tagNovels and NovellasTipping Point Ch. 09

Tipping Point Ch. 09


Chapter 9: Everything I Could Want

We found a ring quite easily in the first jewelry store we visited. I liked it, but more importantly, it was the one that Sue really wanted. They promised to have it sized later that week, but since there was little change required, Sue wanted to wear it, agreeing to bring it back Monday. She nearly floated out of the store when we left.

We phoned Tommy and Jilly to let them know about our official engagement. I had informed my son of my intentions, but I wasn't positive that I would succeed. He was happy for me, as was Jilly. We talked about when we could meet so that I could introduce my fiancée. In the end, Jilly convinced me that Thanksgiving at the Foresters would be perfect. That girl is going to make a great wife.

Sue let me know we had been invited to Byron and Diane's for supper on Sunday, and I was sure Sue would be proudly flashing her new ring. I was right. We were barely in the door when Sue held up her left hand in front of Diane. The squeal of surprise from her friend was followed by a big hug for Sue and another for me.

I took a look at Byron and I could read him like an open book. "Oh no ... I'm going to lose my new production manager."

"Take it easy, Byron. I'm moving here, and Sue isn't going anywhere."

There was an audible sigh of relief from him. He shook my hand and embraced and kissed Sue in congratulation. They were genuinely happy for both of us.

We had a very nice evening with the Mulliners, ending it before ten, since the next day was a work day for all of us except Diane. Sue was in a giggly mood, tantalizing me with suggestive touches and comments as we drove back to the house. It seemed as if the idea of our being engaged was just now beginning to set in. If she hadn't quite believed it before, she did now.

She was all over me when we closed the door behind us. I got the distinct impression she was going to make tonight a very different night from both Friday and Saturday. I was right. She decided to entertain me with a strip tease, and she had all the moves down pat. As I sat on the edge of the bed and watched, she taunted me with her swaying hips, teasing me as she revealed her breasts, dancing to some unheard music, first close to me, then moving away. I watched fascinated. It was a Sue that I hadn't seen before.

As I watched, I was gradually undressing myself, conscious of my now full erection. My future bride was putting on a performance that would give a dead man a hard-on. She was reminding me just how much I loved to watch her butt, and she took every opportunity to wiggle and jiggle it in front of me. I reached for it to give it a playful slap, but she was too clever to get close enough for me to catch her.

Finally, she climbed up on the bed, straddling me, her eyes barely more than slits, and the scent of arousal on her. I lost my self-control at that point and pushed her onto her back, attacking her breasts with my mouth, then moving down to her sex. She opened herself completely to me, her hands on the back of my head as I ravished her pussy. Within seconds she was bucking and groaning under me.

Sue's orgasms were never explosive, but they were evident by her vocalizations and her surging hips. They built to a peak, then slowly descended. I was never left to wonder if she was satisfied. We made love that night in reckless, abandoned excitement, celebrating our announcement to the world. When we finally lay together, almost in exhaustion, it occurred to me that I had never felt this way about anyone before. Perhaps, for the first time, I had discovered what being in love was really all about.

I awoke at the sound of the clock radio coming on at 6am. I was holding a naked woman in my arms, and she was holding me. It was a wonderful sensation, and one I hoped to repeat many times over. Sue stirred, and opened her eyes.

"G'mornin' lover," she croaked. The smile was soft and wrinkled.

"Hi. Remember me?"

"Oh yeah. You're my husband-to-be."

"Excellent. I was wondering if you'd remember. Shall we share a shower?"

"Not 'till I pee," she giggled, climbing out of the bed after untangling herself from me.

I lay back on the bed and waited until she invited me to join her. It had been an amazing weekend. Not just the sex, but the feeling that had developed in me. I had made a huge decision, but didn't doubt that it was the right one for even a second. I'd never felt so sure of myself in my entire life.

Sue gave me the ring to take to the jewelers just before we left for work. There was no point in taking it to the plant, since no rings, jewelry, or wrist watches were allowed to be worn on the shop floor. It was a safety issue. I drove her to the plant, then headed into town to do some errands before the jewelry store opened.

It was just after nine that morning when I finished my errands. I was trying to decide what to do next when my cell phone went off. Caller ID told me it was Tommy.

