Why Me?

Chapter Eight

I woke up to discover the bed empty beside me. For a few seconds I panicked. Then Mike came out of the bathroom and grinned at me. "I thought you were going to sleep all day! Coffee's ready."

"You made coffee?"

"Well, I told you, I'm no good in the kitchen, but at least I've managed the intricacies of the automatic coffee maker. Yes, coffee's ready! Now get your ass out of that bed!" He stomped out of the room, but not before I noticed that he was all dressed and ready for work. What time did he get up, and how did he do all that without waking me up? My mind slipped back to last night. What a lover that man is! I never dreamed in my wildest dreams that it could be like that! I sighed, smiled and stretched.

From the kitchen I heard his voice: "Are you up yet? Don't make me come in there and drag you out!" I heard him chuckle.

"I'm up, I'm up! Just give me a minute to get my eyes open, will you?" I sat up on the edge of the bed for a minute, and then went into the bathroom. I showered as quickly as possible. After I dried off, I looked in the mirror. Well, not too bad, and, as he pointed out to me, we do work in a machine shop. I decided to skip the shave.

I went into the bedroom and got dressed for work. When I got to the kitchen, Mike was sitting at the table with a very satisfied grin on his face. "See? I'm not totally helpless in the kitchen!" There were two cups of steaming coffee sitting there. He picked up his cup and took a sip. "And it almost tastes like your coffee!" He gave me a smug look.

I just shook my head and sat down opposite him. "Mike, I never said you were totally helpless in the kitchen. If I remember correctly, you were the one to say something to that effect." I took a sip of my coffee. "And it's delicious! There's hope for you yet. Maybe one of these days you'll be getting the Martha Stewart Award." He glared at me.

"No way, fellah! That's not my area of expertise!"

"I found out last night where your area of expertise is! Too bad there isn't an award given for that!" He grinned, but I noticed that his ears were getting red.

We finished our coffee, and he stood up. "Let's get going, so we can have time for breakfast at the diner before we go to work." I picked up the coffee cups and put them in the sink. We were ready to go.

On the way to the shop after breakfast, I realized that I had my day's work cut out for me. It was Thursday, and that meant checking time sheets for last week, making up the payroll, and cutting checks for fifty-six employees. That would take up the day, and I'd have to keep right at it to get it finished.

Shortly after we got in, Mr. Wheeler came into my office with a stack of invoices. "These really should go out today, if you can get to it, Dave."

"I'll make time, sir. We can't let our creditors wait for their money, can we?" He just grinned. "Thanks, Dave. I knew I could depend on you." He went back to his office, and I just sighed. Something else that was urgent! Oh, well, that's what they pay me to do! I went back to work.

When I stopped to go to the machines to get a sandwich for lunch, I wasn't really surprised to find Mike standing beside the machines with a sandwich in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other. "So, you're really going to take time to eat? Would you mind a little company?" He was grinning, but his voice sounded a bit unsure.

"Sure, why not? We've both got to eat. I'll grab something and we can eat in my office." I selected a sandwich and got a cup of coffee from the machine. I looked at the assortment in the snack machine and decided against getting anything else.

We walked back to my office. Mike set his sandwich and coffee on the corner of my desk and went back and closed the door. I sat down at my desk, after shoving all the paperwork to the side. He pulled up a chair and sat down opposite me. He just sat there for a minute, staring at me. I couldn't read the expression on his face. Finally, he spoke.

"I'm still trying to make myself believe that this is real. I've dreamed about you for so long; I'm afraid that I'm still dreaming."

I could feel tears forming, but I forced them back. "Mike, I can't tell you how much you have done for me in such a short time. It's as if I had a whole new life in place of the empty one I was living. I didn't know what I was going to do, when Annie got married and left. I'm so scared of meeting people and talking to people. Then you just walked into my life and turned everything around. I don't know the words to thank you." I was cursing inwardly the fact that my office was surrounded by windows. I wanted so much to hug him, to hold him, to kiss him. But that would have to wait.

He seemed to understand what I was feeling, because he smiled and winked at me. "You're not the only one who's had a few changes in his life, Baby. I've dreamed about you for years, but the reality is so much better than the dreams that I can't even begin to describe it." Then he got that silly grin again. "But we only have a half hour for lunch. Let's eat!" He grabbed his sandwich and unwrapped it.

I just sat there, shaking my head and watching him attack the sandwich. What a little boy he is! Just like that movie about the kid who suddenly wakes up in a grown man's body! I unwrapped my sandwich, and we ate in companionable silence. Then we sat with our coffee, sipping it and smiling at each other.

