Widow

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Chapter 35

A song filled Peggy’s heart when Monday morning dawned. Her life was filled with joy once again!

As she walked through the bank, she could sense a different atmosphere in the room. People were smiling and laughing as they went about their tasks.

At 0930 Henry Johnson walked into Peggy’s new office. Mr. Johnson sat down at the round table. Quickly Peggy jumped up from behind her desk moving so she could sit beside him. It only took one meeting for her to realize sitting beside people was a much friendlier way to work. The round table idea worked, exactly as Ken had suggested.

As soon as he sat down Mr. Johnson began, “Peggy, I want you to tell me what went on in the meeting with your staff last Friday morning. The Bank feels like a different place this morning. Everyone is happy, smiling and talking to the customers as if they were old friends.”

Peggy smiled broadly as she replied, “I told them there were two things I wanted to accomplish. First, I wanted them to be a lot friendlier to our customers. This is a small town. I feel we should give small town personal service to our customers.”

Henry interrupted. “Small town personal service. What a terrific advertising slogan! Hand me some paper, please, I want to write that down.”

Peggy continued, “The second thing was… I implemented a flextime schedule for the tellers. I hope it was all right for me to make that change without consulting with you, Mr. Johnson. You see, most of my tellers are married women. Their family jobs carry lots of responsibilities. Some of these responsibilities come in conflict with the hours they have been required to be on duty at the Bank.

“For instance, they need to take a child to the doctor, or they need to make an appointment with the washer repair man. With rigid hours at the Bank, they have a real problem meeting those important family obligations.

“With flextime, everyone agrees to work together to cover the teller windows at all the required times. However, we are now flexible as to who and when a person is on window duty. This gives the tellers the scheduling flexibility they need to balance their working and personal responsibilities. They really appreciate it. I think it gave their morale a real shot in the arm.”

“Flextime,” Mr. Johnson repeated. “I can understand why your tellers are so upbeat this morning. Peggy, do you think we could work flextime for the entire bank staff? It might improve everyone’s morale.”

“I’m not sure, Mr. Johnson,” Peggy answered, “I’d have to give the idea some study. I knew it would work with the tellers because I’m familiar with what the teller job requires. I’d have to know a lot more about the other banking areas to ascertain if flextime would work for the entire bank staff.”

“I want you to do a study, Peggy, and I want it ready for the officer’s meeting two weeks from today,” replied Mr. Johnson.

He continued, “There are two more items I need to cover with you. First, I expect you to attend all of the officer’s meetings from this point forward. Just because you have ‘Acting’ in front of your title doesn’t mean we’ll treat you differently than any other Vice President. Second, all my Vice Presidents call me Henry, not Mr. Johnson. Any questions?”

Peggy beamed, “No questions, ah Henry, and thank you. I’m deeply grateful.”

“Nonsense,” he replied, “you’re already earning your pay, Peggy. Incidentally, the way you moved this office furniture around is both welcoming as well as functional.”

After Mr. Johnson left, Peggy was so elated she wanted to share what he said with Ken. As she picked up the phone to dial, the receptionist stopped at her office door.

“There’s a delivery for you in the reception area.”

Puzzled, Peggy walked to the front desk. There she found large bunch of red roses with a card addressed to “Peggy Waldren, Acting Vice President.”

The card read:

Congratulations Acting Vice President

I am proud of you and happy for you!

L.

K.

As she bent to pick up the bouquet, the card fell to the floor. The receptionist grabbed it. Peggy was sure she read the card before she tucked it under Peggy’s finger as she held onto the vase.

Blushing furiously, Peggy retreated to her office with the bouquet. She could see all the bank employees watching. As she reached her office sanctuary, she glanced back. She could see the receptionist whispering something to the nearest employee.

I think this is the end of Ken’s being ‘under cover’ at the Bank. The rumor mill is going to have a ‘heyday’ with this one. Thank goodness, Ralph is gone!

