Chapter 6

Terry was relived to be home after the week long camping trip. She unloaded her dirty clothing in the wash and could finally take a hot, relaxing shower. She sorely missed the modern conveniences. A week with no microwave, not running water, no privacy and no refrigerator made her re-examine just how lucky she was to live in modern society.

She found camping to be dirty and tiring and yet, she missed it already. Not the actual camping but rather those she spent time with. Namely Kyle and Jessie. After dropping her at the apartment, Kyle headed back home with a truckload of dirty clothing and a tired out teenager.

Jessie certainly dreaded dropping Terry off. The teen had trouble letting go. Holding Terry tight in a goodbye embrace as she disembarked from the vehicle. Terry assured her they would see each other soon and for the teen to go home and get some rest.

After a soothing shower she noticed her cell phone had a notification screen displayed. One missed call. One voice mail. Wrapped in her robe, she picked up the device and looked at the number. It was Kyle's. Curious she retrieved her voice mail.

"Mom, it's Jessie. Um...wondering if we could talk."

She shook her head. "Obviously it's you, Jessie."

Then she heard another voice in the background, it was Kyle's, "Are you bugging Terry already? Jessie hang up the phone."

Jessie's voice exclaimed, "But Dad. I want to talk to mom."

"Not on my work phone," his voice stated.

She whined, "We have no other phone."

Terry pressed the number to call her back.

She heard Kyle's voice, "Yello! Hey Ter."

"Got Jessie's message."

"Yeah, she had to call fist thing," he admitted.

"You know, if she had her own phone she call or text me anytime."

Kyle miffed, "A teenager with a cell phone! You know what kind of trouble you're asking for?"

"Kyle, they have parental controls on the cell phones now. Tell ya what. I'll pay for it. I will place it under a family plan which will give us control over how much she uses it. When and who she calls. They even have child locator so we can track her."

"Really, track her too?"

"Yup, tagged like a deer."

"Cool!" He grinned, "Alright, if you are willing to pay for it and put on controls then I guess she can have one."

"Good, her birthday isn't till spring. Right?"

"March."

"How about I give it top her for Christmas? Make a good present for her."

"She will flip," he agreed. "Okay...It's up to you."

"Good!" She started to brush her hair in the mirror, "Unpacked yet?"

"Just about. Took a shower. Jessie's getting cleaned up now. You?"

"Took a shower. Brushing my hair."

"Hair wet?"

"Yup."

"Watch' a wearing?" he mischievously asked.

She looked down at herself, "A robe. You?"

"Buck naked!"

"Um...Maybe I should let you go then?"

"Terry," he started to laugh. "I'm kidding. I'm in lounge pants and a t-shirt."

"Oh, ha-ha!" She rolled her eyes feeling rather foolish.

"So, wearing anything under that robe?" he asked playfully.

She looked at herself in the mirror. Her expression of annoyance was priceless. She wore nothing but the robe for just stepped out of the shower.

Deciding to indulge him even more she replied, "I'm totally naked and really hot and horny." The statement had a sarcastic overtone to it.

He paused, "Um...you really hot and horny or just kidding?"

Her eyes rolled back, "What do you think, Kyle?"

"Kidding?"

"Bingo."

"Oh," he sounded depressed. "I thought I was turning you on. Ya know...It's been a while since I turned anyone or anything on."

"Wasn't the last thing you turned on your ex-wife…'The Whacko?'"

"Yeah," he sighed.

She became blunt, "Kyle, I like you. I really, really like. Heck, I adore you. You're still cute. You're a wonderful father and love being a part of your family. But if you really want me hot and horny you're gonna have to work at it."

"Um...How much work?" he grimaced.

"I'm a bit of a romantic myself. Not into hot and horny," alluded she.

He grumbled, "Romantic? Augh, geez. You mean like flowers, candy and dates?"

"Yup," she grinned. "Dancing too. Slow romantic dancing."

"Gawd," he complained. "Hot and horny is so much easier."

"Obviously," she stated.

"Okay, how about a compromise? Family night out? You, me and Jessie go out for dinner and then to a movie?"

"That's sounds like fun."

"Closes thing to a date you're getting out of me," he jested.

