tagRomanceBeverly June

Beverly June

bySSW_1050©

Writer's Note: This is my first foray into writing a Romance. This came to me while I was working on revisions to another story, and wouldn't let go. The main characters each discover the other is a long lost love. Enjoy, and please vote.

To the literary critics – I am a retired cabinetmaker, not a professional author.

Legal: All characters engaging in sexual activity are 18 or older.

Standard Advisory – This is NOT a one or two page stroke story. If that's what you want, look elsewhere.

Standard Caution – There is minor tobacco use (smoking) in this story. If this bothers you, go elsewhere.

A Down and Out Woman Discovers a Long Lost Love

***

14 Sept 1998

Lloyd

It had been a rough week at work, last week, followed by a bad weekend. The job I'd been working on hadn't gone right, due to a delay getting materials, and last Friday would have been Donna's and my 25th anniversary. The past couple years, since she had passed, had been filled with more lows than highs, the high spots being visits with my married daughter and her family. She, her husband, and my granddaughter lived in a neighboring town, where they both worked.

I was a remodeling contractor and cabinetmaker, and stayed busy, even through economic downturns, after I had broken out on my own twenty years ago. Most of my jobs were usually within fifty miles of my home in northeast Texas. I usually worked in the smaller towns, in the Tyler and Longview area, though I would occasionally take a job farther away.

I received a call from a property owner I knew, in Gladewater, my hometown, last week, about renovating a group of rental properties. The work involved cosmetic repair to the exteriors of the existing structures, and complete replacement of all interior woodwork and the kitchen and bath cabinets. These were all single-family homes, in an older part of town, with pier and beam foundations and lap siding exteriors.

The property owner asked me to come by his rental office, so we set an appointment time, the following Monday, to discuss the job and see the houses. When I arrived at the office, his wife and receptionist, Linda, asked me to wait.

"John will be back in the office within fifteen minutes, Mr. Harper. He planned to meet you here, but had a minor issue to deal with. Please, have a seat, and can I get you a cup of coffee?"

"Thank you, Linda. That does sound good, I take it black."

John Jefferson, the property owner, came in as Linda was returning with my coffee.

"Good morning, Lloyd. Sorry I'm running late, but my youngest daughter had a flat on her way to school this morning. Come on in, so I can give you a more detailed overview of the work I need done."

We walked into his office, where he had a stack of file folders on his desk.

"Each of these folders has the details of each house. The address is on the tab, a copy of the inspector's report is in the folder, along with photos of all the problem areas."

"That sounds good, John. I'll need to do my own inspection of each property also, and will put my notes in the file as well. Based on our earlier conversation, you want me to do all cosmetic repairs to the exteriors, plus replace all the woodwork and the kitchen cabinets, bath vanities, and linen cabinets on the interiors. Do you want me to paint the interiors and finish the cabinets, or do you have a painter?"

"My maintenance man will take care of the exterior and interior painting. I do want the cabinets finished with a fruitwood stain and lacquer finish as part of your work, though."

"That sounds good to me. I'd like to look at all the houses today, and get some preliminary measurements. I have another job I need to finish this week, but I can have a price for you by the end of the week, unless there is something unusual I'm not aware of.

"You do understand that any price I give you will be a good faith estimate, and is subject to change when the job is opened up. A good example is one I ran into a couple of years ago. When I tore out the kitchen cabinets, the floor, subfloor, and a couple of floor joists were rotted because of an old plumbing leak. All that had to be repaired, before I could install new cabinets in the kitchen. If your inspector did his job right, those problems should be noted."

"I understand, and I'll work with you on anything like that. If you're ready, let's go look at these houses."

I stopped by my truck to get a clipboard and legal pad, along with my camera. John drove us to the subdivision where the houses were located. On the way, he related the history of how he acquired the properties.

"This subdivision was developed at the end of World War II, and most of the houses were built between '46 and '52. They're smaller, starter type homes, all of them having either two or three bedrooms and single baths. When the families started selling out in the mid '60's, my dad was able to purchase quite a few of them for cash. He used them as rentals and only did minimal maintenance. After he passed away, I inherited them, and now I need to do some major upgrades, since the rental market is changing.

