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First Call


After slipping and sliding, I finally made it home but the hellacious conversation was still playing reruns of should-haves, could-haves, and would-haves. I jumped into the shower. If this was an R-rated movie, I would be dunking myself into a sensuous bubble bath, surrounded by a zillion candles, soft music, an expensive bottle of wine, and then the serial killer would sneak around the unlatched door while the unsuspecting victim - me is sipping grapes, eyes closed enjoying my wild imagination.

If I didn’t have this scene digitalized into my memory bank, the bubbles and candles would be a great start to wind-down the evening, not that I overindulge in such frivolities. In lieu of my phantasmal theatrical production of Slit Throat, ergo I nixed the bubbles and candles.

Watching the two-hundredth episode of Frasier in my Minnie Mouse pajamas, chartreuse-fuzzy socks, nestled in bed, I was startled when the phone rang. I leaned over the stainless steel bowl of popcorn with extra butter, I’m going to die tonight anyway so who cares if my new dress doesn’t fit for the Christmas party and I gobbled up the wireless phone situated on the nightstand located on the opposite side of the bed. And yes, this young-baby boomer still has a landline. Code-red was jumping the gun. I spoke quietly waiting for my verbal assailant to express a dreadful notorious greeting on the other end. Was my number being called? I didn’t recognize the numeric display.

Cringing, “Hello,” was all I could express waiting for the balloon to pop.

“Hey Barb, how’s my girl? You sound upset. Are you okay? Did interest rates go up or did you lose the big deal you were working on? I bet this phone number threw you off-guard. I’m calling from the office.”

A gleeful smile bamboozled my lips diminishing apprehension traumatized by the phone intrusion. I was now feasting and digesting on my boyfriend’s motivating salutation. I really needed to hear a loving and attentive voice after the bizarre confrontation with the bell ringer.

“Steve, I’m fine; just watching an old John Candy movie. It’s been a long day and I wanted to laugh.”

Little did he know my eyes have been watering since the supermarket snafu. Dying was not on my list of things to do tonight. Considering it’s almost eight-thirty, maybe I’m in a safe-haven void of “ollie ollie oxen free”.

“Barb, I’ve been trying to get you all evening but all I got was voicemail. Don’t you check your messages?”

“Steve, didn’t I tell you; I had a doctor’s appointment after work? Then I went to Father Joe’s class. On the way home, I stopped at the grocery store. With the storm, I wanted to be prepared. I did look at messages but my cell phone lost its charge. I have it recharging.”

“You’re not pregnant, are you?”

“Why would you ask me that?”

“You went to see the GP and didn’t tell me. Do I need to sit down to hear the news?”

“Steve, I think I’m past the childbearing years.”

“Good, is everything else okay?”

“Yeah, it was just a routine check-up.”

“Okay, now it’s my turn. I’ve waited all day to tell you this. Are you sitting?”

“I’m in bed.”

“That’s a pleasant visual. Hey, I’ve got great news.”

“Please, I’m all about good news. Let me hear it!”

Turning off my negativity spigot, I waited to chew on his ecstatic static.

“Barb, the deal is sealed and I’m relocating to the local office. I’ll have the occasional trips to other states and out of the county, but for the most part; I’ll be home in the evenings, off on weekends. How does that sound?”

My heart skipped a beat. “Steve, is this for real? Rob Senior gave you the go-ahead to move to North Carolina?”

I squealed like Patty’s pet pig at the state fair and flexed out of my lounging position energized by the late-evening newsflash.

“Steve, this is great! Wow, I can’t believe you’re actually relocating to North Carolina! When will this happen? Honestly, I didn’t think it would happen. And to think yesterday, we had a pity party over the memo Parker sent you.”

“Well, for some unknown reason my boss had a change of heart. I asked Senior twice to make sure he wasn’t kidding. I never thought he’d give in to my transfer. My relo will take place right before Christmas; that is, if I can stay with you. I told Robert Senior, I would be leaving California by the weekend. Am I moving too fast? We’ve only been dating a short time. It would be a couple of months before I could buy a house. If I move in, I’ll take your spare room.”

