#Pitmad, #PitchWars

Last week was one of four times a year in which a #Pitmad or #Pitchwars is used on Twitter. The idea is that you use 280 characters to describe a completed story, and literary agents hit “like” if they’re interested in hearing more about the story. And that begin the process of connection to an agent and seeing if your work can get its way to being published.

One can’t pitch stories that are published.

There was one story I thought worth presenting, “The Neallys”, but I self-published it on Kindle, I put a link here, and I published it on Literotica. So it was ineligible.

That creates a dilemma. Do I refrain from posting anywhere in the hopes of being able to pitch a story either via one of these events or through an agent-query? Having come to this casually—my initial intent at writing was to post on Literotica—I was unaware of this whole world of writers pitching.

So the dilemma is whether to blow a chance to get a book deal by posting elsewhere first. There is one story that was begun as a possible one for Literotica that I think has the makings of a decent novel. I have the initial part written, but don’t know where it will go. I think the initial part went well, so I’m saving that as a real novel. When it’s done, I may pitch it in December or earlier via a query letter. But apparently there are a zillion query letters outstanding at any one time. I realize that I’m not the next Stephen King or whomever is the dean of Romance-with-a-splash-of-erotica novels.

Other than that, though, there’s quite a bit to be said for posting. At Literotica, I get a significant number of readers. The stats tell me how many times a story has been read—right now “The Professor,” a Summer Lovin’ 2019 entry, has 13.606 reads—but I don’t know how many of those are people who went through the whole thing. With a decent number of “favorites” and comments, it’s been read by a fair number. Other non-contest stories have a good number of reads too.

At this stage, posting my stories for free seems to make sense given my objective, i.e., to have people enjoy what I write. If there is a story I think worth a broader, more-formal distribution, that will likely change. For that story. But as a writer or an author, the first objective is to get readership, and Literotica, and I assume there are other sites for other types of works, works for me.

Not Fading to Black

In romance writing, “fading to black” is when the two love-interests are about to have sex. We know it. They know it. But . . .

For my money while I think Elizabeth Bennet was vocal during sex with Mr. Darcy, I’m sure that her sister Jane probably blew the roof off the joint with Bingley. I wrote in one story about the Dom natures of both Mr. Rochester and Diana Rivers. As to the latter:

take a look at how Charlotte Brontë described Diana Rivers: “If in our trio there was a superior and a leader, it was Diana. Physically, she far excelled me: she was handsome; she was vigorous. In her animal spirits there was an affluence of life and certainty of flow, such as excited my wonder, while it baffled my comprehension.” And the kickers: “Diana offered to teach me German” and “mutual affection—of the strongest kind—was the result.” Jeez, Charlotte, get a room! 

I started writing after enjoying romances on Literotica.com. The site runs the gamut from smut to tender romances. You find the latter by using the “romance” tag for the type of stories you like. So you have as an example Lesbian Romance. Here are my favorite authors and stories. There are a tremendous number of wonderful stories on the site.

What I saw in the stories I like, such as Carey Thomas’s “A Ghost of a Chance” (and she kindly helped me with “The Heallys,” my first book, and I used but renamed some of her characters) was the integration of sex as a natural and fundamental part of the characters’ relationships. When I write my stories, I go where the characters take me. It is true that erotic parts are important on Literotica (and that I get many more readers there than I could get elsewhere). But I found them important to my characters as well.

My stories tend to have long build-ups before anything happens. Once characters fall in love, they’ll have sex. Sometimes it will be “making-love.” Sometimes it will be “fucking.” I think individuals do both, and the language I use to describe what is being done—and on what it is being done—varies depending on what the characters are themselves experiencing at that moment.

I describe how the characters learn of their partners’ likes-and-dislikes. Some characters have hook-ups. Some characters engage in role-playing. My job is to tell stories. How I write and what I write about is not to everyone’s taste. I read every comment I get and many, including from my Beta readers, are helpful.

For me, the enjoyment comes from following my characters and recording where they go and having readers enjoy my characters and my telling of their lives.

Mary Elizabeth Nelson

Author’s Note: This is a stand-alone story. But it was done for a major character in The Neallys whose history is referred to but predates that story. This story fills in that history.

Catching Up

          My name is Mary Elizabeth Nelson. Much of my life and much of my story turns on the fact that I am a lesbian. Thus my initials, MEN, are ironic. Stealing from Dickens, this is my story but whether I am its hero is up to you, dear reader.

          I was born on July 8, 1963 in a hospital near Mill Valley, California, an affluent suburb north of San Francisco. My younger brother, Billy, was born there on August 5, 1966.

          I am an inch or two taller than average. My hair is jet black and since I turned 45 any gray that might otherwise be present has been chemically repressed. My face can best be described as “stern.” It would fit well for any number of hard-woman characters that populate any number of 19th Century novels. Particularly when combined with my broad shoulders and big thighs. A swimmer’s body.

          My father, William, went to Stanford and was a lawyer at a big firm in San Francisco. My mother, Mary, went to Saint Mary’s College, a small Catholic college across the Bay. She did volunteer work for our Mill Valley Church.

          I knew I was gay early on. Boys never grew on me and from high school my looks lingered on older girls. When I discovered the joy of masturbation it was always with thoughts of a girl. Or woman. Before college I had a few make-out sessions when we were sure we were alone, but we—all well-closeted—were all terrified of being caught. Nothing but drive-bys. None got past the kissing stage. But my lips and tongue confirmed what every other part of my body knew. That I was gay.

          I was a good student. Smart and clever with a creative streak. Some of my teachers recognized it. I had a crush on two or three of them. I could have gone to my father’s alma mater, Stanford, but chose Cal-Berkeley. He made enough that financial aid was not happening and my parents foot the bills for my tuition and room-and-board. I kept what I earned over the summer.

          Things of course changed when I got to Berkeley. It’s where I met Laura Johnson, the first woman with whom I was intimate. We had a class together, and I sat with her a few times in the library. After the third or fourth time there she didn’t pull away when my fingers happened to run across her wrist. A few days later we mustered our courage and were naked in my dorm room. About ten minutes after our clothes were off we were off. Neither of us had a clue but found our way to a 69, me on top, and we each had our first orgasm at the tongue of another woman. We repeated it a few times, but it was training-day and she drifted off to someone else and I drifted off to someone else and we became cherished memories for each other.

          My “someone else” was Holly Usher. Sophomore heading to law school. Very pretty. An inch or two shorter than me with fair skin, long auburn-hair, blue eyes. My first girlfriend. We met at a dorm party where we were both bored. We did everything together for a few months but, ironically, she got bored with me and was taken by, and taken away by, a short blonde junior from Van Nuys. My first heart-break. I spent the rest of the semester without anyone steady and with only a couple of liaisons that were fun but fleeting. What are now called hookups.

          I worked at a law firm over the summer. While home my father never tired of speculating why I planned on majoring in English Lit and my mother never tired of asking whether I had found a man to settle down with. My brother, Billy, was a high-school junior and we ignored one another. There was never a doubt as to who was the favorite in the family. It was not me.

          I left the three behind when I got back to school. Sophomore year began much as freshman year ended. I threw myself into my classes and spent my free time mostly with groups of friends, sneaking beers and smoking pot on weekends. On the girl front, nothing serious with the occasional weekday hookup.

          One of those proved fateful. I saw Sally Ethers in the library. From Washington State and majoring, if I recall right, in economics.. She was sweet and one thing led to another, as they say, and she came up to my room on an early December Wednesday. Not long after an uncomfortable Thanksgiving in Mill Valley. Sally and I got comfortable. Lying on my bed, in nothing but t-shirts—bras and panties still on—kissing. Nice kissing and I was starting to fall into her dark eyes when I heard the knock. In retrospect it doesn’t make much sense, but I thought it was another classmate with something urgent and being pantsless being no big deal, I grabbed a robe and jumped up to answer. Sally hopped up too.

          I don’t know which of the three of us was the most surprised. Standing there in one of her Nieman coats with a purse over her arm was Mary Suzanne Nelson. My mother. Sally was behind me, in a robe and rustling to find her pants. Me staring at my mother and she looking past me and seeing Sally rustling to find her pants, the most obvious thing in that being that Sally did not have pants on. Neither did I. I was, sorry, fucked, but not in the way I hoped.

          My mother turned and walked away. I never found why she’d come.

          Sally and I never did anything then or later. Her bare legs set in motion the train of events that changed my life.

          It was quick. On Thursday, an envelope was under my door when I got back from class. Addressed to Miss Mary Elizabeth Nelson. A “Notice”:

            Miss Mary E. Nelson,

            Please be advised that William Allen Nelson is hereby exercising his right to cease providing any and all financial support to his daughter directly or indirectly from this day forth. Please be further advised that he has elected to allow his daughter to remain in her current position as a matriculated student at the University of California, Berkeley (the “University”) through the end of the current semester and to continue to reside in and enjoy the benefits attendant to such residence on the campus of the University for that period and no more. Insofar as his daughter elects to continue her matriculation at the University beyond the final day of the current term, all obligations, financial or otherwise, are hers and hers alone.

            Mr. and Mrs. William Nelson wish their daughter the best in her future endeavors.

            Respectfully,

            William Allen Nelson, Esq.

          I called from the payphone in the hall. My mother answered: “Mother. What is happening? Why are you doing this? Why?” The last thing she ever said to me was, “Mary, you know we can’t accept this. You may come home when you are ready to come home. You have keys. Your father and I will be out between two and four on Saturday. You can remove what you want then. I’m sorry. Please lock the door behind you and leave the keys.” She hung up, not waiting for a reply. “And leave the keys” were the last words I ever heard my mother say. I have no idea what my father’s last words were since I never spoke to him again. I saw neither of them again.

          Her message was clear: I was disowned.

          I still had exams but I didn’t know why they would matter since I wasn’t going back to Berkeley and doubted I could afford college myself. I needed to get my stuff from the house and figure what I was going to do after that.

          When I ran into Sally again, I told her what happened, barely finishing before the tears were back. She held me closely as we made people walk around us in front of the library and promised to try to think of something. I had similar conversations and hugs from a number of others, but Sally was the one who came through with something and so add my eternal gratitude to my list of things about her. She is truly a not-so-minor hero in my story.

          Sally had a cousin who lived in New York’s East Village. Danny Ethers worked at a florist off the Bowery. Sally gave me his number, and I put a bunch of quarters into a payphone at the library and called him. He said he’d be happy to help if I could get to New York and suggested that I might get a not too-expensive Amtrak ticket.

          Danny also said he had a friend who had a friend, a woman, who was looking for a roommate. The place was small but not crazy expensive. He also knew enough people that needed decent workers, especially in bars and restaurants, that I could probably find a job that’d pay the rent.

          I had enough money from my summer job that I could afford an Amtrak ticket. But before that, of course, I had to get my stuff.

          A friend had a car and she drove me to Mill Valley on that Saturday. She sat in the living room while I went through my things. I looked around my room but most of the stuff I wanted or needed was in my dorm. Here I took some photos and left the swimming trophies. I ran my hand across my set of Jane Austen’s novels and grabbed them. In my closet I found my long-treasured stuffed bear—Elmer. The only male I ever slept with.

          When I left and closed the door, leaving the keys on the hall table, I had five pictures, six books, and one stuffed bear. That was the entirety of the world I took from the Mill Valley house in which I grew up.

New York, New York

          Penn Station is a dump. It is the one spot in New York City of which New Yorkers think tourists are not critical enough. It has no redeeming qualities.

          Penn Station is a dump. It is where I fell in love with New York.

          It was December 30. I’d spent the days after moving out of school on a friend’s couch and since she was Jewish we went to a Chinese place for “Christmas” dinner.

          I was a mess. Physically. Mentally. Emotionally. A woman named Alice sat next to me when the train was in Philadelphia and while she was initially talkative and I was not, she adopted me before we left Trenton. She lived on Manhattan’s Upper West Side and was in Philly for a day trip. By Princeton she had my story and though she spoke of having a husband she cared not when I revealed—how could my story be told without that reveal—that I was gay. When we got to Penn Station and I was finally off the train, she called her husband, Harold, from a payphone. She then accompanied me. She paid for the cab that took us to my new small-but-not-crazy-expensive apartment on Avenue C near 7th Street. (Since I won’t have the chance to mention her again, I should say here that I still speak to her once or twice a year, with her now being in Orlando. I last saw her shortly before she moved after her Harold died in 2012. At his funeral. Alice was the first New Yorker I loved and the first to love me.)

          Danny was as good as his word about work too. I became a waitress at a restaurant on 8th Street near NYU. With work and exploring and forgetting about everything that happened and was happening in California I was happy for the first time in years. The staff of the restaurant, front and back, got along well. Within a few months I was part of the whole East Village/NYU universe. My gayness was never an issue; if someone had an issue with it, she wouldn’t be in this group.

          In August I went into NYU’s English Department. A professor, Marc Peters, was holding court with students in his office. He beckoned me in although I confessed to not being a student. He didn’t care. They were talking about Virginia Woolf and I knew enough to join in.

          When the others left, I stayed. He taught several courses in 19th Century lit and had a small class—about 15 students—on Jane Austen. I explained that I was forced to leave Berkeley for financial reasons and wondered whether, sub rosa, I might sit in on his class if there was an empty seat. Prof. Peters swore me to secrecy and made me promise not to tell anyone that I wasn’t a student. If enrolment did not fill the room the empty seat was mine.

          Enrolment did not fill the room and I took one of two empty seats on the first day of class. I sat after whispering a thanks to Prof. Peters. I was treated like any of the “real” students. Over time and debates I got to know several of them. One was Betty Anne Elliot whose name, yes, harkens to a well-regarded if too-persuadable heroine.

          Betty Anne Elliot. She was a couple of inches shorter than me with more delicate features. Her face was heart-shaped and with a long, slim Aquiline nose and a small but wide mouth. Perfectly-sized boobs, i.e., smallish. Light brown hair worn long and jewelry always simple. Of course I would fall in love with her. Madly. Deeply. However the poets put it.

          Over time the number of classmates with whom I drifted for post-class discussions dwindled until there was only Betty. And whether we talked about Austen or politics or we talked about California, where I was from, or Long Island, whence she came, didn’t matter. We talked and I breached my pact with Prof. Peters and confessed that I was a scab and left Berkeley after a year-and-a-half. Then, because it seemed natural to tell her, I said I was gay. I didn’t say that was why I left Berkeley.

          “Whatever.”

          That was that.

          She told me about Gerry—Gerard Allen. She grew up with him in Huntington on the Island. They were exclusive for about six months. She wanted kids. Throughout the semester her affection for him became clearer and clearer. I was happy for her. Then, right after Thanksgiving, she showed me the ring. He’d proposed over the holiday.

          Nothing changed between us. We still fit in time to see one another and she kept apologizing for monopolizing my time and denying me the opportunity to see “your type of woman.” I laughed it off.

          I met Gerry about a week before the end of the semester. He and Betty came into my restaurant with another couple. They sat at one of my tables, and Betty introduced me. While I gave her table extra attention, things were too busy for me to pay too much.