"Most of the young folks, looking for rentals now, want more modern kitchens and air conditioning. With new businesses moving into town, the rental market is good, so I need to get these houses ready."

Most of the houses were typical of lower priced construction just after the war. They were in somewhat better condition than I expected, but the interiors were showing their age. The base mould was 1x6 and the door and window casings were all 1x4 material, with multiple coats of paint present.

"All the interior mouldings and all doors will be replaced," John told me. "There's still some lead based paint and primer on the woodwork, and on the cabinets in these houses. I have a lead abatement contractor coming in, this week, to tear out all the woodwork and cabinets. Fortunately, I was able to get a grant to cover the cost of the abatement.

"I have a drywall contractor that will install new drywall throughout the interiors, and take care of the taping and bedding work. Once that's done, I need you to install new cabinets, interior doors, closet shelves, and trim work throughout all the houses."

"What about the exterior doors? Will I need to replace them?"

"No, the abatement contractor will replace them, when they tear out the old doors. You'll need to do the interior trim, though. One thing, I want to keep the hardwood floors, but will install new vinyl in the bathrooms, and I'll have a flooring contractor take care of that work.

"We'll cover the floors with a couple o' layers of heavy poly sheet to protect 'em, and after you're finished I have a floor man scheduled to come in and sand and refinish."

As we went through the houses, I quickly determined that most of the kitchens and bathrooms were very close to the same size, and I could use standard cabinets. Based on my past experience, I didn't see anything that would cause problems. This would be a good job to do, with the only issue being the five-month timeframe John wanted. I would have to find a helper, possibly two, because the young man I had working for me, had given me his notice a couple weeks ago, since he was going into the military.

Based on what I saw, when we were inspecting the houses, and what John had told me, I had about three weeks to find someone. There had been many times, in the past, when my wife and daughter would help me build cabinets and install trim, but that wasn't possible now. My wife was gone, now, due to a sudden major heart attack, and my daughter was working full time, as a mechanical engineer, for a company in Tyler.

Once we returned to John's office, I gathered the files on the houses to take home to prepare the estimates. Once the "Good byes" were done, I headed for my shop.

My afternoon was full, going through the files and my notes, as I estimated materials for the job. Since these were rental properties, John wanted a more durable cabinet, so I figured a birch and pine plywood carcass and maple face frame cabinet for durability. To keep the cost down, I figured beveled edge birch plywood overlay doors with wraparound hinges for strength.

Since the houses were built from a limited number of floor plans, and all the interior doors were of only three sizes, estimating the interior trim was an easy matter. By 7:00 that evening I had a good handle on the job materials. A call to the lumberyard tomorrow morning would let me update my material costs, leaving only the labor estimate.

I got back in my truck and drove to town, headed for the Shamrock Cafe to get a bite to eat. When I walked in, Rachel, the waitress, greeted me and met me at my seat.

"You want a cold one tonight, Lloyd?" she asked.

"Yeah, I guess I'll take one tonight, if you've got a cold Shiner Bock," I chuckled; surprising her, since I rarely drank a beer.

"What'll you have, tonight?" she asked, when she brought the beer. "Our cook did a real good job with his beef enchiladas today."

"That sounds good to me, Rachel. How about two of 'em with some rice and beans on the side?"

"Gimme about twenty minutes," she told me, as she headed for the kitchen.

Beverly

I'd loved Todd, when we married, and since he wanted me to be a housewife, I quit my secretarial job when we married in '74. His income was sufficient that we were able to buy a median house in one of the suburban neighborhoods of Houston. Our married life was good until he was laid off late in '83, when the oil business bottomed out.

So much of the economy in the Houston area was tied to petroleum exploration, refining, and petrochemicals that the job market dried up almost overnight. Todd was unable to find a job, so to try and make ends meet, I got out looking for work. Since I had not been working for several years, the only full time job I was able to find was a housekeeping position at one of the hotels.

