The Old-Fashioned Way

 

Paul and Miriam Kaufman met the old-fashioned way.

The really old-fashioned way.

Miriam remembered it like this: Paul rode in on his white charger, brandishing his shining silver weapon, and saved her from a terrible villain who was after her jewels and possibly her virtue. After Paul defeated the scoundrel, he dried her tears and carried her off on his mighty steed to her daddy’s castle.

Of course, the terrible villain was in reality a rather incompetent young thug intent on stealing the sapphire and diamond necklace that Miriam’s daddy had given her for her eighteenth birthday a couple of years ago, the shining silver weapon was a cell phone, and Paul’s Charger was a Dodge.

At least it was white, and that was close enough for her.

Paul remembered the incident differently. He’d been on his way home after dropping off a buddy and passed the pretty young woman a block or two from a trendy club, screaming and struggling with a wiry punk who was trying to rip something from the woman’s neck. Paul rolled down his window, waved his cell phone, and yelled that he was going to call 911. When the girl’s attacker turned his head at the shout, she drove her spike heel into his shin. He shrieked in pain, shoved the girl to the ground and took off at a limping run.

Paul jumped out of his car and rushed to the girl’s side in time to help her to her feet and catch her as she threw herself into his arms, sobbing in reaction. He felt obligated to see she got home without further incident and, during the drive to Miriam’s stately family mansion, discovered she was an endearing, pretty little thing. Both Miriam and her daddy were lavishly grateful for the heroic rescue, which made Paul squirm a little because he hadn’t actually done much more than drive her home, and that had been more a pleasure than a duty. But he couldn’t help feeling flattered, as well.

Things progressed predictably from there.

The kid who’d tried to mug Miriam remembered the incident a little differently yet. He’d spotted the silly little rich girl with her my-daddy-spoils-me necklace around her pretty throat at the club. He’d followed her when she wandered off all by herself like she was asking him to rob her. Those jewels would pay a month’s rent and utilities; plus food, if he could find the right fence. And the girl was easy pickings. She never even looked around as she walked up the block.

But the girl surprised him by turning into a wildcat when he made a grab for the sparkly gems, shrieking and clawing and hanging onto her necklace like a leech. Then a passing car came screeching to a halt, and an arm thrust out the window, waving a small metal object at him. Like a gun.

When the girl speared his shin with her lethally sharp heel, he’d had enough. He deserted the field, leaving the spoils behind. As he limped away, he reflected that petty crime was getting too dangerous. He should have listened to his old man and gone to college, maybe studied accounting. He decided to sign up for community college classes the next day.

White collar crime paid better, anyway.
Paul and Miriam’s fairytale wedding came complete with gardens of pink roses, entire fabric stores of white tulle and a towering wedding cake, all paid for out of her daddy’s deep pockets.

Paul’s new father-in-law gave him a job at the prestigious advertising firm where he ruled as CEO, and Paul rose through the ranks with gratifying ease until finally, as heir apparent, he was put in charge of the main office downtown. He and Miriam had a beautiful little girl, followed a year or two later by a robust son. Miriam loved to tell friends, her tennis partners at the country club and complete strangers in elevators the story of how her gallant knight had ridden to her rescue and swept her off her feet.

They had the perfect fairytale life, it seemed.

But after a few years, Paul began to notice that Miriam had put on a few pounds, and her conversation seemed to center mainly on the children and country club gossip instead of philosophy, art and politics. Miriam began to notice that Paul was no longer so young and trim and, well, gallant.

Miriam compensated for this by redoubling her efforts to tell everyone around her the charming tale of how she and Paul had met. The story grew increasingly annoying to Paul, who had a nasty feeling that he wasn’t now, nor had he ever been, Prince Charming material.

The bright, shiny fairytale life began to tarnish.

When the gold-embossed, custom-engraved invitation to the annual company holiday party arrived, Miriam immediately hired a personal aesthetician, determined to look her very best in a bid to recapture Paul’s attention. Her skin glowed from the seaweed and cucumber wraps. Her hair, once again a rich honey blonde, tumbled in youthful curls around her precisely made-up face. Her dress was by an up-and-coming designer. She even pulled out her favorite jewelry, fastening around her not-quite-so-slender throat the sapphire and diamond necklace she’d worn on the night they’d met.

She drove her own car, because Paul had called to say he was busy at work and couldn’t get away to pick her up. Her brow crinkled in a slight frown at this unchivalrous act, but she swiftly schooled her face to a more pleasant expression. Frowns were unattractive, and caused wrinkles.

Paul was facing the doors as Miriam swept in. He didn’t notice the glowing skin, or the hair, or the dress or even the necklace; not in particular. He just saw…his wife. Same as always.
She came straight to his side, and he introduced her to a cluster of new employees he’d been chatting with.

“Have you heard how we met?” Miriam said.

Paul cringed. “Excuse me. I need to talk to the caterer for a minute.” He escaped to the other room, so he wouldn’t have to hear the god-awful story one more damn time.

The newest hire, a sharp young man who’d just transferred to the main office’s accounting department, smiled politely at the boss’s pretty wife. Company parties were so boring! Hell, his company job was boring. At least the view was good. The babe babbling about knights in shining Dodges and night clubs may not be the in the first blush of youth, but she was a looker, none the less. Man, his boss had it all.

His smile froze as the woman said, “And then this perfectly awful man–a complete criminal!—just grabbed me! He put his hand right over my mouth so I couldn’t even scream! Then he tried to rip my necklace off, this very necklace that I’m wearing tonight…”

Oh, man, it couldn’t be! What were the odds of running into that woman again? And having her be his boss’s wife? Astronomical. Fate was playing him for a sucker.

