***Chapter Twenty-Seven***
Word Count: 5,899

"Your appointment is here," Ronda said. "I take it it's someone you know since you booked it yourself."

"Yup. Great, thanks. I'll be right there," John said.

He was actually looking forward to seeing Phil in an odd sort of way. The hugging aside he wasn't a bad guy. It was too bad Claire wasn't better, closer friends with him because John could actually see himself getting along with the guy. Whether Claire would get along with his girlfriend (presumably fiancée now if they had an appointment scheduled) so the four of them could do things together was another story. John didn't think Claire was friends with many accountants.

He'd been glad Phil called one afternoon after Ronda had left when John was in his office working on some paperwork. They'd talked for a bit about things beyond scheduling the appointment. It was kind of nice. He and Glen didn't do that, call one another for no reason. Phil calling to schedule the appointment had obviously meant the girlfriend had said yes and, admittedly, John didn't mind the interruption today. Things were pretty slow with the push of Christmas photos done. There was always a huge lull immediately after Christmas as far as sitting appointments went. The cycle would start again in a few months: Easter pictures, then weddings, and then graduation pictures. It was predictable. Steady. He'd never imagined either of those words being used in conjunction with his life, but it was what it was. Throw in being a home owner and now married into the equation and his life was as far removed from where he'd pictured it being four or five years ago.

His first thought was that Elizabeth wasn't like any accountant he'd ever pictured. He pictured big, thick glasses and hair fastened in a tight bun or updo of some sort with very plain, monotone clothes. She was nothing like that. She was, in fact, pretty damned fine. If they'd met under different circumstances, both of them being single, he would've focused on her right away upon entering a bar. He guessed they didn't make accountants like he thought, or she was just a very, very gorgeous exception to the rule.

"Hey," he said, regarding Phillip. "I take it you had a good Christmas then," he said, shaking his hand.

"We did, thanks. You?"

"Yeah, it was good. You know, dinner with her family and stuff. It was nice."

"Your first together."

It was his first Christmas with anyone of any significance, aside from his parents. He'd hunted for weeks for the perfect gift for her. Ronda had gotten tired of him calling her all of the time when he'd go out during the day to shop. Ultimately, he'd settled on a pretty nice sapphire ring, one he actually remembered buying and picking out for her this time from the get go. He'd thought jewelry was entirely too cliché, but Ronda had insisted no woman thought that about nice jewelry. He'd chosen sapphire because it was the birthstone of the month they got married. He'd eyed a nice diamond ring initially, but had decided against it since she already had one of those.

She'd given him a new camera that he'd mentioned in passing being interested in over the summer. He'd teased her about being surprised that she paid attention to anything he said. It cost more than the ring did, but he supposed things like price tags on gifts weren't supposed to be entered into the equation. Besides, he wouldn't wear the camera, she'd wear the ring and while he wasn't an expert by any means he knew it was a nice looking ring.

"Uh yeah. My first with anyone really."

They'd briefly talked about their holidays while on the phone the other day. Phil had assumed John wouldn't be able to get him in for an appointment anytime soon, so when John mentioned an opening this week he'd been surprised. The week after Christmas was typically dead. People blew most of their money on gifts and pictures for Christmas cards to get more taken.

"How was it?"

"Different," he admitted, eyeing the other people with him and his fiancée.

"I bet," he said, seeming to catch that John was looking at the others with him. "Oh, sorry. These are my parents. They wanted to come with since they weren't able to make it to your reception."

"Oh, sure," he said. "Nice to meet you," he said, shaking their hands when they offered them to him.

"We felt awful that we couldn't make it to your reception, but we had an engagement we had already committed to attending on the same night," Phillip's mother said.

"It's not a problem. I know Claire and her parents would have liked if you were there, but they understood I'm sure." He hadn't even known these people existed until that night, but Claire, and Phillip too, made it sound like their families had been fairly tight throughout the years so John hoped he said the right thing there. He assumed he did. Sometimes he felt as though he needed a script or cue cards because he felt out of his element talking to the people she and her family knew. Phillip was about the only exception, which probably explained why John liked him.

"Phillip says it was a beautiful party."

"I'm glad he thought so. It was pretty nice," John said. "I admit I had very little to do with any of it. I just kind of showed up when I was told to be there, wearing what I was told to wear. I think Claire preferred it that way."