          In the spring, with our mutual class over, I did not see Betty. She spent more of her free time with Gerry, often up at Columbia. We didn’t talk much since I was working most nights and weekends. Just an occasional and usually brief call on one of my days off. Then that dwindled as well and I regretted it but I was out of her life even if she would always lurk in mine. It didn’t matter since she was now doubly off-limits—straight and engaged.

          I continued what I was doing. Mostly spending my free time during my out-of-kilter schedule hanging with friends and going on the occasional date. Sometimes going to bed if there was any chemistry. But something, usually my work-schedule, got in the way. I never go past a third date. I was not unhappy. To the contrary, I took up writing. I wasn’t thinking about Betty so much. She wasn’t popping into my mind as I touched myself before falling asleep as she often did at first.

Meeting Betty

          You know how my mother’s knock on my door changed everything in a flash? Much the same thing happened with Betty.

          It was early April 1985. I was preparing for the night’s dinner shortly before the restaurant opened. She walked in. She asked to speak with me. I don’t know when I had last seen her, probably briefly in February when I was crossing campus. She wore the ring. My boss said I could take ten, and we stepped outside.

          “I can’t stop thinking of you.”

          “What?”

          “Listen. I cannot stop thinking of you.”

          “Betty, you’re straight and you’re engaged. We haven’t seen each other in months. What are you talking about?”

          “I don’t need reminding. But look. And you can walk away if you want. I’ll understand. But I need to know. I cannot spend the rest of my life wondering. Look. I hope it’s . . . that you’re nothing special.” Seeing my reaction to this little “compliment” she added: “I mean to me. That I find out that there is nothing and can be nothing between us. And that’d be that. But, fuck, please. I. Can’t. Stop. Thinking. Of. You.”

          We were on the sidewalk, my ten minutes almost up. In shock.

          “Just one date. That’s all I’m asking. One girl-girl date. If, as we both hope, it’s nothing, it’ll be no harm, no foul.”

          “What about . . .”

          “Gerry. That’s for me. OK? If there’s no ‘we’ it didn’t happen. OK?”

          And that’s how I ended up meeting Betty for drinks at a bar in SoHo five days later. It was the worst date either of us ever had. Because there was something. Hell, I knew there would be when I agreed. We went out on several more dates on the West Side. By then I had moved to a one-bedroom on West 83rd Street.        

          On a Sunday in May we made love. It was the only time we consummated our relationship. We both knew it would be. We both knew it was stupid. Before we walked to my apartment, she told me she loved me. I had long loved her but I knew I couldn’t say it and I didn’t. We knew it didn’t matter. She made her commitment to Gerry and was not going to walk away from it and from her family. This was 1985, remember, and things were a lot different then. They still are for some families.

          “I don’t have the courage to do what you did.” And I held her before we got to my place and we made love. I stayed in my bed as she got dressed and did not move when she gave me a final kiss. On my forehead.

          She was gone from my life, me put into a box placed in some spot in the rafters of her mind, aging like Miss Havisham and eventually forgotten. But, of course, I was Miss Havisham and I could not forget.

          I found out—I’m not sure how—that she married Gerry and they had a couple of boys and lived up in Yonkers, a city just north of the Bronx. Near Sarah Lawrence College. It might as well have been the Dark Side of the Moon as far as it mattered to me. That’s all I knew of her.

Working Girl

          Between lunch and dinner at the restaurant I wrote. The words flowed. With four or five short stories, I sent them to magazines. No nibbles let alone bites. My third batch, though, got a nibble. A letter from the Holy Grail: The New Yorker. Yes, The New Yorker. A fiction editor called Shirley Davids said I “had promise.” On my next day-off I was sitting in her office on West 43rd Street. She, dangling and occasionally puffing on a cigarette (again, different era), went through—“ripped through” in time and manner—my stories. Six months later my first short-story appeared in The New Yorker.

          With the New Yorker seal-of-approval, my stories were no longer rejected summarily and eventually I had enough out to publish a collection with Random House. It didn’t sell many copies, but with the money I was getting from my stories I could almost quit the restaurant.

          I did quit when the gruff-but-lovable Ms. Davids—as she was universally known—got me an interview that led to a job at Time Magazine. Now I was making good money—again, another era—and on the road covering politics. The occasional appearance on MacNeil-Lehrer or Washington Week in Review on PBS.

          I thought of my family now and then. What of Billy? He was an ass but he was in high school when I’d last seen him. I decided to reach out to him. In 1986 he would have been a sophomore and I knew he’d be at Stanford. So I wrote him a letter. This was before I got to Time. It was simple,

            Billy,

            I am sorry about what happened between me and father and mother. I can only be true to who I am. I hope you can understand that. Know that I am always here for you.

            Love,

            Mary

          To “William Nelson, Class of 1989, Stanford University, Palo Alto, California.” About a week later there was a large manila envelope folded in my mailbox. I opened it and saw my letter to my brother. It was unopened and written across the back of the envelope, in all caps, was “DO NOT CONTACT THIS PERSON AGAIN.”

          I had tried. He was an ass. I’m sure my parents were proud of him.

          To get it out of the way now, I had no further contact with my brother until 2010, and I’ll get to that. In 1993 or 1994 I went through Time’s morgue—where copies of old newspapers were kept in those days—as I periodically did, going through the society page of The San Francisco Chronicle. I saw that on June 8, 1991, Kathleen Pugh, Daughter of Eric and Mary Pugh, of Glenview, California married William Nelson, son of William Allen and Mary Suzanne Nelson, of Mill Valley, California.

          Of course they did. There was a picture of the couple and their parents. His wife, Kathleen, was pretty, I’ll grant her that. If I could wipe the smirks off my parents’ and off my brother’s faces I would have. I kind of felt sorry for Kathleen Pugh Nelson but she walked in with her eyes open and it’d be a while before I came to hate her. That’s for later too.

          Since my job had me all over the place, I didn’t have the chance to enter into a committed relationship with anyone. I had some wonderful, torrid affairs. Some with married women. One transcendental evening with a tall Chinese woman in Shanghai named Nian Zhen that I cannot forget if I wanted to. Which I don’t. But I was too busy for anything else. The women with whom I slept knew what they were getting, or not getting, into. My sex life, I thought, was good and satisfying.

          I did not understand I was wrong. It was spring 2005. I was nearing 42, in my office at Time on Sixth Avenue. The switchboard said it was “a Ms. Allen” and not knowing any “Ms. Allen” I asked that the receptionist find out what it concerned. A moment later, “It is a Ms. Allen from Huntington. She says she knows you.” My heart skipped several beats and my breathing accelerated as I asked that she be “put through.”

          “Mary?”

          And of course it was her and in those two syllables my happy world collapsed. “Betty?”

          “Yes. I’m at a payphone near Rockefeller Center. Can I meet you or come up to see you?”

          It was a sunny afternoon. I was not on deadline so I told her I’d meet her on the promenade to the east of the Prometheus statue, towards Saks. Ten minutes later one of us was in the other’s arms. Probably both. I had not spoken to or seen her for nearly twenty years. Her wedding band was all too obvious. We sat among a recently-installed floral display.

          “Mary. I am married and I have two children. I will leave him—but not them—if you tell me you love me.” It was rehearsed, probably a hundred or a thousand times.

          What do you say to something like that? What is one supposed to say to something like that? I didn’t have a clue and I still don’t. I wanted to say—shout—“I Love You” but we’re talking about someone’s family. True as it was—and be clear it was true—I couldn’t say it and she knew I couldn’t say it. This was the beginning of something that was as likely to explode in our faces as it was to be anything good.

          “Betty. I am not committed to anyone right now. But I cannot commit to you. We have to talk.”

          With that we walked up Fifth Avenue to Central Park and through the Zoo and wandered north until I saw a bench along the path. We sat. On the way, I told her of what I had been doing—she told me she saw my byline now and then and that she subscribed to The New Yorker in case I had one of my stories in it (and for the cartoons). One, “Autumn Fling,” sounded suspiciously familiar. She was right. “Autumn Fling”‘s characters were left in limbo at the end, up to the reader to decide which way a man went when faced with two equally-compelling women, one of whom his parents approved but his heart did not, the other of whom they did not but his heart did.

          In a draft he chose the latter but that was too easy and it was left ambiguous in the published version. I regretted that she read it, though. I feared it rekindled an old spark and unnecessary regret. She made her choice and I did not want her to revisit it. It was my most personal piece. In telling me about it I knew she revisited us. I regretted that.

          I knew what she wanted to hear from me more than anything and I finally said it: “I never found someone.” In those days, of course, gays couldn’t marry so there wouldn’t be the tell-tale band. She told me of her two boys, Peter, who was almost fourteen, and Michael, who was nearly ten. All of these things were bounding around my head when we sat.

          “I don’t know if I ever loved Gerry. He’s a good husband and a great father. Even before I met you I had doubts. I should’ve listened to them but, you remember . . .”

          I stopped her. No point is going over this.

          “To now then. He may have loved me but, and it’s probably my fault, but I don’t think he does anymore. We’re both going through the motions. The sex? Even he’s lost his enthusiasm for me and I never really had much for him. We both kind of take care of our separate needs separately. Nothing extramarital though. So far as I know.” (And let me interject that in fact neither of them engaged in anything extramarital until after my meeting with Betty that day and she and I were out in the open with him. Gerry was, and still is, a very good man and a very good father and according to Betty he was a very good husband.)

          “Gerry and I have spoken about it. I think he’d be OK with me leaving. Not happy. But OK. We’d have to work out something about the boys, of course, but I think it could work. But it all depends on you, Mary. Do you love me?”

Mary and Betty

          I’d be lying if I denied loving her. There probably wasn’t a moment since shortly after I met her in that Austen class that I did not. It’s not that I didn’t try to find my someone. I just never succeeded. My life was not some fairytale. As I look back, maybe I did compare my other women to her. I was not, though, staring at my phone pining for her call.

          In fact, as Austen wrote, speaking of Captain Wentworth and Anne Elliot, “he meant to forget her, and believed it to be done. He had imagined himself indifferent, when he had only been angry; and he had been unjust to her merits, because he had been a sufferer from them. Her character was now fixed on his mind as perfection itself.

          And now Betty Anne Elliot was asking me to live with her. Now she was asking me to be a homewrecker. So I gave the only answer I, or anyone, could.

          “Betty, I need to think. I need time.”

          She nodded. We got up and resumed our walk north, past the Boat Pond and the Hans Christian Andersen statue I sometimes rubbed when I walked this way home. We left at the subway stop at 86th and Lexington, where she caught the Number 4 train to 125th Street where she caught her train home.

          And I turned and walked into the Park by the Metropolitan Museum and across to my 83rd Street apartment. I sat until it got dark. I threw something into the microwave for my dinner. Glass of wine. Maybe two. I knew that if she were unattached there would be no issue. But she wasn’t. She had two boys in school in Westchester.      I had no idea who I could call. I had lots of friends, but I could not open to any of them. Then I thought of, and you will think that I am making this up, but I did it. I worked for Time and I probably shouldn’t have but I tracked down Evelyn Donnell. She was one of my high-school teachers on whom I had a crush. I ran into her in a vintage-clothes shop in the East Village about five years earlier. She lived in Scarsdale, which meant she was married and probably had two-and-a-half kids and a Lab or Golden Retriever. And it turned out that she was married to a doctor and she was still teaching, at a local high-school.

          I called her and after I told her who I was she said she remembered me. I don’t know if she really did, but she was happy to meet on the following day, a Saturday. I called Betty and told her I needed time and she told me, and I’m sorry but I still treasure it, she’d wait “forever.” I didn’t want to hear that.

          I headed to the Harlem-125th Street Station, as Betty had a few days earlier. To Scarsdale. Standing on the platform when the train arrived was, I must say, a woman who did not look what I imagined a woman-married-to-a-cardiologist-in-Scarsdale looked like. For a moment, a nanosecond, the twinge of a crush shot through my veins. She let me call her Miss Donnell three times before telling me to cut it out. “It’s Ev.”

          She took me to a small restaurant, insisting I have wine “or I’ll feel guilty for mine.” After we ordered, I told her why I needed to see someone. She was a mother—two girls and a boy—probably ten years older than me.

          “I love my husband to bits. I couldn’t imagine being with anyone else and his existence makes me glad every day that I came to New York”—she too was a northern-Californian—“so I won’t pretend to know what your friend is going through if she doesn’t have that. I can’t know what she’s going through. What is it, the whole ‘all unhappy families are unhappy in their own way’?

          “All I can tell you is that I could not imagine the torture of living day-after-day with someone I did not love. Whether it’s you or someone else, if, and I emphasize the ‘if,’ if she does not feel that, it’s not for you to decide what she’s supposed to do.”

          She grabbed a piece of bread and buttered it before continuing. I did the same.

          “I’m a romantic and perhaps naïve but I believe in happily-ever-after. Not perfect but happy. So here’s my advice. If you weren’t there, weren’t available, would she still leave?”

          Our salads having come in the midst of this and the waiter having offered us pepper, both of us shaking our heads “no,” I looked over at Ev and thanked her. I did not know what I would do but I knew she was right. Which is what I told her. Then we moved to less-treacherous territory.

          We ate our salads and finished our wines and had our coffees—no desert thank you. We got up. I asked how far away Yonkers was. After she told me—about five miles—I nervously stepped to a public phone to call Betty. She answered on the third ring. I asked whether we could meet. She paused. I suspected that she feared I would end it, so I added, “It’ll be OK.”

          Where she lived was close to Bronxville, and she asked to meet by the train station there. When Ev told me she knew where it was, I said I’d be there. About twenty minutes later I saw her sitting on a bench in a small park near the train platform. I asked Ev if I could introduce her, but she declined. “This is on you. Good luck.” After dropping me off, she headed home. She became something of a support system for me from that day forward.

          On that Saturday, though, I had no idea what I would say to Betty. No matter how hard I thought as we drove down, I didn’t know what I would say to her.

          “Well?” She later told me that the minutes since my phone call were the most frightening of her life, and I regretted having extended it. It was hard for me.

          “If I told you I was happy with someone, would you still leave Gerry?”

          She panicked. “Are you?”

          I stopped her. “Betts. That’s an ‘if’ question. I need to know whether you want to leave him because of me or because of you.”

          We got up and she led me to another, larger park. She was angry. “I shouldn’t have done it. OK? It was stupid and I knew it was stupid and I did it anyway.” It took a moment but I got that she was talking about Gerry. “Everyone else was so fucking happy. Gerry’s a great guy. Everyone loves him. The problem is that I love him the way everyone else does. No More Than That. OK?

          “It’s supposed to be More Than That.” We crossed two streets and I could see where she was taking me.

          “Look, the thing is, Gerry does not matter in this. He simply doesn’t. It’s not there. He knows it. I know it. The only issue is the kids, Peter and Michael.

          “So I’m done bullshitting OK? You act like there’s some third ground, some two-step dance. But, Mary, this is my world. I know if I leave him and come to you that we can create a space where Peter and Michael can thrive. We would never cut Gerry out. But their mother can be happy and their father can be happy and right now neither of us is.”

