The next night, around 10:00 o’clock, Peggy’s phone rang.
“Is Ned in bed?” Ken spoke in a soft voice.
“Of course. He goes to bed at 9:00.”
“Are you done studying?”
“I’m never done studying. However, I’m all wrapped up for tonight; my brain is fried.”
“I like talking to you on the phone; and I don’t like it.”
“Why don’t you like it?”
“Because I can’t look at you,” he whispered softly.
She laughed. “Do you realize that every two minutes you seem to either make me laugh or cry?”
“From now on we work on the laugh part, OK? I just felt we needed to get all the sad stuff out in the open.”
“I forgot to thank you again for the daises. They are so beautiful in the middle of my dining room table. Unfortunately, they got me in trouble.”
“In trouble? How?”
“I think I told you Mother has been after me to find a father for Ned. I’ve been stalling her off by explaining I’m not ready. My excuses are valid and she’s been buying them. When I walked in with the daisies last night, she immediately accused me of having a date.”
“Which means it’s now open season for Mother. Ned and I are to have dinner at her house next Sunday. I’ll bet you a cookie there will be an unattached man there also.”
“Can you get me invited?”
“Absolutely not. I’m keeping you ‘under cover’ for a while”.
“Is being ‘under cover’ positive or negative?”
She ignored his question. “You haven’t heard all of the complications caused by the flowers yet. When Ned came down to breakfast he took one look at the daisies and complained, “Mom, have you been out with the bank customer again?”
“If you want a young person to be honest with you, it’s important you be honest with him. Consequently, I answered truthfully.
I told him, “Yes, I went out for dinner with him and he gave me those daisies.”
“He asked, “Mom is he your boyfriend?”
“Ah ha, how did you handle that one?”
“I told him you were just a nice man. He was not to be concerned about my acquiring a boyfriend.”
“What happened next?”
“He started reading the Sunday funnies.”
“I’m not learning much by this conversation. I think I’ll go back to my original question. Is being ‘under cover’ positive or negative?”
“That will be a question for you to decide. However, I will tell you I had a wonderful time….. Ken?”
“You were awfully considerate to let me weep all over you. It helped in so many ways. I guess I owe you one.”
“I’ve extra absorbent shoulders. Any chance we can meet at the bank another night this week?”
“Let me see how the class work shakes out; call me sometime after Monday. Good night, Ken… Thanks for the call.”
As a very puzzled Ken hung up the phone he muttered, ‘under cover’....…. I can’t decide if ‘under cover’ is positive or negative. I wonder who her mother will be pushing next Sunday?
On Monday afternoon, Peggy was surprised to find Ken standing in her teller line smiling. “I came to tell you the closing on my house will be Thursday at 0900 hours at Elizabeth Riley’s real estate office. Will you be there to represent the bank?”
“I’ll try.” Speaking in a soft whisper she said, “Ralph Tarrance, who has recently been placed in charge of yours truly, usually handles closings. Please do not draw any conclusions regarding bank personnel from Mr. Tarrance. Most of us are nice. I can assure you Mr. Tarrance is in the minority.”
“Why did you come here to tell me the closing date?” Peggy asked. “It would have been much easier to phone, wouldn’t it?”
“I’ll let you decide about my reasons.” As he left, Ken handed Peggy an envelope. “If you get a minute alone, you might want to read this.”
Peggy took her afternoon break late. As she expected, the coffee room was empty. She got her coffee, sat down, and opened the envelope Ken had given to her.
THE NEXT ROOM
DEATH IS NOTHING AT ALL.......
I HAVE ONLY SLIPPED AWAY INTO THE NEXT ROOM. I AM I ... AND YOU ARE YOU. WHATEVER WE WERE TO EACH OTHER ... THAT WE STILL ARE.
