Healing Hands of Time
Chapter 7

Copyright© 2010 by Joe J

I was in a confused fog the morning after my date with Amber. I really didn't know what to think about my evening with her, and I had no idea what to think about her idea of us dating without commitment. I liked Amber and we got along great, but I was still in love with Lindsey and despite everything, I somehow felt I'd be betraying her if I dated Amber.

I was in my parent's backyard, sitting in their big wicker swing and thinking about all that, when Shelby dropped onto the seat next to me.

"Penny for your thoughts," she said, as she took over the chore of locomoting the swing.

I gave her a grateful grin and laid my predicament on her.

"Well, that didn't take long," she said after I spilled my guts.

Her comment reinforced what I was already worrying about, because I thought she was saying that it didn't take me long to round up another woman, despite my protestations of love for Lindsey.

"Wait a minute Shel, I didn't chase after Amber and I didn't do anything but kiss her good night. I still love Lindsey and I'm not that fickle. And suppose it doesn't work out with butt-face Blakemore? She's much likelier to come back to me if I haven't been out tomcatting around," I protested hotly.

Shelby gave me a strange look and put her gentling hand on my cheek.

"You misunderstood me, bro. I meant that it didn't take long for some woman to figure out what a great guy you were and swoop you up. This Amber sounds like a woman with principles too, and you could really use one about now. I don't see any harm in you casually dating her; matter-of-fact, it will probably do you a world of good while you readjust to being single.

"That other stuff about Lindsey is a pipe dream and you know it. Even if it doesn't work out between Lindsey and this Blakemore creep, she still isn't coming back to you. Face it, you were her starter husband and she's out grown you."

I tried to argue with Shelby about her Lindsey comment, but even someone as blind as me could see she had a point.

Shelby hung out with me until Archie arrived. Archer Paulson was a good guy, and I liked the hell out of him. He was not your prototypical computer geek and he treated my sister well, so we got along just fine. I'd given Archie a talking-to when they first started dating. He'd come over to see Shelby, forgetting that Shel and mom were going shopping. I put my arm, friendly like, around his neck with my forearm on his Adam's apple, and provided him the facts of life concerning my sister.

"Archie," I said, "if you ever do anything to hurt my sister, I'll come after you. And you'd have better luck trying to bathe a wildcat in a telephone booth than you would messing with me."

Archie had swung by Krispy Kreme on his way over and snagged a couple dozen hot donuts. My parents loved Archie and treated him as one of the family already. Archie thought my parents were cool because of their laid back attitude and openness about sex.

Since mom and dad were still in bed, engaged in who knows what, the three of us sat at the patio table scarfing donuts and yakking about Shelby and Archie's upcoming wedding.

Their wedding was slated to happen in about six weeks, the fifteenth of October to be exact, and Shelby was busy nailing down the last loose ends. Now that I was split from Lindsey, they asked me to be an usher. Shelby unapologetically told me they hadn't asked me before, because she hadn't wanted Lindsey in the bridal party. I promised to head down to Maurice's to be fitted for a tux Monday morning.

Shelby and Archie were all into the ecology thing and had a unique wedding and reception planned. They were doing both events at this botanical garden they contributed time and money to. The highlight of the event was to be the release of a thousand butterflies when they said their vows. Instead of wedding gifts, they were asking their guests to contribute the money to the garden. To each his own I guess.

My parents wandered out onto the patio around eleven and joined us at the table, since there were only four chairs, mom languidly curled up in dad's lap. Even though I'd been around the two of them doing that kind of stuff for thirty years, it was still disconcerting watching them act as if they were newlyweds. This morning it was even worse, because they still had a glow about them from their morning romp.

At noon, Shelby and mom fixed lunch and headed out for some wedding necessity shopping and we men settled down in front of the tube to watch the Dolphins kick the crap out of Buffalo.

After a macho afternoon of male bonding over football and beer, I headed to my room to call Amber. I'd made up my mind to ask her out for at least one real date. I felt I owed her that and I liked her, so why not? Amber didn't answer her house phone, so I left her a message.

"Hey Amber, it's Josh, uhh, Joshua Fuller. I am calling to see if you'd like to go out with me sometime this week. Dinner and a movie maybe. I won't call your cell, in case you are spending time with your family or something."

Amber didn't return my call until eleven in the morning on Monday. By then, I was a hundred and fifty miles away, trying to explain to a hardheaded Weaver-Wilson site engineer why he needed to drive the pilings for the three story motel he was building ten feet deeper into the soft Florida sugar sand. Since my explanation was falling on deaf ears, her call was a welcomed interruption.

"Hi Amber, I'm happy you called," I said as I walked away from the stubborn young engineer.

"Hi yourself," she replied, "sorry I missed you last night, but I had something to take care of. It was very considerate of you not to ring my cell, but it was off anyway."

"No problem. So I thought about what you said, and decided dating you was a great idea. What say we grab some Italian Friday night and go see a movie? I'll even let you pick the film."

Amber made me an even better counterproposal.

"How about I cook you Italian Thursday, you pick up a video and we watch it here instead?"

I jumped on that like a hungry gator on a small dog.

"You can cook?" I asked in wonder.

From my experience with Lindsey, I figured all beautiful women refused to go near the kitchen.

"I am a very good cook," she avowed. "In fact, I think you'll find I have all sorts of useful skills."

