Being a novel, all characters, events, dialogue and representations are fictional ... and in no way are meant to represent any real or living persons or events... except the few annual events that are used to move me through time. The opinions expressed are my own, and not necessarily those of my author. And the story is copyrighted, by my author of course. Oh, and from time to time I may include some real time events to keep the blog more authentic. Comments and suggestions will be appreciated and seriously considered as the story moves along.

If you are just joining us, start with the Prologue and Chapter One on March 1, 2011, in the Archives.

Monday, June 27, 2011

June 27, 2011 Chapter 26

Record high temperatures all this week in Lubbock. The poor cotton farmers. Gives new meaning to ‘dry farming’! Pray for rain throughout Texas. I hear down in Central Texas they are beginning to ration water. 
   Yesterday morning, after going to early Mass and seeing Father Murphy, but not Professor Murphy, I drove Sharon and Doug to the airport for their annual pilgrimage to all things Italian, assuring Doug I would take good care of their house for the next four weeks, and assuring Sharon I would call her if anything developed with “the non-priest,” as Phelps keeps calling Colin the professor. 
   On the drive home, I was struck by the fact that I was truly alone for the first time since coming to Lubbock. Sharon and Doug had been a lifeline, so to speak, and had been there for me when loneliness or sadness had shown the slightest signs of emerging, just as Ben and his family had been in Dallas the previous year. I will just have to keep busy, that’s all. Luckily, the house renovation details should take up most of my off-work time. And then there’s always the office — oh, boy, the office.
Chapter 26
   Communications staffers partner with Information Technology for the care and feeding of the university’s voracious website, a huge beast of information with more than a million pages linked. Yes, more than a million. Many pages and sites are controlled by different departments, but it’s a daunting task to keep the information updated and correct. The main Tech website is frequented more than 700,000 times a month — current and prospective students, their parents, community members interested in any of the thousands of campus activities, by staff, faculty, other colleges looking at the competition, and those looking for news of Texas Tech, especially loyal alumni. 
   Steven and Susan do the majority of the writing. When a department has changes for their pages, a request form is available online. Because everything is under strict graphic guidelines along with writing and design standards, Ricky and Tech’s IT department are tasked to make those changes after approval by the Communications office. Several older students are hired each year to assist with keeping the website current, and Steven, Susan and Ricky do a great job of supervising them.
   It keeps them all hopping, as faculty comes and goes, and organizations change leaders. Working with the website is a constant endeavor — an especially trying one on the day last week I questioned my new way to work with my micromanaging boss.
  “I want the front page changed,” Boyle told me when I reported to him as requested early on Tuesday. “The president’s office needs more exposure and I want the page to reflect the responsibilities of this office. Here’s a list of what I want. Make the changes.” 
   I looked incredulously at the list of his demands, including a photo of himself as the interim president and his personal message of welcome—poorly written—along with design changes. These were major changes to the content, format and design. 
“The front page? You mean the home page?”
“Yes. Whatever it’s called. The first page people see.”

“The home page. It’s not really that simple, Mr. Boyle. We have a committee of students, staff and faculty, along with IT personnel that meets once a month to discuss and approve major changes, so I’d have to take your request before them.”
   “No. Just do it,” Boyle said flatly.
  “I’m afraid I can’t just do it, Mr. Boyle. A change of this magnitude, the home page that’s linked to everything ... it just can’t be changed on a whim ...”

He looked up sharply, “A whim?” he said sternly. “I assure you, I do not make decisions on a whim.”

I immediately thought of his former secretary, Allison, but kept my mouth shut. Think, Maggie, I said to myself, what’s an effective way to deal with him this time that won’t get you fired?

I straightened up and said, “Normally, once the committee makes recommendations for major changes, sir, the Board is informed. Would you like me to let the Board know of your request for changes?”
  “No. Just do it. I tire of reminding you that I am your direct supervisor and you must do as I say. Dismissed.”
   Back upstairs, I called Ricky in to help me think this through. Would my tried and true analytical approach help solve this problem?
  “He wants to do what?” Ricky said. “He can’t. We have guidelines in place ... and who wants to know about the president, let alone the interim president, on the home page anyway? We can’t.”
   “I know we can’t, but we’ve been directed to, so let’s look at it logically. Fact one ...”

“Fact one,” Ricky interrupted, “is that Boyle has an ego the size of Texas and he just wants the publicity a photo on the home page would give him, hoping it will influence the Board of Regents to give him the job permanently.”