Terry snickered, "I see. So, how do you plan on getting a female into bed with you? By telling her you're hot and horny and she's looks great naked?"

He shrugged, "It could work!"

Terry laughed, "And not be paying her?"

"Um..."

"Okay, when is dinner and movie night with the Hicks family?"

"How about this Saturday?"

"Sounds good."

Kyle agreed, "It's a date then?" He couldn't believe his own ears. A date? He hadn't been on a date since high school.

"Okay," Terry beamed. "I'll see you and Jessie this Saturday night."

"See ya then," Kyle agreed. He hung up the phone.

Terry looked at herself in the mirror. "I have a date? Oh my god...I have a date!"

One Week Later

One more grueling week at work for Kyle. He dreaded it and couldn't wait till the weekend. Not only to rest but also to see Terry once more. She was constantly on his mind. So much so, it showed even at work.

Kyle seemed distant to Paul and Nadine. Quieter than usual, yet very cheerful when he did speak. Finally lunch time rolled around. Kyle sat with a cooler between his legs, back against a plywood wall. The small group of construction workers sat in a circle. Kyle hadn't even really noticed they had been steadily losing men. Nor, that the jobs were getting more scares. He sat happily with his sandwich and thought of nothing but the woman down the road.

Nadine spoke up, "Kyle, what's ya doing this weekend? Any plans?"

"Yup," he grinned. "Going out to dinner and a movie with Terry."

Paul snickered, "You got a date?"

"Not really," he tried to explain.

Paul cut him off, "Man, you're already pussy whipped."

He huffed, "I am not!"

"Come on, man. Your kid calls her 'Mom' and you are going out for dinner and a movie? Not to mention all that time you two spent alone in the woods. In the tent. You're pussy whipped."

"Nothing happened...We talked."

Another worker heckled, "Ya right."

He tried to explain, "She's not like that. Terry is classy. Not some slut. Yes, Jessie wants her to be her mother but that's different."

"Pussy whipped," Paul insisted.

"Am not," Kyle found the teasing irritating.

Nadine tried to calm the situation, "Guys come on. Terry is really cool. She's very well off and very nice."

"Well off?" One of the men asked.

"Owned Bauchald's!" Paul stated. "Woman is loaded like a baked potato."

Kyle rolled his eyes.

Paul heckled him, "Hey once you marry her you can be Mr. Bauchald."

He warned, "Paul, if you weren't my best friend, I would hit you for that."

Paul announced to his workers, "Kyle is gonna marry this chick for the money. He'll be rich. Right, Mr. Bauchald?"

"Shut up!" He yelled at his friend.

Nadine suggested, "Well, Kyle the money would really help you. Seriously do think about it. In case you haven't noticed, the construction business has tanked lately."

"I'm not marrying her."

"She paying ya for sex then?" Paul wondered.

"No," Kyle sneered. "We are not having sex. Jeepers what is wrong with you? We're just friends. Very close friends. And I am not after her money. I have not asked her for a single red cent."

One of the workers chimed in, "Then can I marry her? She look good?"

"So-so," Paul waved his hand in a flat motion.

The rugged worker shrugged.

Kyle huffed, "She's pretty."

"Pretty rich!" Paul added, "Hey, for that kind of money looks can be over-looked."

Nadine elbowed her husband, "Terry is very pretty. She has a very nice face. Athletic, petit. She not a super model but neither am I."

Paul looked at his men and explained, "She's better looking now. But in school...Just awful. Huge geek! We used to call her 'Eggy Buckwald.' But, she's rich and for that kind of money she can buy any look she wants." Looking at Kyle, "Or any man she wants."

He put his sandwich down in disgust.

Nadine looked at him, "You okay?"

"I'm not hungry," was all he stated.

Seeing his friends reaction Paul wondered if maybe he went too far. He quieted down.

He searched for something to say, "Hey man...I would marry her."

Steel-eyed he looked at his friend, "We are not getting married. What part of that don't you understand?"

One of the men suggested, "Hey man, if the money's good then marry her."

Nadine closed her eyes for a moment, gathering her thoughts, she then looked at Kyle's red face, "I like Terry, Kyle. If you like her that's all that matters. Not the money; not anything else." She then looked at the men and pointed to her husband. "Terry took away his 'grill master crown' and he's a bit jealous."

