In chat one night
Paige had said that somebody should do a Christmas story, so here is Paige's Christmas
story. Theresa had not only asked for a Paul or Control story, she actually met
the bid of the person who bought a story form me on the Hurricane Katrina relief
auction, So, Theresa, bless you for your contribution to a worthy cause, and here
is your story. And no I do not own Kung fu or any of its characters, Michael Sloan
has that honor.
As hard as I tried, I could not get this story to fit in my
regular Kung Fu/Equalizer universe, so it's standing alone.
to all of my readers and a happy new year. As usual, a big thank you to my beta
reader TAE for all of her help and her friendship. Feedback is always welcome.
He looked at the face staring back
at him in the shaving mirror. Dark brown hair, okay there was some gray, which
was a little longer than he usually wore it, light blue eyes, and a few more wrinkles
than he had in the past. His features were somewhat rugged, but then, he had done
a bit of living in his thirty-odd years and it showed; all in all, not a bad face,
but nothing special, as far as he could see.
As he lathered his face, he tried
to remember the last time he had been on a date, or, more correctly, a date that
did not involved Grace. Well, definitely before they were married, and that had
been in sixty-four. They had started seeing one another in sixty-two and as far
as he could remember, he hadn't dated anyone after he had started dating her.
"Great, Blaisdell, so the last time you were on a date with someone other than
Grace, Kennedy was in office," he grumbled to himself as he began scraping his
face clean with the safety razor. He had his father's old straight razor, and
even knew how to strop and use it, but he would rather not risk going on his first
date in ten years facially wounded.
Washed and clean-shaven, he turned off
the water and grabbed a towel. He could hardly believe that he had actually agreed
to go on one of Steadman's blind dates. Ryker had horror stories about some of
the ones he had been on. Kermit had never braved one, but then, Kermit had enough
romance horror stories without risking blind dates. Steadman was a good friend,
however, and the woman sounded really nice. It had been almost a year since Grace
had died, and he had to start living again at some point.
Knotting the towel
around his waist and neatly folding the one he had been using on his hair and
putting it on the rack to dry, he left the bathroom and crossed his bedroom to
the large closet. Pulling out a white dress shirt, and a dark blue Brooks Brother's
suit and a tie, he wondered if it had been this hard for his mother when she had
started dating again after his father died in Forty Two, three months before he
had been born. He was having trouble getting through this once, she had done it
twice, once when his father died and again when Martin, his stepfather, had died.
He glanced at his watch and contemplated calling her before he left, since
he hadn't had a chance to this week, but it was late enough that he would likely
not get her. He chuckled; she was certainly an active woman. It was already after
six, so she was probably out for the evening with her date of the night. The last
time she had spent a quiet night at home, he was fairly certain had been during
the flu epidemic the winter before last. She had quite a succession of men these
days, coming to call on her. His sister was still in shock from when she had gone
over to drop off some things she had borrowed, to find out that their mother was
finishing cooking a romantic dinner for two while enjoying a glass of pre-dinner
wine with her date. Ruth was shocked; he was glad that their mom was stepping
out and living it up. Anyone who thought life stopped or even slowed down at sixty
had never meet Trudy Anderson. He hoped at her age he was still that active, more
than once, he felt it would be a miracle if he lived long enough to worry about
being that age. He was likely one of the only men on the force who had become
a police officer because it was safer than his last job.
He sighed; it was
ironic that Grace had died just as they had made so many changes to work out the
problems in their marriage. She had constantly worried about him when he was gone
on missions to places he couldn't tell her about and doing things he couldn't
talk about. He still remembered coming home from one of them, and her telling
him that they needed to talk, if he needed to relax for a few days that was fine,
but they would talk before his next job or she would not be there when he got
back. That had been like a slap in the face, but it had the desired effect of
getting his attention.
Caroline had gone to her grandma's the next weekend,
giving him and Grace an uninterrupted weekend to talk. She had pointed out that
in ten years of marriage they had spent less than four years together, if you
combined all of the time he was home. She admitted that there had been Vietnam
and he certainly could not have avoided that and been who he was, but she now
needed him home. She was, for all practical purposes, a single parent of a three-year
old with the added stress of never knowing where he was or when to expect him
home, and when he was home, how long she could count on him being there. Something
had to change!
