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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic
A widower finds romance when he buys a homemade rag doll for his young daughter.

Submitted: January 05, 2011

A A A | A A A

Submitted: January 05, 2011




“Daddy, I want that one.”

Brad’s tired eyes followed the pointed finger of his six year old daughter Amanda to the shelf behind the counter in the small shop. The shop was one of those delightful places for a child, filled with stuffed toys, mechanical inventions and unique dolls.

It had been a long day. Brad had driven out east on Long Island from his Manhattan apartment with Amanda so that she might enjoy some fresh spring air.

They had walked in the sand at the beach, collected shells and had lunch along the docks. Amanda was still full of energy, but Brad was thinking of the legal case he still needed to work on tonight. He was feeling a little cranky and just wanted to get home where Mrs. Davis who took care of his household since his wife died a year ago would have a dinner waiting for them.

The shop owner, a jolly looking woman smiled at Amanda. “You have good taste,” she said. “Those dolls are very popular. They’re made by a lovely lady. Just notice the detailing on the clothes.” She looked expectantly at Brad.

“Very nice,” he said. “We’ll take the doll.” He pulled out his wallet and pushed his dark rimmed glasses back on his nose.

The shop owner was beaming. She came up with a gaily colored tote bag from under the counter and put the doll inside. “Enjoy the doll and do come back,” she said as she rang up the sale. “We always have new things coming in. I have a granddaughter about your age,” she told Amanda. “She has one of these dolls, too.”

“Thank you for your help,” Brad said. The thought of raising his daughter alone sometimes overwhelmed him.

“Your sister called,” said Mrs. Davis as she brought out plates to the dining room table. Amanda was washing her hands in the bathroom. “She said she wants to take Amanda and her little Peter to the zoo next Saturday.”

“That would be fine,” he said. “I can catch up on some work.”

“You work so hard, Mr. Kendle. You need some fun,” Mrs. Davis stated. “You’ll be

sorry you didn’t kick up your heels when you get old like me.”

“I don’t want to go to the zoo,” Brad said with a grin.

“Well, I was thinking of other fun, Mr. Kendle,” she said. “Like a date maybe.”

“Haven’t thought about that,” Brad told her.

Brad’s partner in the law firm was single. Lately Bill had been trying to entice Brad into getting out into the singles’ scene with him. “You’re thirty eight. Work isn’t all there is to life.” Brad didn’t want to tell him that from all he had been hearing about the singles’ scene it all seemed kind of shallow and scary out there and he wasn’t sure he wanted to pursue that just yet.

It was Saturday. “Daddy, I want to take Emily to the zoo.” Amanda had given the rag doll a name.

Brad patted his daughter’s blonde head. “I would leave her home with Mrs. Davis. You wouldn’t want to lose her. Some gorilla might reach out snatch her up.”

“Oh, Daddy, that won’t happen.” Amanda hugged the doll closer.

“We’ll watch Emily very closely,” said Jill. She felt sorry for her niece losing her mother so young. She grabbed Amanda’s jacket and they were off.

Brad finished his work and was relaxing with a glass of wine when he heard the noisy arrival of Jill and the children. He could hear Mrs. Davis’ “Oh my”, before they reached his office off the dining room.

Amanda ran sobbing into his arms. “I lost Emily.”

Brad surveyed all of them. No sense in reminding them that he had told them so. Jill looked upset. “Peter tripped and fell and we had to go to First Aid and after that we realized that Amanda must have dropped her doll. We went back and looked around, but...”

“I’ll check tomorrow,” said Brad with little relish. “I’m sure the zoo has a Lost and Found.”

The Lost and Found contained a few dolls, one with no arm and one that talked, but no rag doll named Emily. Brad saw the disappointment on Amanda’s face and he knew what he had to do. He checked his watch. There was time to drive out to the shop out east and find another doll.

The shop owner patted her silver hair. “And you lost the doll. What a shame.” She remembered Amanda and her handsome daddy. She looked to the shelf where the dolls usually sat. “As you can see, I’m all out of them. There’s something about those dolls.... I guess another doll wouldn’t interest you?”

Amanda shook her head and walked over to the sunny front window.

“She lost her mother. It‘s been hard for her,” He found himself quietly explaining things to this kindly lady. His head was beginning to ache and he wished this scene could end happily before they went home.

The lady was sympathetic. “Ah, I understand. I will be getting more of the dolls--but not for awhile. I’m going to Florida for a month and the shop will be closed until I get back” She paused and looked towards Amanda. “You did love that doll....”

