A Charmed Life part 2

Disclaimer: Characters are completely my own. Feedback, comments, can be sent to fotb_jc@yahoo.com.


Chapter 5

This is where my story starts to get somewhat “strange”, so you’ll have to bear with me.

After everything had faded away, I entered into a sort of dim netherworld, surrounded by grayness and silence, a place with no sense of the passage of time or the turning of the Earth. It was a dark, endless void, in which I drifted with little thought or emotion.

In an attempt to introduce some levity here - picture this - if you’ve ever smoked way too much pot in one sitting, you should have a vague idea of what I mean. While there, I seemed to have no capacity for rational thought. It was as if there were no words to think with and nothing in particular to think about.

Considering I felt no pain, remorse, or regret, it wasn’t an entirely unpleasant place to be. I have absolutely no idea how long I was in this place. It could have been hours and it could have been centuries.

Gradually, or suddenly - I’m not quite sure - I emerged into what appeared to be the inside of an immense, bustling airport terminal (or at least airport terminals as they used to be before they subdivided them into small, claustrophobic access-controlled areas in the interests of security - post 9/11).

It was full of swarming masses of people with indistinct features milling about, sitting in uncomfortable-looking rows of plastic chairs, or lined up at what appeared to be ticket counters. The din of incomprehensible voices was incredible. I could hear people talking all around me, but the words were absolute gibberish - the language a polyglot, and one I’d never heard before. Everything seemed slightly indistinct, and sepia-toned.

I wandered around through the bustling chaos, feeling increasingly frantic, until eventually I saw an older woman who seemed somehow familiar – she looked vaguely like the woman who had been my favorite teacher in grade school, Mrs. Pollard - slim and petite, with short, pinned back, slightly graying hair and a gentle smile. To my amazement she was holding a sign in front of her chest, on which was written my name, “Shawn Hudson” in her perfect penmanship.

“Mrs. Pollard? Is that you?” I asked, bemusedly.

She smiled at me. “If that is who you want me to be. But since you’re no longer my student, perhaps you should just call me Nancy.”

“What – where am I? What is this place?” I asked, gesturing around me.

“It’s a place where you come to meet people – and it’s a place where you come in order to go somewhere else – someplace…” Here she hesitated and smiled, “…someplace very nice, in your case. I’m here to help you do that.”

Her words suddenly reminded me of my family at home, of the daughter I had promised I would never leave. “But - but I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to go someplace nice. I just want to go home to my family. They need me.”

Mrs. Pollard frowned at me sympathetically. “I’m afraid that’s not possible, Shawn. Time only goes in one direction in the world you just departed from you know. The body you once inhabited has long since been returned to the Earth.”

At this, a wave of despair and panic washed over me.

“But I’ve got to get back to them. I promised Kris I’d try my best to always come back home to her. I can’t break that promise.” Mrs. Pollard just frowned at me all the more.

“Don’t you understand?” I exclaimed. “This is all some big, fucking, stupid mistake. That gun wasn’t supposed to go off. That guy didn’t even mean to shoot me. I wasn’t supposed to die.”

Mrs. Pollard seemed at a loss for words and looked at me sadly. “We need to go now Shawn. Your family will join you in their time.”

“No!” I exclaimed passionately, “ They need me in their lives now. I – “, my voice caught, my emotions overcoming me, “ I want to see my children grow up. I want to grow old with Lauren. I don’t want this - this can’t happen. You can’t make me go with you.”

With that I ran frantically into the milling crowd, putting as much distance as I could between Mrs. Pollard and myself. Somehow I knew if I took that journey with her, there would be no going back.

I don’t know how long I meandered through the crowds of people. There was apparently no end and no exit from the huge waiting area; it was like an immense infinite loop, a room of infinite dimension with no boundaries. As long as I wandered, without direction, I never saw the same face, the same chair, or the same speck on the wall twice.

