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A note from Marlboro Man

3rd chapter. This story follows a time line and should be read in order.

Terri followed her excited older sister who was walking so fast that she appeared to be running into the lady's washroom taking her cellphone with her. As Trish looked in the mirror Terri took a couple of quick image shots catching both her and her reflection in the mirror. Trish’s face was glowing. Terri could tell that Trish was being memorized by what she was seeing. It was definitely going to end up being an eight by ten framed photo by the end of the weekend. Terry decided at that moment to make one up for each of her sisters and their mother. Trish’s image in the mirror captured how stunning she and her new jewelry looked.

“It’s beautiful,” Trish said as she looked at it for the first time. “I have never seen anything quite like it. The tiny gold leaves design the encases the lettering is something I have never seen before. It’s as if it was custom made for me. I don’t think there another one like it.”

“I don’t know what you did sis to deserve a gift like this,” Terri said, “it’s totally unique because in all the jewelry catalogues, I’ve looked at I have never seen another one like it.”

“There’s not,” a young lady who was washing her hands at another sink said.

Trish looked at the young lady and recognized her as the clerk that had served them when Scott and she had picked out the promissory ring.

“How can you be so sure,” Trish asked?

“My boss who owns the franchise of Jayson’s Jewelry designed it for Mr. Tait at material cost working on it after normal store hours,” the young lady explained. “I learned that Mr. Tait had done a major repair on something valuable for my boss for a favor down the road. He told him while showing him the finished product that he still felt it still wasn’t enough value to make up for the value he had received. I was told that Mr. Tait said it is to me because the who I’m giving it to means everything to me.”

Trish smiled when she heard that because she knew that Scotts sweat, and demanding work had a direct link to what she was wearing. Turning to the lady she asked, “Do you know how much it cost?”

“I can’t tell you that, it would cost me my job, even though I have a good idea,” The young lady said. “The owner at Jayson’s has appraised the set for twenty-eight thousand dollars for insurance purposes and arranged to have it insured through corporate against loss. I think it’s incredibly beautiful, elegant, and unique. It truly looks stunning on you. Klaus said Scott had designed the layout, style, and the lettering before he asked him to take on the project. Klaus must have enjoyed doing it for his friend because he went to jewelry row in New York City to hand pick the small diamonds, he used in it. He didn’t want to take the chance that the ones that would be shipped to him wouldn’t be of the same quality. Is it ok if I take your image to show him? I think he would enjoy seeing it being worn by whom it was intended for.”

Trish said yes so, the lady did.

That was when their cousin in name only walked out of one of the washroom stalls and said, “Why did Trish pick a lousy loser like Scott to become involved with, he’s been afraid of women for years. At least that’s what I believe. Others thought that most of us were not good enough for him or that he was gay and is too ashamed to admit it.”

“Fran Brown, you take that back now,” Trish said in defense of her man. “Scott is twice the man you’ve ever had and like the slut you are they try you out once and run.”

Those words hit Fran like a ton of bricks. Trish did not know how close she had hit to the truth. Fran had been searching for an honest relationship with a male for years and so far, had not found one. She didn’t yet comprehend that when you earnestly stopped looking for it, one would find you.

She refused. Terri stepped in and slugged her a big one while saying, “We are all hoping he’s going to be part of the family. Speak ill of my future brother in law again and I will kick the shit out of you. Got it, bitch. You can talk gutter trash about anyone but our Scott. To the Malley family, he’s untouchable.”

“Terry lets finish this once and for all by taking it outside,” Fran said, “It’s time you learned you’re not as good as you think. Scott’s shit stinks just like everybody else’s, so shut your mouth until you get off the high horse you’re riding.”

“Agreed, Trish go back to the table and cover for me while I settle this for good,” Terry said in anger as she took off her wedding rings handing them to her. “Tell Scott I expect a slow dance with him when I get back from cleaning up the trash.”

Trish smiled. The feud between these two had been going on since the early days of high school. Both Terry and she had kept their distance from Fran because of that very reason. Fran was going down big time, but she didn’t know it. By accident she had chosen the wrong night to shoot her mouth off. It wouldn’t be a fair fight. Terry had her faith in Scott to back her and that would carry her to an easy win. Fran would learn the hard way just how painful it could be to go against a woman and her living god.

Fran all her life believed she knew everything. It was an attitude that had resulted in bringing herself a lot of unnecessary problems. One had been job security and a career. Her mother, her aunt Shelia explained it all by saying she was still trying to find herself. Trish saw Fran for what she was a self-centered demanding bitch who only realy cared about one thing and that was herself.

I was out on the dance floor with Dawn when Trish returned to our table. The glow on her face seemed to fill the legion hall.

Dawn said, “we have had two rounds bought for the whole table. It seemed some wanted to show their appreciation and thank you for your performance. Let me know when you’re ready for them. Lacy had asked me if I could find out if their band could have the last song you had sung.”

I said, “Inform them I said it's theirs with no strings attached.”

I would learn later that they had decided to record my whole session with them while they played and that they figured the song I had just made up could be a huge hit because it in total looked at the female male relationship with a bit of sarcasm.

Dawn decided she wanted a second dance, so we stayed for another song. John and Trish joined us on the floor. I walked her back to her table after we were done. Stew and I shared a few words when I escorted his wife back to their table. He had to admit that he had to see it to believe it. He now had no doubt that Trish and I were in love, and that we were in a committed relationship.

As soon as I got back to our table Robert had Trish headed to the dance floor. Helen said come on Scott it is our turn. We were dancing a slow one.

She whispered to me, “You two have made this one of the top five events in my life without even trying. Everyone we know has been telling me how much my daughter Trish has changed, and they are right. I have to give you all the credit.”

I replied, “We both have changed, your daughter has convinced me to love as I did her. Although I have to admit we both ended up doing it the hard way.”

“Just remember it is believed that those who have experienced the worst when they find that one true love that there will never be any reason to doubt. No matter what test is thrown in front of them by life,” Helen said. “I’ve been floating on air since you came into Trish’s life. Each time I turn around you and Trish do something to keep sending me higher. Calling her a beautiful bewitching bitchy bitch fit her to a T until you, by being you changed her. That’s shown us all the real power of love.”

As we walked back to our table I added, “Sometimes no matter what we try to do to get over something that has left us in a lot of personal pain we find that nothing works. We learn to live with it, but it’s always there. I think Trish and I accidently meeting each other the way we did was the trigger that allowed us both over the months as our relationship grew to let go of what we were both carrying.”

Helen turned and looked at me and said quietly, “There’s a lot of wisdom in those few words. I think you might have been a surprisingly good writer because your able to express your thoughts with a common sense that seems to be lacking in our society.”

When we had returned to the table Terry had rejoined us. Before I could sit down, she said it’s my turn Scott. Brad took Trish out to the floor.

We were dancing when I whispered into her ear “Nice job in the cleanup but you missed a few spots of blood in the grooves where you finger and hands meld. I hope it’s not because of something serious.”

Terry blushed and said, “Figures a cop would notice it. The bitch I had it out with has had it coming for a long time. It’s sad because she is a close cousin. Please don’t tell Robert. He wouldn’t understand and would be upset about it for weeks. Unfortunately, this was one of those few times I could not turn my cheek and walk away. What she delibrately said just pushed me over the edge.”

“How bad was the damage?” I asked.

“She’s on the way to the hospital with two black eyes and a possible broken nose,” Terri said with a huge grin. “That bitch from now on I hope will watch her mouth. Either way I don’t think she will ever speak a terrible thing about my future brother in law again.”

I laughed and said, “If you need an alibi, you got one.”

When we left the dance floor Terri was face was beaming so much that Robert said, “if I had not have seen it, I would not believe it. From hating to having a great relationship in just one day for most is an impossibility.”

I knew that Terry’s and my relationship to this point had him wondering what Trish had said that would cause things to work out this way.

Finally, Trish and I got back on the floor for a couple of slow dances before Lacy and her boys finished for the evening. At the very end Trish and I were again called out on the floor. This time using a wireless mouth mike I had to sing Lady in red as Trish and I danced. This time the whole dance floor was filled with couples.

The band closed the evening by announcing that it was Helen Malley's birthday and sang happy birthday to her to end the evening. As we prepared to go home, we all agreed that because of the busy last two days we all had that we had covered the usual family Sunday dinner.

