Friday, March 9, 2012

Lalique Flynn Ch. 5 Arlene's Romance

Arlene Jankowski, the nanny, had a secret. She was in love. And the man she loved was somewhat mysterious. As she went through her days caring for Desiree and Adrien, the object of her dreams was never far away from her mind. Lalique had noticed, of course, she'd had to have been blind not to do so. A happy, upbeat person all her life Arlene now went about the house smiling and singing even more than usual. She loved caring for Alain and Desiree but from time to time she got rather day-dreamy and had to remind herself to pay strict attention. Little ones moved fast and she had to be on her toes.

She hadn't yet confided in her employer because she knew how distracted Lalique was with packing up all their things to move. Arlene was going with her to continue as a nanny. With another baby coming Lalique would need her help and, besides--the house was in Bluewater, which was closer to Crystal Creek than Pleasantview was, and Arlene knew her mystery man had a small place in Crystal Creek. She hadn't seen it but he'd told her that.

Finally, on the week they were to leave for the new house Arlene had decided to tell Lalique everything; that she'd met the man she would marry. She wanted to be able to ask him to the house to meet her "family".

The twins had awoken earlier than usual and she'd been tending to Desiree while Lalique was with Alain. Lalique was growing out her daughter's bangs and Arlene loved the way Desiree's hair looked now; it was pure black and pulled back sleekly from her round little face in a thick ponytail, where it fell as a billowy cloud of crimped waves. Alain's was the same color but very straight and shiny like satin. Arlene looked across the playroom where Lalique was reading to her son. Maybe when they went down for naps later Arlene could get some time to talk to Lalique alone.

But soon after the twins were placed in their cribs the unthinkable happened. Lalique rushed out of the bathroom and grabbed her cell phone calling to Arlene.

"Come here! Hurry, Arlene!"

Sensing the panic in Lalique's voice Arlene took the stairs two at a time,

"What's wrong?"

"I'm spotting. It's not bad, but..."

"Oh, no! Do you need me to take you to the hospital?"

The doctor's office had answered and Lalique briefly told them what had happened.  A moment more and Lalique hit the end button and turned to Arlene,

"They said to come right in to the office, I'll call Melanie. I need you to stay right here with the kids."

Next she phoned Melanie who would drive over immediately; she was only a couple blocks away. Lalique tried to stay calm. She knew if she lost the baby this early it would mean something was not right in the pregnancy in the first place. And she knew some would say if she lost it, it would make her life easier, but she didn't care. She wanted this child; she hadn't realized how much much she wanted her until now. Her or him, she reflected, she had been referring to the baby by either pronoun on alternate days. She didn't care whether she had a boy or a girl, she just wanted to have a healthy baby; wanted it badly.

Happily, after examining her and asking questions, her doctor said she could go home, things seemed to be fine once more but she would have to take it easier, not be on her feet so much. Maybe get more help with packing and definitely with moving. When Melanie brought her home she made sure that Arlene knew what the doctor had said. 

"Believe me, I promise I'll be good," Lalique stressed because she knew both Melanie and Arlene were skeptical that she would let people help her, "I don't want to lose this baby. I'll take all the help I can get with boxing up things and moving. The moving company has assured me they can pack everything for me if I want. I didn't want that I wanted to be in control boxing things up but I'm ready to let them do that now."

After being assured of this, and promising she'd help Melanie told Lalique she needed to tell their parents. But Lalique insisted she wanted to be moved first. Melanie drove home. She'd stayed calm while she was with Lalique but her nerves were jangled. She was the only one who knew Lalique was pregnant--and by whom--besides Arlene, that was. She hadn't even told Gareth, but how much longer she could keep silent she didn't know. Gareth was always the one she talked to about everything, it felt like a lie by omission to Melanie. Something had to give.

Arlene had meant to keep silent about her new love but, finally, once she was sure that Lalique was going to be all right she asked her to come in her bedroom one afternoon.

"I have something I need to tell you or, at least, need to talk about, if you don't mind."

Admittedly, Lalique had been curious for some time, but had not wanted to intrude on Arlene's personal life. When she was living in the house with her though, it was hard not to feel involved.

