The Beloved Mrs. Potter

by Angela B

This is an answer to Jen’s August Challenge:
Write us a story inspired by a song. I don't know about anybody else, but I have a whole list of tunes I associate with the boys and their adventures. Let's compare Magnificent soundtracks! You don't have to use the lyrics in the story -- we're not looking for songfic here -- but please do include the lyrics at the end of the fic, with due credit.

Oh, to have to pick only one song when there are so many out there. ARGH!!

Note: Did my own you’ve been warned.

Eileen Potter sat alone in her bedroom staring about her, the emptiness and silence overwhelming. The room had once been the place where she and her husband, Jack, had had their most private and intimate talks. At times it had also been the place where they laughed the most, saying things that would never have been for children’s ears. Jack’d had a wicked sense of humor. With a sad sigh, she rose and walked to the bathroom. Flipping on the light switch, she began getting ready for bed. Picking up her hair brush, she began the nightly ritual. Jack had loved her once long hair. It had been the allurement that had caught his eye, he’d confessed more than once. Many a night he had come up from behind and taken the brush from her and ran it softly through her hair. Since his death she had cut it much shorter. There was little time now that she was single parent to spend taking care of it. Putting the brush down, she placed her hands on either side of her face and leaned in closer to the mirror. Seeing the wrinkles, she pulled her hands backwards, smoothing out her skin. When had she become so old, she wondered.

She hadn’t been in the ‘in’ crowd in high school, but she’d had been popular enough and had enjoyed having lots of friends. Those had been good years. After high school, she worked in her father’s office helping keep books and doing the payroll. More than one single male employer had cast looks in her direction. She had dated, laughed and enjoyed life. Then a new man had come to work for her daddy, Ralf Kreems. Eileen couldn’t help but sigh at the memory. Ralf had been everything a girl could want in guy, handsome, tall, ambitious and someone her dad approved of. Mrs. Potter let the depression she had felt get a little deeper as she remembered the man she almost had married. Ralf, she had learned was a little too ambitious for her taste. After they had been dating for a few months, he began talking of how things would work when ‘they’ ran the company. Still she stayed with him. Life with Ralf was safe and dependable and she knew she would be well taken care of. But, she hadn’t wanted to be safe and taken care of. Well she did, but not like a pet. Then she had bumped into Jack. Eileen and her friends had gone to a Woolworth’s for a soda and there sitting down a few barstools from her was a young man. He was short and a little dumpy, but his thick curly hair made Eileen want to walk up to the stranger and run her fingers through it. Most of all Jack laughed. He laughed big and loud and it was contagious. They had flirted a little while she waited on her soda, then he had stood up, smiled at her and left. The next day after work, Eileen couldn’t wait to go back and see if he was there and sure enough he was. It didn’t take long for her to realize that she really wasn’t happy with Ralf, not like she was when she was with Jack. He wasn’t what her father had imagined for her, but she was so happy when she was with Jack. Looking at herself now, she wondered what Ralf would think of her. Turning off the bathroom light she walked back into the bedroom. Climbing into bed, Eileen yearned to feel the warmth of her husband’s arms.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra was shooting death rays at his boss. He couldn’t believe it. How could Chris do this to him? He had been undercover for three months. Had lost touch with things and people around him and was so tired he could drop where he was standing and sleep for eternity. Now standing in Chris’ office, his boss was telling him, no ordering him, that he had to attend a birthday function for Mrs. Travis at the end of the week. Sure, he liked the woman enough, but a little warning would have been nice and how in the world was he supposed to find a date for it? It wasn’t like he had been hanging out with anyone that would be socially acceptable to take to the party. Nor, was it like he had a great line of women he could call on. Being undercover seventy percent of his time didn’t leave much room for dating, much less building a relationship. He couldn’t just call some women he had dated a year ago and say, ‘Hey, you wanna go to my boss’ wife’s birthday party with me?’ Ezra sighed. He just knew Buck was going to offer his ‘services’ to find him a date. The very thought made Ezra shiver with distaste. He could just see the women Buck would try to line him up with.

Chris sat there taking the flaming daggers sent his way. He couldn’t blame Ezra. The man had worked his tail off for three months and looked pretty close to collapsing right there on the spot. Chris had tried to inform the A.D. that Ezra wouldn’t be up to it, but Travis had let him know in no uncertain terms that his wife was counting on the enigma undercover agent to show up. His wife had a thing for lost, wayward things and Ezra Standish fit that bill to a tee. He thought about trying to offer the man before him a bit of consolation, after all he did have four days, but the look on Ezra’s face told him it would be best if he didn’t say anything. It was like watching Buck defuse a bomb; all he could do was hold his breath and hope Ezra didn’t detonate right there in his office.

