Publish Novellas 12 February 2023
EPISODE 1 – DISTANCE
A mysterious charismatic neighbor attracts the attention of a single mother and her daughter, escalating to fanciful encounters with momentous consequences.
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Brad Dallier is a 49-year-old husband with marital problems. Tamara Richards is an attractive 47-year-old single mom with a 21-year old biracial daughter named Alyssa Richards, who bears no resemblance. So the mother is quick to clarify the relationship during introductions.
The paths of these three individuals intersect at a neighborhood block club meeting that Brad attends for the first time. After everyone introduces themselves, they discuss ways to improve security by looking out after one another.
Brad sets a large bowl of smoked mozzarella penne pasta salad on the communal table before the meeting begins. Tamara and her daughter arrive late, carrying her potato chips and juice into the kitchen for the hostess to serve later.
The sunset illumination glistens on Brad’s pasta salad. While standing in the living room with paper plates of multiple food selections after the security presentation, Tamara engages Brad in a conversation.
“Hello, Brad—is it?"
“Yes, Brad Dallier, and please remind me of your name?”
"I’m Tamara Richards and this is my lovely daughter, Alyssa.”
“It’s nice to meet both of you. I may have seen you in passing on the block. Based on the maps we received during the meeting, I live across the street and two houses down from you. If you notice me peering through my window at your home, it’s just part of the neighborhood watch.”
“We’ll try to be comforted by that, as we make certain of being properly dressed in our living room.” Turning to her daughter, Tamara asks rhetorically with a stern look, “Isn’t that right, Alyssa?”
“Keeping watch on neighbors implies agreement to relinquish some privacy.”
“Watching trouble from a distance is helpful. But finding a neighbor pressed up against a window is crossing the line.”
“Agreed, so try to stay out of my bushes, Ms Richards,” Brad replies with a smile as Alyssa lets out a giggle.
“I haven’t seen you at these meetings before. What’s the special occasion?”
“A few years ago it was remodeling my basement. Then other distractions got in the way.”
“I guess the important thing is you’re here now. What’s the story behind this pasta salad?” Tamara asks, “Did you make it yourself or buy it from a restaurant?"
“Cooking is one of my hobbies. So I find my way around a kitchen pretty well.”
“Indeed, that’s an appealing quality to a woman. Is there a Mrs. Dallier?”
“Mrs. Dallier doesn’t care for block club meetings.”
“Without a wedding ring, are you speaking about your mother?”
“No, I’m married. Eating too much good food caused my finger to gain weight, so the ring no longer fits. The dichotomy is that the rest of my physique is sculpted like an olympic athlete.”
Alyssa giggles again, dribbling juice through her nose, that she quickly wipes away with a napkin.
Referring to the fact that he is married, Tamara replies, “Oh, that’s too bad.”
Deferring the inference, Brad jokes, “Yeah, perhaps you’ll see my fingers walking around the neighborhood to lose a few pounds so I can squeeze into that ring again.”
Looking at Alyssa, Brad asks, “Is that your own recipe for potato chips?”
She breaks out in more laughter than the question requires. “He’s so funny, Momma. Maybe we can go walking with him?”
“There’s plenty of room next to my fingers on the sidewalk,” Brad interjects.
“We’ll see,” Tamara replies as she tries to avoid commitment.
“Anyway, it was nice meeting both of you. And I agree, your daughter is lovely.”
“Thank you Mr. Dallier,” Alyssa replies.
Most communication between people is visual. Body language, eye contact, and pupil dilation feed intuition. Women are very sensitive to these cues. Men who notice the signals often try to rationalize an alternate explanation.
During this brief exchange, Tamara found herself attracted to Brad, as her daughter noticed. Upon learning of his marriage, she retracted her charm.
Alyssa likes to laugh and eat good food. So she looks forward to seeing Mr. Dallier again. At home, she gazes through her living room window to determine what angle has a clear view of Mr. Dallier’s home. Not apparent to the conscious mind, her heart begins competing with Mrs. Dallier and Tamara.
Sharing is Caring
A week later, Brad prepares wok-fried noodles, stir-fried chicken, and spring rolls. He puts some in a bowl and walks it down to the Richards home. Alyssa has been trying on a new outfit in the living room. Seeing Brad approach, she hurries to the front door with excitement. Before he can ring the bell, she opens with a gesture to enter.