"She's a professional chef!" Her husband whined, "I never had a chance. The deck was stack against me."

One of the workers hollered out, "Money and cooks too? Damn, can I marry her? My wife is poor and can't cook."

Kyle defended her, "She worked really hard in her restaurant to get were she is. She worked seventy hours a week, every week for years. She deserves every cent she made."

Paul smiled slightly. He liked seeing Kyle defend Terry's honor. It meant her truly found someone special in his life. He started to whistle an old child hood tune.

Kyle glared at him, "Grow up!"

Weekend

For the entire week work for Kyle was a dreaded situation. Paul and the other guys had a field day with his attraction to Terry and the insistence of her wealth as means to a relationship. Despite Nadine's attempt to counter her husband's childish behavior and even scolding him in private, Paul was relentless over the week.

Saturday couldn't come fast enough, but finally it was here. Terry drove down to Kyle's home and then the three went out to dinner in Terry's car. She was more than happy to let Kyle drive.

The three all dressed casual, jeans and sweaters, like a family going out for the weekend. They looked like the average family and nothing more. Dinner at a family restaurant. Terry offered to split the bill but Kyle refused. She offered to pay for the movie tickets and again Kyle refused. Insisting on paying for everything himself. A move which surprised his daughter, who was use to hearing his constant instance of how they couldn't afford anything.

As they entered the theater, Terry looked at Kyle and stated outright, "You paid for dinner and tickets. I will pay for snacks."

His eyes settled on how much a bucket of popcorn would cost, fifteen dollars, he gulped, "Okay. You can pay for popcorn."

She looked at Jessie, "Order whatever you want."

"Really? Anything?"

"Anything," she insisted.

"Nachos with cheese sauce?"

"Whatever you would like. Snacks are on me."

"Cool," the teen grinned.

The total bill for popcorn, milk duds, nachos and three small sodas nearly gave Kyle am attack. His eyes starred at the total. "Thirty-five dollars? Holy shit!"

Terry nodded, "Bit pricey for snacks. Look at the tickets, eleven fifty a piece. That wasn't cheap either."

"You know back when we were in school, we could get in here for twelve bucks and spend less than ten on food."

"I have never gone with you to the movies before, Kyle. This is our first date. But as a former restaurant owner, I can believe the price. Everything goes up."

"Wow, first date." Jessie grinned at them. "And I get to come with you. That's so sweet."

"This isn't really a date," her father corrected. "It's a family outing with your newly adopted mom."

Terry frowned and gave him puppy dog eyes, "I wanted this to be our first date. Can't it be our fist date?"

"Um," Kyle looked about the area. Making sure no one he knew was around, "Okay. I suppose."

The trio settled into their seats in the theater. The dim lights made it hard to see the faces around them. Terry sat between father and daughter, feeling confident Kyle placed his arms around her then placed the drink in his cup holder in his seat and reached over for some popcorn which Terry got the privilege of holding. He found something sweet and gooey in the snack.

"What did you put in it?" asked he.

"Milk duds," Terry replied. "Popcorn and milk duds. Taste good."

"Kind of like caramel popcorn," he agreed.

He suddenly felt something hit the back of his head. He reached around and found a piece of popcorn on his collar. "What the?" He looked back and spotted his worst enemy of the week. Paul and Nadine sat with their twin daughters a few rows back.

Kyle glared at him, "Paul," trying to keep his voice low.

Terry heard the name, she looked back and spotted the family, "Hey guys," she waved.

Nadine waved back, "Terry!"

Paul smiled at her, "Hey!"

She turned back towards the screen.

Kyle turned back as well and then suddenly felt another piece of popcorn hit his head, he turned back around and glared at the culprit, "Paul."

"What?" he acted innocent.

Kyle made an motion with his hand that he would be watching him through out the evening. More of a warning in reality.

The twin girls giggled at the two grown men acting like children.

Paul placed his hands above his head and made a circle as to resemble a halo.

Kyle huffed, "You're no angle, Paul." He turned back around trying to ignore the bullying.

Another Week

After another week of childish behavior from Paul, the man had enough. The only thing that kept him from quitting was Nadine's constant apologies for her husband's deeds.

