tagRomanceWhere Blew a Flower

Where Blew a Flower

byEastmountain©

And death shall have no dominion.
No more may gulls cry at their ears
Or waves break loud on the seashores;
Where blew a flower may a flower no more
Lift its head to the blows of the rain;

And Death Shall Have No Dominion, Dylan Thomas

***

Lisa Terry sat on the couch of the living room of her smart four bedroom home in an elegant suburb, bought by her financial adviser husband on a wing, a prayer and a massive mortgage, her young daughter Tiffany playing at her feet, as she studied the advisory the police had left with her after informing her of her husband's death in a house fire. Not in his own home, of course. With its understated elegance and its massive mortgage, that home was still pristine, the way Lisa kept it, even with a toddler determined to tear it down.

Todd had wanted to turn down the life insurance feature of the mortgage, certain that it was a waste of money. After all, he was only twenty-six, not due to die for a good while yet, unfortunately. Lisa had insisted, and brought Tiffany into the fray, something she'd never done before. It was for Tiffany, then, not her, that Todd had agreed to the insurance, frustrated at the premiums, but unwilling to seem like someone who was not a loving father. Now, though, she was going to collect a massive settlement to pay off the house. She might be able to survive without the mortgage payments. Or she might not. At the least she had a fighting chance.

There were no other big insurances, just the ones on the debt that he had been forced to carry. Todd had left them up against the wall. Every line of credit they had, every credit card, was maxed out. It was the way he lived. A successful financial adviser had to demonstrate that he'd succeeded with his own funds before anyone would trust him with theirs, he'd always said. So he drove a car far too expensive for their income. They lived in a house much more expensive than they could readily afford. They spent significantly above their income. All of it had made Lisa nervous and unhappy. She hadn't come from money. As far as she could tell, she hadn't come from anywhere much at all. But her people had been honest. They hadn't spent above their income.

Lisa was good looking, slender rather than voluptuous, long chestnut hair, nice breasts, beautiful legs and a nice rear end, no signs of motherhood impairing the Prom Princess look she'd been born with. Lisa had never been the prom queen, mostly because she'd never been one to extend favours to the judges, but she was usually first or second princess, and once had been Miss Congeniality. That had been a surprise since she wasn't normally outgoing. Tiffany, too, had Prom Queen written all over her, even at eighteen months. She had that platinum blonde look, sturdy at her age, promising curves to come, and a solid self-confidence. She was Lisa's life, now.

Lisa re-read the incident report, for the third time, or maybe it was the fourth. Somehow the bedroom he'd been in had escaped the worst of the fire and the police had been able to establish exactly what had happened. Todd had been in bed with Janet Redmond. The two of them had been going at it like monkeys when the smoke killed them both. They may never have noticed the fire.

The fire had been caused by an electrical fault. Smoke was heavy. There was no explanation for why the two of them had chosen one of the vacant foreclosures in Sunny Acres, a subdivision about a mile from her home, but she expected they had been too cheap to pay for a room. Apparently they'd conned the key out of a local realtor desperate for a sale.

Lisa wondered whether Janet's husband knew, yet. At least there had been no children in that marriage.

Todd hadn't been much of a husband, she supposed. He had no idea of restraint, no idea of loyalty. She suspected he'd been unfaithful on their honeymoon, but that suspicion may just have been back blast from the heartbreak she suffered when she first found proof of his unfaithfulness. She remembered the note:

"Don't let your skinny wife keep you home," it had said. "Come on out Friday and let a real woman show you a good time. Again. Lou." It had been sealed with a kiss, or at least an imprint of her lips.

Todd had been so careless of her feelings that he'd simply tossed the note in the trash. Lisa had only come across it when separating garbage for recycling. The note had gone into the real garbage container. She'd planned to confront Todd but he'd been out late twice and had obviously been with another woman. He wasn't even faithful to his paramour.

Now Lisa was a twenty-five year old widow, supposedly grieving the love of her life. She'd grieved that love long ago, thank you. When the guy who came by to settle the insurance policy had taken a shot at consoling the grieving widow, she'd dealt with it. It's what some men did, she supposed. She doubted the guy would be up to consoling widows for a while yet.