On Tuesday morning, I sat down with an attorney I'd hired who specialized in commercial law. I'd hired Rick Fallon the day after my last meeting with Judge Hawkins, on the advice of Gil Weaver. I wanted Rick to find a fair market value for my business, to review Mitzi's idea for our reorganization, and to help me figure out how to give Frank and Mitzi an ownership stake in the new company. Today, he was going to present his findings and recommendations for all three tasks.

I sat with Rick for an half an hour reviewing the two documents he gave me. The incorporation paper work was almost identical as to what Mitzi had researched, plus my additional requirements. I thought it was perfect and told him to file the paperwork with the Department of Business Regulation as soon as possible.

I had more questions about the valuation of my business, because his numbers seemed high. He had an explanation, though, that made sense.

"A fair evaluation has to cover not only your tangible assets, but also the intangibles like good will and client base, because you are a service business. Those things are hard to pin down, but in the end, I came up with them being worth about twice the value of your other assets. I ran the numbers by a CPA and he agreed they were fair."

I thanked Rick and wrote him a check for his work, then as an afterthought, I wrote him another as a retainer, and hired him as our corporate attorney.

Like I said, I was thrilled with the shape of the new company; the problem was that I suddenly owed Lindsey one hundred and eighteen thousand dollars. Even if I drained both J&L's and my own bank accounts, I could only come up with half of that amount. Regardless of how much I hated the idea, it looked like I was going to have to negotiate a payment scheme with Lindsey's lawyer.

I called Frank in from the field while I was driving back to the office. Neither he, nor Mitzi, knew about the changes I'd made to Mitzi's plan, and I wanted to surprise them.

Frank returned to the office about eleven thirty, so I hustled them into my truck and took them to Poon's for lunch. Lee was happy to see us and led us to a nice quiet table. After grazing at the buffet a couple of times, I ordered us all coffee and casually slid a copy of the new incorporation papers over to them. I kept my face impassive as they opened the folders and started reading. Mitzi was the first to reach my changes.

"What the hell is this, Josh," she asked tapping her finger on the page.

I craned my neck to see where she was pointing, then answered her question.

"That's your new job title, Missus Vice President," I said.

Mitzi was now vice president of finance and administration, and Frank was the VP of construction.

She gave me a little lop-sided grin before starting to read again. I smiled when her head popped back up, because I knew she'd just read what went with her new title.

"Josh honey, this is very generous on top of what you are paying us," she said.

I shrugged, and since Frank was now looking at me shaking his head in agreement, I told them my reasoning for what I'd done.

"It's not generosity; it is recognition for your importance to the company. With your help, we've been profitable almost from day one, and we are at the point where we need to expand. We already need another field superintendent, and we'll be looking for an assistant for Mitzi soon. Besides, if you think about it, I'm just protecting my interest by giving you a stake in the company and an opportunity to earn more. It is going to be hard for either of you to walk away from ten to twenty-four percent of what I foresee as a very profitable enterprise."

I had structured the new company so that Frank and Mitzi owned ten percent each. At the end of each year they were with me, they'd receive another percent. They were receiving a modest pay raise with their new titles, but the real earning potential was a nice slice of our yearly profits.

My new partners were happy campers by the time we stood up from the table.

I was standing at Amber's door at six-thirty sharp on Thursday night. I sincerely hoped I would someday be able to stand on her doorstep without being nervous. Today was not that day though. I wiped my sweaty palms on my jeans, took a deep breath and rang her doorbell.

I must have looked as if I was ready to bolt when Amber opened the door, because she smiled reassuringly and tugged me into the foyer.

"Come on in Josh, I don't bite ... much," she said with a girlish giggle.

She took the bouquet of Daisies out of my hand, and gave me a kiss on the cheek.

"Bring the wine into the kitchen while I put these in some water. Then we can talk while the noodles cook."

I followed her into the kitchen and complimented her on how good she looked. Amber was cheerleader pretty instead of drop dead gorgeous. I couldn't tell if her blond hair was natural, but her deep blue eyes were probably the result of tinted contacts. She did look good, even though she was bare footed and dressed down in a pair of walking shorts and a sleeveless blouse. In the sleeveless blouse and shorts without hosiery, I saw for the first time how long legged and fit she was. The musculature of her arms and legs rippled smoothly beneath her skin, without taking away from her sleek womanly figure. Amber also had a trim shapely butt, narrow waist and generous breasts that while not huge, rode high and proud on her slender torso.

Amber served me a very nice spaghetti dinner. It wasn't made from scratch, but she'd used good ingredients and added just the right amount of spices. I showed my appreciation by making two helpings disappear. I swallowed the last bite of garlic bread and sat back with a satisfied sigh as she beamed in pleasure across from me.

"I hope you saved room for dessert," she said.

I groaned and patted my stomach.

"I'm stuffed to the gills," I replied, "and I'm not much for sweets anyway."

She laughed and said, "Me too."

Then her expression turned pensive.

"I'm attracted to you, Josh, and I think you are a terrific guy, but before we go any further, I have something to tell you that you need to keep to yourself, regardless of how you feel about me afterwards, okay?"

Uh-oh, I thought, here it comes, the real reason she wants to go out with me. With my luck, it would probably be a loan to help her through school. Yet she looked so uncomfortable at the idea of telling me, that it was either something else, or she should be in Hollywood. I nodded my head cautiously.

She heaved a sigh and gave me the news.

"The reason I don't have any financial problems and could afford to leave my job at Crossman is because I have a fall back part time job that pays extremely well. Unfortunately, my other job might cause a problem with us, so I'm telling you about it first."

She blushed and looked down as I sat there quietly, my interest piqued.

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