My inspiration for this story is Ol' Blue Eyes' rendition of I Want To Be Around recorded in 1964.
I WANT TO BE AROUND by Frank Sinatra
I wanna be around to pick up the pieces when somebody breaks your heart,
Somebody twice as smart as I.
Somebody who will swear to be true like you used to do with me,
Who'll leave you to learn that misery loves company, wait and see.
I wanna be around to see how he does it when he breaks your heart to bits,
Let's see if the puzzle fits, so fine,
And that's when I'll discover that revenge is sweet,
As I sit there applauding from a front row seat,
When somebody breaks your heart like you broke mine.
There wasn't a lot of formal education in my past, just high school; my knowledge was from more of hand's on type of lessons. I was working in the southern U.S. blowing up bridges and large buildings that had been damaged or destroyed by Katrina. My understanding of explosives came from working with my dad in the mines of the Midwestern states.
My name is Patrick Kelly. I worked with my dad, James, for five years learning about explosives. My mother lost her battle with cancer when I was 15 so Dad had me work with him just after I turned 16; I was a big kid even at that age and could pass for being much older. My dad was 6' 2 and I topped him by two inches when I got my full growth. At 16 it wasn't exactly legal for me to be working in that industry, but it sure was educational. By the time I was 23 I was a blaster.
I could plan a blast chart, plant the charges, and wire them for detonation. I could bring a building down on itself and not bother the buildings on either side; it's called imploding. By the time I was 25 I was one of the best explosive experts in the country. That's why I was hired to go to the Gulf Coast and clean up after Katrina.
My last shot had gone off without a problem and brought down two three story buildings at the same time; they had been flooded and ruined during the hurricane. My boss, Jake, joined me at the generator blasting unit and said there were a couple of guys in the onsite office trailer that wanted to see me.
"Okay, I'll be there as soon as I inspect this shot," I replied.
"I think you better go now; I'll do the after action inspection," he said almost making it an order.
Looking at him with a question in my eyes he said, "Get going Patrick."
These guys must be some heavy hitters if they could spook Jake, I thought on my way to the trailer. I hadn't done anything wrong so it couldn't be the law looking for me. The two men were waiting for me when I opened the door. I nodded at them and sat down at my desk.
"You're Patrick Kelly?"
"Yep, who are you?"
"I'm John Smith and this is Jim Jones," he answered with a grin at giving me obviously false names.
"And what can I do for you, Mr. Smith?" I smiled and went along with the gag.
From there it was just a matter of exchanging information. Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones worked for a security firm whose area of responsibility was outside of the continental U. S. The firm was an independent contractor but one with strong ties to the U. S. government. Basically they wanted to hire me to go blow things up. There was a lot more Intel, their word not mine, but that was the meat and potatoes of it.
I would head a crew that would help clean up the damage done to the infra structure in another country by the war. We would implode gutted buildings, several bridges that had been weakened by shelling needed to be brought down so new bridges could be built, and several roads and some mountain passes needed to be cleared. Basically we would use explosives to help clear the way for rebuilding.
I would be deployed, again their word, for nine months with an offer of another nine months if I wanted to stay. The salary offered was outrageous. I would make more in nine months than I did in three years at home. If I reuped for another tour there would be a huge signing bonus in addition to a raise in salary.
They basically money whipped me into taking the job; it was too much money to pass up. I won't go into the name of the company or the country because I signed a non disclosure agreement. But I was on my way to the sand pit.
A little over four months ago, I came back to the real world. Back to the world of hot and cold running water and women. Back to the world of ice in your drinks and fast food and pizza. Back to the world of pretty girls wearing short skirts and bikinis. In short, I came back to the United States.
I can't tell you exactly where I had been; it's supposed to be top secret. Just let me say that there was a lot of sand, a lot of heat, and a lot of unfriendly types shooting; sometimes they shot at me and my crew. I'd been gone for about 18 months. I would have probably stayed for another tour but an RPG got a little too close to the explosives truck I was driving. If the RPG had hit that truck it would have seriously screwed up my day, week and life; I decided it was time for little Patrick to get out of Dodge.
