tagRomanceAbove it All Ch. 08-10

Above it All Ch. 08-10


Chapter 8 The New and Improved Version

Gabrielle stood, waiting for more. An explanation, I guessed.

"Doctor Urquhart sat and listened to my tale of woe, not offering much comment, but asking a question now and then. Essentially, he wanted me to spill my guts and get all the anger and hate out on the table. Maybe that's not a very good metaphor, because it was very messy and borderline incoherent. It took me a while to figure out what he was up to, and I wondered just how much good it was doing. Yeah, I was getting it all off my chest, but was there a cure somewhere in all this?

"Anyway, I guess we'd had three or four sessions before he changed his tactics. Now, he wanted to focus in on the things that weren't bothering me. The good times in the past and the things that brought me happiness or at least, satisfaction. There was nothing devious about his methods; he was just trying to figure out what made me tick. As time went on, I found him easy to talk to. He didn't judge me, he just listened.

"So ... after a couple of months of once-a-week sessions, he started to tell me what he thought. He began by saying that I was fixated on my father. In particular, I wanted my father to be proud of me. Well, that was no great revelation. Doesn't almost every kid want that? But he said it went further than that. I had chosen Chemical Engineering late in the day, giving up my real interest in Mechanical Engineering. Why? What made me change? It was as he said; I wanted to please my father by following in his footsteps."

"And you did," Gabrielle said, still listening intently.

"The trouble with that decision was that Dad was dead. He wasn't around to welcome or support the change. I'd never get any recognition for it from him. I was trying to please a ghost. When I thought about it afterwards, I knew the doctor was right. I was making decisions based on what Dad might have thought. Then he reminded me of why I chose to seek help. It was Olivia's parting words, wondering what Dad would have thought if he could have seen me at my worst.

"From there, the doctor hit me with another unpleasant fact. He said I didn't like myself very much. I was using my anger to mask the thought that I was imperfect now, handicapped, unable to do my job, unable to be the whole person I expected myself to be. By then I'd learned not to argue with his opinions. He'd hit home too often for me to second guess his statements. Now I was really upset. He'd stripped away all the things I was using to protect myself and excuse myself for my behavior. I had no idea what to do next. At that point, he offered an opinion.

"He said I needed to find something that would bring me genuine sustainable pleasure. Not some short-term 'happy-fix,' but something I could involve myself in that would bring me satisfaction and restore my belief in myself. Whether it was some community service work, or learning a new skill, it was important to satisfy myself, not someone else. He didn't say it directly, but he reminded me of the pleasure and satisfaction I had when working with Dad on the Matchless. I don't think he was trying to be subtle, and the hint wasn't lost on me.

"So that's how I ended up back at Mike's Bikes, and the rest as they say, is history," I smiled.

She stood, leaning against the counter on the island, looking at me intently before she spoke.

"This history hasn't been written yet," she said solemnly. "You haven't told me everything, but you've told me enough. You're not all the way there yet, but you're getting closer."

I shook my head, wondering what she meant.

She saw the question on my face.

"You still couldn't bring yourself to come to me and tell me what you've just told me. I had to come to you ... and I wasn't even thinking of trying to drag it out of you."

"Gabrielle, I've tried a thousand times to think of a way to apologize to you, but couldn't find the words that would properly say just how sorry I am. After a while, I convinced myself that you wouldn't want to hear it. You would probably have moved on and I would be just an unpleasant memory. It became easier to carry on with my new life and not inflict myself on you."

"How noble of you," she said, but not in a kindly way. "I didn't get a chance to tell you how I felt; you took that away from me. You gave up on me, just like you gave up on yourself. Not exactly the heroic image you'd like to project is it? The noble self-sacrificing man saving his lover from hurt and disappointment, when all the while he was hurting her and disappointing her. You really were fucked up, weren't you?" she spat.

I couldn't argue with her. After all, in so many words, Doctor Urquhart had said the same thing.

"There's nothing I can say to make it right, Gabrielle," I began quietly. "I know that now. I'm ashamed of myself for not facing up to my faults and dealing with my problems. It's past me now, but it's going to follow me for a long time to come."

The last thing I wanted now was to drive her away again, but her comments made that seem likely.

