Clint Roberts had been back in town less than a week when word came that his former high school civics teacher Mr. Oakwood had passed away at 87. Oakwood was one of Clint's heroes, a positive role model and mentor who left an everlasting influence on his student long after Clint left Hillsboro.
Clint attended Mr. Oakwood's funeral and when he was invited to the VFW Hall for the reception he felt both obligated and motivated to attend. He parked his car on a side street and walked through an alley to the VFW Hall, stopping suddenly when he saw the large white van truck with "Kathleen Tobin Catering" etched on the sides of the truck that was parked behind the building.
Clint hadn't seen Kat in more than twenty years but there she was - at least there was her name! Clint smiled with nostalgic warmth as he walked to the front of the hall and entered the building for the reception. He socialized with fellow mourners, ex-classmates, former Hillsboro High School faculty members, and various appreciative relatives of Mr. Oakwood over a few drinks while waiting for the luncheon to be served. Clint was feeling slightly nervous as he anticipated the sighting of Kathleen.
The Catering crew emerged from the kitchen with carts full of food which they began placing on the preset serving tables and Clint spotted Kathleen right away when she took her spot in front of the stuffed chicken breasts which she began serving to the people who began forming the line in front of the food tables.
Kathleen's once dark black hair was now a frosted blond and instead of running down her back like in the old days it barely reached the collar of her shirt. She had always been tall and Clint saw that she had maintained her figure for the most part, although her stomach looked slightly pouched and her thighs were thicker. Her eyes still sparkled and there was her familiar smile as she served the food along with three other catering workers.
Clint joined the line and watched Kathleen work as he slowly moved along. He was given red potatoes, a salad, and a roll by the other workers and suddenly Clint found himself standing in front of Kathleen. She wore more makeup than Clint remembered, but at forty-three she probably needed a little extra to help mask the aging process. Her lipstick was a light shade of red, her eye lashes and eye brows were thinned and darkened, and her perfume could be smelled over the lovely aroma of the stuffed chicken breasts.
"Clint!" She said with surprise and Clint was impressed that she recognized him right away.
"Hello, Kat," Clint said with a smile. "It's great to see you."
"Are you home for a visit?" She asked.
"I'm home for good," he reported.
"What about your job?" She asked, taken aback by the news.
"I have a new job," he let her know.
"Oh…..well…welcome home," she said with a huge grin on her face.
"Thanks," he said as he watched her put a stuffed chicken breast on his plate.
"How was Mr. Oakwood's service?" Kathleen asked. "I never get to go when I'm catering the deal," she said.
"It was very nice," Clint replied.
"Mr. Oakwood was a wonderful person," Kathleen remarked.
"He was," Clint agreed.
"It's really great seeing you, Clint," Kathleen said with sincerity. "But you're holding up the line!"
"Oh, sorry," a slightly embarrassed Clint said to the woman behind him. "See you, Kat," he added, turning back to Kathleen and grinning.
"Maybe," she cryptically said.
Clint returned to the table he had been sitting at with a couple of the guys from the old days but he spent most of his time watching Kathleen work across the room. The guys knew the history, of course, so they weren't surprised to see their old friend giving her the eye.
She had been Kathleen Rogers when they were teenagers and she was Clint's first serious girlfriend. He was a senior and she was a junior when they hooked up and they lasted more than four years together before their messy break up.
That was years ago but for Clint it suddenly felt like it happened yesterday now that he was back in town for good. The familiarity of the area even now twenty years later had caused all sort of old memories, thoughts and emotions to come flowing back to the surface of his consciousness and as he watched Kathleen go about her work he couldn't help but remember all the good times they shared.
Days passed yet Clint couldn't stop thinking about Kathleen He was surprised that he had become so fixated on her as he tried to establish a new routine for himself back in his hometown area. His career in DC was over and he was getting ready to start a new job as well as settling in to his new digs so there was plenty for him to focus and concentrate on, yet his mind kept drifting to Kathleen. He realized it was idiotic and pointless. Kat had been married for than two decades far removed from the innocent days of their youth. And yet….
Clint called Kathleen Tobin's Catering Service several times, hanging up each time the answering machine picked up. It was a foolish thing to be doing but somehow just hearing Kat's voice on the recording made him feel better. And then one day he called the number almost without thinking about it and instead of getting the accustomed recording, he heard a live voice.
"Hello, Kathleen Tobin Catering, how can I help you?"
It was Kat, of course, he knew that right away.
"Do you cater to a party of one?" Clint asked. It was the first thing that popped into his head.
There was a pause for a moment and then Kathleen spoke. "Well, Sir, that depends on who the party of one is."
"I wasn't expecting to get an actual live voice," he admitted.
"Oh, so you're the one who's been leaving the hang ups!"
"Sorry about that," Clint said sheepishly.
There was an awkward pause. "So, you're back in town."
"Sun Rise Lake, actually," Clint replied. "Hey, guess where I'm living!?" He asked excitedly.
"I don't know."
"The pink cottage!" he laughed.
"Really!?" He could hear the excitement in her voice. "I always loved that place!"
"I know," Clint said. "You used to call it The Doll House."
