Group sex story - sex,orgy,stories erotic story


The call came to me as I crouched down, working under the cabinet that held computer equipment. I squirmed around and finally reached my cell phone, bumping my head as I did so. Not happy at all, I barked, "Yeah."

"Aaron, I just received a weird call from some woman who said she was your wife's half-sister. She said she wouldn't be able to care for your twins as your wife had just traveled north and it was up to you as the kids' father to provide. I didn't know you were married and I didn't know you had any kids either. Are you holding out on me?"

"Not really, Burt. I did have a wife several years ago, but she chose to play with another man while still married to me. I gave her money for a divorce at the time. That is the last time I have had any connection with her. I assumed she was dead long before this. Her lifestyle pointed that way, anyway. I certainly didn't know I had children and I doubt that I do now. What was the woman's name who called? Did she give it to you?"

"She did, and she named herself as Karen Olson."

"Well I guess that part fits. The address would be someplace in one of the Dakotas, right?"

"Yeah, Fargo, North Dakota."

"Well, break Sam loose and send him over here to finish up for me. I might as well see what this is all about. She said twins you say? Boys or girls?"

"She didn't say."

I continued working on installing the components, but my thoughts were in the past. I was saddened for I had loved Neica Byrd with all of my heart. She had been gone from me now for five years. Stupid bitch! If she had only channeled all of her energy into helping me build the business I was starting at the time, she would have been set. Well maybe not in that business.

She pretty much sunk that one by leaving; taking away the chance of me making a go of something I had looked forward to building since I was a teenager. I was on easy street now that my uncle asked me to join him in his business. I felt my great chance had been taken out of my hands. I liked working for him, but he built this business here and not me.

Sure, I was still working as much now as I did back then, but it wasn't as if I needed to. I could and did hire the best and the brightest and could sit back and let the world go by. My wife at the time, wanted instant gratification. I couldn't give it to her, not if we were to have the comfortable life I had promised her when we married. Her leaving meant I had to rob the equity from my life insurance policy to give her money so she wouldn't come after my fledgling business. I lost it anyway and I guess I still missed her sometimes.

Would I handle the situation differently, now I probably would? At least I would have found out more of what she was doing earlier and for how long. At the time I was a hard-ass and had zero tolerance for a wife found with another man. She begged me to listen to her explanation, but I just wouldn't or couldn't, I was hurt that bad. Still, maybe she was sorry she got found out. Did I make a mistake?

This Karen, her half-sister, I had never met. She wasn't at our wedding because of another commitment. I had been introduced to her mother at the time. She had come in on a train and stayed three days at a motel, so I couldn't say I knew her. Neica had seemed a little ashamed of her mother and seldom mentioned her sister.

When Neica left, I assumed she either went to one of her relatives or had gone with the man in the picture. Hurt, more than could be imagined, I had vowed to move on alone.

Sam came in and I explained how far I had got on installing the new equipment here. He got down under the cabinet I had just come from and said he knew where I was, saying, "I'm on top of this. Take off."

It was only three miles to the office and I didn't have much time to think about the call that had been made. But it didn't keep me from remembering the photographs that had come to me in the mail five years ago. They showed Neica in bed with another man and as explicit as could be. We had only been married eighteen months. I thought we were still in the discovery stage with each other, for we had married soon after meeting.

Neica was a tiger in bed and showed more experience sexually than me. I thought this was all to the good. I was working hard and putting in long hours. She was always waiting for me to come home. Food was always on the table and immediately following the meal, I would shower and it was time to play in the bedroom.

We hadn't got to the point about discussing having children yet. I was thankful for that now. When the pictures arrived showing her with this other man, I confronted her that same evening and this brought forth many tears. When she tried to explain how this happened, I cut her off and left, telling her we were all done.

It took me a week to get money from the insurance company and have the divorce papers produced. I was staying in a motel room and I suspect I shed as many tears as she did. Knowing Neica went out Tuesday mornings to see her friends, I waited until I knew she would be gone, and then I went home and left her a note.

Neica, I'm sorely disappointed we will not have a life together. I know we role-played to some extent, but you did know my certain feelings not to open up our life to include others. This tells me you do not love me as much as I have always loved you. I can never trust you again. I am leaving you some money to pay for a divorce. There should be enough remaining for you to start your life over somewhere else.

There was more I wanted to say, but I decided there was no point. I signed my name, Aaron, and got on with my life. I went back a week later to see if my wife was still in the house. It was empty of all of her belongings. I had no word of her until today when I received the call from my office manager about the woman phoning me.

"Tell me what this Karen Olson said."

"It was pretty garbled. It didn't help that I didn't know you were married, so it took awhile for me to get it through my head. The woman was belligerent, I'll tell you that. I think she said your wife is dead and she needs you to take care of the kids. Anyway she finally left a number for you to call."

"I'll see what is up. I have never met Neica's half-sister and I know nothing about her, except the two had the same mother." I took the number into my office and sat for a minute before dialing.

"Karen Olson, please?"

"Speaking."

"This is Aaron Baker. You called my place of business a short time ago."

"It took you long enough to get back to me. I almost was ready to call Social Services."

"Tell me why you called. I got it that my ex-wife is dead and her claims to have children by me. As far as I know I never had any by her or anyone else."

"Got you going didn't I? She is alive, but injured. Here's the deal. Neica is in Alaska and I'm here with her two kids and broke. I can't get any public assistance because I was busted for prostitution years ago. If I call the authorities they will take the kids because of that old charge. I don't have anyone to leave them with to go out to earn any money. So what it boils down to is if you don't want to lose your kids, send me some money."

"How would I know if the kids were mine? As far as I know, the last time Neica had sex before she left it was with someone different than me."

"That may be, but she claims she was already preggo and didn't know it when that happened. She wanted to be sure whose kids they were so she had their paternity checked. I have the papers here."

I mulled this over in my mind. "What's the matter with Neica?"

"She was in Alaska on a month-long job and her Skidoo crashed while on the job site. She has two broken legs. She was supposed to be home last week, but is going to be up there another five weeks before she can travel. The company she works for won't cover her hospital stay if she leaves before she is discharged.

"Meanwhile I'm down here broke with two four-year-olds and with no money. I'm just about out of food. I imagine though, she will kill me when she finds out I called you."

This seemed like a scam being pulled on me, but I couldn't tell. "What are the kid's names?"

"Billy and Betty Baker. Actually it is William Aaron and Elizabeth Neica Baker. You said ex-wife. Unless you divorced her she's still married to you. She never got any papers from you."

"I never got any from her either, and it was she who was supposed to divorce me. I gave the papers to her when I left money for it. I can't say I ever checked to see if she divorced me."

"Well there you go. You got a wife and you got two kids. It's about time you lived up to your responsibilities. First thing you got to do is send me some money so I can feed the kids. Are you rich enough to send me five hundred? Maybe that would give me enough to squeak by until Neica gets back here. We won't be eating steak, but I'm pretty good at shopping smart."

The amount Karen asked for was so little, this in itself brought doubt to my mind. "I don't see as I can get it to you before tomorrow afternoon. That would be the earliest and I'll need your address."

"That's good. The landlord will spot me a twenty for doing him a little favor. That'll get us by until the money comes. He's a pig, but maybe I won't have to see him again before Neica gets home. FedEx comes by. Put the money in an envelope, send it, and I'll be watching for it."

"Karen, I wish you didn't have to do that. Promise your landlord fifty bucks tomorrow afternoon if he'll give you a twenty now."

"Can't, he'd rather have me than a fifty anyway. I'm pretty good you know. 'Sides, I've been off the street long enough so I'm getting a little antsy myself. Don't worry, I'll wait until your kids are asleep before I go downstairs to see him. They'll be fine."

"I'm going out now to get your money on your way as soon as possible. Is there anything else I can do for you?"

There was a long pause. Then, "You could come up and talk to your wife when she gets here. She made a couple of bad decisions back when you told her to leave. One, she was in trouble and was getting in deeper before talking to you about it. Two, she should have told you about the twins when she found out she was pregnant."

I didn't know what to say to this. "Aaron, she is my sister and we have always watched out for each other. I just thought you might like to know that. Anyway, thank you for what you are doing for me. I am up against it and I didn't know which way to turn. She has never trashed you, you know. I'd like to see how someone as good as Neica says you are, could throw her out. Oh well, send the money. That'll make me feel good. Bye."

I sat there in my office after Karen hung up. Did I believe her enough to send $500? She rang true. I knew I had time to arrange for FedEx to make a pickup. I'd check as they might even make a morning delivery. I glanced at my day planner.

I had nothing too pressing except for the Christmas party that was planned for the staff at the end of next week. It hit me in the stomach, those kids weren't going to have much of a Christmas with their mother not home. Even if those two kids weren't mine, I could afford to do something nice for them. It would be just my mother and me this Christmas. Dad had died last year.

We would be going over to my uncle's house after dinner. If I wasn't here, Mom could go spend the day with him and his family. All of a sudden I started making plans. Those finalized, I found I wanted to do more.

"Karen, it is me again."

She broke in, "Don't tell me you can't get the money? I need it, I really do."

"The money will be on the way shortly. Tell me what hospital Neica is in. Also tell me the name of the company she works for. What kind of company and what does she do for them?"

"It is an energy company. She checks pipelines out in the field for an oil division. Meters and connections and stuff like that. Why?"

"I thought I would send her a card, that's all."

"You can, but I doubt she will thank you for it. Here is all I know about where she is. The company is one out of Texas."

The company was a small specialized outfit that did work for several oil companies. I ended up with the phone number of the company president. Just as I hung up from talking with him, Pete, the pilot of our company airplane, said he was ready to take off as soon as I got to the airport. The flight plan had been filed and it was a go.

My secretary drove me to the airport and I was soon in the air. "Pete, I almost scheduled you in for a flight to Alaska. I have made other arrangements, but I do want you to hang around Fargo until I decide what to do. It may be tomorrow or maybe not until the day after before my final decision. After I'm dropped off at the address I'm headed for, you can find a motel. I'll keep in touch."

"Okay. I want to be back in Moline next week though. I'm taking the week off for vacation."

We made good time and it was just nine o'clock that evening when I was standing in front of a decent looking four-floor apartment house. Being a call girl must pay pretty well to afford an apartment in a building such as this. I entered a hall and there were numbered mailboxes along one wall. I would have to call up to Karen's apartment to gain admittance.

I was wearing jeans and a sweat shirt with a parka over it. This was unbuttoned. I had suspected I would be going to a poorer section of the city, so dressed accordingly. Just then a man opened the manager's door and stepped out to challenge me. "Who are you and what are you doing here at this time of night?"