To Paul it was all harmless fun. The directions of his teasing was at Kyle, a man he had known since the first grade. He enjoyed Kyle having a love interest, even if Kyle insisted they were just friends. Paul knew better, for every time his friend spoke her name, Kyle's eyes sparkled.

Kyle's only escape was the weekends when he would be able to see Terry more. This weekend was bittersweet for Jessie was going to Florida to see her grandparents.

The teen didn't want to go. Even with the lure of major theme parks she still didn't wish to leave. She loved the previous weekend when they out as a family. Mom and Dad taking her to dinner and a movie. She just adored the new arrangement. Now, she had to pack her bags for a two week trip to Grandma and Grandpa's house. Board a plane by herself and fly down over two thousand miles away. It simply just wasn't fair. She just got her new mom and now she was being sent away.

Kyle drove Terry's car to the airport. The new mom sat in the back with Jessie for reassurance.

The teen muttered, "Maybe my flight will get cancelled?"

Terry chuckled, "Come on, honey. It won't be that bad. I would have given anything to have grandparents like you have. I was lucky if I got a card from mine. You should enjoy this time you have with them. They won't be around forever."

"I know," she miffed.

"It's only two weeks," she assured.

The teen soured, "Seems like two years."

Her mother gave her a hug, "Oh, you will have a great time. Before you know it you will be complaining you have to come back home."

"No I won't," she insisted.

Shaking her head, "Yes, you will. I would love to go to all the places you're gonna go to."

"Come with me?"

"Maybe next years. Maybe we can plan a family vacation down to Florida and I can meet your grandparents."

"Yeah, whatever." It wasn't the answer Jessie had hoped for. She just looked out the window.

Kyle shook his head, "It's just two weeks."

"Leave me alone," she told him.

He muttered under his breath, "I would have given anything for my parents to me to Disneyland when I was a kid. Sure, they take you and I get the attitude."

Terry grinned at him, "I think you and I should go by ourselves."

"To Disneyland?"

"Yeah, it would be fun. We can watch all the other parents struggle with their kids."

"Ah-ha."

She then suggested, "Maybe next year us and Paul's family can all go together?"

"No way in hell," Kyle stated.

"Nadine and the twins would love it," Terry added.

"We can take Nadine and the twins but I'm not going anywhere with Paul."

"Why not?"

"No reason," He kept the latest torture to himself.

She found the remark odd but gave no further thought at the moment.

After a grueling time at the ticket counter, a long wait through the inspection line, passing through scanners and waiting forever to get to the boarding area, the grumpy teen was finally on the plane. Her parents watching her leave before disembarking themselves.

"Well, she's off," Terry stated.

"Finally."

"You're a free man for two weeks. What's your plans?"

He shrugged as they walked back to the car, "I have some work around the house to do. Guess I won't be seeing ya that much without Jessie to visit."

"I could visit you," Terry suggested. She snuck her arm through his. Leaning closer to him as they made their way into the parking lot.

"You could," he agreed with a grin.

"How about we go out tonight? Just the two of us."

The idea was inviting for the man, "I think we can do that."

That Evening

Kyle found himself excited and terrified all at the same time. Muddled with emotions by the sudden affair and his best friend's conduct towards his attraction to Terry was abysmal, leading to a fear of absolute terror, over just what Paul would say or do, if he found out he had an actual date.

Yet, his anticipation of spending a romantic evening with Terry gave him an euphoric sense. His feet barely touched the ground. He couldn't wait to see her again. Thought about her in every aspect of his life. He wanted to make that evening remarkably heartrending. He made reservations at the most romantic restaurant he could think of…Bauchald's! Forgetting that Nadine reported the food had gone sour.

He then planned an evening at a local bar that hosted dancing and a DJ. He wasn't sure what type of music would even be playing. Never even actually considered the music or volume. For when he was younger, it was the trend and certainly would remain so.

He drove his truck to the complex. Entered the building and walked to the door. Dressed in black slacks, brown button down shirt and sporting a black jacket. Adorned with a black tie. His shoes shined after years of collecting duct in the bottom of his closet. Holding a bouquet of fresh carnations he rung the doorbell. Gulping he waited for her to answer. He felt weird. Dressed in clothes he had not worn in a decade. Holding flowers for a woman he knew in school but feared he didn't know enough about. Standing at her door, looking like what must certainly can only be described as a buffoon.

