A law professor gets a family and a bookstore owner offer advice.
Previously in "Par Angusta Ad Augusta":
After his brother and sister-in-law are killed in a car accidentoverseas, NYU law professor Jefferson Thomas brings his young nieces and nephew to live with him in Manhattan.
Joan allowed Monique to go back down to the store around noon. By this time, it had been established that Monique's purse had actually been on the kitchen counter next to the refrigerator instead of in its usual spot in the closet, explaining why the intruder hadn't found it. From what everyone could tell, he'd never entered the apartment's small kitchen.
Evidently, Kathy and Frank had finished cleaning up and replaced the stolen cash drawer from the register with a spare kept in the storeroom on the building's third floor. Monique was impressed when they told her they were open again only an hour and a half later than usual. It seemed several people had stopped by throughout the morning to ask about the earlier police activity and were relieved to hear everyone was okay. Some even promised to stop by again soon to purchase something and help make up for the lost revenue. Monique had to smile. It was this exact loyalty which kept her store going despite the onslaught of chains and online venues.
The "lost revenue" amounted to just over two hundred dollars in small bills and change which had been in the stolen cash drawer. Another few thousand dollars was in the safe in Monique's office, which the intruder seemed to have tried to access without success, based on the pry marks in the office's doorframe. Frank had already summoned a locksmith to change all the locks as soon as the crime scene technicians were finished. The storeroom had been left untouched.
Monique was alarmed when she learned the locksmith had been in her apartment while she'd been sleeping. She glared at Frank, shaking a bit.
"I was there too," Frank added, making her feel a bit better. "Plus, I trust this guy. I went to college with his brother."
Monique relaxed as he handed her a large, padded envelope. Peeking inside, she noticed several rings of keys. She'd have to decide who got which keys and change out their old ones. She looked up at the bookshelves.
In addition to the stolen money, about a hundred books were deemed too damaged to be sold, some suffering at the intruder's hands while others were casualties of the police and forensics technicians' work. Some were thrown out while the rest were bagged to be sent to a non-profit organization who could still use them.
"How are you feeling?" Kathy asked as Monique began maneuvering her chair down one of the aisles, holding onto the envelope of keys.
"I'm okay," Monique said. "I feel better. The store is secure again."
"Better than before," Frank said, but Kathy wouldn't let her boss deflect for long.
"I'm fine," Monique insisted and headed for the office in the back. There were insurance matters she needed to take care of.
"Get me the bill for the locksmith," she instructed. "I need to get that over to the insurance company along with everything else."
* * *
Around 3:00 that afternoon, the movers arrived and began lugging furniture into Jefferson's garage and house. Thankfully, someone had labeled absolutely everything, so there was little doubt about what went where. Jefferson was sure Cassandra Kingman had overseen this part of the saga as well. After all, the kids were taken to her house around midnight after the evening Stanly and Margaret were killed.
With Jefferson, Eric, and Amy pitching in to help, the process of hauling furniture took about four hours. When the movers were gone and everything was stored somewhere, Eric and Amy headed home as well.
"All right," Jefferson said to the three kids. "Now I'll take you out for dinner."
* * *
Gately's Diner didn't really lean towards a certain type of cuisine, nor did it really have any type of theme. But the food was good and Jefferson knew their menu by heart, and it was close by. So that was where he, Taylor, Abigail, and Matthew headed for dinner. Despite Abigail's constant reminders about what she would not eat, they all seemed excited about their first meal out in New York City.
"Mom and Dad told us there are lots of places to eat here," Taylor said.
"More than you could ever count," Jefferson confirmed.
The hostess knew Jefferson well and was delighted to meet his nieces and nephew, not really lingering on why they were now there with him for the first time ever. She seated them and informed him of the evening's specials.
"I recommend the macaroni and cheese," she added before stepping away.
"I think she likes you," Abigail said when the hostess had left.
"You do?" Jefferson asked, though he wasn't interested in women for the time being. His recent long-term relationship looked like it was pretty much over and he honestly wasn't looking to salvage it. He had more immediate concerns.
"All right guys," he said, effectively changing the subject. "What do you wanna eat?"
He regretted the question seconds later as his ears were assaulted with responses.
* * *
Thanks to her long nap that morning, Monique was not tired yet and therefore lay in her bed that evening, watching television. She had made Joan check and recheck all the new locks in both the apartment and the store below it. Only when she felt sure everything was secure did she let the nurse go home.
"I can stay, you know," Joan offered. "I can just spend the night out on your couch."
"Then I'd just be worrying about the both of us," Monique argued.
