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May's morning sun glistened in a million places, shining off Ft. Lauderdale's section of the Intra-coastal Waterway. The thick, seventeen-foot long concrete panel seemed to hang precariously from the crane on the small, listing barge. Richard watched the worker guide the panel behind the Tee piles. The worker then signaled the crane operator "down easy on the load" and effortlessly the last panel slid down into the murky, freshly dredged water as the barge righted. Beautiful! This job was about complete. They would finish the cap forms and tie the re-bar today for the pour tomorrow, and the last seawall replacement-collapsed by the recent storms-would soon be finished.
Richard clicked off a few documentary snapshots on his digital camera and walked to his car. He made appropriate notes on the form fastened to his clipboard, threw his hard hat in the back seat and headed for the causeway that would lead him to his office. He had one more stop to make.
The cold air in the mall bounced off the polished marble floor, up his legs to dry the sweat dampness in his Levis. He hurried down to Bobby's Bookstore, with conflicting urgencies: to pick up the book he ordered and to get back to the office.
He wasn't particularly fond of malls, but Bobby's was the most convenient bookstore. Anxious to read, Richard opened Without, by Don Hall, as he was paying for it. His recent interest in poetry was triggered when one of his former girlfriends gave him a copy of Kipling's Barrack Room Ballads a few years ago. He recalled another girlfriend, a year or two later, telling him he was less of an automaton than she expected, but still pretty rigid. Richard had no idea what she was talking about, but decided to take it as a compliment.
He liked Don Hall's work. It was through his work that he learned of Hall's relationship with his poet-wife, Jane Kenyon, and he envied it. It was obvious the passion in Hall's work was an extension of his love for Jane. Richard wanted this kind of passion in his life, this kind of relationship, but had no idea how to get it. His only passion these days was designing and supervising construction on marine projects. Large or small, it made no difference to him; only how well the job was done. Integrity was important to Richard. He felt as though a man ought to have a certain amount of pride in his work. Not enough to be arrogant, but enough so his name would speak for itself. His name was on it and that's what mattered to Richard.
Passion in his professional life was one thing. Richard also wanted this passion in his personal life. He was old enough to have observed the changes over the years: no one seemed to have girlfriends or boyfriends any more. They were all in relationships with "significant others". Words having "love" as a root, like lover and beloved, fell into obscurity. Richard found that he wasn't so different from other men in that respect. He may have wanted a relationship like the Hall-Kenyon one, but he settled for physical sex with an occasional emotional tweak.
Richard took long strides as he exited Bobby's Bookstore in the Galleria, his head buried in Without. A friend recommended this collection, written during the terminal illness and aftermath of Hall's beloved wife's death. Richard felt by reading his work he might learn how to enjoy a relationship like this or at least vicariously enjoy Don Hall's. Right now, he had to get back to the office. The inspection report required his signature.
Business had been slow and Jeanne needed a mid-morning pick-me-up. She put the "Back in 5 Minutes" sign in its place and locked the glass door of the boutique. She'd called ahead for her latte and heel clickingly hurried down the mall to retrieve it. In fact, it had been so slow that morning that she found herself considering the irony in her life. She was working twelve to fourteen hours a day helping other women enhance their beauty through clothing and accessories for their men, yet she didn't have one. Jeanne had decided that all the good men were taken. Oh well, her efforts in business had paid off handsomely. Maybe that is all there was for her.
She thought, "Dreams suck!" Jeanne had been a part time model in her last year of high school and her first two years of college. As a model, she learned most men wanted an attractive receptacle, not a woman who had thoughts and opinions of her own. It was then she met Ed and thought her June Cleaver dreams were en route to coming true. Ed wasn't Mr. Right, and he wasn't Mr. Wrong either. He became apathetic toward her, the marriage, and everything else, except what he wanted to do. She quickly became a Sports TV-gambling-golf widow, with a husband that was legally alive. The husband part changed and here she was.
Moving swiftly back to the store holding the frothy drink in her right hand, she glanced down at her watch, anticipating her employee's arrival. Damn, Tanya wouldn't be in for another hour and a half!
