Author’s note; This story is a Romance, and the sex occurs towards the ending. Some might not like it for its lack of vicarious luridness from the beginning to the very end. The poem John shares with Rachel; "Autumn” belongs to Emily Elizabeth Dickenson, (December 10, 1830 – May 15, 1886). She was an American poet. I chose it because it is my favorite poem of Autumn and my favorite time of year.
Bread and Butter
He served Twenty-seven years in the Marines, retiring as a Colonel at forty-five. The Marines tempered John as hard and tough as forged iron. He was respectfully known by most as Iron McCord and not so fondly by other major malfunction individuals with less complimentary names because he despises liars, cowards, and braggarts having spent most of his career in combat zones.
John is a minimalist and frugal with himself. He planned, saved, and invested well to live comfortably for the rest of his life on his pension and dividends from his substantial investments.
During his days in the Corps, and always a gentleman, he considered most single women in social settings as trouble to be avoided whenever possible, aside to satisfy a man’s hard-wired needs.
He was content with this arrangement and enjoyed the freedom of being a bachelor. He had many amicable trysts; with shall we say “good time gals” and avoided the long-term relationship with the marrying types of women.
Upon retirement, John moved back home to the family farm to repair, remodel, and upgrade the building on the old homestead. The most labor-intensive was striping and sanding, staining and varnishing the wide-wood floors, woodwork, and trim inside the farmhouse. The remodeling was almost complete except for minor wiring and painting in three of the four upstairs bedrooms.
The sparsely furnished rooms he was using were the kitchen, bathroom, and his bedroom; the rest were empty. In his bedroom was a king-size bed, and to John, it was a decadent, although a much-appreciated luxury. The new oak bed, matching dressers; Hudson Bay wool blankets, plus a thick and plush down comforter were a housewarming gift from his sister. There was also a mint garage-sale oak and red canvas director’s chair he picked up for a song. He had a second-hand reading lamp beside a state-of-the-art shortwave radio on a perfectly good bedside maple table someone left at the curb. There was an old wicker laundry basket by the radiator.
His grandmother’s maple Colonial kitchen table and chairs were in the kitchen. Most of what he owned, which isn’t much, was in storage in the small barn.
Unfortunately, the new hot water tank’s heating element was defective, necessitating cold showers and boiling water on the stove for doing the dishes. John decided to return the tank, still under warranty, and install hot water on demand.
John was restless that March, and he didn’t know why. He was finally home and back to his roots. He reconnected with many of his old classmates, friends, and neighbors who still lived in the area.
John decided he needed a woman. His last was a month ago in Erie, PA, with a hot, buxom, redhead real estate agent, in her early thirties; Janet Stone, recently divorced. Janet was prime real estate to plow. He plowed Janet that the entire weekend. Janet was also one hell of a cook and discreet. They both got what they wanted. I don’t tell; you don’t tell, and no strings attached. They had a mutual agreement. “Call me when you are in town, John,” and he did, he called her on Tuesday, confirmed their tryst, and planned to drive there for a weekend of carnal delight.
Unfortunately, the County roads closed Thursday due to an intense lake effect snowstorm blowing in from Lake Ontario. It was colder than the proverbial witch’s’ womb, and visibility at times was down to inches due to white-outs. According to the NOAA weather radar, there would be three feet or more of blowing and drifting snow over the next three days.
The locals are accustomed to these storms. They tried to outdo each other with exaggerations such as, “It was snowing and blowing so hard I could barely see the speedometer on the way to work.”
It was around 1:00 AM. John was sound asleep when he awoke to his doorbell, ringing over and over. He jumped up from his bed cursing out the insane, idiot, who was out on a night like this, let alone waking him up and getting him out of his warm bed. He threw on a pair of blue jeans and hurried down the stairs turning on the lights as he went and called out loudly, "I hear you shit-head. Lay off the god damn doorbell," and it didn’t stop ringing until he opened his door and she stumbled into his arms.
The young woman was shivering and mumbling something about driving into a ditch and appeared confused and disoriented. He noticed her breathing was a bit shallow, and she showed signs of hypothermia.
There is no mystery here. This young woman has no business being out on a night like this driving in near-zero visibility, in conjunction with unplowed roads. Given these clues, it was easy to conclude she drove into a roadside drainage ditch or culvert full of water partially frozen with a thin film of ice covered by snow.
He gently picked her up and closed the door, ignoring the micro drifts of fluffy powder snow that blew in with her. He then carried her to his bedroom to remove all her cold, wet clothes.
The zipper was stuck on her coat, and he had to destroy it to get it off, his years of survival training and experience mandated her modesty was secondary to getting her warm.
Not understanding his intentions, Rachel clumsily fought him and landed a glancing blow to his groin. John ignored the minor pain and her struggling and undressed her, being careful not to hurt her. He pinned her on the bed, realizing she had some familiarity with the martial arts from her attempted strikes and kicks.
He then pulled the blanket and down comforter over them and held her close, sharing his body heat while holding and blocking her arms and legs. He talked quietly and soothingly, reassuring she was safe. As she became warm, Rachel’s breathing became deep and regular. She relaxed, gathering her thoughts, resigned to her unusual situation and said firmly, “I’m fine; you can let go of me now.”
John picked up her wet clothes and sneakers and left her alone for a time to get accustomed to her surroundings while she lay quietly on the bed wrapped in the blanket and cozy down comforter, realizing he was much stronger than her. Rachel also smiled as she contemplated how he talked to her as she struggled as if he was comforting a frightened patient.
Her thoughts were interrupted by two bright green eyes staring up at her from the wicker basket on the floor. She sat up and pulled the blanket and comforter closer to her for protection until she realized the green eyes belonged to a large blue-tabby.
“Oh, hello,” she softly, “What a cute kitty you are,” and the tabby jumped up on the bed next to her, sitting on John’s side of the bed flicking his tail in curiosity. When she reached over to pet him, he purred and rubbed up against her.
John returned with a mug of piping hot chocolate and vanilla almond energy bars and gave them to her. He picked up his devoted cat, sat in the director’s chair, closely observing Rachel as he petted the tabby, while his cat affectionately rubbed his face against him. She quietly drank her hot beverage and munched on the protein-rich energy bars, intently watching him with his feline companion.
John observed Rachel is an attractive woman with a clear complexion and hazel eyes; twin opals of shifting brown-green and gold. Her round face and button nose, compliment her full, generous lips to give her a youthful appearance making it hard to guess her age accurately.
