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Still Faithful, Always - Chapter 6

Laura and Dan, friends and lovers, events of life, growth and death
The life and lifestyle of Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Martell, Dan and Laura, including associated friends and lovers, meandered through the calendar sprinkling events that make up life. Each event adds or subtracts, sometimes causes pleasure or pain; all events are the fabric of life.

> > > - -

“Girlfriend, you are just amazing with what you pull off. You actually got Dan to agree? He is going to let you get back with Greg long term after all the crap you pulled on him the first time? You are truly a marketing genius, talk about selling refrigerators to Eskimos.”

“He agreed to let me try, but there are still some strings. We talked of nothing but for the three weeks I was home. He finally accepted just before I had to come back. I don’t think it was me so much; it was more his friend Mrs. Patron; she is a seventy year old widow. Her husband died in his early forties and left her loaded with dough. She took Dan under her wing and into her bedroom ten years ago when I was just starting with Greg the first time.”

“You get Greg who I know is a hunk and all Dan gets is a seventy year old broad; that doesn’t sound like much of a trade for Dan. She probably convinced Dan to say okay so she could get a little more of him.”

“Don’t knock Mrs. Patron, she is wonderful. I want to be like her when I get her age. She told us about an artist who became her lover while he was doing her portrait. He eventually wanted more of her and tried to get between her and her husband. Mrs. Patron broke it off and has never seen him again. Does that story sound familiar Girlfriend?”

“Yeah, I see what you are talking about. The other ring, how did she help?”

“She still remembers; she has kept track of him all these year; she has a clipping file every time he appears in an arts magazine. No one sees but her. She told Dan and me that she still feels for him, but she can’t see him.”

“Wow, and Dan accepted her story as reason for you to try to renew with Greg?”

“Not immediately, but she helped him think things through. As I said at start, being with Greg is not totally settled, but it is okay for me to explore and try to work things out with some conditions.”

Laura and Liaison’s lunch ran long. They talked about the provisos Dan insisted on; Laura talked about her more mature attitude. Laura gave her thoughts on how the East Coast -- West Coast geographical separation played into her coming affair. Finally the two girlfriends decided they really must get back to work.

“I am going to call Greg when I get back to the office and see if he can come tonight; all this talk about my affair has made me horny.”

> > > - -

“Oh god Baby, nobody does me like you. I told Dan that long ago and it’s still true. You’re the best, the best lover I have ever had, the best lover I could possibly have.”

“Just remember lady, I am the best and your body knows it. I own your pussy now, slow and tender or fast, rough and hard. I’m the one who knows the sex you need, and I always deliver. You are my fuck slut bitch and I will never let you go again.”

Laura wrapped her Greg Baby with both arms and pressed her naked body into his. She wanted their skin to merge and fuse into one. “Yes, yes, yes, yes, you are the one I need, I always will need. Never let you go.”

“Now that I have the key to your apartment along with the key to your heart I will come and take you anytime. You better not try to sneak another lover past me wench. Speaking of keys I have one for my home I will leave you. I expect you naked in my bed at 7 o’clock Thursday night when I get home.”

Laura kissed all over her lover’s face and torso. “No other lovers Baby, I don’t need one when I have you.”

“We still have more to explore. I haven’t had your ass in six years. It has probably grown back together. Thursday night I am taking everything you have. You are mine and I am having all of you. Do you understand me Baby, all of you?”

> > > - -

“Two weeks Baby, two whole weeks together with no intrusions. I left my cell phone at home turned off; you best have done the same.”

Dan kissed his wife and held her close. “You bet Baby, I sure did; I told everyone at work if they couldn’t get by without me for two weeks I would fire them all when I got home. Let’s get into bathing suits and check out the beaches here at St. Maarten.”

Laura went to the drawer where she had placed the swimsuits she brought along. She had a surprise for her husband, “Remember this one Baby, you bought it for me years ago?” Laura held up what looked like two strips of blue fabric joined at one end. Dan’s smile almost wrapped his face as he called out slingshot. “I probably won’t wear it except here in the room for you but it sure didn’t take up much space in my suitcase.”

