Monday, December 10, 2012
Gardens of Stone- Part 7
Jack scanned the room as they walked. He still didn't know what he was going to say to Marie when he saw her but "I'm sorry" seemed to be a good place to start.
He finally saw her on from behind on the arm of an Army officer. He was too far away to see much other than it was her and she was with a group of people along with the man whose arm she was holding. Jack began to make his way across the crowded room hoping to talk to Marie but the closer he got the more
unsure of himself he began to feel. She was right, after all, she did barely know him. He barely knew her. But he felt as if his heart would stop if she were to be in love with someone else. He kept thinking about the day and how she had responded to his kisses. He couldn't figure out how she could be with someone else tonight after the day they had spent together.
Jacks feet continued to lead him across the room as if an invisible cord were attached to his heart and it was pulling him to her. He was maybe 20 feet from her when Marie and the soldier turned around. She made a tiny gasping sound as her mouth opened at the sight of him. Jack had thought she was magnificent when she was all wind blown and angry but standing in the ballroom of the Willard, dressed in all her finery, she was stunning. Jack forgot what he was going to say. He didn't even notice that people were starting to stare at him staring at Marie. Marie recovered first and turned to her date telling him something in a voice too low to hear from where he was standing. When she looked away it was if time had started again and his body again began to move forward toward her. It was then that he noticed that her date was horribly burned on one side of his face. Jack approached noting the silver lieutenant insignia Marie's date was wearing. As he reached the group he realized that he know some of the other officers standing with Marie.
"Jack. Good to see you. I thought you were deployed." Major Kent Dixon reached out his hand and began pumping Jacks. Kent and Jack had been in the Academy together but Kent's knowledge of numbers and finance kept him in and around the Pentagon almost his whole career. "Let me introduce you to my wife Kay, Commander Tom Hunter and his wife June, you know Marie Bennett, Colonel's Bennett's grand daughter, and Lieutenant Mark Johnson just recently returned from Afganastan." Jack shook hands all around answering Kent Dixons question as he did." I am here interviewing with the Academy for my next shore duty."
"That is wonderful. Always good to have an Alumni back to teach. Are you here with someone?"
"Yes I came with a JAG, you might remember Vince Geller?"
"Holiday? Wear is he I would love to say hello." Jack pointed him in the direction of his table and Kent and his wife left Jack and the other two couples standing there as he called back "Great seeing you! We will have to have you for dinner as soon as you are settled at the Academy."
Jack smiled at Kent and then turned back to Marie and her date. "Lieutenant Johnson, when did you return?"
"Last March. I have been at Walter Reed, getting skin grafts and rehabbing."
Marie spoke then to clear up any confusion she saw coming "I met Mark when I was volunteering at Walter Reed." she smiled at mark as she said this and Mark continued the story " I had just gotten a Dear John letter from my girlfriend and was feeling sorry for myself. Marie told me that the girl must be crazy or stupid to break up with a guy like me. I told her that I didn't believe that any girl would ever be willing to be seen in public with me with the burns on my face. She told me I was crazy and invited me to this event."
Jack looked at Marie then back at the lieutenant. " You are a lucky man lieutenant. I think you have the prettiest girl here." He shook the lieutenants hand then each of the others as he excused himself from their group. He felt like a complete fool. He had made Marie angry because he was jealous. She probably wouldn't ever want to see him again. Seeing her with Lieutenant Johnson, he realized just how special person Marie was. He was probably completely unworthy of her. As he walked back to his table he thought of all the mistakes he had made with Marie.
He sat down with the rest of the guests at his table and made small talk. Several of the people at the table were also attached to the JAG's office and either worked with or for Vince. As dinner began to be served the room became quieter and the band, which had been playing old standards, took a break and classical music was piped in. The food was delicious and everyone at the table commented on how delighted they were with their choices. Jack stayed quiet. He was still working though the shift in Marie's mood this afternoon. And really who the hell was Vestor? Why did he come running when she called? How many men were there waiting around in the wings for this woman? The Colonel always told him she was single. He wondered if the old man had been telling the truth al the time of if he knew at all how popular his granddaughter was. After a full hour of Jacks silence Vince began to worry. It wasn't like Jack to be silent and brooding. Jack stormed the beach and got the party started.
When the band returned after dinner, Jack finally had an idea of how to get Marie alone. He knew she was having none of his nonsense so this was the perfect plan, or so he believed. Jack went up to the band and handed the band leader a $20 and asked that they play the Sinatra standard "The way you look tonight." The plan was to go up and ask Marie for a dance when the music started, get her in his arms and apologize. The music started, Jack headed for the table where Marie was sitting. Just as he arrived behind her she stood up and turned toward him. Her glass of wine sloshing over the rim and all over the front of his uniform. "Oh my gosh!"Marie exclaimed turning back to the table to grab her napkin. She tried blotting the front of his uniform to get the wine out but he captured her hand. "It's me who is sorry."Jack said looking into her eyes.
