Sunday, December 29, 2013

Devo Diary Is Back!

That's right, Devo Girl here back after a long hiatus with Devo Diary. Sorry to leave you all hanging, but life was super busy for a while. But you know I would never leave a story unfinished.

If you're new to Devo Diary, it's the 100% true story of my life as a dev. Names and identifying details have been changed. When we left off, I was still not over being dumped by Patrick the fireman. But there's a lot more than that--this chapter isn't the best jumping on point for new readers. Get caught up here:
Table of Contents

Enjoy the latest installment of bad decision making and poor relationship choices:

Chapter 13: Doug

Thanks to everyone for all the positive comments on earlier chapters. I really appreciate each one. And if you like my writing, please buy my book!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Update: Hands On Chapter 18

Happy Holidays, Everyone,
With the season I've had some time off and so I've had more time to write, but it's back to work on Monday...

Thanks to all of you who commented on the last chapter (17). I didn't get to reply to each of you directly this time, but please know, I really appreciate the feedback! I was trying something a little different with Chapter 17, and I was nervous about how it might be received...Oh well, truth is, I'm nervous about how every chapter will be received. So please know your feedback's really important to me.

In Chapter 18, Paige meets Madison's parents. Hope you will enjoy the encounter. :-)

And I've updated the Table of Contents.

Best regards,

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

In/Exhale Continues

Merry Christmas!

Wanted to get this bit posted before things get too crazy with the holiday.

This week's episode is the first half of Halloween, with lots of Re & Kai time. Like Renee, you'll get to see a side of Kai maybe you haven't seen before. I hope you enjoy, as Oct 31 is one of my favorite days of the story.

*Note: There is a short sex scene at the end.

October 31, 2000 - Part I

As always, the Table of Contents has been updated.

I hope the formatting is OK; blogger was giving me a heck of a time with it. :P

As always, your comments are always anticipated and appreciated.

Again, thanks to Rose for her help on this episode and the next, double-checking signing and so forth didn't get out of hand.



Saturday, December 21, 2013

Update: Hands On Chapter 17

Hello Everyone,
I was thinking that I wouldn't get this next chapter done this week, but it's a bit shorter than my usual post, and also things at work went better than I was expecting. So I hope you enjoy Chapter 17. It's set later in the evening that began in Chapter 16....And I've updated the Table of Contents.

Happy Holidays,

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

In/Exhale Continues

Last week, In/Exhale returned as we got a chance to see Kai in his element as he read to the kids for ASL story hour at Lost Apple. Today, we'll see the second half of that day, which means more K & R along with a scene with Jon at the end.

October 28, 2000 - Part II

Thanks to everyone for your feedback on the episode and the video. I should have more soon :).

And thanks again to Rose for checking the signing for me. Hope it's understandable and doesn't bog everyone down!

Next week, we'll see the first part of one of my favorite days of the season, Halloween (just in time for Christmas, lol)!

Oh, and the Table of Contents has been updated as usual.

Please keep your comments coming. I always read every single one, usually more than once! They motivate me to keep sharing the story with all of you.


Monday, December 16, 2013

Update: Hands On Chapter 16

Hello Everyone,
Apologies again for not making my post this passed Friday. The holidays are in full swing around here now and there's just so much going on, at work and plus work, so I'm a little pressed for quality writing time. I hope you'll bear with me if I take a little longer to post these next couple of chapters. I want them to be worth your read and your reviews. Your comments as always have been really great! I appreciate all of the feedback and will try to reply to each of you.  And hope you enjoy Chapter 16.

Best regards,

Friday, December 13, 2013

New Story: Riding Lonely

Hi everybody!

Okay...I know you're all thinking "Really? REALLY? EJ is posting another story even though she's already got three unfinished ones floating around?"

Well, yes. Yes, she is.

BUT this one is actually done! Or, almost done at least. I only have about three chapters left to write and I know where I'm going with it. So yay!

Anyway, here it is: Riding Lonely

I think it starts off kind of slow (at least dev-wise) but don't worry, it'll get there eventually. Anyway, I hope at least a few of you like it, and that those who don't are willing to give constructive criticism. Happy reading and happy Friday! :)

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

In/Exhale Is Back!

Hey, everyone! I hope you all have been well. I've missed you bunches, but I've got tons more of Kai & Co. to share with you, so I hope you're ready!

The best thing about Season Two is it's a great place to start if you're new to the story! That's right, even if you haven't read about Kai's exploits before, you can jump right in here and you shouldn't feel too lost. (But I included a very brief summary of the season below to help catch you up a bit anyway! Plus you can always check out the Table of Contents for summaries of each episode.)

For those of you who felt S1 was a bit repetitive, I'm hoping you'll find S2 very different. We'll see Renee and Kai's relationship blossom (with plenty of devvy "sandwich moments"), along with some interesting developments for Jon, and some new characters will join the group. We'll also get some more backstory on the brothers, including getting a bit more from Kai's own lips.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Update: Hands On Chapter 15

Hello Everyone,
The comments on the last few chapters have been incredible!  Thank you all so much!! Your detailed reviews have been helpful and encouraging; and it seems that Miss Mary has been a big hit. Thanks for accepting her so warmly.

I know we've been in "move mode" for several chapters. I'm not sure I intended it that way but it's just the way the story seems to unfold. I was thinking that it would be done by now but I've opted not to "rush it" so please bear with me, we're almost there. And please always let me know what you're thinking it is my treat to read your posts!

Hope you enjoy Chapter 15

best regards,

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

In/Exhale - Returning Soon

Hey, everyone! I hope you all have been well. I've missed you all, but I've been working hard on I/E while I've been on break--I'll admit Kai kept pulling me away from my NaNo project--and I should hopefully start posting again next week.

Season 2 will feature a lot more ASL than Season 1, so I wrote up this little guide you can read about how I plan to represent it in the upcoming episodes:

On Writing ASL

Another new thing I'm going to try this season is (as scary as it is!) videos of me signing short ASL lessons demonstrating some of the signs used in each episode.

I'm not an expert on video-making, so I'm not promising anything snazzy or super professional just yet, but that way it'll give you a chance to learn some signs and maybe get a better feel for the beautiful visual language my prose can't ever truly do justice to.

I have a significant chunk of Season 2 finished (or as you'd say in ASL, "fish," with your hands together, then spreading outward), but haven't had a chance to make the videos yet. I may go ahead and start posting next week (as I'm getting impatient!) even if the videos aren't ready.

Thanks everyone, and I'll see you all soon!


Monday, December 2, 2013

Update: Hands On Chapter 14

Hello Everyone,
Sorry about the little delay this week. There was the holiday and then I got a cold so I didn't get to write as much as I had hoped.  But here's the next chapter.

And to each of you, who are so generous to share your comments, reactions, and responses to the story thus far: THANK YOU! You really do inspire me! You might be looking forward to the next chapter but I'm equally anxious to hear what you think. Sharing this way is just really wonderful for me.  So again, Thank you!

And I hope you enjoy Chapter 14.


P.S. I did add a Table of Contents for the story.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Update: Hands On Chapter 13

Hello Everyone,
Gosh--thanks so much for the enthusiastic feedback on Chapter 12! (Chie, the illustration was really great! thanks for posting it!) It's so fun to write for this group. And I'll say again, it's an honor to be among you: writers and readers. I still have to work on the table of contents, which I will do.  But in the meantime: here's Chapter Thirteen.

