tagRomanceKaren Pt. 04

Karen Pt. 04

byThickAsThieves©

The Nissan still smelled like a new car, which essentially it was, at least to me. I leaned across the seat and unlocked the passenger's side door. A few seconds later Andrea walked around the corner of the building; carrying her purse and the leather bag containing her lap-top. She also had a paper cup filled with coffee and a change of clothes tucked under her arm. She had on a white button up shirt, lightly colored purple scarf and white sport coat, white pants along with her Harley-Davison boots. She had on stylish sunglasses with her hair parted in the middle and hanging loosely around her shoulders. She opened the passenger's door and handed me her coffee cup, Andrea then swung her left leg into the car and sat down with the scent of perfume entering with her. My heart quickened a pace at the sight of her.

"Good morning! Is it alright if we stop and eat something in a little bit, I'm hungry." She said, fastening her seatbelt.

Handing her coffee back now, I assured her that I was of the same mind and that I knew a good place an hour away. I then started the car and began typing Ricky's address into the Garmin while Andrea watched me. I wanted to play around with the device and figured that the trip to Ricky's would be a good introduction, since I already knew the way.

"I've always wondered about getting one of those things. What's it called?" Andrea asked.

"It's a Garmin; they've only been available to the public for about twenty years now, Andrea." I said rolling my eyes at her.

I finished typing in the address for Ricky's place. The Garmin then displayed a little pink colored pathway with an icon of the car in the center of the screen.

"Turn right at the stop sign." The device suddenly said.

"Hope you didn't have any trouble finding my condo this morning, Tim." Andrea retorted, sipping her coffee.

Snickering at her remark, I turned the Garmin's volume down then and glanced at the clock on the device as I slowly backed out of my parking space. I noticed that Hans's truck was gone from its parking space and thought about Hans and I joking, the morning before, in regard to the parking stripes but decided not to mention anything or make any sarcastic references to the stripes. "Forgive and forget" as a friend of mine says. I decided to keep my mouth shut about the stripes this morning. "No one is perfect and the perfect relationship doesn't exist." Mom would always say. Andrea was fine looking company and I was intrigued to discover how compatible we were. Humor was a part of flirting but wise ass remarks were demeaning and hurtful.

"Aren't you clever." I said dryly as I put the car in gear.

It was good to be going someplace and the weather forecast on my phone promised a nice day for it. After driving a huge gravel truck all through the Alaska summer, it was fun to just drive the little Nissan with no thought of time schedules or weight slips. No two-way radios or loud Jake-Brakes either.

"Karen's car got stolen on Saturday, the Miata." Andrea said.

"I know, she told me, that was such a cute car too. She sounds like she might be interested in a truck now. I'm going to help her look when she gets back." I replied.

"I think she was showing some interest in the Honda Ridgeline or something comparable. In real-estate you really need a vehicle that can accommodate clients as well as something that you can haul for-sale signs in and the Miata was never really good for either. I think she bought the Mazda out of ego but yes, it was a cute car." Andrea said.

"Karen is such a good person and hard worker too, and then someone rips-off her car, sheesh." I said.

"It's just a car, Tim." Andrea said.

"It's probably in a shipping container and half way to Hong Kong by now anyway." I said as we got underway.

"She said she's going to install a LoJack on this next vehicle, this is the second one that's left without her." Andrea said.

"Wow that would get annoying very quickly, two cars stolen. Tell me about the dude ranch, sounds like you all had fun Andrea," I said.

"It was fun. All four of us had gentle mounts and we probably rode close to thirty miles. I haven't been on a horse for a while so my legs and bottom are still a little sore but I'd do it again today. The gal that owns the ranch was one of my colleagues in real-estate for years and this is kind of her retirement venture, she's actually done quite well with it. It's a lot of work but her and her husband love horses so it's not really work for them." Andrea said.

"So you were there all day, then, it sounds like?" I asked.

"Pretty much, nine hours, I think." Andrea said.

"A Person has to get out and play some once in a while, Andrea; otherwise what's the point of anything?" I asked.

"Exactly, Tim. My last few years of working made me a ton of money but if I'd kept going at that pace I'd probably be dead, it was killing me, literally. I still like to dabble a little bit but it's on my terms now and I do it when I want to. In fact, I've got a piece of dirt to go look at next week in Phoenix, you're welcome to come if you'd like, might be an overnighter." Andrea said.