"About 5 or 6 weeks ago I met this guy," Arlene began, "I was supposed to be meeting Marcy downtown. We wanted to check out this place called Red's Hideout."

"Oh, sweetie," Lalique sounded dubious, "Didn't you know that joint has a rather bad reputation? At least for young women to go there unescorted?"

Arlene shook her head,

"No, not then. We just heard a lot of people went there and it was fun and inexpensive. Anyway, at the last minute she called in to work. I think I told you she's in an intern at the hospital, so she was on call. So, like a dummy, I guess, I went there myself--I know, I know," she said when she saw the look on Lalique's face, "I just couldn't stand the thought of going to the movies by myself or coming home to watch TV on my  night off. When I got there I sat at the counter and this really gorgeous man sat down net to me--he sort of looked like a pirate or something so he was beautiful but almost scary. I just kept sipping my drink and didn't talk to him but I could tell he looked over at me a couple times."

"Then, just as this pirate-guy started to say something to me another guy came over and started talking. Well, actually, he pulled me away from where I was sitting and pretty much asked what a nice girl like me was doing in a dump like that," she giggled.

"Oh, no! Not that old line," Lalique groaned.

"No, he wasn't trying to pick me up. He wanted me to leave Red's, and he meant alone. He said I should go back home to my mama. He said it wasn't the 'right place' for me, and I needed to stick to the Arcade or maybe the art museum or the roller rink. Isn't that funny?"

"Well, that was actually good advice."

"I wouldn't leave and I told him so," Arlene flipped her ponytail with her hand; she looked a little rebellious, especially for her, "I wasn't going to let him tell me what to do. So I moved to a different chair on the other side of the counter. He just shook his head and sat back down to finish his supper. But then this old guy with a green shirt came up and tried to dance with me: he kept yelling 'Valinda McCoy!' and I told him 'That is NOT my name'."

Lalique was trying not to laugh; she had an idea who the old guy was, she'd run into him before herself,

"Did his shoes have taps on dance shoes? And did he do a little buck and wing in front of you to impress you?"

"Yes, that's him! How did you know?"

Lalique rolled her eyes, 

"Yeah, old Taps has been around a long time, harmless, but no, you don't want to encourage him."

"Well, anyway, then Ray--that's his name, Raymond Clifford Nolan--he came over and told this guy Taps that he was my date and he pulled me up to dance. After we were dancing he said that he could see I wasn't going to take his advice, so he'd just have to run interference for me. Said I was stubborn and naive. In fact, he said it like he was irritated; like it was a big pain in the butt for him," she still sounded a bit miffed at the insult.

"So what's this Lochinvar-Oscar the Grouch dude look like?"

A dreamy look came over Arlene's face again and she looked off as she recalled. She listed everything as she saw him in her mind.

"He has these beautiful cool green eyes and his hair is honey blonde. It's long, very long, but clean and it's held back in a tail. He has a little mustache and a goatee. Wide shoulders, long legs, and kind of, you know, narrow at the hips," she blushed a little and then looked doubtful for a moment, "I guess he probably looks a little rough around the edges to most people."

"Uh-oh," Lalique had to smile, "A bad boy. Deliver me from bad boys; I must admit I've fallen for one or two. So did he stay grumpy the whole night or what?"

"No. Well, not completely. He would be nice for a couple minutes and then it was like he'd clamp down on that and be all disapproving or cynical. Like there were two of him, you know, an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other? He'd hold me close, but gentle, and then he'd back off, almost pushing me away. It was making me kind of crazy. Funny thing is I think it was making him crazy too. He made me promise never to come back to Red's even with Marcy. So I said I would stay away if he would promise to call me and I gave him my cell phone number--I made him give me his, too."

Lalique chuckled,

"You little minx!"