The first thing I wanted when I got off the plane was a double Gentleman Jack. Alcohol was really frowned on where I had been; something about religious beliefs. Not my beliefs but we had to abide with them. The next thing I wanted was a woman. No I don't mean a hooker or prostitute; I just wanted to look at a woman or women dressed in anything but flowing robes and veils with nothing but their eyes showing. Sometimes not even their eyes showed. Maybe I could see some coeds in a short skirts and crop tops.
I'd been home for a week just decompressing and enjoying the land of the big PX when I ran into Riley Jansen. Riley had been and was still my best friend; we had grown up together. Before I'd gone to work with my dad full time at 20, Riley and I had been the scourge of the female population of our town. I slowed down after going full time; dudes working with explosives don't need hands shaking from too much alcohol and not enough sleep the night before.
If I wasn't on a job, Riley and I ran together, chasing girls, and having them chase us. If a girl was hot or extra affectionate our philosophy was one date wasn't enough and four was too many. We had a lot of fun but we sure pissed off a lot of young women.
I was sitting at a table in Dooley's, which was becoming my favorite watering hole, watching several young lovelies flaunt their good looking, scantily clad, hard bodies by dancing for me. They weren't really flaunting themselves nor were they dancing for me; it had just been so long since I had seen girls like this that I thought they were teasing me.
"You're too ugly and too old for them boy."
I heard the voice and turned to see whose head I was about to take off. It was Riley standing there with a smile and a bucket glass of Gentleman Jack.
"Here this ought to cool you down. If not, I'll have to get a hose," he said.
"Damn Riley, it's good to see you. It's been too long."
"Yeah it has. I heard you just got back from some secret deal out of the country. What's that all about? How're you doin?"
"I'm good but I can't talk about where I've been. I will say I made a ton of money so I can take it easy for a few months before I start blowing things up again," I replied.
We talked for a few minutes, catching up on our lives. I noticed that although Riley was smiling and having fun something was eating at him. He would get a faraway look in his eyes and seem to zone out for a few seconds.
Finally I said, "What's bothering you Riley? You aren't here sometimes so tell my where you are."
"I know it's sort funny, maybe ironic is the right word, but some bitch broke my heart." He took a shot and chased it with a beer. "Ain't that crazy? I played with around with a lot of girls and now one does to me what I used to do to them."
Riley was really down; I'd never seen him this way. "Tell Uncle Patrick all about. Maybe talkin will help you get over her."
In my mind I was laughing at him a little. It was ironic ... he's the one hurting instead of some girl he left. Of course I couldn't say that to him. During our wilder days I'd left plenty of young ladies too; but I never promised anything but a good time. Riley would talk about being in love or anything else he could use to get a girl into his bed. He and I had several intense discussions about his methods.
As they say, that was then this was now. My friend needed help so I'd be there for him. Riley got another shot and beer and began his story.
"I met her at an insurance seminar; there was a dinner dance afterwards and we seemed to hit it off. From there it developed into going to dinner, or the movies, and several times dancing at one of the clubs. We dated hot and heavy for three months. I thought I'd found the girl I wanted to marry and bought an engagement ring." Riley stopped, threw back the whiskey, and ordered another drink, looking at me to see if I was ready for more alcohol.
Shaking my head no, I told him, "Go on with your story Riley. I'd like to hear it before you get too drunk to talk."
"Well, one evening I took Cassidy to an expensive restaurant."
"That's the girl's name, Cassidy?" I asked.
"Yeah, Cassidy Nolan. She works in the accounting department at the same insurance company I do." He stopped for several swallows of his beer. "Where was I?"
"You took Cassidy to a fancy restaurant," I reminded him.
"Oh yeah. I took her to dinner and when I took her home we got into a really hot make out session in my car. That's when I asked her to marry me."
"I take it that she said no, considering the way you're acting."
"Not just no; she said she just thought of me as a friend. She said she was sorry if I thought it was more than that. Damn bitch led me on, teased me, let me spend a shit pot of money on her, and made me think she loved me back." Riley finished his beer and ordered another one. He was going to be comatose if he keeps this up, I thought.