" Your uniform..."
"Will be fine. I will drop it at the cleaners on Monday. It is you who I am concerned with."
Marie looked away at her date for the evening. Then back at Jack.
"Can we talk about this some other time?"
"Are you speaking to me?"
"Then yes. May I call you tomorrow?"
"Good night then." Jack said taking the had that he had captured, removing the napkin and kissing her palm. Marie felt the electricity all the way up her arm. She unconsciously closed her hand, trapping the kiss. Drawing a deep breath and shaking her head, she thought to herself "That man is dangerous. If I am not careful he really will steal my heart."
Jack walked away. It was the hardest thing to do as he had wanted to hold her again and dance with her. Plead his case. Now because of the wine he was going to have to wait. Waiting was not his strong suit. He returned to the table, explained to Vince what had happened and told him he was taking a cab back to the boat.
Sunday morning dawned clear and promising. Marie lay in bed trying to decide if she should lay in bed or actually get up. Jack had said he would call her. She had not given him her cell phone number so she expected he would call the house phone. He was going to be surprised when he discovered that that number had been changed. She had changed it when she had started receiving unwanted calls from someone claiming to be her secret admirer-er. First she had ignored the calls but they had become more frequent and then one day there were roses on her door step. The card read please answer your phone. She had changed her number and called an old friend of her Grandfathers that ran a protection and security company. DC was lousy with personal security companies but Jeff Wells was a family friend. Marie felt like she could tel him what was going on and he could tell her if she needed to be worried or not.
Jeff had immediately wired her house with an alarm, and a camera system outside. He had also put a gps tracker on her car and a panic button on her keys. She thought it was all overkill until the night that her car wouldn't start. She called the Auto club but before they could arrive, her admirerer approached her. She didn't realize it was Stan from cash accounting until he began talking to her. Telling her that he was there to take care of her. Growing up with a grandfather in the Marines meant that she knew a move or two for keeping aggressive boyfriends under control. This was something else all together. Without even realizing it she pressed the panic button.
"Stan, go home. I called the Auto Club. I will be fine." Marie said
"Marie, I know that you are all alone now. You need someone to take care of you. Let me be that someone."
"Stan, I am a grown woman. I can take care of myself."
"Marie," He steeped in close to her and she could feel his breath on her face "Marie, I have longed for you. Let me take you home see that you are safe." He reached out to towards her and Marie grabbed his thumb at the meat of hand and twisted backward as the Colonel had taught her. Stan dropped to his knees. Marie was now in total control of Stan's movements."Now Stan, I don't want to hurt you, and you don't want to hurt me...right?" Stand nodded still not sure how he ended up being controlled by his thumb.
"So Stan I am going to let you go and you are going to leave me. You are never gong to call me or send me flowers again..right Stan?"
"But I Love you." Stan whined
"No Stan you don't love me. You are mistaken. You thought I was a nice girl but we are incompatible ok Stan?" As Marie was explaining the facts of life to Stan a black SUV with tinted windows rolled up on Marie and Stan. Stan was still on his knees. The door of the SUV opened and 240 lbs of muscle named Vestor stepped out.
"Jeff said you had a situation. It looks like you are handling it quite well."Vestor's voice was so deep and rough that you didn't hear it so much as you felt it in your bones as he spoke.
"Thank you. My car wouldn't start and Stan here wouldn't take no for an answer when I asked him not to wait with me." Marie let go of Stan's thumb and stepped back.
Vestor stepped forward "Would you like me to help Stan to his car?"
Stan began backing away from Vestor and Marie "No that is okay. Bye Marie, see you tomorrow." He practically ran to his car and locked him self inside.
The tow truck arrived as Stan was exiting the parking lot. Vestor asked " Looks like you had things well in hand."
"Vestor" Marie repeated stretching out her hand to shake his. "I didn't realize I had punched the panic button on my key fob."
"That is okay. I will wait here while they start you car."
The tow truck driver hopped out of his vehicle and interrupted them "Car won't start? Can you pop the hood?"
Marie did as he asked. It turned out that someone, probably Stan, had disconnected the battery. the tow truck driver had reconnected it and sent her on her way. Vestor had followed her home. Checked the house for any unwanted vistors and declared it safe to his boss Jeff.
Marie smiled at the memory. She had used Jeff's agency again several times after that if she needed to go somewhere sketchy and didn't want to go alone. Jeff had become like an Uncle to her and she continued to pay for the security and the panic button. Seems yesterday it proved its worth yet again. Rolling over in bed she heard the doorbell ring. Who in the world would be on my doorstep at 10 in the morning on a Sunday, she wondered. Grabbing the remote form the night stand she flicked on the TV to her security channel and there on the front porch was Jack. Jack had a back of some sort of pastry item and coffee which he held up to the camera. On the bag was printed Peace Offering.Marie smiled despite herself.