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 works to run her family's business while recovering from a recent robbery.
"Hey Uncle Jeff," Taylor said, looking up from the game of Go Fish she was engaged in with Abigail. "That lady at the bookstore told you there was something going on there, right?"
"Yeah," Jefferson said, vaguely remembering what the woman had said. "I think it was some sort of reading this Saturday."
"Can we go?"
Abigail and Matthew, the latter of whom had been playing with his Lego Duplo blocks on the floor, also seemed mildly interested.
It was Thursday afternoon and the newly formed family were all sitting in Jefferson's den, each engaged in their own activity. So far, the girls had gone through four days of school, and while they were still adjusting, they seemed to be doing fine. They had each met up with the school's psychiatrist once so far to set the groundwork for future sessions, and though Jefferson hadn't heard anything, he decided not to interfere too much in a subject matter he knew little about.
Matthew had now spent three days at the Tate Sunshine Day Care Center and he seemed to like it. The family's morning routine had become somewhat solid, with Jefferson dropping the girls off at school before taking Matthew to the day care center and then heading over to New York University, where he would be either teaching or working in his office until it came time to pick up the girls. He would pick up Matthew along the way and he'd be back in charge that afternoon. True, this routine would have to be changed once a new semester rolled in and his teaching schedule changed, but it was working for now, and that was all Jefferson cared about.
More recently, Jefferson had earned the attention of teenaged girls who lived in the neighborhood and made their money baby-sitting. One of them had come by the previous Tuesday afternoon to tell him all about their qualifications and the like. So far, Jefferson had promised to consider calling them if he needed to and he was quietly asking parents at the school about them. Most of the parents had positive things to say about the pair, with the rest basically not knowing them.
Jefferson was still working on finding a nanny. He'd finished interviewing people for the time being and was now working to narrow down the field of candidates. Never in his life had he imagined this decision being so hard. He was finding flaws in every resume. But he had to keep going. He needed a nanny.
With this new life slowly falling into place, Jefferson was back at work. Eric had been right about the cards which were waiting in his office, along with some flowers and one box of chocolates. Jefferson had packed everything away and took it home to go through at a later time. He had also received many condolences from colleagues and students about his loss. Though he hadn't mentioned it before he had left for Germany, word had spread about his taking in his nieces and nephew, with many people having previously believed he was simply traveling to Germany to settle his brother's affairs. Of course, they all now wanted to see photos of the kids, a request he only granted to a few.
"Uncle Jeff?" Taylor asked.
"I'm sorry," Jefferson said, having been lost in his thoughts. "What's up?"
"Can we go to the bookstore on Saturday?"
"Maybe. I'll look into it."
Taylor seemed satisfied with that answer for the time being and turned her attention back to her game with Abigail.
"Ten more minutes," Jefferson told them. "Then you guys have homework to do."
He was somewhat surprised not to hear any pushback or protests. Maybe his negative memories of the concept were more associated with his high school days.
* * * *
"Okay," Jefferson said. "despite an order from the President of the United States, telling states like Texas who had Mexican nationals on Death Row to reconsider the individuals' sentences because they were not granted their right to seek assistance from the Mexican consulate upon their arrests, Texas went ahead and executed JosĂ© MedellĂn as scheduled in 2008. Can anyone tell me why no laws were broken by this action?"
He faced his class of NYU law students, none of whom made a move to respond. It was Friday morning and he was sure they were all already planning their evening of binge-drinking before hitting the books again around noon on Saturday. They weren't first-years anymore. They'd earned this one night.
"Come on people," Jefferson said, letting his voice boom through the lecture hall. "Can anyone come up with an answer. It's still Friday, for God's sake. It is not the weekend yet."
"Texas isn't bound by the President's order because of states sovereignty," a voice answered. "Only an act passed by Congress would have required Texas to comply with the President's order. Otherwise, he has no influence on their individual criminal justice system."
Despite his better judgment, Jefferson couldn't hide a smile. He recognized the speaker as Paula Franks, a young divorcee who came to law school after her husband ran out on her with his secretary. She had taken his class last year and he was sure why she was here now. But he wasn't going to bring that up in front of everyone else.
"Care to share your thoughts about the international laws that were broken?" he instead prompted.
"Simply put," Paula Franks continued, "the United States violated the International Court's ruling which prompted the President's order for Texas to comply. But the court can't punish the U.S. for this because the order does not apply to the individual states, just the country as a whole. We just have a bit of a negative image in the eyes of some other nations."
"Correct. There is also the fact that American citizens arrested abroad may face similar treatment from the host nations."
He checked the time and saw that class was over.
"That's all for today," he said. "I expect you all to be ready to discuss Grutter v. Bollinger on Tuesday. And, some more enthusiasm would be appreciated."
The class got up and began to leave. As people filed out of the room, Paula Franks moved towards the front, where Jefferson was busy packing some things into his briefcase. She noticed his jacket was hanging over the back of the instructor's chair, indicating he hadn't stopped by his office that morning.
Jefferson seemed to sense her lingering there. He looked up but said nothing. Paula Franks was silent as well, waiting for him to initiate the conversation. Presley remained lying by the desk, sleeping, waiting to be needed.
"As I recall, you passed my class last year," Jefferson finally remarked.
"I know," Paula Franks said in an innocent tone. "I just wanted to check on you. How are you doing?"
"I'm fine. If you'll excuse me, I've got a lot to do today."
"I heard your nieces and nephews are living with you," Paula Franks said, not deterred.
"They are, which is why you'll understand why I won't have lunch, dinner, coffee, or anything else with you later today."
