Monday, September 6, 2010

Harter Union: Part Seven, Chapter 1

After six months in New York, I awoke in my spacious Manhattan apartment to the smell of Hazelnut Mocha Roast emanating from the kitchen. I slowly got up and followed the smell with my eyes still closed. I came up behind a five-foot eight redhead with long hair, glasses and wearing a light blue robe. I wrapped my arms around her, grabbing my ‘I &hearts NY’ mug in my left hand and hugging her with my right. “You know, I never used to drink coffee until you moved in,” I kissed her on the neck then took a sip of the coffee. “Perfect, as usual,” I sat down at the small table in the kitchen which we affectionately called the breakfast nook.

“Did you get a good night sleep?” she asked.

“As always. You already take a shower?”

“Yeah, I used that shampoo you like. The freesia.”

“That’s what I imagine heaven smells like,” I took another sip. “What’s on the agenda today?”

“Well, the team and I are putting the finishing touches on the promos for the new Anthony Conrad mystery and then I need to drive it out to Quogue, Long Island for Mr. Conrad to approve it.”

“I’m sorry. I have to proofread the new Clark Hemenway novel. Rumor has it that this’ll be his best one.” She sat down across from me with her cup of coffee. “Oh, I also need to meet with my publisher to go over my book’s deadline.”

“You need to extend it?”

“No, I actually finished it last night,” I smiled at her.

She squealed, stood up and hugged me around the neck. “You’ve been working on that book since before I met you. I’m so proud of you!” she hugged me tighter. “When’s your appointment?”


“I need to be in Quogue by two so hopefully I’ll be back by eight and we can order some Chinese and you can let me read it.”

“Of course. I wouldn’t have it any other way,” I polished off my cup of coffee and stood up. I leaned down and kissed her. “I’m gonna go take a shower.”

The redhead in my kitchen was Annie Tescott, my fiancée for three months. We met through mutual friends, fell in love fast and got engaged. We moved in together immediately and have been inseparable ever since.

We both worked at Manhattan-Rooks, Annie worked in advertising and she was nothing like any girl I ever dated and I was torn between asking her out or not. She was originally from Sault Saint Marie, Michigan and had a hint of a Canadian accent that was extremely cute. My best friend, Dustin Randall was friends with Annie and her best friend Amber Selkirk and they devised a plan to get us to meet: a huge dinner date at Sardie’s, which soon became our favorite restaurant.

Working at Baker helped me be more outgoing even though most of my conversations ended up in the gutter. I never told anyone about Maggie, Heather, or Melissa because I didn’t want sympathy for them. I never replied to any of the two letters Heather wrote me because I wanted to move on with my new life.

I loved my new friends and thought they were all unique. Shani Greeley was a very intelligent and very beautiful young black woman who worked for a multi-national corporation as a Deputy CFO and she was also a columnist for New York magazine. Dustin, my best friend, worked in the same department as me and had a four-year-old son, Michael, with an ex-girlfriend who lived in Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey. He hardly got to see his son because his ex, Beth McFarland, would always come up with some excuse why Michael couldn’t visit but Dustin was too nice and timid to sic a lawyer on her. Amber was an editorial consultant for Manhattan-Rooks, had four books of poetry published and a book of short stories. She’s also a contributor to the New Yorker and helped me meet my publisher and get my book published. Kate Haskell was my favorite of everyone. She was a third-grade schoolteacher who used to work at Manhattan-Rooks. She was my boss for the first month until she became a teacher. She never called me by my name, only by ‘Kansas.’

I was pacing in front of our big bay window as Annie sat on the couch, sipping a beer, eating Oreos and reading my book. “Aren’t you done yet?” I asked with nervous impatience.

“Of course not, dear. You asked me to read a 300 page book in one evening. It’s going to take awhile.”

“Gaar! I can’t stand the suspense!” I said, aggravated.

“Then sit down, Jeff honey. Why don’t you walk to Lio’s and get us some Chinese? When you come back, I’ll be further in the book, we can have dinner and then I can continue reading.”

“Nnn…I guess. I’ll be back in a little bit,” I left the apartment and Annie alone with my book. I came out onto Mercer Street near West Houston. As I got onto Houston Street my cell phone rang--Beethoven’s ‘Fur Elise’. I looked at the screen, it was Dustin. “Hello?”

“She’s doing it again!” he exclaimed.

“Again? Where’s she moving to this time?”


I sighed and rolled my eyes. Every month or so, Dustin’s ex would call him and threaten to move to another state and every time the state would get further away. “Okay, Dustin, this has got to stop. I’m gonna text you the number of this lawyer, Charles Sperber; he’s licensed in New York and New Jersey. He’s expensive but he’s one of the best family law attorneys around. He can at least get a court order to keep her in Jersey because women should not be this evil.”

“Okay, thanks Jeff. And congratulations on your book.”

“Thanks, Dustin,” he hung up and I text messaged the number to him and slipped the phone back into my pocket. I arrived at Lio’s and walked in.

“Aah, Jefferson Franklin! How are you and the wife?” asked the short Chinese man known only as Mr. Lio.

“She’s not my wife yet, Mr. Lio.”

“You need to reel her in, Jefferson Franklin. There's nothing like a good woman to stand behind a good man. Know what I mean?” Mr. Lio’s wide smile and wink made me smile as I pulled out my wallet. “What can I get you, Jefferson Franklin?”

“The usual, Mr. Lio,” I smiled.

When I arrived back home, Annie had dimmed the lights and set up candles on the dining room table and other places around the apartment. Soft classical music played on the stereo and the smell of freesia wafted through the room. Annie came from the bedroom, stood in the doorway and looked at me. “Welcome home,” she said dressed in a strapless blue gown with her hair up.

“You haven’t been reading have you?” I asked.

“I finished hours ago,” she said slowly walking toward me.

I sat the food down on the dinner table and took Annie in my arms. “You did? And you just let me dangle and worry? That’s not very nice,” I kissed her. “So what did you think about it?”

“Funny, scary, heartfelt and wonderful. I loved it. You have a bright future as an author. Congratulations,” Annie leaned up and we kissed in the glow of the candlelight.

Jeff's friends plan out his birthday and Jeff prepares for his book's publication.

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