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Blake Williams is a widower trying to raise three children. He has been careful to open his heart to another woman, fearful of the pain he might suffer again. His attention is focused on providing a loving home for his kids.
Carla Reeves is involved in an abusive relationship. She doesn’t know who to turn to for advice. She meets Blake by chance on several occasions and the relationship evolves into much than casual interest in each other.
Blake Williams took the large folder from Carla Reeves in the Grand City Medical Center records section and started flipping through the pages. His eyes darted up and down each page until he was finished. He had recently transferred his three children from private to the public schools and needed their shot records as part of their enrollment.
“That should take care of it for you, Mr. Williams,” Carla said with a bright smile. “If you need anything else, just give us a call and we’ll track it down for you. But usually all the new school requires is a shot record for each child.”
Blake closed the folder and tucked it under his left arm. He gave her a grateful look that everything was in order.
“These kids have really had a lot of holes poked into them,” he said, grinning. “I don’t remember having this many shots and I was in the Army.”
“Well, there are all sorts of vaccines that we didn’t have when we were growing up, plus children get lots of booster shots,” she said, her slender arms folded on the counter.
“I guess you’re right,” he said, slightly arching both eyebrows. “And I must say that the kids have been relatively healthy. Well, thanks for your help. I don’t need to be taking up any more of your time. It wasn’t nearly as difficult as I thought it would be getting these records. I thought I’d be calling everywhere and running all over the place for them. You’ve been very helpful.”
“Since you live in town, it’s not that complicated to make transfers in school systems,” Carla said, a smile curling on her full, red lips. “If you were from out-of-state or moving in from another school district, it’d be a little more difficult. I’ve heard all kinds of horror stories from those folks.”
“Anyway, thanks again,” he said, flashing a quick smile. “Where do I pay for these?”
“We’ll bill you at your home address,” Carla said. “Have a good day.”
Blake gave her a friendly half-wink as he turned and walked away. She watched him as he briskly went out the front entrance. He walked with an air of confidence.
Blake had been polite and courteous, which Carla readily noticed. Although she saw many people during the day, and forgot most of them, he had left a favorable and lingering impression. She enjoyed the pleasant small talk. She didn’t sense anything flirtatious about his behavior. Blake seemed like a genuinely friendly and nice guy. She smiled to herself, then went back to her desk and started leafing through some papers.
The following afternoon, Carla saw Blake in the supermarket. His daughter, Amy, a pert 14-year-old with sunshine blonde hair, was with him and doing most of the shopping. Blake was pushing the cart and following her while making suggestions along the way on what to buy. Amy made most of the decisions. They were enjoying themselves as occasional light laughter erupted between them.
“Are you sure we need peanut butter?” he asked. “We just bought a big jar the last time we were here.”
“No, Dad,” she said impatiently while keeping her eyes on the shelves. “That was several weeks ago.”
“Okay, if you say so. Then don’t we need some jelly?”
“No. We got that last time.”
“How do you remember all these things?”
“Because I look through the pantry and refrigerator before we leave the house. And I’m not old like you and losing my memory,” she said, glancing back at him with a teasing grin.
“Funny, funny,” he said. “One of these days you’re going to be old like me.”
“Yeah, but I’ll still have my mind,” she said with a giggle. “And you’ll be real old by then.”
Carla met them in the produce department. Blake was sorting through tomatoes, trying to find the biggest and ripest on the rack. Amy was checking the lettuce.
“Hello, Mr. Williams,” Carla said when she noticed that he saw her approaching.
“Hi,” Blake said, holding up a tomato in each hand. “Aren’t these the nicest you’ve seen? This has really been a good season for them.” He began tossing the tomato up and down with his right hand.
“I agree,” she said. “I planted a few tomato plants behind the house and I don’t know what to do with all the tomatoes right now. I’ve given a lot of them away at work.”
“I wish I had done that,” Blake said. “We love tomatoes at our house but I simply didn’t have the time and energy to fool with planting them this spring. I regret it now.”
Blake noticed Amy looking at Carla with an inquisitive look in her blue eyes.
“I’d like you to meet my daughter, Amy,” Blake said. “Please forgive me but I don’t remember your name.”