Rachel is 5’ 7" and has a nice trim figure. She has pert breasts with turned up nipples. Her ass is well-rounded and firm. Her thick dark red auburn hair was in a short classic blunt chin level bob, parted off-center.
He was the first to break the silence. “My name is John McCord, young lady, and you showed clear symptoms of hypothermia. “You were confused and disoriented. What I did was in your best interest,” he asserted. “I won’t apologize for it, although I admire your tenacity in trying to fight me off.
I don’t have hot water. It was my only reasonable course of action, and it worked. It appears we’re snowed in with each other for the next few days until the roads open again.” John put his cat Buddy on the floor, stood up, and walked to a dresser. Rachel watched as Buddy jumped into his wicker laundry basket and snuggled into his surplus olive drab wool blankets watching them.
“I’m Rachel Buchanan.” She said, smiling at the cat, “I.”
“John interrupted, in a quiet, commanding tone, warning no insubordination, “I get up five sharp and need to get some sleep to finish the wiring. You need to be quiet and keep warm until morning. Here is a tee shirt you may wear, although it might be a bit large, and this flannel shirt will serve as a nightgown. Oh yes, wool socks,” and he took those out of his dresser and tossed it on the bed. “There’s only one bed, no couch, and we’ll need to share the down comforter and blanket.
You may choose between the two. Most of my stuff is in storage in the small barn. We’re both adults, and I give you my word, I won’t touch you.
“I’m sorry I tried to hurt you.” Rachel apologized. “I’ve experienced patients coming out of anesthesia who are confused and strike out violently. Turn around please,” and when he did, Rachael started dressing. “You promise Mr. McCord?”
“Yes, I already said I would, and your clothes and sneakers are drying near the radiators. It was necessary to break the zipper on your coat. You did not dress appropriately for the weather.” And looking away, John got into bed, wearing his jeans, “Oh yes, I’ll pay for a new coat or have the zipper replaced. The bathroom is the door at the end of the hall unless you’d prefer to use the outhouse," and in no time at all, John was fast asleep.
Rachael was still a bit chilled from her experience as she lay there next to him, contemplating all that happened to her, and she was thinking. ‘I remember little about walking here as cold as a Popsicle except for falling face-first into the cold water and slush in the ditch where I left my Mini-Van. I should have stopped earlier in the day and not pushed on.
I was shivering with cold and disoriented when I arrived here. My clothes were soaked, and I could have frozen to death. He carried me upstairs as if I were a child and undressed me and put me to bed. He held me, sharing his body heat until I was warm and stopped shivering. He didn’t take advantage of me or force himself on me when he had the chance. Of course, he did the medically proper thing for me given the circumstances. He appears to be a no-nonsense type of man.
But goodness, he’s so ruggedly handsome with his full head of dark honey blonde hair and commanding blue eyes. His hair could use a good trim though. He’s tall and buff at maybe six-three or so with nicely sculpted muscles. Mr. McCord has a broad, well-defined chest and a hard washboard stomach. He’s scrumptious, and he likes cats, and I adore cats. For the first time in my life, I’m in the same bed with a man.’ And she yawned, ‘and John’s already asleep. He must be kidding about having an outhouse.’ and as a practical and mostly a nonsense woman, she too was soon fast asleep.
John’s inner clock woke him up a few minutes before the alarm on his shortwave radio was to go off. He could feel Rachel pressed up against him. She was breathing deeply and peacefully as he rolled towards her to watch her sleeping.
He gently brushed a stray lock of hair from her face and then immediately regretted it, remembering his promise and thinking, ‘I have no right to touch Rachel so intimately.’
He carefully slid out of bed, disabled the radio’s alarm, and put on his red and black checked flannel plaid shirt before walking to the window and pushing the curtains aside. Buddy jumped up on the windowsill to join him wanting attention, so he picked him up and petted him thoughtfully.
It was still snowing and blowing as he looked to where the herb garden was under the snow. As he looked out, John sees Rachel standing in the sunlight on a warm summer’s day wearing a light sea green summer dress with white lace trim. Rachael’s hair was much longer and up in an elegant chignon. She was in his grandmother’s overgrown with weeds herb garden, except now the garden was weeded, organized and tidy. She was gathering lavender and putting the fragrant flowers in a wicker basket, and he could smell that familiar scent. John remembered his Grandma’s many uses for lavender, and the essential oil she made for it, “Besides a myriad of uses, lavender relaxes the mind and soothes the soul” she would say. “It is a gift from heaven.”
The ethereal Rachel looked up and saw him watching her through the window.
She smiled, kissed her hand, and blew him a kiss. John looked down at his hand, wanting to return that blown kiss. He again looked out the window and reality returned to a cold, barren, white landscape of blowing and drifting snow, and John was thinking, ‘Did my brain go haywire or did I have a waking dream?’
Reality returned and made him realize the Rachel in his bed was a tempting distraction; a warm and soft feminine delight of imminent trouble he would have to deal firmly with for the next few days. He knew nothing about this young woman except she lacked the common sense to dress properly for cold weather, and she was driving during a severe snowstorm.
“Mr. McCord,” and he turned to see Rachel standing behind him wrapped in the down comforter. “May we talk now? I want to thank you.”
“There’s no need to thank me, young lady, and I must say you’ve been very reasonable and mature about the sleeping arrangements.”
“That’s the second time you’ve referred to me as a young or young lady?” she commented, smiling. “Not that I mind, but how old do you think I am?” she asked as John put Buddy down on the floor.
“Late teens-to-early-twenties,” He insisted, studying her more closely, and thinking, ’She’s too young for me. If things had worked out, I might have had a daughter close to her age at this point in my life, oh well.’
“I’m thirty-seven,” Rachel said, still smiling. “It’s obvious you served in the military?”
“Yes, how did you know that?” John asked.
“You’re standing at parade rest with your hands behind your back, Rachel replied knowingly. “Are you always so stiff and formal with people, giving orders, interrupting, or so abrupt?”
“No, of course not,” John said, hooking his thumbs into his front jeans pockets trying to appear relaxed but still in control.
“Good, may I thank you now?” she asked, noticing his new posture, and remembering how gentle he was with his cat.
“That won’t be necessary, I.” and he didn’t finish his sentence because she dropped the comforter to the floor. She hugged him and kissed his cheek. “Thank you. I can tell you’re a good man.” and she picked it up the comforter and wrapped it around her, looking forward to being snowed in with him.
