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Posted:|| September 25, 2020 Views: 32|
Chapter 28 of the book Par Angusta Ad Augusta
Jefferson reveals a secret.
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 pursuing a realtionship with Jefferson.
"Hey orphan!" a boy called.
Taylor, who had been quietly sitting on a bench in the school's playground, turned her head. She didn't know this boy's name. Why was he talking to her to begin with?
"Yeah Orphan!" the boy continued. "I'm talking to you! What are you doing?!"
"Sitting here," Taylor said, though she had now decided to get up and walk away.
"We saw the movie 'Annie' in our class yesterday," the boy said, coming over. "She didn't have a mom and dad neither, nor no one wanted her. You've got red hair just like her."
Taylor could feel angry tears filling her eyes. She'd always been proud of her red hair, especially when people said she looked like her mother because of it.
"Maybe we should call you Annie!" the boy said loudly. "Orphan Annie! Orphan Annie!"
Taylor clenched her fists as the tears began rolling down her cheeks.
* * *
"Hey," Monique asked, "everything okay?"
"What?" Jefferson asked, distracted.
"Are you okay? You've barely touched your food. What's on your mind?"
"Nothing," Jefferson said, starting to actually eat his lunch. "I'm fine. I've just got a lot on my mind."
They were having lunch at Subway, intending to make it quick as both were busy.
"I hope you would tell me if something's bothering you. Otherwise I don't know how it's gonna work between us."
Jefferson nodded as his cell phone rang. He answered it and spoke briefly to the caller, his face quickly becoming anxious. He hung up and looked at Monique.
"I've gotta run," he said. "Something's happened at the girls' school."
* * *
Taylor was sitting on a bench in the school's main office, not speaking to anyone. Her head was down and her hands were clasped together in her lap. That was exactly how Jefferson found her when he arrived with Presley at his side. She looked up at him but didn't say a word, though he could hear her shuddering breaths.
"Fighting?" Jefferson asked. "Really? I thought I'd be waiting a few more years when I had to come to the police station for your first DUI."
Taylor didn't seem to understand the joke so he dropped it.
"You wanna tell me what happened?" he asked instead, sitting down next to her. "The school said you hit a kid during recess. Is that true?"
"He called me an orphan," Taylor said in a low voice. "He called me 'Orphan Annie' and that made me really mad."
"And you hit him?" Jefferson asked. On the one hand, he was happy she so readily disclosed what had happened. On the other, she'd hit another kid.
"Uh-huh," Taylor said. "I was really mad and I hit him."
Jefferson let out a long breath and draped an arm across her tiny shoulders.
"And do you think that was the right thing to do?" he asked.
"I was mad," she said. "Really mad."
"That's no excuse," Jefferson said. "You can't go around hitting people when they make you mad."
Taylor said nothing as the principal, Cynthia Langley, came out of her office.
"Mr. Thomas," she said, "may I speak with you?"
"Stay here," Jefferson told Taylor. "I'm gonna go find out how much trouble you're in."
He got up and followed Cynthia Langley into her office. The principal closed the door behind them.
"How's the kid she hit?" he asked as they both sat down at her desk.
"The nurse gave him some ice for his cheek," Cynthia Langley replied. "He'll be fine. I think Taylor was aiming for his nose and he moved at the last second, so he was lucky. A teacher broke it up immediately."
"And what about Taylor?"
"We don't doubt that she was provoked. The boy was telling the nurse all about how 'the orphan' had hit him."
Jefferson nodded, though he was sure Taylor wasn't off the hook yet.
"Mr. Thomas," Cynthia Langley said, "this incident does raise some concerns. Taylor is very quiet in class. She does the work and does it well, but she doesn't participate unless she's pushed to. Also, the school psychiatrist says that she doesn't open up about her feelings concerning her parents' deaths. As we've seen today, bottling up that anger does not do her any favors."
