Her Secret Life. Gwynne Forster

Her Secret Life - Gwynne Forster

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heat. “You’re still in bed? I…” He caught himself. He wished he was in that bed with her, but it was a little too soon to tell her that. Warren suspected that Jackie had some lines that he’d better not cross. He sensed that she was holding back. So instead, he said, “I’d lie if I said I was sorry. I couldn’t wait to talk with you. Think you can wake up sufficiently to talk with me?”

      “Sure. I just have to get a drink of water or something. Catch me when I’m half-asleep, and I’ll promise you Fort Knox.”

      He stared at the phone. Who was this woman? Nearly asleep, she spoke in a voice that was as refined as if she were wide-awake and measuring every word.

      “I’m back. What time is it?”

      “Eight o’clock. Do you always sleep late?” he asked with a chuckle. “Well, I guess you do, since you work at night.”

      “No, I don’t,” she said, “but I woke up around seven, and I just didn’t want to get up. Besides, I’d been having such a wonderful, restful sleep that I—” She stopped as if she’d said too much.

      “That you what?” he asked her.

      “I’m not going to tell you.”

      “Then I’ll take it that you dreamed about me.”

      “Worse things have happened.”

      He couldn’t help laughing. “You’re wide-awake now, and I can hear that you have your wits about you. Can we have lunch? I’d like to go home later today to have dinner with my folks, but I also want to share Thanksgiving Day with you. Will you be hungry at noon?”

      “I’d love to have lunch with you, but I want to have lunch with my father today since I can’t have dinner with him. They serve dinner around five-thirty at the clinic and, as you know, I have to be at work at six-thirty.”

      The temptation to ask her to skip work loomed large, but he didn’t know her financial circumstances and, in any case, he valued dependability in an employee. “Then, can we have lunch tomorrow and spend the afternoon together? I’d like you to visit my Harlem Clubs.”

      “What time?”

      Nothing coy or coquettish, and he liked that in a woman. “May I come for you at twelve-thirty?”

      “I’ll be ready. What time did the electricity come on last night?”

      “It was on when I awoke at a quarter of seven. I’ll be eternally grateful for that blackout.”

      “Come now, Warren. You would have figured out a way for us to spend time together. I can’t believe you wouldn’t have.”

      “After discounting half a dozen ideas and being frustrated because you’re not in the phone directory, I had decided to give you my phone number and suggest you use it. Fortunately, I was saved by the inefficiency of Consolidated Edison.”

      Her laughter, soft and sensuous, rolled over him, warming him like a sweet promise on an early spring evening. “That’s a stretch,” she said. “I can’t imagine there’s anything you set yourself to do that would get the better of you.”

      “You know how to make a man feel good. Did you mean that?”

      “Of course I meant it, otherwise, why would I say it? Hang up so I can get my act together. I want to buy some flowers and a box of chocolate for my dad, and it takes a while to get to Riverdale. See you tomorrow.”

      “A really sweet woman would give me a kiss.”

      She made the sound of a kiss. “Somebody’s been spoiling you.”

      “How I wish! I haven’t stood still long enough to enjoy that, but I’m definitely going to change my ways. Until tomorrow.”

      Tomorrow wouldn’t come fast enough for him. He told himself not to speculate about her, but to ask her anything that he wanted to know. Yet, he’d had enough experience to realize that an answer didn’t necessarily reveal the truth. He’d always thought that neither her manners nor her speech were what one would expect of a woman serving drinks in a gentlemen-only club. And as far as he could see—and he was a careful observer—she didn’t have a relationship with any man in that club.

      She had impressed him as being modest when she changed out of that skimpy uniform, obviously unwilling to entertain him in her home while wearing it. A more worldly woman would not have done that. More points in her favor. But if I’m wrong, God help me. She’s in me, and she has been for months.

      He went to the kitchen, put some frozen Belgian waffles into the toaster and four strips of bacon in the microwave and reheated coffee. “I’m not going to give up on her,” he said to himself. “I’ve got a gut feeling that whatever she is underneath is what I want.”

      He didn’t care to eat lunch alone, so he dressed and went to the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen on Ninth Avenue and helped serve food to the more than a thousand homeless and poor, who came there for a free Thanksgiving Day meal.

      Sitting on the edge of her bed, Jacqueline placed the receiver in its cradle and braced her hands on her knees. Hadn’t she vowed not to get involved with any man at Allegory, regardless of his status as a member or an employee? Yet, in all of her thirty-three years, she had never felt the passion for a man that she felt for Warren Holcomb, nor had she responded to one as she did to him. She got up and headed to the kitchen. Maybe a cup of coffee would help her clear her head. If he preferred the type of woman she appeared to be in her micro-mini waitress uniform and spiked-heel sandals, he wasn’t for her, nor she for him.

      When I went to work at Allegory, I was only trying to be a dutiful daughter. Lord, please help me out of this mess. I believe he’s a good man, and I…I want him. What am I going to do? His type of man doesn’t fall in love with the woman he thinks I am.

      If she continued to worry about her relationship with Warren Holcomb, she’d soon be a basket case, so she called her sister. “Happy Thanksgiving, Vanna. What are you and the children doing today?”

      “We’re having a picnic with a neighbor down the street. She has a girl and a boy the age of my oldest two, and they get on well together. I called Daddy a few minutes ago, and he really was upbeat. He even told me one of his jokes. When you see him today, give him a hug for me.”

      “I will. I plan to see him at lunchtime. He’s always liveliest at midday. By dinnertime, he’s usually tired. I’ll call tomorrow and let you know how he’s doing.”

      “All right, Jacqueline. The Lord will bless you. I know that taking care of our father is a sacrifice on your part. If I could do more, I would, but I haven’t received a child support payment in three years. The court can’t locate Arnold to serve the papers, and my teacher’s salary hardly enables me to pay the mortgage on this house. The moral of my story is be careful who you marry. Love and passion don’t necessarily last.”

      “I’m not thinking marriage these days, Vanna, but sometimes I wish I was.”

      “Your day will come. Whoever he turns out to be, I hope he’ll be worthy of you. Have a wonderful day, sis. Bye.”

      She hung up and told herself not to think about Vanna’s situation. As inexperienced as she was with men, she knew enough to shy away from men like Vanna’s ex-husband. The man was all charm and no substance, but neither she nor their parents had been able to make Vanna see it. Shaking off her gloomy thoughts, she dressed, walked over to Broadway to buy flowers and chocolates for her father, picked up her rental car and headed for Riverdale.

      She found her father sitting in a chair beside his bed, and his face glowed with delight when she walked in. “How are you feeling, Daddy?” She put the roses in a vase and handed him the chocolates.

      “Pretty good. Thanks for the candy. You know I love chocolate.” He nodded toward the flowers. “I love flowers, too, and your mother always had them in the house. They say I can go to the dining room, and we can eat lunch in there.” She went to the nurses’ station, got a

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