Saturday, December 24, 2011

Lalique Flynn Ch. 1 Swept Away Part 1

With Arlene as live-in nanny Lalique now had time at last to practice ballet and her piano once more. The two women got along well for the most part and Arlene was a friend as well as an employee. That was something Lalique's mother, Olivia, had told her to avoid, but for Lalique it was impossible to have someone living with her who wasn't a friend. So far, she was careful with what she confided in the girl, though. 

With more time, Lalique had become a little bored and, what was worse, she'd had time to reflect and realized she wasn't feeling so feminine and desirable anymore. This was not something that had ever been a problem for her until now. It was a fact she hadn't found Prince Charming, but she'd never lacked for confidence about her looks nor had problems getting male attention. 

Well, that wasn't strictly true. Her old flame, Devon, had dumped her way back when and then recently married his old flame, Grace Lassiter, but that could happen to anyone, Lalique reasoned. Love was fickle. She had told herself his rejection had not been due to any lack on her part. She had to admit she'd been depressed about it for some time and, according to her friend, Jody Broke, she'd become bitter. But that was before she'd given birth to Alain and Desiree.

Of course, there was also that time with Brian Ottomas years ago where she'd spent one enchanted afternoon in his arms and then he'd never called back, but you couldn't win them all. He'd been single and available or so she'd thought, but he went on the road with his band again a day or two later. When he returned to Pleasantview and went to work for his brother, Dylan, she'd stopped by the Club hoping to entice him, but it was no go. He was friendly but obviously disinterested. Several months later Lalique was unhappily surprised and disappointed to learn Brian had married Meadow Thayer. Naturally Lalique assumed the child Meadow had just given birth to at that time belonged to Brian.

At any rate, since the twins were born she could not have cared less about either her looks or male attention, but now some of those interests were returning. She felt a shopping spree was in order.

While at Goth's Apparel she saw her sister Melanie's school chum, Chelsea Lassiter, and they struck up a conversation. Lalique made a vow to check out Chelsea's flower shop and turned to go, literally running right into John Lassiter. He lived right next door to her parents so, of course, she knew who he was, but hadn't spoken more than ten words with him since she was a child. Her older sister, Yvette, used to pal around with his oldest daughter, Grace (yes, the Grace who married Lalique's high school sweetheart, Devon). This was back when Yvette was in high school and Lalique was in elementary. Yvette was frequently forced to drag Lalique around with her in those days--she had always suspected that her mother used to do that so it would keep Yvette from being able to do anything dire--and so Lalique had often been at the Lassiter house. Of course, Mr. Lassiter had been usually been working and even when he was home he was a quiet man, unlike her own father. She'd been a little afraid of him, in fact.

Now she remembered that she'd seen him at Club Dante one time and she'd vaguely wondered what he was doing prowling around a place like that. She'd also noted then that he was very attractive for an older man. Very. He had an almost dangerous look about him; he was a man of power and prestige, not only in Pleasantview but in the nation due to his business acumen and his talents as a writer. There was dignity in his bearing, and good breeding. His hair was silver , but she remembered it used to be jet black and his blue eyes were alert and almost piercing. Lalique surmised he must have really been incredibly handsome when he was young. In fact, even now he had real presence.

"Hello, Mr. Lassiter," she automatically turned on the charm with men, "You're looking wonderful. How's the family doing?"

He was even deadlier when he smiled, Lalique thought, a tingle running down her spine.

"Lalique Flynn, well, how are you?" his voice was deep and rich, "Everyone is doing fine; Lori had twins so Melora and I are finally grandparents. What have you been doing with yourself?"

"Well, I'm no longer in the education field, but I keep myself busy. Right now I'm raising babies; and it takes practically all my attention," she laughed, "Feels like this is the first day I've had to myself in months. I hired a nanny and she's at home with them right now."
As the conversation went on they quickly realized they had an immediate and mutual physical attraction for each other. It was so strange; he was obviously old enough to be her father, but her new feelings were definitely not those of a daughter. In fact he had asked right away that she drop the "Mr. Lassiter" and call him John. After all, she was a grownup now, he teased. A voice inside reminded her that he was married and not available, but she quickly stifled it. They were just having a public conversation in a crowded store; perfectly harmless. 

