Auction of Promises

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Penelope had totally forgotten about the Auction. Her life was too hectic, too rushed to allow her the luxury of ordinary events.

Thinking back, she realized it had all begun years ago, in college. Her freshman roommate, Katherine, was her antithesis. They spent the first few weeks warily circling each other, not to sure how to co-exist in the tiny cell of their dorm room. Katherine was always perfectly dressed, perfectly groomed, perfectly on time. She met and fell in love with a perfect frat guy, and went about her day, perfectly happy.

Penelope was not perfect. She was short and a little pudgy, with features she hated. She didn’t see the brightness of her soft brown eyes, the way her whole face lit up when she beamed a smile at someone. She thought her nose was too big and her dimples too deep. She found her roundness to be too much, and envied the women who effortlessly looked like sticks. But she was bright and clever, witty and so very charming. None of these traits seemed to attract shallow college men however, so Penny spent most of her days, and nights, alone.

One night, nearly October, Penelope came home to find her perfect roommate crying, mascara smeared down her perfect cheeks, blubbering into a wad of tissues. Between heart-wrenching sobs, Katherine poured out her perfectly broken heart to Penelope, sealing a friendship that would endure everything in years to come. From that night on, they were the best of friends, accepting the other’s imperfections and loving each other wholeheartedly.

After college, Penny began working at an entry level job in a software company and quickly moved up into management. Katherine took a position in a very exclusive private school for young ladies, moving in the best circles of society, meeting the most eligible bachelors. When she met Robert Bennett March, her search ended and she happily agreed to be his wife.

Penelope had been maid of honor at Katherine’s wedding. She had helped her move from one little apartment to another as Robert grew more successful. And she had been second in line to hear the news of her much-anticipated pregnancy. It had been Penelope who had stood in the waiting room, breathless to hear about her new niece or nephew. Penny was the third person to see and hold baby Meg, truly falling in love for the first time.

Over the years, Penny was a frequent visitor to the March household. She would arrive in time for breakfast, just to watch Meg open her adorable little mouth and eat her disgusting baby food. She took Meg to the zoo and the park and swimming lessons. Her heart melted when that tiny voice called out to ‘Aunt Pelopothy’. There was nothing she wouldn’t do for the child.

So, when Meg needed to sell tickets to the “Auction of Promises”, Aunt Penny was right in line for the first ones. She bought tons of tickets, which pleased Meg. She beamed as she counted her money, sure that she would win the coveted prize for the most tickets sold. Penny quickly forgot the Auction, placing her wad of tickets in a box on the living room shelf. She even forgot the form she filled out, which asked for her most cherished wish. Penelope thought of the person she had searched for through the years, the man she always hoped she would find. She had whimsically described her Prince Charming, the man she had waited all her life to meet. After pensively re-reading the form, she placed it in the box with the tickets, forgetting it and continuing with her real life.

One night, there were tons of messages on her phone, most of them deletable. She listened with a smile to Meg’s voice, calling repeatedly about something important, but never saying what it was. She called back, but got the machine at the March house. This went on for a few days, messages left at both households, casino oyna never quite connecting with a real person, then Penelope forgot about it and went on with her busy, busy life.

After work one day, she stopped at the supermarket to buy something quick for dinner. She decided salad would be perfect and gathered all the ingredients for a huge one. She needed lemon juice for the dressing and pushed her cart in that direction, suddenly tired and eager to be home. Rounding the corner of that aisle, she saw an incredible man, gazing at the array of juices, with a smile on his face. He was tall, solidly built, with sandy hair and green eyes, behind wire-rimmed glasses, that just radiated delight in everything, even groceries. She took in his casual outfit, khakis shorts and a green Polo shirt. He wore white socks and sneakers, his long legs shapely, walker’s legs.

Penny shook her head, wondering when she became a woman who assessed every male she saw. Next, she would be checking out his ass! At that thought, she couldn’t help looking at his ass in the well-fitted shorts, couldn’t help noting that it was, indeed, a very nice ass. Penny laughed at herself and continued down the aisle, blushing at her thoughts.

