iLaw! Parts 16-20

Part 16

Will finished his beer and paid for the meal. Liz paid the bar tab and left a huge tip for Pete. She had certainly learned some interesting things about William Darcy so far this evening.

When they got out to the car, Will momentarily forgot who was driving and tried to get in the drivers side.

“No, William, I’m driving. Remember.”

“No, but if you say so.” Will walked around to the passenger side and got in.

“Where do you live?” Liz asked, suddenly aware that she could have one long drive on her hands.

“Encanto District.”

Liz was relieved, not too far from her place. She pulled onto Grand Avenue and started driving back to Central Phoenix.

A few minutes into the drive, Will looked over to Elizabeth had had an irresistible urge to kiss her ear. He unlatched his seat belt and struggled forward from his contoured leather bucket seat. Liz saw him move.

“What are you doing William?” she asked as he somehow got his body turned towards her.

“Did you know that you have sexy looking ears?” he said as he leaned his head down to her. Elizabeth flinched and she reacted, trying to not lose control of the car as she drove along. This movement led to a rather awkward flop on Will’s part and he ended up with his lips on the seatbelt where it crossed her breast. Confused, Will pulled back his head and took his right arm to pull the seatbelt away from Elizabeth. Unfortunately, in his state of inebriation, he not only hooked the seatbelt with his finger, but also Liz’s top. For some reason he decided he needed to include more of his senses in the evaluation process and dropped his head down on her chest to lick her!

Elizabeth was too shocked to react at first, but she quickly pushed him away.

“William! Get back in your seat and buckle up!”

About then Will’s mind registered what he had seen; a lacy black brassiere with… red bows?

“Sorry.” He obeyed and was strapped back in. “When I got into the car to leave I never thought I would get to see such fineries in the bragain.”

“Bargain.” Elizabeth giggled. Will was rather sweet when he was smashed.

“Tell me, Miss Elizabeth Bennet. Why do you wear such dowdy clothes on the outside when you are wearing sexy lingerie underneath?”

How did she respond to that?

“Uhm, don’t you like my outfits?”

“No. You look terrible in them and I know you have curves hiding under there. I felt them the other night when you hugged me. I find myself attracted to you despite my standards in woman.”

“What is that supposed to mean?”

Will waved his hands dismissively. “Nothing, I just normally date really handsome women.”

“And you do not find me handsome enough for you.” This was a very interesting conversation to Elizabeth

“That’s my problem, despite your looks I find myself wanting to kiss you and see what’s hiding under there. Do your underwear match your bra?” Will’s hand started to roam to taboo country. Elizabeth slapped his hand.

“I think you had better keep your hands to yourself. I’m not going to tell you and you are not going to find out.”

A few moments of silence descended inside the car.

Will seemed to suddenly recall something important as he slapped his palm to his forehead.

“Ow! Damn, I’m sorry Elizabeth. I promised Charles that I would be the perfect gentleman around you. Will you forgive me?”

“Sure. I won’t tell anyone you tried to get your hands on my breast.”

“Thanks. Though I won’t say that I’m sorry I failed.”

Elizabeth reached Thomas Road and turned left onto that street. They had just crossed I-17 when Will cried out.

“Pull over, I gotta take a piss.”

“But we are almost to your house.”

“I gotta go now! Pull over.”

Elizabeth was far enough east that she could pull into an alley. Will staggered out of the car.

Thank God he can get far enough away so that he won’t get anything on the upholstery

Elizabeth heard him unzip his pants and she wondered how far his trousers would drop.

The answer was all the way to his ankles.

She heard him sigh and the sound of bodily fluids. Then she heard something else.

Will began to hum the chorus to The Battle Hymn of the Republic. Liz was glad she had used the ladies room before they had left because she was not sure she could have kept it in now. Her shoulders started to shake, she tried not to make a sound. All she needed was for Will to turn and look at her, bringing a show she did not wish to see and risking him hitting the car with his… Anyway, she was able to keep quiet and Will finished and pulled up his pants from his ankles, showing off his dramatic flare by sing “His truth is marching on” as he zipped up his fly.

“Did the right stuff come out?” Elizabeth asked in a fit of giggles.

“Only the piss, what else?”

“Never mind.” Elizabeth pulled back onto Thomas. “Where to now?”

“Where are we?”

“About 23rd Avenue and Thomas.”

“When you get to 15th, turn right and then make a left on Encanto. I’ll direct you from there.”

Will didn’t say anything else as Elizabeth made her way as directed. She pulled into the left-hand turn lane, ready to head east on Encanto Boulevard. She asked Will for more directions, but he didn’t answer. Liz looked at him and saw his eyes were closed; a gentle snore escaped.

He’s asleep! “William, I need to know where to go to your house from here.”

Will didn’t respond; he was out cold. Cursing to herself Liz pulled into the parking lot of Encanto Park and stopped the car. She reached over and opened the glove box to see if the registration was there. It was, but the car was registered to DDC.

“Shit!” Elizabeth realized that she would have to get to his wallet. He would keep it in his right hip pocket. Great. Liz sincerely hoped a police car did not happen upon her in the next few minutes. She took off her seat belt and was forced to half lie on top of Will to get to his back pocket. He would never believe me if he woke up now. After the third try to pull him forward, Elizabeth finally got enough of an angle to retrieve his billfold; unfortunately Will chose that time to move and draped his arm over her body, pulling her towards him. Elizabeth started to laugh at her predicament. Will respond by pulling her tighter to him and moaning, thrusting his hips upward which caused Elizabeth to laugh some more. In an effort to extricate herself, she braced her left arm onto the front of his seat between his legs and did the best one-armed pushup she had done in years! She barely was able to dislodge herself from his grasp before she saw his own “pushup”.

Relieved, she found his drivers license with his current address – and his full name. Elizabeth smirked and filled that tidbit of information away for future reference.

Before pulling out of the parking lot Liz glanced over to the far end. There was the bridge that led to Enchanted Island, a small amusement ride area for small children inside Encanto Park. Tomorrow families would bring their children here to play with absolutely no idea what innocent hilarity happened only feet away the night before.

A few minutes later she pulled into his driveway and turned off the car. William was still out cold and she didn’t look forward to trying to get him into the house. Taking a deep breath to fortify herself, she got out and went around to the passenger side and opened the door. All effort to wake her passenger were for not. Liz tried, unsuccessfully, three times to get him out of his seat but he just fell back like a sack of potatoes. Elizabeth guessed that Will was about 6’1”, 200 pounds. Not huge, but big enough to be too much dead weight for her to handle. She needed help.

“Hi Jane, sorry to call so late.”

“That’s ok. Charles and I are just heading back to my place. How did the evening with Will go?”

“It’s still going. That’s why I called. I need to talk to Charles.”

“I’ll put him on”

Elizabeth heard her sister hand her boyfriend the phone

“Hey Liz, what’s up?”

“I know you know William and I had dinner tonight to watch the tourney.”

“Yeah, so?”