“I know, Ricky, but let’s figure out a way to not comply with his directive and still keep our jobs, shall we?”
   He looked at me warily. “Sure, Boss, but how?”
“Fact one is that major changes must, by university guidelines, go to the committee for approval. Fact two: Boyle wants us to bypass the committee. Fact three: we like our jobs,” I said, a sardonic smile spreading across my face. “So, what are our options?”
   “Well, we could sabotage his computer so he can’t see we haven’t made his changes?” Ricky suggested brightly.
   “Punishable by firing squad, I’m sure.”

“Right. Let me think. He’s not computer savvy, is he.” It was a statement rather than a question. Everyone in the building knew Boyle didn’t use e-mail and barely understood the on/off switch, another reason to wonder how he even knew the home page was influential. “So, he probably doesn’t understand how long it would realistically take to make a change like this.”
   “You’re right. I think he expects the changes this week,” I said.

“We could stall him, couldn’t we?”
   “Yes, we could. Hmmm. How long would it take to make the changes, I mean IF we wanted to make them?” I asked.
   “I can’t do it all here. I’d need to work with IT, and they’ll be furious. It took us more than a year to get the current homepage layout approval and then design all the other pages following that template.  I’d say, without having to get any of the approvals, it would still take us several months. And that’s only if we do nothing else.”
  “That’s great. Let me talk with Pat in IT and let her know what we’re trying to do. See if she’ll go along with the stall tactic. Within a month, the Board should have named the new president, and odds are it won’t be Boyle — then problem solved.
   “In the meantime, Ricky, my graphic genius, work up three or four new design drafts for the homepage with what Boyle wants so we can show them to him ... but make each and every one so awful that he’ll keep sending us back to the drawing board. You could deliberately leave out one or two of his demands in each design ... but different ones each time. And use the worst picture you can find of Mr. Bennett Boyle. If we can stall him on the design long enough, we might not even have to get IT started on any changes. And remember, Ricky, what is said in this office stays in this office.”
   “Not a problem, Boss. I can have some ideas by  the end of the week ... and although I’m not used to doing ugly work,” he said with a gleam in his eye, “this might actually be fun!”
   On Thursday evening, I met with my new architect for the second time. I’d hired him shortly after I settled with the last one. This one assured me tearing out the ceilings and installing paneled, painted cross beams in both living and dining rooms would be doable and still be in keeping with the design integrity of the house. I’m happy to say the revised drawings should be ready later this week.

   On Friday afternoon, Elaine put through a call from “a Professor Murphy” and who seemed to take particular note of the expression of surprise and delight on my face.  I asked Elaine to close my office door. I had been so busy all week, the handsome professor had not really been on my mind. Well, at least not too much.

   “Didn’t know if you were headed to Dallas for the long weekend next week,” Colin said after we’d exchanged pleasantries.

   “No, no. I’m here ... The long weekend?” I asked, puzzled.
   “Monday week is the Fourth ... of July,” he added when I made no reply.
   “Oh, yes, of course! No, I mean yes, it is. But I’m here ... in the middle of constructing an addition to a house and sort of house-sitting for friends. So, no. I’m here. Just forgot it was a holiday, that’s all.”
   “A house addition, huh? That’s hard work. Yours?”
   “Of course it’s mine,” I said laughing, “and I love renovating houses, don’t you?”
   “Can’t say if I do or don’t since I’ve never done it, to tell the truth. Never needed to.”
    “I’ve done it before in Dallas. Jim and I ... ” I kicked myself for mentioning my late husband again — stupid, stupid—but continued on, “We added two extra rooms — for a larger den with a pool table for the boys and a study. The construction was a mess, but I enjoyed the process. It was fun.” Then I silently chided myself again for bringing Jim up while the silence on the other end lingered.

At last he said, “So, if you’re not too busy house-renovating and house-sitting, wonder if you’d care to join me at the street fair Monday afternoon?”

   “Street fair? Where?”
   “Where? You have been busy. In front of St. Elizabeth’s on Broadway. Lubbock does the Fourth up right with a huge Fourth On Broadway street fair and then fireworks at McKenzie Park. At least I think we’ll have fireworks.This drought may kill them. Anyway, Sean has asked me to help again at the church’s booths ... they set up games for the kids and sell tacos. I’m on duty until 2:30. I could come pick you up after that?”

“Oh, well, no, it’s close to the office, so I’ll just walk over to the church, I mean if that’s okay with you? Don’t know if I can stay through fireworks, though. I’m really behind on things with the addition, but I’ll come to the fair for a while. Will that work?”
    We agreed to meet at the church booth. 
Disappointed that she didn’t sound too enthusiastic, Colin decided he would take what he could get and see where it went.