"C'mon Riley, there's lots of other women out there just waitin for you to notice them," I said trying to get him out of his funk. "She's just another one for you to forget."
"Maybe, but Cassidy is the whole package. They don't make women like that every day," he replied.
"What's so special about this one Riley? I've seen you with some pretty hot babes."
"Cassidy is more than hot. Oh, she's really good looking and has a great body. But what makes her special is her personality. She's funny, intelligent, listens to you when you talk, and makes you feel like you're special. Did I mention that she's beautiful and has a great body?"
"Yeah, twice. You make her sound like the Mother Theresa of hot women. She can't be that great," I said.
Riley sort of pointed with his head and eyes and replied, "See for yourself. She just walked in."
I casually turned to see the woman that had stomped on my buddy's heart; there was no doubt which of the two girls coming in was Cassidy. Not having met her I didn't know how she interacted with people, but the rest of her would make up for a lot of bad personality traits. Cassidy Nolan was a stone cold fox. It's said that Helen of Troy's face launched a thousand ships; if Cassidy had been there they wouldn't have bothered. Helen was second rate, comparatively speaking.
She had long auburn curly hair that hung almost to her waist. It was a lot of hair because she was at least 5' 10. Riley had told the truth about her body; if we'd been in California she would have been called a "hard body". I hadn't even met her and I already felt that she would an interesting person to know.
Cassidy saw Riley and walked over to say hello. She didn't act like someone who had just dumped on a guy. She was open, friendly, and even touched his arm when she left. Either she was a bitch of the highest magnitude or something didn't add up here. She nodded and smiled at me before she walked away; I saw a pair of striking green eyes that showed intelligence and maybe a little mischief. We hadn't said a word to each other and I already felt special.
"See what a bitch she is. Coming over here acting like nothing happened between us; she's just torturing me," Riley whined.
"C'mon, I thought she was just saying hello to a friend. I mean she didn't say anything about you proposing."
Riley was mumbling something about revenge, payback, and wanting to see Cassidy hurt.
"What are you mumbling about Riley?"
"I was talkin about payback, gettin even. I want to be around to see her hurt, like she did to me. I want her to see how it feels to have your heart broken. I'd love to have a front row seat, when some guy hurts her. Man that would be sweet revenge."
"You quoting Frank Sinatra now?"
"Huh?" He questioned.
"Sinatra's song 'I want to be around', you know."
"Yeah right, I guess, he answered. "Got to hit the head." Riley finished his beer and headed to the men's room. He returned to our table with another round of drinks for both of us. He had an evil grin on his face. "Say Patrick, how about helping your best friend out?"
"What are you talkin about?" I didn't like the look on his face.
"That would work you know," Riley said when he sat down.
"What would work?"
"Like that song you mentioned said. I was thinkin about it and that'd be just fine. "You could make a play for Cassidy. Get her to fall for you and when she does, you cut her loose. Just like she cut me loose. Like the song sez, I could pick up the pieces and get her to come back to me."
"I don't like the sounds of this Riley. Besides she doesn't even know me. What makes you think I could get her to fall for me?" I looked at him for a few seconds, and then continued, "Even if I did get her interested and then dumped on her, would you want her back under those circumstances? I mean it'd be like you were her second choice."
"Did you look at that woman? Of course I'd take her back. I'm not even in the race right now so second place sounds pretty good to me; especially if Cassidy's the prize," Riley replied.
"How would I meet her? If I walk up and put a move on her, she'll just think I'm some jerk."
"Naw man, I'll introduce you. Tell her the truth; that you my friend and just came back from a job out of the country. It'll be like takin candy from a baby," he said trying to convince me.
"I don't know if I've got the moves anymore. It's been a long time since I played that game," I said still hoping to talk my way out.
"It's like riding a bike, you never forget. Did you see the smile she gave you when she left? Besides you're still the same hunk that you were in high school. You're tall and got a good build from all that hard work. With that dark hair and blue eyes you could attract almost any girl. I mean I'm not gay, but if I was I'd go for you in a minute."
