Archive | November 2013

Bad Fall – Part 19

Bad FallThe phone call couldn’t have come at a worse time. Frank finally indulged the urge to kiss Marka. Somehow, Penwarren has eluded the men watching him and escaped from his room. Duty calls, so Frank reluctantly leaves.

Frank shuffled toward the door. Fighting the need to leave, he kissed her one last time and dodged out the door without looking back. He knew if he did, he’d stay with her instead of doing the job he was paid for.

Marka watched him jog down the hall toward the elevator. She wanted to call him back, but knew she didn’t dare. If they hadn’t been interrupted when they were, she was sure they would have gone to bed together. As much as she wanted that, now was not the time.

Once the door closed, she leaned against it, sighing happily. She could feel his lips on hers, his arms around her, the pulse of his excitement. . . Humming, she cleaned up after their dinner, imagining what her future held.

Frank ran to the elevator, mashing the up button. He got the foyer as the others finished assembling. Dividing the men and the flashlights, he gave instructions. Each pair had at least one cellphone among them. His was plugged in at Marka’s, so he paired up with one of the orderlies who had a new iPhone. They all had the contact numbers for the others.

“If you find him, call the cops, then call me. In that order. Clear?”

“Yes, sir,” they chorused.

“Let’s go find us a douchebag,” Frank said.

He and his partner headed to the nearest stairs. They were starting on the top floor of Penwarren’s building and working their way down the back staircase. From there, they would go outside and canvas the lake area. Frank’s partner, Matthew, was a chatty type guy, but soon learned that his boss wasn’t in the mood for idle talk.

“So, who is this guy?” Matthew asked.

Frank explained to him who Ralph Penwarren was.

“Oh, him! Yeah, what a prick. Friend of mine was out for a smoke. The old, fat guy’s out there, right? Wouldn’t give him a light. Like butane’s gold or something. Billy went most of his break without a smoke. Had to hotbox it.”

“Yet another reason I gave up smoking,” Frank replied. “Has he completely alienated the entire staff?”

“Just about. I’ve heard people bitching about him all day. I’m on a double, Matt explained.

“I wish I knew how he got out. I can’t believe no one spotted him.”

“Prolly waited until the guard left and took off. I know you had a guy outside, but a man’s gotta piss sometime, dig?”

“Yeah. He should have had someone relieve him first.”

“Well, if the fat guy was bribing other people, maybe he bribed the guard too? I mean, it’s possible, right?”

“That had crossed my mind. I hate to think one of my people would do that.”

“Dude, we all have a price. I gotta admit, some guy offers me a hundred bucks to look the other way so he can sneak out, I’d think about it.”

“What if he offered you another hundred to get him in his mother’s room?”

“No, man. I wouldn’t want my kid going through my shit. Hell, I don’t want my mom going through my shit, dig?”

Frank chuckled, nodding. “I dig. Me either, as it happens.”

“You worried about your porn stash?”

“I got some interesting books when I was in India. I don’t think she’d appreciate them much.”

“How about your girlfriend?”

“Don’t have one of those at the moment.”

“I heard you were seeing the new shrink.”

“I took her to lunch.”

“And breakfast and she fixed you dinner. So, you tap that?” He held out his knuckles for Frank to bump.

Frank gave him an evil eye. “You in the habit of taking a woman to bed that you just met?”

“No, man. . . .”

“Neither am I.”

“Sorry, dude. That whole ADHD problem, makes me talk too fast for my brain to keep up.”

“I have the same problem sometimes.” Frank stopped walking at the end of the hall, just before they started down the stairs. “If I were a mean spirited, antisocial, sociopath, where would I go for fun?”

He looked left and right, shrugging exaggeratedly. “Oh, I dunno,” he said in a high, kid type voice. “Gee, whiz, Unca Frankie! I think I’ll go to Disneyland!”

The young orderly laughed. It echoed down the stairs. “Come on, boss. He’s not that bad, is he?”

“He’s a murder victim waiting for a killer,” Frank replied as he headed down the stairs.

