September 18, 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, Twenty-Five, Twenty-Six,Twenty-Seven, Twenty-Eight, Twenty-Nine
By Tuesday night, the bitter taste of Sunday’s brunch began to subside, as Jenny prepared for Andrew’s arrival. He was stopping by to go over the final details of the DIH speech he was supposed to give, and this would be the last time they’d get together before the big event.
They had been through this scenario before, but always at the coffee shop, not at Jenny’s apartment. This was more personal, she realized. Yet, she kept telling herself not to mistake kindness for interest, even though he hinted at their last meeting that they should meet to go to the film noir exhibit at the Prince Theater in June once classes ended. He was a member of the Philadelphia Film Society, and they did share the same love of old films, so she decided she would join, too.
This strange new world puzzled Jenny. How crazy were the lengths some women would go to get a man? Unlimited, she supposed, as evidenced by Charlotte’s plot to push Jenny and Andrew together, and her stepsister’s bizarre confessions the other day at brunch. Sarah was willing to marry this man, even though he may have cheated on her. That was powerful stuff that Jenny did not understand. Fiona, on the other hand, understood completely. Now that Jenny took pains to fit in with the way she looked and dressed, she worried about losing her brain in the process. She wondered if men went to such extremes, and doubted it. By nature, men and women were sexual creatures and they would always seek each other out. She was convinced women dressed for other women in the short time she made the extra effort, and not for men at all.
When her doorbell rang, she jumped, feeling excited and afraid at the same time. She even dressed for the occasion, wearing a tighter fitting dress, jewelry, and makeup. She hoped she did not look like a clown. She buzzed Andrew inside, and he walked up the stairs with his folder and brief case, looking like the classic college professor. Jenny had prepared peppermint tea the way they both liked it. They were about to sit down and exchange some pleasant conversation when someone knocked on the door.
“Excuse me,” Jenny said. “It must be my neighbor.” Jenny opened the door to Fiona, who stood there with an empty cup in her hand.
“I’m the proverbial neighbor,” Fiona said. “Can I borrow a cup of milk?” Fiona realized Jenny wasn’t alone and smiled. “I didn’t realize you had company.”
“That’s OK, come in. Fiona, this is Professor Andrews from Penn. He’s my book club leader, and he’ll be making a keynote speech at the DIH next month.”
Fiona’s eyes widened to take all in. “I didn’t know,” she whispered. “Sorry. I’ll make a quick exit.”
Jenny nodded. “Don’t be silly,” she replied, but she hoped Fiona understood she didn’t want her to stick around.
“Call me Andrew,” he said, extending his hand.
“Nice to meet you, Andrew.”
Immediately following her introduction, Jenny’s phone rang making her wonder if they would ever get on with this night. “Sorry about this, Andrew,” she said. “I’m never this busy, but you know what they say…when it rains it pours.”
Jenny answered the phone while Andrew and Fiona chatted.
This could not be happening now, she thought as she listed to a frustrated shipper shouting something about a customer refusing delivery. She knew she should pay more attention to what the angry voice said, but like a teenager in algebra class watching a cute boy, she could not think of anything but Andrew. She managed to pick up something about a damaged chair leg, and she knew she had to deal with this issue, and unfortunately it had to be now. It concerned a member of the DIH, albeit not a board member, but a customer who deserved the same courtesy. She knew this particular customer needed this chair for a dinner party over the weekend. When the conversation with the shipper ended, she hung up in a daze.
“I hope you don’t mind Andrew, but I have to run down to the store for about fifteen minutes,” she said. “Something arrived damaged and the shipper and customer are both blaming each other.” She smiled. “That’s not to say you’re not important Andrew, but…” Shut up, Jenny, she said to herself. You’re babbling.
Andrew smiled and nodded. “No problem, please do what you need to do. I’m not in a hurry.”
“I’ll keep Andrew company while you’re downstairs,” Fiona said. “I’m not in a hurry either.”
“Thanks, Fiona. I’ll be back as quickly as I can.”
