Don't get any funny ideas!

©2016 Glory Lennon All Rights Reserved

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Waiting to fall

“You look chipper,” Dave said during a commercial break. He stuffed chips into his mouth and watched his cousin-in-law shrewdly.

“Do I? Must be because I don’t care if the Broncos lose,” Mark retorted smirking.

“You’re getting some, aren’t you?” Dave asked grinning. “About time. It’s been two years since Patty died. Good to know you didn’t die along with her.” He saw Mark’s grin vanish and replaced with his usual disapproving scowl. Dave knew he considered him a cretin. You’d think he’d get used to it by now. They’d known each other since they were kids. Dave had been a cretin then, too.

Mark gnashed his teeth together, took a deep breath and slowly exhaled counting to ten before he answered, if he chose to answer. Sometimes he didn’t. He learned this trick from Patty who always had to deal with disagreeable people.  Dave could be disagreeable without even trying.

 “No, I’m not,” Mark replied stoically.

Dave stuffed more chips into his mouth getting crumbs all over the sofa and said,   “Come on, Mark. Cindy told me about you and Trudy. You've been dating her for what? three weeks?”

“And how does that equate did you so crudely put it? Getting some?” Mark asked irritably.

“Trudy’s a librarian,” Dave said as if that explained it all.

Mark frowned. “So?” he asked.

“Do I have to spell it out for you?” Dave asked, incredulous.

“You might have to....unfortunately,” Mark muttered. He already wished he’d just ignored the first question.

“It’s the quiet ones you gotta watch out for. They’re wild in bed once the glasses come off and the hair is let down,” Dave said wisely.

Mark groaned inwardly. He truly didn’t want to get into that with this guy. Dave could turn a Disney movie into an erotic flick without even blinking. “She doesn’t wear glasses and I’ve only ever seen her with her hair down,”he replied calmly.

“See? I knew you were getting some,” Dave retorted carelessly.

“We’re just friends,” Mark said sternly.

“She must be good. Charlie couldn’t keep his hands off her. Not that I blame him. She is hot,” Dave said completely ignoring his friend. “You should get on that before someone takes your place. Only so many good ones out there and you can’t expect her to wait forever. Girls have needs too.”

“She’s not like that,” Mark snapped.

“Sure she is. She’s just playing hard to get so you don’t call her a ....”

“I would never call her anything except a wonderful person still grieving over her husband,” he cut in brusquely.

“It’s been over two years for her, same as you.”

“And yet it feels like only two months and sometimes, two weeks,” Mark said sadly.

Dave sighed. He felt bad for the guy. Would he ever get over his wife’s death? Well, not if he didn’t get some!  “Don’t you think she’s pretty?” he persisted.

Mark could see Trudy before his eyes as if the game on the huge flat-screen TV had been replaced by her image. She was beyond beautiful, from her  honey-colored head to her pretty little feet and everything in between. Her baby-blue eyes haunted his dreams. He awoke caressing his pillow and wishing it was her soft, creamy skin instead of the 400 thread count sheets. Her sweet smile ignited a flame deep in his gut whenever he thought of it. Her laughter delighted him. And oddly enough she liked to listen to him babble on incessantly.

It baffled him. She was so different from Patty.  He was used to Patty’s constant chatter and his need to fight to get a word in edgewise. It wasn’t like that with Trudy. Cindy had told him Trudy was quiet but he never imagined just how quiet and yet it didn’t matter. She could communicate without speech. He could tell what she meant with the slightest gesture, a subtle look and a scant few words. It was startlingly simple yet vastly complex.

She was fascinating, she and her silent language.  He wanted to study her like he had done with his medical books at school. Just watching the various expressions float across her face riveted him like a new surgical procedure.

 Patty had kept him centered and focused but when she died his world shifted precariously. A part of him had died along with her. Trudy had brought a balance back to him without him realizing it until now. He knew it was due to her, this feeling alive again. Just being in her presence eased the dull ache Patty’s death caused. If he didn’t know better he’d say he was falling in love. Yes, love did that.

He wished he could do the same for her but that wasn’t likely. He caught her with that far-off look in her eyes that he recognized as his own longing for Patty. She was surely thinking of her Charlie, the love of her life.

“You’re going out with her, so, you must like her,” Dave said, cutting into his thoughts.

“What?” Mark said, distracted.

“Trudy. Don’t you think she’s sexy?” Dave asked impatiently.

Sexy didn’t even begin to cover it but he wasn’t about to say that to a cretin like Dave. “She’s very nice.”

