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(Note: I plan to make this a slow seduction, so be patient.)
Jessica first came into my life four years ago. Actually, Jessica is the Americanized version of her Middle Eastern name, but we’ll stick with Jessica. About a year before I met Jessica, I had first done a stint in the Marines and then had gone to work for one of those government agencies that you never hear about unless they screw the pooch big time. Otherwise, their continued success only brings anonymity.
Anyway, I separated from that particular agency five years ago. I had lined up a fairly lucrative job for a security firm that did work for oil and natural gas companies. About that time, a buddy of mine and his wife had died in a car accident. For whatever reason, they had named me as guardian of their four year old daughter Kate. Why, I haven’t a clue. I’ve never been a particular “touchy-feely” kind of guy. The kind of work I had done in the military and for the spooks hadn’t done anything toward making me a more sensitive kind of guy. In a way, getting custody of Kate was sort of a blessing. Ten more years, and I would have been a soulless killing machine.
So, I get a job in the private sector doing risk analysis and setting up training programs. Nothing that requires me to go overseas or get my hands dirty. But my years of expertise earn me a pretty penny. I got a home in suburbia, hired a part-time housekeeper/nanny and went about the business of learning how to raise a four year old girl. And then Jessica came into my life.
It was a week after Kate’s fifth birthday and we were having Sunday breakfast at Mickey D’s. Not my choice for breakfast, but a happy meal toy and a half hour on the plastic jungle gym was heaven on earth for Kate, so who was I to complain? A year of living with Kate had introduced me to the joys of making a little girl happy.
About that time, Jessica sat in a booth not for away from us. She was wearing a baggy coat (it was winter time) and a handkerchief over her head. Not the Muslim kind, but one you see on women forty years older than her during inclement weather. I didn’t give her much notice. She was a darker-skinned girl, who I estimated to be in her early teens. As I said, I didn’t take much notice of her. I was paying attention to Kate; the part of my brain that categorize and determine risk potential of strangers had analyzed her and then just as quickly dismissed her.
She was looking around, though, as she ate her meal. I don’t know if some part of my brain warned me that this signaled potential trouble. But I decided to go ahead and signal to Kate that it was time for us to go home.
That’s when trouble began. Kate was in a tube near the top of the gym, so it took her a few minutes to get down to the bottom. Jessica sat straight up as two dark skinned men also came into the restaurant. They quickly scanned the tables and booths and immediately bee-lined to Jessica’s table. A quiet but heated conversation between the three ensued. Kate came down from the gym. I quickly scooped her up and headed to the parking lot. If it sounds like I didn’t want to get involved with an argument among strangers, you’re right.
Unfortunately (though it became fortunately later on), one of the men was trying to yank Jessica out from her booth. When Jessica resisted, he slapped her with the back of his hand. The following ‘crack’ brought immediate silence in the restaurant.
The man who slapped Jessica looked up at the accusatory stares being leveled against him by the other customers. More than one cell phone had been brought out, undoubtedly punching in 911. Good. The cops would be on the way and could take care of the situation.
“This is none of your business. This woman is my wife and I will discipline her as I see fit.”
I think there was more than one shocked look on the faces around him when he announced that Jessica was his wife. The man in question was in his late 40’s, and Jessica definitely looked her fourteen years of age. But again, this was a problem for the cops. My business was to get Kate out of there.
A young man, maybe in his early twenties and wearing a small name tag that read “Assistant Manager”, walked over to the table and announced to the two men, “I think you gentlemen should leave now. The police are on their way.”
The ‘husband’ rewarded this announcement by pulling out a knife and stabbing the young man. I was keeping Kate turned away from the scene, but the noise was still getting to her. She whispered into my ear “Daddy Jim, please help them.” That little voice I couldn’t say no to.
I put her down, told her to close her eyes and crawl under a table, then turned back to the disturbance. The ‘husband’ was brandishing his knife, the assistant manager was curled up on the floor bleeding, and the ‘husband’s’ friend was pulling Jessica out of her booth while Jessica was silently struggling. I rushed them, expecting one or both men to pull out a gun at any time.
There casino oyna was only one knife between the two of them. I was a little out of practice, but it still wasn’t a challenge.
