A Matter of TrustbySlirpuff©
She was like a breath of fresh air. She was witty and fun to be with. Best of all she appreciated me for who I was. I'd gone out with more than a few girls whose whole mission in life, it seemed, was to change me into what they felt their ideal man should be; Janet wasn't like that.
I met her when we both took an evening Photo Shop class at the local college. I'd just gotten into digital photography and knew little or next to nothing about adjusting photographs on the computer. I had stopped using my darkroom and was trying to bring myself into the twenty-first century. That ended up being a lot harder than I thought.
"Shit, now what the hell did I do?" I said looking at the screen. My photograph had just gotten ten times larger than it should have been. Looking at my notes I found the icon that would undo what I had done. "I'm never going to get this," I said in disgust. The woman next to me started to chuckle. "It's not funny," I told her. Now I was more than little embarrassed.
"Yes it is," she looked over at my screen.
"Look, just resize your print by adjusting the pixels or click on the print size you want."
I moved my mouse, clicked on what I thought was the right icon and watched my print get too small this time.
"Crap," I grumbled out loud. Now more than one person was looking at me. "Do you mind; I'm having a problem here, ok?" They stared at me and I glared defiantly right back at them. All the while the girl next to me continued to chuckle, still working on her own print. "I'm just glad my livelihood doesn't depend on my grade in this class. I've never failed a class in my life but I'm sure as hell bombing now," I moaned to myself clicking the undo button for the tenth time in the last half hour. My first class was not going well.
I reviewed my notes and started again. I cropped my picture down to where it needed to be, adjusted the color and contrast and began to feel pretty cocky for the first time that night. I wanted to size it so I could make an eight by ten-inch print. I clicked on size, typed in eight by ten, ignored the pixels, whatever they were, and clicked enter. It got too large again. The only thing that filled my screen was the wing of the bird, no head, legs or body, just the damn wing.
"Jesus Christ," I scowled at my screen and pushed myself against the back of the chair. "Screw it," I flipped the switch and turned off my computer. "Damn, I didn't eject my disk." I was beginning to hate this whole thing. I turned the computer back on, got the usual message about how I'd improperly shut the machine down, and how it was going to have to go through a full diagnostic. "I can't win."
"You're letting it get to you, why don't you relax?" I heard her calm voice tell me. How could anyone be calm in this situation?
"That's easy for you to say, you don't seem to be having any problems."
"Look, I'm having a few problems, but I'm not going ballistic like some people around here. If you want, I'll walk you through it, but you've got to promise not to go nuts on me."
"Ok, I promise, but can I use a curse word or two if it doesn't work?" She gave me the evil eye. "All right, no curse words but if my brain explodes it's your fault not mine."
For the next twenty minutes she controlled the mouse and did all the clicking. I took notes and asked questions.
"Why are you here? You seem to know almost as much as the instructor."
"I've got an older version of Photo Shop and it's only costing me fifty dollars to audit this class. They're teaching off the newest version, and if I see it's worthwhile, I'll pay the one hundred and fifty dollars for the upgrade. If not, I'll just get a little hands-on experience while waiting for the next version to come out. By the way, nice picture, you take it?"
"Of course I took it," I replied a little surprised at her question. "All the pictures on this disk are mine."
"Don't bite my head off, I just asked. Like I said, nice picture. What did you use for a lens?"
"A Canon F2.8, 70-200mm lens."
"The ultrasonic and internal stabilization version?" she asked.
"Both. Are you a photographer?"
"Not really, it's just that I do a lot of night and long distance picture taking."
"Me, I do mostly sunrises and wildlife photography,"
"After a long night of picture taking, the last thing in the world I want to see is the sunrise; I'm not a morning person." She answered back.
"By the way, my name is Steve."
"Nice to meet you, Janet. If you don't mind, can we go through it once more with me controlling the mouse this time? I want to make sure my notes are accurate." That's how I met Janet.
We sat next to each other through all twelve classes. What I didn't pick up right away; she took all the time in the world to show me. Sometimes after class we'd stop and have a cup of coffee or a beer. That's how I found out she had a youngster at home.