“Will had a bit too much to drink so I told him I would drive him home. We are here now but he’s… well he’s out cold and I need help getting him in the house.”

Elizabeth heard howls of laughter.

“We’ll be right over. And wait until we get there so I can turn off the alarm.”

Liz groaned and then saw the alarm company sign.

“Thanks, I’m not going anywhere.”

*****

About fifteen minute later Charles and Jane arrived. Charles was laughing as he greeted her.

“Let’s unlock the door and I’ll disable the alarm.” He suggested. Liz handed him the key and waited for him to come back.

“Ok. I’ll pull him from outside and you push from the inside, Liz. Jane, be ready to help support his weight. I think Liz and I will be able to drag him in the house once we get him out.”

Jane giggled and Liz crawled back inside the car.

“On three. One, two, thhhreeeeeee.”

They managed to get him out of the vehicle. Liz scrambled out and helped Charles drag Will in and to his bedroom. The dropped him onto the bed, threw his legs over and took off his shoes. Jane closed the blinds and they left Will to sleep it off.

“Thanks, Charles.”

“No problem. Would you like us to get your car?”

“I’ll call a cab.”

“No sis, we’ll take you ourselves, and then you can tell us how you got William Darcy drunk as a skunk.”

However, Liz was starting to have regrets about getting William plastered.

“OK, you can take me to get my car. Let me lock up. I’ll bring back his keys in the morning and check up on him. He’ll need a little compassion when he wakes up.”

“Just how much did he drink?”

Elizabeth got a rather sheepish look on her face, “Pete the waiter charged me for four beers, but I think he was being generous.”

*****

Liz was having a serious case of remorse as she drove home. William was in for a doozy of a hangover in the morning and it was all her fault. True, she had learned more about him after he had relaxed and had fun, but at what price? There was really only one thing to do, penance. Acting on impulse she ran into her place and changed into some more comfortable clothes – old ASU gear – and headed back to Will’s house. Fortunately Charles agreed that it was probably not a good idea to set the alarm in case Will woke up disoriented and accidentally triggered it. This gave her the access she needed.

She went in and checked on Will; he was snoring up a storm. She tried to roll him on his side but he refused to budge. Shrugging her shoulders, she went back into the living room, grabbed a throw pillow or two and the afghan of the back of the couch and settled in for some shut-eye.

The sound of a sprinkler system woke her up just after 6:30. Liz was stiff from sleeping on the sofa and decided to see if William got the paper.

Success!

One Saturday morning edition of the Arizona Republic was lying on the driveway. Liz noticed an orange tree full of ripe oranges and walked over to pick on. If it were edible she would pick some more. Fresh squeezed orange juice sounded great.

Back in the kitchen she quietly rummaged around for a knife and cutting board. The orange was sweet to the taste, just as she expected. Houses in this part of town where they still had flood irrigation often boasted mature citrus trees. Orange, lemons and grapefruit abounded. Elizabeth grabbed a bowl and went to pick some more.

Once she had her bowl of oranges she did some more looking around and found a hand juicer, some bread for toast and even some tomato juice. A trip into one of the bathrooms produced some ibuprofen. Liz took the opportunity to freshen up a bit and brushed her teeth – she had picked up her toothbrush on the way out of her apartment the night before. That done, all she had to do was wait.

Liz decided she wanted some background noise and turned on the stereo. Will had satellite radio, big surprise! She found a station and turned it down so William wouldn’t be disturbed. Finally, she got comfortable in a recliner and opened up the paper to do a thorough reading. Who knew how long William would sleep.

Will gradually began to wake. His head hurt like hell and he was afraid to open his eyes. He had no recollection of how he had made it home. The last thing he remembered was watching the ball game with Elizabeth.

He opened one eye to look around him. He was fully clothed and it looked like he slept on top of his covers. His mouth tastes like… something vile.

Groaning, he started to sit up and just as quickly fell back down again. Will looked at his clock, 10:13

At 10:19 he tried again. This time he made it to the vertical position. Gingerly he swung his legs over the side of the bed and somehow he made it the standing position and staggered into his bathroom. One look in the mirror confirmed that he looked as bad as he felt. He needed something to help him feel human again and knew that something was in the kitchen.

Elizabeth had heard him stirring and started to question the logic of her being there. Would he be upset, embarrassed, angry, and indifferent?

To let him know someone was about she turned up the music and waited for his interest, careful to keep the paper in front of her in case he wasn’t decent.

Will walked down the hall and heard the volume of the music rise, Van Halen was on. Did Elizabeth bring him home and stay the night? He walked into the living room and saw a woman sitting in a recliner reading the sports section.

“Elizabeth?” he croaked and grabbed his head

“Yeah, it’s me. Let’s get you something for your headache. I found some ibuprofen in a bathroom. Some toast would be a good idea to calm your stomach and I took the liberty of picking some of your oranges and making fresh orange juice. I was shocked to find them, haven’t you heard about the dreaded roof rats?”

“Those monsters are in Arcadia.”

“Still, you are tempting fate,” Liz teased. She knew as well as he did that she was being absurd.

Will noticed she was wearing different clothing from the night before.

“You changed.”

“After I went to get my car, I stopped at home to get something to sleep in. I hope you don’t mind that I spent the night on your couch.”

“I’ll reimburse you for the taxi.”

“No need, I got a ride form Jane.”

“Was Charles along?”

“Yeah, he helped me get you inside.”

“I’m doomed.”

“You’ll get over it, eventually.”

By then they were in the kitchen. The song on the radio had changed to something by Air Supply “You didn’t need to stay. You should have gone home. I can take care of myself.”

“I felt responsible for getting you so drunk. I decided to make sure you were properly looked after this morning. I’ll fix some toast and then I’ll leave. I suggest you take a nice shower and then go back to bed.”

Elizabeth put some bread in the toaster.

“Butter or jam?”

“Butter. Thanks.”

The toast popped up and the song changed again, this time to Elvis.

“What are we listening to?” Will asked. “This is the third different song in less than five minutes.”

Oh, I heard about this on KTAR the other day. It’s a new format called “Short Attention Span” radio. The makers claim people get bored with songs before they finish so they remixed them cutting the music to about 2 minutes per song.”

“You have got to be kidding.”

“You’re listening to it.”

“That’s ridiculous. I want to hear ‘a little more conversation’. You can’t cut The King!”

Will grabbed his head again. He should not have spoken so forcefully.

“I’m not arguing with you.” Elizabeth stuck a plate in front of him. “Your toast is ready and here’s the OJ. I’ve got things to do today and I will leave you in peace.” Elizabeth grabbed her purse and started to walk out.

“Elizabeth?” She paused. “Thanks for staying. It’s the nicest thing anyone has done for me in a long time.”

“Careful, Darcy. You keep talking to me like that I might be forced to start liking you.”

Will tried to smile; it hurt too much. “Can I call you?”

“Sure, now that I know where you live.”

“Good bye.”

“Eat and get some rest, William. I’ll talk to you later.”