Fortunately, my legs never seemed to tire, although I would periodically sit down in one of the unyielding chairs to look at the crowds swarming around me. Although I never saw the same face, in some way they all seemed to be somehow the same - the features indistinct, forgotten as soon as I walked past them, like the vague, untenable elements of a dream.

Suddenly, after minutes, hours, years of this aimless wandering - I looked up to see Mrs. Pollard again standing right in front of me, a gentle smile on her face.

“I told you I wasn’t going with you,” I said defiantly. “I’m going to find some way back to my family.”

Mrs. Pollard grinned secretively. “Well - that’s why I’m here, Shawn. I’ve been talking to them about you.” She patted my shoulder indulgently. “You always were one of my favorite students. Let me help you. I think I may have worked out something for you.”

“Them?” I asked, feeling a glimmer of hope. “Who are “them”?”

“Just think of them as kind of like the administrative staff here.” Mrs. Pollard replied, chuckling. “Someone has to bring some order to all this chaos. Come with me and we’ll talk to them together.”

With that Mrs. Pollard ushered me into what appeared to be a sparsely appointed meeting room. Harried looking men and women in rumpled, indistinct business attire sat around a large table. A man at one end of the table motioned to us to sit.

The man at the head of the table, who bore a striking resemblance to the administrator at the hospital at which I’d completed my residency, a somewhat unpleasant man named Arthur Brantley, peered at me in an agitated fashion. “Mrs. Pollard tells us you want to go back – is that true?”

“Y-Yes, I do.” I stuttered. “More than anything. I have to – I made a promise to my daughter. I promised her I’d always find a way home to her.”

“You do realize you can’t possibly go back to your former existence? The corporeal being that was Shawn Dale Hudson no longer exists in that world,” he said, looking at me like I was profoundly unintelligent.

“I - I do realize that – I guess…I mean – I don’t know what’s possible or what’s impossible. I don’t understand any of this.” I glanced over at Mrs. Pollard, who nodded at me and smiled encouragingly.

“I don’t care how I do it, as long as I can get back to my family in some way. Even if I can only watch them from a distance – I don’t care if it’s as the fucking family dog - I…“ Mr. Brantley interrupted me, raising his hand impatiently.

“Listen, Ms. Hudson, this is what we can do – really the only thing we can do –“ Here, Mr. Brantley glanced over at Mrs. Pollard. “Mrs. Pollard personally put a lot of time into finding what she felt would be the best fit.”

“Fit…?” I asked, confused.

“Yes – ‘fit’. You know - a human body you can occupy when you go back.” Mr. Brantley responded impatiently.

“Body?“ I interjected. “Will – will someone have to die for me to go back?”

“Well, not ‘die’, exactly,” Mr. Brantley stated, “More like ‘give up’ – surrender dominion over their body. You know – commit or attempt to commit suicide. That’s the only time we can do this – if someone voluntarily gives up his or her body before its time. Life is an incredible blessing you know, and not many people surrender it willingly – and it really only works even then if the demise is not particularly – umm – ‘messy’”.

“So - you’re telling me someone out there is going to commit suicide and you are going to place me into his or her body?” I asked incredulously.

“’Her’ – it’s a woman.” Mr. Brantley replied. “And yes, that is exactly what I’m telling you.”

“I – can’t you stop her?” I asked, horrified, looking at Mrs. Pollard uncertainly.

“No - we don’t interfere - can’t interfere really - with human will.” Mrs. Pollard replied. “You know, the world you are familiar with is a product of eons of good and bad choices; free will I think they call it.”

“But what will happen to her?” I asked, feeling a strange kinship with the woman whose misfortune would facilitate my re-entry into the world.

Mrs. Pollard spoke up. “Eventually, she’ll come to a place much like this one, but for her it will be a much longer and possibly more difficult journey to come to that “nice place”. Death is not something that should be entered into lightly you know.”

“Are you ready to hear more about her?” Mr. Brantley asked.