They soon tired of standing there and having to move back and forth so people could get around them so John suggested they go outside and sit at one of the tables on the terrace. Much later Lalique realized with hindsight she should have known at that moment to excuse herself and leave for home. But, of course, there was no way she was going to do that; she was having way too much fun. They talked for a long time. It was dusk, people were still streaming in and out of the store and some were sitting at the tables nearby, before Lalique said she must get home. 

A few days after their accidental meeting at Goth's, John called her and asked her to meet him just to talk at the Lost Treasure Maze in Bluewater Village. She wasn't fooled; talk was not necessarily what he had on his mind. Lalique knew that was a place where they would have privacy yet it was public enough that someone seeing them together would not necessarily think much about it. They played chess and after a an hour or so he suggested they go somewhere for a cold drink.

Once ensconced in his sports car, though, Lalique couldn't believe the whole thing was happening. As they sped away she told herself he was a very wealthy and sophisticated man and could have anyone he wanted; but he wanted her. She found this thought intoxicating. Of course, the Lucky Cuss Tavern was an informal night spot where one could sit at the bar, sing karaoke or play poker, it was not upscale or chic, but it was fun and fairly quiet.

When he asked her to slow dance she was surprised, but gratified that he would take the chance in public even if they were in another town. More and more she was mesmerized both by John and the dangerous and forbidden aspect of the situation. Once in his arms she knew she was on a ride that could not possibly end well, but she could not resist him, especially after he kissed her. 

From the tavern he took her out for a lobster dinner at the Botanical Gardens Restaurant, definitely a much swankier place. After their meal John dropped her off at the Maze where she'd left her car, and stood watching her as she drove off. Back home and over the next 24 hours Lalique spent time with her babies trying to get her mind off this man who had quickly and unaccountably overwhelmed her. She even went out the next morning to pull weeds and trim the bushes, she'd never been an outdoors girl, but her mood was light and exhilarated and she wanted to be out in the sunshine. Remembering how much she had enjoyed being with him, Lalique would not let herself consider the ramifications of seeing him again.  

"Oh, he has to call again," she whispered to herself, "He has to."


The Lassiters Ch. 11 Bothered and Bewitched

The thing was, John admitted to his consternation; he might indeed have been an idiot that day he’d spent with Lalique, but he could not forget it. The whole weekend after that he bounced around his home feeling as though he was 35 again; at the top of his form. He worked on his fruit trees and garden; did the usual chores; even stretched out in the hammock to read for a while. It didn't matter; whatever he did he felt fantastic because in his mind's eye he was young again. And Lalique was the reason for his euphoria. It had been difficult to get her off his mind before he asked her out; now it was impossible.

When he momentarily allowed himself to examine his feelings, guilt assailed him and made him sick at heart. So he gave extra attention to Melora whenever he was able to come down to earth for a few moments. She  had begun to be worried about his recent detached air, but now she felt somewhat reassured.

Within a week or so, though, John began to spend more hours away from home. He'd taken up health-walking and now began working out at the gym and was becoming buff, more than he'd been in ten years. He even went out and bought a whole new wardrobe. His preoccupation with being healthier and looking better was contagious. He did not know it, but Melora was beginning to get the seeping, creeping conviction that he was getting bored with his home life. She grew her hair out again and worked on exercising and looking more youthful. She'd always loved makeovers, she told herself. That was true, but these endeavors now had more to do with worry about John's attentions straying than anything else. Never before had she had cause to doubt him, although she'd occasionally been jealous when women had sometimes openly flirted with him, especially when they were younger. John, unlike most men, had been way too smart to ever let her catch him noticing a woman with a good figure, and he'd always made sure not to pay much attention to women who might come on to him.