“Fine,” Ezra finally said with heat. He knew down deep, Chris was not to blame and if he really thought about it, he would have realized the blond didn’t want to go anymore than her did, but he wasn’t thinking clearly at the moment.

“Fine,” Chris said quietly, giving thanks that at least his head was still on his shoulders and his office was still standing. Of all the men, Ezra, for all his talent at being a great undercover agent, hated being ambushed with surprises and sometimes didn’t take them too well.

Ezra walked back to his desk smoldering. Buck had been spending the entire time, since learning of Ezra’s invite, coming up with wise and helpful comments, but seeing Ezra’s demeanor, he figured he should hold off for a while. He had finally got Inez to agree to go to Mrs. Travis’ party with him and he wanted to be in one piece when they went. The day was spent in relative silence, no one wanting to set Ezra off. The man got right testy when he was exhausted.

The day finally came to an end and Ezra left the building alone and still mad. Why couldn’t they just leave him alone? He had been that way for almost thirty years and then suddenly he got put with these six men and that all changed. Sometimes, he just didn’t handle having people concern about him, or joking around, or having them about period. Ezra was almost home when he realized that the refrigerator would be empty. With a great weight hanging on him, he pulled into the small mom-and-pop grocery store he frequented often. Opening the door, he smiled at the small jingle the bell above him gave off. Yanking a cart loose from its hold on the others, Ezra began gathering a small array of food that would tie him over. Finishing his chore, he walked up to the single counter and smiled at the two kids behind the cash register.

“Hey, Mr. Standish!” Claire greeted with enthusiasm.

“Hello, Clair. Robby,” Ezra greeted the two kids. Looking about. he asked in concern, “Where is your mother?” It wasn’t like the woman to leave the children in charge of the store without being close by, even though the oldest was fourteen.

The young girl looked up at the agent she thought so much of with pleading eyes. “She’s upstairs crying,” Claire informed the agent sadly.

“Claire!” the older boy hissed, shooting an angry glare at his sister

“Is there a problem?” Ezra asked urgently, immediately going on defensive mode.

“No,” Robby said quietly, keeping his eyes downcast as he rang up the groceries.

“She’s missing daddy,” the girl said with a deep sigh.

“Oh,” Ezra replied, not sure how to handle that problem. He had never had the opportunity to fall in love like that, so he didn’t know what it was to miss someone so deeply, but he could guess.

“Maybe you could cheer her up,” Claire suddenly stated loudly, looking at Ezra with wistful eyes. She knew Mr. Standish had always been able to cheer her up when she was sad. “You could do one of your card tricks,” she added helpfully.

The older brother rolled his eyes at the federal agent. The two shared a bemused look. To be young again and have problems solved so easily. “Please,” she begged. It made her so sad to see her mother cry.

Ezra shifted uncomfortably. It was none of his business that the grocery owner was sad, or missing her husband. Looking at the two children though, he could see a hint of pleading in the older child’s eyes, too. Putting on his best smile, he nodded. What could a few words of forced comfort hurt and another ten minutes from getting to bed. Both children seemed instantly relieved, as Ezra followed Claire past the curtain and mounted the stairs to the apartment overhead.


+ + + + + + +

Eileen had left the children alone downstairs, something she never did, but the oppressive feeling of being in the store was getting to her. Jack had persuaded her that they could really make a go of the little store and one day develop it into a chain of stores. Jack had tried hard, of that there was no doubt. The chain part hadn’t worked out, but the store itself had been profitable enough to keep the family financially secure. Taking an old photograph book from the bookcase, Eileen settled down in her rocker and opened it up. This was a book of remembrance before she had become a mother, when it had just been Jack and her and their friends. Turning a page an old dried up carnation fell gently to the floor. Bending over, she picked up the memory and remembered a time long ago. It had been their first real date and Jack had showed up at the door with a bouquet of white and pink carnations. She knew he had chosen them because they had been the least expensive flower and it was all he could afford, but it had been the thought that had counted. To her they were the most exquisite bouquet ever put together. Jack had taken her out dancing. It had been rock-and-roll at some loud bar back then that had been so popular; later it had become waltzes and quiet dinners. Life had moved on and then the plans they had to grow old together had ended abruptly with a robbery. Flipping through the pages, she had to smile at how dashing she had thought he was. Not because he was overly handsome, but because of the type of husband and father he had become. Wiping her eyes, she jumped when someone cleared their throat nearby.

