A Man on an Island Ch. 04byTaLtos6©
A man (or a woman) has got to have friends. The holidays are coming and not that he's given it a thought exactly, Cale had no family near him as the festive season approaches. He's not exactly surrounded by friends either, since he's been busy. But he has a couple so ... 0_o
Oh! There's no sex in this chapter. Sorry if it disappoints.
Sylvia McDonnell was sweating slightly as she walked in the bright sunshine to her old barn. Once inside, it was a different kind of heat. Not like the glare of the sun on her shoulders so much, but even with everything opened up, the air here was a bit stifling. It was more of a humid warmth here. She was used to it, having been a horsewoman for almost all of her life. You just accepted it and got on with what you had to do.
She paused to let her eyes adjust to the shade here and looked for her friend and occasional all-around handyman. She saw him near the top of a ten foot stepladder near some stalls. Today he was also her electrician, running in some new lights to replace the rusted-out ones that had been in the place forever.
Sylvia admired him for a few seconds since he'd taken off his shirt in the heat hours ago. She knew he was around 43 since she'd have to think to remember when his birthday was exactly, but he sure didn't look his age. Damn...
She began to laugh, "Hey Beefcake, I want to thank you for the thrill here, but it's lunchtime, Cale, and exactly where is yours?"
Cale Taylor smiled a little shyly and mumbled something about not having time. Sylvia laughed, "That's what I thought. You don't have one, do you?"
She saw him trying to line up a piece of conduit and set what she'd brought down on the bench nearby before climbing up his other ladder herself. Seeing that she intended to hold one end for him, he climbed the next step and swung his leg around the top of the stepladder before seating himself on the top of it. "Just lay that end on the nail there, and that'll be close enough for me to get the clips on."
She followed his instructions, and he had two clips on in a few seconds. Sylvia climbed down, and Cale was down his ladder and onto the other one in a flash, and the section was up. "Hey, thanks, Sylvia."
He grabbed for his shirt, but Sylvia just waved her finger at him, "Don't you dare put that back on now, Cale. When I thanked you for the thrill, I was trying to encourage you, you know."
He grinned at his friend, "Well if you want to encourage me, then how about you take your shirt off too, Sylvia? We're in the middle of nowhere, and it is legal here for women to do that."
"I don't think you're ready for that, Cale. Is that what you really want?"
He stopped and gave her a slow smile, deciding to call her bluff, "Yeah, I do."
He winked, "I'm sure Paul would understand. A hot day, sunshine, nobody around... Hell, if he was here, we'd BOTH encourage you, I'm sure of it," he laughed.
She laughed along, "I'm sure he would, too. You guys are impossible. Come on, let's eat, before the testosterone around here gets to me."
They walked out carrying the cooler and the bags that she'd brought and sat down under a nearby tree before digging into the Chinese food. He looked at it thoughtfully, "How the heck did you get it here so hot?"
Sylvia laughed, "There's this thing, one of the new technological marvels of the age, Cale. I think it's called a microwave oven, you twit. The food was getting cold by the time I got back from town and I reheated it."
They decided that he ought to call it a day, since he had some things to do himself later at his home, and this job was almost ready to wire. He intended to get the rest of the materials in another day and finish this up then.
She handed him a vodka cooler and he grinned, "This is starting to look like almost a seduction attempt to me, Sylvia."
She laughed, "It kind of does, doesn't it? Don't worry Cale. You're safe from my clutches. But you know, I've wanted to ask you about something for a while, and we're friends, so if it's not too personal, what happened to that girl you were seeing a while ago? From what I knew, everything was going great, and we'd started talking about severing the homestead lot. Then all I knew since then was that you left and came back, and everything had gone south on you. I knew that you wanted to buy the old place for the two of you as a surprise for her, and yet you still went through with the sale.
You live there alone, and I don't mean to pry, but come on Cale, I care about you too much as a friend to see you living that hermit's life that you have there."
