The Man with All the Toys
Note: No one could ever buy Herman Zucker anything since he could buy whatever he wanted thanks to his business in crude oil (which he frequently makes puns about). But one rather tantalizing woman by the name of Cosette D'Alene makes him open his eyes, takes him beyond the somewhat stuffy world he knows and introduces him to camping.
Chapter 1—Herman Zucker Can be Crude
Herman Zucker had always known the life of privilege, and he had to admit to himself that he was happy with where his business in crude oil had landed him. If it hadn't been for his father, Lucius, he wouldn't have made it to this point. Tragically, Herman only knew Lucius on a professional level. The two had never been friends, even though Lucius always called his boy, 'son, kiddo and Numero Uno' affectionately. Herman never even called his father 'dad'. He was always known as Lucius. Lucius died thanks to his excess smoking and drinking, but Herman seemed unaffected by his father's death.
Christmas came with quite a bit of fanfare in the Zucker household and at the crude oil business sales were higher than ever before. Herman adored Christmas, not for the celebration, presents or time together with family. It was all about the almighty dollar. The dollar was perhaps, his only friend. Not even his closest colleague, Greg knew what to buy him this year. After all, Herman had everything. If Greg could think of something, either he owned it, or could buy the company that manufactured it. It sincerely troubled Greg that his own colleague never even called him "friend", let alone "Greg". It was always, "Mr. Manchester". Greg suddenly had an exceptional plan. If anyone could help, it was his childhood friend Cosette D'Alene. She was just the miracle that Herman needed.
Chapter 2—The Feminine Touch
"Can't you see I'm busy counting my money ?", Herman said, his hazel-green eyes intensely focusing on his capital gain. The raven-haired man couldn't be dissuaded from the current task at hand.
"I-I'm sorry, Sir. I didn't notice you were preoccupied…", Greg stated, feeling his hands begin to shake. Cosette placed a firm hand upon Greg's shoulder.
"I'll handle this, Greg.", she whispered, walking up to Herman.
"Pardon me, Herman. I just was wondering, are you planning on taking Christmas off as usual this year ?", Cosette said. Still focusing on his money, and madly counting away, Herman nodded, but raised an eyebrow in confusion.
"What happened to your voice, Greg ? You got a cold ?", Herman questioned. The auburn, blue-eyed bombshell laughed lyrically.
"You're so lost in your work you haven't noticed you're talking to a woman ? You need this vacation worse than I thought…", Cosette stated, momentarily covering her eyes with her hand and sighed. She then waved her hand in front of Herman's face and he freaked out, jumping back in his seat.
"W-who are you ?", he asked, settling down after the initial scare.
"My name is Cosette, Herman. Greg told me all about you on my way here.", Cosette said. Herman suddenly felt himself blush and he nervously looked at his shoes for a second before looking at her again.
"It's a pleasure, Cosette. Why were you saying I needed a vacation ? Hell, I could buy an island if I wanted one, including a couple of hot hookers while I'm at it.", Herman said, boastfully. Cosette rolled her dark eyes and sighed.
"You need a different type of therapy. Whether you like it or not, mister, I am taking you camping.", Cosette stated, sounding rather maternal.
"Greg, when this is over, remind me to fire you.", Herman said, his hazel-green eyes furious with this unfortunate indignity.
Chapter 3—Not Used to the Woods
Inasmuch as Herman hated being outdoors, he had done so because it was in his friend's best interest that he did something new. Herman didn't want to admit it, but he was acting like a baby; complaining about every little thing. It was terribly cold, but for some strange reason, he felt warm. Perhaps it was because the auburn-haired lady was awfully darling in her winter clothes, or that her chocolate eyes had an intoxicating twinkle about them. He tried not to become transfixed upon those brown orbs. If she caught him staring, she would simply laugh and shake her head, wondering what Herman was daydreaming about.
It took some time for Herman to let go and relax a bit. Still Herman was far too stiff, rigid, and robotic.
"Hey, Herman ! I've got a present for you !", Cosette said, tossing a snowball directly into his face. Herman, caught off guard, grumbled and threw one back at her, hitting her in the side. She laughed and she yelled,
"Great hit, Herman, but now you're going to have to catch me !", she said, running away.
"No fair trying to hit a moving target !", Herman said, suddenly feeling like a kid again. Rushing about in the snow caused him to feel more alive than he ever had before. It didn't seem like camping in the dead of winter was such a horrendous idea anymore, and hearing the music of Cosette's laughter was the best gift he had ever received.
Herman wasn't certain of how, but Cosette had talked him into riding with her on her sled. He hadn't been on a sled since he was a little boy, and the prospect of sledding off of a dangerously tall hill.
"This is going to be one wicked ride !", Cosette said expectantly with a somewhat sinister giggle. The 35-year-old grabbed the 25-year-old's midsection and held on tightly as the sled roared down the hill at breakneck speed. The two flew over a small hill that sent the both of them into the air, and the sled fell out from underneath them.
