Fifty or Sixty Years





An Incredible Sensation
74






They were silent as they walked into the house together. Every few feet he paused to give her a light kiss . . . on the forehead . . . on her lips . . . on her cheek . . . on her hair. It was almost as if he needed to be sure she was real. As Susan looked into his eyes she realized that this was not the naive, trusting boy she had met nine years ago. Life had taught him to be wary of others but also that there were times when you needed friends and family and someone who loved you, and only you, despite all your flaws. Things were improving with his family but they would never be as close as John wanted . . . as close as he needed. Millicent was right. John needed Susan. She wondered if he had any idea how much she needed him as well. Any doubts Susan had that he would be there for her faded into the background. He had been there . . . when she was sad . . . when she was lonely . . . when she doubted her abilities; he had already proven that. Susan was very much in love with John Carter. He had said he loved her and John was a lousy liar. Tonight she would allow herself believe that they would build the family they had both dreamed of.

There was no one in sight when they entered the house. Carter stopped on the landing to give Susan another kiss. Then, he took her hand and led her to their room. They both paused as they entered the suite they had shared before. There was a fire in the fireplace, candles were scattered throughout the room and soft music was playing. On the table by the bed sat a silver bucket with a bottle of chilled non-alcoholic champagne and two champagne flutes. A multi-colored bouquet of roses was sitting on the table near the fireplace. Susan looked at him questioningly. “Carter?”

He shook his head. “I wish I could take credit for it but I can’t. Extremely considerate staff.”

“But where did they find roses at midnight?”

He smiled, “Well, now you know my secret. Nate grows them in his greenhouse. He has a degree in horticulture; raising prize-winning roses is his hobby. So unless you need several dozen all alike, Nate usually has enough for a bouquet.”

“They do this for all your girlfriends?”

“No, just you,” he said slowly. “They all love you Susan, not as much as I do, but they love you.” He put his arms around her waist and said, “Susan, you’re the only one I’ve ever brought upstairs. I think they’ve all been waiting for me to come to my senses.” Guiding her further into the room, he shoved the door to with his foot. As he stood there, staring into her soft emerald eyes, his hands began to tremble. Slowly he reached up and gently touched her cheek with his fingers. Carter could not believe this vision before him was real; he finally had the woman of his dreams; the woman he thought he would never have. He was almost afraid that if he touched her too firmly, she would disappear. He searched her eyes and found nothing but love there . . . love for him. It was an incredible sensation.

He leaned down to kiss her. Their lips met; their kiss deepened. Her arms were beneath his, rubbing his back . . . pulling him closer. The outcome of the hearing before the medical board no longer seemed important. Everything he ever dreamed of having was right here in his arms . . . well, almost everything. The rest would come soon enough. One way or another, they would have a family. Right now he needed time . . . time alone with his fiancée . . . fiancée . . . he liked the sound of that word. Carter had waited so long for this moment; he wanted to savor it . . . commit every detail to memory. He felt the rough texture of her cotton sweater, the silky smoothness of her blouse, the warmth of her soft skin. He froze as he heard her sharp intake of air when his fingers touched her flesh. He pulled back and looked into her eyes, trying to determine her feelings. “Second thoughts?”

She shook her head. “Not at all.”

“Then what?”

“I . . . this . . . this is forever.”

A knot formed in his stomach as he stammered, “Susan, if you aren’t sure . . . I . . . I don’t think I can handle another short term relationship . . . not right now. I want your love but I . . . I can’t live without your friendship. If you have any doubts . . .”

As Susan looked deep into his chocolate eyes, she understood how insecure and vulnerable was the man who stood before her. She had just agreed to marry him and yet he was afraid she might change her mind. Susan responded by pulling him closer, looking directly into those expressive brown eyes, and saying, “John Truman Carter, I love you. I have no doubt that I want to spend the rest of my life with you. It’s just . . .” How could she begin to explain what she was feeling? Whenever he held her in his arms she felt safe and secure . . . like she was where she belonged but tonight . . . tonight was different. Tonight he had made a commitment to her. He had asked her to be his wife. Her head told her to be cautious but her heart told her this was not a vow John Carter would take lightly. Susan wanted to believe her heart. “John, we’ve made love before . . . but the image of us . . . forever . . . I had no idea how erotic that could be.”