“Yes – I guess I need to know everything about her if I’m supposed to assume her life.” I said, glancing at Mrs. Pollard, who smiled at me reassuringly.

“Oh – don’t worry. You’ll have access to her memories when you inhabit her body.” Mr. Brantley responded, almost smiling. “I just wanted to give you the ‘Reader’s Digest’ version.”

“Wait a minute –“ I interrupted. “First I want to know why you thought this particular woman was the best fit for me.”

“Oh – well…” Mrs. Pollard hesitated, “In some ways, the two of you are very much alike, although in other ways, you couldn’t possibly be more different.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Well, first of all, you are essentially the same age,” Mrs. Pollard replied. “Your intellectual capabilities are roughly equivalent. Essentially, the overall human potential you were born with – mental and physical - is almost identical, although the poor woman never came close to reaching her potential because of the circumstances of her life, whereas you essentially realized yours.”

“She also lives – or lived - in the same city as you did. Oh – and she’s also a lesbian…” Mrs. Pollard interjected, smiling, “…although she’s never exactly admitted it – even to herself.”

“Okay – so how exactly are we different?” I asked, glancing between Mr. Brantley and Mrs. Pollard.

“Well – that’s the somewhat difficult part.” Mrs. Pollard responded, looking over at Mr. Brantley.

“”Damn. I knew there was a catch somewhere –“ I said, rolling my eyes.

“It’s not an insurmountable catch, Shawn,” Mrs. Pollard replied. “You see, Kate – that’s her name, by the way, ‘Kate’ – actually Katherine Haliday – had a terrible childhood. She was verbally and physically abused. The scars from that have haunted her into adulthood, and she never could move beyond that pain to become the person she had the potential to be. Instead, she descended into alcoholism and abusive relationships. Which is largely why she will attempt to end her life at only 39 years old. She’s lost all hope.” Mrs. Pollard shook her head sadly.

“Wait a minute – I though you said we were the same age? I’m just 32.” I asked, confused.

“Shawn – you were 32 when you were shot. Time doesn’t stand still when you’re in this place, you know.”

“But seven years – it seems like…” I paused thinking. “Do you know anything about Lauren and the girls – are they happy? Healthy?”

“You’ll find that out for yourself soon enough.” Mrs. Pollard said with a wry smile.

Mrs. Pollard, okay – Nancy - told me a little more about Kate Haliday, the woman whose identity I was to assume. Kate had been estranged from her family since she was a teenager. Her mother was an alcoholic who died when Kate was a small child, and her father - who made no secret of the fact he wanted a son instead of the daughter he ended up with - was a bitter, unhappy man, who was both verbally and physically abusive toward Kate.

She’d left home shortly after graduating from high school, living on the streets for a time, and eventually working a series of low-paying jobs - waitress, store clerk, hotel maid, etc. - to survive. Life hadn’t been easy for Kate Haliday, from her sad childhood to her tormented adulthood.

Kate’s father was a general contractor, and as a child she used to accompany him to building sites, fascinated with watching the gradual evolution from barren lot to a massive finished structure. Kate had dreamt of being an architect when she grew up, but with the circumstances of her life being what they were, that dream had been impossibility.

Eventually, thanks to a man who had been one of her father’s business acquaintances and who had always felt sorry for the quiet girl, she’d become a carpenter’s apprentice, intending to eventually become a building contractor like her father. She’d shown a real aptitude for the profession, particularly for finish carpentry, and had tinkered with furniture-building, but only as a hobby, since she felt her future lay more with the more practical career of construction and contracting.

She figured that contracting was about as close as she would ever get to her dream profession. She’d been making progress towards that goal before her suicide, purchasing the requisite equipment and forming relationships with other craftsmen and subcontractors. Her worsening alcoholism had started to sabotage her efforts however, and she was beginning to have trouble getting work.