“Let us begin over.” John said smiling, and glad she was close to his age, “Welcome to my home such as it is.” and he offered her his hand and she shook it. He was pleased with her firm handshake. “This farm has been in my family since 1817, and although I’m no farmer, I know how to farm.
I'm also proud to say the McCord men have answered the call to duty to our Country and have fought defending it since the War of 1812. I retired from the Marines, ma’am, and I’ve returned home to my roots. I’ve been living here rather sparsely for the past 16 months while I repaired and remodeled. First the outside, and then I gutted the inside; brought it up to code, slow but steady as they say with some help from old friends and neighbors.
I don’t need much, and I’m sorry for the lack of amenities a gentle lady like you is accustomed too. If the weather lets up, I’ll go out to the barn and bring in some things to make you more comfortable. I’m not the greatest cook in the world, but how do eggs, bacon, and English Muffins sound to you?
“It sounds delightful, Sir, what rank did you hold? I’ll bet you were an Officer,” and she was delighted as she had little to eat the past few days, and was charmed at being called a gentle lady.
“I retired as a Colonel, ma’am, Rachel, may I call you Rachel? Please call me John. Are you a Southern Lady?”
“Yes and yes,” she replied, smiling which in turn had him smiling back. “I was on my way to Niagara Falls when the snowstorm hit. I’ve never experienced anything like this before. I was born and lived all my life in Savannah, Georgia. My family traces our roots in America back to the early 1800s, and our brick house is a historical landmark.
“We have something in common,” John replied nodding approvingly, “deep family roots and a sense of belonging.”
“Yes, we do.” she agreed more intrigued with him now. “I’m a Nurse Practitioner by profession. I’m looking for a fresh start and change of scenery.
Is it always so cold in this part of New York State? Is this normal snowfall for this time of year?”
“How about we finish this conversation in the kitchen? Ladies first,” he offered her his arm, with Buddy following close behind them. When they got to the kitchen, he pulled out her chair, and she sat down at the kitchen table.
“I suppose one gets used to it. March snowstorms such as this happen but aren’t the rule. Crocuses, daffodils, and tulips are waiting to bloom under the snow, and besides, snowstorms make me appreciate the summer months, and I look forward to the fall colors, “he explained opening a fresh bag of dry cat food while his cat danced about and rubbed against him.
“We have mild winters too,” he said, filling a small, chipped bowl with cat food. “It’s all contingent upon the weather patterns over Lake Ontario. I don’t mind snow or the winter months. I enjoy the quiet solitude and peaceful beauty of it after years of the hot, dry, grit of desert sand; sand gets into everything,” He said truthfully measuring the coffee into the coffee pot with his thoughts wandering to Rachel with her hair up, wearing a pale green summer dress and wanting to kiss her.
“Did you ever marry John?” she asked, watching him place the much used and chipped, white speckled blue enameled percolator coffee pot on the gas stove.
She looked around the newly remodeled kitchen and the original, old fashion, refinished cupboards with the framed glass doors; most were empty.
“No, I’ve never been married. I proposed to a girl once. She declined my proposal, and after, the Marine’s kept me occupied,” he replied, thinking, ‘There’s no harm in being truthful, because in a few days I’ll never see her again, and my life will be back to normal.”
He continued, “I have a younger married sister, Sarah. Although Sarah and I are eight years apart, we’re very close. Our grandmother, my father’s mother, raised us right here when it was a working farm,” He said getting the bacon out of his fridge and then arranging it in an old well-seasoned cast iron pan. “Grandma seemed to know when things would happen before they happened; she only told people the good things, though. The exact date a baby would be born, for example. Many of the locals thought she had the second sight. Grandma was also a midwife, not with medical degree mind you. She was also an herbalist and had a green thumb when it came to plants and their uses.”
“Your Grandmother sounds like a very special Lady,” She offered.
“Yes, she was,” he agreed, “The farm thrived when she was alive. Sarah is now living on a cattle ranch in Montana where they have tornados. Their thunder and lightning storms there make the ones here wimpy in comparison. When she was a little girl, Sarah was terrified of thunder and lightning storms, and now she snaps her fingers at them."
Rachel didn’t fail to notice how his expression softened, and his eyes seemed to glisten with affection and love when he talked about his sister and nephews. She also noticed John had dimples in his cheeks when he smiled.
“She’s an accomplished equestrian now," John continued, "My grandmother left the farm to us. Sarah signed it over to me for a dollar so I’d always a place to hang my hat. How do you like your bacon?”
“Crisp and sunny side up for the eggs; is there anything I can do to help?”
“Yes, you’re in charge of the muffins, but not yet,” he took them out of the cupboard and put them by the toaster, “As I was saying, in consideration, Sarah had first pick of the family heirlooms. I have my grandmother’s rocking chairs and this old kitchen table and chairs. He put two dinner plates and mugs on the table, followed by silverware and none of them matched. “I have all her cast iron kettles, pots, and pans; this coffee pot, and a few things stowed away in the small barn. Have you ever married, Rachael?”
“I’ve never been married either, John,” and after finishing his food, Buddy rubbed up against Rachel for her to pet him. “My step-brother, Samuel is living with my step-mother in the family home,” and Rachael picked up Bubby, he purred as she rubbed him, enjoying the attention, “Samuel is a momma’s boy. When my step-mother passes, we get the house. If he passes first, it goes to me, and so on.
I don’t care about the house. It is not the same since my Dad died. As they say, home is where the heart is. All I want is my Dad’s antique Elgin railroad watch. My Grandpa was a railroad man; he was an Engineer, as was his father before him.”
She took a deep breath and paused, closing her eyes,” May I confide in you?” she asked, opening them and looking into his warm blue eyes. Rachel was feeling at ease and trusting about this handsome man. After six months on the road, and almost out of dedicated traveling money, she decided to ask him for help.
“Samuel and I had a falling out. My step-mother took Samuel's side and gave him the watch even though he has no right to it, and showed no interest in it until I asked for it. Fine I accept that, and I’m better off than many people. I have my health and independence.
I have my profession, and I’m debt-free. I’ve money in annuities my father invested for me that I’m loathed to touch. I’ve been traveling on a long sabbatical. I’ve camped out under the stars, and I’ve met all kinds of interesting people, and now, I’m almost out of traveling money.”
“Are you asking me for a loan?” John asked, thinking, ‘I knew it, trouble.'