"Abigail's made a much easier transition," Cynthia Langley continued. "She is very talkative and readily participates in just about anything. She does express some distress to our psychiatrist, but it's nothing we wouldn't expect. The bottom line is that we're not worried about Abigail like we are about Taylor."
"Okay," Jefferson said. "What happens now?"
"We are going to send Taylor home for the rest of the day. Apart from a note in her record, she won't see any other disciplinary actions about this on our part. We would like to add an extra weekly session for her with the school's psychiatrist and then have both girls continue with an outside child psychiatrist over the summer. Essentially, we just want to crack the shell that Taylor has built up around herself."
Jefferson nodded, thinking how Taylor hadn't been as open with him until more recently. And he was family.
"Okay then," he said. "We'll do that."
* * *
Monique, who had accompanied Jefferson to the school, was waiting outside, watching the traffic go by. Taylor was surprised to see her when she, Jefferson, and Presley emerged from the school building.
"What are you doing here?" she inquired.
"I was having lunch with your uncle when the school called him," Monique explained. "I came to make sure you were okay."
Taylor nodded. Jefferson and Monique had agreed not to disclose their relationship to the kids yet, despite how comfortable they were with her.
"Come on," Jefferson said. "Let's go home."
"I'll call you later," Monique said, deciding it was best to part company with them here. She needed to get back to the bookstore anyway.
Jefferson nodded and headed off with Taylor.
* * *
Jefferson forbade Taylor from watching television when they got home, so she retrieved some paper and colored pencils and drew pictures at the kitchen table. Anya watched her while Jefferson returned to the school and the day care center to pick up Abigail and Matthew. Abigail, having heard about the fight but having not witnessed it, began pestering him for information about Taylor, but he told her to drop it.
"I saw the aide take Taylor away," she recounted. "That's all I saw."
"That's all you need to see," Jefferson told her.
* * *
Not surprisingly, Gloria Lawson showed up the next day, having heard all about the fight from the school, who were required to inform her. Jefferson explained what happened and she fired off about a thousand questions about if he had seen this coming and what he was doing now. She also questioned Taylor, though she was considerably friendlier to the girl. As always, Jefferson was happy to finally show her the door.
"Hang on just a second," Gloria Lawson insisted. "I've been hearing things."
"What sort of things?" Jefferson asked, seriously having no idea what she knew about now.
"You've been frequently seen in the company of a woman in a wheelchair," Gloria Lawson said. "The school's seen her a couple of times."
"That's Monique," Jefferson said. "I know her. The kids know her and she's friendly towards them."
"What is your relationship with this woman?" Gloria Lawson asked, scribbling something in her notepad.
"We were friends," Jefferson said, knowing the kids were upstairs and couldn't hear him. "Now we're dating."
"Uh-huh," Gloria Lawson said, still making notes. "And do you think it is wise to expose the kids to that sort of thing?"
"They don't know that our relationship's evolved. To them, she's just a friend of the family."
Jefferson was becoming seriously bothered by how much this woman dug into his life. He began weighing the idea of reporting her conduct against how doing so could jeopardize his chances of keeping the kids. He'd need to consult Eric about this.
"I mean, do you think they understand her condition," Gloria Lawson clarified.
"They understand that she can't walk just like they understand that I can't see," Jefferson said. "She's just a person to them."
Gloria Lawson wrote down something else before leaving.
* * *
Jefferson's yard was a thousand square feet, a little bigger than a two-car garage. The wooden fence was seven feet tall and blocked out any views except of the sky. There was a side gate which opened onto the small patio. For years, the only people using this gate were the Poop-and-Scoop employees who cleaned the small yard every two weeks. Now, a second regular visitor would make use of the gate.
Monique could move through the space between Jefferson's home and his neighbor to the gate, which he'd be there to unlock for her. She could then enter his home via the rear sliding door.
"Nice place," she commented as she moved around the first floor, studying everything. "The bachelor pad is still trying to hang in there despite the kids' best efforts."
"It is relentless," Jefferson replied, putting the finishing touches on their lunch. "Maybe you could deliver the finishing blow."