“Steve, of course you can stay with me.”

“Great - I was counting on it. The second part of my equation is this; you still haven’t accepted or denied my marriage proposal. Look, whatever you earn on your second job is what I’ll pay for my room and board. I want you to quit the second job. Hell - let me pay your mortgage and utility bills. I hope you like eating out. My hours are going to be sporadic until I get settled in. So, are you up for company?”

“Can you move in tonight? By the way, Mom and Dad are coming for Christmas. They’ll leave Florida on the twenty-second and will be here on the twenty-third.”

“How long are your parents staying?”

“Mom said they would leave mid-January.”

“Whatever you need, we’ll go shopping. Seriously, I want to help. I like your mom and dad. Our phone conversations have been entertaining.”

“The feeling is mutual. Mom speaks highly of you.”

“Barb, did you tell your mother I proposed?”

“No, because I have not given you my final answer.”

“What is your final answer?”

Happiness lifted my voice. “Yes, I’ll marry you. I figured we would tell my parents over dinner. Mom will want me to have a big wedding but let’s just go to the priest.”

“I agree; I don’t want a big wedding. You and I will go to Father Joe. We’ll keep it simple and tasteful. I do want professional photos. I’d like one good picture of us for my desk.”

Changing direction, “Barb, yesterday I got an offer on my house. It will close next month. With your house up for sale, let’s look for a new home, something we both like.”

“Steve that sounds fair and feasible.”

“We don’t need your money to buy. I have plenty of equity in mine. But here’s where it gets tricky. You’ll have to be patient because over the next six months, I will be flying to Germany quite often. When we buy a new home, I may have to leave for a week or two. I’ll hire someone to help you with the unpacking.

“This is the part you won’t like. I don’t want you working outside the home. I came up with a plan. Hear me out and don’t jump to conclusions.

“I want you to quit your job, stay home, and write. You’re almost done with your first book, aren’t you?”

“Yeah, but I still have the edit.”

“When you finish that book you can make-up a new kid’s story. Doesn’t Paula want another fairy-tale?”

“Where did you get the idea that I write children’s storybooks?”

“You write fiction.”

“All fiction is not general audience. Steve, I write supernatural genre. I told you about my book in explicit detail. Obviously, you weren’t listening. And yes, Paula is interested in more of my work.”

“Barb, do you actually believe in Casper? I know what bumps in the night and it’s not ghosts.”

“We’ve talked about my close encounters with the dead. Why all of a sudden the sarcasm?”

“I thought you were making it up. Me, I can’t get into that supernatural garbage but my offer still holds. I don’t care what you write, stay home and take care of the house.”

“Steve, I can’t quit my job. I have a pension to consider.”

“You may not have an option. I checked your company’s stock today and they’re a week away from closing down. You won’t have a job or a pension. So, do you accept my offer? Is writing really your passion, second to me?”

“Steve, I don’t know. I’ve always worked and made money. I like my independence.”

“Writing books isn’t being independent? Barb, we’ll buy a modest home and you can write. I will expect dinner on the table three nights a week and you will have to take my suits to the cleaners. Really, I want a normal married life. Give Farley your two-week notice. He may tell you to leave because they’re filing chapter eleven. I heard that from inside sources.”

“I have vacation time. I’ll take my PTO and then we can discuss my quitting.”

“You’re really being stubborn. Would you forget about working. I want you to write. I don’t care if you make money. It will be you and me. Plus, we need to look for a house. I’m also going to put you in charge of the bill paying. You’ll be a signer on our household checking account. I’ll leave extra money in the bank for you until you start getting royalties.”

“But, I won’t be independent.”

“Why do you need to be independent? Besides, you’ll be decorating our new home. I’m not good at that. If I hired it out, it would cost me a fortune. There will be times when you will prepare dinner for my clients. Can you do this for me? I want a stay-at-home wife. You’ll be working on your terms and I won’t demand everything to be ship-shape. I know several bank presidents. In the future if you want to go back to work you’ll have a job.”