I'm not dumb; he was stroking my ego to get me to do him this favor. "Riley old friend, you're pathetic."
"Maybe so, but will you help me Patrick?"
I looked at the hopeful expression on Riley's face and thought about our friendship and what he wanted me to do. He started to say more but I held up my hand to stop him. It was almost five minutes before I made my decision.
"Okay Riley, I'll give it a try," I agreed. Did you ever agree to go somewhere or do something and the second that the words came out of your mouth, you regretted it? That's exactly the way I felt.
"There are a couple of rules though, Riley. I won't tell her I love her, no lies, and no sex. If I get her interested in me fine, but I won't be a sleaze bag doing this."
"But Patrick, you've got to..." Riley started but I stopped him.
"Those rules are cut in stone. When we were chasing all those girls I never lied to any of them and I'm not going to start now."
He stared at me for a little while and said, "When do we start?"
I glanced over at their table and said, "Right now. Isn't that Sarah Jackson sitting with Cassidy?"
He looked and then nodded. "So what?"
"She and I had a thing going for awhile before I left for New Orleans. Sarah's one of the few girls that I dated more than three or four times. You remember, you and that red head double dated with us a couple of times."
Recognition showed on Riley's face and I went on, "Let's walk over and say hello to our old friend Sarah and see if we can get her to introduce me to Cassidy. If not, you can do the introductions. Let's go," I ordered and stood up. "When we get there Sarah will invite us to sit down. Don't do it, say you have to meet somebody or do something and leave."
He looked at me puzzled. "I don't want Cassidy thinking about your break up; I want her to be focused on me. Okay?"
Sarah smiled at me as we got to her table and after the normal how are you, it's been a long time and it's good to see you, she invited us to sit with them. I nudged Riley, he made an excuse and left. I ordered a round and joined Sarah, Cassidy, and two other girls at the table. Let the games begin, I said to myself.
Cassidy didn't wait for Sarah, she introduced herself to me and we shook hands across the table. I talked mainly to Sarah, including Cassidy just enough to be polite. It was a ploy to get her interested in me. If you're used to getting attention, like I'm sure Cassidy was, and someone doesn't seem to notice you an attraction develops.
The bar didn't have live music but a DJ came in and started playing music. After two or three songs I asked Sarah to dance. A little later I danced with the other two girls at the table and then with Cassidy. The next dance with Sarah she looked at me for a minute.
"What are you doing Patrick? She asked with a little smile. "And don't give me any bull."
"You always did know when I was up to something," I replied with a smile. "Maybe that's why we're better as friends than as a couple. To answer your question, I'm trying to get Cassidy interested in me. I want to get to know her better so I thought I try a little game to catch her eye."
"Still the player, aren't you?" Sarah leaned back and looked me in the eye. "Do yourself a favor and forget about all your old games. Cassidy is a nice person and my good friend; just let her know that you'd like to get to know her better."
We finished the dance and went back to the table. I took Sarah's advice; I changed seats with her and sat next to Cassidy. For the next hour instead of running a game on Cassidy I just talked to her. I told her what I could about my job and that I'd been out of the country for the last 18 months. Cassidy told me about her family, her job, her interests, and some of her goals.
"Golly, my life seems pretty dull compared to what you've been doing," she said.
"I guess it does sound adventurous, but it was just another job under real bad conditions."
"Bad conditions huh? You mean like people shooting at you?"
I smiled a little and answered, "I'd consider being shot at to be a bad condition, wouldn't you?"
We spent over two hours with each other; we did dance a few times but mostly we sat and talked. Other guys would come over and ask Cassidy to dance but she smiled and said no. Finally when the same guy came back for the third time she motioned him closer.
"You and your friends give it up. I'm getting reacquainted with my old friend here. We haven't seen each other in a long time and I'm going to spend the evening with him. Thanks for asking but I'm not available for dancing."
Cassidy turned her back on the guy and he sort of slunk away to lick his wounds. She smiled at me and said, "Now where were we?"
"Old friend huh? Haven't seen each other for a long time? That's not strictly the truth Cassidy," I replied with a smile of my own.