Arlene laughed, too,

"I had to call and leave messages twice threatening to go back to Red's as soon as I was able before he finally called me back. For a week or so that was all that happened, we talked on the phone. Sometimes we'd text but I prefer to hear his voice...mmm. He kept trying to get me to forget him, but I don't think he could forget me either. I've never asked you to let me have him here for two reasons. one, I know how he might look to the average person and, two; I don't think he'll come. He talks like he and I live on different planets or something and he tells me that he's bad for me. But that's so wrong. Underneath the tough guy image he projects, he's a good man, considerate and self-deprecating. He has a lot of friends, too. No matter where we go he knows someone, a lot of times the server or the bartender, but sometimes the owner. He won't bring me by his house; we meet at various places that he thinks will be okay for me, but we hardly ever have any time alone. He says that's best. We've met at Galaxy Arcade, and Sam's Snappy Service. When we meet at Sam's we go to the park from there if it's daylight. It's romantic at the park, don't you think? Last time we went we stayed until dark and we cuddled on the grass while we looked up at the stars. So, Lalique, what do you think?"

"Hmm, well of course, I've never met him, so it's hard to say. I hate to ask this, but what does he do to make a living?" 

"He's looking for a job, but he also does mechanic work at his home. He'd like to own his own restoration shop someday. That's another thing he says; that I went to college and I need a college man. But he went to a tech school, so I don't see what the difference is."

"There isn't any difference except in his mind. do realize that since he will only meet you in public and won't let you even see his place that he could possibly be married."

Arlene looked shocked,

"Really? I guess I never thought of that, I mean he's still in his twenties and he sure doesn't look like the married type."

"They come in all shapes and ages, believe me. You can be involved with a married man if you want to, of course, but I don't recommend it. And you seen what's happened to me. The thing is the man should be up front about being married at the very least. I'm a hot one to be giving advice to the lovelorn so I'll only say you should be aware and cautious if you want to continue to see him. Ask him outright if he's married and see what he says and maybe make him work a little harder to see you."

Tears came to Arlene's eyes,

"I'm afraid if I put any kind of stumbling block in his way he'll disappear completely. Every time he sees me he says it needs to be the last time. I know what you're thinking, but he's not jerking me around; he's totally sincere, if you heard him you'd know. Evidently he really does think he should stay away from me. But if he does I'll just die. He's a perfect gentleman, too. Sometimes," here she whispered, "Sometimes I wish he wouldn't be so much of a gentleman."

Lalique reached over and patted Arlene's knee,

"You've got it bad, don't you, honey? Okay, here's what we'll do. Will it bother you if I ask John to have someone check out Ray? Just to make sure he's not married or on the lam or anything? Then if he checks out we'll have him over to supper here."

"I thought you wanted John to stay away?"

"Yes, I want him to do that, but if I ask him to do this for me and let me know by phone, he will. And believe me, he'll get the information if there's any to get."

"Okay, I guess I should make sure he's not married. I don't know his address but I know he's renting a house in Crystal Creek."

"I'll call John right away, but I don't think we'll be able to have him over until we get to the new house. Everything is half-packed and all over the place here. I have no idea how long it will take John to get me the information either; I'm sorry if it seems nosy and sneaky, Arlene, but after everything you've told me I can't invite him over without knowing he's okay. I have the twins to think about."

"No, I understand completely. I'm so grateful that were willing to listen to me and that you understand."

Lalique prayed that nothing bad would show up on this Nolan character; Arlene was obviously completely hooked on him.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Lalique Flynn Ch. 4 Goodbye to All That

Lalique knew she needed to tell John of her decision to leave Pleasantview. She'd been hoping that by the time she told him she'd already have found a place to live. Finally she could wait no longer, so she invited him over for dinner, planning to break the news as soon as the meal was over and the dishes cleared. Now she stalled by serving a light dessert of strawberries and Mascarpone cream rather than waiting until later. It was Arlene's night off and she was out, Lalique assumed, with her mystery beau. The twins were in the playroom, using their blocks to build things. It was now or never.

"Let's relax out here," she suggested and they moved to the living area.She looked apprehensive to John and, instead of plopping down next to him she sat on the adjacent love seat so she could face him. A quick dart of dread suddenly pierced him. 

"So, what's up, honey?"

"I'm moving, John. Quite soon, I hope."

There was a beat and then he recovered,

"Where are you going?"

"I'm not sure yet, maybe Bluewater Village, maybe Crystal Creek or even beyond. I haven't found a place yet."

"And this is because?"

It wasn't like she needed to relocate due to a job, and he knew she loved the house and was very proud of it.