Skip five minutes ahead when the cops and the paramedics show up. Fortunately for our assistant manager, the cut was shallow. Jessica (I still hadn’t met her officially yet) was curled up in her booth, and no amount of coaxing was getting her to talk to the cops.
I was giving my statement to the senior officer (who I had vaguely knew, having met him through mutual professional acquaintances) when Kate, who had been watching the cops trying to unsuccessfully communicate with Jessica, piped up. “Daddy Jim, maybe she doesn’t speak English. You speak a lot of languages!”
The cop raised an eyebrow at me. I shrugged. “I pulled a lot of embassy time in the Marines. I know a couple of languages from the Middle East and Central Asia.” Actually, I had picked up the languages through other avenues, but there was no reason to go through that. The cop looked at me. “You mind, Jim? At the very least, I can know what kind of translator for the department to send out.”
I nodded and headed over to Jessica. Little did I know she had been watching me and Kate. As soon as I came over, she asked me in broken English. “The little girl—yours?”
I nodded and immediately Jessica uncurled and started talking. When she discovered I spoke her native tongue, it was like someone had opened the flood gates. I immediately discovered that she was in this country on a “fiancee” visa. She was indeed fourteen; her marriage contract had been bought by a fellow countryman who was now a successful businessman in our country. Jessica had escaped before her ‘husband’ had had a chance to consummate the marriage.
Fast forward over the next couple of days. It may have been under the radar for a lot of Americans, but the practice of underage brides being brought in this country isn’t as rare as you’d like to think it is. It’s not even uncommon for men of Jessica’s native country who have been in this country for a few years to marry their thirteen and fourteen year old daughters off to fellow expatriates. Jessica, however, had an Irish grandfather (another long story) and came from a community that was Westernized just enough that she wasn’t willingly going into this arranged marriage. So she had ran from her ‘husband’ and we had our little altercation.
Civil court annulled the marriage, and both Jessica’s ‘husband’ and his friend were convicted on numerous charges. The assistant manager was better in a few days, and his heroics earned him the admiration of another employee whom he had been infatuated with. Which left Jessica.
With her ‘husband’ incarcerated, Jessica was looking at deportation to her native country. However, considering the circumstances under which she would be deported under, a “Welcome Home” party was the last thing she could expect. She could apply for political asylum, but the INS courts were so backed up that it might be years before she was heard and, considering that Jessica’s country was not on Homeland’s list of favorite vacation spots, she might actually get fast-tracked to being deported.
My friend, the senior cop on the scene, came over and got me to repeat the details that Jessica was giving to me. He nodded and told someone to call INS. Jessica’s English at the time was good enough to pick up those three letters, which started her wailing. Meanwhile, Kate had slipped supervision and, seeing Jessica burst into tears, ran through the crowd, evaded ‘capture’, and leaped into the startled Jessica’s lap. Kate looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Daddy Jim, we’ve got to help her.”
So, that’s how Jessica came to live with us.
OK, I know you’re saying, back up there, Jim. How did a minor foreign national who you had only known for fifteen minutes come to live in your home? Actually, you should be asking how did a callous S.O.B. like me end up with guardianship of an angel like Kate in the first place. I was in my mid-thirties and a real piece of work when Kate’s parents died. The reason I got out of the agency I was working for in the first place was to provide a real life for Kate. I don’t know why her Dad left her in my care, but in that year after her father and mother died, she had given me a soul. She was my soul. I couldn’t have denied her anything.
And now, instinctively, she had found another soul to heal.
So, back to Jessica. Her passport reported her as 18, even though she was 14. I suppose she could have passed for 18. Maybe. She was under 5 foot (and, at 18, she would reach the grand height of 5’2″). She had flawless, dusky skin, soft, brown eyes, gentle features, dark straight hair that reached to the small of her back, and the beginning of some very womanly curves (as a side note, at 18 she was wearing a 32C bra. I knew this from innocent clothes shopping, but that’s another matter). Since she was ‘theoretically’ an adult, slot oyna CPS wasn’t called in to take custody of her. Kate promptly announced to Jessica that she would be coming home with her and ‘Daddy Jim’, where she would be safe and cared for. On the small things (like her bedtime), I could be firm with Kate (though I suspect that she could have argued it if she wanted to). On the big things, like the saving of lost souls, Kate was an irresistible force. Heaven helped the world when Kate becomes an adult and decides how she’s going to save it.
