Two Hearts Stand Alone Pt. 06

byphotodad©

When the lights flipped on, a large group of teens standing behind the security gates started cheering. As they approached, they could make out the congratulations written on a number of posters the youngsters were holding up. They were mobbed by bouncing girls and guys with goofy grins as soon as they cleared the checkpoint. The three local station reporters actually saved them briefly. The interviews took about ten minutes in total, and those crews left, rushing to get the footage back to their bosses before the 10 o'clock news deadline. The teens returned to surrounding their role models, shaking hands, hugging, kissing, and asking for autographs. At last, they said goodbye to the final group, pausing for a moment before heading down to pick up their luggage.

Christine looked at Chris and giggled. "THAT is a lot of lipstick," she said.

He rubbed his cheeks to no effect. "Better?" he asked.

She shook her head. "I'll get it off you at home."

They turned to the escalators and nearly jumped. Chris's parents were standing just behind them. "Hey," he said while hugging his mom. "When did you get here?"

"Forty minutes ago to wait for your flight," his mom responded, turning to hug Christine. "Welcome, future daughter-in-law!"

Christine returned the tight hug, and received one from his dad. "We didn't see y'all. Where were you?"

"In the restaurant, waiting for the crowd and cameras to go away," his dad responded. "Ready to get your bags?"

"Sure," Chris said, leading the way downstairs.

By the time they got to baggage claim, the conveyer had stopped, and theirs were the only bags, stationed just outside the belt doorway. Chris's dad scooped them up and they headed for the cars. Outside the parents' car, it was decided that they would go out for dinner and a restaurant close by was picked. The bags went in that car, and his dad gave Christine $40 to pay for her parking tab.

On their way out of the parking garage, Christine commented, "That was a change."

"What was?"

"Your parents. I don't know, it seemed like before they didn't want me around you. Now they're taking us out to dinner, your dad gave me money for the parking toll, your mom actually called me DAUGHTER!"

He chuckled. "Don't get too carried away. She said 'daughter-in-law'. Besides, they've always loved you."

"Hmph. I beg to differ. Before Prom, I was barely allowed into your house."

Chris yawned and stretched. "Don't take it personally. I don't think they figured you were going to be around all that long."

She handed the money over to the collector. When the gate didn't open, she looked at the amount due screen. "What the hell?! $74?!!" she griped at the collector.

"Three days in short term parking, honey," the lady said without interest.

"Look at his foot! You don't think I was gonna make him walk three miles from the back-40 to the terminal, do you?"

"I still need $34, miss."

"Oh for Pete's sake. I've never heard of such a thing. $74? There should be a law against it. Damn, at least charge a lower per-day rate instead of per-minute after a certain time," Christine rambled while she fished her wallet out of her purse and forked over another two bills.

"Six is your change. There's signs stating our pricing over the traffic lanes. You have yourself a nice evening," the attendant droned on and activated the gate.

Laughter snorted through Chris's nose when they pulled into the restaurant parking lot. Christine had mumbled under her breath the whole way. "WHAT?" she fired at him when she threw the Suburban into park.

"Nothing," he shook his head and grinned at her temper when he slid out to go inside on his crutches.

Chapter 31

Christine made herself useful at Chris's the next morning, hating to be alone in the empty house for very long. She headed straight to the kitchen after using the key given to her last night at dinner, and made some omelets and toasted bagels much to the delight of Chris's parents. The three were eating at the table when Chris came downstairs.

She rose to meet him with a kiss. "How was your first night back in your usual bed?" she asked while plating up his breakfast.

"I don't think I've ever slept that hard," he answered. He sat down at the empty place and glanced at the clock on the wall. "Don't y'all have to be at work?"

"Took the day off. Check came in yesterday." His stepdad had that way of keeping chatting simple.

His mom elaborated, "I got a sub, and your dad called in sick. We're going car shopping today."

Chris and Christine looked at each other. She was the first to speak. "Can we come? My dad is friends with a manager at a dealership. He'll give you a great deal if I'm with you."

His mom looked over at her spouse, but he only shrugged. "I suppose that would be fine. You two won't be bored tagging along?"

