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| Category: || General Fiction |
Posted:|| September 24, 2020 Views: 27|
Chapter 26 of the book Par Angusta Ad Augusta
Monique makes a proposition.
A law professor gets a family and a bookstore owner offers advice.
Previously in "Par Angusta Ad Augusta":
After his brother and sister-in-law are killed in a car accident overseas, NYU law professor Jefferson Thomas brings his young nieces and nephew to live with him in Manhattan. Meanwhile, local bookstore owner Monique Vasquez continues running her family's business while recovering from both a break-up and a recent robbery.
Virginia left a few minutes later and Anya began completing every little task she could find, often repeating things, in order to avoid speaking with Jefferson. She was silent at dinner and Jefferson wouldn't try to get some answers out of her while the kids were around.
Nevertheless, he wanted to talk to her. Some questions were answered, but more had emerged. They needed to talk. He wasn't interested in her sexual orientation. He was however interested in why she treated the issue like she was carrying some deadly virus and didn't want to get too close to anyone for fear of infecting them.
He finally managed to stop her early the next morning, just after she'd loaded the breakfast dishes into the dishwasher, practically forcing her to sit down at the kitchen table. She looked up at him, saying nothing.
"Virginia seems nice," Jefferson said, sitting down as well.
Anya still said nothing.
"How long have the two of you been going out?" Jefferson queried as casually as he could.
"Two and a half years," Anya said, seemingly waiting for something.
Jefferson noticed she answered his question the way a witness in the courtroom would, short and straight to the point, giving no unnecessary information to satisfy the inquiry.
"She seems pretty open about your relationship," he said.
Anya slammed a hand down on the table. Jefferson jumped, surprised.
"If you want to fire me, just do it," Anya demanded. "I do not want to just talk first."
"You think I wanna fire you?" Jefferson asked. He strongly suspected this was why she had avoided talking to him as much as possible since Virginia's visit.
Anya hung her head.
"Some of My past employers were not happy if they found out," she explained. "It was even more difficult when I was living in Russia. Virginia does not like that we hide who we are, but she understands. I love my job and I love working for you, but if you want me to leave, I will understand."
She fell silent again, waiting.
"Anya," Jefferson said, "you've been reliable, trustworthy, and just plain great to have around."
A brief smile flickered across the nanny's face.
"Who you date means nothing to me," Jefferson continued. "It's obviously not affecting your performance here. If I judged you on something like that, I'd be the biggest hypocrite you've ever met."
"What do you mean?" Anya queried.
"If you judged me on my blindness and held that against me, I'd resent you for it. In my book, it's the same concept."
Anya was now feeling somewhat hopeful.
"Here's the problem," Jefferson said and that hope faltered. "I don't care that you didn't tell me, but the fact you act so defensive about it, as though I would have burned you at the stake, does eat at me. Anya, we need to trust each other if we can continue to make this work. It's none of my business about what you do with your private life, but just don't automatically believe I'd hold anything like this against you."
"I am sorry," Anya said.
"So, can we trust each other? I can trust you."
"I trust you."
"Good, because this is your one and only warning. Break that trust and you're out the door."
Anya rose to go do some work. But Jefferson stopped her.
"I said before that your private life is none of my business," he said. "If you want to have company during your off hours, that's fine with me. Just don't let the kids walk in on anything I wouldn't let them walk in on."
Anya nodded, understanding.
"Thank you," she said.
* * *
Jefferson adjusted his tie and put on his jacket before heading downstairs to give the kids their dinner. Ellen O'Ryan showed up a few minutes later and he then left with Presley, his Uber having also shown up. Anya was also gone, most likely on a date with Virginia. She seemed much happier when she'd left earlier.
Monique was already waiting for him outside of Slattery's, where the law school had rented the Empire Room for the occasion. She had put on a blouse with a matching jacket and pants, looking rather professional. She also wore clips in her hair to keep it out of her face.
"You look good," Jefferson remarked after she'd described the ensemble.
"How would you know?" Monique asked.
