The alarm erupted at 6:30 a.m. with a shrill. Jenny stared at the ceiling letting the sound fill the room, and when it became unbearable, she rolled over her nightstand and pressed the off button on the clock radio. The harsh reality of last night made sleep impossible; all night she rehashed the conversation with Andrew, cursing herself for allowing her imagination to let it get this far. She let down her protective armor and he plunged the sword directly into her heart.
Worse, she remembered what she thought had been an innocent conversation with Melissa Babcock a few months back, when she confided in her that she found Andrew attractive, and wondered if he was single. That was difficult enough to say to another human being, and she didn’t know Melissa all that well, so why would she trust her? God, she hoped Melissa did not tell him about that conversation. She closed her eyes in shame and the tears welled in her eyes again.
She didn’t believe she ever had a chance with Andrew, but his confession last night took her daydreams away, and that was worse than dealing with reality. Those daydreams were her crutch, and although she could get along without a man in her life, she didn’t know if she could carry on without an allusion of one. Yes, it was pathetic and she didn’t fully understand it herself, but she could survive on that fantasy as long as the reality never set in. Last night, reality had hit big time.
She lifted her tired body out of bed and began her routine. Despite her sad state, she had a business to run. Somehow, she would have to find a way to get through the day. She managed to take a shower, dress and dry her hair with little effort. When she sat down to breakfast, realizing she had better try to eat something, the doorbell rang. She sighed. She was not in the mood to put up with Fiona, but realized she should apologize for blowing her off last night.
She opened the door to a coiffed Fiona, ready to walk the four blocks to work. “You hurt my feelings yesterday,” she said. Then her face softened, and Jenny could tell she knew something happened last night. “You look awful, Jenny. Are you OK?”
“I’m fine,” Jenny said. “I will be fine.”
“What happened?” Fiona asked.
Jenny had not told Fiona much about her feelings for Andrew. She never had the chance to, and did not want to risk it by making it real. She felt safer and less embarrassed that way. Fiona monopolized most of their conversations anyway with chatter about her love life.
“I found out my biography book club leader is seeing one of the other members, and it kind of shocked me,” she said, not needing to go further.
Fiona sighed. “Oh, Jenny, I’m sorry,” she said with plenty of compassion. “I knew you liked him. I could tell. Why didn’t you tell me?”
Jenny shrugged, her eyes teeming with tears. “I didn’t expect anything to happen, and now it turns out that it won’t, so why talk about it?”
“Because that’s what girlfriends do,” Fiona said placing her arm around Jenny’s shoulder, and walking in the front door. “Let’s have a cup of tea and chat a bit. It’s OK if we’re both a little late today.”
In a zombie like trance caused by the lack of sleep as much as her disappointment, Jenny sat at the table while Fiona prepared tea. It may have been her house, but Fiona knew her way around it.
Five minutes later, they sat at the kitchen table like two Irish lasses having their morning tea. “You know I can help you win him over,” Fiona said sipping the hot liquid sweetened with honey. “It’s not too late.”
Maybe for Fiona that rang true, but for Jenny, it was over before it ever began.
“You should let him know how you feel about him,” Fiona said. “No man can resist a woman’s desire for him. It will put you in a different light in his eyes. Besides, this is the first man I have known you to care about in a long time, Jenny. You deserve to be happy.”
“So does Melissa. I can’t come between them. I’m not like you.” She watched Fiona wince, and felt bad. She hadn’t meant it to come out that way. “I’m sorry, Fiona. She offered her friend a half-smile. “I guess you want to lay into me now.”
Fiona offered back a smile of relief. “In my heart, I know you are right, but you are stronger than I am. Believe it or not, I respect you for that.” She paused for a moment and took a sip of the hot tea. “Doug broke up with me last night, Jenny, so I had a rough one too. I wish I could think the way you do, but I can’t.”
