"A lady shouldn't appear in public without lipstick."
Joan applied Revlon Magnolia, then straightened from the mirror. When had she started talking to herself? She shook her head. These days, she could conduct a two-way conversation. She made a wry smile. Oh well, she'd worry when she lost the argument. Joan ran fingertips along the coral necklace that went well with the blue dress she'd dry-cleaned for the occasion. She fluffed her gray, senior-home beauty parlor perm.
She frowned at the mirror. "I hope the conference room lights are dim."
The placard placed in the Golden Years Senior Home lobby said, "Trustful Financial Advisers" would be speaking to residents on, "Securing your financial future."
That morning at breakfast, Dorothy Perkins told everyone at the table that Ted Johnson, the partner who would present, "Looked like Anthony Perkins in a business suit."
Dorothy was the oldest resident at Golden Years Homes, a status normally held for just a few months.
Joan entered the conference room early and took a front row seat. Ted Johnson booted up the computer and projector for his PowerPoint presentation. Dorothy Perkins knew her movie stars. Ted was tall, with tousled brown hair, and an impish smile. Joan hadn’t seen a man as attractive since her husband Paul. Colonel Paul Prescott was fresh out of officer training, as Joan liked to tell, when, "He swept me off my feet." Paul's photograph in uniform sporting his Special Forces, Ranger, and Combat insignias was on her dresser. The picture was her refuge whenever Paul's image in a hospice bed surfaced, a skeleton body with the color sucked from him. She sighed. Death was so final. There were no children.
Ted’s baritone voice shook Joan from of her thoughts.
"Ladies and gentlemen, your working days are behind you, but your future isn’t limited. We at Trustful Advisors like to say, ‘The best is yet to come.’ Our job is to make it happen for you."
Joan understood little of Ted's talk. He closed with, "We hedge, so you don’t have to."
Polite applause ensued. A few seniors lingered. Ted answered questions and handed out cards. He looked so confident. Joan remained seated until Ted was free. They introduced each other. Ted’s handshake was surprisingly soft.
He said, "Thanks for coming. I hope I didn’t bore you with too much jargon."
"No. It was fascinating. I’ve had my money in CDs, but they earn hardly earn any interest."
"You’re right. The Government penalizes thrift. We’re forced to broaden our investment horizons for more income. Emerging markets like Brazil and India, are our favorite vehicles. We’re able to get double-digit returns for most of our clients. Of course, you don’t need to know anything about foreign currency. We do that for you."
"You make it sound so simple."
Ted, said, "Let's have dinner, and I'll tell you more."
Joan's face reddened. Maybe Ted liked older women? She knew the blue dress was a winner. Joan said, "Certainly."
Joan didn't drive and only traveled outside Golden Years with the center's van. Ted selected the restaurant. Conosci te Stesso. Fine Italian cuisine, served on pristine table cloths, with expensive silverware. A sommelier and a host of waiters attended them. Joan glowed in the elegance. After their third date, she invested her entire savings with Trustful Financial Advisers.
Ted called often, but his restaurant invitations became less frequent. Joan suffered the time between Ted's dates.
Whenever Joan spotted Ted's Caller ID, she grabbed the phone. Her heart rate remained elevated for the entire conversation.
Ted explained his absence. "I need to woo a continual flow of new clients. That's the nature of the beast."
Joan said that she understood the demands on Ted's time.
She closed every phone conversation with, "Miss you."
Six months after Joan invested with Trustful Financial Advisers, the rumors and rumblings from other residents at Golden Age began. A few seniors had passed, and their estates were having difficulty accessing funds. A resident left to live with her daughter. The family couldn't reach Ted Johnson and withdraw the money to Colorado. Red tape complaints seemed to complicate the wire transfer of any significant amount of capital. Bill Porter, a New Yorker known for his bluntness, even called Ted a "Smalltime Madoff."
All this talk gave Joan a headache. Perhaps she should return her money to CDs? They still paid poorly, but they were safe. The next time Ted called, she asked his advice. He responded that they should talk over dinner. The Imperial Restaurant was the finest in town. The wine flowed. Ted made Joan laugh until her sides hurt. Hours passed. Over coffee, Joan raised the issue. "Ted, I'm not sure that I should take the risk with Trustful?'
Ted showed no concern. "Of course, you should invest where you're most comfortable." He placed his hand on hers. "I will miss seeing you, though." He smiled.
Joan finished her coffee.
Ted suggested a Taylor Fladgate 20 year Port. Joan never had an after-dinner drink before. As she sipped the Port, her mind whirred. Who would she leave her money to, anyway?
Before the bill came, Joan said, "Let's leave things as they are, for now. Ted, dear, I hope you don't think me a nervous Nellie, but I'd like to revisit my investment choice every couple of weeks. Would that be possible?"
Ted's eyes narrowed. He smiled, then took Joan's hand. "Darling. Of course."
Joe Giordano was born in Brooklyn. He and his wife, Jane, have lived in Greece, Brazil, Belgium and the Netherlands. They now live in Texas with their shih tzu, Sophia. Joe's stories have appeared in more than ninety magazines including Bartleby Snopes, The Saturday Evening Post, decomP, The Summerset Review, and Shenandoah. His novel, Birds of Passage, An Italian Immigrant Coming of Age Story, was published by Harvard Square Editions October 2015. His second novel, Appointment with ISIL, an Anthony Provati Thriller will be published by HSE in May 2017. Read the first chapters and sign up for his blog at http://joe-giordano.com/