Chapter 1
Maxine's sudden exit from my life had left me with, among other things, an extra ticket to the Joan Baez concert up in Midiville.  It had been a long time since I'd been to a concert and a longer time since I'd ventured to one without Max.  I wasn't up to going alone.  I figured I'd find someone to go with...someone safe-- just friends... a straight woman.  The first person I thought of was Connie from Personelle.  She was always friendly to me.  I didn't know how she'd feel about being asked out by the Company Dyke.  I figured what the heck, she might say yes, she could say no and at worst her husband/boyfriend could come and try to beat me up.  Pretty women like that always seemed to have someone in their lives.  Who, what, and why were answered: the remaining questions, when where and how would be answered in their own time.

The next day, I saw Connie coming into work.  She looked a bit harried and I knew that it wasn't the right time to ask her to the concert.

"Hey, Connie."  She flashed that smile at me.

"Hey, Robin.  What's up?"

"Nothin' much. Do you have any free time today?"

"11:30, doin' lunch at my desk, You're welcome to join me.  What's up?"

"Sure, thanks.  Nothing much, just wanted to talk."

"See you then." Again, that smile made me feel all jittery inside. I watched her take a right at the end of the hall, then continued to my office.  It wasn't like I was asking her on a real date or anything.... And what'd I bring for lunch: a package of Keebler Wheat and Cheddar crackers, a chunk of extra sharp cheddar and a package of Ring Dings … wonderful way to make an impression. I had a stack of monthly progress reports to read through and it seemed as though I was reading the same report over and over with a different client name filled in here and there.  I kept looking at the clock and willing the time to go a bit faster.  In answer, the clock seemed to throw itself into reverse, giggle at my foolishness, and stop at about 3 minutes from the last time I had checked it.  Asking Connie to the concert was a risk.  What if she read my intentions wrong and got offended?  What if she spread it around that I was asking co-workers out?  It was one thing to be Company Dyke, It was another thing to be yourself at work. Oh what-the-hell, It wasn't a date; it was an extra ticket to the Baez concert, and I didn't want to go alone... Period.  Finally, the clock became bored with its morning's antics and told me that it was 11 o'clock.  I was certain that it was really 6pm, time to go home for the day, and I had missed out on lunch with Connie.  I popped over to the deli across the street and got myself a turkey sub and a side salad. I brought along the Ring Dings because there were 2 in the package and I could share dessert.  I filled my coffee mug and walked toward Connie's office. 

When I arrived, she was talking on the phone; she motioned me to sit down.  There went that smile again. She winked at me and made okay-get-on-with-it type gestures and rolled her eyes. I grinned at her, sat down in the chair across from her and pondered the staples that were embedded in the rug and the little punched out dots from the hole puncher that were scattered around her trash can.  Apparently, the janitors didn't vacuum Personelle either. She uhhuhed and nodded like the dog in the back of the car window and I laughed with my silent chuckle.  I rarely laugh out loud and when I do they're deep belly laughs.  Her green eyes were crinkled up at the corners.

"Okay, Chuck I'll look into that. You are a devil.  Take care, bye."  She hung up the phone. 

"Jeez, I hate that man.  He's so obnoxious."  Chuck was the vice president of the company.  It had something to do with his father being primary shareholder... Chuck thought that flirting with female employees was his duty and his contribution to running the company.      (For some reason, Chuck never flirted with me.  Could have had something to do with the way I always asked him, " What's up Chuck?"  I guess there was some advantage to being Company Dyke.)

"Sorry it took so long to get rid of him.  Piddly BS, you know.  He's got to make it look like he's doing something besides lurk outside the ladies room."  She laughed...a nice lilting chuckle.  I liked her more already." So, what'd you bring for lunch today?"

"A turkey sub and a side salad."

"Sounds healthy." She opened her lunch pail and pulled out a container of yogurt, a baggie filled with Cheeze Its, and a package of Funny bones. I laughed.  "You laughing at my lunch?  I didn't feel like bothering with making a sandwich this morning."  I told her about the Package of crackers that I'd thrown in my drawer and about running to the deli for the sub and the salad.

"I brought Ring Dings for dessert.  I share."  She was smiling again .........

"You do, do you?  Oh boy!  I love Ring Dings.  Was in one of those chocolate peanut butter moods when I did grocery shopping this week.  We could trade."

"Deal.  Want half my sandwich?"

"What's on it?"

"Mustard and mayo, extra pickles.... no onions or peppers."

"My favorite.  Missing the salt and vinegar chips."

"Inside or outside the sandwich?"

"Inside of course.  Gives it that extra crunch."