Mike went back to work, and I tackled the payroll again. I had everything finished a little after three, so I picked up the invoices Mr. Wheeler had left for me. By quitting time I was finished; the bills were all paid and stacked in their envelopes, ready to go out in the evening mail.

Mike stopped by the office at quitting time. "Come on! We've got a date with my favorite lady, and I don't want to keep her waiting!"

"What are you talking about?"

"Have you forgotten already? We're having dinner with Mama Rosa tonight!"

I cleared the paperwork from my desk, picked up the checks to go out and dropped them into the mail pouch, and I was ready to go. Mike drove to my house and parked in the drive. His was the first car to be there in several years. Paul and Annie always parked on the street.

We went in the house and Mike dropped down on the couch and picked up the remote. "I'll see what's on the tube, while you go change. Then we've got a date." I hurried to the bedroom and changed into something comfortable. When I returned to the living room, the TV was off, and Mike was sitting there, holding out his arms to me. "C'mere, you! I can't eat until I get a little lovin'!" I snuggled down next to him on the couch and relaxed into his warm embrace. He covered the side of my face with little kisses, then reached up and turned my chin toward him. When his lips met mine, I was a goner! The kiss seemed to go on and on, and when we came up for air, I was totally limp. If he hadn't been holding me, I might have slid off the couch,

He looked deep in my eyes. "Now, that's what I'm talking about! Now, let's go eat!" He jumped up from the couch and grabbed my hand, pulling me up to him. There was no question now; we were both really excited. But he backed off and gently pulled me toward the door. That little boy look was back. "I'm really hungry! Can't we go now?" I just shook my head, as I followed him to the car.

Mama Rosa was at the cash register when we walked in. "Hey, Mikey! And skinny little Davie! You ready for dinner?" "What you gonna have tonight? You know what you want, or you want something really good? I gotta special tonight; I think you gonna like it!"

Mike grinned at her. "If you think it's good, Mama Rosa, I know we're gonna like it!"

She disappeared into the kitchen and started yelling at Mario. I looked at Mike. "Is Mario hard of hearing?"

He laughed. "If he isn't, he should be, with her yelling at him all these years!"

The restaurant was about half full; it was a little early for the main dinner hour. Mike led me back to the little table in the back where we sat before. He pulled out a chair and seated me. Then he sat down opposite me. He just sat there smiling at me, until Mama Rosa came out of the kitchen with her wonderful home-made bread and butter. She had a small tray with two water glasses of what looked like the wine we had the last time we were here. She smiled at me.

"You like the wine, Davie? We gotta treat our special friends right!"

"Yes, Mama Rosa, I loved the wine. I've never tasted better in my life." She beamed at me. She set the wine in front of us and placed the tray of bread and butter in the middle of the table. In a few minutes she was back with the big plates of antipasto. "Dinner be ready soon. Mangia!" She disappeared back into the kitchen and started yelling at Mario again. Mike and I looked at each other and grinned. Then we tackled the antipasto.

Suddenly we heard a crash from the kitchen. I jumped. Mike just grinned. The silence was broken by Mama Rosa yelling again in Italian. There was another crash, then silence. Mike looked up from his plate.

"He's getting off easy, tonight! I've heard her throw five or six at a time." He went back to his dinner, as if this were an ordinary experience, which it apparently was, here. I just shook my head and went back to my antipasto. We had just finished, when Mama Rosa reappeared from the kitchen, red-faced and breathing heavily. She smiled at us.

"I think you gonna like this. Mikey, you had our scallopini, yes?"

"Oh, yeah, Mama Rosa! Nobody can make veal scallopini like you do here!" Her smile was wider now.

"OK, Davie, you try this. I think you gonna like it." She disappeared into the kitchen and reappeared with two plates of pasta with a creamy white sauce on it, surrounded by tiny meatballs. "Hey, Mikey, you tell Davie about the alfredo sauce." Mike's face lit up. "Alfredo sauce? Have you ever got a treat in store for you, Davie! You have never, in your life, tasted anything this good!" Mama Rosa beamed. "Mangia!" She went back to the kitchen.

We set to work, trying to eat all the food set in front of us. Mike was right; the Alfredo sauce was probably the best I had ever tasted, the meatballs were richly seasoned with a bunch of different herbs and spices, and the scallopini almost literally melted in our mouths. I had to restrain myself to keep from moaning as the rich flavors hit my taste buds.

