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 running her family's business while recovering from both a break-up and a recent robbery.
Jefferson was in his home office, putting together a lesson plan. He got up and went to use the bathroom only to come back and find Abigail going through his desk drawers.
"What are you doing?" he asked.
"Looking for paper," Abigail replied. "Taylor and I need some more."
"What did I say about not coming in here when I'm not in here?"
"But the door was open," Abigail protested. "I thought you were in here."
Jefferson stopped, seeing her point.
"You're gonna make a great lawyer someday," he remarked as he pulled a few sheets of paper out of his printer tray and handed them to her.
But Abigail's attention had been caught by whatever was in the drawer she'd been looking through when Jefferson caught her in the act. She pulled out a DVD case and examined it.
"I think that's my name," she remarked, trying to read what was scrawled across the cover. "Uncle Jeff, what is this?"
"I think that's one of the home movies your mom and dad made," Jefferson said, taking the case from her and putting it back.
"All of these?" Abigail asked, looking at the dozen or so DVD cases that were in the drawer.
"Yeah," Jefferson said, shutting the drawer.
Stanley had been a videographer by hobby. He'd filmed and downloaded hours of footage, much of which was then burned onto DVDs.
"Can we watch them sometime?" Abigail queried, interested.
"Maybe another time," Jefferson replied. "I've got some work I've gotta get done."
"Okay," Abigail said, finally taking the paper she had come for and hurrying off.
Jefferson sat at his desk again, but he couldn't concentrate like before. The home movies were now on his mind.
He'd found them in some piece of furniture or box of stuff that had been shipped over from Stanley's and Margret's former house in Berlin. They'd been in his desk all this time. He hadn't watched any of them and he hadn't told any of the kids about them until now. He wasn't sure why, but he just hadn't. He was sure Abigail would tell her siblings all about her discovery and they too would be asking him about them soon enough. But for now, he had to push them out of his mind and get some work done.
* * *
Jefferson entered his office at the university to find Paula Franks waiting for him. He couldn't help silently calculating how many days she had left until her graduation.
"Is there something I can help you with? He queried, sure she'd come in shortly after the janitor had done his morning run through the building, during which he unlocked all the office doors.
"I just came by to see how you were doing," Paula Franks said in her sweet and innocent tone. "I heard you broke up with your girlfriend."
"It's hit the papers already, huh?" Jefferson remarked, wondering how she had heard this.
"I'm always here when you need me."
Until you graduate, Jefferson thought, thankful when she was gone.
* * *
Jefferson was in his kitchen, thinking deeply with his face in his hands. An unfolded letter lay on the table in front of him, his iPhone lying next to it, the KNFB Reader app still open.
Matthew came downstairs to find his uncle in this position. He immediately inquired as to what was the matter. In the background, Anya could be heard cleaning up the den, singing to herself in Russian.
"Nothing," Jefferson said to his nephew. "I'm fine. What do you want?"
As it turned out, the boy simply wanted a juice box, which Jefferson retrieved from the top shelf of the fridge, well out of reach for the four-year-old.
With Matthew's needs having been met and the twins seemingly not needing anything, Jefferson grabbed the letter and headed upstairs to his office. He locked the door behind him, intending to keep the kids out at all costs for the time being. He headed straight for the phone on his desk and dialed a number he knew by heart.
"Hello?" Monique answered after a few rings.
"Hey," Jefferson said. "It's me."
"Oh, hey. What's up?"
"I need a favor."
"Does it require construction? I'm not good with hammers and nails and all those things."
"No construction, I promise," Jefferson assured her, not quite getting the joke. "It's this awards dinner that gets held for the graduating students at NYU every year. It's basically a rubber chicken dinner which I'm obligated to attend every year and I just don't wanna be the single guy there."
"And you were wondering if I could be your date for the evening."
"If you wanna be considered that. I really just want someone there to keep me from being the lone guy at the bar."
He'd originally planned to take Linda. He'd never even had a chance to ask her.
"Is that bar an open bar?" Monique asked.
"Yeah," Jefferson replied.
