The Making of a Gigolo (11) - Renee Zimmerman

by Lubrican

Chapters : 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10

Chapter Three

Renee did not expect there to be others present, when she arrived for dinner at the farm ... not people other than the Daltons. There were, though. Apparently this was a Christmas party, though Christmas was still almost a month away. There were half a dozen women there.

Two of them she recognized as Jill and Christy, the women she and Bobby had fixed the drain for. Others, she had never seen before. All of them had brought something to contribute to the meal. Most of them brought children too. Four of the girls, daughters of women named Virginia and Mable, were sixteen or seventeen, the same ages as Mirriam's younger daughters. One of the women was one of Mirriam's daughters - her oldest - and two of the children were hers - one a year and a half old, the other still at her breast.

Jill had her son, Steven, with her, who was the same age as Mary's older boy. Christy had a little girl with her, who was 14 months old. These, apparently, were "the kids" that had been mentioned, though Renee still had no idea why they wanted Bobby to spend time with them.

A woman with the unlikely name of Tilly had two children with her - a 5 year old boy, and an 18 month old girl. A woman named Rhonda had a baby, also still at the breast. There was a woman about Mirriam's age, who had twins that were just over two years old. And, of course, Mirriam's own baby was there, as were the daughters Renee had already met.

None of that seemed odd, really. Renee already knew what a wonderful woman ... and friend ... Mirriam could be, so it wasn't odd that she had so many friends. What was puzzling was that, while all her friends looked so different from each other, most of the children looked like they were from the same family. The boys, with one exception, were invariably black-haired bundles of energy with similar smiles. There were more blue eyes than brown ones, among the boys. The little girls, on the other hand, looked like smaller copies of Mirriam's daughters, with light brown hair, though some was straight, and some was curly. The older girls also looked like sisters to Linda, Suzie and the twins.

It looked a little like a family reunion, and that kind of atmosphere was there too. Renee worked hard at remembering names, concentrating on the women, instead of the children, because she couldn't remember both. That didn't seem to matter. She had never felt so welcome, by so many strangers. Where, before, she might have shrunk away from some of them, based on their obvious lack of education, she couldn't do that now. They were so homey, like sisters she hadn't known she had, but who had now been found. They talked about their troubles, and joys, their successes and failures, both to each other, and to her, as if she had known them for years.

At one point there were three women with a breast bare, all feeding youngsters who slurped happily and noisily at a nipple. Mirriam had asked if that was acceptable to Renee, before. None of the others did. They just fed their babies, without a shred of embarrassment, even though Bobby was in the room. At one point, his older sister even called him over to ask him something, while she was feeding her baby. Neither of them seemed to find it odd or embarrassing that his sister's breast was on display while they talked.

Mirriam didn't spill the beans. It was inevitable, though, that one of these other women would ask the dreaded question: "So, honey, tell me about your man."

She wished, at that moment, that she'd already taken off her wedding rings. She couldn't though. Despite what the priest had said, while she might not be married at some future point, she still felt married, even though she couldn't accept Daniel as being the man she was married to any more. It was both confusing and frustrating.

"He's not with me ... at the moment," she replied, unable to think of anything else to say. She saw Mirriam look away from her, and start talking to another woman about what recipe she had used for the pie she'd brought.

"Awww," said the woman, whose name was Virginia, "Several of us here know what that's like. My own husband went off to war in Korea and never came back."

"That's horrible!" said Renee.

"Things like that happen," said the woman. "It hurt though. It surely did that. I just couldn't deal with trying to find another husband." Just then her younger daughter came up and said that she and the other older girls were going out to the barn to jump into piles of hay. Her mother nodded, and continued to talk to Renee.

It wasn't until the woman went off to talk to someone else that Renee did the math in her head. The girl, Virginia's daughter, was sixteen, which meant she was born around 1957 ... long after the Korean War was over, and Virginia's husband had been killed. Who was that girl's father? And Virginia's older daughter was still in high school, so she had been born after Virginia's husband was killed as well. Two children, with no husband?

