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.
"Okay," Monique said in an annoyed tone, "this is getting ridiculous."
Actually, she thought the point of ridiculousness had passed a while back ... maybe an hour ago.
She was in her bedroom, seated in her less elaborate wheelchair and clad only in a bra and panties. Joan was busy going through her closet, trying to find just the right thing for her to wear for her lunch with Brad.
"It's not a date," Monique protested more than once when the nurse used that word.
Despite the fact the only other person in the room had seen her in much more compromising positions, she couldn't help feeling self-conscious.
"You still have to look nice," Joan insisted. "You never know."
"Right now I don't even know if I'll make it on time," Monique protested. "I'll wear anything ... anything! I'll settle for sweats at this point. Please just give me something."
Joan finally chose a light blue blouse. Since Monique absolutely refused to wear a skirt, they settled for khaki pants with a pair of sandals to complete the ensemble.
"You're making too big a fuss out of this," Monique said as Joan gave her some cereal and toast for breakfast.
"Well," Joan pointed out. "I can't come by later today to help get you ready, so I have to do it now."
* * *
"Ow!" Abigail exclaimed, whining and tugging her head away. "You're hurting me."
"Do you want this done or not?" Jefferson asked, ready to abandon the project if she gave a hint she'd let it go. "Stop squirming."
They were standing in the den of his house. Abigail had recently come across a box of her mother's hair accessories and wanted to wear some of them to school. Jefferson had agreed to let her wear some of the cheaper-looking hair clips and he was now helping her get them right. Unfortunately, since he was both blind and male, it wasn't going well. Taylor, who was watching from the sidelines, was having the time of her life. Thankfully, she had opted out of having her hair accessorized by her uncle. Matthew was still upstairs, picking out what to wear that day with Anya's help.
"There," Jefferson said, adjusting the last clip. "That's as good as we're gonna get it."
Abigail didn't seem entirely happy about the hairdo.
"Go get your book bag," Jefferson instructed. "We don't wanna be late."
* * *
Mainly to avoid their comments, Monique had volunteered to go out and fetch coffee for Frank, Kathy, and Samuel. The kid behind the counter of the local Starbucks didn't know her and immediately offered to help carry the cups, which were already in a cardboard carrier, but Monique politely waved him away and headed out of the store on her own. She doubted he'd be so eager once he realized it was a two-block trip.
When she was about half a block from the coffee shop, Monique was greeted by Jefferson, Presley, Abigail, Taylor, and Matthew.
"This is a nice surprise," she said. "Where are you off to?"
"School," Taylor replied.
"Some of us, at least," Jefferson added.
"Abigail?" Monique asked, noticing the hair clips she was wearing. "Who on Earth did those for you?"
Abigail, who still wasn't thrilled about the outcome of Jefferson's work, pointed directly up at her uncle. Monique laughed.
"Oh, that makes sense," she said. "You got a man's touch. That won't do. Here, let me help you out with that."
She had Jefferson take the cups of coffee and motioned for Abigail to step closer to her wheelchair. Moving her arms as carefully as she could, she proceeded to properly arrange the hair clips.
"My nurse usually does this for me when I want to wear something in my hair," she said as she worked. "I've watched her do it for so many years that I think I have a grip on the process ... okay, I think that's it ... there, now your head doesn't look like a construction site."
"Thanks Monique," Abigail said, now happier about how her hair looked.
"You're welcome. Happy to help."
Monique was all too aware about the fact she could probably never get her arms to cooperate in a way so she could do that for herself, but at least she was able to help someone else.
"Come on you guys," Jefferson said. "We need to get going. Besides, I think we've spent enough time going over the fact that I have no hair-styling skills."
"Aw, come on," Monique said. "You're a guy. It's natural for you to have no such skills."
The twins giggled.
"Thank you," Jefferson said with a smirk. "If we're done profiling me, can we get going?"
"Well, I've got to run as well," Monique said, taking the coffees back from Jefferson.
"Maybe. It could be. I don't really know yet."
Monique smiled, considering the possibilities today might hold.
