Healing Hands of Time
Copyright© 2010 by Joe J
My business took a turn on the first of February that ended up defining the direction in which we expanded. It started with one of the developers for whom I'd been building, coming by my office with an interesting proposal. His name was Laurence McManus, but everyone knew him as Larry Mac or just plain Mac.
Larry Mac was a big, burly, red-headed Irishman with an uncanny knack for reading the market. He'd throttled down his operation a year before the bottom fell out of the market, so the downturn didn't break him, as it had many of his competitors. I'd built a few houses for Mac in the last two years. We were business acquaintances and we got along well, but we were not really friends.
Mac was also a silver-tongued devil and a hell of a salesman.
"Joshua, I have an idea that will require a builder, and you were the first person I thought of," he said as soon as we sat down after shaking hands.
"I have a full plate in front of me right now, Mac, but I'm always willing to listen to a good proposal," I replied.
"I know you are busy, Josh," Mc Manus acknowledged, "and quite frankly, that's why I'm here. You are gaining a reputation for delivering a reasonably priced, high quality product, and it's ready when you promised. People are also starting to notice that you are innovative and creative when it comes to energy efficiency. I've got an idea that might be a challenge right up your alley..."
Mac explained that he had twelve hundred acres of woodlands just west of the interstate that he had been stuck with for years, because it was outside of the area the city serviced with water and sewer. When the market went belly up, Mac was able to purchase six smaller parcels that, when pieced together, abutted to his big tract and ran him right up to the city limits.
As soon as the last parcel cleared escrow, Mac had petitioned the city council to annex his tract into the city. The petition for annexation had unanimously passed the first reading by the council, and looked like a done deal. With city services available, Mac had a radically unique plan for the now seventeen hundred acre tract; plans that included a golf course, hiking and biking trails, wildlife sanctuaries, a few apartment buildings and seven to eight hundred single family dwellings.
His idea was radical, in that he wanted to create a 'green' community from the ground up. Ever part of the development would be on the cutting edge of energy efficiency, use of recycled materials and environmentally sound use of resources. With the emphasis the federal government was placing on going 'green', everyone and his cousin was jumping in to back McManus on the project. Even the power company was on board, as they committed to a four acre passive solar array. I was impressed and I was interested, with a caveat.
"If I did this Mac, I'd have to have a lot of input into the design of the houses, and you know this won't be cheap. I figure direct construction cost of a super efficient home will run anywhere from thirty to sixty dollars a square foot above normal building costs."
"Yep, that's about what I figured, but you let me worry about that. I am not building a single unit on speculation, so if I ask you to build it, it's already sold and the construction cost has been figured into the selling price."
I thought it was an interesting project and would probably only amount to a few houses a month, so I signed on. I knew that the green technology was the way to go, and I'd been making myself and my builders smarter about it for the last year. I guess I needed to have Frank pick a builder to specialize in the technology and teach the rest of us.
When I agreed to do it, Mac jumped up and shook my hand.
"Alright! Lauren has a line on an architect that is supposed to be some sort of eco-guru. I'll get you two together when she starts."
Lauren was McManus's daughter and a VP in his family-run company.
I walked McManus all the way out to the main door. He put his hand on it to push it open, then stopped and gave me an embarrassed look.
"Uh, Josh, I don't want to presume on our budding friendship, but could I ask you for a small favor?"
I shrugged and said, "Sure."
"I'm having a birthday party for my wife at my place this Saturday and I'd like you to be there to sort of act as my sister's escort. She just went through a rough divorce, and I know you did as well, so you know what she's going through and maybe the two of you could lean on each other's shoulders..."
After he left, I began to wonder what Mac must have thought about how quickly I said okay to his party. I was the one slightly embarrassed now, but hey, Cousin Joi was a favor for a friend, and look how well that turned out. Besides, doing a client a personal favor is good business, I rationalized.
I was right on time arriving at Larry's MacMansion. The house was large, but it was surprisingly inviting and comfortable. Larry met me at the door and immediately led me into the great room to introduce me to his sister, Carolyn Napier.
Carolyn was a redhead like her brother, and not as slender as the last few women I'd dated. She was built more like my sister Shelby, five-six, and one-thirty maybe. We stood and made conversation with Larry Mac until Larry's wife Kate stole him to help her in the kitchen. As soon as Larry was out of earshot, Carolyn gave me a hard look.
"You can stop working so hard to impress me," she said angrily. "I'll kill my brother for this."
I leaned back in surprise at her vehemence.
"Kill him for what?" I asked.
"Don't play innocent with me. You know he hired you to be here with me tonight. Look at you, all tan and buff and ten years younger than me. Stevie Wonder could see you are some escort service gigolo. In real life, I'll bet you are gay and a male model."
I was tanned because I was outside quite a bit for work. As for being buff, I didn't consider myself that at all. I was fit, though, because I never lost the motivation I had as a Ranger to stay in shape. I wasn't a workout fanatic, but I ran four miles on the beach every other morning, and did my sit-up and push-ups.