“I’m Carla Reeves,” she said with a smile. “It’s nice to meet you, Amy.”
Amy looked sheepish.
“Hi,” Amy said softly, trying to hide the braces that covered her upper teeth by lowering her lip.
“I met Ms. Reeves at the medical center yesterday,” Blake said. “She works in the records section and got the shot records for me.”
“Oh,” Amy said, this time puckering her lips without showing her teeth.
“Well, I need to finish my shopping and get home,” Carla said. “It was nice seeing you again, Mr. Williams. And it was nice meeting you, Amy.”
“Good to see you,” Blake said, studying her as she turned and walked away with her cart. She was wearing a blue blouse and khaki slacks that didn’t hide her shapely figure.
Blake continued watching Carla until she pushed her cart down another aisle. A dreamy look covered his face.
Startled for a moment, Blake turned quickly around to Amy.
“Yes, sweetie,” he said, feeling a blush come over his face. “What is it?”
“Which head of lettuce should we get?” she asked while holding them up in front of him “I can’t decide.”
“They both look good. Either one will be fine.”
Carla reached the checkout lane with a smile on her face that she couldn’t erase.
“Did you find everything you needed?” the checker said pleasantly as Carla gazed out the storefront window. “Ma’am?”
Carla casually turned and looked at the young woman ringing up her groceries and didn’t say anything. She was still smiling.
“Did you find everything?” the checker said again, a puzzled look on her face.
Carla finally realized that she was being spoken to, but hesitated for a moment before saying anything.
“Uh, oh, yes,” she said a little flustered. “Thank you.”
The checker smiled and slightly shook her head in amusement. Carla wrote a check while a young man bagged the groceries. After taking the receipt from the checker, she quickly looked back toward the aisles and left.
A few minutes later, Blake and Amy reached the same checkout line. They both took the items from the cart and put them on the checkout lane. While Amy moved passed the register, Blake reached into the cart and took out the remaining groceries.
“Did you find everything?” the checker said cheerfully to Blake.
After taking the last item from the cart, Blake stared aimlessly to the rear of the store.
“Sir?” the young woman said. “Did you find everything?”
Blake turned around and faced the cashier with a blank look.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” he said. “I didn’t hear you.”
“I was just asking if you found everything,” the cashier said with a tight grin.
“Oh, sure,” he said. “We found everything we needed. Right, Amy?”
“Yes, Dad,” she said, shaking her head in disbelief. Amy looked at the cashier and they smiled at each other before looking back at Blake. He stood there with a comical grin as the checker continued ringing up the groceries.
During the next few weeks, Carla saw Blake at the mall, post office, fast-food restaurants and other public places. There were more smiles and cheerful greetings. Although it was simple pleasantries such as “How are you?”, “Having a nice day?” or “It’s nice to see you again,” they were becoming more at ease with each other. She always felt comfortable with him, beginning with the first meeting at the medical center, and his easy-going demeanor practically disarmed her. His bright and lively brown eyes gave full attention to her when they talked. There was something familiar about him, almost like being reunited with a long, lost friend.
Michael Embry is the author of three nonfiction sports books and four novels, including A Confidential Man for Wings ePress in 2008. His career includes more than 30 years in journalism as a reporter, sportswriter and editor. He lives in Frankfort, Ky., with his wife, Mary, and Yorkshire terriers, Baxter and Bucky.
Embry has worked for Kentucky newspapers in Madisonville and Lexington and a national news service, making stops in Louisville, New York, Milwaukee and Lexington. He retired as editor of Kentucky Monthly magazine in Frankfort in 2006 to return to school to become a special education teacher. Among the organizations he is involved in are the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels, Golden Key International Honour Society, National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association, U.S. Basketball Writers Association, Sierra Club, and The Friends of the Paul Sawyier Public Library in Frankfort.
Michael Embry's honest, open, evocative prose engages readers from the opening sentence and propels readers along a storyline that leads straight to the heart. One of my must reads, but be forewarned, once you start reading A Confidential Man, you won't want to put it down until you finish. --Chris Helvey, eliminations editor for Best New Writing 2009, author of Purple Adobe.
Book Publisher: Wings ePress
No. of Pages: 312
Paper Weight (lb): 13.0
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