MORE OF SOMETHING MORE,
a story about a salesman trying to establish himself,
a CEO scheming to buy out his father's influence
and the woman important to each
Basking in the glow of conquest, Atom walked arm in arm with Helen down the Manhattan Beach pier. The day was bright, and the air rich with the delighted cries of sun worshippers and volleyball players, which overlay their quiet satisfaction as between them smoldered still the passion of the night before. After much persistence she had yielded fully, so much so his intuition gave pause to consider who was the winner and whom the won over before sinking into lovemaking’s sensory overload. On waking they fell onto each other before dozing to wake again to growling stomachs. They dressed quickly: he in shorts, polo shirt and sneakers, while she was compelled to re-wear her sleeveless burgundy dress with sandals and his oversized windbreaker.
Once hunger was satisfied, Atom played the guide, pointing out the stately pier with globe lights atop concrete stanchions every 12 paces, and the Spanish tile roof of the bulky Aquarium and Café near the end, and the hill that hunched like a wrong-way wave where the main street and overbuilt neighborhoods ran laterally. “The town’s a mix of older homeowners and younger condo-dwellers,” he said, “none of whom I have time to meet.”
When he turned to kiss her a strand of hair flicked his eyelash. He drew back as she brushed it away then tried again, successfully, eliciting her deep-throated laugh. Believing she bore greater meaning than just the carnal, he had to possess her completely and had no doubts, since he was able to overcome her resistance to a date.
With Lola’s help, he happened on her in break room, at lunch in nearby restaurants and in the underground garage, where always she declined his invitations, until the last one. Their date was Saturday, when at twilight they met at her apartment in Palms and then drove to a restaurant for dinner, and later dancing.
Auburn hair fell onto the shoulders of the burgundy dress, which matched her high heels, and a delicate gold chain accentuated her thin wrists. Wearing ivory-colored slacks, azure blue shirt and tan sports coat, his gestures crackled with intensity of wooing. Throughout the evening, each echoed the other’s appreciation of venue, food and entertainment, as wariness gave way to heightened anticipation. A new gravity seemed to weigh on the youthful enthusiasm he had noted before, with pleasing effect.
He did not know she’d broken up with her boyfriend, or that the investor parties had taken off, making her the center of attention in men’s eyes and exciting Slade’s possessive nature. She would have had difficulty describing the experience since her role seemed more to do with what she was instead of who, and was inherently personal.
Rolling waves beneath the pier rocked the pilings, gusts delivered salty spray and the high sun whitewashed their features. Going round the Café, they were for the moment separate and alone, where westward was the open sea, and to the north and south the purple hills stretched out. A tanker crossed their view cruising to the refinery with the orange-striped smokestack. They leaned against the railing.
“Slade’s lucky he’s got you.”
“I wouldn’t put it like that.”
“I’d hate to think he’s a barrier to keep us apart.”
"Hoo, hoo! Ha, ha!” The girlish laughter pierced him and he twisted a painful smile when from out of nowhere a sense-defying fog blanked out the sun, the sea and every sound except that laughter. He snaked an arm around her waist, but she pulled away, and so he stood apart until compelled to speak and fill in the white nothingness.
“You know, I envy Slade’s relationship with his father; things passing from father to son. It’s like someone watching your towel on the beach, saving your place in line, ensuring a foothold in life. Things are different then.”
“What about yours?”
“Divorced before I was five. I have some pictures, and don’t miss him. How can you miss what you never had? Only when I see others with theirs do I wonder about it.”
“Mine is big on sports and fishing. When I think of him I think of fishing. Sorry.”
“And sorry for laughing?”
“Don’t take it personal, but men always make more of something than it is.”
“I’m not talking about him--”
“He’ll take advantage. I’ll protect you, if you let me.” He set a resolute face, which blurred in the mist.
“I’m trying not to laugh. You just proved my point.”
“I want us to be close.”
“He doesn’t affect what I do, though I wouldn’t cross him. He likes fresh starts, clean sweeps and loyalty. He has a different take on the father thing and makes a point of withholding loyalty he demands from everyone else. The condo’s about sweeping him away.”
He pulled at her again, and she relented. Nuzzling the cold marble of her cheek, he held her as if clutching a world that he would surely scale and occupy.
* * *
The idea of Helen and Slade festered in Atom's mind when she wouldn't admit him to the condo saying, "Stephen wouldn't like it"; first name familiarity salted his wound. Meanwhile, the CEO's arrangement had other repercussions within and without the company.
The next chapter will be posted by August 17.
The characters and events in this story are fictitious and do not represent any living person or real event.