Books are a uniquely portable magic. ~ Stephen King

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

For the Love of Chocolate: A Fairy Tale

In case you missed something:

For the Love of Chocolate Part I

It was last fall. It was one of those days folks describe as ‘crisp’, ‘brilliant’ and ‘delightful’. It was still warm, but the nip of autumn was present in the air. The sun was shining through the canopy of leaves that still protected our forest. The leaves had started changing colors and a few had even begun to fall.

The human hikers were out in full force and my friends and I were having a lot of fun. I was flying up to the tops of the trees then resting on the falling leaves as they floated freely to the ground. The elves and imps had to stay closer to the ground (no wings, as you know) so they were having a grand old time teasing the human hikers.

One group of hikers caught my attention in particular, because it was a family: a mom, a dad, and two young girls. We didn’t see many human children and we loved them – all of us did. About five or six fairies as well as a whole army of elves and imps followed them, engaging in a little mischief along the way, down the trail. The imps dropped off first, then the elves; soon my fairy friends were starting to drop off, too. I was getting tired, but I was willing to bet those human kids were getting tired, too, and I felt pretty sure that when they got tired there would be a rest and a snack.

When they finally did stop, my friend Shari was the only one of the wood folk who was still with me. The human hikers sat on a fallen tree and opened their backpacks. They all took out their water bottles and took a long drink. The mother held the cool bottle first to one then to the other side of her face. She reached into her backpack and pulled out a candy bar for each of the children. They unwrapped them quickly while Shari and I looked at each other with anticipation. Flying unnoticed over the heads of the children, I raised my hand for a silent high five. Shari met it.

We watched the children eat, waiting for them to drop a single morsel. They didn’t. Shari wanted to give up and head for home, but I’d smelled chocolate and I wasn’t going to be content until I’d tasted some. I was getting really hungry, so I decided to go straight for the source. I knew it was dangerous, but I wasn’t thinking straight. I wanted chocolate.

I flew for the mother’s backpack.

Shari tried to stop me, but I flew right past her and straight into that pack. Oh, the smell in there! It was amazing! I recognized the scents of chocolate and peanut butter and raisins. I tried to find the source but it was dark in the backpack and I needed to rely on my nose rather than my eyes.

I heard Shari yell, “Joyce! Come on!” with a definite tone of desperation in her voice, but I ignored her. I’d honed in on a bag of chocolate covered peanuts that had not been carefully closed. I lifted one up. It was bigger than my head. I wasn’t sure I could fly with it, but I was sure I was going to try.

“JOYCE!” I heard again, just as the dim light around me turned to pitch black. I’d been trapped in the human mother’s backpack.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Marnie's Rung

Ok, kids - this chapter contains the first sex scene I've ever written. I am nervous and vulnerable. Be gentle with me, ok?

In case you missed something:

Chapter 1: Josh's Table
Chapter 2: The Vista
Chapter 3: Transition
Chapter 4: Brunch
Chapter 5: Ted's Farm
Chapter 6: Helmet Reflections
Chapter 7: The Real World
Chapter 8: Hooligan's
Chapter 9: Joan
Chapter 10: The Hospital
Chapter 11: Thanksgiving

Chapter 12.
Marnie’s Condo

When they got in the car, Marnie reached across the center console and hugged him. “Thank you for that – that was wonderful. Better than I expected.”

“Your dad said he’d see what he could do about helping me find work.”

“Oh Cal! That’s awesome! My dad has a lot of connections!”

“I assumed so.”


They drove to Marnie’s condo in relative silence. At every stop light, Marnie rested her head on his arm. When he walked her to her door, she invited him in for a nightcap.



Marnie went to the kitchen to grab a couple beers and Cal looked around her living room with his hands behind his back. He looked at the titles of the books on her bookshelves and was mildly impressed. Who was this woman he was getting involved with? She returned with the beers and they sat close together on the sofa. Cal put his arm around her and she melted into him. What a nice fit.

This was the first time they’d actually been alone. That wasn’t technically true. They’d been on the bike alone, but they couldn’t talk. They’d talked for hours on the phone, but they weren’t together. They were alone for a couple moments in the barn, and… Marnie sat up. She didn’t want to move too fast. She’d made that mistake before.

