*Author's Note: Two quick points. As I've said, I know from personal experience, older (even married) women will sleep with a younger man. Falling in love and actually marrying one is an entirely different thing. Without a job to support them, it's even more unlikely, and there are only a few jobs someone between 18-22 can have that earn enough (not a lot—enough) money: police, firefighters, the military, etc. So the younger man has to overcome a lot of hurdles and be able to support this attractive, older woman, to include financial support.

Second point. Abuse and neglect are powerful motivators for change. In both of my own personal experiences, the older, attractive woman was married but both felt utterly alone due to neglect.

Those are therefore often themes in my stories because no rational woman is going to up and leave her husband for some younger guy if all is well at home. Even if she is ready to move on, it won't be with someone 10-15 years younger in most cases, no matter what. In those few where it might happen, he's going to have to several things working in his favor to include a real job. Even if she has money, he's going to have his own job or career—one she won't be embarrassed to say her husband does. Even then, it's an uphill battle.

In a fictional romantic story, the hurdles can be reduced in size a lot easier than in real life. Here's to reducing those just hurdles a wee bit. :-)


"I'd rather be doing something more substantial, but it feels really good to get out of the house."

"I don't know how you've put up with it for this long, Shandy. I know you guys have money so it's not like you need a job, but I'd go stir crazy staying at home. I always look forward to summer when teachers get ten weeks off, but by the time September rolls around, I can't wait to go back to work."

"And you have a child. I don't."

"Exactly. No disrespect but I really can't imagine being a stay-at-home mom let alone a stay-at-home wife."

"I hear you, Bets. But the good news is I have a job and even though it's only part time, it feels so good to get out of the house to do something other than go shopping."

"Ha! And yet you're working in the mall at a women's clothing store. How ironic is that? Do you spend your entire paycheck on new clothes?"

"Well, yes, but not at that store," Shandy said with a laugh.

"Yeah, you do have a very sophisticated palette when it comes to clothes. Then again, if I still had your figure, I'd dress nicely, too."

Betsy laughed then said, "Who am I kidding? I hate getting dressed up! If I could wear jeans to school every day, I'd be a happy camper." She gave her friend a serious look then said, "Shandy? Are you okay? I mean...you know, with Ted and everything?"

Betsy Callero had been her best friend since grade school. They'd been paired off many times because their last names were so close together and the friendship had stuck. Although they could get together as often as they liked, they still shared pretty much everything with each other all these years later.

Shandy Calveri-Jernigan wasn't okay. She was turning 33 in a month, had no children, and after eight years of marriage, spent most of her days and nearly half of her nights alone, and there was no good reason for her husband to be gone most of those nights. Ted was nine years older than her, and he'd told her from day one he wanted his wife to stay home and until now, Shandy had done just that.

He...they...already owned a half dozen restaurant franchises in the greater Seattle area, and were getting ready to buy another. Money had been rolling in beyond their wildest expectations for the last five years, and without children to raise and send to college, what good was earning more? But for Ted Jernigan, work was everything. It was his reason for living while he had always been hers.

Over the last two years that had slowly changed. The hurt had grown and the resentment built, and although it was hard to imagine ever leaving the only man she'd ever really loved—or at least thought she'd loved, it was even harder to imagine living like this. Every day was the same. Shandy lived each day just going through the motions. She kept up a smile on the outside, but she was hollow on the inside, and if something didn't change soon, she feared something deep inside her would die.

Out of desperation and boredom, she'd gradually persuaded her husband that working maybe 20 hours a week wouldn't be such a bad thing. She'd still be home to make his dinner—when he was home to eat it—and it would give her something to do besides knock around their big, empty house all day.

"And I'll be working in a store that sells women's clothing so it's not like I'll be around a lot of...people...or anything."

Shandy knew her husband was a very jealous man. It was his only real fault if one could overlook his being a workaholic and neglectful husband. Even though he paid little to no attention her in spite of the time she spent taking care of herself and dressing well to please him, just the thought of another man could send him into a rage. He'd never hit her or even cursed at her, but he could get so angry it scared her. Any look at another man, no matter how innocent or God forbid the man smiled at her or worse—spoke to her—could set him off.