Joan decided not to press the subject. Her patient had had a long day. Her home was secure and she was fine. So the nurse left after helping Monique take another dose of the prescribed pain medication.
So now Monique was awake, watching television, and listening for any unusual sounds. She knew it was going to be a long night. And the worst part was she needed to sleep. She had selected Samuel Bridges from her thin applicant pool and, since he was able to start immediately, the young man was coming the next morning. She needed to be coherent as she gave him the information he would need to successfully do his job.
* * *
Jefferson woke up the next morning, relieved to not find anyone waiting there at the side of his bed. He wasn't sure how any parent got used to that.
He found all three kids playing in their rooms among the boxes the movers had left the day before.
"When do we get our beds back?" Matthew asked.
"I'll get to work on those this afternoon," Jefferson promised. "But you might have to sleep on the stuff I gave you for maybe one more night. Come on. Let's get some breakfast."
As the three kids ate, Jefferson, keeping a bagel in one hand, took the cordless phone into the den and made some calls. Thankfully, the people he needed to speak to were awake and more than willing to help.
"Who were you talking to?" Abigail asked when he came back into the kitchen.
"Some people at your new school," Jefferson told her. "You're gonna go see them today. Hurry up and finish eating."
* * *
At 9:45 that morning, Jefferson entered PS 41 with the twins and Matthew in tow while their Uber drove away from the curb. The group was directed to the main office, where they waited in some chairs near the front desk. About five minutes later, a woman came out and stepped over to them.
"Mr. Thomas?" she asked.
Jefferson nodded and the woman introduced herself as the school's principal, Cynthia Langley.
"And this must be Abigail and Taylor," she said, turning to the twins.
"Hello," Abigail said, but Taylor remained quiet. She had become subdued again. Her new life was sinking in now more than ever.
"Give her time," Jefferson said in a low voice and Cynthia Langley nodded in understanding.
"I'd just like to talk to you in my office," she said. "There are a few forms that need to be filled out. We can have an aide show the girls around the school while we do that."
Jefferson agreed and set Matthew up in his seat with some crayons and a coloring book. After an aide arrived to take the twins, Jefferson followed Cynthia Langley into her office.
"They seem like sweet girls," the woman commented as she shut the door.
"They are," Jefferson said.
"How long have you had them?"
"This is my third day with them," Jefferson said and they both chuckled.
"You're on the right track already. Let's get started on the enrollment paperwork and talk about what we can do to help your family with this unusual situation."
Jefferson nodded as she produced the first form. He withdrew his plastic signature guide from his wallet, explaining it would help him sign on the lines she indicated.
"Just set it in place for me," he said, handing her the plastic square.
* * *
"So how did you guys like the school?" Jefferson asked as he and the kids waited by the curb for their Uber.
"It was cool," Abigail replied.
"It was okay," Taylor admitted.
"Well, you guys better like it," Jefferson told them. "You start there for real on Monday."
He and his brother both went through the public school system on Staten Island and later in Manhattan, so he had faith in it serving the girls well now.
His phone chimed, indicating the Uber was close by. One of the things he'd researched during his single, restless night in Berlin was taking cabs and rideshare services with young children. He'd learned that, while the twins no longer needed any type of car seat, Matthew was nowhere near the required age, height, or weight to be exempt as well. To his surprise, Jefferson had found that Uber offered an option to request a ride with a booster seat in the car, spending an hour figuring out how to incorporate this feature on his iPhone's app.
"Come on," he said as the car pulled up. "Let's get some lunch."
* * *
"Hey," Frank said, "new guy buys lunch."
Samuel Bridges looked over from the shelves he was restocking. His reddening cheeks told Monique that he didn't have enough money to cover lunch for the four of them.
"Don't listen to him," she said. "Go into my office. I keep some money in the top left drawer of my desk. Forty dollars should do the trick."
Once Samuel Bridges had been sent off on the errand, Kathy and Frank immediately began gossiping about him.
"Guys," Monique admonished, "be nice."
They didn't listen and went right on with it. I guess practically hazing him wasn't enough, Monique figured.
"What do you think of him?" Kathy finally asked.
"He seems nice," Monique said. "But come on. He's been working here for half a day. Give him a chance."
She was thankful she'd managed to sleep enough to sound coherent as she orientated the young man to the store and its policies throughout the morning.
Frank and Kathy agreed but nevertheless continued their current conversation for a little while longer.
* * *
After lunch at a McDonald's, Jefferson and the three kids took another Uber over to the Tate Sunshine Day Care Center. One of Jefferson's law school colleagues had a sister who brought her son here and spoke highly of the facility. Jefferson intended to check it out for Matthew, who was too young for even pre-school.