“Damn. I thought he was just some mean, old, fat guy.”

“He’s Satan’s Hell Spawn.”

A strange sound filtered up from the ground floor. Frank held up his fist, using battle signs instinctively. He gestured to the kid to stay where he was and headed down.

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Bad Fall – Part 18

Bad FallFrank and Marka discover that both were raised Catholic. For fun, they ask one another what their Confirmation names were. Marka also reveals that she and her real mother don’t get along, but that her step-mother is a wonderful, loving lady.

“Ouch! Guess we know where Mom stands.”

“Five years to be able to say that without feeling guilty.”

“Can’t pick our parents. If we could, I’d have picked Jimmy Simmons’ dad. He was the cool dad in the neighborhood. Mine was the hardass. Military, spit and polish, follow the rules, keep your hair cut and your nose clean. Now, I appreciate it. At the time, I was the only kid in the fifth grade with a crew cut.”

“Oh, that hurts.”

“Yeah, and I was almost six feet tall by the time I was eleven.”

“Double ouch.”

“And skinny.”

“So, when did you reach this level of divine buffness?” She gestured with her fork.

“Filled out some in high school. U.S. Army is responsible for the rest.” He took a sip of his juice, eyes twinkling over the rim. “Thank you for noticing.”

She nearly spewed her mouthful of food. “As if I couldn’t! God, do you have any clothing that doesn’t fit like it was made for you? Even in jeans and a T-shirt, you look incredible.” She put her elbows on the table, propping her forehead on her palms. “I’m sorry. I’d blame it on alcohol, if only I could.”

“Even in baggy jammie pants and a shirt three sizes to big, you look pretty amazing yourself. You’re a very beautiful woman, Marka.”

“Thank you for noticing,” she whispered, her face buried in her hands.

Getting up suddenly, she bumped the table with her hip, nearly upsetting her drink. She ran to the kitchen, snatching at the paper towels. She clutched them to her face, crying bitterly.

Concerned, Frank followed, enfolding her in his arms. “I didn’t mean to upset you.”

“It’s not that. No guy in the entire history of my miserable, crown princess of disastrous love life, has ever complimented me like that. I mean, I got compliments if I worked for hours on my hair and makeup. . . . And here I am in the worst outfit imaginable and you tell me I’m pretty.”

“No, I told you you’re beautiful.” He wiped her tears with his thumbs. “What kind of assholes have you dated, Marka?”

She gasped, laughing and crying simultaneously. “Oh, you wouldn’t believe! One loser after another, each one worse than the next. I could be in a room with nine great guys and one loser and pick the loser every time.”

“Well, this time, you picked one of the nice ones.”

Frank couldn’t control himself another minute. The urge to kiss her was undeniable. Marka was soft and vulnerable, drenched in tears, beautiful and she smelled incredible. It seemed the most natural thing in the world.

Marka trembled as his mouth touched hers. Sighing, she leaned into him, opening her mouth a little. Experimentally, he licked her lower lip. When her lips parted, his tongue flickered in quickly, tasting her. Growing bolder, he dove in deeper, holding her close.

Marka shivered as he devoured her. He wanted to possess her and she wanted to let him. He was everything she wanted in a man and so much more.

Frank’s desire grew by the moment. He knew he shouldn’t take advantage, but there was something about a woman weeping in his arms that crushed his defenses to dust. He wanted to touch her everywhere, but contented himself with taking her face gently in his hands.

Marka pulled him by his belt loops. She rubbed against the front of his jeans, liking the response she got. Smiling to herself, she pulled him closer, moving her head so he’d kiss her neck and nibble her ears.

They kissed a long time, standing in the corner of her tiny kitchen. Frank was so preoccupied, he didn’t hear the phone ringing. Marka pulled away to answer. His mouth followed hers, desperately wanting her back.

“Hello? Yes, he’s here. One second.” She put her hand over the receiver. “It’s Charlie,” she whispered.