“Oh, no, nothing like that. I’m worried that my minivan is damaged. Will you please allow me to keep it here until I find a job to get it fixed?”
“Let me think about it; however, in the meantime, breakfast is almost ready. It’s time to toast the muffins.”
After breakfast, John went outside to the barn wearing a heavy wool Mackinaw coat and well-worn Pac boots. He was thinking about what she told him. He returned a short time later with a storage tub full of military issue sleeping bags and a folding cot.
“Please put them both in the bedroom next to the bathroom, Rachel, and I’ll sleep there. It is still snowing like crazy. Do you remember what direction you came?” He asked, pointing to the road, “Left is north, and right is south.”
“I don’t remember. This very kind of you, John,” She said, smiling, “you truly are a good man, but I can sleep on the cot.”
Ignoring the compliment although he was pleased, John said, “No, you will sleep in my bedroom, and that’s an order.” “Anything you say, Sir,” she agreed.
“Good, it is settled then, I estimate you went off the road not too far from here.
If I can find your vehicle after walking a mile in either direction, I’ll notify the Sheriff and arrange for a tow truck to have it brought here when the weather breaks. Is there anything you need from it if I do?”
“Yes, my small green suitcase, please, and my purse on the passenger seat,” she replied, handing him the keys. It is a white mini-van. I’ll have hot coffee for you when you get back.”
John returned with good news and bad to discover the porch was shoveled and swept clear of snow when she met him at the door with a cup of coffee. “I found your Toyota minivan, and I’m sorry to say it’s leaking transmission fluid; probably from the pan, and the rear half of the exhaust system is torn loose. It’s colder than a witch’s, well, it’s bitter cold out and this hot coffee hits the spot, thank you, Rachael. If I stand out here much longer the coffee will freeze so fast the ice will be hot,” he joked, smiling, as he stepped inside and closed the door behind him.
“You’re welcome. I was outside a few minutes ago, and I agree. You weren't kidding about the outhouse, and it's almost out of toilet paper; of course, I’m kidding. Your sister Sarah called while you were out.”
“What did you say to her?” John asked, taking a sip of coffee.
“Sarah called to check up on you, and I told her you were fine. She asked if I was the new lady in your life, and looked forward to meeting me. Is she always this open about your lady friends?”
“No, she isn’t. “What did you tell her?” He took another sip of coffee, again distracted for a millisecond thinking of the Rachel in the green summer dress with white lace and kissing her.
“I told her who I am, and that I drove off the road last night into a ditch. I said you graciously took me in until the storm lets up, leaving out most of the details. Do you want me to help you with the wiring? My dad taught me all about tools.
He also insisted I take Martial Arts lessons from a young age. I may be a bit out of practice, but the basics remain.”
“I can believe that,” he acknowledged, “Your father must have been a very practical and reasonable man.”
“Yes he was, and special, and I miss him. I’m very self-sufficient and still on sabbatical, so I’ll help you prime and paint the bedrooms when we finish the wiring. I’m going upstairs to change. You should call your sister, and that’s an order.”
Rachel went upstairs with her suitcase, leaving him sitting at the kitchen table with his coffee, and he was thinking. ‘She is so darn, pretty. I won’t trespass again without her consent. Rachael is the down to earth marrying type, assuming she gives you her heart and she reminds me so much of my sister. Rachel is not the jump into bed, good time gals to whom I’m accustomed. She’s a regular little Spartan, and if I’m not careful, she’s liable to kick my ass up between my ears,’ and this made him chuckle out loud. 'Apparently, she knows her mind and enjoys the freedom of being single. It was a moment of weakness brushing the hair from her face, yet, she has a soft and refined southern accent that caresses me when she talks.
If I were a Tomcat, just listening to her would have me purring with pleasure, and Buddy likes her, and he hides when I have visitors. What will it hurt to let her keep her vehicle here? It’s packed full and organized with labeled plastic tubs; there is even a cedar hope chest in there. Let’s see what she knows about being an electrician and then we’ll go from there.’
John telephoned a childhood friend, Skip Thompson, now the County Sheriff directly to insure no tickets would be issued, and then made towing arrangements. He then telephoned his sister. Sarah, who insisted he tell about his Southern Belle.
It turned out Rachael was more than competent with tools. She returned wearing faded railroad strip bib overalls and a red tee-shirt. Her sneakers were still damp, so she was wearing her pink bunny slippers. They finished wiring the bedrooms, and they started priming the walls that same day. They installed his hot water on demand units a few days after that. They then moved a few pieces of furniture into the house from the small barn, including his grandmother’s twin bed for her to have a bed of her own.
Ten days later, a warm front moved in, and as John predicted, the crocuses ‘colorful heads were peeking up through the melting snow. He enjoyed having Rachel bustling about and having someone to talk to while they worked on the barns. He was in no hurry for her to leave, and she insisted on working for room and board. She took on the project of weeding the herb garden. They settled into a quiet and unspoken understanding of friendship, and that was enough for the time being.
One warm spring day in May, John was nailing the last row of shingles on the large barn roof while Rachel was working in the herb garden. While climbing down the ladder for a glass of her delicious sweet iced tea, his right foot slipped on a rung halfway down and he dropped to the ground. He took the brunt of the fall on his left foot while twisting to one side to avoid being hit with the ladder as it pulled away from the barn.
He managed to stay on his feet and was loudly cursing out a string of scalding profanities, catching himself, and then cursing under his breath so she wouldn’t hear him, but she did. He shifted most of his weight to his right foot, trying to walk to the house as she rushed over to him when she realized what happened.
“You fell, didn’t you?” she said, looking at the ladder on the ground. “Let me help you,” and Rachael put John's arm around her shoulders to help support him. “You’re going to need to have your foot x-rayed,” She insisted as she helped him sit down on the porch steps. “If you’re lucky it’s only a sprain or blunt tissue damage. I’m going to remove your work boot, and it may hurt.”
“I’m sure it’s nothing,” John assured her stubbornly, “and pain is merely weakness leaving the body. I’ll take some aspirin and keep it iced. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.”
“No, absolutely not, you’re going to the emergency room, John.”
“Rachael, I'm all right.”
“You’re going to the emergency room, John Ian McCord.” she said firmly, “don’t argue with me. I’ll broach no insubordination from you, Marine!”
“Yes ma’am,” he replied wincing as she carefully unlaced and removed the work boot, the pain shooting through his foot like a lightning bolt, “I’m going to the emergency room for x-rays, great idea,” and he reached into his pocket and gave her his truck keys.
