General Fiction posted September 19, 2020 Chapters:  ...15 16 -17- 18... 

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A bad evening.

A chapter in the book Par Angusta Ad Augusta

Chapter 17

by teols2016

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 to run her family's business while recovering from a recent robbery.

A Police cruiser from the NYPD's 6th Precinct soon arrived at Jefferson's house. Two patrol officers began filling out a Missing Person's report, questioning Jefferson about Taylor's description and where she might have gone. Anya quickly provided a description of what Taylor was wearing before going out to check the neighborhood.

"I have no idea where she would go," Jefferson said desperately. "She doesn't really know anyone here yet."

"Have there been any problems at home?" one of the officers asked. "Sometimes it might be something minor and she is blowing it way out of proportion."

"Well, I mean, she's had some problems adjusting to the move here."

Jefferson explained the circumstances in more detail. Both officers nodded as they took notes.

"It's more likely than not that she hasn't gotten far," one of them said. "We'll get word out to all patrol units in the precinct to be on the lookout. We'll just need a current photo of the girl to pass around."

Linda soon arrived to help with finding a photo that had been taken of Taylor shortly before the move. The officers took it and promised to call as soon as they knew something. They then left and Linda stayed with Jefferson. Anya came back a few minutes later, having run around the block twice in the hopes of catching up with Taylor.

"I did not find her," she said, sounding defeated. She took a deep breath and looked around.

"Where are Abigail and Matthew?" she asked.

"Upstairs," Jefferson said. "I figure they can't escape from the second floor."

Anya went upstairs to check on them anyway.

"And you can't think of any place Taylor might go?" Linda asked, sitting on the couch with Jefferson. "School maybe ... the local ice cream shop ... someone's house?"

"The school's closed," Jefferson said. "She wouldn't stay there if she found no one. Same with the ice cream shop. As for anyone she might try to visit, she doesn't know where they live. Oh God. Where did she go?"

He buried his face in his hands as Linda placed a comforting arm around his shoulders.

* * *

Monique was still in her office, giving her tax paperwork one final review before she'd file it, when Joan arrived. It took some doing but the nurse finally convinced her patient to abandon her work for the day and come upstairs for dinner.

"The others left you here?" she asked as Monique shut down her computer.

"Yeah," Monique replied. "Frank left about five minutes ago. He locked the front door on his way out, so we just have to turn off the lights."

The two women headed towards the front of the store. Following Monique's instructions, Joan began flipping the switches on the wall behind the cash register, turning off the lights one by one.

They stopped when they heard a noise. It sounded like something had been knocked over.

"What was that?" Joan asked.

Monique didn't answer but instead started heading down one of the aisles to investigate. Seeing no other choice, Joan flipped a few lights back on and followed her.

Great, Monique thought, A quadriplegic and her nurse investigating a strange noise at night. That's really safe. Memories of the recent robbery were slivering into her head and she tried hard to push them back.

The two women quietly inspected each of the aisles but found nothing. Then Monique headed into the store's children's section, where several large pillows and bean bag chairs were laid out for the kids to sit on and read among the bookshelves. There were also some small tables and chairs meant to serve the same purpose.

Moving further, Monique saw the noise she had heard was a chair which had been knocked over. What she didn't expect to find was a little girl standing next to the fallen piece of furniture.

"Taylor?" Monique asked, recognizing the small redhead immediately.

"Hi," Taylor said in a small voice, knowing she was caught.

"Did you come here by yourself?"

Taylor gave a small nod.

"You crossed multiple streets to get here?" Monique asked, shocked. "In the dark? Do you have any idea how dangerous that is?"

Taylor looked at her feet.

"I'm sorry," she said in that same small voice.

Monique took a deep breath. This interrogation was getting her nowhere.

"It's okay," she said, nudging her chair closer. "I'm not mad at you."

Taylor looked at her, waiting to see what would happen next.

