tagNovels and NovellasOnce Upon a Fantasy Ch. 01-02

Once Upon a Fantasy Ch. 01-02

bycoaster2©

This story was edited by ErikThread and DaveT with my thanks and appreciation. Any errors are mine alone.

*****

Chapter 1 Getting Fit and Getting Fitted

"Damn, Andrea, I'm not losing any more weight lately," I said, preparing for bed one evening.

"Oh, that's too bad," she said, not looking up from her book. My wife reads in bed before turning the lights out.

"I'm working just as hard and paying attention to my diet. I sure hope this isn't as far as I can go."

"You'll be fine, dear," she said, as if it was nothing at all. "You told me your knee was much better."

"Yeah. That's the main thing," I agreed sullenly.

I should introduce myself. I'm Norm Tyler and I'm a forty-three year old businessman. I stand six foot one and now weight 219 lbs. Somehow I want to get my weight down to below 200. I own an appliance store that also has a variety of other items for sale. It's a solidly established business and I'm happy with it as it provides me and my family with a good living in our town.

My frustration comes from the last month or so that I've been at 219 and don't seem to be making up any more ground on my target. I'm working hard at rehabilitating my left knee after an accident. The only thing that keeps me from quitting this whole process is the fact that my clothes are getting baggy. My waist size is down from nearly 40 to a snug 36. My shirts all seem a bit loose on me but I don't mind that. And above all else, I'm a lot more fit than I used to be.

My wife, Andrea, hasn't seemed to have noticed. It's not like I made a big deal of it but when I look in the mirror I can see a difference. Mostly, I've gotten rid of my pot. My shirts go straight down to my belt and I can see my feet without leaning over. So aside from not being able to lose that last chunk that I want to lose, I'm satisfied so far that the effort is worth it.

I'm sure my stamina in the bedroom would be better too, but I haven't had the opportunity to find out. At first it was because I had to be careful not to twist or extend my leg after the operation. But with the healing of the surgery and the therapy sessions, I was almost capable of returning to normal activities. In fact, I'd been pretty much okay for the last six weeks. But that didn't include making love to my wife.

Andrea is four years younger than me. I was just finishing college when I met her. She had graduated from high school and had found a job in, guess what, an appliance store, Highland Home Center. She was a counter clerk and I was applying for a job as a salesman.

"You've got a degree in business, I see," owner, Walter Cromwell said, looking over my résumé.

"Yes, Mr. Cromwell. I thought it was the most versatile degree I could earn to get started."

"It probably is," he smiled. "However, you're applying for a sales job, not an accounting position. Sell me on why I should hire you, Norman."

"Sir ... I'm a proven hard worker. Those references you see will tell you that. They will also tell you I'm a quick learner. And ... I think the most important thing is that I get along with people. I like people and they generally like me."

He was nodding. "Yes, those are all important things. However, selling is about convincing others to believe in you and want to do business with you. How do you think you would go about that?"

"Be honest with them," I said. "Don't try and sell them something they don't need. Be a good listener, too. No tricks are necessary if you really believe in your product."

"Well, I have to say that's a pretty mature attitude for someone as young as you. I have three or four more interviews to go before I decide, but I am impressed, Norman. I'll call you and let you know what I've decided ... either way."

"Thank you, sir. I'll keep my fingers crossed."

He looked at me carefully once more. "You really want this job?"

"Yes, sir, I really want the job."

"You'll hear from me," he smiled.

I got the job and thus began my career in the home consumer business. That's what we call it now. It's not just stoves and refrigerators and washing machines any more. It's microwaves, TVs, home theatre systems, sewing machines and vacuums, among other things.

Back in the late 1980s, however, it was pretty much just the basics. I guess I took to it better than I expected. I liked it, to tell the truth. I was selling something that people really needed. Anyway, as I gained experience and confidence in myself, my sales numbers climbed and the next thing I knew I was making a pretty damn good living, what with the commissions.

