STILL HERE...AT THIRTY-THREE

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: mjrafferty


Sara Jonns has been told by practically everyone, even her mother, about her "clock", and she's damn tired of hearing about it. She's met with, slept with, and had enough affairs with men, but
nothing is going on! Then she meets Ben Macvey in a most unusual way and the bells ring, but will the same thing happen, is she dooming herself to failure before she has a chance?

Submitted: November 24, 2017

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Submitted: November 24, 2017

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Sara Jonns was picturing her mother's face

the last time she had given her daughter advice about men.

“The first thing you really have to do is redefine exactly what you want in a man.” Sara’s mother, at sixty-seven years, was the most progressive person Sara knew. They had talked at breakfast just a week ago, but Sara, for the life of her, could not remember how the subject came up. “For the past few years, your taste in men has pretty much run to crap!” Gina Jonns had shaken her head as she spoke, a wry smile crossing her still attractive face. “You don’t seem to ever learn.”

“Gosh, mommy,” Sara came back, putting her hurt little  girl  look on. “Please don’t hold anything back, I need to hear this so much.”

“You do need to hear this! What’s more, you need to do something about it. That guy you just broke up with. . .what’s his name?” The mother was persistent.

“Bradford—-and for Christ sake, you only met him once!” Sara poured coffee for them both.

“Yeah, you dated him for almost six months, I think, and I get to seem him once! That alone should tell you something. What was wrong with him?”

“He was a thirty-five year old child. You’d think a man that old would know something about women—-nothing!”

“Are we talking sex? That’s usually one of your chief complaints.” Gina eyes glinted at her daughter.

“Actually, Brad wasn’t bad in bed. That’s the one thing I will miss. No, it was more a matter of knowing what I wanted. . .down the road, our future.”

“He wouldn’t commit. A problem you’ve had before with your men. If he had given you a reason to keep him around, do you think it would have been worthwhile—-was he what you wanted for a husband?” Gina had put her finger on the root of Sara’s problems. “I know it’s on your mind when you start a new relationship. At thirty-three, your clock is—-“

“Please don’t start with the goddam clock again! That’s all I hear from my friends, especially the married ones. Sara honey, the hands on your clock are halfway around, it’s time you made a move. Who in the hell started that ridiculous shit anyway? I know full well what time my clock says!”

Of course, all of it was true. Sara was thinking of her mother’s words, and her own response to those words, now as she sat at the cherry desk in her bedroom.

Sara lived with her mother in the house that her father had built soon after marrying her mother. He had been wealthy when they had met, the son of an entrepreneur father who dabbled until he took up with the right business people. He died leaving his only son, Sara’s father, a millionaire, who in turn just grew the wealth. Sara’s father had passed suddenly ten years ago on the eve of Sara’s collage graduation. Her mother had split the wealth, having been bought out by his partner on her husband’s death, and instead of looking for a job, as most college grads, Sara found herself in a made to order management career, handling the fortune for her and her mother. Her chosen degree was in business management, which gave her somewhat of a head start. Her father’s ex-partner, a close friend of the family, was there with timely advice, both personal and financial.

It was late morning of a weekday, and Sara was now, check book in front of her, deciding just how much money she was going to give to one of the several charities she was involved in. This one was one of her favorites; an animal shelter, with a vet on the premises most of the time, so the care for the animals, of every kind, was extraordinary. She finished the check and stood to look at herself in the mirror. Jeans and a t-top would suffice for her visit to the shelter. She had thought about growing her hair out, it wasn’t even shoulder length now, but that could wait for the cooler weather. Closer to the mirror, she crouched slightly to accommodate her tallness, given her by her father, to check her complexion in the sunlit reflection. The slight case of dermatitis was practically gone, a hint of redness at her scalp line. She thought about makeup, but then did not, and left her bedroom, down the hallway and stairs, her mother not in evidence, as she left the house and went to her Audi coupe. 

April in Raleigh and most of the month had been extra warm with rain. A mist hung in the wet air, just enough for occasional wipers, as she turned out of her subdivision located in the northern suburbs of the capitol city. Twenty minutes of driving and she was pulling into the large lot adjacent to Animal Ark.

“Hey Sara, what are you up to on this miserable day?” Stephanie Clark, veterinarian and co-owner of the Ark greeted her as Sara walked into the examining room. On a table in front of her was a large dog, mixed breed. It was immediately obvious that the animal did not want to be here, but the seasoned Stephanie was handling her well.