He gave a sigh of relief and smiled. “The idea of spending forever with me turns you on?” She nodded. “More than the smell of antifreeze?” he asked with a wink.

She moved her hands to his front and began to unbuckle his belt. He watched in amazement as she slipped the belt out of the loops and flung it across the room. She shoved him in the direction of the bed as she continued to remove his pants. Abruptly, he found himself in a sitting position. This was a side of Susan he never knew existed but he definitely liked it. Grinning wickedly, she said, “Oh! You have no idea!”

She knelt in front of him and removed his shoes and socks. Kicking off his pants, he laughed as she positioned herself between his legs and began to remove her clothes. “No, but I have a feeling, I’m about to find out.”

By the time she was down to the familiar pink satin, Carter found he could no longer keep his hands off of her. He pulled her close and began kissing her neck as she unbuttoned his shirt. He scooted back on the bed and pulled her with him. She was straddling him. She leaned over and kissed him passionately. As they ended the kiss, she asked, “I’m not being too aggressive, am I?”

“Are you kidding? This is probably every man’s dream . . . to be attacked by a love-starved, sex-crazed woman.”

Suddenly she remembered. Covering her face with her hands, she said, “Oh God! Oh Carter! I’m sorry.”

Puzzled, he shook his head, “What?”

“I . . . I forgot.”

He lay there looking up at her in confusion and finally it dawned on him what she was worrying about. He moved his hands to hold hers and said softly, “Susan, it’s okay. I’m not eleven and you’re not the maid. You’re my fiancée and I love you. I want to be with you. You have no idea what an ego trip this is . . . to think that you want me . . . don’t stop.”

“You’d tell me, if ever . . .”

“Susan, if ever anything bothers me, I’ll let you know but you have to promise to do the same.” He kissed her hands.

“Oh John, have I spoiled the moment?” At the sound of her saying his name, he had the now recognizable response.

“No. But even if you had, this is forever. Remember? We are going to have lots of moments.”

“Oh John, I love you so much.” She leaned over and gave him a kiss. He put his arms around her and held her close. Smiling, he said, “I think that I’m beginning to believe that.” In the position she was in, she was bound to figure it out and soon. He unhooked her bra and she wriggled her arms out of it. “You’re beautiful,” he said, as he dropped another article of clothing in the floor.

She smiled at his compliment. Running her hands through his hair, she said, “John, you have the most gorgeous eyes.”

Blepharotomy, blepsopathia, blind, blind spot, color blindness, cortical blindness . . . did she have any idea what she was doing to him? “You like my eyes?”

Day blindness, blind eclipse, hysterical blindness, letter blindness, night blindness, psychic blindness, word blindness.

“Um. They’re the color of Hershey’s7 syrup.”

“Hershey’s7 syrup?”

“I love chocolate, John. And I love you,” she said seductively.

Blister, blood blister, blister fever . . . blood . . . blood fever. He lost his place. What was she doing with her hands? Hands, distal phalanx, middle phalanx, proximal phalanx, metacarpal, greater multangular . . . first they were in his hair, then she ran them down his abdomen. Lessor multangular, navicular. This was not working. He was losing his ability to concentrate on anything except Susan and what she was doing to him. “John,” she paused, “John, did you just get . . . oh my God! John, you did. Every time I say your name you . . .”

Even in the dim light of the candles, she could see him blush. “I love hearing you say my name,” he whispered huskily.

“I can tell, John.” This time she drug his name out so it almost sounded like two syllables. She giggled. “Oh, and I love having this effect on you, John.”

“Susan, if you keep that up, I’m going to explode.”

“And the problem with that would be . . .”

Capitate, hamate, lunate; he lost his place again. Scrambling to remove their last articles of clothing while reaching for the drawer of the nightstand, he said, “I’m not . . . ready . . . to let that . . . happen just yet.”

