You Get What You Pay For
Adam hadn’t been this jumpy since Wendy Ward asked him to the Sadie Hawkins Dance at Hoover High back in the ninth grade. Then again, he was pretty nervous when he and Wendy tied the knot nine years later. Tonight, he was on the verge of panic.
He looked in the bathroom mirror, squared his shoulders and peered critically at the length of his conservative brown tie; it hung an inch below his belt line, an acceptable distance. He had already retied it three times to get it just right. The plain, gold tie-bar holding it to his shirt was perfectly horizontal. The pale-yellow, long-sleeve dress shirt still managed to hide his slight pot-belly and the thickening of his waist line, his ‘love handles.’
Adam leaned forward and peered at the wrinkles around his eyes and mouth, the loosening of the skin of his neck, the slightly weak chin, his thinning, sandy hair and receding hair line. The eyes staring back at him—once a bright and penetrating blue—were now faded and washed out. The right one was slightly bloodshot, but no amount of Murine was going to fix that. The headache was only a nagging twinge tonight.
He took a step back and evaluated his image again. He was fifty-eight years old and, all things considered, was not an ugly man. Decently well-built and, if he remembered to take Wendy’s advice to ‘stand up straight and not to stoop’, was still over six feet tall. He just had to remember things on his own now, since Wendy was gone…
Looking at his watch, he paced out into the luxurious master bedroom and checked the clock on the dark, mahogany nightstand and compared the times; they corresponded, 7:45 p.m., he had fifteen minutes left. He walked into the expansive living room and sitting area, still in awe of the spacious 1525 sq. ft. Cypress Suite he had decided on booking. He lifted his dark-brown suit coat off the back of a chair, put it on and tugged, pulled, smoothed and adjusted.
Fidgeting, he scurried over to the large picture window overlooking the front of the Bellagio Hotel and Casino. From thirty-four stories up he couldn’t discern much; the cars were like toys and the bustling people merely ant-sized figures in the early evening twilight. The Hotel’s vast array of neon lights would soon be substituting for Mother Nature. He jammed his hands in his pockets, he was as nervous as ‘a whore in church’, as the old saying went. He laughed humorlessly at his inadvertent wit.
How had he gotten talked into this? It was his friends—the boys—at the Elks Lodge who had pushed him to this point. No… of course it wasn’t; there was a lot more at play here than something stemming from a few beers with the guys. They had commiserated with him numerous times during his wife’s long illness and had shared more than a few drinks after her death. Later, they had plied him with beer in an effort to encourage him to reenter the social scene. Finally, many more had been nursed in silence when Adam’s medical diagnosis was confirmed. Originally, this had been his best friend Pete’s idea, an achingly, irresistible idea for Adam, and…well…here he was.
Another glance at the clock, 7:55, maybe she was going to be late, maybe she wasn’t going to show up at all. Now, he had to pee. He literally ran into the bathroom, relieved himself, washed his hands and paused again in front of the mirror. Back in the living room, he checked his watch, 8:00, straight up.
When the soft knocking sounded at the door, Adam literally jumped, dreading as well as expecting it. Panicked, he briefly considered ignoring the gentle rapping and scrapping the whole idea. Instead, he took a deep breath, licked his lips and ran his hands down the front of his suit, smoothing out non-existent wrinkles while drying sweaty palms. He went to the door and opened it.
Adam’s nervousness vanished as his mind went blank. He no longer worried about what to say, as the power of speech fell by the wayside. He was also unaware that he was gaping, slightly bug-eyed at the vision in the hallway. He was struck dumb; she was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. But describing her as merely beautiful was like saying the Great Wall of China was only a fence.
His Wendy had been a short, petite blue-eyed blonde, and as her illnesses progressed, had gradually wasted away. He had
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Text Copyright Holder: John C. Laird
Proofreading and Editing by: Valerie Fee