"Well, this is the first time we met so it's been a long time right? And I feel like we've become friends this evening. Don't you?"
"Unassailable logic, Miss Nolan. I bow to your deductive reasoning." I was going to continue but we both busted out laughing.
A few minutes later Cassidy stood and said she had to get home. She and one of the others girls at the table started toward the door. Cassidy came back to the table.
"Forgive my bad manners; I didn't say good night to you. Hope to see you again Patrick."
"Count on it Cassidy. Good night," I replied and watched her walk to the door. I don't know how woman walk like that, I thought. A totally delightful movement that defies gravity and the laws of motion. I said good night to Sarah and left for my dad's place. When I got to my truck, Riley was leaning against the fender waiting for me.
"How'd it go? Did you make a date with her? When are you gonna make your move?" Riley's questions came at me rapid fire.
"Chill Riley. I just met her but I did lay some ground work tonight. Maybe I'll run into her here again and develop things from that."
"C'mon Patrick. I wanted to see her suffer. Can't you push a little harder?" Riley pressured me.
"I'll do this my way buddy and if that doesn't suit you I won't do it at all. Settle down Riley. What does it matter if it happens this week or next month?"
It was almost a week before I returned to Dooley's. I was a recon mission hoping to run into Cassidy again. The first time we'd met I had purposely not asked for her phone number. Couldn't look too interested, now could I? Riley wasn't there; I had suggested he do his drinking at some other bar. No need to remind Cassidy that he and I were friends.
My scouting mission paid off; Cassidy and two of her friends were at a table when I walked in. I went to the bar, climbed on a bar stool, and ordered a drink. Taking a sip of the good bourbon I turned and looked out over the room. I saw Cassidy looking my way and raised my glass to her and smiled. Wait for it, I thought.
There it is; Cassidy smiled back at me and motioned for me to join the group at her table. Got ya girl, I said to myself. I nodded, ordered a round of drinks for the table, walked over and sat next to Cassidy.
"Ah fair lady, I made a serious error when last we met," I said to her. She giggled at my choice of words but looked puzzled. I continued in a more normal tone, "I forgot to ask for your phone number. I've been kicking myself in the butt for being that dumb."
Cassidy smiled and replied, "Let's correct that error right now." She handed me a card and said, "That's my work number and my cell number. Now you can quit kicking yourself. By the way, isn't that hard to do?"
"Kicking yourself in the butt." The she giggled.
For the next three hours it was if Cassidy and I were the only two people in Dooley's. We talked a lot and danced several times. Two or three guys sitting at a close by table asked her to dance but she turned them down. There was one of them that just didn't get it; Cassidy wasn't dancing with anyone but me that evening.
This guy came back to Cassidy four times and when she turned down the last time he got mad. "Too good to dance with us locals are you bitch?"
Cassidy looked him in the eye and gave him the finger. "Jack, I'm too much of a lady to say it so I hope you can read sign language."
Jack's face turned beet red and he tried to grab Cassidy's finger. What he got was me, all 6 foot 4 of me, standing between him and Cassidy. Jack was about 5' 9 and had to look up at to see my face.
"The lady said no. Jack is it? Jack go away and leave her alone, she doesn't want to dance with you. Besides she's with me tonight and I don't want her to dance with you either." As he started to turn away I said, "And I think you owe her an apology." My tone wasn't angry but it was forceful. I guess the tone was forceful enough; Jack apologized and went back to his buddies at their table.
An hour later Cassidy said she had to get home, "I'm not a person of leisure like you Patrick. I have to go to work tomorrow."
"Well, let this man of leisure give you a ride home," I suggested.
"I have my own car," she replied. She saw my disappointment and quickly said, "You can walk me to my car if you like."
We were standing by her car and before she got in I said, "I know its short notice but would you like to have dinner with me tomorrow night?"
"Hoped you might get around to asking me out so I put my address on the back of that card I gave you. Pick me up at 7. Okay?" She smiled leaned up, gave me a quick kiss, and got into her car. I watched her drive away and went back into Dooley's. About half way back I decided I'd had enough that evening and went home.
