A Thousand Miles From Home - Part 07





For me, today ends Week Two of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) as I will not be writing on Saturdays.

As it stands, as of the time of this post, I'm sitting pretty at 21,030 words.

All of those words aren't accounted for in these posts. I'm trying to only post the story one chapter at a time. So today's post would be considered Chapter Seven, and I'm already most of the way through Chapter Eight, in which Don and Karen go out for coffee. I wrote most of it this morning and I'm really happy with it, but of course, you all won't see it until Monday at the earliest. Sorry.

Until then, here is Part 7.

Enjoy



The next three groups passed in and out of Don’s life with the speed of a greased up seal thrown down a bobsled course. And for that, Don was glad. His only thought was spending more time with Karen. Even if it was a cup of coffee and a little conversation.

And yet part of him was furious. Why did he have to come all the way to North Carolina to meet the woman of his dreams? Was this God trying to tell him something? Is North Caroline where is destiny lay? Is there a life for him here? Should he move to Winston-Salem? Should he really be considering moving across the country to be with a girl he really didn’t know? Is this what love was? Making irrational decisions without any thought to what else might actually be going on in one’s life?

Don wasn’t sure. And he knew he wasn’t going to figure it all out now, which was good because it was all just a bit overwhelming. The most he could do was to just have coffee with her and see how things go.

“Well, what’s the plan for tonight?” Ollie asked as the last group shuffled out of the room.

“I don’t know quite yet,” said Don as he pulled up Outlook on his laptop to check his mail. “I would guess that she would just drive the two of us from here, and then drop me off at the hotel afterwards. You okay to drive that great big truck all by yourself?”

“Yes, I can drive that truck, I’m not a child, Don.”

“No, but you aren’t exactly a man, neither,” Don smiled. “And it takes a man, a real man, a man with the ability to channel his inner cowboy to drive a truck like that.”

“Wow, uh,” Ollie started to say.

“So how ‘bout it, Ollie? You ready to cowboy up and be the kind of man that truck needs you to be?”

“I’m ready to cowboy up and kick you square in the junk if you don’t shut your mouth.”

Don laughed. This is the way it was with men. Men who were close friends. Most men found it uncomfortable to say ‘I love you’ to their buddy. So instead, they called each other names and cracked wise about their manhood. This was how men expressed their feelings. Women have never really understood it, but another man would look at how Don and Ollie treat each other and know that the two have a great fondness for one another.

“Let me see if Karen has emailed me,” Don says, checking Outlook. And sure enough, she had:

Don,

I’m looking forward to getting coffee with you tonight, hopefully you can go.

I’m off the clock at 5:00, so if you are done at that time as well, I can drive us to the coffee place and then take you back to wherever it is your staying when we are done. But don’t you even think about inviting me up to your room, I’m not that kind of girl. :)

Until then, I’m going to try and manage to tear myself away from work at 4:00 if you want to meet me outside for another smoke?

Either way, I’m thinking about you.

Karen

“Either way, I’m thinking about you?” Ollie said with a laugh. “Seriously, dude. What’s going on? You guys just freaking met!”

“I don’t know,” Don said, looking at this watch. It was almost four. “But I gotta smoke date.”

Once more, Don wound his way out to the smoking area. No one was out there yet so he sat, lit up a cigarette, and waiting patiently.

Soon the door opened and out walked Karen. But she wasn’t alone. She was with some young kid who looked like a young Denzel Washington. Don remembered him from the staff meetings. Dion. He was in the third group. Dion liked to work out four hours a day. And you could tell just by looking at the muscles rippling beneath his tight t-shirt that he most certainly did. Don didn’t really form an opinion of the guy at the time, but now, seeing him and Karen being so familiar together, Don hated him right away. A spark of jealous rage flashed inside him and Don started to feel uncomfortable.

It was now that Don noticed how non-sculpted he was himself. Don was in shape, but he had, maybe, a four pack … well, it was probably more like a two pack. Dion had a six pack, easily, possibly an eight pack, if that was even possible. Dion looked like he was carved from marble. Don felt that he was formed from Play Dough.

“Hi, Don,” Karen said as she fell into the chair next to him. “You know Dion?”