She looked around. Virginia was about Mirriam's age. The only other women that age were Prudence and Mable. Mable wasn't wearing a wedding ring, but had two daughters who looked like Virginia's ... and also looked like Mirriam's, now that she thought about it. How odd.

She was curious enough to ask Mirriam about Mable and Prudence. In a moment of quiet, in the kitchen, she found out Mable had divorced after the war, and had never remarried, and Prudence's husband had died in 1954. She, too, had never remarried. Mirriam didn't make a big deal about it; she just gave Renee the information, and said that both women had been through sad times. Renee also found out Mirriam was a widow, then, and had been for almost twenty years.

That established the fact that, between the three older women at the party, they had given birth to a total of fourteen children ... while they were single.

Renee was flabbergasted. Grown women just didn't do that kind of thing! Young girls made those kinds of "mistakes" ... not women who knew better.

Yet, as Renee was enveloped in a swirl of welcome, she was astonished even further when she decided that it just didn't matter. She liked these women, and they appeared to like her. She'd never had friends like them before, but that didn't matter either. She wasn't alone any more. That, by itself, made her feel better than she had since moving to this town.

Dinner was bedlam. The women all fit at the dining room table, but the children were set up on card tables, and the coffee table. There were two high chairs present, but three children who needed one. Renee found herself holding Mirriam's son, Theodore, on her lap, while Mirriam tended the meal. At the same time, there were children on almost everybody's laps, at one time or another. The older girls seemed to be used to taking care of little ones, and helped there, but it was still a cacophony of noise as the women tried to talk and the children demanded attention.

Renee held Theodore in one arm, and ate with the other. She stared down at the little boy, who was cooing happily, as if he didn't care who held him, as long as somebody did. His hands went to her breast, and he wiggled.

"Mirriam!" she yelped. "I think he's hungry!"

"I just fed him an hour ago," snorted Mirriam. "That boy is all man, if you ask me."

There were giggles and laughter around the table.

Renee was staring into the baby's blue eyes, as his mouth opened and closed right next to her breast, when strong hands swooped in to remove him from her arm. She felt the back of Bobby's hand press her breast as he picked up the little boy, and looked up to see identical blue eyes, and an identical head of hair, right down to the forelock on the forehead.

"You're a guest," he said. "You shouldn't have to put up with that."

He tossed the baby up into the air and Renee gasped, until, on the way back down, the laughing little boy was caught by those strong hands.

"Behave yourself!" he said, putting his face right in the baby's face.

"Like that will ever happen," said Mary, laughing. "He's male." There was a chorus of agreement from the assembled women.

Something tugged at Renee's subconscious ... something about the baby and the man now holding him. But the tide of noise and conversation kept her from concentrating, and she began to eat again.

It was during dinner that the story of how Renee came to be there finally came out. The story of her hitting Bobby's car was glossed over by Bobby, who said it was a simple accident. No mention was made of her hospital stay, or the condition she was in when she was brought to this house for the first time. The way Bobby told it, it was just a humorous incident that was no big deal. Jill complained.

"She hit my car?"

"It's not your car anymore," said Bobby. "You gave it to me, remember?"

"Well, yeah," said the young woman. "But I still have feelings for it."

That got a laugh, around the table.

Somehow, the subject of her husband came up again. This time it was Jill who brought it up.

"So, what does your husband do for a living?"

The conversation seemed to drift to a halt, and Renee found eyes looking at her, curiously.

"It's ... embarrassing," she said weakly, and felt her face flush hotly.

"She's got some troubles," said Mirriam. "She might not feel comfortable talking about it."

"What man isn't trouble?" asked Mable, trying to lighten the mood.

Renee thought about what Bobby had said. She couldn't keep it a secret forever ... and these women had been so nice to her ... so far. She took a deep breath, as her heart hammered in her chest.

"He's in prison," she said, her voice almost a sigh.

A chorus of "Ooooo"s came back at her, but no one looked outraged, or even shocked.

