It Just Happened Ch. 08byREGade©
Chapter 8: Four women -- different motives
I got home to find Jen very cool toward me and she didn't offer any clues as to why. I wondered if it was because I had taken off with her sister. Did she go in my room and discover the fax from Miss Sterling? Had Beverly called? Shit! I had given Nadine my email address. Jen wouldn't open my email, would she? Ed wasn't any help either.
I went upstairs and checked my email. There were no messages, but I changed my password anyway. I was checking the desk in my room for fingerprints when Ed knocked on the door.
"What's that?" he asked.
"Miss Sterling sent me her picture. She's one of the credit card representatives we're negotiating with," I explained, still not sure if the fax had been disturbed or not.
He disregarded the fax, obviously having something more important on his mind. "Ben, I hate to put pressure on you, but we really need Miss Worthington's job. I just received a call canceling the flooring job we were going to start on Monday so I moved up the basement playroom project to next week. After that, I have nothing. I hate like hell to lay the kids off and I know your situation, but I'm not going to have an alternative unless you're able to close on the Worthington deal."
What was he saying? That I was going to be out of work unless Beverly signed the contract for us to remodel her home? "Talk about pressure! How am I going to sell her when she's stalling?"
"I think you know," my brother said, watching to see if I got his drift. Was he asking me to do what I thought?
"I'll meet with her tomorrow," I said.
"Tell her how nice it will be to celebrate Christmas in her new kitchen."
"Are you saying we can finish before Christmas?" I asked, thinking there was no way we could get it done that quickly.
"I'm just giving you selling points," he said, picking up the fax and looking at Nadine's picture.
"She says it doesn't do her justice. She's thirty-six, twenty-five, thirty-five," I said.
"I'm going to show this to Jen. She's frustrated. Maybe it will cheer her up," he said, leaving my room with the fax before I could object.
Suddenly, it hit me. Frustrated was same label Millie had used for her sister. "She frustrated because she can't get pregnant. Your brother shoots blanks." Tony had been here today with his wife and their two beautiful children, making Jen see what she was missing. Perhaps that was the reason she was cool toward me, thinking what could have been if she hadn't jilted me.
That's what I preferred to believe, Jen was feeling sorry for herself because she had made a bad choice. Still, there was the possibility that Beverly had called and Jen had refused to tell me. Also, she may have come into my room and discovered Nadine's picture. Anyway, Ed was going to show her the fax. Would he tell her that he was pressuring me to persuade Beverly to sign the contract to remodel her house? Would he tell her he was going to lay his crew off at the end of next week, including me, if I didn't produce a signed contract?
Now I was the one feeling sorry for myself. It was true that I had accepted three years of college tuition from my brother, but now I was beginning to question his motives for sending me far from home, opening possibilities for him to horn in on my girlfriend. What's more, it had worked.
I had relinquished my share of my parents' estate to my brother. How much had he made from the six houses he and my father constructed on our land? Judging by the improvements to the old house, the three-car garage and the new vehicles he and Jen drove, he could easily afford to square my credit card debt. He owed me that much, didn't he? And now he was threatening to lay me off during a slack time, just when I needed to prove to my creditors that I had a steady income and honorable intentions. I vowed to make my brother wish I had never been born.
My cell vibrated in my pocket.
"Hi, did you have a nice Thanksgiving?"
"Miss Sterling, I mean Nadine. Yes, I had an enjoyable day, how about you?"
"It was lovely, thank you. Ben, I told you a white lie before. I do have a picture of me in a swim suit."
"Great! Are you going to send it to me?"
"Do you want me to?" she asked, giggling.
"I'm hitting send," she said, cooing into the receiver.
"Thank you, Nadine. I can't wait to open your message," I said, already headed to the office to boot the computer.
"Tell me what you think. Be kind, please."
I assured her that I would be kind and we said goodnight.
The photograph was sent as an attachment to a message that simply urged me to 'be kind.'
As soon as the photo was finished printing I deleted the message, even before I looked at the finished product. The picture, being in color, made it much easier for me to determine skin tones than the black and white fax had shown. The picture on the fax flattered her; this one did not. Actually, the color photo showed every stretch mark, wrinkle, flab and imperfection on her body. She was lying under a beach umbrella, smiling at the camera. What could I possibly say that would be believable?