She opened a drawer in the coffee table next to the couch where they’d been snuggling and pulled out a small silver-plated mirror and a tiny silver spoon. She removed a small baggie from the drawer and tapped a small mound of the white powder onto the mirror. May as well get this party started. She offered the spoon to Cal first and he took two quick snorts. She followed suit.

She snuggled back into him and they talked – together – for the first time since they’d started whatever this thing they were starting was. When they lapsed into silence, Marnie shifted her position so that she was facing him. She wanted to fill that silence with kisses. She reached up and grazed her hand across his cheek. He turned and kissed her palm. She tightened it into a fist, saving the kiss. What was she, thirteen? Cal brought out a side of her that had been dormant for years. He smiled and kissed her closed fist. His hair had fallen over his eyes and it was completely disarming. That was ok. She wanted to be disarmed. She wanted to surrender, she wanted…

Cal sat up this time. “Ok?” he said, picking up the small spoon again.

“Oh, yeah, sure.” She responded, brushing her hair back into place. “You ready for another beer?” she asked after taking her own turn with the spoon.


Marnie felt his eyes on her as she walked out of the room to the kitchen. She walked just a little more slowly and exaggerated the sway of her hips just a little bit; not enough to be raunchy, but enough to be noticed. It was, she realized, not intended as a tease. It was just such an utterly feminine way to walk and Cal sure had her feeling like a girl.

She returned to the sofa with the beers and they both took a long swallow followed by another short snort. Marnie tilted her head back and shut her eyes. Cal kissed her exposed throat gently. Damn, that was a cool effect. The drip down her throat coupled with the kiss on the neck made her head spin. She grabbed Cal’s shoulder – more to steady herself than to pull him in. His kisses traced a line from her throat to a spot behind her ear; a spot that sent an almost electrical shock through her whole system. No one had ever kissed her just like that in just that spot before. This was magical. Her knee rose, seemingly of its own volition, her foot grazing Cal’s hip. Man, if he could make her feel like this with a kiss, she couldn’t begin to imagine what he had in store for her when the clothes fell off. His arm encircled her waist and pulled her closer. His lips found hers and she dissolved – a quivering paradoxical mass of weakness and strength. She was straddling his lap, now, one hand entangled in his hair, the other on his lower back, pulling him closer. His readiness was evident and matched by her own.

A million thoughts tried to race through her head. Logical thoughts. Reasonable thoughts. Thoughts about implications for the future. They were all stopped in their tracks by one word, repeated over and over with increased levels of desperation by her overly enthusiastic libido: yes, Yes, YES!!!

His mouth left hers and began a slow and deliberate path down her throat again. When his path was blocked by her shirt, she pulled it over her head. He looked at her appreciatively for a moment before picking up the kisses right where he’d left off. His hands came around and cupped both of her breasts, pushing them together and kissing her more vigorously along the line of cleavage this produced. She took a brief moment to be thankful that she’d had the foresight to wear a pretty bra. In the moment it took her to be thankful for this, he’d unfastened it in one swift gesture. His lips continued their journey, taking the time to savor every kiss. Marnie was in a frenzy at this point she wanted him – needed him – now. The time he was taking was somehow infuriating and delicious at the same time. She couldn’t believe his last girlfriend had left him. She would never walk away from this – even if she wanted to, she’d never be able to. He owned her.

She felt his breath on her nipple before she felt his lips. As his lips closed on it and his tongue encircled it she moved both hands to his head. He looked up and saw the longing in her eyes – the passion that came from someplace deeply ingrained – a passion that may have proven evolutionary theories, so animal was it in nature. He pulled away and smiled at her, that same animal gleam in his own eyes, as well. He pulled off his own shirt and she gasped. She ran a finger tentatively down his muscled torso to the top of his jeans. She tried to be as deliberate as he’d been, but she didn’t share his sense of discipline. She fumbled with the button at the top of his jeans, but she also didn’t share his finesse. He took the opportunity to undo the button himself. Marnie stood up and slid out of her own jeans, leaving them in a heap on the floor. Cal kicked his off. He looked her up and down with the same languishing manner she’d come to expect from him. He placed his hands on her hips and pulled her to him, still standing, as he sat forward on the sofa. He kissed one hip bone and slowly, almost tortuously, made his way to the other. Marnie was quivering at this point and felt that if he removed his hands from her hips she might not have the strength to stand on her own.

