It was the perfect day for it to happen. I'm surrounded by friends and family enjoying the happy occasion. Outside the vortex of gaiety are curious onlookers, either sneaking peeks at the celebrating crowd or staring with envious eyes wishing they merited being included in the guest list.
My father, Harrison Williams sat near the head of the long table presiding over the affair. A large smile was on his face as he finished a story that brought peals of laughter from everyone. Multiple waiters and waitresses scurried to comply with the various orders of the assembled guests.
A waiter deftly placed a rare third glass of Chardonnay in front of my mother, Tracey Williams. She idly ran her fingers around the stem of the wineglass as she smiled at her husband and then turned her attention to me.
The look of pride and love coming from my mother was just another wonderful bonus for me. I thought of all the love and sacrifices my family underwent just to put me in this position. I was on the verge of becoming part of a world that I had dreamed about since childhood.
It hadn't been easy. I had to carefully craft my college course schedule to coincide with my part time job at the bank and manage to spend what time I could with my girlfriend. For four long years I would rush from school to my job. Then after work, it was home to study and discuss the theoretical applications espoused by my professors against the real world experience of my father.
I had to walk a delicate tightrope not to agitate my father as we debated radical changes to the business. Harrison Williams business philosophy could be summed up in the adage, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Even so, I would occasionally convince my father to try out a new idea and he would allow a trial run to see if any advantages would come from the new practice.
Sometimes the proposed idea would utterly fail and we would spend countless hours debriefing trying to come to a consensus why it failed. Sometimes, the idea would succeed, but not to the extent anticipated, so we would carefully tweak the idea to maximize profit. Then, there was the one time the new idea was a raving success and I had to resist the urge to tell my father, I told you so.
Alternately, I was fearless in letting my professors know what ideas passed muster and what ideas they should delete from espousing from the ivory towers. Many professors resented the public exposure of the failure of their business models and my grades reflected that bias to some degree, but I felt duty bound to tell my fellow students my experiences so they would keep from making a misstep when they were out making a living.
While my ethical stand precluded me from graduating with honors, I did earn my degree which was one of the reasons for the festivities. Now armed with my degree in business I would join my father in running the family bank that had provided a livelihood for our family for six generations.
I had already cast my eyes on the girl that I expected to help make it become the seventh generation. Staci Buckman was seated next to me talking to her mother seated opposite across the table from Staci.
Staci and I had known each other our entire lives. We had been classmates throughout school. We started dating our senior year in high school. She followed me to the local college and while our time together was limited due to school and work, she and I continued our relationship. Weekends dates were few and far between, but still we managed to make a go of it. I was hellbent on consummating the relationship. In that respect I was your basic American male. Staci had been able to hold me off with comments about wanting to enter marriage as a virgin and diverted my lust with an occasional hand job.
Now five years into the relationship, the countdown would finally begin. I checked my pants pocket for the hundredth time to assure myself that the jewelry box containing the diamond engagement ring was still there. After she agreed to my proposal, then Staci and her friends and family can begin planning the wedding.
I decided to take the opportunity to appreciate Staci's looks. Staci was petite, with dirty-blonde hair, and endowed with tits that stood out on her thin frame. Sort of like Jennifer Love Hewitt. She had hazel eyes that could draw your attention. Enticing thin lips created a smile on her angular face that would beguile any man.
She was smart, charming, and engaging. Practically the entire town was ready to adopt her into their family. Of course, some of the potential adopters reasons were baser than others. She was the subject of many wet dreams and the fantasy woman many men held in thought as they made love to their girlfriends or wives.
I continued to watch as Staci erupted in laughter to a comment made by her mother. She unconsciously brushed aside a strand of hair that fell across her face. I thought of how I intended to reward her now that I would start working for my father and begin earning a decent wage while he groomed me to take over.
I expected trips to Hawaii and Christmas vacations in London and three day weekends beach getaways for us. And we would plan our family. I wanted a son and a daughter, but as long as the babies were healthy that was all that really mattered.