Hurrying back to his car in the parking lot, Richard glanced up from the book and noted a small crowd on his right, just strolling through the mall, window shopping. He abruptly moved to his left to avoid them, crashing into Jeanne and her latte.
"Oh! Terribly sorry," Richard said without really looking.
He noticed her latte had spotted both of them, the cup now on the floor. He bent over to pick it up as she kneeled forward, and their heads came together. With disdain on her face, she looked up as he was rubbing his forehead. Then their eyes met… only for an eternity of a second or two.
Jeanne barely smiled as she said, "Are you all right?"
"Yes, and you?"
As Jeanne looked at him, her smile deepened. "Yes, thank you." She noted his clean Levis, work boots and a simple tie on his short-sleeved shirt. Now, all he needed was a hard hat to match the pressed hair ring around his head!
"Oh, gosh. I see I've ruined your outfit. May I offer to clean it for you?"
Jeanne was almost laughing as she said, "I can pull another off the rack. Please don't worry."
"Well, I feel terrible about this. I had my nose stuck in a book, not paying attention and…"
"Gotcha! I was looking down at my watch rather than where I was going. So, are we going to engage in one upsmanship all morning?"
Richard laughed. "No, I don't think either of us have the time for that. But I would like to make up for my blunder. Could I take you to dinner as a way of apologizing?" Nobleese oblige was part of Richard's code.
Jeanne said, "I really don't have time for that either." Then she paused, noticing a hint of disappointment on his face. Her creep-meter was unusually silent. "I have Jeanne's Boutique about three doors down from here. I take a dinner break around six. How's that?"
"Sounds great," Richard said. "I'll be here at six." He followed her and watched as she entered the boutique, then made his way to the parking lot.
He arrived at the store shortly before six, freshly shaven. He remembered the line from a James Bond movie, "I wouldn't shave twice a day for the bloody Queen," and had adopted that philosophy. He was slightly uncomfortable. He didn't know if it was his being in the mall or his breaking the shaving rule. As she came from the rear of the store, he looked at her again, glad she was only an apology, not a date. Watching her move, he thought, "She is attractive in her own way, but she's not my type." Since his divorce a few years back, he'd been dating diminutive, aging cheerleaders who had aged well, but he had had no serious relationships. At five-foot-seven or eight, she was taller than he liked. Perhaps once she had been model-thin, but age had put an extra pound or two on her. Not many. She was still a very attractive woman; her waist only thickened to maybe twenty-five or twenty-six inches.
Richard had been raised to respect women but learned to fear them after his divorce and subsequent failed relationships. It wasn't that he didn't want to remarry, but caution was his watchword. It was better to admit caution than to admit he was scared. Richard acknowledged the cheerleaders were fun but shallow. They were looking for an emotional relationship with a father figure, or a Visa Card, or a father for their children rather than for a husband. He often joked with himself about changing pastures… someday.
He looked at her again with appreciation. Taking her by the arm he said, "Lead on."
"Is the Food Court OK with you?"
Jeanne spoke loudly to Tanya in the back of the store, "Be back in half an hour."
They walked down to D Giorgio's and stepped into the line with a sign that read, "Turkey." This was one restaurant with many order lines for different varieties of food. It replaced the older, multi-fast food places previously occupying the Galleria, and the food was quite good.
Richard said, "I guess you are Jeanne?"
Jeanne blushed, "I'm so sorry, I forgot to introduce myself. Yes. Jeanne. Jeanne Simmons. Now kind sir, who are you?"
Richard also blushed and started to introduce himself, then began laughing. "Here we are, out with each other and don't even know the other's name." When his laughter abated, he introduced himself. "Richard. Richard Andrews. Wasn't Jeanne Simmons a…"
"Movie star," Jeanne finished for him. "I used to get that all the time. Not many today know the name."
"Well Miss Movie Star, you must tell me all about yourself."
"I've starred in thirteen pictures so far, all by way of the casting couch, because I'm a lousy actress," she kidded.
"Seriously, Jeanne, I'd like to know something about this person I am apologizing to."
She watched him cutting his food and said, "Like you, I am divorced."
"I'm sorry to hear that. How did you know?"
"I looked at your hand while you were cutting your meat. No ring, no white spot saying you took it off tonight; odds are you are divorced, and don't be sorry."