Would she recognize him? Nah. The streetlights had been busted out, and it had been years ago. He sure hadn’t recognized her, not at first. But even if he didn’t recognize the woman, he certainly remembered the necklace she was wearing.

The beautiful, sparkling thing still fired his blood in a way he hadn’t felt in years. The gemstones alone would make a nice down payment on the new BMW convertible he’d been lusting over. The piddling amounts brought in by the portfolio of leaky accounts he was siphoning didn’t come close to fulfilling his dreams of wealth and luxury.

His fingers twitched, impatient to touch the hard, warm dollar signs circling his boss’s wife’s neck. Maybe, if he could get her alone, he’d be able to slip the necklace off and she wouldn’t notice.

All night he watched her flitting around the room like the society princess she was, until, as the hour grew late, she showed signs of leaving. He expected his boss, Mr. Kaufman, to accompany his wife to her car, but the boss-man was deep in conversation with an attractive brunette in a business suit and ignored his wife’s pleading look, simply dropping an absentminded kiss on her glowing cheek and promising to see her at home in an hour or so.

He slipped outside to the parking lot while Mrs. Kaufman retired to the bathroom to freshen up. Taking off his suit coat, he replaced it with the navy blue hooded sweatshirt he kept in his car for cold nights, pulled up the hood to hide his expensive haircut, and slipped on his black leather driving gloves. In the dim glow of a single light post, he felt safely anonymous. He found an area of deep shadow near the door and waited.

Miriam stomped through the lobby on her spindly Louboutins and shoved open the heavy glass exit door, stifling a sniffle. Her plan hadn’t worked at all. Paul hadn’t paid her any more attention than he had any other night, lately. He’d had plenty of time for that showy brunette account executive, though. Well, two could play at that game. She knew lots of men who found her attractive. Let’s see how he liked…

A dark blur came at her from the side, snatching at the scarf she wore to combat the icy night air. Screaming, she swung her handbag, catching her attacker on the side of the head and slowing his groping hands. She turned to run back into the office building, but he grabbed the back of her coat and stuck his hand down her collar.

Her necklace! He must be after her diamonds!

This was one insult too many, tonight. “Let go, you awful man!” she yelled, holding on to her jewels with both hands, twisting and fighting to get away.

Her attacker struggled to wrest the necklace out of Miriam’s tenacious grasp while he kept a firm hold on her coat so she couldn’t run off. He had to get this done and escape before the fool woman’s yelling brought everyone out for blocks around.

Paul heard the shrieks coming from the parking lot and his heart stopped. He knew that sound.

Bolting from the room, he ran across the empty lobby to the exit and burst through the door, barreling—quite accidentally—straight into the man who was wrestling with his wife. His momentum knocked the man away and threw both Paul and his wife’s attacker off balance. As Paul realized they were going to end up on the ground, a single thought flashed through his mind. If he was going to once again rush to his wife’s rescue, he was going to rescue her on purpose.
Paul jammed his elbow into the thief’s chest as he landed with a thud on top of the guy. The thief’s breath whooshed out in a rush, and he rolled helplessly on the ground trying to suck in another.

Paul leaped to his feet and ushered his sobbing wife back inside, into the bright light and the people crowding the lobby to see what was happening. “Miriam,” he said, enfolding her in his arms. “Are you all right?”

She nodded, blotting away her tears and giving him a tremulous smile. “You rescued me again.”

He flushed, and rested his cheek against her golden hair, tumbled artlessly by the tussle. “I guess I did. You don’t mind, do you?”

She laughed and took his face in her hands. “You’ve always been my knight in shining armor, and I love you for it.” Her eyes glowed with adulation, rekindling in Paul’s heart the passion he’d felt in the beginning.

“And I will always love you, my princess,” he said. Their lips met in a pledge of ardent devotion, not noticing the dark figure watching them through the glass door, a pained expression of disgust on his face.

The would-be thief slipped away, rubbing his sore stomach and shaking his head at the folly of the couple making out behind the glass doors, in front of the whole company. Stupid woman. Any sensible person would have just given him the sparklies and that would have been the end of it.

He just wasn’t cut out for mugging. He’d found that out years ago, but the pretty gems were so fascinating! Much more intriguing than scrabbling for stray dollars like he’d been doing with his embezzling. Maybe he would become a jewel thief, creeping into windows at night, robbing beautiful, rich women of their pearls and emeralds, leaving a single rose in the place of the jewelry. Much more glamorous than what he was doing now…
He drove away, planning yet another new career as a second story man, forgetting that he had no head for heights.

Paul and Miriam drove home together and had a very satisfying interlude, resulting in another daughter nine months later. Miriam, secure and happy, ceased to broadcast their story to everyone she met, saving it instead for special occasions. Paul listened with a pleased little smile on those times Miriam did pull out the old yarn, even adding embellishments of his own here and there, with a twinkle in his eye and laughter in his voice, sending thrills of pleasure through Miriam’s heart.

Neither of them knew that the cause of their happiness, the punk who had started it all, had barely gotten started on his glamorous new life as a jewel thief when he’d been discovered in his nighttime activities by a lonely, rich widow, who convinced him to stay, as her “companion.” He was only too happy to oblige in spite of her age, as she was both exceedingly lonely and excessively rich.

And so, you see, the story ends as old-fashioned as it began, because all three of them lived happily ever after.

About

I live in Utah with my husband. I have five interesting children and two exceptional grandsons. When not writing, thinking about writing, or teaching writing, I like to knit, camp, read (READING! YAY!), and attempt to turn heavy white clay into yummy vegetables. Don't tell me alchemy is dead!

Posted in Free Fiction, Light-hearted and Romantic

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