"I'm Karen Olson's brother-in-law. I have some papers for her."

"Is she expecting you?"

"Not really, but she is expecting a package from FedEx tomorrow. I was coming here so I said I would deliver it."

"Come back tomorrow. She is tied up tonight."

"I don't think so. I think she said she will be coming down to see you in a little while. I suspect she would rather see me than you. Just to make you feel better about not seeing her, I'd be willing to spring for fifty bucks."

"You got a deal. Tell her though she has to get those two kids out of here by Monday morning. Kids ain't allowed to live here and they've been here too long already. The bitch also owes me for last month's rent. I'm going to start collecting on that pretty damned sudden, too."

"She said you were a pig and I'm getting to believe her."

"Whatever. I have to get paid same as anyone else. I'm giving her a break taking it out in trade. She made the deal, so don't blame me." We could hear the elevator descending. I had seen pictures of Karen, but had never met her.

A woman stepped out from the lift and paused to look at the manager, before even noticing me. I waited to see what the exchange was going to be. She addressed him, "You ready? I don't want to be long."

"Nope, not ready. I cut a deal with this gentleman here. He gave me fifty dollars so he could take my place. Have fun."

He whirled and went through his door, shutting it firmly. A crushed look came over her face. I smiled. "I took his place and I took the FedEx driver's place as well. I'm Aaron."

"How'd you get here so soon?"

"I took a plane. You said you needed the $500, so I just decided to deliver it myself, that's all."

"I guess there is a picture upstairs that looks like you. Come on up." She went back into the elevator and waited for me to enter.

This woman, who was my wife's half-sister, was very attractive. She looked somewhat frazzled, though. I was thinking she might have thought of the landlord as a pig, but she had made herself up as if she was going on a date. I tried to make conversation by asking, "Are you older or younger than Neica?"

"If I told you, then you would know how old I am. I don't share my age with anyone. I guess though, you have a right to know as I am in a terrible bind. I'm two years older."

"I know you are in a bind. I talked to the manager for a few minutes. He says the twins have to be out of here by Monday and he is going to start collecting rent one way or another next week."

"Maybe he will and maybe he won't."

Karen unlocked the door. It appeared to be a one bedroom apartment. I walked into where the kids were tucked into a king-sized bed. Evidently the three inhabitants were sleeping in the one bed.

"May I see the paternity papers, please?"

"You get right to it, don't you? Why so soon?"

"If I'm going to be staying here tonight, I want to make sure they are my children. Oh, here is the five hundred dollars I said I would deliver. Also here is the twenty dollars you were going to earn."

With no word of thanks, Karen took the twenty dollars and stuffed it into her bra. The rest she put into her handbag. "What's the plan now? You know what the situation is here. The kids can't stay and I'm about to be kicked out of the apartment."

"What I would suggest is that you pay your back rent plus one month in advance. I'm taking the kids with me. They need a woman's presence and I'm thinking that would be you until Neica is able to join them."

"And where would the money come from for me to pay the rent? Rent here is expensive. I have had to turn down all of my customers for more than a month while Neica has been gone." v "Hey, you're family. Who would you rather owe me or the landlord?"

"Rent is $900 a month." She threw this figure at me.

"That is reasonable. It would be more in Chicago. So you owe for November, half of December and we'll say all of January. The total would be $2,700. Let's say you'll become a nanny for my children until the first of February. We can settle on regular wages after Neica gets home. By that time, I'll know if I'm going to have a life with my wife or not. Who knows you might even want to change your lifestyle if I help you. That would be your decision."

"You're rushing me. When is this going to happen?"

"Maybe I am rushing you, but I can't stay away from my job very long. Also, Christmas is coming and I want the twins to have a happy holiday. Their grandmother could give them just a little extra love and it will make her awful happy to have grandkids in the house.

"Why don't you start packing and I'll write a check for the rent? There will be only room for two small carry-on bags. One is for you and one would be for the kids. We can't take more because it is a small plane. Mom will take you all shopping for most everything that you can't take with you. Tomorrow morning, we'll take the kids out for breakfast and then should be on our way by eleven."

"What about Neica? She won't know where we are."

"She will be boarding an air ambulance, complete with a nurse, and leaving Alaska about eleven their time. I arranged it. When the plane arrives in Moline the decision will be made whether she needs to be in a hospital or can stay at home with the kids and you."

"Who the hell are you? You don't sound like the man my sister married."

"I'm not. I failed in the business I started shortly after because Neica screwed me over. The money I gave her would have saved it, but then my uncle took me in with him when I went belly up. Good for me in one way. I'm now one of his vice presidents. My dad died a year ago and I moved in with my mother. She has a large estate and I have my own wing. I think the kids will love it there, especially if Mom dotes on them as I believe she will."

"How will she like a prostitute living in the house as a nanny?"

"If I was you, I wouldn't mention it, but suit yourself. If you are discreet, she will probably think Neica is more of a prostitute than you appear to be. Neica has already been tagged with that label. Mom isn't the type to throw it up to her, so all of you should get along fine, especially when Neica has produced two grandchildren for Mom to love."

"You have it all figured don't you? Neica may not go along with the plan, you know?"

"I know, but I will have the five weeks before she gets well and physically able to leave. Let's go to bed. We have a busy day tomorrow."

"You're planning on sleeping in my bed with me I take it?"

"It is big enough for all of us, I checked. The kids can sleep in the middle with us on each side. I'm not into sleeping on that little thing you probably are call a couch."

"Aaron, why are you doing all of this? With the money you gave me, we could have survived until Neica was able to take over."

"Karen Christmas is coming. The kids weren't going to be able to have their mother with them and I didn't see how Santa Claus was coming to this house either. I got to thinking about those two little tykes. Even if they weren't mine, I was going to make sure Santa would visit them this year. Why, you ask? The only reason why is because I can. Also, this will be a Christmas present to my mother. I love to make her happy and kids in the house will do it if nothing else will."

Just as I settled into sleep, from across the bed came, "Aaron, I think Santa has come early to this house."

"Yes and I think he is coming to mine as well."

-------

"Aunty Karen, wake up. There is a man sleeping in bed beside of Billy."

"I know. Santa brought him here last night. I talked with Santa and he said he is your father. You go get the picture that your mom shows you sometimes what your daddy looks like and see if it isn't him." I watched Karen get out of bed and the two kids scrambled up and went rummaging for an album. They stared at me until I smiled.

I spoke, "Is it time for breakfast? I'm hungry. Karen, where is the best place to eat?"

"There is a deli that serves breakfast just down the street. We can walk there. Billy and Betty, I have some good news about your mother. She is being flown from Alaska to your daddy's home where you will meet her, maybe as soon as tomorrow. We are going out for breakfast and then we are going to fly see a grandmother you have never met either." The kids were getting excited now.

"We will have to hurry because after breakfast we have to catch a plane, so you kids go to the bathroom and then we will come back here and I'll pay some bills and then it is off to see your grandmother today and you're Mom by tomorrow."

"You know those kids are going to be heartbroken if Neica and I don't make it together again. You told them Santa brought me. If we don't make it, it is going to destroy a big part of their childhood dreams of Santa."

"I guess you will just have to stay with her then, won't you. Aaron, I get the feeling that it has been arranged for Neica to come home, but you haven't actually talked with her."

"No I haven't. I struck a deal with her company president to transport her to the Rock Island/Moline area, which is a lot closer to your home than Alaska. There should be time for the kids to meet their grandmother and then you and I will meet the plane she is on. The nurse that is with her will tell me whether she will be in a hospital or at home with all of us."

Just then both kids came back with their heavy coats, wanting to go to breakfast. The phone rang as we were closing the door.

Karen turned back and answered, "Hello." It was Neica wanting to talk to Billy and Betty.

"Hi Kids. My boss said I'm going to be flying closer to home. I'll be leaving in about an hour. Maybe we can see each other at Christmas time. I don't know how, but I'll try hard to get you there to see me. I still don't know how this happened."

"Mommy, Aunty Karen said we would be seeing you tomorrow. Santa came last night and brought a Daddy to be here with us. He is taking us down the street for breakfast right now."

There was silence on the line as Neica was trying to get it through her head what her daughter was telling her. "Betty, let me speak to your Aunt Karen"

I took the phone. "Neica, it is me, Aaron."

"Well, well, this is a surprise. I suppose you found out somehow you had kids and are there to take them away from me."

"Neica, please calm down. This is all new to me, but I do think I have some rights. We can settle that when you get down here to the lower forty-eight. Your flight is scheduled to land at the Quad City Airport. That's only twenty minutes from my home. I have hired Karen as a nanny, so she will be with the kids. We were going to surprise you if you hadn't called. I or someone will meet your plane. The nurse with you will tell me if you need to be hospitalized.

"How do you know all of this? Did Karen call you? I told her never to contact you."

"Yes she did call me. Karen couldn't work at her profession and it appeared you were in no position to be of help. I arranged everything when I found out she was out of funds and the kids couldn't stay any longer in her apartment. I flew up with money. I also found out we were never divorced and you had identified the twins as mine.

"Neica, I just want to give our kids a good Christmas. This is the time of year for them to be with their mother. Can we wait for any lengthy discussion of our issues until after you arrive?"

"That would be best." There was a catch of breath on the other end. "I'm really going to be with Billy and Betty for Christmas?"

"Count on it."

"Bye for now, Aaron. Thank you."

"Bye, Neica. Okay kids, your mother is happy and we will be seeing her soon. What are we having for breakfast?"

"Pancakes and bacon."

Karen and I were talking over the kid's heads. "So Aaron, where do you stand with my sister?"

"I have no idea. At this point, I'm not even thinking about it. Christmas is for the kids. I want to give them one they will remember."

"I think we all will. Neica was in Alaska and far away. I couldn't tell her how bad it was, me here and without any money. She didn't need that. There is nothing worse than being injured, lying in a hospital and not being able to do anything."

"Karen, I'm so glad you called me yesterday. I'm glad you went against your sister's wishes. It shows you had the kids' interests at heart. I think just as soon as we finish here, I'll call my pilot and ask him to start the flight check and to warm the plane. You can pay the landlord while I'm getting a cab and then we'll go.

"I'll call Mom and tell her when to expect us. It will be she who is meeting us." Fifty minutes later we were lifting off the ground in the company jet.



-------

Chapter 2


We made one stop on the way and it was just after one in the afternoon when we set the plane on the ground near Moline. The kids had flown before, but not in a small jet such as this. The other times had all been in larger commercial craft. Mom was waiting for us. "Betty and Billy, this lady is your grandmother. We will be living with her for awhile. Mom, this is Karen Olson, Neica's sister. She has been caring for Neica's children."