Monday, June 20, 2011

June 20, 2011, Chapters 24 & 25

A great deal has happened since last Monday. I’ve met three times with an architect, think I’ve found a contractor, and am really getting the ball rolling on the house. 
And, my son is ecstatic that the Dallas Mavericks won the NBA title, finally. Go Mavs! 
Chapter 24
  Friday evening, after spending an hour after work going over the third revision of design plans from my architect, I agreed to meet Sharon and Doug at La Diosa, a fashionable wine bistro in downtown Lubbock. Set in an old warehouse with high ceilings and picturesque brick walls, the eclectic restaurant is a favorite haunt of Tech faculty and administrators, especially for happy hour. Numerous vintage couches and chairs are scattered around tables of all shapes and sizes. Artwork lines the walls as if in a gallery. Several are for sale. Walter Patterson’s landscapes impressed me, so thinking one might look good in my new house, I looked closer, then winced at the price. Painting my own would be much more economical.
   Doug was on a wildly purple couch across the room. I joined him as he finished ordering a bottle of wine and hors d’oeuvres. 

“Hi, Handsome,” I said, kissing his cheek as he rose to greet me. “Where’s Sharon?”

   “Running late. She was at the hair dresser’s and there was some problem with the coloring, or something. She’ll be here directly as soon as she’s ‘spiked.’ How’s the house coming? Not well, I hope, so you’ll be with us longer,” he teased.
   “No, not well. And yes, I may just give up and live with you guys forever!”
   “Great! But seriously, what’s wrong now?”
   “Oh, just the normal renovation stress and problems. I’ve done this before, but not on such a major scale and not by myself. There are so many decisions. And right now, the architect and I aren’t communicating as well as I’d hoped. I tell him I want the ceiling torn out in the living and dining rooms and he tells me fine ... then brings me plans that don’t have that included. Seems he ‘just can’t see it working with the integrity of the house.’ Thinks I should just re-plaster them with vintage swirls!”
   I reached over for an olive on the newly arrived plate. 
   “So, fire his ass.”
   “If only.”
   “If only what?” Doug said as he poured wine for us both. “If only what?” he repeated and looked at me when I didn’t answer. 
    Mouth open, olive in mid-air, I was staring at the couple just entering the bistro across the room.

Doug followed my gaze as the pair headed in our direction. “Who’s that?”
  The tall man and scantily dressed woman draped on his arm crossed the room and stopped in front of us. “Mrs. Grant,” the man said easily as he nodded to me and then to Doug.
   My unthinking quick reply was, “Shouldn’t you be in church or something?”
   “What?” he asked.
   Tugging impatiently on his arm, his lady friend said, “Come on, Colin,” dragging him away to a dark corner table.

   “Who was that, Maggie?” Doug asked as he watched the ‘lady’ sashay away with the scoundrel.
   “That,” I said with disdain as I chomped on the olive, “was Father Murphy.”

   “Are you sure it’s him?” said Sharon when she arrived ten minutes later, craning her neck to catch a glimpse of him in the dark recess.

“Of course I’m sure. The man knocked me over twice and was inches from my face. It’s him all right. She called him Colin.”
   “Well, maybe she’s his little sister, or something,” Doug offered in defense of his gender. 
   “Not a chance, the way she was hanging all over him. And you don’t put on that much perfume for a big brother,” I stated flatly. Damn, I thought. How could he be so blatant about seeing a woman like that right here in the community? And damn those eyes of his — I’d felt the familiar unsettling tug inside as he’d looked at me — no black cassock to trigger my guilt, or his, obviously. Damn.

Saturday morning, I arrived early for Father Murphy’s committee meeting, deliberately sitting at the far end of the table between two other volunteers. When the cassock-clad Father Murphy arrived and greeted everyone, I gave him the coldest stare I could manage ... my boys called it “the look.”  
   Normally “the look” could melt any male within 20 feet into submission, but it seemed to have no effect on Father Murphy, who brightly ran through the meeting agenda with equal skill and cheerfulness. I squirmed the entire hour, unhappily remembering the “lady” on his arm last night, and left abruptly as the meeting ended. I couldn’t even stand to be in the same room with him. Before I made it out to my car, I decided I would resign from the committee and find another church. But how was I going to tell Monsignor Fitzpatrick? 

   I skipped Sunday Mass, instead joining Sharon and Doug at their service across the street.

