This is a love story, and the beginning of a series about a monogamous couple who enjoy each other, and sex, very much. I want this chapter to be the foundation for the series, so there is a good deal of character development at the beginning.
If you're only looking for 'action,' I encourage you to pass.
If you do decide to read this, I hope you enjoy my ramblings.
Part I - The Encounter
It was the first really warm spring day of the year. Finally warm enough for shorts and T-shirts, and it seemed like half the population of Chicago had decided to spend the day at the lakeshore. I was one of them.
Fortunately, there are about 10 miles of lakeshore in Chicago, and more space in the parks that line the lake, sandwiched between Lake Shore Drive and the water, so although crowded, there was enough room on the pedestrian/bike path to maintain a reasonably pace.
I had ridden from my apartment, in the John Hancock Building, south to the University of Chicago, and was working my way to the north end of the path, where the Drive ends. The round trip is about twenty miles, and on a day like today, it can be a real delight. Chicago is full of attractive women who enjoy the warmth of the sun, and who come to the lakeshore dressed for a warm day.
I had just cleared the Field Museum and was even with the Buckingham Fountain when I came up behind a woman pushing her bike on the side of the path. There was a big group of oncoming traffic, so I slowed to let them by and fell in behind the lady. She was wearing a white T-shirt, baby blue shorts, and white sneakers with those short quarter socks. Hers had a blue trim that matched her shorts. From behind, she looked very athletic. Her long blond hair was tied in a ponytail that hung to the middle of her back. She had a slender waist, narrow, almost boyish hips, and a world class tush. Her legs were long and well muscled. I wondered what she looked like from the front.
It wasn't till after my inventory that I noticed the back tire on her bike was flat.
'Ah,' I thought, 'that explains why she's not riding.'
The crowd had passed so I pulled up beside her.
Looking at her I said, "I have a repair kit and a pump. I might be able to fix your flat."
"Really? That would be wonderful."
She gave me a huge smile and, I swear, her eyes twinkled. There was real relief in her voice and I wondered how long she had been walking.
I pulled off the path and onto the grass, watching her as she closed the ten feet between us. She was cute, with a kind of perky look. Maybe it was the blonde bangs, maybe it was the warm, friendly smile, or her clear, healthy complexion. Probably it was all of the above. She was a ten, at least to me, and to this day I deny that her T-shirt, which was stretched tightly between her breasts, had anything to do with my rating.
"Thank you so much. I've been on foot for over a mile, since down by Soldier Field."
"I can't believe nobody stopped to help you."
To myself I thought, 'If I'm the only guy carrying a patch kit on the lakefront today, it must be because of direct, Divine intervention.'
I leaned my bike against a tree and had her hold hers while I removed the rear wheel. I quickly got the tire off the rim and found the puncture in the tube. While I was working we bantered about the weather and the chances for a hot summer. This caused the conversation to veer towards global warming and its potentially catastrophic effects on the environment. I was impressed with how well acquainted she was with the subject, and how easily she communicated her thoughts about complex issues.
At a break in the discussion I said, "I get the feeling you're not a high-school drop-out."
"Not high-school, not college, not medical school, not three years of internship, not two years of additional training in internal medicine."
"Wow, a doc. Did I mention these headaches I get every third Thursday? My doctor can't seem to isolate a cause."
She laughed and said, "I bet you don't even have a doctor. Besides, I'm an internist, not a neurologist."
"And sometimes I'm not so quick on the uptake. You're right, I should have complained about my spleen."
"What about your spleen?"
"That's what I thought, still, the headache comment was better than most."
I gave her a questioning look.
"Let's just say I don't match people's stereotypes regarding doctors. When people, especially guys, find out that I'm a physician, they more often than not make comments about wanting me to examine body parts some distance south of the head."
A cute quip popped into my mind, but I thought better of it and kept my mouth shut.
Instead I said, "I understand."
Then I asked, "Would you get the little tin in the bag under the seat on my bike? The patches are in it."
She walked to my bike and pulled out the tin, but for some reason it slipped from her fingers, falling between the wheel and the tree. In one fluid move she pulled the bike away from the tree and bent over the rear wheel to retrieve the tin. It was like bending over to touch her toes. Her shorts rose up on her thighs, showing a lot of leg and a little bit of blue panty. She must have realized the view I had, sitting on the grass as I was, because she stood quickly and pulled on the back of her shorts.