"Welcome Betty and Billy. Karen, you are welcome too. It has been a long time since I watched two small kids, so I'll need help from a nanny."

"Thank you, Mrs. Baker. Being here is a relief. I was in a bind and Aaron came to my rescue as soon as I notified him. I shudder to think what kind of mess I would be in now if he hadn't."

"That's Aaron for you. Let's get along home now. You have missed lunch and I have a snack out. We will have dinner at six. That will give you a chance to freshen up. Tell me how Neica is faring?"

"She is being cared for very well, I think. Her left leg had a hairline fracture above the ankle. The right one has a compound fracture and some severe muscle damage just below the knee. She told me the operation was successful for now, but she may need surgery on the muscles at some later time."

"The poor dear. This is terrible with it being Christmas and all. At least she will be here where we can give support and care for her. I think I will put you and the two children in my wing that is down the hall from me. I want to get to know all of you. When Neica gets here, she will be in Aaron's wing."

My mother was fifty-seven. Dad had died suddenly a year ago. I had no doubt but what mother might marry again. She loved Dad, but she was so alive and I couldn't see her being alone for long. For myself, I was ready to move on to a place of my own anytime, if she found someone. It seemed as if I was just marking time since I had asked Neica to leave five years ago. We might pick up where we left off before I discovered her infidelity.

Mother and I usually dined together, she doing the cooking. I had a home office where I usually retired in the early evening. I worked for my uncle, but I took my work seriously. I did usually go out on Friday night and I often escorted Mom to a play or concert on Sunday.

We were sitting down to dinner when the phone rang. "May I speak to Mr. Aaron Baker, please?"

"Yes, this is he."

"This is Sally, the nurse traveling with Mrs. Baker. We have arrived in Seattle. You may expect our arrival at the Quad City terminal about one a.m. tomorrow morning. We would expect you will have an ambulance at our disposal. Mrs. Baker is holding up very well and if she has a suitable bed to place her in, she will not need hospital care."

"Thank you, Sally. It has been agreed you will be staying on with Mrs. Baker for at least a week. Is that correct?"

"Yes, and with the understanding you are paying my fare back to Alaska?"

"Fine. You will be met at the airport, and thank you." I turned to Billy and Betty saying, "Your Mom will be here when you wake up in the morning. She will be so glad to see you. I hope she will be glad to see me as well."

"She will, Daddy, I just know she will." This was Betty. "Billy and I never had a daddy before. You are the best present from Santa, ever."

The kids went to bed about seven-thirty. Karen and I went down to the room Neica was going to use and rearranged the furniture. I was getting concerned when the hospital bed hadn't arrived by eight-thirty, but it came at ten of nine. I called and verified that the ambulance would be at the airport on time.

By ten o'clock the bed was made up. It would be only three more hours until I would be facing the woman whom I had told to leave my home five years ago. Was I nervous? You bet. Did I have a feeling of love for her? I had to say I didn't, but I was hoping that would change as soon as I saw her.

In the same vein, I wondered if she had any feelings for me. For the past five years, she knew where I was, but I didn't know where she was or what had happened to her. Also she had kept me from knowing I had children by her. I didn't feel that was right at all. I considered us getting back together with a happy life about a fifty-fifty proposition. Time would tell.

"Karen, fill me in on Neica's life of the past five years just a little. From the pictures that were sent to me, I assumed she was on a fast track on a road to hell."

"If she had gone to hell, it would have been entirely your fault."

"You've never seen the photographs that were sent to me, have you?"

"No, but it was just sex. Actually she has never told me anything about what happened. She said you kicked her out and wouldn't listen to her explanation. If you didn't like her entertaining someone else, you still could at least have talked with her about it."

"Karen, your values are much different than mine. At the time we were married we vowed to forsake all others. She didn't hold to that."

"Maybe she had a reason. You could have asked her why."

I was silent for a long minute, before saying, "If it happened today, I would ask her. Don't you think I haven't kicked myself for being so abrupt with her? Maybe her reasons weren't so black and white and I have caused myself a lot of pain. You still haven't told me about what she did when she left here or what she has been doing in the last few years."

"I don't know it all. The first I knew of her trouble with you was when she called before she left Moline. She wanted to move in with me. I told her she couldn't. I was in a situation where I couldn't have a guest even if she was my sister. This was just no place for her at that time.

"It is a good thing because with the way she was feeling she might have been out on the street with me. Please understand I am speaking figuratively. I have never walked the streets. It is just that I do the same thing as those who have."

I looked at this woman who freely admitted she was a loose woman. She read something into my glance that wasn't there. She did challenge me on it, though.

"Don't look at me like that. I'm not really ashamed of my profession. I do provide a service. I do not consider myself a bad person. Sure, I could wish I hadn't been busted. That was brought about by a woman who was jealous and turned me in while I was doing her boyfriend. I was innocent, I swear." Her grin belied her words. Personally I didn't see the subject was anything to joke about.

"Karen, let me ask you a question. Do you honestly think I have been celibate for the last five years? For good or bad and for all intents and purposes Neica was out of my life. I haven't started a relationship with another woman, but that doesn't mean I haven't had needs. Who would I go to in that situation? If I met you today and didn't know you were sister to my wife, I would be inclined to approach you in that capacity."

"Somehow I don't think Neica is going to hold that against you. How are you going to feel about her in the same context? After all you dumped her for having sex with someone other than you."

"It is a different situation, altogether."

"You know Aaron. You two just might get back together and have a happy life again. I would hope so. Would it be okay if I related this conversation to Neica? It might get one bump in your road out of the way."

"I don't mind at all."

I was getting more and more nervous as the time approached for Neica's plane to land. I wanted no observers when we met for the first time in so many years, so I suggested that Karen stay here in case the kids woke up. It was all for naught as Neica had been heavily sedated and wasn't awake when she was transferred to the ambulance. I followed it home and watched as the ambulance personnel brought her in and installed her in the hospital bed.

My room was next to my wife's, but I spent the rest of the night sitting next to her. I stared at her face. She was a stranger to me. Her features had coarsened from being out in the weather. When I last had seen her, her hair had been long. Now it was in a rough pageboy and uneven as if she hadn't seen a hairdresser for months.

The nurse, Sally Peters was installed in the room on the other side. She appeared to be a competent nurse some years older than Neica and myself. "Your wife, I'm informed. Of course you are, you being Mr. and Mrs. Baker. She has had a rough time of it. Her sled was crossing a frozen river bed. I guess there was tree that was buried under a drift and one ski caught it. It went end for end and landed on her leg.

"She was on the tail end of a team of three and the two men ahead of her traveled quite a distance before they discovered she wasn't with them. She never lost consciousness and lay there under the machine in pain for almost an hour. Some fortitude, that one. Have you been married long?"

"Yes, for quite awhile. Six and a half years to be exact. I'm glad to have her home." I glanced at Neica. Her eyes were open and she was aware of the conversation that the nurse and I had carried on.

"Aaron, I'm glad to be here. And it is Christmas time." Her eyes closed leaving just a hint of a smile on her face.

I dozed until Karen came in at six. "Aaron, I'm getting the kids up in a half hour. You can tell them their mother is here in the house. When Neica wakes up, we can bring them down to visit."

"You bring them down. Neica will wake up when they come into the room."

"Okay, I just wanted Neica to know you were responsible for getting her and the children together. You deserve all of the credit."

"That was the easy part. We still have the past to deal with."

"Do you want her back in your life?"

I stared at my sister-in-law. "Yes and no. Yes, I want her if she was like when we first married. No, I don't want her if I can't trust her, but I am willing to try to find out. I suspect if I had paused to listen to her before, we would have made a clean break or I would have forgiven her and wouldn't have had to deal with this five years later."

"Maybe or maybe not. I think you are a softer, more forgiving individual now than you were back then. Time does that to a person."

Sally made an appearance and asked me to step out of the room while she woke Neica and made her more presentable for the kids.

Karen said, "I'll go get the kids up. Coffee is made. Grab a cup. You've been up all night." I watched her as she went down the hall ahead of me. The thought came to me that I'll bet her patrons received a little love along with the sex they purchased from her. I went into my bathroom for a quick shower. I wanted to be presentable for both my wife and the kids.

I was back soon enough before the others came in to greet my wife. It was hard to realize the woman laying the bed was married to me. Her face and arms were weathered from being out in the harsh weather. She didn't seem especially glad to see me either. "Neica, I've missed you."

"You didn't feel that way five years ago. We could have settled this back then."

"I don't think you can blame me that much for my actions. Look, the kids will be here in a minute. Let's put off talking about the past and give them a good Christmas. I still have to work some in the next ten days. I want to get to know the children in the evenings."

"That would be best. I need to find out some things about you and, yes, about myself as well. I've been terribly hurt and I'm not going to fall into your arms just because you found out you have kids." We couldn't discuss this more as we could hear Karen and the kids babbling as they approached.

Betty and Billy came charging into the room and over to their mother, wanting kisses and exclaiming how glad they were to see her. They wanted to see both legs and the casts that encased them and then questioned if she was hurting. "Not now, but I did for awhile. I just can't use my legs until they get healed."

I sat back against the wall. Suddenly they came to me. "Daddy, Aunty Karen said Mommy is here all because of you. She said we should give you a kiss to thank you."

Betty's arms came up and she kissed me right on the lips. This was followed by Billy who didn't appear to be into kissing. "How about giving me a hug and a high five?" This was better. Karen was standing in the doorway and laughed. Neica looked on with a slight disgusted look as if she was losing control of her life.

"Hey Guys, I have to work this morning. I've been up all night and I need coffee to keep awake. Kiss your Mom again and let's go see what your grandmother has for breakfast." I walked over and tipped Neica's chin up with my fingers so I could kiss her on the lips. It wasn't much of a kiss, as she kept her lips pressed tightly together. I smiled into her eyes and headed for the door.

I paused, "Neica, I'll have Mom call for a hairdresser to come in and do your hair. While she is here she might as well do Karen's. I'll be home early and I'll see you then."

Karen followed me into my mother's wing. She came up beside me as Billy and Betty ran on ahead. She whispered, "You are keeping Neica so off balance. You liberate her from a hospital bed in the far north and when she gets here she finds her kids are already calling you Daddy.

"You pretty much just told her she looks like hell and you are doing something about it. Not only that you are treating her whore of a sister as an equal. She can't enjoy that."