"It might not be that bad. I guess I'm in. What's the dress code and how rubbery is that chicken?"
* * *
Two days later, Jefferson discovered a pipe underneath the sink in his kitchen was leaking. Having no expertise on these things, he immediately called a plumber, who told him it wasn't an emergency. Someone would be there the next day and he should catch the dripping water in a bucket for the time being.
So, knowing he'd have to wait around at home for the plumber to show up, Jefferson was thankful he didn't have any final exams to Procter the next day. He simply took the girls to school and Matthew to the day care center, figuring it was easier to keep him out of the way. After all, he had originally planned to go to the law school for a few hours to post some final grades. With any luck he might still be able to do that.
By 2:00, the plumber had not shown up yet and Jefferson was getting nervous. It looked like going to the law school was out of the question by now, but he had to pick up the twins and Matthew. The problem was that if he left now and the plumber showed up while he was gone, he would simply leave and they could start this whole process over again. Anya was out grocery shopping and he wasn't sure when she'd be back. Jefferson needed someone's help.
However, everyone he called seemed to be either busy or just wasn't answering their phone right then. He wouldn't dare call Linda, the two having broken off all communication despite her not having left for St. Louis yet. So, resigned to taking a more complicated route, Jefferson called Monique.
"Hey," he said. "I need another big favor."
"It's not a massage with a happy ending, is it?" Monique asked.
Jefferson wondered where and why she came up with these responses.
"No," he said, focusing. "Unfortunately, it's a bit more complicated than that. Are you free right now?"
* * *
The large, wheelchair-accessible taxi van pulled up to the curb and the driver helped Monique get out. She gave him twenty dollars so he'd wait before she headed into the day care center.
She explained the situation to the receptionist at the front desk, producing a letter Jefferson had e-mailed her, saying he was giving the day care center permission to let her pick up Matthew. The letter was inspected and reviewed, as was Monique's ID, and Matthew was eventually released into her care after Jefferson's signature at the bottom was compared and verified.
Thankfully, the taxi was still there when Matthew and Monique came back out, with the latter explaining why she was picking him up. They headed over to the girls' school. Once there, the driver said he wouldn't wait this time, knowing full well how chaotic the end of a school day was.
"That's okay," Monique told him. "We'll walk from here. Thanks."
It was a nice day and the walk wouldn't be far. The driver helped her get out and sped back into the Manhattan traffic, earning some disgruntled honks along the way.
Getting plenty of stares from the parents and nannies waiting outside the school, Monique made her way over to an aide who was already stationed near the front doors in anticipation for the upcoming dismissal time. She showed the woman Jefferson's letter giving her permission to pick up Abigail and Taylor. Rather than having Monique come into the school, the aide went inside by herself to fetch the principal, Cynthia Langley. It seem to only take mentioning the names of the Thomas twins to get the principal to come outside. She looked at Jefferson's letter and then at Monique and her chair. She glanced at Matthew before returning her attention to the letter.
"Okay," she declared. "Just move away from the doors a bit. It'll be like a dam bursting in a few minutes."
Pleased that everything was going smoothly, Monique moved back with Matthew in tow.
"See," she commented, "I'm just as fun as your uncle."
Matthew shrugged, unsure of what to say.
Students soon began pouring out of the building to meet up with their parents, many of them slowing down to stare at Monique before moving on and questioning their parents about her. The aide, now back at her post, decided to help Monique out by calling for the twins and pointing them her way. I could have done fine on my own, Monique thought as the twins spotted her and came over.
"Hey you guys," she said, abandoning her thoughts.
"Hi Monique," Taylor said. "What are you doing here?"
"Your uncle and your nanny are busy at home so he asked me to pick you guys up from school. Come on. I'm gonna walk you home."
The twins paused, probably to develop a proper retort for Monique's comment about "walking", but they abandoned the idea and followed her.
* * *
The trip to Jefferson's house took about ten minutes longer than usual because of Monique's chair, but no one complained too much. Matthew eventually got tired of walking so he was allowed to ride in the chair by sitting on Monique's lap. However, he kept moving around, making it somewhat difficult for her to see where she was going.