Ezra had been sure that this had been a bad idea from the moment he’d said, ‘Okay’. Standing here in the doorway of living room that thought became reinforced. Neither adult spoke, both uncomfortable with the positions they now found themselves in. Mrs. Potter was the first to make the move. Standing, she hurriedly put aside the book she was holding and walked over to the agent, who was awkwardly standing in her doorway clearly distressed. “Mr. Standish, can I help you?” She asked moving towards him. He was a favorite customer, always polite, courteous and friendly towards her children.

“I…I…Well, I mean…the kids…” stopping his stammering, Ezra took a deep breath and said, “The children were concerned for you and asked me if I could see if I could do anything for you.” Ezra’s usual fluent language going to pot as his eyes fluttered nervously as he spoke. The lady did not need her privacy invaded by strangers.

“I see,” Eileen said, with her smile. “I assure you I am fine. Just…just remembering,” she tried to explain.

Ezra nodded once. “Well then I shall go,” he said. Turning to leave he stopped and turned back to the woman. “If…if you ever need anything, I would be more than willing to help. Even if it’s just to listen,” the brown-haired man offered, his voice a bit shaky. Treading in unchartered waters always made him uneasy. He didn’t know how his offer would be taken.

“Thank you,” Mrs. Potter replied. Walking behind him down the stairs, she wondered why young women couldn’t see what a good catch this man would be.

Ezra left the store with his purchases and headed home. Eating a simple meal and settling down in his bed to read a little to wind down, Ezra couldn’t get the shopkeeper out of his mind. The sad, lonely face imprinted into his mind. The words of the daughter repeating again and again, ‘She missing daddy.’ Ezra couldn’t imagine how the woman had managed to stay afloat, both metaphorically and real. Mrs. Potter had kept the store running and was raising two good kids. He doubted her life left much room to get out and do anything; it certainly did not offer the ability to get out and meet people. Sliding down in his bed, he wondered what the woman had looked like before life had taken its toll on her.

+ + + + + + +

Eileen Potter went to bed thinking of the undercover agent and his awkward offer. If she was ten or fifteen years younger, he would be considered a right good catch. That night she dreamed of Jack and laughter.

Ezra arrived at the office on time for once. Comments were thrown about as to the reason, but Ezra merely replied it was because he was well rested. Working through the endless paperwork, Mrs. Potter’s sad face kept filtering into his mind. A little after lunch and an innocent, or not so innocent, question from JD regarding him having a date for the party that Saturday and suddenly Ezra knew exactly who his date was going to be. It would work out best for both parties. Eileen would get out of the house, and he wouldn’t have to show up dateless, or worse rely on Buck finding him a date.

After work he hurried to the small grocery store. Walking in with a smile, he spotted the woman right off. Looking up from her business on the counter, Mrs. Potter smiled. “Mr. Standish how nice to see you again,” she said.

Walking up to the counter he leaned against it and wearing his most award-winning smile whispered, “Mrs. Potter, I have a question I would like to ask.”

“Okay,” she said, wondering what the man had up his sleeve.

“I have been asked…well, no…ordered is more like it to a birthday party for Mrs. Travis,” Ezra began.

Eileen nodded. She knew of Evie’s birthday party. She had been invited but had declined. She had not felt like going to a party solo and have everyone stare at her and whisper about how sad her life was now that Jack was gone.

“Well,” Ezra stopped to clear his throat. “I was hoping that I might forward enough to ask that you attend with me.”

Eileen stared at the younger man. He was asking her on a date. She mentally shook her head and clarified that thought. Maybe not a date, but he was asking her out. She could only keep staring at the man trying to get her mind to slow down from its rapid spinning.

“You’re asking mom on a date?” Claire asked, coming out from behind the curtain. “Cool!” she exclaimed. The young girl had always thought the green-eyed man was so handsome.

This bought both adults to full attention. “No!” they both exclaimed, and then looked guiltily at each other. “Claire, go back and finish unboxing those peaches,” the mother ordered.

After Claire left pouting, Mrs. Potter wondered if the brown-haired man would withdraw his proposal. Before she could give the man an out, Ezra took her hand and asked, “I would be most pleased if you would consider coming with me.”

Color rose in the woman’s cheeks as she nodded, a smile blossoming on her face. “I would like that very much,” she consented without thinking.

“Great!” Ezra said with relief. He was afraid she would say no after the daughter had claimed their night out as a date. Thankfully, the woman seemed to understand it wasn’t that type of date. “I will come by at seven, Saturday,” he finished.

“That’s fine,” Eileen answered.