Chris started chuckling, then choking slightly when he inhaled a piece of egg that was in his mouth.

"Smooth," Christine said sarcastically. She turned to his mom. "Actually, we received a gift after the show."

The woman raised her eyebrows. "Do tell."

"They gave each of us money for a car."

"They?"

"Jay and Matthew."

"How much?" asked his stepdad.

"25 grand each," Christine stated and Chris cringed.

She was right, she wasn't around them much before, and it showed. To her, there was nothing wrong about sharing her enthusiasm over a generous gift, but Chris knew the timing could be better. His dad was funny and moody about weird stuff like this.

His dad confirmed the fear and dropped the fork on his plate. "Wow, isn't that swell? My car gets destroyed, and Y'ALL get money for it." He jumped up, rinsed his plate off, and trudged off to get ready upstairs.

Christine was thoroughly confused. "Did I say something wrong?"

His mom patted the girl's hand. "He's not mad at you, sweetheart. Money has never come easy for us, and he had to file a bunch of paperwork for the insurance to reimburse us for the car. He's more mad at them for taking so long." She got up and followed her husband.

Christine was still stunned, sitting there and shaking her head. "I'm sorry Chris. I didn't know..."

"Don't worry about it. He spouts off, then drops it. Happens all the time."

Christine got up and cleaned up the kitchen, doing her best to atone for her unknown sin. When she was done, Chris asked her to run him up to the ATM while his parents were getting ready so he could deposit his check.

A couple of hours later, the four of them walked into the Honda showroom. Christine asked the receptionist if she could see someone, and a few minutes later, a middle-aged man in a business suit appeared. He lengthened his stride when he saw her.

"Christine!" he bellowed, scooping her up and twirling her around. "It's been worlds of ages since I saw you last. You look good for...well, you always do."

"Thanks, Mr. John."

"Forget about the Mr. part. You're a young woman now. It's just John. What brings you here today?"

She introduced Chris as her fiance, and his parents. She explained that they were hoping to trade up their Oldsmobile. He said that he would be glad to help them.

"On a side note, do you take third-party checks?"

"Not sure I follow."

She showed him the check she received.

"Really? Is this the same..." he began.

"Yup. My idol!" she interrupted proudly.

"If you say it's good, I'll guarantee it for the business office. If it turns out to be fake, I know where you and your dad live..." he ruffled her hair like he used to when she was smaller. "Engaged, huh? Congratulations! When did this happen?"

Christine looked hurt. "You didn't see the show?"

"Bits and pieces. We had it playing here," he gestured to a wide screen display stationed in the waiting area. "I saw you sing...you looked wonderful!"

"You saw the show here? Weren't you closed?"

"I stayed late to help a couple finish up their paperwork. We did the final signing when you were finishing the song. So, who's first?"

It was decided to let Chris's parents start, and he assigned one of the better members of his sales team to feel out Christine's needs while he worked with the older couple. A few hours later, paperwork was being signed for the two sweetheart deals.

Chris's parents chose an Accord that was nicely optioned out, and John worked with the business office to squeeze enough trade-in value out of the old car, and combined that with the insurance money so that they only ended up paying about $1200 difference, and that was mostly the fees. On paper, the purchase price was $1 over invoice.

Christine made it no secret that she needed her car to come very close to the amount on that check without going over. Any less, and she'd feel like she betrayed the spirit of the gift. The saleswoman first came up with the logical solution of a near-base Accord model, too. But after test driving it, Christine didn't feel it suited her. The lady called her manager's cell phone, since he was out on a drive with the parents. A new idea surfaced and was pitched to Christine. After that test drive, she fell in love. The end result was a hybrid Civic, and to get the most out of the check, it was loaded up with options like fog lights, leather interior, CD changer, and navigation system. The final setup put the retail over $30,000, and the saleswoman got a little put off that John authorized massaging the numbers so that Christine's total out-of-pocket cost matched her check. But, the manager assured her he would comp her paycheck for selling the vehicle under invoice. He also put the other purchase under her name to appease her.

