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 Monique Vasquez continues running her family's business while pursuing a relationship with Jefferson..
Their whirlwind of passion behind them, Jefferson and Monique were lying on her bed, catching their breath. Monique's hair was effectively matted to her head and the little makeup she had put on earlier that evening was now nicely smeared across her face.
"You still there?" Jefferson asked, still breathing heavily.
"Yeah," Monique replied. "Where would I go? Why would I have any reason to leave?"
"I was just making sure. You've been pretty quiet."
"I have to catch my breath," Monique said with a smirk.
* * *
A sudden noise startled Monique awake. She looked around her bedroom but saw nothing, not that there was much to see in the dark. She thought the noise could have come from another part of the apartment, figuring it might have been Presley. They'd left the bedroom door open and the dog was nowhere in sight.
Monique then looked at her bed and saw the spot next to her where Jefferson had fallen asleep was now empty. In fact, it looked like no one had ever slept there to begin with.
"Jefferson?!" Monique called, but there was no answer.
Feeling angry and hurt by the possibility that he had snuck out while she was still sleeping, Monique checked the time and saw it was 3:15 in the morning. Why go through the trouble of sleeping with me? she wondered furiously.
She then heard the noise again. It was definitely coming from somewhere in her apartment. Monique got out of bed and, still naked, walked over to the closet and pulled out her bathrobe. She put it on and headed for her bedroom door.
As she stepped out into the main room of her apartment, Monique heard the noise for a third time. This time, it was clearer and she was sure it was coming from her kitchen.
"Jefferson?!" she called again, cautiously moving forward. "What are you doing? You scared me half to death."
She stepped into the kitchen and immediately gasped, coming face-to-face with a figure dressed in black. Immediately recognizing this intruder, she tried to scream but no noise came. Nevertheless, the intruder pulled out a revolver and pointed it straight at Monique's chest.
"No!" Monique wailed, her legs frozen in place, leaving her unable to run away. "Please don't!"
A shot rang out and Monique heard a blood-curdling scream as she fell to the floor while a large red spot quickly spread across her chest.
Monique's eyes snapped open. She realized she was sweating, breathing heavily again, and her heart was racing. But she was alive and lying in her own bed again.
Was that a dream? she wondered, patting herself down to check for bullet holes. She decided to try and move her leg, but nothing happened. Monique let out a long breath. It had been a bad dream. Somehow, her brain remembered the sensations she had had when she was able to walk as a little girl and had incorporated them into her subconscious, combining them with a nightmare she had had so often before.
Still shaken from how real the dream had felt, Monique turned her head and propped herself up on her elbows to see the figure sleeping next to her. Wanting to make sure, she reached out with one hand and touched his arm.
This move startled Jefferson awake and he turned to look at her. Despite the limited amount of light in the room, she could make out his face.
"You okay?" he asked. "What's up?"
"Sorry ..." Monique said, now embarrassed for her own stupidity. "I didn't mean to ... it was an accident."
"Are you all right?" Jefferson asked.
Monique took a deep breath.
"What's wrong?" Jefferson asked, moving closer.
"It's nothing ..." Monique said. "it was nothing ... just a bad dream ..."
"Tell me," Jefferson insisted, pulling her against him.
"I woke up to a strange noise," Monique began. She recounted the rest of the dream, speaking in a shaky voice.
"That sounds like more than just a bad dream," Jefferson remarked when she was finished.
Monique said nothing.
"But it was just a dream," Jefferson reminded her. "You're safe. You're okay."
Monique shook her head.
"I've had it before," she told him. "Or others like it. I've had them every so often ever since someone robbed my store."
"You ever tell anyone about this?" Jefferson asked.
Monique shook her head again.
"You're the first," she said. "I usually sleep alone, so no one sees me when I wake up in the middle of the night."
"You've gotta talk to someone about this," Jefferson told her. "Someone like a therapist. Obviously keeping this bottled up isn't doing you any favors."
Monique let out a long low moan.
"Can I have my water bottle?" she asked. "It's on my nightstand."
Jefferson grabbed it and she took a long sip from the straw.
"It'll be all right," Jefferson said, still holding her as she quietly breathed in and out, trembling every so often. "You're okay. It'll be all right."
* * *
Monique's alarm rang at 6:00 as usual. She reached for it and hit the SNOOZE button. Next to her, Jefferson stirred.
"Morning," he said, kissing her.
"Morning," Monique replied. "Listen, you've got about half an hour to get out of here if you want to disappear before Joan shows up. Trust me, you'll never leave if she runs into you. The shower's all yours and there's a spare towel on the right side of the towel rack you can use. My shower chair should be folded against the back wall, so it won't be in your way."