Terry answered the door wearing a light blue tank top, white shorts and tennis shoes, she blinked at him, "Oh, are we going someplace fancy? I can change."

"Um," he felt stupid standing before her. She dressed casual while he wore his best outdated attire. "Just dinner...at Bauchald's. I got reservations for two. Then dancing after words."

She grinned and leaned against the door, "You listened. Those for me?"

He stuck the flowers out before her, "Yeah, these are for you." It suddenly struck him, "I forgot the chocolates."

Coyly she accepted the flowers and smelled the aroma, "That's okay. I really don't need the extra sugar," she inhaled deep. "Thank you. Come on in. I'll go slip on something else."

He nodded as he entered the apartment. He looked around at the sparse furnishings. A small sofa, tables and small television in the living area. Over all the apartment was rather nice. Clean and neat. Decorated with cooking themed items.

"Make yourself at home. I'll be right back," she told him placing the flowers on the counter then she bolted for her bedroom to change into a something nicer.

Kyle walked around the small area. He spotted a bookshelf and wandered over to investigate. The books seemed very old on the shelf. He glanced over the titles. All were cooking books from different areas.

Quickly she emerged from her bedroom. Now wearing a blue skirt, white flat style shoes and a white shawl wrapped around her shoulders. A gold chain draped around her neck. She attended the flowers.

"Let put these in water," she sounded a bit nervous as well.

"Lots of old books," Kyle noted.

"I collect antique cookbooks. I find lots of good old recipes in many them."

"I see." His eyes settled on her, "You look good."

She glanced down at herself, "Thanks...So do you."

"I haven't worn this outfit in ten years," he confessed.

"Really?" she grinned. "It still fits."

"Yeah, little tight around the shoulders though."

"You're older now."

"True," he agreed. "Ready?"

"Ready!" She could not wait to go. Not only for her first date but also to see just how well her old restaurant was doing. She doubted it would be as bad as Nadine had told her. She looked forward to seeing her old employees again and being treated as a customer instead of the boss. It would be a nice change for the chef who spent over a decade catering to customer needs.

The first thing Terry noticed is that the parking lot was unusually empty. For a Saturday night, it should be brimming with cars. Fewer cars was an ominous sign for the former owner. Things were not going well for the old establishment.

A familiar sign glowed in the evening light, Bauchald's. A soft subtle reminder of how she spent her last decade. Working for a business and not truly for herself. She received a handsome sum of money for the chain but wondered what she had lost. What money couldn't bring back. She was eager to see her former employees and friends once more. Many of whom she lost touch with.

Upon entering the restaurant the first thing she noticed was the smell. A musty smell filled her nostrils. She couldn't help but wonder what could have caused such a smell. The interior was different from how she left it. Gray carpet lined the once hardwood flooring.

She wrinkled her nose, "Gawd, they put in carpet over a ninety thousand dollar floor."

Kyle asked, "What's that smell?"

"Food stuck in the carpet, I would guess."

"Eww," he made a face.

They stood at the reception booth for what seemed like forever. No greeter awaited them. Terry glanced around the dinning room. The handpicked decor of antiques she had gathered were stripped away, replaced with horrific paintings of abstract art which she found distasteful and lewd. The entry lobster tank had vanished. Making her wonder what became of the mascot giant lobster, Denny. The creature would have been too large to sell. And the meat would have been rather tough. Thus, when she acquired the giant lobster, years earlier, she decided to not allow the lobster to be sold but rather to use as an attraction. He was given his own aquarium behind the bar.

"What happened to Denny?" She wondered allowed.

"Denny?"

"My pet lobster."

"You mean huge lobster that was behind the bar?"

"Yup."

Kyle whispered in her ear, "I think they ate him."

"He wasn't fit enough to eat. He would have tasted horrible." Her stomach turned at the thought of Denny being someone's dinner.

"He was huge. I would eat him."

"He would be very tough," she countered. Her face drew out, "Oh my gawd. They ate Denny."