CALL ME BY MY OLD FAMILIAR NAME ... SPEAK TO ME IN THE EASY WAY, WHICH YOU ALWAYS USED. PUT NO DIFFERENCE IN YOUR TONE. WEAR NO FORCED AIR OF SOLEMNITY OR SORROW. LAUGH AS WE ALWAYS LAUGHED AT THE LITTLE JOKES WE ENJOYED TOGETHER.
PRAY ... SMILE ... THINK OF ME ... LET MY NAME BE THE HOUSEHOLD WORD THAT IT ALWAYS WAS. LET IT BE SPOKEN WITHOUT EFFECT ... WITHOUT THE TRACE OF A SHADOW ON IT.
LIFE MEANS ALL THAT IT EVER MEANT. IT IS THE SAME AS IT EVER WAS ... THERE IS UNBROKEN CONTINUITY. WHY SHOULD I BE OUT OF MIND BECAUSE I AM OUT OF SIGHT? I AM WAITING FOR YOU ... FOR AN INTERVAL ... SOMEWHERE VERY NEAR ... JUST AROUND THE CORNER.
ALL IS WELL.
By CANNON HENRY SCOTT HOLLAND
The message stunned Peggy. It was so incredibly ‘on point.’ She read it again. Ken Lister you are one nice guy.
Later in the day, Peggy forced herself to walk into Ralph’s office. She hated going in there. Ralph always kept everything so neat. She wondered if he actually did any work. The rumor at the bank was that one of the janitors found a girly magazine in his top drawer.
She swallowed her creepy feeling so she could open the conversation.
“The Ken Lister closing is Thursday morning at 9:00 at Elizabeth Riley’s real estate office. Do you want me to handle it?”
“I shall take care of all closings, Mrs. Waldren. You will confine your activities to your teller window. Oh, by the way, since you often come in late because of your MBA class, I’m thinking of changing your shift a little. I may want you to come in at 10:00A.M. Starting at 4:00 P.M. you can take over the drive in window until it closes at 6:00 P.M.”
Peggy immediately objected. “It’d make it difficult for me to pick up Ned after his school activities. I’d really rather not change my shift.”
“I am going to consider the matter over the weekend. I will let you know next Monday.”
As Peggy left work, she felt sure Ralph was probably still angry she had spurned his date offer. He has such a high opinion of himself. It must have killed his ego to have a humble teller refuse his offer of a date.
After dinner, the phone rang. Ned was in the room but Peggy hastened over and picked up. Ken asked,
“Can you talk?”
“Can I see you Saturday night?”
“Great! Are you coming to the closing?”
Ned looked at his mother after she hung up.me. “No, Yes, No, what kind of a phone conversation was that?”
“Well, it was a “No, Yes, No” type of phone conversation.”
Ned shook his head, “Mom, I bet it was your boyfriend. Look, you’re really blushing!”
“It’s time for bed young man. If I want you to be informed, you’ll be informed. Up to now, there is nothing to discuss.”
The next day, as Peggy was lacing up her running shoes before her early morning jog, she noticed a heavily clad woman running past her house very slowly. It was easy for Peggy to catch up to her. As she went to pass, she noticed the heavy runner was Sue Ann Hennessey. Sue Ann and Peggy were not friends, but they were acquaintances.
“Sue Ann, how are you?”
“Exhausted and sweating like a pig.”
“Why don’t you peel off that sweatshirt? It’s quite warm today”
Puff. “Trying to lose weight. Need to sweat it off.” Puff.
“I see. Well running in the summer in a sweat shirt and pants will really make you sweat.”
“I know. I’ve a long way to go in the losing pounds department and I have to do it fast.”
’Oh, what’s the rush?
“Do you really want to know, Peggy?”
“Of course, if you want to tell me.”
“Well, I have a killer dress I want to wear to the faculty/employees’ ball October 15th.” Puff. “It’s a size 12. I promised myself I would get off enough pounds to get into that dress by that day.” Puff.”
“Sounds like a good goal, Sue Ann. I hope you make it.”