"I just feel the twins and I need a change. Alain and Desiree are getting closer and closer to you, John. Soon they'll be confused as to who you are. You don't live with us and what are they to think? They're still very young, though; if we part now it will be easier for them to adjust. Every day that you and I are together it's more likely your wife will find out. And neither of us wants that."

His face betrayed no emotion, but his words did,

"I never meant it to go this far, it's true. I'm very attached to the kids," he paused, "And I'm in love with you. I don't know how I can love two women at the same time, but I do."

He’d never said the “L” word before and Lalique was thrilled yet at the same time she was desolate. She must leave and soon; she’d had to adjust her belt today to accommodate her expanding waist. She would soon have to start wearing loose blouses, if not maternity tops.

“I love you, too, John. I’ve told you that before once or twice, I believe, and you must know it’s true; but this is something I feel I have to do. It was never in the cards for us to be together long term and we both know it. We can’t be in contact after tonight.”

"If you're leaving because you think I won't stay away, that's just wrong. You love this house and I won't let you be moved out of it because you are worried about my reaction. So, while I'm not happy about this, I do understand and will honor your wishes, of course."

“It’s not so much that I think you’ll try to keep seeing me, John. It’s that if I have to run into you in town all the time—and you know that would happen fairly often—eventually I might lose my will power and start up again. Anyway, I haven’t found a new house yet. I know I should just put this one up for sale, but it’s sentimental to me, it represents an accomplishment in a my life. And I know eventually I’ll want to move back here. So I’ll rent it out I suppose.”

“If you want to come back to Pleasantview someday why this rush to leave it now?”

"John. You know why; I need some distance from you. I have to protect Alain and Desiree and my heart. You can never be their father, you can never be my husband, and I understand that. The children and I need to move on."

Of course she had no intention of telling him she was carrying his child.

"But you just said you haven't found a house yet."

I may just rent a house somewhere, not buy one. Or I may have to go with an apartment, though I'd rather not." 

"If you rent this place furnished you'll have a sizable rental income, all you might need is help with a down payment if you buy a second house. I hate to see you rent; it's money down the rat hole. Why don't you buy a house and let me help you with that expense or, better yet, let me get the house for you," he leaned forward hoping to convince her, "I won't interfere with your life; just ease the way for you. I feel responsible for all of this."

"No, John, I had a feeling you might want to do that but it needs to be a clean break between us. If I take help from you now how will I ever stand on my own again?"

He knew when to make a move and when not to and so he nodded. More disappointed than he'd ever thought he could be John was a master at hiding his emotions. So he stood up saying,

"If your mind is made up I guess it's time I was on my way. Okay if I look in on the kids a moment? I just want to get a quick look at those little faces before I go."

Suddenly Lalique felt grief at the thought that not only was he saying goodbye to Alain and Desiree but to the child he'd never know was his.

"Of course, John. You've always been wonderful with them."

They were still playing with their blocks but when John stood in the doorway they laughed and waved at him. Shortly after that and one last, long kiss with Lalique, he left for home. He couldn’t believe how much those two little kids meant to him now and he knew he would miss them forever. How did he get to this point? He never meant it to happen. The loss of Lalique and her children was going to kill him. But there was nothing to do about it and Lalique was right about one thing. Melora might find out and he couldn’t have that. He’d been neglecting her and with the decision to part with Lalique made for him, he could attempt to make up for that. Unfortunately, now he would worry whether Lalique and her children were doing all right and had found a house and he couldn’t even contact her anymore. He knew ways to keep informed on her activities though and he wasn’t above doing that. It wasn’t stalking, just keeping an eye on her for safety’s sake, he told himself. Meanwhile he would get back to concentrating on the wife he loved; she had never deserved any of this.

By the next morning Lalique was close to panicking about not finding a place to move to that was out of Pleasantview, but a few days after she had said goodbye to John her realtor had taken her to a furnished rental home in Bluewater Village that had just come on the market. It was lovely and situated in a quiet section of the village right on the water, but it was much larger than her current home and she was sure she wouldn’t be able to afford it. The agent told her the rent and she was more than surprised. The monthly amount was very reasonable.

“So…what does that mean? Is it haunted? Are there critters in the attic or something?” she was only half-joking.

“No, but it’s been empty a while. In fact it’s a ‘rent with an option to buy’ deal.”