By the time it was discovered that Jessica was a minor, I had put the wheels in motion. I had “friends” in the INS who either owed me favors, or who wanted my continued silence on matters past. When Jessica turned 18, she became an American citizen. I had other “friends” in the local and state government as well (don’t ask how I came by these friends; you’re happier not knowing. Before Kate came into my life, I was the kind of person who you only wanted around to make a mess disappear, and you would want me to disappear with the mess). So guardianship of Jessica wasn’t a problem either. The system was overloaded, and nobody was opposed to the idea. Even Jessica’s family back home would prefer for her to disappear. Her reappearance in her home village would only be a source of shame for them.
So how does a five year old angel, a fourteen year old ‘bride’ and a thirty-three year old ‘cleanup man’ co-exist in the suburbs? Actually very well, all things considered. Kate was truly an angel, and Jessica trusted her immediately. She trusted me grudgingly (and only because Kate trusted me implicitly), but soon I had her trust as well. Within a year, Jessica was a thoroughly Americanized teenager, save perhaps she absolutely adored her ‘little sister’ Kate.
My life tended to center around work and family. My dating life had taken a nosedive because of Kate. Not because of Kate per se, but because I really couldn’t bring around the kind of women I had been seeing pre-Kate to the house, and the type of woman I would want to be permanently in Kate’s (and Jessica’s) house were not exactly the kind of woman I knew how to meet. I never mentioned this to Kate (for obvious reasons), but I remembered when she turned seven, she gave me an impish little smile and said, “Don’t worry, Daddy Jim. I’ll let you know when it’s time for my new Momma.” An odd comment that I found would be prophetic.
As I said, by age fifteen, Jessica (the Americanized version of her name) became, in a lot of ways, a typical upper middle-class suburban teenager. She had an IPod, laptop, desktop and a wide array of clothing while having nothing to wear. In truth, her and Kate were alike in that they really weren’t that materialistic; they did it more for their friends and to humor their overindulgent ‘Daddy Jim’.
Jessica was a very smart girl, and with the help of some private tutors, she was ready to enter high school by the time she was fifteen. I was more than a little wary about how she would adapt to this new environment, but she took to it well. Surprisingly well. Jessica’s intelligence, natural athleticism, exotic beauty and sweet personality catapulted her into one of the elite cliques of her high school. She even earned a spot on the cheerleading squad during her junior and senior years.
In some ways, though, Jessica was very atypical. We had parties for her friends at our home, but she was very insistent about no mixed-sex pool parties. She didn’t attend them, and the ones at her home were always just her female friends. Jessica really never seriously dated either. Oh, she would go on dates. But it was always as ‘just friends.’ I find out later that the farthest any of her dates had ever gotten was a peck on the cheek.
So I know what you’re thinking. I must have had incredible sexual adventures with a bevy of scantily clad, virginal high school cheerleaders running around my house. About the exact opposite, actually. Young girls may be attracted to the bad boy image, but not to the bad boy himself. Especially when the bad boy has been to hell and back several times and has the scars to prove it. Eventually though, I did gain the image as the ‘second father’ to a number of the girls. Especially when one of the girls had confessed that she had almost been the victim of a date rape. What did I do about it? Nothing. Well, I had a female associate of mine give the girls a short course on self-defense. And the date rapist in question, well…let’s just justice comes in many forms, and leave it at that.
So here I was, thinking I was living a pretty good life—a sort of Ward Cleaver meets Rambo. My sex life could have been a lot better, but I had a good family, a good home, and a soul.
Then Jessica turned eighteen, and that world turned upside down.
I was sitting in my study when Jessica came in, wearing her pajamas and and a modest robe. (Jessica always wore modest clothing, even at home. Her swimsuits would have probably canlı casino siteleri looked more at home in a 50’s beach party movie). She was still wiping sleep out of her eyes when she plopped in one of my chairs.
“Morning, sleepyhead. Given any thought to what you want for your 18th birthday?”