Without looking at me she said, "I know what you're looking at." There seemed to be a smile in her voice.
"Only a dead man would have missed it."
She turned and there was a strong blush in her cheeks.
"I didn't mean to do that. The tin just slipped out of my hand and I just bent over to pick it up. I wasn't trying to tease you or anything like that. I can't even believe I said what I said. That was so unlike me, I…"
I interrupted, "Don't worry about it, Doc, no harm, no foul."
She relaxed a little and I held out my hand for that wonderful, slippery, little tin.
As she handed it to me I said, "Besides, I already noticed your legs."
She blushed again and I went to work on patching the tube. Not a word was spoken, and she seemed much too tense for the situation. When I looked up at her she would quickly look away, pretending she had been looking out over the lake.
"Tell me where you work? Are you in private practice, or on staff at a hospital?" Anything to restart the conversation.
"Oh, I sorry, I was just looking at the old lighthouse. I work at County, Cook County Hospital. I'm on staff there."
"That must keep you busy. I bet you can practice a lot of medicine there, if you want to."
"Oh, yes. We see all sorts of cases. Some can be very interesting and challenging. People don't know this, but the medical care at County is really very good. We don't have the insurance companies to deal with so there's not much we can't do, if it's needed."
"It's just the service that's slow?" I offered.
"Yeah, if you're not dying you can wait a long time, sometimes."
"OK, you're almost ready. Let me put some air in this thing and see if it holds."
I did, it held, and I put the wheel back on her bike.
There was an awkward pause and then she held out her hand and said, "Thank you."
I said, "Your welcome. You know, we've spent all this time together and I never introduced myself. My name is Paul Ryan."
"Amanda Blake. Thank you again."
I took her hand in mine and we shook, like gentlemen meeting for the first time. She had a firm grip and looked me right in the eye. Good for her.
When we released each other's hand, I said, "Like I said earlier, I noticed your legs, but I also noticed you're not wearing a ring. If you're not attached, or seeing anyone right now, I would like very much to see you again."
She just looked at me, a mix of indecision and apprehension showing in the expression on her face.
"OK, lets do it this way," I reached into my belly-bag and took out my wallet.
"Here's my card. It's up to you."
She read, "Paul S. Ryan, Ph.D., President, Environmental Consulting, Inc."
"Yep, three consultants and two staff. We're thinking about attempting a hostile takeover of GE."
She laughed. That was a good sign, at least we weren't parting on a sour note.
"I'll take the card." Looking at me she added, "I don't date much and my work keeps me busy, so I don't know. Maybe."
"Maybe is good."
She stood there holding the card, not knowing quite what to do with it.
"I don't have any pockets."
I panicked. I was going to lose a chance to see this angle again because she had no pockets. What was this, some cruel joke?
She handed the card back to me. My heart sank. I couldn't believe it.
"You're in the book aren’t you?"
The telephone book, of course.
"Paul S. Ryan, Ph.D., I'll remember."
She hopped on her bike and rode off.
I thought about riding with her, but quickly abandoned the idea. This was not a lady to rush. Besides, I didn't want anything to distract her. I wanted her to remember my name.
Part II - The Wait
She didn't call the first week.
She didn't call some more for another week.
She didn't call even more for the week after that.
I gave up.
Hope may linger for some, but after three weeks, it died for me.
She called on Wednesday of the fourth week.
Proof positive: There is a God!
Part III - Coffee
"Hi, it's Dr. Blake. Amanda, remember me? The girl with the flat tire?"
"I remember you. I was just wondering if you've been busy all month, or just indecisive."
"Don't start with me Paul, this is not easy for me."
"Sorry. What can I do for you?"
"Can you have coffee with me? After work tomorrow? Around six?"
I did a quick mental scan of my schedule, what was I doing Thursday evening? I had a date. Damn."
"Yes, that'll be fine. Do you want me to pick you up at the hospital, or meet you somewhere?"
A short pause, then, "I think it would be better to meet."
"In a public place with lots of people, and maybe some security guards, just in case."
