Hi folks, sorry for the lack of a story last week. I'm very appreciative of all of you who emailed me to offer suggestions on my ongoing editor search. As of yet I'm still looking, so this story is probably going to be full of punctuation and grammar errors. That was a warning, please take it into consideration. Anyway, a reader suggested this piece almost a year ago, and I rolled it over in my head for a while and almost wrote it a couple of times. I wish I could find the email he sent me where he suggested it so I could give him credit, but hopefully after reading this he'll know who he is and know that I did love the idea, and the song. SS06
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As I walked towards the door of the café with my phone held up to my ear in one hand and my purse in the other, I didn't even think about the door. I never even slowed down as I approached it. From the time that I was fifteen years old, men of all ages have constantly been making fools out themselves trying to get my attention.
I smiled. The funny thing was that I didn't even smile directly at any of them, but three men jumped up to try to open the door for me. I breezed into the café and looked around to find which table my girlfriends were sitting at.
As I scanned the room, all I had to do was look in the same direction all the guys were staring at and I found the three of them. A voluptuous raven haired vixen, a tall lanky redhead with a complexion to die for, and a tawny haired, self-admitted slut all sat together at one table. I smiled again as I joined them. I caught the attention of our waitress and just nodded. She knew what to bring me already. It was especially delicious since our waitress was Jo Anne Hart.
Ashley, the brunette, Eva, the redhead, Betty, the slut and I all went to school with Jo Anne. Ever since my parents had moved us down here to Texas, when I was fourteen, we've known Jo Anne.
We'd tormented her all through school. Jo Anne was just not like us. There was something wrong with her. She was pretty enough, I suppose, but unlike us, she just didn't have the knack for using what she had to get what she wanted.
Jo Anne was also pretty stubborn when it came to certain things. Like in high school, if you wanted to be a cheerleader there were certain things you had to do. In my case, since I was dating the captain of the football team, my making the squad was a foregone conclusion. Even though the head cheerleader at that time didn't like me much, she knew which way the wind was blowing. And Eva and I have been friends ever since. Getting Betty and Ashley on the team was also simple. I just mentioned it to Eva and she handled it.
Everyone else on the team knew that they had to kiss a certain amount of ass to get on the team and that was only right. It's the way that life works. People who are beautiful or rich get what they want and everyone else simply fights over what's left.
Anyway, Jo Anne showed up at the tryouts and after years of gymnastics and dance classes, she was great at all of those flips and all of that high kicking stuff. On the basis of athletics and dance, she could have been one of the best, if not the best on the team. She probably could have made our squad a lot better from a performance standpoint. Unfortunately, she was terrible at the sucking up and kissing ass portion of the tryout. So in the end, she didn't get on the team. Some of those southern belles are simply too sassy for their own good.
I felt sorry for her, so I went over to her, to offer her some words of encouragement. The coach of the team was trying to talk to her too.
"Hey, Jo Anne," I said. "I'm sorry you didn't make it. With a little bit of attitude adjustment, I'm sure you'll make it next time."
She turned and looked at me and smiled at me very sweetly. "Fuck you, Connie," she snapped.
"My name is Constance," I said. The bitch really pissed me off with that. My name actually was Connie. But I'd changed it myself, although not legally. But all of the teachers and even my parents called me Constance. It sounded so much classier than Connie Page. Since we'd arrived here in Texas, I was Constance Pagé. I pronounced my last name "pa jhay," as if I was French. That and the fact that any northern accent just sounds sophisticated in Texas made me more noticeable. My nearly white-blond hair also made me stand out. And the fact that I have a spectacular body also helps.
But ever since the days of the cheerleader tryouts, my friends and I have done whatever we could to help Jo Anne. In fact, we sometimes went out of our way to help the poor girl. Like when we had to stay up nearly all night to call or text everyone in the school to make sure that not a single person voted for her to become class president. That job would have been too much for Jo Anne, but she didn't know it at the time. The hardest part was convincing the nerd who was in charge of counting the votes to make sure that the votes from her really close friends weren't accepted.