Cal stood at this moment, too, and gently guided Marnie back to the sofa. He moved on top of her and she wrapped her legs around him, pulling him in. He entered her the same way he kissed her – slowly, deliberately. She met the movements of his hips with her own; increasing the intensity as he did. He kissed her lips, her eyes, her breasts – randomly now – not with the sense of purpose he’d displayed before. She embraced him with her arms as well as her legs, pulling him in further, further – becoming lost in the synchronous dance of their lovemaking. She abandoned all sense of self and succumbed to her passions. When she’d abandoned herself fully, her body responded with a sweet release. Her nails dug into his back and she no longer met his movements, her hips frozen in the position that kept him in her most deeply. As she called his name, he took one last thrust and abandoned himself to his release as well.

He collapsed on top of her and kissed her face – her eyes, her cheeks, her nose, her forehead and even her lips once or twice. She stroked his hair when he relaxed his head onto her chest.

“That was…”

“I know…”

After a few moments of post coital bliss, Marnie excused herself. When she returned to the living room, she tossed a towel to Cal and he cleaned himself off appreciatively. He slipped his jeans back on and she pulled his shirt over her head. It was far too big and fell to mid thigh. She planned to ask if she could keep it.

“You want another beer?”

“Maybe just one more.”

When Marnie came back with the beers, Cal was playing with the silver spoon.

“We are never going to sleep tonight, are we?”

“Sleep is overrated.”

Marnie awoke sometime early the next afternoon, her arms and legs engaged in a tangled mélange with Cal’s on the sofa. They’d never quite made it to bed. She smiled and kissed his head, while carefully disentangling herself without disturbing him. Wow. She’d have to call someone about the upholstery on her sofa tomorrow. White had seemed like such a good idea at the time…She went to the kitchen and started the coffee. She was a little hung over. She was quite disheveled. There was a distinctive knot in her back from spending the night sharing a small sofa. And she couldn’t stop smiling.

As she waited for the coffee to brew she allowed herself to review the events of the evening. Thanksgiving, indeed. In the heat of their passion, they had neglected to use a condom. She knew that was stupid and allowed herself a moment to consider the potential consequences of it. She was on the pill to regulate her periods, so an unplanned pregnancy shouldn’t be an issue. She hadn’t been with anyone since… she thought back…well, it had been a long time, for sure. She was pretty sure he hadn’t been with anyone since his ex, and she knew he was faithful to her. Of course everyone also knew that she had not returned the favor. Yeah, what they’d done was pretty irresponsible. They’d take proper precautions next time. Which, if she had her way, would be right after breakfast. How many times had it been last night? Three, at least. Damn, that Cal knew his way around a woman.

As if on cue, Cal entered the kitchen, his hair sticking out in every direction, rubbing his eyes. “Mornin’, beautiful.”

“Mornin’ yourself! Coffee?”

“God yes.” He sat at the kitchen table and leaned back, smiling. “You look good in my T-shirt.”

“How do you take your coffee?”


“Hope it’s not too strong” she said, placing a mug in front of him.

“Impossible” he responded, warming his hands around the mug for a moment before lifting it to take a tentative sip. “Perfect.”

“I do try.” She said, executing a mock curtsy in his direction before joining him at the table. He reached across the table and put his hand over her free hand. She intertwined her fingers with his. She liked the contrast of her small hand in his large one. She liked this.

“A guy could get used to this.” He said, as though reading her thoughts.

“Go right ahead.”

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

For the Love of Chocolate: A Fairy Tale

I’m a wood fairy.

People always seem to think we forest folk should have names that reflect our woodsy home, but that’s just silliness. The truth is that we name our young using the same guidelines human people use when naming theirs. We have family names, names reminiscent of our homelands, names that reflect things we love and names we “just think sound good”. Sure, I have friends named Buttercup and Breeze, but their parents have a tremendous and particular fondness for the wild mushrooms, if you know what I mean. The mushroom children in our world are like the flower children in the world of human people. They’re cool, and usually very sweet, but they don’t speak for all of us. They’re not the norm. Come to think of it, there is no norm. And I guess that’s pretty cool.