John had to admit the suit was exceptional. Never having a suit made specifically for him before he'd never understood the drastic difference in something like that versus what he'd bought to this point at a department store. He'd gotten by with buying higher-end suits at places like Carson's and Penney's versus investing in something that cost an arm and a leg from Field's or places like that. He was sure to the trained eye his suits were obvious what they were, but he wasn't expected to show up in Armani. He was just expected to show up in a suit and tie, looking presentable.

Phillip's mom laughed at that, so John took it to mean she understood the type of person Claire (and her mother) was.

"Anyway," John said. "Um, did any of you want some coffee or something? I can have some brewed for you if you did?" Ronda didn't mind doing that sort of thing only because she insisted he'd scare customers away with his version of coffee.

"No, thank you, John. Sol and I really just wanted to meet you and since Phillip mentioned his appointment with you we figured we'd take advantage of the opportunity and come see your studio as well as you."

"Oh, sure," he said. He wasn't sure why they cared, but it was nice to have people interested in what he was doing. Other than Claire he didn't really have anyone who gave a shit what he was doing with his life. Glen did, sure. Charlie might care if he could stop getting high on something for a few minutes to recognize things going on around him. "I could show you all around if you wanted to. You're my last appointment of the day so it's no trouble or anything."

In truth, Phillip was his only appointment for the day. There were weeks during the year that Ronda brought books with her to work. John didn't care as long as the phone got answered and the appointments got scheduled. This was one of those weeks. The busy months a short while from now more than made up for the lean few weeks ahead.

"We'd love to."

"You go on ahead, Mom and Dad, Liz and I are going to look through this stuff his assistant gave us."

"Sure," his mom said. "So you've done this all on your own?" she asked, taking hold of his arm as he started walking away from the waiting area. Claire's mom had done that a couple of times so he wasn't completely taken aback by the gesture, but it was still a little strange to him that people did that.

"Uh, yeah," he said. "For the most part. I had some help in the beginning. You know, people did me some favors and I bartered my way into my first bit of space."


"Yeah," he said.

"How so?"

"Well," he said, surprised she seemed legitimately interested in what he was saying. "When you take pictures you have something to offer people. Their son plays Little League so you offer to take pictures of the son or the whole team. Or their daughter's getting baptized you offer to take pictures. Or whatever. I got pretty creative if I had to, but at least it's a skill I could negotiate with."

"You were resourceful enough to think to do that?"

"Well, sure, I had to pay rent and eat if I could," he said. He didn't think what he did was that out of the ordinary or anything. He did what he had to do to survive. "No one else was going to help me so I had to help myself."

"Impressive," she said. John glanced at her and saw that she was sincere. He'd thought for a minute she was being sarcastic or demeaning but he didn't see that when she was looking at him. He actually saw a bit of respect there. Her husband, Sol, was oddly silent through this whole tour.

"You have a charming business here, John. You've obviously done so well for yourself."

"Thank you, ma'am," he said.

"You can call me Cecile."

"All right, Cecile," he said. "It was nice to meet you."

"Sol, say something to him so he doesn't think you're a curmudgeon."

"It is very nice. You've done well for yourself here, John."

"Thank you," he said, not missing the fact her husband had said basically the same thing she had. It was okay. They were being nice, that was cool. What could he expect out of virtual strangers who he was just meeting? No doubt the Taylors hadn't had to barter their way into or out of anything when they were starting out.

"Phillip says you have a home, too."

"Yes, Sir," he said.

"Sol, please."

Man, they were way less formal than he expected. He still wasn't sure what to call Claire's parents'. He called them by their first names, but every time he did he felt incredibly wrong about doing it. He had never met these people before today and they wanted him to do it. Odd for people like them.

"It's just a bungalow. Nothing fancy or anything, probably on the small side for Claire but she seems to like it there well enough for now."

"I'm sure she does. It's an adjustment, though, for her. A good starter home, though, before you start having a family."

"Yeah, a little of one," he said.

He really didn't foresee moving anytime soon even if they were able to have a kid. He liked his house, Claire seemed to as well. True, it was much smaller than hers and probably anything she'd dreamt of living in growing up but it was nice. He even had to admit the things she'd been doing to it since September were adding to its appeal to him. Things like wallpaper and better curtains, plants and lacy things that he had no idea what the name for them was on the end tables. Silly things, but they were making it into a home. Their home. He couldn't get mad about that.

