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     Bryan was as good as his word and made it to Sandy’s door in a bit under half an hour. He used his key to let himself in through the garage’s side door, stored his bike, slipped off his shoes, stopped for a quick chat with Ninja who greeted him warmly and then walked upstairs to find Cassie. He found her preparing two little folding end tables for dinner out on the back deck in front of the wicker love seat they had shared the night before. “Lucy, I’m home,” Bryan said, sticking his head through the door. “How are you, gorgeous?”

     Sandy gave a small startle when Bryan spoke but smiled deeply when she saw him. “You surprised me! I didn’t hear you come in. I’m fine, now that you’re here. Been a little lonely. Dinner in like five. Why don’t you shower and get dressed and I’ll get everything ready?” she asked as she walked to him, placed her hands flat on his chest and kissed him.

     “You taste heavenly,” he said. “As usual. Okay. Five it is,” and he went back into the house, dropped his clothes in the hamper and finished showering and dressing in less than the proscribed 300 seconds.

     “Do you mind if we eat outside?” she asked. “It might be too cool without any sunshine but I just love watching spring pop up. See how the tiny buds are just visible on the trees? Enchanting.”

     “Yes you are, no I don’t and maybe I should throw on a sweater. You look incredible,” he replied, kissing her once again. “I love those peg leg pants. Are they iridescent? They work perfectly for you!”

     Sandy had topped the pants with a loose fitting tunic with a plunging neckline that demanded that Bryan try to look down it at every opportunity. She had artfully tied a scarf at her waste that accented her fit figure and was wearing two inch heels which allowed her to look eye to eye with Bryan in his bare feet. “Thanks, lover! Uhm, maybe we can revisit the closet for you before we go? If we have time? I know we have more fun things for you to wear than that.”

     “What’s wrong with what I’m wearing?”

   “Nothing’s wrong with it. You look perfectly Iowan. Exciting as a cornstalk. Baby-cakes, you look good, dress to show it. Clothes are for more than keeping us warm. I made quesadillas for dinner, heavy on the guacamole for me, more queso for you. So how was work?” she asked as she led him into the kitchen and they each took the appropriate quesadilla.

     “Confusing. Good, but confusing. It was almost like it was my first day on the job even though I’ve been there two years. And my raise didn’t go through.”

     “What? What does that mean!?”

    “Oh, nothing. It really shouldn’t have. It was just something Lauren had said yesterday about me having money for our date tomorrow. Remember when I said my raise would start at the beginning of this week? Lauren just said how I could spend that tomorrow, but it didn’t show up. It shouldn’t have because we have a one week time lag, I get paid every other week but there’s a week in between, you know?”

     “Sure,” Sandy answered, grabbing two beers from the refrigerator. “Very normal for a business, especially one with non-exempt, hourly employees.”

     “’Non-exempt’?”

     “Another term for hourlies. Most people who are on salary are exempt from some labor laws such as overtime pay for going over forty hours a week. I was exempt at OPTAS because I was salaried and I earned more than a certain minimum. Let’s go out on the deck.”

     “Oh. Anyway, I didn’t receive the extra money this paycheck because it was payment for last pay period but she just said I’d enjoy having it for my date. Not a big deal, I certainly wasn’t counting on it because it really didn’t make sense that I’d get it but she kind of got my hopes up, you know?”

     “’Disappointment is a function of expectation.’”

     “Pardon?”

     “Oh,” Sandy said, “something one of my old bosses used to say. “Disappointment is a function of expectation.’ If Lauren hadn’t said that, or if you didn’t mishear her, either way, your paycheck would have been normal and you wouldn’t have been disappointed. Human nature, really.”

     “Yeah, that makes sense. So, speaking of disappointment, when you asked about the play tonight I forgot how much money we’ve been spending lately. Could you maybe loan me some for tonight’s ticket?”

     “No. Please, sit.”

     Bryan was shocked. “Wait, what?”

     “No. I will not loan you the money,” Sandy replied firmly. “Tonight is my treat. It was my idea, not yours. Please let me pay for our outings for a while, okay? What would be great is if you save your extra pay for the next two paychecks and that way you’ll have some money when we’re in Florida. Okay?”

     “Yeah, okay. And thanks. How much do you think Florida will cost?”

     “The whole State or just our vacation?”

     “What? Oh! Smart ass. Our vacation.”

     “Airfare is around three hundred dollars round trip. You pay for that and I’ll help with the rest. The trip was my idea and other than food, which with you is a big other, having you along won’t really cost me anything extra, now will it? I like your company, you are not a charity case and it pleases me to please you. Lighten up just a little?”

     “Thank you. I’ll try. Ingrained.”

     “Hey! Speaking of ingrained, I found this beer you might like! Grain Belt. I got a six pack. I used to drink this stuff when I was in high school- don’t tell anybody!”

     “Wait! You drank when you were in high school?!”

    “Shocking, isn’t it? That was my wild rebellion. I’d have a drink at a party to show how cool I was. Not with my Cedar Ridge Academy friends, these were those tough publics I met through basketball. We were a rough crowd. Ha! As if!”

     “So, my raise will show up next pay period, I should pull down what, eight hundred more for the four weeks? That’s crazy! Hey, these are good. Thanks.”

     “You’re welcome. Money is nice. Don’t forget taxes. You were probably only paying social security before but now you’ll likely be making enough to pay some withholding. And what about your IRA?”

     “My what?”

     “The retirement thing you told me about? Where Cedar Walk takes out money and then match it up to three percent? Like the one you got from your Mom when she died that we’ll use for your down payment?”

     “Oh. Yeah. I’m all signed up. Did that today.”

     “Great, but there’s another few dollars you won’t see right away. All I’m saying is don’t count your chickens. If you actually see an extra hundred and fifty a week take home you’ll be doing great. Welcome to America.”

     “Even so, $300 more per pay check is more than I gross in a week!”

     “Money is nice. Now let me coddle you until Florida and then you’ll have some money to spend there but we can still have some fun together in the meantime. Deal?”

      “And a half. For me. Thanks, gorgeous.”

     “You’re welcome. Now eat so we can slip you into something with a little more style.”

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