“Hey, what’s up, Mr. Parker,” Dion said, settling into the chair next to Karen with the grace of a panther about to strike.

Mr. Parker? Who was Don, an old crusty teacher? How old was this kid?

“Call me, Don,” said Don, trying on a smile for the first time since the two appeared together … during his smoke date.

“Man, it’s a beautiful day,” Dion said. Don was sure the dude would whip of his shirt if he thought he could get away with it.

“Dion’s my neighbor, both cubicle and apartment,” Karen said to Don, which took his mood from sour to rancid.

“Oh yeah?” Don said. “That’s great. Just great.” Don lit up another cigarette and stared off into the parking lot, a dark cloud forming just over his head.

“Yeah, he’s getting married this weekend,” said Karen.

“Married?” Don’s mood leapt up a shade from black to a dark gray.

“Oh yeah,” Dion said. “The love of my life.”

“You must be scared? No more bachelor’s paradise. No other women. Just the one. For the rest of your life,” said Don.

“Well,” Dion replied.

“The swinging single life is dead, man. The same woman for the rest of your life. That’s gotta be scary. You thinking of running?”

“Don!” Karen said in a chiding tone.

“What?” Don asked.

Dion just laughed, “Naw, it’s cool,” he said to Karen. Then he turned to Don, “I hear what you’re saying. But I’m not worried. I don’t need no other woman. Stacey is the only woman I need. We met in church. We’ve known each other for years. And there’s never been any other woman anyway, so I never had a swinging single life,” Dion smiled.

“Oh,” now Don felt like crap, but for a different reason. And yet, his mood towards Dion had moved into the white. “I’m just playing, Dion. You sound like you are really in love. I envy you. I really do. Staying with one woman for the rest of your life … well,” Don looked over at Karen, “that’s sounds pretty damn great, actually.”

Don leaned out, over Karen and offered Dion his hand. “We cool?”

Dion took his hand and shook it. “Word.”

“Word?” Don laughed. “How old are you?”

Dion laughed too. “Isn’t that what all you old folks say?”

“Only those of us that want to point out just how old we are,” Don laughed again, he decided that he liked Dion, especially now that he knew that Dion wasn’t a threat. “And that’s not that old.”

“So,” Karen said, “you made a decision about tonight?” She smiled expectantly.

Don noticed Dion smiling too. A knowing smile. Alright, well … she talks to Dion about him. Okay, that’s cool.

“Yeah, I have. I’d love to go have coffee with you.”

“Great!” her eyes sparkled.

“And Ollie offered to go ahead and drive the truck back to the hotel.”

“Where they got you guys staying?” Dion asked.

“The Just Drop Inn.”

“Ugh, I hate that name,” said Dion, a disgusted look on his face.

“I know, right?” Don said.

“Okay then,” said Karen. “I guess I’ll meet you here at five, and then we can go?”

“I can’t wait.”

“Well, I better go in, my break’s over,” she said, rising and tossing her cigarette into a nearby ashtray.

Dion stayed and watched me as I watched Karen leave.

“So,” Dion was saying. “Just what are your intentions with our Karen Walters?”

“You her Dad?”

“I’m her friend,” Dion said, and Don realized that he was serious.

“Look, don’t get the wrong idea.”

“Oh, I got the right idea, I think. Good looking guy with money comes in from out of town. Sweet talker. Seduces one of the locals. Gives her the best week of her life. Then goes back home to his wife or girlfriend.”

Don laughed. “First off, thanks for saying I’m good looking,” he said, smiling. “Secondly, I don’t have a girlfriend, and I’m not married. I’m not this guy you are describing.”

“You’re not?” Dion asked skeptically.

“Not at all. Don’t get me wrong. I like Karen. I mean, I think I might be falling for her. But I know that nothing can happen. I know that. I’m not going to do anything that either she or I will regret later. I just want to, I don’t know, spend some time with her.” Don had no idea why he was telling all of this to a guy he didn’t really know, but he found that he just liked talking about Karen. “I just want to try and spend as much time with her as I can before I go. Maybe that’s selfish, I don’t know. But she’s a big girl.”