Early yesterday afternoon, however, I headed to Saint Elizabeth’s to follow through on my decision. Best to just get it over with, I thought. The Monsignor wasn’t in the parish office, but was “supervising the repainting of the parish hall,” I was told. I headed in that direction, wondering if it was a huge sin to lie to a priest, especially one as nice as Monsignor. I’d decided to skirt the truth about Father Murphy. God could punish him in His own way. It wasn’t my place to put him in his place. Besides, surely someone else from the parish had seen them? Yep, I was going to skirt the truth, say something about more convenient location of churches, or something, and then make sure I went to confession, but not here at Saint Elizabeth’s.

  Concentrating on my speech, I stepped in the parish hall door and was immediately bowled over and knocked to the floor by a madman with a wet paintbrush, which left a wide swath of ivory paint across the front of my fairly new dark green cotton blouse. Deciding this was God’s sign that I definitely had picked the wrong church, and wondering why I’d ignored His first two signs, I was surprised to find my attacker was not Father Murphy but a somewhat familiar-looking young Hispanic man with soft brown terror-filled eyes, fumbling to put down the brush and help me up at the same time. He only succeeded in getting more paint on both of us. Where had I seen him before?

Footsteps and voices were coming in our direction as I tried to stand while assuring the young man I wasn’t hurt. I definitely couldn’t say the same for my blouse.

Several strong hands helped me to my feet, including, damn it, those of Father Murphy, once again in his torn Notre Dame T-shirt and tight-fitting jeans. And he was grinning at me like a Cheshire cat. Maybe I would tell Monsignor Fitzpatrick what I saw after all, the fiend.

Standing on my own at last, the others were slowly returning to their work. Father Murphy reached down and picked up my purse to hand it to me. Childishly, I snatched it away as I once again assured those around that no, I wasn’t injured, and yes, I should’ve been more careful. The young man with the paint brush was offering myriad apologies, almost to the point of panic. Father Murphy put his hand gently on his shoulder and said, “It’s all right, Jamie. Mrs. Grant is used to getting knocked down, and she’s not hurt. But you probably should buy her a new blouse, don’t you think?”
  Jamie looked at my stained garment and turned an even brighter shade of red. “Of course, I’m so sorry. I’ll take care of it, Ma’am, I promise! But, I ...” He looked at Father Murphy for help. “Mi madre... I’ve gotta go, really.” 
   “Yes, of course, Jamie. Go, but call me when you get there and know more. Do you need some cash?” Father Murphy quickly took several $20 bills from his wallet and stuffed them in Jamie’s shirt pocket. “I’ll take care of this,” pointing to me, “and this,” as he took the wet brush from Jamie’s hand. Jamie hesitated only a moment and then hurried out the open door.

   I turned to watch him as he sprinted across the parking lot.

   “Just got a call that his mother is ill. He’s heading home. We’ll keep him in our prayers.”
    “Of course,” I said as I turned back inside, “and he doesn’t need to replace the blouse, Father Murphy. It was as much my fault.”
   “Colin,” he said.

   “Yes, Father Colin,” I said avoiding his gaze and looking instead for the more friendly Monsignor.

   “Father Colin?” he said, eyebrows raised. “Don’t you mean Father Sean?”
   I looked at him and wished he had on his cassock so my heart wouldn’t do flip-flops.

“No,” I said flatly, “I mean Father Colin Murphy.”

   “OK,” he said slowly, “Stay right here a minute. Promise you won’t move?”

“No, I won’t promise you anything. I’m looking for Monsignor ...” But he’d already turned and walked briskly around the corner of the short entry hallway. I stamped my foot at his arrogance, straightened my clothes, pulled my purse over the shoulder not covered in paint, and stepped into the main room where men and women of all shapes and sizes were busily turning the walls the same color as the wet swath on my blouse.

   The smell of fresh paint was overpowering but not overwhelming, signaling a renewal in the musty old room. Orderly chaos seemed to prevail, and I marveled again at the old priest’s powers of persuasion. At the rate this army of volunteers was working, the huge hall would be finished long before dinnertime. Too bad I wouldn’t be around to enjoy it. Now where was the old priest?

  Before I could spot the Monsignor, Father Murphy had stepped back in front of me.
  “Mrs. Grant! Again you have met with catastrophe at St. Elizabeth’s. I think this is a parish record. Are you all right?”

In no mood for further apologies, I looked at him hard and stammered, “What?” Then involuntarily stepped backwards against the wall when a second Father Murphy suddenly came into view and said, “Surprise!”
My purse slid off my shoulder, but I grabbed it before it fell and clutched it to my stomach, frantically looking from one face to the other. No, I wasn’t seeing double ... but I was! They were identical, both dark haired, green-eyed, tanned, tall and all male. The only difference was their ND T-shirts didn’t match and one man’s head had a little more gray hair.