"We were only married for two months, when I found out I didn't know him very well," she added.

Mirriam's continued attempts to get them to leave her be fell on deaf ears, and, little by little, it all came out. Not one of them accused her of knowing what was going on ... or being involved. All of them expressed horror for her position, and pledged to help her, whatever she needed.

That shook Renee to her very core. There was no judgment. No one said it must be her fault, or that she was stupid for choosing such a man. She felt a huge load lift from her shoulders, and that brought to mind what she hadn't had time, or opportunity, to share with Mirriam. Now, she shared it with all of her new friends.

"I talked to the priest today ... in town. He said that, in the church's eyes, I was never married at all." She got blank looks. None of the other women were Catholic. "It means I can apply for an annulment. It's kind of like getting divorced, except the church will treat it as if I never got married at all."

"They can do that?" asked Christy, who looked fascinated.

"Yes," said Renee.

"Well that's wonderful, then!" said Mable. "You'll get to start fresh!"

"I'm not so sure I want to start again at all," sighed Renee. "This has all been pretty hard on me."

Again, there were comments of agreement and support. Virginia said men were basically worthless. Christy agreed, and then casually added, "Except for Bobby, of course."

Eyes left Renee, and swiveled to Bobby, who had his fork halfway to his mouth, and was frozen, wide-eyed.

"Of course," said three women at once. The stark tableau of Bobby being in the spotlight ended. He blinked, his face turned just a bit darker, and he put some meat loaf in his mouth. There was, perhaps, another ten or fifteen seconds of silence, and then Mary asked Renee what her immediate plans were.

"I don't know," said Renee. "I only found out about Daniel recently. I have a degree in early childhood education, but I don't know if there are any positions open in schools around here or not."

"I know what you could do," said Jill. "This town needs a good child care center in the worst possible way. I love my little bundle of joy, but there are times when I need to get some work done, and I'd love to be able to take Steven to someone I could trust."

There were excited comments in agreement with her.

Renee blinked. She hadn't even thought of using her education that way. She had a big house. She liked children. All the children in this house made it seem like the place was alive and growing.

"I'll have to think about that," she said softly.

"It's a great idea," said Rhonda. "I know you could do well at that. Right now, there are just grandmas, who watch kids from time to time, and maybe one or two other women who do it for hire. None of them have more than one or two children, though, and won't take more."

"How many children do you think would need that kind of thing?" asked Renee.

There were estimates from fifteen to thirty.

"I couldn't watch that many children by myself," gasped Renee. "I'd have to have employees."

"I need a job!" said one of Mable's daughters, who was standing in the doorway between the dining room and living room. One of Virginia's daughters was with her, and chimed in, "Me too!"

"I suspect there are at least six or seven girls and young women around who would do fine, as long as they had good supervision," said Prudence. "That might just give you something to do, too, to take your mind off your troubles."

"There's nothing like having a handful of children around to make you forget your troubles," laughed Mirriam, obviously joking.

"Yes," said Renee, thoughtfully. "But those troubles, in my case, would go home at night, and leave me in peace."

"Amen, sister," said Virginia, smiling.

The talk moved on to other things as people began to get full, and dinner eased to a halt. The young people organized games with the even younger people, or played with them, if they weren't old enough to participate in such games. The older women were left to chat and relax. Renee watched as Tilly seemed to end up beside Bobby, almost by accident, and leaned down to whisper in his ear. He got up, and they left the room together.

Suddenly curious, Renee moved herself, to where she could see them standing by the back door. Tilly opened it, took Bobby's hand, and pulled him outside. Neither of them put on a jacket.

Outside, Tilly faced Bobby and took his other hand in hers, holding both of them.

"Jake and I are ready for another one," she said, somewhat shyly.

Bobby grinned. "I thought you were going to stop with two. You have no idea how happy that makes me," he said.

She didn't blush. She had spent too many hours with this man, naked, straining under him as he made love to her, to be embarrassed. His eagerness made her want to start right now.