Jenny realized she could make real progress with her friend if this conversation unfolded correctly. “Perhaps that’s not a bad thing,” she said. “You must want to find someone who can be with you on the major holidays, right?”
Fiona’s eyes filled with tears, too. “I do,” she said. “I do. But I’m so scared.”
“What is there to be scared about?” Jenny asked, speaking as a woman with lots of dating experience. That’s a laugh. She was scared too. “You’re beautiful and charming and have a lot to offer any man.”
She shrugged. “Yeah, tell that to Doug. He broke up with me because his wife found out about us. He wants to make it work so she won’t take away his business. And for the kids, too, I suppose.” Fiona took a tissue and blotted her eyes so she would not mess up her eye makeup. “Do you know he had the gall to blame me? He said I told too many people about us, and that’s why it got back to her.”
Jenny smiled. “That’s probably true,” she said.
“I can’ help it,” Fiona said. “I talk about him because I am proud of him, and I want him back.”
Jenny shook her head. “No you don’t,” she said. “You want someone in your life, but I don’t believe it’s him. Find someone new, Fiona. He has a family that needs him.”
Fiona shrugged again. “I’m not sure I know how to leave him alone. It’s hard, you know, because my world is so small.”
“That doesn’t seem to slow you down,” Jenny said. “Maybe you should give therapy another try. There is no shame in it. These days it is a status symbol. I could use some myself.”
“And now I’m going to tell you something I haven’t been able to before. But it’s for your own good, you know.”
Fiona smiled. “I’m not sure I’m ready.”
“Get ready,” Jenny said. “It’s time to figure out why you go for the unattainable men, and why you end up sabotaging it. Correct me if I am wrong, but most of your relationships end the same way, because you’ve told too many people about it, and people talk. And don’t give me the line that you’re proud of these relationships and that’s why you talk to everyone about them.”
Fiona looked at her with a wave of shock on her face. “When did you get the degree in psychiatry?”
Jenny shrugged. “I’m sorry, but it’s time you listen to reason or you’ll continue this pattern and end up alone. There are only so many men in Philadelphia, you know.”
Fiona laughed. “Wow, I’m not sure what’s in that tea, but I don’t want to drink it anymore.”
“I’m sorry, Fiona. Promise me you’ll at least think about what I said.”
Fiona got up and put on her coat. “I’ll think about it, she said, placing her cell phone in the coat pocket. It had been by her side the entire time they were having tea, and Jenny caught her looking at it several times. Baby steps. That is all each of them could take right now.
Fifteen minutes later, Jenny opened the shop, and waved goodbye to Fiona through the window. They both received a major blow last night, and as tough at it seemed they would get through it. This felt like brand new territory to Jenny, and she felt determined to learn something from the experience, and make sure it never happened again. She had experienced unrequited feelings before, and although they were disappointing, it did not feel like this. She didn’t want to accept hurt so much because she loved him.
When the UPS delivery truck parked in front of the store, Jenny welcomed the distraction. Most likely the buttons had arrived, and when the man in brown handed her the package, she signed for it and then opened it with gusto. Inside the velvet pouch, wrapped in tissue paper and bubble wrap, sat three exquisite buttons that matched Mrs. Chadwick’s gown perfectly. She took the original out of the drawer below the register to examine them side by side to confirm it. She received a bargain. The distributer sold three buttons to her for $240. She figured they were still worth about $100 each, but she got a discount from the distributor. She wrapped one for Mrs. Chadwick, wrote up a bill for $125.00, and planned to add the remaining two to her growing collection. She realized that the high of a successful business transaction would not last long-term, but for now, she relished in it, and hoped she could ride that to get through her day.
Next, she left a message for Mrs. Chadwick who did not answer the phone. “Mrs. Chadwick, its Jenny from Pine Street Antiques. I have good news. The button is an exact match, and I have it here for you. Let me know if you want me to deliver it, or if you will pick it up at the store. Thanks.”