"I would like to, I need to see what happens with finding Karen a car first and I promised to help. I'll let you know." I replied.

"How do you like this car so far? It seems to be running quite well. Are you going to fix the dents in the door and fender" Andrea asked.

"I am very pleased with it Andrea, especially for what I paid for it and the gas mileage is insane. I'm not going to bother with the dents, as you say, it's just a car. Oh, by the way, I want to stop in Reno and look at a bicycle that I found on the internet, today, if you don't mind. I've already talked to the guy and he's expecting us in the afternoon, sometime. It's right on the way and shouldn't take too long." I said.

"Sure Tim, I'm just along for the ride. Like you said last night about your trip with Hans, I just wanted to go someplace." Andrea replied.

"I think we'll have fun on this trip Andrea and the weather forecast is calling for mild weather." I said.

"What exactly are we going to do in Seattle, again, Tim?" Andrea asked.

"Visit with my brother and his girlfriend, if they're home, and I also have to finish getting Mom's stuff out of her house. They're about to bulldoze the entire neighborhood because of a City reclamation act and there's only a few weeks left for us to claim any possessions that are wanted from the houses and properties. There are still a few things left in Mom's house that I want to retrieve before the whole thing goes away; it should just take a few hours." I said.

"Oh, I know what you're talking about now, Tim, the Stony Brook Waste Water Treatment Plant Project. I have a friend in real-estate that's been in on that project from the ground floor, it was in litigation for years." Andrea said.

I was suddenly very offended at hearing the neighborhood being referred to as "The Stony Brook Waste Water Treatment Plant Project." The neighborhood where I had grown up and where Mom had lived for most of her life had been a place with dignity and the reference Andrea made was degrading to the neighborhood and to me personally. I knew that she had meant nothing by the comment and that the news media and City officials had bombarded the airwaves with news of the "Stony Brook Waste Water Treatment Plant Project" for the last five years so I just took a deep breath and answered "yes" to Andrea's comment. "A gentleman is always patient and kind, giving a lady the benefit of doubt" Mom had tried to teach Ricky and I. After a few seconds I was suddenly glad that I had held my tongue with Andrea. She had done nothing wrong.

I suddenly thought of Brenda's YouTube video of "urb ex or urban exploration" entitled "Abandoned Neighborhood." Brenda had done a twenty minute walk-through of the abandoned neighborhood and boarded up houses while verbally chronicling some of the history of Stony Brook without mentioning its name or location, doing that would have encouraged more vandals and looters. Brenda had also gone inside a few of the houses and the deserted recreation center and shot video there as well. The dark and empty swimming pool inside the Stony Brook Recreation Center had been the creepiest part of the video in my opinion. The video was less than a year old but already had over a million views and thousands of "Likes."

"What kind of bike are we going to look at?" Andrea asked.

"It's actually two; they're "Bike-E Machines" recumbent bicycles. From the photos they don't look like they've been ridden at all and the guy only wants five hundred dollars for the two of them. Bike-E Machines or "Bike-E Corp." went out of business in two thousand and two so now I have to find used ones if I want to buy one. I have several at home, Alaska, but I would prefer to just buy one or, two in this case, to leave permanently at the condo and not bother with shipping one down here. Shipping one to Nevada would cost almost as much as buying one already here." I said.

"Maybe we could do some riding, I bike a lot, Tim." Andrea said.

"Karen mentioned that and I saw your bike the other night at your apartment, Andrea, I'd enjoy a ride together sometime. ...You said earlier that this was Karen's SECOND car that got stolen, tell me about the first." I said.

"It was a Ford Ranger pick-up, I think. It got stolen outside of her dentist's office while Karen was having her teeth cleaned, a few years ago. Can you imagine? The kicker is that there was a State Trooper getting his teeth cleaned at the same time as Karen was, in the same building!" Andrea said incredulously.

"You can't make this stuff up, no one would believe it." I replied shaking my head.

"Whoever stole it did get a nice supply of for-sale signs, if they ever decided to become a real-estate agent." Andrea said dryly.

"It's probably in Hong Kong by now." I said.

Andrea and I drove and talked for an hour or so until we came to a large truck stop whereupon I dove into the paved lot and stopped at a gas pump.