When Kate was younger, she had worked through a series of disastrous and unfulfilling relationships with men, eventually giving up altogether and deciding she was destined to spend the rest of her life alone. Kate’s real problem with relationships however was that she was a lesbian and unable to accept it. Her abusive, small-minded, and prejudiced Father had quite successfully filled her with boundless self-loathing at the unwanted feelings she’d had since adolescence.

After listening to Nancy’s grim description of Kate Haliday’s life, I was reminded once again of how incredibly blessed my life had been, not understanding the unfair hand dealt people like Kate. I hoped her soul would eventually find peace.

Nancy seemed to read my mind and reached over to pat my hand. “We all eventually find peace, my dear. It just takes some of us much longer to find it because we forget the first rule of finding things.”

I frowned at her. “And what rule is that exactly, Nancy?”

She laughed. “Always look first in the place you most expect to find it. You’d surprised how many people forget to do just that.”

“Okay…” I stated, somewhat bemused.

She laughed at my expression. “C’mon, “Ms. Kate Haliday” - because that is who you are from now on, my dear - it’s time to go…”

Chapter 6

Once Nancy grasped Kate’s hand, everything seemed to fade to black. When Kate came back to consciousness, she realized with a start that she had…a tremendous hangover.

“Jesus!” Kate rose up abruptly, sending a throbbing pain through her head. She opened her eyes with some trepidation to look around. The small room she was in was a pigsty, littered with empty liquor bottles and piles of clothes. Stacks of wood and a table saw were pushed into one corner. Apparently Kate’s home was her workshop as well.

The empty pill bottle that had held the pills Kate had presumably used to commit suicide was on the floor by the bed. Kate looked down at her body and noticed she was completely naked - covered only with a light, well-worn blanket.

She rose up more gingerly this time, very conscious of her throbbing head, and stumbled toward what she guessed was the bathroom to empty her overtaxed bladder. After taking care of that urgent need, she slowly stepped over toward the dirty, cracked mirror over the bathroom sink.

One thing she had quickly figured out about her new body upon rising from the bed was it was a little shorter than she was used to – Kate was probably around 5’8” or 5’9” - about 3 inches shorter than Shawn had been.

Kate was also extremely slender, painfully so, and she strongly suspected – especially considering the liquor bottles scattered around the room – that Kate had been on an exclusively liquid diet for some time before she had decided to end it all. No – actually, she knew it - she remembered - and it occurred to her that Nancy had said she would have access to Kate’s memories.

When Kate looked into the mirror, she saw a woman with slightly wavy, shoulder-length chestnut brown hair and blue eyes, a haggard-looking woman with a haunted gaze who had probably once been very attractive, but whose face was now gaunt, pale, and old beyond her years. Her red-rimmed, bloodshot, sunken eyes looked back and at her from the mirror and she realized for the first time how difficult her journey to a new life was going to be.

Katherine Ann Haliday had quite obviously hit rock-bottom, and she was going to have to work hard to get out of this terrible place her life had come to before she could even start to work her way back to Lauren.

Kate quickly showered and searched through the clothes scattered about the house for some clean jeans and a t-shirt. Gathering the rest of the clothing up, she resolved that one of the first things she was going to have to do was visit a Laundromat, then – guessing correctly that the refrigerator was empty - the grocery. She also went through and poured out any liquor that was left over in the house.

Stepping outside the house with a load of laundry, she saw a battered white extended cab Ford pick-up truck with a toolbox on the back – her means of transportation apparently - since the keys she’d found on the kitchen counter fit the ignition.

Climbing into the truck, she knew there was one thing she was going to need to do before any of the other myriad things she needed to do to gain control of her new life. She was going to have to at least try to catch a glimpse of her family.

Hoping that Lauren hadn’t moved somewhere else, Kate drove to her old neighborhood, and parked on the street a few houses down from their old house. It was late in the afternoon and she figured the girls would be arriving home from school soon. She did some quick figuring and realized Kris would be about 15 years old and Lindsey about 10 or 11. Would she even recognize them?