Me? My name is Joyce. I was ostensibly named after the human poet James Joyce, because my parents – heck, my whole clan – are a bookish sort. My mother confessed to me once, though, that I was really named after the poet Joyce Kilmer – you know – the human woman who wrote Trees. So maybe, in a roundabout way, I have a woodsy name after all.

I live in a tree with my parents, my younger sister Maya (I told you my parents liked human poetry, right?) and my baby brother Billy. You’ve got it. Billy as in William. As in Shakespeare. Maybe Billy will be their poet. Maya and I have both been – rather a disappointment in that particular arena. We both like to read, for sure, but neither of us are poets or even particularly interested in poetry. It just doesn’t move us. Our parents don’t push it. They know different folks are moved by different things. They’re cool with that. That being said, I don’t think they’d be particularly disappointed if Billy followed in their footsteps.

Our tree is located in a forest far from the beaten path. A lot of other forest folk live nearby – other fairies, elves, imps, and of course, the usual forest animals. There are four distinct seasons where we live. My friends and I love watching the changing of the seasons. We compete to be the first to see the first signs of the next season – the first flowers of spring, the first fireflies of summer, the first leaf to change color in the fall, the first snowflake of winter. Of course human children look forward to the same things. The difference is that we can sit on the flower petals and have tea parties. We fly and play tag with the fireflies. We use the fallen leaves like sleds to slide through the forest after a good rain. We tumble to the ground with the snowflakes.

Yep. Four seasons of fun for the fairy folk in our forest. Hey! Alliteration! That’s a poetic device, right? Maybe my parents have cause for hope. Probably not, though.

We get another first, however, living in the forest as we do. I look forward to this one more than all the others combined. I’m talking, of course, about the first human hikers of the season.

The first hiker usually arrives sometime after the first spring flowers, but before the first firefly has been spotted. Now I’m sorry to tell you this, but some of my friends like to play tricks on the hikers. That’s usually the realm of the imps and the elves and the naughtier of the fairies. They’ll push roots up to trip the hikers, causing their arms to flail as they try to regain their balance. They’ll fly around the hikers’ heads, making little noises that cause the hikers to stop and look around, then shake their heads, sometimes exclaiming right out loud that their imaginations are playing tricks on them. Unless my friend Imagination was in on the joke (He’s an elf who actually lives in a mushroom. So. Yeah.) they’re totally wrong.

It’s mean, but usually harmless. Elves and imps tend to love tricks, but they don’t want to really harm anyone. Once, when a human hiker actually did fall, they healed him with magic and then erased his memory of the whole ordeal. So even though I’m not big on messing with the hikers myself, I usually don’t protest too strenuously. No harm, no foul.

I like everything about the hikers. I like the way we hear them before we see them, breaking sticks and crunching leaves with their enormous boots. The animals, of course, do this too. But with the hikers, it’s different. Perhaps it’s because their weight is distributed over two legs rather than four, I don’t know. When we see them, it always surprises us how BIG they are. Sure, some of the animals are even bigger, but humans look so much like us. It’s unnerving and exciting to see modified versions of ourselves, but so large.

I love the voices of the human hikers.

I love that they sweat. None of the forest folk sweat, perspire, or even glow (though we have been known to sparkle on occasion), so we’re intrigued by it. We live pretty far back into the woods, so by the time hikers make it to us, they are almost inevitably sweating.

We find it delightful.

But the BEST part about human hikers is their food. Sometimes they will stop to rest and have a drink and perhaps a snack. Quite often this results in crumbs falling to the forest floor. Keep in mind that forest folk are quite wee – these crumbs are a veritable feast for us. We’ve had bits of peanut butter sandwiches, whole raisins, granola crumbles and – oh bliss! Oh rapture unforeseen! – chocolate.

If I ever WOULD write poetry, it would almost surely be an ode to chocolate. We have tried to use fairy magic to come up with some sort of facsimile, but our success has been limited at best. There is no woodland substitution for chocolate.