Part 17

On the way home from William’s house, Elizabeth pulled into the local supermarket. She’d done quite a bit of thinking about her actions the past 24 hours and she was not very happy with her conclusions. As much fun as it had been, and as much as she had learned about William, she should never have pulled such a juvenile stunt. It was pure luck that she did not find herself in a difficult situation in the car of a man she barely even knew. Thankfully he was enough of a gentleman to behave, as long as you didn’t count the lick. Liz giggled at the thought. William Darcy had licked her, ugly Betty and all.

Such thoughts eventually led to the subject of her bet, and then to Charlotte’s being under the weather. Thus Elizabeth was pushing a grocery cart through the aisles of Bashas, gathering ingredients for her not so famous hearty vegetable chicken noodles soup and Grandma Bennet’s brown bread. Rapid rise yeast would mean the bread would be done in time to take it to poor Charlotte this evening before it got too late. Plus, there was nothing like kneading some bread for therapy. Liz always felt better after a good bread making session.

Later that afternoon a rather weak sounding Charlotte answered Elizabeth’s phone call, “Hello?”

“Hey Char, feeling any better?”

“Not really.”

“I made you some soup,” Elizabeth told her ailing friend.

“Ohhh your chicken noodle nummyness?”

“The very one.”

“Did you use cabbage in the broth?”

“Of course! Want some?”

“Yeah, I haven’t had much of an appetite but that sounds really good.” Char admitted.

“I’ll swing over in a bit as soon as the bread is cool enough.”

“You’re a life-saver. Just let yourself in and leave it for me. I don’t want you to get what I have.”

“Sounds like a plan.”

Somehow in between the conversation with Char and loading the car, an extra loaf of bread and container of soup found its way into the cargo. She wouldn’t deny it; she had doubled the recipe thinking she might take some over to William. She had even dressed appropriately, knowing Char would have a field day with it.

Liz let herself into Char’s place. When Char didn’t answer her call, Liz went in search and found her ailing friend asleep on the sofa. Liz put the soup in the fridge and quietly let herself out.

Next stop, William’s. On the way Elizabeth rehearsed her lines on the way. She hoped to put them to good use.

William was surprised when the doorbell rang. He was shocked to see Elizabeth again.

“Hi! Come on in.”

Elizabeth stepped cautiously inside. “I hope I’m not intruding, but I still feel bad about letting you drink so much last night. I made some soup for Char – she’s sick – and thought you would like some, too. I always feel better after chicken noodle soup. Oh, and here’s some bread to go with it.”

Elizabeth handed them over to a flabbergasted William.

“I don’t know what to say. You didn’t need to do this, like you didn’t need to stay to make sure I was ok this morning, but thanks. I do appreciate it.”

Elizabeth felt all the awkwardness of the situation and moved to flee.

“I should be getting home.”

“Oh, uhm, have you eaten? It looks like there is enough for both of us.”

“I’ll eat at home. The ASU game starts in about 45 minutes and I should be going.”

Neither seemed to know what to do. What the hell, Will thought.

“Want to stay and watch it here and eat with me? I wasn’t going to do anything other than veg in front of the TV, anyway.”

“I don’t know, William. I just came to bring you something healthy for dinner.”

The disappointment showed on his face. Elizabeth was tired of feeling guilty and gave into the desire to do something right by him.

“Ok, but I must warn you that I get emotionally into these kinds of games and if things go poorly I’m likely to bitch at you for no reason.”

Will smirked, “I’m not afraid of you.”

“Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

“Duly noted.”

Liz went into the kitchen and made herself at home, heating the soup and pulling out some butter and jams for the bread from the fridge.

“Thank goodness you have real butter.” She yelled from the kitchen. “Grandma’s bread should not be polluted with margarine!”

While Will set things up so they could watch the TV while they ate, Elizabeth brought out two bowls of steaming goodness.

“That smells wonderful!”

“I ain’t done yet. Be right back.” She returned a few moments later with the bread and then went back once more for their for their drinks. They ate and watched a little bit of the men’s second round while waiting for the start of the women’s game.

Will learned very quickly that Elizabeth had been right to warn him. The Lady Sun Devils came out very sluggish against UC Riverside. By halftime, they were trailing by 7 points and she was not a very happy camper.

“At least they have another half to play. ASU isn’t seeded that high without reason.” Will commented

“Reason? They played like shit! The girls are playing too tight and if they don’t figure out how to relax they’ll be one-and-done.

After that outburst Will knew to leave well enough alone. Maybe it hadn’t been such a good idea to ask her to stay. Elizabeth got intense when it came to her team.

The second half didn’t start out much better. Elizabeth was upset. The Sun Devils were losing by 15 points before they slowly started clawing their way back into it.

As things got closer, Elizabeth remarked, “Coach Thorne always has a long bench. Watch, you can see Riverside is starting to drag a little. A game is 40 minutes long, we always stressed that.”

Sure enough, Elizabeth’s observations were right on the mark. In the final minutes Arizona State pulled even and then pushed ahead. With Riverside’s top scorer fouling out of the game, they withered under the relentless pressure of ASU’s defense. The Sun Devils managed to turn the 7-point halftime deficit into a 7-point victory.

Elizabeth sat in her easy chair, happy and exhausted.

“That was an experience,” William drawled.

“I did warn you.”

“Yeah, but I doubt I would have watched if you hadn’t been here.”

“It would have saved me a few gray hairs if I hadn’t watched, either. Thanks for putting up with me.”

They talked a few more minutes before Liz had the courage to bring up the night before. She blushed when she asked, “William, how much do you remember about last night.”

“I remember dinner and learning Fall Down, Arizona,” he smiled mischievously, but then frowned. “I don’t recall leaving and anything after that.” William noticed Elizabeth’s embarrassment. “Please don’t tell me I did something stupid. We didn’t…”

“Don’t worry, nothing like that happened. You were asleep before we made it home. You were a perfect gentleman, except for when you tried to kiss me and missed, but after that you sat back and were a good boy.”

“That’s a relief. I don’t normally get drunk like that, please believe me.”

“It’s ok, William. No harm, no foul.”

“You’re not upset with me?”

“Heavens, no. It happened, it’s over and… I really need to get going. Thanks for watching the ballgame with me.”

“I’ll call you.”

“Just not Monday night.” Will looked confused. “The next time my team plays.”

“Ah, yes. I’ll try to remember.”

Will walked Liz to her car. The night air was still a bit warm from the unseasonably hot day.

“Perfect weather for driving with the top down. Too bad I don’t have a convertible like someone I know,” she teased.

“It’s rough being the successful businessman,” Will shot back, then more gently replied, “Drive carefully, Liz – and thanks for dinner.”

*****

Tuesday afternoon Will, Luke and Charles where having a lunch meeting together. The fact that it was hot dogs and soda in the bleachers at Phoenix Municipal Stadium watching the Oakland A’s spring training game against the Chicago White Sox was beside the point. It was spring; the skies were blue – perfect chamber of commerce weather.