That way, she only received one vote and everyone assumed that she'd voted for herself. That actually drove a wedge between Jo Anne and her friends. She'd disappeared for a while after high school. Then she was working in this café when we started meeting here every morning before work.
The other three girls actually have jobs in the shopping mall near the café. I really don't have to work, but I have a job in a daycare center near here to give me something to do with my days. It's also a great way to get time away from the house, while convincing my husband that I'm doing everything I can do to be the best wife and eventually the best mother I can be.
He thinks it's great that I want to work with children and in his mind it means I'll be a great mother once we start having babies. What he should be thinking is, IF we have babies. The reality of the situation is that the only way I'll ever have one of those messy, smelly, attention grabbing little brats, is if it's absolutely necessary to ensure that my marriage survives.
Having a child would really not be in my best interest. It would totally distort my body for months. Then I'd also be tied to it for years. What the hell would I do with it when I wanted to go on vacation? Then having the thing call me mommy, would just age me in the eyes of everyone who saw me. Nope, having kids was probably not on the menu of my life.
Even before I took a sip of the coffee that Jo Anne had set down in front of me, the other girls were smiling and leaning their heads in to see if I planned on doing anything to poor Jo Anne, or just letting her serve us and get off without doing anything to embarrass her or to cause her extra work.
I was trying to come up with something, when I heard it. It was a low growl that spoke of powerful mechanical force. I glanced at the window when I heard it, because it was a familiar sound.
As I watched, a heavily customized white Mustang pulled up in front of the restaurant. The Mustang had one large blue star proudly emblazoned on its hood and each door. The man who got out of the Mustang strode into the café and every head in the place turned to look at him.
The man, Danford Richards, was a decorated Afghan war veteran, a former pro football player, and the third richest man in Texas. He was forty nine years old, six feet tall with graying blond hair and steel blue eyes. Every person he met liked Dan. He wasn't the kind of man to put on airs. He was more comfortable walking around in jeans and cowboy boots than he was in a tux or a suit, so that's what he wore. Dan's the kind of guy who'll sit down with a guy he met on the street and talk about fishing for two hours, but won't spare fifteen minutes for a meeting with the CEO of a fortune 500 company, unless it's an absolute necessity.
Even the girls at my table hushed themselves when Dan walked over.
"Honey, you left your day bag on the counter again," he says to me. Then he leaned over and kissed me gently. He intended for it to be a polite peck on the cheek, but I turned and locked lips with him. I locked my arms behind his head and pushed my tongue into his mouth.
"I'll see you at home tonight," he blushed when I let him go.
"Good Lord, that's a man," says Ashley.
"You're a fool," says Eva. "I can't believe you'd risk losing that, for Todd Bridges."
"Come on Eva," said Betty. "You know Constance has always belonged to Todd. She married Dan for security and probably just to prove that she could get him, but her heart and everything else has always belonged to Todd."
"Shut the fuck up Betty," I snapped. I tilted my head towards Jo Anne who was cleaning up the dishes from a table right beside ours.
"Everyone doesn't need to know my business," I said.
"But that's only Jo Anne," laughed Betty. "She's a nobody. What can she do?"
We all laughed very loudly then. "She's probably still pissed at not getting on the cheer squad," gushed Eva, starting another round of laughter.
* * * * *
My name is Robert Franklin. I'm a P.I. I was hired to watch Constance Richards. To be perfectly honest, I don't understand her. I've had women on our investigative team approach her and none of them had anything good to say about her. The general consensus is that she's a bitch. On the other hand, I've personally met her husband and he has to be the most likeable guy on the planet. You see a lot of these rich guys who put on that good old boy act, but this guy isn't faking it. We also did some surveillance on him. Even when he didn't realize that anyone was watching him, he stopped and spoke to anyone who approached him. He's the real deal. The guy was a pro football player, who ended up going to Afghanistan. One of the guys he went to college with was over there and when he heard about it, he signed up too. He ended up getting the shit shot out of him and getting a medal or two for some of the things he did over there. He doesn't like to talk about it. When you ask him about it, he just says that he did his job.