I've been told I've got a friendly face and my sales method gives people a feeling that I was telling them the truth ... which I was. I was selling products I really believed in. I got along well with everyone in the store and I suppose that attracted the attention of Andrea Johnson. I was interested in her too, but it took me a while to work up the nerve to ask her for a date. When I did, she accepted quite quickly.

I started dating Andrea but it didn't seem like we were going anywhere with our relationship so I looked around and found a couple of other women to date. Apparently this pissed Andrea off ... big time. She cornered me one day and started to work on me.

"What's the matter with me? You think I'm not good enough for you? You think you can do better?"

"Whoa, whoa there, girl. I didn't think you were that interested in me so I moved on. What's your problem?"

"My problem is you! You make your moves on me and then you walk away. Is it because I don't go to bed with you? You think I should just roll over and give it up?"

"Andrea, I'm not some rookie that hasn't been out with a woman before. I can read the go-no-go signals as well as the next guy. I didn't get any message from you that you wanted to take this relationship any further. I respect that. So I moved on."

"What was I supposed to do? Strip naked in front of you and fall on my back?"

"That might have helped," I said, instantly realizing it was absolutely the stupidest thing I could say.

Smack! She had a good, solid, hard right hand and I caught it flush on my left cheek. Thank God it was open handed. I saw stars, as they say, and it stung like hell, but no real damage was done.

"Look, I apologize," I said when I was sure my jaw was working again. "But you don't send out very clear messages. If you were really interested in me then I'm pretty sure I would have picked up on that."

"I doubt it," she spat. "You don't know squat about women, Norman Tyler. Why do you think I agreed to go out with you for the last month or more?"

I was about to say something equally stupid like "You couldn't get anyone else" before my common sense took over and I just shrugged.

"Let's talk about it some other time when you've cooled off," I suggested, walking away.

And that's what we did. A week later we had lunch together and we declared a truce. See, Andrea was a good looking woman. She was about five-eight, I guessed, with long legs, a great ass, nice rack and curly chestnut brown hair that came down past her shoulders. But it was her dark brown eyes that got my attention. Without their penetrating intensity she might have had an average face, but they made her extraordinary. They matched the passion that was part of her personality. That smack on the cheek I got from her was the first sign that she wasn't an ordinary woman and wouldn't stand for being treated like one.

We began dating again and I quickly discovered that my original judgment of her was all wrong. I'm not sure what caused her to change her opinion of me or change her behavior toward me, but she did. I'd never been with a girl or a woman with the fervor that she displayed. She was no virgin when we first had sex. She made no excuses and offered no explanation either. I could hardly complain since I wasn't a virgin either and hadn't been for several years. My college education wasn't entirely gathered from books and lectures.

If she was intense in her everyday life, she was even more so in bed. She liked her sex rough and ready. She made no bones about my responsibilities to get her off and I tried manfully to satisfy her. I must have had a decent batting average because we ended up getting married a year later. I'd like to think I proposed, but the truth is I'm not sure she didn't lead me along until she got the right answer. Anyway, a ring and a promise later and we were married.

Andrea continued to work at the store for the next two years until she became pregnant with our first child. It was planned, as were most things with Andrea. Brandon was born on May 11th, one day before our wedding anniversary. I thought that was kind of cool. He was a healthy seven pounds-thirteen ounces and had a full head of dark brown hair, just like his mother. My blond hair was already receding just as I knew it would. It ran in the family.

Her pregnancy prompted us to take the plunge and buy a house. It wasn't anything special, a twelve-hundred square-foot three bedroom bungalow with a half basement and a carport. But it was on a nice lot and in a nice neighborhood and we were happy with it. Baby Brandon came home to his own bedroom and loving parents. We were fortunate that when Andrea decided she wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, we could afford it.

Two plus years later, Candice Tyler came home to that same house. She was blonde like me, but I suspected she wouldn't have to worry about a receding hair line the way I did. Andrea was a very good mother and I had no worries about her keeping herself busy. She was forever making things for the babies or redecorating one or the other of their rooms.

