Age of Bliss
This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents
are products of the author's imagination. Any resemblance to people,
alive or dead, are coincidental.
This work contains adult themes and is not intended for children.
Martha arose the next morning at 10:10. After she had a light meal, she dressed again in her new casual clothes. She drove as Jordan might have to the little cottage by the pines. How nice to see so much green at this time of year, she thought, as she waited for her friend to answer the door. She knocked again, but still there was no response. Surely, Jordan wasn't asleep at this hour, even on a Sunday. Then, Martha felt her stomach drop in dread that Jordan was in the city with her friends.
The return trip to the apartment was much slower. Martha gained control of her disappointment and her fear. She would see Jordan the next day and they could start afresh with a new understanding. Martha spent the remainder of the day grading papers.
The eleven o'clock class took its exam the next morning and Martha returned the last papers. It was after 12:30 when she finally made it to the Wagon Wheel. Jordan was not there. She has to come, Martha thought. She took her time ordering and eating her lunch.
Every time the door opened, Martha looked at the person entering; thus, she saw Mary Cage a few moments before being seen by her. Mary smiled, walked directly to Martha's table and sat on the edge of the adjacent chair. "Have you seen Markus?"
Mary seemed relieved, but she said, "I'm a little worried about him. You know, he went home for the weekend and I haven't heard from him since Friday."
"Did you have plans for last night?"
"No, not formally. I just assumed he would call me."
"I'm sure he's fine. He was probably just late getting in and needed to study or do something today."
"You're probably right. I hope so. I worry too much, I guess. We do have an exam together at 2:00. He's probably just studying for that.
"Did you have a good weekend yourself?"
"I spent it working on papers."
"Should I ask how I did?"
"Don't you know already?"
Cage smiled. "I think I did fine. Can I pick up my paper after my exam, around three?"
"Sure. See you then."
It was 1:15. Jordan obviously had other lunch plans. Martha left the diner and walked to the North Hall. The directory gave Dr. West's office number and Martha found it quickly. The door was locked. Martha considered leaving a note, but such seemed too impersonal for her message.
Back in her own office, Martha quickly found Mary's paper, hoping it was well written. It was. Martha marked an "A" across the top and then wrote, "My best to you at State!"
When she replaced the essay in its stack, she saw Markus' project. She read it. It was not as well written as Mary's but it reflected more depth. Knight inked another "A" on it and continued, "I hope that everything will work out for you and Miss Cage. You know that I have been as much your student as your teacher. You have taught me some valuable lessons!"
Cage appeared as scheduled. She stood, smiling down at Knight. "You were absolutely right. He was there for the exam. Been studying all this time! Said he felt the need to study alone. Meanwhile, I probably blew the exam from worry," she laughed.
"Can I take Markus' paper, too?"
"We really aren't supposed to give work to anyone but the student."
"But, you know us. We're practically engaged."
"I guess it'd be all right to make an exception. Let me seal the paper in a large envelope with his name on it. That way, he can have the honor of sharing it with you. That should keep it legal like."
Martha felt foolish as she drove out of town that evening. She did not expect Jordan to be at home. If it were not dark already, and if the stacks of papers did not need to be graded, Martha would have planned to wait until Jordan came. As it were, Martha thought, it was a shot in the dark.
Jordan was not there, nor did she arrive during the twentyodd minutes that Martha waited. It was more difficult bolstering her spirits on the return trip this time. Still, by the time she reached her apartment, Martha was optimistic about tomorrow.
Tuesday was slated to be a full day and became more so in actuality. Dr. Knight had two finals scheduled. Additionally, after returning papers the day before, she felt compelled to grade the projects for both these classes as well. Finally she had two students who took the test on Monday to ask for higher grades to protect, on the one part, a scholarship and, on the other, to remain in school.
Still, Martha forced time to go to the Wagon Wheel. On her way there, she heard, "Dr. Knight, wait up." It was Russ Foster. "Going to lunch? Can I join you?"
"Good, I have some news I'm sure you'll be interested in, since you know how it all started. President Mason has submitted his resignation effective with the fiscal year next July. It won't be official until the board meets, of course."
