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, NYU law professor Jefferson Thomas brings his young nieces and nephew to live with him. Meanwhile, local bookstore owner Monique Vasquez continues running her family's business while pursuing a relationship with Jefferson.
"Hey man," Eric said, coming into Jefferson's office at the law school, followed closely by Amy.
Surprised, Jefferson looked up towards them.
"What are you two doing here?" he inquired.
"We came by to see how you were doing," Amy explained. "Everything okay?"
"We're hanging in there. I've gotten Abigail into more therapy and Anya's been great with helping to keep her upbeat at home."
This was his first day back at work since the 4th of July party four days ago. Abigail was coming around a bit, but she still wasn't the same happy child with too much energy. The therapist explained that, since a stranger had attacked and abused her, she would seek to trust Jefferson even more in the hopes he would protect her. So far, he had been reluctant to let her out of his sight when they weren't at home.
Jefferson himself was also starting to come around. While he had definitely not accepted what had happened, he now understood that he had to move forward and, more importantly, he had to help Abigail move forward. He also had to somehow make Taylor and Matthew understand what happened to their sister. He hoped it would help them in the long run.
Abigail had endured two more nightmares, but she was working past those. Jefferson was thankful he didn't have to spend any more nights on the floor in her room, as he was just starting to sleep again himself.
"Do you need anything?" Amy asked.
"No, I'm fine," Jefferson told her. "Thanks."
Studying her, he realized he was seeing her differently. His passionate longing for her had diminished. This was his friend, and his best friend's wife. He had a woman he was in love with, someone he saw a future with. Despite everything, Jefferson managed a smile.
"How's Dawn doing?" Eric asked. "I haven't had a chance to speak to her."
"She still feels guilty," Jefferson said. "She's called me a number of times with apologies. I've told her it wasn't her fault, but still ..."
"Do us all a favor," Amy said. "Tell yourself that. It wasn't your fault either."
* * *
Monique moved her wheelchair up to the sliding glass door of Jefferson's house and knocked. He soon answered it and, upon learning who was there, invited her in.
"Do you have someone you trust who could watch the kids?" Monique asked.
"Why?" Jefferson asked.
"I wanna get you out of town. You need to take care of yourself as much as you need to take care of them right now. I want to take you to this cabin down in Pasadena, Maryland, by the Patapsco River. Some friends of my mother own it and I snagged it for us for a weekend. No cost. They do a lot of wine-tasting in the area."
"That's your solution? You, me, and alcohol?"
"Makes me feel better."
"I don't know ..." he said.
"So don't answer now," Monique offered. "Think about it. I made the arrangements for two and a half weeks from now. So just think about it for now."
* * *
Eventually Jefferson gave in to Monique's suggestion. He decided to take the kids down to Charlottesville to stay with their grandparents while he went just a little further north for the weekend. Anya would just get the weekend off like she had when he and Linda had gone away together.
Thrilled with his agreement, Monique confirmed her reservation. The only catch to the plan was that Joan wouldn't be coming along, meaning Jefferson would have to help Monique out more than usual. When she brought this up, He said he would, so their trip was set.
* * *
The doorbell rang and was followed almost immediately by a series of brisk knocks. Jefferson went to answer it while the kids, who were playing in the den, looked up with some interest. Anya poked her head out of the kitchen, where she had been putting dirty dishes into the dishwasher.
"Yes?" Jefferson asked as he answered the door.
"Jefferson Thomas?" a man asked in a brisk, business-like tone of voice which matched his precise knocks.
"That's me," Jefferson confirmed.
"Hi," the man said, putting some emotion in his voice. "Nice to meet you. Jason Green from Children's Protective Services. I've been reassigned to your case. I've got my hand out here."
He thrust out a hand to shake Jefferson's.
"I've been working with Gloria Lawson," Jefferson said, not unhappy about the change but nonetheless curious. "What happened to her?"
"She's asked to be taken off," Jason Green explained. "She said she couldn't be objective. The bosses agreed and moved some things around. So now I'm here."
He was speaking rather quickly.
"Okay," Jefferson said. "Come on in."
Jason Green did just that, walking almost as quickly as he spoke.
"We're on a bit of a time crunch here," he said. "The courts aren't giving us an extension on your hearing, so I'll just have to make a lot of surprise visits between now and August 14th. So if we can work together through this, we should have no problem. Where are the kids?"