If she rented a furnished home that would be perfect since she planned to lease her current home with furniture included. Lalique wasted no time putting down a deposit and made arrangements now to rent out her own home as soon as she could move out. 

There was no going back now. Poor John; she knew he’d try to stay in her life and that he’d want to help with her expenses. She didn’t dare let him do that. Thank heaven she was getting out before he could know she was pregnant, or he’d probably have insisted she take his help and then where would she be? It was almost more than she could stand to walk away from him. Her heartstrings were wrapped around John and, unfortunately, so were her children’s. She’d had no idea things would get so complicated; if someone had told her she’d finally fall in love and it would be a married man old enough to be her father she’d have laughed. But it had happened, might as well be honest; she’d let it happen. She’d obviously been living in dream world. Well, it was time to wake up…


Monday, March 5, 2012

Glenn Caswell Ch. 7 I Know My Boy

During the time that John was with Lalique in the mountains--and Melora thought he was in Atlanta--Melora asked her old friend, Glenn, to come over for a visit.

"What's up, honey girl?" Glenn asked as she came in the house.

"I just hadn't seen you in a while," Melora smiled, but she wasn't fooling Glenn, at least not for long, "You haven't seen the new garage, carport and deck. Let's go up there; I'll bring some lemonade."

"I'll get it," Glenn insisted, "You know you need at least one hand on the bannister."

Everyone close to Melora knew that she didn't like stairs and was clumsy to boot.  John had always teased her, saying,

"She trips over dust. How can anyone dance so divinely and then be such a klutz?"

"This is gorgeous!" Glenn said as they sat down and enjoyed the view looking out into the cove. There was a nice breeze and the lemonade was home-made; the best kind. They just spent time catching up, mostly talking about their grown children and what was new in their lives.

When it got too hot on the deck they decided to take a dip in the pool. Afterward they stretched out on chaise lounges. By and by Melora's cat meandered out to check on things and get some attention.

"So is John getting along with the cat better or is he still jealous?" Glenn laughed.

"Actually he's become fond of her, in his own way," Melora said, crouching down to stroke the animal.

"What's her name again?" Glenn asked.


Glenn winked and sang with enthusiasm,

"Blacker than night were the eyes of Felina,
Ricked and evil while casting a spell.
My love was strong for this Mexican maiden,
I was in love, but in vain I could tell."

"Yes, I was thinking of that song when I named her. Not bad singing either, Glennie," Melora laughed.

"Oh, yeah, right. You're the singer, girl, not me. But I admit Marty Robbins was pretty good in his way, too. Anyway, you'll have to come over and meet my little Chiquitita--funny how we both ended up using Hispanic names for our pets. Gareth called her a rat-dog, but she's a cutie."

[Marty Robbins and El Paso (lyrics included)]

"I haven't seen your new place either so I promise I'll come by soon."

"What about later today? When's the old man get back? Where'd he go anyway?" Glenn was almost always irreverent about John; they'd grown up together and only she and their other childhood friend Jim Candeloro had dared to give him a hard time. They felt it was their duty to do so at every opportunity and he usually returned in kind.

Just for a second she could detect a slight hesitation and frown from Melora, just a flash and it was gone.

"He had to go to Atlanta on one of his quarterly checks. He was supposed to get back on Monday, but he called this morning and said he might stop by Lassiter Contractors in Charlotte on the way back which will add another 36 hours probably. I'd rather come by your home another day, though, if it's okay. There are projects I should get done around the house while he's gone; it's easier for me when he's not interrupting."

Glenn pretended not to notice the pause and nodded her head,

"Sure, any time," then she referred to the information about John hitting Charlotte after Atlanta, "He might as well take care of it on the way home; that makes sense."

"Well, why don't I make us a late lunch," Melora spoke brightly and the subject was effectively closed.

It was getting dark and Glenn knew she should head home, but Melora was beginning to worry her. For one thing, she'd been almost too cheerful through dinner, and there was a niggling feeling at the back of Glenn's neck. She wondered if Melora was nervous staying alone while John was out of town. But after all these years she'd seemed to be fine whenever John was gone; he always called twice each day at those times and, anyway, they had an excellent security system. Nevertheless Glenn was loathe to go and suggested a quick game before she left.