“Of course you can wear it; I’ll bet a lot of girls wear suits no bigger. You will look fantastic.”

“Baby, in case you don’t remember I am no longer a girl. I am forty-seven years old. The girls you are talking about are mostly nineteen.”

The first week of vacation Laura wore several of her bikinis including a small one Dan bought many years ago and one of the really tiny unlined suits Greg bought on her first trip to St. Maarten with him. She did model her slingshot for her husband but never left their suite wearing the obscene suit. When they visited a certain beach she did lead her Baby to a small cave Dan thought she just happened to discover. It was the special cave she and Greg shared as they enjoyed blatant public sex almost daily. Laura never hinted she had been in the cave before. Sex with her husband overlooking the Caribbean Sea turned out to be every bit as exciting as her memories with her lover.

“Make sure your camera is charged today Baby; Momma has a vacation surprise for her Daddy.”

Dan had no idea what Laura planned; she never used Momma Daddy mimicry. He couldn’t see through the cover-up she wore. They were strolling at waterline along a sparsely populated beach when Laura whipped her cover-up over her head and handed it to husband. “Tada, what do you think?” Laura pirouetted wearing the slingshot suit. All charms were almost completely on display.

“Wow, oh wow! That suit looks fantastic on you. You are beautiful Baby, really beautiful.”

Dan took pictures of every imaginable angle and pose. He forbade his wife changing to a conventional bikini. Furthermore, he insisted Laura wear the suit at least some portion of each day for the rest of their vacation. During their flight home and in the weeks that followed Dan continually reminded his Baby just how hot he thought she looked wearing her slingshot bathing suit. Both ranked their trip to St. Maarten as one of their most memorable vacations ever.

> > > - -

Another month, another lunch, girl talk catch-up with Liaison, “Tell me girl, now that you and Greg have had some months rekindling your love, and more important in the bedroom, renewing your love making thrills, how is the bedroom action with Dan holding up by comparison? That was a problem the last time. You never wanted to admit that it was, but you knew.”

“Really well girlfriend, in some ways better than in a long time.”

“That surprises me a little bit, girl; I thought you would say at best we’re still rolling along.”

“Oh no, not just rolling along at all. Dan and I almost never do the heavy duty rough play that Greg and I often get with. Partly that’s not Dan’s style and partly I think most married couples get more sedate at sex as time goes on. Still we have our moments and it seems these days we have more of those moments.”

“Wow, do you lead the parade or does Dan? How does whoever get things going?”

Laura thought that question over a minute before responding. The answer wasn’t obvious at first. She lifted a fork of her salad to mouth and chewed in steady motion, thinking. “Both I would say but Dan maybe more than me. It doesn’t matter if I come to bed nude, that’s a giveaway of intentions, right? If I wear a short and sheer little nightie I am supposed to get any man up hard and ready to charge. When I decide to go for comfort and wear either an Eileen West, or one of my Business Lady no nonsense gowns, Dan will just as likely lift it or take it off and throw it over his head.”

“That sounds like fun. I will have to start training Sig to treat me that way. Maybe I should find a lover.” Both women laughed and ate a little more of their lunch salads while considering Liaison going down the path Laura travels. Laura broke the silence, “Go for it girl if that’s what you want, but go carefully.”

“Don’t ever let the fact that I have a lover in Greg and that Greg and I have great sex let you think Dan is not a good lover. As I said he is very different, softer, more gentle and tender in his love making, but this lady loves the tender and gentle sexing she shares with her husband and never wants to give that love away.”

> > > - -

“Mrs. Patron, let me introduce Artist to you once again. I wanted you to meet him here in your home for the intimate setting and also I want him to know where his painting will hang and what significant company it will have.”

“I’m pleased to meet you young man. I was very impressed with your style and its execution. You bring your canvas to life; that is the quality I noticed first. It is a vital quality for an artist to possess.”