“Fine, it’s settled then,” and she sat down next to him. Rachel kissed his cheek and hugged him. “Are you sure you’re OK?” and she hugged him again.
“I’ll live, and I’m sorry for the bad language.”
“I’ll get the ice from the freezer while you wait here.”
She returned and helped support him as they walked to the truck where John said. “Rachael.”
“You’re a treasure, Rachael Ann Buchannan and I apologize.”
“What are you apologizing for, cursing or falling off a ladder?” She asked, wrapping the bread bag full of ice on his foot between towels after helping him get in.
“No, I’m talking about the night we shared a bed.”
“Don’t be silly; you are and were a gentleman.”
“No! I pushed your hair away from your face when you were sleeping. I had no right to do that then, or touch you in such an intimate way.”
She got on the driver’s side, closing the door and asked him. “Is that all? I was half awake when you did that. Are you shy around women?” and she was teasing him because she knew better.
“No, not at all,” He answered surprised she’d ask such a question. ”I’m not shy. Hey! I see what you’re doing. All teasing aside, I was a hound in my younger days and always on the scent.”
“Then why haven’t you made a pass at me?” She asked as they left the long driveway and turned onto the road.
He tried to evade the question. “In three miles, turn right on the Marshall Road” he directed, “then drive until we get to Route 18. You’ll then take Route 18 to the first intersection and follow 63 south.”
“You’re avoiding the question, John.”
“OK, Rachel, no more avoiding. I’m going to have my say. Every morning you’re up before me wearing your short flannel nightgowns and pink bunny slippers getting our coffee ready for the start of a new day. My coffee is the first cup from the pot. When you hand me my cup, your hands linger on mine as you flirt and tease me with your eyes, and I want to kiss you. I can get lost in the complex of kaleidoscope colors of your eyes; the browns and greens and gold. They shift in the light like opals. The essence of your perfume is lavender, and this scent mixed with you is intoxicating, and I want to kiss you.
You take your coffee with a splash cream. You hold your hot cup in both hands, warming them before for your first sip. You close your eyes and sip contentedly and smile. When you do that, I want to kiss you.
You arrived here as a tempting distraction; a warm and soft feminine delight to deal until the roads opened, and it was safe to travel.
Now we’ve been together for almost a month and a half. I enjoy having you here. We work well together. We go together like bread and butter, and you’re anything but trouble. You know your mind. You’re a strong, independent woman.
We have an unspoken understanding of friendship based on respect. I still see you as a warm and soft feminine delight and a tempting distraction, and I want to kiss you. Your flirting every morning suggests you want something more. Am I right?”
“I agree and no more avoiding, John, and what a sweet poetic way of putting things. You carried me upstairs as if I were a small child and undressed me. You put me in your bed, and you held me to get me warm.
Of course, you did the medically reasonable thing given the circumstances.
That was the first time in my life I’ve slept in the same bed with a man. You’re right, and if you’re patient with me, and if my father is right, and well, you’ve taken me by surprise. Comparing my eyes to opals, imagine that, you, Iron McCord, a poet? Keep up the good work. You’ve never talked to me like this before, and until now we’ve been more like buddies.”
“Rachel, the night you arrived was the first time in my adult life I’ve been in bed with a woman and just slept, and this is all new to me, especially having a lady as a housemate, although, I enjoy your flirting. Please blow me a kiss?”
“I don’t understand,” She said smiling, “But sure, alright,” and when she did he blew two kisses back, and he was thinking, ‘My kiss owed to the Rachael in my daydreams in the green summer dress. I’m sure my grandmother would approve of you, Sarah too, although I must be getting soft in the head and losing my edge, me, love them and leave them Iron McCord blowing kisses? Now my hard ass reputation is ruined!’
As they were driving to the hospital, she was thinking of her fiancé and how close she came to marrying this man. A few months after she graduated as a Physician’s Assistant, Doctor David Campbell swept her off her feet with his good looks, wealth, and charm. His family was old money. She was young and impressionable, and she was in love with the idea of being in love.
One month before their church wedding, to be followed by a lavish reception and world cruise honeymoon to Europe, Rachel began to have doubts. She went to her father, the person she loved and trusted the most in the whole universe and he told her, “Bunny, when the right man comes along, rich or poor, you’ll know in your heart. You’ll have no doubts, and I’ll support any decision you make,” and her father did as he promised, despite the objections of her stepmother’s setback in social climbing.
John’s ankle was broke in two places. However, they were minor fractures, and a cast was all that was needed. He easily adapted to the crutches due to his formidable upper body strength. As they were walking to the truck, he stopped and said. “You know, I could eat a horse, but I’ll settle for a big and juicy charbroiled Angus burger on a hard roll topped with roasted hot peppers and a side of wet fries.”
“What are wet fries?” Rachael asked, surprised John was hungry and not in pain. She knew if she asked, he’d repeat pain is merely weakness leaving the body.
“Kiss me, and I’ll tell you,” he answered. “Think of it as a kiss on a first date.”
She put her arms around John’s neck and kissed his warm lips for the first time, feeling a tingling, almost overwhelming pleasure unlike anything she experienced before, including with her former fiancé’. She let her face linger next to his and asked. “How was that, handsome?”
“Your luscious lips are soft and warm and delicious, plus glorious and uplifting. May I have another?” John asked, sharing that same almost overwhelming pleasure and wanting to ravish her on the spot despite his broken ankle.
“Are you going to be a cooperative patient and do what I tell you?”
“Yes, ma’am and wet fries are French fries with gravy.”
“Will you take the pain pills the Emergency Doctor prescribed?” and she kissed his cheek, almost afraid to kiss his lips. She then mentally scolded herself for being silly.
“No, I’d rather take aspirin to manage the pain, and we’ll get a few reusable packs before we go home. How do I taste?”
“Let me see,” Rachel said, and she kissed his lips again, more tingling all over and savoring his manliness, “You taste sexy and stubborn. I know how to deal with difficult patients. If you’re sure you’re up to it, hamburgers and wet ones sound great. We’ll share an order of onion rings with the wet fries. Consider it our first date and my treat.”
When they returned home, she fussed over him, enjoying every minute of it. It gave her an excuse to touch him, and John gladly gave in. He couldn’t take a shower, so she gave him a sponge bath in the bathroom, kissing him when she leaned into him. She never saw John without a shirt on until now. She noticed three healed scars on his back and chest; healed bullet wounds, pucker scars on both sides of his back and chest where the bullets passed through, one scar, inches from his heart.