          Again I was at a loss. I needed time.

          “Look, Mary, I told you I’d wait forever. I will. I promise you that it will work for Peter and Michael.”

          She paused for breath.

          “I’ve told Gerry what’s going on. But to answer your question, I told you I love him but not in the way I should. I need someone else. I want that to be you. If it’s not, I’ll have to search for her. This is me. Not you.”

          We passed the hospital and turned into the path along the Bronx River where a small lake appeared, finding a bench. When we sat, I grabbed her hands and turned towards her.

          “There is no one else for me. There never has been. I could have lived happily enough knowing you weren’t available. I can’t say that anymore. I love you.”

          She started sobbing. Enough that a number of passersby looked at her, one or two asking if she was alright. She was.

A Devoutly-to-be-Wished Consummation

          It remains one of the happiest days of my life so please indulge me. And, yes, I am lucky that each day with her seems happier than the last. But that all began on a Sunday about a month after I admitted my love for Betty. She told Gerry the specifics the night she and I met in Bronxville. He was, she told me, relieved. A blockage in their marriage was cleared and they could finally get on with their lives.

          Betty and I spoke regularly, and I met her in Bronxville on a couple of weekends, with her once taking me for a drive upstate—but not too far upstate—where I’d never been and which reminded me a bit of Marin County, with beautiful farmland and quiet towns.

          Sunday, April 24, 2005, though, was the date we agreed upon to make love. Gerry would be home in Yonkers. The kids would be out doing what they did in those days. Betty drove down. She got a parking space a few blocks from my apartment on West 83rd Street. When she came to my door after I’d buzzed her in she was ravishing. She wore a turquoise dress that went below her knees. Completely inappropriate for brunch on the Upper West Side. She knew it was special. So did I; I had a raspberry dress. We each gave ourselves a slight touch of makeup and wore two-inch heels.

          My heart skipped a beat when I saw her. She beat me to it and had her arms around me before I could move to her. The kiss. Rodin could not do justice to the kiss. My eyes closed—I assume hers did too but, well, I couldn’t see because my eyes were closed—and we inhaled each other. First just lips and then tongues unleashed until she pushed away. We both needed air.

          “That’s the appetizer. We need to get out of here before they discover our bodies in a week or two after a neighbor complains of the smell.” She smiled when she said it, but I knew it was true. I turned to get my pocketbook and keys as she waited on the landing, not daring to again cross the threshold.

          After locking up, I followed her down the stairs. We headed west, hand-in-hand, to Columbus Avenue, to a place at 79th Street, across from the Natural History Museum. We got a few stares as we did; we were way overdressed. A pair of women in their mid-40s holding hands and giggling like the schoolgirls we in some respects were. People passed and nodded to and mostly smiled at us; it was obvious, again, that we were on a hot date. One ass, male, asked if he could “watch.” We ignored him.

          It amazes me, but I recall the details. Perhaps from my waitressing days. The waiter in black slacks and a white shirt and white apron was tall and clean-shaven. The busboy was a short girl in her late teens with brown hair and a ponytail. The place was about half-full, the piped-in music originals from the Great American Songbook. Porter. Gershwin. And the rest. “Embraceable You.” “The Way You Look Tonight.” And the rest.

          We both had coffee and mimosas. Betty had Eggs Benedict and I went with Eggs Florentine. They came with a nice, lightly-dressed salad. I think we each had a few more coffee-refills than we should have. I know I, and I think she, had to use the ladies’ room before we left. She left a slight lipstick stain—a sultry red—on her coffee cup. I think she reapplied it after the kiss while I got my purse.

          I was high. On the mimosa, the coffee, and Betty as we headed “to my place.” That sounds so clichéd. But it is true.

          I couldn’t get the door unlocked and opened fast enough. The apartment was a one-bedroom. There was a slight hall with a closet to the right. It opened into a living room and to the left was the kitchen and next to that was a short hall to the bedroom. Queen-sized bed. Cheesy, yes, but I had candles strategically placed and some potpourri containers were open. The head of the bed was against the left wall, and the window faced north, out to a brownstone on 84th Street.

          She stopped in the bathroom, which was across from the bedroom. I made sure everything was in order in the bedroom while she did. I turned down the blanket. I can’t believe now that I did it, but I lit several candles and lowered and closed the blinds over the window. At least I didn’t put a scarf over a lamp.

          I heard the bathroom door open. If I did not have a strong heart I would not be writing this. I would be dead. Betty walked in wearing nothing. Nothing. It’s a vision seared into my brain. 5’ 5” tall. Her narrow face. Her light-brown hair draped about three inches below her shoulder, released from the bun into which it was placed earlier. Her tits sagged, but only slightly. They were perfectly shaped and perfectly sized. Her nipples could put someone’s eye out. She had a slight tummy and a wild bush. Her legs were, as Lincoln said, long enough to reach the ground with perfect curves as they got there. Her feet a little small, with red toenails.

          She reapplied her lipstick in a shade that can only be described as fuck-me red. She sashayed over to me. “Someone’s overdressed.” As she ran her right finger across my cheek and then down the center of my dress, stopping and making a small circle around my cunt. That’s what it was. My wet, needy cunt.

          Her eyes burnt into mine as she kept her circling. “Fuck.” That was me. “That’s the plan.” That was Betty.

          I turned so she could unzip me. I turned back and after shaking my arms, my dress fell to the floor. I stepped out of it. Then off went my shoes. I was in a lace bra and panties. She reached and undid the clasp in front, and released my tits. They were bigger than hers, but not by much. They sagged more than hers did but she immediately raised them with her hands. She kissed my right nipple and then my left. They’d never sparked, not even with Nian Zhen, the way they did while she suckled on and then bit them. I grabbed my panties and pushed them down and off.

          In all my years with all my partners, there had only been one that came close to doing what Betty was doing to me. That was Betty those decades ago. I ripped the blanket from the bed and led her to it. She lay down to the left, and I was next to her. I then got atop her, our tits pushing against one another. I leaned to kiss her and had I not been lost to her those decades before I was lost to her now. Somehow I was positioned so that my cunt was rubbing against her left thigh and my left thigh was rubbing against her cunt. As we kissed we were grinding into each other, completely lost in the passion. She suddenly pushed my chest away as she came, her body shaking. I was an animal, not caring about her but only about me and while she shook my legs clutched her thigh so that I could get off. Just as she settled back, my own explosion hit. Now I was shaking, saying nothing but “Betty” again and again.

          We both lay staring at the ceiling and trying desperately to catch our breathes. She began to sob. Her chest heaving.

          “You can’t imagine how long I’ve dreamt of this.”

          I could.

          She was on her back as I stood. I walked to the foot of the bed. Her eyes were watching my every move. My hands spread her legs a bit. She spread them more. There is hunger. And there was this. I could see her glisten through her hair. It was the most erotic thing I had ever seen. She knew what I was about to do and I knew what I was about to do. I knelt on the bed and bent down. With a lick I tasted her. Her head collapsed to the pillow and her hands grabbed my head and pulled me into her. The details of what happened next are lost to me. All I know is that I was licking and kissing and lightly nibbling on her as her stomach started rolling in rhythm with me.

          “In me.” It was half-plea, half-demand. I made my tongue into a circle and poked inside her cunt as far as I could. Her shaking increased as her ass started bounding off the sheet.

          “Fingers. Fuck me with your fingers.” It was all plea. I leaned back so I could look at her. Her cunt. Her tits. Her face. I didn’t need to lubricate. Nature saw to that. I placed first one then two fingers into her. Staring at her face, where her eyes were slammed shut and her mouth bubbling, I starting fucking her.

          “More.” Betty was losing control. Over her body. Over me. “MORE.” And I added two fingers and in-and-out. “Bite me, Mary, Bite me.” My face dropped to her and my mouth encircled her engorged clit. I licked it. She could barely say anything but she said, “BITE ME.” My teeth gently bit into her clit and that set her off. For a minute she shook as her orgasm crested over her, my fingers still moving, my teeth still nipping until I heard “STOP STOP STOP.”

          I did and quickly drew my body to her left side, my left hand lightly rubbing against her slight tummy as I watched her again try to catch her breath. Sweat was pouring from her as she slowly found herself calming down.

          “If you never did that to me again I would die a happy woman.”

          “What if I did that to you again.”

          “I’ll be dead. But I’ll be happy.” She turned to me and smiled.

          I will not get into details of what she did to me that afternoon. Suffice it to say that were I hit by a bolt of lightning as I walked her to her car, I would be a happy woman. While I sometimes wondered whether I’d set the bar too high, I find that over the years we keep raising it.

          But I did walk her to her car a few blocks away and she drove back to Yonkers. It didn’t matter. She’d be back. In some ways, from that consummation, she’s never left.

          I fear I went a bit overboard there. It is so seared into me that I couldn’t resist writing about it. I, um, enjoyed writing about that afternoon. If you’re wondering, we left a nice tip.

Gerry

          There is awkward and there was this. About two-and-a-half weeks after our brunch, Betty met me as I got off the train in Bronxville. About a mile from where she and Peter and the kids lived. I was coming to meet her husband. I had seen him once or twice with Betty in her NYU days. That was long ago. We walked the short distance to the restaurant, which was across from the hospital. As we walked—we had no physical contact—she tried to buck me up, saying he, Gerry, understood and they agreed it was for the best.

          “Relax.” She said it several times. Her saying it meant me doing it became harder.

          It was a Tuesday night and only a few other tables were occupied. Betty led me to a table about halfway down the right wall. Peter, who I did not recognize, got up. It’s-been-a-while-nice-to-see-you, nice-to-see-you-too, have-a-seat. Beyond awkward.

          Luckily the waitress came to fill our water glasses and take our drinks order. I don’t recall what I got, but I remember it was stronger than my usual. I needed bolstering. The place was nice and bright. Quiet with only the slight murmurings of other diners. 

          “I thought the three of us should meet.” Betty. She and Gerry had agreed about the divorce and the boys. It was “amicable” as they say, by which was meant not as acrimonious as it could have been. Each was largely independent already. It was all about the boys. 

          I liked him. Despite my better judgment I liked him. He loved Betty. She loved him. That much was clear. But given who Betty was it was not, and could not be, the intimate love that she and I had. It never had been. It never would be. That fundamental element was absent from their marriage. Gerry regretted but recognized that. So it was as non-acrimonious as these things can be.

          I can’t say that the awkwardness vanished. That would take years. By dessert I found myself comfortable with the husband on whom my lover had cheated with me. Not physically; that had been in the open. Emotionally. I think it took him a lot longer.

          Betty’s divorce was finalized in 2007. She remained in the house in Yonkers with the kids after Gerry moved into the City, to a one bedroom on the Upper East Side. Financially, things were getting tight for them. Betty had a good psychotherapy practice and Gerry was an architect.

          The logical solution. I would move to Yonkers. Betty cleared it with Gerry and I got along well enough with the boys. I met them about a week after that dinner with Gerry. Betty, me, and the two boys. It was tough on all of us but we survived it. They didn’t hate me. They resented me. Years later, though, each admitted that he knew his parents were unhappy before I showed up and were happy afterwards.

          Betty later told me that many, many evenings were ruined when whatever she and the boys were talking about descended into shouting about me. I’m afraid that Betty and I had more than a few shouting matches as she delayed my moving in with her again and again. Especially after I questioned her abilities as a therapist since she couldn’t “even get your children to accept me.” It was the one time in my life when I was cruel to her. She was giving up so much for me and I was a bitch to her. It took me a while to accept that she forgave me: “You shouted because you wanted to be with me. How can I not forgive you for that?” She was right. I was frustrated about delaying just being with her. Sleeping with her. Getting groceries with her and sitting outside on a summer evening talking about ourselves and the boys and the future. 

          Finally, though, the date was set. My lease was expiring and I hadn’t renewed. It was September 1, 2005. I’d be there when the boys began school. I didn’t have much stuff to take. I left my furniture. The photos were gone, mixed in with something and probably lost forever, but I had my Austen and I had Elmer. When I moved to Yonkers, they were the only things I had from Mill Valley. They still are.

          To give Gerry his due, he moved a few years later to Baltimore. He met and married Cathy Betts there. While they were still in school, each of the boys spent a summer month there. Now, both adults, they alternate holidays between their mother’s and their father’s.

          I was not lost in Yonkers. (I’ve been waiting to say that.) It’s true. I settled into domestic bliss. I missed being in the City. Doing things like walking to work or wandering in the Park. A cab to a Broadway show. Being able to go for after-work drinks with colleagues.

          Still, it was bliss. The house had four bedrooms. Betty and I turned one into my den, where I worked on my writing. I was assigned duties: the laundry, grocery shopping, vacuuming, occasional cooking. The boys were increasingly comfortable with me just being around and dinners lost their edge.

          I knew about suburbs. I lived in one for my first twenty years. I became reacquainted with a driving-culture. We could walk into Bronxville to shop or eat or for the train. For everything else, though, you need a car. I got used to it.

          The sex? I am the only woman with whom Betty has slept. She was—is—an eager student. Now we can get stuff on-line but back then we’d drive down to Rivington Street near the Bowery and get “things.” I had to slow her attempts to put twenty years of missed time into twenty days.

          One other Sunday afternoon stands out. Fall 2009. Peter at Georgetown, and Michael spending the weekend with his father. I was washing off the pans from our late breakfast. The radio—WNYC—lightly in the background. I felt her hand around my waist.

          “I have a cock and he’s very hard and he wants to be inside you.”

          I could see our backyard and a neighbor’s house through the window above the sink. I didn’t care. I needed to be taken right there and right then.

          “I want him inside me.”

          With that I felt her pull my shorts and panties down in one swipe. I steeped out of them and spread my feet. Her finger ran through me and sparks followed. I don’t know whether I ever got so wet so fast, that April Sunday after-brunch excepted.

          Once again instinct took over. The instinct to have her inside me, to impale herself in me. She, too, was an animal.

          “You’ve denied me for too long. Now you pay.”

          With that she pulled her fingers away, and lifted them, dripping, to my mouth and I suckled on them like a cub on a lion’s teat. While the taste was still on my tongue both her hands were on my waist and she shoved her cock inside me in one horrible, fantastic motion. To the hilt. She held it there for days although it was only seconds.

          “Beg.”

          “Please.” A chorus of “please”s. Nothing but “please”s until I could not speak. As she felt me getting close she pulled almost all the way out. We both caught our breaths.

          “Beg.”

          She’d never been like this. I liked it.

          “Beg.” She screamed and I couldn’t catch my breath, resorting to pushing my ass to her. My hair crossing my eyes and sweat starting to drip from my forehead. For a moment I wished she could explode inside me and fill me with herself. For a moment. Then it didn’t matter as she plunged in and out in time to my guttural moans. Finally, after edging me three or four times she let me cross. I gripped the faucets on the sink as everything overwhelmed me.

          Betty needed to hold me up and then she helped me collapse to the floor, my back to the doors below the sink. Her thick, long cock obscenely in front of my face. She knew I couldn’t do anything as I continued to shake and quickly took it off. She didn’t want me to feel I disappointed her by not cleaning it with my mouth. I so much wanted to and to then kiss her so she could taste my juices but I was physically incapable of doing anything. Lewdly lying with my legs spread and t-shirt against the doors and my hair crossing my face.