The grand old lady of the Cactus League stadiums sat nestled next to Papago Park and its red sandstone buttes. Within walking distance were the Phoenix Zoo*, the Desert Botanical Gardens** and the Papago Golf Course*** – for years and years ranked as one of the best public courses in the country. Lack of funding meant it looked a little shabby at present but the city had it slated for renovation and restoration in the near future. Still, people arrived early to park their cars jus to wait in line for a tee time as the price was right and the view was still spectacular.

The men couldn’t imagine a better way to spend an afternoon than playing hooky at the ballpark. The company was perfect and a sea of freshly cut green grass stretched out in front of them. One of the fun things about coming to these games was that the score didn’t really matter. At this point, the teams were just trying to get into playing shape and to sort through all the players in camp to decide on opening day rosters.

“How is it going with your new ‘girlfriends’?” Charles asked, very interested to see their responses.

Luke looked a bit discouraged. “Char’s been sick all weekend. We were supposed to go see a movie on Friday but she became ill before then. I haven’t seen her in about a week.”

“Wow, Luke, you are really taking this dating thing seriously. You’ve got less than two weeks to go before the deal is over.”

“I’m not keeping track of time. I like Char, I like her a lot and I plan on continuing to see her after this is over.”

“Even though she’s not up to your normal standards?” Charles prodded.

“What do you mean by that?”

“She’s a ‘slump buster’ remember?”

“You might think that, but I find her attractive in her own special way.” Luke had a goofy look on his face.

“They say love is blind.” Will piped in.

“Stay out of this Will, and don’t insult my girlfriend,” challenged Luke.

“She’s not a real girlfriend, Luke.”

“That’s what you may think about Liz, but that’s not how I see Char.” Luke sat up straighter and looked Will in the eye. “She’s the kind of woman worth having a relationship with, a real relationship. Let me live my life, ok?”

Will raised up his hands. “Take it easy, cuz. I’m not insulting Charlotte, I’m just trying to be honest. Yeah, I have fun watching ball games with Liz, but that’s all. She’s a buddy type of girl, not a significant other type of girl,” he said with a shrug.

“That may be how you see it,” Charles interrupted, “but you gave your word to treat her like you would any other girlfriend, while remaining the perfect gentleman. Have you two asked them to the Tovrea Fund Raiser Gala yet? It’s next weekend and I know you are going. You HAVE to ask them.”

“No, we don’t,” Will shot back. His social equals would be there, and Liz was not date material for that night.

“I beg to differ, it’s still within the one-month time frame. I expect you to ask her to be your date. And don’t pull this ‘asking her in such a way she is sure to refuse’ crap. Be a nice guy and do it right or you will to start over and get yourself another ‘Barn Yard Babe’ because I’m not finding you another one.” Charles poked Will in the chest. “Got it?”

Will just glared at Charles.

Charles turned again to speak to his other friend much more sympathetically. “I doubt Char will refuse you, Luke. Just ask her so she has enough time to go shopping for a new dress. Jane’s still looking for one and she’s known about it for a couple of weeks.”

“Thanks, I’ll call her tonight.”

“You were going to call her anyway,” Charles teased.

Luke just grinned in response.

* http://www.phoenixzoo.org/
** http://www.desertbotanical.org/
*** http://www.phoenix.gov/SPORTS/papago.html

Part 18

Will got over his temper tantrum and called Elizabeth that evening. He thought some small talk was in order.

“I saw that your Devils pulled it out again last night.”

Yeah, though they had me fit to be tied, again. I’m afraid I wasn’t very good company for anyone,” confessed Elizabeth.

“Fortunate you were alone?”

“Yeah.”

“I was wondering if you were busy this weekend. I thought maybe we could catch a movie and have dinner … or something,” he finished lamely.

“Other than Saturday morning I’m available, ballgame’s at 9am. I can’t stay out too late Friday, but you might not want to be around me that evening if ASU loses.”

“Hmm, I’ll take my chances on Saturday; I don’t have to worry about keeping you out too late. And if worse came to worst, you could use some cheering up.” Will offered.

“Any movie ideas?” Liz wondered what he had in mind.

“I was thinking 300.”

“Men in short tunics fighting with swords. Something for everyone!” she laughed.

“I had an idea you might say that.” Liz could hear his smile over the phone connection. “How about dinner at Monti’s and we can head over to Harkins Centerpoint.”

“I haven’t been to Monti’s since College.”

“I should have thought of that. Would you rather go someplace else?” Will felt like an idiot. She must have gone there dozens of times for team luncheons.

Elizabeth had been many, many times, but fortunately for William, she genuinely enjoyed the historic eatery. She immediately tried to set his mind at ease. “No, no. I have a hankering for a good steak.”

“As long as you are sure. Early dinner or do you want to catch the late showing?”

“Why not do the late showing? That way we can have a leisurely meal.”

“Fine.” Darcy gathered his nerve. “Elizabeth, while I have you on the phone, I wanted to invite you to be my guest at a fundraiser I’m attending next week. I believe Charles is taking Jane. I also need to tell you that it will be formal attire.”

“It’s been a long time since I was dressed up like that.” Liz shuddered at the memories.

“Is that a ‘no’?” Will asked, unsure of his reception.

“No, that was a reflection. What’s the cause?”

“It for the Tovrea Castle Restoration project. You are familiar with it?

“I’m a native; of course I know what the Tovrea Castle is. They’ve been working on the gardens and grounds.” Liz recalled reading about it in the local paper recently.

“They are ready focus on the final phase, the house itself. The gala will be held in the main building to show what is there, and more importantly, what needs to be restored.”

“You do realize what I would be giving up if ASU made the Final Four? They could be playing then.” Liz tried her best to convey that she was teasing.

Will picked up on her intent to tease him. “You could always tape it,” he fired back.

“They probably won’t be able to get past Duke, but who knows, Rutgers sounds like destiny after what happened with Jordan Johnson in November in the Virgin Islands. OK William, I’ll go with you to the Gala.” *

*****

Luke had no problem securing Charlotte’s consent to the Tovrea Gala. Char was looking forward to an up-close glimpse of the building that had fascinated her since she was a child. Luke did surprise her by asking if she wanted to go see the Air Show out at Luke Air Force Base.

“I don’t know if you like that sort of thing,” he said over the phone. “There will be a lot of people there, but I thought it sounded a bit like an adventure.”

“You mean you thought it would be loud.” Char wished she could see his face.

“Well, that too. Please? We’ll have a long time to talk and stuff like that. I thought women liked to get men in activities where they could engage them in conversation.”

“Oh right, in competition with jet engines. However, you are a lucky man. I enjoy an occasional air show. What day should we go?”

“The weather is the tricky part. We want clear, high skies so they can do the full show. The extended forecast looks clear, but to be on the safe side I want to plan for Saturday in case we need to push it back to Sunday.”

“Sounds like you have given this some thought,” Char teased.

“Does this surprise you?” he teased back. He loved it when Charlotte’s playful side escaped.

