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“Look, Rachel, I need the car. That’s it. I had to get Buddy to drive me over here, for crying out loud. You’ll be here another couple of hours and when you get done you can walk home.”
“Lower your voice, Todd.”
“Fuck that! This wouldn’t be a problem if you hadn’t taken this half-assed cleaning job. I told you it would fuck things up. I told you I wanted you home. You insisted you had to work. So, you got your way. You wanted to get out. Fine. But I told you the car would be a problem, and today it’s a problem.”
I didn’t want to be in the middle of this. I felt protective of Rachel, which was odd. She’d only been working for me two weeks. I kept my eyes on my computer but got ready to jump into it if things escalated.
“Fine. Take the car. You could have just called me. All this drama isn’t necessary. When will you be home?”
“I don’t fucking know, and you sure don’t need to know. I’ll be home after dinner, so don’t make anything. The guys are going out to Jerry’s for steaks. I’ll bring you a doggie bag.”
He kissed her on the forehead, then looked over at me.
I hesitated, then decided there was no harm in answering.
“Not for a while now. Why?”
“You know then, don’t you? They can be pissers, right? Women? But you can’t do without ’em.”
And to her: “Later, babe.”
He slammed the door. She stood in the hallway, probably a bit shocked, probably embarrassed. I got the sense she was working hard to dial back her rage. She closed her eyes and breathed in deeply.
You know how some people just need to be decked? I could see myself putting my fist into Todd’s face.
Tuesdays. I’d started looking forward to Tuesdays. Tuesdays, Rachel came to clean the office. Rachel with the sunny smile, Rachel with the mischievous eyes, Rachel with the perfectly sculpted tush that moved so seductively when she vacuumed the carpets. Rachel of a thousand fantasies. Now, Rachel with the jerk husband.
“I’m so sorry, Mark. That was my fault. I should have checked with him first before driving over here. If his world isn’t exactly the way he wants it, he gets like this. I’m sorry you had to see that.”
“It doesn’t sound like he’s very happy about your working for me.”
She looked down and I think her hand clenched a bit on the vacuum cleaner.
“Yes, but I don’t really care. I do this because I need to get out of the house, and because I need to have something of my own. A few hours of my own. Some money of my own. Independence, I guess. Todd is very possessive, very jealous. He wants me to depend on him for everything. I’m sorry. Why am I telling you this? If you want to fire me because of this, I’ll understand. I’m so sorry it happened. Really, I am.”
Out of the question.
“Fire you? Why would I fire you? I love what you’re doing to this dive. You work hard and I respect that. You make the office sparkle; you’re cheerful about cleaning up my mess. I’m glad I hired you, Rachel. Your issues with your husband are none of my business.”
She smiled at me and I continued.
“Husbands can be jerks. I was both a husband and a jerk, so I know. No apology necessary.”
“I’m sure you were never a jerk,” she countered. “Or, at least, if you were, you were a minor league jerk. Women can be bitches, so it’s reasonable for men to be jerks. I know I’ve disappointed Todd. When you’ve been married long enough and the spice goes out of the relationship, you start to see each other’s flaws more. Anyway, thank you for understanding. I’ll try not to let that happen again.”
She started up the vacuum and began muscling the machine back and forth. There wasn’t an ounce of fat on her anywhere… well, no, that wasn’t quite true. Her breasts and her ass cheeks bounced hypnotically when she got that Bissell rhythm going. Todd was a jerk, but a damned lucky jerk.
Turns out Rachel came by her trim figure honestly: she did miles of road work on her bicycle each week. Bikes hadn’t come up in our limited small talk, but the following week she showed up in the world’s sexiest blue Spandex shorts, with a tight, aerodynamic t-shirt to match. I stared. Maybe I even drooled. Tried to keep it cool, but failed, miserably. She knew that I was staring, but she didn’t seem offended.
“That’s a serious outfit and a serious bike. I didn’t know you were a cyclist. You ride competitively?”
“Oh, no. Well, I compete against myself. I ride because I love it and it keeps me fit. And it gets me out of the house. Can I park my bike inside? I don’t want anything to happen to it while I’m working.”
“Absolutely. No problem.”
I was having trouble keeping my eyes on her face.
She rescued me when she yanked a pair of denim overalls from her backpack, stepped gracefully into them and snapped them up. Shit. The show was over. Probably for the best. I was her boss. Leering was bad form.