"This will be our last," she said. "Jake says I can kiss you, if I have to ... to convince you to help us again," she added softly.

"Oh really?" asked Bobby.

She had kissed him exactly twice, during their relationship of five years. The first time was when she cut him off, saying that Jake could make love to her from then on. Then they had found out that Jake couldn't father children because of his accident. They were so happy with the first child Bobby had fathered in her that they asked him to make her pregnant again. She had kissed him again, when she told him she was pregnant that time ... and cut him off again. In truth, there had been special times, when Bobby was invited to the house, between pregnancies, and she spread her legs for him then. But she never kissed him, other than those two times.

"Gee, I don't know if I really want to get you pregnant again or not." He grinned. "Can I have some time to think about it?"

Renee maneuvered herself out of the dining room. No one was in the kitchen, and the entry way was dark, so she slipped in there. She peeked through the gap between the curtain and the window in the back door. She could see Bobby and the woman standing in the light of the yard light.

"No, you can't," said Tilly, pulling him toward her.

His arms went around her, and her arms slid up his back, to his shoulders. Her lips reached up, and she stood on tiptoes, to press her lips against his. It was a lover's kiss. Anyone could see that, and Renee was no exception. She had seen girls kiss boys like that at parties, and, as she now saw, she had seen those boys' hands slide down to cup the girls' bottoms and pull the girls against them.

Renee's stomach felt funny. This reminded her of the way Christy had kissed him, at her house, though she hadn't been quite as sensual about it as Tilly was being. Tilly loved this kiss, and it was obvious. Jill's mournful, "I need to get laid bad, Bobby," popped into her mind. But this woman was married. She had mentioned her husband ... or one of the other women had asked her about him, one of the two. She couldn't remember now.

What was going on?

Bobby was handsome. She knew that, in the way any woman notices a handsome man. And he was friendly. But this?

She felt someone behind her, and turned to see it was Bobby's older sister, Mary. Mary leaned toward the window and looked out. She sighed.

"I don't think you were supposed to see that," she said softly.

"What's going on?" asked Renee helplessly.

"It's complicated," said Mary. "It would take longer than we have now to explain it to you, and even then, you might not understand. Anyway, it's too soon for you to delve into that. You have enough problems without trying to figure Bobby out too."

"I don't understand," moaned Renee.

"Bobby helped Tilly and Jake," said Mary, recognizing that Renee needed to know something ... maybe just a little. "They were in a terrible way, and he helped them both. She's just very appreciative of that. That's really all I can tell you. It's not what it looks like."

"How can it be not what it looks like?" gasped Renee. She glanced out the window again. "They're still kissing!"

"All I can tell you is that, if Jake were here, he would not be unhappy about this, okay? You have to understand that there are complicated things going on. They may not make sense to you, but I know there is nothing wrong or hurtful going on out there."

Mary sounded so sincere, and so calm about it, that Renee just chose to believe her. Then she paused. That's what she'd done with Daniel - just believed him - and that had been a horrible mistake. It didn't make sense ... but everything she had seen about this family told her they were good people. She wanted to believe they were good people. She wanted to believe Bobby was a good man. So, she just tried to believe that.

Marry tugged at her arm, and pulled her into the light of the kitchen.

Renee turned to face her. "Christy ... she kissed him too."

Mary looked pained for a few seconds. "You may see other women kiss him like that," she said, finally. She had a doubtful look on her face. "He's helped a lot of people. He has a ... special kind of relationship with some women."

"He has more than one girlfriend?" asked Renee, trying to fit this into a framework that she could understand, based on her own experience.

"They're not his girlfriends," said Mary, frowning. "I shouldn't be telling you any of this!"

"Why not?" asked Renee. "I like you. I like your family. Bobby has been nice to me. I just want to understand."

Mary tried again. "Have you ever broken up with a boyfriend, but still liked him?"

"No," said Renee. If you broke up with a boy, it was because he wasn't worthy of your love. If he broke up with you, it was because he was stupid ... and wasn't worthy of your love. It was just the way she thought.