Frank frowned as his brain went from sex mode to professional mode. “Shit,” he muttered. He gave her one last kiss, brushing his lips across hers, before taking the phone from her.

“Yeah, Charlie?” He was still somewhat distracted.

“It’s Penwarren. He’s gone.”

That got his full attention. “He got out? How?”

“No one knows. He’s disappeared.”

“Goddammit. That man is the bane of my life! Okay. Get every spare man you can enlist and meet me in the foyer in ten minutes. Has he shown up at Mabel’s?”

“Nope. Hasn’t gone to the nursing home either.”

“How long ago?”

“Ten, fifteen minutes, tops.”

“Okay. I’ll be there in a few.” Frank hung up, groaning. Touching Marka’s cheek, his tongue flickered across her mouth. “We need to talk about this,” he said, not wanting to leave.

“You know where to find me.”

“Yeah…,” he sighed.

“Get going, boss man. Take care of the bad, fat man.”

Frank laughed, nodding. “I’ll be back,” he said in a purposely bad imitation of Arnold. “This is me—leaving.”

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Bad Fall – Part 17

Bad FallWith Penwarren isolated to his room and people watching him, Frank tries to relax a little. He has dinner with Marka to look forward to, but finds that his usual suave manner is blown to hell by his preoccupation with Ralph Penwarren. Fortunately, Marka still seems to find him charming.

Frank loosened his tie and hung up his suit coat. He realized that he’d left his other clothing in the car. He finished changing and called Marka again before going out to get his things. The temperature outside had dropped considerably. He shivered in his shirt sleeves and trotted back in the building as quickly as he could. He dropped his clothing in his room and jogged down to hers. Arriving breathless, he tapped at the door. Marka opened with a grin.

“Finally! Dinner’s almost ready. Will you open the bottle? It’s one of those tricky wire thingies.”

“No problem. Anything else I can do for you?”

“I’m sure I’ll think of something.”

Her smile held promises that he couldn’t even think about collecting on tonight. He was getting strong vibes from her. She was decidedly interested—quite possibly as much as he was. But she wasn’t gonna give it up to a man she just met. Not that he’d do that anyway. That wasn’t his style. He’d never been a one night stand kind of guy. He’d done it from time to time, but it wasn’t his usual mode of behavior.

“Frank? You in lala land?” She handed him the bottle.

“Guess so. Been a long day. I swear, I’m ready for that man to leave.” He explained the current crisis.

“Are there words to describe a man like him?”

“Haven’t found any that properly do it. Calling him a dick and a douchebag, while satisfying, don’t really do him justice. Insufferable, insignificant prick comes closer.”

“My dad would describe him as the head of a pimple on the ass of the universe.”

“Bingo! Your dad and I would get along, I bet.”

“Like a house on fire. Remind me never to introduce you.” She winked at him.

“There’s a way to slay my hopes.”

“By not introducing you to my dad?”

“Can’t get a man’s opinion if you don’t meet him.”

“Perhaps once I have you hopelessly hooked.”

“You’re kidding, right? You had me hooked when you asked for toilet paper.”

Marka stopped in her tracks, staring at him, her mouth slightly open. “You’re serious.”

“In fact, I think I was hooked when I saw you on TV.”

She still hadn’t moved.

Frank laughed nervously. “What?”

“That’s so incredibly sweet. No man ever fell for me because he saw me on TV.”

“First time for everything,” he said, clearing his throat.

It had finally struck him how his remarks could be interpreted. Not that he cared, he just didn’t want her to think he was some sort of sick, pathetic, stalker type who hadn’t gotten laid in almost a year.

If the shoe fits, boyo. . . . Well, not the stalker part.

He poured them each a glass of the sparkling grape juice. They toasted one another as well as the meal.

“And to Mabel Penwarren. May she recover fast so her damn son goes home!” Frank said.

“Here here!”

Their glasses tinked against one another once more.

“Dinner smells great!”

The timer buzzed.

“Let me check it. It should be almost done.”