Anyway, some of the big shooters attached to one of the political parties, I'm not at liberty to say which one, think he'd be a good candidate for Governor in the next election. But before they risk it, they wanted to make sure that he and his wife are squeaky God damned clean. After following him for a couple of months we're sure he might be a good candidate, so now we're on his wife. The notes that follow are my general observations on Mrs. Richards during the course of my investigation.
The thing that stood out to me first, other than the age difference between them, he's forty nine and she's twenty nine, is how good they look. Richards is a striking figure of a man, but his wife is centerfold material. Why is she with a guy who is so much older than herself?
This morning as usual she's running slightly late as she gets out of her white Cadillac and goes to the café where she has breakfast every morning. I notice a couple of things about her from the beginning.
City girls just seem to find out early, how to open doors with just a smile.
A rich old man and she won't have to worry. She'll dress up all in lace and go in style.
* * * * * *
Jo Anne Tanner
He came into the café again this morning. Every time I see that man I just swoon. He has to be the nicest man on earth and probably the best looking. I wouldn't expect him to remember it, but he did a lot for me personally. When he came back from the war he started doing whatever he could to help other vets and their families. In a lot of cases he took money from his own pocket to help out. My case was one of those. I loved Sam for most of my life. When he signed up, my heart was in my throat. I just knew something terrible was going to happen. Early in the war things were fine. All of the battles were won with our superior technology and they even had reporters there watching. Sam often laughed when I called or emailed him, to ask if he was in danger.
He told me that the biggest danger to him would probably be if he tripped over one of the cables that provided power to the TV cameras or to one of the congressmen's RV's. A lot of the politicians were there because it looked good on their records. Most of those guys had never served themselves, but they could now say that they'd been to war. It made them seem more macho.
A couple of months after the initial assault had begun, things got more serious. The joking stopped and all of the congressmen and reporters came home. I also discovered that our last pre-deployment activities were successful. Sam had deployed a baby in my womb. When I told him about it he was overjoyed. He told his entire troop about it and they congratulated us over Skype. Three months later, heavily pregnant and out of my mind, I watched as they lowered a casket containing what was left of Sam into the ground.
He was buried with honors, the victim of some mechanical bits and pieces attached to an explosive of some type. They call it an IED, an improvised explosive device and it had wiped Sam off the face of the earth. The reports we got, from the same buddies who congratulated us on the baby, were that Sam never suffered. I'm grateful for that at least. He was just walking back towards the base, smiling and talking about what he was going to do when he went home, when it went off. One minute, he was smiling, and the next, he was gone.
His parents and I had a rough time handling it. Even during the funeral it was as if we were still in shock. It was like it was all a joke and we were waiting for the punch line. Even months after the funeral we walked around with a hole in our hearts and in our lives. Sam's dad never recovered. He lost his job and just became a totally different person. He couldn't even look at his wife. It was like seeing each other only caused them to remember what they'd lost, instead of seeing someone that they could share the pain with.
And it was just as bad for me. Since Sammy and I were never actually married. I had no status in terms of military benefits or anything else. And our daughter, she doesn't count either. Since she hadn't been born yet when Sammy died, he didn't sign her birth certificate so she gets no benefits either.
When I met Danford Richards, I was thinking about moving into a shelter for single mothers. One of the guys who'd served with Sammy, a disabled vet named Paul, had met Richards at the VA and told him about me. Richards cut me a check without ever having met me. He gave me enough money to make it through my pregnancy and the first few months of Samantha's life. It was the greatest exhibition of trust I've ever seen. Paul could have stolen the money or the whole thing could have been a hoax.
When I met Richards, I didn't expect him to actually remember my name. He probably helps hundreds of people. But he knew me as soon as I spoke to him and even asked how the pregnancy had gone. When I told him how grateful I was his help, he just shrugged his shoulders and told me that the whole country was honored by Sam's sacrifice, so any small thing he could do was his pleasure.