All of that, I figured, was of no interest to Carolyn, and I wasn't about to embarrass her farther. It was time to go home, or at least to go somewhere else. Heck, I was always welcome at Maybelline's!
"Clearly this was a mistake, Missus Napier, and I apologize for making you so uncomfortable. Please give my regrets to your brother and Kate. I'll see myself out."
I was sitting on my balcony the next morning with a cup of coffee and my laptop, when my doorbell rang. I sat my laptop on the table beside my Adirondack chair and padded to the door barefoot. I'd run that morning and I wasn't expecting company, so I was wearing shorts and a ratty t-shirt after my shower.
By contrast, Carolyn Napier was standing in front of my door looking casually elegant in calf length white Capri's, sandals and a dark green silk blouse. Her dark red hair was pulled back in a French braid with a pair of expensive Maui Jim tortoise shell sunglasses on top of her head. Her hands were full with a cup carrier with two cups of coffee in one, and a bag from Duncan Donuts in the other.
She smiled shyly when I opened the door, her lovely big blue eyes pensive as she pushed the bag of pastries into my hand.
"Good morning Mister Joshua Fuller, the engineer and construction company owner, I'm Larry McManus's idiot sister Carolyn. Can we start all over?"
I grinned and shook my head.
"That depends. How do I know you're not some high priced hooker out drumming up business?"
She laughed gaily and pushed past me into my tiny foyer.
"I'd be offended, except you said high priced," she said as we stepped into the open-plan kitchen and living room.
"Wow, this place is very clean and neat for being a bachelor pad."
It took a lot of courage for her to come around this morning and apologize to me, and the idea she thought it was necessary spoke volumes about her character. So I teased her some more to help her relax.
"Yeah, I make all my gigolo customers tidy it up for me," I said with a big leer.
We sat at the two stool breakfast bar with our coffee and pastries, because the sun made her freckle. She apologized profusely for the way she acted the night before and I told her to forget it, I was flattered in a way. We laughed and talked like old friends, our connection and attraction immediate.
Carolyn was an Orthodontist with her own practice, her dental office spoils from her divorce from her husband of ten years and former partner in the practice. Ironically, her divorce became final on the same day as mine; hers after a nasty six month tooth and nail fight for her share of everything they jointly owned. Carolyn was also my neighbor, she and her seven-year-old daughter having just moved into a new townhouse a couple of blocks away on the other side of the coastal highway.
I don't know how she and I transitioned from the breakfast bar to naked in my king-sized bed, but neither of us was sorry it happened.
Carolyn Napier wasn't a toned hard body like Amber, or a naturally slender model like Joi. Instead, she was a healthy mature woman of thirty-five. Her body sported a few extra pounds and bore some of the ravages of childbirth, but she was surprisingly well put together and had marvelous peaches and cream skin.
Afterward, we basked in the afterglow. Carolyn curled up cutely against my side with her head on my shoulder, as she idly twiddled the sparse hair on my chest. I was lying on my back with a beach towel under me to cover a big wet spot.
"You could have been, you know," she said softly.
"Could have been what?"
"A gigolo. I thought sex like that only existed in fiction."
I turned my head and kissed her on the forehead.
"I'll keep that in mind if business gets bad, but I'll probably have to find a new place to entertain my customers. You were so loud my neighbors will probably ask me to move."
She laughed and gave my nipple a playful twist, We showered and went to a beachside pub for lunch. After lunch, we walked on the beach for a while as gathering rain clouds tempered the bright sun, then we went up to my condo for round two. Carolyn ended up spending the weekend with me, as it was her daughter's weekend with her dad.
In the middle of the second week of February, late in the morning, I finally received a call from my PI, Phil Trent. Phil had been on the case of finding out about Blakemore's drug involvement for eight weeks now, and was into me for twenty grand. For all that money, I'd received a phone call from him every Friday, during which he told me that the investigation was continuing.
"Josh, I just spent the morning meeting with an old friend of mine from the DEA. I turned over the results of my investigation to him, because we came up against information that I was duty-bound to report. What I discovered is now part of a larger ongoing investigation that I can't say anything about. I can't go into specifics, but your friend's doings aren't going to be swept under the rug.
"With the Feds on the case, I don't need to be, so I'll refund you any monies I didn't use. When the dust settles on this, we'll sit down over a beer and talk about it. Until then, you need to keep what you know or suspect to yourself, okay?"
I guessed it had to be kept confidential, and I also guessed that it was going to be a strain on my patience, sitting and waiting for something to happen.
I dated Carolyn Napier casually for a few months, mostly on the weekends her ex had their daughter. Except in the bedroom, we were never that serious. Carolyn liked her men older and more settled than me, and like Amber was for me, I was her rebound lover. We parted as friends though, and that was a big thing to both of us.
Time kept passing, days turned to weeks, and suddenly it was only a few weeks until Easter. I was sitting in my office, fitting together a schedule for April that would allow me three or four days in North Carolina to check on Hawk's log cabin, when my cell phone chirped. I checked the caller ID and was mildly surprised when the display read 'DJ'. I hadn't spoken to her since Christmas.
"Hello, Deej, this is an unexpected pleasure," I said in greeting.