“Yes, LeeAnne, I think meeting here is a good choice, but then I should have expected that from you, shouldn’t I?”

Mrs. Patron led a slow walking tour through her home. The three stopped at every grouping of paintings. Mrs. Patron talked about purchasing major pieces. It was clear that they were not decorations; she knew each of the artists and had spoken with most as part of her purchase. LeeAnne talked mostly about Mrs. Patron’s collection as a whole and about the three local collectors with whom she was most familiar.

“I am most impressed with your home, Mrs. Patron; it is more a gallery or museum than a home.”

“Why thank you for the compliment, Artist. Let me show you a piece that might give you recognition.” She led them into the room where she showed LF’s work including one of her portraits of LeeAnne and Daniel.

“This is an eclectic mix to be one artist. There are two wild abstracts that torture emotions. This one is a pure nude figure study but look at the emotion in her face and the tense muscles. She appears coiled to spring.” Artist turned to a semi abstract portrait, man and woman at a light pole. “I can see the pair, they are probably lovers, but there is an otherworldly aspect.”

Mrs. Patron closed out the discussion. “The artist is a very dear friend of ours. The man by the light pole in this portrait is husband to the lifestyle nude as you called her. You are correct about the couple leaning together against the lamp, they are lovers. Which of us would you suspect is the female of the lovers? Do not answer that question young man. You may have an opportunity to meet your lifestyle nude someday, most likely in San Francisco.”

> > > - -

“LeeAnne dear, I shouldn’t intrude on your personal life, but I can’t resist. I sense profound distress. Am I incorrect?”

“Profound is too strong for whatever turbulence I am living; yes, there are some things happening in my life that are unsettling. I am not sure how much longer I can live with my situation.”

“Your professional life, your creative life, very possibly your home life, is it one or more than one that is so troubling?”

“In a sense, all three facets are affected. My problem seems to start at home but it is impossible to be creative if you can’t focus your mind wouldn’t you agree?”

Mrs. Patron served a glass of wine to her young friend to help her relax. She gave a soft hug of support when she handed LeeAnne her glass. “Yes, I must agree that problems at home, especially problems at home, can have an impact that spreads. I wonder if your marriage has all the correct ingredients. The right man as life partner is a blessing; the wrong a curse.”

LeeAnne’s jaw dropped. The notion that the older woman would even hint that she married the wrong man astounded her. Mrs. Patron did not hint at all; her style had been subtly direct as long as LeeAnne had association with her, but there was no subtlety to her statement, not one bit. LeeAnne knew she agreed with the woman; they both knew the right man. Artsy considered Mrs. Patron’s final statement of blessing and curse. Dan is not available as husband, but Dan available might well be the winning solution for two marriages, maybe three.

“Let me change the subject to a less controversial topic. Has Daniel discussed with you how to display my portrait and sculpture in his gallery?”

“Your nude portrait that your husband commissioned, the one in his office, are you really going to let Dan place them in his gallery?”

“They deserve a permanent home don’t you think? Call Daniel and remind him. When I mentioned it to him and Laura he immediately knew he would need your expertise.”

> > > - -

“It’s going to be another foggy night, a deep fog night when it begins this early. It will be perfect for snuggling together after we make love.”

“If you start taking your clothes off there is no reason we can’t get started on the sexy and snuggling part of the evening schedule right now is there?”

“You’re incorrigible Baby, that’s why I love you so. I have another idea; let me call Upper Floor and see if we can visit. He has been my closest neighbor from the day I moved in. You have seen each other but I should introduce you two.”

“Upper Floor, I would like you to meet my lover Greg Harrison who now lives in San Jose. Before you raise your eyebrows in wonder, Dan is fully aware that Greg and I have a long-term relationship that began ten years ago when I was his secretary. You need not worry over discretion about Greg and me.”

As Upper Floor served wine Greg asked, “Do you usually entertain Laura or does she entertain you?”