A little over an hour later, her patience was rewarded. A school bus pulled up not far from where she was parked and several teenagers piled out of it. Two of them, walking side by side, caught her eye immediately. Kate knew they were her daughters and felt her eyes filling up with tears, and had to physically restrain herself from jumping out of her truck and sweeping them into her arms.

Kris was tall, almost as tall as Kate was now, and slender, with shoulder-length, shiny, black hair. Although the hair was darker than Shawn’s had been, she looked almost exactly like Shawn had looked at the same age.

There was one big difference however. Whereas Shawn had always been happy and out-going as an adolescent, Kris looked reserved and almost solemn.

Lindsey had changed so much Kate would have had difficulty recognizing her if she hadn’t been with her sister. She’d only been 4 years old when Kate had seen her last, and her hair had darkened from cornsilk blonde to a beautiful rich light brown. It was long and wavy and extended halfway down her back and Kate smiled imagining Lauren’s unwillingness to cut it off – she’d felt the same way about Lindsey’s beautiful long blonde hair when she was a child – although keeping the ultra-fine hair tangle-free had been a chore.

When Lindsey passed by Kate’s truck, she noticed that her eyes had indeed darkened to her mother’s hazel, and on closer inspection she could see a close overall resemblance to Lauren in her facial features and even in her walk.

After the girls went inside the house, Kate waited a few more hours – extremely grateful that no one appeared to be home at the house she was parked in front of – hoping to catch a glimpse of Lauren.

Eventually, a dark green Audi station wagon pulled up in the driveway of the house, thankfully stopping short of the garage. Lauren stepped out, carrying a laptop case and dressed in a slightly rumpled business suit, with a dark blue skirt and heels. Even from a distance Kate could tell Lauren was as beautiful as ever, and just the sight of her gave Kate the strength she knew she would need to work her way back into Lauren’s life.

Kate left, somewhat comforted by the knowledge that her family was safe and whole, resolved to do whatever needed to be done to be part of their life again.

Chapter 7

Within a few short months, her journey was already well underway, and she was settling more into herself – into Kate, everyday. As she sorted through memories of someone else’s life, she felt Kate’s pain, insecurity, and fear, but with a sense of detachment and confidence that kept it from overwhelming her. Almost as if Kate was a part of her, she felt herself letting go of all the pain and anger that had held Kate back for so many years.

Sobriety, exercise, and eating properly had added a healthy glow to her skin and some much needed weight to her frame. Her body had already been pretty muscular as a side effect of Kate’s profession, but she had also begun running in the mornings since she felt the cardiovascular exercise would help to detoxify her body.

When she looked in the mirror now, she saw a completely different woman than the one she was first confronted with – she saw a woman who looked years younger, with lustrous chestnut hair, lively blue eyes, and a charming smile.

She had also been working regularly. Kate’s financial situation had been the one thing about her life that had been pretty stable – apparently about the only thing she’d spent money on was alcohol. Although she didn’t have a lot of cash on hand, she had essentially no debt and an excellent credit record.

Kate sold her house and truck and bought a small rundown two-story building located in a resurgent area near downtown. The building had formerly housed a small printing press and on first looking at it she knew it would make an ideal, highly visible, centralized business location. The second floor she planned to renovate into her living quarters and the room that had been used to house the printing press would make a perfect place for her workshop.

Staying busy not only helped her rebuild her life, but helped her keep her mind occupied so that she didn’t dwell on Lauren. She worked sixteen-hour days, working multiple jobs to quickly restore her reputation, and then coming home to work on remodeling her new home. Surprisingly, when she needed to relax, she usually found herself retiring to her workshop to work on a new piece of furniture for her living quarters. The more pieces she built, the more intricate and detailed the pieces became.