"All clear, Joan!" Monique called over her shoulder, turning her head as best she could. "Just an unexpected visitor."

Joan came over and was just as surprised to see Taylor.

"Who's this?" she asked.

"Her name's Taylor," Monique explained. "She lives near here."

Surveying the area as she spoke, she now saw the pillows and bean bag chairs which were piled into one corner so Kathy could vacuum after closing earlier had been disturbed. She guessed Taylor had snuck in shortly before Frank left and hid in the pile until she thought everyone was gone. The child's ultimate goal still remained a mystery.

"I have her uncles number upstairs on my laptop," Monique said. "In the address book on Outlook. Go get it. He's gotta be worried sick."

Looking back at Taylor, she noticed the little girl seemed to be getting upset about something.

"Joan," she said, "hang on a second and get me out of this thing."

She slapped her palm against her chair's armrest for good measure. Joan undid the wheelchair's straps and helped Monique sit down on the floor with her back against the pile of pillows and bean bag chairs, which gave her some support. Monique then pulled Taylor over to her while the nurse went to find the number.

"Hey," she said, seeing tears welling up in Taylor's eyes, "what's wrong?"

"Uncle Jeff's gonna be mad at me," Taylor replied.

"Well, that's probably true. But I'm sure he's really worried and wondering where you are. Taylor, why did you run off from home and come here like this?"

"I don't know," Taylor whined.

"Come on. It's gotta be something. You can tell me."

Taylor began to cry.

"I want my mom and dad!" she wailed.

Oh boy, Monique thought. She vaguely knew about what was going on with this issue, but the full story was still a mystery to her. Nevertheless, Taylor was now upset and letting her see her parents was obviously not an option. As best as she could, Monique pulled Taylor close to her, speaking softly to her as she cried into her blouse.

"It's okay," she said. "It's okay. Don't be upset."

She thought of her father, but then pushed the thought aside. She needed to focus.

Joan soon came back, reporting she'd called Jefferson and that he was on his way. She then went to find some tissues to clean Taylor up with.

"Taylor," Monique said when the girl had calmed down a bit. "it's okay to miss your mom and dad, but it is not okay to run away from home because of that. I'm sure your parents wouldn't want you to do that."

"I didn't run away because of that," Taylor said.

"Then why did you?" Monique asked, wondering what else could be mixed into this mess.

Taylor hesitated before speaking.

"At school today," she explained, "the teacher told us about Career Day. That's when the parents come in and tell us what they do at work."

Monique nodded, encouraging her to continue.

"He gave us a piece of paper about it to give to our parents to invite them to come to our class," Taylor continued. "Abigail got one too for her class."

"And you're upset about this?" Monique asked. "Why?"

"Uncle Jeff is not my parents," Taylor said.

The situation was becoming clearer in Monique's head.

"You don't want him to come to Career Day because he's not your mom or dad," she concluded.

"I don't know," Taylor whined.

"Did you tell your uncle this?"

Joan returned with the tissues and the conversation was halted so both women could focus on cleaning Taylor's face.

"Okay," Monique said when they were done. "Did you tell your uncle what you just told me?"

Taylor shook her head.

"Why not?" Monique asked. The answer hit her almost immediately.

"You didn't want to hurt his feelings, right?" she asked.

Taylor nodded.

"Taylor," Monique said. "I think your uncle's feelings will be even more hurt if you don't tell him. If you're honest with him, I'm sure he would understand."

Taylor said nothing.

"I want you to tell him the truth," Monique insisted. "Can you do that for me?"

Taylor was about to answer when the group heard knocking on the front door. Figuring it had to be Jefferson, Joan went to answer it. She soon came back with Jefferson and Presley right behind her. Accompanying them was Anya, Jefferson's nanny.

"Hey," Monique said. "She's okay. She's right here next to me."

"Taylor," Jefferson said, sounding relieved.

He came over and hugged her tightly. After that, he grabbed her shoulders and held her at arm's length.