“No. Very well, Saturday it is.”

*****

Saturday morning Luke picked up Char for the ride out to the West Valley. It would surprise people to know the amount of aviation activity that occurs in the region. Lufthansa and the government of China send pilots to the Valley to train. At one point there were two Air Force Bases operating at opposite ends of the area. Alas, Williams Air Force Base did not survive the base closures that began in the late 1980’s. Military aviation might have taken a hit, but civil aviate remained vibrant. There were 8 airports in the metropolitan area, not counting Luke AFB, ranging from the small strip of Glendale Municipal to the busy runways of Sky Harbor International Airport. Sky Harbor was so busy that the City of Phoenix had added a second facility in Deer Valley in the north end of town to hand small aircraft; the only small airplanes allow at Sky Harbor now were various medical transport service planes.

The problem for Luke AFB was the growing population of the Valley. A base that was once in the middle of the desert, with cotton fields as its nearest neighbor, was now being encroached upon by subdivisions. In the 1980’s, local politicians began to understand the precarious position the base was in and started working to ensure that the base continued to have the room it needed to keep it from closure. It was deemed too important to the local economy to risk killing it because of unchecked urban sprawl.

This was an issue with which Luke Fitzwilliam was intimately acquainted and he and Char talked about it on their way to the show.

“It’s hard, because I sympathize with all the sides in the issue. The politicians have to try and do what is best for the majority, and that’s to keep the base open. Vets rely on the ability to get stuff from the base. It provides jobs for civilians. But what about the poor landowners who had the misfortune to own land inside the non-development zone? Their neighbors have the ability to sell their land to housing community people for a lot of money. They can retire very nicely on the windfalls but the poor people with farmland inside that zone can only sell it as farmland. There isn’t exactly a big market for that. Finally there are the developers who have to build houses to make money. They look for land and keep having to go further and further away from the heart of the metropolis.”

Char nodded. “The cost of housing has skyrocketed in the past five years. My parents’ home has nearly tripled in value during the housing boom.”

“The cost of a new home worries me. Copper Star Homes makes a lot of money building houses, but not as much as you would think. The per square foot price hasn’t tripled, but it has risen substantially. With property values what they are on existing homes, people find new homes more accessible. Unfortunately, they have to drive further and further to get one. That’s why the property around the Luke Base is so enticing.”

“Nothing is ever simple,” Char sighed.

“No, and the water situation can’t be ignored either. There is only so much water available. That’s why new communities such as Anthem are being so strict about landscaping. Low water usage is essential for continued growth, but people still have a need to see grass. Tucson has taken the approach of banning lawns for commercial properties. I think the Valley won’t be too far behind, at least for new developments.”

“You sound like you are involved in the business decisions at Copper Star.”

Luke hesitated, was it time to tell her more about himself? If he wanted to continue seeing Char, it was.

“Char, I have a confession to make. My family owns Copper Star Homes.”

“Oh… I had no idea.” Char was floored. She knew the owners must be very well to do.

“We try and stay out of the limelight,” Luke explained. “We market the company name, not the owners. I hope you are not upset that I wasn’t more forthcoming before.”

“Hmm.” Char really didn’t know what to think. She hadn’t been totally honest herself.

“Char, put yourself in my shoes for a minute. In the past I was more… vocal about who I am. Trying to impress women and all that. I soon found that when I did that more often than not they were interested in my net worth rather than in me. I got tired of it. A while back I changed tactics. Now I withhold that information about me.”

“How soon do you tell people?” Char was still dubious.

“You are the first woman I’ve told about Copper Star.” Char looked at him in disbelief. “Are you so surprised? You are the first woman I have dated in a long time that I wanted to continue to date, for a long time. Char, I like you, a lot. I think we have something special going here and I don’t want to blow it,” he confessed.

“I like you too, a lot,” she stammered. “You are the first person I can see myself with a year from now, and maybe longer. I can’t explain it; it just feels right.”

Luke reached over and grabbed her hand and gave it a squeeze. He looked over for a moment and smiled before returning his attention to the freeway. He didn’t let go of her hand until he needed it to steer.

They made their way to the Base and to the public parking. Luke paid the $5 fee and they found a spot and continued toward the security checkpoint to be allowed into the show.

Char was in a bit of a dilemma. After allowing him to hold her hand in the car, she knew he would want to continue to do so outside. However, this was against iLaw! rules. They were so close! If this had been date #4 she would have grabbed his hand, but it was not. Her sense of fair play prohibited her from cheating. She would need to choose her words wisely.

Sure enough, he reached for her hand as they walked along. Char stopped walking and tugged her hand away. Luke looked mortified.

“Luke… please not here.”

“I only tried to hold your hand like I did in the car,” he defended.

“That was in private.”

“What difference does that make?”

Charlotte sighed. “It makes a difference to me. We need to wait. I would not ask if it were not important to me.”

“I’m sorry, you lost me somewhere, Char.”

“Just… I can’t tell you right now. I promise it won’t be much longer. Respect me enough to accept my wishes.”

“Alright, but I still don’t understand why you let me touch you in the car but not out here. No one knows who we are.” Luke argued. Problem was, he was right.

“But I know who we are. That’s the difference between me and other women. Luke, I…Don’t be angry with me. Next time we go out I … I will be ready.”

“I can’t pretend that I might not try hold your hand today without thinking about it.” Luke was not very happy about her sudden change.

“I can live with that and long as you understand that this is important to me for the day.”

“Even though I don’t understand it and think it’s crazy?”

“Yes. Trust me?” Char silently willed him to do just that.

A little light bulb went off in Luke’s brain. Maybe she is just hormonal – Dad warned me about this in women. He was wrong, but at least he was trying.

“OK. After what I told you earlier, if I can’t wait a little, I’m a selfish beast.”

Whew, Char was relieved he had decided to humor her. Time to reciprocate.

“Selfish, handsome beast.”

“You think I’m handsome?” Luke was pleased.

“Yes, don’t go getting any ideas, they won’t work.” Char warned, not at all serious.

“Spoil sport.” He pretended to pout; Char just laughed and tugged on his arm.

“Come on, let’s go take a look at the planes and find a place to sit for the main event.” Char grinned, “It’s a perfect day for an air show.”

* I am referring to the death of the 15 year-old brother of ASU Senior forward, Aubree Johnson. The day Arizona State was scheduled to play Rutgers in an early season game in the Virgin Islands; the Johnson family awoke to find their son, Jordan, had passed away in his sleep due to an enlarged heart. There was no way ASU could have played in the wake of such a tragedy. In response to the horrifying news, Rutgers Coach C. Vivian Stringer kept her team away from the gym and per NCAA rules the game was abandoned. If Rutgers had shown, and ASU had not, ASU would have forfeited the contest.

To ensure the re-match, Rutgers would have to defeat the top seed in the entire tournament, Duke and ASU would have to take care of surprise Bowling Green who upset Vanderbilt to make the Sweet 16. These games took place on the Saturday of date # 3 for Luke and Char and Will and Liz. I’ll tell you what happened in the next chapter.

