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.
Taylor was grounded until Easter morning. Upon her release, she was instructed to get ready. They were all going out to the New York University Law School dean's home in Bay Ridge for an Easter brunch. It was an annual event where the law school's faculty and their families gathered at the dean's home for an outdoor brunch and casual socializing.
Anya was also invited, but she stated she had other plans. Jefferson had to admit he was curious who she always had plans with when she had time off, but he didn't pry. After all, it was her business.
Jefferson had invited Linda and her two kids, Jessica and David, and the group was all loaded into Linda's minivan. With Jefferson navigating, she negotiated the Manhattan traffic and they soon arrived.
Sending their kids off to play with some other children, Jefferson and Linda joined the adults at the gathering, where Jefferson introduced his colleagues to his new friend.
"What?" one person asked. "You're not calling her your girlfriend?"
"We're not quite there yet," Linda said, stepping in to defend Jefferson.
The conversation soon turned to the upcoming exams, which was when Linda just held her glass and nodded politely. After all, she had been a studio art major in college and worked as a museum curator. The law had never really interested her. But thankfully, the subject of the law was soon taken over by summer plans, which was something she was able to contribute to more actively.
The party broke up around noon with people going home to continue with other Easter festivities. Linda drove Jefferson and the kids back to his house.
"That was fun," she said when she and Jefferson were alone in front of his door. Abigail, Matthew, and Taylor had gone inside and David and Jessica were waiting in the minivan.
"I'm glad," Jefferson said. "They seemed to like you."
"What can I say?" Linda replied. "I'm a hot single mom."
"You'll hear no argument from me," he said.
"So," Linda queried, "you think I can work my way up to being called your 'girlfriend'?"
"Maybe," Jefferson teased. "You still want the title?"
"I don't have to put out, do I?" Linda asked and they both laughed.
"I'll call you."
Linda thought about kissing him, but she was sure her kids were watching from the minivan, so she decided against it.
"I'd better get going," she said instead. "Thanks again for inviting us."
She headed back to her car and Jefferson entered his house.
* * *
Since Jefferson's Easter break was one day shorter than the kids', Anya was in charge for the time he had to go to the university. He was not entirely surprised to find some chocolate eggs waiting for him when he arrived at his office. Feeling confident they were from Paula Franks, he tossed the whole basket into the trash. He was more surprised and less thrilled to receive a visit from Gloria Lawson just a few minutes later.
"The kids aren't here," he pointed out.
"Uh-huh," Gloria Lawson said. "And where are they?"
"At home. My nanny's watching them."
He did not move to rise from behind his desk.
"Does anyone besides your nanny ever stay with the kids?" Gloria Lawson queried.
"I've hired a couple of baby-sitters on occasion," Jefferson replied. He prayed she wouldn't want to interrogate those poor teenagers.
"Are they trustworthy?"
"They're well-liked by all the families in the neighborhood, and I haven't had a problem with them."
"Do you expect a problem in the future?" Gloria Lawson asked, pouncing on his choice of words.
"No. Now, do you want to tell me why you are here, Ms. Lawson? As I've said before, the kids aren't here."
"I just want to see what sort of work you do. See how it carries over into your home life."
Gloria Lawson seemed to be more surprised that he actually had a job than anything else. Jefferson had seen this before.
"I'm a law professor," he said. "I think that's mentioned in my file. I'm sure I've told you that before."
"It is," Gloria Lawson said. "Now tell me ... have you ever had any sort of inappropriate relationship with any of your students, especially the female ones?"
"I wouldn't have this job if I did."
Jefferson hoped Paula Franks was as far from the university as possible right then. Then again, maybe these two crazy ladies should meet sometime.
"Do you date?" Gloria Lawson asked. Her tone suggested the answer ought to be "no."
"Yes, I go out when I can," Jefferson said.
"Are you seeing anyone in particular right now?" Gloria Lawson queried.
"Yes, a woman who has two kids who go to the same school as Abigail and Taylor."
Gloria Lawson narrowed her eyes suspiciously.
"She's divorced," Jefferson added, sensing her suspicion. He wondered when he could report her for this behavior.
"Would you enter into a relationship with a married woman?" Gloria Lawson asked.
"No," Jefferson said, though he thought of Amy. But that definitely did not count as a relationship.
"Would you ever become involved with the woman you hired as a nanny?" Gloria Lawson asked.
"No," Jefferson said, actually surprised she would suggest that. "Never."
"The reason I ask all this is to make sure all aspects of the children's new lives are stable. For example, a man who frequently dates one woman after another for short periods wouldn't be so suitable."
Jefferson nodded, though he was sure she was really just fishing for a reason to discredit him. He again wondered at what point he could report her and what repercussions that might bring.
"What about this woman from this bookstore that the kids seem to be so fond of?" Gloria Lawson asked. "Would you consider her?"