"Don't you ever do that again," he said, sounding very angry now. "Do you have any idea how much you scared me?"

Taylor was beginning to whimper. Anya seemed stunned by her boss's behavior.

"I think you need to calm down," Monique advised, but Jefferson appeared not to hear her.

"I think she is right," Anya said, but Jefferson ignored her as well.

"Do you understand how dangerous this stupid idea was?" he asked Taylor. "You could have been killed!"

"I'm sorry," Taylor said, beginning to cry again.

"You really need to calm down," Monique said. "You're upsetting her ..."

"You promised you were never going to do this again," Jefferson said, still focusing on Taylor. "Do you remember that? You promised,"

He shook her slightly.

"I'm sorry," Taylor wailed.

"That's enough!" Monique said and, with all her might, reached out and grabbed Jefferson's arm.

"Joan," she said, "take Taylor up to the front of the store and clean up her face again please. Her uncle and I are going to have a little chat."

Jefferson tried to free his arm, but Monique was holding on with a vice-like grip. Seeing she wasn't giving in, he let go of Taylor's shoulders and let her be led away by Joan. Recognizing the two of them were better off left alone, Anya followed Taylor and Joan.

"Okay," Monique snarled. "I don't know what sort of stress you're under, and right now, I don't care. What I care about is the fact that girl is seven years old. She understands that what she did was wrong and that you're upset with her because of it. Yelling at her isn't going to help anything."

"She's done this before," Jefferson shot back. "She's done this before and she promised not to do it again."

"She's a kid," Monique said. "She's going to break promises and you're gonna have to forgive her for it. It doesn't matter what she's said before. Look, I'm sure that she isn't doing this specifically because of you. There's something else going on here, and you need to try to figure out what it is. And again, yelling at her isn't going to help the matter."

Jefferson mumbled something as he finally wrenched his arm free from her grip.

"Excuse me?" Monique asked.

"Stop trying to push your way into my business," Jefferson told her.

"Excuse me?!"

Monique was shocked and angry.

"You heard me," Jefferson said. "Ever since I met you, you've been trying to push your way in with the girls and Matthew. You did it just this morning."

"What?" Monique asked. "The hair clips?"

She couldn't believe this was actually an issue.

"I was just trying to help," she protested.

"Well, don't," Jefferson said. "I have enough to deal with."

"Fine. Suit yourself. But open up your thick skull long enough to let this sink in. Your niece may want to talk to you about something important in the very near future, if you haven't completely scared her out of it. When she does, listen."

Jefferson turned around and had Presley guide him away. He headed back to the front of the store, where Taylor was waiting, still whimpering slightly.

"Come on," Monique heard him say. "Let's go home."

"I'm sorry," Taylor said in that timid tone.

"I know," Jefferson replied in a flat tone. "Come on."

They left the store with Anya right behind them. Joan locked up and then went to get Monique, who was now in a very bad mood.

* * *

"Uncle Jeff?" Taylor asked as they walked down the sidewalk. "Am I still in trouble?"

They were a few blocks from the bookstore and maybe three minutes from home. It was the first time any of them spoke since leaving, with the exception of Jefferson giving Presley instructions.

"Oh yeah," Jefferson said. "You are so grounded."

"What's grounded?" Taylor asked.

"Oh, you'll learn."

Anya walked behind the pair, unsure of what to say.

* * *

"Hey," Linda said, sounding relieved as Taylor, Jefferson, Presley, and Anya came home. "Glad to have you back. Are you okay?"

Taylor responded with a single nod.

"Go up to bed," Jefferson said. "We'll talk more tomorrow."

Taylor silently disappeared up the stairs. Linda looked at Jefferson.

"Everything okay?" she asked, glancing at Anya's blank face.

"No," Jefferson admitted. "Things didn't go so smoothly at the bookstore. Right now, I just wanna get a few hours of sleep and then figure out my next move."

