We Need To Talkbyjulybear7©
Romantic (I hope), but no sex until after conclusion The story I ended up with is not the story I set out to write. Almost feel like I channeled this. I hope you enjoy. Jb7.
WE HAVE TO TALK
Chris Davis had just finished his two-mile run and was letting himself into his three bedroom ranch house when he heard the phone start to ring. He pulled the towel from around his neck and used it to wipe his face as he looked at the caller ID. He recognized the San Francisco area code, but was puzzled by it. Who in hell in SF would be calling him at this time of day. It was, what, 6 A.M. out there. He picked up the phone.
"Hey, Chris." The velvet voice took him immediately back twenty plus years to the first time he had met her, and through five years of a tumultuous and passionate marriage before they split and eventually divorced. "It's Ellen. Long time, huh?"
"And then some. How are you? What's up?"
"I'm sorry to call at this ungodly hour, but Rick and I are leaving to get Michael from school this morning and need to leave soon. I got a call from Susan, your brother's wife. Did you know Tommy passed away a few months ago?"
"I heard. I was on assignment in South America and got the message when I got home. Why did she call you?"
"She was afraid when you didn't go to the funeral that you were angry about something. She asked me if I might be able to help her out with a place to stay for a few weeks. I guess the medical bills totally wiped out her resources. She had to sell the house and her car. I told her the best I could do would be to intercede with you, to see if there was anything you might be willing to do."
Chris was assailed by a ton of conflicting emotions. Ignoring them, he replied, "Of course I'll help. After all, she is family. And if she has any of her own, they'd just try to bleed her drier than she is."
"That's kind of what I remembered. She says she has until the first of the month before she has to be out of her house. That gives you a week to come up with something. Good luck, and Chris, be nice. She's been through hell with Tommy's illness and death. Stomach cancer isn't a pretty way to go."
"No, it isn't. I promise. Have a good trip."
"Thank you. Again, good luck. I remember how you two used to get along, or rather, not get along."
"Hopefully we've both grown up a bit. Thanks for the call, I think." he laughed.
He pawed through his desk, looking for his address book. He hoped he had the right phone number for them. Tom, younger than Chris by 15 months,had been in the Air Force when he got Sue pregnant at 19, and married her. When he got out, he had bounced around the country, trying and failing at several jobs and businesses before he lucked into a job as a TV weatherman, taking advantage of his Air Force training.
As misfortune would have it, Sue had suffered a spontaneous abortion, at least that's what the note from Tom had said, about halfway through the pregnancy. Whatever had happened, it left her unable to conceive again. Chris couldn't help but wonder at the time if it might have had something to do with her lifestyle before she got married.
His late parents had both been professionals. Father, a corporate lawyer; Mother, a professor in the engineering school at the university in the town where they all had grown up. Sue's family was grey collar, both parents working on the factory floor of the company for which the boys' father worked. Sue had earned a reputation early for liking flashy cars and questionable boyfriends. Chris never did understand how she and Tom met, or why he had married her.
Upon reflection, Chris admitted to himself that last statement was a lie. He knew exactly why Tom had married her, and stayed married for nearly twenty years. Susan was one of the most attractive women he had ever seen. And worse, he had to admit it, she was just as nice as she was pretty. She was warm, generous, intelligent, witty, and fun-loving. His jealousy of his younger brother had, to some degree, been behind the failure of his own marriage, and to a greater degree, had led to the estrangement between the brothers. He had stayed away out of a sense of self-preservation.
He found his phone list, and Tom's number. He dialed, and heard the phone ring. On the third ring, Sue answered.
"Susie, this is Chris. Ellen called me. How are you?"
He heard a short snorting laugh. "Been better. Have had whole years of better. What's up? It's been what, ten, fifteen years. And you couldn't even be bothered to come to Tom's funeral. So why the call?": The harsh, bitter tone in her voice made Chris pause.
"Is this a mistake," he thought. There was going to be a mountain of issues to resolve before they would be able to tolerate each other. He took a deep breath. "Sue, I am truly sorry about missing the funeral. I was on assignment in the Amazon River country. I had been out of the country for six month's when I got home. As soon as I heard of Tommy passing, I wired you. If I had been in country, I would have been there." He heard her sob over the phone. "Are you still in Altamont, just outside of St. Louis?"
