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 Urs and Catherine (By: Marie Humphrey) 3rd Story

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PostSubject: Urs and Catherine (By: Marie Humphrey) 3rd Story    Sat Sep 18, 2010 8:29 am

HOW I BECAME A DIVO DEN MOTHER



CHAPTER 1  
                                       
Oz doesn’t exist—it never did.  That realization isn’t a great shock to some but to others it raises the question, “Then why did we have to contend with that damned tornado?”  Toto still frolics among the rows of corn in Kansas.  And I’m stuck in Kansas—not that there’s anything wrong with Kansas!  I am a widow, my twins are out of college and living on their own and I am about to be forty-five years old—and living in the middle of Kansas! I go to the grocery store once a week; I go to church on Sundays; I go to ladies club once a month.  Now what is wrong with this picture?

OK, back to the Oz thing—didn’t all those freakin’ folks find out the Wiz was a whack job and what they had been looking for was within themselves all along?  So what does that tell me?  So what’s within me?   My God, how sixties does that sound? And I was a mere child in the sixties—shouldn’t ‘a read about them I guess.  Maybe someone should drop a house on me—yep—just leave the ugly stripped stockings and the ruby slippers stickin’ out!

“You are absolutely nuts, you know that!”  This was not the first time my best friend had made this pronouncement upon me—wouldn’t be the last either, knowing my penchant for declaring myself now able to behave in any bizarre way I choose because I am about to be “officially old”—that’s right—one half century will be here before you know it!  Gives me the right to do as I damn well please and nobody can criticize!  Today her favorite utterance was brought on when I told her that I was dropping out of this corn capitol and going to Las Vegas to Celine Dion’s theater to see her special guests, Il Divo.  Then I might just fly off to wherever they were performing next and the next place after that because having seen and heard these boys, they were worth chasing after.

She stared at me as though I had grown a second head—or lost the one I had.  “Come on, I think you really are in need of today’s appointments.”  Oh, yeah, forgot to mention in that earlier routine list that once a week we went for hair, nails, and then to a massage by a beautiful young man with big strong hands!  (No!  Watch those dirty thoughts!)  Forgot to mention that we sipped margaritas through the morning—always reminding ourselves, “It’s five o’clock somewhere!”  So lunch had to come next if we wanted to be able to drive ourselves home anytime that day!  

“You never behaved like this in high school—or college.  When the rest of us were drooling over The Stones, Kiss, or whoever, you always said you didn’t see anything that made you want to start throwing your underwear!  Aren’t you a little old to start?”

I put on my best angelic smile, a sarcastically pious tone and rolled my eyes heavenward, “I don’t want to throw my underwear anywhere.  I just want to see these four wonderful young men who sing like angels.”  For some reason, however, I was mentally taking inventory of the condition and style of my lingerie.

“Uh-huh!”

That, “Uh-huh,” came with “that” look.  “Ok, so I wouldn’t throw their boots out from under my bed.  I ain’t dead yet!”  Just couldn’t seem to get that Monty Python reference out of my head.  Maybe I just kept saying it as a reminder to myself—or maybe MP was more interesting to me now that I knew David Miller was a big fan!  My dear young countryman—made me even prouder to be an American!

“You’ve been reading another one of those ‘heaving bosoms’ novels, haven’t you?  Got yourself into an emotional uproar!”

Emotional uproar indeed!  I knew Sue had my best interests at heart, but even my best friend could not help at this point.  I truly was losing my mind!  I had begun to visualize myself as one of those little stuffed animals stuck to car windows by four suction cups—mine were coming loose and I was down to my last one.  Hanging by one suction cup!  I knew I had to do something and quickly---I left town the following morning!  I left a message on Sue’s voice mail—took the coward’s way out!  Left messages for the kids that I was headed to Vegas and would check in with them later.

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PostSubject: Re: Urs and Catherine (By: Marie Humphrey) 3rd Story    Sat Sep 18, 2010 8:31 am

CHAPTER 2

I sat on the plane thinking, “I’m really doing it.  I can’t believe this!”  My bravado was quickly dissipating.  The way I had been thinking, speaking, behaving and my attitude for the last few months had been of concern to my children and friends.  I was behaving and sounding like Sue who had always been a free spirit.  I had always been conventional—never anything free about my spirit!  I guess it had been quite a change.  But it was a change that had hit me right over the head when those officers had come to the door and told me that my husband of twenty-five years had been killed instantly in a car crash.  Twenty-five years of perfect wife, perfect mother, perfect hostess—that’s what everyone always said, “Perfect--.”  And with one knock at the door my world of “perfectness” was gone.  My identity was gone.  I had gone from being James’ daughter to Sam’s wife and a college drop-out at aged twenty to become Kevin’s and Kyle’s mother—and I had lost ME somewhere along the way!

The flight was uneventful as was the limo ride to the hotel.  It was a considerate staff at Caesars’ that checked me in and showed me to my suite.  After a quick shower and a leisurely glass of wine, I took a deep breath and began an assessment of my circumstances.  I had a ticket to see Il Divo this evening and beyond that I had not made plans.  This getaway had been spontaneous and I decided some spur of the moment shopping was in order!

I wandered down into the area of the Forum shops thinking maybe I would buy a few things.  My “country club” wardrobe was certainly matronly looking and out of style for Las Vegas and my new-found freedom which I was determined to embrace with open arms.  Coming out of a shop, still no purchases in hand, I found myself in the middle of a melee—a surging crowd that swept me along in its chaos until I could see their objective—Il Divo.

The four were sitting at a table signing autographs and smiling for the endless snapshots.  I kept peeping around the tall man in front of me until he tired of the female crowd and moved on.  I then watched in amazement and amusement from my vantage point next to the rope barrier only a few feet from where the men were seated.   All were affable as they exchanged greetings with the women coming through the line for their brief moment of nearness to the quartet.  I would be seeing the performance later tonight—I wasn’t about to mix into that roiling sea of hormones.

I had started to move on when it happened.  A fan had arrived at the end of the line where Carlos sat and unfurled the rolled up paper she carried.  It was a life-size picture of the Spaniard.  She was becoming more agitated and excited by the minute as she gushed, “Oh, Carlos, I too have a life-sized picture of you that I sleep with every night.  Will you sign it?”  She was obviously referring to that story he kept repeating in interviews.  The next seconds were a blur—she had dropped the picture, rounded the table and attached herself to the stunned singer.  Having grabbed his forearms, she was attempting to reach up and kiss him.  His reflex had been to grip her forearms to hold her at a distance so they now were locked in an embrace not unlike that of sumo wrestlers.

The density of the crowd prevented security from reaching them immediately.  David, Sebastien and Urs all stood but seemed unable to decide how best to aid their comrade.  Grabbing the woman did not seem gentlemanly and probably not wise because that would leave them vulnerable targets to some of the women who had pressed closer to the table.

They were spared making a decision because I, obviously having taken leave of my senses, quickly slipped under the rope and ducking down under their arms, squeezed up between the combatants.  Well, that was up close and personal—the three of us crushed together!  My back was to Carlos so I could not see his reaction, but there was a startled look on the woman’s face.

“My dear, you must get hold of yourself.  The boys are not used to such aggressive displays.”  I just about flipped my head around to see where this soft admonition had come from but I realized it had come from me—or at least my version of me being Mrs. Doubtfire!  Placing my hands on her shoulders and applying only gentle pressure I continued in my newly acquired quiet Scottish accent, “Now, my dear, you really must let go of the darling lad.  Too much excitement this afternoon might impair his ability to sing for us tonight.” I could feel Carlos nodding vigorously in agreement behind me.  I patted her gently; she stared at me for a moment then let go of Carlos and backed away rather shame-faced.  The people around us were as frozen as the statues in the large fountain.  The woman picked up her picture, Carlos straightened his jacket and I slipped quietly through the crowd as it returned to motion, not quiet grasping what had just occurred, but behaving with more decorum as security was tightened.