Richard said, "Ahhhh! The Movie Star has powers of observation." Then he asked, "Why shouldn't I be sorry?"
"It's better for me. When my son graduated from high school and joined the Air Force, I divorced my husband," she said taking another bite.
Richard swallowed and asked, "When was that?
"Over six years ago. How long have you been divorced?
"Oh… about ten years." Richard could have calculated it to the hour if she wanted. "How long have you had the shop?"
"The boutique? About ten years."
"And he didn't get any of it when you divorced?"
Jeanne put her fork down. "When my son Eddie went into high school, I had to have something to do with my time and energy. I really had a husband in name only and knew what was coming. I wanted to prepare for the future, so I put the store in my aunt's name, and now it is my life." Jeanne was momentarily concerned with her openness to this man, but her creep-meter was still silent.
Richard feigned astonishment. "What? No men friends? You are a very attractive woman."
"I've had a few dates, not many working here till ten every night. Nothing I wanted to pursue," Jeanne said with some disgust.
Richard asked, "The usual?"
"If by that you mean all they wanted was sex, yes. One night stops-meaning, I stopped them before they ever got started. And by now, most men have dropped a few subtle hints of seduction. I'm surprised you haven't."
"I like to know my women a little better than that. Perhaps, if you give me another seven minutes, I'll try to drop a few," Richard said looking at his watch.
Richard's unexpected humor caught Jeanne off guard, and choking, some of her food abruptly flew out of her mouth. In a mixture of blushing, choking, and crying tears of laughter, Jeanne covered her mouth in an attempt to maintain a bit of dignity, all while trying to apologize.
It quickly dawned on Richard that Jeanne was having trouble breathing. He jumped out of his seat and rushed behind Jeanne's chair. In an awkward and not-too-gentlemanly fashion, he thumped her on the back. Jeanne coughed again and inhaled cleanly, giving Richard a look of thanks as she continued to apologize and straighten up.
"No," Richard said. "I'm the one who needs to apologize. I should have waited until you finished chewing. I didn't think it was that funny, and when I saw you were choking, I guessed you didn't either."
Jeanne twinkled. "Well, it was kinda cute, and you're right, not that funny. Shall we one up each other again?"
"No, but let me apologize by doing this again next Thursday. How about it? I know you have to get back to work, but I have enjoyed this evening."
"Since I have, too, choking and all, it's a date," Jeanne said.
"No, it's just an apology, remember?"
"OK. It's an apology. Next Thursday." They got up and left the table, and Richard walked her back to the boutique.
Richard went to Bobby's on Saturday morning to pick up a paperback copy of Maya Angelou's Collected Works. He just "happened" to stop in and say hello to Jeanne as she was opening the boutique.
"Good Morning Richard," she said cheerfully.
He smiled, "Morning."
"What brings you by?" she asked."
"Oh, I was picking up a book and wanted to see what an apology looked like a couple of days later."
"I have some Saturday chores to do, but we'll see each other Thursday."
"It's a date."
"It's an apology!"
"OK" she said. "It's an apology." She watched his lean frame amble out of the store thinking, "Not bad." She hadn't really put him all together until now. She had been too busy looking into his eyes. The shock of gray-blonde hair didn't have the hard-hat ring in it as it did the first time she saw him. She noticed some crow's feet, too, which made him look as though he laughed a lot.
He left thinking, "She's a nice lady; kind of attractive, too, but not my type. We'll just be friends." He didn't know she smiled a lot that day. He, too, was strangely happy.
The week dragged until that second Thursday night. They talked more, and he learned of her self-imposed celibacy - partially self-imposed, she had explained. Jeanne shared that her ex-husband's idea of foreplay was a pinch on the elbow. After Eddie was born, he pinched less and less, maybe one or two times a year, until not at all. It had not been unpleasant, and she had been somewhat satisfied… until it stopped. Jeanne found that business ran more smoothly when there were no distractions. She also learned that maintaining a business with no support from her husband was trying. She poured her energies into the business and became relatively successful.