“Nice?” Dave shouted, incredulous.

“Yes, she’s attractive,” Mark relented.

“So why aren’t you getting it on with her?”

Losing his temper he blurted,  “Because I’m not a neanderthal. I can control my urges.”

“Yeah, but why would you want to?” Dave asked, baffled.

Mark had to count to fifteen that time before sternly saying, “Let’s just say I’m not fond of diseases. Comes from being around them all the time I suspect.”

“Trudy doesn’t have any diseases,” Dave retorted triumphantly.

Mark couldn’t argue with that. Trudy was as old fashioned as he was, perhaps more so.  If anyone didn’t carry a virus of some sort it was she. “That doesn’t mean I’m going to start having sex as exercise. I’ve only ever had sex when I was in love and that’s not changing now,” he stated firmly.

Dave got a funny look in his eyes all of a sudden.  “Sex as exercise,” he muttered slowly to himself. “Like instead of jogging or racket ball. Sweet!” 

He abruptly got up, went into the kitchen and shouted, “Cindy, how about a quicky? It’ll make me live longer. Doctor’s orders!”

Mark gaped at him and shook his head exasperated. Then he laughed when he heard Cindy shriek, “Are you insane? Mark’s here, you crazy loon!”

Mark was still laughing when Dave slumped back into his potato chip strewn seat.  “Maybe I’ll get some tonight,” he said before taking a swig from his beer bottle. “You should try it. It’ll be good for  both you and Trudy. Can’t be sad when you’re getting some,” he said wisely.

Mark couldn’t argue with that either, but it had only been a month since he started dating Trudy. There was no rushing things like this especially when he was waiting for love and not just the go ahead on sex.

Saturday, July 23, 2011


Trudy paced the floor and rung her hands in agitation. How had she allowed Cindy to convince her to go on this date? Twenty-two years. That’s how long it had been since she was last on a date and that had been with Charlie. She still missed him, thought of him constantly and wished she could miraculously bring him back. The heart attack had been so sudden, so unexpected. She still reeled from it two years later. One doesn’t easily get over the death of their soul mate and Charlie was definitely her soul mate.

No matter what Cindy said, this was a blind date. A blind date! What was she thinking?

“You know my cousin Mark. He’s a resident at Formosa medical center where I work now,” Cindy told her.

“Who?” Trudy asked.

“Mark. You met him at Frankie’s birthday party last year. Remember? Tall, with medium brown hair, hazel eyes, real cute.”

“You just described your Dave,” Trudy said. “I don’t remember anyone named Mark.”

“Sure you do. He was married to Patty. She had you in stitches you were laughing so hard,” Cindy insisted.

“Patty Donovan? They’re divorced?” she asked suddenly interested.

“No, Sweetie. Haven’t you been listening? Patty died almost two years ago. I told you. It was just shortly after Charlie went,” Cindy said, her voice full of compassion.

Well that explained everything. Trudy hadn’t been able to think back then. Charlie, or rather the loss of him, made her almost catatonic. Nothing penetrated her skull then even though she went through the motions of every day life. She noticed nothing, not even the death of someone as lively as Patty used to be. Trudy very clearly saw Patty’s bright red hair and shining brown eyes. Her freckled nose and cheeks simply made her more adorable. What a joy she was, finding humor in everything, even making fun of herself. A sadness washed over Trudy thinking about it. Why was life so cruel?

Patty and Charlie were such wonderful people and yet there were hideous murderers and thieves running lose, wild, free and very much alive. How was that fair? It was no use asking. No answer would be satisfactory anyway. Her Charlie was gone and now there was a tiny hollow spot where Patty used to be too. She blinked away the tears that welled in her eyes.

She wracked her brain trying to picture Patty’s husband but she drew a blank. She was almost certain she had seen him, possibly even talked to him, but there was simply no memory of it. He just didn’t leave a mark. Ironic for someone named Mark.

As she continued pacing she had half a mind to call the whole thing off. More than half a mind if truth be told. She dreaded this worse than a root canal. She knew what the dating scene was like now. People jumped into bed without even knowing a person’s first name let alone a favorite color. Trudy wasn’t ready for that. She’d never be ready for that. How had Cindy talked her into this?

“Mark’s been miserable, Trudy. All he does is work too much and sit around at home watching sports. He barely even comes to my house anymore and he almost used to live there when Patty was alive. I thought, maybe, you could cheer him up by accompanying him to a play or movie or dinner. It would be a huge favor to me. He’s more like a brother. I love him so much and I want him to be happy again,” Cindy had said earnestly.  “This might break him out of this funk. You'll do this for me, won’t you?”