When they were finally finished she stood up and said,

"Well, toots, I guess I'd better shove off and let you get some sleep."

"Thanks for coming over," Melora said as she turned off the game and the television. Suddenly she looked so alone to Glenn. And vulnerable. Poop on this.

"Okay, kid," she said, "Let's get down on the floor for one of our old-time gabfests and you can tell me what the heck is going on. My radar is going crazy."

Melora appeared stunned for a second but then, looking resigned, she sighed and nodded,

"All right, we haven't done that in a long time."

They sat cross-legged on the rug and Melora said,

"You have to understand; these are just feelings. I'm not sure about anything. And I haven't told you before now because I didn't want to put you in the middle."

Glenn kept her face expressionless. John, old pal of mine, what have you done? 

Melora went forward with her concerns, her suspicions and doubts. She told Glenn everything.

[Chapter where Melora first begins to suspect John is "stepping out" HERE]

"There must be a reasonable explanation," Glenn said, trying to figure it out, "Because I know that man loves you more than his life. He always has. Have you...asked him directly?"

Melora answered with understandable sarcasm,

"Well, no, I haven't said 'Oh, John, honey, I was wondering; are you having an affair?' But a couple of different times I've asked if something is bothering him and he always says that everything is fine, no problems at all. After that, for a couple days anyway, he's his old self again and practically chases me around the house. I don't want to insult him by asking if there's another woman if he's doing nothing wrong. Besides I couldn't bear to even voice my concerns out loud," her throat seemed to close up and she closed her eyes for a moment, but then she gained control and went on, "But now for the last couple weeks he's really been more remote than ever and I just don't know what to do anymore."

"Well John's been distant and tight-lipped with the rest of the world since he was learning to talk, but you've always been the exception; he's always told you everything as far as I can tell. I admit it doesn't make much sense," Glenn agreed, "Do you think he might be ill?"

"He had a complete physical a few months ago and they said he was in tip top shape, at least that's what he says. He looks better than ever, in fact, which is infuriating sometimes. WHY do men age so much better?"

"Probably it just seems so because society doesn't expect them to have unlined rose petal skin, perky breasts and firm thighs forever. So their wrinkles are referred to as "craggy" and they are described as "ruggedly handsome" and their gray hair supposedly makes them "distinguished". The egotistical bums," Glenn cracked, "Although I personally see plenty of badly aged men with man-boobs, bald spots and pot-bellies. All men seem to see themselves through rose colored glasses, glossing over any defects while women look at themselves as cubist sculpture seeing every single imperfection through a magnifying glass. Even the most beautiful woman will tell you her flaws without having to think about it. Of course, John is not one of the pot-bellied old men out there and you wouldn't want him to be, either."

"I might prefer it now," Melora muttered darkly.

"Listen, I'm sure there's nothing to it, but how about I check around and see what I can find out?"

"You mean like a...private eye?" Melora looked apprehensive.

"I was a good one, you know; I'll come out of retirement," Glenn mouth quirked and then she said seriously, "I'm sure there will be some good reason for his actions that is easily explainable, and then you can relax."

"Oh, Glenn, you two are so close; I couldn't ask you to do that. I know you love him," Melora shook her head.

"Well, I love you too, you know, and I don't want you to be worrying over what might be nothing."

"Thank you so much, Glenn, it has been so good to talk to someone about it. I love you to pieces, but I'm going to have to struggle through without you doing that. It's just not fair to you." 

They both stood up and Glenn hugged her saying,

"Honey girl, it will work out; I know it will. Because I know how important you are to him. I know my boy."

As she drove home Glenn thought about all she'd heard and began to worry. Do I really know my boy? Melora had said she couldn't ASK her to investigate but she hadn't actually said Glenn could NOT investigate on her own. And the sooner the better, she decided. She had many questions. Was John really in Atlanta--or elsewhere? Why had he suddenly extended the length of his trip? Was he telling the truth? Atlanta, that was the place to start. She'd find out if he was, indeed, where he said he was. Although she loved John her former profession as a cop in New York and later a P.I. in Atlanta and Charlotte had made her rather cynical about what people would or would not do. She wanted and needed to do this for Melora, but she was suddenly sick at heart. What if she found out something terrible...?