Despite Todd's spendthrift ways, there was enough insurance to pay off the debts and leave her in funds for a while. Apparently part of financial advice was a decent insurance policy, so Todd had to have that. Not quite enough, but it would let her get over the hump, she hoped. It wouldn't keep her forever. Lisa needed to get a job. She'd always been Daddy's princess at home and Todd hadn't wanted her to work. Bad for the image, he'd told her. As a result she had no experience, no saleable skills, no real prospect of meaningful employment and quite possibly no employment at all, even as a menial. Employment as a menial wasn't a real option because of Tiffany. What a menial got paid was less than child care.

She could probably get welfare, but then she found that would be an option only if she sold the house. It was much too fine for clients of the state. They were expected to live in hovels. It was Tiffany's home. She wasn't prepared to abandon it until she had to. When the municipality sold it for taxes, perhaps.

Todd had been gone a week when the doorbell rang. She suspected another salesman. There wasn't a marker on Todd's grave. She didn't intend to put one up. "Gone and soon forgotten" didn't have that ring to it, the sort of sweet stickiness the cemetery board insisted on.

It was Larry Redmond at the door, big, affable Larry, hurting worse than she was. The Redmonds had been casual acquaintances, though obviously Mrs. Redmond had been a closer acquaintance of Todd's. She wondered whether their affair had had its roots in college when all of them had been in the same year. From the looks of him, Larry hadn't known. Lisa hadn't, either, but she'd given up keeping track of the women Todd had affairs with. Tiffany was more important to her than mourning for a dead marriage or the sort of masochistic pleasure some women got from tracking their husbands' betrayals.

"Come in, Larry," she invited. "But if you're here to solicit contributions to the Janet Redmond memorial, I'm fresh out of small change." Not kind, but Todd's death hadn't left her in a kind frame of mind. Not fair to Larry though. He was grieving the death of his wife and the prior death of his marriage all at once.

"I doubt that you would, anyway, and I certainly wouldn't ask. The cemetery board refused to approve what I really wanted to put up."

"It wasn't the first time, Larry. I don't hold anything against Janet. I married an asshole. I'm sorry if it caused you pain."

"I wanted to let you know that I found all kinds of evidence that Todd wasn't her first, even if I hadn't known about it before. I guess both of them were sluts, fucking anyone who showed interest, and probably some who didn't. It's hard to imagine people who can do that to their spouses, especially to a sweet woman like you, and to your daughter."

"I know."

"Look, I didn't just come here to commiserate over what goddamned bastards we both married. That doesn't do either of us any good. I want to know how you're making out, and whether you and your daughter are going to be all right in the long term. Seems like something I should do since we shared being betrayed."

"I need to get a job, and I haven't much in the way of job skills. I can keep house, and that's about it."

"Weren't you in the drama club?"

"Second lead, or maybe the ingénue. I was typecast when I played the ingénue, it seems. I never suspected Todd of wandering back then, or that he'd ever wander."

"I have a foreign car dealership. I don't know if I ever said. We've got some high end cars I'd like to move. If you care to, you might like to model for me for a show Saturday. Don't do it if you don't want to. The pay is good, it might lead to some other offers, and it'd get you out of the house."

"What would I have to do?"

"Look sexy, elegant, attractive enough to draw the eye to the car."

"How would I do that?"

"Walk around in a cocktail dress, talk to the customers, lean on the cars. Look like someone who had a car like that could pick up a woman like you. Later in the day I'd like to see you sprawl on a car's hood in a bikini if you're up to it. Means more pay. There'll be four other women doing the same sorts of thing and super heavy security to make sure nothing goes wrong. The pay's not bad, and if it looks like you helped sell a car you'll get an extra thousand."

"I don't know anything about cars, Larry."

"You don't have to. These cars pretty much sell themselves. I just have to get the customer interested. That's what the models are for, to get them in and looking at what I've got. What you could do, if you want, is to get the guys to tell you about the cars. Let them sell themselves."

"What about touching?"

"No touching allowed. My salespeople and security will be keeping a close eye on it all."

"Let me think about it. I'll have to arrange care for Tiffany."