The picture makes me want to reach out and say hello to your big toe. Can you feel me shake it? Can you feel my forefinger, tracing the outline of your left ankle, around and around it goes, up the back of your leg to that soft spot behind your knee. Can you feel it? Am I tickling you? Can you feel my hand on your left thigh, squeezing? Being a gentleman, I'll move my hand to your stomach. Do you feel it there, lying flat on your tummy? Next, being a gentleman, I'll move my hand to your left shoulder and on to your neck. Do you feel my hand tracing your jaw? Do you feel my thumb on your chin?
Tomorrow, we'll do your right side and then I'll have you turn over.
Your admirer, Ben . I sent the email, hating myself.
Not wanting Ed or Jen to see the picture, I hid it in my room.
The next morning I checked my email before going downstairs.
That was so erotic. Please do my right side, less gentlemanly.
I sent another message, giving a step-by-step description of the voyage of my hand traveling up her right leg, being as ungentlemanly as I dared. When my hand reached the V where her legs met I wrote that I found a wet spot. Unable to visualize more, I signed the message and hit send.
Two minutes later, while I was getting dressed, my cell phone rang.
"We're having a conference call regarding your settlement today. I'm going to push the others on your behalf."
"Thank you, Nadine. May I ask you a personal question?"
"Yes, you may."
"Are you wet?"
"Ben, you're so ungentlemanly," she said as she ended the call.
Ten minutes later she called back. "Yes!"
We weren't working that day so Ed and I were having a leisurely breakfast when Jen joined us. She was dressed for work.
"Have you done something to your hair?" I asked, wanting her to know that I found her unusually attractive without putting it into words in front of her husband.
Some things never changed. Her blush was familiar, exactly like I remembered from four years before. "Not really, I washed it last night. Oh, I'm letting it grow out."
"Oh, like Millie's?"
The mention of Millie brought a grimace to her lips. "Not that long. Where did you take her yesterday?"
Ed was reading a newspaper. I wondered if he was listening to what we were saying. We weren't paying any attention to him.
"We went to your parents' house and...talked."
Jen dropped the slice of toast she had been buttering. "Where did you...talk?" she asked, picking up the toast.
"Don't you mean, what did we talk about?"
She dropped the toast again and glanced in the direction of the newspaper Ed was holding in front of him. "No, I don't give a damn what you talked about. Where did you have this talk?"
"Oh, where in the house did we talk? I understand now. We lay on the bed in your old room."
Jen stared at me, like she was trying to collect her thoughts. "Is my sister...is she trying to...are you going to...did you...?"
"Yes, she is, yes, we're going to and no, we didn't, not yet."
"Ed, do you hear the way he's talking to me in riddles? Aren't you going to do something?"
Ed looked over his paper. "Did you say something, dear? Did Ben tell you he's going to meet with Beverly?"
Jen looked at me, showing concern in her eyes. "You don't have to do that, Benny."
"I don't mind."
"Well, I DO!" she said, getting up from the table and leaving the room, heading upstairs.
After she left the room, Ed reiterated his threat from the night before. "We've got to have that job, Ben. Otherwise, I'm going to be forced to do something I would prefer not to."
"I understand," I said, begrudgingly. I went upstairs to my room, wanting to be alone. Nadine called, saying she was on her way to work.
"Are you ready to turn me over?" she asked.
"Not yet, we haven't finished with your front. Are you wearing a bra?"
"Yes," her voice was barely audible.
"Ben, I'm riding the subway."
"Do you want me to finish your the front or not?"
"Yes, I want you to. I'll unhook it."
"Is it unhooked?"
"Did anybody see you?"
"I don't think so. Maybe, I don't know."
"Don't hook it until you get to work. We'll turn you over tomorrow."
"I can't do that, Ben. Please don't make me. Oh, I think I'm losing you."
"It may be at my end. I expect the credit card company to stop accepting my cell phone bill at any time."
Silence followed and I thought I really had lost the connection. "I'll issue a new card as soon as I get to the office. Check your email for the new number and give it to your cell phone company."
I was speechless. "Ben, did you hear what I said?"