Cindy tugged at her heartstrings with that story. Trudy knew what it was like to be totally miserable, in complete despair. Several dozen dinners, movies and plays wouldn’t even begin to do anything to remove her sorrow, but men were more resilient. Perhaps just once would be the trick for this Mark guy. She certainly hoped for it. She didn’t want anyone, least of all Cindy’s cousin,  thinking she wanted a romp in the hay just because it had been a while since she was in anyone’s company other than her books at the library and the occasional bookworm.

Books she could handle. Men on the prowl, not so much. Just thinking about it made her start to hyperventilate. She tried to calm her wandering thoughts and just as she forced herself to sit in her usually comforting rocking chair the soft knock on the door made her jump as if she had sat on pointy nails.

“Oh, dear God, help me,” she muttered as she flung open the door.

She stared up at him. Yes, indeed he was tall just like Cindy said, but cute? Definitely not. He was knock-your-socks-off handsome. Mel Gibson came to mind. She was shaking, actually shaking! She felt an absolute imbecile staring at him mutely.

“Um...Mark?” she asked cautiously. Even her voice trembled.  All he did was nod. That wasn’t reassuring.  “You’re Cindy’s cousin?” she continued . Again he merely nodded.  Perhaps he was nervous too? “I’m sorry. She said we had met before but I don’t remember,” she told him apologetically.

He seemed to finally snap out of his trance. She wondered if he might have been less scary that way.

“I met Charlie. I was so sorry to hear he’s gone. I really liked him,” he said sympathetically. “Cindy said you knew my wife.”

Trudy attempted a smile. It looked more like a grimace. “I liked Patty. She was so funny. I’m so sorry.” she said sadly. They stared at each other in silence. She marveled that he could be lonely when he must have a dozen women coming onto him everyday.

“Well, I thought we could go to the French Manor for dinner and...” he started to say.

Panic seized her. “I don’t have sex,” she blurted out. She closed her eyes wishing the floor to swallow her whole. She then blushed scarlet, twisted her hands and bit her lip. What an idiot! She had done it now. He’d run for the hills before she could close the door. Cindy would hate her for ruining this for her favorite cousin. She had no idea how to fix this unless she tried good old-fashioned honesty. Unheard of, yes, but it might be the better way to go. Lies didn’t suit her nor was playing mind games. She chanced a glance and she saw him smiling indulgently.

 “Good to know,” he said. “ I once got my arm twisted until I promised I would. Luckily she may have forgotten about me by now.”  

What in the world did that mean? She gaped up at him, confused. He waved a dismissive hand and added  “Long story.”

Twisting arms aside she knew she had to explain herself. “I....I haven’t dated in twenty-two years. I don’t know anything about what’s expected and even if I did I still won’t do it. I’m very old-fashioned,” she said sternly.

His grin broadened making her breath catch in her chest. Even Mel Gibson never looked that good. “Finally a woman I can handle. No pressure. I like it already,” he replied, looking relieved.

She stared at him aghast. Was she hallucinating? He was okay with her severe declaration of no sex? And welcomed it? She must be dreaming.  Men like him supposedly don’t exist anymore.  Relief so great flooded through her she almost felt faint. She grabbed the door for support and tried to calm her breathing only to realize she had forgotten to breath. She sucked in some well-needed oxygen and concentrated on what he was saying.

“ dinner okay?” he asked tentatively.

She watched him hold out his hand. She stared at it mesmerized. It wasn’t at all calloused as Charlie’s were from rigging boats in and such work which went with owning a marina. Then she remembered Mark was a doctor. Not much chance of getting callouses working at a hospital.

 “I promise. I won’t bite. Cindy would kill me if I even breathed too hard around you. And she’ll know too without anyone telling her. She’s kinda spooky that way,” he said.

Yes, Cindy. Trudy had almost forgotten this was  supposed to be a favor for Cindy. She had her doubts now. It seemed more a favor to her. Mark gave every appearance of being Prince Charming. She suddenly felt like Snow White awakening from her deep sleep. A tiny drop of warmth entered her heart and slowly expanded. She smiled,  giggled nervously and shyly took his hand.

Before closing the door behind her she grabbed her shawl and purse. Then she turned to him and followed him to his expensive car where he helped her into it. A perfect gentleman. Anticipation made her nerve endings frightfully acute. Just the gentle brushing of his hand on the small of her back caused tingles to spring into action. She had no idea what to expect from her first date in over two decades, but she knew this was a good decision. More friends should do huge favors for their friends.