Trish on the way home said it had been a long time since she had enjoyed dancing so much. I agreed saying that I felt the same way before adding that this weekend had indeed been a busy one. I was looking forward to spending the day on Sunday doing nothing but unwinding.

Trish finally got to sleep in her new bed for two nights in a row and spent a few hours on Sunday organizing things to set up things the way she liked them.

I drove her to work Monday morning as she explained what changes she was going to bring into our home to give it that feminine touch. I had to laugh because she was telling me without saying it aloud that she expected us to get married.

********

Jennifer had sensed something was up with Trish as soon as she got to work on Monday morning. Her attitude made it clear that Trish was worried about something but was not saying anything. For some reason, Trish was being noticeably quiet. It had been almost three weeks since she had seen her. Although Jenifer tried all morning during quiet moments, she could not get her girlfriend to open up. Jen was beginning to believe that her worst fear was true. Trish and Scott had broken up.

The more she witness her friends conduct that morning the more she believed that Trish was returning to the way she became after she had gotten stood up at the altar. A cold distance firmness seemed to consumer and as a result her appealing personal qualities disappeared. If that was true, she was going to find out directly from Scott just what happened.

Even some of the new mothers who had had come into the maternity ward while Trish was off were asking if she was normally cold and distant. Jennifer explained that she believed she had something troubling on her mind and until she worked out, she would be direct and blunt as if she lacked tact.

It was just after the lunch hour rush was over when most of the events of the day and doctor’s visits were done that all hell broke loose. A nice looking lady had come in asking for Trish. Just looking at her gave one the impression that she was a determined woman who was here for a pacific purpose. Whatever her problem was it involved her best friend.

It appeared that the lady had something profoundly serious on her mind. Jen estimated the age of the lady to be in her mid-twenties because of how well she dressed and carried herself. It was clear that she came from the upper class in society and was used to being catered to. When Trish saw her, she approached her carefully. It told Jen that these two women had history, and something outside of the hospital was behind what was up.

The two of them had been in a deep discussion for quite a while. Some of the new mothers were standing at their room entrances while holding their babies trying to figure out for themselves what was going on between the two ladies.

Jennifer could tell the conversation was becoming very heated between her girlfriend and the mysterious lady. Yet neither one appeared to be backing down. Both were being very careful talking seriously with a quietness in their voice so neither could be heard by others. Since no one appeared to be winning Jen thought she should contact security in case things got worse. The last thing the ward needed to see was a catfight break out in the open and it appeared by the two’s body language that things were headed that way.

Just as she finished making the call, she heard the lady say something to Trish that seemed to rile her girlfriend up. Forgetting where she was she spoke in her normal voice.

“Look, Linda,” Trish said loud enough for everyone to hear, “As I explained to you earlier Scott helped me restore some antique furniture as a gift for my parents. We had to move some of my parent's furniture to make room for what we had completed. That’s why we were at my sister's on Saturday. What I do with Scott is really none of your business. You and I both know that no one owns Scott. He is his own man who will do what he wants. So, based on who and what he is why would you think we are in love with each other?”

“I have loved him for years so back off of my Scott. As I told you before he is mine. I saw with my eyes how close you were sitting to him and how you looked at him. You’re not going to convince me that you’re not in love with him,” Linda said. “You and I are going to have a major problem if I see the two of you together again. Back off of my man. I won’t warn you again.”

Jennifer had to smile after hearing that because it answered the question of the possibility that Scott and Trish had broken up. These two females were arguing over the same man. The last time she had seen such intensity was when they were in high school. It ended up with both of them losing the man. Jennifer would have to ask her girlfriend what Scott’s relationship was with the lady.

If you compared the two from a man’s point of view, they were both quite attractive. Both seem to have the same dominate features and personalities. That told Jennifer what Scott saw in both of them. What she couldn’t figure out was if he knew Linda first, how in the hell did he end up with Trish as his girlfriend.

Trish was getting tired of this conversation because it was going nowhere. Linda could not be persuaded to drop it. Trish was ready to end it any way she could even if it ended up costing her job. She was not going to give Linda a chance to think she was wining the argument by backing down.

Stephen had noticed them as he walked down the hall. Trish was looking very frustrated so he thought he would step in.

“Excuse me,” said Stephen. “Does this lady have a reason to be here Trish?”

“No, not really, she’s just worried about a situation that doesn’t exist,” Trish responded, “except in her juvenile mind.”

Stephen took Linda’s arm and started to move her off the floor. The next thing he knew he was flat on the floor. Linda had her one-inch heel resting on the crotch area of his body. If she applied pressure, there would be major damage. Never in his life had he been taken down so fast.

“Touch me again Mister and you will lose your balls,” Linda said with a lot of authority. “Believe me asshole I will do that. All you have to do is go for it by trying to do something stupid. The only man who is allowed to touch me is why I am here. Your coworker is trying to steal him from me and I’m here to stop it. ”

“Lady you're crazy I’m going to charge you for this,” Stephen said in anger. “Nobody makes me look like a fool.”

“Go for it! You’ll lose. I will just say you touched me inappropriately,” Linda said. “I’m sure that at my age the court will agree with me.”

Trish could see the confusion Stephen was dealing with, so she thought she better clarify things so that he did not go and do what Linda wanted him to.

“Think about it Stephen for a minute. I was right next to both of you and saw nothing,” Trish said. “Linda moved that fast. Linda just turned sixteen a few months ago. She is legally still a minor who is well on her way to getting her black belt in the martial arts. The last thing you need is to be accused of assaulting a minor. Whether true or not it would cost you your job. I will get Linda to let you up so you can escort her out. Do not attempt to touch her again.”

“Let him up. Now. Linda this conversation is over, go home,” Trish said with a stern forceful voice. “Come in here to hazzle me again without a valid medical reason and security will be called to escort you out.”

Linda let Stephen up. Trish watched them closely until they entered the elevator wanting to be sure that Linda was leaving. Jennifer could see the change come over Trish as soon as the elevator door closed.

“Whew! I’m glad that’s over. I’ve been waiting for that to happen all day,” Trish said with a huge smile. “It went better than I thought. Neither one of us is going to jail.”

“Okay girlfriend,” Jennifer said. “Out with it all. If that was a sixteen-year-old girl, then I’m a monkey’s uncle.”

“Linda is a girl who has had a serious adolescence crush on Scott. She saw us together last Saturday. A few years back Scott bailed the family out of a tough situation. The cost was that Linda matured in a lot of ways to fast because of the time he had to spend supervising her. He taught her things over that summer that took most of us years to learn like what our appearance says about ourselves. As a result, every male she meets is compared to my Scott.” Trish then reached into her pocket and slid a ring onto her finger. “Linda believes she is in love with him and no one can convince her that she isn’t. Scott and I expected this to happen because she would never confront him, but we did not know when.”

“A promissory ring,” Jennifer gasped. “Scott and you?”

“I got it Friday afternoon,” Trish explained. “I had to hide it until I had confronted Linda. I’m going to have to call her mother and let her know about what just transpired.”

“Details,” Jen said.

“We had just finished moving the furniture into Mom and dad’s house. Scott and Brad were taking down to the tent they had erected so we could work on them. When the support structure came tumbling down, I ran out in a panic. Scott was buried underneath a bunch of pipes completely knocked out,” Trish explained. “I lost it big time because I was afraid that he was dead. I said something that Tina had to question. That’s when we finally admitted to each other that we were in love. I got the ring that same afternoon.”

“How did your mom take it,” Jen asked. “When she found out.”

“She’s ecstatic. It’s going to take her weeks to come back down from the clouds to the planet earth,” Trish said. “Mom and Dad learned Friday night when we took them out for dinner. Since the day I brought Scott into our lives she has been flying. She believes that Scott brought me back from where I mentally was. Dad is having a lot of difficulties in dealing with her emotional swings.”

“Your mother is seeing the old you,” said Jen. “Just like I am. Perhaps its best I explain that it’s like time has reversed the changes in you that came as a result of that horrible day.”

Trish thought about it and had to admit to a point that they were right.

I arrived about ten to seven to pick Trish up. Her sister Tina was there bringing Trish two large Macy bags of her clothing. She and Jennifer were in a discussion about what happened between Trish and Linda. I listened with keen interest as Jennifer explained every detail.