My love of chocolate, actually, provided the impetus for the biggest adventure of my life.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Marnie's Rung

Fiction Fridays

I heard you missed me - I'm back...

Actually, it only took one friend saying, "Hey! What happens next to Marnie?" to light a fire under my ample butt. This is not my favorite chapter - which is probably why I stopped posting when I hit it. But Cal had to meet the family somehow, right? Be sure to tune in next week, when we talk about sex, baby...

Chapter 11

Cal arrived at her condo exactly on time. He had taken a little extra care with his grooming today and he looked yummy; nervous, but yummy. His wavy hair, usually tousled, had been tamed into place. A quick glance at the driveway indicated why: where she’d expected to see Cal’s bike, she saw instead a late 70’s model Camaro. Well this was a surprise. “Where’s the bike?”

“It might rain.” Marnie looked skyward then raised an eyebrow at him. “Ok, I didn’t want your family to think I was some sort of hoodlum. I thought this might make a better impression.”

“It’s making a good impression on me!” Marnie said as she locked her door and activated her alarm system. She ran to the passenger door and ran her fingers along the car appreciatively. “This is gorgeous!”

“I like it. I like the bike better, but, you know…”

“Good impression.”

“Yeah. Plus it’s starting to get cold. It was about time to bring it out anyway. So you like it?”

“I love it. Let’s go!”

As they rode, she got him up to speed on the Joan situation. “I don’t think we’ll be seeing her around for a while, if ever. I’ll miss her, but I guess that’s good. I mean, you know, for her.”

“I guess.” Cal was just relieved that there weren’t going to be any charges. “Speaking of which – do you want a little – uh - fortification before we get to your parents’ house?” It was pretty clear that he did.

“Oh, hells yes.”

He pulled over in a neighborhood park and they both took a couple little snorts from their fingernails. Marnie was slightly disappointed. No tap, tap, tap. She felt less tense almost instantly. She knew coke wasn’t supposed to relax you, but that had always been her initial response to it. Relaxation followed by a confidence that she could take on the world. How could something that did that be wrong?

Cal started the car up again and Marnie directed him to her parents’ place. As he pulled into the long circular driveway he said, “Shit, Marnie. I don’t know if I’m ready for this…”

“They’re very regular people. You’ll like them. I wouldn’t feed you to the wolves.” She smiled confidently and crossed her fingers in the hope that she was telling the truth. The fact was that they were both entering unfamiliar territory. She hadn’t brought a boy home since college. She’d had a serious boyfriend then – they’d even talked marriage. She brought him home with her every time she visited and her family had loved him. Everyone assumed they’d be getting married – including Marnie. When he put a ring on her finger on her twenty-first birthday, no-one was surprised. Her mother and her sisters swooped in immediately and started making wedding plans. His mother became involved as well. Then Marnie found more and more indications that he’d been seeing some red-headed whore behind her back. Well – she probably wasn’t actually a whore. And it’s quite possible that she wasn’t actually a redhead. But she was definitely fucking Marnie’s fiance. Bitter? Oh no. She was completely over it. But she was no Corrine. She wouldn’t be cuckolded. He was gone and she’d never looked back. But she also hadn’t ever felt strongly enough about anyone since to take them to her parents’ house. And here she was bringing Cal after less than a week. On paper, it didn’t make any sense. But Marnie knew it was right.

Lupe opened the door before Marnie could. “You must be Mrs. Hammond. I’m Cal.” Cal said, extending his hand before Marnie had a chance to make the introduction. Marnie rolled her eyes. It was going to be a long afternoon.

Lupe looked at Marnie and raised her eyebrows. “Nice to meet you. My name is Lupe.” Lupe turned and went back into the house towards the kitchen. Cal realized his mistake as Mrs. Hammond came to the door to greet them. She was a handsome woman; impeccably dressed with every hair in place. She extended her hand to Cal, “So nice to meet you, Cal, I’m Lucinda Hammond. Please come in.”

