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 in 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 casually ran his fingers along the spines of unopened volumes in the old-school banker’s library.
Peter’s love life would be described as very full or very empty, depending on the describer. There were 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.
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 five-ten. 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, though 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 by nature shy. 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.
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 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 out of 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.
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.
On 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 leaped 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 the required 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.
Long a man without passion, 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.”
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 weekends. 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.
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 five-five 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.
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.”
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 did not tell 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’s immediate reaction to Fran was different from what it was with Bridget. The two nurses were similar in features, excepting Bridget’s blonde hair, but a spark that was absent with Bridget hit Peter when he first saw Fran in his kitchen, her bare legs below her long t-shirt like a shot across his bow. So when Bridget again apologized a few days later for bringing her friend over unannounced, Peter was glad she brought Fran up. He suggested that Bridget should feel free to bring Fran over whenever she came by.
Bridget, being no fool, understood he was smitten. She knew and she liked Fran and thought they would get on well. At times she felt her buddy-time with Peter was taking away from his developing a relationship, a romantic relationship, with a woman. She easily got Fran to go with her to Peter’s apartment and the two stayed overnight between shifts at the Hospital several times a week. It might have been more often, but Fran wanted to stay with her mother in Astoria as often as she could. There were plenty of extra rooms in the apartment, and Peter happily offered a plain one with a window facing to the west where Fran could sleep and keep some things. It was next to the one Bridget had commandeered and was the one where Fran spent her first night.
Bridget, again not being a fool, took to excusing herself after dinner, going to her room or to the little-used but comfortable old-world library.
For their part, when Bridget was out of the way, Peter and Fran sat in the living room, generally fighting over what to watch on Netflix or Prime or any number of other streams Peter had. He usually repressed his preference for action films and police-procedural shows in favor of her romances. And they’d sit on the couch enjoying the big screen above the fireplace and snuggle.
It was not long before Fran had her own key and soon she was staying at Peter’s without Bridget. Her friend was bowing out, letting the others get together, and heading home to Woodlawn most nights. Both Peter and Fran tried to have her join them, but she deferred.
There was an unremarked upon but plain sexual tension at the apartment. Peter was reluctant to go out in public with Fran, after what happened with Amy. There would come a time, he hoped. Just not yet. To some extent, this frustrated Fran. She didn’t care about being seen with the Peter Edgar. She simply wanted to go out with him. She assured him she’d be OK with it, but he kept telling her “we need to give it a little more time.” He knew she didn’t appreciate what the sudden media glare could do to her. But he expected they’d soon take the leap.
The couple were becoming lovers without realizing it. Fran was watching movies with her head in Peter’s lap, enjoying running his hand absently through her hair. Peter timed his trips to the bathroom to increase the chance of his getting a glimpse of those bare legs of her. She knew it, and made a point of sleeping in a t-shirt, long enough to make him wonder if she wore anything else.
About a month after all of this began, Fran realized that Peter would not make a move. She sometimes ran her hand across his neck when she passed him in the kitchen and they engaged in flirting repartee. He wasn’t much of a cook, but he tried now and then. Simple stuff, mostly, and they both enjoyed how she’d sometimes stop while he was at the stove or the sink and put her arms around his waist and give him a quick peck on the back of his neck before moving away.
On the last Saturday in February, about six weeks after they met, Peter and Fran sat with Bridget in the living room at about four. She was staying for dinner, and both Peter and Fran wanted her to see them together. Bridget, though, was called into an emergency shift at the Hospital and made her apologies and was gone.
Peter went into the kitchen to get dinner on. Fran soon followed him into the kitchen. She 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. His arms were around her waist as her hands pulled him closer to her lips. Her tongue invaded his mouth first, but soon his own entered hers as she relaxed her hands and ran them down his sides.
“Let’s . . . go . . . some. . . where . . . more . . . comfortable” she suggested, using kisses as punctuation. She stepped back and untied the apron, lifting it above his head as he raised his arms. She reached to pull his polo shirt from his slacks, it followed the apron to the kitchen floor. He reached for her hand and led her to the master bedroom.
The room was very large. It was on the corner of the apartment, with windows facing south and windows facing west. The din of the traffic on Park Avenue was faintly in the air. The bed was a king-sized four-poster. The room was somewhat old-fashioned, painted in a light green, all in keeping with the place’s general décor, with two armchairs on either side of a small table under the windows facing south and one could easily picture a man in a dressing gown reading there late into the night.
