Sylvia's Mother Ch. 34byD.C. Roi©
Despite Brenda's encouragement to do so, Jason continued to put off calling Karen, even though he wanted to talk with her now more than ever. He knew he had to do it sooner or later, but fear of how he would feel if it turned out she really didn't want anything to do with him kept him from doing the one thing he knew, more than anything, would make him happy.
On more than one occasion, he held the phone in his hand and had his trembling finger poised over the key containing the first digit in Karen's phone number, which he knew by heart, but he couldn't force himself to dial. "You may have been a whiz at business," he chided himself when he put the phone down, "but you're a real wuss when it comes to women, aren't you?"
About a week after he bumped into Brenda, he was working at one of his computer stores. He had his back to the counter, entering some of the night's sales reports into the computer, when a soft voice that sounded terribly familiar said, "Excuse me, can you help me?"
He stopped what he was doing, turned around, and his breath caught in his throat and his heart began to pound. A very attractive blonde woman stood at the counter. It was Karen. She was wearing a matching khaki blazer and slacks with a black T-shirt-like blouse under the blazer. Her hair was longer, and styled a little differently, but her body seemed just as lean and wonderful as he remembered it. To Jason, it didn't look as if she'd aged a day. He felt his mouth opening and he took a deep breath, intending to ask her what she wanted help with, but nothing came out.
She looked at him and frowned.
"Say something, stupid!" a voice inside Jason said. "Here's your chance, don't blow it."
Before he could speak, Karen's eyes widened and a bright smile formed on her face. "Jas...Jason...is...is that you?" she asked, sounding startled and excited. "Is it really you?"
Jason's heart was pounding and he felt a little light-headed. "Ah...yeah...it...it's me," he managed to croak. "Ah...hi, Karen."
Karen continued to smile at him. "What are you doing here?" she asked.
"I...ah...I just, you know...work, ah, here," Jason managed to croak. "Why am I acting like such a geek?" he wondered. "What's the matter with me?"
"So you didn't get to law school after all?" Sylvia's mother said, sounding disappointed.
"Um, ah, no, I...um...I didn't," he stammered. "Um...ah...but...you know...that's OK, I...I don't mind. Ah...how...how have you been?"
"I'm managing," Karen said. Her lovely gray eyes were sparkling and a gentle smile adorned her lips. "You've gotten a bit thinner since the last time I saw you."
"Ah...yeah, I...I guess I have," Jason said. "You look like you haven't changed at all. Except...except you're wearing your hair different." He took a deep breath and quickly added, "But I like the way you're wearing it now."
"Thank you," Karen said, blushing faintly.
"Ah...what...what can I...um...do...for you?" Jason stammered.
"I bought myself a computer, but I don't think I have all the programs I need," Karen said.
"What are you looking for?" Jason asked. He wasn't at all good at talking to women - especially this woman - but he did know his computer programs. Karen told him what she thought she needed and he told her what he recommended. He was gratified when she took his advice. They walked back to the counter and he rang up the said.
"Well, I...I guess I should be getting home," Karen said, sounding a bit wistful.
"Ah...do...do you have to?" Jason asked.
A look of puzzlement formed on Karen's still-pretty face. "Well, not right now, I guess, why?" she responded.
"I...um...I was gonna, you know, have dinner. You...you wanna have dinner with me?" Jason stammered. "Damn, why have I reverted back to being twelve?" he wondered.
Karen stood there, looking thoughtful for a few moments, then the smile returned to her face. "I think that would be lovely," she said. "It will give us a chance to catch up on what we've been doing, won't it?"
"Ah...yeah," Jason said. "Look, I have to do a couple more things. I'll be ready to go in five minutes flat."
"I'll be waiting," Karen said.
Five minutes later they walked out of the mall, and started across the parking lot.
"Ah...all I have is a pickup truck," Jason said, wishing he had a car. "Do you mind riding in a truck?"
Karen smiled, shook her head, and said, "No, of course not."
When they reached the spot where the truck was parked Jason walked around to the passenger side of the truck and opened the door. He inhaled the scent of Karen's perfume as she moved by him and climbed up into the cab of the pickup.
"It's nice to see you're still a gentleman," she said, smiling.
"Ah...yeah...my...my Mom would kill me if she ever found out I wasn't," Jason said. He closed the door, walked around to the driver's side of the truck, got in, and started the engine.
"Where are we going?" Karen asked.
"You ever eat at Cap'n Hal's?" Jason asked. Cap'n Hal's was the best seafood restaurant in town, maybe in the whole state.
