Posted in Athens: Gil & Jade

Athens: Gil and Jade Chapter 2.

Gil

This is not the contract lawyer I was expecting. I glare at Hugh.

“What?” He hasn’t seen Maggie and the ‘attorney’ yet.

I nod over his shoulder. Hugh turns and claps his hands together. “Jade! You made it.” He moves toward the tiny woman in the smallest black dress I’ve ever seen. I follow the line down to her shoes and see she’s wearing heels that do nothing to add to her height next to Maggie.

Hugh is going to die later. I know his plan. And he lied to me. This is an obvious fix up, and not just to get me a new contract lawyer.

“Jade Tsang, I’d like you to meet my younger brother Gil Montgomery. Gil, meet Jade.” Hugh spans the distance between us with his arms out wide. I can’t be rude so all I’m left with is the required handshake.

“Nice to meet you, Jade.”

“Nice to meet you, Gil.”

Her hand is soft and smooth. And very tiny in my hand. I feel as though if I squeeze with just the right pressure I will crush all those delicate bones.

Hugh clears his throat and I realize we’re still holding hands. I quickly release her and she does the same. “Well, now that you’re here we can get everything to the table.” Hugh claps his hands together again. He always does that when he’s nervous. He should be nervous.

“Ladies, you take care of the drinks and we men will get the food to the table. Gil, what would you like to drink, you’re usual?”

I nod.

“Sweet tea it is,” Maggie says, getting glasses from a cabinet. “Jade, why don’t you do the honors with the wine. That’ll be for Hugh and me. Would you like some tea as well?”

“Sure.”

I move in close to Hugh by the oven. “You are a liar, dear brother.”

“I am not. How am I a liar?”

“You said this was not a fix up. But look at her. If that’s not a fix up dress then you’re not a fan of Tom Jones.”

Hugh’s mouth falls open and a gasp escapes. “How dare you bring Tom into this. Jade is a contract lawyer and it wasn’t my idea. This is all Maggie’s doing. So, I never lied. I had nothing to do with it but the cooking.”

“You are such a lawyer.”

“Take that back.”

“No.” I take the carving knife and fork and begin to carve the chicken. My eyes keep jumping to where Jade stands. Can I work with a woman that looks like that? I would rarely see her but I can’t deny she’s attractive. I’m not so vain I think she would be interested in me but dressed like that she must have expected something was going to happen tonight. That’s not a normal outfit for a simple dinner with friends.

Jade

“Why didn’t you tell me there would be another person here tonight?”

“Jade, lovely lady of mine, he’s Hugh’s brother. He’s family. And he needs a contract lawyer. He had to fire his last one for making contracts that made him money off of Gil’s books. Someone at the publishing company finally noticed how odd it was and told Gil and was he ever mad. And it takes a lot to get that particular Southern gentleman mad.” Maggie puts ice in two glasses and takes a pitcher of tea from the refrigerator.

“You could have told me. Are you sure this isn’t a blind date set up?”

I clamp the cork screw handles down and pull. The beautiful pop sounds as the cork releases. I let the bottle sit a moment.

Maggie puts an arm around my shoulders and squeezes. “If I had told you then you would have thought this was a date and not come. Gil really needs a good attorney. Someone he can trust. He’s a good guy and I don’t like him being taken advantage of. Hugh is preparing a case against the former attorney as we speak.”

“Wait a minute. Gil Montgomery? You mean Hugh’s brother is the Gil Montgomery that writes those romance novels.”

“Among other genres, yes.”

“That big man over there. The rugged looking guy writes romance novels?”

“Again. I say yes. Is that a problem?”

I close my eyes for a moment and shake my head. “Maggie, I want to believe you but you tricked me into wearing this dress tonight and I can only think you have ulterior motives for that.” I look up at her.

Her smile tells me the whole truth. “If something happens, it happens, darling. Just imagine a man that writes all those love scenes that looks like that and what he can do to a real woman. A woman who hasn’t dated anyone for the past 14 months.”

“You’ve been counting?”

“There’s a betting pool at work about when you will finally give it up.”

“Well I don’t plan to ‘give it up’ to anyone anytime soon.”

“Calm down, calm down. I don’t mean give that up. I mean give up your self-imposed dry spell of dating.”

I pour two glasses of wine and follow Maggie to the dining room. “The wine goes at either end of the table. You and Gil will sit opposite each other.” Maggie smiles and winks.

“Maggie, I swear, I am not liking this. I don’t mind the contract part of this but any ideas you have about dating him is not happening.”