"That's right," she said with amusement. There was a pause. "Of course, I never got to see the inside of it."
"You could now if you wanted," Clint invited.
Another pause. "I don't know, Clint."
"Anyway," he said. "I'm here most mornings. Stop by whenever you want. I'll give you the tour."
"It won't be a very long tour," Kathleen laughed. "That's a tiny place!"
"It is," Clint agreed.
"I'd better go," Kathleen said. "Nice talking to you, Clint."
"You too, Kat," Clint replied but he groaned as soon as he ended the call.
What a buffoon! What was he thinking!? Why did he do that!? It was over between them years ago. She was a married woman. Get over it, you jerk!
Clint decided that he needed to let it all go and get on with his new life back in Blue County. His momentary insanity regarding Kathleen Tobin (nee Rogers) was inexcusable and he needed to get back to reality.
He painted the small bathroom in the cottage. He rebuilt the rotting back steps. He met with the Dean of Students at the Sun Rise Lake School for Boys every few days. He checked in with his parents and other family members several times. Now that he was back in town he had the time to visit after twenty years of extended absences.
One morning Clint was standing in the window of the small kitchen watching the waves of the lake lap against the shore when there was a knock on the front door. Coffee mug in hand, Clint went to answer the knock and he was truly mystified when he saw Kathleen peering at him through the screen door. She was wearing a yellow bandana on her head with a lovely white summer blouse and yellow shorts.
"Kat!" Clint exclaimed with honest surprise. "Hello."
"What are you doing in my dream doll house?" She teased.
Clint opened the door to let her in. She was holding a brown pastry box in her hand.
"Catering for one?" She asked, raising her eyebrows.
"What'd you bring me?" He smiled.
"It's a strawberry Danish parisienne," she bragged, handing him the box.
"You're so sweet," a genuinely moved Clint replied.
He made a sweeping gesture with his free hand. "So what do you think?" He grinned.
"It is small, isn't it?"
Clint nodded in agreement. There were only two rooms on the first floor – a fairly large living room area and then the kitchen in the back. A small deck had replaced the original back porch and up the stairs there was one large open bedroom with plenty of windows and a small screened porch and a fair sized bathroom.
The small house was handsomely decorated and well kept up with dated but attractive wallpaper and well finished woodwork.
"It was originally a carriage house to the house next door," Clint explained as they stood on the upstairs screened in porch looking at the lake. "I didn't know the school owned it all these years. They rent it out to faculty and other staff personnel."
"I remember seeing an older couple in the yard when we'd pass by," Kathleen noted.
"I asked about that," Clint revealed. "They were the cook and the groundskeeper. A married couple. They lived here for years."
"How romantic," Kathleen replied as she stared out at the water.
There was a small back yard and a dock, along with a small piece of sandy beach front. A row boat was beached in the sand and an overturned canoe rested on two saw horses in the backyard.
"It's very quaint here," Kathleen said, taking a seat in one of the brown wicker chairs on the porch.
Clint nodded in agreement and he also took a seat.
"So, you're working at the school?" Kathleen asked.
"You're looking at the new Dean of Campus Security," Clint laughed.
"Well, congratulations," Kathleen replied. "But what happened to Washington?"
"I retired," Clint sighed.
"From your dream job?" Kathleen asked with surprise.
"My career ended last year," Clint revealed. "I was reprimanded and removed from my position and that ended any potential for advancement. They let me hang around on administrative desk duty until I got my twenty in for retirement. I'm grateful for that."
"What happened?" Kathleen asked with concern.
"I was the Head of the detail for Ann Romney during the campaign," Clint revealed. "One of my guys leaked a story to the press. He got fired and I was cited for dereliction of duty. Goodbye, career."
"I'm so sorry, Clint," Kathleen said with sincerity.
"Getting a job with the Secret Service wasn't easy," Clint told her. "The selection process is extremely competitive. I did everything I was supposed to. Majored in Criminal justice. Spent all that time working Security at BCCC. Stayed in shape. Was squeaky clean so I could pass the criminal background check."
"You were talking about it since high school," Kathleen recalled. "You know," she smiled. "Whenever the President was on television, I'd look for you in the background," she grinned.
"Never got that assignment," Clint replied with disappointment in his voice. "Worked in counterfeiting and financial fraud for a while. Then I investigated threats for a few years. I was on Clinton's detail for a few years after he left office and I was on Hillary's detail when she ran for President. I was on the world leaders detail after that and then I got my first assignment as a Supervisor, the Ann Romney detail in 2012."
"I'm sorry it didn't work out," Kathleen remarked.
"I thought I did a good job," Clint sighed. "I enjoyed it. The Romney's were nice people. But one of my agents had a hair up his ass about Mrs. Romney for some reason and he was leaking stuff out of the campaign. That's the mortal sin of any agent, Kat. You do that and you've sold your soul to the devil. See no evil, hear no evil, do no evil. What is said and done in your presence stays with you."
"I'm so sorry, Clint."
"It took a while for the investigation to play out but I had to go," he said with a shrug. "Had to send a message to the Agency that this sort of stuff won't be tolerated. And to let the Romneys know that we take this stuff seriously."
