Fool For Romance, Chapter 1

     “Randy, I want you to cover the city council meeting tonight.” Melvin, my news editor said. I hated council meetings, especially in this little city. We were barely a town let alone a city, but since we had our own small municipal government, since 1882, we were a city.
     “Yeah Melvin that will be news worthy,” I told him snidely. Melvin always wanted to be a great reporter with late breaking news, but he never found any. I would have chalked it up to bad luck if it wasn’t for the fact that Melvin was a bore. In college I was taught that an editor should be the guy with a good head on their shoulders, but someone who knew when to take a chance. Melvin never took chances, he never varied his layout, and he always assigned the same assignments, he said they were reliable and what people wanted to read. Melvin had worked at the Globe for over 45 years, he was strictly old school. He wouldn’t use a computer.
     As for the city council meeting not being news worthy, it rarely was. Since I was the relatively new reporter, although I had been working at The Globe for more than 3 years, I got the “easy” assignments, like reporting on the new restaurant that opened on main street, or how the Simpsons had triplets, or on the city council meeting, it was a fill in the blank kind of article. You might be asking why after 4 plus years of torturous college classes, and beastly professors why I didn’t leave the city where I grew up to find a better, more high paying, prestigiously great job? It’s because I have no passion for being the celebrity reporter, having to be up at dawn to get the scoop on which politician was sleeping with which prostitute. And hey I admit it, I got a soft spot for my hometown, besides, I wasn’t that good of a reporter, and I liked to eat. Besides, I think Melvin was grooming me to take his place because when I was just putting around the office, he would have me help him. It wasn’t that bad.
     Melvin gave me the same look he had always given me when I bitched about the city council meeting. “It’s recent, it’s relevant and people need to know.” He had said this before too.
     So I shut my trap and went to the meeting. Shannon went along with me, she said that she had met one of the new council men at the grocery store and sort of found him interesting. We went to City Hall, and I sat in the in seats reserved for the press, well one of the two. Regina Hutchins, from The Sun was already there, she greeted me with one of her radiant smiles that made my head hurt. Regina was one of those young pretty blonds with legs that went up to the ceiling who you just wanted to dislike intensely because she was so nice but dumb as a brick. Regina was 21 and just out of college and her daddy had gotten her a job at The Sun. I was just glad that it wasn’t at The Globe. I said hello then took my seat. Shannon was sitting behind me, patiently waiting for the meeting to come to order. Being a kindergarten teacher she was used to meetings like the PTA and teacher’s union, I told her she must have nerves of steel. She leaned forward after a bit to whisper in my ear, “The Mayor-elect is going to make an appearance.” She said, a little shocked that our esteemed Mayor-elect would make his way down from his hierarchical thrown to greet his peasants.
     “Of course he is going to be here. He does take office at the end of January.” I whispered back. Greg Phillips had gone to school with us, and it was a little weird that he was now the new Mayor, so I could understand Shannon’s brief excitement, she knew I once had a thing for him. It was a brief infatuation in second grade, that ended with him looking up my dress and announcing to the world that he had saw my underwear. I believe the song was “I see London, I see France, I see Randy’s underpants.” I was mortally wounded, and never wore a dress in elementary school again. We moved in different circles after that.
     The meeting began with the old mayor banging his gavel for attention. Harold Montour was at least 72 give or take a year, and he had been mayor for more than 10 years after he retired from his law practice. It was rumored that the city council pretty much told him he had to retire, but I bet that old Harry gave them a bit of Hell before he announced his retirement. It was a good thing he did announce his retirement, because no one stood a chance at beating Harry in an election, not even the golden boy Greg Phillips himself. Greg only won because Harry made it clear that Greg was hand picked for the mayor’s seat. It was unlike Harry to support Greg that I had to wonder. Who knows maybe Greg paid poor old Harry, which was why Harry was moving to Ft. Lauderdale, I knew all the particulars because Harry was family, and of course I never reported family business, unless it was news worthy.
      The meeting progressed right along, just as it always had. The secretary would read the minutes from the last meeting, old issues were settled, and new ones brought up. I saw Greg Phillips only speak once. It was on an issue involving a rather large subdivision for an out of town developer that wouldn’t be breaking ground until spring of next year. Greg was almost totally against it until good old Harry brow beat him and told him it was good for the economics of the city, as well as jobs.
      This was the first time I had heard of the issue, but I could see the council members had been debating it fiercely in private for awhile. There had been huge subdivisions before, and there had been no problem, so I couldn’t see why the council was ready to 86 the deal. I was so busy trying to figure out this problem that I didn’t hear the meeting adjourn. I saw some of the council members moving to leave, then Regina got to her feet to ask some questions of one of them. I headed for good old Harry. Harry and I had a good repour. He would give me the scoop and I would give him a cigarette. Yes I know, all that good journalistic integrity, but the old codger loved it. Harry use to smoke five packs in a single day way back when, until his wife made him quit cold turkey. Harry had done it, but he still snuck some now and then. I would always pick up a pack of camels before coming to these meetings and Harry and I would head out to the back parking lot. It was a routine I would miss because Harry was almost like a grandfather to me, in fact he was family seeing as his wife, my Aunt Lindy, was my grandmother’s sister, he was my great uncle through marriage, besides he was my surrogate Grandfather, and since he had no children, I was his only granddaughter.