He heard her out and agreed, while pointing out that other than
fighting wars, there was very little that he knew how to do. They started talking
about jobs where his experience as a soldier might be of help. What it had come
down to was the military or the police. He hadn't been excited about the military
and she hadn't liked all of the moving about that would have entailed. That had
left the police force, and a friend of his who had, himself, retired himself from
the mercenary world, had mentioned an opening on the Sloanville Police department.
Mike had even managed to arrange for him to take the detective's exam after his
one-year probationary period, Paul never asked how it was done, because he was
fairly certain that some strings had had to be pulled.
Unfortunately, a drunk
driver had ended Grace's life on New Years Eve last year. They had never had a
chance to really enjoy the results of their new life together. All of the changes
they had made in order to make their marriage work, moving to the suburbs from
the city, getting a house instead of staying in an apartment, and his joining
the police and pulling out of mercenary work in anything but an advisory capacity,
she had conceded on that point. In the end it hadn't mattered, she might not have
left, but she had died, so he was still alone, but now he was alone with two young
girls, Kelly having come about as a result of their talk and his agreeing to change
He took a deep breath and relaxed, getting maudlin right before
a date was not a good idea.
He called his sister, briefly, to check on his
girls and talk to them for a minute. Five minutes later, he had heard every detail
about their trip to the museum and they had both been told that he loved them
and would be picking them up on Sunday.
Collecting his courage, he headed out.
Funny, he didn't remember dating having been this hard, before.
petite blonde was waiting at a table towards the back when he arrived at the restaurant.
Grace had been taller and heavier; as well as having darker hair, but there was
no denying that this woman was attractive. Steadman was with her and motioned
him over. The plan had been for him to pick her up at work, but one of his cases
had had a sudden break and it was stay late and make the arrests tonight, or watch
them slip through his fingers. Thankfully, she had understood and Steadman had
been happy to pick her up.
"Anne Haralson?" he asked as he took a seat at the
"Annie, please, and you must be Paul Blaisdell," she smiled, holding
out her hand.
He took it and found a firm grip. Paul made a large part of his
living by knowing how to read people, and something told him that this was a woman
who was strong and assertive without being aggressive. He liked that. She also
had something that his father would have called class. The only woman he had seen
with a smile that was more intoxicating than hers was Grace. Annie was stunning.
"I'm pleased to meet you," he smiled back. "I hope you haven't been waiting
"Not long at all, we've only been here a few minutes," she assured him.
"I hope the emergency that kept you didn't involve the girls," Steadman greeted
"No, it was a professional one, but it got handled," he replied.
is it that you do?" Annie asked.
"I'm a police detective," Paul answered.
That's fascinating," she told him interestedly.
"I like it, it has lots and
lots of paperwork and sitting and waiting, but when it all comes together, there's
nothing like it; and I get to help people," he answered.
"Since you two seem
to be hitting it off so well, I'll be going," Steadman excused himself, getting
He gave Annie a brief hug and slapped Paul on the back before departed.
A waiter came up to take their orders. He opted for steak and she went with
The wine list was a good one and at his offer, she accepted and said
something white would be nice, leaving the particulars to him. He ordered a white
wine that he remembered enjoying for her and a red for himself.
that you're relatively new in town," she stated when they were once more alone.
"I've been here a little over a year and a half. I don't think he said what
it is that you do," he replied, responding to her statement, but also redirecting
the conversation away from himself.
She laughed; it was a nice soft demure
laugh that fitted their setting. Paul liked that she could give a real laugh without
calling attention to their table.
"I'm a secretary for his lawyer; we met when
he came in for some routine paperwork. Another client was giving me a hard time
and before the man even knew what was happening, Steadman had him out the door
and down the hall."
Paul chuckled. "He's one man who can tell someone to go
to hell and do it in such a way that they can't wait to go."
me that if he needs to, he can back up his words with actions, though."
stopped chewing his piece of salad. "What makes you say that?"