Part 19

The worst part about coming to the Luke Days Air Show is getting out of the parking lot at the end of it. The crowd estimate before the show was 100,000, and seeing how many people were milling around the exhibited aircraft, as well as those already seated watching the “warm-up” acts, Char could well believe that number was fairly accurate. When the last airplane touched down, Luke suggested they wait around to meet the Thunderbirds flight crews that would be available to greet the general public after the show. On a whim, Luke inquired if Char had a pen. Puzzled, she dug into her purse and produced two. He smiled and grabbed one and then pulled out the poster they bought along with the souvenir program and calendar – all three for $10!

“I’m going to get some autographs!” he exclaimed.

They spent an agreeable 45 minutes on the task before heading back to Luke’s car. Even with the delay, it still took them a half hour just to get out of the lot.

As they approached Phoenix, Luke asked Charlotte if she minded stopping by his house for a few minutes.

“I’m not trying to pressure you, Char. I just want to show you something before I drop you off.”

Char eyed him warily, but the look of boyish eagerness erased her doubts.

“What do you want to show me?”

“Tisk, tisk. It’s a surprise!”

Char chuckled. “Ok, we can stop.”

Luke’s grin increased when, a few minutes later, Char slipped her hand into his.

“We’re not in public,” she explained simply and they drove on in a contented silence.

Charlotte wasn’t too surprised when he pulled into the neighborhood in north central Phoenix. The ranch style homes were large, and the lots were about as big as they came in this part of the city. He could have lived in a more upscale section, but not by much. She was surprised, however, when he turned into a driveway that was lined with a white wooden fence.

“Do you own horses?” she asked in excitement.

“Yep, that’s what I wanted to show you. Let me introduce you to them.”

Luke led her around to the back of the house and there stood three beautiful equines.

“I always wanted a horse, but there was never any way that would happen. We grew up in your average neighborhood, not a horse in sight. Oh Luke, they are lovely!”

Char bubbled with enthusiasm. Luke brought her up to the fence and the horses ambled over to greet the newcomer – and to check out their owner for treats.

“The black one is Sheba, the bay is Aeneas, and this one here,” he patted the bay with the white streak down its face, “is Misty. I have a few more horses at the family’s ranch in the Verde Valley. These three are here to keep me company.”

“Do you take them out riding?” she asked.

“Yeah, here and on some of the other trails around the valley. They need the exercise. Do you know how to ride?” He hoped she did; if not, he was determined to teach her.

“I rode a few times at camp as a kid, but it’s been years and years since I was on a horse.”

“Good, if you could sit on a horse then, you can still do so now.” Luke was pleased. “I’d like to take you riding.”

Char let go of the breath she had been holding. She wanted him to offer. “I’d like that.”

They walked back to car and Char spied a rather large Ford F-250. “Nice truck, Luke.”

He grinned. “Thanks, I drive that to work, and it comes in handy with the horse trailers.”

“Yes, ‘mister home builder needs a man-vehicle’.”

“Yeah,” he laughed, “but it’s not that simple. I spend a lot of time on the jobsite and I need my truck.”

“Surely not to haul supplies?”

“No,” Luke confessed. “It is an image issue. The guys who work for me respond better when I show up driving that thing. I also wear pretty casual clothing.”

“Makes you look more like them?”

“Yes, and it’s is not an accident that I drive a Ford. If it wasn’t a Ford, it would be a Chevy or Dodge. American makes are just what the trades usually drive. All of Copper Star’s trucks are Fords; we get great fleet pricing.”

“Who knew a truck was so important?” Char said flippantly.

“Tradesmen may not have college degrees, but they are intelligent people. They have a code of ethics just like you do. I respect them and want their respect in turn. They see through bullshit, and they appreciate integrity. I try not to put on airs just because I’m the general contractor; we all have to work together to build a house. And frankly, if I pulled up in a Hummer, wearing a dress shirt and tie, they’d think I was an idiot, and they would be right.”

“I didn’t mean to sound condescending, Luke. I’m sorry if it came across that way.”

“I just wanted you to understand that this,” Luke waved his hand around, “is who I am. I’m not some refined socialite. I work hard trying to make an honest living.”

Char took his hand as they walked the rest of the way back to his car. “I know.”

*****

Liz and Will met for dinner at Monti’s that evening. The building that now houses the restaurant had been built in 1871 by Charles Trumbull Hayden and is the oldest continually occupied structure in the Valley. Hayden’s first child, a son, was born in the adobe hacienda in 1877. The child, Carl Hayden, later became a US Congressman for the state of Arizona, serving for 57 years in the House and the Senate before he finally retired.

The place has a ramshackle, meandering feeling to it. However, that just adds to the ambiance. When a Valley resident wants to take an out-of-town guest to dinner at a restaurant with a decidedly local character, and passes on Mexican food, Monti’s is on the short list of destinations.

Liz had, of course, once again dressed the dowdy part. Will greeted her like an old friend.

“I saw that ASU won this morning. First trip to the Elite Eight.”

“Yeah, it was a relief to see them finally play well,” Elizabeth said with an obvious lack of conviction.

“I thought you would be on cloud nine.”

Liz gave him a weak smile. “I was, until the next two games. I was disappointed with the outcomes. No, that’s not quite right. I was happy that Rutgers beat Duke. I know how much Coach must have wanted to play them. But the way they won, it’s hard to swallow.”

“What happened?”

“Rutgers had a one-point lead at the end of the game when Duke’s point guard stole the ball and drove to the basket. She was fouled with 0.1 seconds remaining. The poor girl missed both shots. I knew when she missed the first that she would miss the second.”

“What an end! But, Liz, I still don’t understand. Why are you upset about it if you wanted Rutgers to win?” Will wondered if he had missed something.

“Did you play sports growing up?”

“Yeah, Little League, and I played sports in high school.”

“Tell me, though I already know the answer, were you ever directly responsible for your team losing a game?”

William thought for a moment. “No, I can’t say that I remember losing a game for my team.”

“Trust me, if you did, you would remember it.” Elizabeth continued. “My junior year in high school we were playing in the state semi-final game. The score was tied and there were less than 10 seconds left. I had the ball in my hands and passed to a teammate. The only problem was that I misread her cut and threw the ball away. If I had not been in such a rush to make the pass, I would have noticed that she had made a perfect backdoor cut and was headed, wide open, to the basket. It would have been a simple pass and a lay up. Instead the other team got the ball and we ended up losing the game in overtime.”

“But you still had the chance to win it in overtime?”

“You don’t get it. It should never have had to go to overtime. I made that play hundreds of times in practice, but I messed it up when it mattered the most. I can see it in my mind like it was yesterday. You never forget that.”

“That’s why you are upset?”

“Partially. The Duke point guard is a great basketball player. However, she will have to live with the memory of her failure for the rest of her life.”

“It’s just a game.”