And for those who celebrate it, Happy Thanksgiving!
And best regards to all,

Friday, November 15, 2013

Hands On Update: Chapter 12

Hello Everyone,
Hope you enjoy Chapter 12.  I will work on putting up a table of contents for all the chapters thus far this weekend but I didn't want wait to get this posted. I'm looking forward to your feedback!
Best regards,

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

In/Exhale - The Season FINALE

It's finally here...

I hope it lives up to all of your expectations and more...

Season One Finale:

October 26, 2000 - Part I  | October 26, 2000 - Part II

Please comment and let me know what you think! Been super nervous (yet excited) about sharing this with you :)!

I'm going to have to take a short break (a few weeks) in between seasons, but will be back with a fully-packed Season Two.

S2 will be a great place to start for those who are new to I/E, and will also have a bit different feel and "formula" from S1.

As always, the Table of Contents is updated.

Thank you all of you for your support of I/E. In the intervening weeks, you can keep track of my National Novel Writing Month progress on my blog, or on Twitter.

This year, I'm writing an M/M novel about a crutch-using, brace-wearing nerd from Southern Louisiana and the tall, dark, tattooed hottie he falls in love with.

The concept:

Mike D’Amico has worked at The Grind coffee shop for fifteen years. For nearly that long, he’s been desired by men for his statuesque beauty. With thirty around the corner, Mike begins to reevaluate his life. Can he be more than just a pretty face?

Marshall Guidry is a realist. Injured severely in a car accident when he was fifteen, he knows what he is–a nerdy, gay man with a limp badly in need of a second hip replacement–-but he’s still more interested in anonymous casual sex–-even if it’s not always easy to come by–-than a relationship.

Until he meets Mike and takes him home. Not just one night, but two, then three. . . . Soon, Marshall discovers he’s letting his guard down, and his time spent with Mike is becoming about more than just sex.

Together, the two men embark on a journey of self discovery in order to overcome the shadows of their pasts and carve out a new future.

See you soon!


Monday, November 4, 2013

Update: Hands On Chapter 11

Surprise! I had a good weekend for writing, and since I've been so slow lately, I thought I'd go ahead and post within the week. Maybe this will make up for my tardiness...Hope you enjoy Chapter 11.

And of course all comments are always welcomed, even those that turn up the pressure to produce.
Best regards,

Saturday, November 2, 2013

New Book!

Hi everyone, Devo Girl here!

I want to let you all know that my first novel is now available. The title is Love in Touch, and I used the pen name Lucy May Lennox. It's published by Ruth Madison and Dev Love Press. Thank you Ruth! Follow the link to see all the many places to get a copy.

Love in Touch is all new, never before published here or anywhere else. There's a sample chapter at the end of Annabelle's free e-book, Harvard Hottie (and if you haven't downloaded that already, go get it!).

For the next two months, I'll be doing a blog tour, with tons of interviews and guest posts. Check out all the links here.

Love in Touch is a love story between a girl named Kassie and a deafblind guy named Jake. I wrote it for all of you, to be super devvy and satisfying to dev readers. And the cover is by an awesome dev artist! If you enjoy the book, please leave a review online, on Goodreads, Barnes and Noble, or Amazon. Ruth and I really appreciate it!

PS I'm sorry it's taken me so long to update Devo Diary, but I will get back to it soon, I promise!

Keep reading after the jump for a longer plot description and sample section:

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Update: Hands On Chapter 10

Hello...My apologies about the slowed postings. Lot's going on, and I like to offer you my best rather than rush things. But I do read every one of your comments and multiple times too, and I so appreciate your interest in this story. I was really nervous about posting (I sort of still am each time), but so many of you have made me feel very welcomed, and for that I cannot thank you enough...So now here's Chapter 10

And like always, I look forward to your reviews.
Best regards,

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

In/Exhale Continues

So, since it turns out I have an ASL exam on Thursday, and last week's episode was late and intense, I'm posting a little early this week.

This week's episode is a departure in format from previous episodes: it's in first-person, from Kai's POV--an excerpt from his journal. I thought this would be a nice way to bridge the month gap between last week's episode and the season finale, filling everyone in on what's been going on in Kai's life in the interim.

You'll also get to see a little more of Kai's personality and sense of humor here (which will come out a lot more in Season Two, btw). I've included a link to me reading the episode, if that's something that interests you (requires Flash).


Interlude: From Kai's Journal #1 (Fall 2000)

Thank you so much for your comments. I really appreciate them. Next week is the season finale (YAY!!), which is over 10K words, so I'll divide it into two parts. I'll either post them both together, or post one on Tuesday and the other on Thursday--whatever I decide, I won't make you wait an entire week for it!

As always, the Table of Contents has been updated.


Friday, October 25, 2013

In/Exhale Continues

So sorry for the delay this week!  This week's episode is our last "normal" episode before the finale!

Originally, I had intended to keep this episode to myself, but then I realized there was a lot of important material in it. It's a really "heavy" episode and a difficult one for both me and Kai, but I hope you enjoy.

It's a little long, but with the delay I'm sure you won't mind.

September 23, 2000

I'll see you guys next week with the interlude, then the season finale the week after that! YAY! :)

Keep the comments coming, too. I really appreciate your feedback. :)


PS - The Table of Contents has also been updated, as always :).

Monday, October 21, 2013

Update: Hands On: Chapter Nine

Hello Everyone,
Sorry for the delay this week...Lot's going on, and my schedule's been getting the best of me these days.  Thanks so much for your comments and feedback. I was very moved by some of your last comments, really inspired. It is rewarding to have readers like you! I'm happy so many of you like the story and are enjoying Paige and Madison. I'm enjoying them too, and since I basically write without much of a formal outline I learn how things turn out right along with you. Sometimes I get a little nervous about the pace, wondering if things should be happening faster/slower but I try to let things happen as they do. Although I promise I do know where we're headed, I'm just not always sure how we get there, and from time to time the characters totally surprise me. Anyways, enough of my preamble. Chapter Nine is a bit shorter, and I hope it provides a nice transition as I believe the story's near the half-way point.

Warmest regards to everyone, Adele.

Chapter Nine     

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

In/Exhale Continues

I was worried this week's episode might be late. I had a big ASL test today, and a lot of other RL stuff going on, making me pretty stressed. And I'd decided I needed to add a scene with Renee talking to her grandmother, but couldn't quite get it right between all the craziness.

But it's here... And you guys may potentially hate me after this one... There are a couple huge wow moments, including a big bomb dropped at the end.

(Oh, there is a moderately graphic sex scene in this episode! You have been warned!)

September 22, 2000 - Part II

If I were really mean, I would have ended the season here, but I'm not that cruel. One more episode, then the interlude, then the season finale! Next week's will probably be a little late, since I'll be out of town, but I'll try to get it up as soon as I get back.

As usual, the Table of Contents has been updated.

And thank you all for the support and comments. I really appreciate it!


PS- I recorded myself reading a part of the episode. Click the link above that section to hear it! (You'll need to make sure your flash player is updated for it to play properly.)

Friday, October 11, 2013

Hands On: Update Chapter Eight

Hello Everyone,
Sorry about the delay in posting; just too many things going on these last few weeks. Now I hope, I get the posting right, and that you will enjoy Chapter 8.
Best regards,

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

In/Exhale Continues

Wow, thank you guys for the feedback last week (positive and negative). I really appreciate it.

This week's episode is the first part of two... I would really have liked to post this entire day together, but it was impossible. I know I'll probably get some flak from some of you for this first part seeming to be "formulaic," but it's setting up for part II, which has some really big WOW moments that will have huge repercussions for our characters.

After this, just a couple more episodes until the big finale.  I *may* take a short break in between seasons (I'll just have to see how things are going), but I promise, it won't be long.


