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This story is a modified version of a story I had written earlier and put it in a different category, one which many readers suggested it would not be read nearly as much as it should.
I had attached a note about this when submitting this new version, but this disclaimer was mistakenly placed at the end of the story instead of the beginning where it belonged.
Therefore, if you have read a story by me with a similar title, this is pretty much the same tale although there are minor changes and it is in a more suitable category.
My apologies for any confusion I caused.
A story about an unlikely pair of people who happened to find exactly what they needed in each other.
1. How we began.
Every relationship has a beginning, and some are more unusual than others, and while we all think that ours are special, I’m reasonably certain that not many have as bizarre a start as this one.
This story begins when I almost fell off of a ladder, and if I hadn’t regained my balance at the last second, I would have landed right on top of the subject of the tale, which would have effectively ended the story before it began.
I managed to catch myself, fortunately for all concerned, and staggered down from the ladder shaken but safe. My heart was still pounding like a jackhammer, but for more than one reason.
“Mr. Grant, are you alright?” Cindy asked excitedly as she put her hand on my shoulder when my feet hit the floor.
“Fine… I’m fine,” I said with a twinge of embarrassment, and put my hand on Cindy’s forearm as if for support.
It wasn’t for support, but I was recovered enough to take advantage of the opportunity to put my hand on Cindy’s arm just above the wrist. My fingers held her gently but securely, and I felt a shiver race down my spine as my palm savored the soft caress of the downy hair which covered Cindy’s forearms.
Cindy’s arms were things of beauty as far as I was concerned; beautifully shaped with just a hint of muscularity at the bicep, and graced with fine, light brown hair from just above her elbow down to her wrists. Hair so soft and sensuous to the touch that I took every opportunity to make contact with Cindy’s arms whenever the chance arose.
Not that there were that many chances, as Cindy seemed to favor long sleeved blouses, and it took a warm day like today for her to wear a short sleeved number like she wore today. As for sleeveless blouses, never. I often thought of having a uniform sans sleeves made for my shop’s employees but figured it would be too distracting for me.
Like that near-fall from the ladder that I just detailed. We had just closed for the day, and I was putting away an old cardboard display up into the crawl space, even though it was not likely I would ever use it again. Cindy was passing up the various pieces to me, and my eyes happened to catch a glimpse of something. Something that I had often suspected, and frequently tried to see, but until that moment had been denied a view of.
It was a glimpse that lasted only a second, but I had to see it again to be sure, so I looked around the area behind the register to look for something else for Cindy to hand me.
“Uh, Cindy. Would you hand me that piece of molding over there?” I asked, pointing to a piece of wood that had been left over from a remodeling job done years ago, and had been minding its own business in the corner all this time. “While I’m up here I might as well stash it away too in case we need it someday.”
“Sure Mr. Grant,” Cindy said cheerfully as she retrieved the wood and brought it back to the ladder.
My eyes were burning from the perspiration dripping from my brow, and not just from the warmth of the attic in my face, but I cleared them as Cindy reached up with the wood. I pretended to have trouble grabbing it, causing Cindy to reach higher and further, until finally her sleeve rode up far enough.
There is was; peeking out from behind the blue fabric, and starkly contrasting with Cindy’s pale white skin, was the spray of golden brown hair that sprouted out from the edge of her sleeve. I leaned over to get a better view, and the end result was me hanging on for dear life.
“Thank you Cindy. Thanks very much,” I repeated as I leaned against the counter and caught my breath. “Must have been the heat or something that made me dizzy for a second. That crawl space is warm.”
“You sure scared me Mr. Grant,” Cindy said, her face still full of concern.
Such a sweet and innocent face, and such an equally sweet and innocent girl, that I felt guilty for a fleeting second at my voyeuristic attempts earlier.
The average man wouldn’t likely consider Cindy a classic beauty, but I thought her very cute in her own way. I looked at her almost like the daughter I never had. Heck, almost a granddaughter, since at 50 I was certainly biologically eligible.
“Scared myself too,” I admitted. “Do you need a ride home tonight, Cindy?” I asked, offering my services as I frequently casino siteleri did when Cindy worked evenings. I often had gotten credit for gallantry when the fact was that I enjoyed Cindy’s company so much that I always wanted to extend the time I was with her.