"I've honestly never thought about it," Jefferson said, though he was sure Gloria Lawson would not be asking about Monique if she knew Monique was in a wheelchair. What was this woman doing anyway? Playing matchmaker?
"Do the children know about your current relationship?" Gloria Lawson asked.
"No," Jefferson said. "I thought I'd wait a while to make sure it lasts before subjecting them to that."
Gloria Lawson said nothing to this.
"I have a faculty meeting to get to," Jefferson said. "Is there anything else?"
"Not at this time," Gloria Lawson said. "But expect to see me quite often until your custody hearing."
She left without another word. Jefferson put a few things into his briefcase and left his office as well. He was sure Gloria Lawson would try to find more ways to discredit him and take away custody of the kids, but he wasn't worried. Eric, the self-proclaimed expert on the matter of child custody cases, had told him repetitively that his lifestyle didn't offer many problems for including kids. Jefferson was certain that not even Taylor's little field trip would be enough to warrant anyone taking custody of her or the other two. No, Gloria Lawson had nothing on him and it definitely angered her.
Nevertheless, Jefferson released a sigh as he walked. Despite not having to worry about Gloria Lawson, he had something else on his mind. He needed to take care of it, but he just didn't have the time right now to do it.
* * *
Monique was in her office, dozing in her wheelchair, when someone knocked on the door. She stirred and came to life as Kathy came in.
"What's up?" she asked.
"There's a gentlemen here to see you," Kathy reported. "He says he wants to talk business."
"You can tell him I'm not interested."
Monique knew all too well the meaning of "business". But, like some people before him, this man wasn't yet ready to quit. He barged right into the small office.
"Now wait just a minute," he said in a thick southern drawl. "Don't go judging until you've heard what I've got to say."
"Kathy," Monique said, "you can go back up front. I'll take care of this."
Happy to leave, Kathy stepped out of the office. Monique looked at this man, who looked like he could be from Texas or Louisiana or any of those southern states. He wore a brown suit with a string tie.
"So?" Monique asked, "what shouldn't I be judging before I hear it, Mr. ..."
"Teller," the man said, thrusting out a hand. "Evan Jay Teller, of Teller's Books. We're an expanding chain from McAlester, Oklahoma."
Monique accepted his hand but found the handshake to be all business, lacking any personal touch.
"And what can I do for you?" she asked.
"Your parents retired young," Evan Teller said, stating it as a simple fact.
"My father didn't. What does that have to do with anything?"
The fact her visitor claimed to have done his research and didn't seem to know this irked her.
"I'd simply like to offer you the same opportunity that your mom had," Evan Teller said.
"By buying my store and turning it into a part of your franchise," Monique concluded.
She knew all about Teller's Books. They were mainly a southern chain, but the owners were trying to expand. Their stores were actually quite similar to Monique's, but she saw them as "cookie-cutter" locations, each the same as the next while trying to put on a homey façade.
She'd gotten offers from Teller's Books before to sell her store, but she never expected the company's head to come waltzing in himself. She wondered who he might be visiting in New York.
"We're prepared to make you a generous offer," Evan Teller said, placing a packet of papers on Monique's desk, "and we'll of course be willing to carry over any of your employees who want to stay. Otherwise, we can make their transition to another occupation as easy as possible. You'd be able to retire anywhere with what we're offering you just for the store itself."
He slid the proposal closer to Monique, who didn't move to pick it up.
"I'm quite happy where I am," she said.
"With this offer, you'd also be able to improve your standard of living quite nicely," Evan Teller said. "I'm sure that's important to you, given your disability."
Monique narrowed her eyes.
"And who made you the expert on my disability?" she asked. "Mr. Teller, you might have done enough research on me to know it would be okay to shake my hand, but you know nothing about me. I'm happy here, as are those people you saw on your way in. I have received so many offers like yours before, and I've turned them all down. My store is doing well. People in this neighborhood like us and are therefore loyal customers. I have no intention of selling to you or anyone else. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to manage my store. You can show yourself out."
"If you could at least look over my proposal, I'd greatly appreciate it," Evan Teller said, clearly determined not to walk away yet. "My numbers are on the cover sheet. Thank you for your time."
He left without another word. Monique waited a few minutes in silence. She then picked up the proposal packet and pushed it through her shredder.
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.
Brad Myers: accountant whom Monique meets
Linda Carrows: mother of children at Abigail and Taylor's school.
Joan: Monique's nurse.
Kathy Quigley: a long-time employee of Mnique's bookstore
Frank Norris: a long-time employee of Mnique's bookstore
Samuel Bridges: a new employee in Monique's bookstore
Eric Nelson: Jefferson's colleague and best friend
Amy Nelson: Eric's wife and Jefferson's friend
Paula Franks: a NYU law student who is interested in Jefferson.
Beth and William Thomas: Jefferson and Stanley's parents. Abigail, Taylor, and Matthew's grandparents.
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 suitible to have permanant custody of his nieces and nephew.
Feedback is always welcome. Enjoy.