There was a roaring in my ears and I could not think—I needed some fresh air—just keep moving toward the exit.  What had I just done?  Probably, in a legal sense, I had assaulted two people!  The roaring continued and my peripheral vision was gone.  I fixed my eyes on the exit—only a few more steps—a large hand reached out and grabbed me!  Startled back to reality, I gasped.  Looking up, I saw it was one of the security people with the Il Divo entourage.  Relaxing his grip, he said, “Madam. If you would please come with me, someone needs to speak with you.”  I nodded my consent and followed the short distance to a door he opened then stood aside for me to enter.  It was a small office.  The man who stood to greet me was Simon Cowell.  I stared in disbelief as he said, “Please, madam, sit down and let’s see if we can sort out the details of what just happened.”

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PostSubject: Re: Urs and Catherine (By: Marie Humphrey) 3rd Story    Sat Sep 18, 2010 8:32 am

CHAPTER 3

I continued to stare as my mind seemed slow at processing the fact that this really was Simon Cowell who had addressed me and was obviously awaiting some sort of response.  It was now his turn to register surprise as I replied—sans my Mrs. Doubtfire tone and accent, “I really don’t know what came over me.  I was just standing there and then when the woman began her assault, it was as though I went into my ‘lioness protecting her cub’ mode.”

He put his fingertips together and smiled over them at me, “I like that analogy.  Lioness.  These cubs sometimes need protection.  They do have a rare effect on the ladies.”  He continued to stare at me in a speculative manner.  “I was told that you spoke with a Scottish accent.”

I took a deep breath, “I have no idea where that came from.  I have no idea why I interceded.  I have no idea….” I was shaking my head slowly from side to side and my voice trailed off because I—well, I really had no idea!

Simon continued with a few pleasantries and thanks for my quick thinking and then asked, “Do you have a ticket for the performance?’

“Yes, I’ll be there this evening.  I have a very good seat.”

“May I offer you a better one?  I would like you to come and watch with me in a private box.”  As I hesitated, he continued, “It would be my honor and I’m sure the guys would like to meet a lioness.”

Both of us smiled at his last comment.  I accepted his offer and he said that someone would call for me at my room and escort me to meet him in the theater.  At this point we both realized that I had not given him my name, which I now did.

“I shall look forward to seeing you this evening, Mrs. Hampton.”

“Likewise, Mr. Cowell.”  I was breathing normally again, vision and hearing intact.  As I entered the elevator the events of the afternoon seemed more like a film I had watched rather than an actual event in which I had played a major role.

Realizing that I had not achieved my objective of a new outfit, I opened the closet door to find my things had been neatly pressed and placed on hangers.  Nothing seemed to leap out and demand to be worn.  I knew the concierge would be glad to have some of the shops send up things for me to try but I did not really feel up to that.  I pulled out a plain black silk dress and completed the outfit with black stockings and heels then added a string of pearls.  Looking in the mirror, I realized why my stylist had been nagging me to change my hair-do.  I looked so “frumpy.”  I didn’t feel frumpy any more, but I surely looked it.  I added a little extra blush and lipstick and decided that would have to do for now.  I didn’t look bad; I just looked non-descript.  I didn’t want to look non-descript—I surprised myself with my next thought—I wanted to look spectacular—I was about to meet Il Divo—and see Simon again.

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PostSubject: Re: Urs and Catherine (By: Marie Humphrey) 3rd Story    Sat Sep 18, 2010 8:33 am

CHAPTER 4

I was becoming concerned as it was getting close to show time and had about decided to go on to the theater when there was a knock at the door.  It was the same gentleman who had escorted me to Simon earlier in the day.

“Good evening, Mrs. Hampton.  I’m Jeff.  Mr. Cowell is waiting for you.”  His face gave no hint that he was thinking of the unorthodox meeting this afternoon.

When we reached the theater Jeff led the way through a private side entrance to where Simon was sitting in one of the boxes that seemed to float over the stage.  It was so cleverly constructed that most of the audience would not even notice its existence.  I wondered at the genius of the architect.  Simon rose as we arrived, “Good evening, Mrs. Hampton.  Please, sit.  May I offer you wine?”

“Yes, thank you.”  I noticed that he too wore Armani quite nicely.  “And thank you for this invitation—you were right, my ticket was not this good.”

“So that seat remains empty?”

“No, I gave the ticket to the girl who unpacked and pressed my clothes.  She is so excited to see the band with Celine.”  I noticed him staring at me in that speculative manner again as the lights dimmed.

The program was beyond description.  The individual and blends of voices simply took my breath away.  The evening was passing all too quickly.  The finale was to be beyond belief and I waited expectantly, my breathing barely perceptible.

A single dimmed spotlight streamed down on the center of the darkened stage; a mist rose and filled the enclosure.  The orchestra played the opening bars of “Phantom of the Opera;” the crowd began to applaud but halted abruptly as the light came to rest on Celine, costumed as Christine…. “In sleep he sang to me; in dreams he came; that voice that calls to me and speaks my name; and oh, I dream again for now I find…”

Simultaneously, four new spots pierced the darkened void to reveal four juxtaposed phantoms to join her in the haunting melody underpinning this dramatic scene, “The phantom of the opera is there inside my/your mind!”  The collective jaws of the audience dropped!  The four were costumed in identical black topped by long black cloaks lined in stark white satin.  All wore the trademark white masks partially covering their faces.

David stepped close and lifted his voice to her, “Sing once again with me a strange duet; my power over you grows stronger yet…” Moving in unison, David swept back as Urs and Sebastien stepped to either side of her, “And though you turn from me to glance behind, the phantom of the opera is there inside your mind.”  They lightly brushed her temples with the backs of their fingertips.  The performance was reaching its heady denouement as movement and voices melded perfectly to form an unforgettable tableaux for those watching.  Celine sang, “Those who have seen your face draw back in fear, I am the mask you wear…”

It’s me they hear!”  The deep baritone enjoined; it was time for Carlos to shine.  They continued in duet, “Your spirit and my voice, in one combined…”The other three joined them in crescendo, “The phantom of the opera is there inside my/your mind!”

Carlos’ strong voice called, “Sing my angel!”
Urs echoed, “Sing my angel!”
“Sing for me!” Sebastien demanded.
David cried, “ Sing my angel!”
The four combined in thunderous climax, “Sing my angel!  Sing for me!”

Before the audience could react, Christine vanished into the mist; Il Divo stood together and sang their special arrangement of “Music of the Night.”  Celine, generous performer that she is, allowed that to end the program.

As their last note died away, the four men bowed their heads briefly as usual when they ended a song.  When they raised them, the diva had rejoined them.  The theater sat in stunned silence then rose as one with deafening applause that was given rebirth each time it started to abate.  The front of the stage was carpeted with roses that had been tossed from the audience.  Urs, Sebastien, Carlos and David walked forward and each picked up one.  Together, with a final dramatic swirl of their capes, they turned, presented the roses to Celine, removed their masks and bowed once more.  The five of them stepped forward individually and in groups, taking bow after bow and still the accolades did not subside.  Only when the curtain finally descended did the cheering slowly draw to a close.

I realized that Simon was looking at me but I could not turn my gaze, could not move or speak.  I did not know what my future was to be but I knew that somehow it had to include these men—all five of them.

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PostSubject: Re: Urs and Catherine (By: Marie Humphrey) 3rd Story    Sat Sep 18, 2010 8:34 am

CHAPTER 5

Finally, I trusted myself to turn toward my host, tears glittering in my eyes. “Thank you,” I breathed.

“It was my pleasure to have your company.”

