September 1, 2015 – Chapter One, Chapter Two, Chapter Three, Chapter Four, Chapter Five, Chapter Six, Chapter Seven, Chapter Eight, Chapter Nine, Chapter Ten, Chapter Eleven, Chapter Twelve, Chapter Thirteen, Chapter Fourteen, Chapter Fifteen,Chapter Sixteen, Chapter Seventeen, Chapter Eighteen, Chapter Nineteen, Chapter Twenty,Chapter Twenty-One, Twenty-Two,Twenty-Three, Twenty-Four
The chilly evening air deceived her, making it feel like February instead of the end of March. Spring had arrived, but winter wanted to hang on a little while longer. She walked along the streets the few blocks to the coffee shop shivering, but in a good mood. A little nervous, perhaps but also excited about seeing Andrew and bringing up the DIH gala, but happy just the same. If she were braver, she’d ask him to attend the gala with her, but the idea that he could attended as a featured author was a perfectly safe way to get him there.
When she reached the coffee shop, she glanced in the large window that faced the street and noticed that Andrew had already arrived. He sat in the back, seeping his tea bag in the hot water, with another placed cup placed in front of the chair across from him. Could he be with someone? Maybe Melissa? Perhaps she was in the ladies’ room. Jenny wanted to turn and run, but he spotted her and smiled. Too late. She had to go in. She proceeded slowly, feeling a range of emotions as she walked up to his table.
“I took a chance and ordered you a peppermint tea,” he said, pointing to the steaming cup. “I thought that’s what you had last time.”
She smiled and relaxed, realizing her paranoia turned out to be thoughtfulness on his part. “Peppermint tea is perfect,” she said. “Thank you.” Jenny unbuttoned her coat and sat across from him. He looked handsome in his navy blue sweater and khaki trousers.
“So how was the trip?” she asked.
He shrugged. “Nice, but different than I expected. You look great, by the way. I like the new hair style.”
She smiled, happy that he noticed, but wanting to focus on the task because his compliment embarrassed her a little. She noticed he described his trip as different, and he had to be referring to Melissa, or her absence. She wondered how far she could push the issue and still seem unaware. “I am sorry to hear about you and Melissa,” she said, coming clean. That didn’t take long. She was honest to a fault. “She came to the book club last week and told me plans had changed and that you broke up.”
Andrew looked down, and she tried to gage the sadness on his face. She could see it clearly. He was hurt. “Thanks,” he said. “Yeah, that was the unexpected part. Turns out it was a business trip, after all.”
Jenny felt bad for him and had to look away from his sad face for a moment. “I shouldn’t have said anything,” she said. “I’m sorry.”
“No, I’m glad you did. I was unsure how to handle the situation, and I’m somewhat surprised she showed up at the book club. I expected that I had seen the last of her.”
“Maybe you have,” Jenny said, her honesty continuing. “She seemed a little upset and left the club at break.”
Andrew looked puzzled. “I’m not sure why she would be upset. What did she say?”
Jenny shrugged and picked up her cup to warm her hands. Somehow it seemed chillier in the shop than outside in the cool night air. It must have been her nerves. “Just that you broke up, and she was surprised by it, that’s all.”
Andrew let out a small, nervous laugh. “She was surprised? That’s funny. She broke up with me on the way to the airport the night before our flight.”
That was surprising news. Jenny had assumed Andrew broke up with Melissa. Andrew’s face told her all she needed to know though. He was angry and hurt, and possibly, he wanted her back. “The book club discussion went well,” she said, feeling the need to change the subject — quick. “It’s obviously the club enjoys and respects your work. You’re very talented, you know. You should write more.” Yikes, maybe she was pouring it on a little thick, but she wanted to see him smile again.
“You know, that irks me to no end,” he said, not ready to let the conversation go. “She gives me an ultimatum that we need to be engaged by June or she’ll break up with me, and she acts like I broke her heart.”
Jenny stared straight ahead, feeling odd and at loss for words. Why did she tell him she knew they broke up? This wasn’t the conversation she wanted to have tonight.
