(This is a continuing series called “Kissing Frogs” posted every Friday. To get caught up, you can click the “Kissing Frogs . . . so far” link at the top of the page.)
“So that was interesting.” Jack was sitting in the passenger seat of the truck. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you like that with a woman. How do you know her?”
“I don’t think ‘know’ is the right term. You know that singles bible study I go to on Tuesday nights? She comes on the weeks she doesn’t have a boyfriend. She comes so infrequently that she thinks she knows me from Sunday School at her church.”
Jack laughed. “Which would indicate how frequent her attendance is there, too.”
Joey laughed with him.
“She’s exactly everything I don’t like in a woman, so she pushes my buttons a little I guess. But she’s a good business woman, and she’ll pay on time, which means regular paychecks for a year, and we probably won’t have to actually see her all that much.”
Jack nodded. “And when we do, I’ll do all the talking, and you’ll just smile and nod, and go to a happy place inside your head.”
Joey laughed out loud. This is why he worked with friends. This is what would make this job better than the school janitor job. A year working all day with one of his best friends was two prayers answered in one go.
Jan Billar-Sykes had voluntarily committed herself to a psych evaluation. She sent a message to Tracey through the hospital, and Tracey responded with flowers and a fruit basket. She spent the afternoon doing damage control, and touching base with the other two authors working on this new line of books. But always in the back of her mind was dinner with Andrew Faulkner.
She was the last one to leave the office, as was her habit, and as she locked the doors, she realized that a sleek, dark blue Mercedes was sitting at the curb, and Andrew was emerging from the back seat. Tracey pushed the whisps of hair that had come loose from her hair clip, and felt the oil that was sitting on her forehead. She looked and felt like a woman who had been at work all day. Was this his plan, or was she supposed to go home before now?
Andrew reached her with a smile, and took her elbow, guiding her to the vehicle. She could smell his cologne, and feel the hem of his jacket bumping the back of her knee. And here came the dizzy butterflies in her stomach.
“Tracey. Shall we carry you home so you can feel a little refreshed before we eat?”
She smiled and nodded as she climbed into the car. After giving the driver her home address, she settled into the leather seats, and turned, to see Andrew looking at her intently. She smiled nervously.
“So tell me a little bit about yourself. Are you any relation to Edward MacManus?” Andrew seemed genuinely interested, but the question was not one Tracey welcomed, especially from a vocal conservative who had been on the opposite side of her father’s outspoken liberal politics. Tracey looked at the back of the car seat as she spoke.
“He’s my father. I began listening to your local radio show when I was in college just to make him mad.”
Andrew chuckled, and leaned back in his seat.
“Well, I guess I won’t be able to use that on the air, as much as I may want to.”
There was a brief silence, and then Andrew laughed again.
“You know, for someone who makes a living by talking, I’m just not very good at small talk.” He turned slightly to look at Tracey. “And this is the first date I’ve been on since the Clinton administration. I don’t get out much.”
Tracey was shocked, and it must have shown on her face, because he smiled, and said, “I’m flattered that my lack of a social life surprises you.”
“I have a hard time imagining you wanting for female attention.” Tracey responded.
“I don’t travel in the kind of circles where available, intelligent women abound. My listening audience is sixty percent male, and the intelligent women I encounter tend to be either married or acrimonious, or both.”
Tracey laughed and Andrew gently rested his finger tips against her shoulder as he finished his thought.
“I think what is drawing me to you is the combination of your obvious intelligence and your peaceful grace.”
A blush was flooding her face, and in the back of her mind, a warning siren was sounding. She was neither peaceful, nor graceful, and at some point he was going to figure that out. But not tonight, because they were already at her house, and Andrew was telling her to dress casually, he had planned a picnic.
The evening was beautiful. They ate Greek food on the grass by the river and then walked beside it in the crisp early spring night, drinking cappuccino. Andrew told stories about his early days in radio that had Tracey in stitches. Tracey asked him questions she had wondered about since those early college years, and he answered them in as great a detail as he could. There were no silences now, and as he talked, Tracey found herself almost unable to concentrate when those big blue eyes would turn on her intently and look at her like she was the only thing in the world.
He walked her to her door, his hand once again resting lightly on the small of her back. When she unlocked the door, he touched her elbow, and she turned to face him.
“Thank you Tracey. I haven’t enjoyed an evening this much in years. Can I see you again. Personally, I mean?”
“I’d like that,” was all Tracey’s throat would let her say.
He stepped closer, kissed her on the forehead, and then turned and walked to his car.
Stan was indignant at being left alone for an evening, but Tracey didn’t notice. She sat in silence for almost half an hour, just going over the evening in her mind. When she did go to bed, she didn’t sleep for most of the night. In retaliation, Stan jumped from the bed, when she finally did fall asleep, and clawed apart the closest pair of pantyhose. Satisfied with his revenge, he curled up in the small of Tracey’s back, and dreamed of female cats with long whiskers.