"You're starting with me."
"No, I'm not, not really. I'm just happy you called. Tell me where."
"At the coffee kiosk on the second floor of the Water Tower Place. You know where I mean? Is that OK?"
"Yes, that's fine. I know where it is. Six o'clock tomorrow then."
There was real relief in her voice, "Then, I'll see you tomorrow," and the line went dead.
But I had a date tomorrow. But the date was for eight. But Julie lived in Evanston and that would take a half-hour drive. What if Amanda and I were talking, getting along, and having a good time together? Would I want to cut it short, you know, just coffee? I reached for the phone, hoping Julie would be understanding, and not ask too many questions.
Water Tower Place is home to Marshal Field's, Lord & Taylor, and another fifty or so retail shops. It's a high-rise mall, and it's very nice. There are about forty stories of condos above the mall.
The coffee kiosk has excellent coffee, and chocolate chip cookies that cost $2.50 each. They're worth every penny of it. It was a good choice and it was right across the street from my office, in the Hancock Building. That's right, I live and work in the same building. It's really handy, especially on cold winter days.
At five on Thursday, I left the office and went upstairs to shower and shave. I dressed in tan slacks, a blue, short sleeved shirt, and tan loafers. At six I was at the top of the escalator walking toward the kiosk.
Amanda was waiting, leaning against the railing that ended the overlook to the first floor. She was dressed in a conservative beige sundress with spaghetti straps and a high neck. The hem of the skirt fell to the top of her knees and she was wearing dark brown clogs. The color and cut of the dress may have been conservative but it did little to hide her remarkable figure.
We saw each other at about the same time and I smiled and waved. She gave me a tentative sort of smile and walked toward me.
"Hi," she said, and made no move to make any other type of greeting, no hug, no peck on the cheek, not even a handshake. She was obviously nervous, more than the occasion warranted I thought, and I wondered why. I sure didn't think of myself as an intimidating fellow.
"Good to see you. I'm very happy you called. Can I buy you a cup of coffee? I hear the chocolate chip cookies here are delightful, great for dunking."
She seemed to relax a bit and smiled. "Coffee and a cookie, an all-American combination."
We stood quietly while we waited for our turn at the counter. After we ordered, she went off to commandeer a table while I paid. When I looked around she was waving from the last table in the row against the railing.
I sat and said, "Kill anybody lately?"
"You always have to joke, don't you?"
"You're nervous. Sometimes a bad joke can work magic to relax people. It helps them focus on the joke teller and forget about themselves."
"All right, thank you. I am nervous. It took a lot of guts for me to call you."
"And four weeks of stress and strife while you made up your mind."
"You don't even know me and you know me too well."
"So, why did you call?"
She paused and lowered her eyes, then looked up and said, "Because you didn't push."
I got serious, "Did something really terrible happen to you? Were you raped, or molested, or kidnapped or something?"
"No, nothing like that. I just have a difficult time with men, in social situations. At work guys are no problem at all."
It was time to change the subject.
"How's your cookie?"
Amanda smiled and said, "Excellent, as always."
We talked about a lot of things, but nothing serious, nothing really personal. I even avoided asking her where she lived, or how she got to work. I somehow felt it would be best to let her volunteer the things she wanted me to know about her.
I was also reluctant to volunteer too much about myself. If she wanted to know, I would wait for her to ask. She had called because I hadn't pushed to see her again. I wanted her to want to see me again after this evening, so I was careful not to do anything that might be interpreted as pushing.
We sat and chatted for over an hour, during which time she bought a second cup of coffee and another cookie for us both. Not once did she say anything about how the cookies would make her fat. I liked that.
After almost two hours of small talk, I just had to test the water, "So, how am I doing?"
She gave me a radiant smile and said, "Fine, just fine."
"Fine enough for me to ask you out?"
"Depends on what you want to do."
"Dinner Saturday. Across the street, in the Signature Room. A very public place, lots of people."
"That's a big step up from a coffee kiosk."
"Ninety-three, we're on the second floor here."
I kept quiet and we looked at each other for a very long moment, during which she gave no clue as to her thinking.
Then suddenly the decision was made. "OK, Saturday then. Dinner. What should I wear? I've seen people in shorts up there sometimes."