“Both I am sure. I have often escorted your lady to social functions when she needed me; Laura has also entertained; me and at times my guests in her apartment and here in mine. Laura particularly appreciates my balcony, don’t you my dear?”

“If you plan to show Greg your balcony you better explain the playroom too. My lover’s eyes will pop with delight when he sees your collection of whips hanging on the wall.”

> > > Two hours later with Greg and Laura once again in her bedroom

“I expected you and Upper Floor would have some common interests, flogging my bottom and other parts being primary. I hope using me, cuffed naked to the railing, exposed to San Francisco, whipped, fondled and fucked in the fog, has you ready for more. I need you to do me hard tonight. I want my body to remember your touch for a long time.”

By the time Laura said her final I love you Baby for the night her body throbbed. Greg decided Dan needed visual reminder that his wife had a west coast lover. The red stripes across her body from whips he augmented with teeth marks and other bruises. For the first time in six years, Laura asked her lover to use his teeth to seal her vaginal lips making them swell closed.

“Make sure Dan checks out your body when you get home. He needs to remember there are some places he can never go with his wife. Those places you love so dearly are mine alone and only I can take you to them.”

> > > - -

“LF, would it be too much imposition to request you dress for the country club and join Mrs. Patron, Friend, Artsy and myself Saturday evening?” Dan spoke to his telephone receiver.

Saturday night, “My my, what a dramatic change LF, you look so charmingly feminine. Don’t you all think LF looks very pretty tonight?”

Before the others could respond, LF leaned close to Dan giving appearance that she was kissing his cheek. Her kiss was the furthest notion from reality. She whispered to Dan alone, “Just remember you silly male prick, this lesbian has seduction skills you will never see. I may decide to seduce all three women tonight and leave you nothing but Vaseline and your fingers.”

Dan whooped before noticing Mrs. Patron’s angry gaze, “I apologize for the outburst.” Turning to LF Dan spoke softly but so the others could hear, “Bitch! You know it takes more than you’ve got to really satisfy a woman.”

Artsy spoke to Friend and Mrs. Patron. “I am glad I have witnesses tonight. A few years back I had to moderate these children by myself when they got like this. I think it was the night we first helped Laura with the clothing designers. Of course, their argument ended with these two necking like teenagers in the back seat as I drove Dan’s car to your home, Mrs. Patron.”

“That is enough, Daniel, you invited all of us to keep you company tonight because your lovely wife is out of town on her three week tour of Mexico. You really need to be on better behavior or I shall be forced to punish you.”

“Yes Dan, Mrs. Patron will punish you and deservedly so,” LF added without breaking out in seizures of laughter. Artsy provided the laugh track.

A waiter appeared as if by magic; drink orders halted frivolous conversation. Dinner followed; four ladies and one man enjoyed a delicious meal, spirited friendly chat, and a delightful evening together. Mrs. Patron had suggested the seating order for tonight’s dinner. “Daniel, you sit with one of the younger women on either side of you. Friend and I will watch over you from this side of the table and make sure you behave.”

From her favored position, LF couldn’t resist periodic needling throughout dinner. “She’s going to punish you Dan.” She would whisper soft and close punctuated every time with a finger jab to Dan’s ribs.

Dan’s country club evening was a delightful success. All of his teasing with LF had been for show and was really good natured. Dan offered to drive Artsy home after he delivered Mrs. Patron and Friend, but LF insisted it was no problem for her and would cause less anxiety in Artsy’s home life if she provided the service. Goodnight kisses were exchanged at the valet parking station. Dan was surprised at the ardor Artsy and even LF gave as they kissed him goodbye. Both thrust tongue well into his mouth. Dan responded in kind. He slept in Mrs. Patron’s bed that night between two older women.

> > > - -

“Tell me about your trip; it sounds exciting. Mexico will be a new arena, won’t it?”

