Copyright © 2013 Mary Hughes
All rights reserved
It was like crossing into a different country, a different time. The cut stone floor was covered with intricately woven carpets, and chandeliers lit the huge front hall and what she could see of the room beyond. A full suit of armor stood in one corner. On the walls hung oil portraits
of men and women wearing clothes
from earlier centuries. “My mother’s,” said Cliff, leading her through the hall.
The cake revealed was well worth the fanfare.
Light, high layers were separated
by half an inch of frosting. The rich smell of chocolate wafted through the
kitchen. Vickie sniffed appreciatively. Cliff cut them each a big wedge, seated
himself, and waited.
Sensing he wanted her reaction, she sampled a small, moist corner of the cake. It was delicious, and she said so. “Your Hannah is a culinary genius.”
“Better than the brownies?” he teased.
She made a face.
“I don’t know.
We’ll see how much of this I actually
get to eat.”
He laughed. “Actually quite a bit. Hannah made two.”
“Were you really ever a skinny little kid?”
She was just bantering, but he sobered immediately. “It was rather painful.”
He was silent after that, but Vickie
was terribly curious. [M4] “John said you didn’t take up weight
training until after college ,” she prompted.
He stirred and met her gaze squarely. “That’s somewhat misleading. I started college at sixteen, and skipped through a bachelors and masters in three years. Being a bit
he curled his lip here, “[M5] I didn’t have much else to do.”
Vickie’s eyes dropped to study her cake crumbs. “I guess you had some lost time to make up for after that.”
He didn’t pretend to misunderstand her. “I had a lot of offers, once I had increased my mass by fifty percent. But some of the women who were now offering were those whose rejections had been the cruelest.”
Vickie frowned. She was beginning to see a very different Cliff, one more like herself than she’d ever realized.
“Yeah, I know what you mean. All
I had to do was say some thing vaguely intelligent to scare off a prospective
date . It always
seemed to me boys were more interested in bodies than minds.”
He looked up from his second piece of cake. “You know, I think that’s the first thing you’ve said about yourself that I haven’t had to drag out of you?”
, thoughtful. “I guess
you’ve always seemed so…professional and perfect to me. It’s hard to be your
own bungling self with someone who always does things just right.”
I’m far from perfect. I try very hard to do things right, but
you’d be amazed at how many screw‑ups I’ve had. It’s just that I always come
back and try again.”
“I knew it. You’re stubborn.”
“I prefer ‘
They laughed together at that. Cliff served her a second piece of cake, and helped himself to
his fourth. Vickie
cut into hers, and chewed slowly, considering. He wanted her to be more open. What
could she reveal without revealing her heart? Job? No, he knew about that. School?
No, he knew that from the background investigation. Family? She thought about
that for a while. Her family seemed nothing like his. Father dead in childhood,
mother soon after, probably neither of them understanding the technical streak
in their son, perhaps not under standing their bookish son at all.
“You know, Cliff, maybe the reason I don’t talk about myself is there’s nothing much to say. I mean, our family made the Cleavers look like neighborhood
Cliff’s face lit up. “Ah, a personal anecdote. So yours was the typical American family? Two‑point‑four children? Dog? Station wagon? T.V.?”
“What did she do?”
Vickie laughed. “Crossing‑guard. She just retired last year. Dad retired three years ago. They go traveling a lot
“You’re silly! It takes two decades to raise children. How much living it up do you think you’re going to do at…er…”
Cliff quickly cut her off. “Fifty. I’ll only be fifty.”
“Hey, me too.”
“I know. We were born the same year.”
Vickie made an exasperated noise.
“I don’t need to tell you anything about myself.
You already know it all.”
“Not everything. You said your family was traditional. Are you?”
“So when you’re fifty, you’re going to be painting the town red, too.”
“Either that, or I’ll go back to school. I’ve always been interested in psychology.”
“Why didn’t you go into that before?”
“Well, I had to make a living.” She smiled. “My parents weren’t going to support me forever. And besides, they had my brother to pay for. I guess boys are more expensive than girls, with their cars and everything.” She looked sidelong at him, wondering if he was aware that having six cars was unusual.
Cliff squared his shoulders. “Some boys pay for their own cars and
He drank milk, then
considered her. “Had you ever thought of marrying some rich guy and doing what
you want to do now ? Instead of
waiting, I mean.”
“That doesn’t sound fair. I mean, just because some poor slob has worked his tail off to make some money shouldn’t turn him into marriage meat. For that matter, maybe some guy should ride my coattails to success.”
“Well, you make enough money now to pull your own weight, and then some. Had you ever thought about taking a trophy husband?”
“You mean marry somebody for their looks?”
“Or because they’re good in bed. Or both.”
“Forget it. What happens if I lose my job? Or he meets someone who makes more than I do? That’s a relationship that spells disaster.”
Cliff shook his head. “You’d be surprised at how many men can’t see that clearly.”
“Not really. To be honest with you, most men I’ve known haven’t been able to see beyond the end of their…sexual organ.”
“Ah‑hah! A misanthrope. You don’t want to marry at all.”
Vickie shook her head vehemently. “Of course I want to marry. If it’s the right person.”[M6]
[M4]The reason she is terribly curious about him is because she's falling in love and wants to know him better. There are times when implied meaning is okay but this isnt' one of them.