sat across from me. I had last seen her at her graduation. "Hi Hank, remember me?"
"Yes Debra, of course. How are you?"
"Sad and missing Angie. It was she who asked me to come to you. She asked me to come to you if anything ever happened to her. This way I might help you get over the worst of your grief. This was a conversation we had more than a year ago. At that time she said she was just so happy with you she feared it wouldn't last. So here I am."
"She stayed with you when she was in Washington? I knew I suppose, but we never talked about you."
"Yes, every time she came to town. I'll tell you more about that sometime. How are you holding up?"
"Pretty good. We spent last night together if you can understand that. I hadn't faced her being gone until I went to bed. I'm ready to face life again this morning. Have you had breakfast? I'm hungry." Debra started to rise.
"No sit. I need to be doing something." I busied myself with eggs, bacon and toast. I glanced often at this former student of mine. I knew she was not more than twenty-one at most. She looked to be five or six years older and had matured into a beautiful woman. Maybe it was the suit she was wearing. I could tell she was as thin as she was when I last saw her. Never full busted, you could still tell she was woman. Her hair was cut in a short executive style. She smiled up at me when I placed a glass of orange juice before her.
Sitting opposite from her, I started the conversation. "You probably know just about everything about me. I don't know a thing about you. What you are doing or even where you live. Tell me about yourself."
"I live in Washington of course, and work on the staff of a senator from one of the New England states. I'm a low-level secretary. Mostly just shuffling papers and filing. It's a very boring job, but I do get to meet a lot of people." I looked at her and believed her, but there was that odd look on her face that puzzled me. I let it pass.
"Do you have a man in your life? You are very attractive. I don't mean to get personal, I just want to know about you."
"I have a lot of friends that are men, but no particular one. I'm still looking for that alpha-male to come in and capture my heart and mind as well as my body. I still remember the talk you gave about males and females and the roles they play in God's plan. It made sense then and even more as I see people interacting in different relationships."
I thought that over before I asked another question. I think I knew what she was telling me. The next question was to clear it up. "Are you one who goes out in the evening searching and never finding what you need to make your life complete?"
"Hank, we could always talk plainer than this. That's what I liked about you. Remember you asked me at the camp that time if I was a virgin and I admitted I wasn't. That was when you were trying to prevent Pete from screwing Gail. You needed to know how to stop it before you got to talk to them. It shocked Angie that you would do such a thing. Nothing has changed." She giggled. "I'm still not a virgin.
"Look I have a very varied sex life. I'm a very discreet escort if you want to put a label on me. I have someone that arranges dates for me and most of the men I date I see more than once. They all come through the escort agency. There is never any money or presents that I accept directly from my dates. This keeps up the fantasy in the realm of man and woman dating. There isn't one of my dates that doesn't treat me with respect."
"Why are you telling me this?"
"Because I promised Angie I would if anything ever happened to her. The kiss I gave you a little while ago was from her. It was just so you would be aware that although she is gone, life hasn't stopped for you."
"Okay you have fulfilled your promise to Angie. What about you? Maybe you should tell me first about your past relationship with my wife."
"That's easy. We were sisters, maybe even closer than sisters. We shared all of our thoughts about everything. That is why Angie came down to Washington to visit. She knew everything about my life. I shared every last detail about my dates and she shared everything about you with me. She knew how much I thought of you and how I hungered for details. It has been a fair swap."
"Did she ever go out on dates with you?"
"God no! I wouldn't have allowed it. I never went out when she was in town."
I hesitated, but there was one more question that needed an answer. "Was there anything physical between you two?"
"No Hank. I'm not saying I didn't love her, but it never has been that way. She was the ultimate sister and that only."
I got up and refilled our coffee cups. I was puzzled for Debra had laid her life bare before me. Did she want to step right into my life now that Angie was gone? It was too soon. The only way to find out the answers were to ask. "Why are you here and what do you want?"
"Nothing today, Hank. I came because I made a promise to Angie. I couldn't be here for her funeral. I just wanted you to know how close Angie and I were. We shared some life that was apart from you, but you were always there. I wanted you to know that as well. I have to leave this afternoon. The senator who I work for is not going to run for office next term. I could stay working for the new senator for he will likely be of the same party. Let me correct that. He will be caucusing with the same party.