"Want to get us a table while I fill-up?" I asked.

"Sure, because I sooo do want to show you that I can think about someone other than myself and show some initiative, when I want to, Tim." Andrea said rolling her eyes at me as she opened the door.

Obviously Andrea was referring to my statement, the night before, where I had said

"Then why don't you think about someone, other than yourself, for a change and buy me dinner - someplace nice, Andrea, show me some initiative if you're sincere." Apparently she was still stinging a little from the statement. ...As my friends in Australia would say "Andrea is a bit miffed at the moment", she'd get over it. I watched her walking across the paved parking lot toward the restaurant while I pumped gas into the car, admiring the way she moved and the way her hair waved lazily in the breeze. I sighed and shook my head, Andrea was a beautiful woman, and dangerous I concluded. Hell, they all were...

We had a nice lunch and drank coffee afterward. We were in no hurry to go anywhere and the atmosphere of the restaurant was laid back. We both talked a little about our life's history and I told Andrea about Mom and what she had been like. We also discussed our mutual friends Patti, Lisa and Karen to some extent. As we got up to leave I grabbed the check and began to head toward the cash register to pay our tab.

"Oh, no! This is on me, remember. I need to show some INITIATIVE, remember, Tim." Andrea asked as she snatched the check from me.

I conceded and followed Andrea to the cashier then, whereupon we stood in line behind two other people.

"Hey, c'mere, what's your shirt say"? I asked Andrea as I looked at breasts.

On reflex, Andrea rolled her eyes and tilted her head downward and inquisitively looked down at her breasts as if her shirt had some form of inscription or caption on it, which it didn't. As recognition suddenly dawned on her, Andrea then quickly tilted her head back and away from me, spoiling the kiss I was about to plant on her lips.

"My shirt says that Patti already warned Karen, Lisa and I, all three, about that trick, Tim." Andrea said, a little put-out.

This was the opposite effect that I had been striving for and the two people in line ahead of us were looking at Andrea and I now. After paying our bill, Andrea and I walked outside toward the car with a stony silence between us.

"If you want to kiss me, you don't have to resort to trickery, Tim." Andrea said sharply now.

"Andrea I was just flirting with you, ok?" I replied.

Andrea stopped walking and turned toward me.

"You're dangerous, did you know that Tim? You're dangerous because you're a recent divorce' and you think you can play the field now. It's all a game to you isn't it? You think that just because you're good looking that you can toy with hearts and do whatever you want and fuck women-over, emotionally. You said that I was selfish and self centered the other night. Wow, that was sure as hell the pot calling the kettle black wasn't it? No one else's feelings matter as long as you get what YOU want, right, Tim?" Andrea spat out.

She turned away and we started walking toward the car again and I began to get the sinking feeling in my gut that this whole venture was probably not a good idea to begin with and that maybe we should just turn around and head back to Laughlin now. "STAY CALM when you're sparring in the flirtatious ring, you're dealing with some very strong emotions, explain your motives and be gentle." Mom had warned Ricky and I after some very hard lessons.

"Andrea, can I explain my side of it, as I see things?" I asked calmly when we got to the car.

"Sure" Andrea quipped out as she put her arm on top of the car.

"I'm not a player, but I'm going to flirt because that is my nature. When I make a commitment to a woman then everything changes and it's for real, ok? All I was trying to do in the restaurant was lighten up the mood and kiss you, because you're pretty. You and I didn't exactly get started on the right foot from the get-go and as a result there have been some strong emotions between us already, on both sides, I believe. I tried to kiss you in public so that you would know that I'm proud to be seen with you, which I am. I also didn't ask you to come on this trip for any other reason than friendship, no other ulterior motives, ok? I am about to introduce you to my family, if I didn't have a strong opinion of you that would NEVER happen - we're talking about my family and family is sacred to me. If you want to, we can turn around and go back to Laughlin now and part as friends. I would hope instead that we could continue onward and go to Ricky's and I won't try to pull any more shenanigans." I said.

Andrea was quiet for a long moment as she ran a hand through her hair with her eyes closed. After a deep breath, she responded to me.

"I never thought that you had ulterior motives, Tim, I guess maybe we've both been overeating a little bit in the last few days. ...You can have ONE!' She said.

"One what?" I asked, confused.