Cale looked down, and then back at his friend, "The total of it in short form is that she made a mistake and I was an idiot about it, Sylvia. I was hurt, and I can't explain it too well, but I rode out to see my brother and I wasn't thinking clearly. I asked for some vacation, but my boss gave me a dozen reasons why it wasn't possible. He always said that every time that I asked. I hadn't had a vacation in eight years, and on top of the way that I felt, it was a little much that day, so I told him where to go.
Then I saddled up and went there as well.
I never got to my brother's place. I changed my mind and called anyway, so it wasn't a big deal. I found a little town that I'd never heard of and kept myself a little pleasantly drunk for about a week. I'd never done that before, but I guess it helped. When I left to ride home and begin the purchase of the lot from you, I was just feeling empty, so I accepted it and got down to work at changing my life. I didn't want anybody around me then, and I'm sure that I did a pretty good job of keeping the world out of my face.
As miserable as I was, I met a beautiful woman there. I guess that we helped each other, since she's had a lot more sadness in her life than I've had. We keep in touch a little, but that's about it, since she can't leave there because of her commitments and I can't work there legally.
I'm not exactly looking for anything these days, Syl. I've never been much of a lady's man, and my marriage was a total screw up years ago though that was more two kids playing grownup. I was alone for a long time after that. Then I met Emma and I haven't really tried after that. You catching the drift here?
Even I don't have to be a rocket scientist to tell that Emma was my one last chance. I messed that up, and I doubt that I'll ever get another chance before I check out. You might not have noticed, but it gets harder the older you get. I just decided one day while I was shaving that I'm just not good at finding somebody to love, that's all. Everybody'd good at something, y'know?"
Sylvia nodded, "Yeah, I guess everybody excels at something."
Cale smirked, "Yeah well. I suck at that."
"Yeah, I guess I can relate," Sylvia said, "though I want you to know that it seems like such a damned shame, Cale. You've always been a great guy for as long as I've known you, and everybody deserves to be happy. I just wish you the best, that's all."
He smiled, "Who says that I'm not happy? I'm very ha-"
"You're very full of shit, is what you are, Cale." she laughed, "but thanks for telling me."
Cale walked into his kitchen a few weeks later and managed to work his way through the beginning of the ritual of getting some coffee started. The day before had gone long and after that there'd been his date with Bailey and he'd gotten in late.
He filled the kettle and turned it on, and then he had to give his head a shake. He hadn't gone out with Bailey last night. He'd been out with Penny Polcz – that was it. He was a little amazed that he'd forget someone with a name like that. He'd liked her – and her name.
He'd been out with Bailey on Tuesday evening.
Cale sighed to himself. He was going to have to at least try to have a little chat with Sylvia. He thought the world of her and he loved her to death for her concern and her friendship, but she was feeding him introductions to the very many women that she knew at an alarming rate, and he was the sort of man who would have liked to meet someone – if he was looking to meet someone, one at a time – as old-fashioned and hare-brained as that idea might be.
He played out a little scene on his head where he mixed up a set of names and ... well he knew that it was going to happen if Sylvia didn't let up a little. He was actually a little surprised that it hadn't already happened.
He thought about it and wondered a little. Surely even Sylvia McDonnell couldn't know that many single women. What the hell was she doing, going through the phone book or something?
Then he remembered the way that she'd taken the fight to a developer over his plans to fill in some wetland in the area. She'd set up a little terrarium and caught about a half-dozen Spring Peepers, and armed with them and the over thirty friends that she'd seemed to pull right out of the air, she'd hounded the regional conservation authority into doing their jobs, instead of rubber stamping the impact assessment evaluation. He shrugged to himself. The girl could obviously work miracles, so he decided that he shouldn't really be surprised at anything that she did.
He heard the set of nails out there on the porch and he looked over. His big buddy was back, so he walked over and opened the door. The animal was pleased to see him and marched right in as though he owned the place. With the greetings out of the way, the animal padded straight over to where he knew that Cale kept the box of dog biscuits – the big-assed industrial kind, since those were quite obviously what were called for here and then he sat down, looking back over his shoulder at Cale.