"Once," Karen replied. She looked across the cab of the truck at Jason, who was wearing well-worn jeans, a denim Oxford shirt, and a khaki jacket, and frowned. "It's kind of expensive, though. I wouldn't mind eating someplace else."
"I like Cap'n Hal's," Jason said. "And beside, today was payday." That was sort of true. One of his CD's had matured and he'd transferred the money to his checking account with the intention of investing it in a new and very hot bond fund.
"Are you sure?" Karen said. "I don't want to leave you short for the rest of the week."
"Don't worry, that's not going to happen," Jason said, grinning.
"This truck looks new, but it isn't, is it?" Karen commented as Jason made his way through traffic.
"Ah...no, it's not. It's a '53, actually," Jason said. "I had it restored. I've always liked this model. My grandfather had one like it when I was a kid and I always wanted one. I had a chance to buy this one cheap and a friend of mine fixed it up for me."
"He did a good job," Karen said. "It looks new."
"Except for the cab and body, just about everything else is new," Jason explained. "It has air-conditioning, too, and a really neat sound system. There's even a six disk CD changer."
"Wasn't all that expensive?" Karen asked.
Jason shrugged. "Kinda, but it was what I wanted, and I'd saved up the money to do it, so..." Actually, the restoration and rebuilding of the truck cost him more than several new pickups would have. But the truck, which looked totally stock except for the chrome wheels and big tires on it, was one of his few indulgences.
He pulled into the parking lot of the restaurant, which was jammed with cars, found a parking space, and backed into it. After he opened the door and Karen slid out, they started toward the building, which was built to look like an old fisherman's shanty, an over-sized one.
"My God, we're going to have to wait forever," she commented. "I can't believe there are this many people who can afford to eat here."
"Yeah, this place is pretty popular," Jason agreed. Once they were inside, at the end of a long line of people, he said, "I'll go up and put my name on the waiting list. We can have a drink while we wait."
"All right," Karen said.
Before Jason could move, a short, stocky man with gray hair and a bushy gray beard and who was wearing a sea captain's uniform came out of a door marked "office." When he saw Jason, he smiled. "Jason, you're late tonight," he said in a deep, gravelly voice. "We've got your table waiting for you."
"I need a table for two tonight, Cap'n Jack," Jason said.
The "captain's" bushy gray eyebrows went up. "Oh?" he said. "You finally took my advice and found someone to keep you company while you eat?"
Jason, whose face felt as if he'd been out in the sun too long, nodded and said, "Ah...yeah...I...I did, Cap."
"Well, where is this lady friend of yours?" the man rumbled. "I assume it is a lady."
"Ah...yeah...it...it sure is," Jason replied. "Come on over, I'll introduce you." He led the restaurant's owner over to where Karen stood, watching their exchange with a look of amazement on her face. "Karen Dooley, this is Cap'n Jack. Cap'n Jack, this is Karen Dooley," he said.
"Ah-ha!" the owner said, grinning broadly. "I'm honored to have you as a guest at my establishment, Karen," he said. "Come, I'll show you to your table." He led them past the line of frowning people into the dining room and to a small table set up with a view of the river that flowed past the establishment. "There you go," he said as he held the chair so Karen could sit down. "Hans will be serving you tonight. And, may I suggest the broiled scallops? We just got a shipment in today. They are absolutely the finest we've had in ages."
Jason looked at Karen, who still looked a little befuddled. "Want to try the scallops?" he asked.
Karen nodded slowly.
"Two scallops, then, Cap," Jason said.
"I'll have Henri get started on them right away," the captain said. "And I'll send over a bottle of wine I've been saving for a night like this, too. I guarantee you'll enjoy it." He winked at Jason, then he walked away.
"Jason, what is going on here?" Karen asked. "You know the owner? And you have your own table?"
Jason felt himself blushing. He smiled and nodded. "Well...I...I kinda eat here a lot, you know, and..." He shrugged.
"Jason, exactly what do you do for a living?" she asked. "You don't just work at that computer store, do you?"
"Ah...no...I...I own it," Jason replied.
"You own a computer store?" Karen responded, sounding shocked.
"Actually, I own five of them," he said.
Karen's mouth dropped open. "You own five computer stores?" she said, sounding stunned. "Five of them? How...my goodness...how did you manage that at your age?"
"Well, after I sold my software company, I figured I ought to do something, and the stores seemed like a good investment," Jason replied. He was enjoying her discomfiture but, more than that, he was starting to feel comfortable with her. Why hadn't he called her ages ago?