"Perhaps one day we'll see it, too. Phillip says you have an incredible front porch."

"Oh yeah, it's pretty great. Not so much at this time of the year, but Claire and I got a lot of use out of last summer and into the fall."

They'd learned during the summer that the side area of the porch, which John had done little to furnish or anything because it faced the house next to his. Well, they could do most anything they wanted to do there without being seen from the street. More than once they'd spent the night out there in a sleeping bag he had. His next door neighbor never came to that side of his house unless he was mowing his lawn and even if he did. What was he going to do? Call the police for them sleeping on his porch together? The guy was single with no kids so John wasn't worried about a little kid stumbling upon them.

"That's nice that you can enjoy it then."

"Yeah," he said, hoping the woman had no idea what John had just been thinking about. She and her husband didn't strike him as the type to campout in sleeping bags. Claire didn't really either, but she'd been more than agreeable the few times they'd done it this summer. She seemed to like the daringness of it.

"Well, we'll leave you to Phillip and Elizabeth. We are so glad to finally meet you."

"Yeah, you, too," he said. "Thanks. You can certainly stay if you want."

"Oh, no. This is between them. We don't want to impose on that."

"Sure," he said, understanding. It was a pretty personal thing, especially if Phillip and Elizabeth were paying for things on their own or Elizabeth's parents were. He doubted Phillip's would turn down contributing to their son's wedding expenses. Then what did he know?

"So, why does your family seem to like me so well?" he asked Phillip once they'd left. They drove a nice, shiny new Mercedes he noticed.

"What do you mean? Why wouldn't they?"

"I don't know. Your parents came here seemingly just to meet me based on the fact they left before we could talk about your engagement pictures. You with the hugging."

"We're just happy for Claire. We've known her all of her life."

"I don't believe you," he said simply. He didn't. It was too weird. People like Claire's parents didn't just accept him. Claire's parents were still trying to wrap their heads around the fact he was their son-in-law. They were decent and polite to John, but he could see in their eyes they were waiting for him to prove them right that he'd married her to get his hands on her money or something.

"You've never heard my parents' names before?"

"What do you mean?"

"Sol and Cecile?"

"No," he said with a frown. "Should I have? I don't know. Don't go getting mad at Claire or her parents for not mentioning them. I'm sure it was an oversight. I told you, I met so many people at that reception and for the few weeks before that it was like being overloaded with information."

"Well, no, I don't know why Claire's would mention them particularly. I just assumed the names would be familiar to you."

"Okay," he said, though he wasn't thoroughly convinced that was the case. He couldn't pry it out of him, though. They were here for a consultation not to be questioned by him.

"Really, John, we're just happy for Claire. I don't know why you don't believe that."

"Because people like you don't hug people like me. People like you hardly like people like me most of the time."

"John, you're selling yourself short if you think that. No one dislikes you. I don't know you real well, but I can tell you're not an easy person to get to know. Your company name even. Claire's the only one who knows what it means you said."

"Yeah." There were a few others from high school who would get it if he explained it to them, but she was the only one he'd ever explained the meaning of the letters EMS to specifically.

"Maybe we just want to get to know Claire's husband."

"Uh huh," John said. "All right we'll play it your way but I still don't believe you."

Phillip looked a little perturbed by their conversation and John's last comment in particular. He may not be a genius like Brian Johnson was, but he wasn't born yesterday either. He knew when something weird was going on. He just couldn't wrap his mind around what their angle was.

"Anyway, this is Elizabeth."

"Right. The reason you're here today. Good to meet you." He had the books he used for engagement photo sittings out and ready to go so it didn't take long to get down to business and forget about their conversation.

"You, too, Phillip spoke highly of you."

"Well, hopefully I can live up to his expectations. I do my best."

Her ring was the type that was designed to get attention. It was large, bordering on being just a bit gaudy. John noticed these things more now than he did before. A part of him felt like the worst kind of asshole that Claire missed out on this stuff. Engagement rings. Shopping for photographers, florists, cakes, and everything else that went with a wedding. Oh, sure, she'd gotten to do some of the things for the reception, but it wasn't the same and he knew it. (She'd let him pick the photographer. He had one or two that he traded business with on things like their reception when they couldn't take their own pictures.) She'd been shortchanged all sorts of things even though she claimed she didn't want them. He knew better because he knew her.