Trish had gone into the back room behind the nurses station and pushed her hair back behind her ears so that everyone could see her diamond earrings. She had also pulled out her necklace from beneath her uniform. She walked out and stood beside me.

“Okay Ladies, can I have your attention for a minute,” Trish asked.

The three other nurses looked at her and me.

“This is Scott, my intended. He gave me my promissory ring on Friday,” Trish said. “Then on Saturday, I got this gift, my new earrings, and necklace which I am wearing. To make it simple I’m off the market and I’ve already started to move in with him.”

After congratulations and oohs and awes by all, Jen said. “Scott, when do I get the chance to sit down with Trish and you to get both sides of your story.”

I replied, “Since your schedule is the same as Trish why don’t you come to our place for lunch on Thursday. Bring your bathing suit and I will open up the pool.”

“We have a pool,” said Trish. “Where?”

“It’s hidden beneath the large patio deck you thought was extreme,” I said. “The deck opens up to reveal it.”

“I’ll need direction to get to your place,” Jen said with a smile.

I watched Trish text her saying we live in the Christmas cottage.

Jen looked at the text message and said, “Is this for real, I love that place. My daughters and I go look at it during the season at least three times.”

I nodded my head to confirm that it was.

Trish handed her sister the phone and let her read the text. Tina said, “Brad lives down the same county road with his parents. That explains why he has a key to your house and knows the alarm code.”

“Here Scott,” Tina said, “I should hand these to you. Trish, should I start advertising for a roommate starting in September for the school year?”

“Yes, I think you should,” Trish replied. “I’ve always wanted to be a December Bride.”

Tina looked at me and mouthed when. I mouthed back September.

********

Jennifer found our place after calling Trish for directions on where our driveway was. When she came through the break in the Canadian Hemlock trees, she discovered how huge the place was. Trish greeted her at our front door. I was preparing to open up the pool, so I was moving the patio furniture around to safe areas. Using a leaf blower, I made sure the whole area was swept clean.

The first thing Jennifer said, “The place is so confusing when you drive by it looks like a little cottage yet when you actually pull into its hidden driveway you find the place is huge.”

“It took me a while to accept the fact that the side of the house is built into the side of a small hill, so what your seeing is the second floor that has an outside entrance,” Trish explained.

I showed Trish the controls for the deck.

“Trish this picture on the wall covers the buttons for the pool,” I said as I swung the door open. “The top button is to open it up the bottom is to close it down.”

‘Who’s that picture of, I see a family resemblance,” Trish asked?

“My Uncle James and his wife,” I replied. “That was taken over thirteen years ago.”

Both Jennifer and Trish were surprised to see how the deck lowered itself down and retracted back beneath the rest of the floor. With that done I went and set up the equipment for the pool while the ladies got changed. The pool went from three feet to eight feet deep with steps down on the shallow side and had a hot tub pool at the back.

I made them a couple of glasses of orange juice and champagne before changing into my trunks. I left them on the kitchen counter while they toured the house. Jen seemed really impressed with what Trish was showing her. I started doing the prep work for lunch while Trish and Jen talked. Trish went through everything from the day we met not leaving out the littlest detail.

I asked Trish to answer my cell while I was in the pool and let me know if I couldn’t return their call later. I was in the deep end when I heard my cell phone go off. Thanks to the ring of the cellphone, I knew who was calling before Trish answered the phone.

I heard her say, “This is Trish I am answering Scott's phone for him.”

After a few seconds, Trish loudly said, “A Mrs. Patricia Roseburg says they want it.”

“Tell her that I want it in my own name, and I will call her back after I have made lunch,” I replied back.

The next thing I heard was Trish explaining to the lady who had called me who she was. Pat, I knew would be grilling Trish to the tenth degree. Since I knew that Patricia would be excited beyond believe I knew she would be trying to figure out why now? What had changed in my life to allow this? For years she had been trying to get me to come out. Now I was giving her permission to actually do it.

As I was climbing out of the pool to start cooking lunch Trish finally got off the phone.

“Who is Pat and what was that all about?” Trish asked me. “When I told her what you wanted to do, she grilled me with everything she could think of.”

“She’s a marketing editor for a publishing company that I am under contract to as a ghostwriter for various projects,” I answered.

Trish in surprise said, “How long have you been doing this?”

“For a few years,” I replied. “I do most of the writing when winter starts coming in and manage to get one book done when it starts to thaw. This year because I was inspired, I wrote a second book and had submitted it a few weeks ago for their consideration.”

“Would my mother know her,” Trish asked? “She’s been in the printed material distribution business for years.”

“That’s a good question. You will have to ask her,” I said.

Over the meal, I learned that Jennifer had been married for over eight years. Trish had been the maid of honor at their wedding. She had two daughters aged eight and six. Her husband’s name was Ron. It came out that Trish and she had been friends since grade eight. Jen found it a hoot on how Trish and I had met.

“When she told me the major highlights, I thought she was exaggerating but those videos proved me wrong,” Jen said. “These last few months it’s been a joy to witness a lot of my girlfriend’s personality shine like it used to. Scott It’s hard to comprehend that your minor was drama in school, but I must admit it serves you well in your chosen field.”

After lunch, I returned Pat’s call to her. There was one big problem in her eyes. I was no longer under contract. My obligation to them had been filled. Thus because of my success under my pen name a discussion began on terms and conditions. I would never accept their first offer. It took two weeks of heavy negotiations before a deal we both could live with was finalized.

“Trish, can you get another permanent time off day in two or three weeks?” I asked.

“Yes, I have lots of hours,” She said, “but why do you want me to do that?”

“Thanks to Pat, I have to go to New York City,” I explained. “I would like you to go with me.”

********

Early Sunday morning I got up before sunrise because I could not sleep. I texted Trish a quick message saying I was going out to my workshop. The coffee is set up to be made you just have to turn it on. I added, ‘when you come out of your bedroom door this morning clap your hands.’

Afterward, I brought in and set up the surprise I had for her outside of her door. I had made a special stand for it and had the item I had purchased and restored under lighted glass. I did it because I knew that kids would want to touch and play with some of the restored items and since they were so delicate, I wanted to make sure they were protected. Once I plugged it in it was ready to go. When she clapped her hands, everything was set up for it to begin working. I thought I was doing something cute. I was proved quite wrong.

I had been hard at work on another ongoing project that took time as each ivory horse piece had to be taken out, soaked, and cleaned. By doing that I was able to bring the colors the equipment the wore almost back to the point of when they were new. The wooden poles they rested on were in various stages of disrepair. The Swiss-made mechanical parts for the three pieces had all been bought at once. The wooden parts were spread out all over the table identified and labeled to where they belonged. As I had torn it apart, I had written the road map on the brown paper covering the table to put it back together correctly.

Some of the wooden parts I had to remake from scratch. Making a small wooden piece sometimes took longer than making something big. This was the second one I was working on for Trish. To most, who saw me doing something like this they would say it was a waste of time and effort. To me, it was a way of restoring or bringing back its history for all to appreciate.

I must have dozed because the next thing I knew in my eyes I saw Brad and a police officer in uniform. The police officer detained me by cuffing my hands behind my back. I knew this was normal if they were called into a domestic situation. I was wondering who would make a call about this place and why? Then I thought that this could be an inside joke.

“Brad, what’s going on,” I asked.

“Trish called Terri crying. Terry could not get a word in because Trish kept calling your name over and over,” Brad replied. “Terry got the impression something serious had happened to you and that Trish was at fault. Terri had her husband call Tina who called me. It looks like someone panicked and called the police. I got here just in time to let them in. The police found Trish at the top of the stairs to the right sitting on the landing crying her eyes out. The female officer started dealing with Trish and we came looking for you.”

So, the three of us walked back towards the house.

“Any idea whats this is about Scott,” Brad asked.

“Haven’t a clue, Trish was still asleep when I came out to the shop,” I replied. “But I will have a better idea when I view the situation.”

So, by the time we walked into the house, there was a huge crowd. All of the Malley family kids and all, the two police officers, Trish, Brad, and I. The female officer was trying to get Trish to calm down but when she saw me, she started crying hysterically again. I knew what had happened. Trish was reacting just like her mom would when she was emotionally overwhelmed by something. Everybody was looking at me because I had a huge grin on my face.

