Kwanzaa ‘pon A Time

Mac’s rental SUV sat in the driveway when Fergie got home.  She could kill Elan for saddling her with a boarder she didn’t want. If only she didn’t distrust the man.  Even so, she had to admit that Brad…Mac, whatever his name was, was both enigmatic and sexy. He had a kindness and sensitivity she didn’t expect in a man who gave off that much virile energy. It made him even more attractive. 

 Mac would be her escort, her fake date so to speak. That was it. His appearance would put an added zing to the holiday season. He’d get her through her brother’s wedding.  She got out of her car.

Springsteen’s Born in the USA blasted through the ceiling speakers when she entered her home. Was the man deaf? It figured he would be a Boss fan. That kind of music appealed to ‘he’ men. Elan had told her that Mac came from a ranching clan, a family with money. 

“I can’t hear myself think,” Fergie shouted over Bruce’s hometown jam.

“What?” Mac shouted back.

“Turn down the music.”

Wiping his hands on a towel, Mac came out of the kitchen wearing her ridiculously small apron. He dusted off his hands. “Dinner’s ready.”

“You made dinner?”

“You worked all day” Mac pointed out, picking up the remote and cutting Bruce off mid-sentence. “Wash your hands and let’s go.”

Maybe she’d misjudged him. As a psychologist, she knew there were many layers to a person. She’d seen Mac in tears when he’d found out Elan was alive. She’d experienced his thoughtfulness when he’d shown up at the gift exchange with flowers, wine, and gifts in hand. And now he’d made dinner.

“So, what did you cook up?” Fergie asked, softening. Her stomach rumbled and she realized with back-to-back patients, she hadn’t eaten all day.

“Spaghetti Bolognese. Quick, easy, filling.  I found pasta in the cupboard, and ground beef in the freezer. I added garlic, onion, a spot of red wine, and canned tomato sauce I found in your cupboard. Bread’s warming in the oven.”  

“No salad?”

“Done. You’re pushing it, woman.” Mac said, chuckling.

Fergie stuck out her tongue.

Mac had found a tablecloth from somewhere which meant he’d rummaged through her linen closet. Where else had he been?  Knives and forks were perfectly lined up on paper napkins, the surviving tulips made for a centerpiece. An uncorked bottle of red wine stood at the ready and he’d made salad. He’d thought of everything.

“Madam,” Mac said, holding out her chair.

A gentleman, who would have thought?

“Thank you. Maybe a change of music to something softer.” Fergie suggested. “Something festive that we don’t have to shout over. Alexa will help.”

Soon Johnny Mathis’s melodious voice filled the room. 

“My mother loved this song,” Mac confessed, his mouth turning down. “She lived for the holiday season.”

“You’ve never mentioned your mother, only your dad.”

Mac’s eyes lost their light. His voice was matter-of-fact when he answered.  “She died when I was twelve. Breast cancer.”

“I‘m sorry. That must have been tough.”

“It made me more self-sufficient. I needed to do something she would be proud of,” Mac said gruffly.

“I thought your family had a ranch. Seems natural you would be running it.”

“I’ve never been particularly interested in living that kind of life.”

“How do you make a living now?”

“I develop software.”

Was that a catch she heard in Mac’s voice? Saying she was sorry for the loss of his mother, seemed woefully inadequate. It had to have affected him greatly.

“Sad that your dad had to raise you alone,” Fergie said, carefully.

Mac’s blue eyes flashed fire. She’d poked at an old wound.  “Raised isn’t the word I would use. He beat the crap out of me whenever the mood struck. Wine?”

And just like that Mac’s mood switched and he withdrew. He went through the motions of pouring the liquid into her glass.

There was a sordid story here for sure, but she wasn’t going to probe. She was off duty and playing therapist to a man she might be interested in was never good.

Fergie focused on her spaghetti, took a mouthful, and moaned. “This is delish. Better than sex.”