"My contract with the escort service will be completed by election time. I could pick one of the single men I date and get married. Many of them have asked me to be their wife. It would be a comfortable existence, but it isn't what will make me happy."
I didn't ask what would make her happy. I went on to something else. "Are you coming back here and live with your father? You were close if I remember correctly."
"I may be coming back, but I won't be living with him. He has finally found a wife. My mother lives out on the west coast and has nothing to do with either of us. He gave up expecting her to reconcile and has divorced her. My stepmother is nice enough, but they don't need me around."
"So what will you be doing?"
"Not sure yet. I'm still casting around for something. Of course I could start my own escort agency."
I kept my face as neutral as possible. "Do you think that would be wise?"
Debra broke into a smile. "Hank, that was a joke. I just wanted to see if you had changed. You are never judgmental. You look at everything, ask questions and then let the person make up his own mind. Look at me. We've been sitting here with me telling you I am a whore and you have acted just the same as if I was a school teacher like you. No, I have decided to become a practical nurse. Classes start after the first of the year."
"That's not one of the easiest professions."
"I know, but I doubt I am intelligent enough to be a teacher or a registered nurse. One thing about me is I have always known my limitations. Angie was going to help me with my studies just like when you two tutored me, but she can't now. I'll have to ask someone else to help me."
"Can I extend my offer to help?"
"When the time comes we will see. It is nice of you to offer." She started to say more, but instead asked, "Can I do anything for you before I leave today? I'm meeting Gail and Betty for lunch so we only have a couple of hours."
"No, Betty and Gail are coming over within a few days and pack some things away for me. I'm depending on them for a lot, but they don't seem to mind. They loved Angie just like you do and are helping me get beyond her being gone."
"Hank, could you tell me how the accident happened? Betty has tried to but she ends up crying every time."
"Yes, but I may end up doing the same. I do need to talk about it. It is so unfair, I don't understand it myself. Angie was coming home from a shopping trip. It happened on the freeway that circles the city about seven miles from here. A young mother was talking on the phone to her husband. It isn't known for certain yet, but I was told she may have dropped her phone and reached for it when it slipped down to the floor. Distracted, she took her eyes off the road and when she looked up she was crossing the median.
"Angie saw the car coming at her and tried to avoid the oncoming vehicle. She twisted the wheel and our car spun out so that the rear bumper hit the passenger side of the other car. The bumper hit the back door right where there was a young baby of two restrained in the back seat. There was no hope for the child.
"Angie's car flipped up and over the other car and slammed into a cement post. I got a call from her on her cell telling me she had an accident and asked me to come to her. I got there while they were trying to extricate her. She was lucid all this time and held my hand, but all the while getting weaker and weaker. We had maybe fifteen minutes before she was unable to talk. The love we had time to express for each other has held me together. It is something to hang onto. Angie did not come away from the wreckage alive. I was holding her hand when I was told she was gone. It took another half hour to free what was left of her.
"The father of the child that was killed was there at the other vehicle. The woman caused me to lose Angie, but I feel terrible for their loss. I'd like to send a message of condolence, but the last I heard the husband was blaming Angie for their baby's death. It's a mess."
"That is terrible. This happened all because the mother was talking on a cell phone?"
"Yes." I related this all to Debra without breaking down. She came into my arms and we hugged. Then the tears started in for both of us. We just held each other until Debra said, "This isn't good, talk about something else. Hank do you still tutor students?"
"Yes we did, but I don't think I will ever again. Angie and I always used the loft and made it kind of fun. You remember. We even did some in the winter time. I put heat up in the loft. There was never as much fun as that first summer with you and the gang. We all were so close." I sobbed once and then controlled myself.
"So you think you will be coming here to live and become a nurse. Where will you be going to classes? You'll be getting an apartment I imagine. I hope it will be close enough so we can get together sometimes. It is strange, but I feel closer to Angie when I'm talking to you. It will take awhile to get over her. You can help me with that. I'd like to know everything that you talked about when she was visiting."
"I will. I won't start looking for a place until I get back here. I might even stay with you a few days. That will give us a chance to talk."
"Okay, I'll look forward to it. How are your finances? Are you going to be able to afford tuition?"
