500 Annies Ch. 04byqhml1©
The big finish, I hope.
"Good evening listeners, this is Barbara Barnes, glad you could join us for the final installment of our interview with Joe Williams. In this segment he tell what the book has meant to him and how it changed his life, even leading him to find a new love."
"Sit back, enjoy, and thanks for listening."
"So, Joe, was it love at first sight?"
"No, but it was pretty close. My Maria was a breath of fresh air blown into my stale life."
I had commitments for the next several days and could only see Maria for lunches. She usually brought us something, but I did manage to take her out to another restaurant she always wanted to try. And I always got a really nice kiss at the end of lunch.
Then I had to go back out on the road. The publishers wanted me to go on an European tour, the book was really starting to take off overseas.
London, Dublin, Edinburgh, Paris, Munich, Rome, Madrid, Istanbul, Moscow, and a few more to be confirmed. Three months of constant interviews and appearances. I hated the whole idea.
I had two more weeks of domestic commitments, then two weeks off before I had to leave. I called Maria almost every night, I thought she might get tired of it, but on the days I didn't call she called me.
I stopped by the office on my way to somewhere else and surprised her for lunch. I was surprised by the intensity of her welcome.
"Joe! Honey, why didn't you tell me you were coming, I would have made you something. I must look a mess, it's been really hectic today. I---"
I shut her up the only way I knew how, I kissed her, long and hard.
"I missed you too, Maria. How are the kids? Tell the girls I've been practicing, I won't be as easy next time."
"Oh, the kids are fine, they want to know when you're coming back. How long are you going to stay this time?"
I had three days off, the kids were out of school, and I wanted to spend it with all of them. Maria didn't know it, but she had been temporarily assigned to me as a personal assistant. Best selling author pulling strings, management wanted me happy.
She didn't know whether to be happy or pissed. I was glad happy won out.
She insisted I come to her house for the evening. I was already packed.
The girls ripped me up in Scrabble again, but did admit it was a little harder than before.
We were all sitting around the kitchen table, ever notice how many important events in your life occur at the kitchen table or in your car? I had some surprises for all of them.
My opening came when they asked me how long I was going to stay.
"I've got three days, and your mother will be my personal assistant, which means she pretty much has to do what I say to keep her job. I've got six tickets to the Cubs game tomorrow. They're playing the Braves. Her first official duty is to find four more people to go with us, think she can handle that?"
Bedlam ensued. She alternated between irritated glances at me and the kids, but finally relented. The ride back to the motel was quiet. I didn't get a kiss.
The next morning was a little frosty.
"Don't ambush me with my kids again, ever. We don't know if we're going anywhere, it wouldn't be fair to get them used to you and then you up and disappear. It happened once since their father left and the aftermath wasn't pretty. So, if you've got any more surprises, tell me now and I'll make the final decision."
"Sorry, I just got carried away. I didn't think it was fair to try and take you away from them for three days, and this seemed like the best solution. I just wanted everybody to be happy."
Her smile was like the first thaw of spring. I decided to press my luck.
"Uh, as far as other activities, I didn't think it was fair to drag the girls to a baseball game without giving them something too. If we guys can force you to watch baseball, turnabout is fair play. Cassie said she was in the school orchestra and Tina is in marching band, so I sort of got tickets to the Chicago Symphony tomorrow night, with guest cellist Yo-Yo Ma. That should even the scales."
At first I thought she was pissed all over again, but she smiled.
"Don't tell them, I'll do it after the game. I have a sneaking suspicion you're trying to get to me through my kids. It's going to be a pain in the ass commuting back and forth, but we'll deal with it. If you have anything else to tell me, do it now."
"well, I thought about all the commuting, and kind of got you guys a suite in the hotel I'm staying at, look how much time we'll save, which means more time I can spend with you."
She whipped the car int a parking lot. I braced myself for the explosion, which surprisingly didn't come.
"Joe, how much did all this cost?"
"Cost? I have no idea. The publishers came up with all the tickets, and I booked the suite. Not as much as you think, probably. Oh, and we got Bobby and the Caddy for as long as we need it.
Please Maria, money isn't that big a deal."