“No, William, it’s not. When you play sports on scholarship, it becomes your job. You are exchanging your skills for a college education. In some places, you are talking trading four years on the court for a degree that would cost you well over $100,000.”

“That’s a very pragmatic attitude.”

“Look at it this way,” Liz tried to change tactics, “do you want to be known as the man whose firm tore down the Cine Capri?”

“Of course not. My firm has done other major projects.”

“The girl from Duke, no matter what she does in the future, will always carry the burden of being the one who missed two free-throws. Her team was the favorite to win it all.”

Will remained pensive. “I think I see your point. I’m just surprised it could put you in such a reflective mood.”

“That’s not the only thing that bothered me. I was pulling for North Carolina State, too, and they also lost today.” She noticed the confused look on his face. “I see that I need to explain this as well.”

“The coach for NC State is Kay Yow. She’s in the Hall of Fame, a great coach. Earlier this season she found out that she has cancer. It’s the third time for her. It’s also very advanced, Stage Four. She missed 16 games before she was able to come back.” Liz paused to wipe a tear from her eye. “The prognosis is not good, and she looks so tired. Her players were playing for her today.”

“Do you know Coach Yow personally?”

“No, we’ve never met, but she is one of the giants in women’s college basketball. It’s hard watching. The irony of the whole thing is that this has happened at NC State before. Remember when the men’s coach, Jim Valvano, died from cancer? We were kids, but I still remember all the media attention that it got. There were huge fundraisers, testimonials, you name it. If this disease takes Coach Yow, will it even make much of a ripple? Sure, the women’s basketball community will mourn and do things in her honor, but will the rest of society give a damn? It will be yesterday’s news the day after it happens – to be forgotten like so many other important things.”

By this time, tears were running down her cheek and all Will could do was put his hand on hers and remain silent. It was the wisest thing he had done since he met her.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to get all emotional on you,” she sniffled.

“Don’t be sorry. You obviously care. I confess I knew nothing about this before you told me, but I feel ashamed that you are probably correct in your predictions. It’s not right that one life should have more value to our society than another.”

Elizabeth sighed, he was being very considerate. Determined to be more cheerful, she changed the subject, and unobtrusively withdrew her hand from underneath his. He felt oddly bereft.

“I don’t know that much about you other than what I found out online. I know you have a sister and that you own DDC. Is you father retired?

It was Will’s turn to sigh. “Georgiana is my only immediate family. My parents were killed in an accident on I-17 coming back from Sedona six years ago. It’s been just me and my sister since then.”

“I’m sorry William, I didn’t know. Your sister must have been young.”

“Fourteen and a freshman in high school.”

“You have raised her then through the most difficult years.” Liz was impressed.

“I was lucky, she’s really got a good head on her shoulders. Luke’s family was a big help and supported us through everything.”

“You were very young to take over DDC.”

Will shrugged, “I did what needed to be done. I grew up with the expectation of taking over the family business; I didn’t expect it to be so soon. Thank God I had a few years working with my Dad or I would never have been able to survive. What about your family? I know you have your older sister, Jane.”

“My parents still live in town. My Dad teaches at Camelback High School and my Mom is an insurance agent. I’m the second of five girls. Jane you know. Mary is the next one after me, and then comes Kathy and Lydia. Lydia is the last one still at home. She’s at ASU right now, but only because there were no more classes she wanted to take at the junior college level.”

“Wow, five girls.”

“And we had to share one bathroom growing up!”

They both laughed and started to tell each other stories from their childhood. The food came and they had a leisurely dinner with plenty of time just to talk until they had to head over to the theater for the movie.

“Last call to change your mind,” Will said as they came up to the ticket window.

“Not a chance. Gerard Butler nearly naked. Enough said.”

“Then I can drool over Lena Headey with impunity?”

“Keep your spittle to yourself and we shall be perfectly content in our lusting.”

Will laughed as he pulled open the theater door. “After you.”

Part 20

The ladies had decided on an early Sunday Brunch. The potential for shopping hung in the air and all four arrived in eager anticipation.

First things first, food.

After every one had their order placed, iLaw! round-the-table was now in session.

“How was the Air Show?” Jane asked.

“We had a blast!” Char enthused. “It was loud, crowded and the planes were amazing! After the Thunderbirds performed we stayed and got all their autographs waiting for the parking lot to clear.”

“Did you bring them to ‘show and tell?’” Liz teased.

“Luke was actually the one who asked. It seemed rude to ask for a second set.”

Maria couldn’t resist, “I think it’s because Char has hopes to share the set they already have.” Char answered such impertinence with an elbow. “Ow! Oh come on, Sis! We can all see how crazy you are about Luke. Deny it, I dare you.”

The shy Char returned. “I like Luke.”

“And?” Maria prompted.

“I like him, that’s all I’ll say right now.”

“Good Lord, this is serious! We should have figured out this bet thing years ago, then all of us would be married by now – based on Char’s experience.”

“Stop it, Maria!”

All four burst into giggles.

iLaw! – When ladies meet to discuss manflesh, laughter is expected and required.

“What about Liz, she’s seeing Will, are you as taken with your beau as Char? Come on girlfriend. Fess up.” Maria raised her eyebrow in a very patronizing manner.

Elizabeth refused to take the bait and answered in her most disinterested tone of voice.

“There is not much to relate. Last night we had dinner and then went to see 300.”

“Nearly naked Gerry!” Jane cooed and the other ladies looked at her. “Hey, I may be dating Charles, but I have eyes and carnal desires like every other woman!”

Another fit of laughter extinguished conversation for a few minutes.

“Was it a nice evening?” Lawyer Jane attempted to regain control of the conversation.

“We had time to just sit and talk. I learned a lot about William. He’s very different from what I first thought he was,” Elizabeth confessed.

“What ever happened to Miss I’m-going-to-teach-that-man-a-lesson Elizabeth Bennet?”

“OK, I admit I was perhaps a little hasty in my initial judgment,” Liz said rather sheepishly

“A little?” Char smirked.

“Shush, Char. I wasn’t finished! They guy is still a bit too arrogant and vain for his own good. But deep down he’s … nice. I can see us remaining good friends after this is all over.”

“Friends?” came the united cry of disbelief.

“Liz, can you honestly say that you could never see William ‘Hunk’ Darcy as anything other than your friend? And look me in the eye when you answer me!” Jane demanded.

Elizabeth looked at Jane … and blushed.

“I told you so!” Jane crowed, “you like Will.”

“I didn’t say that!” Liz sighed, “However, there is this little problem that while Luke is truly taken with Char, William continues to treat me the same way, like one of his buddies. We’ve had a good time watching games together and I’ve enjoyed our conversations, but there’s never been anything more than that. He’s never, you know, shown any signs of that kind of interest.” At least not while sober, Liz added to herself.

Sympathetic, older sister Jane patted Elizabeth’s hand. “Liz, honey. Some of the most enduring relationships start out as friendships.”