Jenny ran down the stairs with her heart racing. Tonight of all nights! This was her big night, after all, the night when she decided to be brave enough to tell Andrew about the entire Carrie Grant situation and get his opinion. She raced back to the file cabinet in the office and sighed. It was a mess, she realized, and she cursed herself for not being organized. She typically was, but life had become so unexpected lately, she began to miss certain details.
After five minutes, she still couldn’t find the invoice, and the information hadn’t been entered into the computer yet, which added to the confusion. It rarely happened, but she even forgot which vendor shipped the chair. It came down to a choice of two when she finally remembered the invoice was up front under the counter. Her focus had been so off lately. She rushed to the front, and thankfully found the invoice right where she had left it, made a hurried phone call to the vendor asking for a replacement to be shipped overnight. She quickly called the customer, explained that a new chair would arrive by Thursday, and completed the task. She didn’t even notice if the customer seemed upset, but that didn’t seem important now. She wanted to get back to Andrew.
Jenny shut off the store lights and out of habit made sure the front door was locked and rushed back upstairs. She walked back into her apartment and she was greeted with an unexpected surprise. Fiona was sitting on Andrew’s lap kissing his neck, and the little tramp jumped up when she heard Jenny come in.
“Jenny, you’re back!” she stammered.
Jenny stood still, feeling a shock wave rush through her body. At a loss for words, she managed a simple, “Surprise.”
“Jenny, I’m sorry,” Andrew said, looking about as flustered as she felt. “Oh God, I’m embarrassed,” he babbled on. “I’m not sure what to say. It’s all simple really. I asked Fiona to the DIH gala, although I don’t know why, I expected to ask you tonight, and things got a little out of hand.”
“There’s nothing to be sorry for,” Jenny said while her heart broke in two. “You’re allowed to ask a woman on a date.” Those last words killed her, as she thought there was no accounting for his taste. If this is what Andrew wanted, cheap thrills after knowing someone for 10 minutes, he wasn’t the man for her.
“We should do this another time,” he said, his face flushed with either passion or embarrassment, but Jenny was sure it was passion. Fiona said nothing more as Andrew collected his things and ran to his escape. Jenny hoped she felt as cheap as she appeared.
“I will call you, Jenny,” he said. “Goodnight.”
Once he left, Jenny wondered if he was the world’s biggest snake, or he was Fiona’s innocent victim. Either way, she lost her respect for him, running like a scared child, and leaving his mess behind for her to sort out.
“Jenny, I can explain,” Fiona finally spoke. “I didn’t say I would go to the gala with him.”
“Thank God for that,” she shouted. “Instead you decided to jump on top of him. That’s sort of a mixed message, don’t you think?”
“No, not exactly. Oh, I’m sorry… so very sorry. Let me explain…”
“I think you should leave now, but please don’t forget your milk.”
“Jenny, wait, you’ve got to listen to me.”
“What could you possibly have to say, Fiona?” she snapped. “Are you going to explain why you made a play for the man I’m interested in? I can’t wait to hear this. Is it the old excuse that you can’t help who you fall in love with? That’s a classic. Happened fast this time, although 15 minutes might not even be your record.”
Fiona’s eyes filled with tears. Jenny realized her words were harsh, but Fiona deserved them.
“I didn’t think you were interested in him anymore,” Fiona cried. “You said you weren’t going to ask him out, and you told me to find a nice, available man. That’s what I tried to do.”
“That’s bullshit and you know it, Fiona! The reason I hadn’t asked him out yet is that I wanted to spend a little more time with him first. I was hoping he’d ask me! But I still care for him, and you know I do.” She watched the tears flow down Fiona’s cheeks without any compassion. She felt nothing but hate towards this pathetic woman. “Everything everyone says about you is true, but I always gave you the benefit of the doubt. And this is how you repay me.”
Fiona said nothing, fleeing the room as fast as she could, the same as Andrew before her.
“I’m done,” Jenny said with tears welling in her eyes. “Love is not worth the pain it causes.” She meant every word realizing she had been much happier without it.