“No, my mom is picking me up,” Cindy said cheerfully. “We’re going out for dinner, me and her. Kinda like a birthday party.”
“Oh, is it your mother’s birthday?” I asked.
“No, it’s mine,” Cindy said sheepishly.
“It is? Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Oh, it’s no big deal,” Cindy said.
“It is to me,” I said. “I would have given you the day off if I had known. How old are you now?”
“Happy birthday honey,” I said as I leaned over and gave her a kiss on the cheek. “I have to remember that in case you decide to stick around with me another year.”
“Hope I can,” Cindy said with a trace of sadness. “Who else would put up with me?”
“Nonsense,” I said. “You’re the best employee I’ve ever had. I don’t know what I would do without you.”
“Thanks Mr. Grant,” Cindy said with a grin. “I try. Well, I’ll see you Tuesday. I’ll lock the door behind me.”
Cindy turned around and went toward the door, and as she did, my heart broke a little bit like always, as she staggered unsteadily away with her right leg dragging behind her, her gait a little unsteady but determined.
2. About Cindy.
Cindy had been in a car accident when she was young, and had suffered considerable damage to her right leg. During one of the rare moments she had spoken about it, Cindy said the doctors didn’t think she would ever walk afterward, but she was not going to listen to that kind of talk.
So even though it hurt, Cindy walked. Not gracefully, to be sure, but she walked. There were days when it hurt – days when even that bubbly personality and brilliant smile could not mask the pain she was in, but she would never complain or ask for sympathy or special favors.
When she first applied for the part-time position in the quaint little candle shop that was the lifelong dream of my late wife, and that I carried on as best I could in her absence, I confess to having had misgivings at first.
However, Cindy was persistent, and I finally relented, in one of the few brilliant business moves I can take credit for. Right from the start, Cindy won me over. She was never late for work, and in fact was almost always early. I never had to ask Cindy to do things, as she always seemed to know what needed doing, and always needed to be busy at something.
Her mother came by the shop one day after Cindy had been working there for a couple of months, and thanked me for giving her a chance.
“So many people just look at her and write her off,” Cindy’s mother said sadly. “That’s why she didn’t go to college. People stare, or make comments, and she’s always felt out of place among kids her own age. They’re running around and dancing, and she’s stuck plodding along behind the rest of them. That’s why I’m grateful to you for letting her try to work, and I hope she’s able to hold her own, because it’s very important to her.”
“You don’t have to worry about her keeping up around here,” I told Cindy’s mom, who was a divorcee about my age. “She’s great, and I’m so glad I hired her. I just wish I could afford to give her more hours.”
In fact, I gave Cindy more hours than I really could afford to, but it was a small price to pay for her company.
“I’m so glad,” her mom said. “She is tenacious, isn’t she?”
Tenacious. Spunky. Proud. She was all those things, and now almost two years later she had become more than that to me. Even though it was silly for an man my age to admit, I was falling in love with her, and that brief peek on the ladder and reminded me that this was not a child I was attracted too, but a woman.
I would never tell Cindy that, because I would hate to lose her as an employee. Besides, what would a girl just past her teens see in a 50 year old man who frequently felt every year of it?
3. Remembering Bethany.
Still and all, my brief little peek that evening had made me look at Cindy in a totally different way, as strange as it may seem. Maybe it was a recollection of my beloved Bethany, gone now for three years, but never far from my thoughts.
Bethany was a rebel when we met in 1969 and she never much changed her attitude throughout her entire life. She was an independent woman who marched to the beat of her own drummer, and I was fortunate enough to march along joyfully with her for the nearly 25 years we were together. Life without her was so foreign to me that I really had never recovered from her passing, and figured I never would.
The store, named the Village Green Candle Shop in reference to the little park it overlooked that formed the hub of our little college town, was a part of her – us, that I fought to keep alive, despite the fact that the business was marginally successful at best.
We had always tried to operate in the best interest slot oyna of the community; always donating to the various groups from the college as well as the usual charities that come knocking during the year. Even in bad times, we had always managed to give everybody who asked something like a gift certificate to auction off, and even after Bethany’s passing I had continued to do that even when my heart was heavy and I felt bitter toward the rest of the world.