"Well, trust me, it can happen," said Mary, frustrated. "It's kind of like that. Women seem to fall in love with Bobby easily ... but they don't want him for a boyfriend." She stopped and sighed. "I'm not explaining this well at all," she moaned. "I can't explain this to you. You'll just have to ask Bobby about it."

"I can't just ask Bobby why women kiss him all the time!" said Renee.

"Sure you can," said Mary. Her voice was confident when she said that. "He may not tell you, but you can ask him. That won't bother him at all."

"This is just so strange," moaned Renee.

"Honey, you have no idea how strange it is around here," sighed Mary.

Renee went with Mary back into the chaos that was the Dalton household, that night. Tilly showed up, shivering from being outside in the cold without a coat. Bobby came in right behind her, as if being outside with her was completely normal.

Renee talked less, after that, and watched more. Bobby spoke with all of the women. He didn't spend as much time with Mable and Virginia, but he talked to Prudence for fifteen minutes. The younger women all talked to him too, either seeking him out, or responding to him when he came near them. Most of the night he was holding a child. It was different children, often those associated with the woman he was talking to at the time. The children all seemed to know him. The toddlers reached for him, and the babies relaxed in his arms when he held them. At one point she overheard Tilly's five year old son call him "Uncle Bobby" and ask him when he was going to make him a toy of some sort that had apparently been promised.

She grew more and more puzzled.

Her attempts to get him alone, to ask him questions, met with abject failure. There was always someone else around, vying for his attention. He was polite to her, as usual, and friendly, but he was that way with all of them, really.

Linda brought out a record player and put on a record. Mirriam and Mable danced together, as if it were normal for two grown women to dance together to rock and roll tunes. Jill captured Bobby first, and, as another record was played, and then another and another, he was shuffled from woman to woman, while the other women danced with each other. Even his sisters demanded a dance, with the exception of Suzie, who sat, somehow reading a book, amid the exultation surrounding her. It was clearly a party ... a celebration ... even though there was nothing that Renee could see to celebrate.

She found Linda standing beside her, at one point.

"You should ask Bobby to dance," said the girl. "He likes you."

Renee turned an astonished look at the girl.

Linda laughed. "It's no big deal. He won't do anything you don't want him to do."

That seemed like a singularly odd thing for a high school senior to say about her brother.

As if her comment had been overheard, though, Bobby appeared in front of her at the end of that record.

"Nobody's dancing with you," he said. "That's not fair, now is it?"

A new record started, and he held out his hand.

This one was a slower kind of song. She recognized it as Bette Midler's version of "Do You Want to Dance?" and suddenly found herself in Bobby's arms, pressed against him. He felt very strong.

"Are you having a good time?" he asked. She could feel his hot breath, close to her ear as he tried to talk to her without speaking loudly.

She shivered, and pulled her head away from him, looking up into those blue eyes. Her frustration and puzzlement made her say things she probably wouldn't have, if she'd had time to think about them.

"I saw you kissing Tilly," she said.

"Oh," he said. That was it ... just, "Oh."

"Christy kissed you too, and Jill said she needed to get laid."

"True," he said, his face maddeningly calm.

"Why?" she asked.

"Why do they kiss me, or why do they tell me when they need to get laid?" he asked back.

She tightened, and felt his arms tighten in return. She could break away from him ... she knew that somehow ... but it would make a scene.

"Okay, why do they kiss you?"

"You just won't let that lie, will you?" he said. His face remained impassive. "They like to kiss me," he said. "I like to kiss them too."

"That's not an answer," she said, her face flushing.

"Just think of it as flirting," he suggested.

She thought about how he had flirted with her. He had seen her naked butt, and then told her later it was cute.

"If you don't answer my questions, I'm going to tell Mirriam you flirted with me," she threatened.

"For a new friend, you sure are a pain in the butt," he said calmly.

"Is that what I am?" she asked. "A friend?"