"Oh my God, Karen was right, you ARE naïve sometimes. One KISS dumbass!!" Andrea said.

I kissed Andrea then and we got into the car. I was sweating now I suddenly realized as I put on my seatbelt. The past few minutes had been a tough round with Andrea within the "flirtatious ring." Mom had coined some funny phrases at times and I had always thought that the term "sparring in the flirtatious ring" was rather silly, it suddenly seemed quite sobering to me now. I'd been on the ropes for a few seconds in this last round with Andrea. She was no flyweight inside the "flirtatious ring" as I'd just discovered.

"We're only about an hour from Reno, that's where the guy with the bikes is located. I'm going to call him now and let him know where we are before we start out, Andrea." I said as I typed the guy's address into the Garmin.

"Sounds good to me, I just hope the next place we stop at has cleaner restrooms than this damn place." Andrea remarked.

She was now looking at the truck stop's huge neon sign directly in front of the car and shaking her head disgustedly at the large letters below that read CLEAN RESTROOMS.

"Fuck-us on Like-Book" I quipped out, in reference to the sign, as I dialed the phone.

My reply somehow touched Andrea's funny bone and she began laughing, mildly at first and then harder and harder "Fuck-us on Like-Book", she repeated several times and began to laugh even harder. I think my jovial little remark had broken the ice between us. Holding the phone to my ear now, I shook my head and rolled my eyes at Andrea as if she were a small child with a case of the giggles, this seemed to evoke her to laugh even harder "Fuck-us on Like-Book."

_______________________ 10 __________________________

Roger was the guy we met with the bikes. As before, the Garmin led us directly to the guy's front door without a hitch.

"Aren't you even going to test-ride either of the bikes?" Roger asked.

"They're what I've been looking for Roger, I'll take them both." I said.

Both of the recumbents had the original factory tires with ninety five percent tread left, which indicated that neither machine had ever been ridden much. They'd also been stored inside, out of the weather, Roger had explained. The bicycles were in like-new condition and I was very satisfied with giving Roger the five hundred dollars for the pair of machines.

"Do you mind if I try one, Tim?" Andrea asked.

"Sure honey, give it a try." I said.

While Andrea rode the recumbent bicycle up and down the paved street Roger and I began to talk casually as I partially disassembled the other bicycle to make it fit into the Nissan.

"You folks from Vegas?" Roger asked.

"Laughlin, I'm a truckie that's lived in Alaska all my life and just recently become an official snowbird with the purchase of a get-away condo in Laughlin. I plan to head back to Anchorage for the start of the gravel hauling season, probably around mid to late March and then work the truck until around the first part of October when I come back to Nevada again." I said.

"I've got a nephew that works a fishing boat in Kodiak; he pretty much does the same as you. Work like hell all summer and then hop on a plane about the time termination dust appears." Roger elaborated.

By now I had finished disassembling the first bike and was loading it into the car when Andrea pulled up on the second bike and handed it off to me. She had worked up a little sweat, I noticed.

"Wow, that was different! I'd like to try it again, only for a longer ride sometime if I may." Andrea said.

"You'll get your chance." I said smiling as I began disassembling the second bike.

"Neither of you liked the recumbent?" Andrea asked Roger.

"I lost Ma in September and the bikes are just a constant reminder of her passing, for me." Roger said obviously in reference to his wife.

"Oh, I'm so very sorry for your loss." Andrea said.

"You kids make sure you enjoy every single day with each other and don't let the trivial stuff get between you. Most things, couples argue about, ain't worth squat to begin with and you could be spending that time and energy enjoying life together. I wish me and her would have realized that fact a helluva lot sooner." Roger said wistfully.

I did a lot of thinking about Roger's words as Andrea and I drove the car now. The sun was out and Andrea and I had the windows down with the smell of desert air coming into the car. It was good to be alive. We took turns driving and stopped a few more times for coffee and then a burger in Eugene Oregon. I had a pillow and blanket in the car and I probably could have dozed while Andrea drove and then switched off with her again later and been at Ricky's place late that night but Andrea and I decided to get a room and not rush. We got a double occupancy room at a mid-level hotel and then decided to get a roast beef sandwich at a strip mall nearby that we could walk to. When we got back to our room we found a movie that we both liked and spent an hour or so watching it. I then used the bathroom and stripping down to my shorts and T-shirt, got into my bed.

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