Monday morning, 9:20 AM
In her own bed, Sandy rolled onto her back and stretched. Aden had brought her home before he went to work at five that morning. Sandy climbed the stairs, then crawled into bed with Cleo curled up next to her. She slept like a log until her alarm went off.
Time to get up.
She wandered through her condo apartment to the kitchen. After the last passion filled nights, coffee was definitely in order. She started brewing a pot of coffee.
On her way to the bathroom, Sandy pressed the play button on her blinking answering machine. Hearing her mother’s voice, she decided to shower. She was meeting Aden at the gym at 10:30 after he dropped his kids off at their therapy appointment. Sandy washed, moisturized, and blew dry her hair. She was slipping on her bathrobe when her mother’s voice stopped talking on the answering machine. Sandy flipped the machine off on her way back to the kitchen.
Taking a long drink of coffee, Sandy leaned against the kitchen counter to wait for her mother to call on her ten o’clock break.
“Hi Mom.” Sandy answered the call on the first ring.
“Sandy!” Her mother exclaimed as if they hadn’t spoken in years. “How are you?”
“I’m good, Mom. How are you?”
“Worried about you, dear,” her mother said. “I tried to call you this weekend….”
“I just got your messages,” Sandy said.
“Clogged up your machine again,” her mother chuckled.
Sandy let the silence lag. Her mother only called for specific reasons. If she waited, her mother would get around to what she wanted.
“Elsa called.” Her mother’s voice was breezy, but the phone line echoed a chorus of ‘Sandy screwed up.’ “She said that she saw you with a man at the Avenue Grill on Friday night. Do you have a new boyfriend?”
“Well, Elsa said he was older than you and seemed to have a lot of money - nice watch, fancy car, paid cash. She said she walked by your table three times. She wanted to meet the man but you never even looked up.”
“I don’t remember her.”
Sandy took a drink of coffee. Elsa was her mother’s oldest and nosiest friend. Who knows if Elsa actually saw Sandy or if she heard it from someone else who heard it from someone who….
“Elsa said that he was holding your hand. Even through dinner! Holding your hand. She thought that you were already… intimate with that man. You know, Sandy, a man like that only dates young girls for one thing.”
“What’s that, Mom?”
“You haven’t let him… touch you already have you?”
Sandy didn’t respond.
“Oh Sandy.” Her mother’s voice dripped with disappointment. “A man like that…. You have to string him along. You don’t want to end up like Jill do you?”
“Jill’s a wonderful person. I wouldn’t mind being just exactly like Jill.”
“You know what I mean.” Her mother’s voice dropped to a whisper. “Alone with a child.”
“Oh. You mean like you?”
“Sandra. You are no match for a wealthy older man. He’s going to use you and dump you.”
“Maybe I’ll use him, Mom. I was thinking of spending all his money then dumping him.”
“You are not very funny, young lady. What does he do?”
“He helps run a company,” Sandy said.
“That man is way out of your league.” Her mother’s voice was conclusive. “Men like that don’t marry girls like you.”
“Maybe I don’t want to get married.”
“Oh Sandy.” Her mother’s sorrow came through the phone lines. “How will you ever have children?”
“The usual way, I suppose. Sorry, Mom, I’ve got to go.”
“I saw your father last week.”
“My father’s dead, Mom.”
“Your real father, Sandra.”
“Why do you interact with him at all, Mother?”
“I can’t help that he banks at my branch. Although he doesn’t have much money.” Her mother sighed.
“How do you know that, Mom?”
“He waited to come up to my teller window. He told me that you won’t even speak to him. He said that he saw you at King Soopers and you walked the other way.”
“Sandy… honey, you can’t blame a man for being an alcoholic.” Her mother gave another exaggerated sigh. “Gosh, your father hurt me more than you and I’ve moved on. I’ve forgiven him. You need to….”
“Sorry Mom. I’m going to be late. See you Friday for a color?”
“Yes, honey. I just get so worried about you. And with this new man….”
“Remember, I have that party on Friday,” Sandy said. “You have to come before work.”
“The party at Jacob Marlowe’s house. Is Jill still dating that gay boy?”
“Jill is dating Jacob,” Sandy said.
“Poor Jill. I guess a girl’s got to do what a girl’s got to do to feed her child,” Sandy’s mother said. “I just don’t want you to be in that position, Sandy.”
“Ok Mom. Love you. See you Friday morning.”
“Oh, love you, Sandy.”
Sandy hung up the phone. In years past, she might have been angry about the conversation. Today, she just felt sad. Not for herself. No. Outside of the surprised assault of gripping pain, Sandy never felt much of anything for herself. She felt sorry for her mother.
Her mother taught her independence, gave her siblings to love and more than anything brought her step-dad into her life. Her only real parent, he loved her, understood her, and protected her from awful, unspeakable things. Before he died, he even bought this condo for her.