"Wait a minute...I'm getting more confused, not less," Karen said. "You owned a computer software company?"
"Well, it was kinda small, and pretty specialized," Jason said. "What happened was I wrote a program for Biggie Burgers, and things just kind of took off from there. The business software division of one of the major software companies made me an offer for the rights to my program that I couldn't really refuse, so I took it."
"I see...I think," Karen said. "You wrote a computer program for Biggie Burgers, then you sold your program to a bigger company?"
"That's about it," Jason said. "I saw Brenda a couple of weeks ago," he went on; figuring changing the subject might be a good idea.
"You did?" Karen looked surprised. "She didn't mention that to me. Of course, I don't see her much. She and Ann have several horses about to foal and can't get away from the farm often. And, unfortunately, I don't get out there as much as I should, I guess." She smiled at Jason. "I guess you know that our speculation about her being gay proved to be true."
Jason nodded. "Yeah, I met her partner. In fact we had lunch together," he said. "I understand you're divorced."
Karen nodded slowly. "Yes...I am...I..." she stopped and looked at him with tremendous sadness in her gray eyes. "Jason...I...I'm so sorry for the way I...I treated you...I...I should have called you..."
Jason held his hand up to stop her. "You don't need to apologize," he said. "I could have called you, too."
The wine steward brought the wine, which was every bit as outstanding as Cap'n Jack promised.
"I also understand you're unattached right now," Jason said once the wine steward had left.
Karen nodded. "And you...are...are you...?" she said softly.
"I'm unattached, too," he said.
"I...I'm surprised to hear that," Karen replied. "I can't believe you haven't had the chance to get married. I mean..."
"I have," Jason said, interrupting her. "I proposed to a girl a year or so ago."
"And she turned you down?" Karen said, looking surprised.
Jason nodded. The server brought their meal, and he waited for the man to leave before he replied. "She told me she'd love to marry me, but she said she didn't think it would work out," he said.
"Why?" Karen asked.
Jason took a deep breath, held it for a few seconds, and then he let it out and answered. "She said I didn't love her, that there was someone else getting in the way," he said softly.
"Someone...else?" Karen said slowly. "Were...were you seeing someone else, too? At the same time?"
Jason slowly shook his head. "No, I wasn't seeing anyone else," he said. "In fact, at the time, I hadn't seen the person she was referring to for almost four years."
Karen looked surprised by his answer, then realization of what he meant began to show on her face. "Are...are you saying the other person who...the person she was talking about...was...it was...it was me?" she stammered.
Jason had taken a bite of his scallops and, because his mother had taught him never to talk with his mouth full, he nodded.
"But...but Jason, how...how could that be?" Karen stammered. "You...I mean...we...we hadn't seen each other in four years. And after what I...what I did to you and..."
"Karen, I'm in love with you," Jason said, now that he'd swallowed the food he had in his mouth. "I've always been in love with you. And I guess I always will be."
"Oh!" Karen said, looking stunned again.
"Eat your dinner before it gets cold," Jason said, deciding that it might be best to put off this discussion until a little later. "Scallops taste fishy if they get cold. Even good ones...and these are fantastic."
Karen, still looking bewildered, did begin to eat and they finished their meal without saying anything more. When the meal was done, they decided they didn't want any dessert, so Jason paid the tab and they got up and left.
"Will it be two for dinner again next week, Jason?" Cap'n Jack asked with a twinkle in his eye when they passed him on the way out.
Jason looked at Karen, who still seemed overwhelmed, and nodded. "If it's up to me, it will be," he said.
When they got outside, he stopped. Karen didn't realize he'd stopped at first, and was a few steps ahead of him when she finally stopped and turned to find out where he'd gotten to.
"I have something I want to ask you," Jason said, his heart pounding. "I...ah...I have a surprise for you."
"I'm not sure anything could be more of a surprise than what I've heard already," Karen said softly.
"This will be," Jason said. "The thing is, you're going to have to trust me. And be willing to take a little ride with me. You think you can?"
"Well...I guess there really is no pressing reason for me to get home right away," Karen said. "All...all right."
They got in his pickup and headed out of the restaurant parking lot. Because Jason didn't want Karen to know where they were going, he actually started the trip headed in the wrong direction, hoping she'd fall asleep.
As they rolled along the road, he turned on the CD player and the soft sounds of the Glenn Miller Orchestra filled the cab of the truck.
"You still like Glenn Miller, do you?" Karen asked.
"I sure do," Jason said.