She could breathe a sigh of relief. Things would work out for both of them. For once, she had gotten what she wanted and fulfilled her client’s needs at the same time.
She jumped a little when the door opened and watched Charlotte Ampstead, another customer from the DIH walk in.
“Good morning, Jenny,” Charlotte said. “How are you today?”
“Charlotte,” Jenny answered with a smile. Charlotte insisted Jenny call her by her first name, unlike all of the other DIH members. “It’s good to see you. How can I help you?”
Jenny enjoyed Charlotte’s company. As the one member of the DIH who considered her feelings and treated her with courtesy, Jenny knew Charlotte would make a good friend. “I’m looking for a birthday present for my mother,” she said. “It’s still six weeks away, but I hope you can help me track something down that I know she’d love.” Charlotte showed her a picture of a Louis XIV mahogany writing desk that looked like it belonged in a museum. “It doesn’t have to be this model,” she said, “I’m looking for something similar.”
The way Charlotte smiled, she reminded Jenny of Audrey Hepburn in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” minus the cigarette holder. Charlotte did look stunning in a black dress and pearls.
“It’s beautiful”, Jenny offered. “I think I can find a few nice pieces for you to consider. Are you looking for a chair to go with it? Sometimes distributors won’t break up a set.”
Charlotte nodded. “I hadn’t thought about that, but yes,” she said. “Thanks, Jenny.”
Jenny smiled. “Give me a day or so and I’ll have some photos for you to view.” She jotted down some notes, and attached Charlotte’s photo to them with a paperclip. “So how are things at the DIH?”
Charlotte smiled. “They’re fine,” she said. “A little unrest between the board members here and there, but we’re on track.” Charlotte paused. “You know, I am sorry about your application, Jenny. I’ve been meaning to talk to you about it, but the time never seemed right. I know it’s sensitive for you. I do recommend that you try again. If it’s any conciliation, I voted for you.”
Jenny smiled. “It helps. I’m sure I didn’t receive another vote though.”
Charlotte shook her head. “Not true, you did have another vote. I know I shouldn’t be telling you this, but it was a tie. The head chair is charged with breaking ties, so…”
“Her vote counts twice,” Jenny said. “It’s probably for the best. Things are a little crazy.”
Charlotte smiled again. “So, you’re not going to try again? The new session starts in June. We could use someone like you, you know. You have so much knowledge and insight, and you have your finger on the pulse of the community. I can’t imagine why they can’t see that.”
“Maybe because they are immune to reality,” Jenny said. Her somewhat bitter mood made it easier to be truthful. “They should take a look at the real people and see what they need.”
Charlotte shook her head. “I agree, Jenny. I do.”
“Refurbishing the cobblestones on Elfreth’s Alley is important, but is it as important as feeding the hungry, or sending a well deserving kid from a low-income family off to college? I don’t think so.” Jenny felt a twinge in her stomach when she realized she revealed some private information she had overheard in the shop last week when Martha Chadwick and Georgia McKean had been involved in a heated debate on the topic. Jenny was in the back office looking through some paperwork to find a phone number for Mrs. McKean, who had been looking for two more dining room chairs to match her set, but she had over heard it all loud and clear.
Charlotte looked at her most likely wondering how she knew something no one outside of the DIH did, and Jenny realized that she revealed too much. “I read about it in the paper,” Jenny added, hoping to cover her tracks, but she knew well that the paper did not mention Elfreth’s Alley. Instead, it referred to the repainting project for the Betsy Ross House. How could she be so stupid? She had written the article! Now she had to find something new to focus on because that was to be her next piece.
“I do believe you’re right,” Charlotte said. She did not push it further. “I’m off to the Red Cross to help plan the Red Ball. It will be in October this year, and if you’re interested, we could use the help.”
Jenny nodded. “I’d love to help,” she said, still feeling flustered that she may have revealed too much. “Let me know what I can do.”