Widow

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Chapter 19

As Peggy headed for Ken’s house, she analyzed the conversation she’d just had with her mother. Did I accurately state the situation?

Ken is doing an excellent job of working his way into my heart. He’s sensitive, thoughtful and gentle. What’s not to like about that? It’s a pleasure to look at him. Every time the phone rings, I hope it’s Ken. The phone calls have grown in length from a couple of minutes to 10 or even 15 minutes long.

Then she had a different thought. Ned. He’s certainly in no mood for me to have a boyfriend. Even if it turns out to be his baseball coach. He showed his feelings last Sunday when Ralph oozed around at Mother’s dinner. Then there is the complication at work. If I bring Ken out from ‘under cover’ Ralph will hear about it, which will really complicate things at the bank. Peggy Waldren, you are one mixed up female.

She was haunted by the feeling that this was a dangerous time to be sharing dinner all alone with Ken in his new house.

Using the garage door opener Ken had given her, she drove into Ken’s garage, immediately shutting the door. When Peggy got out of the car, Ken was leaning on the edge of the doorway between the garage and the kitchen.

For a few minutes, they simply stared at each other. Peggy had dressed in her favorite colors, a yellow blouse with dark brown shorts. Her intention was to have the yellow color set off her light brown hair. Apparently, it did. Ken’s eyes simply glowed.

He was dressed in a yellow shirt with dark brown slacks. He had combed his short hair neatly. No one spoke……Ken’s eyes continued to feast on the eye-catching woman standing in his garage.

Peggy opened the conversation, “Do you realize we’re dressed alike? We both have yellow tops and brown pants.”

“Do you think it’s an omen?”

“I doubt it. I think it means we both picked out the same colors.”

As she spoke the words, she realized how much she enjoyed bantering with him.

No one moved. Ken continued to stare.

Finally, Peggy asked, “What is going through that head of yours?”

He replied, “Remember when I rated you as a #10 cute?”

A blushing Peggy admitted, “There have been times I’ve remembered that particular conversation.”

“Well, I gave you the grade before I saw you in shorts. “Your legs are so beautiful; I may have to revise my appraisal.”

“Ken Lister, you’re nothing but a big flirt.”

“When I look at you, Peggy, there’s nothing I can do except flirt.”

Peggy decided to leave the subject alone. She began a new tactic.

“I wish to remind you, Mr. Lister, of our telephone agreement. As I recall, you agreed to the stipulation that whatever happened when we were alone in your house, would be by unanimous decision.”

“I remember the agreement exactly.”

“Thank you. The first rule is…. There’ll be no ’Hello kiss”

“This is a major disappointment. May I ask why?”

Again Peggy felt herself blush. “No you may not. I told you before; there are some things a girl needs to keep to herself.”

Peggy thought, if he kisses me right now, things might get out of hand far too quickly.

Ken countered, “Are ‘hello hugs’ permitted?”

“A ‘hello hug’ is an exceptional idea.” She hurried into his arms.

After a minute of hugging, she whispered in his ear, “Please don’t let go for a minute. I’ve had that creep Ralph Tarrance hovering around me all week. I feel like some creature whenever he looks at me. Here in your arms, I feel safe.”

After hugging for another few minutes, he tipped her head back, looking directly into her eyes. When he did, she really wanted him to kiss her.

“Are kisses on the end of your pug nose permitted?”

She smiled up at him, “a reasonable number of nose kisses will be permitted, but, only one right now. I want to see your house.”

He kissed the end of her nose chastely. She hugged him again. “Ken I can’t express in words how safe I feel when we hug.”

Peggy had an immediate positive reaction to Ken’s house. Maybe it was the bank of windows in the living room which made the room bright and sunny. Or maybe it was the kitchen eating space which featured a big bay window. She wasn’t exactly sure what made it feel so good, but the entire house felt cozy, even though there was hardly any furniture.

He gave her the full fifty-cent tour. Right after it began, Peggy could see he needed a lot of furniture and lamps. She began typing a list of the things he’d need into her cell phone notes.

Perhaps by design and perhaps by accident the last room Ken took Peggy into was the master bedroom. It was, after all, the only room in the house with a bed. The way Peggy was feeling toward Ken at that minute made her cautious about walking into his bedroom. Will I be able to walk out?

He sat down on the bed gesturing for Peggy to sit beside him. She readily saw through his plan.

“Mr. Lister, I am not stupid. Do you seriously think I am going to sit on the bed next to you?”

“Well, I thought it was worth a try. Could we just sit here and talk?”

“You have just proven why I insisted on the unanimous consent rule.”

“Sorry, Peggy. Are you mad at me for trying?”

As she retreated to the living room she muttered, “Trust me, when I agree to get on that bed with you it will not be to sit and talk.”

“Hey, you said when not if.”