"Just how much money do you have, Joe?"
"I don't really know, honest. Every time I talk to my accountant it changes. Last time I checked it was around three million, but my agent is close to closing the deal for the movie rights, and that will be another five or six, plus the royalties from the video and pay per view. And the paperback royalties, of course. He estimates I'll be worth about twelve to fifteen million by this time next year. Please don't tell anyone I told you this."
The numbers stunned her into silence. Then she smiled.
"All right, but I'm telling you now, I plan to be very high maintenance."
I stuck my hand out.
She grabbed my hand and pulled me into a kiss. When she let loose she wiped the lipstick off my mouth and said "Deal!"
"Please don't be mad, or concerned about what this weekend costs. Whatever it is, it will be worth every dime to me. Let's just have a good time."
And we did just that.
The kids were over the moon. The guys were packed in no time, but the girls took forever. Clothes were decided on, then discarded. She finally put her foot down and told them we were leaving in ten minutes, with or without them.
As the days went by, I thought about all the fun times Annie and I had with AJ, then multiplied by a factor of three. That's how much fun I had.
The game was great. I sat in the middle with Maria, the guys sat beside me, the girls by her.
One of the drawbacks to being semi-famous is you get singled out a lot. I had on my old 'lucky' Braves hat, sitting in a sea of Cubs fans. I caught a lot of ribbing. It was capped off during the seventh inning stretch, when we appeared on the jumbotron and the announcer gave my name.
He made a joke about being misguided, but being in good company.
I think the crowd was more impressed with Maria in her tight Cubs jersey.
The Cubs lost. seven to four. I didn't rub it in, but wore my hat a little straighter.
Bobby knew a great little Italian place that was famous for the deep dish pies. It was a perfect end to the evening. Maria ordered two large with everything for Bobby to take home. She was already his friend, now she was his hero. I told him we probably wouldn't need him before noon tomorrow, so sleep in.
He dropped us at the hotel. We walked in, Maria on one arm and Cassie on the other, while Tina was between her two brothers. We passed a man with what was obviously his wife and two teenagers. Apparently they had been arguing because he pointed us out.
"See" he said loudly, "That's what families are supposed to be like."
We didn't say anything, but she gripped me a little tighter and the boys walked a little taller.
I got a tremendous goodnight kiss from Maria, and pecks on the cheek from the girls. The boys didn't know what to do, so I let them off the hook with a warning.
"Today was about guy stuff. Tomorrow is for the girls. So, whatever it is, don't whine. Suck it up and let them have their day."
That left them wondering.
Maria called me at eight the next morning.
"Get your butt down here. I've got four kids ready for breakfast and they won't start without you."
"Don't wait, order room service for us. Sausage, two eggs scrambled, whole wheat toast, and coffee for me. Let me talk to Cassie."
She didn't know why, but when I got her on the phone I told her to let the others know they could order anything and everything they wanted, and Mom wasn't allowed to complain. If she didn't like it she could take it up with me.
They had ordered a buffet spread, a little of everything. The boys were in sweats, the girls in pajamas, and Maria had on a short gown covered by an even shorter, silk robe. It was a good thing I was sitting down, it could have been really embarrassing.
"I seemed to be over dressed." I joked.
Tina answered me.
"When you said order anything we wanted, we realized we didn't have to get dressed. This is usually what we look like at breakfast."
Maria couldn't help but needling me a little.
"Well, honey, I'm sure no one wanted to see you wandering around in your boxers."
Cassie couldn't help it, it was too good to pass up.
"Oh, I don't know Mom, I bet I know one person who would like to see him in his boxers."
Maria choked on a bagel while the girls giggled and the boys grinned. She went bright red.
"Enough of that young lady. What shall we do today?"
I gave the girls their schedule for the day.
"Do not let your mother deviate from this. It's all taken care of, just enjoy. And your Mom is not to see it until after me and the boys are gone."
She was starting to get that tight look around her eyes. I pulled her into my lap.
"Be nice, or I'll have to get a new assistant. You'll have a good time, I promise. If you don't like it, feel free to cancel."
The girls had been reading the note.