"We've got that covered. You're not the only single mother I'm trying to hire. My sister agreed to take care of any children while the show's on. I wanted her to be one of my models but she turned me down. She doesn't think she's sexy enough, which is insane, but what can you do?"

"I'll call you tomorrow with my answer."

"Fair enough."

The idea that she could be a model, or that at least someone thought she could, was surprising. She wasn't really gorgeous. She was too thin. She did take care of herself, of course, and was well-turned out, and had recovered well from the havoc Tiffany caused her body. She smiled at that. Given the reward, the ravages of pregnancy were well worth it.

Even so, she didn't have a bikini and wasn't going to buy one just so she could sprawl over the hood of a car and be ogled. She thought she'd model some for Larry, her fellow victim, and maybe try some of what he suggested to sell a car, maybe two, but that was as far as she was going to go.

When she called Larry the next day to agree, to the modelling but not the bikini poses, he asked her who she wanted to be. Apparently there were always so many questions about the models that Larry's staff made up little info sheets on each of them, to be handed out when the questions started. Not one word of the information on any of the info sheets was ever the truth. It was something done to protect the privacy of the people Larry had working for him - a couple of the saleswomen had similar sheets - a mark that Larry, at least, cared about the privacy and safety of the women who worked for him. Lisa couldn't imagine that Todd would ever think of such a thing, let alone bother to do it. Lisa fed Larry a reasonable bio of a happily married woman with a husband who played offensive tackle on the local football team and spent her days caring for her four children and aged mother. Larry and Lisa laughed together as they fabricated the story. After they had completed the call, Lisa realized that it had been the first time she'd actually laughed out loud in months. Even Todd's excuses hadn't been so funny.

When it came time to go to the show, Lisa packed up a bag of toys, diapers and a change for Tiffany. She put on one of the pretty and alluring cocktail dresses Todd had insisted she buy for the times they socialized with his clients or the others working for the same company. It had received an ogle or two in its day, she giggled to herself. She spent extra time on makeup, just the barest hint since it would be full day. A little something to add colour to her cheeks, something subtle around the eyes and light pink lip gloss.

The dress itself could have been black, but she chose a cheery red because it was daytime. In the evening that dress could make her look like a fallen woman, but in daylight its effect was muted, just cheery. She was looking to be approachable but not inviting. She thought that would sell more cars. In college it had worked well. After all, it had brought her Todd. Maybe she'd better change the look. She hadn't left enough time for a change of mind, and reminded herself that Todd was dead and would never wander into her life again. Just as well.

There was no trouble with child care. Larry's sister had a couple of infants younger even than Tiffany to look after. She'd called on some teenage girl who seemed very competent to help out, so it didn't look like she'd be overwhelmed. Lisa thought that Larry had been right. His sister could certainly have done a good job as a model. She seemed happier with the children.

Once on the floor Lisa discovered that all of the women modelling were dressed reasonably well, much as she was, though three of the dresses were black and one, obviously the woman's best, a flattering sky blue.

"Just circulate," the saleswoman in charge told them. "Be friendly, but that's it. No relations with the customers after, no appointments, no dates. That's Mr. Redmond's policy, and it's a good one. The point is to make it safe for all of us, sales staff included. Remember that your object is to have the men, well, maybe a woman will come in, too, but that's unusual, look at the cars, not at you. If you get them interested enough that we get a sale, you get a commission. Breaks are at eleven and three for half an hour. There's coffee and something, maybe doughnuts or cakes, out back for the breaks. Perhaps you can sort something out among yourselves so there will always be at least one of you on the floor even for the breaks. Okay, no touching, just be your attractive selves, and we'll have a wonderful day."

The models sauntered out to display themselves among the vehicles on the floor. Lisa settled on a chair beside some aerodynamically designed piece of fluff that would set its new owner back a substantial part of a hundred thousand. Maybe more; she'd thought there were a lot of ones on the price sticker. It was even more than the car Todd had bought and that the police had seen returned to her, thankfully now paid for. The payments had been more than the mortgage.

The car she sat beside was something called a Lotus, white with tan leather seats, beautifully designed and likely capable of speeds that police hated to see on the freeway. She read the blurb and discovered it was made in England. She got up to read the details posted on the rear passenger side window.