That evening, he expected to sleep alone, but Rachel joined him wearing his green, and a black checked flannel shirt with the sleeves rolled up, in place of her nightgown. It was the shirt he loaned her the night she arrived; most definitely establishing her claim on him, and after John’s sponge bath, this shirt was now more precious to her than her Dad’s pocket watch.
He was lying on his back with his cast wrapped in a towel containing an ice pack when she got into bed next to him. “This is cozy,” she said, touching his face. “Do you want to snuggle with me?”
“Rachael there’s no avoiding it. I’ve fallen for you in a big way. Of course, I want to cuddle. Don’t worry about my ankle. Your sweet gentleness is the best kind of medicine.” He turned on his side to face her, holding out his arms for her to slide closer. He held her gently and kissed the top of her head, sighing contentedly, and Rachel said, “John?”
“Yes Bunny, what is it?”
“Bunny?” she asked, squeezing his hand and delighted with this sweet term of endearment, one that she hadn’t heard since her father passed; her Dad called her Bunny, and it was something she never told John.
“Yes, Bunny, you wear bunny slippers, and bunnies are soft and warm and cuddly, just like you.” He said, rubbing his face in her hair.
“John?” “Yes,” he answered. “I’m not spending the whole night,” she said, “Is that OK with you?”
“Of course,” he replied, trying to keep the disappointment from his voice, although she picked up on it.
“I want you to understand. I never slept with a man before, or made love,” she confessed, hesitantly, slightly embarrassed although glad that she finally told him.
Rachel’s confession took him completely by surprise, and in his mind, it was astonishing to discover such a lovely and charming professional woman was also a virgin.
“I won’t make any demands on you, Bunny. When you’re ready, you’re ready,” we’ll take this once step at a time.”
“But John, you’re,” and he interrupted, “Yes and men are hardwired this way, so ignore it. You stay here for as long as you like, and then sleep in your bed.”
“I’m familiar with the hard-wired biological realities, and especially when I can feel it. Are you sure?”
Yes, I’m sure.”
“I knew you’d understand when I told you” and she snuggled closer.
Spring had turned to autumn, and John’s ankle was well on the way to being completely healed. After months of searching and interviews, Rachel found what she considered to be the perfect job working with Dr. Anna Lamb. The two women were of the same temperament, and the Pediatric practice was a pleasant change from Rachael’s years in Trauma Centers. The herb garden and perennial flower gardens surrounding the house were flourishing under Rachael’s loving care.
In John’s mind, the old farmhouse was now more like a home and full of life again. They bought furniture together, and as long as it was functional and comfortable, he agreed to the colors she chose, including the colors for the new draperies and shades.
Rachel felt at home on the McCord farm. She was delighted with the summers there, which were less hot and oppressive than Savannah, plus there were acres and acres of land to explore, mostly groves of glorious hardwoods, and they were peaceful; shady and cool. She was charmed by a small spring-fed pond to cool off and swim in when the weather got hot, and the wealth of orange daylilies surrounding much of it.
They brought home bushels, and bushes of walnuts from the trees behind the large barn, much to the displeasure of the squirrels who scolded them from up top.
One late, sunny afternoon, that autumn, he took her to the highest elevation on the property. He told her, we’re going on a quest.” John was sure-footed and confidant as he led the way. To get there, they had to navigate through a section basalt rock outcroppings, poison sumac, and nettle, the prominent plant growth there.
Then they had gone through a maze of young trees growing close together fighting for the sunlight. It was slow going, and they had to step carefully so not to trip while moving tree branches out of the way. Finally, they came to a straight path through a stand of white birch trees, with bee sage growing between the birches. The tall birches reminded Rachael of tall, white knights in battle-scarred armor standing side-by-side, swords raised, guarding the way.
The path led to a large clearing surrounded by old and stately hard maple trees where the forest floor was a thick carpet of leaves old and new. The trees and their intertwining branches formed an outdoor canopy; like the dome ceiling of a grand cathedral. The colors of the leaves were at their peak in shades of orange, yellow and red. Rachael looked up at the sunlight shining through the backlit autumn colors; it was breathtaking.
As John held her hand, he quietly said, “The morns are meeker than they were, the nuts are getting brown. The berry’s cheek is plumper; the rose is out of town. The maple wears a gayer scarf, The field a scarlet gown. Lest I be old-fashioned, I’ll put a trinket down.”
Fighting back her tears, Rachel turned to him. She placed her hand on his chest, over his heart, closing her eyes, and said a silent prayer always to keep him safe, as she hugged him.
That night, as they cuddled in bed, “Johnny.”
“May, I call you Johnny, Johnny? If I’m your Bunny, it stands to reason, you’re my Johnny,” and she put her hand over his heart. It’s such a little request.”
Fine, I’ll allow it,” he sighed, stroking her hair.
“Johnny?” “Yes,” he answered.
“When did you find the Cathedral in the woods?”
“I didn’t find it. My grandmother took me there. I didn’t know it existed while growing up. I stayed away from that section of the property because of the poison sumac and stinging nettle. It’s odd that regardless of what direction you approach it, there are patches of poison sumac or nettles. We took the way of least resistance.
“Grandma took me there on a day like today, and two days before I left for boot camp. It was as breathtakingly beautiful then as it is today.
My Grandmother didn’t want me to join the Marines. She told me I was joining for all the wrong reasons. I refused to listen. I was stubborn, and I was angry at the world. I thought I was a tough guy. I thought I was invincible, and I didn’t need anybody.
“What did she say to you,” Rachel asked,
“Grandma said, ‘I know your mind is made up, and I can’t stop you, but I will have my say. You’re a hard head, McCord, like most McCord men before you. I love you, grandson, and I know your heart is hurting now, but that will fade in time. Never harden your heart, Johnny, bitterness is a poison that rots the soul.
You will suffer more pain in your life. It will be terrible, wrenching, excruciating pain, and you will be afraid. It will temper you and make you stronger. You will survive and thrive, and then return here to your roots. When you do, share it with the one you love.”
After that day, he slowly let his guard down to her and shared more of his private thoughts; as did Rachel with him. She can truly be herself with him.
He doesn’t mind that she calls him Johnny, something only his sister is allowed. All others are first politely warned and corrected. Males of appropriate age have been known to experience a painful correction if they persist with that familiarity.