"Thanks," she said. "Let me know if you ever need help with the girls' hair again. It's too precious to ruin."
She cast an admiring glance at the twins' long, red strands.
"I'll keep that in mind," Jefferson said as he continued on down the sidewalk, following the kids.
* * *
"Okay class," Mr. Wallace said. "As you probably remember, we won't be seeing each other again until Wednesday of next week because of the Easter holiday. So I hope that all of you have lots of stories for me about what you did while you were at home with your parents. Maybe you went on a trip ... maybe someone came to visit ... maybe you just played a game you like ... whatever it is, I'd like to hear about it next week."
A low murmur rippled through the class but Mr. Wallace called for silence again as he retrieved a stack of papers from his desk.
"I have something very neat which I want each of you to give to your parents when you get home today," he explained. "In two weeks, we will have Career Day here in our class and your parents are all invited to come in and tell us what they do when they go to work. Here, I'm gonna hand these out and then we'll get started with our reading assignments."
As he passed out the fliers, the class began talking again. Most of the students seemed interested in Career Day. Others didn't seem as interested.
Taylor sat in her seat, staring at her desk. She wordlessly took the flier from Mr. Wallace and pretended everything was fine.
* * *
When Brad Myers arrived at the Sweet Life Cafe, Monique had already secured a table for them. A chair had been taken away and she'd moved her wheelchair right up to the table, looking almost like any of the other patrons.
"So you got in here okay?" Brad asked as he sat across from her.
"Yeah," Monique replied. "No sweat."
She hadn't dared to be fashionably late for fear that some unforeseen obstacle might still arise to interfere.
They surveyed their menus, with Brad offering to hold Monique's for her.
"No, thanks," she said and began reading the long sheet of paper.
When the waitress came to take their order, Monique instructed her to bring some water and pour it into the plastic tumbler attached to her wheelchair. It took the woman a little time, but she eventually understood.
"You probably run into that a lot," Brad commented as the waitress walked away.
"Sometimes," Monique admitted. "I just handle it and let it go."
"You're so patient about it though. I don't think I could do that."
Monique managed a shrug and sought to steer the conversation away from her chair.
"What do you do when not having lunch at diners?" she asked.
"I'm an accountant," Brad explained.
"And you're out of your office during tax season? I'm not sure mine has ever left his office, period."
"I try to give myself some social time, even now. Otherwise I'd go crazy. Plus, my father's friends with one of my firm's partners."
Monique nodded and smiled.
"So what about you?" Brad asked. "You have a job?"
"I run a bookstore," Monique said. "I took it over after my mom retired and moved to California."
"That's cool. So it's set up for you to get around without problems?"
"Yeah," Monique said, starting to feel off about all this, "and the other people who work there help me out when I need it."
"That's cool," Brad said as their food arrived. "It's really incredible."
Monique felt a lot of adjectives were not being applied in the right way.
* * *
"Hey Uncle Jeff," Abigail said on the walk home from school, "my teacher gave me this."
She handed Jefferson a sheet of paper.
"What's this?" Jefferson asked, taking the paper despite not seeing its text.
"It's for Career Day," Abigail explained excitedly. "Parents come to our class and tell us what they do at work."
"Hey Taylor?" he asked. "Did you get one of these fliers as well?"
"Uh-huh," Taylor said, keeping her eyes fixed on the sidewalk ahead of her. "It's in my backpack."
"Can you come?" Abigail asked eagerly.
"I'll have a look at this when we get home," Jefferson said. "We'll see."
* * *
"What's on the menu tonight?" Jefferson asked, coming into the kitchen where Anya was working. She usually prepared dinner before quitting at 5:30, often joining Jefferson and the kids to eat.
"Solyanka," Anya replied, her Russian accent prominent as she pronounced the dish's name.
"Sol-what now?" Jefferson asked.
"It is a thick piquant soup with beef, cabbage, smetana, pickle water, cucumbers, olives, capers, tomatoes, lemons, lemon juice, kvass, and finally, salted and pickled mushrooms."
Jefferson gaped at her, stunned.