"Well, now you're back here and you can protect those boys at the school," Kathleen smiled.
"I thought I'd be a thirty year man with the agency," Clint sighed. "It was hard watching my career implode."
"It doesn't take away from all the good work you did, all that you accomplished, and all that you are," Kathleen assured him. "Thank you for your service. You did good."
"Ah, enough of my sob story," Clint said, turning to her with a smile. "How 'bout you, Kat? How the hell are you!?"
She smiled. "I'm doing well," she replied happily.
"Kathleen Tobin Catering, huh?"
"Yeah," she grinned. "About seven years now. I had all this training. Culinary Arts Degree from Johnson and Wales. I'm a damn good cook. But Steven didn't want me working."
"Said it didn't look good for him," she groaned.
"Well, that's what you get for marrying a Brown man," Clint smirked.
She rolled her eyes. "Anyway, when the kids were entrenched in and comfortable with elementary school, I began dabbling here in there part time. The Serguci Family Italian Restaurant. Norma's Bakery over in Greenville. The Sun Rise Lake Inn from time to time. Man, I loved it there."
"How are the kids?" Clint asked.
"Doing well," she beamed. "Maureen is a sophomore at Green and Mike starts at Blue County Community College in September," Kathleen smiled. "Anyway, Stephen bankrolled the catering business. It's mostly out of our garage which he remodeled with a couple of industrial stoves and refrigerators. The business is doing very well."
"Congratulations," Clint replied. "Guess the hubby's doing pretty well to finance it."
"Yeah, he's rolling in it," Kathleen replied, with a touch of resentful sarcasm in her voice. "Runs a very successful chain of tire stores in four states. I never see him."
"But you like having your own business."
"I like being my own boss," Kathleen said happily. "I get to pick and choose the jobs. I can work when I want. I have a pool of about ten employees. It's fun and friendly and I like making people happy when we put on a good spread. Weddings are my favorite but I feel fulfilled doing funerals. It means a lot to help out families in their time of need."
"Good for you, Kat," Clint smiled. "I'm glad it's all worked out for you."
She nodded and it looked like she was going to say something else but she didn't. She stared out at the lake and smiled instead.
"I wanted to buy a place up here," she revealed. "But Steven said it would be stupid to get something so close to home. So we own a place up in the mountains in Vermont that we rarely use. How dumb is that?"
Clint shrugged but didn't say anything in response.
"I can't believe you're actually living at Sun Rise Lake!" She said with wide eyes. "It was always my dream. I'm so jealous!"
"I have fond memories here," Clint acknowledged.
The first big date he took Kat on was a romantic Saturday night dinner at the Sun Rise Lake Inn. Their high school prom was also held there. On weekends, they'd drive up and hang out at the public beach and roam through the arcades in the village. They liked the Lake Front Diner for getaway lunches. They used to rent boats and paddle out on the lake.
Clint went to Green College so that gave them another year together in Hillsboro and Blue County while Kathleen completed her senior year of high school. Going off to college at Johnson and Wales in Rhode Island put a strain on their relationship as they only saw each other during long weekends and breaks. Clint got a summer job with Security at Blue County Community College and Kathleen came home and worked summers at Johnny C's Diner in Hillsboro and Denny's in Greenville until she met Steve who was two years ahead of her and just finishing up at Brown.
Clint knew their relationship was in trouble when Kathleen stopped coming home on weekends and breaks and when she announced she got a job in Providence for the summer, the writing was on the wall. Clint drove down to surprise Kathleen one weekend only to discover that she had moved in with Steve. Feeling betrayed and lied too, Clint became enraged. He managed to track Kathleen down at her job and they had a big dramatic fight in public with screaming and crying and accusations and mean things said and that was the last time Clint saw Kathleen now that he thought about it.
Clint had never experienced the type of anger he felt that day and it actually frightened him. He drove home to Hillsboro with regret and remorse but that couldn't take away the level of hurt and resentment he felt toward Kathleen. It took several years for the pain to go away and the wound to heal. Clint graduated from Green College with a degree in criminal justice and he worked Security at BCCC while repeatedly applying with the Secret Service Agency.
Finally, two years later, Clint was granted an interview, passed all the preliminary benchmarks, and was hired as a Secret Service Agent. He moved to DC and rarely returned home after that. He heard that Kathleen had moved back to Hillsboro but their paths never crossed during his infrequent visits home. Clint's parents and siblings enjoyed taking trips to DC for visits and vacations there so there was no need to come home much.
But he never emotionally invested himself in another relationship the way he had with Kathleen, not wanting to experience that level of rage, anger, pain, hurt and defeat again. He had a few relationships in college and he dated professional women in DC but nothing ever became serious.
"Why'd you come back to Hillsboro?" He asked Kathleen as they sat on the porch listening to the lake.
"My Dad got sick," she reported. "I wanted to be closer. Steven owned and operated two tire stores down there. He bought the old Artie's Tire Service in Greenville and a place called Hodge Tire in Miller City. He renamed the businesses Tobin Tires and then bought out about ten other tire places all over New England and the rest is history."