I nudged Staci for a quick comment and she smiled at me and gave my shoulder a fraternal pat as she entered into a conversation on the other side of her. I was slightly disturbed by her nonchalance attitude, but deemed it as a result of the entire table celebrating the good fortune of mine and Staci's graduation.
I was soon engaged into a conversation with Staci's father. Mr. Buckman wanted to know if I was going to go with the group of men scheduled for an Alaskan hunting trip. The group consisted of the elite power structure of the town. All the movers and shakers; albeit, doctors, or lawyers, or businessmen migrated in this collegial clique. By inviting me, a message was sent that I was expected to join their ranks.
Many of that power elite were present tonight at the dinner table. They came not only from a sense of commercial fealty, but because of the high esteem the Williams and the Buckmans had in the community.
My father had helped so many during his career as the president of the Camden Bank & Trust. My mother worked tirelessly over many community projects to help and benefit the less fortunate members of society. The Buckmans had done so as well, donating proficiently to charitable organizations. As the proprietor of the family owned manufacturing plant, Charles Buckman was the richest man in Camden and he did all his personal and business banking needs with my father.
Now with the pending engagement of me and Staci, the two families would be joined in a local dynasty. It would be Camden's equivalent of Prince William marrying Kate Middleton. And we would live happily ever after, I thought as I looked adoringly at my bride to be.
Charles Buckman rose from the table with his wineglass raised and waited as the various conversations died down and everyone gave their attention to him.
"I want to thank each of you for coming out tonight to help us celebrate this occasion. It seems like it was just yesterday that Staci and Troy and their classmates started school together. For all the crayon drawings that graced our refrigerator, for all the countless hours of helping you with your homework, for all the times we attended your school activities and supported you, Staci. For making your mother and me, the happiest and proudest set of parents possible as you've grown to be an adult, I wish I could properly express the love and feelings I have for you, my child." He said misty-eyed.
Staci spontaneously got up and ran to her father for a hug as the audience burst in applause.
"I love you and Mom so much, Daddy," she cried.
That brought another round of applause.
"Well Baby, now to the good part. For a graduation present, we are giving you a couple of tickets to an all expense-paid tour of Europe for the entire summer."
Staci squealed in delight and kissed her Dad and Mom as they handed her a thick envelope. I started trying to calculate if I could take off that much time from work. No matter, if I couldn't, I was sure Staci and a lucky girlfriend would enjoy the trip of a lifetime. It would set back our marriage date but that would allow me to build up our nestegg while Staci had fun.
I decided it was now or never and I got up and walked over toward Staci. I dug into my pocket and palmed the jewelry box in my hand. I went to Staci's side and Mr. and Mrs. Buckman stepped back graciously allowing me and Staci to be center stage.
Staci looked at me quizzically as I stood beside her. I started, "I just want to take a moment to thank everyone for coming out here tonight to help celebrate our graduation from college. And while to Mr. Buckman it may have seen like yesterday, to me, it seemed like Chinese Water Torture."
The droll remark got laughter from the room.
"But, the one thing that made it all bearable is the remarkable woman standing beside me. We shared milk from the same carton in the first grade, got sent together to the principal's office for passing notes in the sixth grade," I said with a raised eyebrow that brought another round of laughter.
"I finally wised up," I continued, "and asked her out for a date for Homecoming my senior year in high school. From there, we both went to college here and even though school and my job kept me from seeing her as much as I liked. It made me appreciate her all that much more."
I turned to Staci and stared into her face.
"And I do appreciate you, Staci. I've known for a long time what you meant to me. I have loved you since the first grade. I know what you will mean to me the rest of my life, because I intend to tell you, 'I love you' for the rest of my life. "
I began sinking to one knee and presented the box into view and began to open it. I noticed Staci's eyes opening wide and she brought her hand to her open mouth. She began showing the sign of hyperventilating.
"Staci Ellen Buckman, will you marry me?"
By now, the entire restaurant was dead silent and focused on the dramatic tableau presented to them. They had drawn a collective breath waiting to be expelled in cheers for Staci's assent.