Monique smiled as she came to the table.
"Might that not be moving a little fast?" she queried.
"It's not like I'm asking you to come upstairs and stay the night," Jefferson remarked. "It's just so you can do something like come by and survive my cooking."
Monique eyed the stairs, knowing his bedroom was on the third floor.
"What if it doesn't work out between us?" she asked.
"I'll change the lock to the gate," Jefferson remarked and they laughed.
"So your parents are coming next week, right?" Monique asked as they sat down to eat.
"Yeah. I've got the couch ready for them."
"What, down here?"
Jefferson shook his head.
"It's actually a sofa bed up in my office," he clarified. "I've offered my room, but they always insist on that. I'm still surprised they never nagged me to use the empty rooms as guest rooms. I don't think they'll nag now that the kids took those rooms."
Monique nodded, studying the stairs again. She then studied Jefferson.
* * *
"Why can't we go down to the platform?" Abigail queried as Jefferson again reminded her to stay close to the bench he was sitting on.
"Because I'm not risking any of you going off over the edge on to some train tracks," Jefferson said. "We can wait right here. Grandma and Grandpa know where to find us."
"Are you sure?"
"I am," Jefferson said, checking his watch. His parents were due in any minute.
Suddenly, a voice called his name. Next thing he knew, all three kids were running off to meet their grandparents, whom they had seen from afar. He and Presley went to join the group.
"Hi Mom," Jefferson said. "Hi Dad."
After hugging and kissing their grandchildren, Beth and William Thomas each embraced their son.
"How was the train ride?" Jefferson asked.
"It was fine," Beth said. "It might have been better if your father didn't keep reminding the conductor to make sure no cars were stuck in the train crossings."
"Do you know how often that happens?" William asked. "I can't even count the number of times I've gotten such a call. I didn't want us to get delayed."
"I'm sure they appreciated the help, Dad," Jefferson said. "Shall we?"
At his mother's insistence, he took one of the big suitcases so she could walk with her grandchildren.
* * *
Taking two cabs, the group got back to Jefferson's house. After the kids received the presents their grandparents brought, Jefferson was tasked with lugging the two large suitcases up to his office. He then introduced his parents to Anya, who immediately hit it off with Beth while William turned his attention to the twins.
"So," William asked, "when are you girls done with school?"
"Next week," Taylor replied.
"And then you'll have the whole summer for fun," William said. "You will have to come visit us down in Charlottesville. I can tell you all about the days when I was a policeman."
Both girls were interested in hearing such stories now, but Jefferson managed to deter this for the time being, saying the kids needed to have some lunch.
"I'll help Anya with lunch," Beth insisted, following the nanny into the kitchen. "Later, you can tell me all about this new woman you're seeing."
* * *
"You're cute," Monique said, leaning up against Jefferson. "Do you know that you're cute?"
"I've been told that on occasion," Jefferson remarked.
Monique chuckled and kissed him.
They were sitting on the couch in the living room of Monique's apartment, the wheelchair and Presley not far away. Monique had invited Jefferson over for a movie and Chinese food.
"how's it going with your parents?" she queried.
"It's going fine," Jefferson said. "I'm surviving. My mom really likes Anya."
"And the kids?" Monique asked. "Are they 'surviving'?"
"They're thrilled to have their grandparents there. I think they barely noticed that I left tonight."
"Don't worry. You'll have them all to yourself again next week."
Jefferson nodded and kissed her.
"Let's not talk about my kids," he insisted.
"Then what do you want?" Monique asked.
"Is that right?"
Jefferson began kissing her more insistently.
"You do know what you want," Monique remarked as she kissed him back.
A sudden sound from a nearby door caused her to quickly pull away, saying that it had to be Joan. Sure enough, the nurse was soon in the living room, looking at the two of them.
"Am I interrupting something?" she asked with a smile.
Monique was sure she hadn't seen anything, but the woman was smart.
"Nothing that's any business of yours," she retorted. "It's not putting my health in danger."