"And your dad?"
"He died about five years ago," Kathleen sighed. "He put up a good fight and lasted a lot longer than we thought he would though."
"I'm sorry," Clint replied. "He was a great guy."
"Where do you live?"
"We built one of those new houses along Blue River Road," she said. "Lovely view. Almost like being on the lake."
"Sounds nice," Clint smiled.
"It is," she replied warmly. Then she stood. "I should go," she announced. "Thanks for the tour. I'm glad I finally got to see The Doll House. It's as lovely as I imagined."
"The school calls it the Nickelson Cottage after that couple who lived her for so long," Clint let her know as he stood too. "But I like calling it The Doll House."
Kathleen smiled and left the porch with Clint following. She glanced around the bedroom before heading down the stairs with Clint on her heels.
"Come back anytime, Kat," he encouraged. "I'm usually here in the mornings."
"Maybe I could deliver a Catering for One once in a while," she smiled as she stood at the door.
"Or for two," Clint replied hopefully.
She smiled in agreement. "I'm glad you're back, Clint."
He smiled and watched her leave The Doll House and head to her car in the small driveway. It seemed surreal being with her again after so much time but it felt good reconnecting again.
### ### ###
Clint found himself waiting for Kathleen to return while at the same time wishing she wouldn't. He knew she was a married woman and that there was no point in spending time with her, especially secretly at The Doll House. If he had any guts, he'd meet her at Johnny C's or Red's Tastee Freeze in plain public sight and he'd tell everybody they were just two old friends catching up on old times. But he'd know that was a lie. She wasn't an old friend. She was the first girl he had ever loved and in some respects it felt like she was the only girl he had ever loved.
Five days later, there was a knock on his door one beautiful summer morning and Clint smiled as he came down the stairs to see Kathleen standing at the door, this time holding a larger pastry box. She was wearing a sleeveless sun dress with white sandals.
"Kat," Clint greeted, trying to hide his enthusiasm. "What a lovely surprise! Come in!"
"Catering for two?" She asked hopefully and Clint ginned in reply.
"Come in," he said, opening the door for her. "What lovely surprise did you bring this time?"
"A very delicately rich coffee cake," she answered gaily.
"Would you like some coffee with that?" He offered.
"Please," she replied as she stepped into The Doll House.
They sat on the back deck in the warm morning sun drinking the coffee and eating the coffee cake which was the best Clint had ever tasted. Kathleen told Clint about the catering job she did that weekend and he updated her on his new job preps. There wasn't a whole lot to do during the summer months. There were a few conferences and some summer classes but for the most part the campus was quiet and empty and Clint's security detail took care of the day to day functions. Clint's investigative presence would be required during the school year when the campus was full of students, faculty, staff and visitors with plenty of activities and opportunities for vandalism and other crimes and misdemeanors, from cheating to assaults.
"What's been the biggest adjustment coming back?" Kathleen asked.
"What to do with the twenty-three suits I own!" Clint laughed. "It's not so formal at The Sun Rise Lake School for Boys, plus I don't have the closet space here."
"Salvation Army or some other charity wouldn't be a bad idea," Kathleen suggested.
"That's what I was thinking," Clint agreed.
They took a walk down to the beach. Clint had gotten the row boat in the water and purchased a small outboard motor for it. He had also painted the canoe and had that lake worthy too. He took Kathleen for a ride in the boat, her frosted blond hair blowing in the wind and a huge smile pasted on her face. The motor took away some of the romance of him oaring them around the lake like in the days of their youth but just being out on the lake again together worked its magic and by the time they returned to The Doll House they were both feeling mellow and at peace.
"You'll have to bring your bathing suit next time you come," Clint told her as they stood knee deep in the lake cooling off.
"Yes," she agreed. "A swim would be lovely."
Kathleen told him that her daughter was on a summer long trip to Costa Rica with friends from college and that her son was working at Fontaine's Family Grocery Store and spending most of his spare time with his girlfriend. She didn't mention Steven and Clint didn't ask.
He gave Kat an update on his family who had to come up with new vacation plans now that he was no longer in DC!
"What's wrong with this place?" Kathleen teased.
"A little too small for my clan!" Clint laughed.
"I'd vacation here in heartbeat," Kathleen said.
"You're welcome any time," Clint assured her.
She nodded and smiled, folding her arms across her chest as she stared out at the lake. A single sail boat was drifting by making the scene all the more peaceful and serene.
"I thought my life was over when I lost my job," Clint told her. "But everything seems to be falling in place. I can't imagine being anywhere that is more inviting and welcoming than The Doll House."
"I agree," Kathleen replied, glancing at him. "Welcome Home, Clint."
Once they were done wading in the lake, they sat on the dock drying their feet with a shared towel. They walked to the cottage and Clint was bold enough to give Kat an extra key to The Doll House.
"Come here anytime," he said. "When I'm not here, you're free to take a swim or sunbathe or do whatever you want."
"Wow, Clint, that's really kind of you," an appreciative Kat replied. "Thanks."
She dropped the key in her purse and started for the door. "See ya next time," she smiled over her shoulder.
