Authors: Maddie Cochere
“Ouch,” I sympathized.
“I don't care,” Larry said. “I made it two more rounds in singles before I lost, so I got my money's worth. Besides, knowing I wasn't going to be playing today made for a lot more fun last night.”
I leaned into Ron with a little shove of my shoulder and asked affectionately, “Ron, what are we going to do with you?”
He gave me a bigger
goofy grin and said, “Hey, someone has to keep things interesting around here.” Everyone laughed again. He certainly did do that.
Husky raised his
glass and crowed in his deep, raspy voice, “Here's to Susan! I've helped a lot people over the years, Susan, and you are my first state win. I'll always be proud of that, and I'm proud of you.”
“Here, here!” echoed the others at the table, and they all drank to Husky's toast. I know I blushed, but I was secretly thrilled with Husky's sentiment. We had put in a lot of practice hours
on the court, and I was happy
I hadn’t let him down.
We finished our dinner, left the restaurant, and said our good-byes. With my luggage, racquetball gear, and my trophies safely on the back seat of the rented Audi, I s
lipped into the passenger seat.
Mick closed the door behind me. He slid behind the wheel, and we started the long drive home. We would be
late, and I had to be at work at 10:00 in the morning.
The car was dimly lit by the dashboard lights. Mick found an easy listening station on the radio, and I completely relaxed to
Too Marvelous for Words
by Frank Sinatra. I grew up listening to my parents’ music, and crooners were at the top of the list. I appreciated the lyrics, the masculine voices, and the soft sounds
of the music. I
had read magazine reviews that
Michael Buble put on a fantastic show of old standards
and I hoped
to see him one day.
Mick reached over and gently grasped my hand
. “I'm proud of you, Susan,” he said lovingly. “You really did deserve this.”
“Thank you,” I said softly.
“Once you were t
here and rooting for me, it
do everything I wanted.
It’s silly, but I f
ind myself wanting to play
to impress you.”
“Oh, you do that,” he said with
. “You should have heard some of the peopl
e in the crowd. It was
hard for me to hear some of the guys talking about how smokin'
hot you are, but I realized they respected the quality of player
you are, too. All of them would die for your backhand, and I heard several
wondering where you found all of those fabulous outfits.” He laughed. “I think you may finally be starting a trend.”
I was t
ired and didn’t respond. I
smiled and gave his hand a little squeeze. I was in heaven. At this exact moment in my life, everything was right with the world. I
at Mick and couldn’t contain an audible satisfied sigh.
Our relationship was finally past the complic
ated stage. When Mick and I
first met, he was separated from his wife, Jenny
. They were in the final stages of their divorce, which was information he
decided not to share with me. When I f
he was married and h
ad a 14-year-old son, I
and didn't want to see him, but everything eventually worked out better than I could have hoped.
His divorce was
, and Jenny h
been pleasant on the fe
we had seen each other
. Mick and I had even taken his son, Alex, to the Marshall Community Theater to see his mo
perform when she had a stand-in role one night for Mrs. Mayor in
Suessical the Musical
. With all of the drama behind us now, Mick and I were having a good time getting to know each other better.
“Susan?” he asked, his voice soft and low.
“Hmmm?” I closed my eyes and listened to his soothing voice.
“I can't tell you how I felt today watching you. It was hard to
I could call you mine.” He paused as though weighing his words. “There's something I want to ask you.”
The soft sounds of The Temptations singing
Night and Day
were now floating from the radio.
I didn't know if Mick asked
anything or not as intense fatigue won the day, and I slept the entire way home.
The end-of-summer party, two weekends later, was at Larry and Samantha's
lake house set par
tially into the side of a
We had overtaken most of the larg
e living area upstairs with
tables for playing cards and an entertainment center with
plenty of music
. Larry was grilling on two grills on the patio. The two-car garage was set up with massive amounts of food and ample amounts of beer and wine, courtesy of
Barney's Beverage. We were having no problems making a huge dent in both food and booze.
over to my apartment around noon to help me make a couple of Mexican dishes to take to the party. We'd been ne
ighbors for almost two years
, and we spent a lot of time together, but I was the last person on the face of the earth t
o find out four months ago
he was gay. It explained a lot, but I was frustrated at my lack of gaydar. We both liked to cook and try out new recipes, and we were often in my kitchen coming up with delicious successes or stunning failures. Today we made black bean dip, fresh salsa, and cheese enchiladas with green sauce. Everything turned out perfectly.
It was a beautiful fall day. Mid-October in Ohio is gorgeous, and the trees
were stunning with their
vibrant red, orange, and brown colors. The group of about 30 people was a mix of Barney
employees, Carbide Racquet & Fitness employees, and friends of both.
No one had ever complained about the annual party, but there was a new neighbor next door this year, and he and his wife were parked on their patio and had been glaring our way all day. Larry
over as soon as they came out and invited them to join in, but they icily and stonily declined.
