"So, tell me the rest of the story...stories."
She knew excuses wouldn't do, so she took her time. "I thought I had it all figured out after I divorced Dave..."
"My second husband."
"You divorced him?"
"I divorced them all."
"So you're set up pretty good?"
"I never asked for anything. I just wanted to get out of the marriages and back to feeling better about myself. Each time was like starting over again from scratch, so I guess I'm set up pretty badly from a money point of view. I can't afford or plan on a fourth time. I pick badly. I don't plan on picking anymore."
He rested his arm on the seat-back and pushed his bent knuckles against his lips as he thought. "...on picking anymore or on picking badly?"
"Both." She watched that troubled smile grow on his face again and leaned her head back against her window, despondently.
A relationship with this woman scared him a bit, and he was trying to choose his words carefully. "Well, that creates a problem for me. I'm not a one night stand guy anymore. Getting to know you better is what I would like." She seemed to relax, twisting a strand of her hair around her finger. He felt safe in asking, "So, am I different from the others?"
She smiled, and then her face became a little more serious. "I didn't pick you, did I? You're nothing like the others."
She didn't want to give him time for more questions. "I'm going to the ladies room," and she left without waiting for a comment.
Watching her walk away from his car, he was wishing she wasn't so damn sexy. His infatuation had dimmed after their conversation, but there was something about her that wouldn't let go of its grip. He looked at her dog and his pup sleeping together with their stomachs grumbling off and on. He felt a little bad about the meatballs. Wondering what one does in cold weather with a thin skinned dog, he figured she would just say the walk was it. Why would there be anything else. She had a dog...she would just go home. The rest of his day was going to be a day alone if he didn't have an offering when she returned...an offering of what?
He didn't appear to notice her as she walked around his car to her side. She saw a surprised face when she opened her door and scooted onto the seat and glanced his way. He remained quiet. He appeared deep in thought even as he was watching her. "I have a question," she began, "You're not married, right?"
"But you've dated."
He twisted his mouth a bit with that quirky smile. She knew he knew she was on a fishing expedition, so she just waited.
"I lived with someone for a few years when I was younger. It fell apart for me, but she didn't want to leave. I had to move out of my own apartment and let her keep it."
"You mean the both of yours apartment?"
He looked straight into her green eyes, "Yes, I mean the both of ours apartment, but it was all my things. I just left, but it never seemed the right time to claim the stuff later. I guess it's all long gone now. It's been a few years. I don't plan on letting that ever happen to me again." She sighed so heavily, he stopped himself and waited.
"Do you want to drop the dogs off at our homes and go to a movie or something?" She saw that what just happened look on his face and ignored it. "It's too cold to take the dogs anywhere, so I just thought..."
"A movie sounds good." He smiled, "Do I have to watch a chick flick?"
He watched her eyes came alive with that cute laugh of hers.
Instantly she became so serious he thought she might have remembered a fourth husband.
"Do you want to know my name?"
"I do know your name. You said Ann, right?" She pressed her lips a little too hard together and he knew Ann wasn't Ann anymore. "So, am I supposed to guess?"
"You just looked kind of homeless. I didn't know if I wanted to tell you my real name." She paused, looking directly at him. He loved that smile of hers so much that anything she was going to say next didn't matter.
"You have to admit you look too rough around the edges, and what you see is what you get doesn't do a thing for you in ...anyway...I'm really called Jez."
"Jez. Like in Jezi..."
"I hate that name. It's just Jez...J-e-z!"
He laughed, "Okay, just J-e-z, Is your dog still named Charlie?"
"Yes," with that sparkle back in her eyes, "I thought Charles was dignified, but after he began snacking on garbage it became Charlie. You know," she smiled, "he's in heaven with the meatballs, even though his stomach's complaining. He'd adopt you in a heartbeat. Loyalty to me isn't one of his strong-point's."
"He's some sort of terrier, right?"
"I guess. The vet thought Rat and Jack Russell, although he's so laid back the Jack Russell part's misleading. He's my little jackrat terrier."