"Yeah," Clint replied with a nod. "Next time."
Next time was three days later and this time Kathleen was wearing a one piece blue bathing suit with shorts over it and a white unbuttoned shirt on top. Once again she had a brown pastry box in her hand.
"Catering for two?" She asked warmly when Clint greeted her at the door.
"What surprise do you bring with you today?" Clint smiled.
"Apple upside down cake," she grinned.
"Sounds wonderful," Clint replied.
They ate the treat on the back deck underneath a picture perfect blue sky and warm summer sun. Clint excused himself to put on his bathing trunks and he met Kathleen at the lake shore. She had removed her shorts and blouse and was standing at the water's edge.
"Do I look old to you?" Kathleen bluntly asked, turning to face Clint.
He was caught off guard by the question. "Not at all," he replied.
"How old was I the last time we saw each other?" She wondered.
"Twenty, I think," Clint answered.
"Wow, twenty-three years later," Kathleen realized. "I'm middle aged now, Clint. You missed my glory years!"
He shrugged, unable to argue with that.
"You missed my menopause too, though," she pointed out as she kicked at the water. "You didn't have to endure the hormonal changes like drops in my levels of progesterone and oestrogen not to mention the mood swings."
"Lucky me," He joked.
"My body shape is going to hell," she sighed, patting her puffy stomach. "Are my boobs sagging too much?"
"No," Clint assured her.
"What about my butt?" She sighed, turning to show him her buns in her tight bathing suit.
"Looking good," he told her. "More rounded and generous than before."
"You came back with me at a crossroads in my life," she pointed out. "The middle aged blues, I guess."
"Well, with the kids growing up and all that, it can be kind of strange," Clint agreed. "The agency made me see a shrink before they let me out," he revealed. "Just to make sure I wasn't going to blow my head off with my service revolver or something."
"I've been trying to watch my weight and what I eat but it's sort of hard when you're running a catering business," she said.
"I still run five miles a day every morning if you want to come along," Clint grinned.
"Oh God," she groaned. "I'd drop dead!"
Clint laughed. "Well, maybe swimming will help you feel better," he said, as he stepped into the water and stood by her side.
"My stomach is puffy and sticks out all the time," Kathleen sighed. "I'm not eating any more than I usually do but everything seems to be expanding. Maybe at this age, I just can't eat anything."
"It's your hormone levels and your metabolic rate," Clint let her know.
"Thank you, Doctor Roberts!" She said, rolling her eyes.
"You forget I have three sisters!" Clint laughed. "They tell me that their bodies at this age tend to store fat cells in the abdomen, buttocks, thighs, and upper arms which explains the rounded softer look."
"You mean I am getting fat!" Kathleen groaned.
"You have a strong and appealing body, Kat," Clint said. "It's working the way nature intended it to at this stage in your life. It's going to be okay. Just do a little bit of swimming this summer and maybe some walking around your neighborhood. That will tone your body and boost your metabolism."
"Now you're Richard Simmons?" She teased before diving into the water and swimming from the shore.
Clint dove in too and swam after her. They swam around for a few minutes and then treaded water about twenty feet out from the dock.
"Do you remember the first time we made love?" Kathleen asked.
"Yes," Clint answered truthfully. "We skinny dipped at our secret place at the river," he said. "And we made love in the water."
"I've never forgotten that sensation of the cold water inside my warm body," she said.
"It was pretty amazing," Clint agreed. "I've never been able to duplicate that night."
"Me either," she said, spitting some water from her mouth at him.
"After a while, I stopped trying," Clint admitted. "I wanted to keep that special moment just between the two of us forever."
"Steven hasn't had sex with me in years," Kathleen told him.
Clint nearly choked on the lake water in front of his mouth as they treaded water.
"Maybe I shouldn't have told you that!" Kathleen realized.
"Is he having an affair?" Clint wondered.
"I don't know," Kathleen admitted. "I'm sure he has in the past. Mostly, I just think he's lost interest."
"Why are you still together?"
"The kids," she said with a shrug. "The convenience. The routine. The catering business. The security. The history. The vows. You know."
"I'm really sorry, Kat," Clint sighed.
"I'm pretty good at keep up a good front," Kathleen replied, turning onto her back and slowly starting to swim toward the shore. "I love my job. I love my kids. I'm okay with the status-quo."
Clint swam after her. "But you miss it."
"The sex?" She asked. "Sometimes," she admitted. "But more than that, I miss being wanted."
Clint nodded with understanding. When they reached the dock, Kathleen boosted herself up on it to dry and the sun and Clint joined her, sitting by her side.
"What about you?" Kathleen asked after a few moments of quiet reflection. "Did you leave somebody behind in DC?"
Clint shook his head no. "It's all about career down there," he said. "Relationships are non-binding, casual, terminal. I never found the intimacy I experienced with you."
"Wow," Kathleen replied. "How sad. So, who'd you date?"
"Professional women who liked the limelight and being seen in social circles," he said. "Congressional aides. Pentagon officials. White House Staff. Fraternization was discouraged at the Agency so you'd look elsewhere. Most recently, I was seeing someone at the State Department but when I lost my prestige she gave me the boot."
