The Gift/ Author Dreamcloud

The Gift


Author Note: This was supposed to be a light hearted male fantasy. I am sorry how it turned out. I am sure there are errors, but I can’t bear to read it again.


Another damn bus. How many buses can you look at in one day? I really hate coming to these expos. I never really liked talking with salespeople and transit salespeople were the worst. They know you have tax dollars to spend and they would love to help you spend them. I had a managing director to answer to, so I slogged through another bus listening to the moderately attractive sales lady describe their latest low floor model.

I plopped down into one of the passenger seats while I listened to her drone on. The seat was fairly comfortable which surprised me. I looked closer at the one next to me and felt the cushion and soft fabric that cradled my butt so well. Inwardly I smiled, these wouldn’t last a year in real use. Transit passengers drag all sorts of items across the seats even if you don’t consider the intentional damage. The sales lady saw the concern in my eyes.

“We would never recommend these seats for production Mr. Prichard.” She smiled which brightened up the bus a bit. “We have a large assortment of more durable seats. We partner with Freedman and build to suit your needs.” Of course they do. I was just wondering why they thought it a good idea to show what we would never buy. I nodded my head so that she knew she wouldn’t have to continue down that line. Unfortunately, it gave her an opening to discuss all the other partners her company works with. She rattled off GPS enunciator and signage companies, automatic people counter systems, smart fare box builders and a diatribe of other big name transit companies.

I tried not to yawn. Everyone on the bus already knew each and every company she mentioned. It’s not like there is a big list of companies who build GPS enunciators for transit vehicles. We all politely let her drone on. I had been on my feet for the better part of four hours. It was starting to take its toll so I stayed in the seat and pretended I was interested by moving my eyes from feature to feature as the saleswoman pointed them out. My mind quickly wandered from the mundane sales pitch.

How did I ever end up spending twenty years in public bus company? I know I didn’t grow up thinking; I want to work for a bus company. I just sort of evolved into the position and now I’m stuck. I know so much about public transportation that my work has become trivial. Problems that used to floor me now only produce a chuckle. I get paid too much to start over somewhere else and the retirement plan is pretty lucrative. It hasn’t been a bad life. My wife, Mary, and I live in a nice house and never had to worry about a paycheck or me losing my job. My life just lacks that pizzazz I imagine other jobs must have.

I was busy thinking of pulling out my phone to check what the market was doing when the entire interior of the bus changed. A woman in a flowing black dress entered the double side door of the vehicle. She had silky long black hair that dropped straight down her back just like my wife’s. She was wearing a pair of moderate high heels with straps around her tanned ankles. The heels stretched her perfect calves before they disappeared behind the silky dress. The dress accented her curves from her slim waist up over her hidden breasts. Her collar was too high to allow for viewing of the wonderful cleavage I knew was there. She had wonderfully bright eyes and used some kind of lipstick that glossed her lips without being out right shiny. The woman reminded me of my wife only, a bit younger and a lot more voluptuous. I realized I was staring and quickly moved my eyes back to the fold away wheelchair positions the saleswoman was demonstrating.

It was very difficult using my peripheral vision to eye the beautiful woman as she came down the bus aisle. I am married and would never risk my marriage with an affair, but I was also a man. God, did I want to study this girl. The transit business has its share of pretty women, but this girl was a step above. She looked like she should be working at some Manhattan law firm or at least playing a lawyer on TV. I noticed that some of the other gentlemen on the bus were also no longer interested in the sales pitch.

I had no idea why I became a bit nervous as she came toward me down the aisle. She reached my seat and suddenly spun around to sit in the seat directly across the aisle from me. Her dress lightly whipped across my arm as she spun and caused an involuntary shiver to run up my spine. I enjoyed the feeling and felt like an idiot for enjoying it. Even if I was in the market, this girl was way out of my league.

I looked over, in reflex to her dress flourish, as she sat down. She gave me an easy smile and reached down to massage her lovely ankle. I gave her my best stupid moron smile. I never knew how to act in front of women who could make men drool.