"I've got to get going," she told me one night. "My mom is watching my daughter for me and it's getting late." With that said she waited for my reply.
"How old is she?"
"Her name is Tammy and she just turned seven." She caught me looking at her left hand.
"No, I'm not married if that's what you're wondering. Been there, done that once."
"Sounds like it wasn't the most memorable time in your life."
"That's a story for another time when we have more than an hour to kill. See you next Wednesday." She turned around and walked out of the coffee shop. Hmm. Not married with a seven year old. I spent the next few minutes finishing my coffee and trying to calculate just how old she was. She looked to be about twenty-two but let's see, eighteen plus seven, which means she has to be at least twenty-five. I was twenty-seven so I guess there was still no problem. I knew she'd dropped this bomb on me to see my reaction. I hope I passed her little test.
"I made a CD for you of some of my best work," I handed Janet the disc at class the following week. "It's kind of a thank you for all your help over the past few weeks. Believe it or not, at one point I was thinking of dropping out."
"You don't look like a quitter?"
"I'm not, but I just wasn't getting it. I know I was letting it get to me, but I couldn't get my head, brain or anything else around it. So, this is my way of thanking you for your help," I said with a big smile.
"That's it? No money or dinner?" I guess I was a little taken aback. "It was a joke. No one has ever given me something of theirs like this before, I don't know what to say except, thank you."
Class was getting easier now that I had the basics down pat. I still messed up now and then but was holding my own for a change. I didn't pay much attention to Janet. I could see she was preoccupied with her own screen and tonight I kind of wanted to do it on my own. At break we went downstairs, grabbed a couple of cokes and sat outside.
"You're good, you're damn good if you haven't realized that yet. What model Canon are you currently shooting with?"
A Canon 20D right now."
"I, or should I say the company I work for, uses Canon 5D's. They're a step up but for distance I kind of miss the 1.65 conversion ratio of the older models. I'm stuck using a 1.5 or 2.0 extender to get the really long shots," she explained to me.
"How far away are you shooting?" I asked her.
"Well, let's just say I'm using a F4.5 400mm mirror lens with a 2.0 extender most of the time."
"Wow, what are you taking pictures of, hairs on a gnat at a hundred yards?"
"Something like that." Our break was over and we headed back upstairs. "Would you mind if I did some work on theses pictures? You know, clean them up a bit."
"No, they're yours to do with as you wish. They're a little rough, especially some of the black and whites; that's why I'm taking this course, so I can fix what needs to be fixed."
"Give me a couple of weeks and I'll see what I can do. I especially like the one with the two baby birds in the nest."
"I call that one 'The Boys'. They're white egrets and were a couple of weeks old. The two of them were looking over the top of the nest, and had their neck stretched up as far as they would go and their eyes seem to be staring right at my camera. I thought it was a good shot. Everyone who has seen it thinks it's comical as hell."
"Well, it is a good shot and I thank you for the CD."
For the first time I was starting to feel a little more relaxed in class. I wasn't bugging the shit out of Janet or the instructor, and my confidence was growing. I was never going to be great, never had that much free time, but I just wanted to learn the basics. I wanted to be able to touch up prints that just weren't perfect. There was, however, one big problem; I was a perfectionist and competitive as hell. I never accepted anything less than perfection from myself. When I entered a print and it didn't take first place I was pissed. I got a million second and third place awards, but never a first. Maybe after this class I could finally achieve what had eluded me all this time.
Janet was beaming when she walked into our second to last class. "I made you a CD of the three photographs I finished this week, I think you're going to be impressed."
The photographs were fantastic. "Wow, is all I can say. You're sure these are the same photographs I gave you?"
"They didn't take as much work as you might think. I adjusted the color somewhat and cropped out all the crap so your eyes are drawn to what you took the picture of. You like?"
"I love!" I smiled my approval at her. "This deserves more than just coffee. How about if I take you out to dinner Saturday night?" She hesitated a few seconds before answering.
"I'm busy this weekend, but maybe some other time."
Who was I kidding? A good-looking girl like her had to all ready have a steady boyfriend. I gave her back one of those fake big grins you give someone who has just given you some bad news and told her it was ok, we'd do it some other time.