"Noooo!" They both wailed when I told her she could cancel.
"This better be good."
She looked grim.
"Remember what you said about high maintenance?
That gave me the idea. You're going to be so high maintenance today it going to take a rocket mechanic to get it done. Enjoy."
The girls were looking at her with unshed tears, that morphed into whoops of laughter when she relaxed.
"What are you guys going to do today?"
"Don't you worry about that. We'll find something to amuse us. Now, let's enjoy breakfast."
I sat and ate while the banter and teasing flowed around me. The girls would kiss my cheek from time to time and whisper a question. It was driving Maria crazy. I loved it.
The boys got dressed and we left. I kissed her cheek at the door and told her to have a good time.
We were in a five star hotel, and they had a very nice spa. The girls got the full treatment, pedicures, manicures, massages, face and body treatments, everything they offered. Tina grabbed her Moms' phone and sent me a photo of her, green slime on her face, eyes covered with cucumbers, and a towel wrapped around her head. I kept it, texting back I was going to show it to anyone who wanted to see a picture of my girlfriend. Maria was NOT amused when she saw it but I refused to delete it.
Next came the beauty salon. They were teased, styled, made up and redone until they got the right look. They left with bags full of cosmetics and hair care products.
At twelve thirty Bobby delivered them to one of the most popular dining spots in Chicago, a tea room catering exclusively to women.
Next he took them to one of the most upscale ladies stores in town. I had made the arraingments, they were to each get two dresses, one for day wear and one formal. They were custom fitted for maximum effect. Plus 'foundation' garments.
The boys and I weren't just goofing off. First we went to a very nice menswear store and had two suits each tailored, with the instructions the more formal ones be done no later than three. The bill was more than I usually spent on clothing all year, but I had to admit, we really looked sharp.
Lunch at a popular Greek restaurant, then off to Wrigley field. We didn't stay for the game, but met most of the team while they took batting practice. The boys had their picture taken with players and a few of the coaches.
Miguel, or Mickey as he preferred to be called, got to shag a few fly balls while Antonio[Tony] got to catch for a couple of the relievers.
Sometimes it's good to be rich and famous.
I kept the boys until 5:30. Then we dressed in our new suits and went down to collect the girls for dinner. We did manage to get out hair cut, actually styled for the boys, so we were fairly presentable.
When we entered, we probably spent a good minute just staring at each other.
They were stunning, simply stunning. Maria had an upswept hair style, a dark green shimmering dress that fell jut below her knees, with a neckline that made you realize what was underneath. The girls were dressed basically the same, except for a more demure neckline and a slightly higher hem.
In a premonition of things to come, I realized I was going to have a lot of sleepless nights when they started dating.
We guys were all matched with black suits, all though each was just different enough to give us some individuality. We were a damned handsome family, and I was proud to be associated with them.
"My God! Maria, you and the girls look so beautiful, words can't do you justice."
The boys chipped in about what a MILF she was and how hot the girls looked.
They glowed under our praise, then proceeded to tell us what a handsome group of men we were.
We had one more surprise for the girls before we left. We had stopped at a jewelers, and bought matching diamond earrings for all three. The girls each got a locket with small diamonds, while Maria got a diamond pendant. They were speechless when we presented them.
Then the sniffles started, and they had to repair their make up before we left.
When we hit the lobby heads turned. I was never more proud.
The same was true for dinner. We kept getting looks, and when the girls went to the bathroom, another diner asked the girls if their dad was someone famous. Maria told me about it much later.
"He's a writer, you might have heard of him. Joe Williams? 500 Annies?" said Cassie, proudly.
Tina chipped in.
"Yeah, he's sort of famous, he was on 'Today' last week."
I wondered why I kept getting looks, but no one invaded our privacy.
The concert was amazing. I've never been a fan of classical music, but the pieces performed that night were inspiring. Plans had been made earlier, so when we back stage, the conductor and Yo Yo Ma were there to meet us. Cassie actually cried. Of course, pictures were taken.
There was an article in the Sun-Times the next day about the event, and a picture with Cassie and Yo YO Ma. She framed it.