“Picked the wrong shoes.” She whispered. I looked at the seats behind us and found them empty. I couldn’t believe she was addressing me. I kind of wished me wife was here so I would have a buffer. I didn’t know what to say or if I should say anything at all. I only knew what my wife wanted to do after a day in heels. Using my toes, I pressed against the heels of my shoes and slipped them off. She saw me since she was concentrating on her own ankles and gave me a little chuckle and removed her heels. I smiled a little less moronically, happy I could help. It felt good letting the blood have more freedom in my feet anyway. Our eyes returned to the saleswomen demonstrating the wheelchair lift system.

The saleswoman grabbed the cabled lift control and pulled it outside of the vehicle to continue with the demonstration. Most of the people followed. I stayed and continued to flex my socks. My new barefoot friend stayed with me. I looked over and decided to start a conversation. Because we shared sore feet I wasn’t as nervous.

“First Expo?” I guessed that it was since she was the only woman not wearing something akin to tennis shoes.

“Yes” She smiled at me which was prettier than I expected. “I didn’t think it was going to be a marathon.” She held out her hand. “I’m Cathy by the way.” I took her hand but didn’t really shake it. It was more of a firm caress.

“Doug Prichard.” I responded. Her hand was as soft as it looked. My wife’s hands were just as soft. I was getting kind of homesick. I realized I was still holding her and when she glanced down at my grip. I awkwardly returned it to my side.

“Are you in the market for buses?” She was still smiling even though I practically ripped my hand away.

“No, our fleet still has seven years left.” I continued unable to break my eyes from hers. “Just trying to stay current.” I returned her smile since hers wouldn’t quit. “Are you in the market?”

“Heavens no! I’m new just trying to get the lay of the land.” She started to put her heels back on which broke our eye contact. “All of this is new to me. I never thought transit was so complex.” I guess to the layman, public transit was a simple operation. It truth, it was horribly complex and the Feds keep making it more so.

“Well don’t worry, it grows on you after a while.” I wasn’t sure if she intended to stay in the field. If she asked I would tell her to run away now and never look back. She a started on her second shoe.

“Doug, I am kind of on my own here. Would you mind joining me for lunch?” She glanced up while strapping on her last heel. You have to understand that this was a really strange situation for me. Women that looked like Cathy were never interested in eating lunch with me even when I was at my peak. It was completely unexpected and I answered like an idiot.

“I’m married.” I said before I realized it implied I thought she was interested in more than sandwich. She laughed.

“Happily I hope.” Her smile was contagious. “Your lucky to have someone here with you.”

“Oh no, Mary didn’t come this time.” Now I felt a bit more ridicules. I couldn’t quite look at Cathy’s face. I was feeling too foolish.

“It’s just a sandwich Doug. I hate sitting alone at places like this.” She stood up expecting an answer.

“Of course, I’m sorry.” I was fumbling. “I didn’t mean to imply anything.” I quickly donned my shoes and followed her out of the bus ignoring the continuing wheelchair lift demo. “There’s a good deli on the corner that makes a turkey bacon melt that I never miss when I come here.” I was pointing at the doors that seemed a mile away on the other side of the convention hall.

“So, are you here for all four days?” She started the small talk as we headed for the deli.

“Yep, we will be flying out Sunday evening, You?” Small talk sucks, but it was better than silence.

“Yes. I’m flying out Monday morning.” Her step picked up. “This is the first time someone paid me to travel. I’m trying to fit in a bit of sightseeing.” She looked over to me. “Do they let you do that?”

“Sure, in fact if you feign a bit of interest at a booth, they will wine and dine you all over the city.” I felt like a professor teaching a new student. “The company that sells the bus we were just on has rented a riverboat for the evening. Free food and booze if you pretend to be interested.” I enjoyed being the junket expert. I usually only took the freebies when my wife was along.

“You mean on the Mississippi?” I guess I peaked her interest.

“Yep, with all the entertainment provided.” I pointed around the corner as we exited the expo. I felt the hunger pains as we neared the deli. We waited patiently for the crossing light.

“How many times have you been here?” More small talk, at least we weren’t staring at the cars.

“Third time here.” The light still hadn’t changed. “I usually attend every three years when they put on the big one.” I looked over to her. “I usually skip the smaller conventions.” I acted like I had a choice when it was actually my boss who said when I could or couldn’t go.

The light changed and we crossed over to the deli. I loved the way her dress flowed in the slight breeze caused by the buildings. I remembered when Mary used to wear summer dresses and the fabric would entice me like Cathy’s was doing now.