“Is your mother home? I have some extra Chinese food, hot out of the wok, that I didn’t want to waste.”
“Thank you! She’s on her way from work. You can set the bowl down on the kitchen counter…. Let me see what you have.… Oh, this looks so good. I thought I knew all the fast food restaurants in the area. Where did you buy this?”
Brad boasts, “Actually, I wasn’t joking when I said, ‘hot from the wok.’ I just cooked this at home. You know, it takes a special stove to maintain the high temperature required for stir-fry.”
“Really? My mother and I will enjoy it! I’m already salivating. Can we text you after tasting it?”
“Of course! Should I write something down?”
“Put your number in my phone, please.”
As he taps on her keypad, he asks, “Do either of you cook?”
Laughing, Alyssa opens the freezer to reveal store-bought entrees and admits, “We could use some lessons. As you can see, it’s usually microwave or fast food.”
“Wow, that’s a lot of frozen entrees. I eat at upscale restaurants when I’m not cooking.”
“Really? I… I mean we, would love to go with you. What do you think of the outfit I’m wearing”
“It looks very attractive on you.”
Tamara enters through the open front door to see Brad and Alyssa standing in the kitchen with their hands nearly touching.
Alyssa looks up as Brad hands her back the phone that she unsuccessfully attempts to slide into her back pocket without notice. “Mr. Dallier brought us dinner.”
“I see…. Thank you Mr. Dallier. Looks like I came home just in time,” Tamara responds with suspicion.
Ignoring any reference to impropriety, Brad replies, “Yes, you did. The meal is still hot. Muy caliente. Wrong language for Chinese food. But anyway, enjoy! No rush getting the bowl back,” he says during a salute to Tamara, as he almost trips while stepping off the porch backwards.
“Good evening, Mr. Dallier,” Tamara concludes, shutting the front door.
Turning her attention to Alyssa, she chastises, “Why are you all dressed up, and how often does he come by when I’m not here?”
Alyssa assures her mother, “It’s the first time he came by. You complain if I underdress or overdress. Mr. Dallier just said he made extra food and asked for you. I had him set it down on the kitchen counter. He was here for five or ten minutes.”
Looking at the meal, Tamara is shocked, “He cooked this?”
“Yes, Momma, can we eat now?”
“Sure. I’m sorry if I seem overprotective. It was kind of him.”
During the meal, Alyssa can’t stop raving about it—and Mr. Dallier.
“This is so delicious!” she exclaims. “The seasoning is perfect. It doesn’t even need soy sauce. He can really, really cook, and goes to fine restaurants, and Momma, he is so funny too. Remember what he said about his fingers doing the walking?”
To Tamara, it is obvious that Alyssa is smitten with Mr. Dallier. She is more worried about his marriage than the age difference. The mother interrupts the endless accolades by asking, “Is Mr. Dallier handsome to you?”
Alyssa knows the answer, but she is trying to find out where her mother is going with the question. So she deflects.
“Momma, you two are about the same age. You were so… hitting on him at the block club meeting. Are you interested in Mr. Dallier?”
“Of course not. Answer my question, child. Do you think he’s handsome?”
“Well, yes. Don’t you?”
“He is a handsome… married… man. As your mother, I can tell that you have a crush on him, sitting here blushing like a red pepper while rambling on about how wonderful he is.”
“Momma, that’s embarrassing!”
“Embarrassing to who? It’s just the two of us here. I’m not going to scold you. Since turning 21, you have not stopped reminding me that you are an adult. But I warn you to be careful.
It may seem innocent now, but a married man is not immune to flirtation. And your frequent giggling encourages it. I also prefer that you two are not in the house alone.”
“You make it sound like we’re dating. He just brought food over—for the two of us,” Alyssa defensively responds.
“You’ll need to face your feelings eventually. I’m not encouraging the behavior my intuition reveals is true. I interrupted him doing something with your cellphone. If you begin feeling the need to communicate with him or see him frequently, remember this conversation.
A big sign of affection is feeling jealous when he’s near other women. If you notice these things, recall my words to you today.”
“I don’t know how to reply to this, Momma. May I be excused from the table?”
“Yes, dear. Don’t you have anything else to say?”
“Oh, goodnight, Momma. Love you.”