Marnie tried to visualize her home – her parents’ home, she reminded herself – through Cal’s eyes. The entrance hall was large, with high ceilings and a marble floor. There was a crystal chandelier centered above the space. As a child she had thought that the colors the prisms produced when the light shined through them were private little rainbows just for her. When she got old enough to realize what they really were, that became intriguing as well. She played a lot in the entrance hall because it was big and basically empty. There were no vases or fragile things to be wary of. She could throw her arms out and twirl and dance with her own private rainbows. She thought this room was beautiful and wondered if Cal saw beautiful or just big and cold. She looked to him for a clue, but he was following her mother and his eyes were looking everywhere.

She led him through the formal living room – a room Marnie had never liked. It was beautiful, she supposed, but it always seemed so stiff. When she was young and had wanted to play in this room she was always warned about breaking things. Antique this, heirloom that. She was always warned not to jump on the furniture – not that she would’ve wanted to. It was all hard and stiff. Of all the rooms in her parents’ house, this was the one in which she felt most uncomfortable.

They continued down a hall that was filled with ancestral portraits. As they neared the end of the hall they gave way to more current photographs. The artful arrangement belied any sense of inconsistency. It flowed. This hall led into the great room which was where everyone usually gathered. This room was the polar opposite of the formal living room – warm and inviting. There was a fire burning in a large stone fireplace, as if to make tangible that sense of warmth. The furniture was overstuffed and comfortable. The color scheme was warm spicy shades of golds, greens, purples and reds. Corrine was sitting alone in the room, a cocktail in her hand. She looked tense. She always looked tense.

“Cal? This is my sister Corrine. Corrine? Cal.”

Cal nodded an acknowledgement and Corrine raised her glass to him. “Can I have Lupe fix you a drink, Cal?” Mrs. Hammond asked.

“A beer would be fine.”


“I’ll have a vodka martini.”

Mrs. Hammond summoned Lupe and she appeared. She gave her Marnie and Cal’s drink order and asked to have her own refreshed. Cal and Marnie sat on the sofa together and Mrs. Hammond took the chair next to Corrine’s.

“Where’s Alan?” Marnie asked.

“He’ll be here” Corrine answered, avoiding eye contact. “He had to run in to the office to handle some sort of…”her voice trailed off at this point, “thing. He’ll be here in time for dinner.” She then added even more quietly, “or at least dessert.”

“And the E’s?”

“Where do you think?”

In unison the two sisters proclaimed, “in the basement, playing with the Wii!”

“Is Brittany there too?”

“Is Brittany where?” said Brittany.

“Oh, hey Brit! This is Cal. Cal? My sister, Brittany.”

“Nice to meet you.”

“Pleasure. Where are the E’s?”

Corrine pointed towards the basement door.

“Of course. And Dad?”

“In the den. He should be out in a minute.”


“He’ll be here.”

Lupe re-entered the room with their drinks on a tray. She had included a martini for Brittany as well. This was not an erroneous gesture. She had offered Cal a frosted glass along with his bottle of beer, but he refused it. Conversation, such as it was, ceased as the drinks were distributed.

“Cheers” Marnie said, clinking her glass against Cal’s bottle.

“First of the day.” Added Brittany, taking a sip of her cocktail and sighing. “Damn, Lupe, no one makes a martini like you.”

Lupe returned with a tray of canapés. She offered them to everyone then placed the tray on the coffee table.

“So Cal!” Brtittany opened, sitting on the other side of him on the overstuffed sofa, “Tell us all about yourself.” She leaned forward with her elbows on her knees and her eyes fixed on him. “Don’t leave anything out. Inquiring minds want to know.”

“Brittany Louise Hammond, you mind your manners!”

“Yeah – Brittany LOUISE!”

“Oh, like you guys aren’t curious. Where are you from?”

“I grew up on a farm out in the country. Marnie and I rode out there Sunday, actually. My brother and his wife still live there in the same house I grew up in.”

“It must’ve been fun, growing up on a farm.”

Cal shrugged. “Fun. I guess. It was a lot of work, but it was good honest work, you know?”

Mrs. Hammond nodded. She did indeed know.

“It was fun having all that space to run and all those animals to care for, but it sometimes got lonely. We were pretty isolated out there, you know?”

Mrs. Hammond nodded. She did indeed know.

“But my brother and I? We learned to do all kinds of stuff, so that was cool. We learned to be pretty independent and self-sufficient at a pretty young age.”

