I listen to Jack, pacing in the bedroom, and speaking on the phone. I giggle, he’s so abrupt and short with people. He teases me about being too sweet. He laughed out loud when the pretzel vendor asked me what part of the Deep South I was from. He frowned and scowled at people all day, but he didn’t make any rude comments like some others we encountered today. There were people everywhere you turned; he did okay for a man who declares to dislike human beings. He lived here for fifteen years. When I asked him if he missed it, he asked me if I was crazy.
Today we ate a late lunch at Katz deli. We’ve walked on Fifth Avenue so I could see the widows at Tiffanies. He took me to Grand Central Station and showed me his work,The Spalding Building. Then onto The Helmsley Building, and the site where Silvia will be built. Tomorrow we’re going to Central Park to walk around and then we are going to eat the best pizza, according to Jack, in New York for dinner.
Jack grabs a beer from the little kitchenette in our hotel suite and joins me on the couch. He picks up the TV remote and raises his brows in questioning, “Would my life be in danger if I turn this noise off?” He smiles and shows me his dimples. I roll my eyes when he turns it off. “You weren’t exaggerating about your love of television,” he says to me with one of his smirks.
I flush from embarrassment, I know he’s teasing me about earlier. “I apologized for talking nervously, about my love of TV, on the flight here.”
“Yes, you did. It was your first time flying, right?” He takes a drink of his beer to stop himself from chuckling at my expense.
“I also apologized for telling you and everyone else on the plane that it was my first time flying, repeatedly.”
He loses the battle to contain his laughter; he throws his head back and laughs. I watch mesmerized as his face transforms. I love it when he smiles. It softens his dark brown eyes, his lovely cheekbones, goodness, his full lips, white teeth, everything about him takes my breath away.
“Today we didn’t see any of the major historical site seeing monuments. But we’ve covered, When Harry Met Sally, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and explored Park Avenue. We’re staying here in The Plaza like Sabrina, Corie Bratter from Barefoot in the Park. Oh, and not let’s not forget Kevin from Home Alone and a little girl named Eloise. Do I have all the movies and TV shows correct? Did I miss one?” he asks, still making fun of me.
“Okay, I get the picture. I was a nervous flyer.” I tuck my feet underneath me and take a sip of my wine, “Quit teasing me.”
He touches my hair softly, “You should have mentioned you had never flown before. What did you think of flying?”
I smile,” Now that I know what to expect, I’ll be fine.”
“Before you had Jenny, you and your Mom or your ex-husband, had never traveled by plane? I didn’t even stop to think and ask if you’ve ever flown before sweetheart.”
“By the time we could afford it, Mama died. I know for a fact; she had never been on a plane.” Mama would have loved flying. She thought it was unbelievable that God created man smart enough to solve a lot of the problems of the world and make things faster and easier.
“Tell me more about your mom. You’ve never talked about your Dad, was he in the picture at all?”
“No, my mama, Mary, was Amish. She grew up in rural Pennsylvania. She was taken advantage of by an older, married Elder in their community. She got pregnant with me, and she was shunned, cast out as evil, and sinful at seventeen. The Elder, whose name I never learned, gave her two thousand dollars in cash before she left their land and the only life she knows.”
I think of my mama when that happened to her, and pride fills my chest. She didn’t give up, no, she went out and explored. “She’d heard talk of Elvis, swiveling his hips and sin. She thought herself sinful, so she bought a bus ticket to Memphis. Along the way, she met Lisa, who was traveling back home to Memphis from visiting with relatives up east. Lisa saw how Mama was dressed and knew something was wrong. She befriended her on the ride and took her home with her when the bus arrived in Memphis, Tennessee. Lisa and her husband, Tom, gave Mama a job at their diner and a place to live above it. Mama had to learn a lot about life, and that there was a whole world outside of working from sunrise to sunset on chores. She’d only ever heard scary, evil, sinful things about the world outside their order.” I giggle, “I’m named after Annie Hall and Ann Ramona. Ann Ramono is from a TV show, about a single mom, called One Day at a Time. It was the first weekly TV program Lisa got Mama sucked into. Annie Hall was the first movie she saw in a movie theater and take a guess at my middle name?”
“Elvis?” he asks curiously.
I laugh, “Close. Presley, Annie Presley Yoder.”
“Tell me more about how you lost your mom?” He plays with my hair. It fills me with warmth when he runs his finger through the bottom locks.
“It was a freak accident; she was hit by a car walking home from work at night. I was eighteen. She was finally getting a life for herself. She had just started a job as a hostess at a restaurant on Beale Street. We only lived a couple of blocks away from the restaurant. A drunk teenager running from the cops in a stolen car went up on the curb, hit a mailbox and Mama. It happened three weeks before my high school graduation.”
“What did you do after that? Who helped you get through that? Christ, I was a man when Dad passed, and I still struggle, sometimes to this day, knowing he’s not here for me,” he says softly with a frown on his face.