Why he has to start worrying me now and after all these years I don't know, Melora thought with irritation. On one hand she felt like telling him if he was bored at home, not to let the door hit him in the butt on the way out. On the other hand...she loved him very much and did not want to lose him. For any reason.

This was about the time Lori visited her mother and Melora mentioned to her daughter that John had recently told her he was working out at Harvey's new health club. Shortly thereafter Melora treated herself to a shopping excursion even stopping at the toy store to purchase items for when the twins would visit. She surprised John by coming home with a calico cat she'd found at the animal shelter. She named her Felina and had even more fun with her than with little Spanky. The cat, grateful for a good home, soon adored Melora, who "talked" to her all the time. John complained irrationally that she paid more attention to her pets, particularly Felina, than she did to him. To his additional dismay Felina far preferred their bed over her cat bed in the living room. Melora didn't mind at all, but John kicked the cat out of the room every night. If Felina wanted to nap on the bed during the day, that was one thing, but not since Trey and Lori had been small had he tolerated interlopers in their bedroom. Some things should remain sacrosanct in his opinion, and the cat had access to the rest of the house; let her find someplace to sleep out there.

Nights were quiet now at the house by the sea. John was affectionate, but their lovemaking was sporadic. This was so unlike him that Melora worried he might be having health problems. He expressed no concern and she didn't want to pressure him; after all, he was no longer a man of 35...

So she showered a lot of affection on her pets and threw herself into more renovation on the house. She completely redid the en suite master bath and had the wall in between the living room and foyer knocked down, as well as the one on the other side of the foyer between that and the dining room. Those walls had been put in 20 years ago on a previous decorating spree. The carpeting was ripped out in the living room so that the hardwood floors could be refinished.

The large kitchen was repainted and new cupboards and granite counters went in. Stainless steel appliances were all the rage, but Melora liked warm colors and easy to clean surfaces. New flooring and new curtains and lighting completed that project. Then she widened the archway between the living room and small library, which was converted into a game room with a poker table.

John seemed to be on a similar kick to have new things around him. He traded one of the cars for a new sports car. Then he saw a vintage 1959 Viking convertible for sale and traded their sedan for that.

"I'm thinking about having a two-car garage built," he announced to Melora, "I don't want either the sports car or the Viking sitting out in the sun and rain--how we've got by all these years with no garage, I don't know."

"There's no room to widen the driveway or build a garage, is there?"

"Oh, we can move things around a bit. We don't need Trey's old basketball court--and we hardly ever use the sauna anymore. I could dismantle it. I could put in a wider driveway and 2-car garage on the other side of the house."

"But the pond..."

"Well, I know we've had the pond there for thirty years, but we can put one in on the other side, just not as big."

Melora blinked. John fished that pond every day in the summer. And it was the jewel of their front yard.

He saw her bewilderment,

"I know, I know, but it's not that hard to install a pond and we'll stock it with with fish, too."

She shrugged. If collecting old cars tripped his trigger that was fine with her; at least the project might keep him contented and at home. Strange; she'd always thought that women who had to keep constant tabs on their husbands were suspicious throwbacks. If you could only trust a man when he was in your sight then you couldn't trust him at all. At least that had been Melora's opinion for years. Still the hours John would spend on the cars and his garage project would have that result; she'd know exactly where he was. And she realized unhappily that was what she now wanted.

"If that makes you happy I think you should do it, John," she said  with a sweet smile, "As for us not using the sauna much anymore; that certainly isn't my fault. Any time you want to steam, just let me know."

As she sauntered off, swinging her hips, John's gaze followed her. She'd always had a lovely walk, almost like dancing. Maybe he'd been rash about getting rid of that sauna, after all, he could just move it elsewhere in the yard. He headed toward the kitchen where he could hear Melora singing as she emptied the dishwasher...