"Rat Terrier makes him sound...ratty," he chuckled.
"I know. Something to do about hunting rats in medieval times."
She laid her head back against her window and laughed, "Not really; I haven't a clue."
He loved that laugh of hers.
She continued, "What about your little devil?"
"Looks a little poodle-ish."
"I hope not," he laughed, "I need him to grow up big and woolly, a man's dog!"
"Standard poodles are big and woolly...real woolly...poufy woolly!" There was that sheepish smile lighting up his whole face; then he looked at his watch and the magic was gone. She waited, a little disappointed. He left no wiggle room for changes of minds. He was too practical.
They had decided on dropping off Charlie and her car first, then traveling to his apartment before the movie to drop off Lucifer. It was a good plan until he realized she was weaving in and out of traffic like he wasn't even a thought in her head. He hadn't asked for her address or cell number, and when the third car squeezed in front of him from her, he threw up his hands and just drove without a destination. Noticing her little red car up ahead on the shoulder, he felt relieved until as he approached she sped out again and there was hell to pay keeping up with her. He took a deep breath and just shook his head when she pulled into a small driveway. He almost drove off the pavement behind her as he gawked at the jungle surrounding her house. He was beginning to realize this lady was much more complicated than he was used to, and that fear of appearing boring began nagging him again. He could only be himself, but he was beginning to question if that was enough. Her life seemed much more colorful than his and much more troubled.
Her brain screamed bloody murder when his car was heading for her own lawn and gardens instead of her neighbor's, but he managed to not careen across it at the last second. She was beginning to wonder just how old he really was, but she managed to kept her cool and smile. She watched him exit his car, pull the seat forward and pick Lucifer up off of the floor where she presumed he fell during the abrupt stop to stay on her driveway. She feared the poor thing was destined to suffer hurling across empty spaces quite frequently in his life with this man. She had already, in her mind, made Josh off limits with her Charlie.
Laughing, he couldn't help himself, "you're the first person I've ever seen who can manage to have a smile on her face while her eyes are bugged in terror." A sour look came across her face. He was trying to stifle his laugh, but then he couldn't get his words out when he did. "I," he chuckled a little less this time, "was blindsided by this explosion of weeds." Her mouth opened and her eyes narrowed in on him. It was still hard for him to breath as he continued, trying not to laugh. "God, I didn't quite say that right. I mean, this isn't weeds is it...or is it?" He could have heard a leaf fall to the ground in her back yard, she was so quiet; then she began to laugh and he laughed, relieved. "I've never seen so many plants crammed into one place. There isn't much grass."
"Is there grass in the back?"
She smiled, "Very wild."
She tugged on the leash for Charlie to follow her and walked up the steps to her little porch with a small glider and chairs. He picked up the small package sitting on the chair, handing it to her after she unlocked the door. She was paying more attention to the package than him, so he asked, "Do you want me to wait out here?"
"No, you can come in." She removed Charlie's harness and he raced around the living room a few times before settling back down at her feet. "Is your puppy housebroke?"
I'll take him out. Where's the back door?
She was interested more in the package at this point, but she needed to pay attention to this man who was making himself a part of her life. "To the right through the kitchen...I'll go with you." They ventured back out into the cold, sitting on the swing while the dogs raced off into the gardens. She had examined every side of the package, finally cradling it in her hands on her lap.
He glanced at her.
"It's from somewhere in Africa...the package." She closely examined the label again. "Accra, Ghana...Don Juan," she giggled, "Don Juan sent this to me."
He watched her smile turn to apprehension, as she slipped into deep thought miles away. He quietly waited, then touched her hand breaking the spell and drawing her eyes to his.
"Patrick talked about Africa, about living there someday." She turned away. Minutes passed as she remained silent. "This isn't what I want in my life right now." She sighed unhappily. "This isn't what I want in my life." She looked at Charlie sitting at her feet, Lucifer whimpering to be picked up, and then the package that made her feel like the past she was trying to forget was flooding back in, drowning her. "The bastard. I hate him."