"Hey kids, I have to talk to your Aunt Karen a minute. Start breakfast without me." I turned Karen to face me. "My problem is that I don't know Neica anymore. The first words we had, I thought we could go back to where we were before. She said she was glad to be here and we would have a Merry Christmas. Then this morning she basically pushed me away."

"I think you both are expecting too much of each other. You are pretty much strangers after being apart for so long. But you were close back then and now you are tied together with Betty and Billy. Give yourselves some time and have your Merry Christmas."

"You know what they say about prostitutes and bartenders don't you? You're both psychologists without a license. Don't get bent out of shape at my analogy either. I mean it in a good way."

"Thank you Aaron, No offense taken."

-------

Mom was bustling around happy as could be. I was beat, but I had a couple of things I couldn't put off at the factory. I put all thought of Neica out of my mind. The images of Billy and Betty kept intruding as I went about initialing various papers that came across my desk. I called Sam, the techie who had taken over installing the computer components.

"Sam, everything go okay the other day?"

"Yeah, couldn't have done better if I had started the job myself. You know boss, someday you are going to have to give up and let us poor slobs do it all. I know you like to keep your hand in, but it isn't your job anymore."

"I know, I know. I guess I just miss doing hands-on things. That comes from going bankrupt in my own company before I came here. Actually I would be happy if you were the vice president and I was doing what you do."

"Big difference when the pay checks are handed out though."

"You got that right."

My uncle and CEO, Bill Roemer, called me into his office and questioned me about my new family, especially concerning that I now had two children. I gave it all to him, at least what I knew about my wife. He declared, "Take off and be with them. Come back the Monday after Christmas. I'm going to be gone that week and I'm depending on you to cover for me. I'll leave a directive on your desk if there is anything important for you to do. It doesn't look as if there is anything on the horizon at this time."

"Thanks Bill, I could use the time off. I'll be in to wish all of the help a happy holiday the day before Christmas anyway and I'll see everyone at the New Year's bash."

"Get out of here, then."

I didn't go directly home. I went shopping. I had already purchased something for my mother. I bought Neica earrings and a brooch. What to buy Karen? I ended getting her a fine scarf which was enhanced by a clasp of three natural pearls. I was going to depend on her to shop for me for things the kids wanted and needed. I would now have time to do this.

Neica was sitting in a wheelchair when I went by her room. I met Sally coming up the hall. "Mr. Baker, you know there isn't any reason for me to stay here with your wife. I have talked to your family doctor. He agrees with me. Your wife needs to be bathed everyday, but you can do that or her sister can do it for her. You just have to keep the casts from getting damp. I'd like to fly out in the morning if that is all right with you?"

"If the doctor says it is okay, that is fine with me. I do want to thank you for traveling down from Alaska with her."

"Yes, well there was some concern about blood clots in having to fly that great distance, but it shouldn't be happening now. The doctor will monitor her progress daily, anyway."

"Thank you for taking the time away from your family. I'll have a bonus for you."

"Thank you. I'll stay by Mrs. Baker tonight and say good-bye in the morning before I leave."

I went into Neica's room. "Sally is leaving in the morning. I guess it us up to Karen and me to see to your needs and give you a bath."

"Karen can do it. You won't have to bother. In fact I would prefer her to you."

"Suit yourself. I'm going to go get some sleep. I'll see you at dinner." I turned and left for my room. I was too tired to give more than a passing thought to Neica as I slipped into slumber.

"Hey kids, I don't have to work tomorrow. Your aunt needs some clothes as she left all of her things back in North Dakota. You kids need some things as well. I think we will make Thursday a shopping day."

"Can we have some toys? We left all of ours at Aunty Karen's. The rest of them are at home in Texas."

"Is that where your home is, Betty?"

"Yes, we live with Mrs. Smith. She baby-sits us while Mom is away working. This last time we had to go live with Aunty Karen when Mom got the job in Alaska."

"Betty, I'm sure your father isn't interested where we live."

"But Mom, he is our Daddy. He should know all about us." Neica said no more, knowing if she argued with her daughter, more would be revealed. I was going to have a talk with Neica and soon!

I drove Sally to the airport after breakfast and returned in time for coffee. Karen had Neica up and had seen to getting her ready for the day. The mailman delivered mail and asked if there was a Ms Karen Olson at this address. There were several extra pieces with some being addressed to Karen and one to Neica.

Karen explained, "Aaron, I had my mail redirected to here and if Neica had any, it was to come here as well."

I noticed one was registered and Karen signed for it. There was a check for Neica from her company. It was for her last month's pay. I had asked for this to be sent to Karen's address when I talked to the company president and it got sent to her. I was looking out for her children. Karen had used her last cent to care for them and it was only fair for Neica to reimburse her.

"You took a lot on yourself, Aaron. What if I didn't want it to go to Karen?"

"Does it really matter? You have it in hand. You don't have to cash it right now, but you might want to pay Karen. She ran out of money and had to spend all she had on your kids."

"You pay her, you are claiming them now."

"Aaron has paid some of it already. He gave me $520 when we first met." She disappeared to read her mail. When she came back she stated that she had to be back in Fargo on the 10th of January to conduct some business. "Neica will be mostly well by that time and can take care of her."

"I'll be well enough to go with you."

"What about Aaron? He is your husband and the father of your kids. What about Billy and Betty?" I was waiting for Neica's answer, hoping I would gain a little insight into how my wife felt about me. At present, I almost wished I had divorced her five years ago. Well maybe before I knew she was carrying twins. That made the balance tip somewhat in her favor.

The answer came. "The kids could stay here with their grandmother."

"And what about you?" I asked this question myself.

"I said after Christmas we would talk about it." The wife was beginning to piss me off.

I turned to Karen. "Let's go shopping. I'll be ready as soon as the kids are. Neica, do you want me to cash your check? You must have some things you need. Karen will get them for you."

"You pay."

"Neica, I gave you $6,900 five years ago to get a divorce. It was all I could scrape up at the time. You didn't get the divorce and I haven't got my money back. You pay."

"I suppose you want me to pay what it cost for you to fly me down here from Alaska and for the nurse with me?"

"No, I did that for the kids. They should have their mother with them at Christmas time."

"Stop it you two. When I get back in business I'll pay. Aaron, please lend me some money. I have a commodity you might have need of the way things are going."

"I just might be buying the way things are going. Actually there is no need. I have your first week's pay ready as nanny for Billy and Betty." I said no more until I approached my wife. "Neica, I'll see you when we return near lunch time." I leaned down and gave her a kiss. Again it wasn't returned. I had about enough of this.

"Karen, why don't you take the kids shopping? Mom will drive. I think it is time Neica and I talked. I'm not putting it off any longer."

Karen smiled first at Neica and then at me. "Have fun you two."

I went over and looked out the window. I saw the car with Mom, Karen and the twins leave. I turned to my wife. "Okay, I want the story of your life from the time you were, say a teenager. You came to me with more sexual experience than I had acquired in college even. It didn't bother me back then, but I'm thinking I should know more about you now. I have it my mind you are somewhat twisted in your thinking."

"Why do you say that?"

"Think. I met and married you. I loved you and I thought you felt the same way about me. In less than two years I received pictures of you being unfaithful. You disappear for five years and then you come back into my life and you aren't happy to be back with me. God woman, I've done more for you than anyone would expect me to do. Tell me what I'm doing wrong."

"It isn't you Aaron. Before the world you are doing what any decent man would do to make his wife love him. To make her love and cherish him. At times you bring out the best in me, but it doesn't last. You know, I don't think I'm a bad person, but I'm not for you. I can't be in your life. When I am with you, I resent you. I always have. Believe me I've tried not to.

"You ask what I was like as a teenager. I was pretty wild. My father left my mother right after I was born, and we were poor. This made me want a home and happiness. I guess I went searching for it the wrong way. You know firsthand how I went about it.

"Then I met you. You were ambitious and handsome and I knew you would provide for me. That ended about three months before you received the pictures of me and another man. You were working too many hours and I went to a party with a woman who I thought was a friend. That put me right back into the same context I was before I met you, hence the photographs.

"The man in the pictures with me said he would give me a week to make up my mind to leave you or go with him. He changed his mind and sent them the same day, thinking I would be free and turn to him. I suppose I might have if you hadn't given me so much money.

"The week I left, I wanted nothing from him and I resented the fact that you wouldn't talk to me and let me explain. I had money from you and I headed for Texas to find my mother. It was six weeks later when I realized I must be pregnant. My thinking was; you gave me money for a divorce, but you couldn't get married if I didn't go through with it."

Neica paused and I asked, "What about being pregnant?"

"How could I know whose child it was? If it was the man in the picture, I wanted nothing to do with him. And if it was yours, well screw you, you wanted a divorce. I had money and my mother wanted me to stay with her. It was she who made up my mind not to have an abortion.

"I lived with her until after Billy and Betty were born. How she loved them. Then when they were two years old, she died. She had a small estate, but I knew I needed to have a job. I got on with an oil company. The same one I have now. I found a lady who loves children and hired her to watch my kids.

"I have visited my sister a couple of times in the last two years. Our mother liked her much better than she liked me so Karen and I were never close. Three months ago I was approached by my company to see if I would go to Alaska for a month. Mrs. Smith couldn't watch the kids around the clock for a whole month so I contacted Karen. Aaron, I love Alaska and I'm going back when I get well."

"What about Billy and Betty. Are you taking them with you?"

"I don't see how I can."

I dropped that and asked, "How did Karen end up with the kids for a month?"

"I called her and begged her to watch them for me. She said she would. The only thing was I didn't leave her enough money and I wasn't paid as soon as I expected. She panicked and called you. I would have got some money to her somehow. The two men on my team were going to lend me some."

"How come you have been such a bitch to me the last three days?"

"I told you I resented you. Think about it. You hear Karen is in trouble and all of a sudden you take right over. You with your company plane fly right up there to give her $500. Big deal! Not only that, you fly me out of the hospital where I'm getting along fine. You pay extra money to have me baby-sat for no reason at all. You didn't even ask me. You just went ahead and arranged it all."

"You've forgotten Billy, Betty, Christmas, and the situation Karen was in. She had to go down and give a blowjob to the landlord so she could feed your kids."

"It wouldn't have done her any harm. She has given BJs before."

"Maybe she has for herself, but this was for you and yours. That is about as insensitive as anything I have ever heard. Okay, that's just my opinion. What is going to happen to the kids now? What are your plans in that respect?"

"Why, I thought you would have your own plans for them. You have planned everything else up to this point."

I was pretty disgusted with the woman who claimed to be my wife. "Neica, are you glad you are going to spend Christmas with your kids or not?"

"Yes, of course."