Mark smiled at Trudy who sat across from him with her chin propped up on her hand gazing at him as if in a trance. He was used to women staring at him, even before Patty died. It annoyed him, but oddly enough not when Trudy did it.  It was different with Trudy as it had been with Patty. Perhaps it was because it gave him ample opportunity to stare right back at her. Her enormous baby-blue eyes were hypnotizing and the rest of her extremely enticing.

He realized anybody watching them just then would assume they were totally nuts just staring at each other.... nuts or in love.

“And so, that’s how you barbeque a spleen. You can then feed it to Tiffle the Troll.  He’d like that, don’t you think?” he joked. She didn’t hear a thing he said. His grin broadened and he passed a hand in front of her face saying, “Am I boring you, Trudy?”

Her eyes widened and she lifted her chin off her hand. “Bored? Why would you say that? I love your stories. You tell them so well,” she answered adamantly. Of course, she was lying.  She had blanked out for a minute. He could have been talking about the latest surgical procedure or the score of the Cowboys-Giants game. She had no clue, though, she thought she heard him say something about her Tiffle the Troll character. She seized on this.

“Are you making fun of me and Tiffle?” she asked petulantly, a slight pout to her lips making her look doubly adorable.

He chuckled. “I like that troll. He’s quite the rebel,” he countered grinning.

“Too bad Mrs. Tannenbaum doesn’t agree. She thinks I’m corrupting the morals of minors every time I tell my stories to the kids at the library,” she said.

“I’ll bet she thinks the same of Dr. Seuss and J.K. Rowling. Did you hear the latest? Dumbledore’s gay! That ought to have her panties in a bunch,” he said gleefully.

Her eyes widened again. “Actually she does. How in the world did you....?”

“A not-so-wild guess,” he countered casually. He drained his wine glass and looking pensive remarked,  “You’re so good with kids. Why didn’t you and Charlie ever have any?”

As soon as the words left his mouth he regretted them.  He saw with distress, that quick change in her expression. Her eyes were filled with a sadness so complete he felt it as his own. Mark automatically placed his hand over hers.   “I’m sorry, Trudy, I didn’t mean to pry.”

She stared down at his hand, so strong and warm, smooth and soothing. She got the sudden urge to lift it and press it  to her cheek. She had done that countless times with Charlie, her silent way of saying “comfort me”.

“It’s fine, Mark,” she said quietly, her eyes still fixed on his hand.  “We did have a little boy. Taylor died 3 months short of his second birthday. The last didn’t work.”

Mark’s heart constricted painfully. He squeezed her hand.  “Trudy, I’m so sorry,” he whispered.

She nodded, looked up and smiled. “Taylor was so sweet. My beautiful angel. Would you like to see a picture?”  Before getting an answer she slipped her hand from Mark’s grip and pulled out her wallet. She opened it and placed it on the table.

Mark looked down at the two pictures. A slight, frail-looking little toddler sitting on Trudy’s lap smiled up at him and in the other Charlie, cheek to cheek with Taylor, beamed an identical smile with his son. Emotion filled his chest. It took a minute before he could speak.
“He’s adorable. He looks just like Charlie but he has your eyes.”

“Charlie must finally be happy,” she said softly as she took the wallet back. She caressed the pictures with her finger tips. “He and Taylor are together again. He was devastated when Taylor died, worse than I was. Taylor was the only one I could carry to term...well, almost. He was five weeks premature. He was our miracle baby. The others barely made it to five months.”  She gazed at the pictures for one more second, sighed wistfully then  replaced it in her purse.

Mark recaptured her hand and tentatively asked,  “How many others?”

“Six. Taylor was lucky number seven. He just couldn’t stay long,” she whispered, gazing at Mark’s hand over hers. He squeezed her hand again. “They just spontaneously aborted. Don’t know why.  Better than having them still born, I suppose.”

 She shook her head a bit. That was more than she ever talked about that painful time in her life, even with Charlie. He never talked about it. There was something about Mark that loosened her tongue, made her feel comfortable talking. Perhaps it was because he spoke so openly himself.

“Why didn’t you adopt?” Mark asked gently.

“We were too distraught to think of it after Taylor died. We figured God simply didn’t want us to be parents.  Maybe he knew we’d be horrible at it,” she replied.

“Nonsense,” Mark said. “I see you with those munchkins  at the library. They love you. And Charlie was wonderful with Cindy’s kids. You would have been fantastic parents.”