"Yes, on Peach street. Why?"
"I'll be there tomorrow. Ellen said you're out of options. I can offer you a place to crash for as long as you need one." The sobs softened and became more regular. She was crying.
"No,no. you don't need to come out. Just arrange it so I can pick the ticket up at the airport, I can be there Wednesday evening. I've stored everything I wanted to keep. Everything else goes with the house."
"I'm sure, and thank you, Chris. I know how difficult this has to be for you. I'll try not to be any trouble."
"Susie, it's no trouble. You're family."
Her flight was over two hours late. He waited for her in the area at the opening of the concourse. With the new security regulations, non-passengers were no longer allowed to wait at the gates. He heard her flight announced as it touched down at nine o'clock. Several minutes later, a flood of people was walking toward the ramp exiting the concourse. He scanned the mob for her. He almost didn't see her because of the large sunglasses she wore. On the tall side of average, at five-eight, her dark red hair framing her face, she looked tired. He pushed his way to the head of the ramp and waited for her.
When she saw him, she gave him a wan smile and let herself be guided through the crowd. Once they were in the open, he embraced her and held her tightly for a long moment before stepping back. He had felt the beginning of a surge in his groin, an effect she had always had on him, even during their most contentious periods.
"Luggage?" he asked.
"This," she answered, hoisting an overnight bag, "plus two more large bags. They won't be out for a bit. Can we get some coffee and maybe a bite. The layover in Chicago was a bit longer than they said it would be, and I haven't eaten since lunch."
"Of course, no problem. How big a bite? There's a half decent restaurant here, or a zillion and one snack areas, and every fast food emporium you can conceive of."
"Just coffee, and some pie. That's about all I've been able to eat lately. I haven't felt like cooking. After 20 years of..." a sob broke her voice. He put his arms around her, burying her face in his shoulder, noticing how nicely she fit there. She leaned back after a moment, and patted his chest. "I hope your shirt is waterproof. I've been doing a lot of that these past few months."
"Actually, it's a living thing and needs water regularly, so whenever you feel the need, go right ahead." He led her out of the concourse area toward the food court.
She laughed. "I had forgotten your sense of humor". She took his arm, and wrapping both of hers around it, hugged it to her side. "Maybe this won't be so bad." she told herself.
Inside the food court, he got them coffee, and her a piece of banana cream pie. As he sat down, she gave him a fleeting smile. "You remembered, my favorite pie." She removed her sunglasses and briskly rubbed her face with the palms of her hands, then hugged herself and shivered. "Is it always this cold here? I thought it was summer everywhere."
Chris studied her face as he answered. Not for the first time, he had the thought that this is how Audrey Hepburn would look with red hair and blue eyes. "It's upstate New York," he answered. "Even though we're less than ten miles from one of the Great Lakes, it's not as humid here as it is in the Midwest, so it feels chillier. Plus, they do have the air conditioning set to wring out every molecule of water it finds." She looked tired, haggard. Her normally bright blue eyes lacked their usual luster, and were surrounded by deep dark circles. "When was the last time you had a decent night's sleep?"
"Hmm, define decent. Tom died six months ago next week, so, a few months before that. The last couple of months he needed a lot of assistance. I've been getting three to five hours at night, since he died, and then maybe an hour nap sometime during the day." She avoided looking at him, and dug into her pie. "Mm, this isn't bad. You aren't having anything?"
"No, I'm working on keeping my weight down. When I travel, it's easier to fit into the smaller jets. There's a chicken casserole waiting at home. It'll just take a little bit to warm it."
"When did you start to cook, I mean how long after the divorce?"
"Sandwiches, eggs, burgers and hots, right away. Anything requiring more than two cans, a few months. Cooking from scratch, I don't know, a couple of years. Took me that long to appreciate it as a seduction tool. Man cooking for a woman he wants to bed, shortens the chase by a good six months." He blanched as he realized the implication of his last remarks. "I'm sorry, Sue, that was crass and totally out of place. I didn't mean to imply..."