"You aren't showing it much. I don't care how you feel about me, but those kids need a mother's love. They need to see a little respect shown for their new father as well. I haven't figured you out yet, but I want them to have a happy time while they are here. I know you aren't happy, but I wish you could act happy for a little while."

"Okay, I guess I can do that."

"I trust that you will. What about after Christmas? Are you planning on going back to Alaska or back to Texas?"

"I'd like to go back north, but I haven't figured out what I can do with Betty and Billy. They certainly can't go with me. Maybe I will just leave them with you."

"What is going to happen when I divorce you? Am I going to have custody of the kids?"

"You are planning on divorcing me?"

"Yes. This time, though, I am going to follow through with it until it is finalized. I will ask for custody in the suit, so you can expect a battle if you won't give custody to me."

"Let me think about it. May I make some phone calls before I do?"

"Of course. Call anyone or anywhere you like. Let's get back to the kids. I'm taking them out to get a Christmas tree this afternoon. Can you at least show a little excitement when we decorate it this evening?"

"I will. Christmas has never meant much to me. There was the one time we had one together. I guess that was the best one. Usually I don't bother."

"You mean you have never celebrated with the kids?"

"No and I hadn't planned much of one for this year either, even if I hadn't been injured."

"I guess Mom and I had better show you what Christmas is all about. How about Karen? How does she feel about the holiday?"

"I have no idea. As I have said, we never were too close. Our mother was never in a position to celebrate Christmas when we were growing up, although we used to get new clothes sometimes."



-------

Chapter 3


Could I believe all that my wife was telling me? I suppose people were that poor twenty-five years ago, but Neica didn't act as if she grew up poor when I met and married her. I think I would question Karen when I next talked to her. I let all of this pass and asked about what she did in Alaska.

"It is a beautiful place. Sure it is cold and it doesn't forgive mistakes a person makes. What I and my team do is critical. There was a huge oil spill in the year 2006 and inspection has been more important. I know I was only up there for a month, but I can't wait to get back to Prudhoe Bay. Somehow I'll be there on my next rotation."

"Even above taking care of your family?" Her lips pursed and I waited for an answer, but it wasn't forthcoming. I left Neica sitting in her wheelchair, and went into my mother's wing to call my lawyer. "Pete, I need a divorce attorney. I thought I was divorced five years ago, but I find it was never finalized. There are also two kids involved now and I am led to believe they are mine."

"I'll get back to you. Do you want me to get you an appointment?"

"Please, if you would." I was just hanging up when Karen, Mom and the kids came home. Billy and Betty were wired. They had been to the shopping mall and had caught the excitement in the last shopping days before Christmas. Mom kept it going when she had Karen help bring in the Christmas ornaments from where they were stored.

"Okay, all we need now is a Christmas tree. Who wants to go look for a really nice one?" No one wanted to stop for lunch, so I promised I would take the two to McDonalds after we found a tree. The tree they chose was kind of small and had one spot without a branch, but that is the one that they said was just right for them.

Karen sided with the kids, just saying "nothing and no one is perfect." We sat in the restaurant where they could look out at the tree tied on top of the car. I don't think they even knew what they ate for lunch.

I will say when we returned to the house and I brought the tree in its stand into the house, Neica had changed her attitude. She was friendly with me and encouraged the kids to help decorate. Karen noticed it and commented. Then she said to Neica, "This is some different than when we were growing up, isn't it, Neica?"

"Decidedly so." It seemed as if Neica's eyes were on me more than ever this evening. The kids didn't stay up long as they were tired out from the day's exertions. Karen and Mom cleaned up after dinner. They got along as if they had known each other for a long time. I sat reading in the living room while Neica watched something on the tube.

"Aaron, I'm going to call my team in Alaska. They should be in quarters about now. I think they are only two or maybe three hours behind us here."

"Sure, go ahead." Neica went down to her room. I didn't give her anymore thought. Karen and my mother came in and sat down.

"Karen, I understand you are two years older than Neica."

"Yes. My father died when I was only a year old. Mother married soon after, which turned out to be a mistake. Neica's father was a worthless piece of— Well you get the message. Neica came right along on schedule and her father wanted no part of Mom and two kids, so he took off. He may even still be alive. Mom supported us all in the age-old tradition.

"Personally I don't see anything wrong with that. I know not many people feel the way I do. God gave a woman something and it is an asset no matter what anyone says. Only in rare cases can it make you rich, but it can put food on the table and it did keep you from starving. Also it can be a lot of fun." Karen's eyes passed over me, but didn't linger.

"I guess Mom's happiest moment was when Neica birthed the twins. How she loved those two. I can tell you she was always a little disappointed in Neica. You know how people used to say a person was good and his word is his bond. My sister has never understood that. I don't know how many times she promised Mom she would or wouldn't do something, but inevitably she went back on her word.

"In the way of mothers everywhere, she loved Neica as much as she loved me. I never went back to Mom's for anything since I was seventeen. That was when I went out on my own. Except for a little bump in the road now and then, I have had a good life. Neica was different as she kept returning to our mother when things didn't pan out as she expected. She would get into trouble and home she would go.

"Mom and she would talk and Mom would figure out Neica's next move. That is what happened when Aaron and Neica split. I have to say some good came out of the split– meaning Betty and Billy. Neica was going to have an abortion, but Mom talked her out of having the procedure.

"Both she and I are at a crossroads right now. Neica thinks she wants to live and work in Alaska. Personally I don't see how she can with the twins and all. Me, I don't have a job and haven't had one for a few months."

"What did you do for work?"

"I was listed as a secretary. It didn't pay too well, but it kept a roof over my head."

I could tell Mom liked Karen when she said, "Maybe Aaron can find a position for you. My brother owns the company and I can speak to him as well."

"I'll think about it. I do have a few options." Just then Neica came wheeling her chair in. Her face was flushed and she looked happy.

"My team wants me back as soon as possible. They think I can live and work there permanently and not have to rotate back down here. Time wise it is fine, for the job doesn't start until the first of April. I should be well by then. Also I'll have plenty of time to get the kids used to me being absent and having things organized. If I give you custody, then this will solve that particular problem for both of us."

"You want the divorce, I take it?"

"Yes and as soon as possible."

"I'll get on it." Do you have a lawyer to represent you and the children? A judge would not even think about granting a divorce if the care of the kids isn't resolved."

"I'll engage one from the yellow pages."

"Call the American Bar Association. The ABA can recommend one that will fit your needs. You might even get one to do it pro bono if you ask and explain your circumstances."

"Maybe the judge will compel you to pay."

"Maybe. I've already paid once, remember?"

"Yes, but I used that money to support your children for four years. It didn't go very far."

"Let's don't argue. We'll get divorced somehow. Monday would be a good day to call the association." I had a feeling this was going to be expensive for me, but I wanted to move on. I'd get this settled and then I would find a woman who would take care of my kids. I would guess Neica would go after everything she could and I'd be starting from scratch again.

I did have a good position with my uncle, so it wouldn't take me too long to recover from this, especially with me having custody of Betty and Billy. I was still relatively young at twenty-eight.

Neica soon left to get ready for the night. Karen wheeled her down to her room to help and I said to her as she left, "I'll stop by to see if you are still awake when I retire."

An hour later I decided to look in on the two kids. I swear there were smiles on their faces as they lay sleeping. Karen came in behind me. "They are sweet aren't they? I could almost wish I had decided to travel a different road."

"It isn't too late is it?"

"I'm afraid so. If I married, I wouldn't want to keep any secrets from the man who became interested in me. That would reduce my chances by seventy-five percent with anyone who did become interested."

"Twenty-five percent is still pretty good odds."

"In other terms, I'd get turned down three times to get to one chance at happiness."

"So grow a thick skin. I'd say it would be worth it."

"Aaron, I might just try it."

I said goodnight to mother and stopped to wish my wife a goodnight as well. I soon was in my bed. I wasn't able to sleep and my mind was in turmoil. It harked back to when Neica and I had first married. I was so happy at that time, but it went to hell so suddenly.

I wondered why I was so enamored of her charms at the time and we had been happy. She was still a beautiful woman, but now she wasn't trying to make out she was something she wasn't. I had the feeling that her team in Alaska meant more to her than I did. That begged the question, was she in love with one or both of the men. She certainly wanted to get back there with them as soon as she could.

She was willing to turn the care of her two children over to me. She didn't act as if she would miss them to any great extent either. I finally got out of bed and put on a robe. I went down the hall to her room. I quietly eased into the chair by her bed. She was restless.

"Neica are you awake?" I asked quietly.

"Oh Aaron, I didn't hear you come in. Yes, I'm awake. I was lying here thinking about my life. I'm glad you're here. I have something I wanted to ask you."

She paused and I waited for her to continue. "Aaron, would you forgive me? I know I haven't treated you at all well in the past and I suppose I'm not treating you very good now either. I'm feeling guilty for resenting you as I am. Also I'm feeling guilty about my kids too. Believe it or not, I resent them as well. What is wrong with me?"

"I don't think I can answer that. I can say I don't understand you. I suspect you don't really know what you want out of life. A husband doesn't satisfy you. You've proved that. You have two great kids and they don't complete you. I do think there is one thing I can do for you. I have said I want to divorce. That may bring you some measure of happiness just from the fact you don't have to think about dealing with me ever again.

"I would feel better if I gained custody of Billy and Betty and from what you have indicated, that would free you up as well. The thing is there isn't going to be a chance for a do-over. Once these steps are taken we are pretty much done. I don't mean to take the kids out of your life. You get visitation rights because you are their mother. I'm the one that will govern them in all cases, though."

"I think I could go along with that."

"You do amaze me sometimes. You have done a wonderful job with them so far and I can't understand how you could let them go."

"I can't either, but this is what I want."

"Okay, let's move forward in that vein. I'm going to try and convince Karen to take over as their permanent caregiver so the transition will be painless for the kids."

"You could even marry her. That would have things wrapped up in a neat little package."

"That would be something to think about, but only after you and I am divorced. That will be at least six months from now. Also I haven't seen any indication that she wants to change her lifestyle. In the meantime can we be mother and father to Betty and Billy as any normal family would be while you are still here?"

"Yes, of course." I returned to my room and went right to sleep, knowing I would never understand Neica.

The kids were with their mother when I finally got to Neica's room in the morning. "Good morning, Aaron." This came to me with a smile which was an improvement over the usual. "Push me up to breakfast, if you would. The kids and I waited for you."

It was a congenial gathering. After breakfast, Mom mentioned that there was a box of games and toys of mine up in the attic that she had stored many years ago. I took Billy and Betty on a search mission, which was a fun game in itself.