          She sat to my right. I felt her arms encircle me. Staring ahead, I tapped her leg. “I owe you one.” She kissed my right cheek. In my ear she whispered, “You don’t owe me anything. I owe you everything.” It was the last thing I heard before, somehow, I fell into a deep sleep. Leaning against her and sitting half-naked on the kitchen floor.          

Thanksgiving 2010

          That may be a good way to end a chapter but it did not end the day. According to Betty, after I was out she somehow led me up to our bed and put me there and tucked me in. She then returned to the kitchen and grabbed the dildo. She came back to our room, and after putting a towel on a side chair, she watched me as she licked the dildo clean. With me asleep, she confessed, she let herself go. She took off her pants and panties then threw one leg over an arm of the chair. Again, according to her, she proceeded to shove the dildo inside her cunt, which was so drenched that it flowed easily in. After shoving—her word—it in as far as it would go she held it there till she couldn’t take it. She started fucking herself with it. Again and again until she quietly came, afraid of waking me.

          She left it on the towel and crawled in next to me.

          Three things made that afternoon memorable. Its spontaneity. Its animal brutality. And that it was a woman to whom I had long ago surrendered myself. I wish I could say it was repeated. We came close a few times but that first is special. We had a good sex life, especially for a couple of old broads—MILF wasn’t a thing then I don’t think—and it kept getting better. But that was the third of the four of our sessions that I can touch. We’ll get to the last.

          And our lives continued. Betty was working in White Plains, affiliated with the hospital there but also with her private practice. I was writing my stories, using the fourth bedroom, and full-time for Time. That meant a fair amount of travelling, especially in election season. I now tolerated it, saved only by the reception I got from Betty when I got home from the airport. When I wasn’t travelling, I was taking the train to my office at the Time-Life Building on Sixth Avenue. That gave me a shot of midtown adrenalin, as did trips that Betty and I made regularly into the City, usually driving in. We found a place for holidays in Berkshire County, the part of Massachusetts that borders New York and Connecticut. The boys usually came with us.

The Next Generation

          As to them, in 2009 Peter graduated from high school and went to Georgetown and after Georgetown he stayed in DC and began working for a lobbying firm, often spending weekends with Gerry and his wife in Baltimore. Michael went off to Boston College in 2013.

          I’m not sure what I was to them. Betty and Gerry were active and generous with them. In a sense I, and after he remarried Gerry’s second wife, were stepmothers lite. We both deferred to their parents but we were more than just friends. Again, I don’t know what to label it. But it worked, and both Betty and I were amused that one or the other of them would complain to me, who they only called “Mary,” about her. They knew enough not to try to use me to get around her veto of something. I was proud of both. Betty and Gerry did well by them.

          Little did I know that I would acquire yet another group of next-generationers. It began in October 2010 with a letter for me mailed to Time. “William & Kathleen Nelson” with a Mill Valley address was on the return label. I never received, well, anything from them. Not even notice of the births of their two children. I found out about Suzanne and Eric only in one of my periodic trips to the morgue, easier now via computers.

          Dear Mary Elizabeth,

          We would be pleased if you could join us for Thanksgiving dinner at our home at * * *, Mill Valley, California on November 25, 2010 at 2:00 p.m. local time. Please RSVP by November 11, 2010 so that appropriate arrangements may be made. We regret that we cannot make accommodations available to you, but there are a number of nearby hotels and bed & breakfasts where you can stay.

          We look forward to seeing you on the 25th.

          Sincerely,

          William and Kathleen Nelson

          To be clear, I, too, thought this was the most bizarre communication that I had ever seen. Except for my father’s “notice” when I was at Berkeley. I imagined that they spent hours crafting the words. The bottom line, though, was that for the first time since I left Mill Valley in 1983. I was asked to return. I wrote a letter to Billy at his law firm at one point, but got no response. Until this invitation.

          With the presidential election two years away, I had to come up with an angle for my editor. Someone in California who might be flying under the radar as a challenger for the GOP nomination in 2012. When I identified him, I got my editor to sign off on a visit to his Congressional district, which was south of San Francisco. So I got my travel and hotel taken care of thanks to TimeWarner.

          It was typical San Francisco weather. Low 50s, a bit cooler than in New York. I got in on Sunday night and did my district interviewing on Monday and Tuesday. The background story was pretty well done by the end of Wednesday. I was ready for the reunion. I had no idea who would be there. The invitation was so formal that I thought it might be hordes. It wasn’t. It was my brother and his wife, his daughter, and his son.

          I loved Suzanne immediately. After a formal shake of the hand from William and a brief hug from Kathleen—”Kate” as she insisted—I found myself in a deep hug with Suzanne Marie Nelson, my niece. And then with Eric Nelson, my nephew. But it was Suzanne, much older than her brother—Suzanne was 16 and Eric was just ten—that drew me in. She was tall and slim and so different from the Billy that I knew when he was her age.

          Still, I was in my brother’s house—he cringed when I referred to him as “Billy” which just led me to do it with some frequency—and order was observed. The turkey was properly prepared and the sides were properly prepared and the alcohol was properly allocated. Things were stiff before dinner as the five of us attempted to carry on a conversation in the large living room, with Kate jumping up periodically to check on “the bird,” and Suzanne or Eric jumping up more frequently to check on something unspecified.

          I finally found myself alone with my brother. Our conversation began with, “So, Billy, how are you? I heard you’re now a big-deal partner in a big-deal firm.”

          “Yes, Mary. I am. And I’ve seen some of your work. Your fiction is, well, interesting but not my cup of tea.”

          I turned to my parents’ death. They died in a car crash on the Pacific Coast Highway on April 14, 1998. I learned of it two weeks later when a colleague offered his condolences during a telephone call. I rushed to the morgue and pulled up the story, about the deaths and the existence of two children, Mary, “believed to live in New York City,” and William Allen Nelson, living in Mill Valley, California, with one grandchild, Suzanne Marie Nelson, the daughter of William and Kathleen Nelson.

          They were cold in the ground, perhaps as they were cold above it, but I still had the right to know. I had the right to decide how I was to handle it. It was not Billy’s decision. And when I pointed this out to him in his living room in a calm, measured voice, he said, he decided—not “thought,” “decided”—that it was for the best.

          There was no point in pursuing it. Chit chat returned with Kate. I have not forgiven him.

          Before dinner, the weather being nice, I said I was taking a short walk. I did have some happy memories of Mill Valley. Suzanne jumped up and joined. We walked in the middle of the quiet street where she lived. She asked me about myself and I told her about myself and I asked her about herself and she told me about herself. Then she said, “I’m sorry Aunt Mary for not contacting you.”

          We stopped and I looked at her.

          “They never told me about you until a few years ago but I should have contacted you when I found out. I was a coward. I was afraid they’d find out.”

          There was no doubting who “they” were. She was just a kid and they were putting this on her.

          “Suzanne. Baby. You’ve nothing to apologize for. What matters is what happens from now on. OK?”

          And she said “OK” and we resumed the walk until we circled the block and it was time to go back into the house. As we reached the door, I told her that I’d like to meet her, one-on-one, the next day and we set the time and place to sit down in Mill Valley on Black Friday.

          Billy and Kate looked tense when we entered the living room. What did they think we were doing? Kate jumped up and said dinner was ready and we helped her bring things out and sat down, said Grace, and ate. Suzanne, so somber earlier, was open and relaxed, asking me questions and teasing her brother and her mother and even her father.

          When dinner was over and the table cleared I passed the kitchen where I overheard my brother and his wife. “I will not allow her to do to Suzanne what she did to herself,” he said. “I’m not giving her another chance.” His wife agreed, “I don’t know why you thought it would be a good idea to ask that bitch here.”

          My disregard for my brother and my ignorance of my sister-in-law changed at that moment to hatred. To them, I was a subcreature bent on contaminating their daughter. I hoped that Suzanne had not heard, and I did not mention it to her for many years.

          In contrast, I had a remarkable lunch with Suzanne the next day. She kept apologizing until I told her to cut it out. I assured her that while what happened to me was tough, at that moment I was in a wonderful place. Especially being with her. I said that she should never cast her family off. “Always leave the door open.”

          At that time I did not know that Suzanne was gay so I did not understand the depths of her concerns, that she knew that were her parents to find out she would be treated in the same way that I had been. It was enough that she told me how unhappy she was for the way my parents—her father’s parents who she never knew—treated me and how her father and mother had written me out of their lives. And out of hers. And her brother’s.

          After she got down from that, I found her to be a marvelous girl. She was sweetness itself, and my first impressions were reinforced when I began speaking to her regularly.

Coming to New York II

          Suzanne called me on the Christmas after my visit and we have spoken regularly ever since. Mostly I was a sounding board for her complaints, which were the normal teenager complaints. But she was tense in the house and she did not find it easy to speak with her mother. Who she always called, “mother.” We spoke more often after she moved to Stanford. I made it a point to emphasize that her mother and her father were her only parents. They were not perfect, but they were the only ones she had.

          When she was a junior at Stanford, she told me she planned on going to law school, and asked whether she should head east. I knew little about law schools but I did know that some of the top ones were here. In March of her senior year, in 2016, she asked if it made sense for her to come to New York, to Columbia Law, which she got into. She made it clear that she was not following her father’s and her grandfather’s footsteps by going to Stanford. “I might come back here when I’m finished but for now I want to get away.”

          I made inquiries and tracked down a two-bedroom apartment on West 87th Street, just off Central Park West, and she and a friend from Mill Valley, Annie Baxter, took it. Suzanne told me her parents agreed to pay her rent, as they were paying half of her tuition. She said she and Annie were driving east. Annie was going to Columbia Business School. I told Suzanne she could leave the car at our house in Yonkers. She was not to tell her parents that. The less they knew of my involvement the better.

          So the calls started coming in mid-August as she and Annie made their way across the USA. When she told me she was about an hour-and-a-half away, I took the train and subway to be sitting on the stoop of the apartment when her Camry arrived. I had not seen her in six years but she was so much older. I cried when I hugged her and helped her and Annie get settled. Suzanne and I drove the car to Yonkers before she turned around and headed back into the City.

          I spoke to her often and saw her on a number of weekends when she and Annie took her car out for a drive. It was routine until early November when she called from a New York friend’s place and by day’s end I met that friend, Kerry Neally, and Kerry’s mom, Eileen. Kerry was a classmate. Her mom was sweet but reserved. I liked them both.

          Eileen was a widow who lived only a few miles from us and gradually Betty and I had lunches and dinners and went on outings with her. She was extremely shy and had placed herself into a shell when her husband died in 2010. With the two girls, Betty and I were able to get her out of it to the point where we were suddenly part of one family. She would eventually fall in love with and marry Tom Doyle, which I mention because his house in Chappaqua is important to my story. I’ll get to that shortly.

          Suzanne, for reasons she herself explains elsewhere, dropped out of law school after her first year. She got a job as a paralegal in the City, and moved in with Betty and I, each morning taking the 8:16 train from Bronxville. We loved having her there although after she and Kerry realized they loved each other they spent a fair amount of time at Kerry’s house a few miles away until Eileen moved to Tom’s place in Chappaqua and Suzanne moved in with Kerry. It was complicated at the time, but what matters is that at some point, as now, I was with Betty, Suzanne was with Kerry, and Eileen was with Tom. And—spoiler alert—each couple got married in 2018.

Marriage

          Perhaps it was fear. When gay marriage became legal in New York in July 2011, neither Betty nor I spoke about it. We attended weddings of friends but things were going well enough. Betty’s marriage had not worked. Why tempt fate?

          Then suddenly Suzanne and Kerry were engaged. I skipped over what happened with those two since they wrote about it themselves. Suffice it say that they fell in love, albeit it took a while for them to realize and admit it, and Kerry proposed to Suzanne on the train and they were still trying to figure out when they would do it. Spoiler: September 22, 2018.

          Anyway, in a May 2017 theatrical display Betty proposed to me in Kerry and Suzanne’s house and I knew it was time. Old as I was I wanted her to be my wife and I wanted to be hers. But right before that, which I’ll get to presently, literally the six days before that, the hated Kathleen Pugh Nelson reentered my life.

          Somehow Kerry’s mother, Eileen Neally, got me and Betty to agree that an effort should be made to see if Kathleen—Kate—could be reunited with her gay daughter. A sense of what she and my brother thought can be seen from what they said on Thanksgiving 2010: he said, “I will not allow her,” that’d be me, “to do to Suzanne what she did to herself, ,” he said, “I’m not giving her another chance,” with his charming wife responding, “I don’t know why you thought it would be a good idea to ask that bitch here.” To them, as it was to my parents, it was a matter of deep religious and embedded faith. So I didn’t give it much of a chance but thought it worth the effort.

          Eileen made a phone call out-of-the blue to Kate in California that did not go well. But well enough so that a few days later—four days before my wedding—I was walking upstairs in a pub on East 47th Street in Midtown Manhattan with Eileen to meet Eileen’s fiancé, Tom Doyle, as well as Kathleen Pugh Nelson herself.

          It did not last long and it did not end well. But somehow Eileen got Suzanne to meet with her mother and somehow Suzanne got her mother to accept her and, with it, to accept me. No one, however, managed to get her father, my brother Billy, to accept her or me and that’s the last I will say of him.

          That explains why when Betty and I got married on June 23, 2018 at Tom’s house in Chappaqua, New York, Kathleen Pugh Nelson was a guest. While I said earlier that my hatred of Kate came later, my love for her came later still and I now understand that Suzanne’s sweetness comes from her Mother.

          Betty and I were going to Bermuda for our honeymoon in the morning. When we got home—my wife and I—I saw her with new eyes. Far wrinkly than the first time we’d made love. My hair a not-entirely-natural black. Hers still the same light brown. We had changed from the gown we wore at the ceremony and were in dresses that ended mid-calf. When the door closed, I turned and looked down at her as I loved to do. Our tongues danced and we were upstairs in a flash.

          I undressed my wife slowly and she did the same to her wife and we wore nothing but our ivory lingerie with garters and stockings. I knelt to remove her stockings and she did the same to me before unclasping my bra. I lost track of what happened next but it was not long before I was beneath her on our bed and suddenly she was gnawing on my left tit, larger than hers but not big. And she nibbled on it while I moaned and then she moved across my no-longer-flat stomach. I spread my legs to my bush, which I trimmed that morning for this very reason, and she spread my lips. I was so primed, that I came almost immediately after she began to suck on my clit.

          She was determined. I tried to push her away. She refused. Avoiding my clit, she painted the folds around it and her fingers, one, two, three, entered me and turned to rub. I was no longer pushing her away, my hands above my head and my eyes staring at a spot on the ceiling. I feared my heart would give out. I would die happy. Married and happy.

          I’ve had many orgasms and many at the mouth of this woman. The one I had that night, the second one of the night, was the most intense of my life. When it was finally over, I could not move. Every bit of my energy was sucked into my pussy until it exploded into a million bits cascading through the universe. I could not get up. I could not get up.