I continued to gaze lovingly at Staci's face as the wide-eyed shock of the proposal was so evident on her face. Staci's eyes glanced wildly down the table, back to me, down the table, back to me.
An unsettling nag began in my brain as the pregnant pause continued. What I originally saw as unbelieving shock now morphed into panic. Again, she looked down the table; ignoring me kneeling with the flawless two carat diamond ring stretched outward to her.
"David..." she begged imploringly and bolted for the front door. There was the sound of a scrape of a chair being hastily removed from the table. An unbelieving and shocked audience caught a glimpse of someone chasing after Staci. The person turned only briefly to look at me as he ran past to chase after Staci.
It was David Porter, my best friend and the guy I intended to ask to be my best man.
The implications of Staci and David's actions sunk into the collective thought of the audience and everyone embarrassed attention was fixated upon me, the kneeling figure reeling from the event.
I slowly got up off my knee and fumbled to put the jewelry box back into my pocket. I began walking zombie-like toward the rear entrance away from Staci's direction. I didn't look at anyone as I blindly negotiated the steps leading away from the building. My eyes full of unshed tears accompanied me as I walked past my car and began the long arduous trek home.
I sat behind my desk as the rays from the morning sun flooded my office. I swivelled my chair and looked morosely at the empty buildings decaying on the city square.
One of those blighted buildings was the site of my proposal fiasco. Six years had passed since the humiliation before the entire town. Six long years of being the butt of jokes throughout Washington County. Six long years of being laughed at behind my back.
The restaurant has moved on. Staci has moved on. David has moved on. The city moved on. The whole damn world has moved on. The only one who hasn't moved on was me chained by heritage and necessity to the Camden Bank & Trust.
The intercom buzzed.
"Troy, Mrs. Fuller is here to see you."
I felt a slight irritation before I said, "Send her in."
Before the door began to open, I was out from behind the desk walking to the door as it opened.
"Let me get that, Mrs. Fuller," I said with some alarm at the big box the woman was toting.
Damn it, Janet, you should have carried this in for her, I thought. I looked at the thin attractive brunette escorting the frail old lady. I took the box and quickly put it on my desk and then assisted Mrs. Fuller to her chair.
"How are you today, Mrs. Fuller? Is there something I can help you with?"
"Why no, child! I just wanted to bring you a lug of heirloom tomatoes from my garden. I still remember how much you love them!"
Despite all the worries I felt, my spirit lightened as I recalled all the trips in Mrs. Fuller's garden as a child. Planting and digging up potatoes, onions, and peanuts. Setting stakes for tomatoes. Stakes for peas and bean crawlers to cling upon. Endlessly watering cantaloupes, honeydew melons and watermelons. Picking and shucking corn. Climbing apple, peach, and plum trees to gather their bounty.
It was amazing that what now I perceived as drudgery was once a joy as a child. Maybe civilization has it backwards, I speculated.
"Mrs. Fuller, can I get you something to drink?"
"Well, I wouldn't say no to a glass of lemonade or sweet tea, if it isn't too much trouble."
"Of course not! Miss Temple, if you wouldn't mind."
Unseen by Mrs. Fuller, Janet Temple winked at me and said, "of course, Troy." She left to complete the errand ignoring the subtle look of irritation on my face.
I sat in the chair next to Mrs. Fuller as befit her status of Very Favored Customer. "Are you sure I can't help you with something today, Mrs. Fuller?"
I saw the hesitation. The kind old lady was struggling on how to approach the dilemma.
"Troy, Mrs. Fuller, I'll always be Troy to you," I interrupted her softly. The lady smiled her gratification at my deferring to her status transcending mine.
"Thank you, Troy. I have a situation. I need a personal loan of $20,000."
At that point, Janet Temple entered the office with a tray with two glasses filled with ice cubes and a pitcher of lemonade. She poured the drinks and then excused herself.
"...I need the loan, but I don't have anything to secure the loan," said Mrs. Fuller shamefacedly.
Don't do it, don't do it, don't do it, don't do it, my brain commanded.
"Can I ask you why you need the money, Mrs. Fuller?"