"That was pretty narrow-minded and shallow of her," Kathleen protested.
"That's the way it is down there," Clint revealed. "It's what you are as much as who you are."
"Maybe its good you're out of there," Kathleen observed.
"I'm still trying to find myself out here in the real world!" Clint teased.
"There's plenty of interesting people around here looking for serious people," Kathleen told him. "Faculty at Green College and BCCC. Maybe you'll meet someone at Sun Rise Lake School for Boys. You'll be a fascinating catch given your background and experiences."
"Which I can't talk about!" Clint reminded her.
"The unknown will make it so much more interesting," Kathleen giggled, elbowing him in the side.
Dried by the sun, Kathleen stood and put on her shorts and shirt. "I should go," she said. "Thanks for the swim. The lake is magical."
He wanted to say 'And so are you' but he didn't as he walked her to the car. She smiled at him before climbing into the car and driving off. Clint watched after her long after she was gone wondering why Steven had shut her off. When sex went in a marriage, was there anything left?
### ### ###
Clint wasn't sure if Kat told him the things she told him because she trusted him as a friend and wanted to share or because she hoped he'd do something about it, other than offer support, advice and sympathy. But if she expected something from him, why did she tell him that he might find the right woman at Green College, or BCCC, or even the Sun Rise Lake School for Boys? Wasn't she the right woman for him?
Three days later, Kathleen was back for another visit with another pastry box in her hand. This time it was apple crisp and it was scrumptious. It was an overcast day so they sat on the second floor screened in porch watching the wind blow across the lake surface.
"So, was it what you expected it to be?" Kathleen asked.
"What?" Clint wasn't sure what she was asking about.
"The Secret Service," she said. "I know it was the clips of that Secret Agent taking a bullet for President Reagan that got you interested in the job. Did it turn out the way you thought it might? Except for the getting fired part, of course."
"It just wasn't the Reagan assassination attempt that sparked my interest," Clint said from his wicker chair. "The image of Agent Hill on the back of Kennedy's limousine during that assassination was pretty powerful too. I wanted to do something meaningful with my life, something besides writing parking tickets at Blue County Community College."
"I'm sure the Secret Service brought you that," Kathleen commented.
"The biggest misconception about the Secret Service is that it's a glamorous job," Clint said. ""It's hard work with long hours, a lot of hurry up and wait with long stretches of boredom interrupted by moments of excitement and exhilaration. You change assignments all the time, you change shifts every two weeks, you travel all over the world, your sleep patterns are always disrupted, and you eat a lot of junk food."
"But you meet interesting people," Kathleen offered.
"Yes and no," Clint replied. "You're there but you're invisible. You're working. You have a role to fill, a job to do. The mission always comes first and you're not there to be chummy or shoot the breeze. It's a very serious responsibility and it can be a dangerous one too."
"Didn't you talk to the Romneys?"
"Sure," Clint replied. "When spoken too. I had quite a bit of interaction with them. It was polite and friendly, but it wasn't personal."
"You wouldn't tell me anyway, right?" Kathleen tested.
"Right," Clint confirmed. "The personal details of anybody we protect is something that must be respected and kept private. There is an unwritten code never to discuss that stuff openly in public or even in private. Anybody who violates that code by writing some stupid book or going on television and revealing private conversations and moments is not worthy to wear the badge in my opinion. It undermines the trust that we build with the people we serve."
"What about the movies about the Secret Service?" Kathleen asked. "The one with Clint Eastwood and the psychopath, and Nicholas Cage protecting Shirley McLaine, and even the one with Michael Douglas having an affair with the first lady?"
"They're movies," Clint replied. "Are their truthful aspects in them? Sure. I think the one with Nicholas Cage personalized agents. The one with Douglas showed the machoism of the culture. The Eastwood one brought us back to the Kennedy killing. But they were still Hollywood manufactured stories and not really about the secret service."
"Well, I thought about you every time I saw something with the Secret Service in it," Kathleen admitted. "Even the West Wing and Dave!"
"I can tell you that the people we protect are really just people," Clint said. "They may have position and power, they may be famous and important, but behind the scenes they're still husbands and wives and fathers and mothers and daughters and sons with all of the same concerns, worries, problems and issues we all have."
"I'm not sure if that's good or bad," Kathleen laughed.
It almost felt like old times the way Kathleen and Clint were able to converse so easily about their lives and what they were thinking about. Clint enjoyed having Kathleen visit him at The Doll House and although he wished they could go out and do stuff together he knew that would be foolish, although taking the canoe out for a paddle or the row boat out for a spin on the lake was always a fun and welcomed activity.
Clint could tell when Kathleen had been to The Doll House in his absence. He smelled her perfume in the air or there'd be a towel drying in the sun on the rail of the back deck. Sometimes she'd leave him a treat in a pastry box or an actual meal in the refrigerator if she had a catering job that day. Just knowing that Kathleen had been at The Doll House made Clint feel good.