“I would imagine you guys are in need of some cash to run this crazy place, so, I am here to contribute.” This proclamation was received heartily from the vet who left the dog in the assistant’s hands and went to greet Sara with a hug.

“You are goddam amazing!” was the reply to her offer. “Your timing is impeccable. We haven’t been so successful in sales this quarter. Strangely, we sometimes run out of the really desirable animals to sell.” The Ark made some money selling the various cats and dogs that it took in, but much of their money was from donations; some from folks with money like Sara, and many smaller ones from animal buyers and lovers. They talked as the vet and the assistant worked on the dog. Stephanie explained that this animal seemed to have suffered from abuse. It was clearly undernourished and generally unhappy; signs of being mishandled by an owner. “The folks who bought her in were senior citizens, and I think down on their luck, and cash. She was too much for them, but at least they had the good sense to bring her in now, much longer and she would be in dire straits.”

“She’s actually a pretty dog,” exclaimed Sara.

“You’re right. With a few weeks of decent food and maybe a grooming, she’ll go to a good family. Folks will take a dog, sometimes, if they know they came from a bad situation. We can get our costs back, maybe.” The assistant had lifted the dog from the table and taken her away. Stephanie motioned for Sara to sit, and they talked about things going on at the Ark and each other. Stephanie was one of the reasons that Sara was generous with the Ark. She was married to a doctor who practiced medicine at one of the largest hospitals in the area. She had said before that she could only afford the Ark, without any real income, because of her husband. “He’s the best thing that ever happened to me,” she confided in Sara. “He’s totally supportive of my work and sometimes I even ask his advice about some animal I’m working on. Crazy how things work out.” Steph said this as she removed her gloves and pushed at her short, dark hair.

The examining room was fairly small with one wall, adjacent to the kennel area, that was practically all window. As they talked a man walked by, glanced in and waved briefly to the women, and kept walking.

“There’s another lucky find. Volunteers come and go. We have a few loyal ones who hang around, but that doesn’t mean they’re great workers. That guy, Ben Macvey, came to us about six weeks ago. Just walked in and asked to volunteer for any work we wanted to give him. Of course I said yes—-not only for the volunteer help, but actually the guy is drop-dead gorgeous! My assistant said if I didn’t take him on, she would leave!” At this statement, both women laughed. 

“How is he working out as a worker—-with the animals?” asked Sara.

“Great! He’s a natural, and, he’s not afraid to get in there and do dirty work. You usually have to push volunteers to do what is needed most. Pee and poop don’t clean up by themselves!”

Sara said goodbye to the vet and left the exam room. As usual, on her visit to the Ark, she did her own tour of the kennels. Several years ago she had started this habit and had ended up taking two kittens home herself; the sister cats, having taken ownership, roamed her mother’s house. She started with the dogs, all of which were new to her since the worthy ones had all been adopted, and as she moved into the cat kennels she headed directly to the largest one which housed at least a few and as many as a dozen cats. Many of these were one-time pets given up for lack of care, and in some cases, strays  mixed in. Sara walked to the front of this large room and was treated to an unusual sight. Sitting in the middle of the concrete floor was a man surrounded by the cats. In his hand was a large bag of cat treats, and he was festively serving, one at a time, the cats that were interested—-which seemed to be all of them. He looked up and caught Sara observing him, and gave her a smile that forced her to flush. Stephanie was right about the man’s good looks, thought Sara.

“Wow! Someone’s made a lot of friends!” She thought how foolish that sounded, but the man stood and shook his head.

“It’s easy to make friends with a bag full of these,” he said as he walked toward her. “Looks like you caught me in my ritual. Can’t do this so much with the dogs. I probably wouldn’t get out alive!” This made Sara laugh, and he joined her in laughter as he exited the cat room. Half of the cats had followed him and he had to be careful not to close the metal gate on the excited ones. “Time for me to get to work,” he said. “Doesn’t look like there’s been an increase in occupants, so my workload won’t be so bad.”

“You must have an understanding employer, to let you off some days so you can come here.” Sara knew the Ark was closed on the weekends to volunteers. That’s when a lot of paying customers would come.