September 22, 2000 - Part I

Keep the comments coming; I really do appreciate them, and read all of them.


PS - Oh, and the Table of Contents has been updated, as always.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

In/Exhale Continues

So my ASL class was cancelled again yesterday :( but that just means more writing time, right? I have a good chunk of season two either planned out or actually written, so I might not end up taking a break, which is good news for all of you!

I will be doing NaNoWriMo again this year, so having a lot of material pre-prepared will help with my ability to keep posting weekly.

I feel like it's really hard to follow such great updates from Adele and Rose, but I hope you enjoy today's episode. It's another session with Dr. Miller, and I know how much you guys liked the first one.

September 18, 2000

The Table of Contents is updated, along with a tentative schedule of episodes for season two. I'm still finalizing and writing, so that's subject to change, but in case you want to see a hint of what you have to look forward to.

Without giving anything away, I think you will be blown away by the season finale, and will adore what's in store for all our characters in the upcoming season.

Keep the comments coming, and I'll see you all next week!


Monday, September 30, 2013

Hands On Update: Chapter 7

Hello Everyone,
Work's still pretty hectic, so I was a little delayed with this next chapter. And please, know that your comments are very much appreciated. It's so great to have this kind of immediate feedback and interaction.  So--it's still Valentine's Day, later, and after a little "pushing".
Hope you enjoy Chapter Seven.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

In/Exhale Continues

So I know I normally post on Wednesdays or Thursdays, but I've been working on season two and though I love the rest of season one, I'm impatient, lol.

Last week ended with Nikki making a possibly irredeemable choice. This week, Kai's finally back home and we get a little insight into Jon's past and Jon and Kai's family before they were separated. We also see the return of Renee (I know you guys have been clamoring to see her again).

Thanks to all of you for your feedback. It's really appreciated. Keep it coming. :)

September 15, 2000

Check out the updated Table of Contents if you need to catch up or you're just joining us.


Saturday, September 21, 2013

Hands On Update: Chapter Six

Hi Everyone, As always thanks so much for your feedback. It really means a lot to me. I'm a little late posting this week. I had a pretty hectic week, and that may hold true next week too. But here's the next chapter. It's a little long, but it's in parts. And it's Valentine's Day. Hope you enjoy Chapter Six.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

In/Exhale Continues

Since I have pretty much every remaining episode done, I figured I'd just go ahead and post weekly after all until the Season Finale (after which I will probably take a break).

Last week, Kai got some bad news about his leg and said some things to Nikki he might regret, leaving them both in a bad place, but Vicky and Jon's relationship seems to be blooming, even if Jon is struggling with a particular patient that hits a little too close to home.

We pick up that evening and see what Nikki gets up to, along with Jon finally getting to see his brother after a long day.

You'll either love this episode (which contains a flashback of the first time Nikki and Kai have sex) or hate me for it.

*Reader advisory: This episode has a few moderately explicit sex scenes (not as graphic as others have been, but you've been warned).

September 13, 2000 - Part 2

Next week, we'll finally get to see Kai back home, more of Jon and Vicky, and some insight into Jon and Kai's family.

Keep the comments coming :).


PS - As always, you can find the full story (and supporting documents) in the updated Table of Contents.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Hands On Update: Chapter 5

Hello Everyone. Thanks for the feedback as always. Here's the next chapter. Hope you enjoy. Chapter Five.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

In/Exhale Continues

So I have my first big test in my ASL class tomorrow, so I originally planned on posting the next edition then, after class (even though I said I'd post every other week for a while). But there's been so many great stories on the board, and I've just about wrapped up almost every episode left in the season, and after refreshing the page for the ten trillionth time hoping to see an update from someone, I decided, what the heck. I'll update.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Update -- Cambridge Connection

A short chapter this time, to keep you going til the end of the week, when I aim to post Chapter Three. Hope you like it. Don't forget to comment - things you like and things you don't, as they both help a lot. 



Sunday, September 8, 2013

Devo Diary Update

Chapter 12 is up: the immediate aftermath of my relationship with Patrick the Fireman. Plus more musings on terrible devotee websites, and my first attempt to create something better.

As an aside, it seems like updates to Devo Diary are going to be even more irregular than ever. I will try to post every other week, but real life is a little busy, and I have used up the backlog of material I had prepared. Big thanks to everyone who has been following along so far. Please be patient, and don't worry, I will keep posting even if there is a bit of a wait between chapters.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Hands On Update: Chapter Four

Thanks for your comments. I wondered if I should wait until next week, but the chapter was done and things were kind of left hanging...So Paige and Madison have headed off for their coffee date. This next chapter is perhaps a little long anyway, but it seems to me they needed the space to get better acquainted. So here they go: Chapter Four

Thursday, September 5, 2013

In/Exhale Continues

Sorry for the long break since the last post, but I'm definitely going to need the extra time to make sure I can keep posting regularly. My class is incredible, but really intense, and takes up a lot of time, and I like to let episodes sit for a little while before I post them so I can make sure they're the best they can be for you guys. So that means more time. I'm sorry for the added wait.

Anyway, we continue on September 12, the day Kai wakes up in the hospital. Jon and Vicky finally had their first kiss last episode (aww!), and Nikki was there when Kai woke up.

But, of course, things are still rocky for Kai, and part of Nikki's past that she's been running from and struggling to keep hidden for years suddenly reasserts itself, potentially changing everything. . . .

September 12, 2000 - Part II

Please keep those comments coming, as they really are sometimes what get me through a dark day when I'm doubting my writing or sharing the storyline. You guys have been wonderful, and I'm glad that you all are enjoying my quirky little story.

I also have a couple short (under 5000K) short stories in the works I hope to be able to share with you all soon. :)


PS - Check out the updated Table of Contents in case you need a refresher or you're just joining the story!

PPS - I'm working on an episode (September 18), in which Kai goes back to Dr. Miller again. I haven't decided whether or not to post that, or just skip ahead as I know you guys are getting really impatient for the season finale. Is this something you'd like to see? Or would you rather we keep chugging along?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Hands On Update: Chapter Three

Hello Everyone,
Once again thanks for your supportive comments. I'm so glad you like the story so far. Blog posting is totally new to me (have only been a reader in the past) so I especially want to thank the  Moderator for helping me with the mechanics. I feel like I'm learning a new skill. Today I'm trying to fly solo.  We'll see how that goes. Also since I'm not sure how long "too long" is for a post, Paige and Madison's "date" will come in two chapters. I hope that's okay. So here's Chapter Three

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

In/Exhale: I Promise

Dear Readers,

This isn't an update in the traditional sense. But I wanted to write you a note, from me to you before the next episode goes up.

I know you guys are getting impatient to see Re and Kai finally have their talk. I promise it is coming, and I promise that it will likely be your absolute favorite part of In/Exhale. It will be deliciously devy and angsty and lovely.

I am putting the final touches on that day right now and it will definitely make all the waiting worth it.


As I warned you all in the introduction, I/E can get melodramatic at times. That's just what it is. I know you want to see Re and Kai together finally, but please trust me that all that's happening until then is essential to when the moment finally occurs.

There's a reason that I say I could never take I/E commercial (that is, publish it), and it's because I let myself linger and explore all the side stories of the other characters, etc. I realize this style is very different from most other things published here, or even from my other fiction, but it is what it is. And it's one of the reasons I call it a soap.

The moment in which Renee finally learns about Kai's MLS is one of the most important parts of the entire I/E timeline (which runs from ~1996 through the present, nearly 20 years!), and so I need to lay the groundwork for it.