Mrs. Hammond nodded again, but didn’t say a word. She, too, had loved growing up on a farm. It was all she’d known. But when she’d learned that there was a bigger world out there she worked hard to become a part of it. She wanted more than the farm had to offer and she’d worked hard to achieve it. And here she was. She’d done it. She’d done better for her own children. She’d given them a better life – one in which they hadn’t had to work hard for everything they got; a life of privilege. She was proud of that.

“What brought you to town?”

“Well, my brother is a good bit older than I am. When our parents passed on, he took over the operation of the farm. I was sixteen at the time and I stayed on and helped him. But when he took a wife, I started to feel like I was in the way. They were trying to start a family of their own and I was always just around. When I finished school the next year I decided it would be best if I moved on out. They never fought me too hard on that.

I came into town and got into a technical school while I worked part time jobs doing whatever I could to pay my rent while I went to school. Turned out all of the skills I’d learned on the farm transferred real well. I was a good handyman.”

Mrs. Hammond and Corrine exchanged looks and raised eyebrows at this point. Marnie was dating a handyman. Lovely.

Cal looked to Marnie and she nodded for him to continue, resting her left hand on his knee, a gesture that was not lost on her mother or her sisters. “I finished school and got a real good job at the factory as a skilled laborer. The money was real good, too.” He looked around and stammered, “Not, you know, but – you know – pretty good. I was doing real well till the economy crashed. A lot of guys were laid off in front of me – that was the good thing about having a specific skill – but eventually the lay offs hit me, too.”

Marnie’s dad chose this very moment to enter the room. “Marnie! Brit! And you must be Marnie’s fellow – Cal is it?” he made his way over to Cal to shake his hand.

“Yes sir. Cal Grasso. Nice to meet you, sir.”

“Pleasure’s mine. Cinda? Would you ask Lupe to fix me another drink? How ya doin’t there, Cal? You need another?”

“I could use another, sir, thank you.”

Marnie sat back and relaxed. This was going just fine. What had she been worried about?

“So what’s your line of work, son?”

Lupe chose that very moment to ring the dinner bell.

“Did you want us to wait for Alan, dear?” Mrs. Hammond asked, taking Corrine’s arm.

“No” Corrine said, studying her shoes for a moment then jutting her chin out proudly. “No, let’s eat.”

Evan and Elizabeth came bounding up the stairs and stopped short when they saw Cal in the dining room.

“Who’s that?” asked Evan, pointing.

“Please do not point, young man, it is very impolite. We have discussed this.”

“Sorry. Who’s that?” he asked again, indicating Cal with a nod of his head.

“This is my friend Cal. Cal, these are Corrine’s little monsters, Evan and Elizabeth.”

Cal raised his hand in greeting. “hey”

“Are you her BOYfriend?” asked Elizabeth, cocking her head at him.

“Mind your manners, Elizabeth, I swear…”

“Do you KISS him?”

“Oh for God’s sake!” said Corrine at the same time that Brittany said, “Boy, does she!” Brittany and Elizabeth dissolved in giggles, Evan scrunched up his face like he’d smelled something bad, and everyone else at the table looked down to avoid the whole thing.

Lupe presented a beautiful dinner. The Hammonds and Cal engaged in beautiful dinner conversation. Marnie couldn’t believe everything was going so smoothly. The E’s had returned to the basement and the women had adjourned to the family room. Mr. Hammond had invited Cal to watch football with him in the den. Alan remained a no-show. Lupe returned to the kitchen to clean up a little bit before serving pie and coffee.

Brittany spoke first, when the women were alone, “he’s ca-ute, Marnie!”

“Tell me something I don’t know.” The girls clinked the wine glasses they’d brought with them from the table.

“He is quite nice looking.” Corrine acquiesced, “but the whole job thing? That doesn’t bother you?”

“Look, he’s a hard worker. He fell on hard times. He’ll find something.”

“And until then you’ll support him?”

“Support him? I’m certainly not supporting him! He supports himself. He had a little bit saved. And he’s looking hard for work.”

“How serious is this, Marnie?” asked Mrs. Hammond

“I don’t know, Mom. I really like him a lot. But it’s brand new. We’ll see.”

“I like him, too”

“Me too.”

Corrine sighed, “Me too.”