“Helen and Tina please can one of you go upstairs and turn to the right. The police officers need to see what's on Trish’s phone,” I said. “If there is not enough light just clap your hands and the light will come on.”

All of us watched the two of them go upstairs. We saw them clap their hands when they hit the landing. The light on Trish’s surprise came on. The Hungarian carousel started spinning. The ivory horses began moving up and down as if someone were riding them. It’s hidden music box started playing. Helen and Tina started crying. I could see Trish starting to cry even harder as she tried to break herself free.

The female police officer watching what was happening before her eyes had the ‘wtf’ look on her face.

“You bought one of them for Trish?” Helen said directly to me with tears in her eyes, “and restored it before letting anyone know.”

I smiled, nodded my head as Trish broke free from the female police officer who had lost focus and ran to me.

“It's truly a beautiful piece. It’s nothing like it was when I first saw it,” Tina said. “No wonder Trish is behaving this way. When she saw it, she had to know that she had captured your heart that first day.”

The police captain Ray Earl Jackson and his wife Ruby walked in because no one had closed the front door dressed as if they were going to church. They had heard the call over the radio while getting dressed to go out.

The captain says to the female police officer, “Have you see the video clip where a woman tried to arrest the undercover cop?”

“Yes, Sir I have!” the female police officer said. “Everyone who has seen it thought it was a hoot because both of them for some reason appeared to have the other persons number.”

“The lady you were holding on to is her,” he said. “The man you have cuffed is that undercover cop. The carousel that is playing upstairs I helped Scott buy from the insurance company’s asset recovery section was one of the ones she accused him of stealing.”

The male police officer uncuffed me and said, “Sorry sir we did not know.”

I wrapped my arms around Trish tight. Trish looked at me through her tear-stained buttercup eyes. I knew she was emotionally overwhelmed because it showed her how much I loved her.

I said to him, “That’s okay better safe than sorry. You were following the book as you should. When you fill out the report on this call could you put a copy in my mail slot?”

The officer agreed to.

“Trish was trying to call you,” Terry said. “And hit my name by mistake. I am so sorry I overreacted. I thought that my sister had done something to you. So, I am going to go up and look at it.”

Ruby said, “Earl, Trish got her promissory ring a week ago last Friday.”

Earl smiled took out his key ring and took the key for the set of cuffs off. He walked over with the cuffs and key in hand and handed it to Trish.

“Next time young lady when you want to put Scott in cuff’s, you can do it yourself. Instead of finding a way to involve us. Congratulations you two,” The captain said with a smile a mile wide. “Beth has taken a lot of us to the cleaners because of this. Mr. Claus is going to have a considerable size donation from the police department this month.”

Ruth and the captain said their goodbyes and left with the two police officers close behind them. I told the rest to go and grab their bathing suits and I would open up the pool. Afterward, Trish and I went up the stairs and looked at the carousel by ourselves.

“You did wonders with it, it is truly beautiful,” Trish said. “When did you find the time?”

“It was much like working on the furniture,” I said. “The time needed for things to dry and or get stained numerous times slows down the process.”

“When did to decide to buy it?” Trish asked.

“After that first weekend we spent together,” I said. “But it took two independent appraisers evaluating the items before the asset recovery division got serious because the man hours needed to restore them would bring their cost beyond what they were insured for.”

“Dam you Scott,” Trish said before kissing me. ‘You’re spoiling me too much.”

We soon had ten around the pool and somehow it slipped out that I was taking her to New York for a few days. I had fun playing in the pool with my future nephews.

Little did anyone know that a lot of Sunday family get togethers over the years would be around the pool during the dog days of summer.

********

We were flying into a small airport in a private jet that had picked us. The airport was still thirty minutes by air from the hotel we would be staying in. Trish was surprised we were not landing in a well-known airport.

I explained that was because we had not used a commercial airline which cut down a lot of wasted time. She was concerned to find out that the rest of our trip would be done by helicopter as the hotel we were booked into had a helicopter landing spot. It was now going on four o’clock New York time.

Trish was memorized by the view as we flew over the city. She had seen it on film, but this was surreal. I learned it was also the first time she had been in a helicopter so it explained why she would not let go of my hand. For a small-town girl, this was a real thrill. As we started our descent down to the landing spot for our location, she got really nervous. I told I had felt that way the first time I had flown in a helicopter which seemed to help calm her. We had a dinner date with the publishers rep and her husband set for about seven.

Pat had arranged adjoining suites for us which pleased Trish because it would allow us the freedom to move back and forth without having to use the hallways. Everything was being paid by the publishing company. They did things like that for their clients especially when they needed a signature.

As soon as we landed the bell hops were there to take our luggage to our suites. Each of us was presented with a key card. I went to give him a tip and he refused it saying that it had been taken care of. I smiled because the publishers were doing everything to ensure that I did not back out at the last moment. I learned from Patricia later that night that there had been rumors that I had been approached by competitors.

Trish unlocked her side of the door to my side. I did the same. We were both surprised by how big the hotel suites were. It was her first time in the city. It was nice to see her so excited for it allowed me a glimpse of what this city had once been to me. We both had time to unpack and get ready.

At a quarter to seven, we headed down on the elevator all dressed and ready to meet our hosts for dinner. I was wearing a three-piece Italian black suit with a soft blue shirt but no tie. Trish was in a white dress. She had barrettes in her hair to keep it off her face. Her red curly hair shoulder length was stunning like always. She was wearing the diamond set I had given her. I thought with how beautiful she looked that she could walk into a room and have it stop.

Pat was dying of a bad case of curiosity ever since she had first talked to Trish. She had to see for herself what kind of woman had finally captured my heart. Most of the staff who worked under her would have jumped at the chance to date me. If I had of asked them. Now she was meeting my intended for the first time.

When I had called her back, she had all sorts of questions. Like how, when, and where? Only she had known that I had made it clear that I would only allow my name to be used when and if I found my one.

With each book that came out, the demands got greater for my identity to be revealed. My latest called ‘Winters Desire’ had been on the best sellers list for five weeks. Pat believed that “Tearstained Buttercup Eyes” that was being rushed to print when released would be the best yet. We had spent hours trying to produce a book cover design. It was my idea of eyes in the darkness looking down over a small rural town from the eighteenth century that we went with.

I wrote about what I knew. The hardships of life and applied my stories to a simpler time of life before the machine age. The loneliness of living a life in a certain way, because of a different view was a background theme in most of what I wrote.

What Trish did not know was that I wanted to use her eyes. I had deliberately brought Trish with me to prove to Pat that her eyes were perfect for it.

As soon as we stepped off the elevator, I could see them getting off one of the couches in the sitting area. Pat and her husband Kurt Roseburg were an older couple who had always lived in the city. Their children were all around my age. I could see that Pat had dressed to make an impression. Kurt came across as not giving a dam. I had always thought he was a man after my own heart.

Pat’s face glowed when she saw us approaching. But it was on Trish that her eyes were focused. I had told her that she looked like Maureen O’Hare, but she had to see it to believe it.

After introductions, we were escorted to our seats in the hotel's upper-class restaurant. We ordered our before dinner drinks while deciding what we wanted to eat. Trish had never tried escargots. I told her that they would be done with cheese but would still be slimy. That cut that idea down flat she was from meat and potato country.

Pat and Kurt decided to have the braised lamb, with garlic red potato and asparagus. I ordered prime rib with onions, baked potato, and a side salad. Trish ordered spaghetti, tomato sauce, meatballs, and garlic toast.

During the meal, Pat got to know a bit about Trish. Trish had to tell her the highlight of our story. Trish showed Kurt and her, the disguises I had worn. Including the one of me in drag. Pat did not know that I worked in wood or that I worked for the state as an investigator. When she started telling the part of her finding the carousal she teared up. Pat's eyes lit up. I realized that she now saw what I had seen.

“Trish we would like to photograph your eyes for a book cover we are designing would you be interested?” Pat asked.

“Depends on what it requires, and how long it would take,” Trish replied.

“We could do it in one day. Our makeup artist would blacken your face,” Pat explained. “We would be using multiple cameras to get the right shot. We could get it done with one shooting which we could do on Friday.”