Everything is leading up to that moment.

Think of it as a season finale, if you will. The pinnacle point that every single episode has been leading you towards until you're at the edge of your seat, heart pumping, crying, shouting, seeing how all those little, seemingly insignificant moments brought you to that wonderful climax.

My plan has always been to explore everything that builds toward that moment, then leave you marinating in it for a while as I figure out how next to take you through this epic story.

Thank you all for bearing with me.

If you'd like to read a sample of my "commercial" fiction, I've posted the first chapter of my novel UnConventional on my blog,

I'll be back in a few days with the next episode.


Monday, August 26, 2013

Devo Diary Update

Chapter 11 is up!

The end of the millennium, Y2K fears, and some major drama in my relationship with Patrick the Fireman. And some thoughts on casting as a way to dev up an AB relationship.

If you need to get caught up, here is the Table of Contents.

As always, thanks for reading!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Hands On: Table of Contents

Hands On Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Mr. Coffee

Chapter 2 Hands On

Chapter 3 Candy Man

Chapter 4 La Bonne Nuit

Chapter 5 Chez Madison

Chapter 6  Valentine's Day

Chapter 7  Cupid's Arrow

Chapter 8 The Morning After

Chapter 9 A Green Spring

Chapter 10 Paige Finds a Place

Chapter 11 Communion

Chapter 12 Moving Day--Part One

Chapter 13 Moving Day--Part Two

Chapter 14 Moving Day--Part Three

Chapter 15 Moving Day--Part Four

Chapter 16 Returns of the Day

Chapter 17 Frottage

Chapter 18 Meeting Madison's Parents

Chapter 19 Good News

Chapter 20 The Past Is Not Past

Chapter 21 In the Basement

Chapter 22 Hands On

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Harvard Hottie is free!!!!!

Harvard Hottie is now free on the Kindle!!!!!!

Download a copy!

If you want to support me and Dev Love Press, please please please download a copy today! 

I've made significant changes from the original version and added some juicy new scenes.  Also, at the end of the book, there are some excerpts from a few upcoming DLP books!

And did I mention it's free??

Hands On

I've been a fan of the blog for a long time, and am so glad I found it. This is my first contribution. I hope people enjoy it as I have enjoyed all the great work of others. Plus I'm new at blogging. I hope I get this part right. So here goes...Hands On

Chapter 1

Annus horribilis. Her poor majesty. I thought about how the queen of England had had bad year as I attempted to return order to the shelves and bins of Christmas clearance items ravaged by bargain-hunting shoppers. Most of the hardcore hunting had already happened, and what was left basically looked like it was ready for The Island of Misfit Toys.

How appropriate that this was my assignment. The queen of the misfits. Okay maybe only the countess. Let’s not get above ourselves. Anyway, if the friggin’ queen of England could have a pity-party, then I totally deserved one. A spiteful divorce from a cheating husband had left me in bankruptcy, on all counts, just as the rest of the U.S. economy was tanking. It turned out that half was half even if all there was was debt that had been mostly racked-up by one half of the couple. Then state budget cuts had disappeared my case manager position at Friends for Life, the community-based organization where I had worked for almost ten years.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Hands On: Chapter 2

Hello Everyone,

Thanks so much for your comments. They are very encouraging! Your feedback is really important to me.

But I know that some folks are a bit bothered by the male lead having the name of Madison. I kind of like the "older" names, but I did look it up and this is what I learned from Wikipedia: Madison is a popular unisex name in the U.S. but wasn't really used as a girl's name before 1985 after the movie "Splash" when the mermaid called herself Madison. Wikipedia also says that although the name has been popular for girls recently, that popularity is declining. I guess like anything, names are also subject to the fortunes of fashion. Anyway I hope that helps...And I hope you enjoy Chapter Two.  




Chapter Two 

For a week I teased—well tortured—myself with the hope that I would see Madison again, that he might forgo some of his online shopping for the brick and mortar experience, and me; even though there was absolutely no reason for him to do so. After all he had his new coffee maker; and being relatively ordinary-looking I wasn’t the I-can’t-forget-you type who inhabited male fantasies. Besides such storylines were the stuff of romance novels I now guiltily read in the privacy of my Kindle app on my smartphone, a luxury Ted allowed me to have via their Verizon family plan to facilitate my job-hunting.

Madison wasn’t exactly the dashing male hero either. Although I was constantly on the lookout for him, I wondered what it—whatever it might turn out to be—could be like with him. I knew people with disabilities and not only from my social work life. I made friends with all kinds of people. Vive la difference wasn’t just some marketing slogan for me, it was a moral imperative. I was interested in everybody which made me a very effective case manager when I got to do that. It wasn’t just a living. It was like my vocation. I was even beginning to think about doing it as a volunteer. I needed to keep my license current anyway. Of course friends was one thing, friends with benefits, well that would be a whole new adventure. What if I wasn’t up to it?

There must be a thousand big and little things that Madison couldn’t do or at least had to do differently. I didn’t know how to date a man like that. However, as the days passed with no sign of him anyway, I began to wonder if my doubts about Madison’s disability were merely the makings of a sour-grapes defense, the old it-probably-wouldn’t-have-worked-out-anyway ploy designed to ease the pain of rejection, or in my case the lack of follow-through.

Because there had been a connection. I was sure of it; and whatever the obvious challenges, it had been like I couldn’t let go. I was too old to believe in love at first sight. Lust maybe, although that sounded a little too tawdry. But whatever I ended up calling it, there had been that famously, mystical, magical oomph, and it had set my blood to flowing. It had been so vivid. Madison must have felt it too. But then again maybe he couldn’t feel his hands. Maybe he hadn’t perceived the heat that I had felt. I tried to remember, had his hand been warm in mine, or was I the sole and therefore sad source of passion?

In any case my vigilance was my secret, and I said not a word to coworkers, family, or friends. I told myself it was because it felt too special for break-room banter or girlfriend chatter. But probably it was because I just felt silly, and then pathetic when another whole day passed and all I had to show for it was unrequited whatever. Me and my coffee-maker crush. We hadn’t exchanged more than fifty words with hardly a hint of anything. His comment about missing out could have easily been about the good customer service he had received. What if the way I was remembering things was merely imagination-infused? Divorce may have left me battle-scarred but I wasn’t dead. And he had those miraculously powerful shoulders. His beautiful smile, his lovely golden brown eyes, all of this was package really. I knew absolutely nothing about the person. And he knew nothing about me.

And yet I was tempted to trade my hours with co-workers just so I could be sure to be at work around the time that Madison had appeared that fateful evening. But then precisely because it had been fate, I decided to keep to the schedule I had been assigned. Tinkering with my hours would be intervening with fate, trying to bend the Universe to my will, and I was probably way better off not relying on my own devices in these matters. After all I had set my cap for Derrick once upon a time, and I was literally still paying for it. I would do nothing but wait and que sera sera…

By the middle of the second week of waiting, hope was reconciling itself to resignation. A sense of loss was completely unfounded and I fought hard not to feel it. Besides, what could have been wasn’t nearly as depressing as what might have been. The little bird that was supposed to come back to you if it was yours had barely landed in my hand. It had never been mine.

Chandra, the floor supervisor tonight, had sent me to the shoe department. “It’s a mess,” she had said. “Straighten it up. I’ll be back to check.” Sometimes the hardest thing about working the floor was being supervised by someone years my junior which happened a lot. Chandra was by far the worst. It was like she enjoyed my failed investment in education. Too young to have either debt or regret, she could brag about going straight to work after high school, buying her own car, and having her own apartment, and then have me to point to as a don’t-let-this-happen-to-you example. And even if I wasn’t afraid of losing my job (store clerks were kind of a dime a dozen) given my current situation I was in no position to argue with her. Lay-off land was brutal.