          Betty moved next to me, her hand grazing up from my pussy, across my stomach and my tits until it caressed my cheek. I could not say it. I was spent. She did. “I love you.” That was the fourth of the sessions between us—the others being back in 1985, my apartment in 2005, and our kitchen in the fall of 2009—that I can see whenever I close my eyes. The next thing I remember was our approach to the airport in Bermuda.

Very Rich and Very Famous: Part 1

The Peter Edgar

          Peter Edgar was very rich and very famous. Both came from his late father. He, the father, created the fortune by developing software, scorching and buying up competitors, and shipping it, bugs and all, until it obtained dominance in its market. The money, and the fame, came to Peter, an only child, when his parents died in a Gulfstream crash in 2012. Soon thereafter, he became a regular on The New York Post’s Page Six and The New York Times’s Society page.

          Peter graduated from Princeton, Class of 2007. He worked as an executive-with-unclear-duties at XTach, a small software firm in Silicon Alley in Manhattan. The job came from his father’s second-round investment in the company. Peter only recently began to take it seriously.

          It was August 2013. Normally Peter spent summer weekends at a house he owned in East Hampton. He went there with classmates and other hangers-on. But a crisis at XTach early Friday meant an all-hands meeting on Saturday morning to discuss issues that might delay a software-launch. While Peter was unlikely to have much to contribute and in years past would not have bothered, this time he decided to show up.

          By Saturday night, the crisis had passed. Peter was bored. He had a nearly unbroken streak of being out on Saturday nights. Always a party to go to or an opening to attend. A concert to be jostled at or a game to endure. But everyone who was anyone was out in the Hamptons.

          It was a bit after ten when Peter wandered about his large apartment and wandered into its library, a formal room unaltered since he moved in; he liked the old-world feel of its dark wood and leather chairs and recessed lighting and moveable ladder along the shelves. His apartment’s prior occupant was an old-school banker who took a flier with Bernie Madoff and ironically, since he was an old-school banker, lost everything, Peter bought the furnished Park-Avenue-in-the-70s five-bedroom in a bankruptcy sale after his parents died. On this night he was casually running his fingers along the spines of unopened volumes in the old-school banker’s library.

          Peter had a love life that would be described as very full or very empty, depending on the describer. He’d had crushes on several women but his fame and his fortune kept them at bay. Or kept him fearful of approaching them. He assumed they wouldn’t like him for him so he never gave any a chance to like him. He spent many pleasant, sometimes passionate nights with one or another of the beautiful women he took to events. But he never allowed it to go further, and his signals were picked up by many of those women who genuinely wished to get close to him.

          He defaulted to hanging out with the guys, chiefly from Princeton but a few from Yale. He did not know when the process began but more and more he viewed them and what they did, the hints of spitefulness or misogamy or ego-run-amuck, with distaste. For the first time, he feared becoming as two dimensional as one of the minor characters in one of the unread novels he touched on the shelves. Were he not Peter Edgar, he knew he would wish he was Peter Edgar. Now he was not so sure.

          Being alone accelerated this thinking. The next morning, he headed out for brunch. He was walking up Park Avenue to 79th Street to a small café he often went to when in town. Anxious about what he missed in last night’s parties, he was absorbed in a series of Facebook posts.

  • Accident

          It was an accident. She had stopped for a moment to adjust her grip on her bag. He walked right into her. “Fuck” is what she said. “Fuck” is what she said at him. At Peter, rich and famous Peter. She turned to glare at him, in his tailored khaki pants and blue Brooks Brothers polo, brown loafers. He, Princeton Class of 2007, could offer nothing to this onslaught save “Oh. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.”

          She—her name is Amy Reed—said, a bit sarcastically, “it’s OK. I probably shouldn’t have just stopped in the middle of the sidewalk. Are you OK?” And he said, “Really, I’m fine.” He droned on, not knowing what exactly he was saying but knowing that he had to keep saying it to keep her from walking away. She in her tight jeans, vintage t-shirt, and trainers.

          “Look,” his stream of words now under some control, “can I, I don’t know, buy you a coffee?”

          She looked at him. “Coffee?” She took a small step back and exaggerated looking him over. “Why not? There’s a Starbucks a block east.” He nodded and she finished with, “Let’s go. But let’s be clear. I pay for mine.”

          On arrival he got on line while she went to the bathroom, after telling him what she wanted and handing him a five-dollar bill. When she returned, he was standing where one adds milk and sugar and grabs napkins and he slid her straight coffee to her, saying, “I don’t know how you take it.” She added milk and one sugar and they turned, waiting for a table to open. He gave her her change. When a table was cleared a minute or so later, they took it and sat by the window. He realized that she had no idea who he was. She hadn’t noticed that other people were looking at him and some were taking selfies with him in the background.

          Amy had no idea who he was. She didn’t read The Post and skipped The Times’s society pages. And she was a luddite when it came to computers; she knew nothing of his father.

          Peter was about 5’ 10”. Slim, maybe 160 lbs., the result of regular trips to the gym supplemented with laps around Central Park on weekends while in town and on the quiet roads of East Hampton when there. His hair was light brown and a bit curly. He kept it a little longer than most of his peers. His eyes were of an indeterminate color, somewhere between blue and green. Maybe aqua. His watch was a simple digital thing from Timex, although he had a Rolex that he felt compelled to wear with a tux.

          Peter and Amy chatted quietly and effortlessly while they nursed their coffees. This was unusual for both. Peter, notwithstanding his notoriety, was shy by nature. Amy was too, with only a few close friends and not that many acquaintances.

          Eventually the pair noticed people staring at them. It was not because, or not entirely because, of his celebrity. They were sitting at a table by the window and their cups were long empty. They were chastened by this faux-pas and gathering their cups and napkins and stirrers and, brushing the table off with a napkin, they put the remains into a receptacle and stood on the sidewalk at 77th Street and Lexington Avenue.

          They exchanged numbers and agreed to meet the following Sunday at the same Starbucks. Peter thought he might ask her to go for dinner before that. If it meant staying in the City, well, that didn’t seem so bad.

  • Monday

          It was raining on Monday as Amy ran to the subway. An August rain and a wet dress and moisture as she stood on the Number 6 train towards Grand Central.

          Amy was shorter than average, lighter than average, and her eyesight was far beneath the average, salvaged only by contacts. Her face was round and her hazel eyes set a hair closer to one another than average. Amy’s lips were slightly large, and inviting. Her hair was light brown and long. On the whole it was an above-average face. She had a row of three piercings on her left ear and two on her right. She was an example of the whole being greater than the sum of her parts.

          Amy was also very smart. She worked in a public-relations firm with an office several blocks south of Grand Central, on Park Avenue, and she lived alone in a one-bedroom apartment in a pre-War building on the corner of 76th Street and Lexington. She graduated from a small liberal-arts college in Purchase, New York in Westchester, the suburb just north of the City where she grew up as an only child.

          Amy was not a big fan of Mondays and a look around the car showed her she was not alone in this. A couple of schoolgirls gabbing half-way down the car but as for the rest it was a universe of people sitting or holding on to whatever could be held onto, most either with half-closed eyes or half-thought thoughts.

          At Grand Central, Amy followed a school or gaggle or whatever it’s called of fellow travelers off the car—”getting off”—and then up the stairs to 42nd Street and from there the two blocks down Park Avenue, sheltered by her tiny umbrella, to her office where, after locating her ID card, she leaned against the back of the elevator. It whisked her to her office on the 23rd floor, to Enswich & Taylor, her PR firm.

          This is how her job began. Once she got her coffee and sat at her desk, the angst of her commute dissipated. Amy loved her job. She liked the people with whom she worked; most were smart and pleasant and they shared an all-in-it-together attitude. She liked the outsiders with whom she interacted; most at about her level of responsibility and at her stage in the food chain of their respective companies. She liked the work itself.

          The Monday morning rain stopped by eleven. It would be dry enough, if a bit muggy, for lunch in Bryant Park. Amy carried her tablet and grabbed a salad—where she selected the toppings and dressing—carrots, green peas, chickpeas, and kidney beans with balsamic-vinaigrette—and headed two-and-a-half blocks west till finding a small table on the southern side of the Park. Before opening the bag she sat and took a minute to savor the diversity walking through. She liked being one not-particularly-significant character in midtown.

          She took out her lunch and water but left her tablet in her bag. Instead of reading she found herself staring across the green lawn that dominated the Park. Thinking of the man she met the day before. There was something about him. He was self-effacing yet confident. Average looking, yes, but his pieces fit very well together. She imagined they—she and he—could fit well together. She thought him handsome, in his own way. Peter Edgar. She remembered thinking of him as she lightly stroked herself to sleep the night before.

          There was, though, something familiar about him. His name? He said little about his background: growing up in California, going to Princeton, his parents dead in a horrible accident, working in a tech company. It was when he started about his job that his eyes lit up. Something in the tech field, but he made clear that he was no tech guy. Instead, the evolving Peter thought he could add something valuable on the business side. He told her of the all-hands-on-deck meeting on Saturday and spent time describing it. She enjoyed hearing this, and his enthusiasm for it.

          There was something about Peter Edgar that drew her in. She liked him. She’d had a few boyfriends over the years, none lasting more than three or four months, and she’d enjoyed the sex she’d experience with, she counted, three of them. As she looked over the green lawn in Bryant Park, she found her mind drifting to whether she would enjoy sex with Peter. It was a crazy thought and she put a fork-full of romaine lettuce and kidney beans in a vinaigrette dressing in her mouth and chomped it as if she were an absent-minded horse and then did the same with another fork-full, although now with a couple of chickpeas too.

          Still. It gnawed at her. Something familiar. She finished her salad and walked around the Park until heading back to her office.

  • Peter

          About a mile away, Peter was on his second slice of pizza. XTach ordered pies for everyone for having worked through Friday’s crisis. It was all-hands-with-the-pizza. Peter had begun to enjoy this type of thing.

          He’d not slept well. When he got home on Sunday afternoon, he booted up his laptop and did some sleuthing. His subject: Amy Reed. And he found . . . virtually nothing. As far as he could tell, zero Facebook or Twitter presence. He got some basics via LinkedIn: Graduate Manhattanville College, 2009, BFA, Art History. Two years younger. Worked at Enswich & Taylor. That checked out with what she told him, but that was all he could find about her. No picture to refresh his memory of what she looked like. Not that he needed one.

  • Thursday

          That Thursday, Amy and Sarah Eckard, a co-worker, headed to Bryant Park for lunch. A beautiful not-too-hot, not-too-humid day. Amy mentioned meeting a guy she might like. They were near the Park’s entrance, and they saw two open chairs and a table on its east end.

          As she sat, Amy said he was called Peter Edgar. Sarah stopped taking her salad from its bag.

          “The Peter Edgar?”

          “Just Peter Edgar as far as I know. Why?”

          This last was lost to Sarah. She pulled her phone out and started touching its screen. After about thirty seconds she held the phone up to her companion and said, “Is this him?”

          “Yeah, that’s him. Why?”

          “Amy, I love you but you really need to get out more.” Her fingers were rocketing across the screen. “Read this.”

          Taking the phone, Amy saw a Wikipedia entry. For the Peter Edgar. Scooting to Personal Information, she read, “A real catch, he is known for being a ladies’ man although learning who his particular femme de jour is has long proved difficult. He has not been connected to any one woman in particular. He is seen almost weekly being adorned with a celebrity or model in one of Manhattan’s or the Hamptons’ charity fests.

          Sarah grabbed the phone back. After several moments, she said, “Oh, shit” and handed the phone to Amy. Who saw a photo of herself sitting with Peter at Starbucks days earlier. It linked to a Page Six story: “The One? Peter Edgar gazing longingly into the eyes of an unknown ‘companion’ at a Starbucks on Lex this past Sunday. Is it ‘her’?

          Amy practically threw the phone back at Sarah and looked around the Park, scanning for eyes that identified her as “her.” What if someone came up to her to ask? New Yorkers wouldn’t do that—they’d just stare—but who knows with bridge-and-tunnel types or tourists. Grabbing her still-unopened bag she leapt up and in a rush hurried to 40th Street so she could get out of the public’s glare, feeling eyes upon eyes upon eyes feasting on her. Sarah, who found it amusing but knew her friend didn’t, pulled her own things together and raced after her.

          Meanwhile, eighteen blocks to the south, Peter Edgar was having difficulty concentrating. Which was strange. He had long been able to compartmentalize, to perform the task-at-hand without regard for interruptions. It was a useful skill, particularly when one’s office is a cubicle among a swarm of coding bees.

          His reputation was the opposite of “well-earned.” He did attend soirees almost weekly, in Manhattan, in the Hamptons, buying a table more often than not so he and his cronies could play grown-up. For Peter, such an invitation was irresistible to many types of women, offering as it did the near certainty of getting a photo taken and the prospect of it appearing in the next day’s paper, in a fashionista’s blog, or, possibly, as a trending topic on Instagram.

          Peter was born in Minnesota but moved to California when his dad got a position at a large tech-firm. His dad, with a couple of engineers, split off to develop their own software. They caught a right-place/right-time wave and his dad, the businessman/salesman of the three, made it into a multi-billion-dollar juggernaut.

          Peter grew up outside of San Jose. His dad was always working, and his mom was always attentive. He was not a social creature growing up. In his private high-school he was just another kid of someone who worked in tech and made tons of money. Like his father, he was not particularly comfortable with coding, the coin of the realm there. He found himself falling in and out of passions. Video games, grunge, chess. He threw himself into them but withdrew when the initial enthusiasm turned to boredom. He barely tolerated participating in requisite sports.

          Princeton was not so different. Lots of students similar to those in high school. He majored in political science, largely after excluding the alternatives. But he was a nice enough guy and got along with others in his dorm so that when he was a junior he made it into one of the school’s selective eating-clubs. It was there that he became friends with the men with whom he hobnobbed when he moved to New York. Most of them were “in banking,” a broad description that covered a multitude of jobs and for these Princeton grads not too much effort or time.

          For Peter, after graduation things continued pretty much as they had before. He got his XTach job—his dad had a large stake in the company—and moved into a nice two-bedroom apartment in the East 70s between First and Second Avenues. He joined the Princeton Club on West 43rd Street, often walking there to eat alone at its bar before catching a cab home.

          Things changed in some ways but not in others when his parents died in the plane crash. That was after his dad’s company’s IPO. Peter was able to convert a lot of the stock into cash. His net worth was somewhat over $500 million. Not enough to make the Forbes 400 but plenty. Enough to get his own Wikipedia entry. Suddenly he wasn’t eating alone at the Princeton Club. The friends with whom he hung out after graduation were letting him pick up the check when they went out, too often ordering champagne at the private clubs to which they were admitted. In the City and, after Peter bought the house in East Hampton, out there. He started with his appearances at charity events, and being accompanied by tall, beautiful women.