I had just come downstairs from a euchre marathon with eight guys from Barney's. I grabbed a plastic cup and looked around for ice and a soft drink bu
t wasn’t surprised to find t
he only beverages left were beer and wine. I poured my wine over ice.
I stood off to the side of the garage, giving myself a view of the patio, the backyard, and the lake. Darby was deep in conversati
on with Mr. Barney
. Darby is a work-from-home freelance writer specializing in web and marketing writing, so I assumed they were talking business. Connie, one of the day-shift workers at the racquetball club, was chatting with Stan and Louise, the club owners. Husky was sitting on the tree swing with his new girlfriend, Sherry. Husky was taking a huge risk exposing her to this bunch from
Never Never Land
. It was pretty obvious when we
were all together
we were never going to grow up. She would either get the
friendship and camaraderie
we all shared, or it would scare her away. But Husky seemed especially happy today, and that made me smile.
Party Rock Anthem
was blaring out
the open windows again
I could hear Samantha yelling behind me, “Stop! Stop! Larry, don’t you dare!”
I turned around to look, and Ron and Larry came running around from behind the garage. They were stark naked, running with their arms up in the air, and screaming as they ran down the yard toward the lake. Samantha came next, fully clothed, with a camera in hand. Everyone in our group broke out into gales of laughter, but the neighbors next door stood up and stared with their eyes bulging and their mouths hanging open.
Lou and Jeff, a couple of the Barney guys who had been sitting on the patio with their wives, started throwing off their clothes and
naked down the lawn, except Lou still had his socks on. Their wives were holding onto each other, jumping up and down, and laughing so hard, tears were streaming down their faces. The lady next door nearly fell over trying to get inside her house, and her husban
d gave me the evil eye.
I was standing closest to their house, and I was the only one he could make direct eye contact with. He stormed into his house and slammed the door. Samantha was snapping pictures of the naked guys as fast as she could.
A pair of hands encircled my waist from behind. I leaned back into a solid chest, tipped my head back, and drawled happily, “Yeesss?”
Mick nuzzled the back of my neck and said, “Want to slip out now? I'm pretty sure the police will be here soon, and we can miss it altogether if we hurry.”
I spun around to face him and squealed, “Oh my gosh! Yes! That's such a good idea. Let me grab my purse.”
We were out the driveway and two blocks down the street when the first police car turned onto Hemlock Drive. Two more cars followed. The naked guys were surely spending the night in jail. I almost felt guilty for not saying good-bye to Samantha, but not really. She had been pretty busy taking souvenir pictures.
I looked at Mick with relief in my ey
es and said, “Thank you
suggesting the getaway. I’m
glad we didn't get caught up
hat mess.” He
laughed. “Well,” I told him, “you're
to put up with all of us like you do. I know we can be a pretty rowdy, immature bunch at times.”
“Don't forget,” he told me, “Husky
worked for Raines Construction for a long time. I knew him
when I was
in college, and we have a few of our own war stories.” He reached over to
my hand, kissed it, and said, “As long as you don't get naked in public, and as long as you stay out of jail, I don't mind at all.”
I only smiled. He didn't need to know that all of us in the women's racquetball league
had gone over
to Connie's house late one night last month and skinny-dipp
in her pool. The guys
at the club
had a cow later when they found out they had missed it, but we weren
’t quite the exhibitionists
the guys were.
We were quiet for a few minutes with our own thoughts. Mick finally spoke, “Listen Susan, I have to go out of town on Thursday, and I'll probably be gone for a week. We're bidding on a big job over in Celina, and I have several meetings
some preliminary work before star
ting the bid process.” Mick
worked for his uncle as a foreman before becoming part owner of the company, and he was still a hands-on worker.
“Are you going to be
right at the lake?” I asked
. “I love it over there. The town
so quaint, and it will be gorgeous this time of year.” Grand Lake Saint Marys is a large lake at the western edge of the state, a
nd I had been water skiing
with friends several years ago.
He smiled, gave me a hopeful look, and said, “You could come with me.”
I sighed and said,
“I can't. I really shouldn’t take off any more work, and we have a big membership push in the center for the next two wee
ks, so I need to be there.” I gazed
at him with a sadness
I truly felt and
said, “I would
love to go and be with you though.”
I could te
ll by the look in his eyes
he wished I could
go, too. I was pretty sure
he was trying to find a way to see if I was ready to move ou
r relationship forward
. There was a lot of passion between us, and the sexual tension was always
. The guy simply made me weak in the knees and sent f
ire through my body, but I
didn't want to ruin this. I wasn't ready to be
more intimate yet, and
I was grateful for his patience so far.
e tried to lighten the
melancholy mood. “Well, let's have dinner Wednesday night before I go. When I get back, there are some things we should talk about, but in the meantime, do you think you can stay out of trouble while I’m gone?” His eyes were twinkling.