Impact on the Heart

byMSTarot©

"I care about People. Sensations. Beauty. Memories. You see I found out awhile back that the most important things in the world are not what most people think. It's not possession, or having the biggest bank account. It's about living. Enjoying every moment." I swallow and take the plunge into the deeper waters. "I fell in love. Once." I give a half smile at the memory. "She was my cousin...first."

I see Casey's eyes go wide.

"Yea. You see I was young. Younger than you are now in fact. She was a year younger than I was. She was married but separated with the guy and nine months pregnant. Now...I never told her. Not once how I felt. She may have known we were always close but she never let on if she did." Pausing I pick up my swizzle stick and start playing with my coffee. I seriously wonder if I will ever drink it. I lift the little red plastic straw out to make sure it hasn't melted. I glance up and see her eyes on me. "Oh I know, First cousins and all that. Kind of sick huh?"

She looks at me for a second then slowly shakes her head.

"No. No not really. I mean it's not like she was your sister." She kind of shrugs. "What happen?'

I sit the red straw down. Why did I use this story as a reference? I could have told her a hundred things about the people I've worked with that would have been just as good.

"I was there at the hospital. She asked for me to be there at the delivery since her husband wasn't. I caressed her sweaty face all through her labor. I held her son before his father ever saw him. He was the most beautiful thing. He opened his eyes in that messy little face and looked up at me. His fingers curled around my finger like tiny grains of rice. He was so small." I choke up for a second. Sitting back I bring my hand up to the bandage at my nose and caress the ache. "She named him after me." I smile then bring my hand up to my eye. My finger quickly wipes away the tear.

""What happen, Jake?" she asks.

"Her husband showed up. Came to see his son more than her I think. He wasn't too pleased to see me or to hear that 'His' son was named after another man. But he didn't let her see that. No he was caring, loving, told her how proud he was...of her. Sat there holding his son. All smug about something. Like his dick had done all the work."

I go quiet. My fingers rub from the bridge of my nose across my eyes feeling the tears just under the lashes.

"It felt like he took your son from you. Didn't it?" she asks after a second. I give a nod then suppress the need to cry. The memory is ten years old but it can still tear me up if I let it. "What happen Jake?"

I take a deep breath to settle myself.

"She was found hanging in her bathroom about a month later. They ruled it postpartum depression. They cleaned out the apartment, took all her stuff to Goodwill, and he got custody of his son." I swallow down the old hate. "Then the autopsy report came in. The angle of the electrical cord she strangled on was wrong. It couldn't have been suicide."

"He killed her?" Casey asks shocked.

"Oh... that was the first idea that I had, Police as well, but you see he had an air tight alibi. He was at a party with some friends. Half dozen people saw him there." I feel it simmer. When I look up she sits back a bit. I make myself calm down. "He was questioned but nothing came of it. All the evidence was destroyed when the apartment was cleaned out. Police never found any leads, no witnesses. No case."

"So he still has his...son?"

"Oh yea. Him and his new wife. They married about two months after my cousin was murdered. Funny thing though. After twelve years together, they have never had anymore kids. Strange that huh? Since he was so proud of himself at the hospital, you would figure he would want to get her pregnant as well." I leave the unspoken thought to hang in the silence.

I see Casey look down struggling her way through what I've said.

"I'm sorry."

I shake my head.

"Not your fault in any way, shape, or form."

She looks up at me catching my eyes.

"I still sorry. For you."

I shrug.

"That's life, Casey. If I had told her what I felt for her...maybe she would have told him to get lost. He had already pulled a knife on her once early in their marriage. He told her that he was sorry. That he hadn't meant it, that he was just drunk." I pause and swallow down the bile. "Maybe if I had gone and beaten the living hell out of him then things would be different. I'll never know." I look up and see her face. Slowly I smile. "Here I was trying to comfort you about breaking up with your boyfriend and I've ended up talking about me."

She shakes her head.

"Oh no. I think you have been talking about me as well. I've had those type of ...boys. They get drunk and get rough. They will say their sorry till they are blue in the face but I'll still have the bruises. At least most of them have moved on quickly." She shrugs. "I was a lousy lay I guess?"

I catch her eyes.

