tagRomanceMary and Alvin Ch. 08

Mary and Alvin Ch. 08


Daddy Issues

Mary heard the whoop of a siren. That was her cue. She picked up her ice tea and dragged a kitchen chair over to one of her front windows. She had taken out the screen earlier, so that she could sit and lean out for a clear view of Main Street.

She saw the police car creeping slowly down the middle of the street. Behind it, the parade was turning from Court Street on to Main. Knots of spectators stood on the corners and in the shop doors, waiting for it. As she scanned the crowd, Mary thought she could discern between the locals, whose faces beamed with pride, and the tourists, who looked on with condescending amusement. She caught herself feeling defensive and chuckled. Was she already thinking of Londonderry as "her town"?

The air was suddenly filled with the sound of drum rolls and the high school marching band began playing "Anchors Away". They were preceded by a pair of young boys holding a banner reading "95th Annual Londonderry Harbor Festival."

The band was almost deafening as they passed under Mary's window, but she couldn't help grinning as she watched them go by. Like the tourists, she recognized that there was something corny and old fashioned about the pageantry, but she had gotten to know Londonderry well enough to know that it was heartfelt, nonetheless.

The esteemed members of the Rotary Club followed the band, and behind them, an elderly man was chauffeured in a white convertible. On the side of the car a sign read "Arthur Q. Johnson, Grand Marshall." Beneath his name, someone had scrawled in black magic marker, "100 years old". Arthur looked up at Mary and waved. She smiled and waved back.

Mary watched the town go by. Boy Scout Troop 1046 marched earnestly, while their younger brothers in Cub Scout Pack 625 ambled with less discipline. The Shriners, in their tassled fezzes, made looping circles on their mini-bikes. A rotund little man with a bushy gray beard strode past, accompanied by supporters with "Re-Elect Mayor Virgil Trundy" signs.

The Elks and the Kiwanis marched alongside their Lady's Auxiliaries. The American Legion and the VFW held their flags high and a few pushed their brethren in wheelchairs.

There was a fire truck and an ambulance and a Model T Ford. Girl Scout Troop 322 was too wise to march. They sat on hay bales on the back of a flatbed truck and pitched handfuls of candy to the spectators. The members of the Festival Committee were honored with rides as well, and Mary remembered that Bonnie had once been among them.

A gaggle of apparent dignitaries passed, but Mary had no idea who they were. She was more interested in the beautifully adorned horses that clopped by, ridden by a pair of teenage girls who might have been twins.

Behind the horses, the parade grew more motley. Mary guessed that the Friends Of Londonderry Bay were being cautious to leave a gap between the horses and themselves. Or perhaps the weight of their ten foot tall Earth Goddess puppet slowed them down. The Londonderry Democrats and the Town Republican Committee were so bunched together it was impossible to tell who belonged to which party.

Mary was thrilled to see Jennifer and Danni marching behind a banner that read "Londonderry LGBT Pride". Danni was carrying a rainbow flag. Mary leaned forward and waved frantically at them. Jennifer waved back, then tapped Danni and pointed up. Danni waved as well, and Jennifer blew a kiss as they crossed under Mary's window.

A half dozen people carried signs demanding respect for the rights of indigenous peoples and a lone marcher held one identifying herself as the Londonderry Friends of Animals Committee. A rabble of drummers came down the street, accompanied by a girl of about six, who danced joyously among them.

Another shiny convertible rolled past. Three teenage girls sat on top of the back seat, waving to the crowd. Two were blonde, but the one in the middle was an Asian girl with jet black hair. A sign on the car door identified them as the Harbor Princess Finalists.

Behind the prospective princesses came children, kids of every age, riding bikes they had festooned with streamers and balloons. The older ones weaved in and out, circling the others. The younger kids had all they could do to keep moving forward, trying not to fall too far behind the parade. Mary watched one anxious dad as he escorted a little girl who furiously pedaled her tricycle, a single pink balloon bobbing behind her. She wondered if Alvin had ever kept watch over his girls as they rode in the parade, and she was sure he had.

A second police car brought up the rear. Some of the spectators followed the parade down Main and around the corner onto Front Street, while others went about their Saturday business. Mary closed the window and bounded down the stairs and out to the sidewalk. It was a perfect day, she thought as she felt the warm sun on her face and her bare legs.