"So, you looked at the package information," he said, wanting to get his mind away from those thoughts. They'd eat at him and kill him if he let them. It wasn't as if they could go back and undo it anyway. She had a pretty nice ring. It wasn't as large as Elizabeth's, but John couldn't afford one that big anyway. He was pretty sure, too, as much as Claire would love a ring like it she'd be mad at John for spending that much money on it. As it was, he'd spent a fair amount on the one she had anyway. No one could look at it and think he'd been frugal anyway.


"I thought you'd never get here," Claire said once she'd led John to her office. There was a security guard and reception desk area downstairs John had to pass before coming up here so she'd known he was on his way up when she'd been called to say someone was here to see her.

"I called you before I left work."

"I know," she said. "I just didn't eat lunch today so I'm starving."

"Why not?" he asked.

"Well, I meant to. I did, you know, but I started getting involved on the phone and the next thing I knew the sandwich I'd ordered was cold and when I tried to reheat it. Well, it didn't look appetizing at all."

"Sorry," he said.

"It's not your fault." In fact, he'd told her more than once she needed to keep something in her office like granola bars or even a jar of peanuts for something to eat because she skipped lunch at least one or two days during the week just by being immersed in something.

"What did you get involved in?"

"Oh, this piece of land Dad's interested in kind of near the one in Kankakee we looked at before."


"These guys aren't quite as interested in selling as the other ones were. So it's lots of haggling, lots of back and forth, lots of low balling."

"You look like you have a headache."

"I do!"

"I have to admit those words coming from your mouth are kind of funny."

"I'm glad you think so. I almost started crying."


"I did! I mean, I didn't cry, but I closed my office door and took about five minutes for myself."


"The guy was just a chauvinist pig. He kept calling me sweetheart."

"Like someone else you know."

"You are allowed to call me that and you don't call me sweetheart. And you don't say the word dripping with condescension either."

"Oh, Princess."

"I know you have at times, but you at least did it to my face and you knew me. This guy doesn't even know me. And somehow, when you call me Princess you make it sound endearing. Sweets is a different story, sometimes you say that one to be a jerk. Usually for a reason, though, and I've come to realize that. He's just being a prick."

"I was trying to be a prick."

"I liked you too much for it to work."

"The feeling was mutual."

"You had a funny way of showing it."

"I'm sorry," he said, closing the distance between them and taking her into his arms like she wanted him to do hours ago. Those five minutes she took she'd wished he was here because she knew he'd know exactly what to do to make her feel better.

She knew he wasn't saying he was sorry for not showing her he liked her before. He was sorry she had a bad day and there was nothing he could do to fix it. She realized if he could fix it he would. If she told him the guy's name who treated her like that he'd probably visit him and say a few words to him. Or slug him. He'd do it, too, she knew he would.

She absolutely loved that about him, knowing he'd do anything for her. The feeling was mutual, though she didn't think it was as obvious to him she'd do the same for him. She tried to show him, but she wasn't as good at it as he was. Ironic since he was the one who didn't want to like or love anyone. It was just so new to her to have someone to love, to have to show she felt that way. She knew sex wasn't the answer all of the time. (She doubted he was complaining about their sex life, though.)

It was utterly ridiculous that when she felt like that, crying and just stupid, she wanted John. It wasn't the first time she'd encountered people who wanted to talk to her dad or Christopher over her. She understood that they wanted to talk to someone they were familiar with. She got that completely.

It was the man's way of talking to her that upset her so much. As if she couldn't possibly be smart enough to negotiate a deal with him because she was a woman. It took every ounce of self-control she had not to hang up on him.

First she wanted to call him a few choice names, though.

Then she would've hung up.

She couldn't do that, no matter how tempting it was. Her father would probably kill her if she did something like that. She could probably tell her dad she didn't want to deal with Mr. Klein anymore and why. Her dad would let her out of it, but he wouldn't respect her. He certainly wouldn't think she was ready for more responsibilities.

Her dad had told her she had to develop thick skin. There'd been no female Standish involved with the company until now so she'd be treated differently for a while. She got that. She did. She just hadn't expected … Someone to be so demeaning. As if she was only good enough to fetch his coffee or type a letter. She hadn't graduated Northwestern Cum Laude to fetch coffee for anyone but herself.

(Yes, she had an admin who was willing to fetch Claire her coffee, but she'd never asked her to do it unless she was getting her own.)