In addition to moving to a more visible business location, Kate had also bought a new black four-door Ford F-250 pick-up truck and had “Haliday Contracting” and a custom logo, a stylized HC, painted on the side. Although Kate had previously worked largely in commercial contracting, her intention was to move more into home construction and remodeling. To that end, her next step was to take out ads in local papers, with the intention of targeting a largely female clientele, since she felt that many women would prefer working with a female contractor.

It was during this endeavor that she had the shock of her life. Kate had been to several newspapers in town taking out ads. The last newspaper she’d gone to was The Spectator, the largest circulation newspaper in town and one of the largest in Virginia. The newspaper offices were large and bustling and somewhat chaotic, and she found myself lost and sitting in the reception area while the receptionist was busy with someone else.

Kate glanced up to see a sight that caused her heart to flutter wildly in my chest. It was Lauren, in a tailored white blouse and trim gray tweed skirt, looking absolutely gorgeous.

Kate reflexively jumped up from her chair, which startled Lauren and caused her to turn and look in Kate’s direction. Their gazes locked together instantly - and time seemed to stand still – for Kate at least.

Kate stepped forward and held out her hand awkwardly, “Hello – I’m, uh, Kate – Kate Haliday.”

Lauren glanced at the hand before taking it somewhat hesitantly. She felt a strange surge go through her at the contact.

“Nice to meet you, Ms. Haliday. I’m Lauren Hudson. Can I help you?” Lauren asked, smiling politely.

Kate hesitated. “Do you work here?”

“Yes, I’m the, um - ,” Here Lauren hesitated, “ – Editor of the newspaper.”

“Oh.” Kate was instantly embarrassed and at somewhat of a loss as to what to say. “I’m sorry to bother you, Ms. Hudson. I’m here to place an ad for my home contracting business. Could you point me toward the advertising department?” Kate felt like an idiot.

“I can do even better than that – how about if I take you there?” Lauren smiled at the shy woman with the charming smile and familiar manner, motioning her to follow and directing her to elevators.

The elevator stopped on the third floor and Lauren directed Kate to the receptionist. Before Lauren could leave, Kate pulled a business card out of her back pocket.

“Oh – Ms. Hudson.” Lauren turned and smiled politely at Kate, who was holding out the business card. “If you ever need any remodeling work done on your home, I hope you will give me a call. I think you would be very pleased with my services.”

Lauren took the card and smiled again at Kate before turning to go. Laughing to herself as she boarded the elevator, she couldn’t help but think that she was pretty certain that she would be pleased with Kate’s services – she was a very nice-looking woman.

The thought itself startled Lauren, being as it was the first twinge of sexual attraction she’d felt for anyone in almost 7 years, since the worst moment of her life.

Lauren slipped the card in the side pocket of her skirt. Now that the girls were getting older and having more friends over, maybe now was the time to add that new large family room on to the house…

Chapter 8

It was a few months later before Lauren began seriously considering undertaking the home renovations she’d put off for years. When she and Shawn had first bought their home, Kris was a toddler and Lindsey was not yet born. They’d fallen in love with the house at first sight, but had planned all along to make some major renovations as their family grew. After Shawn’s death, Lauren had lost all interest in making the renovations they’d planned. She’d even briefly considered selling the house, since it was where Shawn had died. Nevertheless, there were a lot of good memories associated with the house as well, and she had decided she couldn’t bear to part with it.

Lauren had contacted several contractors to get estimates on the renovations she had in mind, but after dealing with a few of them, she’d almost decided to forget the whole thing. Most of them were either condescending or patronizing, and she’d briefly considered calling Mason, Shawn’s brother, to have him deal with them since she suspected a lot of the problem was the fact that she was a single female.

Contemplating her dilemma one day in her office and on the verge of giving up, she retrieved the dog-eared business card for Haliday Contracting from her purse. Noticing the address was only a slight detour on her way home, she decided to drop by Kate Haliday’s shop, for some reason too nervous to call her. What was it about the woman that made her so nervous?