She called Ken. “You were so sweet to send the flowers. They are beautiful. Unfortunately, I think your flowers started the rumor that I have a boyfriend.” She shared what happened to the card and of the delightful interview with ‘Henry’.

As she concluded the call she asked, “Have I been better about letting you spoil me, Ken?”

Ken replied, “Yes you have, but, you haven’t seen anything yet. There is some major spoiling heading your way!


Ken had a busy Monday. He went into work at 0500 hours so he could get off work early. By starting at 0500, he knew Charlotte Adams would approve his taking off early.

At 1030 hours, he called Peggy’s Mother.

“Mrs. Mitchell, this is Ken Lister.”

“Ken it’s so nice to hear from you. Please call me Margo. I’ve the feeling we’re going to become very good friends. None of my friends call me Mrs. Mitchell.”

“Ah, that may be a little difficult. How about Mrs. Margo?

“Mrs. Margo. I kind of like that, Ken.”

I want to surprise Peggy. I need your help to make it work. As I understand matters, Ned rides his bike to school. When school’s out, he stays with you at your house. He goes home after Peggy returns from work. Do I have it right?”

“Your understanding is correct,” Margo replied. “You know, Ken, I get excited about surprises.”

“What I want to do is pick you up around 1425…uh that’s 2:45 this afternoon and drive you to school. We’ll pick up Ned, toss his bike in my trunk and go for a short drive. I’ll explain my plan as we drive.”

“Peggy’s been telling me you are lots of fun, Ken. I can see why she thinks that, already. I’ll be at the door at 2:45.

A few minutes later Ken’s phone rang.

Hi Ken,” exclaimed a familiar voice, “this is your friendly realtor Elizabeth Riley. Are you enjoying your new house?”

“How nice of you to call, Mrs. Riley. Yes, the house is great.”

Elizabeth continued, “My husband William and I have never been able to thank you for the wonderful job you did coaching Billy and the other boys. In addition, William has never met you. We want to take you out for lunch at the University Club, so you two can become acquainted. Can you make it tomorrow at noon?”

Ken replied, “I’m sort of flabbergasted, Mrs. Riley, but sure, I’ll be glad to meet you at the Club tomorrow. Thank you so much.”

After Ken hung up, he began to wonder; why do they want to thank me for what I did last summer in November?..……Strange.

When Ken picked up Mrs. Margo, he glanced around her house. It had a large living room with a fireplace and a good-sized dining room. “I bet you have a lot of happy memories inside this house,” he commented as they walked to his car.

“We brought baby Peggy home to this house. I guess you know that’s 33 years ago. Yes, it has a lot of happy memories.”

A few minutes later, Ken’s car was loaded with Mrs. Margo and Ned. The bike was in the trunk. They headed toward North Side Heights.

As they drove in Ken’s driveway he exclaimed, “Welcome to my house. Let’s go inside and get some ice cream for an after school snack.”

After serving the ice cream, Ken began. “As you can see I’m woefully short in the furniture department. Peggy has been helping me find some early attic stuff to provide the bare essentials.”

“The house is lovely,” Mrs. Margo responded. “It has a lot of potential…. Ken, your rug looks familiar to me. Peggy used to have a rug just like that one before they installed the wall-to-wall carpet.”

“Well, actually that’s the same rug. Peggy loaned it to me. She told me it was in storage in her attic and she kept stumbling over it.”

“How long ago did she loan you the rug?”

“Right after I moved in, which would make it early last September.”

Mrs. Margo reflected a minute. “Ken, if Peggy loaned you a rug last September, she must have known you two were destined to have a future together. She never would have done that unless she was pretty confident how she felt about you. I’m guessing my daughter has been in love with you for longer than you suspect.”

“If so, she did a darn good job of keeping me in the dark!”

Margo laughed.

Now Ken looked directly at Ned. He took a deep breath before he began:

“Ned, I need to ask you a very important question. Please be honest with me, no matter how much you think I might be hurt by your answer. Will you promise me an honest answer no matter what?”

Ned, reflecting Coach’s very serious mood answered, “OK, I promise to be honest, Coach.”