Todd became frustrated and depressed, especially since we were having to live on the much lower income I was able to provide. He'd always been able to buy whatever he wanted, but now we had to cut expenses everywhere we could. We were barely able to make the house payment, pay the utilities, and buy groceries.

After a year he was finally able to find swing shift work, pulling parts in a warehouse. It didn't set well with him to have to take orders from a supervisor, since he had a dominant personality. He began drinking, and his behavior became abusive and more erratic.

I suspected he'd started using some drugs, but was never able to prove my suspicions, since he never did them at home. He also became more abusive and demanding, when we'd be at home together. Our home life gradually turned into a steady downward spiral, even more so after he was fired and had to find another job.

Our financial situation continued to deteriorate to the point we were three months behind on the house payments, with the bank threatening foreclosure. The situation was partly my fault, because I'd always let him make most of the financial decisions and pay the bills. Instead of making the payments, he either drank the money up, or bought his drugs.

Things finally hit bottom when he got into a bar fight with a known drug dealer and was killed. We'd had to give up all our insurance, and after his funeral, I was left with all the debts. I had to sell everything we had left, and move into the cheapest place I could find while most of my paychecks went toward debt repayment.

Finally, after five years, I had everything settled. The economy, in the Houston area, was recovering, but I decided I needed to be anywhere but here, because of all the bad memories.

I'd scraped together enough to buy an old rattletrap car a couple years previously, and had managed to save another couple hundred dollars by skipping some meals. Thinking about what I wanted to do, I could only see two choices – I could go to where my mother lived, and stay with her, while I tried to get back on my feet, or I could be a big girl and do it on my own.

I loved my mother, but, at this point in my life, I didn't want to deal with the 'I told you so' looks and comments that would come my way. She had never liked Todd, and the feelings on his part were mutual. Mama always managed to drop the hint that, in her opinion, I could have done so much better, when we were together, which only added fuel to the fire.

Perhaps I would be best to go back to my hometown, and try to start over there. I had fond memories of the time our family lived there, before my dad took that job transfer. There was also the matter of my self-respect. I still felt I needed to prove to myself that I could make it on my own. After a few days, thinking things out, I made the fateful decision to return to my hometown.

Lloyd

While I was waiting, I looked around the dining room to see who was there. Most of the customers were folks I knew, and we all waved at each other. A woman I didn't know, and who appeared to be close to my age, occupied one booth, in the back corner of the dining room. She looked tired and her clothing appeared well worn. From what I could see, her blouse and jeans were threadbare and her shoes were scuffed. Her auburn hair was pulled back into a shoulder length ponytail. There was something about her that struck a chord, seeming to be familiar, but I couldn't quite put my finger on what it was.

Rachel set my meal on the counter and glanced at my bottle.

"Want another?" she asked.

"I'd better stop with the one, Rachel," I told her, "how 'bout a glass of water instead?"

"You're a little late, this evening," she commented. "Been out on a job?"

"Nah, I've been in the shop all afternoon, workin' on an estimate for John Jefferson. He's rehabin' all those houses he owns in the Rodeo Addition, and wants me to bid on doin' the cabinets and trim on 'em. That's almost like goin' home, since I grew up out in that part of town."

"Is he plannin' to sell 'em, or is he gonna keep 'em as rentals?"

"Far as I know he's gonna keep rentin' 'em. He told me there's some new business comin' to town in a few months and the rental market is good right now. I'm gonna have to find a helper to replace Joey, though, since he's leavin', end of this week, for basic trainin'."

"What are you lookin' for?" she asked, as she moved to the register to check out a customer.

"It don't matter much," I told her, when she finished at the register. "I wouldn't mind havin' a lady that don't mind gettin' down in the floor and can do stainin' and finishin'. Back when my wife was alive, she'd do a lot of the finishin' for me, and I came to appreciate that a woman was better at some things than I was. Seems to me that you ladies have more patience and pay attention to the small details better'n a lotta men do."