"Of course," he answered immediately.

"And these other women ... are they your friends too?"

"Of course," he said again.

"Are you going to try to kiss me too?"

"Of course not," he said, as if it was perfectly logical. "Why? Do you want me to?"

"No!" she yipped.

"Well, there you go," he said. She wanted to scream.

He suddenly whirled her around, in time with the music, which she hadn't even been listening to.

"Dance with me now," he said into her ear. "I'll answer your questions tomorrow, okay?"

Somehow, she believed he really would, and somehow, that soothed her curiosity.

"Okay," she said.

"If you open a child care center in your house," he said, suddenly changing the subject, "you'll need to do some remodeling. I could help with that."

"Oh," she said, her mind trying to switch to the new subject. She hadn't had time to think about that.

"Maybe when I come over to answer your questions, we can talk about that too," he said.

Then, before she could answer, the song was over, and she found herself standing apart from him. She felt strangely alone for some reason, now that his arms weren't around her. One of the twins - she couldn't tell which one - claimed him for the next dance, which was also slow.

Renee watched as his little sister hugged him closely, dancing like she was dancing with some handsome young man at school, instead of with her big brother. She was distracted from that by Virginia, asking her if she wanted to play cards. By the time she was seated, and the game was explained to her, the song was over and more rock and roll music was put on.

Eventually, the babies were put down in dark bedrooms, and the young ones finally quieted down, as the older girls began to tell them stories. Bobby disappeared completely. She wondered if he was avoiding her.

Renee left late, and even then she was one of the first to go. She decided to leave because she was yawning, and didn't want to get too sleepy there, with what seemed like a long drive ahead of her.

As she drove home, she thought about what had happened there, that night. She had been welcomed, by nice women, who didn't care that her husband was a drug dealer and in prison. They had suggested a way she could support herself, which, with her trust fund, wasn't really critical right now, but would give her something to do. At least she wouldn't have to go crawling back home.

Looking at it rationally, things were looking up for her. She felt much better than she had just a few short days ago. She still had the church to deal with, and her parents to face, but that didn't seem so daunting any more. Her mother and father would still be unhappy, but if the church said she wasn't married, then there wasn't much they could say about it. At least there had never been a big church wedding. For all she knew, her mother had been keeping her marriage a secret, so it could be announced with grandeur and ceremony.

Still, as she walked into her empty house, she felt pangs of pain. She had gotten used to having a man in her life. Those disturbing kisses that Bobby kept getting ... she had gotten those ... passionate kisses ... and what came afterwards.

She lay in bed. Jill had definitely said, "I need to get laid, Bobby." Was Jill sleeping with him? Was Christy? Was Tilly? If they were ... and that seemed insane ... what did that mean?

He had looked at her naked bottom ... watched her wiggle into her jeans, without underwear.

He had said she had a cute butt.

It took a while, but eventually she drifted off to sleep.

She got up early, feeling refreshed. She ate some cereal, and hopped in the car to go meet with the priest. She wanted all this started and well underway before she had to face her parents.

Four hours later, feeling drained from answering all the questions, and writing all the statements, and filling out all the forms, she dragged her feet out of the church. There would be more, the priest had said. He'd let her know when that needed to happen. Getting married had been a breeze. Getting an annulment was going to be a lot of work. She laughed, suddenly. It was supposed to be the other way around. Making a marriage work was supposed to be hard work. Getting a divorce, while distasteful, was something lawyers did for you.

As she drove into her driveway, she remembered Bobby, and how he had said he'd come over and answer her questions. She didn't expect that to happen. Whatever was going on, he didn't want to talk about it. Neither did anyone else, for that matter. He'd continue to dodge her, until she forced him into it. She wondered why she even cared. What did it matter if Bobby kissed every woman in sight? It wasn't any of her business.

She heard the phone ringing as she tried to unlock the door. She had no idea who it could be, but felt the urgency to answer it.

"Hello!" she shouted as she snatched up the receiver.