“Yes, I sold the board on an idea that one of our young staffers came up with; this is just the start of a Latin American division for Business Lady. We have appointments set up in five cities. We go to Mexico City first and then San Luis Potosi, Monterrey, Guadalajara and finally Puerto Vallarta.”

“Three weeks for just five cities, you should have some sightseeing time along with the business. I hope you have some fun.”

“Some of the sightseeing will be work. We have meetings with retail executives in all five cities plus we’ll be touring their stores. Their biggest retailer for us is called Soriana de something. I’ll study the details on the plane ride.”

“What about models? You must be taking your latest designs with you.”

“Laura stood and twirled, “I won’t be wearing these gardening clothes on my trip, Baby. All of the women on the team will be our models. Heck, President’s wife said she would model an outfit or two. He is coming just to Mexico City; I think Wife just wants the trip. She’s a pretty neat lady. My bud Liaison will be with us too.”

From Mexico City; “Hi Baby, just a call to let you know things are going great. Funny reception by the Mexican men; they had some trouble accepting us as models and business professionals too. It’s a cultural thing, I guess; we pressed beyond.”

“Thank you for your confidence Baby, I am having fun and working hard. I’ll try to call at least once from each city, I love you too Baby, bye-bye.

Laura made another call from her hotel room. “Hey Baby, I miss you. I am in a hotel room in my nightgown and what I really want is you to raise my gown and then climb on and in me. I want you to screw me silly to relieve the tension from my meetings. I need your stiff cock tonight.”

“Oh you’re bad Baby but okay, I will use my fingers because I didn’t bring any toys.”

“No Baby, I can’t. I wouldn’t know where to look for a vibrator here in Mexico City.”

“Aaaaahhhh yyyesssssssss! Fingers are good, a vibrator would be better; you and your big thick cock would be the best. Goodnight Baby, I’ll see if I can get one of the women alone and ask.”

Laura judged her trip was going well. In every city, the reception started cool for the women on the team; they were virtually ignored. As meetings progressed, the women won over their audience. Having Hector along added value beyond even Laura’s high expectations. He was the one person who helped the breakthrough for the women when he heaped praise on Laura for presenting his idea to the board of directors.

Part of everyday had been allocated as get to know the culture time. The Business Lady crew broke into small groups and became tourists. Laura was amazed to find so many Americans in San Luis Potosi. Monterrey was a dirty industrial town, but a giant city too. Liaison said it reminded her of Chicago without Lake Michigan.

From each city, she called home to Dan at least once. He was interested in her reports of Mexican cities as travelogue, but also as potential business opportunities for his company. Their conversations were informative and loving, but never sexy. Almost every night from her bed, Laura would call Greg. With great embarrassment, she did get a chance in a ladies room to ask a female manager about finding a sex toy, specifically a thick vibrating dildo. Greg had been delighted when Laura described the meeting and even more the adventure of getting away to purchase his stand in.

Every phone call to her lover included sexual exercise with her new friend. The batteries were beginning to show their use; like some men, they could not withstand the daily sex grind Laura needed and loved. New batteries would help but Laura looked forward to the three days in San Francisco at the end of her Mexican trip. Her Baby Greg never needed new batteries.

The group’s final stop was Puerto Vallarta on the Pacific coast. Travel from Guadalajara was by a private motor coach through mountains that trace the west coast of the Americas from Canada to Chile. The sightseeing was awesome, but Laura fell in love with PV as soon as they arrived. Once again she found a large ex pat community. There was also a strong tourist business to support vacationers looking for sun and surf.

From Puerto Vallarta; “Dan Baby, you and I are going to come here next year on vacation. It is beautiful with mountains right behind and the ocean at doorstep. Puerto Vallarta may be the ultimate kick back and relax place we can visit. The town is a mixture of modern to the north and rustic to the south. We’ve had some great seafood dinners here too. You will love it and I will love it with you.”

When she called Greg Laura’s message was about romantic thoughts of strolling along the beach, swimming in the Pacific and cuddling together watching beautiful sunsets. She ended each phone call to her lover with a reminder that he needed to save all his energy because Laura would be returning to her bed in San Francisco and batteries be damned.