“What do you think Scott, do you think I should do it?” Trish asked.

I replied, “I see no reason why you shouldn’t as I will there at the office to taking care of some paperwork.”

Before the dinner was over Trish decided she would do it. I think it was when Pat said it was my book cover that she wanted to use her eyes for that got her to agree to it.

The rest of the evening went well. Trish and Pat seemed to jell well together. Kurt, a lawyer, and I got into a great discussion about the latest stunts being pulled by the federal government. We both agreed that most of the politicians needed to be led off a cliff before things would get better.

On Thursday we spent the day going to see the Statue of Liberty and toured the well-kept Ellis Island Park. That night we went to an early show, and both enjoyed it. We had an early night because Friday was going to be a hectic day.

Trish and I arrived at the publisher's corporate office at six am. After signing the contract for the shoot Trish went to have her face prepared. Pat and I talked about a little request I had. When I explained what it was and how little it would cost, she gladly agreed to it. Pat and I went line by line through my contract with the corporate lawyers. We had just about finished signing the agreement when the art department called. Trish was unable to cry.

I was amazed to see that they had fifty digital cameras set up in various places all linked into one computer. Trish was sitting alone in a chair that was placed in front of a black screen. Every piece of clothing she was now wearing was midnight black. Even her red hair had been tied back and covered. We were all hidden behind one-way glass. They had her face completely black.

“Is there any way I can get her to hear my voice?” I asked.

“Yes, all you have to do is press down on the base of the mike and speak,” One of the staff said.

“Then gentlemen get ready to shoot,” I said as I pressed down on the mike. “Trish remember when I left the message to clap your hands when you came out of the bedroom.”

Looking at her I could see the tears starting, so I added. “What you did not know is that I bought all three. The second one is almost done.”

It was quite the sight as the camera’s caught her eyes and tears from all different angles. One of the crew said its quite amazing she really does have tearstained buttercup eyes. When they said they had captured more than they needed I walked into where she was and took her into my arms, holding her until she calmed down.

During the next hour, Trish and I were both in the makeup room being worked on. They wanted numerous shots of us together dressed in different pieces of period clothing. They thought that having the back cover tying into the theme of the book while introducing me would be another advantage.

We must have put on ten outfits each before they called it done. Pat was really pleased with the results. Using the in house computers we spent about an hour reviewing everything that was shot before settling on which ones to use.

To celebrate Pat and her husband took us out for supper. It was nine at night by the time we got back to our room. After getting changed into my pajama’s I poured us both a glass of wine to unwind. Trish came in her full-length housecoat and together we watched our new favorite movie “McLintock.” It did not take long until we fell asleep.

Saturday, we went to Tiffany’s just to satisfy one of Trish’s childhood dreams. During the day Pat called to confirm that what I wanted had been done. Then added the catch that the back side of the book cover was going to have three different images depending on which part of the country the book was bought in.

That evening we took in another show.

********

Pat and Kurt had breakfast with us Sunday morning and gave Trish the two thousand dollar cheque and told her that with every book sold she would earn ten cents in royalties.

For me, they had six framed copies of the images being used for the book cover without printing on them. Behind the side that held Trish's eyes and the eighteenth-century village was a letter of authenticity proving what they were.

Basically, the letter of authenticity said that it was one of six limited proofs of the book cover’s design without the printing. Pat told me that all who had a part in the final decision has signed the back of the photos. I knew although it cost very little the proof in a few years would be worth some money if the book was as successful as we thought it would be.

After saying our goodbye’s, once again we climbed into the helicopter to begin our journey home. Trish made me promise that we would come back. Trish seemed to be a lot more relaxed as we descent in the private airport to transfer to the plane that would take us back home. We cleared Cape airport at about two o’clock I had Trish wait at the curb while I went to bring the car around.

Unexpectedly we stopped in at Trish’s parents. Helen had brought home her mother for the day from the nursing home she lived in. At the age of eighty-six, she was still a spry lady. Although her body was slowly failing her mind was as sharp as a whip. For a woman of her age, I was surprised at how good she actually looked. While most went gray her hair had a distinctive silver tinge to it which served to make her look impressive.

When she saw me the first thing, she said in French was, “If I was my granddaughter's age, I wouldn’t kick him out of my bed.”

I responded in French, “Does anyone else besides me know what you said?”

That caused her to break out in laughter. “Trish, are you going to introduce me to your young gentleman.”

Trish did and her grandmother and I got into a long friendly discussion in French about how Trish and I had met. Every question she asked I answered to her complete delight.

We were still in a an earnest chat when Trish brought the drawer out to show her grandmother.

“Where did you find this?’ her grandmother asked. “That’s my signature I remember as if it was yesterday.”

“Nana, Scott and I found it at a swap meet and we restored it,” Trish explained. “It’s now part of Mom’s new dining room.”

“Can I see it?” She asked.

John and I had to lift the wheelchair and her up over the stairs into the house. I wheeled her in as Trish led the way.

We all got kind of choked up when Trish’s Nana started to cry. “When we were in ‘the great depression also known as the dirty thirties,’ money was tight when my grandparents were forced to sell it to keep food on the table. What you have here looks as I remember it from back then.”

Trish looked over at me with a sense of pride. I think her grandmothers words had struck a deep chord in her heart because she said, “Nana Scott and I fell in love while restoring it. I did not realize that working beside him would tare down all the defenses I had built for my own protection.”

Nana wheeled herself over to it and touched in a loving gentle way. I could tell she was reliving a tender memory. Then she turned and looked directly at me.

Nana stared at me for a few then said, “Your initials used to be ABG until you took your new name to put the shame you carried because of others behind you. I see Trish and you having six before I end my days.”

Trish saw my face go white because there was no way anyone knew. The words Trish’s grandmother had said had been the truth. Everyone else had also seen my reaction. I knew that they had suddenly discovered they had a lot of questions that would need to be answered.

Trish came to me taking my hand and asked. “Is it okay that I tell Mom and Dad about what Nana was referring to?”

I nodded my head in an affirmative manner.

Trish told the three of them the history of my life as I listened. I was surprised because she had remembered most of everything. Trish started explaining everything as I explained it to her. If she was unsure about something she asked me, and I explained it as calmly as I could. All got the sense that in ways it still affected me to various degrees.

Nana put it all in perspective when she said, “Trish should always consider herself blessed to be able to go through life with this man. His values are forged in steel, his strength unbending, and his love for humanity is unending. He is a young version of what men in our society used to be. They were called the “greatest generation” now you may understand why.”

“Mom, Dad, and Nana there's one more thing you need to know about Scott,” Trish said. “When we celebrated mom's birthday lunch at Terry’s, I was forced to tell her something that I am going to reveal to the three of you today. But what I am going to disclose goes no farther. Scott is also Mr. Claus.”

I’m not surprised,” said Nana. “It had to be someone with great compassion for the hurting to do something like that. I always knew that the person behind the mirage was doing it because of what they had gone through.”

John and Helen were stunned. They had often wondered why Trish had described Scott as a Renaissance Man and now they understood why. Scott was a throwback to the type of man that had gone through the World War one and two. One who did what he had to do and did not talk about it. All of them had developed a mental toughness that left their stories untold.

From the day they came home to the day they died they were, for the most part, the silent ones. Yet the achievements they gave to this country made it the envy of the world. They in their departing were taking something that would be lost forever their love, respect, and faith in America.

John felt immensely proud to have the possibility of having that kind of man as a son in law.

Helen looked at Trish through tears and asked, “How long have you know that fact?”

“The day Scott and I brought the hutch and china cabinet home I was suspicious,” Trish explained. “When we went to the police station the officer wrote in the report verified by Mrc. It made me wonder why? When I asked the officer making out the report if Mrc was Mister Claus all he said was I cannot answer that question. It was revealed to be true when I was on the way to the hospital because Scott had been shot.”

Before anything else could be said we heard a car drive-in. We knew more of the family had arrived. Since we were going to have a barbeque, we had to get Nana back outside.

By five we were all talking a break before starting to prepare supper for the tribe. I walked back to the ford explorer and brought the pictures out. Trish and I passed them out. I left ours in the car.

“We went to New York because Scott is about to have a book published under his name. Until now he has been what they call a ghostwriter,” Trish said. “What you each got is a copy of what the cover will look at from the back and front without any of the print.”