Alvin had just helped a pair of teenagers launch their small sailboat when he saw her striding across the parking lot, smiling and swinging her arms as she came. She marched right up to him and kissed him on the cheek.

"Well, ain't you perky this morning," he said, kissing her back.

"Why not? It's a beautiful July day in Maine. Almost as good as L.A. in November."

"You're not as funny as you think you are," Alvin said.

"I'm wicked pisser funny."

Alvin shook his head and chuckled. "Nice try," he said, leading her into his office.

He crossed to his desk, took a roll of bills out of his shirt pocket and sorted it into the cash drawer. When he finished he looked at Mary.

"You were wearing those shorts the day we met."

"Was I?" she asked, well aware that he was correct.

"I'm not like to forget." He went to the door and shut it, then pulled her into his arms for a long kiss.

"Shame you have to work all day," Mary murmured.

"Yes, it is, but I'm looking forward to tonight."

"Me too. But I'm going to have fun at the fair."

"Well, good. Don't eat too much cotton candy. I won't have you getting seasick on my boat with a belly full of cotton candy."

"Ooh," she wrinkled her nose. "Well, you get back to work, I'll see you later."

"Alright, then," Alvin said. He gave her one more kiss. "I would ask a favor of you."

Mary cocked her head. "Sure, what is it?"

"I'd like you to wear those shorts every day until snow falls."

Mary laughed. "Oh, is that all?" She kissed his cheek and opened the door. "I thought you were going to ask for a blowjob. See you later!"

Alvin watched her until she disappeared on to Front Street. He wished he could go with her to the festival, but the town was packed with locals and tourists alike and it was going to be a very busy day.

A crowd was gathered on the town landing, peering over the rails. Mary made her way over to see what had grabbed their attention. A gaggle of children were squatting down to peer under the railing, allowing her to see the shore where small groups were milling around what looked like piles of trash.

"What's going on?" she asked the young woman standing next to her.

"Cardboard boat race," the woman replied.

An elderly man on her other side leaned in and explained. "Teams make homemade cardboard boats. First one to get out around the red nun and back to shore wins."

"Does anyone ever make it the whole way?"

"Now and again. If not, the furthest wins."

The teams positioned their makeshift boats. A two person crew boarded each and prepared to get underway. A whistle blew, and their teammates shoved the boats into the water.

Of the dozen entries, two floundered immediately. Four more took on water and sank within a few yards of the shore. The crowd whooped and laughed, but applauded each team as they waded back to dry land.

Mary found herself rooting for a pair of teenage boys who had built a pretty good facsimile of a sailboat. They were paddling as fast as they could, and had moved into the lead. Their main competition was a mailing tube catamaran, crewed by two men who were working their oars with machine like precision. The rest of the pack fell behind, and two more sank before they reached the red buoy. One could not manage the turn and veered off towards the outer harbor, while another cut in too close and tore their hull,and sank. A rowboat made the rounds, picking up the survivors from the water.

It was just the boys and the catamaran in the home stretch. Mary could see the flimsy sailboat darken and realized that as the cardboard soaked up water, it was getting heavier and slower. Inevitably, the older team passed them and reached land first, but Mary was pleased to hear the boys get a louder ovation as they came ashore.

The crowd dispersed and Mary wandered past the barricades that closed off Front Street from traffic. Tables and tents lined both sides of the street. The groups from the parade all had their spots, interspersed with merchants and game booths and food vendors.

At a tent advertising Maine Gemstones she bought a lovely pink and green tourmaline ring. She looked at watercolor seascapes of the bay and was delighted to find a booth selling beautiful items knit from alpaca wool. She bought a glass of lemonade from the Girl Scouts and a handful of vintage postcards from the Londonderry Historical Society. Mayor Trundy gave her a campaign button, which reminded her that she had not yet changed her voter registration.

As she approached the entrance to City Park she could see that carnival rides had been set up in the parking lot. A ferris wheel rose above the trees. There were more food vendors near the park gates, and she was attracted by the smells coming from their tents. She chose one and bought a basket of shrimp and french fries and a can of ginger ale. She carried her food into the park and found an empty picnic table beneath a towering maple. Down near the water a bluegrass trio was playing in the bandshell, but she could scarcely hear them over the laughing children playing in the park.