"There was a
time when he was the last client of the day, he and I happened to be leaving at
the same time, so he offered to drive me home. Normally, I wouldn't have accepted,
but I had talked to him a number of times, so knew he was a decent man, and it
was raining, so I really didn't want to wait in the rain for the bus. He was walking
me to his car when some men came up and gave him a hard time while grabbing at
me," she sipped her wine.
"That must have been frightening."
"I only remember
that he pushed me into a doorway where I was safe and after the scuffle, he was
the one standing. Four on one and he walked away; yet the second the last one
was done he picked me up, as much a gentleman as if nothing had happened."
sounds about right for Steadman," he agreed.
"I asked him about it on the way
home and he just gave me some vague answer about having been a soldier, once,
and that they were only boys. Since he mentioned that you two had been friends
a long time, I assumed that you might have been part of that past he doesn't talk
about," she said, taking a piece of her salad.
"I'm sorry, I
lost my younger brother there, it was bad over there and then you had to come
home to a reception that was less than welcoming," she replied softly, sympathetically.
Paul liked that she wasn't pretending she understood how bad it had been in
that jungle, and was not apologizing for the cold homecoming too many of the veterans
received. She had simply offered her sympathies for the situation and left it
at that. Actually that was just one of many things he had found that he liked
about her. She was attractive, lively, funny, and most importantly she was real;
not some woman trying to be who she wasn't to impress someone, his mother referred
to it has having on your party manners.
"I was lucky, my dad and my grandfather
had both served in wars, so they hadn't had a problem with my being over there."
"My parents weren't happy that my brother left, but they had a fit when my
"Yes, studying to be a doctor now. She felt that
Vietnam was where nurses were needed the most, so that was where she went."
as a soldier who spent more than a little bit of time needing a nurse, I'm glad
that she went; we needed all the help we could get."
"What did you do over
there?" She asked when the waiter with their entrees had come and gone.
chewed on his steak while thought for a moment about how best to answer that.
Even if he could tell her the truth, he wasn't about to tell her about the things
the CIA had had him and his merry band of men doing. There was a reason groups
like his were referred to as the dirty tricks squads; and that was by people who
did have a vague notion of the truth about their activities.
"From the silence,
I'm guessing that you can't answer that, or don't want to; my sister never talks
much about it, either."
"It was bad, and recent enough that I try not to think
or talk about it too much," he said tersely.
"Even justifiable wars are not
good ones," she said sympathetically.
He smiled, she seemed to understand better
than most people he knew, except those who had actually been in some of the places
he had been.
"Are you career military, then?"
"My father had fought in the
Islands during the Second World War, and I guess serving just felt right. I never
really found anything else to do, so I stayed a soldier. I've got a family to
take care of now, though, so I changed jobs shortly after I moved here."
would guess that a lot of men are in that position, I would think that a lot of
police officers come from the military." she replied, after finishing her bit
Paul gave a half shrug, a grimace, and sound of uncertainty.
can't hear your expressions, so I'm afraid that you'll need to speak up, I couldn't
quite catch what you were saying just now," she told him.
He looked at her,
he had suspected, but not been certain that she was blind; it had seemed rude
to ask, however, so he hadn't.
"I'm sorry," he responded.
"About my being
blind? It's hardly your fault," she replied lightly.
"For being taken by surprise,
I honestly hadn't noticed that you were blind."
"That's a compliment, my being
blind is one of the first things most people notice about me. Most people don't
know how to handle it when they find out. They either talk louder as if my hearing
was bad as well, or treat me like an invalid," she said, with a slight scowl that
told him how she felt about that.
They both ate for a few minutes in easy silence.
Paul liked that Annie was evidently comfortable with silence. She was in fact,
quite impressive. He had not seen anything about her so far that he had not found
to be perfect, A not so quiet voice in his head told him that he could quite happily
spend the rest of his life getting to know her, the more practically side told
him that a second date would be enough for now.
"I'm surprised that you don't
use a guide dog, I would think it would make things easier for you," he commented,
taking a bite of baked potato.