"Well," said a male voice. "You're there after all." She recognized Bobby's voice.

"I had to go be interviewed by the priest," she panted.

"Oh," he said. "I didn't know. I've been calling you all morning."

"You have?"

"I thought we were going to talk about the childcare center," he said.

"Oh ... yes," she said. "I haven't really thought about it."

"Well, I guess we could do that later,if that's what you want," he said.

"No!!" she almost shouted. Her mind was at odds. It was none of her business. But she had to know. This was her chance. If she let him go now, who knew when she'd see him again. "You said you'd answer my questions."

There was silence for long enough that she said, "Hello?"

"I'm here," he said. "You still have any of that food we went shopping for?"

"Of course," she said. It had only been yesterday, and there had been fifteen bags of food!

"Fix us something for lunch," he said. "I'll be over in half an hour."

"Okay," she said. "Bobby?" She was about to tell him it was none of her business.

She was talking to a dead phone line though.

She didn't know why she was so nervous. He was a nice guy. She liked his family. They had, for all intents and purposes, invited her to a party at their house. She could always just admit that he had no obligation to tell her anything. He had been nothing but nice to her. The salad and sandwiches were ready. All they had to do was sit and eat and talk.

She wondered why she was so nervous then.

She heard the car door slam and went to the front door to open it. He bounded up the steps with energy she was jealous of. He smiled, and again, she noticed how handsome he was.

"I'm starved," he said. "Food first, and questions later, okay?"

She was about to tell him he didn't have to say anything, but a little voice in her head said, "Shut up!"

He didn't just eat. He picked up the salad, and a fork, and walked around, eating and talking. He pointed to a wall that could come out, to make a big play room. He told her where a nursery could be built, and a bathroom, just for the children. He made it sound so easy. Move this, build that there, open up this area, and presto, you have a place for ten or fifteen children to play and learn and be taken care of. It could even be done and retain the dining room and kitchen as a space where she could entertain. The living room would have to be smaller, but even so, the way he described it, someone walking through the front door would never know that it wasn't just a house.

He wolfed his sandwich, but turned down another.

Then he just sat, and looked at her.

"You don't have to tell me," she said, weakly, feeling the weight of his eyes on her.

"I know," he said. "But it will eat at you, and, even though I don't know you all that well, I know you'll keep wondering and eventually find out. I'd rather you hear it from me, instead of someone else."

That sounded ominous. For a few seconds, a new scenario flashed through her mind. Bobby had some dread disease ... a brain tumor or something. He was going to die, and everyone felt sorry for him. His friends were missing him already. Then Jill's moan of, "I need to get laid bad, Bobby," rang in her ears again. Even if he was going to die, they wouldn't do that for him.

He suddenly started talking, and she didn't have to ask any questions at all.

"People's lives are complicated," he said. "Look at your own situation. You were gloriously happy, and then something terrible happened, and it tore your life apart. You hit bottom, and thought there was no way out. But then you found out that things could get better, and you don't feel so bad anymore."

She nodded.

"That's all based on your perceptions, and the options you see open to you at any given time," he said. "Sometimes, you aren't aware of options you have, and when somebody points one out to you, it can change your life for the better."

She nodded again.

"You were in love," he said, "and that fell apart."

He stopped, and waited.

"I don't love him anymore," she said, feeling like she had to say something.

"That's true," said Bobby. "But the fact is that you still miss the closeness of being in love ... the connection to another person ... the intimacy that you were used to. You can't lose that and not miss it."

"I haven't had time to miss it," she lied. She wondered why she was lying to him.

"That's why I didn't want to answer your questions," he said. "I'm not sure you'll understand what I'm going to tell you, and you may hate me after you hear it."

"Why would I hate you?" she said. "You've been so nice to me."

"You may see that through different colored glasses, when I tell you," he said.

"I don't understand," she moaned.

"You will," he said softly. "At least I hope you will."

Renee was still sitting at the table. The dirty dishes were still there. She stared at the fork he had eaten his salad with, lying there, looking normal.

