Winston received Andrea’s letter two days after he returned home. He grabbed a Twix and read it from his couch.
I would apologize for my behavior but I won’t. If I wouldn’t have been such a bitch we wouldn’t be friends…so you can thank me now.
Seriously, thank you for going out of your way for my account even after the way I treated you. I needed a friend that night and there you were, wading through mud and darkness to find me. That says a lot about your character. You’re a true gentleman, Winston Bellamy. I’ve decided to stay on at the hospital for six more months to get the extra skill mentioned in the rejection letter, and then take another stab at it. What’s the worse that could happen?
I’ve also decided to take salsa lessons. Again, what’s the worse that could happen? How are Dean and Rebecca getting on?
No need to thank me. It’s what friends do for one another. Dean and Rebecca are getting married next weekend in Hyde Park. I wish you could make it. Your parents are coming.
I’m meeting with a realtor this afternoon. I’m buying the happy couple a house on the North Shore. Hell, I’d pay for them to have a place in heaven if it meant saving my spare room! Which, by the way, I’m converting into a mediation room just in case there’s something to the hocus pocus of religion. I’m stock piling Holy points.
I’ve thinking about hiring Isaac. Sadie could use the company. How are your classes and work?
By the way, I’m pretty sure my house is haunted. I can’t find anything. I may be moving soon.
Mom and Dad said the wedding was lovely. Sorry I couldn’t make it…hours at the hospital are now in the triple digits if that’s even possible. I’m scheduled for one surgery a day and the rest of my day is spent in trauma.
My dancing classes have gone the way of the doo doo bird. I’m not terribly upset. I was horrible and dancing with clammy handed man isn’t my ideal Wednesday night. On the plus side, I met a girl in class named Shelia. I thought she was a lesbian but it turns out she’s just really friendly. We’re going speed dating tonight.
Having Isaac around would give Sadie someone other than her family to talk to. Bring him over for a few months and see how it goes. How are Sadie and Rebecca getting on?
Your house isn’t haunted. Didn’t you hire a new housekeeper? That’s why your shit is out of place. Your meditation room got me to thinking. Maybe I’ll take a yoga class.
My father has been on my mind lately; more to the point, his death. I wonder if he knew he was dying and if so, was he afraid? I always imagined when that time came we’d be gathered around his deathbed. I cringe when I think of him conscious of the fact that he was dying. His inglorious death was in stark contrast to the life he lead. My father was such a decent man, he gave so much to so many yet he died alone. Sadie is working through her issues. Finding one’s father dead tends to scare one.
Speaking of frights, Rebecca thought a weekly cooking class would be a good way for us to spend more time together. Dean has taken to the course like a duck to water whilst the rest of us cock-up the simplest task. Remind me to give my chef a raise.
Don’t work too hard.
Clinically speaking, your father never knew what hit him, and there was no pain. We all have this idea of how our parents will pass and when it doesn’t go according to plan, we struggle with questions and quilt. Stanley was a fantastic man. The manner of his death mattered little to him because he gave of himself unreservedly while he lived. In that sense you’ve very much like your father. You always do what’s right and expect nothing in return. You’re rigid exterior and selfless heart is what attracts me. You don’t drag or boast. For better or worst, you’re Winston 24/7.
Sadie mentioned your classes in her last email. Dean in the kitchen sounds dangerous but not completely unbelievable. When he puts his mind to something it’s all or nothing.
My birthday is a couple of week away. I’m celebrating by pulling a double shift at the hospital. I'm living the life!
Happy birthday, A! I hope my gift arrived safely. I’m fetching Isaac from the airport later this evening. He agreed to come after I swore you weren’t going to be around. Joking. How did speed dating go? Any luck? Maybe I’ll give it a try. As you said, what’s the worse that could happen?
Sadie and Rebecca are best friends and Dean is turning out to be a better husband than any one expected. Bart and Rosemund are getting married. If you haven’t already heard; she’s knocked up and he’s doing the right thing. Weddings devastate Maureen—this one is no different. My mother is on the verge of killing her.