She looked up smiling, the most serene expression Mark ever witnessed. It made his soul warm instantly.  “Then God did know what he was doing. Instead of giving me one child to devote myself to he gave me dozens and dozens. Good trade I think,” she said brightly.

He stared at her completely in awe. Six miscarriages, one dead son and a devoted husband, her soul mate snatched cruelly from her and still she could smile so sweetly. How could any one person live through all that and not be consumed with bitterness? And he thought he was tough seeing the constant struggle for life and death every day.

It was this aura of serenity that was pulling him in, making him crave to see Trudy again and again. He made up excuses for stopping by the library when he could get anything he wanted, and much easier, too, on-line. She filled a void he didn’t know he had. He could use some serenity of his own. He wondered fleetingly if he could borrow some of hers. Perhaps hers would rub off on him. Or maybe it already had.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Guest post: Don't take the girl by Jim Bessey

(Inspired by Tim McGraw's "Don't take the girl")

Dark room, flickering candles, hard floor under my knees. I'm shaking, sobbing. "God, take me instead. Rip the heart right out of my chest. Please, God." Darkness surrounds me, and I see every moment of these past fifteen years.

* * *
Gray dawn light, on green wet grass, and Daddy's smiling that goofy "we're goin' fishin' boy" smile, whistling something familiar from the radio. I've got my brand new pole and shiny tackle box, my very first one. I look way up at him, take his hand as we head for Daddy's rusty red truck. And then that little brat from next door comes strollin' through the gate, carrying her own pole like she's invited. I'm furious, don't want her to come with us, and Daddy knows it.

"Son, we can't just leave her standing here all ready to go, now, can we?"

I can think of fifteen kids I'd rather have come fishing with us, and not one of them is a girl.

"You just wait, Johnny, one day you'll see things different, you'll see." Daddy tells me, still smiling. He waves to the brat, and holds the door for her to climb up to the front seat.
* * *
My head is pounding, my vision blurry, still on my knees there in that awful dark room. I'm all alone, just me and God, and I'm ready. My voice is barely a whisper, my throat so tight I can barely breathe.

"God, I never asked you for any favors. I'm ready to go now. Take me instead, I'm begging you." Darkness fills my mind again, then a vivid memory of another day
* * *
Hot Friday night, Fourth of July weekend, the two of us lost in our own little world. We're in the shadows near the theater. Her body fits mine perfectly, and the taste of her breath in my mouth is sweeter than any dessert could be. We're eighteen years old and haven't a care in the world for anything but each other. We don't even care who sees us kissing right here on Main Street.

She whispers, "I love you, Johnny MacDemmick," and my heart soars higher than the top of that big old oak in the square across the street.

The next minutes are a blur of confusion. Her lips are gone in an instant, and she screams. I can't see his face, but I can see that ugly, black gun barrel pressed against her soft belly. His voice sounds like truck tires crunching through the underbrush.

"You do just what I tell ya to and she might not get hurt, Junior." I can't move or breath. She's crying now, and my heart breaks to hear her sobs.

I'm pulling money out my pockets, change and bills - anything I can find. Grampa's watch, my car keys. I'm crying too, but don't realize it til later.

He's laughing softly. I keep saying something like, "Take this, please, take this, you can have it, just don't hurt her, mister, please."

And then he's gone as fast and mysteriously as he appeared. I can't hold her tight enough to stop her tears. We're both shaking, but she's fine. She's just fine.
* * *
Spring sunlight streaming through our bay window, making me squint to see the ballgame on the living room television. From the bedroom, her voice is urgent and giddy at the same time.

"It's time?" I ask her, still in moron land. And we race out the door, laughing and crying as she struggles to squeeze her big belly into the front seat of our Ford Fairlane. We beep and run through stop signs all the way to the hospital. She's holding my hand so hard I worry for a second about broken bones. I'm hyperventilating and still laughing, stealing glances at her there next to me. Her face is aglow, and she is even more beautiful than she was the first time I kissed her.

Bright lights, strangers racing in and out, distant words on the PA system echo outside our room. She's breathing fast; sweat streams into her hair. Her eyes seek mine, frantic. White-coated doctors and blue-smocked nurses rush about, murmuring things I don't understand. Strong hands clamp my arms and lift me from my space beside her bed.

"Give us some room, son," the doctor tells me. Now I can't see her. She's surrounded by white and blue figures and they're moving her onto a gurney. Their whispers are incomprehensible to me, but I know something terrible is happening.