I was doing exceptionally well at the store when I got an unexpected surprise. I was called into the boss's office and he closed the door behind me. Walter Cromwell had a serious look about him that I didn't often see. This didn't look good, I thought. What had I done wrong? I was consistently the top producer in the store. I had customers who would deal only with me.

"Norman," he began. He always called me Norman. "I'm about ready to retire. You've proven in the last ten years that you are especially suited for this business. You're a hell of a salesman. You're honest and you follow up. You're smart, too. You've got a good education and I think you're a natural to run this business. I want to make you a proposition."

For the next hour I listened as Walter laid out his plan for me. He had no sons to take over the business and his two daughters were married and living far away. He wanted me to buy the business from him on what he called the "never-never plan." I would pay for it out of the profits and gradually it would become totally mine. He owned the property outright and it was almost as valuable as the business.

I didn't think there was a hope in hell that I could pay it off, but Walter opened his books and showed me just how profitable the business was. I could do it if I was able to maintain the current level of business. It would take twenty years but I would be in my mid fifties when I owned it and my family would be set for life. I wanted to talk it over with Andrea but I was sure she would agree with me that it was a "can't miss" proposition.

I was excited. This opportunity would secure the future of our family and make me a prominent business owner in our community. As I expected, Andrea was just as enthusiastic about this opportunity as I was.

"It's wonderful, Norm. I can't believe it's happening. When can you take over?"

"I haven't got those details worked out yet. I've got to talk to a lawyer to make sure the agreement is all properly documented and on the up and up. Walter wants me to take over as soon as possible so it won't be long before it's all in place."

"Oh Norm," she said throwing her arms around my neck and planting a characteristically powerful kiss on my lips. "I'm so proud of you. This is such a wonderful opportunity for us."

A month later the deal was done. I was now the de facto owner of Highland Home Center.

We had begun to add microwave ovens to our inventory. They were already very popular and the price was dropping almost monthly. I decided to carry only a few until the market stabilized and I wasn't trapped with units that I would have to sell below cost to move. I bought one for Andrea and while it took her some time to get accustomed to it, within a few months she said she didn't know how she got along without one.

About the same time, a store in the same block that sold sewing machines was going out of business. The owner was old and didn't have the energy to continue with the store. Like us, he only handled good quality merchandise. I looked it over and talked to my sales people. They thought it would be a logical addition to our lineup and so I negotiated with the old man to buy his inventory. I had consulted Andrea and she agreed it was a good product and expected to have one herself.

I was always following Walter Cromwell's policy of only selling quality products and nothing had happened to change my mind. True, there were cheaper products available but my customers kept coming back because they knew they were going to get fair value for money. I saw no reason to abandon that policy.

I was always looking for other products that would make sense for our business and the next item that fell into our hands was vacuum cleaners. I was given the opportunity for a dealership for a very high quality German machine. It was a hundred or so dollars more expensive than the standard ones in the stores, but I liked the engineering and some of the features that domestic vacuums didn't have. It had so many attachments that I wondered how they could all be used. Again, Andrea tested the unit and declared it perfect for her needs. I had another product line to sell.

"You know I'll try any machine you want me to," she said with a smile, "as long as I get to keep the ones I like."

"Well, you'll have the latest of everything then," I said. "I'm hoping that you'll keep some of them longer than a couple of years. There is little or no market for used appliances and TV's."

"You wouldn't want me to be seen using obsolete machines, would you? It wouldn't be good for your image."

"I don't know about that," I grumbled. "Perhaps if our appliances were older our customers and friends would see that they are durable and trustworthy. They won't wear out in a couple of years."

"Well, I for one want to be seen with the latest and greatest that our store has to offer," she said flatly. I didn't get the feeling it was up for further debate.

Not long after I took on the German vacuum cleaner line, I was approached by the distributor for a well-known brand of Japanese vacuum cleaner and, after doing some research, I decided I would add this line as well. Neither machine was cheap but both were fine products. Both turned out to be good decisions. Andrea stuck with the German machine, but declared the Japanese unit "quite good." Andrea continued as my in-house tester and evaluator. In truth, she was good at it.