Brad sighed and hoped that the woman would come up with a solution to his problem.

“I normally wouldn’t do this, but I could call the lady who makes the dolls and see if you could go over there. She welcomes the business. She--lost her husband and quite frankly, I know she finds it hard to make ends meet. You could stop at her place on your way home. She’s such a nice person.”

He didn’t want to hear the woman’s history. He just wanted one of those dolls as soon as possible. “That would be wonderful,” he said. “I would pay the difference of what the doll would cost me here.”

The woman put up her hand. “Wouldn’t hear of it. I’m happy to help. I’ll call Mrs. Barnabus and let her know you’re coming. A strange man at the door....” She smiled a little coyly.

Mrs. Barnabus’ apartment was in a rather run down neighborhood. Brad pictured the woman, a senior citizen working hard at her sewing machine to make a few extra dollars. Life wasn’t always easy. He had been fortunate in his life as far as finances.

“It’s not so nice here,” said Amanda as they stepped out of his silver Mercedes.

“But you do want a new doll,” he reminded her.

He knocked on the worn door of number thirty five which sported a wreath of spring flowers. The door was opened by a young boy chomping on a cookie.

“Stevie, I told you to ask who it is first....” She appeared in the doorway behind the young boy and smiled as she noticed Amanda. “You’re the man Mrs. Greenly from the shop called about. Come in. My name is Julie.”

He extended his hand. “Brad Kendle and Amanda.”

She motioned for him to sit on the couch that housed some toys and an assortment of coloring books. He sat down on a bright red crayon which he promptly extricated from beneath him. The woman cringed. “I’m sorry.” She took the crayon and turned to Amanda. “I heard about the doll. We’ll have to do something about that.”

Julie Barnabus had a nice smile. He couldn’t help noticing that she was also trim and pretty in her overalls and bright blue sweater. Her hair was blonde like corn silk. His wife Penny had been blonde--but different--more sophisticated than Julie. His mind was wandering. He forced himself to concentrate on the surroundings which were a bit shabby, but clean.

A girl about Amanda’s age came from the bedroom beyond. “Susie, take Amanda to see your doll collection. Would you like some tea, Mr. Kendle? I just made chocolate chip cookies.”

Julie brought a tray of milk and cookies into the living room for the children while Stevie turned on the small television set. Brad couldn’t help thinking of the giant flat screen t.v. in his den. Amanda had a bigger set than this one in her room. This family did not know luxury--and yet they seemed content.

Soon the kettle was whistling and Brad followed Julie into the kitchen. “Mrs. Greenly called me back after you left the shop. She told me about Amanda’s mother passing away. Mrs. Greenly can tell a life history in two minutes.” She smiled at Brad showing even white teeth. “It’s hard being the only parent. Stevie can be a bit to handle with all his energy.”

The aroma of the cookies enticed him to reach for one. “I would think that someone like you would find a husband and father for the children--easily.” He couldn’t believe he had said that. She might think that he was coming on to her. He sipped his tea and munched on a cookie.

“That’s nice of you to say, but there aren’t many men who want to take on a ready made family,” she said. He noticed her startling blue eyes. “I do bookkeeping for a small firm and I make the dolls. We survive.”

“I’m sure you do,” he said. He reached for another cookie. “Your baking is great.”

They could hear the children laughing in the living room. “They’re having fun,” said Julie. “Susie is lonely and she’s shy. There aren’t many children in this complex. Mostly senior citizens live here.”

Amanda goes to private school in the city. I guess she gets lonely, too,” he admitted.

“Would you like me to mail the doll to your home--or do you want to come and pick it up?” She asked.

He could pay her to mail the doll, he thought. It would save him a trip, but he was sure that Amanda would like to see Susie again and he might bring Stevie some baseball equipment, maybe even play a little ball with him.” “I could take your number and call in a week and Amanda and I could take a ride out--if you wouldn’t mind?” Was he really saying this?

She looked pleased. “You could come next Sunday. I’ll have it ready by then.”

The tea felt warm and comforting in his stomach. He also felt at peace here in Julie Barnabus’ kitchen. “Why don’t I take us all out for dinner next Sunday. There must be some good restaurants around here?” He was being impulsive.

“That’s very nice of you, Brad,” she said. He liked the way she said his name, kind of soft and tingly.

“I’ll check out some restaurants,” he told her.

By Wednesday, he found himself wishing that the week would pass more quickly. He was working on a very exciting case, but his mind kept drifting to the small apartment out east.

