Kind Gestures by S. Webster
Terry – 10:15 am
Terry Morris loves this August heat. It’s just like Florida, her home for the first forty years of her life. She is a very attractive woman and takes her time picking out which dress she will wear to work each day. In summer her perfectly tanned body looks young and fit even though she does little more than her weekly yoga classes to keep it that way. Lucky genes, loving generous husband and an eye for what looks good on her body is what keeps Terry from going unnoticed. She is used to being noticed and chooses part-time employment that will keep her busy and out among people. Her previous jobs in St. Augustine were hostess in a restaurant and tour bus guide to the town’s history. Dressing up and going somewhere to talk is perfect for Terry. She had even considered being a greeter in Walmart but having to make the ill-fitting blue vest part of her overall look was simply not worth it. Besides, the people who shopped there were not her kind of people.
Now she has the perfect part-time job at Veronica’s Boutique. It is the only clothing store in town and is located on the square just two doors down from Marty’s Diner. The boutique is filled with small things in small sizes and from the outside looks as though it caters to teenage girls – lots of pink and red with black patent leather in the windows. Once inside it is more of the same, only drenched in the smell of perfumes, soaps and lotions, all in abundance. Silk scarves, gaudy jewelry and useless little clutch bags fill a counter and the wall behind it. On the opposite wall are dresses hung on hangers with tiny color-coded tags. The clothes range in size from 4 to 14. Anything larger would have to be special ordered. And Terry will discreetly do that for her customers as soon as she assures them the one they chose “runs small”. The carousels of clothes spaced around the floor hold slacks and blouses – no jeans or tops that are too casual. Veronica thinks those things can be bought at Walmart or through catalogues – not her boutique. The clientele that shops at Veronica’s Boutique have expectations they want met and Terry was hired to do exactly that. All it took was one look and a brief conversation. Veronica knew she had the perfect employee.
When Terry and Ron arrived here just over three years ago Terry worked in the pro shop of the first golf course her husband developed in North Carolina. But in Oliver the customers were mostly men and waiting on them wasn’t as much fun as it was when she was younger. The men still noticed her but in Oliver it seemed to stop there. She didn’t get the kind of looks that made Terry think of the possibilities they conjured up but the limitations instead – theirs of course, not hers.
It was George Saunders that changed her mind about those limitations.
Terry is thinking about him this morning and remembers when they met he didn’t seem to have any of those limitations or if he did he ignored them. God, he was exciting. There was something about him that just kept her wanting more. It was this wanting more of his attention and his touch that got them both two years into an affair that absolutely thrilled her.
Terry smiles as she remembers George first coming into the pro shop to talk to Ron about building an addition to the clubhouse. When Ron introduced him to her, George Saunders took her hand, looked her in the eye and deliberately dragged his finger soft and slow through her palm when they shook hands. Terry felt the charge then and she felt it even more the following week when they both worked late and after everyone else had left he pushed her against the wall in the storage room and told her to take her clothes off. She could not do it fast enough and ten minutes later they were both left breathless.
The fact that George was married, a father, and the son of a preacher, made their affair all the more exciting for Terry. There was something so uninhibited about a man raised within the confines of gospel once he decided to cross the line. God may have been in George’s thoughts but he sure wasn’t what Terry was thinking about back then. After that first time Terry would do all she could to hold off the inevitable climax. And George loved it. They were having really good sex and when it was over they’d find a way to do it all over again…..soon.
It was so easy to make time for George – make time for this good-looking man who was twelve years younger and wanted her. Whatever he asked, Terry could accommodate. Her husband, Ron, was often out of town consulting in meetings or checking out the competition. It takes a good part of the day to play nine holes of golf and then stick around long enough to see what the clubhouse had to offer.
On the other hand George’s job schedule could put him anywhere at any time – a run to the hardware or having to take a load of scrap to the dump. Now with the recession showing small signs of recovering there were more places needing renovations. George had the keys to those summer cabins needing work that were waiting for repairs back in the woods far from town. And Terry could easily say she was going on a buying trip if George wanted her for longer than their heated encounters at construction sites. It didn’t work out as often as they liked but those times when they could spend most of the day in a motel room out on the highway were exciting and worth the risk – back then.