"It's my grandson, he's finishing his last year in college but something happened to his paperwork for his student loan. I told him I would try to pay his tuition for him until the paperwork snafu is resolved."
"How long would you need the money for?"
I mentally sighed as I realized that I was going to do it.
"I can pay it back in a year's time, Troy. He will have the paperwork cleared up on his other loan and that will be applied against your loan. In addition, he will be getting money from a grant and he will reimburse me. Also, he should have a good job after he graduates, so payments will not be a problem."
"This is for Paul? Your daughter's eldest boy? They still live out in Seattle?" I enquired, trying to remember Donna's son and the few times I met him when they came to visit Mrs. Fuller. Then, I remembered being in lust with Donna Fuller so many years ago. But, that was just a wayward adolescent fantasy. I smiled ruefully as I put the past to rest.
I mentally worked out the payments as we continued to talk and asked her if the monthly payments were in her range. She paused and asked what they would be for a year and a half. Not trusting myself 100%, I took out a calculator and told her the result. She agreed that was suitable and I dialed Tom Jenkins, in the Loan Department and told him the terms and to prepare the loan documents for Mrs. Fuller to sign.
We spent the next thirty minutes recalling past events and enjoying lemonade. Then I escorted Mrs. Fuller to the Loan Department and directed the very capable Tom Jenkins to take care of Mrs. Fuller.
Mrs. Fuller insisted on giving me a kiss on the cheek and said, "Thank you, Troy. You remind me of your father. Not too many bankers would give anyone an unsecured loan these days."
"Mrs. Fuller, your family has always banked with us. I know your word is good enough," I assured the old family friend. "You just keep sending me tomatoes...and maybe an apple pie?" I begged and Mrs. Fuller laughed and said I would have one tomorrow.
I walked back to my office only to find Janet Temple sorting through the tomatoes and separating the ripe reds from the greens.
"What are you doing with my tomatoes?" I asked.
"Troy, we're going to have BLT sandwiches for supper tonight."
"Who is this 'we' you're talking about, Miss Temple?"
I walked up behind her and nudged myself against her. She smiled as I folded against her. I knew her mischievous brown eyes were twinkling as I gripped her hips and felt her push her derriere against me.
"By the way, it wouldn't hurt to be a little more professional here at the office, Miss Temple."
My penis was already stiffening and seeking to probe her ass when she dreamily sighed, "Yes, Mr. Williams."
She turned around and faced me and brought her arms around my broad shoulders. "You've gave her an unsecured loan, didn't you?" She gave me a soft kiss, "And you lowered the interest rate so we won't actually make any money on the transaction."
"Yes, I did, Janet."
"That's Ms. Temple to you, Troy," she corrected her errant boss and gave me another kiss. "If you keep being a sucker for every hard luck story that comes along, you won't be in business much longer." She moved to nibble on my ear.
"If that happens, I'll just take my tomatoes and find a job somewhere." I kissed her cheek and neck and reached and gripped her tits.
"Our tomatoes," Janet corrected as she put her hands over mine.
"My tomatoes," I replied as I gently caressed her tits.
A soft giggle was heard coming from my office.
It turned out that Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato sandwiches were the fare du jour at my apartment that night. And Janet Temple was a much welcomed dessert.
As dawn was beginning to break, I woke up and bumped around getting ready for my morning jog. Once dressed in my running attire, I kissed Janet on the top of her head which brought a smile from her as she stretched herself awake. "Why don't you come back to bed and get your exercise here?"
"Don't tempt me. Are you going to shower here or back at your place?"
"Why are you asking?"
"Because I don't want to start taking a shower and get hit with ice cold water because you used it all up," I explained.
"I could wait on you and we could share a shower," Janet suggested. I paused. "No?" She pouted sadly. "Well, I guess I better go home and get dressed for work," she sighed and collected her bra and panties off the floor.
"When are you just going to start leaving some clothes here, Janet?" I asked.
"It would simplify things."
"Oh Troy, let's not get that started again. You go have a great run, I'll take a quick shower and I'll see you at work." She kissed me and pushed me on my way to go jog as she prepared to clean up.