"In here," Jefferson said, leading the way into the den. He introduced the twins and Matthew to Jason Green, who greeted them each enthusiastically.
"You guys like staying here with your uncle?" he asked. "Is he feeding you right."
All three of them nodded but didn't say anything, somewhat put off by this stranger's energy.
"Well listen," Jason Green said. "Your uncle and I are gonna chat in the kitchen for a little while and then I wanna see your rooms. That sound good?"
"Okay," Abigail said while the other two remained silent.
Jefferson led Jason Green back into the kitchen and got him some water. While doing so, he introduced the social worker to Anya, who subsequently excused herself to go do some laundry. Jason Green asked to speak to her before he left and she agreed to come back later.
"Before we begin," Jason Green said to Jefferson, taking the water and sitting down. "off the record but on the issue ... I know you had some problems with Gloria Lawson and that she had certain opinions that impaired her objectivity."
"I'm here with an open mind," Jason Green continued. "I'll use her notes here and there, but I wanna learn about you on my own. So, the more straight-forward you are with me, the easier it is on everyone. There are gonna be problems ... there have been problems, but there are solutions. My guess is that some of the problems are resolved already to a certain extent. Essentially, you've got a clean slate with me, but not a lot of time. I have to submit my report to the judge by the 12th. So we've got about five weeks."
"Okay," Jefferson agreed.
"I'll start with the most serious incident I've got," Jason Green went on.
* * *
Jason Green left about an hour and a half later. Jefferson definitely felt better than he had at any time during his supervision by Gloria Lawson. This time, there was a social worker who was clearly on his side.
After the two men had spoken, Jason had talked to the kids some more and, as promised, had gone upstairs to see their bedrooms. He found nothing that alarmed him and he simply asked Jefferson to be allowed to look at Abigail's psychological records. He also spoke to Anya, being mainly interested in her qualifications as a nanny. He seemed to approve of her in the end. He then promised to be back soon and left.
"A professional," Anya remarked after the front door was closed, "but he did look at me the way so many do."
Jefferson would not comment.
* * *
The Amtrak train pulled into the station in Charlottesville. William and Beth were already waiting on the platform when Jefferson, Presley, and the kids got off. The kids immediately ran over to their grandparents, effectively leaving Jefferson to deal with the luggage. William soon came over to help him.
"Thanks for watching them for the weekend," Jefferson said when they rejoined the rest of the group.
"It's no problem," Beth assured him. "We've been wanting to have them over for so long."
"You just saw them early last month."
"We're grandparents," William retorted. "We could never get enough of our grandchildren."
He ruffled Matthew's brown hair as he said this.
"But you can get enough of your son," Jefferson remarked.
"You have your own life to worry about this weekend," Beth replied. "Let us just be concerned with spoiling our grandchildren."
"Don't spoil them too much. I don't wanna find twenty additional pounds on each one on Sunday."
Beth seemed to be ignoring him.
Jefferson helped get the kids' overnight bags out to William's car. He then said, "good-bye" to the twins and Matthew and waved as they rode away with their grandparents before returning to the station.
* * *
Strapped into her wheelchair with a roller bag being pulled along behind her, Monique moved across the small platform. She found a spot where she wouldn't block the foot traffic and waited.
Soon enough, Jefferson's train from Charlottesville arrived and she was able to get his attention and direct him towards her.
"Hey," she said after he kissed her. "I met your new social worker yesterday."
"Really?" Jefferson asked.
"He came by the store. Apparently you mentioned me?"
"You came up in our conversation.
"He seems like a nice guy. I'd say he's better than Gloria Lawson, but there's no contest there. You seem to be in good hands this time around."
* * *
Jefferson couldn't remember the last time he hadn't been in charge of making the arrangements for a vacation. It felt refreshing.
Not only had Monique ensured the cabin would be theirs for the weekend, she had also signed up for the Anne Arundel County paratransit service. Since she was a client of New York City's Access-A-Ride service, she could sign up as a limited-time guest with any equivalent service in the United States.
A small bus picked them up at the train station and, making two stops to pick up other passengers, dropped them off at the end of the long drive leading to the cabinet. Jefferson set one foot on the drive and realized it was made of gravel.
"Your chair going to be okay on this?" he asked. They normally didn't concern themselves with the needs of their disabilities, but there were exceptions.
They made it up the drive and Monique used her key to unlock the front door, describing the cabin for Jefferson's benefit as they entered.