When Jill told her that Jacob was adopting Katy, she reminded Jill of what her step-dad used to say. Souls find each other. Trevor never liked Katy much. Maybe Jacob was supposed to be Katy’s father. Just like her step-dad believed that he was supposed to be Sandy’s father.
Sandy couldn’t be too mad at her mother.
Finishing her coffee, she straightened the bed, cleaned Cleo’s cat box then got dressed for the gym.
“Um, Ok. You want to film this?”
“Yes, Dr. Lerner,” the producer said. “We’re taping for Oprah. She’d like you to show the painting and tell us how you found it.”
“Ok, yeah, I got a call last night,” Adam Lerner said. A trim, handsome man, he looked more like a rock climber than a curator of the Lab at the Denver Museum of Art.
“Can you stand next to the painting?” The camera man said.
“Um, sure.” Adam moved over to an oil painting.
“Ok, go ahead,” the camera man said.
“It’s a funny kind of thing,” Adam said. “Museum curators can make their entire careers on finding a great painting. I’m pretty young to be a curator. And I’ve been a curator for a long time. Finding a great work of art, like this, would solidify my career. Not that I’m unhappy in my career.”
“You’re doing great,” the producer said. “Just tell us the story.”
“At the same time, artists want their work to hang in museums. Most artists believe they’ve created great works of art.”
“When they haven’t?”
“Mostly. No. You can see there’s this collision of forces. The artist and the museum curator act in this kind of dance… of greatness.”
Adam took a breath. Over the last five years, he prepared for what he would say when someone finally asked and Mike was ready to tell. He just hoped he didn’t screw it up.
“Anyway, I received a call from Senator Patrick Hargreaves about a painting. Usually, I don’t respond to ‘come see my painting’ requests because….”
“There are so many?”
“Well, yeah. And we don’t have a permanent collection at the Lab. They got my name from someone who knew me or met me. Anyway, the Senator said that the painting was a gift from a local artist and he felt it was too good to keep in one collection. He wanted to donate it to the museum. Would I come for dinner? Please bring your wife. Oh, and the artist would like to remain anonymous. Of course, I was suspicious. But can you really say no to a Senator who invites you to his house for dinner? I couldn’t.”
Adam shook his head.
“I know they fed me dinner, and I’m certain it was wonderful. My wife went with me. I remember that. But honestly, when I saw this painting…. I don’t really remember anything else. I wanted to hide it, protect it… like a naked child in the freezing rain….”
“No one could believe we had what we had. We did all the tests - paint, xray, whatever. Was it a copy of a masterpiece? A fake? No, it was a new painter. This painting is a huge find. A real masterpiece. Then we asked to meet the artist. We had to force their hand as the artist didn’t want to talk to us.”
“If you say so,” Adam said. “All I can tell you is that a really amazing human being painted this painting and gifted it to the museum… through me. It’s considered to be one of America’s great masterpieces. We’ve received offers to buy it from major museums - New York, Smithsonian…. There’s no way we’re selling it. This painting belongs to the people of Denver and their Museum.”
“Is there anything else you can tell us?”
“He’s painted others.”
Monday morning, 10 AM
Jacob leaned forward to look at Jill. She was sitting against the back of the couch holding her cup of coffee. She hadn’t said much since coming to get him for his ten o’clock break. He wondered if she was irritated that he wasn’t sleeping as the doctor ordered. She didn’t look irritated. Mostly she seemed lost in thought.
But how would he know if she looked irritated or not? To him, her every expression was beautiful.
“We weren’t always wealthy,” Jacob said.
“You asked me why I had so much money if I don’t care about it at all.” He paused. “Listen, I can imagine how strange it must be for you. Everything is different for you, for Katy and for me.”
“But not bad,” Jill said. “I’m not moving back to the apartment because I’m unhappy or anything’s bad. I just feel…. I don’t know… like I should. I mean, you said it last night, we don’t really know each other.”
“I’d like you to stay,” he said. “Not as my nurse maid. I like your company. I like being in the same room with you, under the same roof. I think everyone does. How can I get to know you better if you’re somewhere else?”
Jill opened her mouth to respond then closed it.
“You started to tell me about making the money.”
“Right.” He noticed her diversion but didn’t want to fight it. “We lived in a little apartment until I was about five years old. Two bedrooms. Val and I shared a room. My parents worked. A lot. Val and I spent all our time either at school or with Delphie. I didn’t know we were poor. I guess we had each other.”
“What happened?” Jill asked.
“A bunch of stuff,” Jacob said. “In building the new airport, priority was given to women owned businesses. My mother owned a majority share of Lipson Construction because she put up the Marlowe mine as equity to start the company. Lipson got the work. They did such a good job at DIA that when they closed Lowry Air Force base, we got that work too. Then they closed the old airport…. Just before she died, my Mom reformulated the company by creating the board of directors, and we got to work on the T-Rex project. By the time she died, the company was worth a lot of money.”