By the way, I nixed the meditation room and decided to gut the place.
Winston I’m going to murder you! Your ‘gift’ just took a dump on my floor! I didn’t know a turd that large could come out of such a small Bolognese. I’ve named him Satan after his father.
Bart marrying Rosemund isn’t a shocker. She hunted him down. I wish them the best. Dean settling down is a huge shock! Then again, having Sadie there has probably made him more responsible. Speed dating wasn’t my cup of tea. I sit there, staring blankly until the mediator sounded the bell to move on. I wasted my night off. I’ve actually stopped counting the days since I got laid…it was pathetic!
I lost my first patient. It wasn’t my fault, he was too old for the operation, and he knew the risk. But I feel like I failed him. I still remember how quiet the room was when I called his time off death and how peaceful he looked. Even when the coroners report cleared me of any negligence, I still felt helpless. I called you but you weren’t home. I spoke to your mother for a long time, though. Thank her for the flowers she sent. They made my day.
Anyway, you’re birthday is next month. I’m sending you a giraffe.
If I see a giraffe in my driveway, you’re getting a manatee for Easter! I thought you’d like the puppy. They have no undercoat so there’s no shedding—less mess for you to clean! How is Satan?
I bought a piece of property not very far from you. Dean and I are coming to inspect it in a few weeks. Are you going to be around? Maybe we can have dinner if your new boyfriend doesn’t mind. Your mother told my mother you were dating a doctor in the hospital. At least you’re working the same long hours. My love life is all but nonexistent. I met someone a couple days ago, Val. We’ll see how it pans out.
Sadie sends her love. And I miss you terribly.
Yep! I have a boyfriend. His name is Wade. He’s also a surgeon. Things are going well. I owe you an enormous thank you. If you hadn’t broken down my guard I wouldn’t have given Wade the time of day. My mom and dad don’t care or him. They say he’s detached but he’s warm to me and I adore him. Sorry I missed you when you were in town. I’d just scrubbed in when you arrived so I couldn’t leave the operating room. Maybe next time, yeah?
I saw the pictures from Bart’s wedding. Damn, he looked pissed. Rosemund looked like she’d won the lottery. Thanks for Satan. He’s in doggy daycare now since my hours are hectic. The ladies groomed him up…now he looks like a cotton ball. He hates his new hairdo. I think it’s making him depressed. After a long day his tiny wagging tail is exactly what I need. He’s taken over my bed and he’s a little demanding but we’re working through it.
I’ve taken my mom’s maiden name, Jones, and petitioned the board to change it on my license. The farther I move away from Andrea Mitcham, the better my prospects of being judged on my merit rather than my father. Good news is I was offered a fellow at St. Margaret’s. Yay! This is the opportunity I’ve wanted. But now I’m thinking about going private. Decisions decisions!
Tell me about your lady friend and the family.
Do not let those women turn Satan into a cotton ball again! Of course he’s depressed. He’s a boy, Andrea.
I don’t care for the name change. Jones? I’ll get use to it.
Val and I are no longer seeing each other. We rarely saw eye to eye, our conversation was shallow and bland—nothing like ours. I don’t think she listened to a word I said. And the sex was lackluster at best. Hope you and Wade have better luck. I took a page from your book and joined a yoga class…I dropped out after the first session, though. The sight oflow hanging male genitalia grossed me out.
Everyone is fine. Maureen is living in Hyde Park fulltime. Mother is spending more time with Dean and Rebecca. Bart and Rosemund are moving to France. And Isaac, who was supposed to be my valet, spends most of his time minding Sadie. You were right, he’s become our third brother. So much so that mother has written him into the will and given him an allowance. So he doesn’t work for us anymore, he’s in school. Maureen shit her pants! A footmen—taken into the Bellamy family—what will the neighbors say?