When we came back down, the two kids wanted to play one of my old games. Neica asked me to help her find an attorney so I left them to the game. It was unusual having an estranged husband looking for some lawyer to represent his wife in a suit.

"That's okay. This way maybe you can pass on him and it won't hold up getting this settled." Neica found one who agreed to represent her. He would come to the house and meet with her this afternoon. He warned her that it would be after the first of the year before a suit could be filed. The system would be just about shut down the weeks before and after Christmas.

The time line didn't bother me as much as it did my wife. After all we hadn't lived together for five years and it might be fun to get to know her again just while she was here. She would never, ever be more to me than being my children's mother. It might give me time to figure what she was all about. Wouldn't that be something?

Sunday morning I took the kids to church. I very seldom went, but Mom said it was a good idea to give the kids a little more of an idea about Christmas. We would explain to them there was a reason behind the Christmas holiday and someday they would understand. Neica couldn't go and finally at the last minute Karen said she would like to go with us.

We had Sunday dinner at two. The kids were excited about all the good things Mom had prepared with the help of Karen. We all ate too much and I soon made my way to the living room and the couch. Neica came in sitting in her wheelchair and parked it close by. The kids crawled up beside of me, one on each side of me, and soon I think we were all asleep.

I awoke with Billy and Betty giggling. "Daddy, look at Mommy and Aunty Karen. They both sleep with their mouths open and they snore."

"Shh, that has to be our secret. We don't want to embarrass them do we? I don't think that happens very often. It must be the amount of the roast they ate. Let's go into the other room and watch a Christmas show."

Billy and Betty had never had a normal family relationship. They had only had their mother, their grandmother and a baby sitter to be with. They lost their grandmother before they were old enough to know her well then was replaced by Mrs. Smith, the new sitter.

Now besides their mother, there was me, their Aunt Karen and their new grandmother. We were all trying to outdo each other in making them happy. It was a great time for them.

The two attorneys got together on Monday and came up with an acceptable agreement about the care for the children. Neica declined going after any of my assets, saying I had custody of the kids and would need everything to provide for them. Maybe there was some guilt she was feeling or relief in turning them over for someone else to care for them. Getting a court date was up in the air and we left it to my attorney to try for it as soon as possible.

I made Neica a promise that if she ever needed anything within reason, I would help her out if possible. She was always to be welcomed to visit them here with me anytime she desired.

"Won't that be a problem when you get married again? I'm almost sure you will someday. You have so much going for you." I guess there was some guilt on her part as she was making things easy for me. I wanted to bring those two kids up in my image and with my values and Neica was giving me the chance.

"I'll just explain my situation before I marry. I'll even invite anyone you hook up with as long as he would understand that Billy and Betty are in my hands totally."

"I'd respect that." Neica was looking as if she wanted to say something, "Aaron do you have any feelings for me at all?"

"I do. You're a very pretty woman and easy on the eyes. I remember what you looked like when we used to make love together. Then the pictures of you that was sent came and that produced a feeling of hate. It wasn't long before I had feeling of loss and that continued for five years until I saw you a week ago.

"I met up with you and you have two great kids and I feel love for you for giving them to me. I must say I don't understand you, but at this point, I'm not going to even try. You asked if I had feeling for you. I do, but there is not enough to renew a relationship."

"That answers my question. I just know I'm making the right decision. I confess that one of my team members and I was making plans before I was injured. He wasn't too thrilled when he found out I had children. I was hesitant at first in meeting you again, thinking it would destroy what I had going with him, but you coming back into my life has helped me considerably in that respect. I do remember how much I hurt you and I don't want to hurt you like that again."

"I guess this is going to work out for both of us, isn't it?"

"It would seem so. I can stay here until I am healed though, can't I?"

"Of course. A mother should be with her children as much as possible." I had to get one dig in to the woman who was willing to give up her children.

-------

I took the kids with me when I went into the factory to wish the employees a Merry Christmas. I showed them my office and my secretary kissed both of them telling me what darlings they were. There was even a small present under the company Christmas tree for them, thanks to my faithful secretary.

My uncle Bill questioned if I would make it in on Monday to fill in for him and I assured him I would be there. I had a present of sorts when I arrived home Monday after work. My attorney called and said he was able to file the divorce suit today. He also had our court date scheduled on the fifteenth of January.

That evening I managed to get Neica into Mom's Cadillac and we toured the city to see some Christmas lights. Certain streets had gone all out with displays and the kids were so thrilled. Neica soon complained that she was uncomfortable and I could see she was somewhat cramped and hurting so we didn't stay out long. I promised the kids we would go out again tomorrow night on Christmas Eve.

Christmas Eve we took my car this time. Neica said no, she wouldn't go. Karen said she would. I think she enjoyed it as much as Billy and Betty. I promised them one present each when we returned to the house. That took care of being out any longer viewing the Christmas lights.

Mom had hot chocolate and cookies ready when we came in. The kids gravitated to the lighted tree and we brought the treats to the kids. They waited patiently while we were bustling around. Neica wheeled in her chair and watched from the edge of the room. Karen tended to the kids and I do believe she was as excited as they were.

Mom pushed to open all of the gifts under the tree tonight and I guessed I wanted to see the kid's faces as the presents kept coming to them. My mother treated Neica and Karen equally. I think Karen was the most surprised at this and looked so happy at the sweater and the two outfits Mom had bought each of the sisters.

Karen looked envious when Neica opened my gift of the jewelry I presented to her. "Come Aaron, kiss me. The brooch is pretty and the earrings are beautiful. Thank you. Did you buy Karen something?"

"I did." I passed the present to Karen and she thanked me even before she opened it. The clasp of pearls was in a small box by itself in the corner of the box that held the scarf. Her hands were shaking as she opened it. A quiet thank you was all I received, but I could see how happy it made her. I got down on the floor to help Billy set up the figures with his army and its equipment. This was the biggest and most complete set I could find.

Karen was dragged down on the floor with me to help Betty dress the little girl models I purchased at the same time. They happened to be something that was heavily advertised on the tube, and she couldn't believe she had so many all of her own.

A few minutes later the phone rang and it was for Neica. "Gregory, where are you?" She listened for a minute and then answered a question, "Just watching my kids playing with their presents." There was another pause while she listened again. "I don't know if that would be right for you to come here. I'm with my husband in my mother-in-law's home."

Betty whispered to me, "That's Gregory. He's Mom's boyfriend. They are all the time kissing and stuff."

I knew immediately that this Gregory was probably in town and was looking to see Neica. I wasn't going to keep them apart at this stage of Neica's and my relationship. I spoke to Neica. "Tell whoever that is to come and visit if you want to see him. In fact if he hasn't secured a room, he can have the room Sally stayed in." Neica immediately gave directions how to get here.

"This is awkward. You don't mind too much do you? I would like to see him. I have been talking to him during the last week, but I didn't expect him to show up here. He'll only be here a day or so. He is on his way down to Texas."

"I don't mind. I take it he is one of your team that you were working within Alaska?"

"Yes, he is the one that came back for me when I had my accident. He was thinking of me and turned to see how close I was behind him. Thank God he did. I was lying under the ski machine injured and hurting terribly. I've been working with him for the last two years and we are getting closer all the time."

"Convince him to stay, by all means."

"Aaron, would you push me down to my room? I want to comb my hair."

"When he gets here, I'll show him where your room is, so you can meet him in privacy."

"Thank you, Aaron. Aaron, before you go back to the family, I just want to say that you are being really kind to me."

"Yes well, we've moved beyond husband and wife. There is no need to be bitter or mean about it. I will say I didn't feel this way years ago."

"I can believe that. Come kiss me as one friend to another."

"Okay." I pecked her on the cheek and whirled out of the room. A half hour later, I indicated where her room was to a man who appeared to be ten years older than we were. He was quite jovial and thanked me for inviting him so he could visit Neica and for the chance to stay over and talk to her.

When I went by Neica's room later that night Gregory Porter was sleeping in a chair pulled up beside her bed and was holding her hand. She looked the happiest I had seen her since she had been here. I went to sleep myself wanting this marriage of mine with Neica over as soon as possible. I wasn't beating myself up over my actions either. My only regret was that it hadn't been finalized five years ago. But then if it had been, I might not have had the twins in my life.

I received a questioning look from both my mother and Karen when I arrived at the breakfast table. "Gregory and Neica will be along in awhile. Neica is explaining to him all about our divorce arrangements. About all I can say is, I think Neica has the Christmas she was hoping for. I feel a little like a third wheel, though. He is in and I'm out."

"I think you are really a sport by taking this last slap in the face so well. You deserve so much better."

"Thank you Karen. In one way this makes it easier for me. I have fewer regrets about the divorce, knowing she will be happy and I can move on. If she isn't, then she brought this all on herself."

"Still, she is treating you like crap, just as she always has." I smiled, thinking what else could I do?

Mom invited Greg for Christmas dinner. Before it was over I knew more about Alaska than I ever expected to. Greg was a compulsive, but interesting talker. He said he had just purchased a lodge and as soon as Neica was able to travel, he wanted her with him.

"I'm glad you're taking over the care of your kids and keeping them down here in the states. Where we will be living, there is no school nearby and it isn't settled enough to support a teacher. Most of the people where we will be living, work on the pipeline and there's not that much for kids to do. When she gets well she'll be out days at a time.

"Neica is going to want to see her kids though, and to see the changes in them. I think we can pay to have them come up next summer for a visit. You will have to come with them and stay as long as you can. Hell, bring your mother and her sister. You'll love it. I will say it was really nice of you getting her out of the hospital at Christmas time to see the kids although I have missed her.

"Nice of you to divorce her so I can now put in my claim for her. She said she was supposed to have divorced you years ago, but used the money for something else. Isn't that just like a woman?" I had the feeling that Greg loved my wife, but by the same token he wouldn't stand for anything that wasn't right. His problem.

Greg stayed Saturday night and left late Sunday, driving to Texas to meet with his company. Neica cried all evening. The kids hadn't warmed to him. I guess they had bonded with me, for they pretty much ignored him. They had seen him several times and yet I was first in their eyes. Karen wasn't too much taken with him either. She was hardly speaking to Neica because she felt I was being given such short shift.

Finally right after Greg left, she questioned why I didn't seem to mind Neica loving another man and showing him affection right in front of me. I answered, "In my mind Neica and I were divorced five years ago. I thought for a little while I could recapture the feelings we had before the breakup. I've realized though, she had moved on even when we were still living together. I have moved on now as well.