In the end John kept the pond and built just a one-car garage where the driveway always was but he added a carport to it. Over the carport and garage he put a wide deck that featured their beautiful and unobstructed view of the sea. It could be accessed either by steps in the backyard or through a door in Lori's old bedroom and included a hot tub. But he shocked Melora by dismantling his beloved greenhouse claiming his heart was not in it anymore and he didn't really have time anyway. She would miss the fresh produce when it came to her cooking.

John insisted that they should have gotten a bigger house and yard years ago, but Melora was definitely not interested in moving from their home after all the redecorating she’d just done. He kept the sauna but moved it to the other side of the yard so they could put in a playground for Gray and Valrae.

The Lassiters Ch. 10 Lusting in his Heart

After their senior birthdays which they had celebrated back when Lori and Trey were finishing college, John and Melora Lassiter seemed to enjoy their time together more than ever. She loved having time for her hobbies or even just to relax in the hammock by the pond; John occasionally worked on a novel, but spent more time in the garden, still they usually found things to do together as well. 

Their affection and regard for one another remained as strong as ever, they had always enjoyed each other as friends as well as lovers.

Nowadays John took care of all the repairs around the house. He didn't mind doing them, but he reserved the right to cuss and yell while he did it. When his crabbing was the loudest Melora just shrugged to herself and smiled. It was the only time her tightly controlled, laconic man let go. Practically. They still loved gaming, sometimes abandoning their regular TV shows at night to play video games or play Don't Wake the Llama.

Now they had grandchildren; Graylan and Valrae, and this was something they had wanted for a long time. Already they were redesigning their backyard to once again suit children. It seemed their happiness and contentment was complete.
Melora had tested the waters of pet ownership by purchasing a little hamster she called Spanky. She delighted in watching him play and lavished attention and love on him. John didn't pay much attention to the little creature, but was happy if Melora was happy. He was attached to his garden in almost the same way, he admitted it.

Then, sometime in the late spring, John seemed to have become bored with his old hobbies and routines. He was cheerful enough, though, even going about the repair jobs whistling now, but Melora sensed something different. There was a remoteness to him lately, and he sometimes seemed distracted and restless. His neighbors and business associates and even his publisher would have said that was just "John being John". But the face that John had always shown the world, a dispassionate though compelling one, was not the one Melora knew. She was the only person he was truly open with, the only one he fully trusted to know his real feelings and fears. Even with his closest friends Glenn Caswell and Jim Candeloro, he still held his feelings a little close to the vest. Now, however; it seemed to Melora that he was holding back even with her.

There was a reason John appeared to be in a state of flux. His life itself had suddenly changed drastically and Melora was unaware of it--because John did not want her to be aware of it.

Before he met Melora, John had once been a real heart-breaker back in the day. He was old money, born into an upper class family from the south, and his upstart father had gone on to make a fortune to add to his wife's inheritance. In addition he was handsome, educated, and quietly forceful. Considered by many women at the time a top prize to be won, he was used to having their attention and his choice of the cream of Atlanta society. 

A true democrat when it came to women, John was happy to go out with working class women, and college coeds as well as socialites. No one had stolen his heart, though; until one night he went with friends to The Jazz Club in Charlotte. There he saw a curvy redhead dancing the jive in a Swing Music show put on by the club and learned her name was Melora Statler. She was with someone else and momentarily disappeared from his life that night. John spent months trying to locate her and then bumped into her again by chance, again at a club, this time one where she was singing with the house band, one member of which was Royal Brecht. As Glenn had said, "She totally rocked his stodgy, society world!"  John himself admitted she opened up a whole new life for him. He was hooked; nothing would do but for him to marry her as soon as possible. He'd never regretted it and he'd always been true to her. Along the way they'd had four children, several careers, the usual amount of problems and many good times.