"Yeah, it's been too long," she agreed.
We exchanged some pleasantries, I asked her about school, and she asked me about work; each of us consciously avoiding our personal lives. After a couple of minutes, she told me why she called.
"So Josh, the ballet is next weekend. Would it be tacky if I wore the same black dress I wore the last time?"
"Nah, you look great in that dress, Nate will love it," I replied.
"Why would what Nate thought matter, he's not going with us," she said perplexedly.
"Huh," I replied, ever the dullard.
"I'm going to the ballet with you, not Nate," she explained.
Then she told me what to wear and when to pick her up, as if this was something we'd planned months ago.
After she rang off, I looked at the phone for a few seconds, then went out and talked to Mitzi.
"Mitz, Dakota just called me and said I was taking her to the ballet. Did she break up with Nate?"
"Nate only lasted a month, then it was James for three weeks, and Stu for a month. I think my daughter likes playing the field. Kinda like you, come to think of it."
"Oh," I said brightly, I didn't know what to think about that.
Taking Dakota to the Ballet was like old times. I thoroughly enjoyed being with her. I was more attentive to her this time, and made a better effort of concentrating on the ballet.
When I walked her to the door, I told her I'd missed her and our friendship. She stood on her tip toes and bussed me on the lips.
"Your fault Joshua, you know where I live."
You know what disappointed me the most about the evening? Not once did she call me Fuller.
I thought about Dakota a lot the next few weeks, but I didn't call or visit her, because Mitzi said she was dating some guy named Brian. I stayed out of Dakota's way, because I didn't want our friendship to intrude on her relationship with this Brian guy.
It was only after I returned from visiting Hawk's place in North Carolina, that it dawned on me that I had feelings for Dakota that went way past friendship. That realization caused me some major emotional turmoil. Dakota was still technically a teenager, regardless how mature, She was also twelve years younger than me and the daughter of one of my very best friends. In the end, I kept my feelings to myself and concentrated on work.
It helped that we started construction on three eco-friendly model homes for Larry Mac's Winding Creek Preserve. I was involved in the construction and planning to the point of even orienting the houses on the lots. I had the front of the houses facing north, so the passive solar hot water heating systems on their roofs were exposed to the southern sun all day, every day. I selectively cleared the lots, leaving as many hardwood trees as possible. Pine trees I had cut and sold for pulp wood. For every pine we cut, Weyerhaeuser, the forestry company that bought the wood, planted two in a fire ravaged corner of the development.
We were using cutting-edge technology on the models, and as many recycled materials as we could lay our hands on. Mitzi and her group were taking advantage of every federal and state rebate or subsidy they could find, so in some instances, the recycled products were actually cheaper. Even the manufacturers of the materials were involved by either discounting their material to keep us buying, or sending us factory reps to bring us up to speed on how to best use their product. Building a 'green' home added a few weeks to our construction schedule, but I simply adjusted my scheduling program for seventeen weeks instead of fourteen and we drove on.
Suddenly, the date of Lindsey and my anniversary arrived. The event had much less emotional impact on me than I thought it would. Sure, I had pangs of regret by what could have been, but with every passing day, I became surer that Lindsey's kicking me to the curb was actually the best thing she could have done for me. Our relationship had been so flawed and wrong, even Doctor Phil would have run screaming from it.
About few weeks after that ugly anniversary, I gave up on trying to force Dakota Morrison out of my mind. Besides, she was no longer a teen, having turned twenty a few days ago. I walked over to Mitzi's office and asked her to take a ride with me. I drove to the Dairy Queen, and sitting on an umbrella shaded picnic table slurping on an Oreo Blizzard, I professed my feelings for her daughter. Instead of the negative reaction that I'd steeled my self for, Mitzi just smiled and patted my hand.
"That's great, Josh, but aren't you telling all this to the wrong Morrison woman?"
At seven o'clock that evening, I pulled up behind the well used Jeep Wrangler that sat in the driveway of the modest Cape Cod house on Peninsula Drive so I could tell the right one. I took a deep calming breath and hopped out of my truck.
Mitzi answered the door when I rang the bell. She smiled at me encouragingly and kissed me on the cheek as I stood there nervously.
"She's up in her room studying, go on up."
I nodded and bounded up the stairs two at a time. Her bedroom door was open, and she was standing at her chalkboards, a sheaf of papers in her right hand, and a piece of chalk in her left. She was busily scribbling numbers on the board, moving left to right, not by sidestepping, but by twisting first on her toes and then her heels. I cleared my throat and she spun around.
She was barefooted and wearing my old AC/DC t-shirt over a pair of well worn blue pajama pants with pictures of Mister Potato Head on them. Her unruly brown hair was held behind her head in a Scrunchied ponytail. Her only makeup was a smear of chalk on her left cheek. Yet, she was the most beautiful woman in the world.
Dakota looked at me standing there like an idiot, a dozen red roses clutched in my paw, and arched her left eyebrow.
"You finally figure it out, Fuller?" she asked.
I nodded my head. It was the first time she'd called me Fuller in months.