“No, not just for tonight. Thank you for the music. Thank you for this perfect blend of voices you have put together. I hadn’t listened to any new music in years.” I realized that I was sounding like a blithering idiot. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to babble like that. It’s just that I can’t remember the last time I was so touched by music.” I was just digging myself in deeper. Regaining some composure, I stood, reached out my hand and said, “Thank you again. I’ll see myself back to my room”

He took my hand, but did not relinquish it. “Absolutely not. You have to meet the band and we’re expected at a small reception.” The “small reception” turned out to be a fairly large gathering in Celine’s suite of rooms. I was introduced to our hostess and various other celebrities. Making small talk and polite conversation was reminiscent of attending company functions with Sam. Being the wife of the CEO had carried many social opportunities and obligations and I had enjoyed them.

Urs, David, Sebastien and Carlos stood together, the center of attention of an eclectic collection of women. As we approached, Carlos detached himself from the group, “My guardian angel!” He grabbed both of my hands and kissed them.

The others came forward for introductions. David took the opportunity to goad Carlos a bit by referring to me as the “little” rescuer. At close to six feet, Carlos does seem to tower over my five feet, three inches. Sebastien was all French charm. His flirting made me realize that I was beginning to get off my “I’m getting old” kick! Urs handshake was warm but his smile reserved. Looking into his eyes, I felt I was looking into the depths of an old soul—intriguing. After polite chit-chat, they drifted away to mingle.

I took a glass of champagne offered by a waiter then went to stand by one of the floor to ceiling windows and looked at the lights of the Strip and past that, the rest of the city of Las Vegas. Beyond the last vestige of light lay the darkness of the desert. I was sure that somewhere in this scene was an allegory for my life. Rather than providing quiet time for reflection, this trip had offered strange new twists.

Simon came and stood beside me. “This afternoon’s episode has been swirling around in my head ever since it happened. Your involvement did not dampen the enthusiasm for the guys but it did seem to curb the element that could become embarrassing or even dangerous. I have been thinking of some possibilities. I’ll be blunt.” He stared into my eyes, trying to gauge my response before steaming on in his matter-of-fact way. “You’re wearing wedding rings but you’re here alone. You obviously have money. The only information I could glean about you was that you are from somewhere in Kansas. As I said, this is blunt but I have a purpose in asking. May I inquire about your future plans?”

The earnest look on his face and tone in his voice kept me from walking away as quickly as possible having told him to mind his own business. Instead I, who until recently had been a very private person concerning my personal life, found myself telling him the bare minimum of my story. I finished by saying, “So for the first time in years, I’m really on my own—I’m my only day to day responsibility.”

He extended condolences for my loss, remarked that I seemed in control of my life—little did he know. He said he would like to offer me a bit of adventure—starting immediately. He wanted me to join the tour entourage! My “duties” would basically be doing what I did today but in a preventive way rather than reactive. At public appearances, I would be visible, there were people who could devise a scenario explaining my presence, and I could “counsel” with overwrought ladies before they were close enough to grab a Divo!

A slow smile started to curl my lips—I chuckled—a full-blown laugh was brewing and, unchecked, would attract unwanted attention. I covered my mouth with a napkin and turned to the window, my shoulders shaking in silent laughter. When I could trust myself to speak I turned and intended to give several very good reasons why his idea was impossibly foolish and why I would not consider such a thing but what came out of my mouth was, “Why not? So I’m to be the lioness protecting your cubs? Sort of a Divo Den Mother?”

Now it was Simon’s turn to laugh. “Shall we work out the details?”

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PostSubject: Re: Urs and Catherine (By: Marie Humphrey) 3rd Story    Sat Sep 18, 2010 8:35 am

CHAPTER 6

The details were actually quite simple. I would join the tour; I would have a suite on the same floor where the four were staying. In order to facilitate becoming acquainted, I would have access to the lounge where only the singers and a few senior staff gathered—and Simon of course when he happened to drop in.

On our next stop I had started to enter the lounge when I heard Carlos’ voice from inside, “He’s hired us a chaperone! He’s treating us like young girls who need duennas. This is highly insulting!” Carlos was in high dudgeon; it was obvious that he felt his Latin masculinity had been compromised. David’s continued teasing about needing rescue had only poured salt into the wound. He continued to fume, muttering under his breath. Evidently I had gone, in his opinion, from guardian angel to nemesis.

The other three apparently did not see my presence as an affront to their manhood but their comments were more in the “wait and see” category. I was keenly aware that my presence was not particularly welcomed. Perhaps I should just pack and go but then I decided, “in for a penny; in for a pound” and I didn’t want to make it a habit to run when things looked less than rosy. I had done that once already and so far that tactic had not been a proven problem solver. When I had taken flight from home I had not escaped to a place of peace and tranquility. In fact, I felt as though I had blundered from one drama to another on an emotional roller coaster. And none of this offered any solution for dealing with the life waiting patiently at home where I must eventually return.

I didn’t want to walk in on the heels of their conversation so I retraced my steps to my room and waited half an hour to return. The four of them appeared to be discussing the voice arrangement of a piece of music. They looked up as I entered and three were cordial; one ignored me.

I felt the need to clear the air a bit so I began, “As I told you the other evening, I am absolutely in awe of your talents. I am so excited to have this bit role in the project that is Il Divo. I want you all to know that I have no intention of intruding into your personal lives. I think Simon told you how limited my role was to be, both in scope and duration. If all of you would be more comfortable, I can consider this lounge off limits to myself.”

“Absolutely not, Mrs. Hampton.” “We are glad to have you here.” “Sometimes we can use a referee.” Three of them were quick in assuring me that I would be welcome to share time with them here.

David spoke for the group and gave me the title by which they would call me, “Mrs. H, welcome aboard!” His tone was jovial and sincere. Urs and Sebastien also welcomed me. Carlos remained across the room. I could temporarily overlook his rudeness because what I saw was a little boy sulking; I had raised two sons!

“Well you have quite a big day ahead tomorrow. I’m told there is a large crowd expected at the signing.”

Three of them started talking at once, speculating about what kinds of ladies they might expect this time. They had such a broad spectrum of fans and according to the venue, the complexion of the crowd could change considerably. There would definitely be a contingent of the ladies from the Forum. These women were very loyal in their support of the boys no matter where they were. They would not be a worry because while many became VERY enthusiastic, they loved the guys and would never pose a threat. There would also be a short interview for a local station.

“Mrs. H, What is your take on the crowd tomorrow?” David would always have a question.

“I think there will be quite a few of your ‘Desperate Housewives,’ David.” He had jokingly made that remark in an interview early in their career when asked who the audience might be for their group. Actually there were a lot of desperate housewives, along with the romantically challenged, happily married, giddy teenaged and graying grandmothers. No female of any age seemed immune to their voices or their charms. “There will be the usual group from the Forum. They adore all of you and not only would never harm you, I’m pretty sure all would defend to the death every tiny hair on your gorgeous bodies!” The three chuckled; one blushed a bit. Urs ran his hand through his luscious locks, Seb did a quick check of chest hair and David seemed to be talking inventory of hair locations and wondering if he should, perhaps, rethink the underwear situation.

I could not let Carlos’ sulking go unchallenged any longer. I turned my attention to him, “I just want to let you know, “Carlito,” I used the tone that I use when I call my children by their first and middle names together—the tone that gets the attention of even the most recalcitrant child and wipes that defiant look right off its face, “that during that interview, if you mention one more time, that story about the fan sleeping with your life-size picture every night, the next one that shows up with one of those things for you to sign—I’m going to let her have you! You seem to have a very short memory!”

Carlos stuck out his chin but my withering look blocked any retort from his lips. The other three froze—siblings waiting for the retribution that was bound to fall on the defiant one!