He nodded to her as she passed and returned to his studies. Penny shook her head and forced herself to recite her grocery list, to get this chore done and get home. She reached for the lemon juice bottles and noted that, once again, her favorite brand was on the top shelf….the very high top shelf. She stretched for it, her fingers not even coming close to the prize. Then she tried to step on the bottom shelf, but it felt too unstable to her. As she gazed longingly at the lemon juice, imagining her salad without it, a hand reached past her and snagged a bottle, bringing it to her. It was the green-eyed man, graciously offering her the bottle. She smiled up at him, thanking him and taking the juice happily. He brushed off her thanks, his voice smooth and polished, his smile devastating.

Sighing, Penny walked away, thinking that he was exactly what she was looking for, and knowing she probably didn’t even register with him. When she turned back, he was gone. “Yes,” she thought, “gone home to his pretty little wife and adoring kids…..”

Penny finished her shopping, half hoping to see him again, bump into him on another aisle, where they could smile self-consciously. Alas, she didn’t. She pushed her groceries to the check-out, suddenly weary of everything…..work, shopping, eating….it all seemed too overwhelming.

The next week was opening night for the opera season. This was one of her only personal splurges, tickets to the entire season. She loved opera, loved the drama and the beauty. She often sat upright in her seat, singing to herself as the characters moved about the stage. It transported her into a world of love and passion that she longed to feel.

As she settled into her seat, she happily glanced around. She was early, because her other great pleasure was people-watching. Opening night brought out all the beautiful people, all the gorgeously- dressed and coiffed women she usually only saw in the society pages. Tonight, as usual, she sat back and watched as the couples arrived, happily arm in arm, smiling up at each other. She was never sure if the smile was real or for the photographers, but it satisfied her hunger for romance to imagine all these men and women desperately in love.

The huge hall was filling quickly now. A lovely older couple was seated to her left, the woman smiling charmingly at Penelope. Her face seemed to glow, her eyes bright with happiness. She held her husband’s hand, their fingers interlaced. Penny envied them. The only vacant seat on the entire row was on her right. The emptiness slot oyna seemed to blossom for all the world to see. It said that she was alone, a single woman in a world of couples. Usually, it didn’t bother her. She would just lose herself in the magic of the stage, indifferent to having a companion. But tonight, it seemed different. Maybe it was because everyone was with someone, everyone was part of a set. Except her.

Penelope closed her eyes and took a deep breath, clearing these thoughts from her head. When she opened them again, someone was seated beside her. She just glanced over, then quickly looked again. It wasn’t just someone….it was the green-eyed man from the grocery store. He looked so handsome in a dark suit with a beautifully patterned tie.

She was so happy she had taken a little extra time tonight. When she had arrived home from work, she had showered and dressed as if for a date. She was wearing her favorite “little black dress”. It fit her well, emphasized the curves she usually tried to hide. She had always thought it was cut a little daringly around the neckline, but tonight she was happy that it did. Under it, she wore a new black lace bra that cupped and held her breasts high, giving her cleavage that the dress needed. She had also bought sheer black hosiery, that fit against her thighs and gave her short legs length, or so she hoped. Before leaving, she had sprayed her vanilla fragrance on her bare neck and chest, enjoying the softly enticing fragrance.

Now she was glad she had gone to so much trouble. Her heart pounded at the thought of this man, the man who intrigued her so much, sitting right beside her. While she never believed in ‘signs’, even she recognized that this certainly was one!

Penny inhaled quietly, recognizing immediately his scent, the same one that had filled her nostrils in the grocery store. She glanced at his hands, folded quietly in his lap. No wedding ring. Just long, graceful fingers on hands that looked perfect for hand-holding. Penny knew she should stop herself. It was just the romance of the opera, the couples, the loneliness in her life that made her mind wander like this. Hand-holding! The poor man had smiled at her once, helped her with a tiny problem. He probably didn’t even remember her. The chances of holding hands with him were nil.

The overture started. Both of them referred to the program, but it was obvious they didn’t need it. The opening night performance was ‘Lakme’, a simple, melodic opera of a chance meeting and two people falling in love. The woman nursed the man who had been wounded by her father. The patient was a bit of a klutz, but she was very steady in her ministrations.