Julie had thoughts of her own. A stranger had come into her life. Brad was tall and good looking with dark hair and his glasses made him look studious and--sexy. She wasn’t going to read anything into this. She was merely filling an order for a doll and she wasn’t going to expect anything more--but she could dream!

Bill popped into Brad’s office late Friday afternoon. “I’m going to happy hour at Gray’s Pub. Why don’t you come? Be good for you.”

“I haven’t been to a happy hour in years.”

“Maybe it’s time to get back into the scene,” Bill told him. “You can’t just work, work and more work.”

“I have a daughter--and I have a date for Sunday,” said Brad.

Bill sat down beside Brad’s desk. “You’ve been holding out on me. When did you meet her?”
“Last weekend. She makes rag dolls.”

Bill rolled his eyes.

“She has two kids around Amanda’s age.”

“I think you need to come to happy hour,” said Bill.

Grays Pub was packed with revelers celebrating the finish of the work week. Bill ordered some martinis and he motioned Brad to follow as he headed for two attractive women who turned out to be assistant district attorneys.

They wound up taking the young women to dinner at a cozy place nearby. Brad seemed to be paired off with the redhead.

“You see how easy it is?” Bill commented as they got into a taxi to go home. They had phone numbers and prospects.

Sunday. It was drizzly out, but Brad didn’t care. He dressed in slacks and a sports jacket and Mrs. Davis helped Amanda into her pink dress. The redhead was not on Brad’s mind.

His heart was beating faster as he pulled into the apartment complex. Susie and Stevie came out to his car and Julie was standing in the doorway. She wore a long flowery dress and her hair was pulled back in a stylish knot. She smiled and he felt as if the sun had come out.

He opened the trunk to show Stevie the equipment and he handed Susie some books that Mrs. Davis had bought in her travels around the city.

Susie took Amanda’s hand. “Wait ’til you see your new Emily. My mom sewed every night and she made extra clothes.”

Brad had made reservations at an elegant restaurant on the bay side of the island. “Can we get frankfurters here,” Stevie asked loudly as they sat around the table overlooking the water. They all laughed.

Stevie spilled his soda and Amanda and Susie got giggly. “It’s hard to take kids out for dinner,” Julie apologized and she and Brad mopped the table with some napkins. She was thinking that Brad Kendle probably wanted to run for the hills. Brad fleetingly thought of the redhead. She had no baggage.

“Amanda and I could come out again and Stevie and I can play some ball,” he told Julie when they arrived back at her place. What was he saying?

“He would love it,” she said. “I enjoyed the day.”

“I did, too,” he said and realized that he actually did have fun. “What do I owe you for the doll and the extra clothes?”

“It’s my gift to Amanda,” she said.

He reached into his pocket for his wallet.

Julie touched his hand and he saw fierce pride in her eyes. He would make it up to her. He suddenly leaned over and kissed her lightly on the lips. “I’ll call you.”

“Let’s take the ladies out for dinner and dancing.” Bill came into Brad’s office. He had been seeing Debra since their happy hour meeting. Brad hadn’t contacted Monica, the redhead. His thoughts had been focusing on Julie. It was a week since their dinner and he hadn’t called her either.

What did he want at this point in his life? Did he want to have a romantic fling here and there without any responsibility? He knew Julie Barnabus could not be a simple fling. It would be all or nothing.

Brad sat back in his chair. “Okay. Call them.”

Brad had to admit that Monica was fun. She loved to dance and she liked him. He sensed that as she danced around him and put her arms around his neck. It was all very flattering. He took Monica back to her apartment in a cab. He was feeling a bit inebriated. She kissed him at the door and asked him in for coffee. He knew that he could stay the night with Monica. He didn’t.

Julie looked at the phone whenever she came into the kitchen. She listened for the phone when she sat at her sewing machine, but it didn’t ring. She didn’t blame him. He probably dated beautiful women in the city.

“So you and Monica?” Bill winked at Brad. They were having lunch in the deli downstairs from their office.

“We didn’t,” said Brad being honest. “I’m sure you and Debra?”

“Three times already, but who’s counting?” Bill laughed. “You’re a stiff, Bradley.”

Brad called Julie when he got back to his office. She sounded a little breathless as if she had run for the phone. She said she had just come in from her job. The children were still at school.

“Do you like dancing?” He asked her.

Her heart took a leap. “I do.” She would have agreed that she liked mountain climbing at this point.

“Saturday night. We could dance and have dinner. Can you get a sitter?”

“I can.”

It was Friday. “Happy hour?” Bill looked energetic.

“Not tonight.”

“Monica misses you. She told Debra.”

