Tuesday, August 19, 2008
EXCERPT: The Last Miss Understanding
The Last Miss Understanding
by RL Taylor
website address: http://www.rltayloronline.com/
On the journey to find Mr. Right, sometimes you have to be Ms. Understanding…What happens when a wealthy business woman falls for a washed up athlete? Can a woman who has everything overlook the flaws?How many chances will a woman give a man?
Another week had quickly dissolved and the inevitable routine was happening all over again. Another Friday night. In no way distinct from any other Friday night. The weekend unfolded slowly as usual leaving Lee and his longtime friend Keith just hanging out at the bar idly passing time.
The two had been appearing at that location every Friday for the past ten years like it was some sort of ritualistic ceremony. The fact of the matter was Lee’s Uncle Charlie was the owner so the drinks were at least half off, and most of the time, free. The pair could come and go as they pleased, recipients of royal treatment. The town they called home was bordered against the fringes of the big city while sky rise lights could be seen flickering hastily in the distance just past the interstate located a few blocks from the bar.
Every so often you would get some city folks shuffling in to hear some jazz or to try the catfish, but for the most part it was locals pouring into the always busy lounge eager to drink, and hesitant to leave. Friday nights gave way to live music to accompany the low lit dusty lounge type ambiance. Everyone knew these two staples of the east side establishment and they treasured every moment of the attention thrown their way.
“We aint nothing but some playas,” laughed Keith. He was the sort of guy who just blurted out statements for no apparent reason, almost like a strange variation of turrets syndrome.
“Yea sure,” Lee nodded unenthusiastically while staring face down into his usual mix of Crown Royal and Coke.
“What’s wrong?” Keith inquired still smiling.
“Nothing. The band sounds good tonight,” Lee quickly changed the subject while sampling the well mixed concoction from his ice filled glass.
Something submerged inside Lee had been eating away at him lately, and he
couldn’t quite distinguish what it was. Perhaps it was the monotony of his job processing bulk mail where he worked for the past decade? Or maybe it was the fact that now at age thirty one he was ready to settle down.
Keith, his friend since elementary school was perfectly content with continuing to chase women. Lee desired more. He’d grown tired of the games and drama associated with meaningless relationships. His life had been riddled with so many disappointments and missed opportunities he could write a book. Maybe two..
Fortunately, he’d dodged having any children out of wedlock which by some standards made him an eligible bachelor. On the other hand, what did a guy with a $15.00 per hour job and bad credit have to offer?
“They out tonight, they out, look at this place…nothin but ladies,” Keith chuckled rubbing his hands together as if he was attempting to start a fire.
Lee looked up and stared blank stating, “Hey Keith, enough with all the player talk, can we talk about something else. I‘m tired of the same old thing.” With that said, he crumpled up his napkin, pitching it towards the trash can behind the bar.
“You trashing my place now?” was heard from a familiar gruff voice in a playful tone, followed by a hacking smokers cough. It was Uncle Charlie, beaming as usual, almost like his face was permanently contortioned that way. Charlie was a big man, but the one thing he could do was dress. He had a standing reputation for being cleaner than hospital carpet. The clothing he wore stayed immaculately coordinated and as a rule never left the house without at least two buttons on his shirt undone to expose his chest hair. The big bushy coal shaded moustache that covered his lip, made him appear to be the last member of the Whispers.
Over the past few years Charlie and Keith had gotten close as panty hose two sizes small. Most times you could find the pair in a corner booth lounging like mob bosses. Charlie approached the two.
“What’s wrong Lee?” Charlie asked in a tone loud enough for the whole club to hear.
“Nothing’s wrong, I’m cool,” Lee said straightening up like a man gone sober.
“Hold that thought Playa,” Charlie whispered low, motioning his arms the same way as football players do when trying to calm a raucous crowd.
“Okay who is that and what her name is…,” Keith said in a similar breathless tone. Half of the time they spoke identical foolish thoughts. Lee lifted his head to see what the commotion was all about. These two were carrying on as if they witnessed someone find the cure for cancer. He needed to know why. What was it that intrigued this pair of men? Probably nothing.
The instant Lee lifted his head from staring into his drink, he saw her.
His mind shifted expeditiously as he sat up trying to keep a cool look glued to his face. Keith and Uncle Charlie both already needed to wipe the drool from the corners of their dry chapped lips. Those two talked a good game but usually settled for local regulars who were odd shaped and low on intelligence.
He desired to meet someone with substance, a lady with classy style. Someone like this mystery woman who just walked in was exactly what he envisioned for himself. You could tell by the way she glided across the floor that she wasn’t from around there. He kept thinking to himself that she had to be lost. Somehow she just didn’t fit in with the crowd filled with locals who grew up together but never found the courage to leave. He knew if he didn’t act fast, that some ridiculous looking clown, clad with polyester pants and knock off cologne would approach her equipped with an act of buffoonery within minutes.
Without speaking, he instinctively removed himself from the bar progressing towards the stranger whose enchanted face danced beneath dim light. Her body language exuberated confidence. Her face was to be desired. Everything about her from the way her wavy hair complimented her face, down to her model like shape was in perfect place. Even her feet were gorgeous as he watched her take a seat. She sat alone at a table near a window, looking slightly bored.