So carrying an assortment of women’s, men’s and children’s shoes back and forth, reuniting pairs with their correct boxes, grimacing when I caught a whiff of left-over foot funk, I dutifully obeyed my supervisor’s orders. Girls ran the world, right? Women worked hard for the money. I spotted an errant black patent-pleather pump on the floor between two display racks and got down on my hands and knees and stretched my arm out to retrieve it.

“Thought you worked in kitchen appliances.”

 Madison! I jumped, banging the top of my head into a metal crossbar barely feeling it as I scrambled from between the racks, the black pump in hand. I saw his feet first, in Nikes, laced up. Then faded denim, a red Target basket sitting in his lap, and at last his face and the fantastic smile.

“Madison,” I said his name as if he were incredible and sat back on my heels. “Hi.”
“Hello,” he returned looking down at me.

 I felt kind of dizzy. But squatting? Really Paige? The man of your dreams finally reappears and you look like you’re about to pee in the woods? But I was scared I’d topple over if I moved. And this way I was looking up at him. I could see his Adam’s apple moving up and down in his throat. There was a five o’clock shadow dusting his chin and cheeks.

“Thought you did all your shopping online,” I tried to make a joke.

“New year,” replied Madison. “New things.” 

Now I was smiling so wide that I felt air hitting my gums. Praying for grace I stood up, thanking God for every yoga class I had ever taken.

“Well don’t tell me you’re looking for shoes,” I corralled my grin into a chuckle. “Not here.”

He smiled wryly.

 “What? No Consumer Reports best buy in your shoe department?”

“Not even close.”

“Too bad. I kinda like your store.”

“You must not get out much.”

Oh God—that was the wrong thing to say! It was like I had crammed the pleather pump right into my mouth. People with disabilities got out all the time. For god’s sake I had met him here. Should I apologize? Or would that be making too much of it? Madison just watched me twist in the wind.

“I mean to say…” I stumbled. “Not-not shopping that is…I mean if you-if you think you’d find quality shoes in…in a Target.”

The pump was wet from my perspiration and I wasn’t even wearing it.

“Aren’t they all made in some third-world sweat-shop anyway?” asked Madison.

He had social conscience too?

“Developing world,” I corrected him, smiling tentatively.

“If that makes you feel better,” he replied.

“That first place ranking stuff is kinda condescending. I mean some of the third world was really first if you think about it. Historically I mean.”

Okay this was not pick-up talk. Politics was always dangerous territory. At least the comment about getting out seemed to be going away on its own.       

“You’re right,” agreed Madison smiling again. “Coffee makers. Shoes. Human rights. Pretty impressive.”

“For a store clerk, you mean?” I said before I could stop myself.

“I didn’t say that, Paige,” he replied, his expression serious. “I said you’re impressive.”

I really did want him to ask me out, and desperately. Why then was I so determined to make that not likely? Did I need another two weeks of waiting time? Ted was always saying that I was the kind of person who blocked her blessings. “You’re a control freak,” he had told me. “Everybody’s not a case. They don’t want to be managed.” I wasn’t managing anything now. That was the problem.   

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I guess I sorta have a thing about that.”

Sighing I turned away and looked for the right place for the pump. Chandra really would be back to check, wicked step-sister that she was, and this was my job, not a rose garden scene in a fairytale.

“Tell you what,” Madison suggested, rolling towards me as I was tucking the pump into its box with its mate. “You let me buy you a cup of coffee, and I don’t tell the store manager that you’re trashing the merchandise.”

Stunned, I looked down at him. His smile was like a gift.

“I don’t get off for another half-hour,” I said restraining myself.

Madison glanced at his wrist watch.

“We’ll make it decaffeinated,” he replied.

“You’re all done with your shopping?”

All his basket contained was a package of coffee maker filters.

“I am,” he answered.

“You know the real secret to good coffee is the water,” I advised him, hoping I sounded cool.

“I have a water filter.”

He didn’t have to try. He was cool. He had what the teenagers were calling swag.

“You don’t mind waiting for me?” I asked.

“Not in the least,” he replied. “Do we have a deal?”  

“Yes,” I smiled and offered him my right hand to seal the agreement.

And to touch him again.

Madison placed his hand in mine once more, and I was a little beside myself with how glad I was for a reason to shake his hand. But then he placed his left hand on top of mine, surrounding my hand lightly with his curled fingers and calloused palms. The space between was warm and wonderful. Our eyes met, and his contact surged through me brilliantly. Sensations pulsed between my legs, pushed against the cotton-crotch lining of my panties. Feeling flushed, I forced myself to focus on keeping my feet flat against the hard white floor for its coolness, for its calmness. If Madison pulled me towards him, even slightly, then I would do something to cost me my job.

But he didn’t pull. He just held in place—steady and strong. It wasn’t for a long time, I’d recall afterwards, it only seemed eternal, and almost like a reunion. I was all liquid and lust, because I could not—would not—call it love. I didn’t know Madison, not even his last name, I just wanted to. I just wanted a lot. But we would have coffee, and we would talk, and if I was luckier than I had been then the way he was holding my hand he’d hold all of me. Slowly, softly Madison stroked the top of my hand with his left thumb, and this amazed me. I stared at his thumb, watching it move back and forth, the trimmed nail, the smooth knuckle caressing my skin. I met his eyes again and wanted to say thank-you.
“Meet you out front?” he asked.
I smiled and nodded.
He pressed his hands together around mine more tightly, let go, and then wheeled passed me. Not turning to watch him leave this time I settled for fretting with the display of shoes. Eventually I touched my right hand to my lips, breathing in the faint trace of his cologne.  

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Hands On: Chapter 3

Hands On:  Chapter 3

A few minutes before it was time for me to clock-out I hurried into the women employees’ restroom to do what I could to make myself more suitable for a date. A date. I barely believed it and kept punishing myself with the assorted what-if questions tailor-made to take away joy. This wasn’t my first date post-divorce. There had been a couple of fix-ups orchestrated by Pam, with Ted’s grudging approval. Pam was all eager for me to have fresh start, but then she had never really liked Derrick, and when she wasn’t being careful she fairly gloated that her doomsday predictions for Derrick and me had come true. Ted on other hand was ambivalent. He didn’t truly approve of  Derrick either but he also didn’t approve of divorce. I supposed in another era my brother-in-law would have simply sent me to a nunnery. Needless to say, Pam’s matchmaking for me had gone nowhere. After all she and I definitely did not have the same taste in men.

There wasn’t much I could do with the Target uniform, but at least since my vigil I had been making the effort to keep my shoes polished. I had also been wearing makeup: foundation, blush, mascara, and lipstick. I had pretty good skin and a little cosmetic augmentation went a long way and didn’t take a long time. A travel-size pack of disposable wet wipes facilitated an emergency bird-bath to freshen up. Face, ears, neck, under-arms, and even genitals all got a fast once-over, the latter area still aglow with the feelings Madison had made between his hands among the shoes. If my former clients at Friends for Life could see me now; their no-nonsense case manager who preached the safety of going slow when it came to sex, especially when it was with someone you didn’t know, all wild with desire. How many times had I said it: “Passion is romantic but being safe is for life.” Yeah, I’d go slow, I thought to myself as I punched out, unless Madison offered me another option, then all bets were off. Diets worked just great until you were in a pastry shop. As in pastries indeed, I chuckled to myself, putting on my coat. Given the chance I might just gobble him up and worry about the calories tomorrow.