"Okay," Joan said. "So, who's this helping you not put your health in danger?"
Monique knew she couldn't avoid this. So there was no point in even trying.
"Jefferson, this is Joan, my nurse," she said. "Joan, this is my boyfriend, Jefferson Thomas."
The two shook hands. Joan then turned back towards Monique.
"If you two aren't planning anything else, I'll get you ready for bed," she said. She helped Monique off the couch and back into her wheelchair and led her into the bedroom. Jefferson packed up the remaining Chinese food.
"He's cute," Joan commented after shutting the bedroom door. "And, he seems to really like you."
"That would be my business," Monique said. "I don't dig through your love life."
"Feel free to try," Joan dared. "You'll make some interesting discoveries."
Monique decided not to pursue this topic. She let the nurse check her for any possible injuries and get her ready for bed.
"Anything else you need?" Joan asked as she made sure Monique's water bottle was full.
"Yeah," Monique said. "If you manage not to scare him off, let Jefferson come in here."
"All right," Joan said with a sly smile. "I'll just say 'good night' now then."
She left the room and found Jefferson still in the living room.
"She wants you," she said. "I'll just put this food away and let myself out. Should I expect you here tomorrow morning?"
Jefferson didn't answer and she left as he headed for Monique's bedroom.
"Hey," he said, coming in. "Lovely nurse. Really involved."
"Sorry about that," she said. "She's just worried about me."
"It shows," Jefferson said. "What's up?"
"I didn't want that to be the end of the night for us," Monique said, adjusting the head end of her bed so she was somewhat sitting up. She patted a spot on the bed next to her.
"Sit," she insisted. "Ten steps forward and you'll hit the bed."
Jefferson did so and they were soon kissing again.
"We're really picking up right where we left off," Monique remarked.
Jefferson nodded and smiled.
"I love you," Monique said.
Jefferson stopped kissing her and stared.
"I mean it," Monique said, feeling bold, "I do love you."
"Now who's moving fast," Jefferson teased.
"I can't help the way I feel about you."
Jefferson kissed her again.
"Honestly," he said. "It's been a while since I've heard that."
"Says the man who's rarely been alone," Monique remarked.
"Nancy didn't say it much anymore during our last year together, and Linda and I hadn't gotten there yet when we broke up."
"I haven't had anything like this since college."
Monique looked at Jefferson.
"So you know why Greg and I broke up," she said. "Why did you and Nancy split up? I know you said you realized she wasn't for you, but what triggered that."
Jefferson took a deep breath.
"One day, I got a phone call," he described. "That was when I learned my brother and my sister-in-law were killed in a car accident. As I was still absorbing this information, the caller reminded me that I had long ago volunteered to be the kids guardian if anything ever happened. They wanted to know if I was ready to now take up that responsibility."
Monique nodded, listening.
"I immediately said I would," Jefferson continued. "But Nancy flipped out. See, she never wanted to have kids."
"But she had to know you were named as the kids' guardian," Monique pointed out.
"She did. She even encouraged it when Stan and Maggie first asked me. But I guess she wasn't ready for it to be real. She gave me an ultimatum ... her or the kids. I sent her to the curb the same day and left for the airport 24 hours later."
Jefferson became quiet and Monique reached out and pulled him up against her.
"You made the right choice," she told him. "They needed you. And besides, we would have never met."
"So it all worked out for the best," he remarked. "Except for the fact I miss my brother and his wife."
"I know," Monique said. "I know it's hard. You can miss them. It's okay."
"I haven't seen any of them in five years. I mean, I never met Matthew in person until I became his guardian. How messed up is that?"
Monique shook her head.
"It's not messed up," she insisted. "They were abroad and you had your own life to worry about."
"I always thought about visiting them," Jefferson said. "I just never did it. Maybe I thought it was for the best."
Monique stared at him.
"Why would you think that?" she asked.
Jefferson fell silent.
"Jefferson," Monique said, still holding him close. "Please tell me. I won't judge, I promise."
Jefferson took a deep breath.