When we walked in a few heads turned. I knew they weren’t looking at me. Cathy seemed to take it in stride and ignored them. I was beaming with pride. I knew they were trying to figure out my secret. Little did they know it was “right bus, right time.”

I ordered my favorite bacon turkey melt and an ice tea. Cathy a half BTM with a side salad. We chose a table by the window so we could people watch. For a gorgeous woman, Cathy was fairly easy to talk with. We spent lunch talking about movies and TV shows. I tried to find out a bit about her, but she side stepped saying she didn’t want to talk about business. I obliged and went back to our discussion of ‘The Game of Thrones’. I had never considered women like her to be human. They always seemed untouchable in the past. Cathy was very touchable, although I would never consider it in the literal sense. I simply enjoyed lunch. I reminded myself to call my wife tonight.

On the way back to the expo, Cathy almost slipped on the curb and I grabbed her arm to make sure the fall wasn’t complete. I was surprised at my quickness and the strong confidant support I was able to offer. I was never much for athletics and would usually end up fumbling such a move. I brought her fully upright and smiled. “Got to take it easy on those ice teas.” She giggled at my stupid joke.

“Good thing I had a knight at my side.” Cathy did a quick check of her heels to make sure they were still functional. “Got to remember to wear sneakers next time.” I was still holding her arm even though she was quite steady at this point. Her skin was soft and was at a wonderful temperature. Despite the pleasantness of the sensation, I thought it best to separate. We continued on to the expo albeit a bit slower.

We entered the same large doors we exited at earlier. I was feeling a bit awkward not knowing how to separate and continue on for the afternoon. I was sure she had better things to do then follow me around for the rest of the day. “I have to check out the fixed route software booths this afternoon.” I did need to check them out. We were having export issues with our current software leading to a lot of wasted hours.

“Ah, okay, I ‘m going to be looking at the rail cars.” She looked a bit lost. The size of these expos were imposing. “Thanks for lunch. It was nice.” She smiled and I blushed.

“Of course, any time. I am sure we will run into each other again.” I started backing away. Before I was married, I would have paid a fortune just to drool in her presence and here I was trying to come up with a reason to walk away. I turned a bit too quickly and started to head away.

“Doug.” It sounded like an afterthought. I turned back with a questioning look. “Do you think you could show me how to get on that riverboat?” She had dipped her head a bit and was looking at me through the top of her eyes. A very adorable look for her. There was no way I wasn’t going to help and I think she knew it.

“Of course Cathy, follow me.” Again I felt like the expert teaching the student. I headed back to the bus I met her in. She smiled and walked right next to me. What seemed hard to a first timer couldn’t be easier for a seasoned pro. Luckily, the same saleswoman was still on duty and the bus was currently empty. I looked at her name tag. “Hi Debbie, we are considering a large service expansion. I was wondering if you can give me some contact information for your techs so we can develop some bid specs.” It was like dangling worms in front of a hungry bass.

“I can do you one better Doug.” she was busy reading my name tag. “All of our techs and the owner himself will be available tonight. Would you two like to be our guest on a riverboat cruise tonight?” She took the hook as expected.

“That would be fantastic Debbie.” I smiled and I felt small hip bump from Cathy. It was like we had been friends forever. We followed Debbie to a small desk where she fished a couple of tickets out of drawer.

“Meet at pier 3 between 5:30 and 6:00” Debbie was pointing to the instructions on the tickets themselves. “Come hungry and thirsty.” She was all smiles as she handed each of us a ticket. I thanked her and headed away from the booth with Cathy.

“That was easy.” Cathy grabbed my arm for a brief moment. It was a friendly gesture thanking me for the ticket. “Are you going tonight?” I was kind of surprised she asked.

“I’m not sure. I usually only go to the freebies with my wife.” I don’t know why I felt it necessary to mention Mary again. I guess I was feeling guilty hanging out with such a good looking woman without Mary’s knowledge. Maybe, I felt guiltier about the stupid fantasies running through my brain. Cathy chuckled at my hesitancy.

“Well, I’m going. I would love to see you there so I have someone to talk to.” Cathy gave me a slightly sorrowful look to emphasize her loneliness.