“Hey Paige!” Melissa called to me as I was reaching the swinging doors. “Wait-up!”

Wait-up. I stopped. This wasn’t good.

“Yes?” I said in what I hoped was a neutral tone.

“A bunch of us are tryin’ out that new Mexican restaurant, Dos Cocineros,” explained Melissa catching up with me. “You wanna come with us? I’ll give you a ride home.”

She looked so happy about the idea and pleased to include me. Knowing the value of good relations with co-workers, I honestly appreciated the invitation. I hadn’t been working here two months yet and I was being included. I wanted to hang-out with them, but just not tonight.

“Thanks, Melissa,” I said. “But I can’t tonight.”

Her smile faded. I was kind of letting people think I was shy. It seemed easier than dealing with the shame.

“I’m meeting somebody,” I reluctantly told her.

Now her face brightened again.

“You got a date?” she asked eagerly.

Was it really such a miracle?

“Yes,” I admitted.

“You go girl!” exclaimed Melissa.

It must have always been so throughout history. A man trumped friends every time.

“He’s meeting me out front,” I said.

Melissa was now literally pushing me through the swinging door.

“Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do,” she laughed.

It would take me a minute, which I didn’t have, to unpack that statement, and besides I wasn’t a counselor anymore.   

Near the front entrance to the store, there was a pseudo-Starbucks, where Madison could have taken me. It lacked the friendly baristas and cozy coffeehouse ambiance that had made Starbucks’ a hit corner to corner almost all over America, but it was right here, as dreary as it looked at the end of the day. Fortunately Madison hadn’t suggested it, and he wasn’t waiting there for me. From the looks of things we’d be taking our first-date awkwardness on the road, at least sparing me the proverbial fishbowl-effect, especially since now I had confessed it to Melissa.

Not seeing Madison inside, I stepped outside into the cold night. The headlights of a car parked in one of the handicapped spaces flashed. It must be him. The car backed out and headed towards the curb where I stood. Now just exactly which woman’s safety video said that it was perfectly fine to get into the car with a total stranger? Not one ever. But I was about to do just that. Just because he had a beautiful smile and wonderful eyes, and shoulders that bested any other man I knew. Did I think it was safe because he was disabled? What if he was just bait, setting me up to take me to some psycho brother of his who lived in their basement? We’d all seen the horror movies. And yet when Madison parked beside me, I willingly opened the passenger door and got in.

“Hope you don’t mind if I drive,” he said. “It’s easier.”

“Oh no, that’s fine,” I replied.

Plus I didn’t own a car anymore. At some point I’d have to admit to that.

“Nice car,” I told him as I buckled my seatbelt; because after all if I was going to be a hostage I should try not to crack my head open in a crash.

The car was a Buick something or another, which sort of surprised me. I supposed I had been expecting some kind of import. It was a four-door sedan with leather seats, a dazzling dashboard complete with satellite radio and an assortment of other glowing icons including GPS and Pandora. There were hand controls attached to the steering column, and a kind of three-knob apparatus on the steering wheel where his left hand rested. His wheelchair was stowed on the backseat in what appeared to be separate pieces. Maybe his hands worked better than I thought.  

“Thanks,” said Madison pulling off.

As he was driving out of the Target parking lot it dawned on me definitively: I was definitely doing this. Going God-knows where with God-knows who.
Abruptly I blurted out, “I-don’t-have-a-car-so-I’ll-have-to-be-back-here-before-ten-to-catch-the-bus-or-my-sister-will-worry--”

“Paige,” he interrupted my breathless speech. “I can take you home.”

“You-see-I-didn’t tell-her-and-she-”

“Paige,” he repeated. “I said I can take you home.”

Maybe it was his voice, or the little smile playing around his mouth, but suddenly I was not only glad but reassured. I was safe. I still didn’t know him from Adam but I felt as right-placed as Eve.

“Thank you,” I said and honestly felt grateful.

“Why don’t you text your sister? My last name is Reese. R-E-E--”

“As in the candy?” I smiled at him, all imaginings of hostage horrors gone. 

He glanced at me and laughed.


to be continued...

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Hands On: Chapter 4

My candy man drove us to his favorite coffee place, Le Bon Café, which was not only not a Starbucks’, but was not part of a chain at all. We shared friendly chit-chat during the drive, mostly about coffee roasts and the marketing phenomenon that had turned the basic cup of coffee into a budgetary line item.

“Oh well,” observed Madison. “Guess you could say that about beer too. Americans are not satisfied unless we’re paying too much for something.”

“Even when that paying is with plastic,” I agreed.

“Amen,” he said, which was an encouraging sign on the one hand, and an anxiety-inducing one on the other.

It was also a fair segue into letting him know how broke I was. But yuck.

Maybe he was thrifty even if he did seem to like nice things. How long could he be interested in someone who had filed for bankruptcy? Bad credit was today’s social disease, sometimes more frightening than AIDS. Nothing eighty-sixed a potential relationship faster than money problems. So I was determined to hide as much personal negative press as long as I could. This didn’t have to be forever, right? It could be just for fun. I could imagine what my beloved brother-in-law would have to say about that. “You reap what you sow, Paige,” Ted liked to remind me. “You need to examine yourself.” Using his microscope of course.

Madison parked in front of the coffeehouse.

“The good coffee,” I said reading and translating the sign above the door. “How straightforward.”

“So you speak French too,” replied Madison. “I’m starting to think you’re out of my league.”

He didn’t know how right he was, and why.

“Maybe I can read the sign,” I said. “But it’s your hang-out. I thought we were going to a Starbucks’.”

“Ah, très bien,” Madison grinned. “I was hoping to impress you.”

Maurice Chevalier too? I was impressed on top of impressed.

“It’ll be easier if you get out first,” Madison abruptly switched gears to serious. “Before I get my chair.”

Oh yes, that. It was funny how I kept forgetting it. I hopped out of the car and then didn’t know what to do with myself, while he reassembled his chair and transferred from the car into it. I didn’t think I should look but I wanted to. It was Madison’s reality, right? Keeping it real would be key even if he did let you forget about it at times. He wheeled ahead of me and opened the door to the coffeehouse for me by hooking his hand under the handle. Then flinging the door wider he swiftly wheeled in behind me. See. Just like normal.

Madeeson!” a barista—a woman—greeted him happily. “Bonsoir, mon ami!”

I wondered if speaking French was a requirement to work here. In any case the first hello was like a chain-reaction. Others looked up from what they were doing to say hello to him too, almost everybody calling Madison by name, including a couple of the customers. It reminded me of that T.V. show, Cheers, only I had the feeling that I was with Sam Malone not Norm.  

“Medium decaf latte, no foam?” asked the welcoming barista as if she knew exactly what she was talking about.

“You got it,” replied Madison. “What would you like, Paige?”

Oh yeah, me.

“Uh, grande,” I started. “I mean medium vanilla latte. Skinny. I mean non-fat milk.”

“Decaf?” Madison reminded me, parking himself at a table tucked cozily in a corner near a bookshelf.

“Oh—yes. Thanks,” I said sitting down across from him.

He called my order back to the barista. It must be nice not having to stand in line at the counter. I supposed it was one of the little breaks that Madison got for his wheelchair, like reserved parking near building entrances, except he’d probably be glad to trade standing in line any day for the standing.

“Avec plaisir, mon cher,” the barista called back.

Mon cher, huh? And she didn’t look old enough to be his mother.