"You uh, ... you don't think this is a bit much or anything, do you?" he asked the dog with a grin, "The way that this is supposed to work is that you do some small thing for me like show me that you're willing to be my loyal friend and companion – and listen to me attentively in exchange for a biscuit now and then."
He rubbed that great big head for a second, "That's the way that this is supposed to go – I'm pretty sure. Instead, you're training me to open the door and let you in to have a biscuit. About the only thing that you do is listen to me grumble, right?"
He looked down and he could have sworn that he was seeing a look of agreement, so he shook his head and handed over a biscuit as he thought about the dates that he'd had recently.
By himself, Cale would have struggled for years to meet even one woman of any sort. He began to count on his fingers and ended at six in the last three weeks.
Six times he'd found himself squiring a lovely woman around for an evening, enjoying the fine company, and hell, even admiring them. He was more than a little certain that at least four of them showed him by their actions and mannerisms that they were more intelligent than he was – and he liked that. He thought about the other two and grinned since they'd just hidden it better, that was all. All of them were attractive to him, and at least three fell into his category of 'drop-dead' gorgeous.
The kettle clicked off and he shook his head as he asked himself what was wrong with him. The truth was that he didn't really know.
The other truth was that he wasn't wired for this. At some point during every date, he'd found himself looking at a wonderful person – well, he'd have given them the point, he guessed – as they tried to get to know him and he made half-hearted attempts in the other direction out of politeness. He felt as though he was doing something that he shouldn't have been doing and he couldn't understand that either.
At so many times in his life he'd have been in Heaven to be able to date even one girl like the ones that he'd gone out with recently. Now, he seemed to be ambivalent and THAT thought scared him a little as he opened the jar of instant and was about to fish out a teaspoonful of the crystals from near the bottom as he thought about the next one of Sylvia's wiring jobs.
It was a long process since he was doing it alone and in chunks that his friend could afford and he always tried hard to get her good prices on the cost of the materials, since he charged her nothing for the labor. She was his best friend and they'd known each other forever. He never said a thing to her, but sometimes he bore some of the material costs himself if he could and he saw that she was tight that month. Her husband's business was really starting to take off now and needed every nickle for the next couple of months.
He gave up then and reached for the phone to check with the local supplier on what he'd ordered. Since nothing had arrived and after listening to a sort of barely-interested guy tell him that he wasn't sure when it would be there, Cale canceled his order and placed another call to the supplier that his employer used in the city most often. They knew him there and it was nothing to place a personal order on his Mastercard that he knew would be ready to pick up that afternoon if he really wanted it, though he knew that he wouldn't be in until Monday. At least they were interested in making as little money.
He went back to making a cup of coffee and noticed that he couldn't smell anything in that almost empty jar, so he pulled the unopened one from the cupboard. Getting it open and the seal torn off, he lowered his nose and sniffed.
Better, he supposed, but it still wasn't what he knew that he ought to be smelling.
Cale looked at the shelf in the cupboard and he saw the almost empty white paper bag there. He reached up and took it down, unrolling the opened end and sticking his nose in to inhale.
Though it was old, he had his answer to more than one thing in less than a second, and he very carefully spooned out the real ground coffee there as though it was the very last of his money.
"Fuck the instant," he told the curious dog, "It's Saturday, right? I've got a little time today, so we're having real coffee – at least I am. You can't have any. It'll stunt your growth."
Something that Cale really liked about the dog was the way that he had of looking at him a little comically. The look that Cake received made him laugh and he pulled up the barstool that he kept in the kitchen to sit with his elbow on the counter and his chin on his hand as he watched the second last pot of coffee that he'd ever get out of the white paper bag being made. The smell which filled the room almost made his stomach hurt, and he was a little sad at how his chest felt as well.
That smell reminded him of someone and he knew what was wrong with him just as surely as he knew his own name. Any plans that he might have had for the day flew from Cale's mind for at least as long as this one pot of coffee lasted. About halfway through the drip, he got to his feet and walked upstairs to his desk to leaf through a few things and he came up with the address and the phone number. Putting it in his shirt pocket, he walked back down to the kitchen, and when he got there, he inhaled and laughed.