Delicious smells issued from the oven. She opened the door and pulled out the rack. Frank insisted on lifting the pan out. It was full and quite heavy.

“This isn’t the usual cookware. Where did you get this?”

“It’s mine. I don’t cook in anything else but my stoneware.”

“This smells fantastic.” He inhaled deeply and his mouth started to water. “I’m gonna drool all over it.” He set the pan down on the counter.

“Grab plates?”

He did as she asked while she got the side dishes out of the oven and microwave. There were fresh baked rolls, corn on the cob and a huge salad. She piled food on his plate and heaped salad in a bowl for him.

He refilled their glasses and helped her carry things to the table. He even held her chair as she sat down.

“A true gentleman! Thank you. Do you say blessing?”

“I do whatever the cook wants,” he replied.

Marka crossed herself and bowed her head. “Bless us, oh Lord, and these Thy gifts, which we’re about to receive from Thy bounty, through Christ our Lord, Amen.”

Frank joined her, dredging up the words from the depths of his memory. Marka smiled at him when she opened her eyes.

“You’re keeping secrets,” she said. “I didn’t know you were a Catholic boy.”

“Didn’t come up.”

“What did you pick as your confirmation name?”

He thought a moment, biting his lip. “Well, that’s a puzzler. I was already named for so many saints, I had trouble with it. My name is Francis Joseph Augustus Steven Atherton.”

“Is one of those your confirmation name?”

“Nope. That’s just genealogy. John. That was it.”

“And I thought Marka Antonia Ventimiglia was a mouthful.”

“Now you know my secret identity. What was your confirmation name?”

“Joan.”

He nodded. “My sister wanted her, but Mom made her pick Bernadette.”

“Most of the girls in my class were Bernadette, Therese or Mary. Boring. I wanted Joan of Arc and argued with my mother and the nun for a solid hour. They tried to talk me out of it, but I went to Father McCoy and he told me to follow my heart. If my heart wanted Joan, I could have Joan.”

“Good for Father McCoy.”

“He was a sweet man. My mom as furious. She didn’t speak to me for a week.”

“Oh, the silent treatment. How’d that go over?”

“For me? Fine. I didn’t want to talk to her anyway. She and my dad divorced soon after that. It took me four years of therapy to realize that it wasn’t my fault because I chose Joan. My stepmom is the coolest lady ever. Her, I like.”

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Bad Fall – Part 16

Bad FallOnce again, Ralph Penwarren has found a way to make Frank’s life a living hell. This time, he not only tried to break into his mother’s apartment, he tried to bribe employees to do it for him. When confronted by Kathy and Sue, he has to make a decision.

“Yeah, totally my fault on that one, Sue. I’m sorry. So, the problem is, Penwarren, what do I do with you? You’re a bully. You’re trying to bribe my people. You got caught breaking into your mother’s room. You came in here last night, not even been here twenty-four hours yet, and you’ve turned the entire facility on its ear. I’d be in my rights to have you arrested just on general principle.”

“My brother is the police chief,” Sue said. “And Kathy’s dad is a detective.”
Penwarren blanched. His double chin wobbled like turkey wattles. “I didn’t know.”

“It’s a small town, Ralph. Everyone knows everyone else. You upset one, you upset us all. I’ve been nice so far. For your mother’s sake, I’ve indulged you. I’m a fair man, but this is your final warning. It ends now. Whatever is in that room stays in that room. You aren’t getting your hands on it. I’m standing a guard and you won’t get in. If you try again, in any way, to get access to that room without Mabel’s permission, I’ll have you arrested for breaking and entering and trespassing. I’ll add attempted bribery and verbal assault to the list. I’m sure Kathy’s dad could come up with a lot of other charges just to make it damn near impossible for you to make bail. Do I make myself clear?”

Penwarren nodded.

“I can’t hear you nod, Ralph. The ladies can’t witness to a nod. You gonna behave?”

“Yes.”

“And we’re clear on the consequences if you persist?”

“We’re clear.”