Carlos was first to break the deafening silence that followed. His booming laugh filled the room. “Well done, Mrs. H. I apologize, my mama taught me better manners.” The tension broken, I noticed he allowed himself a quick “hair check!”

“I know she did. I realize you are all under a great deal of strain. Simon just thought I might be able to smooth some of the sharp edges. That is my only role and intention. I’ll see you all in the morning. I’ll let you get back to the music.”

“We’ll also have a talk with Carlos about his “short” memory.” Sebastien was as much a mischief- maker as David.

Carlos did not like the word short used in connection with anything about himself. He looked at me sideways to see if I might have been making sport of him with my earlier comment. I decided he would be one I needed to keep guessing, so I kept my face perfectly straight as I left the room.

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PostSubject: Re: Urs and Catherine (By: Marie Humphrey) 3rd Story    Sat Sep 18, 2010 8:36 am

CHAPTER 7

The tour continued at its whirlwind pace. I usually traveled with the wardrobe mistress and it was assumed that I was some sort of assistant to her so my presence caught no one’s attention. At signings, I blended with the crowd with a watchful eye to potential problems.

Mrs. Doubtfire had gone into permanent retirement, but when a fan was behaving suspiciously, I would find a way to strike up a quiet conversation to defuse possible volatile situations. This technique proved to have a high rate of success. I was sometimes rewarded with an appreciative wink or smile from a relieved Divo, especially if that one thought he was the likely target of the missile I had steered off course.

At one outing, a young lady who apparently had recent breast augmentation and was quite proud of the results was displaying a seriously inordinate amount of her newly acquired charms. She was also carrying a camera and focused on having her photograph taken with one or all of the Divos.

“My, how lovely you look today.” I smiled at her.

“Why, thank you, ‘mam. I wanted to look good for a picture with Sebastien.” I breathed a sigh of relief. She was not a loud pushy one but this child was clueless!

“And you look lovely. Sebastien always looks very classic, doesn’t he?” I’m not sure the meaning registered with her. “You know, I think this scarf I’m wearing would look wonderful with your outfit and would match his tie so nicely in your photo.” I had removed the scarf and before she could think to protest, had begun arranging it artfully around her neck in such a way as to remove one of the Xs in the rating of the photograph she was about to have taken.

She held out the camera to me to take the picture. She snuggled up to Sebastien and he gingerly put his arm around her. I snapped the picture, looked at the results in the viewer and suppressed a laugh. Sebastien was definitely not looking at the “birdie.” His eyes were quite fixed in a more southerly direction—and he had a decidedly silly grin on his face. Bad Seb! Visions of tabloids flashed through my mind! I very quickly deleted the picture and offered the explanation that Sebastien had his eyes closed and we should try again. Assuring her once again that she looked fine and raising an eyebrow at Sebastien, I took the second shot.

She seemed very pleased with the results as she looked at the picture. I suspected Sebastien had realized the need for the second photo; he looked in my direction, gave a little shrug and smiled. His eyes twinkled, but they always did that!

The girl came back to where I was standing and started to hand me the scarf. “Oh no, dear. Please allow me to make it a gift to you—another reminder of your special day.” While that had been my favorite, the thought of ever wearing that scarf again conjured pictures I didn’t want to contemplate. She smiled and departed with her trophy, not even realizing what she had. I began carrying an extra scarf or two with me—but not Hermes ones!

As I watched people in these gatherings I became ever more appreciative of what these young men and their music had brought to the lives of so many people. Young girls fell in love for the first time listening to the strains of their melodies. Grandmothers reminisced about the romantic tunes of their day. Women of a wide age range suffered every emotion from “yearn and burn” to unrequited love to motherly concern. Once, thinking along these lines, I was suddenly startled by the thought, “Where do I fit in there?” There must be other categories I had not considered. I pushed that aside to think about later—shades of Scarlet O’Hara!

Their fans truly loved them. I came to suspect that the ones who tended to loose control did not have a firm grip on the reality of the relationship. While the four were always courteous and generous with their time with fans, they were consummate professionals. They did not cross that line.

I tried particularly to look out for Urs because the invasions into his private space seemed more difficult for him than for the others. He was as accessible as the others, but I noticed that sometimes his brilliant smile did not quite reach his eyes. Being an intensely private man he was often in a pensive mood making him hard to reach. He remained an enigma to me.

They were now comfortable with my presence. I usually spent some part of each day in our lounge when they were relaxing or casually working together. Sometimes we would have a late supper and discuss the progress of the tour. Our conversations were light and amusing; I did not pry into their personal lives nor did they into mine. Those personal lives were almost nonexistent at this point and I think I provided a semblance of family and a sense of at least temporary normality. I was deeply concerned for these young men. I wanted to comfort them and tell them that all of this really was worth it only if it ultimately brought them the happiness and things in life that they desired.

They were adult men but inside every man there is a little boy and this is the side of them that often showed with me. It was these times when they were just David, Carlos, Urs and Sebastien. The Divos were put away. The ghosts from my past were temporarily laid to rest. We laughed, we joked, we analyzed we teased. We all had at least a brief respite from the reality that would all too soon claim us again.

I often spoke on the phone with Sue and my sons. They were relieved that I seemed to have returned to my “old self.” Let the illusion continue! They knew I was traveling but had no idea what exactly I was doing and certainly not whom I was with, though Sue had voiced some suspicions. What they had heard in my voice was loss of types of statements and language and attitudes that had so concerned all of them before I had embarked on this journey. I came to realize this had been a healing process for me. I was coping with my life because it was not my only focus. I was no longer running away. “But your feelings are getting too personal,” I admonished myself—another thing for thinking about later!

During one of our evening gatherings, we were all laughing uproariously as David was regaling us with one of the many stories from his vast repertoire when we were interrupted by the insistent buzzing of Urs’ cell phone. He answered in his usual curt way but alarmed us all by his uncharacteristic display of emotion as he shouted, “No!” then snapped the phone closed. The expression on his face forbade any questions from us.

That was to be the first of several such calls over the next few weeks. Urs never explained or confided their nature. He also left many calls unanswered after looking at the number to see who was calling. A few times he would leave to take the call. At those times, he either did not return to our company or came back with deep frown lines furrowing his brow.

I felt that if it were a family problem he would at least have confided in Sebastien but Seb steadfastly denied any knowledge of what was bothering Urs. That left only one conclusion—it had to be a woman.

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PostSubject: Re: Urs and Catherine (By: Marie Humphrey) 3rd Story    Sat Sep 18, 2010 8:38 am

CHAPTER 8

“Mrs. H, the phone is for you, somebody named Susan,” David called from the other side of the room.

“Put it on speaker, dear, I’ve got my hands full.” I had been sorting through a stack of magazines and was preparing to dispose of some that were out of date.

“Hi, Double D,” the voice came through the speaker VERY loud, VERY clear. I emptied my hands VERY quickly and hurried to switch back to regular receiver. Sue was just full of chatty news as usual but I had a hard time following what she was saying. I was having difficulty concentrating on her latest travel experience because of the four pairs of eyes watching me.

“Look, Sue, sorry to have to cut you off mid-travels, but I’m rather in the middle of something. I’ll call you later this evening, ok?”

“Sure. Say, ‘Hi,’ to that nice young man who answered your phone. You know, you will have to explain sooner or later!” She was gone before I could reply—dodged that bullet!

I turned on the four of them who were now trying really hard to look as though they had not been listening to every word. My friend’s greeting “Double D” was just lying there in the middle of the room with no one willing to touch that subject. I wasn’t about to take pity on any of them because it was such fun watching them try to avoid eye contact and their pretences of appearing busy were priceless.

I fixed them with a studied gaze, “Urs, you need to be smacked for what you’re thinking. Carlos, you need to be smacked for your assessment of what Urs is thinking, and Sebastien, I’d smack you because I’m shocked that you’re as bad as they are. And David—you just need to be smacked—as usual! You can all go to your rooms now!” Actually, I was the one who beat a hasty retreat with what dignity I had left—which by now didn’t feel like much.