"Dad, Mom's been hurt. She's been in some kind of accident. She's in the hospital."

"Okay, Tommy. Calm down. What kind of accident?"

"I don't know. She wasn't in her car. I don't know what happened. The police are at the house. They wouldn't tell me anything. I don't know what to do."

"All right, son. I've got to make a couple of phone calls, but I'll be there as soon as I can. I'll let you know when."

I called Sue at the plant and let her know I had to get back to Cincinnati right away. She understood as I knew she would. Then I called my two customers that I had planned to visit mid-week, explaining a family emergency and that I would be at their plants as soon as possible. Again, they understood.

I caught a noon flight and was met by Tommy early that afternoon.

"So, what's the story, Tommy? What happened to your mother?"

He looked haggard and deeply distressed. "Dad, I think ... I think Mom might have tried to kill herself," he said, breaking into tears.

It was like being hit by a linebacker. I was stunned. "No! I can't believe it. She would never ...." It was as far as I got with my thoughts. What would possess Sylvia to even contemplate such a thing?

"What makes you think so, son?"

"The police said something about pills and ... I don't know what else it could be."

"Let's not jump to conclusions. Where is she now?"

"She's at Christ Hospital ... downtown."

"Okay, let's go there as see how she is."

I almost didn't recognize her when we found the room. She was alone, propped up in her bed, looking far older than her forty-three years. Her eyes were closed, and her head was turned away. Tommy and I stood in the doorway for a moment before we entered. She must have heard the chair scraping on the floor as I pulled it toward the bed.

"Tommy? Stan? Stan, what are you doing here?" she asked in a weak voice.

"I was going to ask you the same thing," I said, trying to smile.

Tommy was standing and had approached the side of the bed, leaning forward to kiss his mother. I stayed at a distance, not sure that was what I wanted to do just yet.

"I got careless. Stupid me ... I've been taking anti-depressants ... and ... I decided to have a glass of wine. I found out they don't mix ... at least ... not for me. I got dizzy and was feeling sick and I fell. I guess I hit my head on something. I don't remember anything else until I woke up here with a horrible headache."

"So it was an accident, then?" I suggested.

"Yes ... yes ... what did you think?" A look of shock came over her face. "You didn't think ...? You did, didn't you? You thought I'd tried to ... you know," she tailed off, her head falling back on the pillow.

"I didn't know what to think. Tommy and I didn't have very much information, but when they mentioned pills ... I guess we jumped to the wrong conclusion," I admitted.

She was silent for a while, her head turned toward the window. She turned back to us.

"I had thought of it ... once or twice. But ... I would never have the nerve to go through with it."

I saw a look of sorrow that I had only seen once or twice before in the past twenty years. Was she sorry that we had thought she might do away with herself, or that she had put Tommy ... and perhaps even me ... through the anguish of what might have happened? Or was it the divorce, the thought of being alone, and the realization that she had that she had brought it all on herself?

"I'm just glad we were wrong," I said softly. It was true, I was relieved. Was I more worried about what I might have driven her to?

"I've been seeing a therapist for the past few months. I needed something to get past the last two or three years ... what I've done to you ... my family ... my selfishness. She prescribed the pills, but warned me how they could be dangerous. I guess I got careless and forgot her warning. I'm sorry if I frightened you."

"Is the therapy helping?" I asked.

"Yes ... I think so. I think I know who I'm looking at in the mirror now. It isn't a pretty picture, but it's real ... it's me."

"You can change that, Mom. You can go back to who you were ... before," Tommy said reassuringly.

"I hope so, Tommy. That's what I want ... more than anything. I've already made some decisions about that. I've decided to quit my job when the therapy sessions are over. I'll go somewhere else and start over. I've got skills, so I'm not worried about it. At least I won't be prostituting myself to get ahead," she said with a tone of regret.

Tommy looked shocked, probably unaware of his mother's reasons for her liaison with Peter Ambleton. I would try and find the words to explain it to him later, but Sylvia took the matter out of my hands.

"Don't look so surprised, Tommy. Your mother let her ambition get the better of her. I used sex to get my promotions. I'm not proud of it, but ... that's what I did."