"Got a knife?"

"A letter opener.  I'll go rinse it off."

"Close enough."  She went to rinse the letter opener; and, I got to enjoy the view as she left the room.  I dug the sandwich from the bag and was glad that I'd asked for extra napkins.  She came back a few minutes later.  "Did you run into Chuck by the ladies room?"  She looked at her backside.

"Nope don't see any slimy hand prints or drool stains."  She handed me the letter opener and I cut the sandwich.  She chose her half first. "I'm glad we decided to do this.  I usually eat here by myself.  It's nice to have company."

"Yeah, I don't see much of you at lunch time.  How come?"

"It's hard being the new person.  I'm a little ah bashful when it comes to socializing some times."

"You're not acting shy now."

"Guess I feel at ease with you."

"Hey, I have an extra ticket to the Baez concert in Midville on the 15th; would you like to join me?"

"I love Baez.  Had a friend in college who used to sing Diamonds and Rust all the time. I miss her. Yup. ~ I'll be damned here comes your voice again. But that's not unusual. It's just that the moon is full and you happened to call ~ Sometimes, I can still hear her.  I'd love to go. Thanks." I noted a brief look of sadness in those eyes.  We ate in silence for a while. 

Connie wiped off the letter opener and began cutting the Ring Dings and the Funny Bones in half. "She must have kids," I thought.  "You have kids, Connie?"

"Two girls-- 2 and 4."  She brought out her wallet and showed me a picture of two little freckle -faced, curly- haired, carrot- topped, little girls.  They were the image of their mother. And she smiled that smile again-- this time, it was tinged with a bit of proud mama. "They can stay with their father on the 15th."  I found myself wanting to play connect the dots with her freckles.  I liked the way her ringlets fell to her shoulders. WARNING straight woman! THIS IS NOT A DATE. I repeat: This is NOT a date.  And there was that damned smile.  I took a bite from my Funny Bone.

"You have cake in the corner of your mouth, here."  She reached across the desk and wiped the chocolate from my face with a napkin... always the mom. Her hands were strong and gentle looking with long slender fingers.  I pulled away from her touch as if zapped in a part of my body that hadn't felt electrified in a very long time.  I hadn't moved.

"They are absolutely beautiful.  So, it will be okay with your husband to watch them?"

"Ex-husband.  He can take them to his house for the night. That way we can have a good time and I don't have to worry about getting the sitter home.  It's been a long time since I've been out...may as well make a night of it."

"The concert starts at 8 and it's an hour's drive each way, what time should I pick you up?"

"How about you come by at 5:30 and I'll cook you dinner."

"I wouldn't want to put you out...."

"Believe me, it will be a pleasure to cook something besides Spaghetti O's and hot dogs..."

"WHAT, no Where's Waldo Spaghetti O's"

"Not on your life, Lady.  This will be a dinner for grown ups."

"Okay.  So, where do I go to get this dinner and my concert companion?"

"Let me write down the address, I don't want you to get lost on me, now do I?"  She wrote her address down on a piece of company stationary. Beneath her address and phone number were the words "call me".  I took the paper from her and tucked it into my shirt pocket. "I'll see you at 5:30 then.  I better get back to my stack of papers.  I want to be done before the 15th."

"I hope we see each other before then.  I really enjoyed our lunch. You make me laugh--I like that."

"Well, I'll be seeing you."  She flashed that smile again and I blushed.  I liked my new friend.  She walked me to the door.  Connie stood a full head taller than me, approximately 5'11", and was willowy with narrow hips and breasts that showed she'd nursed babies. "Thanks for going to the concert with me."

"No. Thanks for thinking of me.  It means a lot.  Well, I'll see you soon, I hope."

I had a hard time concentrating on my reports my reports.  I kept seeing Connie's green eyes flashing at me and that smile.  I took out her note and read her phone number and the words call me…

During the next week or so, Connie and I saw each other off and on.  Mostly it was in passing...long enough to exchange pleasantries... and each time there was that smile.  I started to look forward to seeing her smile.  Maybe I looked forward to it a little too much. I kept thinking about her full lips, that slightly crooked smile with those teeth that weren't quite perfectly straight, her laugh lines at the corners of her mouth, and the way those green eyes flashed and crinkled up at their corners.  I looked at the paper with her address and phone number on it and the words: call me.  Surely she meant for me to call if something happened and we couldn't make it to the concert.  Maybe she was lonely and needed a friend.  A few times, I had my hand on the phone; I didn't know what I'd say, and anything I rehearsed sounded rehearsed and stupid.  The phone remained on its cradle.

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