“Well, I more or less work for myself, from home, so my days are my own.” She had walked with him toward the closet where cleaning equipment was kept. “So, you’re a friend of Steph’s? I don’t recall seeing you here before.” He had stopped at the closet door, turned to face her directly and she  felt a flush come to her face again.

“I am, I drop by when I can. I also love just to walk through here.” She motioned toward the animals with her hand. He was a head taller than Sara and she thought there was a fleck of gold in his green-brown eyes. She looked away.

“I’m Ben, by the way. Ben Macvey, and who are you that caught me feeding the cats?” She told him her name and he looked thoughtful and said back, “I knew a man named Walter Jonns. Are you related?” and she answered that she was his daughter. “I was so sorry to hear of his death. I didn’t know him well, but I knew him to be an amazing man—-especially in business!”

“I have to say that I am biased in that belief. I’m not sure I know enough about his business ventures, but he was a terrific father. I,and my mother, miss him terribly. You say you knew him. Could you tell the circumstances of your acquaintance?”

“Let’s see, I had just relocated from Pennsylvania to the Raleigh area, and was looking for possible business opportunities. Your father, among other business folks, was speaking at several seminars in that year, I believe I attended at least two, maybe three. I personally met with him and a few others during those seminars.” Sara found herself fascinated by this man. The fact that he knew her father made him even more interesting. “Although I didn’t get involved with any of his business ventures, I found his words, his advice very enlightening, definitely propelled me forward at a time that I needed just such a push.” Macvey had gathered some cleaning equipment and began to fill a large wringer bucket with hot water. He began to pull the wheeled bucket toward the first kennel.

“Well, look, I don’t want to get in the way of your real job!” To which the tall man laughed.

“I actually find this work refreshing. I’m glad Steph asked me to stay and help out.” He dipped a mop into the water, wrung it slightly, and with an expert spin, opened it perfectly and began to mop.

“I somehow think that Steph appreciates you in more ways than one. It was a pleasure to meet you and I hope we might meet again.” He had stopped and approached her, and extended him hand.

“I think I would like that. It seems that Steph has particularly good taste in friends.” He smiled again, showing strong, even teeth and something in his eyes that forced the redness to Sara’s face again in an awkward blush. She released his hand, said goodbye, and started down the kennel aisle, out the door and was in her car where she sat motionless for a long moment trying to think through just what had happened to her.

The next week was a busy one for Sara; other charities, meetings with her money manager, and a few luncheons with friends who happened to be patrons of the charities she supported. Throughout these days, her brief encounter with Ben Macvey was never far from her mind. On Friday morning she sat down at her computer and, in an unconscious action, she Googled Ben’s name. Almost nothing happened. Some other Macvey’s came up; people who might be related to Ben, but there was no way to tell. She tried Facebook, but he wasn’t listed. Sara had a twitter account, seldom used, but he wasn’t there. 

She turned to the white pages, with the same result; again, folks with the same name, but not Ben. She could try a deeper search, maybe, but she chose not to; somehow, she found herself feeling guilty about something, an intrusion, she didn’t know exactly what. She knew friends of hers who routinely Googled pre-dates, just for security purposes, and she understood that. She didn’t even know if she would ever meet Ben again, so why the interest? She knew why, because she was interested. The clock again, she thought, and turned off the computer.

What’s wrong with me! She lounged in the comfort of the leather chair and the introspection that had plagued her in the past came rushing back. I’ve been told I’m attractive by more than a few! Told I’m pretty good in bed also. What is it? What’s the goddam problem? It can’t be that I’m not meeting enough men—-I’m meeting too goddam many! In bars, on the computer, Jesus, I even met one at the store! I even had women try to pick me up! That’s it, maybe I should be with a woman! But the idea of physically being with a woman repulsed her. She thought again of the ticking clock, of Ben Macvey and her mother’s words. She got up and almost ran from the room.

Sunday came and Sara relaxed and the afternoon found her, with perfect weather, lounging on the deck at the rear of the house. She had just picked up a book when her phone went off.

“Hey girl!” was the answer to Sara’s hello, from Steph the vet.

“You can’t get enough of me, can you?” said Sara, and then asked, “your not working on Sunday, I hope?” 

“Oh, I’m working all right. Remember I have two lovely children, both preteen—-sometimes makes me wish I was at the Ark, but I love them so.” Sara could hear a huge sigh as she finished talking.