"Casey, one of the worst things people can do is down talk themselves. From what I've just hear you have never had a guy with enough experience to even know what kind of a ...lay... you are. You've been dating twenty-year-old adolescence. Don't sell yourself short."

She shrugs.

"What was her name?" she asks me. After a second before I can answer she adds. "Was she beautiful?"

"Her name was Maria." I pause and a smile comes to my lips as I remember her face. "To look at? Most men probably wouldn't say so, but to me she was the most beautiful woman in the world. She had the most sexy blue eyes." I chuckle. "And freckles. She was covered in them. I remember I saw her in a bathing suit once. I jokingly offer to count them all for her."

"How long were you in love with her?" she asks.

I pause thinking back. The years fall away to the days of my childhood. Playing in the woods near her house, sneaking secret kisses while no one was looking.

"I think I always was." I look up and a grin comes to my face. "You changed the subject back to me. Maybe you should work as a councilor. You're good at it."

She shakes her head.

"I do good as phone sales representative"

I stop for a second then look up.

"You do telemarketing?" I ask.

I have to laugh at the look that comes to her face then.

"Why does everyone make it sound like I'm dealing crack to school kids?" she asks her lips pursing.

I laugh then. Really laugh.

"Yea I'm a telemarketer. I talk on the phone all day to people that don't want to talk to me." She tilts her head a bit and brings a hand up to press an imaginary mic closer to her mouth. " Hello I would like to offer you a membership in the Hotels of the World Savings Network. We currently have several outstanding packages starting at just 20 dollars. That small amount can save you potentially thousands of dollars a year on hotel fees..."

"Stop it, stop it " I hold up my hands in surrender, chuckling.

She looks at me then gives a little laugh.

"See boring."

My laughter dies quickly then.

"That's your job Casey. Not you. You said you like to read. What kind of books?" She blushes. I feel my eyebrows lift a bit at the expression on her face. "What?"

"Romance."

"What's wrong with that? You almost turned red as this swizzle stick."

"It's silly." She says after a second.

"What's silly about it? You have never known romance. You long for it in your life, so you find it where you can. I don't see anything silly about that at all."

She gives a kind of half shrug.

"I don't know. It's just... Silly."

I look at her face, she not looking at me but running a finger across the swirls in the Formica top.

"What's silly about it Casey?" I ask seriously.

She kind of gives a shake of her head, then a shoulder shrug.

"The things in those stories. They never happen. Not in real life."

"Maybe not to the extreme. For the most part they take it over the top a bit but romance does happen."

She shakes her head

"Yea right." She says softly.

I hear the soft half spoken words. They set a bell to ringing in my head. It's the one I listen to when I'm working. The one that tells me when one of my clients say something off hand that's really important.

"Have you ever been Scuba diving?" I ask.

She looks up from the table blinking.

"What? No, I've never done anything like that. Why?"

"But you know that people do it right? They put on air tanks and go under the water."

"Of course." She says confused.

"How about skydiving? Or bungee jumping?"

"Of course not!"

I sit back and point at her.

"But you know they happen. You can turn on the TV and see people do them. Romance is the same way. Till you've been in one the only experience you have at it is seeing other people doing it, or in your case reading about it. Now all those thing, sky diving, bungee jumping they are extremes. Romance novels are extremes. So yea some of the things in them they probably don't happen all that often. But they do happen."

She looks down at her nearly empty cup. I swear she must have a galvanized throat. Mine is only just now getting cool enough to sip.

"Just not to Me." she says softly.

"Yet."

She looks up at me blinking.

"You're a very... young... lady, Casey. You have along time to find someone and fall in love still. Hell my parents didn't marry till they were in their late thirties. You're twenty what? Three...Four?"

She gives a nod.

"See plenty of time." I sip at the coffee. Well at least it was worth the wait. "Which is it by the way? Three or four?"

She looks up.

"Twenty Three." She looks at my face then. After a second she frowns "How old are you Jake?'

I smile a bit at that.

"I'm thirty five." I say after a second.

"Really? You don't look thirty." She says in astonishment.