"That is interesting. I guess all Mathews' work counted for something." Martha said as she entered the diner. She looked around, but did not see Jordan anywhere.
Their conversation continued once their food was ready. "They asked me to chair the search committee."
Martha was happy for him, but she was uncomfortable because she was forced to sit where she could not see the door. "And, of course, you're going to accept."
"I guess. I've never had much desire to be a power broker, but I have to admit, the attention is nice. And, perhaps I can do some good for the college. I really thought they'd ask Minz."
"Wouldn't that have been a travesty, given how much she tried to protect Mason? Now, she denies being in on the plot to frame Mathews."
"Denies it, does she? Well, what do you expect?"
"So, she's lying?"
"I think so. But, I don't have first-hand knowledge. Richard and Pete wouldn't have tried it without her support. No way they could have pulled it off. And, they both said she was in on it. Shrewd political people -- and she surely is one of those -- always have an out."
Martha turned and looked at the door. The person entering was not Jordan.
Russ continued when Martha looked back at him, "She's not all bad. She certainly derailed Astor's train."
"Yes. He had this sweet little job all lined up in California until their dean called Lyla. It seems the dean and Lyla go way back. Then, she tells Richard that she doesn't plan to retire for several years. His political support gone with Mason, Richard decides to take a chair's job in North Dakota. It's a promotion on paper only. He's going to be the hatchet man for the administration there. He's not going to make friends in the discipline. He better hope he can advance administratively. Otherwise he's going to have many cold winters."
"It's less than he deserves, but I guess it will ...."
At that point Martha caught a profile in her peripheral vision and turned toward the counter. At first, it struck her as a mirage. Then she released a short, but high pitched, screech as she grasped its reality. "Excuse me," she said. "I need to see Jordan for a minute."
Jordan, as others, had turned toward the screech, but seemed frozen by it as Martha approached. Martha caught herself only when she was within two feet of Jordan. For a moment, Martha said nothing and Jordan seemed to be regaining her composure. Then, Martha asked, "Is that Thanksgiving invitation still open?"
"Why, yes it is."
"Good. I accept. Can I fix you dinner tonight?"
"You need to know many of my finals are individual. I don't get finished until late into the evening."
"That's fine. I'll fix something we can warm over. Russ and I are over there, please join us."
Russ was smiling when Martha returned to the table, "Glad to see Jordan, were you?"
Martha was smiling also, "Yes, we had a misunderstanding. I was afraid I wouldn't see her until after the break. I asked her to join us; hope that was all right."
"Super. Give me a opportunity to tell her the big news. We've shared our views of Mason over the years; I know she'll be pleased. She's really a remarkable person."
"Yes she is!" Martha said as she saw Jordan approaching.
"Talking about me, are you?"
"As a matter of fact, we are," Martha responded and felt her body tingle.
"I was just telling Martha that I was sure you'd be excited by the news."
"The news?" Jordan looked first at Russ and then at Martha.
"Mason has resigned, effective in July."
"That is exciting!"
"Tell her the rest, Russ. ... He's going to chair the search committee."
"That makes the good news even better."
"Now, if you women will excuse me, I have exams to grade."
Jordan looked at Martha, once Russ had left, and said, "Today is a day of surprises!"
Martha simply smiled at Jordan in response.
"You've changed your mind about visiting my parents?"
"Yes? Yes, what? Something happened?"
"I'll tell you all about it tonight," Martha said looking around. "Suffice it to say, I saw the light."
"Really? The light, huh? I'm not sure I can wait until tonight!"
"It'll be worth the wait!"
"Really? Sounds like quite a turnaround. Last we were here, it was as if you didn't want to see me again."
"Oh, yes. That seems forever ago. I'll explain that, too, as if you actually needed me to."
"Well given all this incentive, if I work everything just right, I could be at your place shortly after 7:30.