"I know that I have reached closure with her, helped along by my having Billy and Betty in my custody. I can even approve of the man she has chosen. I just hope she is true to him. It would be difficult to trust her again, so she is his problem now. I am going to start keeping my eyes open for someone who will make me and the kids happy the rest of my life."

"I wish I hadn't screwed my life up years ago. I'd be interested in applying for the job."

"I'm not taking applications at this time. If I decide to, I'll let you know when the time is right. In the meantime, would you continue to be the nanny for Billy and Betty? I have a feeling Neica will be going up to Alaska before she is totally healed."

"Other than the business I have to conduct in Fargo on the tenth of this month, I'm available. I'm even going to miss them the short time I have to be away to tend to business."

"How long are you going to be tied up there?"

"I don't know. I have to do something about the apartment you paid the rent on. I have an attorney I have to meet with. There are a few friends I would like to contact while I'm there."

"If there is anything I can do to help you, let me know. I don't know as I can get away. My Uncle Bill thinks it is time we expand the company, and it is part of my job to get figures together to arrange financing."

"I'd like to meet your uncle sometime. He sounds interesting."

"I'll see that you do. He is so busy, he rarely comes here even to see Mom. Maybe she will call him and you can meet some day while I am working."

Karen was gone north three days returning on a Saturday. She looked happy and said she doubted she would have to go back to her former home. She brought back a half month's rent that I had paid and said she had in her pocket $1,800 in security deposit money that was returned. "I feel rich, especially with this money and with what you pay me to care for the kids."

The fifteenth of January, Neica, me and the two attorneys met in the divorce court. It was cut and dried as all parties had agreed to what was agreed to beforehand. The court went along with the proposals. The final decree would be mailed about the fifteenth of July. Now full custody would be mine as of the present, by order of the court.

We tried to explain the different arrangement. "So kids, I'm officially your father and I will be always caring for you."

"What about Mommy?"

Neica relieved me from answering. "I'm always going to be your Mommy. It is just that your father is in charge of taking care of you all the time. I am going back to Alaska very soon. One cast comes off my left leg tomorrow and the other one they think is healing nicely. I have to go someplace to get it well so I can walk on it and I have decided to do that in Alaska. I'll see you next summer anyway when your father brings you up to see where I am living."

"What about Aunty Karen? She won't be leaving with you will she?"

"No Billy, she is going to be your babysitter. Actually she will be more like your mother and take my place."

"Okay, I guess. You were always going someplace and leaving us anyway. This way it will be as if we had a father and mother all the time."

"Yes, that is what it will be like. I will be thinking of you though, I promise."

It was on the first of February when Greg Porter was back to collect Neica. One cast had been removed from one leg and the other had been taken off and the leg inspected. Another of a different lighter type had been put back on. Neica could now manage to get around with crutches. She would soon be going to rehab and that was all set up near her new home. Greg stayed four days and he and Neica left. The kids just waved to them and turned first to Karen and then to me.



-------

Chapter 4


I wondered how I would feel without Neica sleeping just up the hall from my room. I found I didn't miss her at all. I could relax now and not worry whether she would change her mind or make some demands. Needless to say she was an attractive woman and I was a male with needs, but she hadn't tried to tempt me. I hadn't made any move on her either.

Karen was just as attractive as her sister and maybe more so. She had the same dark coloring. She was a couple inches taller, lithe and not quite as full figured. Still she was an attractive woman. She was better proportioned with smaller breasts and a tighter butt. Karen was my children's nanny and I did occasionally catch her looking at me and I certainly looked at her. She sometimes was in her nightclothes having coffee as I was preparing for work. Umm, interesting!

I didn't try to keep track of Karen during the day. I know from what Mom told me that Karen went shopping and was and did have her hair done at times. That part was obvious. Maybe I was just needy, but Karen to me was getting more and more attractive every day. Should I make a move on her now? I knew I would at some point. Mom was acting as if she and Karen shared a secret.

The kids loved Karen and she was acting almost like they were her children and she as their mother. I don't think they gave their own mother a passing thought. But think about it; Billy and Betty had been in Karen's total care for three months now. Neica had come and gone, so none of this realignment was surprising.

Mom asked me why I didn't take Karen out on a date. I put her off, but I was certainly contemplating it. Just before Valentine's Day I was getting terribly antsy. I went to bed fairly early and went right off to sleep. Sometime during the night, I became aware of an arm around me and someone snuggled up to me. "You're awake."

I lay still before answering. She got a little closer if that was possible. "Karen, what are you doing here?"

"I'm interviewing for the permanent position as mother to Billy and Betty. I have several qualifications I think you might be interested in. You notice I have pajamas on, so I'm not using my female equipment to influence you. That is not yet anyway. I think we should talk and I tell you about myself. Your Mom knows most everything about me already, but you should get to know about me before you make up your mind."

"I'll listen. How can I not?"

"Tell me to leave, if you think you should."

I chuckled, "I think you should, but I'll hear you out. I'm enjoying having you next to me and I admit I have imagined you in bed with me. Beside you have been a very secretive person and I am curious."

"Okay, here goes. First, I should tell you that my mother, who you met one time, was about as big a prostitute as any woman could be. But that was how sis and I grew up and we didn't think badly of her. She was our mother so how could we. She kept food on the table and a roof over our heads.

"When other girls were fooling around and doing their classmates I was out doing their fathers. Sis started even before I did and we were good. At least we were in demand and we were doing pretty well. A little later Mom still had her beauty, but she up and quit. She never found a man that wanted to marry her again though. We listened to Mom telling us to change our ways before she did at her age.

"Mom's advice was to find a rich man and then quit and put the past behind us. I was picked up and charged with prostitution before I could find the right person. I was not quite twenty when that happened. Sis was luckier, as she was never caught even though she was even more promiscuous than me. I moved to Fargo and swore I would leave my past behind me.

"Ha! Do you think that could happen? I went to work in an office. It was owned by a man and woman with their own business doing billing for a medical concern. I got hit on almost immediately by the owner and he found out somehow about my record and intended to blackmail me. He held me off before hiring me permanently. He kept looking at me and it made me nervous. I went to his wife with it, thinking I would be fired, but I would have my self respect.

"I ended up selling myself out. At the time I didn't have enough money for a decent place to live. You saw my apartment which was pretty nice. That was where I moved to before the first week was out. In return I was to entertain the man at least once a week. The woman was the one who set this up for her husband.

"She couldn't have sex, but she wanted to keep the love of her husband so this was her way of seeing he was satisfied. As long as I didn't entertain any other man the apartment was mine. They even furnished it and provided some of the food he preferred. I have kept my job all these years, earning just what a secretary earned, but I didn't have to pay for the decent apartment to live in. That was my only compensation for the times when he visited me. My salary wasn't much for it was labor intensive with a lot of help.

"Truth to tell, I came to love the old guy and he wasn't too demanding of me. I loved his wife too for that matter. I looked on it as a straight business deal. At work I was treated with all the respect due me as a secretary for that was what I was. Maybe even a little extra because I wanted to keep my apartment and worked hard to do my job. It is hard to tell, as I have never worked anyplace else. It went to hell early last spring when she died with the flu.

"He was lost and seemed to lose his will to live. In September of this year, he had a heart attack and died too. I had never saved very much. The business went to the administrator to be settled. I was let go the first of October when it was taken over by someone to run it for the estate. Neica asked me to care for Billy and Betty shortly after I was discharged. I had the free time and I couldn't refuse her as I was never able to see my niece and nephew as much I wanted to.

"I used what money I had, believing it was going to be enough until Neica paid me. I really was desperate when I called you and you didn't hesitate to help me out immediately. You don't know how I hated to go down to get twenty dollars from the landlord, but I was willing to do it for the kids. I had never considered hooking again until I saw it was necessary to get food to feed them."

Karen lay quiet waiting for a decision or whatever I had to say. "Turn over and let me put my arms around you. I have to think." My hand naturally found her breast when my arm went over her. I felt her tense up.

"So this woman found a mistress for her husband. Is that correct? And you have been his mistress for how long. Nine years?"

"About that. In a way it gave me some extra freedom. I could go out to a play and I enjoyed seeing a concert. Fargo, North Dakota is the cultural center for a large region. I took in what I could afford. Much more than if I had to find rent every month."

"Why did you tell me you were a prostitute the first conversation we had?"

"I wanted you to help the kids and figured you would want to get them away from a dirty old whore. It worked, for you were at my door in just a few hours." I twitched my fingers. "Stop that! I'm a prostitute. You have to pay up front." Karen let out a little giggle.

"I have paid. Twenty dollars, remember?" I didn't say anything more. Could I believe this woman? I felt I could. I had known her for the last two months. I had a sense of what she was and she certainly loved Billy and Betty. "Okay interview is over and you have the job." I twitched my fingers again and then I extended my hand to cup her whole breast.

"Wait, not yet."

"Why, is there more?" Karen lay still and I knew there had to be. "Well, tell me."

"There was an attorney of course and the will was read. The administrator was running the company. That is why I had to go up to Fargo last month. The business was willed to me and I had to agree to sell it if I didn't want to run it. There is a buyer waiting in the wings with a very good offer. I needed someone to tell me what I should do. I talked to your uncle. In fact he and I have become friends of a sort. He told me to sell."

"So, how much is the business worth?"

"Somewhere in the neighborhood of $200,000." Karen giggled. "With that much, I thought I could buy me a husband when I found one who would suit me. But then the man I chose might not like to be bought. How am I doing?"

"The man you choose might not want to be bought, and it looks as if he would be the prostitute if he accepted the money. I would have to think this through if I was the one chosen."

"It does give you a different perspective on life, doesn't it? It would be a straight monetary transaction. However, remember Billy and Betty are my niece and nephew, so the outlook of the perspective would change again if I put that money into an education fund for them. If all parties are satisfied, there is no harm. It is all in how you look at it. Are you satisfied?"

"Not yet. Let me talk now. You seem to have become the aggressor all of a sudden. Why?"

"It is because for once in my lifetime I have been able to look for something I really want and am in a position to go after it. I want you. I think I hold the stronger position between you and me. First, your top priority is to make Billy and Betty happy. You know I can do that for you. Second, I think I can make you very happy. You know that too. I've seen how you look at me.

"And lastly, I think you want to make me happy. I know you can do that. So all I have to do now is persuade you to make all of us happy."

"All you say is true. How are we going to work this?"

"Aaron, I admit I came to you tonight intending to use my body to convince you to my way of thinking. Our conversation could have been from across the table and the result would have been the same."

"My thought exactly. Let's cut all of that out. We are two adults and we have become friends. Would you like to take this just a little further? I don't want to destroy where we are with each other and I really would like to make love to you."