Susan giggled and held up a small package, “Looking for this?”

“Where did you find that?”

“Um. Exceptionally thoughtful staff. It seems that at the Carter Mansion, they don’t leave mints on your pillow, John,” dragging out his name one more time as she ripped open the package.“Susan . . . you’ve got to . . .stop saying . . .”

She repositioned herself slightly. Carter closed his eyes. Their conversation ceased as their breathing became more rapid and they moved in unison. All thoughts of medical procedures and terminology escaped him; all he could think of was Susan. The world, the universe disappeared as her warmth enveloped him . . . as his hands explored her body. Nothing existed except Susan and him. Oh God, this was heaven. Carter watched as she closed her eyes in ecstasy. He heard her cry out his name and was amazed that the sound of her saying it could intensify his response. Somehow their hands found each other and intertwined. He heard her exclaim, “Yes, yes!” as he closed his eyes for blessed relief.

Susan collapsed against his chest. He enveloped her in his arms. He whispered, “Oh Susan, I love you.”

“I know,” came her whispered reply and, at that moment, she did know.

How long he held her, he was not sure. Time had ceased as the universe vanished. Gradually he became aware of her saying, “John. John.” He looked up at her. Impishly she said, “It’s not working.”

“Jeez, Susan. Give a guy a few minutes to recover.” She moved off of him and climbed out of bed. He admired her form as she moved about the room wearing nothing but an emerald bracelet and gold earrings. “What, you’re through with me and now you’re leaving?”

She leaned over and gave him a kiss. Winking she said, “Gamma said you hadn’t been sleeping. I’m going to blow out the candles. You need your rest.”

“And this was her recommendation? I knew there was a reason I loved that woman.”

Susan shook her head. “Carter, this wasn’t exactly what she suggested,” Susan said as she walked around the room blowing out candles.

The firelight reflected in her eyes. “Oh now I’m Carter. What exactly did she say?” he asked as he got out of bed.

“She said you needed me. Where are you going?”

“To get rid of this,” he grinned “and to bring you back to bed. I need you. Gamma said so.” Giving her that mischievous little boy smile, he pulled her toward him and kissed her softly. Earnestly he added, “Gamma’s right, Susan. I do need you.”

They lay back down and Carter wrapped his arms around her as she snuggled against him. They lay quietly for a few minutes. Then Susan asked, “So Carter. When did you first discover you had this reaction to someone calling you John?”

Sleepily he replied, “Not someone, Susan, only you.”

“Oh. Well, that’s good to know. But when?”

“Uh. I think it was that night on the roof . . . when we were drinking champagne.”

“You’re kidding.”

“Um . . . um.” She could feel him shaking his head as he kissed the back of her neck.

“You’re not kidding.”

“Um. Susan, you’ve always called me Carter . . . until that first night when I was stitching up Pablo and you brought me your key. That night you called me John.”

“Well, somehow Carter didn’t seem appropriate.”

“Um.” He was getting sleepier. He smiled and hugged her tighter. “You only call me John when we’re intimate . . . emotionally or physically.” He paused and kissed her hair. “Usually, when you call me John, we end up in bed.”

“Um. So it would be to our patients’ benefit if I would stick with Carter at work. We wouldn’t want you to get distracted. I’ll have to remember that.” She got no reply. Turning towards him, she could tell his was already asleep. It had been a long time since she had seen him so relaxed. Susan kissed him softly and whispered, “I love you, John Carter.” He smiled and pulled her closer.







Faberge Eggs and Family Jewels
75




“Hey, cool. Have you seen these? These are really neat.”

John Carter to Deb Chen as he picks up a toy from a counter in front of the merry-go-round at the mall: Beyond Repair





Susan awoke and saw John sleeping soundly. He looked so young and carefree; all the wrinkles had disappeared from around his eyes. Noiselessly she slipped out of bed and found her panties and a robe. Clothes were scattered around the room. She gathered them and stacked them on a chair. The sun was just coming up. She had no idea when the Carter household planned to begin their day. Softly she closed the bathroom door and quietly tried to make herself presentable. Noiselessly, she tiptoed downstairs and into the kitchen.