Helen was the first to open it. She gasped and said, “Are those your eyes?”

“Yes, and I even got paid for it. New York was wild and exciting,” Trish said. “There was so much I would love to do but the time was short, so I got Scott to promise to take me back.”

“What's the name of the book?” Helen asked.

“For marketing purposes, we can’t tell you,” I said. “The publishers are keen on keeping that and who I am secret for as long as possible.”

“Then can you give me the name of some of the books that you worked on,” Helen asked?

“If I did that would give away what the publishers trying to hide,” I said. “I can tell you that the print media has been trying to find out who I am for years. Sales of the series I worked on have grown for years. With each new edition, the demand overall for each title keeps growing.”

Over the next hour Trish’s mother mentioned every series she thought of, but I would not budge an inch. Just before we were leaving Helen said to me privately, “You can be a real horses ass but I love you anyway.”

********

Trish had come on at the start of her last shift for the week to learn that there was a new mother in the maternity ward. She had come into the hospital via the emergency department. Her babies had been brought into the world just after one am that morning.

The note on the file said that Mrs. Carla Woods was to be released the next day because of not having medical insurance. The department head had given the order. Trish noted that the mother was from out of state and had no permanent address.

I was busy with the state parole system getting ready for the next session by reading the files of those up for review when Trish texted me. Part of my job thanks to the Attorney General was serving on the parole board. I have a situation here that needs the help of Mr. Claus’s priest, Trish’s text said. Having perked my interest I called her and got her to send me the information via an email. It appeared to be that the department head of the maternity ward was being a real bitch. By what was revealed to me it became clear to me that she had no clue as to what the hospital and my charity had agreed to.

At one o’clock in the afternoon, a Pastor identified as John showed up in the maternity ward. He was being escorted in by Stephen from Security by special request from Trish.

According to what Stephen had written down in his report a young mother had shown up in an emergency in labor with no health insurance. Having delivered two twins, she was now in the maternity ward but because she had no insurance, they were releasing her and the premature babies in the morning. Stephen had it noted that the young lady had asked Trish if she knew a pastor in desperation. It was Trish who had arranged the visit.

Trish led the pastor to the ladies' room wearing a knowing smile. No one else we thought could tell it was me. Stephen stood by waiting until I was done.

About an hour later the pastor left the room only to be escorted down to billing by Stephen. He paid in full the new mother’s bill using a debit card and made arrangements to cover any future costs. An hour later he had found her husband near the car they were sleeping in to get his side of their story.

They had moved from three states away after selling everything. Dan Woods had gotten hired by the Jackson County Sheriff’s department and come down to find out that the county had cut the budget because of general overspending. The job offer had been rescinded at the last minute.

It became complicated even more because she had begun labor a month early. Since they had just arrived in the state, they had not even found a place to rent.

A phone call had him being interviewed by the captain at four o’clock in the afternoon. He had been hired before the interview had even taken place. The captain had talked to the Sherriff of Jackson County whom he had known for years. Mr. Claus had committed to covering his wages for up to two years. That would allow the city time for a position to become viable because of normal nutrition.

For the city it was a win win situation because it would ease staffing complications during organized events and bring a bit more balance on assignments which would cut down the need for overtime. Plus, there was no additional cost that they would have to get city approval for.

The pastor took the man after he was hired to meet a real estate agent about a new house that was for sale. When he was told that he was being offered it with no money down and a five year no interest loan thanks to a local charitable organization he went for it.

They would sign the paperwork and transfer the title in the morning. He was informed to make sure that he was back at the new home he had agreed to purchase at one pm the next day.

Trish texted me to say she was working late because one of the nurses had called in sick. I didn’t realize it, but the husband had witnessed me answering her with the words mission completed. We got the family a fresh start.

At eight that evening he walked into his wife’s room to tell her the good news. Trish could hear the sobs of joy coming from the room.

At ten that night a truck pulled up at the house the couple would be buying. Before the back door was up eight police officers were there to help unload it. Everything went into the garage. The real estate agent locked the place up after the police offers had left leaving a white envelope on top of one of the major items on her way out.

********

He was there at one pm after signing the paperwork with the keys to his new house. Every police officer who was not on schedule and those spouses available were waiting for him to open the garage doors. When he did, he found everything that would be needed for them to set up the house. He was in shock.

“Everyone here has been helped by the Mr. Claus foundation over the years,” The captain explained. “You’re just the latest one. We can’t have our newest employee worried about other things when he’s on the street. Somewhere in that pile will be a thousand in cash to help you buy whatever he has missed.”

After the crowd was gone and the house basically set up to go the captain and his new employee were sitting at the kitchen table.

“Captain I know that Mr. Claus’s first name is Scott and that his girlfriend is a Registered Nurse named Trish,” Dan Woods said. “Why are they doing all of this?”

“I’ve known Scott for over thirteen years, and I still have no answer to that,” The captain answered. “Scott and Trish each in their own way have always walked alone. Their kindred spirits in a lot of things. It has helped to bond them together. I can tell you that he started out fixing antique furniture to finance a lot of his charitable deeds. Now he has a bank account in which those who wish to contribute can do it via their branch by asking the tellers to transfer the funds. Each of us pays him back by passing it along.”

“That explains why a lot of the furniture is of superior quality and made to last,” Dan said. “He’s repaired and restored a lot of this himself. I hope he will be willing to call on me if he needs help.”

“I will add your name to the list of volunteers,” The captain said. “Last December we helped Mr. Claus deliver Christmas to a lot of poor families throughout the area.”

After the captain left, he unpacked the car while reflecting on the changes in his life. As an African American, he had beaten the streets so had his wife thanks to a black pastor who never had given up on them. Never had he expected to be blessed by stranger like this. Both he and his wife had been trying to find a way to thank the couple for a future they thought they would never have in a way that they couldn’t refuse.

He proudly changed into his new uniform as a police officer of the Cape Girardeau police department for the first time and drove over to the hospital to surprise his wife with the blessings they had received.

As he stopped at the nurse's station, he found out that Trish was off until Monday. That gave him and his wife time to plan. He walked into his wife’s room wearing his new uniform knowing he had found a place they would always call home.

The Sunday family get together was interesting because Trish kept getting asked repeatedly why she looked full of pride every time she looked at me. She laughed with joy saying can’t I just be proud. Of course, she could but her look was over the top and the family had no qualms telling her that.

********

On Monday morning the administration department of the Southeast Hospital received a letter from the lawyers of Mr. Claus's foundation. They were ending the three million dollars yearly grant for the maternity ward because of their possible endangerment of Mrs. Carla Woods’s premature babies. The lawyers explained everything in detail proving that their own conduct verified that the funds were not being used for what they were intended for.

At eleven am Stephen was up explaining what he knew. He had to disclose that the department head had informed Mrs. Carla Woods directly. He also informed the admin department that he had been with Pastor John when he paid the bill by debit card and arranged for all further bills be sent directly to James Scott Tait, a director for the Mr. Claus Corporation. Stephen also informed them that Trish Malley was Scott’s girlfriend.

The head of the financial department’s face went white. He now knew his job was on the line. As soon as Stephen left his office, he called Human Resources and informed that departments head of what had been done. They spent the rest of the day trying to figure out what to do.

Trish had texted me to swing by the hospital even though she was now driving our ford escape regularly. I pulled into the visitor’s parking lot and headed in. Stephen was in the lobby and approached me.

“Admin is in a panic,” Stephen said. “I got asked a lot of questions about Mrs. Carla Woods' situation and I told them all I know. They made it clear that my employment was not in danger, but I was left with the opinion that more than one person is. Do me a favor let Trish know.”

“Not a problem Steve,” I said. “Thank you for keeping me in the loop.”

“You’re welcome,” he replied. “I thought but was not sure that Pastor John was you.”

“What gave it away?” I asked wanting to know.

“The way Trish looked at you,” he said. “She’s never looked at a man the way she looks at you.”

I laughed and headed up. Stephen was right. It was time I stepped up and asked her dad for a couple of favors.

Trish was waiting for me. The switchover had started in staff. I could tell there was something playing on her mind.

“I asked you to come because Carla and Dan want to talk to us both,” Trish said. “I think they know. He’s in her room with the twins. She’s going home tomorrow. Dan starts his first shift on Wednesday.”

