Storm at Keizer Manor
WITH ONE HAND Annet grabbed her cellphone and hit speed dial. With her other hand, she reached into a brown paper bag.
“Did it ever occur to you I would’ve appreciated it if you’d been home?” she snapped, tossing her groceries on the worn marbled Formica countertop. Butter, chips, French bread, cream cheese, and, last but not least, a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon, and two large pieces of chocolate and hazelnut cream pie.
“Why are you making such a big fuss?” Forrest protested at the other end. “It’s still early, right?”
She glanced at the round kitchen clock above the window. “Twenty minutes past six is not early!”
“Wow, that late already? Well, I guess I better be on my way soon.”
Her blue eyes sparkled like dangerous firecrackers. “Soon? Right away sounds much better. Besides, where are you?”
“I’ll explain when I’m home,” he replied, as always keeping his calm.
Annet brushed a few loose strands of long blonde hair from her forehead and took a deep breath. “Don’t forget you were supposed to pick up Chinese for dinner,” she said sweetly, letting the words sink in before she yelled, “Jerk!” and hit the red disconnect button. With a puckered brow, she slumped down on one of the rickety red leather stools at the kitchen counter.
How could he have forgotten it was her twenty-fifth birthday? Especially after they had talked about it the night before. They had planned for her to stop at the grocery store on her way back from work, and for him to pick up her favorite meal, curry chicken with white rice from Sue Ling’s Chinese Cuisine. He had promised unwaveringly everything would be ready for a relaxing and intimate evening by the time she got home. The ringing of her cellphone brought her back from her troubled thoughts. She glanced at the caller ID. At least someone hadn’t forgotten her birthday.
“Hi, Mom,” she answered brightly, bracing herself for the cacophony of self-centered chatter she knew would keep her on the phone for at least half an hour.
“Happy birthday, sweetheart. Are you having a good day?” Before she could reply, her mother continued, “You won’t believe what happened yesterday. You remember Paula, who lives across the street from me? The old gal with the faded red wig and the two black poodles? Well, she got in her car during rush hour. That red monster with the big-ass dirt tires. I have no idea why a seventy-something-year-old granny is driving a car like that. But anyway, she backed out of her driveway, without even looking, and plowed right into traffic. I happened to be outside in the yard and saw the whole thing happen. Some kind of boring-looking sedan crashed right into her, completely crunching up the front, and …” Annet closed her eyes, hoping she could muster up the patience to sit through another one of her mother’s monologues. “Chuck turned out to be such a nice guy. Can you believe that?”
“Uh, yeah,” she replied, realizing she had missed a good part of the story.
“Well anyway, he asked me out for dinner, so that’s what I’m doing right now. Getting dressed. I think I will wear the white mini skirt with the sunflowers I picked up at the Goodwill store a few weeks back. With my pale green blouse. If I still like him after we have dinner, I might open an extra button.”
Annet could just picture her mother flirting with her next victim. She’d seduce him with her red plastered mouth and tight clothes, exposing too much cleavage and giggling as if she was still a teenager.
“Ugh! Too much information, Mom,” she protested, wondering if her mother would ever be able to hang on to a man. Her entire life, Annet had seen them come and go, not one of them lasting for more than a few years, including her own father. An unwanted flicker of pain squeezed her heart, but she brushed it away. Why stress over the past? You couldn’t change it anyway. “You’re telling me you’re going on a date with a guy you’ve known for five seconds?”
“I know you pretend to be a prude,” her mother said, her voice clipped. “But I know you better than you know yourself. When it comes down to it, you are just like me!”
“Sure, Mom.” Not interested in another one of those talks, about how they were alike and such, she couldn’t have agreed less.
“I often wonder how it’s possible Forrest hasn’t run out on you yet,” her mother continued. “I know you’re gone a lot for work and that you’re tired when you come home, but I mean, the poor guy. He needs a warm-blooded woman in his bed, and you never seem to lighten up.”
“I think I hear Forrest coming home. Thank you for calling, Mom. I have to go.” Gritting her teeth, she hoped her mother didn’t realize she was lying.
“Yeah, why don’t you hang up on your fucking mother?” was the blunt reply.
Annet shook her head. If she and her mother had something in common, it was definitely their foul tongue, but that wasn’t something you could inherit. It was a matter of upbringing and as far as that was concerned, she had received none.
“Bye, sweetheart. I love you.” Her mother smacked her lips, making kissing sounds before continuing. “Have one for me tonight, will you?”
“Bye, Mom. Love you too.” Annet hit the disconnect button and groaned. “I had such a wonderful day at work, but now I wish it was over.” Her neck dripped with perspiration and she felt a trickle of sweat between her breasts. She peeled off her thick woolen sweater and draped it over the stool next to her, fanning her flushed face with both hands. What was her mother thinking, judging her like that? What did she know about her life with Forrest, about their relationship, and what they did between the sheets? Absolutely nothing. Zilch.
About nine years ago, she had moved to the small coastal town of Dunedam, with her mother and her boyfriend at the time, Brad or Dave? It was impossible to keep track. She had enrolled in the middle of her sophomore year. During first period, Forrest entered her life. He had been tall and skinny, his blond hair too long, his face covered with acne. Trying to sneak in after class had already started, he stumbled over his own feet, landing in the chair next to her. His awkward smile and whispered apology had caused her heart to skip a beat. Without warning, she had fallen in love for the first time in her life.
A key turned in the door, the sound bringing her out of her memories.
“Honey, where are you?” Forrest rang out. Dressed in a pair of black slacks, a light grey dress shirt, and cowboy boots, his Sunday best, he walked in. “Smell,” he said, swaying a plastic bag with a red rooster printed on it, in front of her nose. The familiar aroma of curry, onions, vegetables, and rice teased her nostrils. He put the bag on the counter, took a few steps in her direction and scooped her up in a warm hug.
“Congratulations, lovelove,” he whispered in her ear, nibbling gently on her earlobe. “I had an unexpected job interview this afternoon, so am I forgiven for being late?”
She leaned into him, for a moment allowing herself to relax and enjoy the familiarity of his presence and strong arms, breathing in the musky smell of the deodorant she always bought for him. Then she pushed him away with both hands. “Sorry, Forrest. Although I think that’s wonderful, this time you have to do better than that. It’s my birthday!”
Going down on one knee in front of her, he raised an eyebrow, his blue eyes wide open, as if he was in shock. “What can I do to make up for it? Just name it.” He got hold of her hand, took it between his, and sprinkled it with warm kisses. Slowly working his way up to her wrist and the inside of her arm, he pulled her closer toward him, inch by inch.
“Get up, silly,” she replied, trying to pull her hand free, but he held on tight. The next moment, she lost her balance and fell on top of him. They both rolled onto the kitchen floor, the cheap black and white checkered vinyl cold beneath them. He wrapped his arms around her slender body, catching her lips in a warm, loving kiss.
“What are you doing?” she protested, a familiar bubble of warmth rising inside her.
“Making up for forgetting it’s your birthday,” he whispered between kisses, “I won’t let you go until you forgive me.”
His blond charm and dimpled smile were heart-melting and she was struck by the love beaming from his eyes. This happy-go-lucky, laid back, and affectionate beau of hers still dazzled her with his boyish charm. Relaxing her stance, she softened against him. With Forrest, it was always impossible to stay mad…
Annet is a pregnant Twenty-first Century woman in the 1800s. How will she get back to her own time? Storm at Keizer Manor by @RamcyDiekAuthorTweet
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