As Jefferson headed off into the bathroom, running his hand along the wall to orient himself, Monique reflected on the previous night. Thankfully, her nightmare was now a dim memory, while her sexual experience with Jefferson was fresh in her mind. Monique smiled as she rested her head against her pillow and replayed it. For a while time felt fluid.
"Hey you," Monique said to Jefferson when he came back into the bedroom.
Jefferson came over and kissed her again. He then got dressed, Monique directing him on where his clothes had landed. He also helped her put on some pajamas, Monique's argument being it was better for her to be wearing something when Joan arrived.
"She's not gonna buy it," Jefferson countered.
"I'd rather try anyway," Monique replied. She also had him drag her wheelchair into the bedroom so she could get into it.
"Hey," she said, following him out of the bedroom and watching as he put Presley into her guide dog harness. "Thank you for last night ... for everything."
"It was nothing," Jefferson remarked. "It was fun."
Monique laughed. Jefferson soon left and she stayed strapped in her chair until Joan arrived a few minutes later.
* * *
Jefferson first picked the girls up from their school's indoor camping trip and then headed home to find Matthew and Anya already up and about. All three kids were immediately interested in what he had been up to since they last saw him.
"My business," he told them. "Grown-up business."
They persisted in getting an answer for a little while longer, but when he still wouldn't tell them anything, they gave up. Anya didn't ask him anything, but he knew she was all too aware of what had gone on.
* * *
Needing to stay late and submit midterm grades for his summer class, Jefferson was in his office at the law school, working on his computer. A knock on the door got his attention and he called for the person to enter. He was surprised to suddenly hear the motor of a wheelchair coming into the office.
"What are you doing here?" he asked, not that he wasn't happy that Monique had made the trip.
"I wanted to see you," Monique explained innocently. "It's been three days and we've only talked on the phone."
"Sorry," Jefferson said. "I've been busy."
"That's why I came here," Monique told him. "Plus, it gives me an opportunity to see where you work."
She looked around the office, which, unfortunately, wasn't big enough for her to move forward any further.
"Well," Jefferson said, "if you give me a minute, I could grab a quick bite with you on my way home."
"Sure," Monique agreed. She then heard a noise behind her and turned to see a woman standing in the doorway.
"Good," Gloria Lawson said. "I've caught you before you left."
It took all the energy Jefferson possessed to withhold a groan.
"I just wanted to inform you that a formal custody hearing has been set for August 14th. You'll be receiving the official notice in the mail soon enough."
Jefferson was sure this was not why she was here. And, sure enough, Gloria Lawson didn't move. She occasionally glanced at Monique, but her looks held contempt for the woman. Monique tried her best to ignore this.
"Is there anything else?" Jefferson asked.
"Yes," Gloria Lawson said. "I just wanted to see what was going on here. You said you were teaching a class during the summer, but I come here to see you socializing."
"Monique just got here. Monique Vasquez ... Gloria Lawson."
"Nice to meet you," Monique said. She thought about holding out her hand to shake, but Gloria Lawson clearly wasn't even considering such a gesture.
"Well," the woman said instead, "just make sure that when you're here at work, you're working."
She then left.
"I'm sorry about that," Monique said when she was sure they were alone again. "I didn't mean to cause any trouble."
"Don't worry about it," Jefferson said. "She would have found some other ridiculous accusation without you here."
"She's that sweet."
"We're still on for our 4th of July dinner next week, right?" Monique asked.
"Yeah," Jefferson assured her. "I just have this block party out on Long Island that one of my colleagues invited me to, but I should be back on my way to the city around five. So I'll definitely see you at 7:30."
"Come on," Jefferson said, shutting down his computer and grabbing his briefcase. "Let's go get that bite to eat. I could use a not-so-bite-sized drink with it."
* * *
"Do we have to?" Abigail asked.
"If you want to play under the sprinklers, you do," Jefferson told her.
With that argument, Abigail gave in. She hadn't been against the idea of wearing a bathing suit. She had been against the idea of wearing one during the drive out to Long Island.
"Hurry up and finish getting ready," Jefferson told her. "We're leaving in fifteen minutes.
* * *
Sure enough, Eric arrived with his minivan fifteen minutes later. He and Jefferson loaded up the three kids and their stuff plus Presley and they were ready to go. Anya bid them farewell as they drove away. She would be meeting up with Virginia and they were going up to Connecticut for a night for the holiday. Apparently, one of their friends had a boat up there.
Eric had to make a small detour in Queens to meet up with Amy and her sons. Since there wasn't enough room for everyone in the minivan, they were taking a separate car.
