I love first meetings. They set the tone for the relationship, and introduce the characters to the person they will love. Frank Atherton’s not very happy. As Assistant Director at a massive retirement complex, he’s having to deal with a troublesome visitor, Ralph Penwarren. He’s been interrupted by reports of his bad behavior all day, so when there’s a knock, Frank assumes it’s about him.
Someone knocked at his door. Thinking it might be about Mr. Penwarren, he groaned quietly as he stood up.
“Be right there!” he called. He dropped his plate in the kitchen sink and went to the door. “What’s he done now?” he asked automatically as he opened it.
It wasn’t Sue or one of the other staff members. An attractive brunette stood there.
“I’m sorry? Who did what?”
“Oh, no one you’d know. Frank Atherton, Assistant Director. I just saw you on TV.” He held out his hand after wiping it on his T-shirt.
She smiled. “Marka Ventimiglia. Nice to meet you. I feel really stupid asking, but yours is the only room with a light on. I took a chance that someone was up.”
He invited her in. She hesitated a moment, then followed him inside.
“What can I do for you?”
“I’m embarrassed to ask. I’m staying in a guest room and I’m out of toilet paper.”
“Really? No spare?” He was puzzled by that. “The girls usually put it under the sink.”
He walked to his restroom. It was quite spacious, with a tub and a separate, walk-in shower. He opened the cupboard under the sink and didn’t find a spare roll of paper. Checking all the cupboards, he came up empty.
“That’s weird. Gimme a second.” He dialed housekeeping but got no answer, so he dialed the front desk. “Sue, it’s Frank.”
“Hi, Frank. All’s quiet at the moment. Whatcha need?”
“Dr. Ventimiglia is with me and she hasn’t got a spare roll of toilet paper. Neither do I.”
“Oh, gosh. You want me to run some up there?”
“No, you don’t need to. Is Kathy around?”
“She should be. Shall I call her?”
“I just tried. I’ll call her again. Thanks.” He dialed the housekeeping office a second time. No one answered. Puzzled, he hung up.
“I’ll try later,” he told his guest. “Do you need some immediately?”
She looked slightly uncomfortable. “As a matter of fact….”
“Please, make yourself at home. There’s a nearly full roll.” He gestured to his restroom. “Want some coffee?”
“Love some. I’m a caffeine addict. I also drink a lot of water. Hence the urgency.” Marka closed the door behind her.
Frank set up a pot of coffee, pulled out the half and half and sugar packets. She came out just as the coffee finished.
Smiling, he served Marka, inviting her to sit on the love seat. His laptop occupied the chair. He set it carefully on the floor and clicked off the TV.
“I’ll give Kathy a call again a minute,” he explained. “She might be on break.”
“Thanks. I’m still learning my way around. I got here yesterday.”
“I caught your show tonight. Interesting. You should get a good turn out. I’ll talk it up for you.”
“You wouldn’t believe the success I had when I was doing my clinical,” she responded excitedly. “It was amazing, the results!” she sobered slightly, catching herself before she got too crazy. “I won’t bore you with details. You’ll have to excuse me, Mr. Atherton. I get very excited about my work.”
Frank smiled, eyes twinkling. “I’m glad one of us can. I’m either playing nursemaid, mother or cop. I never thought I’d have a job like this. None of my duties were in the job description.”
“The director, Mr. Norton, speaks very highly of you.”
Frank laughed abruptly and rather rudely as he finished his coffee. “Yeah? Boy, that was lie. He thinks I want his job.”
He couldn’t tell if she was serious or not. Looking surprised, he set his mug down. “Not really. Too much schmoozing.”
“Isn’t that in your job description?”
Frank laughed, shaking his head. “I’m not a schmoozer. I’m more of an in your face kind of guy. Let me give Kathy a call.” He was reaching for the house phone, on top of the console TV, when it rang. Startled, he answered. “Frank Atherton.”
© 2019 Dellani Oakes