“I like to drive,” Mary said, out of the blue.
“Huh,” said Sean, looking up from his iPhone.
“I think what I meant to say is that I like to be in the driver’s seat.”
“I knew that already,” said Sean, with a smile.
They were on the Olympic peninsula, on 101, just south of Quilcene. Mary knew these roads well, having grown up in Port Angeles, on the northern coast. The rain forest of Washington State was an alien world for Sean. He had lived on a small farm in Iowa until he was six when he moved to an apartment with his mother in suburban Washington D.C. Almost everything was different out here on the Pacific Coast: the plants, the people, the way people talked and acted; everything was different, excepting Starbucks, of course. Living with Mary was different as well. Sean had been attracted to Mary from the moment when they met at his job interview. She was an anomaly in the world of coders and hackers: a brilliant and independent woman who ran her own tech business. Sleeping with one’s boss wouldn’t have been all that unusual—if their roles had been reversed. Somehow, it had worked out between them—so far.
“That’s why I’m worried about this deal with the crypto division sale. It’s been all lawyers so far. I just don’t have a clear sense of what I’m up against. The big shots from the corporation didn’t get to where they are by playing by the rules.”
“So, rule-breaker, what kind of dirt do you have on them?”
“These guys are monks. I have never read so many innocuous emails in my life.”
“You’ve been reading their corporate communications?”
“And their personal ones. No mistresses or gambling addictions. Nothing. If I didn’t know better, I’d say they that were Mormons.”
“And what can I do to help in these negotiations, besides being your arm-candy?”
“As far as these meetings go, that might be enough. They know you played hardball with the Feds and didn’t end up dead or in prison. Just by having you sit in on the final meeting will help them appreciate just how good we are at what we do. Then, if they still have reservations, I’ll give each member of the board a packet of their email from the previous month with the words ‘If you were using the ADR security system this exchange would have never happened’ written on each one of the envelopes.”
“Their emails. Of course. I think you have it covered,” Sean said, “I’ll be there, with all the machismo I can muster.”
“Sean, do you feel as if you are a ‘kept man?’ I mean, I hardly gave you a chance to refuse me when you came back from D.C.,” Mary said, in a serious manner.
“I was willing, although barely able. Getting stabbed hindered my technique for a while,” Sean grimaced at the memory.
“It was good that we had to start slowly,” Mary said, smiling.
Mary pulled into the parking lot of the Falls View Trail.
“I want to show you something, Sean. Something I’ve never shown anyone else.”
They got out of the car and began to walk.
“Sean, I’ve never talked to you about the men in my past. Until you came along, I didn’t think I’d ever find someone. You were different: you didn’t resent my intelligence, you didn’t look at me as a ‘conquest,’ a ‘prize.’ How did that come to happen?”
“I didn’t have an abusive father to set a bad example? Maybe. I don’t know. I do what I can.” Sean had wondered, of course. And certainly his having been raised by a single mother had affected him to some extent. He had fallen into relationships in the past but having never pursued them, they hadn’t lasted. His relationship with Mary had a completely different dynamic than the others. Her observation was true, however, he had never sought to ‘win’ a woman. There was never a question of Mary’s appeal. She was more than just another fling—and she had saved his life.
They walked to where the trail diverged: to the left was the lower canyon path, to the right was the upper overlook way.
“Down here,” she said. About 100 yards along the lower path they came upon a small break in the vegetation. “In here.” Sean followed Mary through a narrow channel in the brush until they reached a small clearing.
“This is the place. The place where the Blessed Virgin Mary died.”
They stood silent for a long time. Finally, Mary began to speak:
“I had a boyfriend, once, in high school. I had been seeing this one guy. He was a senior, I was a sophomore. There was a group of kids in the computer class. I was the only girl. That guy and I came out here—the rest of the group went on further down the trail. We were just making out a little… ” Mary began to tremble. Sean had never seen her this way, "… he thought it should go further… He held my arms down… Later on, when we met up with the group, he did a ‘thumbs up’ and winked. They all laughed; they all knew. That was the end of it—the end of boys for me. From then on I was on my own.”
“Oh, Mary,” Sean gently touched her arm.
“You’re the only man who has always been respectful of me,” Mary said, “Let’s get out of here.”
They walked back to the car holding hands.
As if they were children.