Linda nodded.

"Call me if you need anything," she said. "Good night."

She gave him a quick kiss on the cheek and left. After he locked the front door, Jefferson went to the couch and sat down, burying his face in his hands.

"I will go to bed as well," Anya said in a cautious tone.

Jefferson looked up at her, seeming to just realize she had been there all this time.

"Sure," he said. "I'd like to talk to you tomorrow."

"Okay," Anya replied. "Good night."

"Good night."

* * *

"Everything okay?" Joan asked.

Monique didn't reply.

"Don't worry about what that guy said," Joan advised. "You're not pushy. You just care. It's one of your many flaws."

"Way to make me feel better," Monique remarked.

Joan gave her a quick hug before leaving. Lying in her bed, Monique released a very long sigh.

* * *

Jefferson didn't get much sleep that night. He wound up being awake around five the next morning and decided to start his day there. He was in the kitchen, making coffee, when Anya came in from her morning jog.

"Good morning," she said, not sounding as cautious as the night before.

"Morning," Jefferson returned and offered her some coffee. Anya took the mug and sat down at the table. Jefferson sat down as well.

"Couldn't sleep?" he asked.

"I did sleep for some time," Anya replied.

"Lots to think about?"

Anya admitted she did think about the previous evening's events.

"Not my brightest moment," Jefferson said. "I'm sorry about how I acted. That's not me. I just got mad and I handled it completely the wrong way."

Anya looked at him for a long time.

"It is all right," she finally said. "I have seen angry men when I lived in Russia. You are quite tame compared to them."

Jefferson did not know what to think of that.

"I understand that what happened last night was not your normal behavior," Anya continued. "It is okay."

Jefferson managed a slight smile.

"Thanks," he said. "Now I just have to talk civilly with Taylor."

"You will be fine," Anya assured him.

* * *

Taylor soon learned being grounded meant that, with the exception of meals and going to the bathroom, she was confined to her room. She argued at first but was quickly reminded of what she had done to end up being disciplined like this, after which she was quiet.

To make matters more unfortunate, Gloria Lawson, who had made a few surprise visits to the house since her initial meeting with Jefferson a month and a half ago, showed up three days before Easter. She of course learned all about Taylor's flight and subsequently interrogated Jefferson about what actions he had taken, how everything worked out, and what punishments were imposed. Throughout all this, she was always sweet to Taylor, who told her Jefferson had been mad when he had picked her up from the bookstore but that things were better now. Deciding to be honest, Jefferson admitted he had raised his voice with Taylor that night, upsetting her, and he gave her Monique's information for if she wanted to verify anything. Gloria Lawson wrote so fast that it was a wonder her notepad didn't catch fire. But since Taylor showed no signs of abuse and understood why Jefferson had been angry with her, Jefferson thought it was doubtful if this would actually hurt him. He was also sure Gloria Lawson would still try. The
woman had developed a straight-forward dislike for him. But she left without taking the kids, so that was a good sign. Maybe the fact he now had Anya around played in his favor, even if the social worker had made remarks about the woman's youth and appearance.

* * *

On the afternoon after Gloria Lawson's visit, Taylor left her bedroom and went downstairs to find Jefferson cleaning up in the den. He didn't notice her until she spoke up.

"Uncle Jeff?" she asked.

"I told you to stay up in your room," he said, frustrated.

"I know, but ..."

She clenched and unclenched her fists.

"But what?" Jefferson asked. "You know you're grounded."

"But ..." Taylor said, "I need to talk to you. It's important."

Jefferson was about to say something else when he stopped. Monique's last bit of advice was ringing in his head. He took a deep breath and looked at his niece.

"Come on over," he said, sitting down on the couch. "Tell me what's up."

Is the scene in the bookstore too intense?

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.

Linda Carrows: mother of children at Abigail and Taylor's school.

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 on other items is also always welcome. Enjoy.
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