"Oh, nuts…", Herman said, as he felt gravity's affects take hold. The two fell into a huge snow bank below, and she had accidentally fallen on top of him. Not seeing her compromising position, she helped him out of the bank and dusted him off. He had felt the warmth of her body against his and her heart rapidly beating. She smelled faintly of Celine Dion perfume and he recalled just how soft her hair was, falling against his face. His cheeks turned red about the thought of her being so close to him.
"Are you feeling alright, Herman ? Your face is awfully flush.", she said, taking her glove off and feeling his forehead.
"I-I'm fine. I think we should go back to the lodge though, I'm famished.", Herman said, with a slight stutter. Cosette secretly smiled, seemingly knowing what had just happened. For a moment, he thought perhaps he had fallen in love, but he didn't really know what love felt like. He wasn't certain if he wanted to embrace nature completely yet, since somewhere in the back of his mind, he still missed Zucker Industries. But, still, Cosette's touch, her laugh, and her sense of adventure intrigued him. There was so much he didn't know about her, and he was about to find out.
Chapter 4—Under the Stars
Later on that night, the two friends sat in the enclosed balcony watching the stars. Out here you could see the stars for miles. It reminded Herman of a time when he was a kid and his old man had taken him out for a drive in the country in his Cadillac. He was 18, and the Cadillac was about to become his. He sighed blissfully. It was the only other time he could recollect how bright the stars were, and one could see them so clearly.
"How did you ever know Greg ? You know, in all the years I've known him, he never mentioned you.", Herman said, honestly, sipping some fresh gourmet mint coco.
"We were childhood friends. Before we went our separate ways after high school, he took the path of big business and I decided to stick to helping the environment. Ironic, huh ? You know I hate your oil company, but, strangely enough, I love my car…", Cosette answered, chuckling. He had to admit, it was a rather odd circumstance, and rather humorous at that. Again, he was struck by how sensual her lips were in the light, but removed the notion of kissing her from his mind.
"Want to watch White Kissmas ? I mean…Christmas ?", Herman said, feeling a bit flustered he had made such an obvious mistake.
"Certainly, it is one of my favorites. But after that one, I get to make a pick of what I want to watch. That is, if it is alright with you.", Cosette said. She got up to select the DVD from the bookshelf, which held thousands upon thousands of DVDs. They soon sat close together to enjoy the movie, and Herman found himself smiling for the first time in a long time.
As soon as Last Holiday came to an end, Cosette had made Herman another cup of coco. For a second, their hands overlapped, and both of them blushed.
"Isn't this pleasant ?", she said, sighing euphorically. Herman unexpectedly leaned over to kiss her on the lips and grinned jovially.
"It's heavenly, Cosette. Now I know…exactly what I have been missing.", Herman stated, bringing Cosette's hand to his lips and languishing it with kisses. She tentatively and shyly, with expectation in her heart, also leaned forward and kissed him in return.
"I think I know what you mean, Herman.", she said, in a near whisper, and cuddled close to him, the two quickly falling asleep in each other's arms.
Chapter 5—Not So Stingy
When Herman and Cosette returned from their vacation in the woods, they had considered themselves 'a little bit more than friends'. Not expecting this sudden change in his superior, Greg had wondered what had caused his colleague to have such a transformation.
"I just wanted you to know that from now on, I am going to be using bio diesel instead of oil…I realize that this might cause a significant drop in my funds, but heck, I've been rich for so long completely missing the point of what true fortune means !", Herman stated, his smile illuminating the room.
"You feeling ok, Sir ?", Greg asked, looking at his superior as if he had lost his mind.
"I am feeling better than ever, Greg.", Herman stated, honestly.
"T-that's the first time you called me by name, Sir !", Greg said, befuddled by his boss's new attitude. Instantly, he grabbed the phone, which was connected to the PA in the building.
"For those of you, whom I didn't give a Christmas bonus or break to this year, consider this week as time off and you will be paid time and a half. Go wherever you want, you deserve it !", Herman shouted, with gusto. At first, the employees were stunned but left the plant in a hurry to start their vacations.
"Merry Christmas…um…belated !", he called out again as they rushed out the door. Again, Greg looked at him and the two lovers and wondered what Cosette had done to cause this kind of metamorphosis. Some details though, he felt were better suited to secrecy.
Herman learned the actual meaning of Christmas that year and every year afterwards. In this time, he had married the woman who had changed his perception entirely. His business was making even more thanks to the economical sacrifices it had made. In fact, his business was at the forefront of being economically friendly, and it was thanks to Cosette's inspiration.
Only now, Herman was looking forward to his first Christmas as a proud papa of his first little girl. Her name was Isabelle, after Cosette's mother. She had been born on Halloween, so holidays were already a big deal for her. So far, she loved every moment of the Christmas season. It was warmer, and far less scary than Halloween had been. The two were ecstatic, lost in the wonder and joy that a child could bring during the holidays. Ebullient, they held their little one close, wondering what they would face with her by their side and what she would discover in the future. Nothing could compare to the feeling they had holding her, or hearing her laugh. And no matter how old she became, her laughter would always be the best gift they ever received.