In the last six months things were cooling down in their relationship but not enough to even talk about. The routineness of their sexual affair has become more predictable now and just slightly less satisfying. It occurred to Terry that both of them might just be getting bored with each other. She thought about this as she chose a new, smart little red dress to wear to work today and did so without even giving a thought as to whether George would like it.
Terry opens the shop this morning because Veronica scheduled a mid-morning hair appointment and will get there as soon as she can. It isn’t twenty minutes after she opens that Terry hears the door open and Patty Anne Johnson steps in. She is one of Terry’s favorite customers. Patty Anne and her friends will only shop there when Terry is working and they make a point of letting Veronica know what a great addition Terry is to the boutique. They in turn are valued customers who count on Terry to help make the right choices for them to not only look good and be noticed but talked about after the affairs they dressed for are over.
Terry smiles and greets her. “Good Morning, Patty Anne. How can I help you this morning?”
“Hi, Terry. I can use some help picking out a dress for a dinner Charley wants me to attend in a couple of weeks.” Patty Anne answers and then proceeds to mention who else is going to be there.
Terry knows that most her customers are not expected to talk that much while attending their husbands’ social obligations but they do have to look impressive as evidence of that husband’s success. They need to look well-cared for as they are introduced and then carefully guided to a table they will spend the rest of the evening waiting for an opportunity to stand up and be noticed again. Terry knows from experience what these women need to be wearing when they are introduced to men who caress their fingers while trying not to let their eyes linger too long in any one place and then look back at the husband and say, ‘Doesn’t she look lovely tonight.’ If they are going to look at a women this way, they need to say something like that – something that is a compliment to the husband as well. It simply means that one man has chosen well and the other man can appreciate his efforts. And then there are the other wives, the other ones who have dressed to be noticed. Their concern is not so much whether they have made an impression on the men present because after all, beyond a certain age most men will be grateful just to see a room full of women who appreciate the value in being properly presented. The women are here not only because they have to be, but they would not miss such a perfect opportunity for inspecting one another’s appearance and making comments where warranted.
Patty Anne Johnson has been looking through the size 8 dresses and pulls out a low V-necked blue one.
She beckons Terry over and asks, “What about this?”
“Oh, that should look lovely with your eyes, Patty Anne. Let me put it in the dressing room for you.”
She adds, “You might want to take a look at the black one, but it is a size larger and may not fit as well. You should try it on anyway because sizes can run a little differently with each designer.”
“I don’t have too much time this morning. But I do want to try this blue one,” Patty Anne says from behind the louvered door of the dressing room.
She steps out to show Terry and turns slowly in front of a long oval mirror. It fits her very well and Terry nods her approval.
Within ten minutes Patty Anne will be on her way to a parent/teacher meeting with the little blue dress packed carefully in a bag. And later over lunch at the club, she will be telling Charley all about her morning while he will be looking past her at a young waiter and saying she should get something new to wear on Saturday night. Neither one of them is listening to the other. It is just an exchange of words that can pass for conversation.
Behind the cash register Terry smiles at her first sale of the day and thinks how much she herself would have saved if it had been her that bought that blue dress. She gets quite a discount here at Veronica’s and thinks how some of the clothes she has bought here used to drive George crazy. Some only stayed on long enough to get the results Terry used to spend way too much time thinking about. But the last few months she hasn’t been giving much thought to what George thinks about how she looks. Lately she is more concerned with how unpredictable he is becoming. He is still exciting to have sex with but once in a while some little thing will set him off and he gets a bit rough. Terry liked it at first and even had subtle ways of provoking it. Now she is having doubts about what to say the next time he calls and insists she be somewhere at a certain time. Some of their meeting places like those houses under construction are a bit far from town and she worries he may not be there when she finds the right one. She wonders if it is time to just let things cool down, maybe end it. Terry would love to be able to talk to someone.
She does not have a close friend here in Oliver and has worked hard to keep her distance and her privacy. When she needed to talk, it was Ron who listened. It was Ron who always wanted to listen. He really loves her and there is no way she can explain a two year affair with someone so much younger to the one person she always counted on to be there. It could hurt him so much and might just be all it took for him to walk away. What would she do without him?
“Hi, Veronica. Your hair looks nice,” Terry says.
“Thanks, Marcy took a little more off this time; I told her it was just getting too much to handle in this heat. Anyone come in this morning?” she asks.