All parties were pleased by the end of the transactions, and Chris's parents asked their son if he, too wanted to buy a vehicle. John apologized, unaware that there might have been a third deal. Chris played down the worry, saying he had his heart set on a pickup. John brought up his used inventory on his computer, not wanting to ask Chris to hobble around the lot aimlessly. Then came the news that dismayed Chris.

Only two trucks were on-site, one was just traded in and in such poor condition, it was doomed to the liquidator auctions. The other sounded good...a couple of years old, low miles, and in good shape. But, the price was far over what Chris could pay today. Impulsively, he said he could pay the difference with a loan, since he got a new job, but John stopped him. He took Chris to the side and discretely counseled him that a smarter option would be to be patient, and search Craigslist for gems. He gave some tips on what to look for, most notably mileage and years within warranty. He promised that in the meantime, he'd use his contacts to keep an eye out for what Chris was looking for.

A porter was summoned to shuttle the family to lunch or where ever while the new cars were being detailed. When they returned from the mall a couple of hours later, the cars were ready, and everyone left with smiles.

That evening, Christine was on Chris's bed upstairs, watching him start his search of Craigslist. She was laying on her belly, and it was only a few moments later that her head fell onto her crossed arms in slumber. A post on the seventh page caught his eye, and he read it over and over, making sure he read it right. Year old truck, 5K miles, diesel 4x4, price - $25,000, cash. He responded to the email, knowing that the poster just had forgotten to take it down. No way it could still be available.

He gave up looking for the night, kneeled next to Christine and started rubbing her back without intentions. Not that there could be, his parents room was across the hall. Besides, it just felt like a good thing to do.

She moaned that it was feeling nice, and asked him if he wanted to come with her to let Pepper out. It was tempting since he knew what the visit over there would lead to, but he decided against doing so. He had spent a lot of time away from home, and he just didn't want to hear his stepdad's irritated sigh if he passed by him on the way out. So, she settled for letting him do his back rub on her before telling him good night...along with a guilt trip of making her enter her house alone.

That ploy actually worked...sort of. Sure enough, his dad was watching TV and Chris said he was going over to make sure the house was clear for Christine. His dad told him to stay, that he would follow Christine over, and make sure she made it in okay. No need for her to drive there, back here, then back over again. So that's what happened. He didn't just watch her go inside, he followed her in and made a quick check around. When Rex outside, and Lady and Pepper inside didn't seem agitated, and the house was checked, he wished his future daughter-in-law a good night and left. Christine let her dogs out while thinking that Chris's dad might be strange, but he still cared. She did a few chores, let the two dogs in and fed them, and called it a night.

The room was dark, not even the usual glow from the light at the far corner of her driveway was shining in. Chills tingled down her spine as Christine felt that she wasn't alone in her room. "Pepper?" she whispered to no response. There was a rustle then a thud near the foot of her bed, and she bolted upright in startle.

"Hello, Christine," a rough voice taunted. "I've been watching you. You're not so perfect. Not like you make yourself to be."

"What are you doing in my room?" she asked, frightened.

"Oh, I'm here to find out how naughty you can be," he hissed as a dark hand streaked toward her neck.

Suddenly she was in the passenger seat of an old car. It smelled of stale cigars and beer, and they were flying down a deserted road at what seemed to be a thousand miles an hour. She looked around her, desperately trying to find a handle, window, anything she could use to escape. To her horror, there was only him and the tunnel of headlight-illuminated trees they were flying through.

"Where are you taking me?" she demanded. That came out surprisingly strong.

A chuckle. "To heaven," he said huskily. "Well, heaven for me...you? I'm afraid it might feel closer to hell."

"Where's Chris?"

The voice laughed. "Chris? Who's Chris? If he were any kind of man, he certainly wouldn't have left you all alone in that big house."

"I had Pepper with me." God, that sounded like a pitiful excuse right now.

"Your dog was much too easy. She didn't even yelp when I threw her against the wall."

"What kind of sick bastard are you?"

The car was stopped now. When did that happen? Christine was laying with her head against the armrest of the door, her naked legs sprawled across the center console. The gearshift handle dug into the outside of her upper thigh.

"Now, if you just lay just like that and take it like the slut I know you to be, I might not kill you."