     Shannon had tagged along, not wanting to get left behind, Harry didn’t mind, he always had a soft place for a good-looking girls he told me once.
     I lit a cigarette and handed the pack to Harry who was all about lighting one too. Shannon passed, she still had her resolve, I didn’t, I was a smoker for a long time but I quit right after college, which I should mention, but I never passed up an opportunity to smoke when given the chance. “So, Harry,” I began, trying to get the discussion flowing. “What’s the deal with this new developer?”
      Harry exhaled a cloud of smoke. “Well Randy-Girl, it’s a pretty gutsy project, and I wouldn’t support it if I didn’t know the man. Most of them in on that council are too ‘cautious’ to permit something that ambitious, of course they are the ones who had a problem with that strip club out on 42nd.” I knew what he was talking about. Every council had their ultra conservative, who somehow would make everyone else feel guilty for thinking just the teeniest liberally. Our ultra conservative was Christine Whallenfall, a retired missionary, still focused on a mission ‘to protect this fine city from moral decay, and excess,’ I heard her say more than once. Christine had a way of making people believe her, I thought she was a load of crap, but who was I to question her ‘calling?’
      “Who’s this man with the plan?” I asked Harry, the cigarette was going to my head a little.
     “You would have known him, he was over at my house ad often as you two were,” Harry paused to ponder that situation. “You remember the Johanson kid?” Harry always had a good memory with names, but he would always call Evan Johanson “The Johanson kid.” Anyway, how could I not, he was Greg’s rival in every right until the day he moved out of town for college, or that is what his family had said. Like Harry said, Evan Johanson was always somewhere in the vincintity that I was as a kid, but I never could figure out if it was by design or luck, anyway we all went to elementary school together, we weren’t exactly close, but we had been some what friends. That friendship deepened our senior year of highschool because he had a slight English problem, he couldn’t understand it, and I could, so I tutored him. Somehow through all that, I had developed a huge crush on him, which only made it difficult for me, but I was over that. Evan Johanson was just another guy I use to know way back when.
     “So Evan Johanson didn’t end up in some prison somewhere.” I remarked with an unusual candor. Shannon almost smacked me, she elbowed me in the side instead.
     “Actually, he is an architect, and with his parents construction company they plan to make a killing.” Harry let slide. Harry also had a soft spot for an underdog, Evan Johanson included, which was probably why I was one of his favorites. “His parents are pretty proud of him.”
     “Who ever said you could never go home again? I’m sure Coach Rogers would LOVE to see him.” I pointed out. One night after our high school graduation Evan had gotten drunk, drove his truck down to the football field and urinated all over the goal post. This was ironic because Evan had won out over Greg for captain of the football team. Ironic situations always made me chuckle, and I think that is what Evan had in mind when he did it, ironic situations seemed to make him chuckle too.
     Harry laughed, while Shannon sifted her weight back and forth from each foot nervously. Shannon was getting itchy to find that councilman “Well, all the power to him then.” I said, but added, “But now I can see why Greg Phillips has a problem with this project.”
     Harry shook his head in agreement, he also knew the bitter rivalry between Evan and Greg. It was fierce with Greg usually coming out on top, with the exception of football, which made Evan’s departing scene even more mocking.
     “Well thanks Harry. I’m gonna miss you when you move.” I told him, putting out my cigarette and giving him a hug. Shannon hugged him too, which caused the old man to get misty eyed, “Now you two stop it, you act if I am about to meet my maker. Florida isn’t the end of the world.” Then he muttered something under his breath that sounded like, “I hope.” With that he saluted us goodbye and got into his sleek Cadillac.
     We had to go out the front door since I had parked in the parking garage across the street. We had all but gotten to the front doors when I heard my name being called across the lobby.
     “Well isn’t it Randy James. It’s been a long time. I heard you were writing for The Globe.” it was Greg Phillips. My insides did a double take. I frowned at him, before I felt Shannon’s elbow digging in my ribs. I nudged her back before I flashed my million dollar smile at him. I pretended he was giving me a million dollars, thus the million dollar smile. I suddenly remembered that I was wearing a sleek micro mini skirt, and suddenly felt very naked.
     “Hi, Greg. Yes,” I unconsciously started to pull at the hem of my skirt. “I have been working at The Globe for oh, awhile now. Congrats on getting elected.” I wanted to say that I had voted for the other guy, despite Harry’s support of him but I didn’t. I stood there uncomfortably until I remembered Shannon limbering at my side. “You remember Shannon Moss don’t you.” “Yes, it’s good to see you too.” He greeted with a pasty smile. He was a slick one, I believe they had dated for a brief time, but I didn’t want to say that.