But there would be no reading now. Peter flung the covers aside and turned to Fran. Daylight was fading, but there was enough for them to see each other. They stood to the side of the bed. He reached for her and kissed her before unbuttoning her red blouse, pulling it from her slacks and off. He ran his hands down her sides as she stood for him until she reached around and unclasped her bra, letting it fall from her arms.
Peter gazed at Fran’s tits in the near shadows, as she leaned back slightly to display them. Both his hands reached to caress them. They were, he thought, a medium-size and nice. The skin pale with some freckles and the areolae pink and hard. She pushed his right hand from her left tit and put her own hand below it, offering it to him. Her right hand again reached for his head, pulling it toward her left nipple, and when his lips touched it, she felt a spark. They were sensitive, and a man’s mouth lightly damp always increased her arousal.
It triggered her and she dropped both her hands to the waist of his trousers awkwardly. He interrupted his suckling to step back, undoing his belt and his pants and unzipping them. He’d kicked off his shoes and now took off his pants and his socks. As he was doing this, she was doing the same with her slacks, and soon each was taking in the other’s body for the first time.
She was right that his clothing did not hide faults. He was strong and thin from his gym work and running. He had wide shoulders and his chest was only lightly muscled with no visible hair. His stomach was perfectly flat and as she looked lower she saw hair above the waist of his briefs and, more, the hardness of his dick.
For his part, Peter was awed by what was before him. He turned to light a small lamp on a side table and returned to take her in. Fran’s tits sagged, but only slightly. She was not thin, but beautifully proportioned with wide hips and strong legs. He’d seen many beautiful naked women, but this was somehow more real to him than they were. Perhaps it was because Peter felt a connection with Fran. It had been growing in their time together, gradually. As they felt more and more comfortable with each other. As he regretted those nights when she wasn’t staying with him. As he regretted those mornings when he didn’t see her in the kitchen or make her coffee or drink coffee she made for him in her long t-shirt.
Now, he understood what love was. It was this beautiful, kind nurse. But he did not have long to admire her or savor that thought as she stepped close enough to run her hand across the front of his briefs.
The question was rhetorical. She put both hands in the waistband and pulled his briefs down. His dick was as hard as she expected and pointing up. She ran her hand along its bottom, and Peter moaned.
She stepped back, but only so she could strip her panties off. She again displayed herself to Peter, spreading her legs slightly. His tongue involuntarily licked his upper lip, and she saw it. Perhaps he could see she was wet, maybe as a reflection of the light. It didn’t matter. She moved to him and brought his left hand to her pussy so he could feel her dampness.
She pulled his hand away as she turned to the bed. She got on it and moved to its center, turning onto her left side. Her head was eye-level with his dick and she saw its slight vibration. He waited to be invited and she beckoned him with her hand before rolling on to her back. He moved closer to the bed and towered over her as she spread her legs and lifted her knees. She was again displaying herself, this time more lasciviously than she perhaps ever had. She knew what he saw and she knew he wanted it. As did she. She wanted to feel him inside.
Fran had thought of this moment. Now she was impatient that he enter her. As he looked down, she ran her fingers through her pussy, testing herself. She was wet. Very wet. With her eyes she directed him down. He knelt between her legs, his hands on either side of her. Not a word since her “May I?” which seemed to have been long ago.
With their eyes locked, she told him she was on the pill as she reached for his dick with her right hand, and directed it down to her entrance as he bent his knees. When he was at her entrance, she nodded and he nodded and pushed himself into her.
Into her. He was inside the woman he loved. He slid in easily, and he held it when it was complete, still looking into her. Soon he began to move, pulling himself in and then almost out of her. In and out. The noise from the street replaced by their increasingly manic breathing, soon completely in sync with fragments of words exchanged.She began to rock in rhythm with his own, her arms lying on the bed to the side and above her head, ceding him control. When she got close, he abruptly pulled out, but briefly as her hands shot to his ass, pulling him back in and he did not dare tease again. She promptly returned to where she was. Her hands free of that duty, she reached for his shoulders and pulled him down to her so they could kiss, and their tongues smashed into one another until she pushed him away so she could breathe as she started to come. It was a sublime orgasm for her, and when it began he erupted. Four strings shooting into her.
He lay on top of her, still inside, and gave her a quick kiss on the lips.