Tommy remained silent, still trying to digest what his mother was confessing to, I suppose.

"It's done, Sylvia. If you've decided to make a break from Empire, then you're already sure you're not going to do that again," I said, more for Tommy's benefit than hers.

We remained quiet for a minute or so, Tommy and I sitting in the chairs while Sylvia stared at the ceiling.

"Tommy tells me you've found someone, Stan," she said at last.

I caught me a bit off-guard. I wondered just what she knew and what I should say. With a sigh, I decided the truth was the best option.

"Yes. Her name is Sue Palotti, and I've asked her to marry me." I saw Sylvia nod and show the hint of a smile. I decided to press on. "She was one of my customers ... in Kansas City. Recently, she moved to Charlotte, so I'm moving there too. My business is fairly portable, but I'm still traveling, so it doesn't mean I won't be back here fairly often."

"Do you love her?" she asked, looked directly into my eyes.

"Yes ... yes I do. Very much."

"Good ... I'm glad. You deserve to be happy. Someday I'd like to meet her. I'm sure I'd like her."

The comments surprised me, but at the same time, it was a great relief that there were no tears or recriminations about our past. She sounded genuine in her feelings.

We stayed until the nurse shooed us out before the evening meal was served. Our conversation was pleasant and Sylvia seemed content in her space as we talked. We learned that she had a concussion and wouldn't be let out for a couple of days yet to insure she was not suffering any serious after-effects. Tommy would be waiting for her when she was released.

I let my breath out as we walked away from the room. It had been tense, although nothing like it might have been. I was relieved that it hadn't been the serious situation that Tommy had feared when he met me at the airport. On the other hand, Sylvia's surprise at my being there had a calming effect on her. I felt the conversation during that past hour had mainly been between her and me, with Tommy as a bystander.

"Tommy, I'm sorry if it seemed like we were ignoring you in there. It wasn't intentional."

"Yeah ... I know, Dad. I think you two had to clean up some things between you. I told her about Sue, but I think she wanted you to tell her. She's not upset about it, as you can tell. I think she knew it was inevitable. Maybe now, you two can be friends."

"I think that's a good possibility. I'm really glad she's in therapy. I'm also glad she's getting away from Empire. That was a bad situation for her. She wouldn't get better staying there."

The next morning I said goodbye to Tommy, reminding him that both Sue and I would be back for Thanksgiving. I decided to drive my car back to Charlotte. It was nearly five hundred miles, so I split the trip into two days, stopping in Beckley, West Virginia, at the junction of I-64. I had a long talk with Sue that night on the phone. I told her what had happened to Sylvia and the talk we had in her hospital room.

I felt it had finally put an end to whatever might have been left between us. Sylvia had let go, and I was relieved. I didn't really recognize that I hadn't been free until that happened. Sue understood immediately how important that was to both of us. There would be no ghosts in our background. We were liberated, and it felt wonderful.

I was up, showered, shaved, and on the road before dawn the next morning. I stopped at a gas station to fill the tank and get a coffee and a muffin before rejoining I-77 south to Charlotte. I expected to be at our house before eleven, giving me plenty of time to repack, pick up my gear, and head to the airport. Thanks to the internet, I had made my flight arrangements for that afternoon and would be on my way to St. Louis and my Thursday appointment. Friday would find me in Jefferson City, and with any luck, home in the early evening that same day. I was squeezing in my calls, but the unscheduled visit to Cincinnati was important. More important than I originally thought.

When I drove into our garage just before eight Friday evening, I was tired but pleased. I had pushed hard to complete my work at both my calls, and I was satisfied that I had met my customer's expectations. Sue met me in the kitchen, and I received a very nice welcome home. It was "home" now; hers and mine. We sat on the sofa together and talked about the past week and what had been going on in her life.

I hadn't seen her since I had kissed her goodbye as she left for work on Monday morning, and I had missed waking up with her in our bed that week. She showed me the re-sized ring and I noticed that she couldn't stop looking at it every so often. It took me a while to understand that this was the first time in her life that someone had made this kind of commitment, and I think she was still surprised by it.

