End of day, Frank and Marka have plans for dinner and an evening together. Frank can’t believe how comfortably and completely Marka has fit into his life.
He was just locking his office when Marka shut hers. She looked chilly, but happy to see him.
“I can tell I’ll have to dress more heavily tomorrow. This cardigan wasn’t enough.”
“Bring your winter coat.”
“I don’t really have one. I moved up from Florida. I have some cool weather things, but the temperatures we get aren’t nearly like that!”
“There are some stores in town that sell clothing at decent prices. They should have a good selection right now.”
She smiled, lighting a fire in his heart. “Do I need to check in and out?”
“You’re salary, right? No time clock.”
“There’s so much to learn the first few days.”
“Yeah. And we have a weird way of doing things around here. It works, but it took me awhile to acclimate. It’s not like the Army, set schedule for everything. I’m still learning to roll with it.”
“Surely, you’re not that inflexible.”
“I’m real flexible, but got me some bad habits.” He stopped by the front desk. “Sue, looks like I’m gonna have to spend another night here. I don’t like our special guest’s behavior.”
“Shall I have dinner sent up?”
“No. I’ve got plans, but thanks.”
“Don’t you think you should just stick around until Penwarren leaves?” Sue glanced around, lowering her voice. “I heard him yelling at Kenny earlier. He’s furious about not being able to get in his mom’s room. He’s acting crazy.”
“Ask Charlie to call me when he comes in. Meanwhile, have the guys keep an eye on that wing.”
“Already doing that. That’s why Kenny was there. Mr. P. was yelling at some of the girls earlier when they went in to clean. They wouldn’t let him in the room.”
“Why didn’t anyone call me?”
“I don’t know. I thought Kenny told you.”
“If we have to, we call the cops, okay?”
“Sue, this isn’t your fault. Okay, I’m going by my place to get clean socks and then the grocery store. If there’s any problem with our pal, call the cops then call me.”
He smiled, reaching through the window to take her hand. He kissed the knuckles. “You’re the best, babe. Thanks.”
Sue sighed as he walked off. She might be 15 years older than he was, and married, but she wasn’t immune to his charm.
“I can’t wait to meet this guy,” Marka said as they walked to his car.
“Trust me, you can. He’s such a dick. He’s making me fucking crazy!” He kept his voice down, but the F-word echoed around them.
“Such strong language from such a clean cut guy,” she reprimanded gently.
“Sorry. Please tell me you aren’t one of those women who’s put off by bad language. I’m an F-word kinda guy.”
“My dad was in the military, Frank. Do you really think I haven’t heard it before?” She giggled. “Some of these old folks have delicate sensibilities. We’re dealing with a lot of retired ministers.”
He chuckled, tossing his keys and catching them one handed. “True.” He clicked the button on his keyring and his black Cayenne beeped.
The setting sun chose that precise moment to drop between two trees, setting her dark hair aglow. Her face, partially cast in shadow, smiled up at him. Until that moment, he couldn’t have told anyone the color of her eyes. Even after all the time he’d spent with her that day. When she turned her head, the sun glimmered in them, dropping to the depths, to rise again as a glittering topaz. The honey brown orbs twinkled merrily.
“Penny for your thoughts,” she said with a grin.
“Oh, hell, they aren’t worth that much.” He cleared his throat. “I think I got too much sleep. Off my game. Okay, first I need to stop at my place, then on to the IGA for food. If I’m staying here a few days, I need to stock a few things.”
“Okay. Where do you live?”
“Kinda out in the country. I wanted something closer to town, but when you see it, you’ll understand.”
“Onward and upward, excelsior.”
“I had to memorize that poem in elementary school,” he commented as he fastened his seat belt.
“Oh, horrors! For me, it was John Gilpin’s Ride.”
“Uugh. . . . Rime of the Ancient Mariner, tenth grade.”
“Me too. Oh, but I loved that one. It was so grim and murky.”
“Yeah, I always kinda figured Coleridge was trippin’ when he wrote that.”
She burst out laughing. “Yeah, I can see that.”
© Dellani Oakes