It was another glorious summer day when Kathleen showed up with her usual pastry box for two, this time a loaf of applesauce bread with a delicious cream topping. They enjoyed the treat before taking a refreshing swim, followed by a canoe ride, and then another swim, chatting away and laughing, having a good time. It was the best summer Clint could recall and it reminded him of those glorious times of their youth when he was so madly in love with Kat and enjoyed every moment spent with her.
Kat asked if she could take a shower when they were done with their swimming and canoeing activities and Clint told her of course. He led her upstairs half-hoping she might invite him to join her but Kat disappeared into the bathroom and closed the door so with a sigh Clint went out on to the upstairs screened in porch and waited for her to finish. He heard the water running and after a few minutes it shut off.
"Clint?" It was Kathleen's voice from the bedroom.
Clint left his chair and stepped into the bedroom, stopping short when he saw Kathleen standing in the middle of the room, naked from the waist down with a see-through bra not hiding her breasts.
"Kat!" He said, his breath momentarily taken away, caught by surprise not expecting to see the lovely sight before him.
"I was wondering if you would be willing to secretly service me," Kathleen told him, her eyes watering with tears.
"Oh, Kat," Clint sighed with longing, stepping toward her.
"I bet you miss the twenty year old Kat's body," she said sadly.
"You look fantastic now," he assured her, eyeing her lovely body she presented him to see
Clint brushed Kat's wet hair from her face and wiped the tear from her cheek.
"Promise you won't fall in love with me," she whispered.
"To late," he replied quietly. "I never fell out of love with you."
She burst into tears and fell into him. Clint gathered her in his arms and held her tight, kissing the top of her head.
"I knew the moment I saw you at the VFW that day that this was going to happen," She admitted. "I tried hard to resist the temptation but the need is just too great."
"I've liked the attention," Clint told her. "Anyone would!"
"We've already done this in our previous lives so I don't feel awkward letting you see me like this even though I've gotten old and fat," she said.
"You look amazing," Clint assured her, rubbing her back gently.
"I get moist just thinking about you," she revealed. "I feel bad about what we're about to do but I can't hold myself back any longer. Will you secretly service me?"
"I will make love to you," Clint whispered into her ear before kissing her for the first time in twenty-three years.
Soon they were both naked on the bed and their pelvises were moving in synchronized motion together, almost as if they had last made love yesterday and not twenty three years ago.
Later, when it was over, they lay cuddled on the bed enjoying the summer breeze coming through the window and feeling like teenagers again when they would spend plenty of lazy summer days making love in one of their empty houses when the parents were gone.
"You need to promise me something," Kathleen said as they lay on the bed.
"What?" He asked, kissing her forehead.
"When I stop coming for Catering for Two and secret services, promise me that you won't come looking for me," she said. "That you'll understand and let me go, again." She burst into tears and he held her tight, letting her cry.
"I promise," he sadly told her, knowing it was what needed to be done. "But the summer isn't over yet."
"It's been the best summer ever," Kathleen announced. "I wish I could live here at The Doll House forever."
"You could stay if you wanted," he let her know.
"You know I can't," she sobbed before kissing him passionately and they made love again.
That was the routine for the rest of the summer. Kat showed up with her scrumptious Catering for Two pastry box or other treats. They'd swim or canoe or go for a boat ride and then they'd make love, either in the bed or on the small love seat on the screened in porch to let the breeze cool their body heat. One night when Stephen was out of town on a business trip, Kathleen came to The Doll House and they skinny dipped in the dark and made love in the water, just like the first time.
Sometimes Clint felt guilt and remorse knowing he was secretly servicing a married woman but he rationalized the affair in his own mind by arguing that Stephen had stolen her from him so he was justified to do the same.
Clint and Kathleen both feared being found out which is why they never left The Doll House. They knew they were violating their own personal moral code of ethics but they couldn't help themselves. Having the affair seemed almost pre-destined and they enjoyed the attention and satisfaction the other gave. It was easy to accept the rationale that nobody was getting hurt as long as nobody found out.
Clint knew for him it had more to do with his love for Kathleen than the sex (although that was great too) but he was too insecure to ask Kathleen if she loved him or was just in it for the sex.
How Kathleen felt about him really didn't matter because he knew she would be ending the catering service for two eventually and that he would no longer be secretly servicing her no matter what her feelings were for him. She wasn't leaving her marriage. She made that clear when the affair started. Clint recalled when his family got a dog when he was around eight and his sister said to him "You know he'll die on you eventually, right?" Clint knew his affair with Kathleen would eventually die too, but he was willing to enjoy it while it lived.
They had a shared past together but Kathleen didn't owe Clint anything and he needed to stay in the moment and enjoy what he had with her now while it lasted. She hadn't agreed to a life-long commitment and he knew that truth before he first made love to her that wonderful afternoon in The Doll House. Being in love with a married woman was a dead end proposition from the start but Clint was willing to die once again just to be with her while it lasted.
As the dog days of August began to wane and September loomed on the calendar Clint began to fear that Kathleen would suddenly disappear like some abduction in a weird science fiction movie. Kat kept telling her secret servicer to stay in the moment and enjoy today and he tried to do just that, looking forward to their meaningful Catering for Two and the lovely treats she brought for him. If that wasn't a sign of love and admiration, what was? Wasn't it always said that the way to a man's heart was through his stomach!?