“Single ladies, like myself, often don’t consider the consequences of marriage, even though I’d like to think it’s in my future someday.” Sara came back.

“I’m so glad you said that. That sounds very much like what I told Ben Macvey about you—except I added that you were desperate, and probably quite easy at this point. . .” Sara failed to hear the chuckle as Steph finished her comment, because she was almost screaming into her phone.

“You told him WHAT!” And now Steph was laughing outright.

“Relax, sweet cheeks,” continued Steph. “He did inquire about you, that much is true. After you left last week, Ben stopped by my office to discuss other volunteer work, and mentioned that you had found him sitting among the cats. I think he was a little embarrassed by that. He asked if you were a customer to which I replied that you actually were a friend who just came by to chat. I didn’t mention your generosity, or your position in life.”

“Well,” added Sara, “he did know my father in a business sense, probably knew that my dad left us pretty well off when he died. That much was public knowledge.” 

“He didn’t mention that, but I got the definite impression that there was some interest on his part.” Steph paused and then added, “you know, I have his number—-if your interested?”

“You mean, call him! Just like that! I don’t know if I could do that. I practically stalked him on the internet, what the hell is wrong with me. I never called a guy first before, but lately I haven’t had any calls at all.” Sara knew that Steph was aware of her friend’s dating status.

“Then, my starving friend, what the hell’s the problem. At least you might let him know that you’re unattached, not married, dateless, barely clinging to hope—-“

“Oh, for Christ’s sake, give me the goddam number!” And then Steph, almost giddy in her tone, gave Sara Ben Macvey’s cell phone number.

 

“Hello, am I speaking to Sara Jonns?” A strange female voice was in Sara’s ear when she picked up the phone late on Monday afternoon, again, as she was ploughing through the pages of a favorite book.

“It is,” Sara answered, concerned immediately.

“Sara, my name is Rita Jackson and I am a Physician’s Assistant at Saint Mary’s Hospital in Raleigh. Now, there’s no need for immediate alarm, but we have your mother here. Apparently, she has had an arrhythmia problem with her heart and we have checked her in. She is in stable condition condition at this time. . .”

Twenty five minutes of frantic but controlled driving found Sara at the admissions desk of Saint Mary’s and asking about Gina Jonns and was given the room number. She found her mother sitting up and laughing with two nurses, one of which held a food tray.

“I guess I’m too late for dinner!” was Sara comment as she approached her mother and kissed her dry forehead. “How the hell are you?” She looked at her mother and the nurses at the same time for an answer.

“This old bat is healthier than I am!” said a senior nurse, who obviously knew Gina Jonns from previous visits. “And from the looks of her, getting more action!” which drew more laughter from all the women.

“Tell me that’s not what got you here!” said Sara.

“I wish it were that exciting, my dear daughter, but no. Actually, it was a flare up of my arrhythmia again, nothing more. My heart went racing for all the wrong reasons, and my friends, at the bridge club, called 911, correctly so, and here I am.”

“We checked and adjusted her pacemaker, and she’ll be good to go, probably tomorrow,” said the younger nurse.

“That phone call scared the shit out of me.” Sara was crying softly now, totally relieved at this news.

“Sorry, sweetie. I’ll see you tomorrow. Maybe you can pick me up. We’ll have lunch. My reward after all this amazing food.” Gina had said this aloud so that the nurses, who were leaving the room, could here. The older nurse mumbled under her breath, also loud enough for them to hear.

“Ungrateful old bitch!” which again drew laughter from Sara and her mother.

“Sara! Hey!” Sara was about to enter her car when she heard her name and stopped. Hurrying across the parking lot was Ben Macvey. 

“I suppose you don’t have a friend who works here also?” he said, laughing. She thought he looked amazing, dressed in pale yellow, some kind of workout clothes.

“Ah, no. This time a family thing. My mother had a sort of emergency, but she’s okay, for now at least. How about you? No cat room that I know of, or do you volunteer some other kind of work here?” She was really glad to see him and she wondered if it showed on her face.

“Well, actually, there is a kind of work I do here. You could say it’s in a voluntary nature, but the real reason I stopped you was that the hospital is throwing a dinner, of sorts, this Saturday. I happen to have an invitation, and it is for two. When I pulled up I made the snap decision to ask you if you would like to attend as my guest. So, if you don’t have any plans for Saturday. . .”