Especially given recent events, Paula Franks was not a mistake Jefferson would make. He was due for some common sense.
"It must be so hard," Paula Franks went on as though she hadn't heard anything he'd said. "If you ever need anything, you'll let me know."
She turned around and left. Hearing the door of the lecture hall slam shut, Jefferson let out a groan. Paula Franks was definitely a bright woman, but she was also doggedly determined in all of her pursuits, including him. He was now sure he knew who had sent him the box of chocolates as a form of condolences.
* * *
Monique was working in her back office, making preparations for the readings taking place the next day as well as catching up on various other things. She had gone to her bi-weekly physical therapy session that morning and though her condition wasn't expected to improve, she was deemed to be in good physical health. Since that was always good news, Monique took it gratefully. It'd take a scientific breakthrough to alter the status quo in that regard, so she always proceeded under the current circumstances with no expectations of change. It was simpler than scouring the medical journals for signs of hope.
When she returned to the store around noon, Kathy gleefully informed her that Jefferson Thomas had stopped by earlier that morning to inquire about the exact times of the readings the next day. Monique excused herself and headed to the back office to get away from the comments Kathy and Frank were certainly coming up with. She figured if she hid out behind her desk long enough, they'd lose their steam and forget about Jefferson Thomas's visit. At least she hoped so.
* * *
Having stopped at the bookstore belonging to that woman Monique to check what time the readings were on that coming Saturday, Jefferson had been running late that morning and hadn't been to his office at all. But a custodian had unlocked his door as usual, so he was able to just greet the department secretary and walk right in after his first class. He tossed his coat over the back of his chair, sat down, and turned on his computer.
As he waited for the computer to get to his desktop, he leaned back in his chair and thought about what sort of things he had around his office. His diplomas from Columbia University and its law school hung on the wall and he had a few knick-knacks on his desk. Otherwise, his office was pretty bare.
He knew many of his colleagues had photos of loved ones, especially children, displayed in their offices. People had always encouraged him to put up more stuff in his own office for others to see, even if he couldn't see it himself.
Now that he had Abigail, Matthew, and Taylor in his life, Jefferson was considering this advice with a new prospective. He figured that he ought to at least put up pictures of them somewhere in his office. After all, they were his family. He then recalled that he had a nice photo of Stanley and Margret, a few years younger, stashed away somewhere at home and thought he might put that up as well. He paused, thinking about this. The photo was around the time of their last visit. It'd been taken a day before his brother was called away to an emergency in Washington, a time he preferred to forget, so far without success.
His thoughts were interrupted when the speaking software on his computer came to life and he set to work on checking his e-mail. But it wasn't even a minute later when the secretary poked her head into his office.
"There's a woman here to see you," she told him. "She says she needs to urgently speak with you."
"Send her in," Jefferson said, figuring if it was Paula Franks again, he could very easily show her the door.
Someone walked into his office and shut the door. They didn't speak and, after a few silent seconds, Jefferson decided to get the ball rolling.
"Can I help you?" he queried.
"Hello Jefferson," Amy said.
Having not expected to hear her voice, Jefferson nearly fell out of his chair.
"A... Amy?" he asked, trying to keep some composure about himself. He hadn't seen her since that last Sunday, when she had walked out of his bedroom, regretting what happened between them.
"Hey," she now said. "Can we talk?"
"Sure," Jefferson said, waving his hand towards an empty chair. "Have a seat."
Amy sat down, keeping her jacket on and her purse on her lap. Jefferson came around his desk and took the other empty chair. Somehow, putting the desk between the two of them didn't seem like the best idea right then. What Amy wanted to talk about surely had no business components to it whatsoever.
"I want to talk about what happened between us," Amy said, cementing that notion.
"It was a mistake," Amy said. "It was a stupid mistake and I can't understand how it happened."
"That makes two of us," Jefferson replied.
"I know things haven't always been ... easy between us, but I thought we were in a good place."
Jefferson sometimes wondered how much Amy knew about his feelings for her. He'd dropped hints while they all still attended Columbia but worked hard to bury them after she and Eric became serious and then engaged. He knew she wasn't stupid, but it still wasn't clear how much she knew.
"I have a family," Amy said. "I love them. I love my husband. I know I can't take back what I did, but I don't want to ruin what I have."
"I wouldn't want you to," Jefferson said.
"So can we just bury this forever? Go back to the way things were? I don't want to hurt Eric."
"Me neither," Jefferson said, no stranger to the idea of burying. "I'm willing to do whatever it takes to somehow make things work here. If that involves burying what happened, I'll do it."
For the first time, Amy managed a smile.
"I can't believe I took so long to bring this up," she said, sounding relieved. "I thought this was going to be so much harder because ..."
Her voice trailed off and Jefferson could sense her embarrassment.
"That night was fun," he admitted, "but that was all it was ... fun."
He would not admit it'd been more than "fun" for him. Not now.
Amy nodded in agreement.
"It's not worth ruining our lives for," she said. "Thank you."
"I'm just happy we're okay," Jefferson said.
"Yeah. I'd better get going before people get suspicious. I had a hard enough time explaining to Eric why I was home so late that night. I don't want him to hear about this on top of it."
Jefferson nodded as he got up and reached out to open the door for her.
"Hey," Amy said. "You really don't know how it happened?"
"Best I can piece together, we hung out and had some drinks after the kids went to bed," he said. "Things just sort of happened after that."
"I guess we'll have to settle for that," Amy said. "Bye Jefferson."
She left and Jefferson sat down behind his desk again, feeling drained.