Clint noticed that Kathleen seemed genuinely happy and cheerful, no longer putting on a good front as she had told him earlier in the summer. She had lost some weight from all the swimming, canoeing and sex. She was tanned and toned. She was smiling and laughing, full of cheer, enthusiasm and happiness. If only she didn't have her other life The Doll House would have been perfect for the two of them. They could be like the old couple that used to live there, the loving couple they'd see in the yard when the drove by as teenagers.
Clint knew he had the terminal illness of an affair with a married woman and that sooner or later fate would catch up and Mr. Death would come calling. He was lying in bed naked with the wonderful Kathleen after another late morning of love making.
"I will never forget this summer," Kathleen whispered in his ear as he dozed in the heat of the late summer sun coming through the window. "I will always love you, Clint my Secret Service hero."
Clint smiled as he fell asleep and when he awoke, Kathleen was gone and he knew that she wouldn't be coming back with anymore pastry. Summer was over and so was the affair. It was quick, it was sudden, and it was final.
### ### ###
The job as Dean of Security at the Sun Rise School for Boys turned out to be enjoyable, rewarding, and fulfilling. Clint liked working with young people, becoming a mentor, and earning a positive and respected reputation around campus. His nickname became "Secret" once word got out that he was a retired secret service agent and that was fine with him.
But it felt lonely going home to an empty Doll House and Clint missed the pastry catering for two. He missed the secret services he provided Kathleen and he thought about her often, especially when he saw or heard advertising for Kathleen Tobin Catering or overheard someone talking about how great the company was.
Clint recognized that he needed to go through a withdrawal of missing Kathleen and letting go of the affair. He had been tempted and he succumbed to the temptation and now he was paying the price of missing Kat all over again. A part of him was actually relieved the affair was over so he didn't have to feel guilty about his unforgiveable behavior or the worry that came from the fear of being found out.
He missed Kat terribly but as the weeks (and then months) went by his 'symptoms' of loneliness, depression, emptiness and guilt began to diminish in intensity and frequency. He was meeting new people on the campus and he felt good that he was strong enough not to be tempted to contact Kathleen again. She had made her decision and her choice. He respected it and honored it, knowing that he loved her enough to let her go.
The strange thing for Clint was that nobody knew about his Summer of Kathleen so he couldn't talk to anybody about it, share his feelings of loss and sadness, or express his frustration about missing her. He stayed busy, worked extra hours, ran ten miles a day (instead of the usual five) and got involved in some of the activities of his nieces and nephews, as long as it wasn't around Hillsboro where he might bump into Kathleen. How ironic that Clint had come home but now avoided his hometown!
Clint accepted the reality that Kathleen was married. She has a different life and she had gone back to it and now it was time for him to move on with his – Clint Roberts, retired Secret Service Agent and current Dean of Security at Sun Rise Lake School for Boys.
### ### ###
It was an early morning in mid-October and Clint was running his usual laps around the lake to maintain his shape he worked so hard to perfect while a Secret Service Agent. He didn't need to be so fit as the Dean of Security but it had become part of his routine and habit so why stop now?
Clint glanced behind him as he jogged along Lake Shore Road to see a woman in her late thirties jogging behind him at a quicker pace to catch up to him.
"Yes?" Clint asked, never breaking stride.
"You run every morning, don't you?" She asked.
"Yes," he said.
"I've seen you for the last month or so," she said. "You run by my house three times every morning."
"It's about 3.3 miles once around the lake," he explained as they now jogged together side by side. "Three times makes it about ten miles."
"Are you a marathon runner?" She asked.
"No," he laughed. "Just run to stay and shape and….forget."
"Forget what?" She asked.
He glanced at her and saw how pretty she was. Long blonde hair billowed out from the ball cap on her head and her jogging suit fit snuggly to her well shaped frame.
"I forget," he joked.
She laughed. "I was wondering if I could run with you," she said. "I need someone to pace me."
He glanced at her hand looking for a ring.
"Excuse me for asking, but are you married?" He needed to know.
She laughed, as if she understood. "Divorced," she answered. "He let me have the cottage. I moved here in August."
He nodded. "I've been here since June," he told her. "I'm Clint," he let her know.
"I'm Barbara," she replied. She skipped a few beats and then asked: "Are you married?"
He shook his head no.
"Good," Barbara smiled. "I'm not interested in an affair with a married man, thank you very much."
"Would you be willing to have a date with a single man?" Clint asked.
"Let me run with you for a while and I'll let you know," she smiled.
Clint grinned and began to increase their pace. "So, what do you do?" He asked.
"Nothing," she smirked. "I got a pretty good divorce settlement!"
She saw the look on his face and she laughed. "I paint though. I'm a pretty good artist."
"What about you?" She asked after another few paces of jogging.
"I just started working at Sun Rise Lake School for Boys," he let her know. "But I used to be a Secret Service Agent."
He figured he might as well play the ace card right at the start.
"Oh wow!" Barbara replied. "I've always wanted a man who could keep a secret!"