But the male ego, for all its fragility, is a driving force that controls many men. Women, when they are feeling a little blue, insecure or discontent, will change their hairstyle, or begin a diet or start aerobics classes, maybe they take up a new hobby or define a goal to make themselves feel their worth again. Sometimes it's as simple as a new pair of shoes. Many men, though, only seem to be able to satisfactorily feed their ego by proving their virility with someone different, someone not their wife. Even a man not prone to womanizing can fall into this trap.

Last Christmas John had been suffering an intense desire for a certain young woman he'd seen one night at Club Dante; one Lalique Flynn. The fact that he'd even been at the club indicated his growing dissatisfaction with his life. She'd been openly flirting with every man there and he was just one of them. But he had not been able to get her out of his mind since then. 

Then when he ran into her at Goth's Apparel and they seemed to click right away, it only got worse. Eventually, because he was a careful man used to getting his own way in most things and, controlled and controlling; he hired someone to check her out. He'd been a methodical businessman nearly all his life and he always studied all the angles before moving ahead. Actually, he had done the same thing with Melora years ago, too. He wanted to know all about Lalique that he could. When he had the information; about her life, her loves, and her possible future desires he thought about it a while. He felt fairly sure she would respond well to him being direct; she was very direct herself from all accounts. Calling her and simply inviting her to somewhere public might be the best. All she could say was no and people did not often say that to John. 

Once he had this objective in mind John never let himself think about the severity of his actions. Men have a capacity to compartmentalize much more easily than women and it is quite useful when it comes to problem solving...and adultery. He told himself he wanted to see Lalique again just to enjoy her company, but he knew in his heart he wanted more so calling her was just the first step on the road to perdition. He wanted to experience that heady feeling of new attraction again. Just once more. Even though he was feeling older; he knew he could still attract a few women. Whether or not Lalique was one of them he had to find out.

I would never hurt Melora, he told himself, it's not like this is anything more than a physical attraction. It doesn't mean I don't love my wife.

His self-justification served him well. Always confident, and suavely charming when he wished to be, John was not glib or insincere, but definitely knew how to get his way. His friend Glenn frequently teased him saying he was a conceited, controlling unmentionable. "I'm not conceited," he would grin, "Just convinced."

He made the call. Lalique agreed to meet him at a park out of town called The Lost Treasure Maze and they talked for quite a while over a game of chess. She was more intelligent than he'd hoped and even more beautiful up close. Then they moved on to the Lucky Cuss Tavern where he absolutely astounded himself by kissing her while they were dancing. In public. Twice.

He was so shook up at his own indiscretion that when the dance ended and he seated her back at the table he retired momentarily to the men's room. There he splashed cold water on his face and muttered,

"You dope! What are you doing, Lassiter? You idiot."

When he went back out and she greeted him with a full-lipped smile and unleashed a smoky look from her lustrous brown eyes John immediately forgot about his idiocy. At the moment she was the most exciting woman he'd met since he first spied Melora dancing on stage all those years ago. So he asked her to join him for dinner at the Botanical Gardens Restaurant. 

She seemed to hang on his every word like he was a prophet and it had been a while since anyone but his family did that. Afterwards he took her back to her car which was still parked at Lost Treasure Maze. He hated that; it wasn't classy at all and definitely not the way he operated. Or at least back when he used to operate. But in those days he'd not been married and hadn't had to worry about who saw him where or with whom. At the time he'd had a beautifully restored vintage white 1969 Cadillac Coupe DeVille that he'd squired women around in and when he brought a woman home he'd follow her to her door even if he wasn't staying. That was long ago in another place and time, though. Back in the time when a man always opened the door for a woman, helped her into her coat when they were going out, and seated her at her chair before he sat down. He was brought up to stand when a woman entered the room and remain standing until she sat down. Forty years ago now. Women didn't always expect or even want that kind of gallantry these days, at least not from what he saw on the news, but he didn't know any other way to treat a woman. He still did those things for his wife when they were in public. As it turned out it was his courtly, if old-fashioned way with Lalique that had first attracted her and would continue to intrigue her.

As he watched her drive away John knew he wanted to see her again...and again.

To be continued...