"Nadine, you're very kind."
"Thank you, Ben."
"Are you wet?"
"Oh, Ben, people are watching," she said, giggling as we ended the call.
I heard Jen calling me and went to the head of the stairs. "You have a phone call. It's Beverly."
"Thanks, I'll take it up here," I said. I spoke to Beverly and made arrangements to meet with her. She said she would pick me up at ten A.M.
"You can drop me off at the bank and use my car," Jen said as if she had been eavesdropping on my conversation with Beverly and knew my plans.
"That's not necessary. Ed will pick me up," I said.
"No, he'll forget and you'll be stuck with her. Take the car. That way you can leave when she makes the first suggestive remark."
Ed looked up from his newspaper. "Honey, suggestive remarks are part of the plan. Let Ben decide how long he wants to stay."
Jen disagreed with her husband. "He's going to use my car and that's final. Pick me up at the usual time. We'll go shopping and you can take me to dinner," she said, bending down for a goodbye kiss.
"Yes, dear," Ed said, shrugging.
I was really enjoying this, Jen overruling her husband and ordering me to drive her to work.
"Just like old times," I said as soon as we were in the car.
"What do you mean?"
"Don't you remember when we were together? I used to drive you to work back then. Now I'm doing it again."
"We're not together anymore," she said, dismissively.
"Aren't you concerned that people we know will see us together and get the wrong idea?" I teased.
"Stop talking like that. They won't get the wrong idea."
"I'm just teasing," I said, smiling at her and receiving a smile in return. It was becoming easier to look at her without feeling the artesian action in my chest.
"I know," she said.
I didn't say anything else until we stopped in front of the bank. She unbuckled the seatbelt and started to get out of the car.
"Don't I get a goodbye kiss?"
She turned and looked at me, shocked. "People are watching."
"Does that mean you would kiss me if nobody was watching?"
"I didn't mean it that way," she said, beginning to blush. I was surprised that she didn't open the door and get out.
"You used to kiss me, back in the old days when I dropped you off at work."
"This isn't the old days, Benny. I'm not your girlfriend now."
"I know you're not my girlfriend. You're my sister-in-law and I'm dropping you off at work, just like old times."
Jen looked in the direction of the bank, glanced up and down the street and leaned across the seat, placing her hand on my chest for support, hovering there. Her lips were inches from mine. "We're not going to make a habit of this," she warned before pushing her lips into mine.
I wanted to savor the kiss, to remember how it felt, but I couldn't think. It ended just as my arm went around her to draw her to me. She pulled back, smiled and touched her lips to mine again before pushing herself away. She was out of the car before I realized what happened.
Consumed with emotional shock, I watched her walk to the front door of the bank and go inside, without looking back. I drove home, trying to remember the slight movement of her lips as they touched mine. I wanted to believe that I had felt her breasts against my chest. One thing I knew for certain; Jen's kiss was an exact duplicate of her sister's. How was I going to be able to kiss Millie without thinking of Jen? What if I became confused and called her by the wrong name?
Ed wasn't there when I got home. I opened my email and discovered Nadine's message containing a new credit card number. I couldn't believe the words I was reading: "May I fasten my bra now?" I wrote a message, giving her permission to fasten the bra. I also suggested that she suspend using her work computer to communicate with me: "I do enjoy receiving mail from you, but some companies monitor computer use."
I gave the new credit card number to my cell phone company and then called Beverly to tell her she didn't need to pick me up. "You don't have to wait until ten. Come anytime. Is it raining today?"
I laughed and told her it was a dry day outside. Fifteen minutes later she was welcoming me into her home. "I haven't had time to get dressed yet. I hope you don't mind," she said, shamelessly blinking her eyes.
"I don't mind," I said, taking in the short robe, open at the neck to reveal the top of a lacy nightgown, while noting that she had had time to apply eye shadow, lip gloss and to brush her hair.
She insisted that we have coffee. Sitting across from her, trying to avert my eyes from the generous cleavage that became more exposed each time she leaned forward to offer marmalade, I kept wondering when she was going to get dressed. She didn't, not while I was there.
I tried to steer the conversation to finalizing the contract, pointing out where the kitchen counter would replace an interior wall. "You'll be able to sit here and watch the flowers grow in your garden," I said.