I run a small insurance brokerage. Bought my partner out several years ago, stopped hustling for clients, and dear edward izle settled with maintaining the business through good service and word of mouth referrals. The office was in a small, post-war bungalow in mid-town. What used to be the living room was my reception area and workspace. Records were kept in a back bedroom. The kitchen was functional and stocked with soft drinks and snacks. The master bedroom had been my partner’s office, but now it was empty.
I’d cleaned enough toilets in the Army to have lasted me for a lifetime. That was my excuse, anyway. Truth is, I can’t get very excited about cleaning up the place when it’s just me in the office. But clients do visit, and it’s been embarrassing at times when they had to use my john. I realized I needed some professional help.
I had gone through a couple of cleaning services that seemed overpriced for the work they did. I was back to doing my own half-assed job when I noticed Rachel’s handmade ad posted on the community bulletin board in the grocery store.
“Residential and commercial cleaning. Reasonable rates. You won’t be disappointed. Call Rachel at…”
Turns out she was also an entrepreneur, just starting up her own business when I called. I might have been her first client. I gave her a try-out, liked what she did, really liked her cheerful attitude, and sealed the deal on the spot. She would come in once a week on Tuesday mornings, and would come in on extra days if I needed something special done.
She had two kids, a boy just starting high school and a daughter about to graduate. You can’t ask for someone’s age when you hire them, but I guessed she was mid-30’s? Glistening, strawberry blonde hair, kept in a pony tail when she worked. Tanned and freckled skin, cheerful without being annoying, easy to talk to, and, she not only laughed at my jokes but could give right back.
I might have hired her just for the pleasure of looking at her, but fortunately she was also good at what she did. As her ad promised, I hadn’t been disappointed.
One day, about a month after she’d started working, she was finishing up when I asked if she would like to join me for some coffee. She declined but said she’d be glad for a bottle of water. So we sat down in my only two comfortable chairs and started to small talk. Turns out she grew up in Albuquerque but went to school in the frozen tundra of Grand Forks, ND. She had been a distance runner in high school and managed to get a partial scholarship to the University of North Dakota’s track team. She did well, winning a few meets for the school, but her real passion was biology. She had plans to go into something noble like cancer research.
Met Todd at a mixer for athletes in her junior year. He was a starter on the baseball team and saw himself playing for the majors. They started seeing each other, things moved quickly, and by Christmas of her senior year she discovered she was pregnant.
“He wanted me to have an abortion, or at least put the baby up for adoption. I was firm. I hadn’t wanted to get pregnant, but once I had, I decided I needed to accept the responsibility and raise my baby, with or without him. His dad pushed him to marry me. We were about as in love as you can be at that age, when you still don’t know much about life. We were good in bed, so I figured we’d be good at marriage. But they’re not the same thing. I was naïve. It’s not really anybody’s fault. His mom blamed me for ruining his life, my dad blamed him for ruining mine, so things started out rough and never got great.”
She paused. It had been a long time since I’d had a conversation with a woman. Her honesty was refreshing. She was very open. I liked that. We were just two adults, comparing our lives, sharing experiences without judgment. If felt good.
“A lot of people could tell that same story. My wife and I… ex-wife… met in college, hit it off right away, and as I look back, I don’t think either of us really knew what the other wanted out of life. We made a lot of assumptions that turned out to be wrong, but we were so hot for each other that nothing much seemed to matter except getting into bed. Then the kids come along, job and home pressures mounted up… I guess we discovered we were on a treadmill that neither of us liked very much, and neither of us had remembered choosing. You just don’t know what life will throw at you down the road, or what dreams you’ll have to give up because of the choices you make when you’re young. Got to a point where we realized we weren’t living the lives we wanted to live.”
“Don’t answer if you don’t want to, but why did you decide to get divorced?”
I thought about that. I’d thought about pretty much nothing else for the past three years. None of my answers were very satisfactory.
“No, I don’t mind. I guess it came down to the realization that we didn’t want what we had together, and neither of us wanted to miss out on the possibility that we could find whatever the death in the dorms izle hell we really wanted someplace else, with someone else. It felt like the clock was ticking and our marriage was never going to get any better. So one day, we both seemed to know that we didn’t want to try to make it work anymore. That was three years ago. I can’t shake the feeling that I gave up too soon. But on the other hand, I can’t think of what we could have done that we hadn’t already tried.”