“Steve, I wasn’t expecting this. I’ll have to think about it.”

“Think fast because I will take away the car keys once we’re married. You won’t be able to drive to work.”

“Back up a sec. We need to talk to Father Joe.”

“I’ve already met with Father Joe. We will be meeting with Deacon Ed to go over the Sacrament of Marriage. You do have your baptismal, divorce, and annulment papers, right?”

My brain was in a tizzy, spiraling with the man’s wedding invite, and quitting my job. The mouth knee jerked without discussing it with the brain.

“Steve, you’ve talked me into it. I’ve been working for twenty-five years; I could use a break. Yes, I have the necessary documents.”

“See, there are benefits in marrying me. It’s not all about sex. Speaking of sex, will your parents be okay with our cohabitation before the ceremony? Father Joe wasn’t too keen on it. He said no sex until after the vows. With your folks visiting for the holidays, I’ll have to stay in your room. The other bedroom doesn’t have a bed.”

“We could buy a bed to avoid confession.”

“I was joking about Brad’s room. I’m glad Brad took his bed.”

“Don’t worry about Mom; she’ll be fine with our arrangement but God won’t. We need to consider what Father Joe said. Steve, not to cut you short but I’m really tired.”

“Well, I’ve got reams of paperwork to do. Gwen will be calling to give me details from her report.”

“Give Gwen my regards.”

“Will do and tomorrow I want to hear you gave your notice to Farley.”

Laughing at his pushiness, “I will.”

My fiancé paused for a moment. “Barb, don’t get mad. I’m actually in Hickory but I’m meeting some guys for a drink. We have business to discuss. Some of us are flying back to California. It’s not that I don’t want to come by to see you but my time is booked. If the airport closes, I might be staying the night. Right now, our private jet is on standby.”

“Steve, you don’t need to explain. Besides, I have a few calls to make before I turn-in. Why don’t you tell Parker the weather is bad, go for a drink, and come over? You can work here.”

“Thanks for the offer, but when I say a drink it means more than drinking. I’ll share this with you when we get married. Right now, you’re on a need to know basis.”

“You’re in commercial real estate sales - why all the secretiveness? You’re acting like you work for the FBI.”

“I have to keep a lid on proposals. The contracts we put together can create community conflict. For instance, investors buy homes to house juvenile offenders. The homeowners in the area could get angry. Let’s drop this conversation, no more about work.

“Is your mother on the list of phone calls? Are you going to tell her we’re getting married or do you want me to drop the bomb?”

“No, I’ll talk to Mom. She’s one of my phone calls.”

“Who’s the other?”

“Oh, just an acquaintance, business related. Steve, is there any way you could come to the house tonight? If the weather gets any worse, you will need to sleep somewhere. When is your flight to California leaving?”

“The company jet is scheduled to depart right after midnight. I still have work to finish. I really want to stop in but if I did, I wouldn’t leave. Robert Senior would give me hell. You better get rest; you’ll need it when I move in.

“FYI, I’m leaving with the guys in ten minutes for a real drink. I’ll be good. Looking at the road from the office window, the bar could be closing down.”

“Are you sure it’s not a bachelor party? Did you tell them about us?”

“No, I haven’t told them about you because I was waiting for your answer. Honey, their idea of a bachelor party is a strip club. Knowing how you feel about strip clubs, I wouldn’t tell you if they did throw a party. And it wouldn’t be here in NC.”

“The truth comes out; you’d lie to me.”

“I’m messing with your head; no bachelor party. I don’t have time for one and I’m not interested. I have a woman. Look, I’m on a deadline. Love you and I’ll call you tomorrow. If the weather conditions get worse, I’ll stay the night. Robert Senior has to make that decision. Barb, I love you and I’ll tag back tomorrow.”

“You better call me if you get snowed in or the wedding is off. Do you hear me and I love you, too.”

Click - conversation over. Steve works odd hours. I don’t understand his business. I’m glad I took a shower; Steve could be stopping by. Hopefully he checks-in before death checks me out. I would like a close encounter with the male gender before my demise.

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