I turned in all my work the last night of class. I think I had done some solid work and although I didn't expect an A, I was hoping for at least a B. Janet hadn't shown and why would she? She was just auditing the class and wasn't turning in any work, anyway.
"You think you're going to pass? If it were me, I'd probably give you a C+ and make you do the class over," I heard a voice from behind me say. "If it wasn't for the fact that you still owe me dinner, and you don't have a clue how to get a hold of me I wouldn't have even shown up tonight." That boosted my spirits. "Here is my cell and business numbers. Call me, and let me know when you're free. Oh, and by the way, I like Chinese."
"How about this weekend?" I asked, hoping she'd hear the excitement in my voice.
"Let me check my schedule, I work a lot of weekends. Why don't you call me tomorrow night? But if you don't mind, I'm still on the clock so I've got to get moving. Maybe by Saturday I'll have a chance to finish a couple more of your other photographs." I didn't hear much after she handed me her number and said to call her.
Saturday was a go. Instead of me picking her up, she thought it would be a good idea for us to meet at the restaurant. I guess she didn't want me to know where she lived until she found out if I was a serial killer or pedophile. Since I was neither, I wasn't too worried.
"I've never eaten here, though I've heard nothing but good about this place. They serve both Chinese and Japanese cuisine so if you're into sushi you can get your fill." All this was explained to me when we met at the entrance of the restaurant. This was the first opportunity I had to really study what she looked like outside of class. Short dark brown hair, about five foot four and she couldn't weigh much over a hundred and ten pounds. A little larger than average size nose but had emerald green eyes, which I really loved. Nice ass from what I could tell, but I wasn't too sure about the breasts. I guess I stared longer than I had realized when she asked me if she met with my approval.
"Sorry, this is the first time I've actually looked at you."
"So, what the hell were you doing for the last twelve weeks?"
"Working at not making a fool out of myself, but I did notice you were easy on the eyes."
"I'm going to let that and you mentally undressing me a moment ago slide.
It was one of those dinners that took all night and I was thankful for that. We started with her, thank God. Janet was bluntly honest about her past and what if anything she was looking for in life.
"My ex was a scum sucking cheating bastard. We lasted three years and that was two and a half more than he deserved. I caught him cheating once and gave him a gift. I forgave him on the premise that if he did it again he was history. When his 'friend' called one night to break their date, I almost broke his neck when he came home from work. I'd already packed up his shit and left it on the driveway in black trash bags. When he started banging on the door and threatening me, I called the damn cops. When he left that night, I never saw or heard from him again. Like I said, my marriage lasted almost three years too long. The only thing he did right was to give me Tammy. She is the most important thing in my life, just so you understand that up front."
"Sounds like he set the bar pretty low for any guy that followed him."
"There is no bar, only lofty expectations on my part. I don't play games and I don't settle for second best; you can ask the five prior guys I went out with. They thought I'd be an easy lay. You know, a hard working single mom who doesn't get a chance to date very often. One who could be wined, dined and bedded if not on the first, but for sure the second date. Are all men really that stupid? Those guys sure as hell were. And the one who didn't want to take no for an answer? Well he's probably still sucking on his left nut after it had a run in with the toe of my cowboy boots," she crowed with a glimmer of a smile. "I'm not saying I'm bad, but bad don't mess with me."
"Let me guess, you're trying to scare me right?"
"Not scare, only inform."
"Well, I've gone out with witches to bitches to a few nice girls who thought that they were God's gift to men. I met only two who I loved and lost. The first one didn't feel I fit her idea of a perfect husband and the other I did something very stupid and lost her but that was a long time ago. Smart people grow up and learn from their mistakes, well I do anyway."
"Must have been something pretty bad to have dumped a nice looking guy like yourself."
"Let's just say I did something dumb and leave it at that, ok?"
"No problem, I don't want to pry or anything like that."
"Spoken like a true woman." I guess Janet didn't quite know how to take that so she hit me from the other side.
"So, what do you do when you're not taking fancy pictures?"