Dean and I are building another unit of condos. I’m so overworked I could cry. I’d give anything to send another week with you in the hunting lodge. No phones. No meetings. No family. No nothing. Just me, you, and Satan. Do you realize you’re the only person I’ve trusted with my secrets? I’m chalking up that momentary lapse of judgment to the fact that you’re incredibly attractive.
At the risk of sounding mushy I wanted you to know how proud I am of you. After your rejection, you picked up the pieces and moved on without whining ‘poor me’. You’re a tough cookie, Dr. Jones. Malcolm Forbes said the biggest mistake people make in life is not trying to make a living at doing what they enjoy most. You stumbled and fell, but you got on your feet and kept moving. Now you’re doing something you love. All the best!
Mother is having a fête next month in Hyde Park. Your mother has your invitation. Hope to see you there.
Sorry to hear about you and Val. Wade and I are finished also. I should’ve listened to my parents; they saw through him. He was distant. It was always work, work, work. I tried talking to him but he never saw me—he saw my connections. He wasn’t you. I miss you so much, Winston. I don’t know what I would’ve done without your friendship over the past year. I’ve stopped taking myself so seriously and started enjoying the life I have instead of pushing myself to unrealistic expectations. I don’t have to prove myself to anyone. Thanks for helping me see that.
Satan and I can’t wait to see you next week.
I thought it would be cute to send this letter ahead of me. I’ve asked your mother to have it waiting on your bed when you arrive. See you around six. Kisses!
PS: I could really use some time alone with you. The hunting lodge sounds perfect!
Smiling, Winston turned the page over, looking for more scribbles. Her letter was exactly where she said it would be. He looked at his watch. It was five-thirty. In a small way, protocol influenced his public acknowledgement of his feelings for Andrea. That would never happen again! Damn protocol and etiquette. He’d waited almost a year to see her again. This time he wasn’t letting her go.
“Sir?” A young footman shook Winston from thought. “Should I unpack your bags now or after dinner?”
“Now is fine. I’ll get out of your way.” Winston stepped around his pile of luggage. “Has everyone arrived?” he asked from the door, trying not to laugh at the spindly footman wrestling with a bag that weighted more than him.
“Umph!” He labored, but refused Winston’s help. “Everyone except Mr. and Mrs. Lockwood. Their plane was delayed. Your mother wanted me to tell you that Isaac…I mean Mr. McDowell and Ms. Sadie took a ride down the Hudson. They’ll miss dinner.”
“Thank you,” Winston turned to leave, then circled back. “Has Dr. Jones arrived?”
“Just.” The footman stood, he hands on his aching back. “She’s in her room, two doors down. She turned up early. I had to send another car to fetch her” He hoofed. “Were you waiting for her, Sir?”
Winston thought for a moment, and then said truthfully, “Yes. I’ve been waiting for her.” Without another word he left for Andrea’s room. He knocked but there was no answer. He trotted downstairs then through the sea of incoming guests and servants.
Andrea, Satan and Rhonda watched him from their position on the third floor landing overlooking the grand foyer. Rhonda turned and leaned against the railing, and studied Andrea. She didn’t take her eyes off of Winston.
“He’s handsome.” said Rhonda.
“He’s not handsome. He’s beautiful inside and out.” Andrea nuzzled her nose into Satan’s fluffy white coat. “Let’s go see your daddy.” Rhonda didn’t follow her. “Aren’t you coming?”
“Are you avoiding Dean?” Andrea asked quietly.
Rhonda smiled sincerely. “No. Dean and I are finished. We’re both happily married.” She took a deep breath. “Your father and I are patching things up but I don’t rely on him or anyone for my happiness; I’m as happy as I want to be. You taught me that.” She smiled. “I’m proud of you. Over the last year, you’ve pulled yourself together. I hope you and Winston will be happy.”
“What if he only sees me as a friend?”
“Then he’s a damn fool and I’ve misjudged him. Now go. I’ll be fine.”