Intermission is not welcomed by true opera lovers. It shattered all concentration and brought everyone back into the real world. Penelope had even forgotten her seatmate, so lost was she in the beautiful love story. As the lights came up, she had to remind herself of where she was and why. With that re-orientation came new awareness of the man to her right. The man who was tall and solid and smelled so very clean and fresh. Their arms rested side by side and suddenly Penny was so very conscious of the warmth seeping through his suit jacket to her skin.

He stood, turning to her, offering his hand. He smiled at her, whispering, “Hi, Lemon Juice” with his deep voice. Penny beamed, pleased that he, too, remembered their meeting. She placed her small hand in his very capable-looking one and stood. They walked out of the aisle, into the crush of people, with him protectively guiding her.

Penny had a brief vision of the two of them together, him so tall and handsome and fair, her so short and dark. For a moment, the vision looked so very right and perfect. Exactly the kind of perfection canlı casino siteleri that followed her best friend, Katherine, everywhere she went.

Silently, they entered the crowded lobby, and he gently installed her in an empty corner, smiling as he offered to get her something to drink. She watched him walk away and marveled at his grace. He seemed heads taller than the others, much more handsome and clever and charming and….. She caught herself. She was not usually given to flights of whimsy, yet here she was, estatic over lemon juice!

She stood quietly watching the beautiful people mingle, the kind of thing she loved doing at gatherings such as this. But she was distracted by thoughts of the man, the wonderful man, she was meeting tonight. She glanced up and could see him working his way back to her, moving easily through the crowd, his hands held high with glasses of jewel-red liquid. As he arrived in front of her, his already lovely smile turned dazzling. He handed her a glass of wine with a courtly flourish, almost bowing from the waist, or maybe she just imagined it.

“Madam, we have not been formally introduced. I am William. And I am delighted to meet you!”

“Oh, Sir, I am Penelope. It is wonderful to meet you. Tell me about yourself. What do you do, beside rescuing women in the lemon juice aisle?”

Amazingly, the conversation between them flowed. He seemed well-versed in almost anything she mentioned. They talked quietly, with very comfortable occasional silences. He seemed to enjoy people-watching as much as Penelope. He even fell easily into a game she liked to play. Often, at busy events, Penny would stand to the side and make up stories to go with each glamorous person nearby. Usually, she only entertained herself with this information, but tonight, she had someone to share it with. William. Wonderful William.

She found herself laughing happily as he spun a tale about the attractive blonde beside them. She added little tidbits, which made the story even better, and he looked at her appreciatively. They were in the middle of a particularly delightful story when the lobby lights dimmed and the crowd began moving for their seats.

Again, William took her elbow, guiding her through the throng. He leaned down to hear what she was saying, making Penny feel small and dainty.

They settled into their seats, arms touching lightly on the armrest, and watched the curtain open for Act II. Again, the music and the performance swept them away to another world, and Penny forgot about William and the theater as she entered the magical world of the loving couple.

As the last aria ended and the curtains closed, Penelope was surprised to find herself in a theater with regular people. She had totally lost herself in the story and the music. It took her a moment to remember where she was. Beside her, William seemed to feel the same. They sat still, waiting for the crowd to exit the aisles. They remained sitting as the entire building became quiet and the lights dimmed.

Finally, William stood and, once again, offered his hand. He held Penny’s hand as they walked up the aisle and into the lobby. They began talking again and, again, the words flowed. Penelope never wanted the evening to end, but knew it would. William walked with her, knowing somehow, where her car was parked. He walked unerringly to it, and stood beside it, still looking into her eyes and speaking in his wonderful, bone-warming, deep smooth voice.

Penny tried to concentrate, but all she could think of was his departure. She pictured him saying goodnight, turning, walking away, out of her life. It saddened her, yet, was inevitable.

When she heard the words, it startled her. She wasn’t sure if she had imagined it or if he truly said goodnight. Then he took her hand, bending low, kissing it softly. She felt the skin below his lips glow. He waited for her to unlock the door, get into the car, and start the car. Then with a smile and a wave, he turned to go.

TO BE CONTINUED…

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