"I run a crew that assembles display booths for all the national trade shows. I work in New York, Chicago, Las Vegas and Orlando. Any trade show that comes to town, I make sure everything is set up properly and all the people displaying are satisfied."
"Yeah, like the new electronics show, the auto shows, home construction and a million other types. They usually run from Thursday until Saturday. I make sure they're up on time and packed up and shipped back out by Sunday morning. If I've got two shows going at the same time, I sometimes pick the show that interests me the most and work that one. I know enough people that if I need something I can always get a good deal from one of my friends."
"Doesn't it get old after a while? I mean doing the exact same thing week in and week out?" Janet asked probably wondering how often I was in town.
"It's always something new and I get to meet a lot of people. The only problem is that it gets a little bit lonely traveling all the time. Eating by yourself, maybe catching a drink in the hotel bar before going up to your room to sleep. The money is good, but that's the only down side."
"Steve, a good looking guy like you, there must be a million girls working the shows that would love to have your shoes parked under their bed at night" she said almost sarcastically.
"Not any more," was my reply to that.
When they finally kicked us out we found ourselves in the parking lot.
"Well, Mr. Steven Moore I had a wonderful time tonight."
"Well, Ms. Janet Collins I did also,"
We both looked at one another and started laughing together out loud.
"All right, so I know I'm not getting lucky tonight." I told her with a little sarcasm. She was studying me and I guess waiting for my next line.
"Now that we've got the first and hardest date out of the way, the next ten to twenty should be a breeze. So unless I'm reading you wrong, you want to go out with me again because I sure as hell want to see you again. This time, why don't you check your schedule and give me a call. I'm free most nights but I'm not the one that has someone else to worry about."
"You seem kind of sure of yourself."
"If I wasn't, there is no way you'd let me do this," I said taking her in my arms and giving her a huge kiss with just enough tongue to make it interesting. Thank God she didn't fight it or drive her knee into my groin.
"That was nice. Maybe we should do this again," she said opening up her car door and slipping in. Through the open window I got another kiss, not as sweet as the first but nice just the same. "A lady doesn't chase a man, so let me know your work schedule for the next two weeks and we'll definitely do this again."
Janet blew me a kiss and the bulge in my slacks told me I was interested in this girl, even though she came across as a real hard ass. The only thing I could figure is that she had been hurt at least once before and was making damn sure it wasn't going to happen again. I wasn't sure what I wanted but seeing her again was high on my priority list.
Between her work schedule and mine we had more than a bit of difficulty getting together for our next date and the ten others that followed. I found out Janet worked for an investigation firm. She wouldn't tell me a whole lot other than to say that she was one of four partners in the firm. When I pressed her and asked what type of investigation work she did, all she would say was that it was all types and most of the time it was confidential so she couldn't get specific with me. I asked if she'd let me go along sometime. She gave me that look I'd grown accustom to seeing, and said not a chance in hell. I let it drop.
When I suggested a whole day outing at Disney World's Magic Kingdom, Janet informed me that she liked EPCOT much more. "But I'll bet Tammy would probably like the Magic Kingdom better." That, my friend, started a discussion that lasted the entire night. Instead of going out we ordered in after realizing we weren't even close to resolving our issues.
"Steve, I don't include Tammy on my dates. I don't want her to meet every guy I go out because most don't stay around long enough. Tammy is much too precious to me. I don't want her to get attached to some guy only to have him book when things don't go exactly the way he likes. There is no way I'm going to put her through that heartache."
"Look, I don't know where this is all going between you and I, but I would have thought by now you'd see I'm not in it just for your hot body." That brought a slight smile to her face. "Tammy is a huge part of your life, and if we're going to move forward don't you think you owe it to the two of us to meet? Hell, she might hate me and I may think she's a headstrong spoiled brat like her mom and dump your ass." It was my turn to smile this time.
We spent the better part of the next two hours questioning each other's intentions and what we both were looking for in this new relationship. I was nowhere near ready to jump into a serious relationship just yet, but I wanted us to be exclusive going forward. Janet wanted to know what my definition of exclusive was and when I told her she wasn't too happy about it.