"It's a ranch-style house," she elucidated. "It's got two bedrooms and the sofa in the main room is also a bed. Then, there's one and a half bathrooms. The kitchen's to your right."
She led the way into the master bedroom. Jefferson could smell the cleaning materials which had been recently used. Touching The bed, he realized it had been made.
"Good service," he remarked.
"It's a close friend of my family," Monique replied.
"Guess they want you to have a good weekend."
"I'm sure," she said. "I'm even more sure we can accomplish that."
She glanced towards the nearby bathroom door.
"You got the lecture from Joan about how I need help to use the toilet here," she said. "You ready to apply it. I haven't had a chance to relieve myself since leaving Manhattan."
Jefferson nodded, giving Presley a toy.
"Let's do it," he said.
* * *
William stood over the barbecue while Beth watched Matthew and the twins playing tag in the backyard. They were certainly making use of the extra space this much-larger yard provided.
As William and Beth watched their grandchildren play, they reflected on the loss they still felt. True, Stanley and Margret had been dead for about four months, but the pain was as prominent as ever. They figured Jefferson maybe felt it a little less because his life was now occupied with the kids, but the semi-retired William and Beth had free time to grieve.
Watching their grandchildren, the couple wasn't opposed to the arrangement of them living in Manhattan with their uncle. If anything, they'd get to see them more now. But what a trade-off this was.
* * *
Jefferson leaned in close and kissed Monique. She reciprocated, wrapping her arms around his neck and pulling his body against hers, the two of them sinking slightly into the mattress.
"Sure wish we could have left the curtains open," she commented when he had pulled away again. "It might have added a romantic touch to have that view of the bay at night while we made love."
"Or it might have given others a clear show of what we were doing," Jefferson suggested. "Any boat could have come by."
Despite his wealth, he'd never stayed anywhere so close to the water. The cabin's back door was less than a hundred yards from the Chesapeake's shoreline, a gentle slope protecting the property from potential flooding.
"Maybe I'm an exhibitionist," Monique cracked.
Jefferson kissed her again, running one hand across her bare chest.
* * *
"You're out of your mind," Jefferson said, staying only somewhat quiet. "I'm serious. This is more complicated than the arrangements we have to make before we can have sex."
Blushing slightly, Monique dearly wished to have the ability to kick him underneath the table. But thankfully, no one else seemed to have heard the remark as they were all listening to the woman who was running the wine-tasting.
"They don't want me mixing the wines," she told Jefferson. "I don't have enough tumblers and straws with me to do it myself. Just hold the glass up to my lips, tilt it slightly, and I'll take care of taking a sip."
"And you don't even want to try doing it yourself?" Jefferson asked.
"With the few glasses I have at home ... maybe. But these ... no way. They're practically designed for me to drop and break."
"Fine," Jefferson said, giving in.
As he held the glass, Monique grabbed his wrist and guided it up to her lips.
"Cheers," Jefferson remarked as she took a sip.
Monique's idea having worked, they continued to participate in the wine-tasting, getting the occasional glances and outright stares from some of the other people taking part. They ignored this.
* * *
Abigail sat at the kitchen table, watching Beth make a potato salad, Taylor was in the den, showing off her reading skills to William, and Matthew was also in the kitchen, playing with some refrigerator magnets. So far, he had thankfully not tried to put any of them in his mouth.
Abigail had repetitively reminded her grandmother of the foods she wouldn't eat, and none of them seemed to be making it into the salad bowl so far. Beth asked her why she did not like any of the foods she'd listed.
"They're yucky," Abigail replied.
Beth gave up and just continued working on dinner. Let Jefferson work with her on that, she thought.
* * *
With Jefferson's help, Monique had moved onto the couch in the cabin's main room. Jefferson sat next to her while Presley was sprawled out on the large carpet in front of them.
"Hey," Monique said quietly. "I've been thinking about something you once said to me, and I think you were right."
"Okay," Jefferson said, somewhat confused, "I've said a number of things to you since we've met. Could you be more specific?"
Monique shook her head.
"No," she said. "All you need to know is that you were right."
"I guess I can live with that," Jefferson remarked with a smirk.
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.
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.
Jason Green: a NYC social worker assigned to determine if Jefferson is suitible to have permanant custody of his nieces and nephew. Gets the case after the previous social worker, Gloria Lawson, asked to be reassigned.
Feedback is always welcome. Enjoy.