“I want you and not some toy. I need the sexing that only you can give me. I went without for six years. Now I have been without for three weeks. I need you to screw me soon and often Baby. I need you to screw me hard as only you can do.”

Laura and Liaison huddled on the flight home. They went over notes each had made of their many meetings. By discussion, they came up with a general outline for a trip report. Liaison would write the report for Laura who would submit it to President and Chairman. Hector’s Latin American idea seemed to be getting off to a good start; he would receive praise and there would be plenty more to spread around.

> > > - -

“Hi Artsy, it’s Laura, how are you today? The reason I called is I need your help with some clothing design stuff. Do you think we can do a long lunch this week?”

Some might view the casual friendship the women shared with jaundiced eye. They had been sexual partners that one night long ago and both admitted the sex had been special. They also shared a love for the same man, Laura’s husband. Laura knew well of herself that her love for Greg had gone into hiding for six years but it never died. She was certain Artsy still kept her love for Dan in a special place in her heart.

“So tell me Laura, what sort of clothing project has your fertile mind come up with that you think I can help you with?”

“Artsy, you dress with as much drama as anyone I know and you do it so naturally the way you wear the spectacular outfits your designer friends make. The after-hours line your friends helped me with has been wildly successful. What I am thinking is Business Lady can’t alter the cut of our basic line too much, but maybe we can upgrade our style using new fabric ideas.”

“Look who is talking about dressing with drama. I’ve seen you wear some outrageous outfits and I’ve heard about others. I think your fabric idea might work though. Let me talk to some of my friends.”

“That’s great. I guess we can get Mrs. Patron involved too and use her home once again as our runway show place. She does seem to like being involved in projects like this.”

“What she likes is being involved with anything that might affect her Daniel.”

“Yes she does dote on my Baby, but with me spending so much time in San Francisco with Business Lady it is good that he has someone like her for his spare time.”

“Speaking of you spending time in San Francisco, I have a delicate question. I understand from Dan that you are back with Greg again. You are wearing a second diamond, another man’s diamond ring. Very few women wear two diamond rings on that left hand finger.”

Laura considered Artsy’s question; dating Greg, living with him as lover for seven months, led to consummation of the budding romance between Dan and this woman Laura now called friend. Laura felt compelled to answer and answer truthfully. “Yes Artsy, after six years I have renewed my affair with Greg.”

“Laura, the way you say that, so nonchalant, makes me wonder what’s going on. You know as well as I do how close your marriage came to completely falling apart. You know how much pain you caused Dan. Dan’s pain became my pain Laura; he doesn’t need it again and neither do I, not at this point in my life.”

“I’ve grown up Artsy; I understand the selfish bitch I was back then. I hope, no not hope, I am sure, I will never do those things again. Greg is just an out there when I am out there only affair. I know that is all I can have and I will not try for more.” Laura fixed Artsy’s gaze and nodded her head. “I understand you care about Dan. I understand better than anyone love doesn’t just go away when it steps back, mine did not and not yours either.”

“Now can I ask a tough question that you might want to answer by saying none of your business Laura?”

“I think I can guess your question but go ahead.”

“Your marriage, Dan told me you were having some concerns. I am sure my marriage is stable right now and I intend to keep it that way. How is your marriage doing?”

“I can’t say the same, being stable, but we’re not completely on the outs. We seem to have a distance between us that is growing. Our communication is just not what it should be. I think that’s all I want to say right now.”

“Marriage is difficult, Artsy, you know I pushed limits in mine and made mistakes. Do your best is the only advice I can give. If you need to go to Dan for support I will understand. He can be a friend and safe to talk with although your hubby may not see Dan in that light.”

“Yes,” Artsy laughed a coarse ugly chuckle, “You are right about that; my husband would never see Dan as safe for me to talk with.”