He thought of telling her his thoughts, but feared it would ruin things. There’d come a time when it would be said. Not then.
He rolled off her and on his back. They both stared at the ceiling until she turned on her side and her left hand began running down his chest and over his stomach. It reached his shrinking dick, and she rolled her finger around its head, taking some of his cum and bringing it to her lips and dramatically sucking on it.
“You taste marvelous.” And she repeated it. His dick began to grow and she turned and placed its head in her mouth, licking the remaining cum before lowering her mouth to his stomach and licking what landed there. When she resumed sucking him with her hand holding the base of his dick, she felt his hand pull her right thigh, and she straddled him, lowering herself on her knees until she felt his tongue on her.
Again they found a rhythm, her sucking and him licking. Quickly she pulled her head off him as her second orgasm went through her, with Peter increasing the pace of his licking and running a finger around her hole. After she caught her breath, she resumed giving him head, her hand squeezing his balls until he called to her that he was coming. She pulled her mouth so only his head was in her, and felt three or four more strings from him, swallowing them all.
She moved back up the bad.
“Do you want to taste yourself?”
He nodded, and she lowered her mouth to his and his tongue did what it could to clean it before they ended it all with a final, passionate kiss after they’d moved to their sides. As it was getting chilly, he reached and pulled the covers over them and for the first time they slept together.
From that night on, they slept together when Fran was in the apartment. As far as Bridget could tell, they were nearly a married couple, and she stopped by for dinner and stayed over a couple of times a week since it was so near the Hospital. More important, Peter and Fran felt nearly like a married couple. He’d ceased doing the charity-dinner rounds, and speculation was rife in the papers that he had found “the one.”
Peter was trying to figure when it was time to take that step. But as with telling her he loved her, he was happy to maintain the status quo. With the onset of spring they spent time at his house in East Hampton. They enjoyed the relative anonymity of a place with multitudes of A-listers. Unlike before when Peter’s friends joined him, he kept it private, to just he and Fran.
They’d fallen into a routine—pleasant but still a routine—when on a Thursday in early June in the apartment, Fran gave Peter the news. She sat next to him on one of the couches in the living room and held his hands. The windows were open slightly and street noises were the only sound until she spoke.She was pregnant. She expected or at least hoped 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. 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 doubted 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 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 commit 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.
By this time, Jane, Fran’s mother, had met Peter a number of times. The first was a dinner with the couple in his apartment one night after work. After that, Fran told her mother that things were going extremely well and that she was taking things as they came. Jane told her daughter that she thought Peter would be good for her, and she came to dinner several more times.
While Peter was at Bridget’s Fran sat in the kitchen of her mother’s place in Astoria. Which was her place too. She had not expected Peter to react as he did. She thought he’d be happy at the news. But when Jane asked why he wasn’t happy about having a child, Fran dismissed the question with “It’s complicated” and slammed the door when she got to her room.
Jane knew Fran would tell her when she was ready to. But she was bewildered. It was going so well, according to her daughter’s reports.
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. It was a curse that she started to fall for him. But it was only a possibility, an increasingly real possibility, that it’d work out long-term. Maybe he’d be happy about the pregnancy even when he understood her deception. Yet she never lost sight of her prime objective, within her grasp.
“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 knew how she’d fucked up. It started with her planning on deceiving Peter. He turned out not to be the cardboard cut-out she expected. He was far better, far kinder. He’d get over it. He might even like having a kid he didn’t have to take care of the 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?”
“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 for 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 started wondering whether I could recapture that afternoon.”
They were quiet for a while.
“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.
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 Metropolitan 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 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 yet not a picture of any. 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. Amy moved her free hand to Peter’s occupied one, pushing it down so he could slip a finger inside her and she immediately felt a jolt. She whispered, “more,” and he put a second and a third finger inside her, occasionally removing them so he could run them up her folds and across her clit.
Amy’s eyes were closed as she tried to divide the pleasure she was receiving at Peter’s fingers and the pleasure she was giving him by her hand. Both were sweating, and a drop fell from Amy’s forehead to Peter’s chest. He did not notice. He was pushing his fingers in and out of her in time with her pumping his dick. Then 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.”
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.
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 several 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 prenup. 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 left. 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 kissed Amy 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, understanding the reference to Eve, said, tapping Amy’s hand and grabbing her glass for that refill.