      “Hello.” Shannon said back. She was always so polite. I just wished once she would be totally rude and obnoxious to someone, besides me. “Oh I see Councilman Roberts, I am going to go say Hello, excuse me.” I could have cursed him and her when she deserted me. I smiled back at Greg Phillips, I knew talking to him was inevitable, considering the relationship I had with Harry, but somehow I thought it would be different, that Greg Phillips wouldn’t be leering at me as if I were freshly slaughtered meat. I remember in high school how I was going through my grunge hair dying phase. So I guess it did come as a slight surprise to him, seeing me in a sensible, but short, skirt and fitted jacket with my hair in a neat bob of my natural auburn color, and conservative make-up. Hell I was surprised at my professional tastes. I felt like Jane Pauley or Barbara Walters, only not old.
      “How would you like to get some coffee or a drink.” He asked. What was he fishing at? He couldn’t be attracted to me. He should be attracted to tall statuesque model types like Regina Hutchins. Don’t get me wrong, Greg Phillips was a very attractive man. If I hadn’t known him in a previous life, I would be all for jumping his bones. But somehow I couldn’t get that stupid song out of my mind. Yes, it had happened almost 20 years ago, but the pain was still there. Besides, if he did something that petty when we were 8 how would he act now? Hey I had a reputation to uphold. Okay not really but I didn’t need it spilled all around town how I slept with the mayor. Somehow I would loose what little ethos I had. And no matter how big this ‘city’ thought it was, it still had a regular small town gossip mill.
      “I would sure like to,” I lied to him, “But I have to rush and get this written for tomorrows edition,” I already had the damn thing typed, all I had to do was put in the extra data about Evan Johanson. “Besides, I came here with Shannon.”
      Just then, while I was lying through my teeth, Shannon acting as my Fairy God conscience said, “Go ahead, you can get a ride home with Greg.” Let me tell you, best friend or not, I could have strangled her with my bare hands and enjoyed it. I hated it when she played merry match maker, and I was going to get even with her, one way or another, but at the moment I had Greg to contend with.
     “Well then, I guess I am allowed to go for a drink,” I stressed the last word, there would be no coffee sipping for me, no sir, I needed to be fortified. If I had to put up with Greg’s good looks and knowing better than to touch, I would have to be half tanked. I tried to look on the bright side. If I was nice to him now, maybe later on down the road, he would give me an interesting scoop. At least my mother would be happy, I was socializing.
     Greg drove us to one of the bars that peppered the down town area. This was not the first time that I had been to this particular bar, and the bartender nodded a greeting at me when we sat down at one of the booths that lined the far wall. I could tell that the man was taking note that my companion was the mayor-elect. A waitress that couldn’t have been a day over 18 showed up and took our drink order. I ordered a double shot of tequila straight while Greg ordered a beer. He seemed shocked that I would order hard liquor. I shrugged and said, “Hey your driving.”
     “What have you done since high school?” he asked tentatively as if he wanted to reminisce about his glory days.
     “College. I lived in Ireland for a year before coming back home to work at The Globe , nothing spectacular, no big thrills."
      “That’s interesting.” Our drinks had arrived and he tasted his beer. I think he wanted me to ask about his life since high school, I could have cared less, but politeness won out.
      “What about you?”
     “Well, college, then law school. It was a fluke that I ran for mayor. I always wanted to go into politics but not this soon, I always thought I would be married before I won an election. Somehow having the right woman on your side makes all the difference.”
      “Yes, I know what you mean.” I could see him as one of those shady politicians that would leave their sheltered wife behind while they snuck out to a bar and a bunch of hookers for an evenings entertainment, but I didn’t say that aloud.
     The conversation continued with us talking about him, and yes his glory days in high school, when he had been captain of the varsity basketball and baseball team, and how he had been prom king etc. He didn’t mention how he wasn’t the captain of the football team, I laughed because Evan would have like that. The waitress kept bringing me tequila so I really didn’t care what we talked about. I didn’t even notice when Greg had switched to coke. Somehow the conversation came around to my sex life, and I found myself talking about Ned, and the terrific lover he was, and how he was committed to his job. I think that the more drunk I get, the more romantic I become. That’s the only way I can explain the mind boggling kiss I gave Greg when he helped me to the door of my apartment later that same evening, or maybe I just slobbered on him, or I could have made out with the lamp post, I was pretty unclear at that point.
      Yes, I guess I had a good time, no, I wouldn’t have minded doing it again, and god yes he was a good kisser or maybe it was the booze that did it, but I knew, romantic nature be damned, that I wasn’t going to let myself become involved with Greg Phillips, it would only come to heartache, just like it had in second grade, and I don’t think my romantic side could handle it.

Chapter 2
Writing/ Pictures/ Linx