          He did not realize it at the time, though, but Peter was growing up, from being a twenty-nine-year-old, very rich frat boy with a bunch of similarly situated, though not-as-rich frat boys. That weekend in town led to one of those evolutionary changes, where suddenly a new species appears. It began with Saturday’s all-hands meeting at the office. It let him avoid a party in Southampton and another weekend much like all the others. Instead, he enjoyed brunch at the little French place on 79th Street he didn’t go to as often as he liked. And, of course, he ran into Amy Reed.

          So while the past may be prologue for some, it was something that Peter Edgar hoped to escape.

          He had been a man without passion. Now he thought about that. He remembered his past, some parts clearer than others. Most importantly he reflected as all of this ricocheted around his head until they landed squarely on Amy. Amy Reed. MFA from Manhattanville. Completely indifferent to the fact that Peter Edgar had a BA from Princeton and oblivious to the fact that Peter Edgar was Peter Edgar.

          At that precise moment, Amy and Sarah sat in the corner office of Evan Taylor. He, being of the any-publicity-is-good-publicity school, was amused. After Amy explained her fears, though, he realized it was the last thing that she should be put through. The first step was to get Amy into a safe space. Physically and mentally. He suggested that she call Peter.

          Peter answered on the third ring. He was in his cubicle and asked her to hold while he hurried into a small conference room where he could close the door. The pleasantness of the surprise quickly turned to despair as she explained what she was going through. He’d been an idiot. He was often followed and tracked and written about. He hadn’t thought what being innocently thrown into his world would mean to someone else. The women seen on his arm knew what they were doing in becoming connected to him, and he and they played along. It was a game. Everyone knew it was a game, and it sold papers. Everyone, apparently, but this woman.

          Evan told her to stay home until Monday. He spoke to Peter and a car was sent to pick Amy up and take her home. Evan knew it was overdramatic, but it would help her calm down. Peter was in the backseat of the car. He apologized and apologized as they were driven up the East Side. He did not know what more he could say and could only just manage “goodbye” as she left before returning to his office.

          Step Two of the plan Peter and Evan devised was simple. Peter made sure to be seen that night with a willing brunette and with that the waters concerning Amy Reed calmed. No, Amy was not “her.”

  • Changes

          The thing was, as we saw, Peter was not “him” anymore. It wasn’t simply running into Amy. It was the rare weekend of being on his own in the City while his normal crew and hangers-on were out on the Island. After that, the empty kitchen and the unread-book-laden library weren’t so dreary. He had this big, empty apartment and he began to like it. He started to take his Central Park and Hamptons runs more seriously, making them harder but more satisfying.

          Through Labor Day and into October he went to East Hampton only on alternate week-ends. His Princeton friends had the run of the place when he was not there. Their increasingly petty Facebook posts and photos—or, more accurately the same types of Facebook posts and photos that he found increasingly petty—confirmed his decision to limit his time there and with them. They would eventually fade away, finding others to be with.

          He fulfilled his big-name obligations when there and into the fall, when events were held midweek in Manhattan. There was always a tall woman who wanted to be seen, and photographed, with him on the red carpet. Peter had not abandoned his prior life. He just spent less of his life in it. Enough to keep inquiring eyes away as it was enough occasionally for the Paparazzi to get their photos and the gossipers their stories.

          The East Hampton house was not closed up in October, contrary to what he told everyone. Peter drove out, alone, every few weeks after that and as with his apartment he enjoyed the emptiness. He enjoyed the solitude of the house and his runs and that he was thinking about things—where he’d been, where he was, where he was going—more than he ever had.

  • Bridget Casey

          Going to charity events, though, was not always a chore. At one in mid-November he met someone. Bridget Casey’s father was an NYPD detective and her mother an ER nurse. Bridget followed her mother. She was an RN at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan. She was 5’ 5” and a bit heavier than she wanted to be, although not by much. She had a round face, blonde hair kept shoulder length—reflecting her mother’s Swedishness—and eyes that were blue and also round. She lived in the Woodlawn section of the Bronx and took the Number 4 train to work in the pediatric-cancer department. She alternatively loved and hated her job, the hate being from the suffering she witnessed and her inability to do much about it.

          Bridget was drafted into going to the Lenox Hill fund-raiser. It was a long day, and she wanted to get home. But promises were made and a nice dress was brought in. She stood at the periphery of the ballroom on Park Avenue, not far from the Hospital. She was nursing her white wine when she saw him. Peter Edgar. She knew who he was. He was alone. It wouldn’t hurt to get a picture with him, and that’s all she planned. It was stupid, but it’d look nice on her Facebook page. She and her gang would enjoy laughing about it.

          In the spirit of doing it as a lark—she would never have had the courage to do it otherwise—she approached Peter, said hello, and asked if she could take a picture with him. He was used to it and said “sure.” A passerby snapped the picture on Bridget’s phone and she started to walk away.

          “I’m Peter. What’s your name?” She knew his reputation as well as his name and was not going to be pulled in.

          “It’s Bridget. Thanks for the photo” and she was gone.

          Not gone from Peter’s mind though. Something about her. He noticed her name tag. When he approached a member of the Hospital Committee thirty minutes later, he had her full name and her job. Nurse. He was impressed that she had what he knew was a real job but could not relocate her before dinner was served. He was at Table One with the Hospital’s president, among others. Bridget was not.

          It had been a while since Peter felt warmth when he thought of a woman. That’s what he felt as he walked the few blocks home.

  • Calling Bridget

          On the Monday after the Hospital fund-raiser, Bridget received a call from Peter. Would she have dinner with him? At his place? She knew his reputation and alarm bells rang. She looked nothing like the women who were regularly photographed on his arm, which only added to the bizarreness of the request.

          He tried to explain. He was interested in seeing her but recently dragged someone he liked into a whirl of publicity—photos and speculation—and she’d freaked out. He did not want that to happen again. So would Bridget come to his place for dinner? After she made sure that he understood that her father was an NYPD Detective in the 21st Precinct, she figured it was worth the few blocks between the Hospital and his place.

          He cooked something simple and she drank good wine and they soon realized there was no romantic chemistry. But they each had a blast, especially the way he tolerated her mocking tone, which he sometimes topped with his own self-effacement. He insisted on paying for a car to take her home and it became a regular thing. Bridget spent the night in one of the (many) guest rooms several times when she had an early shift at the Hospital. The doormen knew her and she had a key to the elevator. The apartment did not have a key; one used the key in the elevator to get to his floor and it opened to a foyer with expensive art and a breath-taking view.

          Bridget infected Peter with something though. Her love of art. She recognized some of the pieces on his walls, although he didn’t. Some were very good. Mostly from the nineteenth century. Which made sense since they were acquired by that old-school banker who lived there. Peter paid for them as part of the bankruptcy sale of the apartment. He didn’t know about art, but wanted the place furnished.

          Bridget’s mother, Astrid, gave art to her. When Bridget was a girl, Astrid took her to the Metropolitan a few times a year and it took. Now, Bridget often rode the subway down and explored the exhibits alone, using her membership card. Sometimes after work before heading home. She liked the Monets and the Manets and the Degases. She was not so keen on the religious ones. She never visited, though, without a stop at Sargent’s “Madame X.”

          A kernel of a thought appeared in Bridget’s brain on that first visit to Peter’s. Could she get Peter to understand art? But that would be later. For now things were more practical. When she told her mom about Peter and whatever was going on with him, Astrid naturally asked, “Did you ever think . . .?”

          “Good God no. Zero there or this’d all be way too screwed up.”

  • Frances Reynolds

          Bridget kept the nature of her relationship with Peter vague with her fellow nurses, little beyond the fact that she knew him well enough to think of him as a friend. She was careful about disclosing how often she stayed at his place. First, for the rumors. Second, she knew that other nurses would want to sleep there, as Bridget did, between working difficult shifts. She did not want to have his place turned into an upscale dormitory for Lenox Hill staffers.

          In early-January, though, she and Frances Reynolds came off a twelve-hour shift together and were due back in eight hours; a flu had decimated the nursing staff. Instead of sleeping in one of the rooms the hospital set aside for such purposes, used by doctors and nurses alike, Bridget said, “Come on, I know a better place nearby.” Fran followed her, getting the essence of the story en route, to Peter’s where Bridget threw her a t-shirt to sleep in and towels for the morning. The two crashed in adjoining bedrooms. It was too late to get Peter’s clearance, but Bridget knew that he’d be OK with it.

          Fran was a little short and a little heavy. She had dark hair, which she kept long, and a round face with a Roman nose and big, tortoise-shell eyes. She was the daughter of a single mother, Jane Reynolds, with whom she lived in Astoria, Queens. Jane was a secretary in a midtown law firm. Her husband, Fran’s father, Frank abandoned them when Fran was three. She spent a fair amount of her time growing up with a nearby aunt. Her mother dropped her off before and picked her up after work. It wasn’t easy for either of them. Money was tight and a lawyer said it would cost too much to wring child support from Frank. He never contacted them. Fran managed to track him down online, discovering that he was remarried and living in Arizona with two kids. She never told Jane.

          Fran worked her way through nursing school and she and Jane were justly proud when she received her RN pin. She too loved and hated her work. Like all the other nurses in the department. That night at Peter’s she slept well, exhausted.

          At about 7:15 the next morning, after about six hours of sleep, Fran stumbled into the kitchen wearing the t-shirt and panties. She ran into a surprised Peter Edgar. She rushed an explanation—work with Bridget—and Peter told her that it was fine and asked if he could get her some coffee. Which is how Peter Edgar met Frances Reynolds. Fran had a wonderful smile, and it pulled everything about her together. In the kitchen it immediately put Peter at ease. He smiled as he poured her coffee while she told him who exactly she was. She took the coffee and with a wave left to “go take my shower.” Peter stared at where she’d turned the corner to head down the hall.

          Bridget came into the kitchen a minute later, having taken her own shower and changing into clean scrubs for work; she kept several pairs in the apartment for this purpose. Seeing Peter’s eyes, she teased, “I see you’ve met Fran. I hope you don’t mind, I didn’t get a chance to make sure it was . . .”

          “Absolutely no need. Believe me, no need.”

          Peter told Bridget he’d be happy for Fran to come over whenever Bridget did. After a few more meetings, Fran fell easily into one track of Peter’s two-track life. Soon she was visiting more often than Bridget. As things developed, Bridget reduced the frequency of her visits and calls. She was a third wheel and the last thing she wanted to do was get in the way of her two friends. She spoke to Peter two or three times a week, at first. That soon became a once-a-week check-in. Peter missed talking to her, but Fran bristled at it. She did not forbid it. She just made it clear that it made her uncomfortable, that it diverted Peter’s attention from her.

          Fran sometimes bristled too at the restrictions that came with seeing Peter, particularly his refusing to be seen “in public” with her. Because this was “real” to him, he did not want to share it. He assured her that his comings-and-goings on the red-carpet circuit were for show. He reduced their frequency. He promised that it would change over time.

          Notwithstanding these tensions, the two were comfortable with each other and in March he took her to East Hampton. They spent a marvelous weekend at the house.

          It was there—on the floor in the great room with its windows overlooking the Atlantic—that they first made love. She assured him that she was on the pill when he was atop her. She’d started it in the kitchen, kissing his neck as he caramelized onions. She reached around him and felt how hard he was through the apron. He turned the burner off and turned to kiss her. With a passion he’d never known.

          Soon the apron was off and pretty much everything else was off, except for underwear, and she teasingly dragged him out to the rug that ran between the sofas. She lay down and took off her bra and then her panties and beckoned him with a finger. He, quickly rid of his briefs and displaying rock hardness, placed himself on her. She directed him into her and too too quickly he burst and filled her. She’d not come. After he recovered he bent down to eat her, tasting bits of himself as he did. Given where he tasted, he found it pleasant; it had been in her. His tongue ran up and down her. He was going on instinct, never tasting a woman before. The two had only used their hands on each other till then. This was so much different and so much better.

          When he felt her pulsing and responding to him, it was perhaps the happiest moment of his life. That he could make this woman respond that way. Her body was responding to him. They repeated it, usually when she stayed over at his apartment.

          On a Thursday in early June when they were in the apartment, Fran gave him the news. She was pregnant. She thought he’d be happy. He was very rich and very famous and she was carrying his child.

          “But I thought . . .”

          “Peter, I screwed up. My prescription ran out and I didn’t refill it. I should’ve told you, but, baby, we were having too much fun and I wanted it to happen.”

          He reacted badly. “I need to think.” He turned and left. When he got to the street he called Bridget. She knew it was important; she’d spoken to him only a couple of days before and he was firmly in the once-a-week-call mode. He told her right off. She thought he was calling to say he was engaged to Fran or something. Things between the two were going that smoothly. She would be happy for them.

          “I don’t know if I love her Bridge. I thought I did, but there is no way this was an accident. She’s a damn nurse for God’s sake.”

          Bridget was torn. She could not imagine her friend doing such a thing. They’d worked together in the trenches. If she had a doubt about Fran, she would have cut her relationship with Peter off at the knees. But there was no doubt.

          Now this. It was no accident. Fran would never “forget” to get a refill. The realization horrified Bridget. Peter was among her closest, dearest friends. More innocent and naïve than almost all the rest. This could destroy him. Not the fact of having a child—something he’d be good at—but being lied to in such a way.

          Bridget couldn’t say this to him. Not yet. She was in Woodlawn. He took a car to her place, visiting for the first time. Small but well-kept. They sat, and she brought him a Jameson’s. He just could not understand how she could do it. His natural instinct to think the best of people was being tested. He did love her. He had till an hour ago loved her. He knew she was smart enough not to forget the pill. She’d told him that she was taking it. He would never make the commitment to have a child unless he was ready to make it with someone he loved and with whom he wanted to share his life.

          After telling Bridget this, he quieted, sipping on the whiskey. He did not know what he would do.

  • Aftermath

          Bridget was not sure what to make of Fran when they met in the nurses’ lounge two days later.

          “How could you do such a thing?”

          After first claiming it was an accident, which Bridget said she didn’t believe, Fran admitted that she hoped he would get her pregnant. It would set her up for life, whether or not they married. She knew first-hand how tough things were for her mother, who had nothing. Not even a husband. She wouldn’t let that happen to her. She lied about being on the pill. It was a bonus that he was actually pretty good in bed; far better than most of her one-nighters. Yeah the sex was very good for her. But she never lost sight of her objective.

          “Fuck you Bridget. You’re so sanctimonious. I saw my chance and I took it. OK? You were just too slow to do it yourself. I don’t feel sorry for him. He’s got plenty. He can give me some of it.”

          Bridget could not believe how wrong she had been. Fran found herself with the chance of a lifetime. We are all struggling nurses, working too hard, seeing too much. Fran could justify it to herself. The price she paid, though, was to exile herself.

          “Look around. How many of us can you say for sure would not do exactly what I did to get out of here? How many?”

          Fran felt some guilt about deceiving Peter. He turned out not to be the cardboard cut-out she expected. He’d get over it. He might even like having a kid he didn’t have to take care of day-to-day. She thought she might use the leverage of a public scandal to wring more money from him.

          She wasn’t worried about what the other nurses would think. Bridget would never say a word about her precious Peter. Once she got her money, she wouldn’t have to deal with the day-to-day of being a nurse. A one-way ticket out of the crap she’d endured for years. For her and her mother. She had no regrets about taking it.