“I did, didn’t I……”

“Perhaps a Freudian slip?”

Peggy quickly realized, time to change the subject……

“I think it’s time to present my housewarming gift. It’s so big I need your help.”

They went out to her car. In the back of the station wagon were the pillows for the wicker couch. In addition, there was a rolled up rug.

“I expected the pillows, Peggy. What’s with the rug?”

“About five years ago, we decided to switch to wall-to- wall carpet in our entire downstairs. Our living room rug still had some wear in it, but we had no place to put it except in our attic. The only place it fits in the attic is right near the door, so every time I go into the attic I trip on it.

“When I realized you had bare floors, I figured this rug would help you and I’d no longer have to trip on it. Come on, grab one end and let’s see if I’m right.”

An astonished Ken complied. Sure enough, the rug looked great on his living room floor.

“I don’t feel right about this expensive rug, Peggy. Can I buy it from you?”

“I thought you might feel uncomfortable, so how about we consider it a loan? If you decide to break up with me, I’ll take it back. After I kill you that is.”

“Would you kill me if I broke up with you?” It was easy for Peggy to sense he needed to discover exactly what she was feeling about him.

“Let me put it this way, Ken. I’m very happy when I’m with you. In addition, I look forward to our dates a lot. Beyond those admissions, I’m prepared to go no further at this time. Let’s go get the couch pillows.”

After they carried them in, Peggy placed them in the proper position.

“They look really great, Peggy……. I bet they would feel really comfortable if we were sitting there hugging. Ah is hugging permitted under the rules we negotiated?”

“Not until a long time after dinner. I’m starving. Whatever is in your oven smells really good.”

When they sat down to dinner, Peggy found a small box wrapped in fancy paper at her place.

“Ken, I told you to stop buying me presents.”

“This isn’t really a present. It’s something I think you need to protect yourself.”

Peggy opened the box. It was a small tape recorder and several extra cassettes.

Ken started to explain before Peggy could question his gift. “The way I see it, what this guy Ralph is doing to you is using his position in the company as leverage in order to make advancements on you. By my definition, that’s ‘sexual harassment’.

Peggy replied, “I’m well aware what he’s doing is ‘sexual harassment.’ We had several discussions on the subject in my MBA personnel course last year. The problem is, if I attempt a sexual harassment claim, it’ll be my word against his. He’s my boss and the son of a board member. If it’s simply my word against his, I lose. I’ll also have ruined my reputation in this town. You have to remember, Ken, this is a really small town. The gossip mill’s really potent.”

Ken explained, “Now you know why I’m giving you this tape recorder. I want you to turn it on whenever Ralph gets near you. Eventually, he’ll step over the line. Then it will not be your word against his, because you’ll have a recording of what happened.”

“What a great idea!. . . . . . . It didn’t take Peggy long to realize the tape recorder presented a problem. “How can I hide the recorder where he can’t see it?”

“Do you have a suit jacket with big pockets? It’s fall now. Maybe you can just happen to start wearing it?”

“I’ve an old blue blazer I can make work. Oh Ken, thank you. This tape recorder’s going to be a great comfort to me.”

Without thinking of the consequences, she kissed him. It took a long time……. .

Ken served a tuna fish casserole for dinner.

“My Mom taught me how to fix it before I went into the army. She did a good job showing me how to get along in the kitchen as I was growing up. Nothing fancy, we didn’t have enough money, but she taught me how to survive as a bachelor.”

As they were doing the dishes, Ken asked, “By any miracle, do you know how to play chess?”

“My Dad loved to play. He taught me the basics, although I’m not very good.”

As soon as the dishes were finished, Ken put his chess board on the table they had purchased at the antique store. Peggy took one colored pawn in each hand. When she held out her hands for Ken, he chose Peggy’s left, which meant he had to play black. Peggy opened with pawn to king four. After a few moves, she was able to position her pieces into the French Indian defense. Ken could immediately tell his opponent was no amateur.

“I thought you weren’t very good,” he moaned as Peggy captured his undefended bishop with her queen.

“I’m not good. But, I’m competitive, as I think I told you one other time.”

“I remember a certain competitive kiss extremely well.”

Peggy blushed again.

They were silent pondering over the board for a while. Ken mistakenly moved a pawn which opened up a strong move for Peggy’s knight.

“Big mistake!” Peggy murmured as she moved her knight creating a fork on his king or queen. She called, “check.” When he moved his king, Peggy played Knight takes Queen. Within minutes, hopelessly outmanned, Ken tipped over his king in surrender.

“Thanks for the chess lesson. Maybe next time I’ll give you more of a game. You know, ever since I learned to play chess in the Army, I dreamed of having a girlfriend who enjoyed the game. It never occurred in all my dreaming she would clobber me.”

They both laughed.

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