“I agree.” The voice comes from behind me. I set the glass down a little hard and turn.

Gil

I don’t want to date her any more than she wants to date me. I don’t care how hot she is. Yes, she’s hot, I said it. Maggie knows I like Asian women in the movies. She knows what she’s doing but she has bad timing and a bad game plan. Surprise attacks don’t work well with me.

“You agree?” Jade looks at me.

“Yeah. I’m not really looking to date right now either. But I do need a good contract lawyer.”

I set the chicken on the table near Hugh’s plate and step back. Jade is staring at me. I’m not sure if she’s mad or just surprised at my frankness.

“Well,” she says as she walks around to the far side of the table, “I’m a good contract lawyer. It’s all I do.”

“Good then. Maggie, it looks like you’re plan worked. You fixed us up. Just not the way you really wanted to.”

“Darling, the night is still young.”

I just shake my head at her as she strokes my jaw with her long nails. “Maggie, you know the only woman I want is you. So, I’m destined to die a lonely old man, if I last that long.”

We all take our seats and plates are filled with excellent Hugh cuisine. For a time, all is quiet as we enjoy the food.

“I have to ask something.” Jade sets her fork down and places the tips of her hand along her jaw line.

Hugh raises his wine glass to her. “Go ahead. Ask away.”

“So, Gil, um, were your parents fans of fish when they named you?”

I see Hugh almost choke on his wine and Maggie gives her biggest smile.

“No, Buck Rogers.”

“What?”

“My mother was a fan of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. The lead was played by this hunky guy named Gil Gerard. I was either going to be Gil or Gerard. I’m not certain which would have been worse. But I’ve heard all the fish jokes. Kids aren’t the nicest people.”

“Ah. Never heard of it.”

“Your parents fans of jewelry?”

“Touché.”

We trade raises of our tea glasses and smiles.

Dinner continues with less tension and more discussion about what Jade does and I need. She sounds like she’s what I need. And Maggie vouches for her so that’s a plus.

“Why don’t we meet next week to formalize things and you can take a look at the latest contract that’s come in? I also would like you to review all my previous contracts that are still in play. I want to know what I’m really working with. Hugh’s had someone do it for his case already but I want my person to do it for me and explain it all so I understand.”

“Sounds good to me.” Jade rubs the back of her neck with her hand and her eyes close to slits. For some reason that looks sexy to me. I have an image of my hand on her neck, pulling her in for a kiss. I rub my hand on my pants to get my blood flowing and my attention back to where it needs to be. Maybe Maggie put something in my drink.

We move to the living room and continue to chat about anything and everything with Maggie leading the way. As the time moves closer to 11 Maggie stands and puts her hands on her hips. “Well, gentlemen, I’m going to walk Jade to her car since it’s so late.”

I rise. “I’ll do it. I need to be going as well.”

Jade looks at me as though she’s surprised I’ve offered.

“That is if it’s okay with Jade.”

Jade

The thought of being alone with Gil is a bit discomforting in a comfortable way. I can’t imagine standing next to his big body. In her heels, Maggie is taller than Gil but not by much, but his body is a lot bigger. There is a lot more muscle covering his body than Maggie’s.

It finally dawns on me that everyone is looking at me waiting for me to respond to Gil. “Oh, of course it’s okay. It’s an obvious solution. Maggie is over protective anyway. She never worries about herself this late at night.”

“Everyone around here thinks I’m a drag queen anyway, so they think I’m crazy and ready to mess up their worlds if they try anything. They just can’t understand how something this gorgeous can be all woman.”

Gil and Hugh laugh and I join in. “I do suppose I am not as imposing.”

“Just so you know,” Gil begins, “I would escort Maggie as well. I don’t think any lady should go out at night alone in a city.”

We make our way to the front of the apartment with Gil opening the door for me. “We have to do this again soon you two.” Maggie waves.

Gil and I exchange a look. He rolls his eyes and I smile. “Maggie just wants everyone to be as happy as she is. She doesn’t realize she’s that happy being all alone.”

I smile at his observation. “You’re right. I hadn’t thought of that.” As the elevator door opens, Gil puts his hand to my back to lead me in. It’s a light touch but I can feel the warmth of it through the material of my dress.

Standing next to Gil I can smell his cologne. There is something spicy about it that seems so masculine. It’s a perfect match for the impression I have of him. Even with Maggie I sometimes feel anxious walking to the car in the parking deck of their building. With Gil I am at ease. He doesn’t give the idea that he’s a fighter but I imagine he can handle things if he needed to.