“Double D?” The question burst from all of them at once.

Sebastien was miffed, “I got in trouble too and all I was thinking was that I knew Urs was thinking, ‘bra size,’ and Carlos was thinking, ‘No way!’ I was thinking it might be initials because we don’t know her first names, which is odd since she’s been with us for some months now.”

They all turned on David who tried really hard to find a look of innocence that would stick to his face. He wasn’t about to admit that he had been thinking, “Not without implants!”
“Well, don’t look at me! She always thinks I’m up to something; it’s an American thing! Although, I can’t figure out why she thinks a Frenchman would be so innocent and of course there’s her Little Swiss Favorite. And Carlos, being the oldest, she thinks you should be responsible for all of us and instead, she has to worry about your over abundance of testosterone getting you into trouble and then you could lead us ‘little innocents’ astray.”

Carlos gave a disgusted snort, “What was it you said on your stupid European trip video? “No one was innocent? I still can’t believe they let you put in that shot of me with my mouth hanging open while I slept!”

Urs had been sitting aloof from the banter of the other three. His face bore a thoughtful look. “You know,” he began, “We have to find out about this Double D thing. It could be worth a lot of leverage at an opportune time.”

The others turned to look at him. Wanting “leverage” was totally out of character for him and besides, why would they ever need it? It wasn’t like they were planning a campaign of terror to “get rid of the nanny!” Capitulating under their collective gaze, he said, “OK, you know my curiosity—I can’t stand a riddle. We need a plan.”

This met with three blank stares.

“I’ve asked for personal information from many women,” Carlos offered, “never from one of quite this age or for this reason. Do you suppose you go about it the same?”

“Not unless you want to be ‘smacked,’” Sebastien was quite sure that was a real possibility with Mrs. H. That woman was mama, nanny, teacher and governess rolled into one no nonsense package!

“I don’t think, ‘Oh, baby, please give me your phone number to burn into my memory!’ is going to cut it,” David laughed.

At David’s remark, a horrified look crossed Urs’ face. “This is a woman of class, show the proper respect.” Three heads spun in his direction. He continued quickly, “It’s just that she has been a real asset to our professional family. She does seem to make those overwrought women regain some sensibilities. I haven’t had one of them trying to stroke or steal some of my hair for weeks. I could have been bald by now; and some of them who post on that Forum keep writing of running about with scissors and I am their target!”

Sebastien chimed in, “And there are no new bruise marks on my butt. Some of those women have fingers like lobster claws. The first pinch or two was flattering but it had become way out of control. Have you seen those bruises?” The looks he got from all three told him that of course they hadn’t seen them, hadn’t occurred to them to look, nor did they plan to in the future. “Well, I was quite black and blue!”

Carlos wasn’t ready to join the “happy family routine” just yet. “I still think she meant something by that ‘short’ remark.” He dodged the three pillows flung in his direction and the accompanying chorus of, “Get over it!”

They might soon have an opportunity to do some sleuthing because Simon surprised them all the next day by telling them they were going for a weekend in the country. A friend had offered his estate just outside London and they were allowed to bring their ladies. David and Carlos began to talk excitedly about the prospect of time with their women.

Sebastien and Urs drifted out, saying they had things to do.

David slapped his head, “How insensitive can we be? Seb has no one to bring with him. And Urs, what do you make of his behavior? He didn’t act at all excited about the time away. What’s with him—he’s been acting weird for several weeks now.”

Carlos just looked at him—when David was on a roll asking questions like this he didn’t really expect an answer. Carlos was thinking about the weekend in the country with a certain blonde!

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PostSubject: Re: Urs and Catherine (By: Marie Humphrey) 3rd Story    Sat Sep 18, 2010 8:39 am

CHAPTER 9

I had been the first to arrive. I was deeply disappointed to find that business had kept Simon from joining us. The estate turned out to be a manor house straight from a gothic novel. Consisting of three wings, it insured there would be plenty of privacy for all of us. The towering entry hall contained the requisite suits of armor and coats of arms. Closed doors leading from the hall concealed parlor, library, dining room and others that would be filled with the warmth of living. This might require the dropping of breadcrumbs to ever be able to retrace one’s steps!

The bedrooms were on the second floor of each wing—mine was in the front of the house. It was as large as a small cottage. As I looked about admiring the rich blue and gold décor I would not have been surprised to see Jane Eyre walk through the door. Humoring the fantasy, a brief vision of myself as Jane with Mr. Rochester filled my thoughts. The face of “my” Mr. Rochester was a forbidden one. It was a face that crept in, unawares. An image I had held at bay. A face that had invaded my dreams. A face that must not be in any fantasy of mine! I tossed the pebble of reality into the reflective pool of thought to send ripples scattering that image!

It was a relief to sit in front of the large window that commanded a view of the front driveway and sample all of the wonderful tidbits from the tea tray that had been delivered to my room. A fire had been laid and I was content to sit in that cozy atmosphere until well into the afternoon.

The first vehicle to arrive deposited David and a tall redhead. They were laughing, and engaged in playful banter. Arm in arm they climbed the broad steps and disappeared from my view as they entered the house. Next to arrive was Carlos, accompanied by a willowy blonde. He put his arm around her shoulders as they ascended the steps. I could feel drama unfolding and was looking forward to the next installment.

Quite some time later Urs arrived. He began to busy himself with luggage but the raven-haired beauty with him indicated he should leave that to the driver and took his arm possessively as they approached the house.

I had about given up hoping Sebastien would show, but shortly before dinnertime he arrived alone. Alighting from the vehicle, he stared for a moment at the house, took a deep breath, shoved his hands into his pockets and trudged up the steps.

Though dinner was served in the formal dining room, all of us dressed casually—this was a vacation! The conversations were reserved but not strained. I gleaned a modicum of information about the three women by listening more than speaking. Sebastien was quiet through most of the meal and retired early. The rest of us scattered to our own wanderings.

Following a sumptuous breakfast that had been laid out in the morning room, I collected a sweater and headed outdoors. I reveled in the glorious autumn day as I walked down a winding lane that was flanked by ancient trees and those in turn backed by a low rock wall. Sitting there, I purposely kept my mind blank. I did not need the new stress of thoughts that had been niggling at the edges of my consciousness.

I looked up as I heard the rustle of footsteps in the leaves and gazed into the troubled face of Sebastien. He sat beside me where we both remained in silence. I reached over and put my hand on his. He looked at me with a sad little smile. “I know you are feeling left out—the only one with no woman in your life. I know you long for someone to love and share with. My darling, you are so young! She is out there—you will find her when you least expect it. You have a level head and a beautiful, generous heart and you will find the woman who appreciates that and you will know it is you she loves, not your image. In the meantime, have fun—enjoy your life. There can be women in your life without having to try to make it more than it is. Oh, and by the way, that does NOT mean that you have to portray the “Amorous Frenchman” and bed every woman you meet! I know that is not how you have been or will be—and I promise to keep that secret and not spoil your image! Sorry for going on so, but my dearest, I weep to see you in pain.”

He reached over and took my hand in both of his. “Mrs. H, it is so good to have you with us. Every part of our lives is so rushed, so frenzied that it is easy to forget that finding love does not have to be that way too.” As we sat basking in the morning sunshine, he opened his heart and thoughts to me—his hopes, dreams and fears. I sat listening to them pouring out—then both of us sat quietly without the need for words. Pulling me close in a hug, he kissed my cheek, “Merci, Madam.” He strode on down the path but this time with a jaunty step and began whistling a little tune I had not heard before—perhaps on a future album? He was such a beautiful, precious man.