So seeing him again today was great. The bad part of it, of course, was finding out that he was married to that fake bitch, Connie Page. As he walked out, after taking her the fancy briefcase that she'd left at home, he spoke to me. He'd smiled at me and said, "Hi Jo Anne. How's Samantha doing?"
It just amazed me, that a man that I'd only met once, could remember me and my daughter and show more concern for us than the four women I'd known for most of my life and went through high school with. Worse than finding out that he was married to Connie, of course, was discovering that she was cheating on him. It didn't come as a huge surprise since Connie wasn't the kind of woman to be faithful to anyone.
From what I heard, after we left high school, her life got even more interesting. When she turned twenty apparently Connie defied medical science because she found out some miraculous way to lose her virginity twice. There was even a fight about it, between Todd and some other guy, both of whom claimed her cherry. Somehow, it just seemed terrible that a guy as nice as Danford Richards had ended up with a snake like Connie.
The problem for me was deciding whether to let him know what I'd overheard, or just stay out of it. In a lot of cases people who received bad news wanted to shoot the messenger.
I decided to give it some serious thought. Maybe there was a way that I could tell him without the information coming from me. And for once, I really did want to do this for the best of reasons. I wanted to do it so that Danford wouldn't continue to be preyed upon by a woman who wasn't worthy of him, not as a way to get back at Connie for things she'd done to me in the past.
* * * * * *
I was talking to Todd as I drove home. I wanted to see him so badly. He kept blowing me off. He'd tell me that we'd get together and then change his plans at the last minute. He'd done that to me several times in the last week. I always made sure to talk to him on my cell phone and not the house phone. My cell phone was in my name and I actually paid that bill myself. The bill was delivered to Betty's apartment just to make sure that Danford didn't actually look at it and then ask me about some of the numbers that I called or received calls from frequently.
Danford was pretty trusting. I'd gotten away with a lot of shit over the years that we'd been married, but I didn't want to push things too far. He'd also paid for a lot of the things I did with my friends. When he had to go to England last summer for business, he'd sent me and my girlfriends to Jamaica. We'd drunk and fucked our way across the islands for seven days. It was supposed to be a ten day trip. After a week there too many of the local men were following us around, expecting money and sex. I flew home early to avoid any embarrassing publicity.
When Danford called that evening and found out I was on my way home, he wondered why I was going home early. "I miss you so much, I can't stand it," I said. "I'm going home and then flying to England. I'll sit outside of your meeting rooms and wait for you."
"But Constance," he'd said. "By the time you got here, it would be time for me to fly home anyway. Why don't you just wait for me at home and then maybe you and I can take a trip together."
I sat at home for two days waiting for him to come home. During that time, I fantasized about all of the guys we'd had in Jamaica, both other tourists and local guys. I was all fucked out for a while after that trip.
Ashley, Eva and Betty were already asking me when we could do it again. I told them that trips like that one had to be very few and very far between, because I couldn't do anything that might arouse Danford's suspicion.
I guess they really couldn't understand that I really do love Danford. He's the exact man that I'd like to someday settle down and live out my life with. He's caring and kind, he's generous and for his age or really any age, he's very good looking. The problem we have though is that I met him too early my life. I'm not really ready to settle down and commit yet. I'm not ready to be a mommy or a wife or any of that shit. But on the other hand he was too good a guy to let go of. He's kind of like when you go to the mall and they have boots on sale. It's the middle of the summer and you're not going to be wearing any boots anytime soon. But you buy them anyway and hold onto them until winter comes. Danford is my on sale boots.
There will be a time when I'll be ready for him and I'll be the best God damned wife that any man ever had. But it isn't that time yet. That day draws ever closer though. I'm really beginning to get tired of Todd's shit. He needs to learn that he can't treat me like he used to while we were in college. I'm important now. My time is far too valuable for me to be waiting around for him. I guess that Todd is still pissed off that I didn't marry him and move into his one bedroom apartment with him.