          Bridget felt she had to choose. She chose Peter.

  • Enswich & Taylor

          At about the same time that Bridget and Fran were talking, Peter called Evan Taylor of Enswich & Taylor, Amy’s firm. He dealt with them when Amy freaked out about the picture in The Post. He came to the PR firm’s office late the following afternoon. Peter’d spoken to Bridget the night before. She told him that he’d been set-up. Used. If he thought about marriage, he could forget it; she wasn’t interested. He was alternating between being pissed at himself for being such a fool and being pissed at her for being what she was.

          In Evan’s office, Evan asked if Peter was OK working with Amy—he said this was one of her areas. Peter said it was fine if it was OK with her. It was. The three sat at a small conference-table. Peter told the story. He was embarrassed but laid it all out.

          When he was done, Amy said, “Here’s how I see it, Peter. You had sex with someone you had feelings for. You thought she used protection. She lied and didn’t and she got pregnant. Whatever love you had for her popped. And you’ll do all you can for your baby. Throw some money her way. She had no interest in marriage. That about right?”

          “Yeah.”

          “Peter, I’m sorry. As far as I can tell you didn’t do anything wrong. Am I missing something?” He shook his head.

          Evan jumped in and asked how Peter wanted it to be handled.

          After an hour or so the strategy was set. Peter didn’t know whether Fran would try to leverage a threat to go to the media, to portray their baby as a “love-child” product of the rich, entitled man’s seducing her, etc., etc. Peter would neither abandon nor disown the child. He was clear about that from the start. That’s why he was meeting with Evan and Amy. To talk about how best to do it.

          They would go with a high-end publication. Evan would offer an exclusive. They could decide later whether to name Fran; that’d be up to her.

          After Peter left, Amy asked Evan if she could meet this Fran. Woman to woman. With his OK, and without letting Peter know, she called the nurse, said she was with the PR firm working with Peter on the “issue,” and asked if they could meet for five minutes at the Starbucks on 77th and Lex. Yes, the one where she sat with Peter. That was coincidence; it was the closest one to Lenox Hill.

          She recognized the nurse in scrub-trousers when she walked in. Fran was sitting at a table by the window. Amy smiled and waved and got on line for her own coffee. She joined the other woman. While introverted, Amy could be a bulldog on the job when it came to a client.

          “Thanks for meeting me. As I said I work for the PR firm that is working with Peter.” She paused and took a sip of her coffee. Her next words got the nurse’s attention.

          “We both know what you are. I want you to know one thing. We all want this to go smoothly, that is, we want the story to be: we felt something for one another/we were intimate/an accident took place/it didn’t work out for us/we’ll always be friends/the child is the most important thing/it’ll be our child/I’m going to make sure he or she’s taken care of.”

          Amy, whose voice was flat throughout, was counting on her fingers as she went.

          “That’s what I want too.”

          “Good. I’m glad to hear it. But if you get greedy and decide you’re going to blackmail Peter into giving you more than the significant sum that he’s willing to give you, I’m going to make sure the truth gets out. I’m in PR. I can make it happen. And if I do, when someone Googles ‘whore’ yours will be the first picture they see.”

          With that, Amy took her coffee and left the stunned nurse.

          For her part, Fran thought Amy was bluffing. Tearing her down would only tear the baby and Peter down with her. She couldn’t be sure though. Amy’d had a steeliness that suggested she might do what she said she would. Fran always knew it was best not to go the love-child route. This woman confirmed her fears. She’d make out well enough and she’d be set for life with what Peter would offer anyway. She decided to play nice and try to avoid this Amy woman in the future. She also wanted the deal to be done as soon as possible.

          The lawyers worked out the terms. Peter even paid for hers. It was ethical; he had no control over them. Fran would get $2 million cash and $1 million a year for three years and a trust fund was set up for the child. One of Peter’s lawyers was the trustee. It was contingent on confirming Peter’s paternity, but Fran had no worries there; she’d made sure that Peter was the father and an in vitro test confirmed it. Peter would have liberal visitation-rights. Fran agreed to cooperate with any public-relations efforts with respect to the child. Everyone agreed to play nice.

          A month later, the piece appeared. Pictures of Peter’s apartment and his house, of Lenox Hill Hospital. Smiling shots of Peter and Fran together. The story itself was that Peter became increasingly close to Fran and they’d been “intimate” on several occasions. On one of those occasions, there was an “accident.” They broke up as a couple shortly thereafter, both deciding that they did not have a future together. When the pair learned of Fran’s pregnancy, they were pleased and Peter committed to ensuring that the child would be well cared for. Fran received an undisclosed payment to aid in her transition to motherhood and a trust was established for the child’s benefit. Peter and Fran expected to remain “very good friends” and would share responsibility for the child’s upbringing.

          It was a nice story. It was a lie. But it was a nice story. Amy engineered it.

          Peter kept a low profile until the Fran Matter passed. Or passed as well as it could. His Wikipedia entry endured a battle between rival editors. The “man-slut” posts were promptly deleted for “poor victim” posts only to be promptly deleted by “man-slut” posts ad infinitum. He didn’t know this. He didn’t even know he had a Wikipedia entry. Amy noticed it and, well, she was one of the “poor victim” editors until she recognized the futility of it.

          That all would be later. Now, about a week after seeing each other in Evan’s office, Amy sat in Peter’s living room. It was her first time in his apartment. She was the point person on the PR campaign. They were reviewing the plans. Both understood that was a bit of pretense, an excuse. They’d met separately in her office a few days before and were comfortable with each other.

          She stopped by after work. Peter offered her a glass of a very good red. Way better than she was used to. She sat on one of the sofas and he sat in a chair to her right. She gave him an update on the Fran Matter. After a pause he said, “Do you ever think what would have happened if you didn’t freak out?”

          After her own pause, Amy said, “Peter, frankly I didn’t think of you much after that. I figured I’d dodged a bullet.” She took a sip of the wine. “I paid attention to what you were doing—not like a stalker or anything but just because I knew someone famous. You know?”

          Peter nodded, sipping from his own glass.

          Amy continued, “After I saw you at my office I did start to wonder. What about you?”

          Peter explained that he was pretty much the same. If he thought of her at all—“sorry”—it was in passing and no more. Only when they re-met did he remember that their conversation at Starbucks was unique. “Maybe,” he said, “it was the right moment, when I was thinking that it was time for me to change. Maybe it was you. But after I saw you again I starting wondering whether I could recapture that afternoon.”

          “Me too.”

          They were quiet for a while.

          “Dinner?”

          “I’d like that.”

          “I can order in.”

          So their first meal was take-out Chinese. They opened the food and sat on stools at the island in the large kitchen. It was the only room he’d renovated, combining it with a butler’s pantry. Things again flowed naturally, almost a continuation of their interrupted chat at Starbucks. This time she was able to extract more of his background. Minnesota, San Jose, Princeton. XTach.

          He did not like to speak of the initial time he spent—the time he wasted—in New York. Bastard as his father often was in his business life and in his benign neglect of his son, at least he believed in something and worked to achieve something. Peter had become sufficiently self-aware to finally realize that he was on the road to becoming just another second-generation-of-a-rich-father laggard. Destined to accomplish little and squander much. The type of man who had a different beautiful woman on his arm whenever he went out. Women he never let get close to him although, in fact, several would have liked to try if he had offered any encouragement.

          Neither Amy nor Peter would appreciate how important their initial chance-encounter was to him. Perhaps it wasn’t that it was Amy who he met. Perhaps it could have been anyone. He was, that Sunday, already beginning to reassess things. On Saturday morning he was in a big room with the spectrum of people at XTach and he loved it. No bullshit. Saturday night he was alone and relished it. As he walked on Sunday he became agitated by the juvenile photos his “friends” were gleefully spreading on Facebook.

          At that moment he ran into Amy. So when they went to Starbucks he was primed for a real-world encounter. She gave it to him. She didn’t know who he was. She was alternately affectionate and a wise ass. They fell into their easy conversation. What was fortunate was that he’d come into contact with her again. Between their first meeting and their second—discounting the brief post-Page Six car ride—he’d changed. He’d struck a true (but platonic) friendship with Bridget. Perhaps the first true friendship since moving to New York. He’d gone through the horror of Fran, which washed off a fair chunk of his naiveté and slapped him into the real world.

           Peter was surprised at how relaxed they now were with one another.

          When she got home, Amy thought about it. She’d not pined for what-might-have-been. Her long-ago encounter with Peter Edgar was upsetting. She blamed it on its suddenness and the initial shock of it. It’s not every day that you see your picture on Page Six of The New York Post. She was over it. Whatever pleasure she had in his company was gone and mostly forgotten. He was a celebrity she’d met. He’d move on. She sometimes Googled him. But her reaction—overreaction—to their meeting now embarrassed her.

          Her love life was pretty much what it had been before. It was harder to meet people now that she was alone in the City. She and Sarah from work sometimes went to a favorite bar on First Avenue and once in a while one or both of them got phone numbers they thought—hoped—were worth pursuing. There was the lawyer who worked in her office building who she kept running into on the elevator. A few set-ups from friends. She went on dates once or twice a month except when she stuck with a man for a while. Of the latter, she went to bed with three, never before a fourth date. And as always the sex was good but it was not good enough to make up for a lack of a connection. Only once did she do it more than once with someone, but that too ended after the sixth date, neither regretting its end.

          Yes, Amy Reed was not pining for Peter Edgar. She was not pining for anyone. She had her job and her folks and her small group of friends. As for love, something would come along from a man she met. It’d just take time.

          They were both, then, confused and excited when they had their second dinner a week later. Thai take-out delivered to Amy’s place. Peter left after watching a movie on Netflix, the two of them sitting on her couch. That wasn’t planned. It just happened.

          Having exhausted the not-being-seen-in-public venues, their third date was at a small burger-joint on Second Avenue. They shared a booth. Amy recommended it, saying she was willing to be “seen with” him in public. Peter liked it. No one paid them any mind, apart from a few quick looks from others in the place.

          Amy insisted on paying for her Caesar Salad and coffee. Peter let her.

          All of this changed things between them for the good. More of Amy’s time was taken up with Peter. The ice broken by going public together, they went to a variety of local places for dinner and strolled in the neighborhood or in the Village. Bridget often joined them, often dragging them to the Met Museum. Peter regretted the extent to which Fran cut Bridget out of his life. Amy, though, recognized the relationship—she was not a rival for his romantic love—and was happy to see if she and Bridget could become friends. Which they did. Bridget more-or-less had her own room in the apartment with a key for the elevator.

          Inevitably there was a piece about the pair in The Post. They saw it and laughed at it and then they didn’t worry about it happening again.

  • East Hampton in July

          Peter had put off going to his house for weeks because of what was brewing with Amy. But on the Saturday a couple of weeks after their Second-Avenue burgers, his Volvo wagon pulled up to Amy’s building. They hoped traffic would be light but didn’t really care.

          A couple of hours later, the two were in the East Hampton driveway. They spoke little on the drive. Yet they were quietly thrilled in their idle thoughts. Neither felt the need to speak. Neither felt this comfort before with anyone else. By the time they pulled into the driveway, neither had doubts about their relationship although nothing of substance was said.

          He gave her the grand tour. If she thought his apartment was something, this was well past it. She stood on the deck overlooking the beach and watched the waves gently and constantly roll in. As she did, she felt his lips on her neck. Her knees almost buckled at the touch. She grabbed his arms to encircle her and he placed his chin on her right shoulder for a minute. Standing on a deck overlooking the Atlantic with the man she could love—if she did not already—holding her in a place she’d never been before. A place she’d never dreamed of before. A place she never wanted to leave.

          He kissed the right side of her neck. The waves floating in. She turned. Her arms gently wrapped around him. She willed him to lean down as she got on her toes to raise herself so that she could kiss him. Her back against the deck’s railing, their tongues were soon exploring one another’s mouths until they both needed to take a breath.

          “I’ve never been so fucking horny.” It was true of both of them and either could have said it. It was Amy. She ran her right hand across his crotch and felt how horny he was.

          He led her to the master. It was on the second floor, in the southwest corner. It had French doors that led to a porch. Off-white walls and furniture that looked comfortable. Only a few photos. His parents—she assumed—and pictures of him and people she figured he worked or hung out with. No pictures, she noticed, from a red carpet; all those beautiful women and not a picture of any of them. She recognized a smiling Bridget. A picture taken on the deck with the ocean as the background. Amy guessed that at one time there had been a picture of Fran. If so, it was long gone.

           She was not adept at unbuckling a man’s belt. Fortunately, any hesitancy on his part was gone. It was chaos, him ripping his things off, her ripping hers off.

          Neither stopped at their underwear and suddenly they were naked and, briefly, embarrassed at their lewdness. They were on the bed side-by-side kissing and her hand reached down to his dick and if he had bedcurtains like Scrooge did they would have burst into flames at her touch. They were in heat. His fingers found her from behind as she crawled atop him, she running her hand up-and-down him and he running his finger across her damp folds as she lay so her clit could rub against his thigh. He lifted his leg slightly to increase the friction.

          The hand and the fingers stimulating each other and “Oh Baby” spoken by one or maybe both till she stopped, her breath suspended for a moment and then shaking with her first orgasm with him.

          She collapsed to his side and quickly restored her hand to his dick and resumed stroking. He did not care in the least whether he came. She came at his fingers and nothing, he thought, could top that. She proved him wrong as the pace of her hand quickened. She demanded he come-for-me-baby and her lips went to his left nipple and her teeth teased it until they were pushed away as part of his eruption and, neither having the foresight to bring anything to catch it, his cum shot over him and over her and over the sheets. It was a mess and it embarrassed him. Then she ran her finger over a smear that was just above her right tit and tasted him and smiled.

          He got up to pee, and she followed suit. When she got back, naked, he immediately got hard at the sight of her. He reached into a drawer in his dresser and got a condom. She smiled and got onto the bed. On her back. That steely look that Fran saw appeared, though for the opposite reason.

          “Fuck me Peter.” She spread her legs. Her pussy, with lightly-trimmed hair, was dripping.

          Peter put the condom on and lay atop her. His dick above but not in her pussy.

          “Are you sure?” and she, truthfully, said, “I’ve never been surer of anything in my life.” He entered her slowly until he was completely in. He stopped and looked down on her. He was not sure where it came from but he, truthfully, said, “I love you.” She echoed him, even more sure than she had been about wanting him to fuck . . . no, make love to her.

          He stayed above her face. Their eyes locked. He found a rhythm and soon they were both—again it was hard to know who—chanting “fuck”s and “Oh god”s. She began to shake. She pulled him down to grip him as tightly as she could. Lifting her knees for leverage. Her head was on his shoulder as the shaking increased until it stopped for a moment. Followed by a tsunami within her beyond anything she’d ever known.

          His own explosion was set off by hers and after saying “I’m about to cum” she told him to stay inside her.

          When done, he came out of her—they both checked and saw that the condom was OK—and lay down next to her. They both, breathing quickly with chests rising-and-falling, stared at the ceiling.