He kissed her then and she kissed him back way more urgently than he probably expected her to. He clearly didn't mind, though, and she loved that about him, too.

"Fuck," he murmured when she worked his coat off. He'd undone the zipper already, probably as soon as he walked into the building. He didn't like it being closed any more than she liked her coat closed. His business relied on him not getting sick a lot more than hers did, though, so he did what he could to keep from getting sick.

She let the coat fall to the floor and reached under his shirt. Of course he was wearing a long-sleeved shirt that didn't button today. So she settled for finding the fastening on his jeans.

"Please," she whispered.


"There's no one here!"

"No one?"

"No, I am the last one to leave because I was waiting for you."

"Well, then shut the door and stay facing it, Princess."

She did what he said and groaned softly when he brushed her hair away from the back of her neck to kiss her there.

"You're sure?" He drew her skirt up as he asked the question, though, so he evidently wasn't hugely concerned about it.


"I swear to God if your dad walks in here…"

"He's not! He's probably home already having dinner with Mom."

She cried out as he slid inside of her. He found her ear then, kissing her there as he moved inside of her. He wasn't being overly slow or gentle, but she wasn't looking for that right now. She just needed him and he seemed to get that. He slid his left hand over hers, lacing his fingers through hers. He did that a lot of the time when he was behind her like this. For her because she liked it. She liked seeing their hands together, their rings together like that. Stupid, and she couldn't explain it, but she did. That symbol meant a lot to her for reasons she'd probably never understand. She guessed because he wore his when she knew he'd probably rather not. It certainly wouldn't stop him from being unfaithful, but she knew that he wouldn't do that. He just wasn't built that way. Funny considering marriage was probably the furthest thing from his mind when he saw her again in February.

He chuckled against her ear at how quickly she came. He hardly had to touch her at all. She couldn't help it. This was exactly what she needed and she didn't want to wait until they got home after having dinner together.

He finished pretty soon after she did. He liked when she was like this, wanting him badly. He probably didn't realize how much she wanted him all of the time. He was like a drug only better because he wasn't bad for her.

"You better now, Princess?"

"I am. For now."

"You know. If that's the mood you're in, nothing says we have to go out for dinner. We could stop and pick up some Chinese or something."

"Are you sure? You drove all the way out here?"

"Have you not figured out yet that I don't need dinner out to be happy? Driving out here," he shrugged, sliding a hand along her hip to help smooth her skirt down. "It's just gas. You get to drive home with me."

"I do," she said. She'd taken the train in today, knowing he'd be coming down to get her tonight.

"It's up to you. Whatever you want. If that tides you over until later then I'm fine with that, too."

"Fine with it."

"Well, my preference would be you never wearing clothes outside of work hours."


"Never. You don't need them."


"You don't need them."

"I'd have to leave your house."

"For what? I do the cooking so I do the grocery shopping. What do you have to leave the house for?"

"I have things to do."

"I'd make it worth your while."

"I know you would. We haven't been out in a while."


"We don't have to go anywhere after dinner."

"That's true, too. Let's go to dinner."

"Why?" She turned to face him then, eyeing him suspiciously. He so seldom wanted to eat out.

"I don't know. Going to dinner with you right now appeals to me."

"Why?" she asked again.

"You have that look in your eye."

"What look?"

"The look of someone who just had good sex."

"So you want to take me to dinner?"

"Sue me. I want other people to see that look, too."

She shook her head a bit.

"Then you can tell me about your day."

"Yeah, it was weird."

"Oh?" she asked.

"I'll tell you at dinner."


"So he brought his parents?" she asked later after they'd eaten and were finishing up their drinks before calling it a night. She'd told him about her day more deeply and then he'd told her about his. She'd wanted to hear about his day, but he'd insisted his day hadn't upset him so he wanted to hear about hers first.

"So it's not just me who thinks that is a little odd?"

"No, I mean, I guess it's a wedding so maybe they want to be involved, but since it was for engagement photos and they didn't even stay."


"I don't know."

"What do you know about them?"

"Know about them?"

"Yeah. What's their story?"

"Well, Mr. Taylor…"


"Right," she said with a shake of her head. "I've never been told to call him that in my life!"

"I suppose if I'd met them socially maybe it'd be different, I don't know."

"He's a judge."


"Yeah. He didn't used to be. I mean, I think maybe," she frowned. "I don't know, I guess I was maybe in junior high when that happened. I can't remember. Maybe our freshman year."