And yet what scared her even more was the thought of never feeling loved or appreciated again, let alone being held...and loved by her still-reasonably-handsome husband. The loneliness was becoming unbearable, and she had to find something to do with her time; something to fill the long, lonely days spent looking beautiful for herself.

It didn't bother her in the least that her boss would be a 23-year old woman named Chloe who was just a year out of college. She was pleasant enough that it wasn't a chore working for her, and Shandy was as easygoing as they came making this a decent fit for both of them. In fact, she'd not only come up with a couple of very good ideas her much-younger boss had accepted and put into practice, Shandy had also served as a sounding board for the younger woman's relationship woes making her as much friend as employee.

It was ironic that Shandy knew just what to say or tell Chloe what to do, and yet she couldn't solve her own marital issues. Then again, Chloe's boyfriend was willing but clueless. Ted knew exactly what his wife needed and wanted but chose to ignore her needs in search of the next deal and the next big bonus from corporate headquarters.

Were she not so deeply hurt by it all, Shandy would have laughed when she parked her brand new, shiny, black Mercedes S-Class sedan next to Chloe's beat-up, 2007 Toyota Corolla. It was a gift from Ted to make up for his latest jealous outburst during which he'd gotten so angry he'd punched a hole in the wall.

"Nice wheels," Chloe had said the first time they arrived at the same time during the middle of April when it rained even more than normal.

As they walked inside together, she asked Shandy what she was doing working retail in some store in a mall if she could afford to drive a car like that.

Without further explanation, Shandy had replied, "I'm deceiving myself."

Chloe had given her a funny look but hadn't asked for clarification.

Shandy chose to work four hours a day, five days a week in order to get out of the house as often as possible. Most of the time she worked from 10am when the mall opened until two o'clock before things got really busy.

Even though 90-95% of her customers were other women, she enjoyed having a reason to look nice for someone other than herself. And while she tried not to flaunt her wealth, she did have very nice clothes and loved wearing them, not to impress anyone, but because it made her feel good about herself. Even when she was doing inventory or hanging new items on racks in the back before bringing them out for display, it just felt so good to look and feel this way again. Well, for 20 hours a week anyway.

Before her first shift, Chloe had talked to Shandy about shoplifters and 'unusual customers.'

"We have no tolerance or mercy for thieves," she told the older woman. "If you see someone take something, call mall security immediately. On the other hand we quite often get male customers who like to...look around."

"Is that really unusual?" Shandy had asked.

"No, not really. Some—maybe most—are trying to find a gift for a wife or girlfriend. We do have some however, who are well, shopping for themselves, if you get my drift."

Shandy's eyes got wide then wider as it dawned on her. "Oh. Oh! Okay."

"I would say most of them come in dressed as men, but we do have a few who um...don't." Another nod from Shandy and Chloe kept going. "Crossdressers spend a lot of money in stores just like ours, and we don't want to make them feel uncomfortable or run them off."

"I see," Shandy said having never really thought about it before.

"So if you see a guy behind a rack of say...dresses...looking at you repeatedly, just smile. You might walk by and without looking, just mention you'd be happy to help and move on. As long as they're not taking anything..."

"Got it!" she said.

In the month she'd been there she'd seen a grand total of one man dressed like a woman. He/she bought several outfits and Shandy was careful to refer to him as 'she' or 'her.' She'd seen someone else she couldn't be sure was male or female and laughed when she realized she was now looking for guys in drag all the time.

There had also been a handful of men who just happened to be buying women's clothes that were the same size she guessed them to be. Again, she was pleasant and helpful and tried not to laugh imagining how they'd look in whatever they were buying.

Lastly, there were the men who were almost certainly buying for that special someone and they, of all her customers, made her the saddest as she couldn't help but wish her husband cared enough to do that for her.

She would unfailingly tell them, "Your wife or girlfriend is a very lucky woman."

In her sixth week, she saw someone new for the first time. He'd walked by, stopped, stared at her briefly, smiled for a moment, then kept walking. She probably wouldn't have even noticed except that he was an exceptionally handsome young man. She couldn't be sure of his age, but he couldn't possibly be more than maybe 21 and Shandy doubted he was even that old. But he was as good looking a guy as she could ever remember seeing.