He looked at the clock and then he subtracted two hours, deciding to wait.
Sylvia dropped the business end of her shovel and stared at her cousin, "Are you for real? I've always wondered about you, Katie. Now that I think about it, I've never seen you in a relationship our whole lives, but I just assumed that I must have been out of the loop. Look, I'll admit I haven't exactly been the belle of the ball, relationship-wise, but even I had a few lovers here and there before I met Paul. You're saying nobody? Nothing? Not ever?"
They were mucking out stalls in the barn together. One in particular had received Kate's special attention, since she'd recently decided to take up riding again. She just hadn't found a horse that she wanted yet, but that was neither here nor there.
Kate was shorter than her cousin, but had the same slightly curly golden locks, though she wore hers a lot shorter than Sylvia. Right now, those manes were tied back in the barn's dank heat.
She shrugged, "Well as a teenager, my folks really discouraged me about boyfriends. I guess they wanted me to concentrate on my education. I got a few interesting passes from guys at university, but I guess the message had been drilled into me pretty good, and since I was there on my parent's dime, I just kept my nose to the grindstone.
Once I started working, it was all about the career, and in my field, that's a lot like gladiatorial combat. You don't trust anybody as far as you can throw them, so how can you get into a relationship? I met some nice guys along the way and had my fun now and then, but there was always that critical deal to close or the franchise out in God knows where that needed my attention.
A long relationship? Unless you count for less than a day, then no, never had a single one in my whole life."
Kate sighed, "So now here I am, wondering what the hell I did it all for, Sylvia. I'm way past my prime for kids; I've never taken much time for myself, aside from the odd vacation. And yeah, you can be as amazed as you want, but I'm probably the only successful lonely girl out there, still wandering around the deserted dance floor wondering when she'll get her chance. The only trouble is that the dance ended and everybody went home - twenty years ago."
Sylvia was still getting over her shock, "Well you'd better get a move on, hadn't you? Life is a one-time thing, you know, and you're still the same gorgeous girl, Katie."
Kate shook her head a bit wistfully, "I haven't got a clue how to begin anymore, and to tell you the truth, I'm really afraid to fail. And anyway, whenever I remember to look - and I'm busy, remember? I don't much like what I see. Success just seems to be another word for spread, if you know what I mean."
Sylvia laughed, "Oh, and you're picky too, is that it? Come on, let's get this smelly job over with."
Half an hour later, Kate stood watching as Sylvia hauled out the last of the mess with the front end loader. She shut it down and walked back to the barn to turn off the lights over the stalls on the empty side. As her hand touched the switch that Cale had replaced for her, she had a thought and smiled.
Back in the house after dinner, she handed her cousin a scrap of paper, "Here. When you get a chance, check out the gallery on this page. You'll find a folder called "The Homestead Shoot". Open that and check out the guy. He's a friend of mine and I know him well. The pictures were taken by his girlfriend - or ex-girlfriend now. It fell apart after half a year, and that was a year ago now."
She noted the uncomfortable look on Kate's face, "Oh get a grip, Katie. He's a really great guy, and I know he's not with anybody now. You might feel like you're not up to speed dating-wise, but trust me, Cale's not either. He just lives alone.
So go check it out, and call me if you're interested. And if you're not interested, then I'd say you might as well give it up now, because that means that you're already dead."
Kate went back to her incredibly busy existence and forgot about the slip of paper. She was in London to close a deal three months later when she found herself alone in her hotel room preparing for the next day's meetings. With everything in hand and a last check done, she was satisfied that this would be another winner for the multinational where she worked.
But she felt no satisfaction this time. This was pretty much a slam-dunk for her, and she'd also been feeling a bit lonely again lately. She got herself some wine out of the little bar, and halfway into the first glass, she remembered Sylvia's words. Checking her purse, she couldn't find the piece of paper.
She'd lost it and rolled her eyes. She gave a quick thought to calling her cousin, but gave it up because of the time difference. She thought back to their conversation as she slowly drank her wine and then turned in.