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Chapter 10. PLUNGER

Dick called on Wednesday morning to ask me to lunch. As requested, I met him in the lobby of my building. Imagine my surprise to see him strolling up the pavement to the entry. I was on the lookout for a car, and was nonplussed at his unexpected arrival on foot. This man always seemed to be catching me unawares, and I felt flustered for no logical reason. I jumped up from my seat on the oversized lobby furniture, and off balance, felt my ankle wobble as I almost fell off my heels.

With impeccable timing, he caught my elbow and steadied me, “Lorelei? Are you okay?” He spoke with sincere concern, though I was certain I heard a touch of humor in his tone, with the use of my full name.

Annoyed at myself, “Yes. Yes, no, I’m fine.” I stuttered, and automatically tugged down the hem of my jacket before running my hands over my hair to make sure all was in place.

“Shall we go?” He gestured towards the door and street.

Recovering my wits, I stepped forward and asked, “Of course. Hi, how are you?”

“Well, thank you.” He placed his hand at my waist and guided me onto the sidewalk.

We strolled up the block, across Lexington to a little bistro in my neighborhood that I had walked past many times but never tried. “Café Loup?” I asked, using my most authentic French accent. Did everything have a double entendre? Loup? Wolf? Was he a wolf in debonair clothing?

Dick held the door for me, and followed me into the restaurant. “Hi Joe,” he greeted the host.

“Mr. Grand, how nice to see you again.” Joe spoke with no hint of accent.

“Table for two.”

“Certainly, this way.” He guided us to a small table along the banquette, pulled the table from the wall to make space for me to slide in, then gently pushed it back in place.

“Something to start? For the lady?” Joe asked.

Dick looked to me, “Lori, would you like something to drink?”

My hangover of the previous weekend flashed through my thoughts and the words “promises promises” came to mind. I shook my head and said, “Ice water, please. A twist of lemon or lime, either is fine.”

Dick nodded, “Campari and soda for me, Joe.” Then he turned to me, “They make great muscles here. Do you like muscles?”

“Yes. Love ’em.” There goes that double meaning again.

“Then do you mind if I order for us?” He asked without skipping a beat. As I took in a breath to answer, he continued, “I promise you won’t be disappointed.”

Sometimes when Dick spoke I felt like we were having two conversations at the same time. I wondered if he meant I would like the muscles, or that he would never disappoint me. “Absolutely.” I told him, not exactly sure what question I was answering.

We talked about the charisma of the Big Apple, and the routine of life and work in the city. We discovered we had both been to Paris, Rome and London. Yes, he had seen L’Horloge Fleurie, the working clock made of flowers in front of Le Jardin Anglais in Geneva. He had been there in the spring when the clock face was planted with yellow tulips with a border of brown dahlias. I had seen it when the face of the clock burst with the red roses in midsummer. I told him I had three grown children, and he was interested to hear all about them. About his family, he said only that his sister lived in Florida and his brother in Chicago.

Then as we waited for the server to return his credit card, Dick said, “Lori, I have to be out of town this weekend. There’s a convention in Atlantic City and I wondered if you would like to join me?”

Instantly my heart was thumping. Here was my fantasy come true. Dick, me, a hotel on the boardwalk in Atlantic City. Wide windows open to the ocean. A king-sized bed with crisp white linen, and a mirrored ceiling so I could lie on my back and look up to see my legs wound around his hairy thighs. His legs spread wide, his butt muscles tightening each time his plunger took the plunge. Yum. I was afraid my cheeks had brightened to cherry circles. “A convention?”

“Yes, for my business.” He explained, “Textiles and flooring.”

“Rugs?” I ventured half-heartedly.

“Yes, flooring, draperies.”

“Okay. A convention, in Atlantic City?”

“Would you like to come? We would leave on Friday and be back Sunday afternoon.”

“Will you be working?” I wondered what he expected me to do while he was at the convention.

“There will be some meetings on Saturday morning. There’s a spa. You can get a massage or whatever you’d like. Bring a bathing suit for the pool. In the afternoon we’ll play golf. Do you play?”

“A little,” I ventured. My father was a golfer, so as a kid I had meandered around the golf course with him. Primarily I learned the social aspects, but I had played a little and had a knack for it. When Todd was on his high school golf team, we played once in a while, and he gave me some pointers that improved my game.

“Can I pick you up at two o’clock on Friday? That will get us there in time for cocktails and dinner.”

“Yes, that’s fine.” I heard myself say “yes” and heard the little voice of my wary conscience say, “What the hell are you doing going away for the weekend with this man you hardly know?” But I couldn’t stop smiling. Grinning. I was happy, I was excited, I was going to spend the weekend with Dick Grand. I was going to Atlantic City, glamour on the Jersey shore. Spas, casinos, shopping, sex. Ventnor Avenue and Marvin Gardens. Oh how the direction of life could change so unexpectedly. This time for the better.

Suddenly dark clouds swept in, memories of the weeks after Jack, of moving back to my house in New Jersey. The months of crying, hidden under the quilts in bed, shades drawn. Zoned out on valium.

“Lori?” Dick questioned with concern. “Penny for your thoughts?” His hand reached across the table to cover mine. Warm and strong. His touch, his scent, his magnetism. Shake it off, I thought, reach for happiness. I looked into his eyes. “Yes,” I said softly, and smiled. “Yes, Atlantic City. That will be fun.”

“Fun with me?” he asked.

“With you.” I confirmed.

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