“Well, I’m pretty sure I’m clear, you goddam idiot, just say yes! on Saturday, so yeah, that sounds great! You have my address?” He told her he knew where she lived from when he had known her father, and he gave her a time he would be there. They parted and he walked away toward the hospital. Slightly bewildered and openmouthed, Sara got into her car and drove away.

“Yeah. . .no, sweetie. Your new friend with the invite to a dinner for Saint Mary’s is no volunteer of any kind.” Sara’s mother had listened as her daughter told her, with some excitement, that she had been invited to a Saturday dinner with someone new. Sara explained where and how they had met as they sat at a table in one of Gina’s favorite lunching spots in Raleigh, promised on her release from the hospital. She told her of the chance meeting in the parking lot of Saint Mary’s and the invite to the dinner for the hospital. “When you were in your teens and twenties and running around, your father and I were attending those kinds of dinners thrown by various hospitals and such. Believe me, your dad wasn’t sweeping floors and emptying bed pans to get those invitations. Large donations and guest hosting benefits did the trick. I’m sorry, whatever he’s doing for the hospital, it’s far more significant than volunteering some work—-but, I’m sure, with that inquisitive little single mind of yours, you’ll find out soon enough!

A favorite saffron dress had been on her mind all day Saturday and now she eyed it up and down in her cherry framed cheval. The plunging neckline was a bit obvious, playing up some of her charm, but she really liked the shorter hemline showing off her strong legs, legs she had worked like hell to get! She applied almost no makeup and when the doorbell went off she flew down the stairs.

“I’ll apologize in advance for the truck,” said Ben as they moved from the house toward the driveway and a new looking red pickup truck. “Car’s in for  maintenance.” He helped her up into her seat and they said nothing as he headed for Raleigh.

“First time in a pick-up, I bet?” Ben broke the ice. 

“It is, and I have to say, it’s very pleasant. I like the idea of being so high up. This is a very nice truck!” Sara was honest in her admiration.

“They’re more like luxury cars all the time. They make them to appeal to a mass market, not just a working class anymore.” She wanted to tell him how nice he looked in a navy suit and deep wine textured shirt.

“Do you live far from here?” she asked.“Not really. Some years ago I bought a small, older farmhouse on a few acres on the north side of Raleigh. That’s one of the reasons for the truck. It’s kind of a project near completion. Maybe next year.” He said this last part wistfully, part of a dream. They talked about Raleigh, it’s development, business, and local politics and she was impressed with his knowledge of all of it and then they were at the restaurant, one of the best in the area, reserved by the hospital for the occasion.

A boy took the truck and as they walked into the foyer he stopped and looked straight at Sara.

“I neglected to say just how amazing you look tonight. That’s how clumsy I’ve become at social behavior!”

“Right back at you—-and where did you get that tie? It puts the whole thing perfectly in sync—-go ahead, tell me you have a valet, I’ll scream right here!” He laughed. 

“No valet! I do have a pretty good sense of color and what goes where—-don’t know how or why.”

They were seated at a round table with three other pairs of guests and it was immediately apparent that Ben knew many people associated with the hospital. Already, as drinks were served, several had come up and grabbed his arm with affection or shook his hand. He introduced Sara and many of them knew her by her father’s name and for this she felt, as least, relief. It seemed her mother had been correct; her escort was of some consequence to this organization.

Two of the three couples at the table knew Ben and they chatted amiably for awhile until the dinners were given them and as they ate, Sara had a chance to talk to him.

“I remember you said that you relocated from Pennsylvania,” said Sara.

“I did,” Ben paused between mouthfuls of food. “You can’t believe how hard I’ve tried to drop that Philly accent.”

“Believe me,” she countered, “I have no idea just what a ‘Philly accent’ even sounds like.” 

“I’m actually from the Philly suburbs, so any accent I had at all wasn’t much, and long gone, thank the gods.”

“So, you went to school there—-in Pennsylvania?” Sara pressed her date.

“High school of course, college, no, not in Pennsylvania, not anywhere.” Ben smiled over his wine.

“I find that interesting that you’ve never attended college.” She smiled back over her drink.

“Is that a game-changer for you? Seems it’s a problem for some folks.” 

“It’s no problem for me. College isn’t for everyone, there are lots of people in this country who do just fine without it.” Sara cocked her head at the strange idea.