“Where’s he goin? Where’s he goin?” Keith chuckled as he and Uncle Charlie slap boxed playfully, bouncing up and down like children wanting to be picked up. Lee knew exactly where he was going and he wasn’t about to blow it by hanging around with his usual crowd. He dispersed from their vicinity, eager to approach her. Out of the corner of her eye, the lady noticed the well built former athlete moving in her direction. As a waitress passed by shouldering flutes of Moet & Chandon White Star champagne Lee grabbed two glasses and kept moving like you see in the movies.
Perhaps being Charlie’s nephew had its perks to go along with years of poor advice. Lee’s father died young and Charlie was his mother’s brother who to his credit stepped in to fill the void. Lee was thankful for that, but right now all he could think about was what he could articulate to this elegant woman who entered the lounge.
He was within a few feet when she glanced his way her eyes looking up at him, leaving him momentarily paralyzed. Her long eye lashes hovered over her light brown Asian inspired eyes. “Oh I’m sorry, can I sit down, I mean are you…” Lee stumbled over his words like an old drunk at midnight. Feeling sorry for his audible error, an invitation was extended to sit down by way of a hand gesture. She moved so gracefully, almost like she was below the oceans surface. Her jewelry shined radiantly, a tasteful mixture of gems and semi precious stone adorned her neck, wrist, and fingers. “Let me start over, I’m Lee, and you are?”
“Rita Clark, nice to meet you,” she said, her voice sounding better than she looked, the smoky sound was laced with proper tone and pronunciation. One thing was for sure, Lee had to step his game up, and it was unequivocally clear by the Burberry perfume that intoxicated his nose she wasn’t like the ladies from around town. He breathed deep to take in the fragrance again. “I’ve been in town for a few weeks now,” she explained, “I bought one of the new lofts not far from here and commute to the city for work.”
Lee was familiar with the lofts she was referencing; he used to play baseball behind those once abandoned buildings as a youngster. Those lofts now overlooked the park which gave way to a lovely view. He knew because he toured one of them at an open house when they first remodeled the once vacant furniture factory. Reality was he couldn’t afford half of a payment they were asking for the home.
The brief conversation was moving along exceptionally. She was smiling and laughing at his usual charm while he continued to speak with confidence. Keep your cool he kept telling himself, don’t blow this one. “What do you do for work?” Lee inquired doing his best to sound professional.
“I’m a CPA, I just started a job with a firm in the city but I wanted to live out a little. I’m tired of the hustle and bustle of the city since I grew up in D.C. before going to school at UCLA.” He was impressed and befuddled both, that this woman has been all these places and ends up there, on that night at Charlie‘s Lounge of all places. What were the chances of something like that? Slim to none. A miracle.
“I needed a change,” she continued, “and when the opportunity came to head up Jackson & Fitz Accounting Division, I jumped at it.”
“You run the company?” Lee inquired hesitantly.
"Oh, you don’t think a woman can handle her business?” she laughed playfully.
Even her teeth were perfect. Along with her laugh. Perfect.
She continued, “I’m the first female COO in the company’s eighty five year history and I’m proud of that,” all while taking another small sip of champagne. Her glossed lips shined as Lee watched them closely as she talked seemingly in slow motion. She now had a captive audience of one as he hung on to every word ushered out of her mouth. “Enough about me, what do you do?”
Lee froze. Panic stricken, he felt his body temperature rise and a little trickle of sweat slowly rolled down the center his back. “I work at Home Towne Mailers as the first shift supervisor. I mean it’s not much, but…” Lee looked down as he spoke, his eyes fluctuating left to right.
"That’s great, have you been there long?” she asked seeming interested.
“Yea, ten years now …yea ten,” he said begrudgingly while shrugging his shoulders. The player façade he once had was now removed, and Lee didn’t feel much like conversing. Somehow ex ball player and bulk mail supervisor didn’t seem so fascinating matched up with accounting firm COO.
“Stability…I like that in a man,” Rita smiled as she talked. “I’ll tell you what Lee, I have an engagement in the morning and I just wanted to check this place out. Why don’t we exchange numbers and talk sometime,” she said all this while reaching into her pecan brown leather Coach bag and handing him a business card. Lee looked at it, and there it was, Rita Clark, COO of Jackson & Fitz. Indeed it was a far cry from Home Towne Mailers to say the least.
“Sounds good, oh, um, I’m all out of business cards here’s my number,” Lee said still trying to sound cultured as he scribbled seven digits on a soiled wrinkly napkin. Within moments she was gone after politely thanking him for the champagne.
As he walked back towards the bar, he watched her pull out the parking lot in a brand new silver two door Audi TT 3.2 coupe. Lee lethargically dropped his head, still rubbing the business card she gave him as if he was consoling it. Inside his head he was thinking, maybe this time he was in over his head, and perhaps out of his league. His good looks could always get his foot in the door, but this door wasn’t like any other he had knocked on.
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