If Your Heart SurrendersbyPompousBuffoon©
I have been trying to step out of my comfort zone. I originally wrote this back in January, inspired by a lyric from an old '80s song. I had intended to publish it for Valenine's Day. But something was wrong. It took a few insightful comments from my friend Anne to get it back on track.
As usual, reader votes and comments are most appreciated.)
Al finished chaining down the snow blower in the bed of his pickup truck. He got the computerized electric meter out of his tool chest and slipped into his pocket. Then he got the roof rake and began to trudge back up Marlene's newly cleared driveway.
Henry, Marlene and Al's former High School math teacher and Marlene's next door neighbor called out, "Hey Al, thanks for clearing my drive and my walkways!"
Al looked over at Henry then at Charlie as he emerged from their house and joked: "Hey Henry, hey Charlie; I was clearing Marlene's and thought that should butter up my second favorite county assemblyman.
Henry leaned on the fence and chuckled.
Charlie grasped Henry possessively by the shoulders, squared his own shoulders and teased, "If anybody is going to start buttering up my Henry, he is going to have to butter me up first!"
Al chortled, "Sure Charlie, I'll get started thinking of something nice to do for you as well."
Charlie leaned on his unused broom then waved his arm expansively around at the cleared drive and walkways, "Well the 'Blow-Jobs' that you gave to Marlene and then to my Henry and I this morning were a fine way to start. Stop by later, Henry and I can put our heads together later and think of how you might earn our special favor!"
Al leaned on the long handles of his roof rake and smiled, "Easy there 'Joy-Boy,' I'm only trying to curry favor with Henry and Marlene, besides: I wouldn't want for Henry to get jealous!"
Charlie sounded almost hurt while he eyed the roof rake, "Yes, I see that Marlene is in for a higher level of SERVICE than either my Henry or I, will ever rate!"
Al chuckled, "Well, Marlene did hire me to install solar panels on the roof and to build a Florida room for her hot tub around back. I just thought that I'd make sure that the weight of the snow doesn't cause any problems later.
Henry interrupted, "Charlie, why don't you go ahead and clear off the SUV? I'd like to talk to Al for a moment."
Charlie kissed Henry and went off to begin to sweep the eight inches of snow off of the couple's SUV.
Al chuckled, "He never gives up trying to get me to switch teams, I have to give him credit there Henry!"
Henry shrugged, "That is one of Charlie's most endearing qualities Al.
Anyway, I just wanted to congratulate you on getting the go-ahead for the renovation of those bungalows down in Sea Girt. I signed the contracts last night after the vote. You should get them by mail shortly."
Al smiled enthusiastically, "Well that's great news Henry! So, you took the vote last night? I wonder why Marlene didn't say anything about it when I arrived this morning."
Henry mentioned cautiously, "It was Marlene who pushed the vote up to last night's meeting. She argued strongly in your favor before the assembly. After the fine work that you and your crew did on those houses in town, the Belmar Sports Pub, Marlene's Club Fantasia and the Seaside sports center; the rest of the assembly couldn't deny benefits to tourism, not to mention the increased tax revenues. They all fell right into line and made the vote was unanimous."
Al leaned on his roof rake and continued to wonder why Marlene, one of his oldest friends hadn't say anything about this latest good fortune.
Henry ventured, "I know that I shouldn't be mentioning this, but Marlene has been a little nervous. It isn't that she doubts your abilities as a contractor; I think that she might be concerned that now, you won't need her anymore."
Al stammered, "Well that's not going to happen. I mean, her Real Estate agency doesn't usually handle any listings down in Sea Girt. Anyway I won't be controlling who will get the listings, I assumed that the council would; all that Marlene would have to do is to put in her bid."
Henry put a hand on Al's arm, "It isn't money or any of that Al. Marlene came back home after that party that you threw for you construction crews up at your Sports Pub. She cried to me that you couldn't repeat enough to your friends about how this contract meant 'freedom' for you and for all of your men.
Al, Marlene is frightened that now that you have this very lucrative contract, YOU won't need HER anymore."
Al felt like he had been hit over the head by a two by four. "Of course I need Marlene, she's my best friend! Between her Real Estate office and my Contractor business, we've revitalized half of the town together! We own the two bars, we bowl on the same team; we were planning to play in a poker tournament together at the Borgata tonight."