“I have some things on my mind,” said Brad.

“The rag doll lady?”

Brad toyed with the pen on his desk. “I’m very attracted to her.”

Bill shook his head. “That’s up to you. I can’t force you to go out with a sexy, gorgeous redhead who has everything going for her.”

It was a warm spring evening. Brad got his car from the parking garage and took off through the tunnel and out of the city. His secretary had gone on the Internet and found the locations of some clubs out on the island.

Julie came to the door. She was dressed in a short black skirt and a silky top and she had on sexy black heels. She was smiling at him. She knew she looked hot. “I put my sewing away for the night,” she laughed. “The kids are staying overnight at Mrs. Woods place across the way.

“That’s great,” he said. He was being presumptuous. “--I mean for the kids. They probably like that .”

Julie felt nervous. If she wanted this man and she knew that she did, she was going to have to use all of her powers. There was plenty of competition out there and it could be a hard battle, but she knew it was worth it. She could see that Brad was confused, but he was an honest, good person and she was powerfully attracted to him.

Julie was a good dancer. He felt her energy and as the music slowed down he took her in his arms and it felt so right.

“You’re beautiful,” he whispered in her ear.

“You’re looking pretty good yourself,” she whispered back.

They had a few cocktails and then danced it off. “You want to leave?” He asked her.

He could hear the ticking of the kitchen clock in her apartment when they got back. She turned to him and he put his arms around her. “This is only the third time we’ve seen each other,” he said. He knew that sounded feeble. “It’s too soon.”

“I don’t care if it’s too soon--if you don’t,” she said. She took a deep breath. This could be a one night stand. He could have sex with her and go back to his wonderful life in the city. She was taking a chance and yet she wanted to be with him even if it was only this once.

She took his hand and led him to her bedroom. Moonlight illuminated the flowered quilt on her bed. He began to kiss her again and then he undressed her slowly ,gently exploring her body as he shyly touched him. They moved to the bed and made love and it felt so exquisite. Brad was a wonderful lover.

She laid in his arms and they talked for awhile and then he figured he’d better go home. Mrs. Davis would worry about him. Home. He felt as though he was home in Julie’s arms.

“I’ll call you,” he promised.

“You--don’t have to feel committed to me because of tonight,” she said. She was playing it cool. Their relationship was delicate. He could decide that it wasn’t for him.

“Tonight was wonderful,” he told her and kissed her goodnight.

He thought about what life would be like if he married Julie Barnabus as he drove back to the city. He would have three kids. Would they all live in Manhattan? Or would he move to the suburbs and commute? Would they have more children? God, she could be pregnant. They had been thoughtless.

Julie listened for the phone. It was three days since her date with Brad. She didn’t think that Brad was a shallow man.

Monica showed up at Brad’s office. “I haven’t heard from you. I figured the D.A.’s office should investigate why? How about dinner?”

He agreed. His mind was in turmoil about Julie and he was working on a big case that took a lot of time and energy. He knew he had to talk to Julie. He wasn’t sure what he would say.

Monica sensed his withdrawal as they dined on steak and lobster. “I‘ll be seeing you,” she said as they left each other. She wasn’t banking on it.

Brad held his breath and called Julie‘s number. “How about we take the kids out Saturday? I--miss you.”

“I won’t be able to do that this weekend,” she said.

He hadn’t been prepared for her refusal. “Did somebody else snatch you up?”

She laughed. “Someone else did ask me out for Saturday night.” She wasn’t lying. Mr. West in the complex, had asked her to accompany him to a wedding because she was strong enough to manage his wheelchair. She didn’t have the heart to refuse.

Brad felt a sting of jealousy in his heart. “Can I call you for next weekend?” He asked.

Brad pulled up to the complex the following Saturday. There was a man in a wheelchair sitting in the sunshine as he and Amanda got out of the car. The man saw where he was headed. “Julie’s a great gal,” he said to Brad. “Took me to a wedding I had to attend last weekend. She knew how much it meant to me.”

Brad’s heart swelled. She was being coy with him and he didn’t blame her. He wouldn’t tell her he knew.

The kids were looking at the sharks in the big aquarium. “So how was your date last week?” He asked her.

“Just fine,” she said.

“I’m feeling insecure,” he told her.

She looked pleased. He put his arm around her. “I think I’ll have to take up more of your time. Would that be okay?” He asked. “Maybe we could do a weekend away. Mrs. Davis can take care of the kids.”

“Sounds like my time will be pretty sewn up,” she said.

He drew her close. “I think that might be for a long, long time.”






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