"It's not past you yet, Kyle," she said calmly after a long silence between us. "You still have to deal with me. You can't let me love you and just say 'oh well, so sad, too bad.' That's not good enough. I fell in love with you, Kyle, and it had nothing to do with your career, or your running, or anything else but the man I got to know. The man who made love to me like I'd never been made love to before. Once upon a time you had a sense of humor. Once upon a time you laughed easily and often," she paused, "and once upon a time you said you loved me," she finished quietly.

I could see tears forming in her eyes. I didn't want to cause that but I had no idea how to prevent them. What could I do or say that would put a stop to the hurt and pain she was feeling. I'd been completely insensitive to it and now it was all coming out here in my kitchen, just when I hoped we might have another chance. I didn't feel that way at the moment.

I sighed. "Doctor Urquhart once said that I was a 'B type' personality masquerading as an 'A type.' By nature, I'm not aggressive, but passive. I played a role when I was with Dow that masked that. I'm more prone to let things happen to me than the other way around. Maybe that's what you're seeing in me. I'm not a psychiatrist, but I've come to believe he was right."

"Oh cut the psychological mumbo jumbo, Kyle. This is a whole lot simpler than that. I'm sure your doctor friend could write a book about you, but it doesn't change anything. I'm glad you got help. You needed it. I'm glad you understand yourself better now, you needed that too. I'm impressed even more that you listened to him and took the steps you had to take to have a better life. But you're work in progress, Kyle. You ain't there yet. You're still using excuses. Just what is it going to take to get you to understand that?"

I listened, disheartened, as she spat out her opinion.

"I don't know, Gabrielle. I just don't know what comes next for me. If you've got any suggestions, I'm happy to hear them. I think I'm a lot happier now than I was before. I'm doing something I enjoy and I'm working with people I respect. I'm trying like hell to be a better person. I've shaken off the bitterness and anger, I think. I've tried to apologize to everyone I knew that deserved an apology, but I still couldn't find a way to tell you how sorry I was."

We stood there, looking intently at each other, not saying a word.

"I don't know, Kyle. I don't have an answer for you. Somewhere in your heart, you have to find a way. I'm not looking for a written apology. I'm trying to find a way back to you, you dumb ass. Don't you see that?"

"This is the most confusing conversation I've ever had. Why didn't you just say what you wanted?"

She stepped toward me and reached up and put her hands on my shoulders. "I never gave up on us, Kyle, but by God, I've had some times when I was ready to. You don't fall in love with someone and then just shut if off. But you did, didn't you. You shut it off and walked away. I couldn't believe it happened. I know we weren't getting along, but I didn't ever think you'd just pack up and leave. Was it that bad?" she asked, her eyes glistening with unshed tears once more.

"At the time, I think it was," I said, looking her right in the eyes. "I didn't like myself very much, just as the doctor said. I didn't want to leave you, but I didn't want to hurt you, so I did both. Smart guy, huh?"

"Men aren't very smart as a group," she said, trying to smile. "Look, Kyle, this is getting very intense. Let's take a time out for a while. I'm not going anywhere unless you ask me to leave. I want to know about the 'new Kyle' and there's only one way and that's for us to talk. It may get a little hairy, but we do have to talk."

I nodded. "It's a good thing you're smarter than me," I said. "I don't want you to leave ... ever." There, I'd said it.

"It's going to take some work, Mister," she said, her hands still squeezing my shoulders. "Not just you, but me too."

I sighed in relief. "Okay ... so ... can I offer you a glass of wine? It's almost happy hour."

"I don't give a shit if it's ten in the morning, I'm ready for a glass of wine," she said with a brittle laugh.

I chuckled, feeling the release of tension. Reaching for an open bottle of Cabernet, I poured us each a glass.

"To reconstruction," I said, holding my glass up to hers.

"To better days," she replied with a soft smile.


"Show me your shop," she said as we toured the garden area. I'd already admitted that the yard wasn't my creation. It had been created by a professional and in a few years, the trees that I'd planted would be big enough to give some much needed shade during the hot summer months.

I walked with her to the front of the shop and opened the cover on a small keypad. I punched in the security code and watched as the two nine-foot folding doors moved apart, the only sound being the electric motor.