“Good. Go to your room. Stay there. Don’t cause any trouble. I will personally delight in removing you from the campus if you step out before morning. I was Special Ops, Ralph. I know how to put the hurt on a man. Do you believe me?”

“Completely.”

“Good. I’m glad we understand one another. Ladies, sorry for the snafu. Now I need to talk to Charlie.”

Frank picked up his desk phone and called the head of security. After explaining the situation, he was assured that there would be a guard on Mabel’s room. Charlie himself came to escort Ralph Penwarren to his room.

“We’ll check on you during the night,” Charlie told Ralph as they rode up in the elevator with Frank. “But not at regular intervals, randomly. If you aren’t where you’re supposed to be, there will be pain. Understood?”

“You gonna come in my room while I’m sleeping?”

“Don’t make that necessary,” Charlie said.

“I won’t.”

They walked Ralph to his room and stayed until he was inside.

“How can you check on him?” Frank asked quietly when they were well out of earshot. “You wouldn’t really go in?”

“No, but he doesn’t know that. He’s a pussy. He’ll stay put. But should he develop balls at some point, I’ll keep a guy in the hallway and have the others patrol outside.”

“I hope he realizes he’s four stories up.”

“You figure him for a crawl out the window kind of guy?” Charlie’s laugh was rude. “Yeah. He’s Super Fly!”

“I’ll be in Dr. Ventimiglia’s room for a couple hours.”

“Not all night?” Charlie raised an eyebrow.

“I just met the woman. Would you grow up?”

“She’s hot though, huh? I saw her picture on the bulletin board when I went to clock in.”

“She’s hot.”

“You’re married.”

“So, a man can’t look? I’d have to be dead to not think that was a fine looking woman. All the more reason for you to hook up. Then I can live vicariously through you.”

“I didn’t think you even knew vicariously,” Frank said with a laugh.

“Just cause I’m a security guard don’t mean I don’t know things.” He winked, tapping his finger on the side of his nose. “I got an education, I just don’t apply myself. Comes from being a classic underachiever and a middle child.”

Frank made a rude gesture. Charlie returned it as the elevator doors closed.

Deciding that he didn’t want to be in his suit any longer, Frank went to his room to change. He gave Marka a call so she’d know why he was delayed.

“Just got it in the oven. Everything settled?”

“For now. I’ll be down in a few minutes. I gotta get outta this monkey suit.”

“But it’s such a fashionable one.”

“Maybe, but I’m a jeans and T-shirt kind of guy.”

“Not a problem. I’m in my comfy jammie pants and a sweatshirt, so not a problem. I’ve got the sparkling juice chilling.”

“I’d kill for a Scotch,” he muttered. “Okay. Changing now and I’ll be down in about ten.”

“See you then.”

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Bad Fall – Part 15

dellani photo dark 2 super crop

Frank takes Marka to the grocery store. Her flirtatious manner leaves him breathless, thinking of all the things he’d rather be doing.

Once his heart started beating normally and his breath returned, he followed her as she conferred with the butcher about her purchases. The man also recommended sides and a couple of wines.

“No alcohol,” Frank told her.

“Oh, I forgot. We’ll get a sparkling juice instead. Almost as good.”

“When they spring me from Penwarren hell, we can eat at my place. No alcohol ban there.”

“Sounds good.”

They took their purchases to the register. Frank paid for her groceries too. She tried to protest, but he insisted.

“Please, let me do this. I’m eating half of it and you’re doing me a huge favor by cooking. I can’t tell you how sick I am of eating out.”

“Put that way, I can’t argue with your logic. Thank you.”

“Thank you. I honestly can’t remember the last time a woman cooked for me.”

Frank realized how sad and pathetic that sounded. He put away his credit card and started toward the door. The cashier handed Marka the receipt and she followed him to the car. He was already putting the groceries in the back when she caught up to him.

“I keep finding ways to upset you.”

“No. I keep finding that I have big gaping holes in my emotional armor that I didn’t know existed.” He put the last bag in and shut the trunk. He held her door for her as she climbed in.