"Yes. What I have been doing has paid me very well. I want to get out though. I've been lucky and don't want to be trapped into that lifestyle. I wouldn't be doing this now if Karen, a fellow employee, hadn't suggested it would be a way to have fun and earn money. She pointed out that it might be more lucrative and safer if I treated it as a part-time job. We became friends soon after that. It was she that introduced me to the man. He is someone who she knows who arranges dates for her.
"What she does is strange to me. She loves him and he acts as if he loves her. The weird part is that he arranges dates for her to go out on. The same kind of dates as he gets for me. Anyway, I was giving it away if I found my date was nice and decided I might as well get paid for it. Everything was spelled out and I have a signed contract.
"It has made my life safer, but it does make a person feel kind of different. Karen has been doing it for years and she is still just as nice as can be. Many of these dates are married men that work in the administration or Congress as staffers. None of my men are wild. Some are just lonely and go home to their wives and families on weekends. I declare I would make a great spy. They talk because they believe I am trustworthy. I know more damned secrets about a whole lot of things."
Debra paused as if to share something with me that she wouldn't ordinarily. "Hank may I leave a bundle of papers with you. It has a copy of my contract in it and the names of several of my dates. My contract is almost up and although I don't anticipate any problems with ending my association, I want to be sure. Sometimes it is easier getting into these things than getting out of them. Angie was going to bring the papers home with her the next time she came to visit."
"Yes, of course. I'll keep them for you. Really, how serious is this?"
"Not serious at all. But you know me and I always plan ahead now. You taught me that. Remember, I didn't look ahead enough to receive passing grades and you had to tutor me. That was the last time I didn't look ahead." I didn't think Debra was telling me everything about the papers she was handing to me.
Debra got ready to leave. I put the small box she had given me into a wall safe that was shielded behind some books in the corner cupboard. "Deb, if you need these suddenly, the combination to the safe is written here behind the left drape on the second window casing."
"You would trust me that much, Hank?"
"Yes, remember we have always been able to talk plain. I dared ask if you were a virgin one time. This is a different situation, but no different in the trust we have between us." Tears came to Debra's eyes and she came and hugged me.
"God, I can understand now why Angie loved you so much. Angie wouldn't mind if I kissed you again. This kiss is mine though, not hers." I walked her out to her car. Her words before she rolled the window up were, "I'll see you sometime around Thanksgiving or maybe just before. Bye for now. You're the best."
I suppose I should be more lonely now that Debra had left. I wasn't. She was the closest friend that Angie had and that brought me close to my wife again. The feelings I had for Deb were something for the future. I knew they were coming, but it wasn't time to let the memories of Angie go yet. We had been so happy together. I still could conjure up her laugh and her face when she was happy or sad and when she was serious. They would recede into the past over time--I knew that.
I drifted back to the night Angie and I first had sex. It was after a night out and we had been together long enough to get comfortable with each other. It was what I had looked forward to, but I let her govern our relationship in that respect. The rules she set--no sex during the week--only after the one night I took her out each weekend. It was just something that made my relationship unique with the person I finally asked to be my wife.
When Shirley first divorced me, I let the house cleaning and repairs go and that is when I needed a housekeeper to get things back in order. Angie was gone, but I wouldn't let things go this time. It would be as if I was rejecting all of what Angie had stood for if I did. I set about doing the dishes and then vacuumed. All the while I did this I talked to Angie. People, if they heard me, would think I had gone off the deep end. I hadn't--it was just my way of coping. I even had a tuna fish sandwich for lunch. This was our favorite meal and one we shared with our students.
I went through the house room by room. I didn't hurry and would spend a day just doing one room. It was all a process of coping and dealing with the grief that reached me when I least expected it. When I did the master bathroom, I looked for cleaning supplies under the vanity.
There was a metal box along the back and behind the various cleaning items. I didn't ever remember seeing it before. I pulled it out and sat on the bed looking at it. Instinctively I knew it held something of Angie's that was personal to her. It revealed a diary for one thing. It hadn't been started until after she and I had become intimate. Some of the entries were pretty explicit.
There were several photos of us taken at various times at a club while we were dancing or sitting at a table. Usually they were of us sharing an intense moment and a light shining on the love that was blatantly displayed. Angie must have returned and bought these from the photographer the next day.
