Heading back home today, leaving the customer fairly happy. I'll be back with Mary after next week. My flight doesn't arrive until late. I'd like to sleep in some tomorrow, but I'm guessing it would be good to go into the office for a couple of hours just to take care of a few things to be ready for next week.

Email from Clarice - Rob has his job offer! They're faxing their acceptances back today, and he'll be giving his notice Monday. Two weeks to get packed and get their taxes filed, two weeks to move, and they'll be in Texas mid-April. Rob starts on the sixteenth; Clarice's start date is flexible, though I'm sure she'll be eager to get back to work.

Now I have school and after-school care on my list of things to research for them.


(I started writing this entry yesterday but didn't get close to finishing it. I'll post the first part and try to get caught up later today to post tomorrow. First, I have to be sure that I have my days right, like changing "last night" to "Saturday" in the next sentence :)

(Update: oops. I said I wouldn't change an entry after uploading - but I managed to tell the server that this entry was 2000, not 2007. I subscribe to my own RSS feed for testing, and up popped some strangeness about a 2000 hockey game...)

Barry called to let me know he was going to try to be at Saturday's Grand Opening, but he would be late. Could he meet me there?

So I asked Charles for a ride. There would be champagne, and I didn't want to drive - although I'd have offered, to free him up, if my car could fit all four of us.

I wore the fuchsia dress that I bought for a similar occasion way back when. (I had forgotten that the first time that Charles saw me in that dress he tried to get me out of it. I was only reminded when looking for the link. I wonder if he recognized it as such.)

Charles picked me up, then the girls, and we arrived at the dance a little before it officially started. They had some preparations to make, having contacted the owners beforehand.

The seating was limited, since most of the main hall is given to the dance floor, but Yolanda had bought tickets for five last week (which reminds me, I still owe her for two), and we got there early enough to choose one of the table on the side of the dance floor rather than among the larger grouping by the door. Charles had his jester's cap with him, which he set in the center of the table.

Charles wore a fairly conservative suit, which is unusual for him, but instead of a conventional shirt and tie he had a bottle-green thin knit with a high neck. Yolanda wore a long emerald dress with a low knot-front top, showing off her red hair - and more :).

Laurel was dressed elegantly but in an unusual style - white, lacy blouse under a short black jacket, with sleeves that ended well above her wrists, black rosette at her neck, and sharply-creased black pants. Her black wedge shoes added to her her already striking height, but there's something in her gentle confidence that allows her to carry off a look like that. Her blonde hair - she wears it longer these days than when I first met her, down below her shoulders - was brushed back, but she'd pulled a wisp forward, in front of her left ear, where it was tied with a green bow.

Although it was the studio's "Grand Opening," they've been operating for a few weeks, and seem to have a loyal student base. Some of them arrived before us, most just after, and maybe only half of the guests were not students (or spouses, or dates).

The owners of the studio are a couple in their thirties. Both of them are excellent dancers. I don't know how well they teach, but their students seem very happy. Charles and the twins know them from theatre work, and probably other situations.

As seems mostly the case with ballroom dancing, there were more women than men among the students, and though most brought dates some didn't dance. Which meant that there was a surfeit of women. Not a large imbalance, but enough to keep Charles busy. (I swear that man is inexhaustible.)

Of course, our group added to the excess. Yolanda and Laurel had no shortage of partners, but they each also spent time dancing with other woman. Most were willing, and those two are both better dancers than almost all of the men there, even when leading.

Around eight-thirty was the first exhibition dance, a Rumba routine by two of the younger students. After that Charles asked me to dance - a Foxtrot - and midway through that, I noticed that Barry had arrived. I smiled at him. Charles caught the look, and led me through a series of very showy steps for him.

When I went back to sit with him, I managed to get a quick peck on the cheek before Laurel stole him, so I spent the next dance glowering at her while Yolanda laughed at me. As did Laurel, when she finally returned him. Then I locked my arm around his and refused to give him up (but only for a few minutes, and only in fun. I knew I'd be able to spend plenty of time with him.)