Charlie came back with the broom.
Al continued, "That's just silly! Doesn't she know that I_" Al stopped himself from saying the word. "Oh damn it Henry! What would a woman like Marlene want with me anyway?"
Henry pointed out, "Al, you used to defend Marlene when she was just skinny little 'Mark' back in school. You keep telling me that since you got back from the service, the two of you have been making your living together. Why, except for her house being here and you camping out in the apartment above the Pub, you two practically live together already!
Now stop, stop for just a moment; stop thinking like a 'free man' and start thinking like a lonely frightened woman who is facing the thought of losing the most important man in her world."
Al protested weakly, "But, Marlene is the best player on the softball team, and the bowling team; Marlene owns the FANTASIA."
Charlie stabbed a finger gently into Al's, "Marlene owns the club that the Gay and Lesbian community have made their second home; but she PLAYS on the teams that are sponsored by the owner of the Sports Pub!"
Henry handed over the snow shovel and took the broom from Charlie, "Thanks for clearing that up for us Charlie; why don't you finish the SUV for me?"
Henry let things sink in for a moment before he changed the subject. "So, you say a poker tournament over Valentine's week at the Borgata?"
Al was almost startled out of his reverie. "Um yeah, I have a couple of rooms there for the rest of the week right next to the Water Club."
Henry grinned, "The Borgata for Valentine's Day; so should I take it that you're FINALLY 'feeling LUCKY?'"
Al stammered, "Um yeah, I mean NO! I mean: we have TWO rooms Henry, I er_"
Henry smile grew even broader, "You are absolutely clueless to why Marlene does all that she does for you, aren't you Al?"
Al looked and started to laugh at the good natured ribbing. "Henry, stop making it sound like I was one of Marlene's renovation projects!"
Henry deadpanned, "Don't underestimate Marlene's power to make you into a new man Al."
Al stopped and just stared stupidly at Henry.
Henry chuckled, "Oh Al, breaking your balls is so easy! Say, listen: I have a few upgrades at the Borgata, why don't you let me use them on those rooms?"
Al chuckled, "Yeah sure Henry, I'd be much obliged! Well um, I'd better go and tend to my solar panels and my skylights now."
Henry took out his cell phone and smiled a friendly smile, "Sure Al, go ahead and tend to YOUR solar panels and to YOUR skylights; knock yourself out."
Al stood on the bottom edge of the roof and after he had finished clearing the soft fluffy snow from the solar panels. Then Al used the broom attachment of the roof rake to clear the last of the snow that dusted the glass skylights of the ten by fifteen foot Florida room below.
Al leaned his rake against the eave next to the ladder and moved back to the center, settling over the main junction box of the solar panel array. He took out his computerized electric meter and started the regimen of diagnostic tests to ensure that the panels were all on line and adding power to the house's power grid.
As the meter started the first of the tests, Al crouched over the sky lights below and let his mind run over the information that he had gotten from Henry and from Charlie.
Al wondered why Marlene would ever doubt him. Sure, Al had been surprised when he had come home from the service and Mark was now Marlene; the owner of the town's Gay bar. It didn't matter to Al if she called herself Mark or Marlene these days. She was still strong, intelligent, ballsy, startlingly attractive and now she was a county leader, a successful Real Estate Agent and she took an interest in becoming reacquainted with a broken down, returning veteran.
The electric meter beeped to let Al know that the first of the tests had finished successfully. Al glanced at the readout as he remembered his reaction to Marlene, all dressed in a tasteful, sexy black cocktail dress, sitting next to him at the Sports Pub as he rallied the troops who were starting to get tired of waiting for their next job.
As Al sat crouched on the roof, Al saw Marlene walking into the room below dressed in a bath robe.
Marlene's long chestnut hair hung half way down her back. She walked up to the hot tub. Marlene put a cooler down on the second step of the tub below then leaned over to test the water.
Al watched, fascinated as Marlene stood with her back to Al untying her robe. Al held his breath as Marlene let the robe slip down and draped the robe on a chair revealing a tanned, slender, but lithely muscular body. The vision of loveliness, wore only a pair of black panties and her gold mesh cord choker as she tied her hair into a pony-tail.
As Al watched mesmerized, as Marlene shimmy out of her panties, he thought to himself: how ridiculous it was for Henry and Charlie to have suggested that a woman a lovely as this, would even give a man like him a second look, let alone could possibly be_
The electric meter beeped softly as the second test finished successfully.