The deal seemingly concluded, Ezra walked out the door. Mrs. Potter leaned her elbow on the counter and rested her chin on it. She was going out, and not just out; out with a man. Even if was just an innocent time, it was to a party with adults. That night up in her bedroom, Eileen Potter stood in front of the mirror again smiling. Swishing her gown back and forth thinking of her young girl days and allowing a small giddy feeling to creep over her. There was so much to do in the short amount of time; find a babysitter, buy a dress, have her hair done, the list expanded. The more she thought about it the giddiness she had been experiencing moments before disappeared. What had she been thinking, she wondered to herself. She didn’t have the time or the money to get ready and besides the young man should be taking a young girl closer to his own age. Going to bed that night she resolved to call the agent the next morning and bow out gracefully. She turned over and cried herself to sleep.

The next day Ezra walked into the office smiling. Buck looked up and smiled. “So, can I take it by the smile plastered on your face that you have found a date for the party?” he asked with humor.

“Yes, you can,” Ezra said, saying nothing more.

“So? Details man! Details!” JD encouraged.

“Sorry, you’re just going to have to wait until Saturday night,” Ezra said mysteriously, sitting down at his desk and began working.

The telephone rang on the suave undercover agent’s desk. Picking it up, he was greeted by a serious tone. Not letting on who was one the other end, he asked, “What’s wrong?” He had heard the distress in the caller’s tone.

“Oh, Mr. Standish, I am so sorry, but I wasn’t thinking properly yesterday afternoon. I should have told you no. You need to take someone other than an old housewife,” she said painfully. Ezra could almost see the tears flowing down the woman’s face.

“Why don’t you tell me what’s really wrong,” he suggested. He had been around long enough to know when he was being played.

“I…I…I don’t have a babysitter, or anything to wear, or my hair fixed…” the woman continued to spill out her problems, along with her tears.

Ezra couldn’t help but smile. There was nothing on the list that couldn’t be solved with a little planning and a little money. “I will be by right after work. I’m sure we can solve your worries,” he said, and then hung up the phone.

“Problems?” Buck asked in concern. He and the rest of the team couldn’t help but overhear his part of the conversation.

“None that I can’t solve,” Ezra said with a smile, and then got to work making plans on how to solve all the woman’s worries.

After work, Ezra kept to his word and went by Mrs. Potter’s place. A few minutes later a woman in her fifties showed up. Ezra introduced the storeowner to the woman as Mrs. Catch. He then when on to assure Mrs. Potter that Mrs. Catch was employed by a very reputable service that provided babysitters. Mrs. Potter was hesitant at first until she considered the man that had hired the woman. Ezra might be a lot of things, but safety with children was always a priority with him. After a brief discussion about the children Ezra and Eileen left. Ezra had already planned on several shops to go to in order to find the perfect dress for the woman. Knowing she would be highly uncomfortable in a gown that was too high priced, he had found several shops that afforded just the right type of dresses; proper, well made and reasonably priced.

After shopping at two stores, they came across a blue satin dress that Ezra deemed perfect. It had three-quarter sleeves and draped beautifully to her calves. Next, Ezra demanded they find matching shoes. Mrs. Potter argued and Ezra knew it was because she was thinking of the added price. He had simply debated back that because he gave her such short notice that as a gentleman the least he could do was pay for everything. He then informed her that she had an appointment at a selected salon the next day for the full works; hair, manicure, pedicure and makeup. At that Mrs. Potter tried adamantly to get out of it, but lost when Ezra told her he had already paid for it. Mrs. Potter was almost in tears again, this time in happiness. It had been a long time since she had been pampered so.

+ + + + + + +

The night of the party, Ezra put on is best black suit with a starched white shirt and black tie. He’d had the Jag washed and waxed to sparkling finish earlier in the day. Standing in front of the mirror combing his hair, he couldn’t wait to show up with Mrs. Potter on his arm. His co-workers had been hounding him for the last three days about whom he was taking to the party and he had yet to tell, but it was more than surprising his teammates. The evening was going to be all about the storeowner, even if the party was for Mrs. Travis. The agent had seen the way the widow’s eyes had lit up when they had been looking for a dress and she had positively beamed when he told her she was going to be pampered at the salon. He figured it had been a long time since she’d had an occasion to dress up and go out and he was going to make this evening count.

He drove past the front of the closed store and down the side street. Stopping by the entrance opening to the apartment, Ezra got out of the car and walked to door. Ringing the small bell, he was soon met by a giggling Claire with Mrs. Catch standing right behind her. “Mr. Standish! You’ve got to see momma. She looks so beautiful!” the young girl exclaimed, as she dragged the man inside.

