"That's great news!" Jo enthused. "So are you taking night classes, then?"
Fritz shook his head. "I am doing it all online. It is much easier that way, as I can just wait until the boys are in bed and work on it then. Before I forget, I have presents for all of you."
For Mrs. March, there was a lovely bookmark with a Bible verse on it. 'Peace I leave with you: my peace I give you.' Beside the words was the picture of a dove.
For Jo, there was a Borat DVD.
"How did you know I like Borat?" asked Jo. Fritz only smiled.
For Beth, there was a tiny cat figurine made of glass with a pink swirl inside.
"Josephine told me you have a fondness for cats," Fritz explained as he handed it to her.
"It's beautiful," she said. "Thank you! I'll keep it always."
"Where did you get the car?" Jo wanted to know.
"It belonged to a friend of mine," Fritz told her. "It had been his wife's, but she left him. He did not want a constant reminder of her around, so he let me have it at a bargain price. And what about you, Josephine? How have you been spending your summer?"
"I've been helping Mom care for Beth, and my older sister Meg with her twins. In my spare time, I've been working on my stories."
"Ah, that's right! I remember your telling me you are an aspiring author."
"Want to see some of my stuff?"
"It would be my pleasure."
Jo brought her laptop into the living room and turned it on.
"See, this is a story I'm working on about a woman who falls in love with an alien from Pluto, and here's my other one. It's an updated version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, but Snow White is a cowgirl instead of a princess, and the seven dwarfs are rangers. They get her out of all kinds of pickles."
Fritz raised an eyebrow. "Pickles?"
"Oh, sorry. They get her out of all kinds of trouble."
Fritz chuckled. "Clever, that. They both seem to be rather lengthy."
"'Plutonian Vibes' is over a hundred thousand words, and 'Lasso My Heart' is right at seventy-five thousand. I have no idea how long either of them will turn out to be. I have some shorter stories, too. Some of them are posted on this website."
She showed him the website, and her profile with her pen name and list of posted stories. Some were only one chapter of less than a thousand words, while others were twenty or thirty thousand words each.
"Very impressive," said Fritz. "How long have you been writing these?"
"Since I was thirteen," Jo told him. "I started out writing fan fiction for movies and TV shows I liked, such as 'Star Trek' and 'Bonanza', and then I started writing original stories."
"You are an ambitious young lady," said Fritz. "Have you not considered enrolling for university courses?"
"I went to college for several years, majoring in elementary education with a minor in creative writing. I was about a year and a half away from graduation when the transmission in my Toyota Corolla died."
"Ach. You should have bought a BMW or Audi, or even a Volkswagen. Those cars are built to last."
Jo sighed. "I had to buy what I could afford with my babysitting, car washing, and grass cutting money."
Fritz patted her knee. "I can sympathize. I know what it is like to be poor, but I would like to see you resume your college education. You are such a bright young lady, and I would love to see you reach your potential."
Jo shrugged. "Maybe if I ever get another car."
"He seems such a kind man," Mrs. March said after Fritz had left. "He's a good bit older than you, but I think that's a good thing. You tend to be flighty at times and need a stable, secure person to keep you well grounded."
It wasn't until later in the day that Jo realized it - oh my God, he's probably seen 'Teacher's Pet'!
"Teacher's Pet' was a particularly racy little tale which Jo had written in hopes of selling to an erotica website. It was the first story of that particular type she'd ever written; she'd been hesitant to write it at first, but the lure of a high pay rate had been more than she could resist.
She cringed with shame at the thought of anyone who knew her personally seeing the story - and now she'd given Fritz easy access to it.
Later, her phone buzzed, and she saw that it was Fritz and picked up.
"Hello, Josephine. I have decided I am in the mood for seafood, but I do not want to dine alone. May I request the pleasure of your company?"
"I'd love to! I mean, yes you may, and I would love to go with you."
"It is settled, then. I will pick you up at six o'clock."
He arrived dressed very nicely in black slacks and a black and white plaid button down the front shirt with short sleeves. Jo caught a whiff of his aftershave, which was a musky, woodsy scent, and commented on how much she liked it.
"I am pleased that you do." She saw his eyes were twinkling. Yours has a very nice aroma as well."
Jo had worn her favorite scent, Gardenia. She was dressed in red shorts with matching red sandals and a lacy white blouse.
Thirty minutes later, they were sitting across from each other in the restaurant, waiting for their food to arrive.
"So, did you look at any of my other stories?" asked Jo.
Fritz smiled. "Indeed, I did."
Uh-oh, thought Jo. Her heart began to beat a little faster.
"Which one was your favorite?"
"It is hard for me to say, as they are all so good." He cleared his throat. "It is a naughty little piece you wrote, the one called 'Teacher's Pet.' I did not know you had inclination to such boldness."
Jo felt as if her face were on fire. She stared at the tabletop, until she felt Fritz's fingers gently lifting her chin to look into her eyes.
"I enjoyed it very much," he told her. "Beneath your calm exterior beats the heart of a passionate woman."
Twilight was just giving way to darkness when he walked her to her front door and placed a lingering kiss onto her lips. Engulfed by his musky aroma, she felt as if she were being transported to another world.