I pull out my key fob and press the button as we get to the car.

“This is yours?”

“Yes. I know, it’s a little flashy but it’s also small and perfect for my size.”

He takes in the red Jaguar. “I haven’t seen these new models up close before. Only once or twice while out riding.”

“You have a motorcycle?”

“No, a bike. I cycle the roads around Athens and come into the city sometimes for a coffee. Downtown is a good halfway point for a ride. I make it there, revitalize with a coffee and maybe a pastry and then ride back. No guilt for eating the pastry because it’ll be burned off by the time the ride is through.”

“Where do you like to go?”

“I like Jittery Joes on the corner of Jackson and Broad. They have a bike rack outside that’s convenient. The only thing missing is a table outside to sit at. I like to people watch. Therefore, I’ll take my coffee and bike and go across the street to the UGA campus steps at the arch.”

“Don’t people step all over you there?”

“I normally only do the steps on the weekends. There’s not so many people then. Lot of parents with their kids who are about to graduate and want to see what the university is like.”

“I go downtown all the time to get lunch. My office is near there, but you know that since I work with Maggie. Also, my apartment is not far from there either. I rarely have to drive.”

“Great. Lucky you.” Standing next to my car emphasizes our difference in size. Where I am practically in my car with the door open, Gil is leaning with his big hand resting on the edge of the top. A car drives around and its lights flash over us. We both turn and watch it move along. Then there is silence.

An awkward silence. This wasn’t a date. We are new friends leaving at the same time.

“Well, I should be getting home. Another parking lot to traverse at night before getting in my apartment.”

“Oh, do you want me to follow you and make sure you get in okay? I don’t have a problem with it. I’m parked right there.” He nods to a big blue truck that match his eyes.

“No. I’ll be fine. We have assigned parking and mine is near the doors. Plus, I carry a taser.” I pull the two-pronged object from my clutch.

“Well I feel better about your safety now. I would still like to escort you home, but I know that’s a bit overkill. I just don’t like the idea of women being in unsafe situations.”

“That’s admirable of you but I really will be fine. Maybe I’ll see you downtown sometime soon. We can have a coffee and people watch together.”

“Okay, sounds good. Well, it was nice meeting you and I’m glad we got that blind date thing cleared up. Maggie and her good intentions.” He smiles and starts walking toward his truck.

“It was nice meeting you as well. Good night.”

“Night.”

I quickly get into my car, click my seatbelt, and start the engine. Backing out I see Gil standing next to his truck watching, apparently making sure my car starts and I am safely on my way. He waves as I pass and I return the same.

I definitely need to get some coffee soon.

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Posted in Athens: Gil & Jade

Athens: Gil and Jade Chapter 1.

Gil

Five years. It’s been five years that she’s been gone but it seems like my whole life I’ve been without her. I stir the milk into my coffee and consciously ignore the sugar. I wasn’t getting any younger and every calorie counted. Staring out my kitchen window I don’t see the noon day sun shining on the blue hydrangea bush blossoms. Normally they bring me peace. But I have to see them first.

Five years to the day. What have I done in five years to show her that I loved her? I take the sugar and pour it into my coffee and stir. Better. Giving in is better than living with the pain sometimes. I rub my face trying to get myself more alert and out of this funk I’m in. There’s nothing I can do about what’s happened. I’ll just work a little and then go to Hugh’s for dinner tonight. Smile and laugh and make him and Maggie happy that they tried to help me one more time. One more year.

The pain in my chest is too familiar. It feels like a tire iron shoved through my sternum then someone squeezes my heart trying to stop it from beating. I have to get out of here. There is no way I can work today. No words will come to me worth reading.

I dump the coffee in the sink and rinse the cup out. I think it’s best for everyone if I went for a ride on the bike for a few miles and burn off some of this gloom. Maybe fresh air and sunshine will help. Probably not, not with my attitude at the moment, but it will help my health. Hiding inside all day writing isn’t the best thing for one’s blood pressure and physique. Not that I have to worry much about that. I rarely eat out and I love to cook my own meals so I know what I’m eating. I guess you could say I eat clean.

Some might call it my being antisocial. I’m not antisocial, I just don’t like being around people. I do get out at times and people watch, I have to. Part of being a good writer is the ability to write how people speak and describe reality in a way that is believable. I could do that in my imagination but I don’t want to become a complete hermit. I’m reclusive enough as it is. I order everything I can online rather than go to a store. My only indulgences are farmers’ markets, and organic food shopping. And no, I’m not a vegan. I’m okay with it having had a face at some point, I just don’t want to see it when it gets to me. I live in the South and like barbeque but I don’t want to see the whole hog on the fire. I did that once and was reading Lord of the Flies at the same time and had nightmares for weeks.