One of the nurses holds me by the elbows and says, "Come with me. Let them do their jobs. She's in good hands."
* * *
A voice interrupts my solitude in the dark room. I can't hear the words at first, but the phrase "it's a girl" comes through loud and clear. Then: "There were some complications, sir."

Blackness surrounds me, pinpricks of light whirl just out of reach. I'm certain I'm dying, and my last thoughts are of her.
* * *
White light, almost unbearable in its intensity. A loathsome beeping pounds my eardrums.

"Mr. MacDemmick, can you hear me?" I try to move my head to find the source of the voice. I know him, but feel confused. He's smiling, holding a clipboard.

"John, you're in the hospital, remember? You've had a heart attack, but you're going to be fine." He sounds like someone you'd hear on the radio, soothing and unreal at the same time.

Then another voice more familiar than my own heartbeat, "Daddy, I'm right here." My daughter!

"I'm here, too, honey," from somewhere nearby - my wife!

There's a strong hand on my shoulder, too. Fingers gnarled from years of hard work and fishing, a grip I'd know anywhere without looking. "Daddy" is all I can manage.

My sweet wife, my lovely teenage daughter, and my dad all move together so I can see them. They look like angels to me, but they are most assuredly real. I've never seen anything more beautiful.

"Now we're even, Johnny," my sweetheart tells me, tears glistening in her eyes. "You scared me just as bad as I scared you when Vanessa was born. Doctor says you're going to be fine, just fine." My eyes are heavy, but my heart is full of life and love. I fall asleep, surrounded by the three people I love more than life itself.
Jim Bessey, I am proud to say, is one of my very best friends. Jim's an amazingly talented guy. Needless to say he can tell a lovely tale with ease, but there's more to him than that. By profession he is The Tile Guy and can be seen on a daily basis, alternately destroying and remodeling kitchens and baths. His passions include his lovely wife, darling step-daughter, two wonderful sons, writing and JUST CAMPING OUT. If you're in need of remodeling advice or simply love camping, do visit his blogs and say hello from me!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Blind Date

Mark put the stethoscope around his neck, grabbed the first chart and flipped through it just as a familiar voice shouted his name. He groaned inwardly.

“Here we go again. Round six,” he muttered before turning to see his cousin’s impish face smiling up at him. He loved Cindy to pieces, but he was starting to regret getting her a job at the hospital, his hospital. It wouldn’t be so bad if she could stop with her incessant inquiries into his non-existent love life. He thought about this impending encounter and had devised a plan of sorts. He would try a diversionary tactic. It worked in war, so why not with family?

“Hey, Cutie, how are you this morning? Dave watch the game last night? He owes me a c-note. Told him the Broncos would get clobbered. He never listens,” Mark said casually.

“Is that why he was grumpy all night? I thought he didn’t like dinner,” she said cheerfully. Mark had never known someone who could be so happy all the time. She was a bit annoying that way, at least to the other nurses on his floor, but that’s what he loved especially about her. He tweaked her nose as he had done since they were tiny tots.

“What you make for dinner?” he asked still hoping to divert this talk away from all things love related.

“Macaroni and cheese, the real stuff. I used Aunt Molly’s recipe,” she replied proudly.

He frowned. “You don’t love me at all! You know how much I love my mom’s mac and...”   He stopped when she shoved a large square container into his hands.  “Uh...never mind. I love you, too.” he said and eagerly pulled the cover off and dug his fingers into it. He chewed appreciatively. “That’s great stuff. Just like Mom’s.”

Cynthia giggled and kissed his cheek. “Love you, too,” she said. “I have a surprise for you.”

This instantly set off warning bells.

“I gotta go do my rounds, kid. Tell me at lunch,” he said, swiftly moving down the hall. With difficulty she kept up with his long-legged strides.

“Mark, you have to do this huge, gigantic favor for me,” she said.

He stared at her narrowing his eyes. “This a bribe?” he asked scathingly, indicating the mac and cheese in his hand.

“Depends on how you look at it. It’s a favor for me, but I’m certain it will do you some good, too. If you think about it, it’s really more of a favor for you,” she said grinning up at him.

Oh, here it comes, he thought.

“I want you to take out my very best friend,” Cynthia said casually.

He shoved the container of food back into her hands. “Forget it, Cindy. I don’t do blind dates anymore,” he snapped.

“It’s not blind,” she said, shoving it back at him. “You’ve met her a dozen times. She and her husband have...”