Finding no one around, Susan started a pot of coffee and took a pitcher of juice from the refrigerator. As she moved about the kitchen, she thought about how different her life was about to become. Before when she had stayed here, she was a visitor. Now, she was about to become part of the family. Susan Lewis was about to become Mrs. Jonathan Truman Carter, III. That thought brought a smile to her face. The Carter mansion was about to become her home. Susan had trouble getting her mind to grasp that idea. Yet, in spite of its size and the fact some parts of it resembled a museum, this place had always been the one place John felt safe and secure. Susan would not to ask him to give it up. Besides, in all of her dreams, this was where they raised their family.

She sat down at the table and sipped her juice as she waited for the coffee to finish. Looking out at the garden, she decided where they lived did not matter, as long as she had John. She loved everything about him. One minute he could be so professional and the next so childlike. But always, always he was caring and compassionate. And those eyes, they were her favorite part of his body. Well, maybe not her favorite part. She smiled as she remembered last night. On the other hand, it was his eyes that made the rest of him so desirable. She realized it was a cliche but his eyes truly were the mirrors of his soul. Susan wondered if he had any idea how much his eyes said about him.

* * * * * *


When Carter awoke, the light was streaming in through the window. He was surprised to find himself alone in the bed. Last night he had the most amazing dream, it seemed so real. Looking around he realized he was not in his usual room. It had not been a dream. Surveying the room again, he experienced a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach as he realized there were no clothes strewn on the floor. Then he noticed them neatly stacked on a chair by the fireplace. Relaxing, he leaned back against the pillow as he softly called, “Susan?” Not receiving an answer, he got up and walked to the door of the bathroom. “Susan?” Still no answer. He glanced at the clock, it was early but someone was probably up. He found his boxers and robe, and after a quick trip to the bathroom, softly padded downstairs. No doubt she had gone in search of juice or coffee.

As he got to the foot of the stairs, he heard voices and laughter . . . Susan’s laughter . . . coming from the kitchen. He leaned against the doorframe of the dining room for a moment thinking this was definitely something he could grow accustomed to hearing. He stepped through the doorway into the kitchen and found Gamma sitting at the table having juice and toast with Susan. “What’s so funny?”

Susan looked up at him and smiled, “Morning sleepyhead. Gamma was just telling me about how you liked to pretend her Faberge eggs were pets for your Weebles.”

“Great! Embarrassing childhood stories.” He blushed, but Susan’s referring to his grandmother as Gamma had not escaped his notice.

Gamma looked up. “John, I understand congratulations are in order.”

He stepped behind Susan and wrapped his arms around her. She looked up at him and he kissed her forehead. “So, you told Gamma our news.”

Before Susan had a chance to reply, Gamma said, “Actually, John, I asked. Though judging from that kiss you two shared by the pool last night, everyone in the house already knew the answer.”

He sat down in the chair beside Susan and poured himself a cup of coffee. “See, I told you it’s difficult to keep a secret around here. Worse than County.” Turning to Gamma he added, “I knew you were watching.”

“Turn about is fair play, young man.”

“Well, maybe the next time you are away from home, you’ll return to find your furniture in one of the front bedrooms,” he said with a mischievous smile.

“Jonathan Truman Carter, you wouldn’t dare!”

Grinning wickedly he replied, “Hey, turn about is fair play.”

Susan had to laugh. This was a side of Carter and his grandmother that she had never seen before. Living here might not be as difficult as she anticipated. In fact it would probably be fun. Already Millicent had suggested that, if she felt comfortable with it, she could call her Gamma. Something about the way she said it led Susan to believe the elderly lady preferred Gamma to Millicent. She had also suggested that, now that this would be Susan’s home, she might want to do some redecorating. Susan was so overwhelmed by yesterday’s events that the idea of redecorating was the farthest thing from her mind. However, she recognized that Millicent Carter was trying to make her feel welcome and part of the family.