We decided to fly to Cincinnati for Thanksgiving, since ice storms were not unusual along the interstates at that time of year. I made the reservations and Tommy promised to pick us up at the airport. I was looking forward to showing Sue off to my son and future daughter-in-law, as well as to the Foresters.

I think it might have been the best Thanksgiving I had ever experienced. Sue, Maureen, and Jilly had connected immediately. Dick was all smiles as he congratulated me on my engagement. Tommy said he liked Sue right away, and it showed. She had that effect on people. You just naturally liked her bubbly personality and positive outlook.

We had planned to stay over at my old apartment, and spend the weekend with Tommy and Jilly, letting Sue get to know my son and future in-laws. On the spur of the moment, I called Sylvia and asked her if she would like to meet Sue. It was a bit of a gamble, but I thought ... better sooner than later. She agreed, and we suggested we all have dinner together on Saturday night: Tommy, Jilly, Sue, Sylvia, and me.

It turned out well. I couldn't detect any jealousy between my ex-wife and Sue. They seemed to get along quite well. Again, I think Sue's outgoing personality helped a great deal. She wasn't clingy or overly affectionate toward me, and I think that was the secret to putting Sylvia at ease. It was a pleasant evening and I felt good that I had made the decision to include her.

"I like Sylvia," Sue said later in bed. "She's not the way I pictured her ... I mean, her personality."

I thought about it for a moment. "She's changed. She's more balanced ... more calm and controlled. I think the therapy must have helped a great deal. It really takes a lot of pressure off me ... off us. We can co-exist without a lot of stress or discomfort."

"You were on edge for a bit tonight, sweetheart. I was watching you. You weren't certain what might happen, were you?"

"You're right. I wasn't. It was a risk, but I thought it might be worth it to know. You know ... better now than later. We're going to be thrown together on occasion, so we might as well know what to expect. It looks like it's going to be fine," I sighed. Sue was right. It was stressful at first; not knowing what to expect.

Sue rolled over to me and draped her arm over my chest. "I'm so lucky to have you, lover. So lucky." She snuggled into me and the next conscious moment I had was sunrise on Sunday morning.

We flew back to Charlotte, arriving in the late afternoon, Monday. It would be back to work for both of us the next day. During our extra-long weekend, we had talked about our wedding plans. When, where, whom to invite, the honeymoon, and all the things that needed to be arranged. Sue appeared to know what she wanted and was willing to make many, if not most of the arrangements. I couldn't think of anything we disagreed on, so I gave her carte blanche to go ahead.

Financially, we were in "tall cotton," as our new southern friends would say. My business was continuing to grow and produce better than expected income. Dody was well along the way in getting her now fiancé, Curtis, fully qualified to handle a territory on his own. Yes, that's right, Dody was doing the training. That girl was unbelievable! My only worry was whether I could keep her. She would soon be good enough to branch out on her own. I was hoping that wouldn't happen too soon.

Just before Christmas, Carmen called to let me know our statement of claim against Faraday and Crosse had been settled. They had agreed to pay me $80,000, in exchange for a non-disclosure agreement and the stipulation that there would be no further claims. On Carmen's advice, I agreed to the settlement. It was a nice early Christmas present, and would look after the wedding and honeymoon, with quite a bit left over.

We finally agreed that we would marry in May, and Sue found a church in Charlotte with an available date. She was going to wear white, since she had never been married. The idea of her not being a virgin was never mentioned.

We would also send airline tickets to Tommy and Jilly, Sue's parents, my mother, and my sister and brother-in-law to aid in their travel. We would be inviting the Foresters, Dody and Curtis, Byron and Diane, and a number of other friends. I wondered about inviting Sylvia, but Sue persuaded me to include her. She could always decline if she wasn't comfortable. That's what happened, in fact.

In early February, Dave Thomas called from Florida and asked me if I was interested in buying his business. I talked it over with Sue, as she thought that if it was manageable, both financially and practically, we should make an attempt. I called Seth Fielder at the bank and asked him to get the groundwork in place while I met with Dave to sound out what kind of money he was thinking of.

With some back and forth between Dave, Seth, and me, we came to an agreement that Seth was confident that I could live with. I would inherit the three agents now working for Dave, with no guarantees that I would keep them. That would be an assessment I would be allowed to make.

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