Jessica gave me a bashful smile. “Well, I thought the party you were going to throw for me and my friends was enough.”
I had hired a caterer and an up-and-coming local rock band to play at the house this weekend. I had gotten a couple of other things as well, jewelry, clothes and such. I’d gotten her a detail job for the little convertible I had gotten her for her seventeenth birthday. But I really wanted to get something special for Jessica for her 18th birthday.
“Surely there’s something I can get you something special for your birthday, Jessica?”
Jessica gave me a coquettish smile and said, “I’ll think of something; after the party, though.”
The party was a success by all accounts. Three other sets of parents were there to help supervise. There was more than one young man who showed more than a ‘friendly’ interest. Jessica was kind, but kept them at arm’s length. I and the other parents shared small talk, but it was a bit forced. We didn’t come from similar backgrounds. I suppose for them it was like being a caribou in the presence of a vegetarian wolf. You’re on the opposite side of the hunt, and you never know if or when the wolf will give up his vegetarian ways.
The party dwindled down, and eventually it was just Jessica and I (Kate was staying over at a friend for the night). Jessica gave me a hug and a kiss on the cheek, thanked me for the party and headed up to bed. I settled up accounts with the caterer and the band, locked up the house and put off cleaning up for the morning. I made one last walk around the house, and then went to bed. All in all, I slept the sleep of a contented father.
The next morning, the parents of Kate’s friend dropped her off at the house. She gave me a sleepy smile (I’ve discovered that despite being called sleepovers, very little sleep happens at them) and a hug before heading upstairs. About that time, a waking Jessica was making her way down the stairs. Kate reached up her arms for a hug and her big sister obliged. After the two parted, Kate asked, “So, you asked him yet?” Jessica blushed and looked down at me. “Not yet!” Kate giggled and said, “Well, hurry up. You’re eighteen now!” With that, Kate headed up the stairs to the room.
“So, what was that all about?”
Jessica blushed for some reason. “Oh, Kate wanted to know if I had asked for my birthday present yet.”
“So you know what you want?”
Jessica changed the subject. “Jim, is the move set yet?” (Jessica had always called me Jim. Unlike Kate, whom I adopted, Jessica was content with me being just her guardian. In my heart, though, I loved them both equally).
The move in question was a partnership I was being offered on the West Coast. It would mean more money, and Jessica wanted to go to college in the same city where I would be working. The only person who would be affected by this negatively would be Kate who, for some reason, was a bigger proponent for the move than me and Jessica combined. Jessica’s birthday party was also something of a going away party. We’d all being making new starts in just a few months.
“Absolutely. We got the house.” Jessica squealed in pleasure. ‘The house’ was a veritable modern palace in the eyes of Kate and Jessica. “So, tell me what you want for your birthday.”
“I want the ‘Pretty Woman’ date.”
I knew exactly what she meant. In the movie ‘Pretty Woman’, Julia Roberts gets flown to another city while wearing a beautiful dress, expensive jewels, limousine…the whole nine yards. It was one of Jessica’s favorite parts of the movie. Now, I don’t have millions of dollars, but I could actually make a date like that happen. I’ve collected more than a few favors in my life, and setting up a date like that would be child’s play.
I was caught a little by surprise, though, because I had seen Jessica interact with the young men at her party. She didn’t seem to have shown any of them the level of interest that a romantic date like this would entail. Maybe she wanted a very special goodbye to one of the male friends she was leaving.
“It would be my pleasure, Jessica. Just give me a couple of weeks to set things up. May I ask who the lucky man is?”
Jessica looked down at her feet. “It’s you, Jim. I want to go on this date with you.”
I should have picked up on the signals from now. But I guess, no matter who you are, you can still caught off guard by something coming at you from right field. I just though Jessica wanted to spend some time with her surrogate father. I was touched. I know kids that age, even good ones like Jessica, are a little embarrassed to be seen with their parents at time.
“I’m flattered, Jessica. If you can stand to spend an entire evening with the old man, I’ll try not to embarrass you.”
Jessica was still not looking up when she dropped the other shoe. “I want a real date, Jim. Including the kiss at the end of the night.”
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