Ken continued, “Ned, as I’m sure you suspect, I’m deeply in love with your mother. I want to ask her to marry me. But, I know when I do she won’t give me an answer until she talks it over with you.

“I really don’t want her tell me ‘No.’ As I see it, the only way I can safely ask her to marry me is to find out from you first what your reaction to the idea will be. If you want no part of me in your family please say so and I’ll figure something else out. But, if you think the three of us would be happy together, I want to give your mom a terrific surprise.”

A long silence ensued. Ken looked at Mrs. Margo who was smiling. She remained silent, however.

Finally, Ned answered, “Coach, I felt really good when I found out you were her boyfriend yesterday. Then I understood what you said about not taking my Dad’s place. It helped me become open to the possibility of another man in our lives.……So what’s the surprise?”

“Before I explain the surprise, there’s a little more we need to discuss. If we get married, I think it would be a good thing for you and your mom to move out here into this house. Your house is filled with memories, I know. Some are happy, but some are sad. I think it’ll be best to start our new family in this new house. You’ll still go to the same school, of course.”

Ken got up from the table gesturing for Ned and Mrs. Margo to follow. They walked toward the two spare bedrooms. Ken continued, “There are three bedrooms in this house. If we marry, your mom and I will sleep in this one. As he said this he gestured towards the master bedroom. Ned, you can have whichever one of these two rooms you choose.”

Ned examined the two rooms. The smaller room had just one window. The larger one was in a corner of the house, so it had two windows.

“Can I have this one?” Ned asked, indicating the corner room.

“You sure can Buzz,” Ken answered as he squatted down hugging him hard. “I’m so glad you want me in your life. Now we just have to get your mom to agree to marry me and to moving over here.”

Ken turned to Mrs. Margo. “I want an honest answer. Was I straight and fair when I talked with Ned? Do you feel comfortable with what transpired here?”

Margo beamed. “Ken I’m so happy for Peggy and Ned. I’m thrilled for all three of you. Yes, you were extremely fair. In fact, I think you bent over backwards to make sure he didn’t simply tell you what you wanted to hear.”

“OK,” Ken announced. “Here’s how I want this surprise to play out. Sometime in the next few weeks…… when I feel Peggy’s in the right mood, I’ll ask her to marry me. She will stall - saying she has to consult with Ned.

“What I want you to do Ned is to write your mom a note telling her approximately what we have just discussed. I’ll keep the note in my pocket. When Peggy says I have to talk to Ned, I’ll produce the note.

“Which means Peggy will be in the position where she has to make up her mind based on what she wants to do. If she loves me enough she’ll say yes. If she’s not sure, she’ll say maybe. For all I know, she’ll tell me to get lost. With this plan, whatever she says, she can’t use Ned for an excuse.”

Ned asked, “Have you got a pencil and paper?”

Ken produced paper, pencil and an envelope. “I want you to know Ned, I’m not going to read what you write. It’s strictly between you and your mom.”

“While he writes the note, Mrs. Margo, please step over here so we can talk over your part of this conspiracy,” Ken continued. Drawing her aside Ken asked, “By some miracle do you happen to know the ring size for Peggy’s third finger left hand?”

“You’re going to buy a ring before she says yes?”

“If I have Ned’s vote, and it appears I do, I’m pretty sure Peggy will say yes. Maybe not right away, but sooner or later.”

“Well you’re in luck,” Margo replied. Last spring we were discussing my diamond ring and what would happen to it after I pass on. Peggy took my ring and tired it on. It fit perfectly on her finger. So all you have to do is take my ring to a jeweler and get it sized.”

“Perfect,” Ken replied. “I’m so excited I can’t stand it! We can hit the jewelers on the way back through town. Who’s the best jeweler in town?”

After Margo answered regarding the jeweler, Ken had more to say.

“I’ve another idea to bounce off you. If Peggy says yes, I want to get married right away. The way I see it, Peggy had a big wedding once. This time all we need to do is invite a few friends. I’m thinking we could be married late this month or early in December, if Peggy agrees to a small wedding.”