"What, that you want to get into my pants?" She looked him right in the eye, waiting for his response.
He tried to avoid her gaze. He looked at the table, the floor, for the waitress, at his watch. The time stretched out. She waited with the fork poised in mid air. Finally she set it down. "Wow, I'm still not sure if that was yes or no, but it's obviously something you've considered, right?"
Chris looked at her. He reached across the table for her hand, but she withdrew it. He sat back, and with a deep breath, began."Thought about it? Hell, Susie, there not a man in this airport capable of screwing who wouldn't jump at the chance to be with you when you're ready to start living again. And, yes, that includes me." He looked at her directly. "Do you want to change your mind about staying with me now? If you do, there's a housekeeping motel not far from here."
"That won't be necessary. As long as I know what's expected of me."
"What the hell is that supposed to mean? I don't expect anything from you!" The volume was a whisper, the emotion in his voice made it a shout.
"Yours was more subtly put, but it was the same message I got from the bank loan officer." She was choking back the sobs. "He offered to let me stay in the house until it was sold if I'd come in and give him a...oral sex every day. Or Tom's boss, who offered me a 'trainee' position. I just had to service him and some of his buddies from time to time. They'd even pay for the motel. Sometimes, even Tommy. He'd withhold the money to run the household until we'd had sex. What else am I supposed to think, Chris? Hell, if your behavior for the past 20 years is any gauge, you don't even like me. Just what are you expecting?" Her tears were visible, ready to spill.
He shook his head. "Expecting? Hell, I don't know. That you'd come, stay for a few weeks, or months. I hadn't thought beyond offering you a place to stay. Some respect for each other's personal space, some conversation, help keeping up the house, doing the cooking. Shit, just some company would be nice. But I never expected any kind of payment, certainly not sex." His voice was taut with the tension between them, He started to relax when he saw her smile,
"But you wouldn't turn it down?" she asked, her eyes starting to twinkle with humor.
"I may be noble, but I'm not stupid, dead, or impotent." he smiled, the tension lessening if not dissolving. "We should get out of here. It's a bit of a drive."
"I own a hilltop about 40 miles south of the city. I let out most of 640 acres to a grape co-op which pays me a share as rent. Part of it is still wild woods, and then there's the house and pool."
"You have a pool? Do you get to use it much?"
"Wait until you see it."
They had retrieved her luggage and were at his car, a Mercedes sports coupe. "Something must be paying well. The writing or the grapes?"
"A bit of both, but right now most of my income comes from my winery holdings. There are four family run wineries, separate from the co-op, I helped finance. I offered them a choice for financing – a long term conventional mortgage or a percentage of the business, so I was just as much at risk as they were. Even with the sizeable percentage I wanted, it was better for them and the business to trade me a share. Through my travel contacts, they were able to gain access to some master winemakers, and now, seven to ten years after our first harvests, we are producing some of the best wines in the state."
It was just past eleven when he turned off the two lane into a winding dirt road which led up a hill to a rambling three bedroom ranch style farm house. "I've put you in the west bedroom," he told her, "so the sun doesn't wake you in the morning. The windows are all screened, as are the sliding doors, so you can leave them open for fresh air. We don't have any wild critters bigger'n a 'possum, and they all tend to stay in the woods. And this is the time of year when the vines take care of themselves, so there shouldn't be any workmen anywhere close. The cleaning lady won't be in until Friday.
"If I'm not around when you get up, make yourself at home. This is your home now, as long as you need or want to stay."
"Thank you, Chris. I know I keep saying that. I can't tell you how relieved I was after you called. I had no idea what I was going to do. My own family wouldn't offer a glass of water to a thirsty neighbor. I called Ellen out of desperation, hoping for just a loan or even a cot. I didn't expect anything like this."
She gave him a hug. As his arms went around her, he felt a surge in his loins. Apparently, so did she. She quickly pulled away, looking at him, an unreadable expression in her eyes, anger, disappointment, resignation, he couldn't tell. She dropped her eyes and turned away from him. "I'd like to shower and turn in, if that's okay with you."
