No Runs, No Hits, No Errors

By Jane Greensmith
www.janegs.com

Copyright © 2004.
 All rights reserved.

Chapter 6

 

Phil Van Demeer liked Kathleen's little black dress. She knew it by the way he inhaled sharply when she answered the door Saturday night, his eyes flickering over her appreciatively as he thrust into her hands a bouquet of blue cornflowers--a tribute to their first meeting. Kathleen was delighted. Phil clearly had a romantic streak that boded well for the evening that lay before her.

Byron Kavenaugh came up from his basement laboratory to meet his daughter's date for the evening while Kathleen found a vase for her flowers and a glass of wine for the man who had brought them. Being an old-world gentleman himself, Byron had strict standards by which he measured a man. Sadly, most men didn't make the cut in his eyes and he never hesitated to wave Kathleen off those who came up short. Now, perched next to Phil on the leather couch in the living room, Kathleen couldn't quite tell whether the man with the cornflower eyes and sparkling smile passed muster with her father. Granted, his manners were impeccable, his conversation beyond reproach, and his self-control remarkable. Not even when Byron began explaining his life's ambition to develop off-the-shelf prosthetics did Phil exhibit the slightest hint of boredom or mirth. Nevertheless, Kathleen couldn't quite tell what her father thought of him. Since she knew she'd know soon enough anyway, she decided to simply enjoy the evening and not worry too much about the future.

Truth to tell, Kathleen had been surprised by how much she had been worrying about her date with Phil. Harry Kinsley's cryptic warnings of the night before had made her a little edgy, not that she put much stock in what Harry said--he was always needling her about something, but his jibes had made her realize how much she wanted Phil to like her. Dorie Eastman seemed to think that Kathleen and Phil would be perfect for each other, and Dorie was uncanny when it came to reading men.

Kathleen hadn't slept well Friday night after Harry had left. Thoughts of the evening spent at the Riverdale kids club and all the new sensations that experience had brought merged with first-date anxiety. Not even spending most of Saturday at the spa had brought Kathleen back to her normal equilibrium. She considered herself lucky to get into the spa on such short notice anyway. The first thing she had done Friday night after calling Phil to accept his invitation for dinner was to dial Della to see whether she and Dirk could squeeze her in. Kathleen needn't have worried.

Since Della Goodnough had opened the 'Buff and Shine' day spa in Juniper Hills two years earlier, Kathleen Kavenaugh had been her most reliable client and Della wasn't about to let her down now. Despite attending college a hundred miles away, Kathleen had made the trip home once a month for a haircut, massage, facial, manicure, and ozone oxygen therapy treatment. Of course, Harry Kinsley was snotty about the spa--called it the 'Spit and Polish Emporium'--and insisted that had Kathleen chosen a real major in college she could never have afforded the time she invested in visiting the spa. Kathleen, on the other hand, felt trips to the spa kept her human and Della and Dirk kept her informed.

Dirk Gibson was the best hairdresser Kathleen had ever had the pleasure of tipping. Of course, when Kathleen had first poked her nose into the 'Buff and Shine,' she had mistaken Dirk for the plumber, as did most residents of Juniper Hills upon first meeting up with him. Slightly paunchy, clad in a tee-shirt and jeans, sporting a buzz cut and dragon tattoo, Dirk looked every inch the sailor he had been when he had met Della in Jamaica sometime during the previous decade. She had wanted a green card and he had wanted a woman; together they found complete simpatico. Dirk, under Della's tutelage, discovered he could cut hair like nobody's business. Kathleen liked him because he knew how to make her hair sit up and take notice. No dull listlessness when Dirk was wielding the shears. He knew how to sweet-talk Kathleen's blond tendrils into curving under her chin and framing the delicate lines of her face. Not only that, Dirk chatted up his customers, inquiring as to their preferences and probing their anxieties without a trace of the effeminate. Not one to get without giving, Dirk was the ultimate font of Juniper Hills gossip. He was worth his weight in conditioner.

#

Yes, Phil Van Demeer liked Kathleen's little black dress. She knew it by the way his hand lingered on her back as he guided her through the gate leading to the Flagstaff House. After chatting with Byron for the requisite time, Phil and Kathleen made good their escape. Phil drove them out of Juniper Hills and through nearby Boulder and up into the foothills to the establishment dubbed the most romantic restaurant in the region. Through a winding forest road they drove, with each curve bringing a more spectacular view of Boulder Valley into focus. Phil slowed the car to a respectable crawl and unrolled the windows so they could drink in the piney smell of rain-washed woods. And then they were there and Phil was taking back possession of Kathleen from the valet who handed her out of the car. Kathleen could feel Phil's palm slip down her spine until it rested in the hollow of the small of her back. She wondered if the hairs on the back of his neck were tingling the way hers were. She wondered if the butterflies in her stomach were for real this time.

She knew Phil liked her dress by the way he cocked his chin ever so slightly when other men in the restaurant let their eyes linger on her as she and Phil followed the maître d' to their table. Although Kathleen prided herself on her remarkable lack of personal vanity, she was not disingenuous regarding her own attractiveness. She knew that her well-groomed person in a classic dress, just a shade short and a tad off the shoulder, splashed with Chanel and elevated by Manolos would render the better part of the male population senseless. She was right.

Dinner was fantastic, and it wasn't just the cuisine, the ambience, or the wine cellar of the Flagstaff House. Phil was a dream date. Unlike every other man or boy Kathleen had dated since Byron had turned her loose when she was sixteen, Phil knew how to treat a lady. It wasn't just opening doors and that kind of thing. He talked, but not about himself. Unlike the others, Phil didn't feel compelled to tell Kathleen about his golf swing, the size of his portfolio, his condo in Vail, his letter jacket, or his GPA, BMW, or IQ. Wisely he kept the conversation centered squarely on Kathleen's favorite subject--herself. He asked her questions and listened to her answers. He laughed at her jokes and smiled into her eyes.