There were snaps of me taken when I was unaware. The lake at the cabin and me up in the loft with the students. Even one of mowing the lawn and with me grinning at her. Some I remembered, but most I didn't. They would be treasured. It was our life together laid out for me to keep. I whispered a "thank you" for the keepsakes that she had taken the time to compile.
There was a packet of papers that held information about Debra. One was a map of how to get to Deb's apartment. An address and phone number for both her apartment and her office. There were pictures of Deb in her apartment. There was a four by seven snapshot of a man. He was maybe forty and dressed expensively. Across the back Angie had scribbled, "Debra's man. I don't like him. He kept suggesting that Deb entice me into going out when I was in town. She swore at him. I guess I am a little afraid of him. She should be too."
Suddenly I was worried for Debra. It was as if a cold wind had blown over me and left a heaviness in my chest. What had Debra contracted for--or more critical, how was she going to be able to get out of what she had been doing? Now I knew how important those papers were that she had stored in my safe downstairs. Nothing I could do for the present, but I would think on it.
I cleaned the toilet bowl, tub and shined all of the fixtures. After all that is what I came up here to do. I took a call from Gail asking how I was and later I called Frank and Helen. Helen said Frank was doing better now that he had reached home where Angie's presence wasn't so obvious as it was here with me.
It had been a busy day and I retired earlier than usual. Maybe it was to see if Angie would come to me in my dreams as she had the first night I was alone.
It was a month until school commenced and I certainly didn't want to go on a vacation anywhere. I was curious about what Debra had left in my wall safe. I had a bad feeling about Deb's situation. This was brought on by what I had found in Angie's diary and what she had said about her feelings of "the man." I at least wanted to know his name.
I looked first at the contract. Debra had gone to work for him three months before the election two years ago. She was of age according to the contract, but her age was listed as twenty-four rather than her actual age of eighteen. I knew her to be this age when she graduated. She had added six years. I wasn't surprised that she was able to pass herself off as being that old. She was just so together and carried herself that well. The other details just spelled out how she was to get paid, her hours, what she would and wouldn't do.
I was dumbfounded at the amount of salary she was able to demand. Any tips she received were to be paid to the agency, but they were hers and hers only--not to be shared. The only other name on the contract other than hers was an Orrin Wheelock. That had to be the man. I looked at the other papers. Crap! This was a little black book!
Debra had listed nineteen names of men that she had dated. I didn't recognize any of them, but I certainly knew the names that some of her dates were associated with. Debra had listed these as well. Apparently her dates were staff members of different politicians. Deb wasn't screwing the politicians themselves, but the next lower level. There was plenty of dirt on the principals though. Things that would sink many a political career if they became known.
I put things away and thought about my former student. One thing was clear--she wasn't ashamed of what she was doing. She saw that it might be dangerous and was just protecting herself. Was there a way I could see that she was in a safer position than she was right now?
I didn't think much about Angie that night. In fact I didn't sleep much either. When I finished breakfast in the morning I set to work and did some things that Debra might not approve of, but that I felt necessary. Deb had planned ahead, but I saw holes in the planning. It was just too weak in some areas.
It took a week to complete my plans and then I used the phone number I had found in Angie's things and called Debra's work number. "May I speak to Debra Huntley, please?" I was questioned about who was calling and why I wanted to speak to Debra during office hours. "This is Hank Rawlings, one of her former school teachers. I'm coming into Washington next week and I want to set up a time when we might visit."
"Certainly, I'll track her down. Give me five and then I will connect you."
Three minutes later, "What's up Hank? I never expected to hear from you. Are you all right?"
"I'm fine. Look, I'm coming into town next week. Can I see you? It is important, I think."
"Why Hank, are you asking for a date?"
"Not in the strictest sense. I do think we need to talk. It concerns planning ahead. You said you were into that."
There was silence. Then, "You've been poking around haven't you? I should be mad." More silence for I didn't say anything. "I'm not. In fact I think I'm relieved."
"Yes I have been snooping and I'm concerned. How about me picking you up Tuesday in front of your office building when you get off from work? What time do you leave work?" Arrangements were made. That night my mind was at ease enough so Angie was the only one that occupied my dreams.