She felt his angry shaft dig against her inner thigh, hot and steel hard. Christine thought hard about what she could do, fighting and grasping at any possibility, but the answer always came back with nothing. She couldn't even twist her legs to the side to so much as resist. A scream formed from deep inside her when she felt the fiery point cross over and position itself for its violation of her.

Her screams echoed off the sides of the car, enveloping everything around her, and she felt a long tongue licking across her forehead. The intruder turned furry and smelled like flea dip...

Christine woke with a start, hearing herself screaming at the top of her lungs, and Pepper was frantically licking her face. The screams subsided when she started to realize she was in her room. Panting, she clasped her arms around her dog, whimpering her name. She was covered in sweat, her underwear drenched, and the sheets stuck to her back. Pepper licked a couple more times, whining.

"Okay, Pepper. I'm okay," she said while her heart started slowing from overdrive. "Just a bad dream. I'm okay. Whew...oh my God, where did that come from?"

Christine laid there a few minutes, allowing her breath to catch up and the trembling in her hands to stop. Her mind tried to analyze what might have sparked the nightmare. The last few days had been excellent to her. She had left her mom's Suburban at Chris's house since she had driven her new car home, but she was going to walk over today to retrieve it. There was one possibility, but it didn't seem to fit. She was only teasing about the empty house, so that she could maybe hump Chris like a lost rabbit a few more times. Maybe God was "getting her" for lying. She looked up at the ceiling. "Okay, I won't contrive things to get laid anymore, alright?" There was predictably no response, so she added, "Please no more dreams like that one."

Her phone rang as she was getting out of the shower. Chris said that he got a response to his email, and that the truck was still available, and he wanted to go see it. She told him she would walk over so she could pick up her mom's truck and she'd see him in whatever time was necessary to get ready to do so.

He had to wait only about 20 minutes before she let herself into the house. She shied away from his hello embrace, stating that she had a bad dream.

"Just...I think it would help me if you'd let me initiate the next contact, okay?" she had said.

Chris tried to press her in concern, but she didn't elaborate. A few minutes later, they were headed up to where Chris was directed to meet with the seller. The truck was better than advertised, having lots of extras that were not mentioned in the posting. It was a metallic white Ford super-duty King Ranch 4x4 with a crew cab, running boards on the sides, brush bar that guarded the front, a four light off road bar above the cab, and a two tank spare fuel pod in place of a toolbox at the front of the bed. The interior was plush with a CD player, leather seats, extra power ports for laptops and cell phone charging, and electronic knob control for engaging the on-demand four wheel drive.

Chris questioned why it was being sold at that price. The story was that it was purchased by the owners for a small tree service company they ran. But, shortly after laying out the cash for it, the demand for their services tanked along with the economy, and now they were needing to get what they could out of the truck to move to the Northwest and try their luck there. The reason it wasn't picked up yet is that none of the potential buyers had the cash, or didn't want a customized truck.

He loved it as soon as they pulled up. It looked tough, and went along with his "Be Prepared" personality. The advertised price was less than half what Chris guessed to be the sticker price would be if new. His mind was made up.

"I'm unwilling to carry twenty-five thousand in bills on me."

"Well, we need cash, son."

"I can understand that. Can you understand why I wouldn't want to carry that any further than a bank lobby?"

"I suppose so, but we can't go any further down than what we listed it for."

"No, I know. I have the money available. Would you be willing to come with me to my local bank branch? They might even have a way to deposit it into your account electronically. Would be safer for both of us."

"Sure, why not? It's only time I'm wasting if you don't have it. I'll bring the title with me in case you do. They can witness the signature at the same time. What bank you use?"

Chris told him, and the guy said he knew of a branch not far away. They followed him there, and a lengthy discussion with the branch manager ensued, regarding the check deposit only a day before. At last Chris convinced the manager to look up the image of the held check, and after putting two and two together about Chris and the show, an EFT was set up to get the funds from Leno's account instantly. The discussion turned to what would satisfy the seller, and he settled for a cashier's check, since he now didn't need to fear a counterfeit check being handed to him. The title was signed and witnessed, and he handed Chris the keys, thanking him for pretty much bailing him out of a tight spot.

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