“So, have you two decided on a date for this wedding?”

Carter and Susan exchanged looks. He shrugged as he replied, “Actually, we haven’t talked about it or even discussed the kind of wedding.” He looked at Susan questioningly.

Hesitantly, Susan answered, “I always thought I would have a church wedding, if that’s okay. Though I must admit, I haven’t been to church in years. It doesn’t have to be big.”

He smiled and kissed her cheek, “Whatever you want as long as I’m the groom.”

“Well, he doesn’t attend nearly as often as he should, but your future husband is a member of Second Presbyterian,” Gamma interjected. “You might want to consider having your wedding there.”

“Isn’t that the beautiful old church with the stained glass windows on Michigan?” Carter nodded. “Oh, I love that church. My scout troupe toured it when I was in sixth grade.”

“You were a Girl Scout?”

Oh, there are a lot of things about me you don’t know.”

I’ll just bet there are.”

Loudly clearing her throat, Gamma reached for her walker and stood. “I see you two have a lot to talk about and you don’t need my input. Let me know what you decide so I can begin planning the engagement party. Now, if you will excuse me, I have some grant proposals to review.”

Carter stood and walked with her to the hallway. “John, I’m very pleased,” she whispered as she kissed his cheek.

“Thanks Gamma.”

“Of course the decision is up to you but there are several nice family heirlooms in the safe. Elliot, Douglas and A.C. can’t seem to stay married and as for Steve and Chase . . .” she left her thoughts unspoken. Her grandson understood. “Anyway, there’s no sense in giving them all to Barbara and who knows if the others would even appreciate the gesture.”

“I’ll speak to Susan about it but I think I would like to purchase her engagement ring myself.”

“Well, perhaps you could choose something as an engagement present, from me,” she said with a smile. Carter nodded and kissed her cheek. Then, stood watching as she made her way to the study.

Returning to the table he said, “You do realize you have just agreed to marry a man who has no visible means of supporting you?”

“I’m not worried . . . as long as he can manage to keep a roof over my head,” she replied as she glanced around the kitchen. “I have it on good authority that his house is paid for.”

“Oh really.”

“Yeah, he can stay home and be a househusband and I’ll support him. I make a small fortune working at County.”

“Did you get a raise that I’m not aware of?”

“Yeah, right.”

She reached for his hand. He stood and slipped his arm around her as they walked back upstairs.

As they returned to their room, Carter’s tone became serious. “Susan, I don’t want to spoil our day but I am going to need to call my attorney. He wanted me to stop by and go over a few things before tomorrow.”

“Carter, I understand but I don’t think you should stress about it. After all, it wasn’t your signature on the form. It shouldn’t be difficult to prove that.”

“Still, I hate to ruin Abby’s career.”

“Carter, if Abby’s career is ruined, she did it herself. But surely the nursing board will consider the circumstances and the fact that Eric is her brother.”

“I hope so. She’s a good nurse, when she’s sober. Anyway, I thought we could shower and sail over to the marina then take a taxi to Tiffany’s and maybe have lunch at Shaw’s? I can probably meet with my attorney early this afternoon. Maybe you could go by your apartment and pick up a few things while I do that?”

“Sure,” she agreed. Then changing the subject abruptly, Susan asked, “Carter, is she really okay with this?”

“Gamma? Yes, not that it would matter but yes, she likes you.”

“Are you sure? We didn’t hit it off very well at first.”

“She’s never let any of my other girlfriends call her Gamma.”

“Well, she suggested it.”

And she wants you to take a look at the family jewels . . .”

Susan interrupted. “I thought I’d already seen them,” she said with a sly grin as she slipped her hand inside his robe.

Carter blushed and breathed in sharply, clearly enjoying her advances. “Uh . . . the ones in the safe. She wants you to choose . . .” Susan was making it difficult to think; “an engagement present . . . from her.” He took a deep breath. “But we can do that later, tonight . . . in fact.” Susan grinned wickedly as he added, “I think I need a shower.”



Part 76
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