   “Twins!” I said much too loudly and then clapped a hand over my mouth.

   “Yep,” said one grinning Father Murphy.

   “Since birth,” said the smiling other one.
   Laughter started to bubble up from inside, and even with my hand covering my mouth, it spilled out in loud unfeminine guffaws that had both men grinning even more broadly and had me soon doubled over, leaning against an unpainted wall. Sliding helplessly to the floor, I gasped for air, looked at them and started laughing all over again.
The Fathers knelt down beside me as I held my stomach at the same time as I tried to suppress the giggles spewing from my mouth. I laughed so hard it hurt, and tears started streaming down my face. One Father Murphy retreated to find tissues, and I said to the other between gasps and giggles, “I ... need ... to ... sit ... down.”

“You are sitting down,” he said flatly.

I was genuinely surprised as I looked first at his face, then the floor, and wheezed, “Oh, so I am. I need to ... to stand up, then.” He reached for me, pulling me up, a little too closely for comfort, his arm snugly around my waist, my hands flat against his chest. My laughter finally stopped and I sighed, looking deep into his eyes. “Where’s a black cassock when I need one?” 
  “What?” he said, obviously confused.

   Triggered, the laughter spewed forth again, and this time I spit and blubbered all over his face as I couldn’t contain it. Pulling away, I leaned against the wall. I turned aside, holding my stomach and laughed hard again.
  The second Father returned with tissues, giving one to his brother for his spit-strewn face and several to me. Then they just stood shoulder to shoulder, arms folded, watching me, and waited.

   Finally, wiping my eyes, I regained most of my composure and faced them to apologize. “Oh, my. I’m so sorry ... really, so sorry ... So, which one of you ran into me?”

“That would be me, the first time,” one said, raising his hand.

The other one, the one with a touch more gray said, “And me, the second time. I’m Father Sean Patrick Murphy, priest.”

The first one said, “And I’m Cailean – Colin – Patrick Murphy, professor.”

  Looking at Colin, I said, “And you were the one I saw Friday night at La Diosa with a date?”

“Yep, that was me all right ... Wait, and you thought I was him?” He laughed out loud, and slapped his brother on the back. “No wonder you weren’t very civil.”
   “I’m so sorry,” I said sheepishly.
   Sean looked at his brother, frowning. “Who was it this time? Kate?”

“No, it was Dixie.”
   “Ah, yes, Dixie. Definitely not my type,” Father Sean deadpanned.

I looked at him quickly, then got the joke and started laughing again.
   “Oh, no you don’t,” Colin Murphy, said, grabbing my elbow and steering me farther into the room. 

“Come here and let me get you water or something. If you don’t stop laughing, you’re going to hurt yourself.” 
I still clutched my purse to my stomach and allowed myself to be pulled further into the large room. Father Sean followed. Sitting me down next to a refreshment table, Colin, the professor, put a bottle of water in my hand, and commanded, “Drink.”
   “Yes, sir,” I said, complying. As I drank and the giggles subsided, I couldn’t stop looking up from one face to the other.
   “You guys are really identical!”
   “Yes,” Father Sean replied dryly, “All our lives. Listen, I’ve got to get back to work, Mrs. Grant.”

   “Oh, of course, but when you ran into me the other day, how did you know who I was? We hadn’t been introduced.”
   “Colin told me. After he ran you down on Saturday, he sent Jamie to find out who you were and then told me about the crash, describing you to a T.”
   Colin rolled his eyes and shrugged as I looked at him.

   “Jamie? I thought he looked familiar. I hope his mother’s all right.”
   “Me, too,” Father Sean said. “We’re remembering her in the Masses this week. I really need to go, if you’ll excuse me now. I’ll see you in church?” 
   “Of course, Father, wouldn’t miss it,” I replied happily.
   Father Sean smiled, turning to rejoin the volunteers.

  Colin sat down in the chair next to me as I sipped more water, shaking my head and smiling.