Coming down the stairs from her bedroom, Eileen Potter tried to calm herself. This was simply an arrangement she had agreed to, to help the young man out, she tried telling herself, but her pounding heart and the giddy feeling that had returned wouldn’t listen. Coming to the bottom of the steps, she waited for the agent to say something.

Ezra stared at the woman. She may have been past his dating years, but she was a beauty in her own special way. “You my dear would put Scarlet O’Hara to shame,” he said cheekily, kissing the back of her hand. Mrs. Potter had no words, but the deep rose-colored blush that crept into her cheeks and sheepish smile said it all.

Parking in the circular driveway of the Travis’, Ezra had planned the arrival to the minute. He wanted to be late enough so that they would be last and therefore all eyes would be riveted to his date, but not so late as to embarrass the woman for their tardiness. Opening the car door for his date, Ezra escorted her to the door. When A.D. Travis opened the door, his eyes fairly bugged out. Not only was he not expecting Ezra’s date to be Mrs. Potter, but he also had no idea she could look this way.

With the woman’s hand in the crook of his elbow, Ezra walked the woman into the open area of the party and took a small stop back, putting the woman front and center of the attention she deserved. He made notice of his colleagues and some of their less than perfect manners, specifically staring with their jaws hanging open. Guiding Mrs. Potter over to Mrs. Travis, both wished the woman a happy birthday. Mrs. Travis enticed the other woman to stay a moment so they could catch up. Ezra excused himself claiming he would retrieve a glass of Champaign for his date. As soon as he walked away the giggling of two women could be heard. Walking over to the serving table, Ezra ran into his teammates, who had positioned themselves for the interception.

“Mrs. Potter’s your date?” JD asked incredulously. He had a hard time seeing Ezra with the storeowner. Not that he had anything against the woman; it just seemed too odd for him.

Ezra immediately went on the defense, bristling at the thought of anyone ruining the lady’s evening. Stepping into the youngest agent’s space, he asked calmly, “You have a problem with Mrs. Potter being here?” The threatening tone not hidden very well.

“No! No! I just…well, I just never thought of her as…uhhh…,” JD stammered.

“As what?” Ezra asked, ignoring the others as they closed ranks around the two.

“Date material,” JD finished lamely.

“Well, I think she is most beautiful,” Josiah said, smiling at the woman across the room. He, like JD, had shamefully never saw the woman as anything other than the storekeeper. He began realizing it was his loss.

“That she is, Josiah,” Buck added, watching the woman laugh and smile at some remark Inez had made. Mrs. Potter was now in the center of the small group of women made up mostly of the guy’s dates. Vin had bought Miz Nettie, which had been no big surprise.

“Well, gentlemen, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to my date,” Ezra said.

Gliding up next to the woman, Ezra suddenly figured why not go for broke and asked the woman to dance. He was probably going to be harassed endlessly the next week by his teammates, but tonight it was all about his date. Ezra took Eileen’s hand and led her out onto the dance floor. Taking the woman properly into his arms, the two began dancing to the waltz being played by the orchestra. As he swirled and swayed his date to the music the lines created by a lifetime fell away from the older woman’s face and left behind the glittering eyes and youthful look of the woman she once was.

As the evening wore on, more than one man asked the lady to dance; including Josiah. He and Chris had been the only ones allowed to come completely stag to the party. Chris because he wasn’t dating and Josiah, because as he claimed, ‘he was too old for such foolishness.’ After tonight though, he was having second thoughts. As the profiler escorted the woman off the dance floor, he asked hesitantly, “The carnival is coming to town next week and I was thinking about going next Friday night. Would you and the kids care to join me?”

Mrs. Potter blushed again, something she had found herself doing a lot of lately, and nodded her head ever so slightly. She had always like the older man. “I think that would be fine,” she said quietly.

Ezra stood off to the side and watched as Josiah and Mrs. Potter talked by the veranda. He had a feeling that he had done more than just given the woman a night to remember.

Dreams Of The Everyday House Wife sung by Glen Campbell

She looks in the mirror and stares at the wrinkles that weren’t there yesterday.

Thinks of the young man that she almost married; what would he think if he saw her this way?

She picks up her apron in little girl fashion as something comes into her mind.

Slowly starts dancing.

Remembering her girlhood and all the boys she had waiting in line.


Oh such are the dreams of the everyday housewife

You see everywhere, anytime of the day

An everyday housewife who gave up the good life for me

The photograph album she takes from the closet

And slowly turns the page; carefully picks up the crumbling flower.

The first one he gave her, now withered with age

She closes here eyes and touches the housedress that suddenly disappears

And just for a moment she’s wearing the gown that broke all their minds so many years ago

Chorus (repeats three times)