"Mrs. Taylor."


"Shut up," she said with a shake of her head.

"The things you say with that mouth of yours I love so much, Princess."

"Deal with it."

"I'm trying."

"She was a housewife, raised the kids. You know much the same as my mom. As far as I know she still doesn't work. Even as a lawyer he did very well from my understanding."


"You've met Phillip obviously. He has an older sister, Erin, and a brother, Wayne. Neither of them were at the reception, but I wasn't real close to them so wasn't surprised they didn't show up. I played with Phillip mostly when I went over there. They had an older sister, too, but I honestly don't think I ever met her. She was gone by the time I ever started going over there. I think she was a bit older than Erin even so she would've been a lot older than us. I think Erin is three years older than Phillip and Wayne is two years older. I don't know about the older sister."

"He told me she was thirty-nine I think."

"He told you about her?"

"Yeah, why?"

"They never talk about her."

"How do you know about her then?"

"I think Phillip mentioned it once or twice, I don't know. I think we saw a family portrait from when Phillip was a baby and she was in it. It wasn't anywhere prominent, like the living room or anything so I only saw it once that I can remember."

"Must have been before she got disowned."


"You didn't know that?"

"No. Like I said, no one ever talked about her. My mom, no one. Not that I ever really pressed for information since I didn't know her. I guess I was too young until fairly recently to realize it was odd I've never even met her."

"I guess she got involved with someone bad, got pregnant, her parents wanted to adopt the baby and she didn't want that. So they cut her loose or something."

"Wow. Could you imagine being raised by your grandparents and your real mom being your sister?"

He chuckled. "No, but as I didn't really have grandparents in my life it's an entirely foreign concept to me."

"I guess. No grandparents?"


"Why not?"

"Dad's washed their hands of him a long time ago. Mom's," he shrugged. "I don't know. I guess I never thought about it until now. I just sort of took for granted she didn't have anyone."


"Well, she would've asked for help. Right? I mean, the times they couldn't pay the phone or electric bill. Or when there was no money for groceries. Or when he was hitting her and not me. God forbid when he was hitting me and not her. You'd think if she had parents or something they'd help."

"Maybe they didn't know."

"Claire," he said.

"What? It's possible."

"It's just so strange. I don't get it. And I don't believe they wanted to meet me just because I'm married to you."

"I'm not sure I do either."

"Well, if you can think of an explanation for it, please let me know."

"Maybe you could ask him when his fiancée isn't with him."

"That's a thought."

"You could invite him to go out with you for a beer or something."

"You're encouraging me to go out drinking, Princess?"

"With Phillip, sure."

He chuckled softly.

"You like him," she said.

"I do kind of. I mean, he's a little odd, but I guess aren't we all?"

"We are. So, see if he wants to. Maybe alone he'll talk to you. I mean, you were at work."

"Right. I know. I just wasn't expecting to meet his parents."

"I was surprised they weren't at the reception."

"They said they had something else they were committed to."

"I'm sure that's probably true, but as Mom said they could've made an appearance."

"Wow, really? You're pulling that card?"

"I'm not. I mean, I don't really care, but Mom did. You know? She felt slighted."

"Because two people out of a million didn't show up? They did give us a gift, though, right?"

"Yes. They gave us a very generous gift certificate to Crate and Barrel."

"Have we used it yet?"

"No, because I'm still trying to figure out what we need."

"We meaning you. I have what I need."

"Do you?"

"I have you and a bed. That's all I need."

"Well, we need some place to eat."

"We can eat in bed."

"We need something to eat with."

He eyed her very intently then and she knew that look very well.

"I'm not even going there, Princess. I think I could make do just fine without plates."

"John," she said shaking her head a bit.

"You sure liked it when we played with whipped cream."

"I did," she admitted, certain she was blushing more.

"Enough to do it again?"


"Well, not immediately since we're in public, but I could probably be talked into it when we got home."

"Talked into it! You're the one bringing it up, not me."

"You liked it!"

"Well, pay the check then so we can go home."

"Yeah? One thing, though," he asked.


"Why am I always the one buying you dinner?"

"Because you wouldn't let me pay even if I wanted to."

"There is that," he admitted. "I'll just take it in trade."

"With or without whipped cream?"

"It's a pretty hefty bill," he said.

"So, lots of it?"

"Lots and lots."

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