That’s not to say I don’t like vegan food. Most of what I eat would be called vegan. I just don’t make the claim of being one. I know as soon as I do I’ll want to go to McDonald’s and order six number fours with extra onion. And I’m all for everyone eating how they like. Just leave the rest of us alone to eat how we like. Once your food becomes your religion it’s time to become an atheist.

I change into my bike shorts and shirt and hit the garage door opener with my elbow as I put my helmet on. Making sure I have my keys in my pack I pull the door shut. Then I’m off.

20 miles of pedaling to go and I’ll be, at the least, tired enough for a nap and an escape from the memory of this day for an hour or two before my performance at Hugh’s tonight.

Jade

Oh bother, why did I agree to dinner tonight? Because you like Maggie and Hugh and they always have nice food. I think all of this in my head. If I spoke out loud I would begin to worry. I would get a cat so I at least am talking to something, but I can’t be bothered with the hassle of taking care of anything. I like my freedom. I want to be able to get up and go if I want to, not have to find a cat-sitter or a kennel or whatever it is for cats to stay.

I keep looking through the contract I brought home from work. If not for that pointless meeting yesterday where Thomas kept spouting on and on to hear himself speak I could have finished this then. My home time is my peace time. I like my peace. I want to listen to my classical music or maybe some jazz, read a book, or meditate. Not read through a contract for a toilet tissue company. But it is a job and one I am happy to have. It allows me to live in a nice apartment and drive around in a nice car.

An apartment my father thinks is a waste of money when I could invest in a house for resale later. He likes the car, especially when I let him borrow it. He doesn’t know I see him run his fingers through his hair and check his appearance in the mirrors every time he gets in it. I can just see him pulling up to a light and young girls in the next car smiling and him giving them his serious look with a raised eye brow trying to be all mature and sexy.

I smile at the image and drift from the contract. I need to go see the parents soon.

I jump when the phone rings.

“Hello.”

“Jade, lovely one, how are you doing?” Maggie’s smoky voice comes through the phone.

“Just reading through a contract I didn’t get finished at work.” I slap the paper on my desk.

“Thomas was a bore, wasn’t he? I barely got my work done before I left yesterday. At least I think I did everything. Everything important anyway.” She laughed. You couldn’t help but smile when Maggie laughed. It was in part due to her appearance. At six feet tall and a dark ebony skin tone she looked like a super model. When she laughed she opened her mouth wide and unashamedly let go with all her decibels.

“And I’m sure if you didn’t no one will say anything once you flash them a smile. I’m not so lucky.”

“That’s because you don’t work it. You’re a gorgeous little thing. So, what if I’m a foot taller than you, girl? You can rock it if you wanted to. You should try it tonight. See if you can scare Hugh straight.”

I laughed at that. Hugh is her roommate and the most gay man I have ever met. That’s not to say he was effeminate so much, although there were slight edges of it at times, but he didn’t notice women at all. His eyes and attention were 100% on men. It didn’t bother Maggie any. She only had eyes for women. So, it actually made me feel good what she said about me. She was honest and wouldn’t say something just to be nice. She would only say it if she meant it or say nothing at all.

“Thank you, but I don’t think I know how to ‘rock it’.”

“Do you have a little black dress?”

“Yes.”

“Three inch heels?”

“Yes.”

“Then you can rock it. Wear that tonight and wear some red lipstick. You never know what might happen.”

“Okay, I’ll do it but I don’t think Hugh will change.” Not that I really want Hugh to change. He is handsome but just not my type. I like my men tall and brawny. That just isn’t Hugh.

“Dinner’s at 7:30 so don’t be late.”

“I won’t.”

“Bye, lovely one.”

“Bye, Maggie.”

I feel myself smiling. Then I notice the contract in front of me and the smile vanishes. Expelling a large breath of air, I plunge back in and start to work. I wish I could be a writer and work anytime I wanted to. I always wanted to write an erotic novel. But the embarrassment of people finding out keeps it from becoming a reality. But maybe someday.

Gil

“What are we having, Hugh?” I lean against the island in his spacious kitchen.

Hugh smiles and goes to one of his two ovens and with a flourish opens it. Inside sits a beautiful golden brown chicken.