Al remembered the scene: there he was sitting next to Marlene at the Sports Pub. The eyes of every man in his construction crew were stealing lustful glances at mysterious and gorgeous chestnut haired woman who sat sipping her champagne, laughing at Al's jokes while nervously fingering her gold choker.
Al felt a bit of anger rising: not even one of those slobs were worthy to stand in the same room as Marlene; and here they were openly lusting for her in a bar like she were some common whore!
Al, for his part had prattled blithely on and on about his days with Army Engineers in Iraq and in Afghanistan, telling the guys that the one dream that every man in his squad had, had been the day that they would finally be free to go anywhere and to be anything that they wanted to be!
Al blinked as Marlene climbed up and into the tub. Al stared as Marlene splashed some of the warm water on her naked body: her toned thighs; shapely bottom; her slim waist; with just a hint of her lovely B-cup breasts and a pert pink nipple shamelessly peaking around from under one of her arms.
Al heard an insistent beeping from somewhere next to him on the roof as Marlene look up and turned fully around. Al stared as Marlene's soft brown eyes and her plump lips smiled up at him. Al breathlessly allowed his eyes to travel downward.
He admired her gorgeous pert breasts and her taut tummy until; there it was, hanging flaccidly between her slim thighs.
Marlene reached into the cooler and took out two long necked beer bottles.
Al frantically stabbed a finger at the electric meter to silence the insolent noise while Marlene twisted one of the caps off, gracefully lifted one arm to chug her beer down.
After she was finished, Marlene tossed the 'Dead Soldier' onto the near-by recycle can. Then she held the other bottle up to her smiling lips, looking up at Al with an inviting twinkle in her eyes.
Al smiled stupidly and blinked. He tapped his watch and held up five fingers.
Marlene smiled a confident smile and settled down into a seat beneath the warm water. Her finger touched a button and immediately, streams of bubbles erupted from the tub's sixteen jets all around her.
Al put Marlene's ladder and his roof rake away in the garage, he put the meter back into his truck then he let himself in through Marlene's front door.
Al called out over the soft humming of the hot tub.
Marlene called back, "The news reported that the storm is wrapping back around. We're expecting eight more inches of snow starting this afternoon into late tonight.
The Atlantic City airport has canceled all flights; but the Parkway and the Expressway are still opened. I called the Borgata; they say that the tournament may be postponed until tomorrow morning if people have trouble getting in. Come on back Al, why don't you join me? You must be frozen stiff!"
Al hung up his coat and took off his boots. Then he walked back to the Florida room. He hesitated when he saw that Marlene still sat naked in the tub, but was modestly crossing her arm in front of her breasts.
Al averted his eyes and leaned in the doorway. "Do you greet all of your male guests, like this?"
Marlene raised an eyebrow, "Only you Al. I've been trying to get your undivided attention for years now!"
Al cleared his throat nervously, "Marlene, when I was making a complete jerk out of myself at the Pub the other night, why didn't you say something?"
Marlene smiled and blinked, saying nothing.
Al looked directly into Marlene's eyes. "I was only trying to keep the men's spirits up; keep them together until we heard about the contract for the work down in Sea Girt.
If I said nothing and let the men split up, I'd always be able to find more guys. Yeah, some of the lucky ones might be able to get something in this economy, but what I was promising were local, long-term jobs. And I'm sorry to steal your thunder here Marlene, but Henry told me: it was you who came through for my men. Marlene, I never meant to hurt you, I am so sorry; please, tell me that you'll forgive me."
Marlene looked up cheerily and chided gently, "Well dude, don't go all 'EMO' on me now!"
Al glanced around self consciously then shrugged, "Well uh, maybe we should get a move-on and get down to the hotel before that snow starts up again.
I'll call one of my guys and have them stop by to run the snow blower again tomorrow morning and to brush the heaviest snow off of the glass roof.
You know; I er, I have been really looking forward to spending some time with my best friend, my best friend since, well, since forever. So what do you say: dinner, maybe some dancing at the club; we can worry about whatever else tomorrow!"
Marlene stood up and smiled brightly, "I'd like that Al!"
Al let his eyes travel down Marlene's naked body once again until he stared at the incongruous sight hanging long and limp at the apex of her thighs.