"I'll wear a sport coat with a tie. You decide for yourself."
"I should warn you, I'm on the go all day long down there. I sometimes think I walk fifth miles a day. I eat like a horse."
"I'll reserve a table for four."
"Fine. I'll meet you in the lobby, by the elevators."
She pushed her chair back and stood. I stood with her.
"Thanks, Paul. You don't have to walk me out or anything. I'll see you Saturday."
Finished speaking, she turned and walked to the down escalator. I sat and watched her go. When she was almost out of sight she looked back and waved. She was smiling.
That was good.
Part IV - Dinner
At 8:45 PM Saturday evening I was waiting in the elevator lobby of the Hancock Building. I was dressed for dinner with a great lady in a great restaurant, blue shirt, gray slacks, and camel's hair coat.
The Signature Room is a remarkable place. The food is excellent and the view is fantastic, especially if you can get a table by the windows. If you want to, you can visit the lounge, which is on the other side of the building, and between them get a full 360-degree view of Chicago. On clear nights it's really quite spectacular.
As I waited, Allen, one of the doormen came over to say 'Hi.'
"Big date tonight, Mr. Ryan?"
"Maybe, Allen, just maybe."
Amanda walked into the lobby at 8:50 and I excused myself to greet her.
She smiled, "I wanted to be here waiting for you. When did you get here?"
"Only about five minutes ago. You look great!"
She was wearing a simple, sheath dress that was the palest blue I had ever seen. Her light blue eyes looked dark by comparison. The spaghetti straps were almost invisible, and the neckline gave only the hint of cleavage. Her long blonde hair fell to her shoulders and seemed to flow down her back. The dress ended about six inches above her knees and her legs were encased in black nylon. She wore simple, black, high-heeled pumps. There was no wrap and she carried no bag. Saying she looked 'great' was a monumental understatement.
"Let's get in line." She took my arm and we walked to the elevator bank that services the Signature Room.
I glanced at Allen who mouthed 'Wow' and gave me a discreet 'thumbs up.'
The line is for both the restaurant and the lounge. People with dinner reservations are taken first, so we arrived on the 95th floor a few minutes before nine. I caught George's eye, (George is the maitre d' and I have gotten to know him well during the time I have lived in the building.) and he waived us forward.
"Good evening, Mr. Ryan, Mademoiselle, your table is waiting."
He led and we followed to a table for four on the south side of the building. Heads turned to watch Amanda walk by.
George seated Amanda, ignoring me completely.
Fawning over Amanda, he said in his best faux French, "Enjoy your dinner, Mademoiselle. If there is anything you need, anything at all, I am at your service." He can be such a ham.
Amanda rewarded him with a radiant smile, "Why, thank you, sir. I am sure everything will be just perfect."
When George left, Amanda looked at me and asked, "How did you manage this, a table immediately? I've been here before and even with reservations, there is almost always a wait, especially on weekends."
"Extortion. I know where George buried the bodies."
"It must be bodies, plural. Just one body wouldn't be enough for service like this."
"OK, I'll have to tell you the truth. George and I are friends. I live in the building and I eat here often. We got along well as people and over the years we've become friends. There's no extortion. There's nothing to extort. George wouldn't hurt a fly."
Amanda looked at me, shaking her head, "You are a multi-faceted man. I am not sure what to think of you."
"Think good thoughts, and enjoy the view."
If you ever eat at the Signature Room, sit on the north or east sides during the day, but try for the south side if it's dark. After dark, the lake is black, like someone blocked out half of the picture, and the north view is mostly of the lake while the east view is all lake. But the south side view at night is of almost the entire city, and it really sparkles.
She looked through the glass and said, "I don't think I could ever get tired of looking at this city. Not from up here, anyway. Thank you for inviting me. And thank George, too."
Dinner was delicious, as always, and we discovered that neither of us drank. Interesting. She was true to her word and ate everything in sight.
After a light dessert for me, and a huge slice of seven-layer chocolate cake for her, I asked, "Are you planning to walk away from me again, or can we maybe walk over to Rush Street and watch the drunks?"
The north end of Rush Street is a compact 'restaurant row' and bar patrons often spill out onto the sidewalk.