“You’re setting me up with a married woman?” he bellowed, incredulous.

“Course not! She’s widowed just like you. It’s Trudy. You remember her and her husband Charlie. They’ve been to my house a million times when you were there.”

“No, I don’t,” he said gruffly continuing down the corridor.

“Of course you do. Charlie owned the marina by the lake. Charlie Jacobson.”

He stopped dead in his tracks. “He died? Oh...that’s so sad. He was such a nice guy,” he said his brows furrowed now.

“So, you’ll remember Trudy. She’s been devastated since he died. It was so sudden,” Cynthia said sadly.

“No, I don’t, honestly. I never met his wife,” he said.

“You have to! She’s blond and so sweet and....”

“She’s got a great personality, blah-blah-blah. Yeah, I know the story. You said that about the mud wrestler named Rocky, too,” he growled.

“That was Dave’s doing,” she said adamantly. “I didn’t know her.”

“Forget it, Cindy. I’m off dating,” he said.  “I’m not too keen on getting my arm twisted again for a goodnight kiss and a promise for a tumble in the sack once my rash is gone.”

“What rash?” Cynthia asked anxiously.

“The one I made up to get away from Rocky,” he said. “The answer’s NO.”

“No, it’s not, Mark. I already told her you’d be there tonight to take her out. You can’t back out or she’ll just waste away and she really needs this, Mark. She’s so depressed. It’s heartbreaking. It took me this long to get her to agree to go with you. It’s so weird. She didn’t remember you either. She’s just like you. She's so wrapped up in Charlie even after this long, that nothing else matters.”

“It’s not that long to us. I still miss Patty, Cindy. You’ll never understand and I don’t wish it on you. You should just leave us both alone. We both had it great with our spouses and's useless. We can’t find anyone close to decent let alone anything near what we had before. I know cuz I’ve tried,” he told her fiercely. “Dating sucks big time. I quit.”

She glared up at him and snatched the macaroni and cheese out of his hand. “You quit after tonight, if you know what's good for you!” she snapped. She held up her hand to stop him. “No, you listen, Bud. Trudy’s my best friend, the sister I never had. I love her dearly and I want her happy again. You will take her to a movie tonight or you’ll get no more food from me...EVER. And I’m not kidding.”

He stood frozen. She’d never ever threatened that. “Cindy....” he pleaded.

“Seven tonight. Be there or you’ll have me to contend with. I will not have Trudy treated like a barroom tramp either. She’s a high class lady. Take her to the French Manor for dinner first and I’ll feed you everyday for a month. I’ll see you later,” she said, before turning on her heel and swiftly stalking off down the hallway.

“Great,” he grumbled. He sighed and resigned himself to the task for tonight. Maybe, he thought hopefully, Trudy would back out of it and they’d both be off the hook.

He hung to that hope until he stood outside Trudy’s door. He knocked softly and wished she would pretend she wasn’t home.

Trudy opened the door and fastened her large, terrified blue eyes on his.

“Damn,” he said, but not because she opened the door. He’d never seen anything so gorgeous in his life. How could he have missed seeing her with Charlie? They stared at each other wordlessly for what seemed an eternity.

“Um...Mark?” she said tremulously. He nodded mutely. “You’re Cindy’s cousin?” she asked cautiously. Again he nodded. “I’m sorry. She said we had met before but I don’t remember.”

“I met Charlie. I was so sorry to hear he’s gone. I really liked him,” he said sympathetically. “Cindy said you knew my wife.”

“Yes, I so liked Patty. She was so funny. I’m very sorry,” she said sadly. They stared at each other as silence ensued.

Mark roused himself and said calmly, “Well, I thought we could go to the French Manor for dinner and...”

“I don’t have sex,” she blurted out suddenly. She then blushed crimson, twisted her hands and bit her lip.

He gaped open-mouthed. She was so adorable standing before him looking like a sixteen year old girl on her first date. She was obviously scared to death of him. He slowly smiled. “Good to know. I once got my arm twisted until I promised I would. Luckily she may have forgotten about me by now.”

She looked up at him, confusion evident. He waved a dismissive hand and bracingly added  “Long story.”

“I....I haven’t dated in twenty-two years. I don’t know anything about what’s expected and even if I did I still won’t do it. I’m very old-fashioned,” she said adamantly.

Relief flushed through him like an intoxicating tonic. “Finally, a woman I can handle. No pressure. I like it already,” he replied.  “ dinner okay?” he asked tentatively.