"Can't I just pay you a compliment? You know I would mean it if I could see."
"All right. I'll take it ... for now."
"Thank you. I apologize for how boring this evening will be."
"It won't be so bad if there's alcohol," Monique remarked, having been to her fair share of such events, mainly within the book business.
Jefferson led the way inside. As usual, Monique was stared at, but not as many people were guilty of it this time. She figured it had to be because of their interactions with Jefferson, noticing how only the hotel staff was staring at him and Presley.
They entered the corridor just outside of the banquet hall, where cocktail hour was already underway. They got drinks and began mingling, with Jefferson introducing Monique to his colleagues.
"What?" one of them asked. "You've replaced Linda already?"
"Not really," Jefferson said.
"We're sort of in limbo about that," Monique added, trying to help him out.
"Well, at least you always bring smart ones to these things," the colleague remarked. "Remember that woman Jonson brought last year?"
Both men burst out laughing at the memory. Monique patiently waited for them to collect themselves before speaking.
"Do I really want to know?" she queried.
Jefferson shook his head and she decided not to press the matter.
They continued to mingle, Monique soon finding herself face-to-face with the school's dean. He at first believed she was a new professor before she and Jefferson set him straight. He apologized and made small talk before moving on.
"It's nice to know I can pass for a lawyer," Monique commented when he was gone.
"He might have already had a few drinks," Jefferson remarked but Monique ignored him.
It was soon time to go into the banquet room itself. Since the seating arrangements were made long before Monique's presence was known, no one had informed the staff that she needed a free space at a table. The place assigned to her still had a chair in it. A waiter was summoned to move it away and she was then able to move right up to the table, meeting Eric and Amy for the first time. She couldn't help noticing a strange look in Amy's eyes as Jefferson introduced the two of them. It didn't disappear as she shook Monique's hand. She decided to let it go for the time being as everyone sat down.
As the waiters came around to take drink orders, the NYU Law School's dean stepped up to a lectern set up at the front of the hall. Having seemingly gotten past any effects from his earlier alcohol consumption, he welcomed the students and faculty to the awards' night, adding how the professors and other staff have worked tirelessly to ensure the students' hard work was recognized during the night's presentations.
After the dean said his bit, the class president stepped up and basically said the same thing but used different words. By this time, people were only half-listening and instead quietly spoke with one another. Monique and Amy were among them, neither really understanding much about the law but finding common ground in their work with books. Monique was quickly warming up to this woman as the fact she was strapped into an elaborate-looking wheelchair didn't seem to matter.
After the class president was finished, there was a break where drinks were served and dinner orders were taken, with the choices being chicken or vegetarian. As a waiter poured Monique's drink into the plastic tumbler on her wheelchair, he asked if she wanted the kitchen to cut her chicken for her, but Monique politely insisted she could do it herself. Amy was about to comment on this when Eric spoke up.
"Don't look now," he said. "Here comes Jefferson's stalker."
Sure enough, Paula Franks soon made her presence known at the table. Judging from Jefferson's unspoken but clear desire to disappear told Monique exactly who this was.
"Hello Jefferson," Paula Franks said. "How are you this evening?"
"I'm fine," Jefferson said, clearly preferring the idea of sticking a fork into his throat over talking to her. "How are you?"
"Who's your friend?" Paula Franks asked, looking at Monique and not even trying to hide the fact she was silently sizing up the woman.
"This is Monique," Jefferson said rather reluctantly. "Monique, this is Paula Franks, a former student of mine."
"Very nice to meet you," Monique said, reaching out to shake Paula Franks' hand. She didn't expect to complete such a transaction, but she might get a surprised reaction by revealing her capability to do so.
Predictably, Paula Franks didn't move to reciprocate, leaving Monique's arm hanging in mid-air. She pulled it back and smiled.
"I've gotta run," Paula Franks said. "My date's waiting."
She pointed out a man about her age who was sitting at a table not too far away. As if on cue, he looked up and gave the group a wave.
"Nice seeing you, Jefferson," Paula Franks said and walked away.