"I think you are saying, regardless of me being a nanny to Betty and Billy and the potential future we might have, you want to find out how good we are together right now?"

I did want to find out and I suspect Karen did as much as me so there was just one way to proceed. We woke up late and I started to rush out of bed. I wasn't worried about the kids. Mom would see to them. "What is your hurry, Aaron? Stay with me a few minutes longer."

"I have to go to work to see about finding financing for the expansion of the company. I have all of the figures ready to make a pitch to the bank."

"How much are we talking here?" There was a grin on Karen's face that I couldn't figure out. During the night I had promised her that I wouldn't let my job interfere with my family, of which Karen was going to be part. I lost one wife for not tending to things at home and I didn't want that to happen again.

"I'm looking for $1,500,000 at somewhere between six and seven percent per annum."

"Wow, that's a lot of money. Forget that for now. You can take another hour in bed with me, can't you? You can start looking for money at eleven o'clock as well as ten o'clock." I decided I could.

I was dawdling over the second cup of coffee. Mom had the kids out in the kitchen. The phone rang and it was my uncle looking for me. He started out with a question. "Has your mother said anything about the business?"

"No, why would she?"

"I was over visiting her yesterday and got to talking with Karen, the nanny who is watching your kids. You may not have known it, but I have been advising her since she came into some money. She's quite the woman."

"She is that. We had a long conversation last evening and she is just full of surprises. I'm going to start dating her. That seems the best way for me to assure the kids are taken care of properly."

"How about you? Is she taking care of you as well?"

"Not really any of your business, but yes she is. Bill why did you call me this morning? I am coming into the office."

"I have some things to go over with you and I was surprised you weren't here yet. Just to give you a clue. I don't think we will be expanding in the direction we had planned on. I think we will expand in the direction like the company you went bankrupt in. It seems a good fit to go along with what this company does. Take some time and think about it. Would you be willing to be cut loose from me and take charge of the new company?"

"Christ, I'd love the chance to do that. What about financing? That will be much harder to arrange. I went bankrupt and that is a decided drawback. Being a start-up company would be another. It will take a long time to get it up and running and even longer to show a profitable return."

"Aaron, I think I have that part covered. It is something I, or I should say you, have fallen into. Look, think about it this morning and I'll see you after lunch."

I sat back in my chair, just staring at the phone. What in hell was going on? I looked toward my mother who had come in and she avoided my glance. Karen was playing a game with the twins with her back to me.

"Karen, talk to me. Tell me about the owners of the business where you worked. First though, have you shared your life story with my mother?"

Mom spoke first, "Yes, I know all about Karen and her life. That is all I'm going to say." She had a defiant look on her face.

"Karen, so tell me."

"Not much to tell. Their names were Ramona and George Brady. The business was just as I said it was. One lie I told you was that George discovered I had been picked up as a prostitute and he blackmailed me. He didn't discover it. I told him what my past had been when I applied for the job of secretary. I was looking to start my life over with a clean break from my past.

"He evidently shared my history with Ramona. There was absolutely no blackmail or coercion by either one. She came to me and asked me to listen to a problem she and her George had.

"That is when I found out they couldn't physically have sex. They were in love, but this problem was driving them apart. They made a proposal. They would rent an apartment for me in a decent neighborhood, paying all expenses and furnishing it in whatever decor I desired.

"In return George and I would become intimate with Ramona's permission. I was to be discreet and never to flaunt either myself or that I had any connection with the owners other than as the secretary which I was hired for. I debated for a week and thinking this apartment was worth nearly a $1000 a month, I went for it. It has been a lonely life for me, though.

"I was always treated with the utmost respect. At first I was leery around Ramona, but one Sunday afternoon she came with George and we just talked. Both of them were in their late fifties and I was barely twenty. I soon became to look on them as surrogate parents.

"George wasn't too demanding and as time went on I shared some things I knew as to how he could give Ramona some degree of pleasure. I grew to have more love for them than I did with my own mother. George and I lost Ramona last spring. He moved in with me, staying the full time for nearly six months.

"The company was never aware of his change as he kept his own address. Suddenly he was gone as well and his attorney took charge, not knowing I was involved with him at all."

Tears were pouring down Karen's face as she finished telling me this. Betty realized her nanny was crying and poked Billy. They came over and wanted a hug. "Don't cry Aunty. We love you."

"I'm okay, kids. I was just sad for a minute. Your hugs make me happy again. Go play and let me talk to your daddy some more." Karen collected her thoughts before continuing to tell me about the last few months before she called me.

"The attorney who was in charge of the business was very surprised when he found another will his firm didn't draft. Now he knew how deeply I was involved, but by this time I had been discharged by the administrator and I was without any income and the rent was coming due.

"Neica promised to pay me to care the children, but she didn't come across with the money when she said she would. It looked as if I was going to have to return to my former profession. I didn't want to and that is when I called you. You saved me from that, but it was too close for comfort. From the moment you arrived so expeditiously, I started having feelings for you."

"Didn't you receive anything from George and Ramona's estate?"

"I did, I told you the business was willed to me. You're asking whether there was a death benefit from the insurance company for Ramona. Yes, a check from when she passed away. Please understand I had a year and I hadn't cashed it yet. It is stashed in the safe deposit box. But you can't go down to the corner grocery and say, would you cash this check so I can pay for my groceries? At least not with the size of that check. I wanted to get my life in order before I started on a new road."

There was a smile hidden behind her eyes. I knew she would have taken on the landlord if need be and I also knew she was happy she didn't have to. "I needed twenty bucks, what better way to get it than to revert to my teenage years?"

"You're such a fake. From what you have told me you were way beyond wanting to do that. I do know you would have done it to feed the kids, but that would be the only reason. Sure, I very much suspect your association with Ramona and George started the way you said it did. Over the years though, the situation changed and they became the loving parents of a young woman they thought of as their daughter didn't they?

"I'm guessing you received a check from the life insurance company when George passed away as well. You know, Mom is walking around with a look on her face that says she knows something good concerning me. You're pretty evasive about your business since I have known you. All of a sudden, my uncle calls me and tells me there is a change in the plan for expansion of his company. This is the plan we have been working months to put together.

"Then oops, no need to go to the bank for financing anymore." Karen looked so innocent, or tried to. "When I go to work this afternoon, I want you with me. Mom will watch Billy and Betty."

"Okay." This ended our conversation. Karen played with the kids and I went down to my home office. Changes were coming up and I wanted to be on top of them. The only way I could do this was to think things through. I had two hours before lunch.

When Uncle Bill took me into the business I had found it wasn't a particularly well run company. Competition had increased in the five years I had been with him. I had improved things for him by getting rid of some of the deadwood he had around him. He just couldn't discharge anyone as he was too friendly with his employees and it was hurting the company.

By noon I had lain out a course of action for myself and much of it involved the company. It might not be what others expected of me and it didn't please me all that much either, but my uncle had done a lot for me and I felt I owed him. Karen was quiet on the ride into the office until we were almost there.

"You think I'm the investor, don't you?"

"Yes I do. If it was just you, I might not have suspected you might be. Mom though, can never keep a secret. I taught her how to play poker when I was eight and she never could figure out how I was beating her all the time. I just could read her expressions to tell what she had in her hand.

"Karen, I'm pleased you think enough of me and trust me enough to invest in the company. We'll talk about it in a few minutes when we get there."

Bill was on the phone when we were ushered into his office. There was a folder on his desk with my name in the corner, so I picked it up and started reading it. The new sideline to start up was as I suspected. It would take more than three years to become profitable. Bill hung up the phone and came around the desk, where he and Karen hugged.

He turned to me. "What do you think? It took me two weeks to set this up."

"What about the expansion? That would be completed in six months. This other is three years down the road and in the meantime the lack of financing would choke off our regular work. To get more financing for the company would be almost impossible given our sales."

"Oh, I think we would be all right."

"Bill, you hired me to watch out for things like this. My proposal would be to use the money you have for this and use it to expand the company as originally planned. In six months our sales will be that much larger and then we can start thinking about a new sideline built with the profits."

"Can't do it. The investor I have lined up made a stipulation that it was to be used for you to build a new company."

Karen was listening to this exchange. Her back was to us as she looked at the view of the city out the window. "Bill, I need coffee. While I'm getting it, would you call the investor and talk to that person? I think the stipulation might be removed. If you have to sweeten the pot, why don't you give that person a percentage of the business the investment will generate?" I headed for the door.

"Aaron, damn you, come back here. You're just too smart. I'm the investor just as you suspect. I have two $I,000,000 checks and I want to get the money working for me. If you think your proposal is the way to go, then I so stipulate. What do you have to say to that?"

"I suppose this is where I should make another proposal, but I'll wait until we are alone. Karen, why don't you drive my car home? I want to go back and look over the paperwork on what the company needs to expand. I also want to give you the best deal on the money you are investing. Now that we have the financing it is time to plan the construction. Along with that I have to see what we need for personnel. Much to do."

Six months later

Neica beat me to being married. She married Greg Porter the same day she received her final decree. Neither Karen nor I were invited to her simple nuptials before a justice of the peace. We were too busy with our own wedding. I planned our own wedding to coincide with hNeica's honeymoon as she was coming down to the lower states.

I had Billy and Betty living with me and I felt it was important that she be there for Karen's and my wedding. We were going to be father and mother to the kids, and I didn't want to cut their biological mother out entirely. We had seen Neica once just before she had gone back to work in April. We told her then that we had become a couple and were working together at my uncle's company. Eight hours of the week, she worked out of my home office.

Neica was here at the time for a full week and it took three days of that week for Betty and Billy to remember Neica was their mother. They had graduated to calling Karen by that name. Neica brought it up to me and I told her that in effect that was what she was and was soon to be their stepmother for real. Her only comment was that she wished us both happiness and she was glad things had turned out well for us.

Mom had met a gentleman at a Valentine bash she attended. Sometime down the road they were planning to get married. She asked me if I would like to purchase the house saying she would be available to baby-sit the few hours Karen worked. "What happens if we decide to have more kids? Karen has always wanted to bear some of her own."

"I wouldn't think of anyone else caring for my grandchildren. You can't know how much I love Betty and Billy. I know Karen's life story and I know yours. It can only get better for both of you."

The reality was, if I could meet the man who sent me the photographs of my wife with him five years ago, I would shake his hand. I have so much more now than I would have had in a lifetime with Neica.

Sure, Karen was a wild child early, but she was honest with Ramona and George, giving and receiving and keeping her word through it all. We look at Billy and Betty as they lie in their beds sleeping. They say all good things come to those who wait. It did for me and it has for Karen. We can't ask for more.
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