Later, Lauren pulled up in front of a beautiful old building with the distinctive Haliday Contracting logo affixed to the front. She’d seen the structure before when it was in dilapidated condition, with a cheap facade that hid the circa-1800’s architectural details, and she was extremely impressed with the now beautifully restored façade of the storefront.

She walked up to the building and opened the door, which was equipped with an old-fashioned bell that rang when she entered. Kate hallo’ed from the back as Lauren fidgeted nervously and studied the tastefully appointed reception area.

When Kate emerged from the back, Lauren’s heart skipped a beat. Kate had obviously been in the process of working on something in the back. She was slightly disheveled looking and covered with a sheen of sweat. Her dirty white sleeveless tank top revealed her beautifully-muscled arms and her worn jeans clung to her narrow hips and long slender legs.

Lauren has horrified to realize she was staring at Kate. My God, what must she think of her? Kate however, seemed to be struck speechless as well.

Finally, Lauren remembered why she was here. “Hello, Ms. Haliday, I’m Lauren Hudson – Do you remember me from the newspaper offices? We met a few months ago.”

Kate smiled, relieved that Lauren had broke the tense silence. “Of course, Ms. Hudson – and please call me Kate. What can I do for you?”

“I’ll call you Kate only if you call me Lauren.” Kate nodded. “Actually, I’m considering remodeling my home and I remembered your offer. I’ve had a few people come in and give estimates, but I wanted to give you an opportunity to bid on the work as well.”

Kate felt slightly giddy at the prospect. “I really appreciate that, Lauren. Actually, I’m glad you came by instead of calling. I’ve just finished renovating my apartment upstairs. You might want to look at it to get an idea of the quality of my work. It’s probably more “industrial” than you’d be interested in, but that style just fit the living space better.”

“That sounds like a great idea.” Lauren tried to suppress her excitement at the idea of seeing where this intriguing woman lived.

Lauren followed Kate up the curved black wrought iron steps to her apartment, having to consciously remind herself not to ogle Kate as she climbed the steps in front of her. What in the world was wrong with her?

Kate’s apartment looked like something out of Architectural Digest. Although it was small, the high ceilings and penthouse windows that revealed the sky overhead and a brightly lit cityscape on the other side of the river, made the apartment seem spacious.

“This is incredible.” Lauren murmured, almost to herself.

Kate glanced back at Lauren and blushed, obviously pleased with the compliment. Lauren had to suppress a sudden inexplicable urge to hug the appealing woman. Lauren sighed, somewhat disgusted with herself, ‘Lauren, my dear, you definitely have gone too long without getting laid’.

Just then, Lauren spotted a beautiful piece of furniture, a totally unique chest made out of a rich warm brown wood and covered in intricate inlays. “This is a beautiful piece of furniture. I’ve never seen anything like it. The workmanship is incredible, but it doesn’t look antique. I didn’t know you could buy anything of this quality anymore.”

Kate smiled somewhat sheepishly. “You can’t. I built that myself. As a matter of fact, I made most of the wood pieces in here.”

Lauren was stunned. “You do realize you have an incredible talent. Do you sell your pieces?”

“Well – I have in the past, but recently I’ve just been making pieces for my own enjoyment – it’s kind of a hobby.”

Walking back downstairs, Lauren gave Kate her address and made arrangements to meet her on Saturday to go over the renovations she wanted to make.

Driving home later, Lauren went over every detail of their meeting. Did she do anything inappropriate? Did she flirt with Kate? She sincerely hoped she hadn’t done anything to give Kate the wrong impression. She seemed like a sincerely nice person and Lauren didn’t want to leave her with the impression she was interested in anything more than a business relationship or maybe even a friendship.

That wouldn’t be fair to her and it wouldn’t be fair to Lauren, but most of all Lauren’s heart told her it wouldn’t be fair to Shawn.

To be continued in Part 3

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