4. Cindy’s belated birthday party.
I waited impatiently much of Tuesday afternoon, watching the door for the surprise I had planned to arrive. I wasn’t sure whether I would have preferred the store to be empty or not when the delivery person would arrive, but I didn’t have much choice in the matter.
As it happened, there were a few customers milling around when the sharply dressed gentleman arrived, delicately manuevering the large garbage bag he carried through the doorway as he entered the shop to the accompaniment of that jingly bell Bethany had put up on the door when we first opened. A sound I had always pretended to hate but had enjoyed as much as Bethany had, and still served as a reminder of her every time it tinkled.
I motioned to the delivery guy that his recipient to be was working the cash register, just finishing up with a customer, and he nodded and waited patiently in line until it was his turn.
“Are you Cindy?” the man said in a booming voice, and when Cindy nodded he proceeded to break out into a rendition of “Happy Birthday” that would have done Pavarotti proud, while unveiling the bouquet of helium-filled balloons that sprung out from the bag and bobbed wildly about.
Cindy stood there in shock as he handed her the bouquet, tears pouring down her face while the two elderly ladies over by the poupourri clapped their approval. When she fumbled with the card, and saw the sender was me, she started walking over toward me, and I met her on the way.
“Thank you – thank you – thank you!” Cindy chirped with delight. “They’re beautiful!”
“Glad you like it honey,” I said, momentarily not caring how that might sound. “Sorry they’re late.”
“That’s even better, because it’s like having two special days instead of one!” Cindy announced.
“You deserve two,” I said, and turned away before Cindy could see me start to choke up, as well as before I said something that was on the tip of my tongue and dying to come out.
5. The after party.
Flipping the sign on the door from OPEN to CLOSED, and locking the door at closing time, I went to count the day’s receipts. Cindy was sweeping the floor, and I couldn’t help notice her frequently looking over behind the register at the balloon bouquet tethered to a drawer handle, just as she had done the whole day.
I was stunned that something like that could make such an impact on her, and I didn’t think it was possible for Cindy to become more cheerful than she always was, but it did. Now as I went to the back room and lit the candle on the little ice cream cake I had brought in earlier, I called out for Cindy to come back there for a second.
The cake was on the table with a couple of plates and spoons, the store room dark except for the candle flickering, when Cindy made it to the doorway.
“I was going to sing, but the balloon guy’s act is really hard to follow,” I said as I watched Cindy’s smile light up the room. “Hope you like ice cream cake.”
“I love it Mr. Grant!”, Cindy said as she moved over to the table. “I can’t believe this. You are the nicest man in the world!”
Cindy started to sit in the chair beside me, but came over to my side instead and bent over to kiss me. Cindy had given me kisses on the cheek a couple of times in the past, and I suppose that she might have meant to do that, but then again maybe not. I didn’t offer my cheek either, and so it was there that our lips first met.
Not a long kiss, or a passionate kiss, but a kiss nonetheless, and even though it only lasted a second it was a special second for me.
“Thank you,” Cindy whispered.
“No, thank you!” I said in response. “It’s not even my birthday and I get a kiss from a beautiful girl.”
“Well, when your birthday comes around I’ll give you another kiss,” Cindy said as her cheeks became rosier.
“Tomorrow’s my birthday!” I exclaimed.
“It is?” Cindy asked excitedly.
“No, it was a couple months ago,” I confessed. “I was just trying to steal a kiss.”
We chuckled as we dug into the little cake, and even though the box said it served 4, we managed to polish it off with no problem.
“The package said four servings, but I don’t know where they find the people who would be content with a quarter of that cake,” I opined. “Lucky we didn’t have more people at your party.”
“I like it just the way it is,” Cindy said as she poked at a stray piece of frosting with her spoon, looking up at me briefly before resuming her attempts to corral the wayward crumb. “This has been one of the most wonderful days of my life.”
“I’m canlı casino siteleri glad you enjoyed it,” I said while I reached over and patted Cindy’s hand, and her tiny mitt disappeared underneath my meaty paw. “I don’t know what I would do without you around here, and I just wanted to show you how much I appreciate you.”