"Should have brought him with ya to the apartment then," he suggested.

"Obviously."

A young blonde hair girl, whom Terry never saw before, finally walked into the area. She went to the podium that served as the reception booth.

"Hi! Welcome to Buckwald's," she sounded rather annoyed over all. As if she was being bothered.

Terry corrected her, "It's pronounced…Ba-shald."

"Whatever," The young woman replied. "Booth or table?"

"Far corner booth please," Terry told her.

"This way."

"Corner booth?" asked he.

"I want to see the dinning area," she whispered to Kyle.

As they walked through the restaurant she noted the empty seats, half empty salad bar, dirty tables, napkins folded improperly, a horrible odor coming from a sushi bar. The spirits bar was nearly empty with just a few patron sitting nursing their drinks.

They were seated at a table that had speckles of salt across the top. Terry used a napkin to wipe the salt off. She looked around at the emptiness. Her face drew long in despair.

"I can't believe I used to own this dump," stated Terry after the girl left.

"Maybe I should have brought you someplace else? I was thinking it was the way it used to be. Sorry. I forgot that Nadine said it had gone downhill."

"I'm glad you brought me here." She reached across for his hand, "It's brings me closure. I needed to see this."

"You seem so sad though."

"It is sad. But it's not your fault," she assured him.

A brunette approached the table. Wearing a white shirt and black pants and an apron wrapped around her middle. She held the cleaner in her hand. She stopped and gulped. There was someone seated at the table before she even was able to clean it off. A mistake on the receptionist part. But what was even more intimidating was who sat at that dirty table. Her old boss.

Terry looked up at her, a smile came across her face, "Bobbie. You're still working here?"

"Oh Gawd, Terry. I can't believe it's you." Bobbie came over with the cleaner, "I can't believe she seated you before I could clean it too."

Terry took the bottle from her hands. She placed a small liquid on the table top. "What happened to all the bus boys?"

"Oh, they were laid off first thing. New owners thought they could save money by having the waitresses do their job. Sorry about the dirty table."

"It's okay, Bobbie," she finished cleaning off the table. "Can we get clean flatware and napkins?"

"Sure," the waitress replied. She quickly looked around making sure no one was listening. She admitted secretly to her old boss. "I wish you never sold this place, Terry. They don't have a clue what they are doing. Most of the staff is gone. All six restaurants are in dire shape. I know that I shouldn't be unloading like this but I thought you should know after you worked so hard for this place."

"It's okay," she told her. "I'm glad you told me. What's good to eat here now?"

"Nothing!" she replied.

Terry countered, "That's not how I taught you."

"Peanut butter and jelly is fairly safe to eat," stated Bobbie.

"Bobbie!" she grew stern.

"Honestly, do not eat the sushi or the salad bar. How about some fried chicken? They can handle a fryer."

"Okay." Terry nearly laughed, "Fried chicken breast."

Kyle had serious doubts about their romantic dinner. He had never seen a waitress advise them to order peanut butter and jelly for safety concerns.

He asked Terry, "You sure you don't want to go someplace else?"

"Nope," she looked up at Bobbie. "What happened to Denny?"

"The Baker Brothers...They ate him."

Her face paled, "The guys I sold this place to ate Denny the Lobster? They can't do that."

"They made a big joke out of eating him. Ate him first night they closed. I think eating Denny cursed this place. Been downhill ever since. But tonight is my last night, so...I'm outta here."

Terry lost her appetite, "They ate Denny?"

"Yup," Bobbie confirmed. "Apparently, he was real tough to eat too. At first these guys were like big party. Then they started doing all these changes. Laid off workers. People started quitting. Took away all the benefits you gave us. Everything is gone now. Then they put in this carpet and never had it cleaned. That's why it stinks in here."

"That's kind of what I figured was doing it."

Bobbie gave warning, "Trust me, Terry. You don't want to eat here. It's nothing like the food you used to make. Run while you have a chance."

"Bobbie," Terry gave her a look. "You don't talk to customers like that."

"I'm trying to help you," she insisted. "Seriously...It sucks here."

"Scratch the chicken. Give us two house specials. I want to see this for myself."

"You're funeral," Bobbie warned as scribbled down the order.