“I once had a young woman actually get up and leave the table when I told her I never went to college. A computer date. I swear it was on the profile, but maybe not. She said to me, ‘You actually don’t have an education!’ as if I was illiterate. She put her napkin on the table and just left the restaurant.”

“God, what did you do?” asked an incredulous Sara.

“I sat stunned for a moment, then finished my meal.”

“Well, I promise not to run away. The food here is far too good to waste! And I’ll stay if you tell me what made you decide not to attend college!” Her frown was endearing and he answered her challenge.

“I’ll tell you my adventures from high school till now.”

 

Macvey graduated from high school with better than average grades in the early eighties. With no mentors to push him toward college and two blue collar, hard working parents of a single child who certainly could afford to send him on to higher education, and offered him the chance, Ben instead, decided to take the year after high school and work in housing construction with a good friend.

At the end of that first year, Ben and Deckard, his friend, formed a kind of partnership, because they were not of legal age, and ventured into business together. Deckard’s father, a real estate broker and salesman, was able to obtain for the pair, a house in the suburbs of Philadelphia, in Bucks county. The price of the house, paid for in cash by the boys in full through their earnings, was very cheap, because it was, in fact a derelict, abandoned; a real fix-me-up deal.

Over the course of the next year, the pair worked on the house, using the skills learned on the job, taught themselves housing codes, tax laws and whatever else was necessary in order to bring their house back to livable, and selling, condition. When they were finally able to sell the house in a housing-hungry market, they doubled their money, banked the profits and bought another house. By the time they turned twenty-one and had incorporated their business, they had flipped three houses and were becoming capable in a booming market. 

The nineties proved to be very profitable for the pair of entrepreneurs, and after a dozen years of business together, their corporation was worth over two million dollars. Deckard had married, fathered one little girl, and wanted to move into the real estate business with his father. Ben understood, and they split the business, Deckard bought Ben out and they both parted the best of friends.

At this time Macvey chose to move to the Raleigh area after doing some survey work and especially liking the climate change. He took a monthly rental in a Raleigh suburb so that he might get his legs under him and look around, and it was during this time that he became familiar with Walter Jonns and other business people who were doing seminars trying to entice people to invest with them or at least move them into their circle of thinking.

Macvey knew practically nothing of the stock market, but he did know that he had a good deal of money to invest in something, he was not interested in real estate any longer, and so he listened to what some of these folks had to say. They had made themselves wealthy in the markets, but some of them, Macvey could readily see, were nothing but scam artists. Not so with Jonns. After his seminar, Macvey sat with Jonns and talked for hours and he was impressed with the older man’s sincerity. 

“Don’t give me, or anyone else, any of your hard earned cash until you’re satisfied that we’ve earned the trust you’ve placed in us. I’ve lost money as well as made it, fortunately, most of the time I’ve made more of it.” Jonns told this to Ben on their first meeting. “Educate yourself first! Take classes! I’ll tell you the good ones, and in six months, when you’re ready, see me and my associates, and we’ll talk again.”

Ben took almost a year in classes in stocks and bonds and at the end of that he felt he was at least ready to make a move into the world of equities. Unfortunately, before they could meet again, he discovered that Walter Jonns had passed unexpectedly of heart failure.

A stroke of good fortune, or sheer luck played into Macvey’s plans for just as he got his broker’s license enabling him to trade in stocks, the horrendous crash of 2008 occurred and he sat in stunned silence, fortunately, on the sidelines, as the world of finance tumbled. Of course he knew, as did others, that what went down, would surely come back up, and he would be positioned well to play the game.

Ben entered the world of stocks, along with a small group of others he had become familiar with. They formed a club of sorts, a buying and selling group of brokers, most of which like Ben were new at this, but two of these, a man and a woman, were veteran brokers and recognized a good opportunity to ally themselves with these newcomer, well-healed players in the game of retail equity. Together, using their money and skills—-and courage, over the next several years made some small fortunes into quite large ones. 

Sitting now in this attractive setting, after telling her his story in brief, Ben told Sara his approximate net worth.

“Wow!” She said, her hand to her mouth. “I am officially impressed. You are, indeed, a player in this town. How come you didn’t show up—-oh shit!” Sara knew she had said too much.

“So, you were the one who Googled me?” A wide grin covered Macvey’s face.