He was gone, now, and she was alone with her thoughts.

Her thoughts were jumbled ... crazy ... what he'd said was crazy.

He'd told her that sometimes a woman needed the connection, and intimacy of a relationship, but didn't have a man to have the relationship with. She understood that. What she didn't understand was how a woman might not want to have a man ... a traditional man ... a boyfriend or husband ... to have that connection and intimacy with. How could a woman want to just have sex with a man ... and not love him? That was what didn't make sense.

She realized, with some horror, that he was a prostitute! A male prostitute! What did they call them? Gigolos ... that was it. Bobby Dalton was a gigolo!

She knew something of gigolos. Some of her friends in college had hired ... escorts ... that was what they called them ... to go to certain parties and events. She'd never understood why they did that. Some of them even had boyfriends, but they hired men to fly away with them to New York City, or Philadelphia, or the Capitol. These mysterious events were secretive and she'd never been invited to one. They were hush-hush, very exclusive, and held at places like the Playboy mansion. It had all seemed so strange back then, to an innocent college girl.

But that didn't make any sense at all, when she thought of Bobby Dalton. He wasn't like the men she'd seen ... slick ... suave ... dressed to the nines, and smiling with a smile that had made her want to go soak in a tub of clean water. The man who had just told her these awful things wasn't like that at all. She liked him!

That caused her further pause. Could she like him? How could she like a man who accepted money or favors for sex? He hadn't actually said that women paid him, but the inference was there. He'd said he was "hired" sometimes ... to give a woman what she needed, if she had no man in her life ... or that man couldn't provide what she needed. How could she like a man like that?

Her very first thought, as the horror spilled out of him, was that he had targeted her to add to his ... stable of women. Hadn't he said something about her being vulnerable? He had. She'd remembered that distinctly, but before she could remember the context in which he'd said it her mind had been assaulted by other things he'd told her.

And yet, as she sat there alone, it was obvious he had not targeted her. He hadn't had to tell her anything. He could have stonewalled her. Her threat to complain to his mother that he'd flirted with her was baseless and she knew it. She had not, after all, closed that door as she got dressed. He had the perfect right to be where he was as she brazenly exposed herself to him. That's what it would look like to the mother of a gigolo.

And that was another thing. Mirriam Dalton was the kindest, sweetest woman she'd ever met. It was impossible that she knew what her son was doing, or would tolerate it, if she did know.

Yet, that didn't work either. Mary obviously knew. The comment his sister had made suggested she knew about it. If his sister knew, it would be impossible to keep secrets like that. And the women were so easygoing about their affection for him. They didn't really try to hide it. All of them had danced with him, and had obviously loved doing it. Christy had kissed him right in front of a stranger!

She didn't know what to think. None of it matched her perception of what a gigolo was like ... or supposed to be like. A sudden image popped into her head. Bobby was on television, in his jeans, boots and that old, faded checkered shirt she had first seen him in. He was on that awful show called Hee Haw. Bobby, the redneck gigolo.

She giggled, and then laughed, but then, suddenly, it wasn't funny anymore. He wasn't like that either. He wasn't a joke. He was a real man, a man she now knew, and had thought was a friend. Was he a friend? He'd certainly acted like one. In fact, he hadn't done anything untoward, other than comment that she had a cute butt. Any man could be expected to say something like that. Most didn't know when to stop saying things like that.

She felt torn in half. She had to admit that she liked him. She just did. At the same time, she was horrified by him. She knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt that he had looked at her as a woman ... evaluating her ... sexually. Just being male guaranteed that, and he was a gigolo on top of that!

But he hadn't hit on her. He hadn't exploited her vulnerability. He hadn't exploited her wealth either. All he had done was help her get a grip on her life. He was even responsible for her seeing the priest who was going to make her horrible mistake go away like magic.

Her mind twisted as she tried to think of him as some kind of bad man ... and couldn't.

All she could see him as was what he had acted like ... a gentleman.

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