“Thank you,” she said, touching his cheek.

“What for this time? You already thanked me for the groceries, lunch, breakfast, my jacket. . . .”

Her lips touched his lightly. “For being kind to stranger who had no toilet paper. For showing me around today, introducing me, making me feel at home. Thank you for letting me into a small corner of your life, showing me your beautiful home, letting me cook for you.”

Frank couldn’t look at her. Marka’s golden eyes drew him in, trapping him like a bug in amber. If he let himself, he’d fall in and never get out. He rushed around to his side of the car and headed back to Sheltering Oaks.

They were barely in the door when three people, one of them Ralph Penwarren, nearly tackled him. Sue and Kathy were the other two.

“Frank, I’ve called you a dozen times,” Sue said.

He took his phone out of his pocket. It was flashing low battery. There were the messages, all in a line. It hadn’t rung through.

“Sorry, Sue. What’s wrong?”

“He tried to bribe me!” Kathy yelled, pointing at Penwarren. “He came to my office and offered me a hundred bucks to let him in his mom’s apartment!”

“Voices down,” Frank said. “My office.” He gestured to them.

“I’m gonna go start dinner,” Marka said.

“I’ll be up shortly. Get one of the guys to help you with the groceries.”

An orderly was passing, coming in from a smoke break. Frank asked him to help Marka. The kid picked up all the bags like they were nothing and followed her to the elevator.

“I’ll be up as soon as I can,” Frank promised.

He led the way to his office and unlocked the door. He ushered the others in, shutting it behind them.

“Okay, Kathy. Start over. When did this happen?”

“Right after I came on shift. Like three?”

Right before he tried to break in. “Go on.”

“So, I told him no! Mabel’s a sweet lady. If she wanted him in there, he’d be in there.”

“She’s my mother! She needed some things.”

“That the staff would be happy to get for her,” Frank said with finality. “Why didn’t you tell me this earlier?” He asked Kathy.

“You weren’t in your office and you didn’t answer your cell. I did try, Frank. I’m not gonna tell you something like that?”

“Of course you would. Okay, Sue. You next.”

“What about my side?” Penwarren whined.

“Your side is to sit there and shut up before I call the cops and have you forcibly removed. Sue?”

“He just tried the same thing with me like thirty minutes ago. When I told him no, he got ugly. He started yelling and saying he was gonna have my job. I tried calling, Frank.”

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Bad Fall – Part 14

Bad Fall

As open and welcoming as he’s been, there are some subjects that make him clam up. One of these is taking about Emily, the woman whose office Marka now occupies. To draw him out, she tells Frank about a bad romantic experience she had.

“Now I’m supposed to open up and tell about my shitty experience too, right?”

“No, Frank. . . . That’s not why I told you that.”

“Let’s get going.” He grabbed up his clothing and a stack of cloth grocery bags.
He flung the bags in the back seat, but hung the garment bag carefully. The gym bag went on the floor behind his seat.

“I’m really not trying to piss you off, Frank.”

“Really? Kind of feels that way.” He backed out of this driveway quickly.

Maneuvering rapidly on the narrow two lane road, he stared out the windshield with an angry frown.

“I’m naturally nosy,” she said after a couple minutes. “When I see someone hurting, I want to help.

I can help you, Frank.”

“Maybe everything’s fine. Maybe I don’t need help.”

“Maybe just the way you said that, you don’t mean it.”

Frank sped up. He took the road to the IGA a little faster than he should. The car swayed slightly. He slowed, regaining control before they turned into the parking lot. He parked the car. Turning it off, he drew a deep breath, huffing it out.

“She left me, okay? She married someone else and left me. Every time I ever give my heart to a woman, she takes it and blows it up with C-4. I got more holes than a practice target.”

“Emily?” Marka asked quietly.

Frank frowned at her, anger and pain burning in his eyes. The color rose in his face and he gripped the steering wheel until his knuckles went white.

“No. I told you, she was just a friend.”