He didn't know much about art, but he knew what he liked. Maybe she could help him understand why he liked what he liked.

He didn't know much about Juniper Hills, but wanted to get to know the town better. Maybe she would take him under her wing.

He had always wanted to swing dance but had never learned, maybe she could teach him a few steps. Kathleen left dinner with a date for Tuesday night.

#

Kathleen knew Phil liked her little black dress by the way he held her hand as they wandered through a gallery opening downtown after dinner, letting other art patrons know that Kathleen was spoken for. The gallery opening had been a spur of the moment idea. The conversation about art over dinner had led to her to tell Phil all about the local art scene. The fact that Kathleen knew two of the artists who were being featured in the new gallery was enough for Phil to suggest they attend the opening. Had she choreographed the evening it couldn't have gone better. The only fly in the ointment was seeing Joanna at the opening, but then Phil turned that around as well.

Actually Joanna's name had come up over dinner. Phil had asked Kathleen how she liked playing softball and so she told him how she had been pressured into playing. He mentioned that he had met Joanna Bridges on his flight from New York when he came out to interview with Dixon , Dabney, and Colfax in January. Mike Eastman had been badgering him to join the firm for a couple of years and so he had finally decided to check out the law firm, Juniper Hills, and Colorado in general. He had liked what he saw and accepted their offer. He didn't say so, but Kathleen knew they must have made him an offer he couldn't refuse. Mike had said that Phil was already fast-tracking to partner and was the best thing to happen to the firm in years.

It was an understatement to say that Kathleen was pleased that Joanna hadn't mesmerized Phil the way she had virtually every other man she encountered. Kathleen was so pleased, in fact, that she couldn't resist passing on a little tidbit that Dirk Gibson had fed her earlier that day while he was cutting her hair. Dirk had asked her why she was ruining her nails playing softball and Kathleen had defended herself by explaining that she had to fill in for Colleen who couldn't play that year because she was pregnant.

"Don't be so Victorian, Kathleen love," Dirk had replied. "Women don't stop living just because they're pregnant. The days of sitting on your duff on a pillow and eating for two are over. Look at Joanna Bridges, rumor has it that she's got a bun in the oven and she's on your team. I'll bet she even continues modeling until she delivers."

Had Dirk told her that Joanna Bridges was a leprechaun, Kathleen couldn't have been more surprised. Dirk didn't know who the father was, but Kathleen would be first to know after he found out. Kathleen had flipped her hair saucily--she may not model swimsuits, play tournament volleyball, or throw a softball like a pro, but at least she wasn't pregnant. Maybe Joanna wasn't as smart as she acted.

When Kathleen told Phil the rumor Dirk had told her, the smile on his face faded. For a panicked moment, Kathleen was afraid that he wouldn't like her anymore because she had gossiped. But then he explained why he was so grave. The firm was in transition--the principals were arguing about the direction the firm would take. This news would bring tensions to a head because Matthew Dixon had been seeing Joanna on the side for a couple of years. Evelyn Dixon, Matthew's wife of thirty-five years, had turned a blind eye to the affair but their daughter Marsha was boiling mad and was ready to make an issue of it. So ready, in fact, that Phil feared Marsha would side with Dabney and Colfax against her own father.

Kathleen remembered Marsha's comments at the scrimmage.

"So that's why Marsha Dixon wants to tar and feather Joanna," Kathleen cooed.  "Poor Marsha. Poor Evelyn. What do men see in a home wrecker like that? I've never liked Joanna, but this is too much." Kathleen paused, "It must be Matthew's baby." Phil's eyes told her she had guessed the truth.

When they saw Joanna at the gallery opening, chatting with the artists, Phil boldly went up to her and took the glass she was holding right out of her hand. "No alcohol for you, in your condition." Kathleen couldn't help smiling inside as she watched Joanna's eyes grow large, as she took Phil's meaning, but then Kathleen felt the prickles of conscience when Phil went on to ask Joanna whether she knew Matthew Dixon's taste in paintings. He claimed that he was asking because he was on the committee to redecorate the law office and wanted to favor local artists. Joanna stammered and blushed and finally turned away from Phil and Kathleen. Kathleen watched Joanna leave shortly afterwards. She was relieved that Harry hadn't witnessed the scene. She knew she would have been scolded for taking delight in seeing Joanna squirm, but she loved the fact that Phil was clearly on her side.

#

Phil Van Demeer liked Kathleen's little black dress. He told her so just before he kissed her goodnight. Like a scene out of a Coca-Cola ad or a Norman Rockwell poster, Phil walked Kathleen to the door. She asked him in but he declined. With a soft look in his eyes, he took her hand and kissed it lightly.

"You're a princess," he murmured. "And that dress is driving me crazy, but we better say goodnight because it's almost midnight and princesses always have to be in bed by midnight if they want to be let out of the castle again."

She laughed at his silliness and his gallantry and the way he made the hair on her neck tingle. He leaned forward, and her eyes closed as she drank in the lovely aromas that surrounded him. She thought of Armani and spearmint, soap and scotch.  The prickly hairs of his moustache grazed her skin. His hands on her back and shoulders belied the restraint she felt in his lips.

"I'll see you Tuesday, and you'll teach me to dance, right?"

She nodded, then let herself in and leaned against the door, listening to him walk down the steps, start his car, and drive off into the night.

Dorie--I owe you one. Phil Van Demeer was exactly the right antidote to Harry Kinsley and playing softball with the Trojans.

 

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