About nine o’clock that evening Peggy noticed Sue Ann running by her house again. Two runs in one day! That girl is certainly determined.
On Tuesday, Ken went furniture shopping. He planned to get out of the motel room on Thursday right after the closing. He would be moving into an empty house. He needed everything. When he left Chicago, the only thing he’d kept were a few kitchen utensils.
He started with the essentials, a bed, a TV and a couple of standing lamps. He also bought some inexpensive plastic chairs at the local Walmart.
After one shopping foray, he began to consider his date with Peggy on Saturday night. I wonder if she likes to shop? Wednesday night at 2200 hours, he called.
“Ned’s in bed” she assured his initial inquiry.
“Good, we need to plan Saturday night. Would you be interested in helping me choose some furniture for my new house?”
“You mean go shopping?”
“Yeah after dinner, I mean. Since I’m ‘under cover’ we need to find a place that isn’t expensive and where you won’t be recognized.”
Peggy thought a minute. “Do you like antiques?”
“I don’t know, do I like antiques?”
Peggy laughed. “Let me put it this way, if your budget is small and you need a lot of stuff, you like antiques. Not real fancy antiques just sort of nice, previously owned stuff. I call it early attic.”
“Can we look for early attic stuff away from Hamilton?”
“Let’s meet at the bank at 0600. I will be the director of operations for the evening.”
“You don’t mean 0600, Peggy. 0600 is six o’clock in the morning. You mean 1800.” They laughed!
“Whatever…. 1800 hours, the bank parking lot, Saturday night. Oh, enjoy Mr. Ralph Tarrance tomorrow at the closing.
It took Ken less than a minute to dislike Ralph Tarrance. He came in handsomely dressed with manicured nails and slicked back hair. He shook Ken’s hand with a limp dishrag grip. His demeanor seemed to cry out; I am the center of the entire universe.
The closing went smoothly however. As they walked out, Ken started thinking. If this louse is Peggy’s boss, I should put in a good word for her.
He told Ralph, “I certainly enjoyed working with Mrs. Waldren when I applied for this loan. She seems to be very efficient.”
“All of my employees are efficient, Mr. Lister,” Ralph commented. “Peggy Waldren was simply doing her job. She is truly good at her work, but, she is extremely naïve. I am planning to teach her some important lessons shortly. The board recently put me in charge of her department. It will take some time to make my mark on things.”
As Ken got into his car he thought, what a major pain in the ass. I can see why Peggy abhors him. I wonder how he got a VP job at the bank? He probably knows someone.
After the closing Ken went immediately to his new house. He needed to be there when the bed and TV arrived. While he waited, he spent some time leafing through all the paper work from the loan closing. In a brochure from the bank, he found a list of the Board of Directors.
One of the names listed was Homer T. Tarrance. Is it possible Papa has something to do with Ralph’s promotion? I wonder if Peggy’s ever read the list of Board members?
Ken decided to call Peggy. Will she hang up on me if I call at the bank?
He decided to take the risk.
“Hamilton Bank,” answered the receptionist.
“Peggy Waldren, please,”
“Peggy Waldren,” announced her soft voice.
“Mrs. Waldren, this is Ken Lister. I wanted you to know the closing on my house went smoothly.”
“Mr. Lister, how thoughtful of you to call.”
“Did you ever look at the list of the Board of Directors in your brochure?”
“No, not as I recall.”
“You might be interested in one of the names. I can’t wait until Saturday night. Bye.”
During her lunch break, Peggy picked up the brochure Ken mentioned on his call. She read down the names of the Board of Directors. The name of Homer T. Tarrance jumped out. Now I know why Ralph got the promotion. His father’s on the Board. I should have known. Ken is my hero. A few minutes later, the realization hit; Ralph’s father is on the Board. I’m working for Ralph. Ralph continues to make passes at me. I’m definitely in trouble.