He was in a charcoal suit, white shirt, and bright green tie.

"I - uh - think I'm sensing a theme here," I said. Barry and the girls looked at me curiously. "Is it, by any chance, St. Patrick's day?"

They laughed at me when I explained that I'd had no idea.

At a little after nine, the owners asked us to take our seats. That was the cue for Charles and the twins to take the floor. I took Barry's hand. "I'm glad you made it in time for this," I whispered to him, and he gave me a smile.

I've seen them do a three-way dance routine before now. This began very similarly, with Charles dancing with each woman alternately, then building to a complex three-way dance. At about the mid-point, though, it changed. They've obviously worked very hard on this, so I'll try to remember how I saw it play out.

First, Charles turned to dance exclusively with Yolanda. While Laurel moved by herself, she turned sideways to the pair, watching Yolanda over her shoulder. Yolanda looked at her and gave a small shake of her head.

Then he turned back to Laurel, but while he danced with her, she had her eyes fixed on Yolanda, whose body movements now seemed more focused on Laurel. Then, as Charles switched off between them, the two women were dancing perfectly in synchronization, whichever one Charles was facing at the time.

He moved back to twirling both at once, so they were no longer dancing the same movements, the three of them weaving between each other, spun Yolanda, then did the same with Laurel, then, as he did an over-the-top spin by himself, the girls looked at each other, rolling their eyes.

They both linked hands with him again, and it wasn't clear whether he led them or they led him to the front of the dance floor. Laurel passed him to Yolanda, who freed him to dance solo facing the audience - and while he did, the girls took each others' hands, then each rotated away, holding one hand, back to back, switching hands, face to face, moving quickly to the farthest corner of the dance floor. There, Laurel took the lead, spilling Yolanda over her back, then spinning her around as Charles turned to see what was going on.

With the two women now completely ignoring him, Charles spun over to our table, grabbed his jester's hat, and sank to his knees as the music ended. The girls bowed, hand-in-hand, to loud applause, while Charles leaned over further, touching his forehead to the floor. Then, of course, he sprang back to his feet, ran over to the twins and inserted himself between them for a final bow, with each woman giving him a kiss on the cheek.

They all seemed very happy with their performance as they rejoined us. Barry and I both congratulated them on an amazing routine.

After the dance floor returned to normal, I danced with Barry, who really isn't bad, though not in Charles's class. He was much more imaginative than he had been at the formal. He seemed more comfortable with me than he had then. Still, I passed him off to Yolanda, with instructions to her to loosen him up some more. She's a vastly superior dancer to me - even though I've improved a lot over the years - and she could make him feel what it's like to lead a responsive partner, while I danced swing with Charles.

When the owners announced a Tango, I looked to Barry, but he turned me down. Something he's never learned. Charles had already found another partner, so I slouched back, resigned to sitting the dance out, when I felt Laurel take my hand.

I've worked on the Tango with Charles. It requires a lot of concentration. It's a very sensuous-looking dance - and Laurel, I think, could make tap-dancing look sexy. She led (of course), and would turn me out, then spin me right back to her, belly to belly, with me looking up into her eyes. She never lost the smoldering intensity as she rolled me behind her, snapping her head around to follow my movements, or lowering me to the ground with my back arched, entirely dependent on her support.

There was something of a look of awe in Barry's eyes when she led me back to our table. He pronounced us "awesome," and Laurel spoiled the sultry pose she'd chosen by giggling, then she dragged him out onto the dance floor for a waltz, leaving me to be claimed by one of the other guests.

It turned out to be quite a while before I was able to sit with Barry again, when we were treated to a routine given by the owners. They're good - very good - but not quite as good as Charles. In my opinion, of course.

I intertwined my left arm with Barry's right, and he gripped my hand tightly. I'd been holding back on the champagne, looking forward with a steadily growing thrill to what we'd be doing after the dance was over.

Then, maybe a little before eleven, he got a pained look on his face. He reached under his jacket, and I saw a blinking pager. He cursed, told me he'd be right back, and left the studio with his cellphone in hand. Within five minutes he returned, and I could see the bad news in his eyes.

"Helen, I..."

"I know," I sighed. "Dammit. I was looking forward to..."

He nodded. "So was I," he said. "Can we...?"

"When?" I asked.

"I'll call?"

"Yeah," I agreed, "but soon. You don't need an appointment."

"Okay," he said, then he leaned down and gave me a brief but intense kiss.

When the twins returned to the table, they wanted to know where Barry had gotten to. I shrugged and told them, and they commiserated with me, Yolanda taking the practical step of refilling my champagne glass almost to overflowing, and Laurel giving me a big hug.

"It's okay," I said to them. "I'm okay with it."

"Like hell," said Laurel.

"No, I mean it," I said. "Yeah, I'm disappointed. I was planning to keep him occupied for a long time yet. But a few days ago, I didn't think he was going to call me. I thought we were through before we'd even begun. Well, he called. He came. He wanted to stay. I'm feeling better about where we stand, now I know there will be other times. Besides, he's going to want to make this evening up to me, and that's fine with me."

"Yeah, you tell yourself that," said Yolanda, "but drink up, too."

I grinned at her and followed her advice.


(Continuing Saturday night...)

With Barry not being around, I was asked to dance several times, in spite of the gender imbalance, and I accepted each invitation. I think that partnering Laurel had made the guys take notice of me. When our hosts finally announced the end of the evening, I felt a strange mix of frustration and enjoyment, along with a very pleasant warmth from the champagne.

The owners asked us to wait a few minutes, then when most had left, they congratulated Charles and the twins on their showcase dance, and presented them with two of the remaining bottles of champagne as a thank-you gift.

Charles asked if I wanted him to drop me at home, or to the twins', warning me that he wouldn't be staying long, but he'd be okay with taking me home when he left. I told him that was fine, I'd stay as long as he did.

As soon as we got to their place, Yolanda opened one of the bottles of champagne, and poured us each a good sized glass. I was sandwiched between the girls, on the couch, already feeling very contented and mellow, so I didn't drink much of mine. When Charles declared that he had to leave, I sighed and stood.

Yolanda grabbed my arm. "Why don't you stay?" she said. "We have a spare bed. I can loan you a shirt to sleep in, if you need, and we'll run you home in the morning."

"Would that be okay with you?" I asked Charles. "I haven't made you wait, have I?" He said not, and left after wishing us goodnight.

Of course, Yolanda immediately refilled our champagne. "Did you have a good time?" she asked, easing herself back down beside me.

"'Course I did," I said. I looked down at my decidedly non-green dress. "I do wish I'd known it was St. Patrick's Day."

"You really didn't know?" Laurel asked in surprise. "I didn't realize you were serious."

"When I'm out of town, I really don't keep up with anything but my work," I said. "I'm sure I knew a couple of weeks ago, but it had slipped completely out of my mind. Today I slept in, and relaxed, and didn't see anything that would have reminded me."

"I think you proved one thing," Yolanda said. "If you don't wear green on St. Patrick's day, you won't get lucky."

I laughed at that. "Maybe you're right."

"You know," I said, a little later, "if today's St. Patrick's day..."

"It isn't," interrupted Laurel. "That was yesterday."

"Hush," I said. "Don't complicate things. If this is... the night after St. Patrick's day, then..." I did a little mental arithmetic. "Do you remember six years ago today?"

"I barely remember yesterday," objected Yolanda. "Or the day before, since, as our learnèd friend points out, we're talking about yesterday."

Laurel frowned for a moment. "Oh," she said. "Was that..."

"It was. I guess it just wasn't memorable for Yolanda."

"Mmm. It was for me," said Laurel.

"Oh, you're so sweet," I said to her.

"Oh! Then!" cried Yolanda. Apparently realization had dawned. "Oh, yeah, that was St. Patrick's day, wasn't it?"

"Any regrets?" asked Laurel, taking my hand. "It seems an ... unusual anniversary to remember. Do you think about it much?"

I couldn't really tell her that visiting my journal keeps bringing the incident to mind, since that was my last update before the hiatus - and the last I'd make about Brian, other than from a distance. "No," I said. "No regrets. I do think about it - but it's a very good memory."

Yolanda took my other hand. "We've always wondered," she said. "Did we really help push Brian away? We never wanted that ..."

"Oh, God, No. Yolanda, no. We were fine about it right up to the end."

"When I tried to tell Laurel I thought that we'd hurt you, and we needed to be careful - that's when we got our wires crossed and started avoiding you."

"Now, that hurt me," I said. "I love you two. I hated not being able to see you."

"I'm sorry," said Laurel, in a much smaller voice than usual.

"It's fine," I said. "We're good now, right?" I turned to face her as she nodded, and kissed her neck. She used her free right hand to turn my face up to meet her lips instead, and my belly grew warm as I felt her lips part against mine.

Her fingers caressed my face as we kissed, but I had no way to respond, my right hand in her left, and my left being held by Yolanda, who was also running her fingers over my wrist. That confirmation that Yolanda was okay with me being liplocked to her friend was exciting, and as Laurel's fingers traced my breastbone my heart was pounding...

Except that Yolanda wasn't okay with it. "OK, guys," she said, "break it up now. Time out."

I drew back from Laurel's lips, tingly from head to toes, and turned to face her. "Sorry," I said, contritely. I figured I must have upset her after all.

"Sorry?" she asked, frowning at me. "I just want to be sure you save some for me."

"Yolanda, sweety," I said, "you know there's always more for either of you."

"Hmph," she grunted, wrapping her left arm around my neck.

She was more demanding than Laurel had been, working hard on my upper lip and tongue. I freed my hands to hold her waist. Then I felt Laurel's lips on my neck, and her arm sliding around me, right hand caressing my stomach, circling higher... craving ever more closeness, I ran my fingertips over Yolanda's chest, just as Laurel squeezed mine... the gorgeous fire in my belly threatening to push me from desire to need...

I disengaged. It was a hard thing to do. "No fair," I breathed. I peeled Laurel's hand from my boob and kissed her fingertips. "I'm not making good on my debt tonight, girls. But ... you know ... maybe ... soon?"

"That's the closest we've come to a commitment yet," Yolanda said. "Have you finally figured out that you really want to?"

I felt my face burning. "Maybe," I said again. "Soon."

I think I would have done, this time. I really do. Like my misgivings about Jacques, though, I just don't feel free fooling around on Barry. Not until I know exactly what kind of relationship we do have. I can say he has to accept me as I am, and it's true - but until that picture is clearer to me, it's hard to say just what restrictions I'm willing to take.

Like, if we're only going to be together for a few weeks, I might be more willing to conform than I would for a longer-term affair. And it seems as though that's all either of us is expecting, so maybe that's how I should play it. Though it would be silly for me to decide unilaterally what restrictions he would want to put on me.


(Continuing from Sunday morning)

I probably only had three glasses of champagne all of Saturday night. The one I'd nursed until Barry left, the one that Yolanda poured right afterwards, and the one back at the twins' house. So I felt fine in the morning.

The twins themselves, though, they'd gotten through plenty. And I'm sure they had some excess lust to work off before they got to sleep - so I wasn't expecting to see them early in the morning.

After I woke, I dug through the kitchen until I'd found coffee and an interesting collection of food, then I cooked up huevos rancheros - perfect for bleary-eyed mornings. I found a couple of trays so that I could take them breakfast in bed.

They seemed happy with my offering, Laurel telling me I could cook breakfast for her at any time, while Yolanda muttered that the next time I spent the night, breakfast would be the last thing on my mind.

Yolanda loaned me shorts and a tee shirt and ran me home at about eleven.

I was a little disappointed to see that the ornamental pear in their yard is already green. It still has blossoms, but they're dull, now, not brilliant white. Is that all the time that Bradford Pears flower every year, I wonder, or was this season short?? Since I was out of town for a week, I missed most of the blooming stage.

Still, the redbuds are flowering now. I don't especially like redbuds during the summer, but in early spring they're beautiful - and those flowers last for a long time.

I spent lunchtime working on the spa. The weather's warming up nicely, and I'm looking forward to being able to use it. After that, I ran a hot bath, and soaked for a long time, having to warm the water up once.

When I finally emerged, I discovered that I'd missed a call on my cellphone, and I cursed loudly when I saw Barry's number. The fates had been far too unkind to us lately.

It wasn't a problem, though, as he picked up on the first ring when I called him back.

"Hey, Helen. I'm calling to apologize for running off last night."

"It's okay, Barry," I said. "I do understand."

"Do you have any plans this evening?"

If I had, I'd have canceled them, but he didn't need to know that. "No, nothing," I said. "You could come over now, if you're not busy."

"I'll do that," he said.

I spent the time until he arrived drying my hair, but no more. As soon as he was inside the house, I fastened my lips to his, and it wasn't long - seconds, really - until he discovered that there was nothing under my robe but Helen. Very soon after that we were seriously making up for lost time.

I was feeling very contented when I finally rolled off him.

"Oh, hi, Barry," I said. "Nice of you to stop by."

He laughed. "Yeah, that was quite a welcome."

"Mmm," I said. "I guess we need to go out, so I can welcome you back again."

It was too early for dinner, and it was a lovely afternoon, so I suggested the outdoor nature museum that I've mentioned before. I drove us there, to have the chance to use the convertible - Barry's Infiniti is very comfortable, but nothing can beat a convertible on a sunny afternoon.

We arrived less than an hour before the place closed, so we didn't take the long walk. It was Barry's first visit, and he seemed to like it. Part of that might have been that I held his hand as we walked.

When we left, we went to a nearby steak restaurant. It's a place that has huge, huge lines on Friday and Saturday, but on Sunday we only had to wait about twenty minutes. It's one of those places that leaves a bucket of peanuts on your table, and the floor is thick with peanut shells. I like roasted peanuts, so I've always liked the restaurant, but I usually avoid it because of the lines.

I ordered a filet. I didn't want a heavy meal.

"What's up?" he asked, and I realized I'd been staring off into space for a while. I think I felt my cheeks get warm.

"I was just thinking," I said.


"I don't know if I should say. I don't want to make you run."

He frowned. "Seems unlikely. Why would I?"

"Well, it's about the 'U' word. But it isn't what you think."

"Ah," he said. "Erm, Helen, what's the 'U' word?"

"Us," I said. "I guess ... I feel very comfortable with you, and I don't know why."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, we've been out precisely twice. Both to dances. I really don't know what else you like, or what you do, outside work." I lowered my voice further. "Going to bed with you has been ... well, fantastic. But even there, I don't know how much is real."


"Think about it," I said. "Last weekend, it was the ball, and everything that went along with it. The dancing, the glamour, and then waiting through the evening, knowing what I wanted - even if I had to convince you. It wouldn't be surprising if I was extra-turned-on, would it? And today, after all the build up yesterday, and being doubly frustrated last night, that would hardly be run-of-the-mill sex, right? So I don't know if it would usually be that good. It's as much a mystery as why I feel that I know you so well, when I don't."

He reached across the table and curled his fingers around mine. "Well, that puzzle we can solve," he said, "if we work together diligently."

I reached out with my left hand, and drew patterns on the back of his with my nails. "Oh, yes, I think diligence is called for."

"Double frustration?" he asked, a little later.

"Uh, yeah," I said, scrambling to recover. "I mean, I was frustrated that I didn't get to see you. That you couldn't call. Then that you had to leave."

"I see," he said.

After coffee we went back to my place. It still hadn't turned dark.

For the first time, we took things at a manageable pace. It was several minutes before Barry lifted my tee shirt off and let his hands roam over my bare back.

There's something especially erotic about the transition between covered and braless. Even when you know you're going to be making love. Even when you're sitting on the edge of the bed, knowing that you'll soon be between the sheets with him inside you. Even then, there's a difference between the excitement of being with him, kissing and touching, and the magic in his eyes when you reveal yourself to him, and give him access to those private, sensitive places.

Until now, it had been the ball gown - which I'd had to remove myself - and the robe, which vanished very quickly. This was the first time he'd taken off my bra, and he did so slowly, almost reverently, as we kissed. When he lowered his lips to my nipples, they were already swollen, and I was very turned on. I slipped his shirt off, interrupting him, then unfastened his jeans and my own, slipping them off as he suckled my nipples until they were fully erect.

When we were down to underwear, his mouth covered mine, and we sank back onto the bed, hands exploring. Soon, his fingers delved down inside my panties, and stole into my wet sex, caressing me from within.

I eased myself out of my panties, still connected to his lips, and rocked my pelvis against his wrist. He kept stroking, slowly, slowly bringing me on.

And then it was going to happen. I drew back from his lips. "Ooh," I breathed, and "Mmm," as he caressed my clit, gently, but inexorably pushing me over the threshold. I gasped as the stimulation overloaded my senses. "Uhh..." I came, my chest alive with excitement. "Uhh..." as my sex pulsed with delight. Barry covered my lips with his again, and I sucked his tongue as he stroked further pleasure into me.

"That was nice," I whispered, a few minutes later. Then I found him a condom, and sat on his legs, unrolling the rubber over his rock-hard shaft. I slipped him into me and lowered myself onto him.

We moved slowly, and I could soon sense that I was building towards another orgasm. I tried to hold back, relaxing. Barry was clearly enjoying the feelings, but didn't seem ready to come himself.

Very, soon, though, I knew that I wouldn't be able to hold back for long. I straightened my legs, my feet between Barry's, gripping his cock tightly inside me. Instantly he gasped, and started moving quickly. I pressed my tongue against his, and he gripped my breasts, kneading firmly. That sent me right up to the edge, my sex tensing uncontrollably, but I kept moving against him, feeling his movements growing wilder.

Then he grunted, and I felt his cock quivering within me. I groaned as my climax hit, still bouncing vigorously against him. Only when he relaxed did I do the same myself, breaking away from his lips to rest my body along his.

"Did we answer my question?" I whispered.

"I don't know," he said. "Maybe it's the question that's important, and we'll just have to keep asking."

"Okay," I said, and kissed him.

He left at about one a.m. I wonder how he'd feel about staying through the night. It would be nice to have someone to hold occasionally. I guess it might be hard for him to get ready for work...


(Begun on Saturday - I got interrupted...)

Well, after spending so long writing up last weekend, I haven't felt much like catching up with daily events. The week at work has been intense, but that's never much fun to write about - or read about, I'm sure.

To recap, though: I've been working with Mary to address the customer's problems, and I think they'll be pleased with our joint solutions. In fact I'm quite looking forward to going back to Vancouver tomorrow, and I don't think Mary's as annoyed about the trip as she was.

I have so many frequent flier miles accumulated over the last couple of years that I will never have time to use them...

I haven't seen Barry since the wee hours of Monday morning, but I'm going over to his place this evening. Hmm... I wonder what Clarice will think to him?

Speaking of my sister-in-law - I think I should have insisted that she come out here to take care of her own relocation issues. I've worked hard for her this week, but I do have some results to show for it.

Dave showed me two houses on Tuesday evening which have possibilities. One was a little larger than I think they're looking for, but the other seems perfect. I think Clarice would like them both, and they're within her price range - barely, in both cases, but the second house includes a pool.

So I've sent her photographs, and she's going to talk to Dave to get more details. She might come out here next week if they look promising.

Since we're still not certain where they'll be living, I haven't been able to do as much for Mara's schooling as I'd like. I've found a daycare that has space for after-school care. They didn't have any openings in their school program. They're church-affiliated, and I'm not sure how Clarice feels about that.

Clarice called and interrupted me. By the time we were done talking, it was time for me to get ready to go out, so I'm continuing this on Sunday.

She loved the photos of both houses, but she thinks she might like the first one. With the possibility of making an offer for the house plus really needing to take care of Mara's school on a weekday, she's coming out here Wednesday. I won't be here until Thursday, but she knows how to get into my place.

Barry had tickets to a classical concert. I think it was sold out, and I'm not sure that I want to know how he got such good seats :). If it wasn't through nepotism then I have to wonder who he'd been planning to take before he met me.

Although - maybe it didn't sell out as early as I'd thought. And, would I care if there had been someone else? You know, I don't think I would.

Anyway, the concert was wonderful. As was our own private performance, back at Barry's place, with a special encore this morning before I had to leave.

Now I need to go pick up Mary to head to the airport. More later from the Great White North - or not, depending on how busy we are. I should be back home Thursday.


I had an idea. Another case where an idle comment in the journal has led to a change in real-life plans. Although that effect has gotten me in trouble as often as not, I missed it while I wasn't maintaining the journal. Right now this one is just a possibility.

My comment Saturday about frequent flier miles got me thinking. I haven't taken any time off from work for a long while - and in a couple of weeks, Rob and Clarice will be driving to Texas. I'm sure they're planning to drive separately, since they have two cars to move.

Maybe I could go out there, help them finish packing, then drive back with them. I can share the driving load and keep them from being so bored. I think that Clarice is intending to make it a fairly leisurely drive, to let Mara see some of the sights.

Of course, if they're making a vacation of it, they may not want me along, but I'll drop Clarice email now and see what she thinks.

Mary wowed the customer with her presentation. I knew she would, but I don't think she did :). So she was very happy. We had to entertain the customer tonight, but tomorrow the company's going to treat her to a really good dinner.


Well, no celebration dinner for Mary today. I mentioned that I'd been hearing rumors of a new project that might be something that could be of interest to us. Today I managed to find out more about it, and after yesterday's meetings, the customer seems to believe that we really have the capabilities that I've been promising them.

Today they cleared us - Mary and me - into the program. We went to another plant on the outskirts of the city. We had to wear bright yellow hard hats and safety glasses for the tour, which didn't suit either of us :)

This project could be huge. Smaller than my current project, but not by much, and I came to that one after it had been sold. I wasn't involved in the initial phases.

This will take Dale and maybe even Ken to negotiate. Selling isn't my area. Advising the account manager is. Letting the account manager know that he wouldn't have made the connection without my other project - that's also my area :)

I've written up what I can in an email to Ken and Dale. Got a quick response from Ken to "stay in place" until we can talk more.

I'll need to tread carefully. I'd like to take this on as a project - if we can sell it, but it's so similar to what we're currently doing that I'm sure the customer will want us. I already am the senior project manager, and if I take on more that could cause political problems.

On the other hand, I'm a lot more efficient than I was in '01 when I took on this role. My contacts with the customer are good, I already travel here often, I work well with Dale, and with Mary - not without friction in either case, but with good results. It would make sense all around for me to take responsibility.

Anyway, that consumed our time until early evening, then the customer's project director wanted to talk more over an early dinner. We were done by eight, and feeling pretty elated, so I ditched my car at the hotel and we took a taxi to a brewpub, downed a few very pleasant ales and played darts with a couple of local guys.

They offered to give us a ride back to the hotel, but we called a taxi. I don't think either of them was over thirty. Nice guys, though, and a friendly pub. I'll have to see if Jacques knows the place.


Looks like my email yesterday kicked our company into instant high-gear. Ken was on the phone to the customer this morning, and he and Dale are flying up here to meet with them tomorrow and Friday. He instructed me to give him as detailed a report as I could of the requirements, and what I would need to make it happen. Also to delegate the software group's planning to Mary.

So the two of us have been hard at work in my hotel room all day figuring out schedules and project impacts / resource requirements. Not Mary's favorite pastime. Not mine, for that matter, but preparing plans like this require some political thought. You're going to have to justify everything to your own sales / marketing / management, and once you've proved your case, you're still going to be given less than you ask for.

And then you have to account for what your marketing will lose when negotiating with the customer, which will then get pushed back to you. So you have to inflate your estimates twice, but still "prove" your need for everything on the inflated list.

I can be devious. I'd like to say that I don't like it, but - if I'm honest - I really do. I find it a challenge. Mary's too honest, though. So I've been advising her - which has the potential of putting us both in an awkward position later, when the project hits a snag, and I know just how much give she had in her numbers.

I hope that we're good enough friends - and trust each other enough, which isn't exactly the same thing - to work together to resolve issues that arise. We have done so far, and I have always had a pretty good idea of her constraints, since I came out of her group.

Of course, this is if I'm assigned the project. The way Ken phrased his demands, though, "what you would need to..." makes me believe that he's thinking along those lines.

Ken and Dale arrived in the early evening. We reviewed papers for an hour, then argued more over dinner. We may be delaying our return over this weekend, which could be a problem for me with Clarice, but I guess she doesn't really need me. I hate to abandon her, though.

We took the guys to last night's pub after dinner. Our darts-playing friends were there again, and they didn't seem very pleased to see Mary and me with men, but *shrug* that's their problem.

Clarice called while we were at the bar. Pub, I mean. She said she'd love to see me when they move. They had been planning to make the leisurely trip with one car, then Rob fly back to pick up the other and drive by himself (or perhaps make the quick trip first, they weren't certain).

If I can join them, they'll bring both cars together. Although it will probably mean that Rob will be driving alone most of the time, it will still be easier for them overall. And maybe some of the time I can drive one car alone and let those two travel together. In fact, for the sake of splitting the drive time we'll almost certainly do that.

(It goes without saying that Mara will be in the same vehicle as her mom.)

Now I'm wondering how I'll find the time, if we suddenly have so much extra work, but I'll make it. Much as I love my job, Rob and Clarice are higher on the list of what's important to me.


Seeing Ken in action yesterday was quite an education. He must have been up late into the night studying our notes to be as well-prepared as he was, since when we were talking over dinner we hadn't been referring to our papers.

I'd missed several points. It looks like our potential involvement could be bigger than I'd envisioned. Which doesn't mean I did a poor job, just that we needed more detail, and one of Ken's tasks was to nail down the scope.

By the end of the day we were all very tired. Mary was clearly losing interest. When Ken asked if we wanted to join them for dinner with the customer I suggested that Mary and I bow out. She gave me a very grateful look.

So I took her out for that celebratory meal, and we stayed up late relaxing with after-dinner drinks. I have a feeling that Ken won't raise any objection to my expense report.

Mary talked a lot about her boyfriend. She had a couple after Ray, who weren't close to his level of loserhood, but who she didn't stay with for long. The most recent, George, has been around for over a year, now, and he sounds like an okay guy.

'Course I told her a lot about Barry, too. Including about being a little concerned about how I wasn't sure where things were going, since things seem to be pretty intense between us.

Today we met with Ken and Dale. Things are going well, but we're a long way from finishing negotiations. We may as well go back to Texas, do some research, and be ready for the next phase.

So Mary's fast asleep beside me right now. I don't know exactly how that happened, since the plane is pretty full, but we managed to get seats together. Dale and Ken will be a couple of hours behind us. I'm scrunched up writing this on my notebook. I have the font set very small in case Mary wakes up, 'cause I really don't want her to see what I'm working on.

One thing that has been annoying this week is that I missed the season finale of Battlestar Galactica. I've heard it was good, but I'm trying to avoid spoilers. With luck I'll be able to see the recording that Yolanda made for me before the weekend is over.