I was feeling good. In fact I was excited about my date with Cassidy. I enjoyed our evening together; she was a special person. Then I remembered why I was dating her. Damn, why did I agree to that stupid plan of Riley's?
The dinner date was even better than the time spent together in Dooley's. There was no loud music, or drunks stumbling around; we were alone and could concentrate on each other. It was the first in a month long series of dates; we met at Dooley's two or three nights a week too. I kept my word to myself and didn't push for more than a few good night kisses. This whole operation wasn't what I thought it would be.
I learned that Cassidy liked to hike, camp, and fish or almost anything outdoors. "My girlfriends and co-workers think I'm nuts," she said. "I'd rather go camping on the weekends than do the bar scene. But it's tough to find company so I don't get to fish or camp too much."
"Maybe we'll just have to go camping next weekend to satisfy your craving." I saw a shadow pass over her face and quickly added, "Separate tents and sleeping bags of course." That put a smile back on her face.
We met at Dooley's on Wednesday evening to finalize our plans for a camping weekend. I told Cassidy I would pick her up about 5 AM Saturday for the two hour drive to the camp site.
"Where are we going?"
"A friend of my dad's has a farm with a great stream running thru it; my dad taught him how to work explosives years ago. I have a standing invitation to camp and fish there," I replied. I finished my drink and ordered a Coke.
"I just realized that you only have one drink a night. Why's that?"
"My job and alcohol don't mix. A blaster can't afford to have shaking hands when he prepares and wires explosive charges."
"But you're not working now."
"It's just a habit I've gotten into. Besides I don't like the loss of control that too much alcohol causes. I've seen too many people do stupid things when they drink too much. Just a quirk of mine," I told her shrugging my shoulders.
We arrived at the camp site a little after 7 AM Saturday and after setting up the tent and organizing the camp, I suggested that we go up to the farm house and check in with my friend. As we drove toward the house I explained that Bill Jackson was a little hard of hearing from working with explosives for so long.
We pulled into the driveway in front of the house and Bill and his wife Milly came out to meet us. I introduced Cassidy to the Jackson's and we visited for about an hour. Bill and I lead the way back to my truck with Cassidy and Milly following.
Bill always talked in a loud voice because of his hearing problem. He put his arm around my shoulder and in what was supposed to be a whisper said, "She must be special Patrick. You've never brought a girl out here before. I think she's a keeper."
Cassidy and I returned to camp and spent the day hiking and swimming in the river. That evening we fished for a while but I guess the fish had already had dinner; we didn't get a single bite. After supper we sat around a campfire and talked. I put my arm around Cassidy and we laid back to look at the stars.
It must have been about 5 AM when I woke up. Cassidy was lying with her head on my left arm snuggled up against me. I gently pulled my arm from under her and got up. That's when the pain started; my arm was asleep. Cassidy woke up to see me shaking my arm trying to get some feeling back.
She giggled at my antics, forcing herself to stop laughing she said, "I'm sorry." But she started giggling again.
We tried fishing again with the same results. After fixing breakfast we took a hike and then broke camp and headed back to civilization. Cassidy turned to face me with her back against the door of the truck.
"Am I?" She asked.
"Are you what?"
"Am I special? I heard what Bill said to you yesterday; he doesn't whisper very quietly does he?" She chuckled and asked again, "So am I special?" Cassidy was smiling but I could see by the look in her eyes that she wanted an answer.
I didn't say anything for almost a minute. Still smiling she asked, "Well am I?"
It couldn't be avoided, I had to say something. "Bill was right; I've never brought another girl out to his place. I guess none of the women I've dated liked to fish or camp; maybe that's one reason I never had a long term relationship." This was going to be the tricky part; keep her interested without lying to her.
"I like you Cassidy, I mean what's not to like. A beautiful woman that likes the same type of music as I do, likes to fish and camp and do things outdoors, and is intelligent and fun to talk to. So in that aspect you are special. As far as a romantic connection well ... I've fallen into an intense like for you. Let's just leave it at that for now."