Together we walked into Carla’s room.

“We are here,” Trish said holding my hand.

“We would like to introduce you to first our daughter Trish Anne Woods named after you Trish and my wife's middle name,” Dan said.

“This is our son named Scott Evan Woods,” Carla said. “Evan is Dan’s middle name, and we were wondering since we have no close family here If you two would be willing to accept being their godparents.”

I noticed the tears forming in Trish’s eyes and said, “We would be honored to accept that responsibility.”

“Jen, can you come in here for a moment,” Trish yelled.

Jen came in and said, “What's up.”

Handing her cellphone to Jen Trish said, “I want you to take photos of Scott and I holding the twins.”

Dan handed little Trish to me and gave little Scott to Trish. Jen took a couple of shots then showed them to Trish for her approval.

“What are the baby's names?” Jen asked. “Have you decided so we can fill out the paperwork tonight.”

“Scott Evan and Trish Anne, “Dan said. “We’ve named them after their godparents.”

********

It was just after Labor Day weekend that I stopped into the Sterilization plant that Trish’s father was general manager of in Jackson. Their anniversary was coming up in about ten days. I had come to ask his blessing for his daughter's hand and to ask for a huge favor. He gladly said yes to both.

“I don’t know how we're going to pull this one off,” John said. “It will have to be something unexpected and happen at the last minute. The wife already knows we're going out for dinner then to the legion dance.”

“It’s easy, I will be flying out on Thursday night. I will forget to take my cell phone,” I said, “because I have to pick something up in New York on Friday. I will call your secretary about four o’clock in the afternoon claiming I’m flying in on Saturday morning for a surprise inspection of the plant on behalf of your employer’s insurance company because of the renewing of their multi-million dollar liability insurance.”

“Helen knows its reviewed every few years,” John stated, “because a representative always comes out to do an inspection on behalf the insurance company to ensure that we are performing the way were supposed to and that our equipment is current and up to date. It should be easy for her to accept that providing she doesn’t remember the last time it was done.””

“It would be a good idea that you let Helen know about the renewal negotiations,” I added, because that way what happens won’t seem so unexpected. You just have to remember that as far as Helen and Trish are concerned the insurance representative is going to be stuck in Cape overnight. That is why you will have invited me for supper and to the dance.”

“Okay that will work but what do I tell Helen?” asked John. “Without tipping our hand.”

“Just promise her that it will be an anniversary that she will never forget,” I replied, “and if we pull it off it will be.”

“It’s going to be hard on Trish not knowing where you are,” John said. “Both of them will be worried sick.”

“I will call Trish Friday and talk to her claiming I’m stuck at the capital in unexpected meetings for the weekend,” I said. “She will not know about New York because that’s where I am getting her engagement ring and wedding band.”

It was a hectic time at the hospital. The head of the maternity ward after a two-week investigation had been terminated. No explanation was given, but the staff rumor mill was filled with explanations.

********

It had gone as we planned. John and I were sitting across the street drinking coffee from where his wife and daughter were getting their hair done. As we expected Helen was not impressed with her husband’s employer this weekend. After picking me up at the airport in my disguise created by Pat’s art team in New York we had loaded my luggage and the box I brought back with me in his trunk.

I wore a full facial mold over my face. The zipper at the back was hidden by my grey-haired shoulder length wig. The lens I wore had changed my blue eyes to a pale light green. The outfit I was wearing over my normal clothing gave me a slight potbelly which made it look that I really did not watch my weight. They had added thickness to my hands and more body hair to match the thickness of my full beard which was now basically gray.

“Trish is upset that you have to spend the weekend at the capital and are unable to explain what it was about,” John said with a chuckle. “Helen is just as frustrated because she feels our anniversary is going to hell, as a result, she been taking it out on me. She sarcastically said that I have kept my word to make this an anniversary that she will never forget. Right now, in her eyes I will be in the doghouse for weeks. When I told Trish, what was happening she agreed to go for supper with us and share a dance with you tonight only because it will help to keep her mind off of you.”

“Good that is what we want,” I laughed. “I’ll be sure to step on her toes. Brad is ready to help us take off my disguise when the time is right.”

“When will I know when that is,” John asked?

“The moment I get tossed the cordless mike from Lacy because she’s playing tonight,” I replied. “Make sure that either Terry or Tina are shooting it.”

“Every time you take her up on the dance floor, I will have it recorded. Stew and Dawn have promised to make sure of that,” John said. “Lacy has arranged that if things go as planned for a lot of the females in attendance to stand up and sing.”

The first session of the dance was over; I had yet to get Trish on the floor. The whole evening had been a damper affair as no one was enjoying being there. Finally, I got Trish to the floor talking like a Texan with a drawl to my voice. We were in the middle of a waltz when I deliberately stepped on her feet being the lousy dancer I was. The second time I did it Trish started to walk away holding her frustration and anger in. Lacy threw me the wireless mike.

“Well dam! The Maureen O’Hare that I know is getting soft,” I said in my normal voice. “The woman I thought I knew would never walk away. She would have stood her ground and let it go with both barrels pointed at me.”

Trish stopped in her tracks as soon as I spoke turned around and let me have it with a mixture of tears and anger. “You’re an asshole, you did it again. If you think this is funny think again. I have been worried about you all day. Boy, are you ever going to pay for this stupid stunt? Wipe that stupid grin off your face. Now!”

“Gentlemen your assistance please,” I said still grinning. “Trish can you please hold the mike.”

Trish hesitated for a moment trying to decide if she should just walk away leaving me standing there looking like a fool before taking the mike from me.

Her Dad and Brad came over and helped me out of the outfit. I took off the wig and had her father unzip the mask. I slowly took it off my head. Brad handed me a towel so I could wipe down my wet face and remove the false lens from my eyes. They quickly moved my stuff away.

Taking the mike from Trish I said while still smiling, “Just how long do you plan to make me pay for this stunt?”

With her nose starting to flare up and her face getting red in anger she said, “For the rest of your life you asswipe.”

“Is that a promise, you’re planning to keep?” I said sarcastically.

‘Yes, it is!” Trish said in an anger that was growing bigger every time I opened my mouth.

I said, “Good it makes this part easy.”

“Makes what easy?” Trish asked as her father stood by watching.

I got down on one knee and took out the small ring box out of my pocket. “From the day I met you, I knew you were the one. The moment your nose flared you had me. So, I had to make sure that passion was there when I asked you to become my partner forever in the walk of life. Trish Nicole Malley, will you stand with me before our family and friends to say the vows that will make us one.”

Trish had tears in her eyes when she looked at her father, “Dad you were in on all this?” she asked.

“Yes, he asked for your hand just after the fourth,” he said. “That’s why I was able to promise your mother an anniversary that she would never forget.”

“Put the ring on my finger, of course, I will marry you,” Trish said while trying to keep control of her emotions.

I stood up and slid the engagement ring on to her finger. As soon as I did that a group of the legion ladies stood up and began singing “Chapel of love.” I took Trish into my arms and gave her a long deep kiss. As soon as it was over the tears started.

Dad and Brad went to the bar to get the champagne and glasses that we had ready. I looked over at our table. Trish’s mother and sisters were showing just as much as emotion as Trish was. Dad and I had done it pulled it off perfectly. What had just happened was the last thing they expected.

Trish whispered to me, “I was expecting this, but the way you did it caught me completely off guard. I love you dearly. I’m surprised that dad was able to keep this all a secret from mom.”

“When we worked it all out, I told him just to tell your mom that it was going to be an anniversary that she would never forget,” I said. “By the tears of joy in her eyes we can safely say she won’t.

“How did you know that when I was young that I would hear the song and say the man I’m going to marry will have the song played?” Trish asked.

“Your sister Tina told me over one Sunday dinner,” I explained. “I also made sure that we had this all recorded by three or four different people in case one forgot.”

As soon as the girls finished singing Trish turned on the mike and thanked them all for making this moment so special because that song had been part of a childhood dream. As we walked back to our table hand in hand, we got a standing ovation.

John and Brad were already back. John had moved over to sit beside his wife who was begging for his forgiveness for treating him like an ass all day. I quietly had to chuckle because he was milking it for all it was worth.