She was eating the last of her french fries when her phone rang. She fished it from her purse. It was her mother calling.

"Hi, Mom," Mary said brightly.

"Hello, sweetheart, how are you?"

"Good, Mom. Right now I am sitting in the park. I'm at the harbor festival. There's a band playing, lots of people around, it's really fun."

"Oh that sounds nice. Is your new fella there with you?"

"No, he's working. But I'll see him later. There's going to be fireworks, and we are going to watch them from his boat."

There was an uncomfortably long pause.

"You know, Mary, you still haven't told me anything about his young man."

"Well, here's the thing, Mom. Young man is, well, not what I'd call him."

"What do you mean, darling?"

"Well, he's older, sort of."

Her mother's tone turned icy. "How much older?"

"He's forty six."

"Oh, Mary."

"Mom, he's a great guy, you will really like him."

"But honey, why wouldn't you be interested in someone your own age? There's a much better chance of it working out."

"What, like it worked out with Wyatt?"

"That's not fair, honey. And let's be honest, it was you who broke that off. He never wanted to."

"I don't want to get into that, Mom."

"It's natural that you'd want a father figure, I guess, considering."

Mary fought not to lose her temper. "Alright, Mom, well, I don't want to talk about it. I want to enjoy this beautiful day."

"Okay, sweetheart, but you know I just don't want you to get hurt. And you are far from home, you don't have a support system there, no friends or family."

"I know you mean well, Mom, but I'm fine and things are good. Okay?"

"Okay, well, I hope so. Love you, sweetie."

"Love you, Mom."

Mary growled at the silent phone. She knew that her mother thought the breakup with Wyatt was all her fault, that she had been unfair to him. But she had tried to make things work. She drew up a business plan for his photography, as she had promised. But he chafed at most of her ideas. He agreed to advertise his availability to shoot weddings and other occasions, but when a few calls came in, he had excuses why none were suitable. He has been amenable to doing more location shootings, but he dragged his feet when it came time to try to find venues to show his work.

She gave it most of the year, waiting for things to improve. One day she came home from work to find the apartment empty. He had left a note on the kitchen table to let her know that he had gone for a beer with a friend, but would be home for dinner.

Mary shook her head in resignation and sat down on the couch. Several of Wyatt's portfolios sat on the coffee table. She flipped one open. It was a shoot they had done a shortly before their wedding, at the Hotel Del Coronado, near San Diego. She saw herself posed in front of the picturesque hotel, and walking along the beach. But what caught her eye were a few candid pictures, one of her gazing off to sea, another in which she was squatting in the sand, holding her fingers in the lapping surf. She felt his loving gaze in the photographs.

She noticed a new portfolio. Opening it, she saw pictures from a recent session they had done together in Griffith Park. She flipped through the whole portfolio, and realized that of two dozen prints, she only appeared in three of them. He's just not interested in me anymore, she thought.

Two weeks later, she met Brent. She was attending a day long seminar at a downtown hotel, and he was part of the team training bank employees on a new software program. Mary thought he was strikingly handsome. He looked to be about thirty, with steel blue eyes and light streaks of gray at each temple. At one point during his presentation they made eye contact, and he smiled at her. She dropped her eyes in embarrassment, and when she looked up again, he was still gazing at her. She held his eyes for a moment and showed him a shy smile before he returned to his material.

At noon, the attendees were treated to a buffet luncheon on the hotel patio. Mary filled her plate with chicken salad and fresh fruit and found a seat. She decided to check her messages before she ate, and when she looked up from the phone, Brent was taking the chair across from her.

He reached over the table and introduced himself. "Brent Scanlan, Century Solutions."

"Mary Winslow, First American."

'Yes, I know," he said, pointing at her chest. She looked down. She forgot she'd been wearing a name tag.

"I hope you find the training helpful."

"Yes, very much so," she replied.

He asked her how the food was, and if she was enjoying the weather and how the traffic had been on her drive downtown. She struggled to answer him, suddenly feeling shy and insecure. But he continued to smile and make small talk and she realized how much she was enjoying his attention.