"The timing is bad, Ben. I don't think I could endure living in my parent's home over the holidays."
"Ha! Is that all that's bothering you? My brother says we can finish before Christmas if we know today."
She brightened. "That sounds terrific, but I don't think I can tell you today. A girl needs time to make up her mind, you know."
"Tomorrow will give us enough time to get everything lined up. We can't start the job until the first of December anyway."
Beverly looked thoughtful. "I'm considering moving the half bath."
"That won't be a problem," I said, eager to please, thinking that we were getting close to having a signed contract. "Show me what you have in mind."
I soon found out that relocating the half bath would involve two other changes. Beverly led me from room to room, explaining why each change was necessary. I let her body collided with mine each time she abruptly changed directions. It became a game, her rubbing her body against mine and me standing perfectly still while she had her fun.
"Aren't you going to take notes?" she asked.
"No," I said, deciding to take a stand.
"Because you've changed your mind three times since you began showing me where you want the half bath. I don't think you know what you want. Call me when you decide," I said, heading for the door.
"There are plenty of other contractors who will be happy to do my renovation," she said, sounding like she was having difficulty controlling her voice.
I stopped at the door and turned. "I know, but we all have our limits."
"What do you mean by that?"
"We're all limited to how much time we can waste."
As I closed the door behind me I heard Beverly call to me. "Ben, don't be that way."
Driving home, I knew I would have to face the music. I would have to tell Ed that I had struck out again. But I had to admit that it had felt good telling the rich girl she could push me only so far. It was better than the other idea that briefly crossed my mind, telling her that I was going to soon be out of work if she didn't hire us. No, I decided that Beverly was way beyond associating working for a paycheck with putting food on the table.
I was banking on her calling to say she was ready to sign the contract. Some women liked tough talk. It had worked with Millie the day before. She let me dictate how often we would see each other, what we would do and when we would go public with our relationship. Of course, the date, middle of January, had been chosen for a reason; I couldn't very well let it get out that Millie and I were a couple until we were finished with Beverly's renovation. Some women liked to be told how things were going to work. Was Beverly one of those women?
And this morning I had been successful telling a woman I had never met to unhook her bra while riding the subway. It had worked with Jen too. The suggestion that she kiss me had caused her to move across the seat, put her hand on my chest for support and kiss me, albeit briefly, twice.
This was not like me. I had never been the type of man who could snap his finger and make a girl do what he wanted. For over three years I let Veronica spend money I didn't have. God, how I missed her; I would give up my newfound powers over women if I could have her back.
Did I feel any remorse for the way I was treating the four women? Seeking justification for my actions, I decided I had good reasons. Sweet talking Beverly and letting her rub her body against mine was necessary, I thought, to persuade her to give us the remodel job. Talking dirty to Nadine and giving her a thrill was necessary, I thought, to earn her support in obtaining a favorable settlement of my debts. Befriending Millie, gaining her trust, was necessary, I thought, to learn how and when my brother had captured my girlfriend's heart. Coaxing Jen to kiss me goodbye was...well...it was good for my ego.
What was happening to me? I had noticed changes in the way people looked at me while Veronica and I were together. Women especially sought my attention. Was it because I had garnered Veronica's devotion or did being with her raise my confidence level?
Ed wasn't surprised that I had failed to persuade Beverly to sign the contract. I told him I would try again the next day and that satisfied him. His mellow demeanor surprised me until I recalled the times when we were kids. Just when I thought he would jump me for something I had done, he would become penitent and tell me to forget it.
"Let's go for a ride," he said, making my heart skip a beat. Wasn't that the line you heard in gangster movies, "Let's go for a ride?" Had someone seen Jen kiss me when I dropped her off at the bank? Secretly, I hoped so.
We took the van and drove to the outskirts of town where Stew Mercer was waiting for us. "This is the building site," Ed said to me.
Stew had been a tall skinny kid when we were in school, happy-go-lucky, always joking. Now, as we shook hands I saw a different person. Stew had gained weight, muscle and a serious nature. I guess that's what goes with success. I had gone away to college and yet, standing next to Stew, I saw myself as a failure, insecure and in debte.