My solitude was soon invaded again but this Divo was not in a melancholy mood! Carlos pulled up short as he came upon my perch. He stopped, looked at me and then threw up his hands, began pacing back and forth and ranting in Spanish. I did not understand a word he screamed but I got the gist of it. The willowy blonde—all was not well in paradise! He would stop pacing momentarily, stand in front of me gesturing emphatically then resume the pacing tirade. I was sure it was just as well I did not understand his words because I’m pretty sure some of them were ones I had heard him teaching the others during their Spanish lessons—the ones he taught them while displaying a devilish smile. The ones that caused him to have to duck a barrage of pillows when the others discovered the meanings of those words. He was wearing a path in the turf in front of me as the passionate flow continued.

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PostSubject: Re: Urs and Catherine (By: Marie Humphrey) 3rd Story    Sat Sep 18, 2010 8:40 am

CHAPTER 10

When Carlos seemed to be losing a bit of steam, I caught his hand as he went by and tugged him down beside me. Slightly calmed, he sat without speaking but breathing heavily.

“All is not well?”

“No!”

One of us was going to have to elaborate if this conversation was to move forward. “Is it your lady?”

“Si!”

Ok, my move toward elaboration. “What seems to be the problem?”

“She does not understand me!”

I could not help laughing out loud. “Now sweetie, that is a line strictly for the use of married men who are trying to convince women other than their wives to go to bed with them.”

He gave me a quizzical stare then, as he comprehended the meaning of my words, he began to chuckle. “Relationships—they are difficult!”

“Particularly if you are not with the right person. If I intrude too much or give offense, please stop me. Carlos, you are the quintessential Latino man. That makes you extremely attractive but also very difficult for someone not reared in your culture to understand. You see, because I am older and not in love with you—well, maybe only a little,” I gave him a small twinkling smile—he did his eyebrows thing. “ I understand that a tender, loving, giving heart beats in that macho chest. You may find more compatibility with a woman from a Latino family where the man rules the roost and the woman rules the rooster!” Not being familiar with this idiom, I hurried to explain to him. “The Latino man is king and his woman makes him feel that way. She also knows how to cajole and move him to her way of seeing things when necessary.”

“You mean manipulate him!”

“No, no you don’t understand—not manipulate—it is the dance that is done to preserve the dignity of each. Its steps involve understanding the needs of each other. It is a dance of beauty and understanding—a dance of equal partners in love.”

“I believe you must have Spanish blood!” He had understood what I was saying and was not offended.

I smiled, “In a former life, perhaps.”

Still impulsive, he gave me an exuberant hug, a kiss on the hand and swaggered off in the same direction Sebastien had taken. I admired the view of his retreating form. I ain’t dead yet!

I laughed out loud. Who would be next to enter my “confessional?” Maybe I should just don a habit! Well, as long as they were busy with their own lives, they wouldn’t bother me about “Double D.” I had no intention of ever telling them that story but it would be fun to see what sort of little subterfuges they might try to catch me off guard. Nope, I was never telling—no one—no how!

I heard riotous laughter from down the lane in the opposite direction the men had gone. Turning, I was able to glimpse a flurry of activity among the trees. David and the redhead were playing tag, throwing leaves into a huge pile and jumping into it. It conjured the memory of doing that each autumn during my childhood. My brothers and I would rake huge piles and then scatter them again with our antics. Those memories were safe—they were before any of the sadness of adulthood. They were before this new thing….

The two continued their frolic as I watched with more than a little envy. They stopped running, stood clinging in a kiss then dropped into the leaf pile, hidden from my view. I reluctantly pulled my gaze from that direction.

This was not the morning of quiet solitude I had envisioned. Well, there was only one more to go! At that very moment, a car pulled up in front of the house. Immediately the front door was flung open and the raven-haired woman flew down the steps, luggage in hand, climbed into the car and evidently instructed the driver not to waste any time in departing. As the car sped down the drive, Urs emerged from a side door and strode quickly in the direction of the stables.

Shortly, he emerged into the meadow behind my wall. He had not taken time to put a saddle or even a bridle on the horse. He rode with only a halter. Having crossed the small field, he stopped and looked back toward the house. Pausing there, he caught sight of me sitting on the wall. He was the statue I had once seen in a museum—Chiron, the centaur. He stared in my direction only briefly then turned and rode up the small hill, paused to look back a moment, then leaning forward over the horse’s neck, crested the hill and was gone from view—he rode as though all the hounds of hell were chasing him.

What an unexpected series of events. The remains of the day was spent in solitude during which I called Simon and told him that it was time to go home and that I would do so shortly after our return to the city. Again, I wished fervently that he had come with us—if wishes were horses, then beggars would ride! I was grateful that he did not offer an argument and that he understood. I was not prepared to give explanations as to why at this moment Kansas would be preferable to here!

Having spent the entire day out of doors in the fresh country air and having dealt with so much emotional drama, I was tired and decided to have dinner in my room and retire early. I left word with the staff to tell the others I would see them back in the city. Leaving—I would think about that tomorrow—but Kansas was looking better every minute—who knew that damned tornado could follow you!

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PostSubject: Re: Urs and Catherine (By: Marie Humphrey) 3rd Story    Sat Sep 18, 2010 8:42 am

CHAPTER 11

I was touched that such a special evening had been planned to precede my scheduled departure. Practically the entire cast of workers who supported Il Divo came by for drinks. There were many hugs and well wishes. I had not become personally involved with any of them but it seems as though I had become a “fixture” they were used to having around. I felt as though I was leaving a family I didn’t know and friendships I hadn’t formed.

When the last of them had gone, Simon took both my hands and kissed my cheek, “It’s been lovely, Mrs. Hampton. I want you to know that when you have sorted things out at home, we will be waiting for you should you choose to return. I’m going to leave you now because the guys have something special planned for the rest of the evening and they’ve asked for the time alone with you. They have grown quite fond of you, you know. They’re in Urs’ suite. It would be the one that didn’t need two hours of cleaning to be ready for company.” We both laughed. Urs’ neatness was so legendary that he was becoming stereotyped.

“I don’t know what to say. When I was running away, you gave me somewhere to be, an anchor, so that I couldn’t run so fast or so far that I couldn’t find my way back. Now I feel as though I have two lives and I don’t know if there is any way to have them both or how to blend them.” My emotions were running high. There had been a lump in my throat all evening and it seemed to be growing. I knew now that Simon had seen a woman adrift in pain and had thrown a lifeline. I would always be indebted to him. I just wished he had been around more but it had been too late for that for several weeks now.

As though he had read my mind, he said, “I should have spent more time here, shouldn’t I? Things might have become very interesting.”

“We’ll never know, will we?” My smile was a little wistful.

“I have a feeling it’s too late?”

“Probably so.” I couldn’t believe we were having this conversation. I looked at him closely but his face revealed nothing. Ah, no need to panic.

“I leave you knowing you will not flee in the face of decision making. Now it’s time for you to spring your surprise on the boys.” He grinned broadly at the thought. “They will be as blown away as I was. My ‘lioness’ now looks more like the huntress than the den mother.” We both laughed.

My surprise was my appearance. I had a stylish new hair-do with blonde streaks, updated makeup and a dress with a deep neckline that showed off my figure to its best advantage. I was pleased that Simon approved my metamorphosis. The frumpy matron was forever gone. I don’t know where she had come from, but she certainly was never coming back! Not only was I “not dead yet,” I wasn’t old yet! Those Golden Years were way down that yellow-brick road! As Sue would have said, “Sc**w them!”

As Simon was going out the door, he stopped, “Oh, by the way, you wouldn’t want to explain the Double D thing, would you?” Evidently he thought by just making that sort of a “throw away” line I might relent and reveal something.

“The boys were bad to tell you about that—and no, I wouldn’t want to explain. I assure you that all of you will have more fun venturing guesses. The actuality is rather boring—but it did involve police.” I gave him a cryptic smile!