Mike looked up from his plate. "This is as good as sex, isn't it?"

"Hardly! But I guess it is in the running for second place!" We laughed and went back to our meal.

After dinner, complete with espresso and pastries, we dragged ourselves up from the table. Mike reached into his wallet and dropped a twenty on the table. As he headed for the cash register, I had to do it. I fished a twenty from my wallet and laid it beside the one he had left.

Again he paid with a fifty-dollar bill and asked Mama Rosa to keep the change for her back-door children. She came out from behind the register and gave him a big hug. "You a real special person, Mikey! Not many like you in this world." She hugged me, too. "You come back soon, Davie. We get you in shape." From the amount she fed us, I had to wonder if the shape she had in mind was the Goodyear blimp!

When we got back to the house, Mike parked in the driveway and got out quickly. He came around and opened my door. Then he stood there, waiting, as I got out. He looked at me. "I didn't want to press my luck, Davie, but…."

"Would you really stay over again?" I could hardly contain my happiness at just the thought. He went around to the back of the car and opened the trunk. He took out his clothes for tomorrow; he was grinning shyly.

"I sort of hoped I could, but I didn't want to be pushy. You have your own life to lead, and maybe you don't want me underfoot all the time."

"Mike, if you had any idea what my life was like before you came into it, you wouldn't even think such a thing! And, to answer the question, YES, I want you around—I'd hardly call it 'underfoot'!—as much as you're willing to be here!"

"Let's get in the house right now, or I'm going to give your nosy neighbors something to talk about!"

We hurried to the house, I unlocked the front door, and we went in. Mike was just behind me, and he shut the door with a resounding slam. "There! Now the neighbors can't see a thing! Come here, you!" We didn't watch any TV that evening.

The sun was shining brightly Friday morning when I woke up. Mike was curled next to me, sleeping peacefully, so I decided to leave him there while I got ready for work. I hurried into the bathroom. I was through and on my way out, when I heard him mumble. I hurried into the bedroom. He was still asleep, but he had a big smile on his face. He mumbled again, "Davie, I love you." Then he sighed and rolled over. I almost floated into the kitchen to make the coffee.

When it was ready, I sat down at the table with my first cup of the day. I couldn't believe how alert and full of energy I felt this morning; we hadn't had a lot of sleep the past few nights. Then I remembered; today is Friday.

Friday, Black Friday, the night I have to have dinner with his parents! Oh, God, what do I do now? I promised Mike, and I promised his mother I'd be there, but I think I'm going to be sick to my stomach! How can I face these people, knowing that they know! His mother seems to accept the idea, but his father is my big boss! What if he doesn't like me? What if he decides that the best way to cure his son of this obsession is to get rid of me? What if…? Stop this, Dave! You're going to drive yourself crazy! You're just going there for dinner. These are civilized people; they're not going to shoot you over dessert! His father seems like a nice enough person. I mean, I've never really talked to him; I always managed to be somewhere else when he was visiting the plant. But I've heard him talking to the guys on the line. He seems to be an ordinary person, not some wheeling, dealing CEO!

I glanced up at the kitchen clock. Oh, boy, I'd better get Mike up and moving! We don't want to be late to work, today of all days! That's all I'd need, for Mr. Wheeler to call Mr. Dorczek and tell him what a bad influence I was on his son! Of course, how would he know? Except that we came in together every day now, so he'd be sure to notice. I went into the bedroom. Mike was lying on his back now, sprawled and covering most of the bed. I just stood there and looked at him for a minute. Thank you, God, for bringing this wonderful man into my life! Then I bent over and whispered in his ear, "Mike, you've got to get up now." He mumbled something and swatted toward me. I jumped back. OK, if you're going to make this difficult! "Mike, you've got to get up now!" He opened one eye. "I heard you the first time! Now leave me alone!" He started to roll over, away from me, but I pounced on him. "No, you don't!" I don't know why, but I started tickling him. He came up from the bed in a standing position. "Oh, jeez, don't do that! I can't stand being tickled!" Hmm! Another bit of information to store away, in case of future need. I went back to the kitchen and listened to him grumbling his way to the bathroom.

When he emerged a little later and came into the kitchen, he was in a better mood. "Good morning! How are you feeling this morning?"

"Better, now that you're not trying to knock my head off!"

"Sorry about that! I'm kind of hard to wake up. You can ask my Mom about that tonight at dinner."

"I think not! Mike, I'm really nervous about this evening. What if I say or do something stupid, and your folks don't like me?"