Before I even sat down Helen got up and gave me the biggest hug, she had ever given me and said so loud that everyone could hear. “It no more John and Helen it’s Mom and Dad.”

Brad did the honor and passed out the champagne. Trish was busy showing everyone her engagement ring.

I sat down as Dad raised his glass, “A toast to Scott and Trish for making this an anniversary that my better half will never forget.”

“Or live down,” Helen added.

Everyone roared then Terri said to her husband, “If you ever conspire with those two you will be in the doghouse for months. What those two put those girls through today was despicable.”

Dad and I laughed.

I looked at John who has a smile and a grin on his face and said, “Thank you for your help, Dad.”

“Any time, son,” he replied.

Terry said I want to dance with my future brother in law so off we went. During the two-step, we chatted.

“Scott, I hope you realize that you have made my mother’s and my dreams for my sister come true tonight,” Terry said. “How in the hell did you get my father to keep a secret?”

“I knew how much he loves your mother,” I said. “Love overcomes all, and I banked on that.”

“Love you my favorite brother in law to be,” Terry said as she kissed me on the cheek.

“That’s because I’m the only one,” I responded with a laugh.

When we got back Tina said, “okay my turn” and off, we went.

While I was gone Trish got out my cellphone and had turned it on. The first thing she saw was a text from Pat asking if she said yes. Trish texted back; its Trish and yes, I did. Pat texted back right away; Congrats will call tomorrow. When I returned to our seat Trish showed me. That is when I told her I had gone to New York to buy her ring set from Tiffany’s. The art department helped me come up with this new disguise.

When the band was on their second break Dad helped me move my stuff from the back of his truck into the back of the ford escape. We were both gloating about how well we had pulled it off.

Before going back to our table, I slid into the bathroom and removed the makeup off of my hands. I was just leaving when I ran into Stew who told me that both he and his wife had shot everything from different angles along with two others, and that they would forward the best two videos to me in the morning.

“We really thought she was going to kill you,” Stew said with laughter. “It’s a good thing she didn’t have anything in her hands. With her mood at the time, she would have thrown it at you. We thought that if she had she would have proven the reputation that all redheads have.”

“I learned a long time ago that her bark is worse than the bite,” I replied.

When we got home after parking the car we went into our house. I lifted her up into my arms and carried her up the stairs. Once reaching the landing I stopped.

“Left or right,” I said, “Which one will be our master bedroom?”

“Right, you got less stuff to move,” Trish replied.

We would always remember the first night we slept together and how we were woken up.

********

It was Trish’s cell that woke us that Sunday Morning mine was downstairs. She reached over to grab it from the nightstand. Mom and Dad were at the front door.

“I will buzz you in,” Trish said as she hit the app button to unlock and open the door. “You just woke us. We will be right down.

“It’s ten o’clock in the morning,” Helen said to John.” What do you think they were doing?”

“If I were their age, I dam well would be making up for the lost time,” John said. “Just like we did at their age.”

“John you should not have said that” Helen said, “they might of have heard you.” John laughed.

I was the first to make it down the stairs wearing nothing but the suit pants from last night and a pair of flip flops. When dad saw me, he started to chuckle before saying, “Looks like Helen and I interrupted you. I used to hate that when it happened to us.”

I started preparing to throw the coffee pot on. He was carrying in what he called his Texas mickey.

“It’s not full of whiskey,” he said, “I got enough to fill it with Glenlivet 12 Year First Fill Single Malt Scotch directly via the regional sales rep and saved a lot of dollars.”

I knew it had to set him back a few thousand so I said, “The only time this will be used is when you’re with me.”

Mom laid the bag from Harvey’s on the table. “We brought us all their egg, ham, and cheese biscuits for a late breakfast.”

Trish finally descended to join us wearing the housecoat she had made years ago. I got the coffee cups out and poured us all a cup. The four of us went over to the dining table to eat our breakfast.

As soon as I was done eating, I went up and got changed while the rest of the family chatted. I came back downstairs and went out and brought my luggage in along with the box I had brought back with me. Inside of it were six FedEx security shipping envelopes that were filled. I took it to my small office and brought back out two of them.

The ladies looked at me with interest as I poured them a large flute glass of orange juice and champagne. I gave it to them and told them to go settle themselves on the living room couch. I brought the envelopes over with a box of tissues.

“Dad and I are going to go crack open his Texas mickey,” I said. “While you two ladies open this surprise gift, I have for both of you.”

I had no sooner left the room when I heard them opening the package. Trish would later tell me at first, they couldn’t believe what they were seeing. Between the eighteenth-century village and her eyes was the title “Tearstained Buttercup Eyes.” Beneath was “J. S. Tait the Silent One.”

I handed Dad the two glasses and he pumped a double shot in each from the Texas mickey he had brought with him. From the front of the fridge, he added the ice and water. We had just had our first sip when we heard the girls crying.

“What now?” said John aloud.

“They just got a first edition copy, basically hot off the press of my latest book,” I said. “That won’t be officially released until the first of November.”

“So, you wrote a book, that’s not that big of a deal,” John said.

“Dad your wife works with the print media,” I explained. “She knows who hot and who’s not.”

With that said the girls came into the kitchen each carrying their copy of the book.

“You’re the one called “the Silent One,” Helen said. “I have read and have kept all ten of your hardcover editions. Your books are discussed a lot in our local book club. Why did you pick that name as your pen name?”

“As a child when my parents had guests, I was taught to be seen but not heard when they were entertaining. I submitted my first book using that name and it just stuck,” I replied.

“I’ve read the publisher’s hype; Winter’s Sigh is expected to break one point five million in sales by year-end. This one whose title is yet to be released is expected to do even more,” Helen said. “The big reveal of your identity and the new book is going to be on Fox and Friends on November the first. Retail sales start on the second.”

“Have you read the dedication in the front?” I asked.

Trish opened her copy and found it. She read it aloud. “To Trish Nicole whose inner soul has shown me that when her walk on earth is done, she will be given her angel wings to sit beside God and Jesus in heaven.”

Dad watched, as both Helen and Trish wrapped themselves around me as they delt with the emotional turmoil they were experiencing.

While holding them I said, “Dad with each new release my older book sells well as each book creates further interest in what I have written,” I explained. “Last year for example the total number of books sold thanks to eBooks and hard copies was about three million copies. It averages out that I make about five dollars a copy. On new releases for the first year, I make ten dollars a copy. They are selling so well that the publisher still refuses to print paperback editions.”

Even Trish’s father was having trouble grasping it all. The truth was overwhelming.

Things had settled down a bit when my cellphone rang. I knew by the tone it was Pat. They listened to me as I talked to her and explained how it had all gone. Then she asked to speak to Trish.

Pat talked to Trish, and we all saw her eyes light up. Then she said, “it’s too much. Scott and I will have to discuss it!”

I smiled because I already knew what Trish had just been told. When Pat had told me what she wanted to do I had no problem with it. I said her biggest hurdle was going to get Trish to agree to it.

“Mom,” Trish said as she handed her my cell. “Pat would like to talk to you about a business arrangement.”

Mom left us and went off to discuss things with Pat in private. When she came back, she was beaming with pride.

While dad poured us another Scotch, I refilled the lady's glasses. The ladies sat at the bar counter. I found a dry black felt pen and signed both of their books. I wrote gifted with love J Scott Tait.

“Pat wants to pay for our wedding,” Trish said. “No matter what we decide to do.”

“I’ve been asked to look after the arrangement for the pre-launch party because they want to do it here,” Helen said. “I told her that I would love to do it, but she best clear it with my boss, so I gave her his cell phone number. Most of the department stores and some of the wanna be’s are some of our clients so we buy some of our hardcover books directly from them already.”

Dad was standing there smiling. All of a sudden, he started to chuckle.

Trish said, “What are you thinking about dad?”

“When you got your promissory ring, I asked you how many kids you planned to have if you and Scott got married,” he said. “Your answer was that you would gladly bring into this world as many as you and Scott could afford to raise.”

Trish was drinking some of her orange juice and champagne as he answered her. It ended up coming through her nose as her body responded.

“Remember Trish, Mom said she saw you with six,” Helen added. “John, do you think we should start looking for a minibus so we can take the grandchildren out?”

I lost it and started laughing so did John.

********

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Marlboro Man

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