The drive out to Long Island took about forty minutes. Eric's and Jefferson's colleague, Dawn Shay, and her husband, Brian, were taking part in hosting a 4th of July block party their neighborhood put together. Dawn had invited several of her law school colleagues and their families.
* * *
Eric parked the minivan along the side of the street with Amy pulling the family's sedan in right behind him. The group walked the final block, passing several more parked cars, until they reached the wooden sawhorse barricading the area where the party was happening.
Dawn Shay made her way through the crowd and met them as they were walking around the barricade. Having met Abigail, Taylor, and Matthew only once before, she didn't remember them right away. Jefferson reintroduced everyone.
"Abigail?" Dawn queried, looking at the girl. "Anybody ever call you 'Abby'?"
"Yeah," Abigail replied. "but I don't like it."
"All right. I'll just call you Abigail."
Dawn's husband, Brian, came over.
"Anybody hungry?" he asked. "We've got burgers, chicken, and sausages on the grill and plenty of fries, salads, and beer to go around."
"Where are the sprinklers?" Matthew asked, excited.
"Right over there," Brian said, pointing out a nearby home's front yard, where several kids were already playing. "Enjoy."
, Jefferson helped the kids discard the clothes they were wearing over their swimsuits. While Taylor's suit was a one-piece with dolphins adorning it, Abigail's was a two-piece with a flower pattern printed across it. Matthew's swim trunks were plain dark-blue with a whit e Nike swish.
With their uncle watching their clothes, they were soon under the sprinklers, laughing and having fun with the other kids.
"The things that make a child happy," Eric commented, giving Jefferson a beer, his own sons having run off somewhere else.
* * *
Holding a Coke, he watched the three newcomers join the other kids under the sprinklers. The two redheads caught his attention. He smiled as he made sure his admiring glances stayed subtle as to not arouse suspicion.
* * *
"Hey," Frank said, coming over to Monique. "You've got another big date tonight, right?"
Kathy and Samuel, the latter manning the register, both looked up. Though it was the 4th of July, they were keeping the store open for a few hours, planning to close around two, when everyone was sure to be on their way to parties and barbecues.
"I do," Monique said, deciding not to deny it. "So?"
"Nothing," Frank said. "I'm happy for you. He seems like a nice guy."
* * *
"Uncle Jeff," Abigail said, approaching him, Brian, and Eric. "I have to go to the bathroom."
They'd been at the party for just under two hours and she was the first of the three to make this statement.
"There are some Porta-Potties two houses away from us," Brian said. "Direct line of sight from here."
"You can use those," Jefferson said. "Come back this way afterwards."
"There's a line," Abigail complained, seeing three or four people standing by the tall, thin, blue structures.
"You can come in our house and use that bathroom," Dawn offered, walking by and overhearing. "Come on. I'll take you."
"You sure?" Jefferson asked.
"It's no problem. I have to get more ice anyway."
"All right then," Jefferson told Abigail. "Go with Mrs. Shay. Don't make a mess."
"Thank you," Abigail said as she walked off with Dawn.
* * *
Seeing one of the redheads walking away with Mrs. Shay, he devoured the remainder of his hot dog and followed, weaving through the party in a deliberate manner to not alert anyone that he was following Mrs. Shay and the girl.
* * *
"There you go," Dawn said, pointing out a nearby door. "The bathroom's right through there. You know your way back outside?"
Abigail nodded and hurried off through the door.
Dawn retrieved another bucket of ice from the freezer and headed back out the front door, greeting one of her neighbors, a teenager named Aaron Chesterfield, along the way. She kept walking, not noticing Aaron slip into her house.
Once inside, Aaron moved slowly, taking his time and keeping one hand in his pocket. He turned into the hallway adjacent to the kitchen just as Abigail was coming out of the bathroom. She stopped when she saw him.
"Hey there," Aaron said with a smile.
"Hello," Abigail said, returning his smile.
Aaron moved forward slowly. Abigail began walking forward again as well, intending to pass him and go back outside. But she found him blocking her path, his hand still in his pocket.
"What are you doing?" she asked.
Aaron said nothing.
"I want to go back outside," Abigail insisted, no longer sounding cheerful. She tried to get around him, but he grabbed her shoulder and pushed her against the wall. She stumbled and fell, crying out.
"Let me go," She demanded, now scared.
Aaron crouched down in front of her, a lecherous grin on his face.
"Let's have some fun," he said, running his finger along the trim of her swimsuit.
"I'll tell," Abigail whimpered.
Aaron smiled as he pulled his hand out of his pocket, a pocketknife grasped in his fingers. He flipped open the blade, his grin growing wider.
"Now let's have some real fun," he said, moving even closer to her.