When the last student finished her exam, Martha hurried to the grocery to buy food for the evening's meal. She wanted something special, something different. Her training had been limited to the ordinary. She wished that she knew how to prepare beef tips in wine sauce; she had clipped a recipe for it once, but never tried it. "It is a night for trying new things," she considered, but then she thought of Cornish hens with wild rice. "Perhaps, we'd better savor one new dish at a time," she concluded.
Back at home, she relaxed and cleansed herself in the warmth of a bubble bath. As she dried herself, she imagined the feel of the new sweater against her skin and Jordan's strong, talented fingers caressing the skin through the sweater.
Martha stepped into a pair of the bikini panties and fastened her new bra. She reflected on how much easier preparing for this dinner was than the last evening Jordan came. Martha applied little makeup once she was dressed. As she combed her hair, she was happy with what she saw. All the voices spoke with one voice.
Dinner was all ready when Jordan arrived. To Martha's surprise, Jordan wore a white blouse and black slacks under her coat. Jordan smiled, "I went home and changed before my last student. I wanted to be comfortable for this dinner, if nothing else."
"You look great, as usual."
"Well, you look gorgeous. Is that a new outfit?"
"Yes, I bought it for you."
"In a manner of speaking. It was you I was thinking about when I bought it!" Martha turned, walked toward the dining area and swirled to model the ensemble for Jordan, who nodded in approval.
"Come along," Martha smiled, "dinner's all ready."
"Good, I'm starved."
Martha already had the wine breathing on the table. Jordan filled their glasses while Martha placed the food.
"Cornish hens! How delightful!"
"You approve. Good. I wanted something sensual and wild. The rice is wild."
"The hens are sensual, and green beans for color and vitamins."
"To new beginnings," Martha raised her glass.
Jordan enjoyed several bites of her meal before saying, "Now that my hunger is abating my curiosity has returned in full force. Explain to me about what you meant when you said you'd seen the light." A twinkle in Jordan's eyes seemed to accentuate Jordan's request.
It reminded Martha of the crystal necklace. She looked at its former resting place. In her imagination, she saw it below the buttoned blouse. She said, "I finally listened to my body. It told me what you'd been telling me all along. Are you really that surprised?"
"Somewhat, at least that it happened this quickly. The last we talked, you seemed intent on landing Markus and didn't want to have anything more to do with me."
"Yes, that. I was jealous of you and your friends."
Jordan chuckled, "My friends in the city?"
"Yes, and others, especially the woman in Madison."
"The woman in Madison?"
"The woman at the Cotton Club. I missed you so much while you were on tour that I drove up there to see the performance. Just so happened I had dinner at the Cotton Club and saw you and that woman as you were leaving."
"I see. That ...."
"There's no need to explain. I don't expect to be the only one."
"Okay, but it might help to know the woman, Bonnie West, is an aunt of mine. She married my father's youngest brother. We've been like sisters, but she's as straight as an arrow."
"But you dedicated that song to her."
"Yes. Love Me Tender is a special song of hers and her husband, Edward."
"Now, I do feel silly."
"There's no need to. It was an honest mistake. But, you see, you could be the only one if that's what you want. What happened with Markus? What happened to you, for goodness sake? Tell me about this revelation you had."
"I went to the city to see Markus. Met him at the art museum. He kissed me. It didn't compare with our kiss. That bothered me some. I kept thinking of you. I wasn't excited or even happy to be with him."
"No, there's more. We went to see Last Tango in Paris."
"Oh, I see."
"It helped me to accept that I'm not the messed up one. I'm not going to be able to change the world, or the situation for my sisters, or especially my past, but I can accept who I am and I can accept the love that is in me for you."
"Physical as well as platonic love?"
"Markus and I had a long talk after the movie. I told him I could never love him, physically, because of my father's abuse. He told me, as you had, that the abuse wasn't the reason. He told me I loved you ... in a physical way."
"He had known it subconsciously since he saw us together shopping, it seems. That explained much in his behavior. Still, it wasn't until the drive home that I was able to stop fighting it and to listen to my true, healthy desires."
"Your healthy desires?"
"Yes, yes, yes! You remember, after we kissed, you said you wouldn't do it again until I asked?"
"Well, I'm asking now."