When it was time to begin the afternoon session, they rose and Brent took Mary's plate.

"Let me take that," he said, "It was lovely speaking with you."

"Likewise," Mary said, feeling a little flustered. Brent put the plate in a bus tub by the door and gestured Mary into the building. As they walked down the corridor to the conference room, he handed her his business card.

The afternoon session was a long drone and Mary had trouble maintaining her attention. Brent's part of the program was finished. He sat at the end of the presenters table, doodling on his note pad. Mary could not help casting glances in his direction. At one point, she let her eyes drift below the table. He sat with his legs slightly parted and for a moment she imagined herself kneeling there, sucking his cock. Surprised with herself, she shook off the image and tried to concentrate on the training, but her eyes kept drifting back to him.

She felt foolish on her drive home. She was a married woman. But a little chat and some harmless fantasy about another man couldn't hurt anything. She put it out of her mind as best she could. But when she had sex with Wyatt a few days later, the thought of kneeling between Brent's legs returned.

She received an email questionnaire the following week, asking for her comments on the seminar. She dutifully filled it out and, in a moment of whimsy, added a note that "all the presenters were first rate, particularly Mr. Scanlan."

He called her the next day.

"That was above and beyond," he told her, "I don't think you realize how much I appreciate your comment. My bosses definitely took notice."

"Well, it was my pleasure, Mr. Scanlan. I thought you did a terrific job."

"Please, call me Brent. Listen, I am in your area this afternoon. Maybe I could thank you by buying you a drink,"

Mary felt a knot in her stomach. She struggled to think of what to say. It was completely out of the question to meet this man for a drink, and yet, the idea thrilled her.

"Miss Winslow? Mary?"

"I'm not sure that's appropriate, Brent."

"It's just a cordial drink between colleagues," he said in a reassuring voice, "Look, your office is right by the Starlight Lounge on Wilshire, isn't it?"

"It's not far."

"I am going to treat myself to a cocktail there at five. If you'd like to join me, that would be super. If not, well, thanks again for your comments."

Mary felt her pulse racing as she hung up the phone. She was afraid she might be on the verge of a panic attack. She sat with her eyes closed and concentrated on her breathing. When she felt in control she tried to think through her feelings. Just accept the fact that you want to go have drinks with him, she thought, and focus on the reasons why you should not. Well, the reason, she told herself, there is only one. You love your husband.

She picked up the phone and called Wyatt. He did not answer. As five o'clock approached, she tried again. When she still got no answer, she left a message that she would be late getting home. She doubted he would care.

Mary walked into the dimly lit lounge and looked around. She saw Brent's reflection behind the bar before she saw him. As she crossed to where he was sitting, he looked up and made eye contact with her in the mirror. He turned and stood to greet her with a two handed handshake. She climbed onto the high barstool, being careful not to let her skirt ride up.

"I'm having an appletini, would you like one?" Brent asked.

"Sure, that sounds great."

Brent signaled the bartender and ordered Mary's drink.

"Again, thank you for your comment," he said to Mary, "but, if you don't mind, what did you enjoy so much about my presentation that you singled it out for praise?"

Mary blushed. "Oh, I guess I just liked your style."

Brent nodded, looking quite self satisfied. Mary's drink arrived and as she lifted it, he raised his own and offered a toast.

"To style."

They clinked their glasses together and took a drink.

"I think my strength as a presenter is that I am very straightforward," Brent said. "I put out the information clear and to the point. I find that's best, don't you?"

"I suppose so."

He swiveled towards Mary and put his hand on her arm. "So, I will be straightforward now. I was really glad to see your note on the questionnaire, because I was interested in you from the moment I saw you. In fact, I looked for you as everyone was leaving, but somehow I missed you."

There was an awkward silence while Mary tried to formulate a response. "I'm flattered, thank you," she managed, then paused.

"But?" Brent asked.

Mary held up her left hand. "I'm a married woman."

Brent leaned his elbows and the bar and took a long sip of his appletini.

"You know, Mary, most women would say 'happily married woman', not just 'married woman"."

Mary sat with her hands in her lap, looking at her ring. "Either way," she muttered, "married."

"I respect that," he said, "and I apologize if I have made you uncomfortable."

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