Al gulped nervously and breathed, "Marlene, since I came back from overseas, I've always wondered: someone as beautiful, as wonderful as you, you could have just snapped your fingers at any time and you could have had ANYONE that you wanted."
Marlene smiled and snapped her fingers.
Al smiled a crooked smile and mumbled, "Ahem, yeah er, well we better hurry."
Marlene smiled confidently as Al scurried out.
The ride down the parkway was uneventful and quiet. Al didn't seem to want to talk much and Marlene decided not to push it.
The snow started to fall softly as they drove down the Garden State Parkway, then more forcefully as they drove along Route 30 towards the entrance of the Borgata.
Al finally asked: "Marlene; was it difficult; since High School I mean?"
Marlene stared out the window, "No, that part wasn't difficult. You used to protect me from all of the bullies back in High School."
Marlene cupped her breasts, "Then you went away and, well I suppose that the hardest part has been the waiting."
Al chuckled nervously as he pulled into the parking deck, "Well that's surprising, I mean, all of the things that you must have gone through after your Mom passed away; I mean the counseling, the hormones. I would have been scared out of my mind!"
Marlene remembered, "Well the counseling helped and I tried the hormones for a little while, but I didn't like all of the effects. So I reduced the dosage all the way down to the minimum and didn't bother with any surgeries."
Marlene changed the subject, "Um, I was talking about the waiting for my best friend to come home safely! Al, even back in school, I always knew what I wanted you; what I didn't know was what you wanted. It never really came up before you went off to the service."
Al pulled into a parking space and mumbled, "Yeah ah, that may take a little more time Marlene. This is all still really new to me.
I mean don't get me wrong, it's like Henry said: I've already built a life with you, but I mean, would being with you mean that I've been gay all along, or would you be turning me gay? I mean I've been with women, you know; and uh_"
Al just sat searching for the right words when he felt Marlene squeeze his arm. "Why don't you start by turning the truck off and then we can go check into our rooms? We have the rest of the week for you to figure out if you really want me or not. Nobody down here knows me. We will just be a couple of people having some fun together: shopping, strolling, dining, dancing, playing some cards and maybe even winning some money together?"
Al smiled lamely and nodded, "That much I can do."
The clerk at the check-in desk smiled pleasantly and reasoned, "I am sorry sir; the snow has forced the many of the weekend guests to extend their stay with us. We don't have another room in the hotel!"
Al reasoned patiently, "But I had TWO rooms reserved!"
The pretty young clerk smiled, "Yes, your other party; Henry Rollins and Charles Banks, checked into the Presidential suite about a half an hour ago.
We had the bouquets of flowers and the bottle of champagne delivered to the Honeymoon suite; and your reservations for dinner are in at the SeaBlue restaurant for seven o'clock, just as you ordered."
Just then Marlene arrived at the check-in desk. "Bad news Al, the tournament is canceled due to the highways and the airport shutting down. I suppose that we'll just have to play cash games tonight; Al is everything alright?"
Al took the pen and signed in, "Yes; everything is fine. Henry and Charlie have already checked in; here you go darling, just sign in under my name."
Marlene took the pen and signed the register. Al offered his arm to the confused Marlene as the bell cap led the way with the luggage wagon.
After a silent ride up to the top floor of the hotel tower, the bell cap let the couple into Honeymoon Suite. Al gallantly swept Marlene up into his arms and carried her in, gently setting her by the king-sized bed, just up the steps from the sunken living room with the television, the couch and the hot tub. Al tossed his coat onto the bed, tipped the bell cap and herded him back out the door, while Marlene stripped off her coat and left it on the bed.
Marlene watched as Al started to fumble with the bottle of champagne, "But Al, I thought that you said we had separate rooms?"
Al popped the cork and poured the first glass, "Yes, we did, but somewhere along the way we've picked up a couple of 'Dan Cupids' who have decided to help us move things along."
Al handed Marlene her glass and poured the second glass, "So, to us!"
Marlene touched her glass to Al's glass, "Al, are you sure that this is what you really want?"
Al led Marlene down to the hot tub and touched a few buttons, turning on the heat and the gentle whisper of the bubbling jets while he nodded confidently, "I may some need help figuring out what to do with some of the equipment, but I'm sure that my best friend and I will figure it all out before long!"