She nodded. She seemed to understand.
“Todd isn’t happy. He talks about getting a divorce… well, it’s more of a threat when he’s angry. It’s an idea, but not something we’ve discussed. I think about it more and more. His dad owns several restaurant franchises. Todd works for him. Dad’s grooming him to take over the business. In that world, Todd is a big shot, and he always saw himself as a big shot. Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club, rubbing shoulders with local politicians. Todd saw himself becoming a star first baseman for the Dodgers, and when that didn’t work out, he set his eyes on becoming a star at Boseman and Associates, LLC. Home and family are too small for him, if you know what I mean. He puts in the minimum he has to with me, with the kids. I sound like I’m running him down. I don’t mean to do that.”
“No, you’re probably right. There are lots of guys like Todd who have bigger ambitions than wife, family, home. Guys have big egos. Big dreams. I was probably like that, too. I’ve come to believe that happiness is in the small and simple things. Love. Caring. Intimacy between two human beings. Nothing else matters as much as finding and holding on to that.”
She smiled, and chuckled.
“There’s a poet inside of you trying to get free.”
“Just an old guy who’s realized that he doesn’t know as much as he thought he did when he was young. ‘Life is wasted on the young,’ as they say.”
She got up, tossed the empty water bottle, and stripped off her coveralls. Then she changed into her bike shoes and tossed her backpack over her shoulders.
“I enjoyed that. Thanks, Mark. See you next Tuesday?”
“Next Tuesday it is. Be careful out there. Lots of crazy drivers.”
She smiled and waved, closed the door, and the office went silent again. She left a hint of lilac behind her. Suddenly, I didn’t feel much like working.
Three weeks later. I’d been watching the clock, counting down the minutes until she would come through the door and greet me with that sexy smile of hers. But she was late. First time. I hadn’t insisted on a rigid schedule, so she could really come in whenever she wanted, but I’d grown used to a certain punctuality from her. She had kids, though. School. Todd. Something came up, I figured. I went back to work and ignored the clock.
Maybe ten, fifteen minutes later the door opened, and I looked up from my work. Rachel limped into the office half-carrying her bike. The front wheel was bent. She was bleeding from her right arm. I jumped up and rushed over to her.
“Dog,” she grunted. I took the bike and leaned it against the wall, then led her to a chair. Her right hand and arm were road-rashed, her elbow was dripping blood, and she had blood smeared on her face.
“Sit. Stay there.”
I ran into the bathroom, grabbed my first-aid kit, wet a washcloth, and hurried back. Then I knelt beside her and studied her arm, hand, wrist. She winced as I gently rolled her joints.
“Ok, sorry. I’ll be as careful as I can. Let me start cleaning this up.”
I went to work with the washcloth, wiping up the blood and sand from her abrasions, then cleaning them again with antiseptic wipes. It stung, but she didn’t complain. I put some antibacterial ointment and a bandage on the heel of her right hand, where she’d obviously broken her fall. The joints didn’t seem swollen. She could move her fingers and her wrist. Bruised, not broken.
Her elbow had a bleeding cut that I was afraid would need stitches, but on examination it wasn’t deep, so I cleaned it and wrapped it with a gauze pad and some elastic tape.
Then I noticed her right hip. Her shorts were shredded on the right side and covered in her blood. Big scrape where she’d fallen on her hip and slid some on the right cheek of her cute little derriere.
She had a minor scrape on the side of her right knee which I cleaned up. Then, I knew what needed to be done next.
She did, gingerly, and I pointed out the ripped and blood-soaked fabric that no longer covered her ass.
“I need to work on this. You’ve got a lot of gravel here. Turn away just a bit and then I’m going to lower your shorts.”
She protested, but weakly.
“I don’t think so.”
“I’ve seen a few asses in my life. It’s not a big deal.”
“You’ve never seen mine, and that IS a big deal.”
I gave her a second.
I very carefully, pulled the waistband diary of a gigolo izle of her shorts away from her skin and pulled it down, very slowly, exposing her shapely ass, her bikini tan line, and the most creamy-smooth and begging-to-be-touched skin I had seen in years. When I had her injured hip fully exposed, I looked up and caught her eye. She reddened and looked away.