I had to drive my pick-up for Angie's car hadn't been replaced yet. I swung into the curb at the pick-up/drop-off area in front of Debra's office. She came away from the building where she was standing and slid into the seat next to me. "Hi."
"Hi yourself. Did you have to wait long?"
"Fifteen minutes, but I wasn't worried. Traffic is a bitch this time of day. Do you want to go to my apartment?"
"No. I don't think I should in case someone wants to connect us at a later time."
"Hank, you are scaring me. I'm not worried. I've always been treated with respect and have pretty much been in control of my dealings. It is Orrin that you are concerned about isn't it?"
"Yes Orrin. Just say it is a feeling that bothers me. Let's talk about what the worst thing that could happen is if he isn't as nice as you give him credit for. I'll buy you dinner if you can find a decent place that doesn't need reservations."
"The restaurant has been reserved. I took the liberty." Debra pointed us toward Virginia and although early we ordered a dinner. "Now tell me why you thought it necessary to drive a hundred miles to see me?"
"Okay, let me lay out my feelings and why I'm concerned. You've been working for him for about two years. Except for some minor details you have agreed to everything he has wanted. The clients he has placed you with have been increasingly important to the administration. He must know that as intelligent as you are, you have learned a lot of secrets. Someone will be worried about that if not him personally. That person will try to have you contained.
"If you continue working for him, there would be no problem, but if you quit, then it might make someone nervous. You have done well to plan ahead as far as you have, but you need to do more. I'm just thinking of you."
"There must be more that bothers you?"
"Yes, it is Orrin himself. He has placed you with the clients and evidently searched out those that are willing to pay a premium. He isn't going to want to lose that income by having to find someone to replace you and it will take time. I predict he will start putting pressure on you to continue as an escort."
Debra was silent for a moment. "Orrin did mention that we should get together and discuss a new contract. He was pleasant enough about it and I didn't give him any answer. I certainly haven't told him my plans of returning to my home town."
"How about the money you have earned? Where is that located?"
"It is in a bank here in the city and he has been assigned a personal banker. He makes the deposits and gives me an accounting. Damn Hank, he wouldn't steal it would he?" I looked intently at Debra and she answered her own question. "Hank would you stay over and go to the bank with me in the morning? I want to get it straightened out before you go back home."
"I could. I need to find a motel."
"There is one next to the restaurant. There was a vacancy sign when we came in." Her face reddened. "They know me. I've stayed there before."
"That's good. I don't have but one piece of luggage."
When we went to the desk and asked for a room, it surprised the clerk when I asked for a room with twin beds. Debra didn't need to, but explained, "This is my brother in town for a few days." I don't think she was believed.
Deb didn't want to go back to her apartment so we made a stop at a discount store for some items she said she needed. Then we went to a sports bar and watched a baseball game, and then went to my motel. I suppose I should have been nervous or felt awkward being in the same room with one of my former students. I wasn't though. I took a shower and put on a robe over my pj's and watched television while Debra took her shower. She came out with a robe on and sat next to me.
"I'll call in sick at the office in the morning. That will be only the third time in two years, so it won't be a problem. We'll go to the bank first thing. Hank, you might think me odd, but even if I lose the money, it won't kill me. It never has been about that. I knew it was a lifestyle I wanted to live for awhile. You do feel a certain power when you are on the arm of some of these men. That is out of my system. I want something different now. If I find what I'm hoping for, I'll be totally satisfied."
"Do you want to share what that would be?"
"Not yet. After all I'm still living this life. In three months when it is over and I'm back home, I'll tell you. Okay?"
"Wise decision." That was the last exchange before I got into bed and said good night. In the morning I awoke and turned over facing the bed that Debra was sleeping in. She was just getting up. This morning she didn't have a robe on of course. She swung out of bed and stood and stretched. She was in a teddy outfit of black and red. It didn't hide much and her form was exquisite.
She turned as she slipped on her robe and saw my eyes on her. "Good morning Hank. Did you sleep well?"
"Yes. You know I can understand why you have been such a success as an escort. You are truly beautiful."
"Thank you. Coming from you that means a lot to me. I have to use the bathroom. When you are ready we will get some breakfast at a diner I know. It isn't too far from here." She turned as I swung out of bed. I put my pants on and was waiting for her to come back so I could use the facility.