"Of course. Shower's right across the hall. Towels and supplies are in the linen closet right outside. I usually run in the morning for a bit, then I have to go into town for an hour or so. I should be back at lunch time. I'll leave my cell number on the kitchen table." As he left the room, he turned to look back at her. "Sue, I really am glad you're here, and that I am able to help. Anything you want or need, if it's not here, we'll find it somewhere. Sleep well."
For the first two weeks, Susan didn't do much more than sleep. Over time, she grew noticeably less haggard. Her color improved, as did her appetite. She went from eating only pie to full meals by the middle of summer. As her energy and stamina improved, Chris introduced her to the farm. He showed her the vineyards, pointing out the differences in the kinds of grapes, and explained how they were blended to produce the different kinds of wines. She was fascinated when she saw the tiny grapes used for the sparkling wines.
Two weeks after her arrival, he walked her through the woods, showing her the track he ran every morning he was home, even in the winter. As they were walking it, he suddenly stopped her. As they paused in the middle of the track, he raised his head to check the wind. "This way," he said, turning them around. About twenty-five yards back up the track, he turned to follow a path into the woods. "Shhh," he cautioned her. In a few more steps, they stepped into a clearing, surrounding a large pond. Across the pond she saw a number of deer, including a stag with an impressive rack of antlers. Chris's arm across her body kept her from advancing into the clearing any further.
"They're gorgeous," she whispered. "I've never seen them like this–in the flesh, as it were."
"This is only the second time I've seen them. I caught a glimpse last summer, but I thought they had moved on when I didn't see them any more." The sound of their voices, a slight shift in the wind, instinct, something spooked the stag and he bounded off, followed by the others.
"This, by the way," he gestured, "is my swimming pool. This end, right off shore, is about six feet deep, increasing to ten in the center. The six foot depth is between those two boulders on the shore." He pointed to a pair of large boulders about fifteen yards apart, sitting at the water's edge. "The rest of the pool, a fairly shallow area out to ten feet or so, then there is a drop off to the deep bottom. It's about fifty, sixty yards across. Eighteen laps to make a mile. And if you look around, you'll see you can't be seen in here, so if you want to swim or sunbathe in the nude, feel free. Lots of times, I finish my run with a quick skinny dip. Then by the time I'm back to the house, I pretty much am dried off."
"We'll have to rig up some sort of bell, so we don't walk in on each other at an embarrassing time."
"Yeah, I suppose," he replied, a sound of disappointment in his voice. Her slap at his shoulder was more good fun than reproach.
After dinner, one Thursday evening toward the end of the second month of her stay, she asked him, with a smile, "Do you remember that awful, awkwardness in the diner at the airport?" He looked at her, his face a mask of hurt, guilt, remorse and fear.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to cause you any upset. I was just going to comment that I can fully appreciate now your comment about cooking being an effective seduction tool. Being waited on the way you've waited on me the past several weeks has been absolutely delicious.
"It's enough to wipe out all those awful years of fighting. No, you don't need to say anything. God knows, I was just as spiteful as you were. Right now, though, I can't remember why. I really appreciate all you've done and would like to cook for you tomorrow. Is that okay?"
"If you want. I was going to ask if you feel up to going out for dinner. I have a travel assignment starting Sunday and will be gone a week or so. Eating out before traveling is sort of a tradition with me. It means I don't have to come home to dirty dishes," he laughed.
She smiled and nodded. "That'll be fun. Then I can practice my kitchen skills while you're gone and cook you a welcome home dinner."
The next night found them at a steak house situated on the shore of one of the smaller Finger Lakes. On this night the restaurant was offering line dancing lessons, which Chris and Sue cheerfully joined. Four hours later they were homeward bound, Sue resting her head on Chris' shoulder as he drove. "That was fun. Do you think we might be able to do it again sometime?"
"I'm sure we can. The only restrictions we have are what's legal and what we want, or don't want to do." As they pulled into the driveway, Sue straightened up. When the car came to a stop, she reached for the door handle, only to be stopped by Chris. He got out of the car and walked around to open her door. He took her hand and helped her out.
She reached up to caress his cheek, and said softly, "Thank you for a lovely evening. I wish..."she stopped. "So, where are you off to tomorrow?" Her voice had gone from wistful to businesslike in a heartbeat.