"You don't want one of those," the masculine voice at her shoulder told her. "Like most English cars, they have terrible starting problems anywhere it's damp. Quite surprising when you consider how damp most of England is."

"Oh? And what would be better for me, then?"

"I'd say a Honda Civic, since it's a cheap, reliable car, easy for a woman to handle, but you need to be shown off in something much more elegant."

"And what would that be?"

"Something like a Porsche, I imagine. Or a Lamborghini. There's a Huracan over there, the entry-level version, but it's a monster all the same. Vastly fast and powerful, though you wouldn't want it to pull a trailer. More expensive, of course, but surprisingly affordable for a car like this."

"That red is very attractive."

"I was thinking of something like this, for when I win the lottery, which I just did in a manner of speaking."

"Oh, and how can you win a lottery and not win a lottery all at once?" Lisa smiled cheerfully, willing to let the handsome gentleman explain himself, as he so obligingly did.

"It's a matter of completing a merger. The work's all done, the documents signed, the fees paid, and my bonus is burning a hole in my bank account."

"Ah, I see, and you intend to celebrate by buying something totally impractical."

"Not really. I should have a car of my own." He stuttered a bit, unwilling to let this very pretty woman know he had a wife and family, likely the woman who'd pushed him through law school. Lisa let it go by, mentally crossing him off and writing him out of her black book. On to the next clean page.

"Um, would you get into the car, so I can see what it would look like with a passenger in it?"

Lisa complied, sure that this was leading up to something that she'd have to bat down. On the other hand, if he really did have the money maybe he would buy something this expensive. It was a beautiful car. She made a small production out of getting in as he gallantly held the door for her. She made sure to show a bit of leg, not too much, just enough to draw his gaze into the interior of the vehicle, as luxuriously appointed as she had expected of a car in the price range. She didn't notice the four other men who'd followed her with their eyes.

"Lovely," he breathed. "I think I'll be getting one of these."

That made Lisa feel a bit better about the leg.

"Thanks so much, miss. You see, you look a lot like my wife, same hair and skin, and I needed to know whether she'd look good in the car before I bought it. I'm Roger Swainson, here's my card, and if there's ever anything I can do for you, please ask. Um, your sheet says you've got four children. My wife Tessa and I have just the one, about sixteen months. She's a real goer."

Lisa could hear his pride in his voice and see it in his eyes. So, not all men were swine. She knew that, of course, just from knowing Larry, but it was good to see there were other good ones out there. She gave him her best smile, completely genuine.

"I've put the home phone on my card. It just seemed that you and Tessa could be friends, maybe, and share notes about the kids. I'm at the office far too much and I think she feels lonely. It'll be better in a few years if I make partner, and this deal I just finished is really going to help with that, but for now she could use some company if you wanted . . . "

He trailed off, sure he'd committed a faux pas, suggesting this beautiful woman might want to be friends with his wife and child, but Lisa only smiled more brightly.

"Of course. Sometimes time lies heavy on my hands, and I'd love to make new friends. I'll call sometime next week. You might want to warn her."

"I'll do that, and thank you."

He turned to find a salesperson to finalize arrangements for the purchase of the vehicle. Of course, one was right at his elbow, attracted by the small crowd, and he had no trouble.

"What do you think, Lisa? Your first sale, looks like."

"Kind of fun, Larry. He's a nice guy."

"Unfortunately, they're not all like him. I know him slightly, and he's a good sort. I saw him give you a card. Are you breaking our rules already?"

"No, he just wanted a friend for his wife. I thought that would be all right."

"Yes, of course. They're not from here, some small town out of state, so likely she has no local connections. It would be a kindness to help her out if you're so inclined."

"I've grieved as much as I'm going to, and raged a bit, too, you know. It's time I got out and about and tried sorting out what the rest of my life will be like. He's got a little one near enough the same age as Tiffany, and that'll be good for her, too. I appreciate that you got me out of the house today, Larry, though the money was a powerful incentive, too."

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byEastmountain© 3 comments/ 4007 views/ 8 favorites

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