Leaving the twins in the lobby with some books to read, Jefferson, Presley, and Matthew were led into the facility itself by its head caretaker, Olivia Jordan.
After a tour, Matthew was allowed to go and play while Jefferson spoke with Olivia Jordan. Though he provided the twins' school records when he'd enrolled them that morning, the process still hadn't been simple. It was a little simpler this time.
"We'd evaluate Matthew during his first few days with us in order to determine how to best meet his needs," Olivia Jordan explained. "We can e-mail you the standard forms and the questionnaire that we require all parents to fill out and you can e-mail them back to us."
Jefferson agreed and the meeting ended soon after that. He collected the three kids again and they left with the twins complaining the books they were given to read had been boring.
"Well, they're gone now," Jefferson told them. He decided they could walk around for a while before heading home.
* * *
"Hey," Taylor said after ten minutes and two blocks. "There's a bookstore up ahead. It looks neat. Can we go in?"
Since she'd been quiet and subdued earlier, Jefferson decided to encourage this sudden excitement. Abigail and Matthew also seemed to be interested in having a look, so he saw no harm in making the stop. After all, it wasn't a toy store.
* * *
Monique crumpled up her sandwich wrapper and managed to make a shot into the wastepaper basket, earning a comment from Frank about joining the WNBA.
"I'll consider it," she remarked, turning her wheelchair towards the register. She moved forward, occasionally taking a sip of her remaining iced tea through the straw.
The bell above the front door chimed but she paid it no mind. Customers were put off if she looked at them as soon as they came into the store, if they weren't put off by her chair first. For now, it was best to let them continue with their business, making it more likely for her to get their business in the end. No need to be a predator stalking some prey.
Monique rolled her chair down an empty aisle, absent-mindedly surveying the books on the shelves on either side of her. Everything seemed to be in order.
She turned into another aisle and saw a young girl up ahead who seemed to be looking at some children's books. She moved towards her.
"Hi," she said. "What's your name?"
Surprised, the girl turned around and seemed even more startled to see this woman in the odd-looking chair.
"Sorry," Monique said. "I didn't mean to scare you. What's your name?"
"Taylor," the girl replied. She seemed to have gotten over the fact Monique was in the wheelchair, reminding the woman about why she loved children so much.
"Hi Taylor," she said with a smile. "I'm Monique."
"Hi Monique," Taylor said. "Your chair looks cool."
Monique chuckled slightly. It always amused her when kids used words like that to describe her wheelchair. Most adults she knew wouldn't dare.
"Thank you," she said. "Tell me something. You're not here alone, are you?"
Taylor shook her head.
"No, my sister and my brother and my uncle are here too," she explained. "They're looking at other books."
"Okay," Monique said, nodding. "Is there a particular book I could help you find?"
Taylor shrugged her shoulders.
"let's look for something together," Monique suggested.
Taylor seemed okay with this idea. Monique turned her chair slightly to continue down the aisle, scanning the book spines as she went.
"Anything particular that you're looking for?" she asked, earning another shrug from Taylor.
"What's that chair for?" the girl asked instead, pointing at Monique's wheelchair.
"It helps me get around because I can't walk. This little stick lets me control which way it goes."
Monique wiggled the chair's joystick very lightly with the tips of her fingers.
"Okay," Taylor said, seeming to understand.
"Hey," Monique said, stopping, "pull out that book on the bottom shelf there. I think you might like it. All the way to the left."
Taylor found the one she was pointing at and pulled it out.
"Yeah, this should do the trick," Monique said. "It's about a girl who lives on a horse farm. Do you like horses?"
"I guess they're okay," Taylor said, sounding indifferent.
"Well, try this out and then come back and tell me how you liked it."
"Okay," Taylor said. "Thank you."
She walked away, presumably to reunite with her family. The store didn't have a problem with kids just wandering out through the front door without paying. Plus, whoever was manning the register would prevent this, were it to ever become a problem.
Monique stayed in the aisle, continuing to check if everything was in order. Once satisfied, she headed back towards the register.
A man was standing by the counter, a guide dog, young boy, and a slightly older girl standing there with him. Monique recognized the girl immediately.
"Hello again," she said, maneuvering her wheelchair over to the group.
The girl turned but seemed confused.
"Hi," she said.
Monique noticed the book she was holding. It was a fictional story set in colonial times.
"What did you do with the book I gave you?" Monique asked. She was admittedly a bit pushy about keeping the inventory in order. God only knew where the other book had now been stashed.