"I considered it, but truth is I'm not really
a dog person. I like them, don't get me wrong, and we always had one around when
I was growing up, but I really didn't want one of my own. They do require quite
a bit of time and effort, more than I really wanted to give over to that. I've
thought about maybe getting a cat, but I can't see a cat as a reliable guide,"
"I've got a cat, and I agree that unless you were looking for
the warmest and best nap spot, a cat would not make a reliable guide. But, Sylvester
is great with the girls, so he more than earns his keep," Paul retorted, thinking
about the black and white coated menace that lived in his house.
again. "You don't like him?"
"He's okay, I grew up on a dairy farm and we always
had cats, but they lived outside in the barns. It never occurred to me to have
an indoor cat until I met my late wife, Grace. She had this gray tabby thing and
I was told that they were a package deal; if I wanted her I had to take the cat,
too. I don't think there was ever a time that we didn't have a cat of some kind
in the house. Like I said, my daughters adore him; as far as I'm concerned that's
"Steadman mentioned you were a widower, but not that you had
children," Annie said excitedly.
"A five year old girl, Caroline, and fifteen-month
old named Kelly" Paul answered proudly.
"They're so much fun at those ages,"
she almost cooed.
"I'm certainly enjoying it; Do you have children?" he asked.
Steadman hadn't said anything about her being divorced or widowed, but that didn't
mean that she wasn't.
"No, never having been married, it never seemed the thing
to do, but I do love children. Two of my best friends have children about your
daughters' ages, I really enjoy them."
"I never seem to get enough time with
mine, they're growing up so fast it seems like if I blink, I'll miss it," he admitted.
He had missed almost all of Caroline's baby years because he was in Vietnam, or
because he was off saving some part of the world that wasn't capable of defending
itself. He had been home for more of Kelly's, but he still felt like he was missing
more than he was catching.
"My older brother's kids seem to be getting bigger
every time I turn around," she commiserated. "I still haven't gotten my Christmas
shopping done for them, I have no idea what a four year old boy wants."
you asked him or your brother?"
"My brother has no idea; says anything will
be fine. When I ask Danny, he gets shy and doesn't say anything."
"I know when
I was four, I liked cars, planes, trucks, and balls," he smiled, remembering his
passion for those as a child.
"It must be a boy thing, I go into a toy store
and get lost in all of the different kinds of cars, balls, trucks, and other rolling,
launching, and motorized toys," she shook her head.
"Every year, somehow when
Christmas rolled around, everything was just done. Gifts magically appeared under
the tree, Caro's stocking just appeared, and everything just got done, same thing
with Kelly's. I have no idea how to do any of it."
"What do they play with
He thought for a moment, rewinding all of his mental home videos.
"Caro seems to like her dolls and stuffed animals, but she has a ton of them.
Kelly likes anything with bright color that moves, but she seems to be losing
interest in those. I've looked for other toys, but like you, I get lost in the
little girl's aisles, too many girl things, I guess."
"Maybe we should combine
efforts?" she hinted, smiling flirtatiously.
Looking at her, Paul smiled, it
would be a big help if they went together. What he wanted most of Christmas was
Grace back, but since he couldn't have that, an afternoon spent with this woman
who was so much like Grace, and yet so different, would be very nice!
really enjoy that, I know it's a little soon, but would you be free to go shopping
She looked towards him a little surprised, and then gave him another
of those smiles he was fast getting addicted to. "As a matter of fact, yes, I
am; I was planning to go shopping then, anyway, though I am going to a Christmas
party at seven."
She laughed, "I take it you're going to the
"As a matter of fact, I am; tell you what, why don't we go shopping
and catch lunch, and then maybe, you could go to the party with me?" He asked
"I would really like that," she beamed.
He couldn't remember
much about the rest of the evening, except that it was enchanting. He could talk
to her with a freedom he had known with few people, and she seemed to understand
him. The band was good, and when he asked her to dance, she didn't hesitate and
relaxed totally into him as they danced. If he had a lifetime with her, he wouldn't
get enough of her, he was certain. And he was getting exactly what he wanted for
Christmas, another date with Annie. Some how he didn't think Grace would object,
first and foremost she had always wanted her family to be happy.
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