The next day was Sunday, and Maria insisted we go to mass. I was born a Methodist, so I didn't know what to do, but followed along. We had on our new suits, and the girls had on the new dresses. They were just as beautiful, but in a more demure way.
We spent the day lazing around, going to a movie. They fought, the boys wanted an action, the girls wanted a romance. They both appealed to me, but I dodged it by telling them to let their mother to decide.
"Oh no. We've been catered to all weekend. Ask your fa--I mean Joe what he would like to see."
It was a little slip with big overtones. Silence ensued for just a second before I responded.
"Well, if I get to choose, we'll see them both. The romance first, then the action to wake us up. And no junk, you'll spoil your dinner."
Of course they got popcorn and drinks anyway, but no candy. Maria held my hand and snuggled during the weepy parts. I can't even tell you the name of what we saw, I couldn't focus on anything but her.
After dinner and a game of Scrabble, it was time for bed. We were all sad, they had to go back home, and I had to go on the road.
It was a bittersweet ride I had back up to my room. Being with Maria and her kids reminded me of so much that I missed in my life. I loved AJ with all my heart and soul, but I was sure if I had been given the chance, there would have been more than enough for a few others.
I hadn't been in my room more than thirty minutes when there was a knock on my door. Maria swept in when I opened it, with an odd expression on her face.
"The kids suggested I come up here to say goodnight. They also suggested I stay around to say good morning."
I didn't know what to say. It didn't matter, she rambled on.
"I keep forgetting they're not babies anymore. I'm pretty sure Mickey is sexually active, I found a pack of condoms in his room. Even the girls urged me to come up. God, what kind of an example am I giving them?"
She looked me dead in the eye.
"But I wanted to come, really, really badly. I haven't felt these emotions since I first married their father, I didn't think I ever would again."
She was crying now.
"Please don't hurt me, Joe, don't hurt them. We deserve happiness, don't we?"
I swept her into my arms and onto my lap.
"You deserve everything I have in my power to give you, to give them. We've only been seeing each other for less than a month, but you're all I think about. I'll be in a hotel room watching something and think about talking with the boys about it. I practice Scrabble and think about the girls."
"But the worst is when I lay down at night, wishing you were with me to talk about the day, to hold in my arms, to be able to love you."
Damn it, now I was crying.
She was listening, and had stopped snuffling.
The smile she gave me was small, soft, and secretive, and I wish I had a picture of it. Doesn't matter, I can shut my eyes at any time and see it plain as day. I'm sure I would until the day I die.
"I knew" she said softly, "I knew you were the one. I knew it when you met my kids."
She stood up and took my hand, leading to the bed.
"I want to show you something, something you paid for today.
She slipped the loose top off, revealing a black lace bra that barely contained her magnificent breasts. She slipped out of her pants, revealing a matching thong. She twirled around.
"Think you made a good investment?" she said in a smoky voice.
I couldn't breath, literally. She was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.
"Look, it's French, see the name on the label?"
She undid the front clasp of the bra, and they sprang free. Time and children had taken their toll, but the slight sag made them more alluring.
I was having trouble thinking, I don't think any blood at all was getting to my brain.
"Want to take the rest off for me?"
I was more than willing. As I slipped the thong off her firm bottom, I thanked every deity known to man for this opportunity.
I was out of my clothes in no time, thanks to enthusiastic help.
I lay her on the bed, determined to kiss every square inch of her body. Flipping her over, I nuzzled her neck, licked and nibbled her ears, trailing kisses down her spine.
When I reached her ass, I spent time kissing every part, leaving nothing untouched. She was starting to wiggle and moan,but I kept on, kissing down her thighs, the valley between, and nibbling the back of her knees. I could smell her smoky sweet scent of arousal, getting glimpses of moisture as I worked my way down. She nearly jumped off the bed when I kissed her ankles.
"Oh, Joe, Joe, what are you doing to me. I can't stand much more."
I turned her back over and started my slow, sensuous journey back up. I kissed the tops of her feet, nibbled on her knees, and started on her thighs. Her legs parted slightly of their own accord and I licked and nibbled all the way up to what the French call 'The Gates Of Heaven'.