The girl was definitely confused. the man looked back and forth between her and Monique.
"What's she talking about?" he asked. "What book?"
"I don't know," the girl replied. "She didn't give me any book."
Monique was about to respond when another little girl walked around the corner. This girl was definitely Taylor. And she was still holding the book Monique had given her.
"Oh," Monique said, realizing. "You guys are twins. I get it."
Everyone laughed and Monique wondered how she missed the fact the girls were wearing different clothes. Sure, they were a bit similar, with Taylor wearing a purple top while her twin wore pink, but she ought to have paid attention. Also, the twin's jeans had flowers sewn on along the outer seams.
"That's my sister Abigail and my brother Matthew and my uncle Jeff," Taylor explained.
"Nice to meet you guys," Monique said. "I'm Monique and this is my store."
"It's cool," Abigail commented, though she was eyeing Monique's wheelchair.
"Thank you. Are you guys ready to pay?"
"I think we are," the man named Uncle Jeff said. "Are we?"
Both girls nodded and, seemingly remembering something, said they were ready. Monique was now sure this man was in fact blind and not training the dog in the guide dog harness.
"All right," she said to cover her silent pause. "the register's just over to the right. Give me a second and I can ring you guys up."
She maneuvered her chair around the counter and, willing her arms to stay steady, worked the register. Since he was paying, the man named Uncle Jeff was standing closest to the counter, waiting.
"So are you guys visiting your uncle?" Monique asked as she held each book under the mounted scanner next to the register.
"No," Abigail replied. "We're living with him."
Thankfully, Monique noticed a slight wave of the man's hand and took the hint not to pursue the topic.
"That's $37.87," she said instead. The man held out his credit card, which she took and ran through the machine, taking a second to peek at the name on the card.
"Jeff" stands for Jefferson, she thought. It Suited him.
The credit card machine emitted its shrill beeps, confirming the transaction was successful. Monique always thought how misleading those beeps sounded. She, and many customers, first thought there was a problem when the equipment was updated to accommodate the new chipped cards. No, it was just someone's poor choice in sounds at the manufacturing level.
"Here you go," Monique said, raising her arm with the credit card in her hand. "Straight in front of you."
"Thanks," Jefferson said, finding the card and returning it to his wallet. Monique supposed he had a specific place for it in there.
"Hey," she said. "We're holding a book reading for kids here the Saturday after next. You guys should come. We've got one for the younger kids and then one for the older ones."
"Thanks," Jefferson said, taking his copy of the receipt. "We'll keep that in mind."
He left with the three kids in tow and Monique watched them go.
* * *
"That lady was nice," Taylor commented as they walked down the street.
"Really?" Jefferson asked, more interested in the fact Taylor seemed interested.
"Yeah, she helped me find a book. She moved down the aisle in her chair and found it for me."
"Yeah. She's in a wheelchair."
Jefferson nodded. He'd actually believed that woman had just been really short ... possibly a little person. Taylor's explanation cleared up the mystery of the motor he had heard while in the store.
"Can we go back there sometime?" Taylor asked.
"We'll see," Jefferson told her as he took out his iPhone to call an Uber. "Come on now. We should get home."
* * *
Monique moved away from the register and found both Kathy and Frank staring at her. Samuel Bridges was somewhere else, probably restocking shelves, and Monique was glad for that. Both Frank and Kathy were wearing amused expressions on their faces.
"If you two wanna keep your jobs, tell me what's so funny," Monique demanded.
"You are," Frank said.
"You are," Kathy said. "The way you were with that gentleman just now."
"How was I?"
Monique had no clue what the comment was supposed to mean.
"You were practically staring at him," Frank said, "and I'm pretty sure it wasn't because he was blind."
"What?" Monique asked. "You think I have something like a crush on him?"
"Like a schoolgirl," Kathy said.
"You told him about the readings," Frank pointed out. "Despite the big sign we have by the door, telling people all about it."
"He's blind," Monique defended. "He would have never noticed that sign, no matter how big it was. I did it to be nice."
"Yeah," Frank said sarcastically. "That's it."
Monique shook her head.
"You two are crazy," she told them. "Go away."
Deciding to do as they were told, both Frank and Kathy headed off to tend to other matters. Monique moved back behind the register to keep an eye on things.
She couldn't believe what those two were saying. It was insane. She had told that man about the readings because he would have never noticed the sign and kids weren't attentive to those sort of details. She had done it to be nice. Or ...
Monique had to admit he was cute. He reminded her of an actor, though she couldn't recall whom. Maybe she did want to see him again.