   “What?” he said, when I grinned broader.
   “Nothing, nothing at all.” But I was so relieved — relieved I wouldn’t have to leave Saint Elizabeth’s, and relieved my physical attraction hadn’t really been to a priest.
   Colin cleared his throat. “Listen, Mrs. Margaret Grant. Are you free for dinner tonight?”
   I looked at him with surprise. “You’re asking me out? I have a wedding ring on or doesn’t that matter to you?” I guess I said it a little more acerbically than intended. Leftover anger from when I thought he was a priest who dated, I suppose. Although Jim had been gone almost a year and a half, I couldn’t bear to take off the simple gold band, and besides, it kept unwanted men at a distance. Obviously, though, not this one.
  “It does matter, Mrs. Grant, but I happen to know you are widowed, since February a year ago, and weren’t you out with someone Friday night at La Dioso?” Without waiting for an answer, he quickly said, “So I thought you might like a little dinner and conversation. That’s all. Unless you have another date? Besides, I ate your lunch awhile back and figure I owe you some pizza, at least.”
   “Oh,” was all I could say.
   Colin continued. “Like Sean said, I had Jamie check you out and Monsignor told all. You work at Tech in the Administration – but I’ll forgive you for that – and you moved here in March from Dallas. You have two grown married sons, one in Dallas and one out somewhere in the Northwest. And two young granddaughters, though I find it hard to equate you with a grandmother.  So, thought you might like dinner and a little conversation, that’s all.”
   My mouth hung open. I shook my head, closing my gaping mouth before I drooled and totally embarrassed myself. At last I said, “So if you know everything about me already, what’ll we talk about tonight?”
  Colin smiled. “Well, you obviously know nothing about me, seeing as how up until a few minutes ago you thought I was a wayward priest, so I can make it a one-sided conversation. Seven o’clock?”
   I looked at my watch and jumped up. “Yikes! I’m late! I’ve got to go! Make it 7:30 at Orlando’s on Avenue Q.”
He stood quickly as I fished for my keys, “7:30 at Orlando’s. That’s good. What’s your rush?”

I headed out the door and called back, “I’ve got to go fire an architect!”
Colin stood there, thumbs in jeans pockets, looking after me for a long time.
BLOG FROM AUTHOR   As I said back in March, it occurs to me that I will need to give you a different point of view once in a while, especially as other characters like Colin Murphy become more entwined in the story. As author of My Second Wind, I am using my artistic license to occasionally bring you another character’s thoughts -- those that Maggie wouldn’t and shouldn’t know about.  A novel is a work of fiction, so keep that in mind as I work at least a few other characters in to this social media.  So I will blog when necessary.  However, Mrs. Margaret Grant will not be able to read my blog entries, as that wouldn’t work, would it? Fiction, remember. Just go along with it. I think it will enhance the story for you. Thanks!
Chapter 25
   “Seriously? Tonight?” Sean asked. “She doesn’t look your type.”

   “My type? I have a type? Since when?” Colin asked his twin as they washed the last of the paint brushes.

   “Since forever, big brother.”

   “Oh? And what type is that?” Colin asked, suddenly irritated.

   “Well, you know, the kind you wouldn’t take home to Mom.” Colin scowled at him, but Sean continued. “The kind you can have a good time with, but you don’t have to get serious with. That kind.”

   “Oh, and you, of course, know all about women, Father Sean,” Colin said, emphasizing the Father.

   “I’m still a man, Colin, so, yes, I know a little about women. But more importantly, I know a lot about you.”

   “Just because I’ve never brought a woman home to Mom, doesn’t mean ...” Colin protested, then stopped, not exactly sure what he meant.

   “Doesn’t mean what? While you were with the Bureau, you couldn’t settle down, moving all over who knows where. Now that you’re here, you can, if you wanted to ... but the women you choose to date, at least the ones I’ve heard about or seen, aren’t the settling-down kind. Mrs. Margaret Grant just might be.”

   Colin finished the last brush and reached for the towel to dry his hands, turning to face his brother.

“Well, I’m not the settling down kind. There’s just something about her, though. She’s not a bombshell, in fact, rather plain looking, and a little plump in places ...”

   “A little what?” Sean said in surprise.

   “Could stand to lose few pounds, I guess ... but when she smiled today, I don’t know how to describe it. There was just a spark ... of course not when she was drooling and spitting in my face,” he said chagrined, remembering her doubling over in uncontrolled spasms of glee. “But, there’s just something there I liked. I’d like to get to know her a little better, that’s all.”

“O.K.” Sean said. “But remember that Monsignor Fitz is very fond of her, so be gentle, please.”

“Gentle? I’m just going to have dinner and conversation. Nothing more, I swear.”

“Fine,” Sean said skeptically. “But be gentle just the same.”

Maggie’s BLOG 

   Sharon sat on my bed as she watched me pull clothes from the closet and try them on. “So you’re having dinner with the priest?” she asked.
   “Yes, I mean no ... I’m having dinner with the one I thought was the priest, but he’s not. He’s a professor of some kind,” I replied, pulling on a red linen blazer. “The other one’s the priest. How’s this? Casual enough?”
   “Everything you’ve tried on in the last 15 minutes has been casual enough. Just pick one. You look great in anything.”