“I told her I couldn’t commit to that kind of a timeline and that we hadn’t been dating that long, anyway.” He continued without needing a response. “I should have said I would think about it, but that would have been dishonest. We broke up in the cab right there. Then she calls me later begging me for another chance and telling me she’ll forgo the ultimatum. However, it was too late. It was out there and I didn’t think I could be with someone who would act so irrationally. And I told her that.”
Jenny sat still, listening to the half-crazed confession of the unraveling of their relationship. She should have been thrilled, but she wasn’t because Andrew seemed upset. He still had unresolved feelings for Melissa, which meant he wasn’t ready for another relationship. “Maybe it’s not too late,” she said making it feel as though she stabbed herself in the heart.
“I am sorry to unload that all on you,” he said, looking down. “I’m a bit embarrassed, Jenny. You didn’t come here tonight to listen to me ramble.”
She smiled. “It’s fine, Andrew. You needed to talk about it, and I don’t mind listening.” She took in his dark brown eyes and got lost in them. She wanted to reach over and take his hand, and even kiss him, and for a moment, she had the feeling he wanted that, too. He looked at her in that special way, she felt it for sure, but then he pulled away. “No harm done,” he said. “So, how did the book chat go?”
He switched gears so suddenly, and she went with the flow even though she had already told him it went well. “We had some good discussions, and I took some notes,” she said getting an envelope out of her pocket. “I think you would have been happy.”
He smiled a different kind of smile, one that didn’t seem warm like his others, but cool as she returned to being his pupil rather than his friend. “No doubt you did a great job,” he said. “You have a wonderful grasp of the material.”
Jenny felt uncomfortable, and wanted to get that warm feeling back from him. Right now seemed to be the perfect time to change the subject and talk about the DIH gala. She took a deep breath and let it go. “Are you familiar with the DIH?” she asked.
“Sure,” he said.
She smiled. “They are having their spring fund raiser in May. A friend of mine is organizing the event and your name came up as a possible guest speaker. They thought you might want to give a speech about your book, and autograph some at the gala.”
He nodded. “That is a good idea,” he said. “I’m impressed by the work they do and would like to help. When is it? I’ll check my schedule.”
“The first Saturday in May. Would that work?” She held her breath for a moment, hoping she would say yes.
“It’s near the end of the term, but it should be fine,” he said. “You can tell your friend to pencil me in and to give me a call with the details.”
Jenny smiled. “I’ll do that. Thank you, Andrew. And feel free to bring a date.” As soon as she said the words, she wanted to take them back, but it was too late. Not only didn’t she mean them, but he had just broken up with someone so it was if she had poured salt in both of their wounds.
He didn’t repond, which made her feel uncomfortable. At that moment, she looked out the window and saw one of her stepsister’s fiancés walking down the street looking chummy with a tall, slender brunette. He looked like he wanted to consume her, and it made Jenny even more uncomfortable. She was not sure at first which one he was but then she realized it was Roger, Sarah’s fiancé, and for the first time, she felt sorry for her stepsister.
“Is something wrong?” Andrew asked.
She looked back from the window and smiled. “I thought I just saw someone I knew.” Should she tell Sarah what she saw? The night was not going well at all. “So, tell me about England,” she replied hoping to get out of her head and back to this moment.
“It was nice. Chilly, as usual. But nice.”
“A good friend left for London earlier today. He put his house up for sale, and I’m not sure he’s coming back.”
“Wow, that’s a bold move,” Andrew said, and she felt that the warmth was back in his eyes. Moreover, she was glad.
“He’s originally from England, and his wife passed so he thought it best to return home for now. But yes, he it was a bold move nonetheless.”
“Have you ever been?”
Jenny shook her head. “I’m afraid my travels have been limited to the states.”
“There’s plenty of sites here to see,” he said. “But as an American History buff I guess I don’t have to tell you that.”
She smiled. “Niagara Falls is the most exotic place I’ve traveled to. I was six at the time. We didn’t make it to the Canadian side.”
He laughed. “You need to catch up on some traveling.”
She laughed, and for a moment forgot about her step sister’ cheating fiancé and Andrew’s sadness. “I have a passport, and I keep renewing it, so I guess I want to travel someday. There’s a possibility I’ll be traveling to Paris with my family later this spring before my step sisters’ wedding,” she said with a wide smile. Andrew had a way of making all of her troubles, even the ones concerning her stepsisters, disappear.