“For that I apologize. My curiosity got the best of me. How did you know?”

“One of the associates in our group is a super nerd. Early on, he eliminated a lot of the small details about our lives that made it easy to find and identify us. He keeps track of all of our accounts and personal stuff. He checks now and again and saw that someone did a search. He couldn’t know who did it, just that it was done. Actually, I’m flattered you took the time.” Ben smiled at her, and she felt immediately better.

“Why the secrecy?” She asked him.

“It’s just a matter of fending off people with requests for my time and especially my money. This sounds strange, but I’m sure you understand. It’s harder to keep money than to make it. Like you, there are special things I do a lot, events I participate in, donations I make willingly—-but there are limits.” She was nodding at this explanation.

“My mother and I have someone who does much of that for us, kind of a handler, and a portion of it I do myself, so I know exactly what you are talking about. Everybody wants a little piece of you, and some want a pretty big piece!”

They finished more wine and Sara found herself asking something she had been thinking about for the entire dinner, and before. 

“Through all your adventures from Pennsylvania to  here, you’ve never found time for some kind of lasting relationship, a long-term girlfriend or wife?” She blurted it out a little to quickly but he answered it simply.

“Never married, not that I don’t like the idea, one day. Kids would be nice, also. I’ve had relationships along the way. Nothing lasting really that long, nothing over a year, say.” He paused and drank. “Some crazy notion about success at first, then a personal life to go along, which, from what I understand now, was probably a mistake.” He looked straight at Sara and smiled. “Looking at you, right now, beautiful, intelligent, with so much going on, I might easily ask you the same question.”

It was morning of the next day when Sara thought about how they had parted the night before. She thought about the fact that he might certainly kiss her goodnight, and she wanted that to happen, but when he didn’t, when he pulled her close in a long hug and put his lips to her forehead instead, she liked it so much better, and somehow felt it more intimate than the kiss would have been. She watched the truck move away and in a state of near delirium, went into her house.

“So, how was it?” Gina came into their sunlit breakfast room and behind Sara, putting her hands on her shoulders. She poured coffee for herself and sat facing her daughter. “What’s that face? I don’t know what that face means?” Sara wore a look of complete bewilderment. She had been thinking of last night and the fears of old, the fears of failure, and loss had crept back in. “What is this new guy like?” was all her mother could think to ask.

“He’s absolutely amazing. If I could imagine a man, and describe him to you, or draw a picture, this would be the one. He’s everything anyone would want, and that’s what so scary.” Sara was actually shaking in front of her mother. Gina went to her daughter, pulling up a chair and sitting close.“So, what the hell is going on? If he’s everything, what is so goddam scary? Are you letting the old thoughts come back? I had hoped maybe you were through with that.” Gina took her daughter’s face into her own hands, cupping it gently.“You, dear girl, are everything that anyone could want in a woman! You somehow, always seem to forget that! You are the one that always walks away! If this guy is the one for you, then you have to stay and make it count! Somehow make him know that you are someone to be valued!” Unblinking, Sara focused her deep colored eyes on her mother’s and held her gaze. “Nod your head if you’re in there and understand!” Gina was rewarded with a slight movement up and down. She released her daughter and kissed her cheek, and just then Sara’s phone chimed. She looked down at the screen and her eyes flew wide.

“It’s Ben!”

“Well, you sure as hell better answer it, cause I won’t!” Gina smiled a knowing smile.

“Hey, hi!” said Sara, after tapping the speaker button.

“Good morning,” came Ben’s deep voice. “Hope I’m not calling too early.”

“Nope! Just finished breakfast.” Sara’s face had changed and was now lighting up the room. Gina made a face of her own and stuck her tongue out at Sara.

“I was going to wait and call in a day or two, but after last night, I couldn’t wait to see you again.” Ben went on, “I would like to pick you up tonight, take you to a fast food place and a movie, an old fashioned high school date.” He paused for a moment and then asked, “could we do that?”

“On one condition,” Sara stated.

“Which would be?”

“You have to pick me up in that red truck. That’s the deal.” Ben could not see her face, eyes wet and brimming.

“It’s a date! See you at six!” He said and was gone. The short, abrupt squeal of joy that erupted from Sara’s mouth was enough to startle the sleeping cat that shot straight into the air from the kitchen floor.

 

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