“She was more than a friend, Frank. I found some things she left in the bottom drawer of her desk. I’m sure she didn’t intend for anyone but you to find them.”

“Great! So that’s what this interrogation was about? A stack of supposed love letters?”

“I didn’t say that.”

“Then what?”

“A note. The socks you gave her. A couple snapshots.” She paused, staring hard at her fingers. “An ultrasound image.”

Tears welled in his eyes. He wrenched the door open, slamming it behind him. He left her to get out of the car by herself. He yanked a shopping cart and started toward the produce section. Marka followed him with another cart. She caught up with him by the tomatoes.

“It wasn’t mine,” he mumbled. “It was her husband’s. We never— She didn’t cheat on him. Not because we didn’t want to. But they had a daughter, the other on the way. If she’d left him, he would have kept the kids.”

“What a monster.”

“No. He’s a good guy. He loves her, loves his kids. She loved me. Or I thought she did.”

“I’m sorry I dug that up. I shouldn’t have pried.”

“No, you shouldn’t. Analyzing me isn’t your job, Dr. Freud.”

“I’m more Jungian than Freudian,” she replied with a smirk. “Freud was too focused on sex to look at anything else. That man had a lot of problems. He was a real whack job.”

Frank’s barking laugh made heads turn. He waved to them and they looked away.

“First time I ever heard the father of modern psychiatry called a whack job.”

“Oh, it’s the technical term for someone who’s out of his fucking mind,” she replied quietly as she passed him.

Frank laughed again, louder. More stares, many of them close to glowers. He waved again, laughing as he headed to the deli. His purchases seemed random and impulsive to Marka, but his cart was neatly organized. She’d never seen a more perfectly aligned cart in her life.

“If I were Freudian, I’d call you anal,” she said as he made a spot for his neatly stacked yogurt.

He toppled the yogurt, grinning. “There, less anal.” He walked off, humming.

“It’s killing you,” she said when she caught up. “Go ahead, pick them up before you blow a gasket.”

“That obvious?” He winced, looking worried.

“Only to the trained eye.”

He stacked his yogurt and followed her as she wandered past the meat section.

“You aren’t a vegetarian, are you?” she asked over her shoulder.

“Me? No. Gotta avoid red meat. Well, I can eat it once in awhile. . . .”

“Allergies?”

“Hemochromatosis. You familiar with that?”

“The body absorbs too much iron from the GI tract.”

“Yeah. They found it when I went in the military.”

“And they didn’t throw you out?”

“Mine’s easily controlled with diet. I’m careful what I eat, I’m fine. I had red meat last night, so I probably shouldn’t tonight.”

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Bad Fall – Part 13

Bad Fall

Frank has taken Marka to his house so that he can get some more clothing together for an extended stay at Sheltering Oaks.

Frank laughed. He came out carrying two garment bags and several shirts and ties. He dug through the chest of drawers and carried coordinating socks, T-shirts and boxers to the bed. A gym bag did well for those things. The shirts and suits went in a garment bag.

“Well, there’s one question answered,” she said as she watched him pack.

“Oh? Which one?”

“Boxer or briefs.” She raised a curious eyebrow, her lips twitching upward into a smile. “Do you always coordinate your suits, socks and underwear?”

He burst out laughing. “You know, I do? I guess it comes from wearing the same thing every day when I was in the military. I like lots of color now.”

“Real silk?” She asked as he folded the boxers and put them in the bag.

“Some of them. They were a gift.”
“Someone must have liked you a lot,” she replied, leaning back in the chair.
“Yeah.” He clammed up. A red tinge lingered around his collar.

“I’m sorry. I upset you. This the bad breakup girl?”

“Could we drop it?” His brown eyes flashed dangerously.

I’m treading into very dangerous territory. “It’s not my business….”

“No, it’s really not.”

“I still maintain that talking about it helps.”

“Maybe so.” His jaw worked rapidly as he fought the surging emotions. “It was a long time ago.”

“Not long enough, if it upsets you like this.”