But anyway Le Bon Café was a long way up from a pseudo-Starbucks’ in a Target. From the classical music softly playing in the background to the books of literature lining the shelves, the invitingly worn over-stuffed chairs to the 19th Century art prints on the walls, and the wooden backgammon and chess sets, the coffeehouse interior had the look of a movie set designed for some historical romance, as if Edith Wharton or W.E.B. Du Bois would also come here for the good coffee.

“This place is lovely,” I said looking around the room and not watching Madison pull off his gloves with his teeth.

“I’m glad you like it,” he said.

“Has it been open long?”

He was taking off his jacket now, and I was dying to ask if I could help, but that would be out of order, plus he didn’t need help, just a little extra time. I settled for taking off my own coat instead, even though this meant displaying my cheap Target polo in stark contrast to Madison’s forest green Lacoste polo with its crocodile logo. No wonder he was a regular at a place called Le Bon Café. My current budget barely accommodated le bon McDonald’s.

“Almost six years,” said Madison. “I’ve been coming here for awhile. When I don’t brew at home,” he winked at me.

“Mais oui,” I smiled. “I can tell. Everybody knows your name.”

To be honest I was kind of jazzed about that, it was like having a date with the high school quarterback or something, which had never happened to me in my whole life. My whip-appeal tended to draw junior varsity at best.    

“I stand out in a crowd,” he smiled back, but it was a little crooked.

The welcoming barista, whose name was Denise, was the owner of Le Bon Café, and she was actually French. She was also Madison’s friend. When she brought our coffees over to our table, he introduced us. Denise leaned down and half-whispered in Madison’s ear, “Elle est mignonne.”

Mignonne?  Rapidly I searched through my ancient high school French files for the meaning of the word.

“Oui,” replied Madison smiling at me, “très jolie.”

Okay mignonne must be good then. But just in case I made a mental note to look up the word later.   

Because clearly Denise was giving me a multi-point inspection. Good thing divorce decrees and credit reports didn’t necessarily show. And you could always attribute the red and khaki to simply having bad fashion sense. The uninformed observer didn’t have to know I was somebody’s poor relation.

Naturally I was checking Denise out too; and I didn’t like it at all the way she had draped her arm over Madison’s wonderful shoulders, practically leaning against him. She was very pretty with that international flair that few all-American girls could outshine. Her dark curly hair bounced. Her bright brown eyes danced. Denise was très jolie herself and a successful businesswoman too. I was sure I wasn’t faring well by comparison.

Except that I was Madison’s date.

“And she speaks French,” he was telling Denise, my guess was performing a little prevention intervention before she said something sideways, or très gauche, as it were.

Eventually—really it felt like forever—Denise went back to running her business and Madison and I were at last alone.

“Cheers,” he said using both hands to raise his cup.

“Cheers,” I returned raising mine.

My latte had come in a heavy white stoneware cup with a saucer, but Madison’s was served in a to-go cup with a heat protector sleeve around it. It took me a second but I figured out why. He was probably able to hold the paper cup more easily than the ceramic one. And whatever I thought about Denise otherwise, I appreciated that she remembered that for him; and that her coffee was really and truly bon.

I admired out loud how good the coffee was and how cool it was that Denise had her own business.

“I bet you could start a business,” Madison said.

“Me?” I replied incredulous.

“Sure. Why not? Some kind of personal service enterprise. One of those professional shoppers for the rich and famous. You’ve got a sharp eye for value, and you’re up on your Consumer Reports.”

This was how he saw me? As a glorified gopher bowing and scraping to keep the Paris Hiltons of the world happy?

“You mean like a personal concierge?” I asked, the words sour in my mouth.

“Okay,” Madison continued. “You’d probably have a waiting list for your services.”

“Maybe I could even shop for you.”

Dark red fleeted across Madison’s cheeks.

“Probably not,” he said. “Since I’m neither rich nor famous.”

“I could give you a discount,” I pressed. “After all it’s your idea.”

Now he frowned and this lasted longer.

“Wait,” he said. “Did I say something wrong?”

“Of course not,” I snipped. “You’re just trying to deliver me from Target, although we do like to call it ‘Tar-jai’ the French effect makes it sound classier. Which is why I think I should be a concierge. Sounds much better than girl-Friday.”

“Paige,” Madison said reaching across the table and laying his hand on my wrist.

One set of feelings was hurt and at the same time another set was hot. It was crazy-making. Yet I didn’t pull away.

“I’m sorry,” he told me. “I wasn’t being funny. I meant it. People pay good--”

“I’m a social worker, Madison,” I blurted out another truth. “I have a master’s degree. I’m a trained counselor.”

Withdrawing his hand Madison sat back. He felt sorry for me. It would have been better if I had just been a store clerk. I had a master’s degree and I couldn’t  do any better than straightening shoe racks? Looser.

“I got laid-off,” I defended myself. “It’s been hell finding another job. Impossible. That’s why I’m at Target. I’m another one of those statistics. It was either going to be Target or McDonalds, and I frankly had enough of McDonalds in high school. So there you have it. I don’t want to shop for the rich and famous. I want to help the down and out, but now I’m one of them. Last class.”

My soliloquy completed, I drank the remainder of my expensive coffee from its elegant cup. It would be an awkward ride home but at least I wouldn’t be cold.

“You’re not alone, Paige,” Madison said. “There’re millions like you.”

“I know the stats, Madison. Eight-point-nine, ten-point-six. Stimulus package. Recovery Act. Whatever. I still work at Target, take the bus because I have to, and live with my sister.”

“You have nothing to be ashamed of.”

“Please, Madison, don’t be nice. I appreciate you asking me out but--”

“But what?”

I looked at him. Did he think he couldn’t do any better? If he did then he wasn’t very smart. Okay the Buick was probably a little un-cool to most women. And yes there was the wheelchair, but everything else about him made up for all of that. Denise no doubt thought so. And there must be others. You couldn’t order groceries online, and supermarkets were noted for being great pick-up places. He probably never needed to go home alone.       

“I can’t run in your circles,” I finally just told him. “I mean, even when I was working, my real job. I couldn’t afford Lord and Taylor’s, even if my ex didn’t ever get that. To be honest with you, social workers make about as much as teachers, so Target’s not that much of a step down.”

“You shouldn’t measure yourself by the hourly wage, Paige,” said Madison. “All work is honorable, whether the pay is or not.”

I had given similar speeches to my clients. Don’t worry. Be happy. Cute song until you were the one worrying.  

“Solidarity forever,” I said wearily.

As if he had a clue about what that meant. Madison was like Ted, Pam, even stupid Derrick with his wallet bulging with plastic money. People like them didn’t know what it was like for people like us. Eating popcorn for dinner because the unemployment check ran out before the month did.  

“You got something against unions?” asked Madison.


“I come from a long line of union men,” he said. “My father, grandfather, great-grandfather, all labor organizers.”

“I guess you know where they buried Jimmy Hoffa,” I said.

Madison chuckled dryly.

“We’re more the Eugene Debs-type. Socialists, Paige. Card-carrying. Saul Alinksy, Woody Guthrie. A. Philip Randolph, Cesar Chavez. You name ‘em, I know ‘em. And would have followed exactly in their footsteps too, except my mother, one of those low-wage teachers you were talking about, insisted I go to law school first. It made sense given the family tradition of getting arrested. Like they say: if you don’t know the law you better know a lawyer. Ma’ figured she’d just raise herself one.”

“You’re an attorney?”

And yet a union-man too? That would explain the Buick. His reference to sweat-shops. Made in America must mean something to him.

