“Clarissa, dear, it’s Oliver. You’re on speakerphone and your mother is here.”
“I need you to tell me if I’ve got this right. Your mother needs friends. Is that right?”
“She needs to be taken care of, because she takes care of everything and everyone around her. Is that right as well?”
“Clarissa can you tell me if your mother ever felt taken care of when she was with me?”
“Well, yeah, at first. And then you–”
“And then I made a terrible decision,” Oliver said, his eyes trained on Charlotte’s, “which undid all the good I had ever done. And I have regretted it every day since.”
A long silence, and then, “Okay.”
“Suppose that your mother still loves me.” His eyes were still locked on Charlotte’s. “Suppose that I left my job and all my worldly possessions and came to Annapolis to lay myself at your mother’s mercy.”
“Uh, yeah right.”
“Do you think it would make your mother happy to have me back in her life?”
“Why the hell would she trust you?” Clarissa’s voice scoffed at him.
Oliver put a hand over Charlotte’s.
“Because I would no longer be trying to shift my life around to fit her into it. This time, I would be shifting my life around in order to fit into hers. She deserves at least that.”
A long silence followed as Clarissa considered this. She said, “Did he really leave his job?”
“He says so,” Charlotte answered. “He says all his stuff is in storage.”
Clarissa considered this.
“He’ll get restless,” she said. “He’ll have all the same fears and temptations.”
With a look, Charlotte demanded a response to this argument.
“I’ll write a book. I’ll consult. I’ll be a househusband, run the errands, go to sleep every night next to the woman I love. I’ll do what married people do.”
“You’re asking me to marry you? With my daughter on speakerphone?”
“I can ask you again in a more private setting if you prefer,” he said with a naughty smile. “But I thought it would be valuable to have her blessing.”
Charlotte mouthed her shock.
“So…shit…Clarissa? Is this risky or is it stupid?”
Another long silence followed. And then:
“If I ever find that you’ve made my mother feel the way she felt when she left New York, I’ll hunt you down and rip your fucking heart right out of your ribcage and feed it to you.”
“Yer fuckin’ right, blimey.”
Six months later, Charlotte awoke on a Saturday morning having made a decision.
“I’ve made a decision,” she announced to the shoulders curled beside her. Oliver snuffled awake.
“Oh yes? And what’s that?” he said into his pillow.
“I’m going to hire a manager.”
“That’s very nice, darling, I’m happy for you.” Then he heard what she had said and snapped around to look at her. “What?”
“I’m really damn successful,” she said matter-of-factly. She lay on her side with her head propped on her head. “I’ve got another 30 years to live. I don’t want to spend it behind a computer or behind a counter or under a pile of paperwork.”
“And what brings on this fit of retirement?”
“Last night does.”
Oliver chuckled with a lopsided grin. “I know I’m good, but it never occurred to me that I could actually make a woman want to spend every moment of the next 30 years having her pussy licked.”
“Yes dear, you’re very skilled.” She patted him on the head. “But I didn’t mean just the sex.” She looked at him with quiet contentment. “I mean dinner. I mean the dishes. I mean letting me watch the stupid romantic comedy.”
“Yes, I only mocked you a very little bit,” he said, “thus exhibiting Herculean restraint.”
“The beauty of being older,” she continued, “is that the men get older too, and sometimes, if a girl is really lucky, they get smarter.”
“Let’s not forget sexier,” and he rolled on top of her and trapped her arms and legs under his. “And they have greater endurance.” He bit her earlobe and kissed her neck. “And they are more creative.” He bit her chin. “And are more appreciative,” he added, shifting to press his burgeoning erection against her thigh. “And will do whatever it takes,” he said, and kissed her softly on the mouth, “to please their partner.” He kissed her again, more insistently.