Several days later, she saw him again and this time, after glancing at her, he walked inside the store and began looking around. She saw him looking at her quite often; quick, almost furtive glances before looking away. He was definitely young, but also rather tall and again, Shandy was wondering what he would like in a dress or skirt and laughed when she pictured it.

He made a lap around the store then walked out without speaking. Two days later, he was back again just walking and browsing. He occasionally moved something on a rack to make it seem he was actually shopping, but Shandy was growing concerned he wasn't a crossdresser but possibly a shoplifter.

This time, she went and got Chloe and let her know what she'd seen the times he'd been in the store.

"He's never bought anything?" she asked.

"No, never."

"Does he ever pick things up and kind of hold them against himself to see if they'd fit?"

"Um, no. He's never done that, either."

"He's not wearing or a coat or carrying a bag so it would be very hard to hide something."

Chloe tried not to stare and at one point said, "I'll tell you what, though. He is freaking gorgeous! If I wasn't in a relationship..."

Shandy didn't laugh, but while Chloe was reasonably cute, she was nowhere close to being in this guy's league. He reminded Shandy of a younger Justin Bieber before all the tattoos and the piercings and the...yuk.

"Hold on," Chloe said as she walked away from Shandy and toward him.

She smiled then said, "Just let us know if we can show you anything, okay?"

He looked at her briefly, glanced at Shandy, then looked back down at the rack of blouses in front of him.

"Those are 15% off all week," Chloe said on her way back.

"So?" Shandy asked.

"So...I don't know," she said. "Maybe he's too embarrassed to buy what he likes. Why else would a hottie like that be hanging out in a store like this and not buying anything?"

"Yeah, good question," Shandy said as she watched this guy with the sandy blond hair walk out again empty handed.

"Bye!" Shandy said this time.

He turned his head slightly her direction, smiled, and raised his hand to about waist high in a kind of 'guy wave.'

"He is cute, isn't he?" Shandy said as they watched him leave.

"Nice butt," Chloe said craning her neck to catch a final look as he rounded the corner.

It was nearly a week until Shandy saw him again. This time she smiled at him and said, "Hi again!" as he walked inside.

He'd smiled at her until she spoke, then quickly lowered his head and made his way along the wall toward the back.

After watching him for several minutes, Shandy decided she was going to say something to him this time. It wasn't like he was a regular customer who spent money there so even if he left and never came back, she wasn't 'running off' customers.

She saw him stop when he saw her look. He began moving some skirts that were in women's sizes, clearly much too large for his 30-32 inch waist.

Shandy walked up next to him and said very pleasantly, "Can I show you anything?"

For the first time he spoke. "Um, no thanks. I was just looking."

"I see," she said. "You know we have quite a few male shoppers who buy for their wives or girlfriends. I don't see a wedding ring so...are you maybe looking for a gift for your girlfriend?"

"No, not really," he said. "I uh, just broke up with mine a couple of months ago."

"Oh, I'm sorry to hear that," Shandy said. "Um...I don't mean to be offensive, but if you're possibly looking for yourself, I'd be more than happy to let you try something on—privately, of course."

The young man stopped pretending to look then said, "For...myself?"

"Well, yes. It's not all that uncommon," Shandy said politely.

He shook his head then told her, "I um...I don't wear women's clothes."

"It's okay if you do," she said supportively. "I mean, we like what we like, right? So...could I show you anything?"

"Oh, wow," he said running his hand behind his neck.

"Are you okay?" she asked.

"Other than being totally embarrassed? Sure, I'm just great," he told her.

He even looked at her briefly and Shandy got a first up-close look at the eyes she'd seen from afar several times, and they were as blue and beautiful as she'd thought them to be. She thought briefly to herself he might actually be a cute looking girl, but he was just so gorgeous as a guy it pained her to think about it.

"I didn't mean to embarrass you," Shandy told him. "And if I did, I apologize sincerely as that wasn't my intent. It's just that, well, you're in here fairly often and you kind of stand out from most of our other customers."

"Now I feel really...ridiculous," he said finally looking at her.