"This lets me back the truck and trailer into the shop. I usually lock it up in here overnight. I never know when we'll need it at the main shop," I explained.

It was cool in the building. I'd installed both heat and air conditioning when it was built. It seldom got down to freezing in the central valley, but the summer temperatures could top one hundred on occasion. I flicked on the overhead lights and the shop came to life.

"Oh, this isn't what I expected at all," Gabrielle said gazing around at the scene. It's so clean and orderly. All those bins and stalls are labeled," she pointed.

"Yeah ... well ... I do like a clean shop and the computer dictated that I have a way of finding everything."

"What's that screened off area for?" she asked, pointing to the back of the shop.

"I have a media blaster that I use to strip metal of rust and paint. It's necessary if I'm going to weld or prime the items."

"And what's under that cover?" she wondered, pointing toward the front corner of the room.

"I'll show you," I said, smiling to myself. I walked over to the bulky cover and pulled it off the object.

"Oh my God," she said. "Where did that come from?" she asked as I revealed the automobile beneath the cover.

"Well, Dallas, Texas, as a matter of fact," I grinned.

"Is that the same car I remember from the Pleasanton show?" she wondered.

"Same model, different car. I bought it in rough shape and had it shipped to a special shop for restoration and painting. It's the same color as the one you remember. It's a fifty-seven Cadillac Eldorado. I hired a company called Better Than New to find one that could be restored and they were successful. It was only finished and delivered last fall."

I watched her look over the big, voluptuous machine, her eyes fixated on it. I stepped past her and opened the driver's side door, showing her the interior.

"White leather, just like the one I saw," she said almost to herself. "Do you ever drive it?"

"Oh sure. I can get in and out of it without difficulty. It's not an everyday driver, but I do take it out. I'm sure you'd enjoy a ride in it."

"I was planning to take you out to dinner one night to thank you for having me stay here. Could we take it then?" she asked, looking at me.

"Hell, I'll do better than that. You can drive it," I grinned.

"Oh, God no. I'd be scared to death to damage it," she said in horror.

"It's just a car, Gabrielle. It's not a living thing. I've wanted to be able to have something special and this was it."

"If you're sure, Kyle?" she looked at me questioningly.

"Of course. You're a good driver. I know that from experience. I'm not afraid to let you drive it. You'll look fantastic behind the wheel. I may want to take some pictures with you there."

The smile on her face was worth all the money in the world. If I'd done anything right that day, it was this. I wondered what she'd think of my other tribute to her.

I showed her the bikes I had in various states of reconstruction. They didn't look like much for the most part, lacking a saddle or tank or wheels, but she could see what I was doing as she ran her fingers over the bright red frame on a Moto Guzzi Cardellino.

"This looks almost like a motorized bicycle," she noted.

"It's Italian. They do things differently," I smiled.

"I see a couple of scooters too," she noted.

"Yep. They're great starter bikes for young people. Not too powerful for them, and really cheap transportation. That's why you see so many of them in Europe."

"You know, I don't ever remember you riding a motorcycle," she said.

"I'm too big for most bikes," I said. "I'm not a big fan of Harleys, so there aren't many bikes I could be comfortable on. I'm happy just fixing them."

She nodded in understanding.

We left the shop and walked toward the house. I showed her the swimming pool and barbeque area behind the six-foot screen that gave it complete privacy.

"There's a rumour going around that I don't do anything but work and sleep, but it's not true. This is where I get my exercise and my tan," I said.

"Oh, this is nice," she said, reaching down and touching the water. "Nice warm water and all this privacy. You could skinny dip here."

I could see the smirk on her expression.

"How do you know I don't?" I tried.

"I won't until I find out if that's an all-over tan," she chuckled, pointing at me.

"Did you bring a swimsuit with you?" I asked.

"As a matter of fact, I did," she smiled.

"It looks like it will be warm enough for a swim this afternoon. Care to join me?"

She paused for a moment, looking at me before nodding. "Sure. I could use a swim."

"Let's go then. We can work up an appetite before dinner," I suggested.

"Is that all we're going to work up?" she asked with sly smile as she walked past me and into the house.

I'd never seen Gabrielle in a swimsuit before, not that I hadn't seen her naked. But some women can look even sexier in a bikini than naked.