> > > - -

“Hey Dan, I hate to bother you at work but we really need to get together soon and make some decisions if you are really going to hang Mrs. Patron’s nudes in your gallery.”

“Yeah Artsy, I guess we do. I’ve been putting it off, not about getting together with you so much, but I guess I feel strange about those portraits in my gallery. They are so personal for her. Has she been bugging you?”

With laughter in her voice Artsy answered, “You know she doesn’t bug Dan, she just asks questions in that very precise but roundabout way of hers. When can we get together?”

Later that week Artsy led Dan in a slow walk through of Dan’s gallery searching for atmosphere. She was trying to get a feel for what a first time visitor would see. “Dan, get us a glass of wine and then I want to talk something over with you.” Wine glass in hand Artsy took Dan to the entrance.

“Mrs. Patron is more than a friend Dan, you know that. She has been critical to you in so many ways and to our entire art community here. I recall telling you when we first met that Mrs. Patron and Friend always received preferential treatment. You didn’t understand then but now you know why both of those women are so special; they’re vital.”

“You are telling me we have to treat her installation as special. It must be the focal point, right?”

“Yes, and I think I see a way to make her portrait special. What if we hang a partial wall from the ceiling right in the middle? I don’t want to block the flow, certainly not the visual flow, so the wall must be off the floor and short of the ceiling. Her portrait could hang on the wall facing us as we stand. The sculpture and supporting work will be behind. Do you think that would work?”

Artsy and Dan kicked around details and variations of her idea. Dan finally agreed that he understood enough that he could get his carpenter involved in building. “Okay, that’s settled. There is just one more minor detail to be worked out for the open house. Laura and I always host the artist, but I don’t even know who he is. Mrs. Patron has never told me. Do you know who our lady’s mystery artist and equally mysterious lover might be?”

“Let me work on it. I should be able to find out without tipping off Mrs. Patron. I am sure we want to make him a surprise for her.”

> > > - -

The week preceding their open house was always hectic but this year was more so. Artsy did manage to identify and locate Raphael, the artist who painted Mrs. Patron so many years ago. He was living and working in Montreal of all places. As Mrs. Patron had never completely erased their time together, Raphael kept alive his memories of their intimacy. Dan wanted Raphael to be a secret until the first night of the open house.

Treating Friend properly would also pose a problem. She had dated no man since her husband died, but if Mrs. Patron would be paired with Raphael, Friend would need an escort. One of Dan’s associates at work was a widower; he agreed to be Friend’s escort for the three days of open house activity. Dan hoped Friend could accept a new man in her life for at least three days. With the two big problems solved the every year details like refreshments, valet parking and the press fell in line.

At precisely eight o’clock on First Night Dan escorted Mrs. Patron into the gallery and to her position aside the draped wall. “Tonight is a very prestigious moment for this gallery I started ten years ago. Laura and I honor a woman who has been supremely influential in everything I do in the art world. She is also a very dear close friend. This portrait and related pieces have had a private place in Mrs. Patron’s home for many years. She asked me to provide a new permanent home for them in this gallery. This installation is hers and hers alone. No other artists work will ever grace this new wall.” Dan gave a soft hug and kissed the cheek of his friend and mentor.

The audience Dan was addressing included prominent members of the local art community, close business and personal friends of Mrs. Patron, and the senior managers of Laura’s law firm and Dan’s company. The annual gallery open house had grown in prestige over the years such that their biggest opening night guest list problem was now paring the crowd to manageable size. Local and regional news media were always invited. Everyone wanted their name and picture in the Sunday paper. There was one more person waiting to be introduced.

“Mrs. Patron is the subject of the portrait we are unveiling tonight, but we always honor the artist as well.” Artsy removed the drapery exposing a much younger Mrs. Patron in her nude beauty. At the same time Dan announced, “Ladies and gentleman, welcome our honored artist.” Laura escorted Raphael to Mrs. Patron who he immediately hugged and cheek kissed. To say Mrs. Patron was shocked was an understatement. She immediately accepted hug and kiss and returned her feelings with emotion.