Still dressed in her traveling clothes, dark skinny jeans tucked inside a pair of four inch boots and a low cut crimson tunic (Winston was a breasts man, she was no fool!), Andrea found Winston in the front hall chatting with a group of older women, his back to her. The room almost came to a stop as she walked towards him. Winston followed everyone’s eyes to Andrea. His fell to the floor, as did hers. Damn propriety and social grace. They’d been apart long enough. They knew each others weaknesses and strengths. They’d fought like cats and dogs—seen one another at their worse—they’d supported and kicked each other in the ass with equal measure. Now they wanted each other. And every small-minded, class bound idiot could go to hell and take their gossip with them.
The two of them stood there looking at each other, taking inventory. Satan leapt in Winston’s arms.
“Hi Satan!” Winston rubbed his coat. “You couldn’t wait to see your daddy!”
“Getting him settled on the plane was murder. He’s been antsy all day.”
Winston cradled Andrea’s cheek and kissed her. “And his mother?”
“Giddy with anticipation.” She laughed then flicked her eyes around the room at the guests covertly watching them. “Yikes!” she whispered through her teeth, taking Satan from Winston. “We’re under the microscope again.”
Satan jumped back into Winston’s arms. “We’d better walk him before dinner.” He turned to the room and announced loudly, “We’re walking the dog. Don’t worry, we’ll be back for dinner. You can stare all you like then!” Hand in hand, he and Andrea left the house.
The room was silent until Vivian burst out laughing.
Outside, Winston asked one of the footmen to walk Satan. Satan took off across the grounds like a shot.. Winston pulled up a wooden deck chair and sat, bringing Andrea to sit on his lap. They watched three junior footmen chase their cotton ball around the yard, through the parked cars, and finally he sprinted down the hill towards the front gate.
“They’re never going to catch him; he loves being outside.” She wrapped her arm around Winston’s neck and kissed his temple. “You didn’t make any friends just now.”
“Who? Those people? Let them gossip. Who cares what they think. You’re damned either way. Besides, whatever they’re saying is probably true.”
“I’m serious, Winston.” She met his eyes. “You don’t have to prove anything to me. I know how fiercely protective you are about your privacy; you don’t want your name on people’s lips. What about appearances and never letting anyone see your true feelings?”
Her words forced a smile to his face. She really was oblivious to the affect their friendship had on him. “Well, thanks to someone, I’m getting over that.” He secured her by her waist. He raised an eyebrow when he noticed her cleavage dangerously close to him. “You look nice. Wade must’ve been out of his mind to let you go.”
“I could say the same for Val.” Andrea snorted. “I don’t think either of them stood a chance, do you?”
“They didn’t stand a snowballs chance in hell of keeping us. We don’t make sense with other people. We’re too much alike, you and I.” He looked out across the grounds, then back to Andrea. “What was it about Wade that tipped you off?”
“It’s so obvious now I’m almost ashamed to admit I didn’t see it all along.” She tucked her hair behind her ear. “We’d only known each other for two months and he’d met my parents twice—we were getting to know each other. One evening we’re talking and he tells me he’s coordinated the picture perfect life for us: the perfect wedding, the perfect house, the perfect friends, and the perfect kids. All perfectly fucking boring, right? So in the middle of perfectly inadequate, unsatisfying cunnilingus, I had two revelations: A) I’m not happy and he doesn’t know me. B) He needs to move a little to the left and lick faster. Seriously, I hit me in that order.”
Winston stifled a laugh. “Most women would’ve been satisfied with Mr. Perfect…then again you’re not most women.”
“I’ve had enough of perfect. Looking for perfection in myself and others made me a raging bitch.” She shook her head. It was now or never. “I don’t what perfect. I want to be happy. I want you. I know…” she continued though Winston tried to speak. “you may never see me as anything other than a friend, and I’ll accept that. But I love you, Winston Bellamy, and there…there…I said it. I love you.”
“Andrea,” Winston took her face in his hands and said without a hint of hesitation. “I’ve fallen in love with you.”