As the business grew, so did our profits and I was able to pay down the debt to Walter Cromwell more quickly than planned. It was a big relief to me that I would be debt free sooner than I expected. By my calculations, I should have the debt retired by the time I was in my late forties rather than my mid-fifties. That wasn't very far away.

Our son, Brandon, was a good student and a fair athlete. He played football during the fall and baseball in the spring. He would never be the star player but he enjoyed the games and got along exceedingly well with his teammates. He was seventeen and a senior. I tried to attend every one of his games, although sometimes arriving a little late. Andrea wasn't a sports fan and didn't attend his games, but she did participate in other parent events at the school.

His sister, Candice, was fifteen and going through the usual teen problems that young girls had. I was grateful to Andrea for coping with our daughter. She could be trying at times. I wasn't close enough to my older sister for her to help me understand what went on in a teenage girl's mind. She didn't participate in any of the usual sports, but like most attractive teenage girls, wanted to be a cheerleader.

The kids and I got along great. Andrea always complained that it was because she had to be the disciplinarian while I was conveniently away at the store. That was probably true but I loved my family completely even with all the usual trials and tribulations that every family goes through.

I'm pretty much a hands-on kind of guy, especially at work. I like to interact with the customers and our suppliers. I'm usually on the move checking the products we were offering and watching our competitor's ads to see what they were up to. I had a pretty good volume going through the store and I was confident that I was reasonably competitive with the big boys. True, they could buy in volumes I couldn't touch, but that was about the only disadvantage that I suffered.

When one of our usual delivery men was off on vacation and another was off sick, I volunteered to help out Rob Stallings with a "must do" delivery one afternoon. I should have known better. I wasn't some twenty-five-year-old guy any more. I was also in less than prime condition, packing forty pounds I didn't need.

We were hauling a new front-load washing machine into an older home with narrow doors and hallways. Rob had gone ahead to de-clutter the place and lay down the paper used to protect the floor. He assured me we would have a minimum of obstacles to overcome. The last thing we needed was to trip on a loose rug or bang into a side table along the way.

The washer was strapped to a hand truck and I was the pusher while Rob was the puller as we worked it slowly up the steep steps one at a time toward the front porch of the house. It had been raining and the wooden treads were wet and somewhat slippery. Just as we reached the top step, my foot slipped. It was one of those slow-motion things as I saw both the hand truck and the washer tip toward me. I couldn't avoid it. I was frozen in place and could only watch in dread as it landed on my left leg, twisting in outward and causing me to fall with it.

I'd felt pain before, but I don't remember anything like that moment when a hundred and fifty pounds of weight fell on the top of my knee and bent it sideways in a fashion no human body was designed to tolerate. I don't recall hearing anything other than my scream. My leg was trapped between the machine and the tread and that was the only thing keeping both it and me from falling backward down the stairs. Thank God Rob was strong enough to pull it up that last step and onto the porch.

In the meantime, I had curled up on my left side into a fetal position on the top step, my hands holding my left leg as still as I could, trying to will an end to the agony.

"Rob, I'm really hurt," I gasped. "I'm going to need help."

I was gritting my teeth trying to deal with the intense pain while Rob, bless him, was on his cell phone instantly calling 911 and getting an ambulance. He did a good job of dramatizing my injury into something approaching life-threatening. I don't know how long it was before the ambulance arrived but they took over in a hurry and gave me a shot of something to kill the pain, put me on a back board to get me down the stairs, then got me onto a gurney and into the ambulance. It seemed like it had been hours since the accident, but it was probably only a few minutes.

In the hospital they gave me something to put me under before I was wheeled into surgery and several hours later I awoke to find my leg wrapped up like a tan colored mummy and suffering a terrible thirst. I found the call button and pushed it, bringing a nurse within minute.

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