“I’ll think about it.” I wasn’t sure why she would want me along. It’s not like we worked together.

“Tell you what. Call your wife and tell her you need to rescue a damsel in distress.” She smiled at me again. “If she doesn’t have a problem, meet me there.” Cathy said this as she drifted away from me. “Thanks for lunch.” She turned and disappeared down the aisles.

I felt like an idiot. Cathy had correctly surmised that there was no way I was going river boating with her without talking with Mary. Cathy couldn’t possibly be interested in me, but I made it seem like I thought she might be. I was shocked she just didn’t say goodbye and head for the hills. As good looking as she was, I think she just wanted a friendly face at the party tonight.

I finally made it back to the hotel at about four. My feet were a bit sore so I was bare foot praying that the carpeting had been cleaned sometime in the last century. I lay down on the bed and dialed up Mary. “Hi Honey.” My standard greeting for the last twenty five years.

“Hi baby. Having fun?” She was honey and I was baby. You would figure that we would have dropped all of that a few years back, but it was kind of ingrained.

“Same stuff, new salesmen.” She already knew that. She had been to a few herself. “Wish you were here.”

“Me too.” I wasn’t sure that was true, but I knew she missed me. “What do you want to do for your birthday?” I forgot that my birthday was next week. 42 snuck up on me pretty quickly.

“I don’t know, maybe that seafood place we went to a few months ago?” We usually just chose a place to eat. Neither of us were big on the party stuff. “I really liked that stuffed flounder thing they have.”

“The Gentle Wave? I’ll book a reservation and we can change it if you want to go somewhere else.” Mary liked having everything planned out. “I already got you a gift you know.” She tried to sound mysterious. I knew what I wanted, but I didn’t think that was what she had in mind.

“Are you going to make me wait?” I would let her play her game. She wanted to try and perk my curiosity. In truth, there was no item sold in stores that would excite me. Both of us had outgrown the desire for possessions. Comfort and transient joys, like stuffed flounder, held more value these days.

“Well, not till your birthday, but yes it is a secret for now.” I could hear her smile. A nice cryptic answer to keep me thinking. I guess it already exists in the house and I would see it when I got home. I think she enjoyed teasing me. “What are you doing for dinner tonight?” Well two can play at the teasing game.

“Actually, a young lady has asked me to join her on a river boat cruise.” I was smiling, but I tried to make it sound like an everyday experience. I heard a little giggle on the other side of the line.

“And is this young lady good looking?” She knew me too well. There was no way I would ever cheat on her.

“Well in truth, she is a knockout.” I have never gone beyond a white lie to my wife and I wasn’t going to start now. “We kind of bonded over sore feet and ended up at the deli together for lunch.”

“So this would be your second date.” She giggled again. “Maybe I shouldn’t let you go to expo anymore.”

“I think I am a companion of convenience.” I spilled the truth. “She’s new to expo and is stuck here alone. I didn’t say I was going to go.” I wanted to make sure she knew that she would always be my one and only.

“Doug, don’t rot in the hotel room. Go help the poor girl before everyone gets liquored up.” Yep, transit professionals on alcohol is not a pretty sight. I was glad Mary trusted me or at least trusted my inability to excite sexy young women.

“Ok, I’ll go but don’t blame me if I have to break her heart.” There was more giggling on the other side of the line. Yep, she trusted my lack of studliness. After a short pause, “you do know that I love you, right?” I already knew the answer, I just had to repeat it every once in awhile.

“Yes and I love you more than you know.” She sounded a bit more serious than normal. I don’t know what it was about her tone, but it sounded more heartfelt than habitual. I liked the way she said it. We said our goodbyes and I told her I would call her tomorrow.

The way that Mary said that she loved me got me a bit excited. Maybe I would get what I really wanted for my birthday; Mary naked and entwined in my arms. We had drifted away from sex a few years ago. Mary really didn’t have any interest anymore. I wasn’t sure what switch got turned off, but I hadn’t really been with her for two years. Prior to our slow down, we were as active as most couples and Mary seemed to enjoy sex. I have tried making some moves, but was always rebuffed in a sweet and tender way. I even went as far as talking directly about the issue and somehow the topic was always changed. I have begun to think that if I wanted relief, I would have to handle it myself for the rest of my life.


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