"My family doesn't really show their age till they get to about sixty...ish." I grin. I know it make my face look boyish. "I'll look in my thirties till I'm in my late fifties. My Dad did. Mom was five years younger and started to tell people she was cradle robbing when she was forty nine."

Casey chuckles. She sips away the last of her coffee then. I see the hesitation, then she open up her purse and takes out a business card and a pen. I watch her writing her number on the back.

"I've got to go. Would you give...give me a call sometime? It was nice to have someone to talk to." She says holding the card out to me.

Taking the card from her I see her script is a beautiful flowing hand. Almost old fashion. Turning the card over I see the number of a phone sales company.

"I would be happy too. It was nice having someone to talk to as well." I tell her smiling.

"But you talk to people for a living!" She says with a tilt of her head.

I smile.

"So do you."

Reaching into my back pocket when I stand up I pull out my wallet and fish out one of my cards. It has three numbers on it. Business, cell, and a private home number I use to talk to my clients after hours.

"You call me anytime as well. I'm at one of those."

She nods.

I drop a bill on the table to pay for the mess, and follow her out.

I watch her cross the street to where she parked. It's an older car, small, conservative. A bit like her in fact.

I look at the rental I'm driving, also a bit small and conservative.

"Casey!" I call after her just as she's about to get into the car across the street.

She looks back over at me. I wave the card she gave me.

"Is this where you work?"

She nods. I can see the quirky questioning look come to her eyes. She's about to speak but a bus comes by with a roar and a cloud of exhaust. When it's passed I'm already inside my rental. I see her watching me as I drive away.

** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** **

"Mr. Kindle there is a call for you, a Ms Casey Shay."

Smiling I spin my chair around and pick up the phone. I've been expecting this call.

"Hello, Casey."

"Jake! Oh my god! What did you do?" I can hear laughter on the other end of the phone from, I'm guessing, the other ladies at the telemarketing firm.

"Do you like the flowers?" I ask grinning. I pull the receipt over across my desk and look down at the delivery time they gave. Yep to within the minute. Worth the two hundred bucks any day.

"Oh my god they are still coming in!"

I chuckle.

"Jake! How many did you buy me?" she asks laughing.

"Just the half dozen, Dozen. Look I need you to do something for me. There's one set that's different... it's got blue flowers with white roses. See it?"

"Yea he's bringing it in now. Oh my." I hear Oooh's, awe's, and more laughter, giggles really, through the phone.

"Okay I want you to open the card." I tell her.

I sit back and looking up I see my secretary standing at my door listening in. She's grinning like the proverbial cat. I make a shooing gesture at her but she shakes her head no.

"Jake?"

"Yes, Casey?"

"Jake, this is a lunch invitation?"

"Yes it is. For tomorrow. I figured since your boyfriend was stupid enough to break up with you that you don't have a date for Valentine's day. I'm right aren't I? None of your friends have set you up yet I hope?"

"No...I mean yes, no I don't have a date." She says stuttering.

"Yes you do. With me. I know it's a bit short notice but I do hope you will accept."

"I ...I don't know what to say, Jake?"

"How about yes? It's a small word should be easy." I bring my voice down to a whisper. "Say it with me. Yes?"

"Yes"

I hear cheering behind her.

"I'll pick you up around 11:00 tomorrow. That will be alright yes?"

"Ah...yea. I'm mean yes that will be fine. Wait...wait, where are you picking me up?"

"Well there of course." I say.

"But... But."

"I'll see you tomorrow."

I gently hang up the phone.

"Denise? If she calls back tell her I went out." I tell my secretary. I get on the computer and bring up the restaurant. I confirm my reservation.

Looking up at my secretary I see her still standing at the door, grinning.

"What?" I ask belligerently.

"She sounds nice. Young even?"

"Oh hush you old matchmaking bitty!" I tell her. I ball up the florist receipt and toss it at the door. I can hear her giggling off and on for awhile.

Sitting back at my desk I ponder what I'm doing.

"It's been awhile for this kind of thing." I say to myself after a few minutes.

I try to think back to the last time I had a date out with a girl that I've just met. It's been more than a few years.

I feel a tingle of nerves then. It's a wonderful sensation. I feel almost like a schoolboy then. Looking at my computer I decide to get back to work, but as I lean forward the screen saver pops on and I see my face in the blank screen.