They sometimes don’t agree, so they agree to disagree and not dwell on it. At those times, he will crush her to him gently and try to kiss her. Rachel will half-heartedly struggle and look away. She then relents though to let him kiss her. She then vigorously messes up his hair and says, Bread and butter as she hugs him tight because she loves him more than she imagined possible.
John hadn’t made love to her yet, keeping his promise, although every night they cuddle and talk and share a story or experience from their childhood. The last words they say to each other before Rachel goes to her bedroom are “bread and butter.”
“Johnny?” she said, handing him, his first cup of morning coffee, “I have two wonderful surprises for you.”
“Let me guess; your homemade from scratch corned beef hash with fried hot peppers and topped with soft poached eggs for breakfast?”
“Oh, you and your hot peppers, and no, better than that. We’re going to a Masquerade Charity Gala for the Children’s Cancer Hospital, and I’m a co-chairperson with Ann on the planning committee. I’ve already made our costumes, which is the best surprise of all!”
“When? Your corned beef hash rates right up there, and what kind of costumes?”
“We couldn’t get a date this October. It will be the second weekend in November on a Saturday. We’re going as Raggedy Ann and Andy. I’ve already purchased our tickets to get things rolling. We’re giving prizes for the best costume and the best-dressed couples in theme costumes. There’s going to be a live DJ and dancing. We’re serving gourmet appetizers, plus there’s an open bar."
“Your corned beef hash is fabulous. Sunsets are awesome, and your warm hugs and sweet kisses are better than fabulous and awesome. Adults dressing up as stuffed toys are plain silly!”
“We’re not going as stuffed toys! We’re going to be Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy.”
“I see. You want us to attend a highfalutin Halloween Masquerade Gala, not on Halloween. You want us to go as animated cotton stuffed rags dolls with yarn hair. I should be thankful you didn’t choose the Camel with the Wrinkled Knees from that trio on your bed. I’d likely be bringing up the rear.”
“Johnny, I’m serious. Will you go with me?” “Are we negotiating, Bunny?” “Yes, negotiating and compromising, handsome.”
I’ll tell you what; you give me a high and tight, just like the old days. I’ll wear my dress uniform, sword and all,” and John put his cup on the table, “See we just compromised. I agree to go.”
“Don’t you dare even suggest I cut your hair like that,” she warned as she ran her fingers through his thick and full blonde hair. It was perfect; thick and full, and just the way she likes it. Rachel now was cutting and trimming it for him in the kitchen, another of her many skills. “I’ve seen pictures of you with a high and tight haircut, and you're handsome regardless, but I adore you with a full head of hair.”
“Fine, forget the high and tight, and I’ll leave my sword home.”
It’s such a little request. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about; you being a big tough Marine. It will be fun. I’ll personally see to it they have roasted hot peppers just for you. Bread and butter sweetheart, are you going to kiss me good morning, Johnny?”
“I’ll think about it,” he said frowning while putting his knuckles under his chin and turning away as if deep in thought. Rachael playfully gave his hair a gentle tug, and the vigorously messed it up. John laughed as he turned and gently crushed her to him. He kissed her lips long and deep, knowing he will give in to her because he loved her deeply; more deeply than the depths of the oceans.
He still desperately wanted to make love to her. John subdued hard-wired sexual needs and desires with hundreds of sit-ups and pushups, plus taking on the task of repairing the stone fences bordering his property.
“Do you want to try on your costume now, Johnny?” she teased, pushing his hair back in place.
“No, I’m sure my dress uniform still fits.” he teased in return. “If I go as cotton stuffed rag dolly, I’ll want a small concession in return.”
“What do want, Johnny?” she asked as if she didn’t know.
“We’ll see when we return home from the Charity Gala,” he replied while playing with her thick and silky, little red auburn ponytail. “It really might be a wish comes true,” he added.
Due to Rachael’s organizational skills, and enhanced by her Southern charm, the event quickly sold out. To say John loves her is an understatement akin to saying the sun is merely warm.
John portraying Raggedy Andy did nothing to detract from his rugged good looks or ever-present virile manliness beneath the knee-high bib overalls and red and white striped socks. They both wore white sailor hats with red-orange yarn hair attached inside. She looked as cute and sweet as a button, and Johnny was her man, and nothing in the infinite void between heaven and hell, including demons or angels, will ever come between them or their love for each other.
John proudly introduced Rachel to his friends and neighbors. He was establishing his claim on her, and silently warning the single men or any man to trespass at their peril. A few of the local women attending were old classmates, divorced or otherwise on the make for eligible men. Much to Rachael’s annoyance, one classmate, in particular, a striking raven-haired beauty, Megan McCallister, continued to flirt and brush up against him through much of the evening.
She had moved home a few days prior and made a sizable donation to get a ticket. Megan was wearing a realistic, and expensive custom made Wonder Woman costume. With her long and thick waist-length ebony black hair, and Megan looked ravishing and incredibly sexy.
The most noticeable stain in the rug that evening was a young man dressed as Batman, who as it turned out, crashed the event. John was across the room talking to Brad Green, while Rachel was talking to Dr. Lamb, who was dressed as little Bo-Peep when Batman asked Rachael to dance. She politely declined and explained, “No, thank you. My escort has all my dances reserved for the evening. You can’t miss our matching costumes. We go together, like bread and butter.”
“You mean the sissy with the striped socks.” Batman replied, grabbing her wrist, “Don’t waste your time with that sap when you can have a real man, me! Kiss me, pretty dolly?”
“Don’t touch me!” Rachael announced, loudly enough for people to stop and look in their direction, “Let go of me, now!”
“Make me, “the Batman said, smirking.
Before the fraudulent caped crusader could blink, Rachel-Raggedy-Ann had him flat on his back on the floor. She was off to the side and had full control of his large callused hand, his wrist bent painfully, in both her small hands. The defeated dork knight's arm was straight up in the air. She had him completely immobilized and thoroughly humiliated.
In the second blink of an eye, his sailor hat left behind, John was at her side, glaring menacingly at the super-zero hero on the floor. People gathered in a rough circle to watch, while the DJ took the opportunity to announce, “Raggedy Ann just knocked the stuffing out of Batman, folks,” adding, “Oh what a fight, smash, bash, kapow.”
While the DJ continued to narrate, Rachel warned the insipid imposter on the floor, “All it takes now is a quick twist to destroy your wrist joint,” she said sweetly. “However, I’m going to give you a chance at redemption, sinner,” she mocked, quite pleased with herself. “You will apologize, or it’s snap, crackle, pop, and I’ll have you arrested for assault. But first, take off your mask.”