“Jane, thanks, but I think the real problem is that when William sees me dressed up as a Betty and any feelings of attraction die a sudden death.”

No one disagreed.

“What I think is needed here is the implementation of the ‘Fashion Emergency Clause.’” Maria continued, “Both of you have had three iLaw! dates, correct?”

Liz faltered, “I’ve been meaning to clarify that. Last weekend when Char was sick I made some soup and took it over to her … and then I took some more to William. I felt bad about the hangover I gave him. He ended up asking me to stay and eat and watch the game with him. I figured since I was the one who initiated the evening, and that we had basically done the same thing the night before, that it wasn’t a date.”

“I concur. Jane, Char?” They nodded assent. “Then both of you have had three dates and the next one is your last. Jane says that Charles told her that you are going to the Tovrea Gala this weekend. I would say that would be date # 4 for both of you. That being the case, the bet would be a tie and it would be over. Agreed?” There were various murmurs of agreement.

“In that case, we – Jane and I – do not want you to go to that Gala dressed as anything other than your gorgeous selves. Fashion Emergency Clause clearly is in order. I mean, I just cannot abide the thought that you would show up in some God-awful looking prom or bridesmaid dress!”

Liz and Char broke out into wide grins.

“I say we adjourn this meeting and reconvene at Scottsdale Fashion Square.” Jane made a motion. “All in favor, say ‘Neiman Marcus’!”

“Neiman Marcus!” the quartet chorused.

An hour later found the ladies walking towards the evening gown section at the aforementioned establishment.

Jane finished her call on her cell phone “Ok, Maria, Charles agrees that you and Perry should be there on Saturday and says you can come as his guests. He’ll take care of all the arrangements.”

“Excellent, that means we are all looking for that perfect gown!” Maria answered.

A well-dressed Neiman Marcus sales associate then appeared. “May I be of some assistance?”

Jane explained what they were looking for and the assistant smiled, “Of course, come this way.”

Cha-ching!

*****

Monday evening, about 30 minutes after Rutgers beat Arizona State, Will called Liz.

“I just called to make sure you weren’t ready to jump off a bridge or something.”

“Thanks for the support, buster.” Liz gave him her best mocking voice.

“Seriously, I watched the end of the game and was worried about you. I know how into your team you are.”

Elizabeth was rather taken aback, he was being so sweet!

“Thanks, honestly. I’m disappointed, but not terribly upset. I saw the result coming and sometimes it’s easy to lose by a lot than by a few points. Not as much to second guess yourself on. Rutgers was obviously the better team and they deserved to win.”

“You are taking this better than I imagined, but then your reactions to the games on Saturday should have clued me in that not all is as it appears with you. I’m never sure exactly what is going on in that brain of yours.”

Will wasn’t sure what he meant by that last sentence.

“Spoken like a guy, but I do appreciate your concern. At least I won’t be pouting about missing the semifinals on Saturday.”

“Speaking of Saturday, do you want me to pick you up?”

Now that they had come to it, Elizabeth didn’t know quite sure how to respond. “Ah, no. Char and I will meet you and Luke there. She told me that you knew they were coming as well.”

“Alright, if you prefer that. Are you sure you have something appropriate to wear?” Will paused, “I wouldn’t want you to feel underdressed. Maybe Jane could go shopping with you”

‘Please make an effort to look good! Jane won’t let you come dressed like my mother.’ Will thought.

“William, I know what is expected. I had to go to formal events like these when I was in cotillion.”

“Cotillion? But…”

“But what? I was in Phoenix Honors Cotillion.”Liz stated rather matter of fact.

“You, er, you don’t look like a debutante,” was all he could respond.

“That was years ago. I only did it to appease my Mother. She wasn’t too happy about me being into sports and all and she kind of insisted I follow in Jane’s footstep and do the whole debutante thing. I will say it taught me a lot about human nature.”

“I’m…” Will was truly speechless, “Then I’ll see you Saturday?”

Liz was looking forward to seeing the look on Will’s face Saturday evening; she rather wished she could see it now.

*****

Thursday noon, Liz met her old friend and team-mate from high school, Ellie Peterson, for lunch at Chompie’s. Liz was in the mood for a good kosher Rueben. Ellie was a beautiful, graceful woman with flowing auburn hair Liz always admired. They were catching up on mutual acquaintances when Ellie spoke.

“Car and Driver.”

Liz looked for the man and machine in question. With a sinking feeling she saw a blue Viper and a moment later she spied Will and an unknown gentleman walking towards the door.

“Oh no!” she groaned. “Ellie, that driver is a man I do not want to meet. If he recognized me, I’m going to claim to be my sister Mary. He’s never met her and he might fall for it.”

“You don’t look like Mary, and why don’t you want him to see you?”

“It’s a long story, but suffice it to say that he has never seen me other than dressed to look… plain.”

Ellie gave her a skeptical look, but agreed. Liz did her best to hide her face with her hand, horrified that they were coming right towards them. At the last moment she leaned over to look for something in her purse and the men walked past them to the next table. Elizabeth said a short prayer that was miraculously answered. Will sat down at the chair behind her. Now their backs were to each other.

“Don’t you dare say my name,” Liz hissed. “I’ll tell you everything later. Deal?”

Ellie nodded, enjoying the flustered appearance of her old friend.

Liz tried not to eavesdrop, she really did, but she couldn’t help herself.

“Thanks, I’ll have a Rueben.” Will told the waitress.

He ordered the same thing as me, again! Liz was incredulous.

As soon as the waitress left, his lunch companion asked Will a question about more personal matters

“Seeing anyone lately? The last time I saw you with a female was at the Suns/Mavs game a few weeks ago.”

“That was Elizabeth. We’ve been out a few times.” Will answer smoothly.

“Really! She doesn’t seem your type,” the unknown gentleman seemed genuinely surprised.

Elizabeth could feel William squirming in his chair.

“No, she’s not. I’m just taking her out as a favor to a friend,” Will lied.

“That’s some sacrifice on your part, who is the favored fellow?”

“Charles Bingley. You’ve met. Elizabeth is his girlfriend’s sister.”

“Will, from what I saw of the woman I’m amazed that you are doing this.” The man stopped and then added in lascivious tone that revolted Elizabeth, “Perhaps there is a little something something in it for you?”

Will was now annoyed. “Guy, not everything is about sex.” He looked around to make sure no one had heard him. Will then spoke in a low and agitated tone. “Look, I’ll set you straight. I lost a bet to Charles about picking up a woman in a bar. Hell, Luke lost the same bet. Charles got the girl, turns out they actually hit it off, and Luke and I got the Plain-Jane’s as girls for a month. I’m just taking Elizabeth out to make good on my bet. Ok? Can we leave this now?”

Liz didn’t bother to listen any longer. She pulled out a $20 from her wallet and put it on the table.

“Liz…” Ellie tried to console her friend, but she would have none of it.

“Not now. I’m not feeling well. I’ll call you later.”

Elizabeth stood up and walked out of the restaurant, never pausing to look back.

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