"Why? You haven't done anything wrong, and all I meant was that you're a very nice-looking young man making it kind of hard not to notice you." She never stopped smiling as she spoke. "So...what are you so embarrassed about?"

"A couple of things," he said rather sheepishly. He looked down at her hands then said, "I should have known you were married, but I never saw your ring before."

Confused, Shandy said, "I don't understand."

"That's the thing I'm most embarrassed about." He was no longer looking at her but rather at the floor. "The part you don't understand, I mean."

Shandy didn't say anything more. She just stood there waiting patiently for him to speak.

"I um, saw you here the first time a few weeks ago. I...I work at the shoe store just down the hall and I walk passed here every day on my way in. When I saw you that first time I just stopped and stared and then walked on."

"I remember that," Shandy said sweetly. "I believe you smiled at me."

"I did," he admitted. "I can't believe you remembered."

"Well, like I said, you're kind of hard not to notice."

He finally looked up at her again then told her, "So are you."

He was so young and innocent and...sweet.

"Me?" Shandy said both confused and flattered.

"Yes, you," he told her. "I thought you were one of the most beautiful women I've ever seen and I don't know, I wanted to talk to you, but..."

"But...what?" she asked kindly.

"I guess I felt a little foolish for thinking someone as beautiful as you would, you know, ever go out with someone like me."

"Oh. Oh!" Shandy said. "You...you wanted to ask me out?"

"I did. Or at least I thought I did until I found out you're married. Anyway, I feel like a total fool now because there's no way a woman as beautiful as you would still be single."

"Yes, I am married, but that doesn't mean you didn't just make my day," she said just as sweetly. "I'm Shandy, by the way."

"Dustin," he said not sure what else to say or do.

Shandy offered him her hand and he looked twice before accepting it.

"It's a pleasure to meet you, Dustin, and thank you for saying such kind things. That means a lot to a woman my age."

"For what it's worth, I meant them sincerely, Shandy. Anyway, I should probably skulk away before my last shred of dignity falls out."

"Please don't be embarrassed, Dustin. Please? Were I single, I would definitely say 'yes' were you to ask me out. Well, and if I was 10-15 or so years younger, of course."

He smiled at her for the first time that day then said, "I wouldn't have been interested if you were 10 or 15 years younger."

She stood there and just looked at him for a moment.

"Oh. I see," she said not 'seeing' at all. Now it was her turn to feel embarrassed even though she had no idea why.

"Pretty foolish of me, huh?" he said. "I mean, you're this incredibly attractive woman and clearly very sophisticated and I um...I sell sneakers. Oh, and socks. I sell a lot of socks. Yeah, I set the store sock record last month. Just in case you thought I was a total loser who's um...leaving now."

Shandy actually found herself laughing then said, "I'm sure you have a very bright future in both socks and shoes and congratulations on the new record. I'm still looking to make a name for myself. Maybe you could give some tips sometime."

"I also go to college for what that's worth, and I work here part time to help pay my expenses."

"Ah-hah!" Shandy said. "Maybe I'm the one making assumptions now, but you...oh, this sounds so...elitist. Anyway, people often have a kind of 'look' about them, and you look like you're a well-educated person if that makes any sense. You most definitely don't look like someone who should be selling shoes."

"And socks," he reminded her with a smile.

"Right. Socks! Don't forget the socks."

"Okay, so anyway Mrs...?"

"Jernigan. Shandy Jernigan. Calveri was my maiden name." She had no idea why she said that, but she'd said it.

"Like the guys on horses kind of cavalry or like the place where Jesus was crucified kind of Calvary?" he asked but not in a pretentious way.

"Ah, so you are a well-educated young man," she said. "Neither, actually. My family growing up is Italian so it's Calveri with an 'i' rather than a 'y'. Most people want to pronounce it Cal-VER-ee but it really is CAL-ver-ee."

"Gotcha," Dustin said. "I'm just finishing my junior majoring in history so I'm not sure how well educated I am, but I am trying."

"That's an interesting choice of majors. Any idea what you might do with a degree in history?" Shandy asked him.

Dustin smiled then said, "I could tell you more, but only if you'd agree to go out with me." He looked back down at her hand then said, "But since that's not possible..."

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