No lines, no gray hairs, hell only a few laugh lines starting to form at the edge of my eyes when I smile. I don't look thirty-five. Most days I feel like the little schoolboy I just felt like.

Jiggling the mouse I make myself get back to work on my next case for the day. Before I worry myself till I'm the next case for the day.

** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** **

I have to admit that even though I'm not a car type of guy this one is fun.

I took the rental back to the dealer and told them to give me something a little sportier. I've been just enjoying driving it all morning. I check my watch as I turn the corner. Five till. I'm just about on time.

Pulling the car into the parking lot I get out and adjust my tie in the glass. My reflection looks back at me and grins at my nervousness. Just like schoolboy coming to pick his date up for the first time. Worried what her dad will say.

I pick up the small wrapped present and head inside.

The lady at the desk sees me come through the door and grins. She brings a finger to her lips before I can speak.

Standing up she points over to a cubical against one wall and I can see Casey. Her dark brunet hair has been pulled back into a style that's very different from what I've seen her wear before. She looks like she's also a bit nervous.

Walking past the receptionist I see the ladies looking up at me as I pass. For some reason the scene from an Officer and a Gentleman come to mind. It makes me wish I had a set of dress white. I watch the eyes of a few. I'm getting a few different looks. Some are appraising of me; others show a more intensive scrutiny. Like they are trying to guess my age.

Those I give a wink.

Stepping up behind Casey I see her lift her hand to the computer in front of her. I slip the package under her arm when it moves. As she notices it she gives a little jump and half turns. The cord of her head set tugs it half off her head. I chuckle watching her awkward fumbling with it.

"Jake...what have you bought me now?" she picks up the present. "I know what you're doing." She says with a soft smile.

"Do you? You must have been catching up on your reading lately then." I say smiling back.

She gives her eyes a roll.

"What is this?" she asks.

I chuckle and shake my head.

"That's the reason for the wrapping paper. If I just told you then where would the surprise be?"

She shakes her head at me then looks around. I glance around and see we're the center of a sea of faces with little mics by their mouths. Some of them are still delivering their sales pitch non-stop, others have their mic covered.

When I look back at her she's making a shooing gesture, similar to the one I made to my secretary. I see it have about the same effect.

I lift an eyebrow and look towards the wrapped present.

I love seeing her eyes go wide as the paper comes off to uncover the picture of a man with his shirt half torn away and a mane of flowing blond hair hanging down his back. The woman clutched in his arms is starring at him like he's a god.

"It's a first edition and signed by the author." I say after a second.

She glances to the bottom of the page then opens the front cover.

"Elisabeth Kindle?" she looks up quickly, I can see her putting it together.

"My mother."

She goes to hand it back to me.

"Jake, I can't accept this. This is like a family treasure."

I shake my head and hold out my hand blocking the return.

"I have others that she signed. She would have wanted you to have this one I think. She told me once, before she passed, that the greatest hope she had for her life was to bring a bit of romance into the lives of her readers."

Casey holds the book then glances back down at the signature inside the cover.

"Find some every day?" she asks seeing my Mom's catch phrase.

"Happiness."

She looks between the book and me for a second then swallows.

"Thank you, Jake." I can see her glance at the ladies around her. "Let me get my coat from the break room. I told the boss I wanted to take off for a long lunch. After the flowers she said she would insist that I did."

I chuckle.

I watch her walk away towards a door. I feel again the eyes of the women she works with. I glance up and make an adjustment to that statement.

The guy that walks up to me, gives me a once over, with a look not too dissimilar from some of the others I've gotten.

"She's a nice girl. She's been through hell lately. If you after just quick...piece of ass, let her know that from the start. She doesn't need her heart broken again." He glances over his shoulder as she comes walking out the break room "Remember what I said." He walks away. I watch him going and wonder to myself ...just what I am after. I don't think it just a piece of ass.

I smile at her when she comes walking up with her purse and her coat.

She looks towards the guy.

"What did, Marcello, want?"

"Oh nothing much. Just talking about the car wreck and getting hurt. You ready? I promise this time I'll be much more careful driving."

She smiles.

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