“Yes,” replied Madison. “A damn good one too. Even though I guess I’m more what you’d call an inside man these days. McCarthy might have been on to something. I work for the Labor Department. You know, those guys churning out statistics. I do enforcement mainly. Which means I push paper more than anything else, but I like to think it helps the cause. As a social worker you have to agree, fair working conditions is a cause.”

He smiled. I was in love.

“Wow,” I said. “Saul Alinsky. I studied him in college. How the end justifies the means. I love him. Your relatives could have been my heroes.”

“Just my relatives, huh?” said Madison ironically. “A government bureaucrat not so much.”

Maybe not officially in love. But it was a warm, wonderful feeling all over, head to toe, head and heart, and all points in between.

“I don’t know,” I said coyly pretending otherwise. “They say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, I suppose it’s possible.”

This made Madison laugh, and I did too. And the rest of the evening we discussed everything from trade agreements to bank bailouts, weighing the impact of budget deficits and tax cuts, and whether or not the New York Times’ Paul Krugman was right about everything.

Generally Madison and I agreed about the ends even when we argued about the means. I couldn’t believe how starved I was for this kind of conversation, and I savored every minute of it. At last I was sitting across the table from a man who found my wonkiness attractive, or at least interesting. Married to Derrick I had learned to keep silent about such topics unless he brought them up. Derrick had only had to call me boring once—case closed. But Madison probed my brain like an investigative reporter, and I probed right back. Varsity at last!

The barista—not Denise this time—brought us another round of decaf lattes and then returned with the check. Madison paid it with a credit card, signing the bill by pinching the pen between his left thumb and index finger, threading it through the fingers of his right hand, and moving his whole arm to write. He was so good with his hands I decided, sometimes like the paralysis wasn’t that consequential.

I didn’t mind having to wait until he took apart his chair and stowed it in the back seat before getting into his car. The leather seats were heated and soon I was toasty.

“What’s your address?” asked Madison. “I’ll program the GPS.”

“I can put it in,” I volunteered.

“It’s voice-recognition.”

“I speak English.”

Madison smiled.

“One thing you’ll learn about me, Paige,” he said. “I’m kind of a creature of habit. I have to be. It’s easier. The system recognizes my voice.”

His you’ll learn had a future ring to it, and I wanted very much to learn about him.

“And it’s a nice voice too,” I flirted before reciting Ted and Pam’s address to him.      

It wasn’t going to be a long drive. The GPS gave an estimated arrival time of approximately twenty minutes. Twenty minutes to the big question: would we go out again? I could wait for an answer to the bigger question: friends or friends with benefits? If Madison was indeed a creature of habit maybe he had some old habits he needed to break first, like with Denise. If it was mostly coffee for a while that would be okay. Hope wasn’t a bad thing. It had elected a president.

Still I hated to hear the electronic female voice of the GPS announce, “Arriving at destination. On right.” It was late and Pam had left the porch light on for me. I had sent her a text saying I had gone out to dinner with friends, Melissa’s invitation the suggestion for my cover. I hoped that Pam and Ted were asleep and not peeping out the window to see who I had come home with. I didn’t like to lie, not to their faces anyway, for fear that Ted was absolutely right about reaping what you sowed.

Madison shut off the engine and butterflies fluttered wildly in the pit of my stomach. Was this the official launch or the crash landing? One way or the other it was probably time to know.

“I really had a nice time,” I tentatively opened.

The car was still warm so why was I trembling? I released my seatbelt and fidgeted with my purse.

“Me too,” Madison said.

“So we’re good then?”

His right brow arched quizzically.

“I mean with my store manager,” I supplied. “You won’t report me for discouraging sales, right?”

One of the beautiful smiles filled Madison’s face.

“We had a deal,” he assured me. “The information’s privileged.”

“I mean a job’s a job like you said.”

“What I said was that all work is honorable.”

“I don’t know why I’m embarrassed anyway.” I grinned. “People say the worst things about lawyers. A Target sales associate is not so bad.”

“Humph. A shyster bureaucrat,” said Madison enchanting me with his eyes that seemed to shine even in the street-lamp-lit darkness. “Looks like I’ve hit rock bottom.”

“No way,” I murmured.

“Maybe I can use you as a character reference,” he teased.

I nodded. If he would only kiss me, I’d swear to anything.

“Then I need a last name, Paige. In case I have to call you.”

Please have to call me.

“Robinson,” I told him.

I had never been so happy to have my maiden name back. It meant there didn’t have to be a trace of Derrick between us. Hastily I dug around in my purse for a piece of paper and a pen, and scribbled down the number to my mobile phone. Madison removed his right glove and accepted the slip of paper I offered him, grasping it between his thumb and index finger, and stuffing it into his jacket pocket.

“I tend to call more than text,” he said.

“I’m old school,” I replied. “I’d always rather talk.”

I must be cold. Even my voice was shaking.

Madison put his hand to my face, caressed my cheek as he had caressed the top of my hand earlier. With neither a supervisor nor a seatbelt holding me back, I suddenly went to him, on my own, pressing my lips against his until he opened his mouth to take mine. While our tongues made ardent acquaintance, I stroked his neck, squeezed his shoulders, pressed the palms of my hands against his chest, eagerly, greedily. His arm around me now, Madison drew me closer, and I seemed determined to wedge myself between him and the steering wheel. His five o’clock shadow, almost a beard now, scraped my face and nothing was more inviting as I ventured to his neck with my lips, tasting the saltiness of his skin, the remnants of his cologne. Working his hand, first under my coat, and then the Target polo, Madison pushed his knuckles up and down the bare skin of my back, and I was ready to come out of my clothes for him, with him.
By the time we stopped, forced to, to catch our breaths, I was more in his seat, in his lap, than in mine. We both laughed at the adolescence of it, and I started to scoot back over the console until placing his hand at the back of my neck he drew me to him again, this time kissing me gently, tenderly, leaving his taste upon my lips. When we parted again, I cupped his cheek, and covering my hand with his he held it there.        

“I came looking for you tonight, Paige,” he told me. “In fact I came back a few times looking for you.”

“You were looking for me?” I asked shaking my head. “I can’t believe it. That--that’s so wild.”

“Why?” he frowned. “What’s so wild about it? A man like me can’t--”

“Because I was looking for you!” I interrupted him excitedly. “Every day. I just kept hoping you’d come back. And you did.”

I could worship his smile, the straight white teeth, the adorable dimple. Oh yes, definitely a candy man. And Christina Aguilera was absolutely right; there was nothing more dangerous than a boy with charm.

“I thought we had a connection the other night,” he said. “I couldn’t stop thinking about it.” Then abruptly his face shadowed, and he looked away from me. “But I understand if-if you…if it’s too much.”

“If what is?” I asked touching his face, bringing his eyes back to mine.

But he pushed my hand away, pressing it onto the car seat. It was as if a bell had rung somewhere declaring recess was over.

“Come on, Paige,” he said. “Don’t you be nice either…I don’t want a social worker.”

A social worker? He thought that I thought that he was a case? Please! When I was so hot for him my clothes were about to burn off my body right before his eyes? His golden brown eyes. Taking his hand firmly into mine, I brought it to my lips.

“Do not let this Target uniform fool you,” I said into the calloused palm. “I'll have you to know, Mr. Reese, Esquire, I am a licensed professional.”

I pressed his fingers against the side of my face, feeling where the muscle tissue had atrophied, how the skin was cool. The golden brown eyes watched me, warily, unsure but curious too.

“Social workers,” I continued, “do it in the field. But never ever with clients.”
to be continued...