          “I meant it.”

          “So did I.”

  • The Presser

          They both knew it would be a big step. Amy’s formal coming-out. It was another hospital fund-raiser, this time in Southampton on a late-July Saturday. The objective was to introduce Amy as his girlfriend, the gossips be damned. They both also knew that how it was done was important as was how Amy handled it.

          They decided to do a dry-run a few days beforehand.

          All the seats in the Enswich & Taylor conference room were taken except for three in the middle of the side facing the window. A memo went out that morning. Peter Edgar wanted assistance with the presentation to the public of a woman with whom he had entered into a relationship—PR-speak for girl- or boy-friend. Staffers were invited to pepper the woman, a twenty-eight-year-old who worked for a midtown firm, with questions to give her experience in dealing with the real media. There would be sandwiches.

          Most of those there knew what to expect. The gossip had made the rounds. So there were laughs when Evan, Sarah, and Amy walked in and Amy took the seat between the other two. After Ewan explained that there was not to be a formal roll-out; they wanted Amy to get a sense of questions that would be thrown at her. The three figured it would be good fun. To the assembled staffers, this was like catnip. Given leave to shout questions at their colleague, they did not hesitate:

          “Are you pregnant?”

          “Are you giving up your job?”

          “Any marriage plans?”

          “What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?” (which drew an immediate “African or European?” from across the room).

          “What about kids?”

          “When did you meet?”

          “How did you meet?”

          It took a few minutes but Amy soon found her footing and was parrying them with a deft mix of non-information and charm. Evan wondered why the hell she had such an issue with this. A natural. He shut down the proceedings after ten minutes or so. Several came up to her to congratulate her and pump her for the “real story,” which she deftly parried with little-information and charm.

          After that, once she understood that it was just a game and in the end it didn’t matter, Amy started to enjoy people coming up to her as she waited on the platform for the 6 train, some even taking selfies with her. WTF? Everyone was cool with it. Subway. Streets. The deli where she sometimes got coffee and a bagel.

          There was no red-carpet at the fund-raiser but the number of A‑listers drew Paparazzi, reporters, and bloggers. Going through that mock-presser made Amy understand that she was just a character. She put on her blue gown. The one she wore when she worked such events. When Peter offered to buy her a new one, her response was, “I bought my own damn coffee. I can pay for my own damn gown.” Three-inch heels and a sapphire necklace.

          They had their first fight after she buzzed him in. It was resolved in a compromise. He “lent” a diamond necklace to her for the evening. It was real and spectacular and she felt sad when she put her sapphire one aside. It was gorgeous though and her face brightened in its luminescence.

          As the two walked in, she decided to go as a saucy broad with her own job and her own life:

          “We’ll see what happens.”

          “Just a friend.” Pause. “For now.” [Wink.]

          “Small firm in midtown. Can’t say its name.” (Take that Evan.)

          “Local girl but not from the City.”

          “Not his kind of money.”

          Through the gauntlet, she was ecstatic.

  • Afterwards

          Things happened quickly after that. Peter, it turned out, was fairly clever. Once he took his job seriously, he started doing good work at XTach. He was unlike his father in that his strength was not on the sales side. It was on big-picture things and several engineers at the firm sat with him after work to discuss ideas. They, of course, knew he had money and hoped they might interest him in an initial investment.

          With the support of others at XTach, he formed a small incubator that invested in ideas. This, in turn, enticed talent to come to XTach. The eternal cycle in Silicon Valley and Silicon Alley. It was a while later, but he left XTach to focus on incubation work. It would be a while as well until he knew which of those ideas would work. He could wait.

          In what became tradition, when in the City Peter met Amy on Park Avenue on Sunday mornings and they’d walk together to their Starbucks, recognized by the baristas and a number of other regulars. If in East Hampton, they’d go to a non-Starbucks place on Main Street. People recognized him but East Hampton was flooded with people who everyone recognized so it didn’t matter. In either place, they’d sit at a table for a bit, but made sure to leave when they saw other couples eyeing it.

          Two months after that first trip to East Hampton, the pair were sitting on the deck, under the umbrella. After Labor Day, the isolated beach was almost deserted. Peter asked Amy to move in with him. “I don’t know, Peter. I’m pretty settled in my own place.” Which would fit in Peter’s kitchen. She had become quite the tease. They both knew he would sweeten his proposal. Which he did by making his proposal. A simple ring—Amy was not the showy type—and the deal was done.

          Peter’s generally inactive Facebook page carried the announcement. Apparently people followed it; an item about it appeared on Monday’s Page Six, The Times mentioned it on its Society page, and it promptly appeared on his Wikipedia page: “Speculation about his intentions with Amy Reed ended when they agreed to get married. Wedding date as yet unknown.” Amy made that edit.

          The second fight they had was over a pre-nup. She insisted he have one. He refused. They compromised. She’d get $100 million as long as the marriage lasted more than one day.

           The wedding itself was a modest affair. The Saturday before Thanksgiving. It was held in the great room of the East Hampton house. The guests filled the rooms in the house and stayed at nearby places. Amy’s folks and her mom’s parents—her dad’s parents were dead—Bridget, several people from Enswich & Taylor, including Sarah and Evan, several from XTach, and five or six other friends of the bride or groom. Amy’s mother argued for a Catholic Church ceremony, but Amy’s agnosticism and Peter’s lapsed Episcopalianism defeated it. Fran was invited, but she declined—she was eight months along—as did her mother. There was a small announcement in The Times’s Weddings pages the next day. They honeymooned in Paris.

  • Eve Petra Reynolds

          It was bittersweet for everyone. On an early December evening Peter received a call from Fran’s mother, Jane Reynolds. Fran was in labor. She was having the baby in White Plains. Peter and Amy drove up and sat with Jane.

          Amy saw Fran a couple of months earlier, after the engagement. She and Peter were joined by Bridget at his apartment. Bridget did not want to be there, but Peter asked her to be. For support. He saw Fran once or twice a month, heading out to her place in Astoria and then to the house she bought in Westchester. She was carrying his child. They were short trips, her mother sometimes there. Peter went because he knew that he and Fran would be in regular contact after the baby was born. It was all about the baby.

          When she entered Peter and Amy’s apartment, Fran was surprised that Amy was at first friendlier to her than was Bridget. Amy understood how important it would be for Peter, and her, and mostly the child, to have a positive relationship with Fran. Yet now that they were again face-to-face Amy let emotion get the better of her. She knew she shouldn’t but she did. Taking Fran aside she said, “I’ll be straight with you. If I never ran into you again, I’d be happy. But that’s not going to happen because of the baby. I promise that I will do whatever I can. You had better do the same. If you do, I can, and Peter can, move forward. I’ll just leave it at that. I’m giving you a chance to redeem yourself.”

          This unnerved Fran. Peter’s fiancée again threatening her. Her voice rising so the other two could hear: “This is my child and I will take care of her. I’ve agreed to the terms Peter insisted on for visitation and what-not. I’m not going to have either of you second-guess how I raise my child. MY CHILD.”

          At that Fran turned, grabbed her things, and was gone. Peter and Bridget were stunned and confused. Both turned to Amy. Who knew she’d fucked up. She hadn’t meant to go that way. It happened. It was the anger at what Fran did to Peter, how evil it was. She was trying to protect him.

          Peter was never again as angry at Amy as he was at that moment. It was fortunate that Bridget was there.

          “I’ve worked so hard . . .”

          The two women heard in his voice what he’d gone through for his child. “I just can’t believe what you said.”

          At that, Peter stormed out of his own apartment. Amy and Bridget were shaken and quiet.

          “I just wanted to make her understand that we’d take care of the baby if she didn’t.”

          Bridget said she understood but that she also understood where Fran was coming from. She was gradually softening her view towards her former colleague. She took her cue in part from Peter but also because of their shared experiences. She gave Amy a kiss on the forehead and told her to be there when Peter returned. And she left.

          It was dark when Peter came home. Amy sat, in the dark, in the living room. Since Bridget left, she’d moved only once, to go to the bathroom and get a glass of water. She tried to apologize but Peter interrupted her, kissing a tear running down her right cheek.

          “Ames. I know you did what you thought was right. For me. For the baby. I wish you’d spoken to me about it ahead of time. What’s done is done. We can get through this. I love you.”

          “I’m so sorry Peter. I love you so much.” And the tears came and she shook while he held her, giving light kisses on her hair.

          They struggled through dinner together. She still had her place nearby and offered to leave, but he asked her to stay. They went to bed early. Both pretending to be asleep until each eventually was.

          It took days for the two to get back in sync. Peter knew Amy was thinking of him. Amy knew she’d fucked up. They realized that the issues she raised with Fran would probably have arisen anyway. Her mistake was vocalizing them. She had told him of her prior meeting with Fran and although he was not pleased about that either, he understood that then, too, she had his interests at heart. That worked out. This would too. It’d just take time.

          It took time but Peter was able to get Fran to be cooperative again. She made it clear that she never wanted to see “that bitch” again. Soon after Amy and Peter got to the hospital when Fran was in labor. Peter joined her in the delivery room. Two hours later, their daughter was born. 7 lbs., 10 oz. Peter held her.

          Fran named her. Eve Petra Reynolds.

          Two months after Eve’s birth, Amy, now Peter’s wife, drove up to Fran’s house. After Fran let her in, reluctantly, Amy admitted she was way out of line. In fact it was a different Amy from the one who Fran met twice before. The first two times, Amy was protecting Peter. She knew now that Peter no longer needed protection. She promised Fran that she would never presume as to what Fran did with Eve.

          “Peter is the most important thing in the world to me. Eve is a close second. But I’m not her mother. If you need anything, let me know. We can keep things just between us.”

          Fran was suspicious. She would not tolerate any second-guessing. Not from Peter. Not from Amy. She took Amy’s number and half-heartedly thanked her for coming. They would never be friends. Both knew that. But Fran agreed that Amy could be in the room when Peter came to visit Eve. Maybe they could tolerate one another for that at least. For Eve’s sake if for nothing else.

  • A New Year

          Things calmed down with 2015. The newlyweds had Christmas at their apartment. Amy’s folks and grandparents, Bridget and her folks and grandparents. Three or four XTach programmers from out of town, including one from Mumbai, and a Lenox Hill nurse from County Kerry in Ireland joined them.

          Peter made sure to speak to Fran and Jane in Westchester since they could not come. He had a catered dinner delivered to them. With Eve getting presents that easily outweighed her. He added a sapphire necklace for Fran and a pair of diamond studs for Jane.

          On the first Sunday in January, Peter ran in Central Park. Twelve miles. It was cold and he wore tights and a long-sleeve shirt with a hat and gloves as he did his clockwise loops. Amy would have breakfast ready when he got home. It was a new year and his mind drifted back. Eighteen months earlier, he was very rich and very famous and not much else. Now, his wealth and fame were the least important things about him. To him. Sure, he wasn’t about to give them up, especially the money part, but they no longer defined him. He had a wife and a child. Some dear friends. He was excited at his job every day. He was passionate about his running. Bridget was trying but was not yet successful in getting him passionate about art. A tad ironic since he twice passed the Metropolitan Museum on this run.

          As he jogged from the Park to his apartment, his sweat starting to chill him, he passed the spot where he’d walked, literally, into Amy. He made it a point to do that, and it brought a smile to him every time. After he greeted the doormen, he was supremely content as he rode the elevator up. His wife, alerted from the lobby, held a glass of water and a cup of coffee for him as he entered and turned to the bathroom for his shower.

  • Six Months Later

          For Eve’s six-month-birthday, Peter invited Fran, Eve, and Jane—Eve’s grandmother—to East Hampton. It would be the first time Peter saw his daughter outside the hospital or Fran’s house. Jane was now living with Fran. Of everyone, she was the most upset by what her daughter did. She felt betrayed. She worked so hard on her own. Her daughter was a nurse. Then her daughter grabbed the “big chance.” The two barely spoke while Fran still lived in Queens and they were both happy when she bought the house in Westchester.

          She was still her mother, though, and on Sundays she took the subway to the train to a cab to Fran’s house and cared for her pregnant daughter. Fran offered to send a car, but her mother refused. Only when Peter, who met her on a Sunday when Fran was about seven-months in, intervened did she allow a car to take her there and back. She drove home with Peter that day. He convinced her that it was his money and that it was for his child, that not only did Fran need her but so would her grandchild. If he could move on, so could she. For her grandchild.

          Fran’s house had plenty of room. Two weeks after her drive with Peter, Jane moved in. Once she gave up her place in Queens she insisted on paying rent. Instead of taking the N Train to work, she took Metro North. It was more comfortable but it took longer and she missed the subway’s hustle-and-bustle. Sometimes.

          That was shortly before the baby was born. Now she was nervous about the gathering Peter scheduled six months later. She was so much older than everyone and an outsider. She calmed a bit on the ride out on Saturday morning, sitting next to Peter with Fran and Eve in the back. Amy drove out with Bridget; they’d get there first.

          At the house, a wide-awake Eve took over. Tension among the adults disappeared in light of the girl. For the first time, Fran handed Eve to Amy who, after Fran nodded, passed her to Bridget. It would never be great among the three women but it would at least be good enough. She didn’t realize it yet, but upon touching her husband’s daughter Amy decided she wanted to carry his child; she excused herself because she began to cry.

          After dinner prepared by many cooks and with the beach virtually empty, after the crowds had left, the group strolled along the water. Eve slept in a snuggly worn by Peter, between Amy and Fran. Bridget and Jane spoke quietly. After ten or fifteen minutes, they turned back. Then everyone made themselves at home. Including Jane.

          Tensions eased more when the group lounged around the next day. They went to Bridgehampton for lunch and another stroll, repeating the seating arrangement for the trip out—Amy and Bridget in the SUV, the others in the Volvo. Eve crashed at about four, and her mother and grandmother and father were on the road heading back to Westchester a little after.   

          Amy and Bridget were alone. They’d taken the week off. Peter would come back out on Wednesday. The two women, now perhaps best friends, lounged on the deck on Sunday night after sunset. They’d finished off some leftovers from the night before. Each had a glass of wine, the only sounds: The waves kissing the beach and the occasional voice carried through the still air. Both agreed things went better than they hoped. That first family-weekend over, they knew the group would get back together again often during the summer. Amy, the most affected since it would mean less alone time with her husband, was happy about it.

          The two were quiet for a while. Their glasses drained, Bridget offered to get them refills. Before she could get up, Amy reached her hand to her friend. “I love her so much it scares me.”

          “I know,” her friend said, tapping Amy’s hand and grabbing her glass for that refill.

What This Site Is

This Site is where I’ll be publishing stories or links to stories. They will range from long book-length tales to very short items, often done based upon a prompt, such as a picture or a phrase. Many of these I get from Twitter; my handle is @Stories2121

My stories are chiefly set in New York City and surrounding areas. Some find it cumbersome, being inundated with locations and details with which they are unfamiliar. I think most of the places are easily located via a search. I try to be as precise as I can as to locations, while avoiding being too precise at times.

Feel free to comment. My email is Stories212@Hushmail.com