"Sit still," Monique instructed more than once. "You're going to fall."
They finally reached Jefferson's house and the twins and Matthew hurried up the three front steps, leaving Monique behind.
As it turned out, the plumber had shown up while Jefferson would have been gone, so he had made the right call. He also made the right call when assuming that when the kids had burst in through the front door, they had left Monique behind. So he headed outside to speak to her. As he came out, Anya also returned home, carrying several tote bags. She greeted them and headed inside to store the groceries away.
"How's the pipe?" Monique asked.
"It's getting looked at," Jefferson told her. "Thanks for your help."
"No problem. I got quite the workout today."
"You want me to call a cab for you?"
"That's okay. It's not far and the weather's nice. I'll be fine."
"Thanks again," he said.
"See you on Saturday," Monique replied and headed off.
Jefferson listened to her roll away for a bit before going back inside in time to find Abigail interrogating the plumber. He sent her outside to play in the backyard with Taylor and Presley just as the doorbell rang.
"Close the screen door," he called to the kids as he went to answer it.
Momentarily believing it was Monique, he quickly reminded himself she could not get up the front steps. It turned out to be Gloria Lawson.
"Hello," she said. "I figured you would have the girls home from school by now and I thought I'd check up on things."
"Come on in," Jefferson said, figuring there was nothing she could call him out on today.
But Gloria Lawson quickly came across the plumber, who was finishing up, and used this to dig into Jefferson.
"How long has he been here?" she demanded.
"An hour," Jefferson replied. "Maybe a little less."
"You left him here alone while you picked up the kids?"
"No," the plumber said, coming out from underneath the sink. "He was here the whole time."
"So you let them walk home alone?!" Gloria Lawson asked, furious by now.
"No," Jefferson said as the plumber packed up his tools. "A friend of mine picked them up. I sent letters that gave her permission to do so."
He was sure Gloria Lawson passed Monique during her drive to the house but had paid her no mind. Going by her general attitude, Monique was probably invisible.
"Fine then," Gloria Lawson said. "That's all for now. Everything seems to be okay. I'll be back."
She left without another word.
"Tough lady," the plumber remarked.
"You have no idea," Jefferson told him.
The plumber also soon left but not before stopping to stare at Anya, who was reviewing the receipt from the grocery store. She was either unaware of his leering or just chose to ignore it. Either way, he soon stopped and left, Jefferson having missed the entire thing.
"I will go do some laundry," Anya told Jefferson, heading towards the basement door.
Jefferson sat down on the couch, listening to the kids playing out back. A few minutes later, the doorbell rang again.
It's like Grand Central Station today, he thought as he got up to answer it.
This time, a young-sounding woman who introduced herself as Virginia Miller was standing at the door. She didn't seem to be surprised by the fact Jefferson was blind, suggesting she knew who he was while he couldn't recall her at all.
"Can I help you?" he asked. He wondered if this was a student who had somehow obtained his home address.
"I'm looking for Anya," Virginia explained. "I wanted to drop something off for her."
"Come on in."
As Virginia entered the house, he stepped over to the open basement door.
"Anya!" he called.
The nanny came up in under a minute. She was surprised to see Virginia.
"What are you here for?" she asked.
"You left your jacket at my apartment," Virginia explained, handing it to her.
"Oh," Anya said, taking the coat. "Thank you. I am sorry but I have work to do."
"Oh, yeah. Right."
She turned to Jefferson.
"It's no problem," he assured them.
Anya then seemed to remember her manners and officially introduced them. She was acting particularly nervous and while she explained that Jefferson was her employer, she left out how she knew Virginia.
"Are you okay?" Jefferson asked, noticing her nervous tone. He wondered if Virginia was a drug dealer or something.
"I am all right," Anya told him.
"No you're not," Virginia said. "Sweetie, what's wrong?"
The gasp escaping from Anya's mouth told Jefferson everything he needed to know. The expression on his face told Virginia everything she needed to know.
"I'm just gonna give you two a few minutes," Jefferson said and went outside to join the kids, closing the sliding glass door behind him.