Richard learned she had tried scuba diving for a while, and although she enjoyed it immensely, she found that it took too much time away from the business. Her interest in scuba diving seemed to fit with his experience as a diver for the Corps of Engineers back in his Army days. He knew there was a gulf between bubble blowers and working divers but made a note of the commonalities rather than the differences.
At another of their quick dinners together, Richard mentioned that he attended church occasionally.
Jeanne responded, "I went to the Catholic Church when I was young, but my parents left and took me with them."
Richard asked, "Why was that?"
"When I was in grade school, we found out that a priest molested a lot of little boys there."
"How did you find out about it?" Rich asked.
"A kid I knew in middle school, Buddy, committed suicide. Buddy was a neighbor and a friend. I never knew…" Her voice trailed off.
Jeanne's voice lowered, and she fidgeted in her seat. "Another kid got scared and told the police that he and a bunch of boys had been molested by Father… I can't think of his name now. My parents didn't think I knew what went on," she continued, "so they never said anything about it. We just left the church. But, I wasn't that dumb."
"Most kids are a lot smarter than parents give them credit for. And a lot of parents don't understand the impact something like this can have on them. Don't forget, you were a kid yourself when this happened."
"I guess so…"
Richard heard poignancy in her voice he could not identify as she spoke. Was it fear… sadness? He dropped it for then. If it was necessary, he could come back to it later.
Jeanne had dated for a while after the divorce, but it seemed she was just as good at attracting players as he was at finding cheerleaders. One of her first dates after the divorce was Ralph. She thought she was in love with Ralph, until she learned he was just another player. She hadn't met anyone who appreciated her for her commitment to hard work and business acumen, or her professional demeanor. She was a strong woman: hard when she had to be-and proud of it. As Richard's awareness of this identity grew, he thought, "We're just going to be friends." Richard liked the idea of having a relationship with Jeanne with no sexual entanglements. "Yes, we're just going to be friends." He thought this in spite of the hidden message he received from her eyes after they first bumped heads.
After they had laughed a time or two at some silly thing, Richard said, "I'd like to do this sometime when we're not apologizing. You're fun!"
"I usually eat alone every night. I'd enjoy the company."
"I have plans for tomorrow, but is Saturday all right?"
She put on her best pout for him. "Oh… hot date?"
"No, I wish!" He regretted those two words the instant they slipped out of his mouth. Richard avoided her eyes. "It's a Florida Engineering Society Chapter meeting."
"An Engineer? Reading poetry?"
"Yes." Now, he looked into her eyes. "I work for Greenbrier and Associates. Navigable waterway stuff. Permits and all."
They had countless enjoyable six o'clock dinners over the next months. Richard was becoming aware of his growing, reciprocated connectedness with Jeanne. It took him a while, but he learned there was more to her than her business persona revealed. She was funny and sensitive. Richard respected this woman, even enjoyed her company and presence. There were times when he thought he saw a depth in her akin to his own. As Richard thought about it, he questioned why he couldn't fall in love with Jeanne, just because she was too tall. Richard was beginning to realize this was just another illusion he was dragging about, like a ship with a too-small anchor. Maybe that would change.
Chapter 5 (end)
(Obviously a lot has happened to get us to this point)
Little laughter rumbles continued through the day as they both devoured the info from the web sites, laughing at some, disgusted with others. Jeanne fixed a chicken salad for dinner, neither wished to be food laden, and they hurried off to bed.
Richard prepared her as always, opening the first gate and began the rhythmic thrusting he knew would release the second gate. After the gate opened, he climbed beside her, laying on his back and said, "Your turn."
She sat astraddle him, lifted up, guiding him into her as she slowly sat on him. Jeanne remembered the one time she had asked Ed if she could get on top. He replied, "No way," as if it would be a cardinal sin. It felt so right for Rich to be in her like this. She started making tiny circular moves, back and forth, pressing and grinding her pubis into his. Richard put his hands around her hips to help her, then moved them up to her breasts, clutching them passionately. Richard loved watching the expression on her face change, as Jeanne sucked in her bottom lip. Jeanne initially thought about her pelvic cycles as she moved back and forth. Then, she began lifting herself off of him, slightly at first, and then more, increasing the speed of her pelvic cycles, twisting ever so slightly as her stimulation was increased.