“Do you still miss your wife?” Cindy said suddenly. “Sorry if I’m being nosy. It’s just that every day that I come into work I look at the picture of you two by the door. You know, the one of the grand opening of the store? I know you miss her. I mean, does it ever stop hurting?”
“That’s okay honey,” I assured her. “I don’t mind talking about her. Yes, it still hurts, but a little less every day. At this rate I’ll have forgotten all about her in another hundred years. If she could, she’d probably kick me in the butt for still feeling that way, because she always said that there was nobody in the world who couldn’t tell how much we loved each other. She also said that neither of us would ever have to say that we wished we had said or done something that had gone unsaid or undone. We lived, loved and even argued with every bit of our souls.”
“That’s so fantastic,” Cindy said with misty eyes. “I always think of you two whenever I look at that picture by the door of you guys when you first opened the store. It’s easy to see what you two had together.”
“It was wonderful,” I admitted. “I guess that’s why I keep the store going, even though it’s not exactly a gold mine.”
“It’s a neighborhood landmark,” Cindy said. “The town wouldn’t be the same without it.”
We cleaned up the remants of the little party and I offered to take Cindy home since I had kept her so late. Cindy accepted and we chatted all the way to her front door, where I helped her out with her balloon bouquet, which she wanted to show her mom.
We walked slowly to her front door, where Cindy turned and faced me before planting a kiss on me. Not the little peck that we exchanged on special occassions, but a real honest to goodness kiss. I wasn’t prepared for it, but once I figured out what was going on I reciprocated as best I could.
“Thank you for a great day,” Cindy exclaimed with a blushing face, before opening the door and making her way inside.
As for me, I stood there in a daze, trying to figure out what had just happened. Cindy was peeking out the door, which was not quite shut, and let out a giggle.
“You okay?” she asked and after I smiled and nodded, Cindy gently closed the door behind her.
6. Coffee with Cindy’s mom.
I got up from my seat in the booth when I saw Cindy’s mother enter the diner. She was an attractive woman about my age, but had a weary look about her, one that suggested that life had been no picnic for her over the years.
“Hello Mr. Grant,” she said as she slid into the booth after we shook hands.
“Adam will do fine after all this time, Mrs. Terrell,” I said.
“Susan,” she said, putting us on a first name basis with ease.
“I appreciate you meeting me like this,” I told her as the waitress brought Susan a cup of coffee and refilled mine.
“No problem at all, but I do have to be to work in about 45 minutes.”
“I won’t keep you,” I assured Susan, nervously stirring the cream into my coffee. “It’s just that I didn’t want to talk to you in front of Cindy, or have you put in an awkward position in front of her.”
“I hope this isn’t going to be what I’m afraid it’s sounding like,” Susan said as she peeked over the edge of her cup before sipping her coffee.
“Uh – I’m not sure,” I said.
“Is it about Cindy’s job?”
“What? Oh – gee no!” I said with a start.
“Good. If Cindy ever lost that job I think she’d just about die,” Susan said. “It means everything in the world to her. Everything revolves around Mr. Grant and The Village Green Candle Shop.”
“No,” I said. “She’s the best employee I could ever ask for. But it is about her though.”
I cleared my throat nervously, taking a sip of my own coffee and trying to find the courage to form the question that I had been rehearsing for about a week.
“Well…” Susan said, raising her eyebrow and leaning forward in hopes that I would come out with it.
“I was wondering if you would have any objection – to me – to my asking Cindy if she would like to go out with me? To dinner, or something?”
“You mean a date?”
“Yes,” I said, acutely aware of the face that my forehead was beaded with sweat and I was fidgeting like I was a teenager again.
“Old fashioned sort of guy, aren’t you?” Susan asked, a little smile in the corner of her mouth.
“Yes and no,” I admitted. “It’s just that – well, I’m way older than she is, and I wasn’t sure how you would feel about somebody my age asking your daughter out.”
“It’s fine by me,” Susan said. “Heck, I was kinda hoping you were going to ask ME out. All I ever hear is Mr. Grant this and Mr. Grant that. The sun seems to rise and set by you.”
“Well, there’s no guarantee that she’ll say yes if I do ask her out,” I opined.
“You’re kidding, right?” Susan chuckled.
“Well, why would a young girl be interested in somebody thirty years older than her?”
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