"I had a one-night-stand," he said. "I had a one-night-stand with Margret. I had a one-night-stand with my sister-in-law. I had a one-night-stand with my brother's wife."
Monique looked at him for a long time. She didn't say anything. She had not expected this.
"I'd better go," Jefferson finally said, moving to stand up.
"No," Monique insisted. "Stay. What happened?"
Jefferson took another deep breath.
"Before my parents moved to Virginia, I lived in this little apartment," he recounted. "It had a tiny main room, an even smaller bedroom, and a miniscule bathroom. I didn't need more space, even though I could afford it. One weekend, Stanley, Margret, and the twins come to stay with me. The twins were two at the time and Matthew hadn't been born yet. Margret wasn't even pregnant yet. Anyway, they all came to visit before Stanley got sent overseas. They brought this portable crib that the twins slept in while they took this sofa bed I had in my main room at the time."
Monique nodded, listening.
"On Saturday afternoon, Stanley got a call," Jefferson continued. "Apparently, there was a paperwork problem or something down in Washington that they needed him for. So he takes off, leaving Margret and the girls with me and promises to be back the next morning to salvage what's left of the visit."
"So it was you and Margret," Monique said, slowly putting the pieces together.
"Yeah," Jefferson confirmed. "We were essentially hanging out. I helped her feed the girls as best I could and we drank some margaritas and talked. I never really knew her that well except for the fact Stanley loved her, and I've always trusted his judgment. So, she was cool with me. So we're knocking back these margaritas and we're starting to feel a little tipsy. All of a sudden, we started kissing and, one thing led to another, and we're in my bedroom, having sex. We wake up together the next morning with terrible hangovers and deep regrets. We both quickly shower and straighten up before Stanley gets back and we agree never to tell him. It was a stupid mistake and that was it. They moved less than a week later and I haven't seen her since. I always thought this distance between us was a good thing. It allowed me to pursue a relationship with Nancy, though that later turned out to be a brilliant idea ... call it mistake number two."
He looked uncomfortable.
"I never saw Stanley and Margret again after that," he said. "And the next time I saw any of the kids, I was picking them up in Germany."
"Were you dating Nancy at the time?" Monique asked urgently. She needed to know.
"No," Jefferson said. "I met Nancy about a month later in a local coffee shop where she was working at the time," Jefferson said and, sensing what Monique had been thinking. "I've made some really stupid mistakes, but I would never cheat on anyone like that. I would never do that to you."
Monique decided she could trust him. But then something hit her.
"What other mistakes have you made?" she asked, narrowing her eyes.
Jefferson didn't say anything.
"Wait a second," Monique said. "The librarian ... the wife of your buddy at work ... Amy ... I saw the way she looked at you at that law school dinner ... she looked really uncomfortable ... you slept with her, didn't you?"
Jefferson nodded. He wouldn't even try to hide it.
"My God," Monique said. "What happened?"
"Pretty much the same situation," Jefferson said. "She had come over to help with some things for the kids. We were drinking some wine and talking and one thing just led to another ... it was a mistake."
He looked at her, half-expecting to be kicked out right then.
"I've made my own sort of mistakes," Monique said, deciding to open up herself.
"Like what?" Jefferson asked.
"My store was robbed a couple of months back. The guy came up here, looking for more money. He found me and, when he heard the police coming, he hit me across the head with his flashlight and ran. I was so sure that he would have done worse if he had had the time."
"That's not your fault. It isn't the same."
Monique shook her head.
"But keeping my feelings about it bottled up is my fault," she insisted. "The truth is that I am so afraid that he'll come back. They never found him. I'm just so scared that he'll come back one day and kill me."
She began to cry. Jefferson put his arms around her as the tears flowed.
"Tonight ..." Monique said. "tonight was the first night I've felt safe. It's because of you. I know it is. And I know I love you. I love you."
|The book continues with Chapter 29. 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.
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.
Gloria Lawson: a NYC social worker assigned to determine if Jefferson is s
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