She started grunting. "Oh! Oh. Oh! Unah, unah, unah," and the second gate opened again, flooding Richard. Richard softly said, "Keep going, Baby. Keep going." She kept going and flowing, then the grunts became more guttural, and she sat up, still grinding. Richard noticed his toes were clenched, feeling as though they were trying to pull the skin off the top of his feet. Jeanne became joyfully aware that her pleasure was increasing beyond what she had previously known, and taking her to a place she had never been She felt joy radiating from her body, from the inside out. Jeanne knew if ever there was a description of the word alive, this must be it. Then she saw the room begin to glow and felt her toes both clenching and tingling. The tingling sensation worked its way up her body toward her head, as her body was tensing.
Richard looked at her face again. She was glowing. Richard knew the room was dark when they began but now it was light. There was a soft glow about the room. The light was something he could not place, except from her glow, yet he could see the dresser and other furniture more clearly. He could see the ecstasy in her face. Jeanne's mouth was partially open, and it appeared as though she were in excruciating pain. He saw her eyes roll back in her head as felt himself ready to release with a primal, "Ahhhhhhh."
His own ecstasy was mounting, and he closed his eyes, as hers were closed. First, he couldn't believe he was still coming. Then, it made no difference. Vaguely, he could feel her continuing with her pelvic cyclic movement, but soon that went away, too, and he was in a place of ecstatic nothingness, except he was with Jeanne in a way unimaginable to him before that morning. It was as if they had dissolved into each other, yet, momentarily, he was aware of his physical being; it just didn't count.
Jeanne's "Ahhhhh" was shorter, and she kept thrusting her pelvis back and forth, her ecstasy climbing to the peak of aware oblivion as she traveled to another world. Later-she didn't know whether it was seconds or minutes or hours-she felt the blood come back into her body, filling her from her toes upward. She relaxed a little and moaned a soft "My God," sucked in her breath to hold it and memories of the ecstasy.
Jeanne allowed one last guttural gasp and collapsed on top of him, panting, and saying, "Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God."
As Richard returned to earth, he put his arms around her and held her for the longest time. He thought her insides were vibrating like a tiny clock buzzer.
"I didn't want it to ever end," she finally whispered.
Stunned by the awesomely frightening experience, Richard concurred, "Neither did I. Neither did I."
Tentatively, she said, "Honey, something really strange happened."
Rich said, "I know. Nothing like this ever happened to me before."
"Me either, but not that."
"I felt like light was coming out of me, out of the top of my head, and it was as though I wasn't here. Am I crazy?"
"We both are. I saw it and wondered, but I wasn't going to say anything.
"What are you doing to me, Honey?"
"Just loving you. Just loving you."
After a few minutes, she rolled over, allowing him to withdraw from her. He still felt the pleasurable vibrating in his penis.
(from) Chapter 15
(This kind of awesome,bonding experience is common to a few. Note, sexual intercourse is not involved at this time.)
On the way home, Jeanne said, "They are lovely people, and I really liked Rachel. She seems so down to earth and yet elevated. I can't figure it out yet, but I like her."
"I had the same feeling about Aaron when I first met him. They are good people. One of the things I like, now that I've met her, is they seem so much in love." He nudged her with his right elbow. "Kinda like us."
Jeanne smiled and took his hand, squeezing it. "Yeah. Kinda like us."
For a while, they sat in silence, drinking in each other. Rich placed his right hand on Jeanne's leg and she covered it with hers. Just touching. Suddenly, Rich was overwhelmed with a feeling of connectedness with this woman. Not physical or emotional-but both-and deeper, as though it reached into his soul. It began to flee as quickly as it came, and he took his foot off the gas to retard its departure. It was gone. A fleeting moment. He put his foot back on the gas to resume his speed and said to Jeanne, "Did you feel that?"
"I don't know. I felt something I've never felt before with you. It was-it was-wonderfully strange. I didn't know you could feel it too." She looked puzzled. "What was it?"
"I don't have the slightest idea. But you're right. It was wonderful. Sorta like a dry orgasm."
Jeanne smiled. "Leave it to you to come up with a sexy explanation."
"Well, that's the best I can do for now. Maybe after a few more…"
They drove home in wondrous silence.
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