“I should have been taking the stairs two at a time by now. Still got a few pounds to lose. Damn.”

“Damn, what? You look great! And lucky you are about to have dinner with a man who makes you quiver and he’s NOT at priest, thank God. What are you upset about?”
   “It’s just that it has been forever. Am I ready for this?”

“Ready for what? It’s just dinner. You don’t do sex, remember.”

“Yeah, I remember,” I said, a little too wistfully, obviously, because Sharon raised her eyebrows at me.

Author’s BLOG
Colin arrived early at the decidedly Italian restaurant, typically decorated in red checked tablecloths, plastic grapes and wine bottles, but there was an ambiance to the decades-old Orlando’s restaurant that made it a little more sophisticated than the usual pizza place. And he knew the food was amazing.
   Asking for a corner booth away from the door and ordering a bottle of wine, he fidgeted with the breadsticks, wondering why in the world his stomach seemed to be in knots. It’s just dinner, he thought. I’ve had dinner with hundreds of women. He took a gulp of wine, willing himself to be calm and then took another. 

   Colin stood as I arrived right on time. I smiled, then quickly slid onto the seat, wincing a little as I bent down.
   “You all right?” Colin said, noticing the wince and sliding in across from me.
  “Fine, just a little sore from all that laughter earlier this afternoon. My ribcage may never be the same.” I smiled shyly, a little nervous. He could probably tell. 
He liked that smile but could tell he wasn’t alone in wondering what he was doing here. She reached up and twisted her hair, then stopped herself when she noticed he had noticed.
   “Hello, Professor Cailean Patrick Murphy,” I said a little anxiously, putting out my hand.
   “Hi, Mrs. Margaret Grant,” he replied, amused, taking it for a business-like shake.
His nervousness melted with her touch.

    I pulled my hand away quickly and cleared my throat. “Please call me Maggie. Is that all right?”
   “Perfect, Maggie. Mine’s Colin to my good friends and family. Wine?”

“Yes, thanks, Cailean.” At his raised eyebrow, I shrugged and said, “I don’t know you well enough to call you Colin.”

   He smiled, thinking he might have to remedy that pretty quickly and then poured a glass for her, refilled his own. They ordered from the oversized menus.

I took another sip of wine and then said, “Okay, talk.”

   “You said you’d tell me all about yourself since you already know all about me. So talk.”
   “I don’t know everything about you, but okay. Hmm, let’s see. Where to begin?” he said with a mischievous smile.

   “Well, start with what kind of professor you are, where you work, how long you’ve been in Lubbock, where you were born, are there more Murphy’s besides your twin, the priest? Have you always been a Notre Dame fan and what does Cailean mean?”

“Whoa! What are you, a reporter?”

“Sort of. Just start talking, and I’ll ask questions along the way.” I’ve always been comfortable in interview situations, and isn’t that what first dates are? Interviews? With those I write a story about, the exchanges are a game to see if I can pull out information the person didn’t necessarily want to reveal, or didn’t know was important. And when I am the one being asked the questions by a reporter, it was an even more interesting contest to make sure I only revealed enough to satisfy, but never revealed too much. I’m pleased to say I’ve seldom lost a match.

And so he started talking, and I asked questions and he answered, and then he asked questions and I answered. We talked through the appetizers, through spaghetti and veal parmesan, and through Italian cream cake topped with vanilla bean ice cream. And through a full bottle of wine.
   Colin – from the Gaelic Cailean, which means “young creature” – is the older of the twins by a few minutes and the second of eight children, seven boys and one girl, the youngest. They were born and raised in Chicago, and most of the family is still there, including mom and dad, who now have seven grandchildren to spoil, none of which are offspring of Colin or Sean, he assured me with a wry smile.

“And one great-grandchild on the way,” he added.
  “You and your twin have the same middle name, Patrick?”
  “Yep. Mom gave it to all of us as a middle name. In fact, our older brother is Patrick Patrick Murphy.”
   “You’re kidding, right?” I said skeptically.
   “Nope. It’s his actual given name. Until he could beat us up, we called him ‘PP.’ ”
   “I’ll bet that went over well,” I said.
   “Not so much, really. But mom’s maiden name was Patrick, Molly Kathleen Patrick, so she wanted to keep it in the family. Even my baby sister is Margaret Patrick Murphy.”