"For God's sake, you're meeting my parents, not the royal family of England! They're nothing to be afraid of!"

"I'm sure that Phillip's and Elizabeth's children don't think they're anything to be afraid of, either, but I'd be nervous about meeting them, too."

He just shook his head. "Hopeless! Do I at least get a cup of coffee, after the way you harassed me this morning?" He grinned.

"Coffee coming up, milord!" I went to the cupboard and got another cup. I poured his coffee, set it in front of him and sat down. We sipped our coffee in silence for a couple of minutes. Then he looked up at the clock.

"Oh, boy, we ought to get going, so we can stop for breakfast before we have to be at work!"

I dumped the remainder of our coffee into the sink and set the cups on the counter. "I'm ready when you are, Boss!"

Work went surprisingly smoothly for a Friday. At lunch time, Mike appeared at my office door. He had two bottles of soda under his arm and he was carrying two sandwiches from the machine. "I didn't know what you'd like, so I got a couple of different ones. He laid the sandwiches on the desk and pulled the bottles from under his arm. "Would you rather have cola or root beer?"

"Oh, gee, I haven't had root beer in ages, and I always loved it as a kid." He grinned and set the bottle of root beer in front of me.

"Now, you've got a choice, chicken salad or ham and cheese. I really hope you like one of them!"

"Actually, I like both. I got first pick on the drinks, so you get first pick on the sandwiches!"

"Well, their chicken salad is really pretty good, but I think I'm in a mood for ham and cheese." He passed the chicken salad sandwich over to me and sat down. "Do you have a bottle opener?"

"Uh, no. I usually drink coffee, and I don't need a bottle opener for that!"

He grinned. "Well, I just happen to have one on my key ring. I used to be a Boy Scout; be prepared, and all that!" He fished his key ring out of his pocket, opened the bottles and put the key ring back in his pocket. He lifted his bottle, as if he were going to give a toast.

"To you, and to an undying love!" I almost burst into tears; I just sat there for a minute and looked at him.

"Mike, that was the sweetest thing to say, and I'd like to return the toast to you." We lifted our bottles and touched them together, then took a drink.

After lunch, I got busy and finished my work, so that I wouldn't have it hanging over me all weekend. Mike came by about two o'clock and picked up the pay checks to distribute to the line crew. He reminded me that we had a date after work. That, I really didn't want to hear, just then.

At quitting time, Mike stopped by the office to get me. We signed out and left. When we got to my house, we both headed for the bedroom and stripped down. We got into the shower together and managed with a minimum of playfulness. When we went back into the bedroom, Mike opened my closet and took out a sport shirt and a pair of nice slacks. When did they get in there? I didn't see him bring them into the house. This boy can be downright sneaky at times!

When we were dressed and ready, Mike looked at me. "Well, are you ready to meet the family? I sure hope Milo and his family can be there!"

"Thanks for reminding me! I've already got butterflies the size of Andean condors in my stomach. Please don't make it any worse!"

"It's a family dinner, for God's sake! We're not having dinner at the White House!" He paused and grinned. "Well actually, it is a white house, but not that one!" He slapped me on the butt. "Let's go!"

He drove us to a part of town I wasn't too familiar with, a working-class neighborhood of older, but neatly kept up homes, surrounded by neat lawns. He pulled up in front of one of the houses. "Well, this is it. That's Grandfather's house, next door." He pointed.

We got out of the car and started up the walk. Someone must have been watching for us, because the front door opened, and his mother stepped out on the porch. "Hi, Davie! I'm so glad you could come! She met me as I came up the steps, her arms open. She folded me in a warm hug and kissed me on the cheek. I could feel my ears getting hot, and Mike was chuckling behind me.

"Yeah, I guess you were right. They aren't going to be glad to see you." He hugged his Mom and took me by the arm. In an ominous tone, he announced, "Now, it's time to meet the patriarch!" We went into the house.

Editor's Notes:

Oh dear, I sure hope that Davie makes a good impression on Mike's dad. I'm kidding, I'm sure he will. Davie is always putting himself down. We need to remember that he is not anything close to being a bad person. I know so many people like that. Of course, that has never been a problem for me. I know I'm really a cool person. Everyone tells me that, so it must be true. Who am I to argue with someone who has put up with me for over 37 years? Hey, that's enough about me.

I am so happy for Davie and Mike. I am already certain that they are made for each other, and from what we have seen so far, it looks like Mike's family thinks so too.

See you next time.

Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher