Before Trish, Lenny had been burned by love–once. Her name was Rachel and she was young. They were both young.

Rachel was a raven haired beauty with a great figure and fire in her veins. And she slept around–a lot.

Lenny knew this about her. The first time they had sex they weren’t even on a date. They were at a frat party. He fell in love with her that night.

For Rachel, Lenny would do anything. He would work hard, diligently, as an electrician’s apprentice at her father’s electrical contracting business, making slow but steady progress up the ladder of respectability.

Nobody saw that coming.

In turn, Rachel’s father and mother would take him under their protective wings, nurturing a relationship that they would have never approved of if Rachel had of turned out like they hoped.

Even so, Lenny was good for their daughter.

But Rachel wasn’t good for him. And it ended badly, with a dislocated shoulder for her and a police record for him–and one for Rachel’s father too…

A police record, not a dislocated shoulder.

That’s pretty much when Lenny called it quits on love. Oh, he had lot’s of girlfriends–all of them young, even as he got older. His mostly married friends teased him; they called him a lucky dog, but it had been too casual too long. Lenny longed for someone he could talk to–someone to share with.

And then, whoosh, just like that, Trish fell into his life like a godsend. It was the first time since Rachel that he was attracted to someone his own age.

If not for the Ecstasy windfall, he probably would have never had the nerve to approach her. Here’s what happened:

He was having a 3 0’clock lunch at Carrows. Carrows was a 24 hour restaurant that had a small bar in it. It was his first time there.

Lenny sat in the bar but not at the bar. Trish was the bartender and she waited his table. She was pretty. Friendly, but not overly so. She didn’t grovel for tips.

Lenny watched as she tended the bar. There were five high-backed chairs at the bar. Five men sat in the high-backed chairs. Middle age men. Regulars, he could tell. Trish was professionally attentive toward them. Nothing more.

He left a twenty dollar cash tip on the table. The next day he went back to Carrows for lunch.

And the day after that.

On about the fifth day, she asked him when he was going to take her to dinner. And that’s how it started.

Trish was smart. She knew about a lot of things that Lenny didn’t. For instance, she knew about wine. Lenny didn’t know jack about wine, he knew his way around a few cocktails, mostly frozen tropical drinks.

Trish thought that was funny.

Another thing Trish knew about was food. One time, when they were on a picnic, she insisted on grilling the steaks herself. “All right, suit yourself,” he said.

Trish didn’t want to use charcoal so they gathered wood from around the barbeque pit. She pulled off some hickory chips from a nearby tree and threw them into the fire that she had kindled with one match, no lighter fluid. She said she learned the technique at YMCA summer camp.

When Lenny told her wanted his steak well done, she refused to cook it that way. She served it to him medium instead, with charred pineapple and asparagus on the side. It was the best steak Lenny ever had.

Lenny taught Trish about things too, lots of stuff about salt water fish tanks, about the gravity level, about the water temperature, the marine salt, the conditioner and filters, and about the tropical fish that lived in his “50 galloner.”

Let’s see…there where the lavender Threadfin butterflyfish with their vibrant yellow tails and black zebra stripes. They were nice fish, Lenny said.

Then there were the finicky, frog-like Mandrinfish, ugly, if not for their startling array of neon colors. Lenny claimed they were “a bitch to keep alive”.

Trish’s favorite were the Yellow Tangs. She loved the way they pressed their noses–Lenny called them nares–against the tank when she looked at them. She also liked the Powder Blue and Powder Brown Tangs that, according to Lenny, cost “a butt load of money.”

Lastly there were the orange and white Ocellaris clownfish. They were the hardiest and the most plentiful fish in the tank. Lenny said he wanted a smaller tank with just clownfish because they were so easy to take care of.

Lenny also educated Trish about his baby–his 1970 Ford Ranchero GT with its 429 Cobra-jet engine and shaker hood that he kept polished to a wet, glossy sheen. He explained that he repainted it the original color, dark ivy green, even though he didn’t like green, because it was the stock color and stock was better. He taught her about numbers matching up and that every time you put an after market part in a classic car it throws the numbers off and the value of the car drops “like a ton of bricks.”

He taught her about all of these things and more. And for the most part she was genuinely interested in them.

They talked about all sorts of things. And they did all kinds of things together. They even adopted a cat–a scrawny gray tabby kitten–that they almost ran over in the Steak N Shake parking lot.

That night, after buying Fancy Feast, kitty litter and toys, they brought the kitten back to his place. That’s when Lenny first asked Trish to move in with him.

She was nice about it, happy that he asked, but she turned him down.”Let’s not rush things. Let’s just see how it goes,” she said.

Lenny kept the kitten at his house, in the utility room where he built a multi level, multi room cat house out of scrap lumber and indoor/outdoor carpet. They named him Griffin.

Even though he was disappointed about the living arrangements, for the first time in a long time, Lenny was happy. But he didn’t tell Trish about the Ecstasy and he didn’t ask questions about her past.

She told him not to.