Dion just looked at him for a moment. Taking the measure of him. Don started to sweat under the scrutiny. Finally, Dion smiled. “I think I like you, Donald Parker.”

“Well, I think I like you to.”

“But if you hurt Karen, I will have to pick you up and break you into a lot of little pieces.”

Dion was still smiling, but Don got the sense that he was speaking nothing but absolute truth. And Don could see that Dion was certainly capable of making this threat into a promise.

“Well,” Don said. “The last thing I was is to be broken into a lot of little pieces, so I’ll make sure and think about you whenever some stupid idea pops into my head.”

“You do that.”

Just then, Ollie came out.

“What’s the word, thunderbird?” he asked, sitting in a chair across from Don.

“Looks like you get to try your skills on the truck tonight, cowboy,” Don said.

“Great,” Ollie said dourly. “I hope you know what you’re doing.”

“He better,” Dion said.

“Ollie, you remember Dion,” said Don.

“Ah, yes. Third group. Exercise freak.”

“You got a problem with taking care of yourself?” Dion asked.

Ollie has always been a skinny person. Too skinny. Don always jibed that Ollie needed to eat a piece of cake now and again, but Ollie just didn’t care about all that. Ollie never seemed to be into his appearance, despite the stylish clothes he wore. As a matter of fact, Don always figured that Ollie's keen fashion sense was purely accidental.

“No,” Ollie was saying, “I don’t have any issues with health and exercise and diet and all that. As it happens, I’ve thought of doing all that myself from time to time. But then, once I gave it some good thought, it just really sounded like a lot of work.”

The three of them sat in silence for a time after that. Both Don and Dion trying to determine if Ollie was actually serious. Ollie, on the other hand was just starting off into nothingness. This went on for a solid forty five seconds before Ollie finally smiled and the three of them laughed.

“So, you’re going out with her tonight, then,” Ollie said.

“Yes, Ollie. Yes I am,” said Don. “We are going to go sit, and drink coffee, maybe eat a pastry or two, and possibly do a little talking.”

“Just don’t do anything stupid,” Ollie said.

“I don’t recall making any plans to do anything stupid tonight, Ollie,” said Don. “But if the urge strikes me, I’ll make sure and give you call. That way you can talk me down.” Don smiled.

Just then, Joe the Maintenance Guy walked out, sat down next to Don, pulled an unfiltered cigarette out from a crumpled pack, lit the cigarette, inhaled slowly, exhaled even more slowly, then sat in stoic silence.

“Ollie, you know Joe?” Don said.

“No. No I don’t think I do,” Ollie said.

“Ollie, this is Joe the Maintenance Guy. Joe, this is Ollie the IT Guy,” Don said.

Ollie and Joe shook hands.

“You from Kansas too?” Joe asked Ollie.

“That’s right,” Ollie said.

“I hear you’re going out with our Miss Karen Walters tonight,” Joe said, turning to Don.

“Word sure does travel fast around here,” said Don.

“Yeah, you can’t escape it. The Gossip lines grow quick and they grow long,” Dion said, laughing.

“I don’t know much about you, Don,” Joe was saying in his deep drawl, “but I like you. So don’t do anything stupid tonight. You get me? I’d hate to have to try and find a place to hide your body.”

Dion and Ollie burst out with laughter, long and loud.

“Well, I'd hate for you to have to trouble yourself like that, Joe. So I promise to be on my best behavior with Karen tonight.”

“You’d best be,” Joe said, pausing for a moment to take a long drag on his cigarette. “You’d best be.”

“Okay, well with that, I think I’ll head back to the small conference room and see if I can get a little work done before my date,” said Don. “Ollie, you coming with me?”

“On your date? Hell no.”

Don just sighed and walked back inside, threading his way through the building to the small conference room. He sat down at the table for a moment before realizing that he left his laptop and bag in the training room, so he went off to get them.

When he got back to the conference room, Ollie was there, sitting at the table and tapping away on the screen of his phone.

“She lose that tooth yet?” Don asked.

“Nope, but Susan wants me to tell you not to do anything stupid tonight,” Ollie laughed.

“I’d tell her the same thing, but it’s too late for her. She married stupid a long time ago.”

To be continued . . .




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