"If you get Abigail to go near that, I'll double your pay," he said. "Heck, if you get me to go near that, I'll double your pay."
Anya gave him a mischievous grin.
"I am kidding," she confessed with a chuckle. "I am making pasta with cheese sauce. I'm also baking a loaf of garlic bread to go with it. Abigail should be okay with that, if we just say it is plain bread."
She had already been subjected multiple times to Abigail's long list of foods she wouldn't touch.
Now Somewhat relieved, Jefferson chuckled as well. Anya had proven early on she had a sense of humor, which he had no problem with. She never overdid it and her jokes were clean for the kids' benefit.
"You need help with anything?" Jefferson asked.
Anya shook her head. A few seconds passed in silence.
"Anya?" Jefferson queried.
"Oh, I am sorry," Anya said. "I have not remembered yet. No, I do not need any help. I am almost finished."
Jefferson nodded. There were still some minor hiccups in their system.
* * *
Taylor sat on her bed, staring at the wall. Abigail was nearby, playing with a puzzle on the floor. They both looked at Jefferson when he knocked on their open bedroom door.
"Dinner's in ten," he told them. "Abigail, we're getting those clips out of your hair before that. Come on."
Abigail definitely did not look thrilled as she got up and walked towards her uncle.
"Hey Taylor," Jefferson said. "Is everything okay? You've been pretty quiet all afternoon."
"I'm fine," Taylor said half-heartedly.
"All right. You'll come talk to me if anything's wrong, right?"
Jefferson decided to leave her alone and took Abigail over to the bathroom to get the hair clips out.
When they were gone, Taylor got off her bed and retrieved the Career Day flier from the top of her dresser. She briefly looked at it before crumpling it up and throwing it against the wall. Then, with tears in her eyes, she hurried downstairs to where her shoes were.
* * *
"I like them," Abigail said as she and Jefferson came out of the bathroom, her red hair now clipless. "I look pretty."
"Well, when you get older, you're not gonna be looking so pretty," Jefferson told her. "I think your dad will want me to make sure of that."
"I'll explain when you're older," Jefferson said, thankful the removal of the hair clips had been a lot easier than getting them in there.
They entered the girls' room, where everything was quiet. Jefferson figured Taylor was still unhappy about something and he planned to talk to her after dinner. Hopefully, he could get her to share what was bothering her.
"Come on Taylor," he prompted. "Time to wash up for dinner."
There was no response.
"Come on," Jefferson said, clapping his hands. "Let's go,"
He still got no response.
"She's not in here," Abigail reported.
"I guess she already went downstairs," Jefferson concluded. He knew she couldn't be in the bathroom because they had just come from there and they hadn't passed her in the hallway.
Jefferson and Abigail went downstairs, summoning Matthew for dinner along the way.
"Where's Taylor?" Abigail asked, looking around.
"What are you talking about?" Jefferson asked, his heart rate increasing.
"She's not down here," Abigail reported as Anya poked her head out of the kitchen.
"She is not in here with me," the nanny added. "I thought she was upstairs."
"She was ..." Jefferson said. "Abigail, take a look out in the backyard.
He hurried back up the stairs to check the third floor. But, the doors to his bathroom, bedroom, the attic, and his office were all closed, the attic door also being still locked. A quick sweep of the other rooms proved they were empty.
Coming back downstairs, Jefferson found the basement door was locked as well. Taylor couldn't have gotten into any of those places.
"Any luck?" he asked as he came back into the den.
"She is not in my room and definitely not in the kitchen," Anya said. "I have checked again and again."
"She's not in the backyard," Abigail reported. "Her shoes aren't here either."
"What?!" Jefferson asked, alarmed. His heart rate sped up even more.
"Her shoes are gone," Abigail said. "She didn't take a jacket."
Jefferson and Anya hurried into the foyer.
"Her sneakers are gone," Anya said with a gasp.
Jefferson bolted to the front door and found it was unlocked, which was definitely not the way he had left it. He yanked the door open and hurried outside.
"TAYLOR!" he called frantically. "TAYLOR!"
Standing on his front steps, he whipped his head left and right. Where had she gone?