“Well…… I suppose you could,” replied Margo. “Where would you hold the ceremony?”

“I didn’t have a clue until I saw your lovely home today. Could we use your living room?”

Mrs. Margo laughed. “Ken I think you are terribly in love with my daughter. I’m glowing with happiness for you. Please tell Peggy I can have the house ready almost any time. Just give me a few days and we’ll make it happen. I want to get someone over to wash my walls.”

Ken took Ned’s note, sealing it in an envelope. He asked Ned to write his mom’s name on the front. On the way back through town, they stopped in front of the jewelry store Margo recommended.

Ken ran in, asking the jeweler to quickly size Margo’s ring. He told the jeweler he’d be back later. They rushed to get to Mrs. Margo’s house before Peggy got home from work.

“Now remember,” Ken admonished both of them. “No one can breathe a word about our surprise.”

They each replied, “We won’t,” at the same time.

Ken returned to the jewelry store. He selected the biggest diamond he could afford. The jeweler promised to size it correctly. It would be ready tomorrow.


The next day Ken was so excited he almost forgot the lunch with Mr. and Mrs. Riley. He went into the University Club thinking about lunch. When he came out, he found himself reeling with ideas.

The lunch began as he expected. He knew William Riley was an attorney. It didn’t surprise Ken to find him cordial as well as polite.

At first, there was chitchat regarding Ken’s new house as well as Billy’s Bombers. After dessert, the waiter cleared the table. Over coffee, William Riley took the conversation in a far different direction than Ken ever expected.

He began, “Ken I don’t know whether you know it or not, but in addition to my law practice, I’m a member of the Board of Education for the town of Hamilton. In point of fact, I’ve been the ‘Board member in charge’ of the new High School which we just completed over by your house.

“A few weeks ago, the person we have in the ‘baseball coach, history teacher spot’ for the last few years, told us he has signed a contract to move to Centralia High school next fall. Centralia is a class AAAA school. It’s a real step up for him.

“We’re now left with a position open for the high school varsity baseball coach. The baseball coach has to also teach history, as is often the practice in the smaller high schools around the state.

“I went up to ask Skip Miller, the University baseball coach, for advice. He mentioned your name. He told me the former coach; Bernie Davis worked with you as an assistant last summer. So, I went up and talked to Coach Davis.

“Coach Davis is higher than a kite about you, Ken. He told me you have a real talent for relating to the boys and that you know baseball inside and out. In fact, Bernie told me if you took the varsity High School Baseball coaching position, he’d work as your assistant for free.

“So what do you think, Ken? Would you like to be the High School Varsity Baseball coach?” concluded Mr. Riley.

The offer flabbergasted Ken. A full time job as a coach! It was beyond his wildest dreams.

Finally, he stammered, “Don’t I have to have a teaching certificate to teach history?”

“You’re correct,” Mr. Riley replied. “If you’re interested in the position, I think I can persuade the Board to issue a one year temporary teaching permit. Since your job would not actually start until next September, you’d have almost two years to complete your teaching certificate requirements. My understanding is most of those courses can be completed on line.”

“Ken replied, “I’m flattered and yes, I’m definitely interested……. . Can I have a few days to think this over? This is a major decision for me. I don’t want to commit until I’m positive it’s the right thing for me to do……. . Let me add the more I think over this idea the more excited I become. But, I do want a few days to think it over.”

Mr. Riley replied, “Of course, Ken. There’s no rush.”

As Ken left the University Club he thought, I’m not going to tell Peggy about this until after we’re engaged. I need to discuss it with her because the decision involves both of us. I want to keep first things first.

Ken was so excited after his lunch with the Riley’s he forgot to pick up the ring until Wednesday. Once the ring was in his pocket however, his heart began to burn. All he could think about was moving things forward.

I can’t go over there on a Thursday. It’s a school night and a work night. Maybe Friday I can just drop in.

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