“But didn’t you live in a big house in Crestmoor before….”
“My Dad had an inheritance from his Dad and his brother. It was hung up in litigation…. I don’t remember why. Something stupid. He got the money when I was four. He bought the house. He wanted the best for my Mom and he thought that was the best. She hated that house, but never told him until that last year of her life. That’s how they were. Kind to a fault to each other. Always doing what they thought the other wanted regardless.”
“Anyway, my point is that all of a sudden, I had all this money. I didn’t know what to do with it,” Jacob said. “In fact, I planned to just give it all away and only spend what I earned myself. Then my Dad came to Maine and…. Well, here I am. Outside of this place, I don’t really spend the money.”
Tucking her leg under her, Jill turned to look at him.
“We weren’t always poor,” Jill said. “Only after our parents died. I don’t know what they were thinking. I have more life insurance than they did and they had five kids. I guess they thought they’d live forever.”
“It must have been a hard transition,” Jacob said.
“I think Megan and Mike really suffered. They gave up their dreams for us,” Jill said. “If you don’t spend any money, how’d you get the car?”
“I bought you the car that Jennifer Garner drives. Or Mike said that Jennifer Garner drives that car.” Jacob shrugged. “It seemed perfect for you and Katy.”
“It is perfect,” Jill said. “I love it. So does Katy. But I don’t mean that car.”
“The Aston Martin.”
“Oh, isn’t that funny? It’s the car James Bond drives.” He laughed. “It’s actually Val’s. It was a gift from that producer guy, Kapanski. Val was here with Mike. She tells everyone she ‘retreats’ in Colorado when really she’s here with Mike. Producer boy missed her so much that he ‘sent a car for her.’ Mike went ballistic. I don’t think Val’s driven it. It had like a hundred miles on it.”
“Yep,” Jacob said. “I doubt Val will replace it.”
“Why did you drive it?”
“I thought I was going to die,” Jacob said. “I figured if I was going to die, I should at least drive the stupid expensive car and wear the stupid expensive suit. I’d never worn the suit before either. Val sent it to me so I could go to that premier. The one we missed last Friday night.”
“You thought you were going to die? And you still came to get me?”
Jacob took her hand in his.
“I think I said this in the car. You’re the very best thing that’s ever happened to me. Whether it’s one day or a life time, nothing’s going to change that fact.”
“How can you be so sure?” Jill asked
Jacob smiled then shrugged.
“I know my heart,” he said. “I never thanked you for saving my life.”
“Your compression dressing is the reason I didn’t die,” he said. “Thank you for the chance to sit here on this couch with you…. It’s wonderful.”
“You’re welcome. Thank you for the dress contract and the diamonds and adopting my daughter and….”
“Most of that doesn’t have anything to do with me,” Jacob said. “But I know. It’s overwhelming.”
“It’s overwhelming,” Jill said. “I’m caught between taking a break and wanting more.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, I miss my things. I know they aren’t much but they are mine. My things. My space. My life. I’m surrounded by your life and your things. They’re nicer than mine. Well, not this couch, but you know what I mean.
“And,” Jill moved so that her face was less than an inch from Jacob’s.
“I’ve never felt this way. I want more of you.” She kissed his lips. “More touching.” She slipped his hand under her blouse then kissed him. “More holding.” She shivered as his fingers caressed her nipple. She kissed him again. “More talking.” She gave him another kiss. “More love.”
She flopped back on the couch.
“Then I feel just stupid and crazy.”
“Why?” He asked. “I want all of that too.”
“Well, you’re recovering and should sleep,” she said.
“Uh, first one to the bed?” He asked.
He stood up then he fell to his knees. Jill screamed then laughed. He held up a large square cut diamond ring in his left hand. Clearly an antique, the center diamond was surrounded by a hundred light blue aquamarine stones in an ornate setting.
“Will you marry me, Jill?”
Jill’s hands cupped his face.
“Oh put it away,” a woman’s voice came from the stairwell to the Castle. “Shit. I have the worst timing. You’re not naked are you?”
Jill looked up to see a gorgeous woman with long dark hair and large blue eyes come across the apartment. She looked like a model or an actress, but her designer dress and Kenneth Cole shoes were too understated and professional. The woman looked familiar but Jill couldn’t place her.
“Get up, lover boy,” the woman said. “Hi Jill.”
“Samantha, you think I could have a minute?” Jacob’s face registered irritation and shock. “Maybe a knock?”
When the woman turned, she winked at Jill. And Jill realized that this was Samantha Hargreaves, Alex and Max’s older sister. Max told her yesterday that Sam had just moved back from Washington DC. She was a criminal defense attorney and Valerie Lipson’s best friend.
“The Denver Police are here to see you, Jakey. They don’t want to wait a minute.”
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