Raphael and Mrs. Patron remained side-by-side from the moment he was introduced. The guests mingled and looked at the evening’s primary exhibit as well as other pieces that graced the walls of Dan’s home. The bar and entertainment center for the evening had been set up in the den. Caterers managed that part of the evening program.

Interior Decorator approached Dan and Laura after the first crush of activity dissipated. “Dan my good friend, you have topped your previous events. The presentation of our lady friend, her paintings and sculpture, would have been enough. Finding Raphael and getting him here for her makes this year exceptional. You are amazing, but you have set a high standard for next year.” Interior Decorator kissed Dan to express his gratitude and Dan accepted, responding with understanding. Dan and Laura both glowed with pride and gave Interior Decorator a warm embrace.

The final act of first open house night was cocktails and conversation in the den for the main characters and a few select others such as Interior Decorator and his current lover. By chance everyone was paired as a couple, male to female with two exceptions. Interior Decorator and his lover were both male and Artsy was with LF not her husband. As the last guests bid goodnight Mrs. Patron announced that she would be with Raphael in his bedroom. Friend quietly asked Widower if he would like to share her bed. LF took Artsy home leaving Dan and Laura free to retire to their bedroom tired but pleased.

> > > - -

Ten o’clock on another Monday morning, Dan was at the head of the conference table with his coffee; Secretary was at opposite end ready to transcribe the staff meeting. “Good morning everyone, I trust you all survived the rigors of family life this weekend. Shall we get started?” Dan began his staff meeting routine with the basic facts. He had a chart Finance prepared that was going to be topic one.

Ten minutes into the meeting one of the group secretaries entered and went to Secretary to speak softly and directly as to not interrupt the meeting more than necessary. Dan paused as much out of native politeness as any other reason. Secretary stood to speak.

“Excuse me sir but there is an emergency phone call for you. Let me go see what it is about. I will return in a moment”

Following her announcement she left but returned only minutes later. She went to her boss’s side to whisper: “It’s Mrs. Patron for you. She is totally distraught. Some sort of emergency that she wouldn’t tell me about. She absolutely must speak with you, Sir. She sounded horribly upset.”

Dan stood, “Excuse me please, there appears to be some sort of personal emergency.” I am going to leave Secretary here to chair the meeting for procedural matters. Pointing to his key division manager, if any management decisions come up while I am gone Helen you make them. If you feel a need to wait for me to return just adjourn the meeting.” Dan was in his office with phone at his ear immediately.

“Oh Daniel, she’s gone, just gone. I don’t know what…” The voice tailed off to a moan.

“Tell me please, who’s gone? Is it Friend, our Friend? Try to settle down and tell me what has happened.”

“Medical alert… they called me… the company.” Dan had never known his mentor to ever be confused or this out of sorts. He told her to take a deep breath to relax and then continue. Dan listened to her breathe. “Thank you Daniel for being here for me. The medical alert company called me as they are supposed to do if they get a signal from her device. They call me immediately after they called 911.” Dan could tell Mrs. Patron was finally returning to a controlled state. He listened to her pause drawing a breath.

“I called 911 to be sure they were responding. After a short period, the medical alert company called me back. The ambulance people told them Friend was dead when they arrived. They are taking her somewhere, a hospital I guess. She is gone Daniel; my dearest Friend for such a long time is gone. Whatever will I do?”

“Let me make arrangements here to leave someone in charge. I will be with you as soon as possible.”

> > > - -

Life is a series of events. Usually those events string out over time as beads. At times two events collide and create conflict. In the year following Dan’s suggestion that Laura take her rings to San Francisco, the events described sprinkled the life timelines of Dan, Laura, Greg, Mrs. Patron and Friend, Artsy and others. The list is representative of highlights but not comprehensive. Any conclusions these events influence will be in the future.

This story is protected by International Copyright Law, by the author, all rights reserved. If found posted anywhere other than with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.

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