The mask came off, followed by a stream of apologies while John scowled menacingly and then realized, “Damn, the resemblance is uncanny! You must be Jacob Yoder’s boy,” John said surprised, “Let him up. I’ll handle things from here. I know his father. The Yoder’s are our Amish neighbors.”
When the daft, defeated, dunderhead, dork, dunce knight slowly got up from the floor, John barked, “Stand up straight and look at me. “Has he apologized to your satisfaction, Rachael?”
“Kick his ass, John,” Brad Green called out, and John ignored him.
“Yes, sweetheart, I believe he has learned his lesson.”
“Did he hurt you?”
“No, Johnny, I’m fine. I’ll let you and his father handle things from here.”
“Are you Jacob’s son?” John asked.
“Yes, Mr. McCord,” he replied, looking down, realizing who he just disrespected.
“How old are you, boy, and what’s your name?”
“I’m nineteen, Mr. McCord, and my name is Mark.”
“Come on, McCord, kick his ass, just like in the old days,” somebody else called out.
The man, a classmate, not a good friend, more of a sometimes acquaintance, and a former rival was a first-hand witness. He watched John, who was seventeen at the time, take on three men, road construction workers who tried to grope his then-girlfriend in a local diner, now long closed.
His girlfriend evened the odds slightly in John’s favor by kicking one of the construction workers, the foreman, and the loud-mouth ringleader, forcefully and squarely in the nuts, to put him temporarily out of commission. John knocked the other still in the restaurant unconscious by banging the man’s head on a door frame, once, and then twice for good measure. He then dislocated and tore ligaments on the last construction workers right kneecap with a well-placed kick, after this coward returned with a large hammer.
“Look at me,” John ordered, and Mark met his eyes, “the only reason you’re leaving here without a beating from me is that I respect your father.” He leased out several hayfields and pastures to the young man’s father.
The show is over folks, and there’s nothing more to see. Let’s go, junior,” John said, cuffing him in the back of the head, and giving him a shove towards the door, “You must be doing that Rumspringa thing. You and I are going outside to have a private talk. Tomorrow I’ll talk to your father.”
Rachel made light of the situation, modestly dismissing the praise and accolades from many of the people attending. She also talked to the firsthand witness who observed John’s legendary fight with three construction workers to protect Megan McCallister from their unwanted attention; the construction workers not knowing Megan’s tenacity for never backing down.
Frustrated, with her failed attempts to win John over, Megan left the Gala before Rachel cleaned the carpet with the bumbling, browbeaten Batman.
Rachael may have imbibed too many gin and tonics. John switched from Rye whiskey on the rocks to plain club soda for the rest of the evening as he was driving. He held her close when they danced. He told Rachael he loved her and Rachael told him the same, and they danced, and they danced, and they danced. She was pleased and charmed he was such a fine dancer, an Officer, and a gentleman. She was his Bunny and little Spartan, and these thoughts pleased her.
When they returned home, Rachael’s hands were all over him. She tried to undress him as he was unlocking the back door saying, “I’m so damn horny, Johnny, I want you to make love to me.”
“No, not tonight,” he replied, opening the door for her. “We had a great time at the Masquerade Gala, and you did a tremendous job of making it a huge success. I’m proud of the way you handled the Yoder boy, and we did win the honorary prize from the DJ for a cotton stuffed kick-ass couple. I have our pictures to prove it. We’ve waited this long and tomorrow, or the day after is time enough to make love when you have a clearer head.”
“But I’m ready to fuck you now! Don’t you want me, Johnny?” she asked, incredulous and very frustrated he was turning her down.
“I want you very much, Bunny” he answered honestly, starting to waiver, and surprised to hear profanity coming out of her mouth “but you’ve had a little too much to drink, and we’ll leave it at that.”
“Well, so have you, so we’re even!” she exclaimed as she put her arms around his neck to kiss his lips, but first, she kicked the door shut with a bang. “I love you, Johnny, and not because I’m a little tipsy.”
John kissed and hugged her and said, “I love you too, and I must be crazier than a kangaroo in a minefield to turn you down. I’m going to bed to sleep, and so should you,” and he took her arms from his neck and went upstairs to the bathroom to take a cold shower, second-guessing his decision to turn her down.
Afterward, he found Rachel naked sprawled diagonally across their bed asleep. She didn’t protest as he shifted her and put her under the covers, or when he gently placed a pillow under her head.
He was thinking, ‘The gin and tonic finally caught up with her.’ He gently pushed her hair away from her face and kissed her cheek. He then got into bed next to her and talked softly so as not to wake her, “Bunny, you have no idea how much I love you or how much I want you right now.
I’m trying to do the right thing, and I love you so much. I started loving you the morning after you arrived. I looked out our bedroom window, and it was snowing. I saw you in a daydream, and you were standing in the sunlight on a summer’s day wearing a pale sea-green summer dress with white lace. You were in the herb garden where you were gathering lavender. You looked up at me watching you from the window. You smiled and blew me a kiss. Then all I saw was snow.
You’re a reasonable woman and tomorrow we can spend the day making love if you like,” he said smiling, “Perhaps we can have a special candlelight dinner, or a picnic, or anything you want. Bread and Butter, Bunny,” and he slowly drifted off to sleep, snuggled up to her and looking forward to making love to her the next day.
Rachel was gone when he woke up, and she didn’t leave him a note, which is not like her. She didn’t answer her cell phone or return his texts. John concluded she was angry with him, and if so, there wasn’t much he could do about it until she returned home. It could very well be their first big fight when she returned.
After he had dressed, John picked up his cat and walked downstairs to the kitchen.
“Well, what do you think, Buddy?” John asked, sitting down and stroking his cat from head to tail, “It appears she isn’t happy with me right now. Yes, you’re right; I’m in a no-win situation. I’m sure she’ll get over it. What did you say?
No, Buddy, it’s not that simple. She isn’t in heat. Women are far more complicated than cats. What did I do wrong, you ask? Good question. I’ll tell you.
I did nothing wrong, zip, zero, zilch. I did the right thing by Rachel, and I stand by my decision, and no, catnip is not going to soothe her. Flowers may help, or dark chocolate with caramel and sea salt, she loves those, so I’ll have both delivered,” and John sighed. “Thanks for listening, Buddy. I appreciate your sugge