Beverly

Somehow my old car made it to Gladewater without dying on the road and leaving me stranded. I'd nursed it along, hoping the clutch wouldn't finally give up the ghost, all the way from Houston. It was early evening when I finally pulled into the Shamrock Cafe, a place I remembered from when I was a girl, living here in town.

Knowing I had very limited funds, I opted for an inexpensive meal, with water for the drink. Since I was a woman alone, new in town, and really didn't know whom I could trust, I opted for a booth in the back corner of the dining room so I could see anyone approaching where I sat.

While eating my sandwich, I ran options through my mind. I could find a motel room for the night, or I could opt to sleep in my car again. I'd done that the last few nights I'd spent in Houston, while waiting for my final paycheck.

As I sat there, thinking over my choices, a man that appeared close to my age came in, taking a seat at the counter. He must be a regular customer, because he greeted the waitress by name, and nodded and waved at some of the others in the dining room.

There was something familiar about him, but I couldn't figure it out. While I was trying to place him, I overheard him talking with the waitress about how he was looking for a helper. From their conversation, it sounded like he was in some type construction business.

Before Todd had gotten laid off, he was a hobby woodworker, and I'd helped him with some home renovations, and some furniture refinishing. It wouldn't hurt to ask about a job, since I had no other prospects at the moment.

Lloyd

While Rachel and I were talking, the lady in the back booth came to the register to pay for her meal. I watched, from the corner of my eye, as she paid with a few dollar bills and then counted out a couple dollars in change to finish settling up. I overheard her ask Rachel if she knew of any jobs in the local area. Rachel pointed at me.

"You might ask Lloyd, there. He's a local remodelin' contractor, and knows a lotta folks in the area. He was just tellin' me he's lookin' for a helper, 'cause the fella that's been workin' for him just went in the service."

"Thank you, so very much," the lady replied softly.

I again watched from the corner of my eye as she hesitantly approached where I was sitting at the counter. I was again struck by the feeling I should know her, but couldn't quite bring a memory into focus. She was about five feet four inches in height, looked like she would weigh about a hundred twenty pounds, had the auburn hair I'd noted, and the largest, most striking, emerald green eyes I'd ever seen. A light dusting of freckles spread across the bridge of her nose and onto her cheeks. She was not made up, but I could easily tell her appearance would be spectacular, if she were, because of those eyes.

Although her clothing was loose fitting and well worn, it was neat and clean. From her appearance, and demeanor, my first impression was of a person caught in a bad situation not necessarily of their making.

"Hello," she said softly. "The waitress told me you might know where I could find some work."

"Please, have a seat," I told her, indicating the stool beside the one I was on. "Can I get you anything?" I asked, after she was seated.

"No thank you, I just ate," she replied.

"I'm Lloyd Harper, and you are?"

"Beverly. I'm Beverly Davis."

Her name stirred a memory, but I couldn't quite place it.

"What type work are you lookin' for, Beverly?"

"Right now, I'm lookin' for anything. I'll take almost anything with a paycheck, but don't have a lot of experience, outside of domestic work and some secretarial work years ago. I'm willin' to do almost anything, and am willin' to learn.

"I understand you do remodeling work. I can do clean up for you, and can paint. I'm widowed, now, but did help my husband build some cabinets and bookshelves, and do some furniture refinishin' and remodelin' at our home, before he died."

"Where are you stayin', right now?" I asked.

"I don't have a place yet," she softly replied, as she hung her head apologetically. "I'm from Gladewater, originally, but I've been away for many years. I got back into town late this afternoon, and haven't found a place yet. Please, Mr. Harper, can you help me? I drove up here from Houston today, and don't really have anywhere to go."

I reached over, gently lifting her chin, so I could look into those mesmerizing eyes, and could plainly see a look of desperation on her face.

"My husband was killed about five years ago, leavin' me with a mountain of debt. He had no insurance, so I had to sell everything we had, along with workin', to pay off all the bills. Right now I've got a twenty-year-old car that burns more oil than gas, with all my possessions in the back seat, and a hundred sixty-five dollars in my purse. I figure I can afford one or two nights in a cheap motel, and meals for a few days."

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