“That smells amazing. We should open a restaurant.”

Hugh takes oven mitts and removes the chicken from the oven while I close the door behind him. “Then we would hate cooking. We’re obstinate like that, Gil.”

“True. I liked to paint until Mom and Dad bought me a paint set and easel. I liked the walls better.”

Hugh laughs. “I don’t think they minded so much except when you graduated to people drawing and you were anatomically correct. Mom almost died when the pastor’s wife came in and saw the family portrait you had done of all of us in the dining room.”

“Until then I had kept it to my room, but I needed a big canvas for all of us. Two parents four boys and two girls.”

“Don’t forget the dog. He was a boy too.”

“Oh, God. I forgot that part. That’s what they get for having a bulldog with shorthair. Those big  ones hanging in back like that, I just had to paint Sid with all his belongings.”

“Dad loved it.”

“Yeah, he took a picture and put it in his office at home. Then he had to paint the whole dining room a new color because Mom decided he needed punishment for encouraging me.”

Hugh takes some asparagus on a pan, drizzles it with olive oil and some salt and puts it in the oven.

“Anything I can help with?” I look around at the spotless counters. Hugh cleans as he cooks, just as I do. Mom had always liked to be able to sit down to eat with as little clean up afterwards as possible.

“You can set the table. Everything is in there already just put it all where it goes.”

The dining room of Hugh and Maggie’s apartment is right next to the kitchen in an open floor plan. I take the plates and begin putting them around the table, and I notice there are four plates, not the three I am expecting. Maybe Hugh had grabbed one too many.

As I set the napkins and silver at each plate I notice there are still four of everything. I turn and stare at Hugh. “Hugh, tell me the fourth person is gay.”

“Don’t I wish. Maggie is getting sex-grumpy and really needs to find someone soon.”

“Hugh.”

“What?”

“Tell me this is not a fix up.”

“Not exactly a fix up.”

“What does that mean?”

“You need a new contract lawyer since you fired Felix for scamming you on those book contracts. Maggie has a colleague that is a contract lawyer. So, if that’s a fix up, then I’m guilty.”

“Just a contract lawyer?”

“Yes.”

“No strings attached.”

“Would I set you up with a lawyer? And I honestly thought tonight would be a good time to help you in your business and as a distraction. I don’t really know any contract lawyers that well. My own practice is more criminal and corporate. Sometimes at the same time.” He smiles.

I can’t help but smile at that. Some of his client stories had been the basis for a book or two of mine with some heavy fudging. But the catalyst was there. He never told me names but gave me interesting facts that he knew I could run with in my writing. Whenever one of those books did well I always made sure to give Hugh a present. Usually a trip or a cruise. A living book escape. Where I do it with the written word, a cruise does it with buffets and margaritas.

Jade

I hope they like this wine. They’ve liked everything else I’ve brought before. Too bad I can’t drink it. Alcohol intolerance is a . . . pain. It’s literally a pain. One glass and ow. I smooth down the front of my dress. I checked my lipstick in the elevator and none had found its way to my teeth.

I push the doorbell and wait. I hear Maggie coming. She always wears heels, which make her at least 6’3” and her confidant strides on their hardwood floors make for a nice warning.

The door opens with verve and there she is, all her goddess like glory. “Lovely, about time you got here. Don’t you know being on time is so not cool? Come early so we can talk and stare at men doing women’s work.” I look at her with surprise at that statement and then she throws her head back and laughs. I know the look on my face is priceless. She knows I am a feminist through and through.

I smile and hold out the bottle of wine.

“My entrance fee.”

“Enter, child, enter.”

My heels click on the floors as I try to look up at Maggie towering above me. And yes, she played basketball while in school and volleyball at university.

I hear voices from the kitchen area. Who else is here? Maggie had not mentioned any other guests coming.

“I swear to you Maggie’s colleague is exactly perfect for you.” Hugh’s voice comes through the air.

“I hope so. I’ve asked around but so far, I haven’t really had a good vibe yet. I’m almost ready to start looking in the phonebook.” I don’t know that voice. It’s deep and has more of a Southern drawl than Hugh’s.

“Maggie will fix you up. This was her idea. And you know she knows what she’s doing.”

“Yeah.”

I walk into the kitchen and there stands a tall man with dark hair and blue eyes leaning against the island. And he’s brawny.

I stop walking and feel Maggie behind me but can’t move. I have been set up. He looks past Hugh and sees me and his mouth falls open. Then it snaps shut and he does not look happy.