He pursed his lips, shook his head and blew me a kiss as he smiled and closed the door.

I stood alone for a few minutes then walked down the hall and tapped on Urs’ door. When it opened, the four of them stood there looking so pleased with themselves. They were little boys bringing home good reports for approval and praise. Taking in my appearance, they stared, then quickly recovered and ushered me into the room. They all looked so handsome. They had dressed formally for the occasion. Until this moment, I had not realized how dear they had become to me. I wanted to hold them all to me and never let them go.

A table set for dinner had been placed in front of the open French doors leading to the terrace. That area had been bedecked with dozens of flowers, potted trees and banks of candles making it a mysterious inviting place of flickering light and shifting shadows.

As we finished dinner and another bottle of wine of which there had been many, David spoke for the group, “Mrs. H, we want you to know that we have come to be very fond of you and we are afraid that our behavior has not always let you know that.” His grin evidenced that he had consumed his share of the wine!

“David, you sound like you’re getting ready to confess something that will get you into trouble.” I almost giggled, I had not shirked my duty with the wine!

“Oh, no,” Sebastien leaped to his defense. “We have something special for you.”— The wine providing the reason he had not picked up on my teasing David.

Carlos produced a framed object. They ceremonially presented it to me and I began to laugh.

They had made a special certificate proclaiming me to be an “Official Divo Den Mother.” David laughed, “We had planned to have “Mama” playing when we gave you this, but decided to scuttle that idea as totally inappropriate now! You know—we all think you look fantastic—not that you didn’t look good before, but you don’t look like anybody’s mama tonight, I mean—wow!” It was fun watching David trying to remove his foot from his mouth! The others had all arranged their faces in bland expressions, conveying they had no idea what he was talking about—so much for help from your friends! I had noticed each of them surveying my change when they thought I wasn’t looking. We had all had enough wine to be extremely light hearted—and it felt good! We each had another glass to toast my gift.

I had prepared a parting gift for them as well. Someone on the Forum had assigned them the elements of Air, Earth, Water and Fire. Beginning with some “doodling” I had eventually written a poem. I had a calligrapher prepare four copies in gold on velum and placed in leather folders for them. All had quizzical looks on their faces as I handed the gifts to them. “ I would like to recite this as a way of sharing some of my feelings with you.”

ELEMENTS OF IL DIVO

FIRE—Carlos
Melodies living, darting flame
Their faintest touch exquisite pain
The words are coals to fuel the fire
Flames and limbs entwined in desire
Sometimes fury
Sometimes languor
The dance goes on
Tears and laughter

WATER—Urs
Total emersion; liquid notes
On gentle waves my spirit floats
In water born, I had to learn
To be renewed I must return
To loving waves
Or stormy seas
Where song abides
I am at peace

EARTH—Sebastien
Here on land I did not create
And taught not to anticipate
What melodies might come my way
But sing my song from day to day
Enchanted tunes
Give promise of
An earthbound heart
Fulfilled by love

AIR—David
In flights of fancy love can soar
Needs not aid of an open door
For walls cannot contain my heart
Nor portals closed keep us apart
Transcending reason
Together we fly
On wings of notes
We touch the sky

For once, I had left them speechless. They looked one to the other, gave me a big smile, put their arms around each other and bowed deeply from the waist. As they straightened, each stretched out a hand in my direction—rather than a bow, I curtsied deeply, thankful that I still remembered to hold my back straight! As I swept back up, they all laughed and applauded vigorously. All of this pomp required another toast! The celebration continued.

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PostSubject: Re: Urs and Catherine (By: Marie Humphrey) 3rd Story    Sat Sep 18, 2010 8:43 am

CHAPTER 12

Carlos extended his hand to me. As I took it and stood, he said, “We shall each have a special dance. Senora Hampton, may I have the honor to be first?” He led me to the terrace, pulled me into a close embrace and began to lead me in his own version of a tango to the music of “Ti Amero.” Though I was a bit out of practice I was soon following easily. Sam and I had always enjoyed dancing at the club and had even won a few contests so I was able to acquit myself well enough.

As the song was drawing to a close, he plucked a rose from an arrangement as we glided by. Making sure there were no thorns, he offered it to be placed between my teeth. Immersed in the mood, I accepted. At the powerful finale of the song there was much head snapping and toe pointing as we both enjoyed accentuating the dramatic movements of the dance. With the quiet ending phrase he gave me a final twirl then drew me close to retrieve the rose with his lips. We stood clutched together breathing heavily from the exercise. He stepped back, handed me the rose and with the sweeping bow of a true Spanish grandee, he kissed my hand and said, “Senora Hampton, I shall miss you.”

“And I you.” What an incredibly sexy man he was!

We returned to the table where I was claimed by Sebastien. I followed him to the strains of “Regresa A Mi.” I smiled because I recalled that once he had asked if I remembered when I first knew I liked their music. My unoriginal but absolutely true answer was, “You had me at, ‘No me abandones asi.’” As we continued, I also realized that this song gave him a lot of opportunity for hip action! Payback time! I slid my hand down from his back onto his hip, just below the waist. This encouraged him to some of his best efforts! We laughed as we improvised. The dance was flirty and fun— pure Sebastien! When we stood still he kissed both my cheeks and both my hands. “I love you Madame Hampton.”

“And I love you, Monsieur Izambard.” Neither of us misunderstood the context of the term.

David was so tall. I stretched to fit into his arms. He had chosen “Senza Catene.” The serious side of David! He is such a beautifully elegant dancer. We shifted from scarcely moving to sweeps and swirls where he actually lifted me off my feet. He almost made it to the end, but not quite. “Would this be a good time to put me out of my misery and answer the Double D riddle?” Perhaps he thought the gravely serious smile he gave my might make me take pity on him. Not happening!

I “smacked” him lightly on the shoulder, “No, it would not!”

“You’re never going to tell us, are you?” I knew this was not resignation—just regrouping.

“Probably not!” I gave him one of his own mischievous smiles. He ended the dance with a flourish that did keep me off my feet for two full turns. He set me down gently and held me until I was steady on my feet.

“You are my one that I have no worry about, Davy.” I had never called him that before. “I know that you have found the right woman for you and are truly in love. Just don’t rush things. Grow together and nurture what you have.” He put his arms around me hugged me close and kissed the top of my head.

We walked back to where Urs stood—waiting—he extended his hand.

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PostSubject: Re: Urs and Catherine (By: Marie Humphrey) 3rd Story    Sat Sep 18, 2010 8:44 am

CHAPTER 13

It was Urs’ turn. His countenance was serious and mine mirrored it. I felt disconcerted as he took me in his arms. I was remembering the others teasing him about the type of dancing he liked. Well, I had managed to follow the other three, why should this be different?

The light camaraderie of the evening was replaced by a disturbing tension. I was surprised that he had not chosen an Il Divo song for our dance as the others had. Instead, as we moved to the sensuous strains of “My Confession,” his movements became immediately and intensely provocative. I heard another’s voice but it was Urs’ body singing every word to me as clearly as those audible ones.

We had moved far from the doors to the end of the terrace where only occasional moonlight penetrated. I did not recognize this woman in his arms as I matched his fluid movements with abandon. Somewhere in my mind someone was whispering, “This is a mistake,” but the whisper was stilled by the inaudible singing.

Our hands clasped, arms slowly lifted above my head, fingers tracing downward then firmly grasping my waist, allowing me to sway backward, side to side, lower bodies inseparable, drawn upright, breaths mingled, eyes locked and glazed. He tilted his head close and that hair I had sometimes felt the need to protect fell across my cheek. I wanted to tangle my fingers, bury my face, become so enmeshed in those tresses escape would be impossible—but whose escape? There were brief moments of freedom as he moved me from him in slow turns only to pull me close again where I could feel the beating of his heart and revel in the scent of him.