I quickly changed from my work clothes into my trunks, slipped on a pair of flip-flops and pulled a couple of large beach towels out of the bathroom. I took them to the poolside and unfolded a pair of lounge chairs. She wasn't long joining me.

She surprised me. She was wearing a bright blue skin-tight one-piece suit that looked like it had been painted on her. There wasn't a single part of her that wasn't molded into that suit. It didn't seem possible that it could be even sexier than a string bikini, but it was.

"Whoa! You look amazing. What happens when that suit gets wet," I said with a leer.

"Watch and see," she smirked, diving head first into the pool.

I watched her as she swam a couple of laps with a graceful stroke. I could see her muscles ripple as they worked to propel her forward. She was beauty in motion. I dove in and surfaced near her, picking up her stroke and swimming along side her the way we used to do when we were running. It brought back some fond memories.

The air was not as warm as the water, so we stayed in the pool for a few minutes before I got out. I had a meal to prepare and wrapped myself in one of the big beach towels to ward off the chill of the late afternoon air. It was April, after all, so I couldn't expect summer warmth. Gabrielle followed me a minute or so later, exiting the pool with a single, polished lift to her feet. She was no stranger to the move.

"You looked like you've been swimming quite a bit," I observed. "You have a beautiful, smooth stroke."

She smiled her thanks. "You looked pretty smooth yourself. Is this how you get your exercise?"

I nodded. "Yeah, it's easy on my knees. No impact."

I think you might have lost a pound or two," she suggested. "You look very fit."

"I'm hovering around two hundred, about ten below where I was back then," I said.

"I was looking at your shoulders. They look very powerful. I don't remember that from before," she observed.

"Weights. I lift, do 'ab' presses, back extensions, stationary bike, and swim," I explained.

"It looks good on you," she smiled in admiration.

"Thanks. You're one of the few people who've seen the before and after."

"I'm going to have a quick shower and dress. I'll join you in the kitchen," she announced.

"See you there," I said.

I'd given some thought to which tasks I could have Gabrielle do if she was volunteering to help. I had them set in my mind, while I went over the recipe once more to make sure I hadn't forgotten anything. I microwaved some frozen butter buns which I could warm before serving. Everything else was fresh, ready to go.

She came out to the kitchen a short time later wearing a t-shirt and shorts, barefoot just as I remembered her from before. No makeup and her hair tied in a little bun on top of her head. She looked absolutely delectable. I could feel myself harden and wanted to hide that for now. Fortunately, a few moments of concentration on my cooking task and it went down on its own accord.

"Can I help?" she asked, predictably.

"Yes, if you'd chop the parsley, chives, and celery, that would be a big help."

She selected a knife from the block on the counter and set to work. I didn't need to tell her how I wanted it done. She and I both knew from experience what was required. After all, she was quite an accomplished cook in her own right.


"I loved that stir-fry," she smiled as we sipped our wine and relaxed before I served the dessert.

"Simple, easy, and with the right ingredients, very tasty," I said, hoping I came across as modest.

"You haven't lost your touch, Kyle. Maybe you missed your other calling to be chef," she chuckled.

I was shaking my head. "Nope. I've watched a couple of those cooking shows and I don't think I could stand all the drama that they feature. I like what I do and I'm satisfied it's worthwhile."

"What else do you do? I was given the impression that you did nothing but work."

"Uhhm, well, I do some volunteer community service work on Saturday mornings," I admitted.

"What is that about?" she asked.

"I work with the industrial arts teacher at a Davis High School, teaching kids about servicing and repairing vehicles. We do real work on real machines so they can get a sense of accomplishment."

"So ... these would be cars and trucks?" she asked.

"Well, no. I've rescued a bunch of scooters from the junk pile, and we work on those to make them roadworthy again. They're smaller and easier to see what's going on. Larry Penner and I are trying to accomplish two things. One is to teach them about the mechanics of vehicles; in this case the scooters. The other is to make the finished scooters available to the kids as cheap transportation. So far, we're doing very well."

"How do you decide who gets each scooter?" she wondered.

"Lottery. It's the only fair way. But, I've found a source of a bunch of derelict machines that I'm buying and we'll probably have enough to satisfy the kids for a while yet."

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