“Tom and Lisa were my strength back then. They retired from the diner. They loved traveling and had been away, exploring for a couple of years when the accident happened. They came straight home and helped me through. I’d been with Brian for six months at the time; he moved in with me above the diner. He was getting ready to graduate from the law enforcement academy. I graduated from high school, worked, and continued at the diner until Laura, Brian’s mom, got diagnosed with breast cancer. She was a widow, Brian’s dad dropped over dead at his job when Brian was in junior high school. He was a welder over in the next town over. Anyway, she needed help, and Brian got a job as a deputy Sheriff in Fulsom County, the county he grew up in, and his Mom still lived. We moved in with her to help her through cancer treatments”.
“Tell me about Brian?” he encourages, still with a frown on his face. I know now that it’s not a frown, it’s his expression when he’s thinking.
“We got married right away. Laura was super, super conservative, and she wouldn’t let us live under her roof and sleep in the same bed until we were wed. He worked nights, I turned 19, and I was working at a dental office and helping Laura beat cancer for a grueling two years. I had Jenny at twenty-two. She was beautiful, and she was so tiny.” I take a deep breath. “Jenny was diagnosed at two months, and Laura’s cancer returned full force three months after that. Brian couldn’t handle everything, we were so young, twenty-two, and he was only twenty-five. He worked all the time, and he was never home. I can only take a wild guess when he started stepping out on me. I’ll never forget the first time I had proof. It’s actually how I met Leslie.”
I giggle, “Yep, one day, when Laura was still off work but was feeling well enough, she watched Jenny so I could drive into Memphis to visit a friend at the diner. After lunch, I walked over a few blocks to a boutique. I wanted Jenny to have a cream cardigan sweater for pictures. Anyway, I spotted Brian and Leslie holding hands walking into a restaurant. I walked inside, confronted him, slapped him in the face, then, to my surprise, Leslie slapped him too after she heard me say he was a married man. She took my hand and marched me out of the lobby of the restaurant onto the sidewalk. I asked her how old she was. She was twenty and a freshman at Memphis State. She’s just moved up from Mississippi. The goofy nut hugged and thanked me, cried then walked away. Brian and I lived from the moment on as roommates only. Laura was so ashamed of him and hurt for me.”
“When did you become friends with Leslie, then, when you busted them together?”
“Oh no, Brian and Leslie ran into each other only eleven years ago. Both were divorced, single, and dating. He brought her right out to the house and introduced her. That’s the day she became Barbara Jean to our family.” I raise my eyebrows and smile, knowing he has no idea who or what that is.
“Is that a TV reference?” He smirks.
“It is. I’m sure you will hear more about the sitcom soon. I know Sarah Jane has Sophie watching it.” I smile, knowing my statement is so true.
“Great, I look forward to it,” he says sarcastically.
I giggle. “I spilled some; now it’s your turn. tell me about some of your old girlfriends besides Molly, the lattice climber.”
He chuckles then groans, “Well, besides Molly, I’ve had two long term relationships. Was Brian your only relationship?”
“No, Scottie was my high school boyfriend. We dated until he went to Michigan University on a football scholarship. My first broken heart,” I think back to that time. “Then Brian, but after things didn’t work out with him, I haven’t had a relationship. Well, I guess maybe, you could consider Tate to be a relationship.”
He moves me onto his lap, and I straddle him. “Who’s Tate? Why would I consider him a relationship?” He pushes my hair over my shoulders.
I give him a look that screams, think about it. He raises his eyes in questioning. “It makes me uncomfortable using the term relationship. I’d go long periods of time without seeing him, only communicating by text once in a while to check in with each other.”
“Do you not want to explain, you don’t have to, sweetheart.” I know my face is heating.
“No, I don’t mind. Tate’s situation was similar to mine. He is a single dad with a severely handicapped son. We met at a school for children with disabilities. We had both gone a long time without sex. I hadn’t had sex in ten years, Jack. I was only thirty-three years old and—”
“Sweetheart, you don’t need to explain, I’m glad you had someone to be with from time to time.”
“I know, I know. It’s just that I can still hear my mama and Laura’s voices in my head advising me that it was an inappropriate relationship.”
“It wasn’t, Annie; it’s completely healthy,” he scowls at me as though I’m an idiot for feeling any other way.
“I know, I don’t feel bad about it or guilty or anything. You need to understand, Mama was raised Amish Jack, and Laura was a hardcore southern baptist. I was raised to wait until marriage, and only have sexual relations with a husband.”
“Did you wait?” he interrupts me.
“No, I slept with Scottie in my junior year of high school.” I smile when he barks out a laugh. I try to look serious and say in a scolding tone, “Don’t laugh at me, Jackson.”
“I love it when you call me Jackson. It sounds sweet and southern coming out of your pretty mouth. I also love how you say pilla instead of pillow and winda, potata, and—”
“Okay, Jackson, stop your teasing.” I kiss him softly to stop his talking.
He grins through my kiss. “Don’t worry, sweet Annie. I’ll never let you go even ten days without sex again, sweetheart.”
I smile, “Good to know, now take me to bed, Jackson.”