We moved as one in the shadows, lost in the music. As the song ended, he pulled me close and kissed me lightly but with a final brush of lips and tantalizing touch of tongue that left me shaken. Regaining some composure I said, “I see it’s time I confessed some personal information,” but did not step from the encircling bands of steel.

His lips touched mine again then brushed across my cheek where he whispered into my ear, “I know you are exactly nine years and three hundred fifty-seven days older than I, Catherine.”

I stiffened, “How...?”

He did not let me go, “How is not important. I told myself it was only because I couldn’t stand riddles—that it was just that damned Double D thing. That was not true, but I have only learned some facts; I want to know you, Catherine. I want to be with you, Catherine.”

The lilt in his voice when he said my name was almost my undoing. This was Urs, Urs who was so reserved, so tender, who could so easily be damaged. Urs who was always so self-possessed but whose loss of control seemed imminent. I was trying to comprehend the meaning of what he was saying. Misinterpretation could bring devastation to either or both of us. I needed time to try to fathom his intent. My mind could not focus. I looked into his eyes but saw as much confusion there as must be visible in my own. “I don’t understand.” I did not trust myself to say more.

“Nor do I. I know of the loss of your husband; I know of your sons. I know you have a life to go back to. What I don’t know is why I feel as though the breath has been knocked from my body when I think of you going back to your life and out of mine. We have shared so very little personally; this is not logical, Catherine—Catherine—Catherine….” His breathing had become ragged but his voice was a silken whisper as his arms tightened, crushing me harder against his chest.

His behavior the last few weeks began to take on some meaning—he would seem on the verge of saying something to me then quickly retreat into a casual remark. Sometimes he had sought my company then suddenly couldn’t get away from me quickly enough. I remembered the events from the weekend at the estate. But surely I was wrong!

“Your lives, all of you, are so wrapped up in this career that family and loved ones seem to drift farther and farther away. Perhaps in the role I have played, I’ve sort of become a mother figure, a surrogate, as it were.” My mind was scrambling for more logical explanations. We were dangerously on the edge of a precipice. Moving further would propel us into the abyss.

Still holding me against him, he gave a wry laugh, “If you have become a mother figure, then I’m in need of a good psychiatrist for what I’m thinking right now.”

“Urs, saying farewell is a sentimental time. We’re in a beautiful, romantic setting. There is almost a full moon and there was so much wine.” I was looking for anything to extricate us from the bent this conversation was taking.

“Do you realize how few times you’ve said my name? You say it perfectly, I think you must have practiced.” He was not to be deterred from his previous thoughts. My blush at his last remark verified its truth and spoke volumes that I had dared not give credence. Those unnamed feelings—that face unbidden in my dreams for weeks now—were about to come crashing down upon me in tidal waves I was not prepared to withstand. I was saved from capitulation by a voice from the doorway.

“Hey, you two, your song stopped five minutes ago!” David’s voice jarred us back to reality.

“We’ll be right in, David.” My voice sounded normal enough.

He grasped my upper arms and held me away from him while his eyes bore into mine, “Tomorrow evening I will leave my door unlocked. I will be on this terrace at eight o’clock. Come to me here, Catherine.”

“My plane leaves in the morning.”

“Tomorrow evening, I will leave my door unlocked. I will be on this terrace at eight o’clock. Come to me here, Catherine.” When he repeated the command it was followed by a kiss that shook my very foundation and shattered any pretense of sanity. I found myself matching the caressing then bruising lips, the teasing exploring tongue. My body strained to fit to his, only becoming one being would be close enough—nothing left to imagination!

I pulled away and rushed for the door, “My plane leaves in the morning.” I flung the words over my shoulder.

He followed, but I was within view of the others before he could reach me. Relative calm within those few steps—how had I managed? Following close behind me, Urs’ demeanor gave no hint of what had transpired only moments before.

“Just saying goodbye,” I said only a bit breathless before there was an opportunity for a question that I trusted neither of us to answer.

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PostSubject: Re: Urs and Catherine (By: Marie Humphrey) 3rd Story    Sat Sep 18, 2010 8:45 am

CHAPTER 14

I smiled wanly and looked into four faces so very different and all so precious to me. “I don’t know what to say. I’ll miss all of you. You’ve all become so important to me. I will be back to see you.” We knew it would never be in the same context; the old had served its purposes, the new would be on a more equal footing.

Even Carlos let down his guard, “You must return to us. We will be desolate without you.”

“Now, Carlitos, that’s a line you must save for all of those beautiful Latin ladies you’re going to romance.” We both smiled in acknowledgement of the understanding and friendship between us. “I’ll let you know when I’m coming so there can be a room reserved for me.”

“If you drop in unexpectedly, I’m sure one of us would be willing to share our room with you.” Sebastian had become relentless in his flirting.

I arched an eyebrow and replied in a seductive tone, “And is that a personal invitation Monsieur Izambard?” There was a flicker of uncertainty on his face.

“Gotcha!” We both laughed. He too would be a lifelong friend.

David hugged me close. For once he had no question, no mischievous comment. “We’ll look forward to your return!” He would always be my “third son.”

I turned to Urs, “Keep trying to teach these three to be neater housekeepers.” Recognizing the need for some response, he embraced me lightly but his eyes searched mine and his touch seared my skin.

It was time—I took a deep breath, “You all did well, my darlings, the evening was perfect!” I did not try to hide my tears from them as I left the room carrying my precious gift—gifts. I believed I detected a corresponding glitter in their eyes as I departed.

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PostSubject: Re: Urs and Catherine (By: Marie Humphrey) 3rd Story    Sat Sep 18, 2010 8:46 am

CHAPTER 15

My bags were packed and placed beside the door. They had waited there all day. I had spent the time alternating between sitting staring at them and pacing the floor. I would be taking a flight—but not today. Tomorrow would be soon enough.

Perhaps Oz does exist after all because finding an unexpected love is to find an enchanted land over the rainbow, Technicolor after a world in shades of gray, beauty and tranquility after a storm. I am not going to over-analyze it or worry about “ever after.” I will willingly step right into those ruby slippers—and “home” is the present, right now, and that will be sufficient unto itself! I am desired by a beautiful young man who is an absolute wizard with his hands, lips, tongue—warmth spread through my body as I contemplated completing this inventory!

I thought long on the changes in my life since leaving Kansas. I truly was a woman in transition. I honored and loved my past life, Sam, my sons and my friends; their places in my life would never change. I honored the woman I was but I welcome the one I am becoming. I will observe convention but not be bound by it. I am not the woman I was five years ago, nor the one I will be five years from now, but the woman I am right now is filled with boundless joy and anticipation.

I had insisted that no one accompany me to the airport. I had not left the room or answered my phone all day. Everyone here would assume that I had departed. The knot in my stomach grew tighter as I thought of approaching that door at eight o’clock. Would it be unlocked? Would he be confident that I would be there? Would it be locked, signifying that he had already moved ahead? Would he have given up that easily?

Contemplating the events of the previous night, I knew I had sent mixed messages. My mind and my words had tried to be “sensible” but my heart and my body had betrayed me and gave lie to the words. Which would he have believed? My heart either raced or barely beat—my cheeks felt on fire. The minutes crawled by—hours were eons.

Eight o’clock approached—surely the distance down the hall had grown—I held my breath then let it out in a relieved sigh as I felt the knob turning in my hand.

Through the opened door, I could see him on the terrace—lightly leaning against the balustrade!


THIS WAS A PREQUEL TO MY PREVIOUS STORY—FINAL SCENE FROM A PAPERBACK NOVEL, WHICH WAS FOLLOWED BY THE SEQUEL—GOODBYE DARLING DIVO

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