  “But we call her Peggy, not Maggie ... and she’s now a Jones ... married a good Catholic, but not Irish.”
  “Okay, Cailean Patrick Murphy, tell me more.”
   He’d graduated from Harvard, but Sean and several other siblings attended Notre Dame, hence the T-shirts. And besides, it was every Irish Catholic’s duty to love the Fightin’ Irish. He had spent 20 years “doing stuff” before being asked by Sean to come to Lubbock after retirement. 
   “Doin’ stuff?” I asked. “What kind of stuff?”
   “Just stuff,” he said. “And now I’m a professor here at Tech. Industrial design.”

“Industrial design? You’re a designer? Wait, don’t change the subject. What stuff? What exactly did you do for those twenty years?”
   “Well, promise you won’t laugh? Just some stuff with the government.”

I laughed, “The government? Which government?”
   “Our government, of course. The United States government.”
   “Which branch?”

“Goodness, are you sure you’re not an interrogator? All right, I was with the FBI.”

I laughed again. “Right. You spent twenty years doin’ stuff with the FBI and then you retired and moved to Lubbock. Yeah, right,” I chuckled. “Nobody moves to Lubbock on purpose.”

He crossed his arms, leaned back and just looked at me, smile gone.

   Uh-oh, I thought and raised my eyebrows. “Seriously, Professor? You were with the FBI? A G-man?!’
   “G-man? They don’t call us that anymore. But, yes, seriously, I was with the FBI, retired, and moved to Lubbock. Sean’s a great brother, and Lubbock is an interesting place to live, don’t you think so? You moved here.”
   “Yes, but I graduated from Tech and love it. Seriously, FBI?”

“Something wrong with the FBI?”
   “No, no, I just ... I just find it easier to think of you as a priest than as a G-man, that’s all.” This time we both laughed. Try as I might, though, no more details about his “stuff” with the government were forthcoming, so I moved on to other topics.
   Over coffee, which we both needed after consuming the entire bottle of wine, I learned that when he first came to town, he took a few university classes out of curiosity and found he had talent in design. He’d always liked drawing things and then building them — gadgets, furniture, almost anything made of wood—but it had only been a hobby, and one he hadn’t had much time for with the agency. At retirement, he had the time, and one thing led to another. He’d thought he’d move on right after the next class, then the next semester, then the next year, but he got hooked. Within a few years, he was teaching a class or two. Then he was asked to apply for the full-time position opening up.

  “So, I just meant to come visit Sean for a month or two while I decided what to do next, and I’ve been here almost ten years now. It’s comfortable.”
   “And I meant to stay happily married in Dallas where I was comfortable. But things happen,” I stupidly said with a touch of sorrow, looking out into the distance.
   He looked at me thoughtfully, and leaned a little forward and said softly, “Yes, they do happen. I’m sorry for your loss.”

After a moment, I refocused. “Oh, sorry. Thanks. Seriously. Sorry. Didn’t mean to get like that ... too much wine.” I sighed, recomposed, and took another sip of coffee. “Speaking of things that happen, though, did you hear from that young man? What was his name? His mother was ill or something?”
  “Jamie Chavez. He’s a senior at Tech. And no, but he said he’d call me. He’s got a long drive ahead of him. She’s in Idaho.”
   “Idaho? Wow, that is a long drive.”
   “Yeah. He has grandparents just up the road in Canyon but grew up with his mother in Idaho. Good kid. Worked a couple of years out of high school to afford college, so he’s a little older than most seniors but still a kid to me. Should graduate next spring.”

“I promised your brother I would remember him in my prayers, and speaking of which,” I said, looking at my watch, “it’s getting a little late, so I’d better say good night.”

“Right,” Colin said, as we both just now noticed we were the last patrons in the restaurant. He looked up and called the relieved waiter over to settle the bill. “Let me walk you to your car.”
   Outside, there were only two vehicles left in the dimly lit front parking lot, my ten-year-old Volvo and an even older pickup truck I thought looked like it hadn’t seen the inside of a car wash in at least a year. He walked me to my car. I turned to offer my hand again, saying solemnly, “Thanks for dinner, Professor Murphy.”
   Surprised, he reached for my hand again, shook it firmly, but didn’t allow me to pull away this time. Holding it now in both hands, and looking deep into my eyes—they’re hazel and it looked as though he thought mine were nearly as dazzling as his — he smiled slowly and waited for my reaction. I returned the smile, amused. He seemed to be satisfied that the something he was looking for was still there, and said, “The pleasure was all mine, Mrs. Grant.” Letting go, he turned abruptly on his heel and strode away toward the filthy old pickup.

My knees had threatened to buckle again when he took my hand, but willing myself steady, I got through it without embarrassing myself. Getting in my car, I turned the key and drove away without another glance at him. Damn those eyes.

I needed a long cool swim in Sharon’s pool, and not just because of the summer temperature.