“Could we drop it? Please?”

“Did she leave you?”

“Marka!”

She’d put a toe over the invisible line of his tolerance. She pulled back a little, but didn’t fully retreat.

“When I was in college, I lived with this great guy. He was my high school sweetheart, my first lover, the guy I thought I’d live with forever. He was a couple years older. His senior year in college, his scholarship got the ax. He had nothing, no way to pay for classes. He was pre-med and it was grueling. I dropped out of college and worked two jobs to help him pay for his degree. The day after he graduated, he dumped me, kicked me out of the apartment and took up with another woman. They got married a month later. He’d been fooling around with her for nearly a year while I worked my ass off to take care of him.”

“He was a bastard.”

“Yeah. So, as shitty relationships go, I’m pretty much the crown princess.”

© Dellani Oakes

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To Purchase Dellani’s Books

Bad Fall – Part 12

Bad Fall

Frank and Marka find unusual things to chat about, this time, it’s poems they had to memorize in school. He brings up Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

“One guy in my English class asked the teacher where he could get the stuff Coleridge was smokin’ when he came up with that poem. Cause it had to be good shit.”

“Not you?”

“Nooooo. I knew to keep a low profile. My mom was a teacher at the same school. I had to be on my best behavior.”

“Ew. Never fun.”

“She eventually became assistant principal. Fortunately, that was after I graduated.”

“What does she do now?”

“Principal of the high school now. Bucking for superintendent. She’ll get it in the next election. The other one is retiring and has already endorsed her to replace him.”

“That’s so cool. Where’s home?”

“For the moment? Here.”

He pulled up in front of a cozy brick home with white shutters and trim. Nestled in the crook of two hills, the yard behind it dipped into a ravine. The entire property was ringed with trees, oak, maple and pine vied for attention. The maple, whose leaves were bright red, won hands down.

“It’s gorgeous!”

He led her to the front porch and unlocked the door. “Come see my view.”

She followed him to the back of the house, through a cheery living room and open, airy dining
room. Sliding glass doors led to a wooden deck that ran the length of the house. Below them, the ravine dropped to a rocky stream. The water pounded over the stones and she could hear the sound from where she stood.

“You should see it in the snow,” he said. Everything turns this ethereal white. And in the spring, there’s a layer of green gold everywhere as the plants get ready to bloom. I’ve taken dozens of pictures, every season is different.”

“It’s glorious,” she exclaimed. “I see why you chose it.”

“I walked in here and it spoke to me. I never felt so at home. It’s like I was meant to be here.” He looked embarrassed, shutting the door after they went back inside. “I sound kinda crazy, I know.”

“Not at all. I felt that way when I walked in too. It’s a perfect home to start a family….” Her turn to look embarrassed.

“Yeah,” he murmured. “I kinda thought the same.”

The urge to kiss her was unbearably strong. Forcing himself to breathe, he asked if she wanted anything to drink.

“I’m fine, thanks. Don’t you have packing?”

“Yeah. You can watch some TV if you want….”

“Or I can come talk to you while you pack.”

“Or that.”

He led her down the short hall to his bedroom. The room’s furnishings were Spartan in comparison to the living and dining rooms. The bed, chifferobe and chest of drawers were all light wood. The walls were sage green, the curtains an olive, khaki and sage plaid. It was a very masculine room.

Marka sat in a comfortable recliner that had a place of honor in the room. A small pie crust table stood next to it with an amber and ruby glass Tiffany lamp. The TV was directly across from it and a fireplace to the right. Marka knew this was his special place, where he came to unwind.

“Great chair,” she said, shifting happily.

“First thing I bought when I moved out on my own. I slept in it for a few weeks until I could find the right bed.” He walked into his closet. His voice came to her, slightly muffled. “I’m thinking of
buying this house. The owner wants to get out from under the taxes and is willing to take the last three
years toward it as a down payment. Haven’t made up my mind.”

“Yes, you have. You just haven’t told him yet.”

© Dellani Oakes

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