I reverently and gently cleaned the abrasion, scrubbing out the fine particles of dirt and grit, cleaning up with an antiseptic wipe, touching her cool flesh with my fingertips only as much as I needed to, enjoying myself but not wanting to embarrass her. I could feel myself responding, but I managed to keep things under control as I applied a very large bandage over the worst of the injury.
Finished all too soon. I started to pull her shorts back up, but stopped.
“This always did wonders when my kids were hurt.”
I bent in and gave her a very light kiss on her hip.
“A kiss to make it all better.”
Then I carefully pulled her destroyed shorts up as best as I could.
“Sit down. Let me get you some water.”
“Actually, do you have anything stronger? I’m feeling a bit wobbly.”
“Sure. No problem. No booze, but I’ve got a bottle of red wine in the fridge.”
“Perfect,” she said.
I retrieved the bottle and a couple of plastic cups, poured a couple of drinks, and gave hers one. She received it left-handed, took a tentative sip, then a gulp, then closed her eyes and sighed.
“How are you feeling?”
She opened her eyes and smiled at me.
“Much better than I was, thanks to you. I don’t like to have to be taken care of, but I needed some help. Somehow, I figured you’d know what to do. But I’m sorry I’ve wrecked your day like this.”
She took another sip of the wine. I hadn’t touched mine. Too early in the day, really, but it seemed to be soothing to her.
“You haven’t wrecked my day. I’m just sorry you had an accident on the way here. I feel responsible. I know that’s crazy, but if you weren’t coming to work, you wouldn’t have gotten hurt in the first place.”
“It could have happened anywhere. You’re sweet. It’s no one’s fault.”
We were both quiet for a while.
“I was almost here. Just down on Toole St., zipping along, enjoying the morning, when a dog ran out in front of me. I thought I was going to hit him, so I swerved suddenly, missed him completely, but lost traction in a sandy patch and went down hard. I thought for sure I’d broken something. Then I felt completely self-conscious, like people would be laughing at me. Dumb girl can’t ride a bike without falling over. So I got up fast and realized that I could walk, but the bike was messed up. No one saw me. If I’d really hurt myself, no telling how long I might have laid there. Anyway, I guess I wasn’t thinking all that straight. Just kept thinking that I needed to get here and get your office cleaned up.”
“It’s a miracle you weren’t hurt worse. Although, it’s bad enough. You’re going to be bruised and really sore tomorrow. In fact, let me give you some Tylenol right now to get a little pain relief into your system.”
I reached for the bottle in the kit, pulled out two capsules, and placed them into her outstretched hand. Didn’t drop them. Placed them so that my fingers would briefly touch her skin.
“You think of everything. Thank you, Mark.”
She washed down the caplets with the rest of her wine. I offered her more, but she declined. She closed her eyes and was quiet for maybe 10 minutes. I thought she might have dozed off. But finally she opened her eyes and gave me a weak smile.
“I’m ready to fall asleep.”
“I’m driving you home.”
“No. I feel better. I came to clean up. I can do it.”
She started to rise, then groaned and sank back into the chair.
“Yeah, you’re in great shape. I’m driving you home. We’ll put your bike in the back of my truck. Looks like you’ll need a new front wheel and probably a little alignment work. Once you’re feeling better, call me and I’ll take you and the bike to whatever shop you like to use.”
She thanked me profusely all the way to her house. She limped inside and let me carry her banged up bike for her. I encouraged her to get some sleep, wished her well, then turned to leave, but she grabbed my wrist, spun me back towards her, reached up and kissed me hard with her good hand behind my head.
She had a great mouth. I was uncertain at first, but then I relaxed and kissed her back just as hard, pushing through her lips with my tongue, getting into it like I was a teenager again. Her breasts were crushed into my chest. Started to get lost in that zone, but then caught myself, pushed away, took her face in my hands and kissed her on the forehead.
“You get some rest. I’m going to need you back full-strength next Tuesday.”
“Yes, sir!” she smiled.
I don’t remember driving back to the office. I really don’t remember much about the rest of the day, to tell you the truth. But then, reality hit. The woman was partly in shock from the accident. She’d had a glass of wine. I had bound up her wounds. It was just basic human gratitude mixed with lowered inhibitions. She would be apologetic once her head cleared and she came to her senses. I’d have to figure out how to handle it gracefully.
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