She looked either ready to faint or to slam the door in his face. He couldn’t really tell. But now Mark was hoping she wouldn’t back out. She had him intrigued. He held out his hand and said “I promise. I won’t bite. Cindy would kill me if I even breathed too hard around you. And she’ll know too without anyone telling her. She’s kinda spooky that way.”

She giggled nervously and shyly  took his hand. Grabbing her shawl and purse, she closed the door and stepped out into the dark with him. He helped her into his car and ran around to his side.

Excitement bubbled up within him. If this went well, and he was definitely going to try to make that happen, he would have to buy Cindy a diamond tennis bracelet with matching earrings. She wasn’t kidding about the favor being mostly for him.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Guest post: Marika's Unicorn by Alexandra Heep

"So, are you really a unicorn?" Marika asks.

"Well, are you really a girl?"

Marika giggles as Sugar Magnolia emphasizes her return question with a toss of her chestnut mane and a snort.

"Of course I am! I am in third grade already and my Mom says I am smart for my age. But, my teachers and most kids say that unicorns don't exist. I asked my parents and they say they believe in them, yet have never seen one. Oh, we have pictures of them in our house, but they are all white. You are brown with white spots. How come?"

"That is because my dad had white hair and my mom had brown fur. How about humans, do you think you all look alike?"

"I guess we don't. I never realized a difference until I moved two winters ago and people told me I was white. I told them that they were wrong and that I was peach, but they all laughed. I don't know why they call themselves black anyway. I never noticed really, but now that they told me they are, I still say they are wrong. To me they look purplish or tan and different browns really."

Marika adjusts her seat in the saddle to be more comfortable while waiting for an answer. She also loosens the reigns and stops pulling on the bit, so Sugar Magnolia can be more comfortable.
"Yes, we unicorns come in many different colors as well. They are the same colors as horses in your world. Our horns are all alike though, that is why we look like horses in your world. Our horns are of each color yet none at all, that is why most people can't see them."

"So, why can I see it?" Marika inquires curiously.

"Have you been taught about imagination?"

"Oh yes, my parents answer a lot of my questions by using that word. Like when I ask them what I should paint about. Or when I ask them how I can have nice dreams."

"See, that is why you can see my horn. To the other riders in your class I am just an Appaloosa mix. However, you never lost the imagination that all humans are born with, yet teach each other to unlearn."

Marika ponders this answer silently.

"So, how can you talk to me with that bit in your mouth?"

"I am talking to you by using my mind. I don't need my mouth to speak like the people do in your world. Matter of fact, if you notice, right now you are not using your lips either."

"So, what is your world like?" Marika inquires.

"Would you like to see?"

"Oh, yes, please! What do I have to do?"

"Just close your eyes. See the golden arch in front of you with the emerald green vines around it? Just guide me through it and you will see!"

Marika closes her eyes and feels the secure gentle gait on Sugar Magnolia's warm soft back. Her horseback riding teacher would call it a collected walk. However, all thoughts of her teacher disappear as she guides Magnolia through the arch.

"You can open your eyes now!"

Marika does so and gazes around in wonder. There is a rainbow and pink fluffy clouds are draped on the background of an azure blue sky. A crystal blue stream weaves its way through emerald green, lush foliage. As Marika takes a deep breath from all the excitement, she notices that the air smells . . . she is not sure how to describe it. It somehow reminds her of an aroma of cookies baking, the scent of fresh flowers in a meadow, and her Mom's favorite perfume - all rolled into one.
As she looks closer, she sees other creatures. A lot of them are kept airborne by wonderful delicate wings with all the colors of the rainbow; in all sizes. Sweet music fills the air. She recognizes some parts being played by flute, because it's the instrument Marika started to play this summer.

"Wow! This is just what I thought it would be like!"

"Indeed!" Sugar Magnolia responds. Now that I have taken you to this place once, I have given you the secret key and you can come back here anytime by picturing the arch with the vines that we came through."

"Are there other unicorns here?" Marika asks.

"Yes, there are. But they only show themselves to the persons that have the special keys that belong to them."

"Thank you so much!"

"Mariiiikaaaaaa! You are supposed to jog! You need to kick the horse if she does not obey your signals the first three times! Marika, do you hear me? And don't slouch, you need to sit straight up!"

Miss Sally's voice echoes through the woods as she shouts out her instructions.

Marika jerks upright, to the disapproving frowns of the parents who showed up this Sunday afternoon to watch their kids ride in the ring at the Mulberry Acres stable. Her eyes come to rest on her Mom's face, who smiles at her knowingly and with love.