Jefferson released a sigh while Monique took a long drag from her drink.
"Lovely girl," she commented.
"Well, that's what happens when you forget your cyanide pills at home," Eric remarked.
"How does she expect you to know she's got a date waiting at another table?" Amy asked. "I mean, you couldn't see the guy waving or anything."
"I'd have to care before I could look into that," Jefferson replied.
"I think she hired the guy," Eric remarked. "I'm willing to bet that if we look up male escorts on the internet, we'll find him. I mean, you can't see it, but he basically looks the part."
* * *
"Okay," Ellen said, setting up the DVD and selecting "Play Movie" on the menu. "You're all set."
The twins thanked her and then turned their attention to the movie while she went to help Matthew build some kind of fort out of his blocks, trying to find the best memory in her brain to help block out Frozen 2, a movie she'd seen her entire babysitting career.
* * *
After Paula Franks' visit, the evening moved along more smoothly. Both Jefferson and Eric had to present awards, the latter not hesitating to complain throughout, but neither of them received anything, which they were both fine with.
"Maybe it's for the best," Monique commented. "Had you gotten something, I would have had to give you a congratulatory kiss."
"Which would have been so painful for you?" Jefferson asked.
The awards' portion of the evening ended shortly before dessert was served. People ate the cheesecake and talked with one another a while longer. It wasn't long after dessert that they began to depart.
Eric and Amy soon made their exit, saying good-night and telling Monique it was very nice to meet her. Once several people had left and the area wasn't so congested anymore, Jefferson and Monique headed out as well.
"So was this a date?" Monique asked as they crossed the hotel lobby.
"I don't know," Jefferson admitted. "Do you want it to be?"
"Do you normally use the first date to take a woman to a law school awards dinner?"
"No, not normally. But I couldn't get tickets to the Oscars."
"What do you normally do at the end of a first date?" she inquired.
"To know that, you'd have to consider this a date," Jefferson pointed out. "Do you?"
Monique made a noise which seemed to indicate she wasn't sure.
"How about we don't consider this a date?" she suggested. "You asked me to come as a friend, which I did. That sound good?"
"Okay," Jefferson agreed, wondering where she was going with this.
"And then we go on what we'd both consider a real date," Monique finished.
Jefferson stared blankly at her.
"You wanna do that?" he asked.
"Sure," Monique replied. "Why not?"
"You do realize that we're risking our friendship, right? We might cross a line and not be able to turn back."
"Or something really great could happen. You're one of the few people I know who doesn't just see a girl in a wheelchair. You see a person, just like I see you. I think we've got something there. And frankly, I'd like to see what we can do with that."
Jefferson said nothing to this.
"Come on," Monique insisted. "One date. If it doesn't work out, we'll go back to being friends. We won't have sex or anything like that. Come on. Take a chance."
Jefferson thought this over for a long moment.
"All right then," he agreed. "Let's give it a shot."
|The book continues with Chapter 27. We will provide a link to it when you review this below.|
I have rearranged this story a bit. It is now thirty-eight chapters (instead of the original forty-two.)
Cast of characters:
Jefferson Thomas: a blind NYU law professor.
Presley: Jefferson's guide dog.
Monique Vasquez: a bookstore owner in Manhattan
Abigail and Taylor Thomas: seven-year-old twin daughters of Stanley and Margaret Thomas. Nieces of Jefferson Thomas.
Matthew: four-year-old son of Stanley and Margaret Thomas. Nephew of Jefferson Thomas.
Anya Motkova: Jefferson's new live-in nanny.
Joan: Monique's nurse.
Eric Nelson: Jefferson's colleague and best friend
Amy Nelson: Eric's wife and Jefferson's friend
Paula Franks: a NYU law student who is interested in Jefferson.
Stanley "Stan" Thomas: Jefferson's brother. Killed in a car accident in Berlin.
Margaret "Maggie" Thomas: Stan's wife. Killed in a car accident in Berlin.
Feedback is always welcome. Enjoy.
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