Annie & Jack After Forty

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Chapter 31

Annie

I go straight to Seconds are Worth It from the airport. I walk in and hear Josie yell; she’ll be right with me. I wheel my overnight case to the back of the store by the cash register.

“Hey, how can I help you today? Looking for anything in particular?”

“Yes, I want a sexy dress.”

“All right.” She looks up from a notepad and notices it’s me. “You came back. You have the wrap top on, it looks nice.” Josie’s hair is lime green today.

“Thanks, how are you? I’m serious about wanting a sexy dress.”

“I’m texting Ma; she’s upstairs eatin’ a late lunch. How long do you have this time?”

“Two hours today, I was wondering if you and your mom would be interested in helping me build up a new wardrobe. I wrote down what I’d like help with, what kind of things I think I’ll need. I’ll be in town once a month, I’ll let you know the schedule Jack, and I work out. I can let you know when I’ll be in town and if I need something for a special occasion. Jack is extremely successful, and I need a wardrobe to help me blend in with his business associates.”

“Annie?” I turn to find Brenda leaning in a doorway off to the side of the curtain covered dressing room. She’s rocking another cool updo. Her auburn hair is neat and set, but she’s dressed laid back in a white tee-shirt, ripped jeans, and red ballet flats. God, I want to find a style for myself to rock, because Brenda totally rocks her style.

“I heard what you want our help with, I was thrilled about the opportunity, but when I realized it was you, now I’m ecstatic. You look great in that top; this is going to be so much fun. How long are you in town, chica?” She bumps Josie out of the way to embrace me.

I smile, “Until Sunday night. I have two hours to find a sexy dress for tonight to greet Jack when he gets back to the hotel suite. You’re my first stop from the airport; I’m here for three nights. You’d guys would be doing me a favor if you could help me.”

Brenda hugs me again. “Thank you, Annie. It’s our pleasure; this will be so much fun.”

“No, Brenda, thank you for helping me. Let’s tackle today first, does everyone have time right now to doll me up for Jack tonight?”

“I already have two dresses in mind.” Josie walks towards the front of the shop.

“Give me your list. I know exactly which dresses Josie pulling for you, congratulations by the way.”

“What for?” I love this navy raincoat hanging off by the shoes.

“For snagging a successful man,” Brenda smiles a silly smile and wags her eyebrows.

I nod yes and laugh. “Thank you, Brenda.”

I walk across the lobby carrying my bags. We are staying this weekend at the Waldorf Hotel. Jack has business associates staying here, and they are meeting here, somewhere, today, and this weekend.

I run into Eli on my way to the bank of elevators. “Hi, has your meeting wrapped up? How have you been? How’s Hannah and the boys?” I ask.

“Hello, Annie. Nice to see you again. The family is doing well, and yes, we’re finished for the day. I think Jack is waiting for you in your room,” He smiles. I wouldn’t call it a warm smile like his wife Hannah’s, more of a polite one. He seems like a nice guy; he’s one of the few people who Jack likes and respects.

The woman I saw at Hannah and Eli’s house and the man who walked into the party with her but didn’t stop to say hello to Hannah walks over to us. I wasn’t introduced, but I now know they are Mick and Marybeth. They are the interior design team that worked on the last building, and they are working on Silvia.

The handsome man introduces himself to me. He has olive skin, dark brown hair and eyes, and his New York accent is thick. “I don’t think we’ve officially met; I’m Mick Laulo. I’ve known Jack for twenty years, never seen him look happier.”

That’s so nice to hear, I smile and look to the woman, Marybeth, who looks like she swallowed something disgusting. She’s attractive; she’s dressed in an expensive-looking skirt and jacket. Her blond hair is pulled back into a tight bun. She looks me up and down and glances at the bags in my hands.

“Hello, I’m Marybeth Dixon Laulo.”

“Hi, nice to meet y’all,” I greet with a warm voice. “The same last name, are you guys related or married?” I see Eli hide a smile from the corner of my eye. There’s a long silence. Uh oh, maybe they are divorced. I bet that it is awkward working together. They don’t look or sound anything alike, so I assumed married, not blood-related, with the same unusual last name in this big city. Shoot, I socially messed up here by being nosy. Marybeth looks at her nails, and Mick looks down at his shoes. Neither one answers me.

“Yes, they are married. They also have an eight-year-old son, Tyler,” Eli answers my question. Okay, I relax a little and smile. This is a bizarre interaction. It’s obvious I stepped in it when I asked them if they were married. She’s busy judging me, scanning me up and down, and Mick looks extremely pissed off when Eli answered the question. God, I hope I didn’t make anything awkward for Jack.

“I don’t mean to be rude, but I need to get these hung up. It was nice to meet you two and to see you again, Eli. Tell Hannah that I said hello.”

Eli surprises me and kisses me on the cheek. “I will. Have a great weekend, and I’m sure I’ll see you again soon.”

Mick nods and walks away from us. Marybeth stares after him for a beat, she turns, half-smiles and walks away without saying a word.

I glance nervously up at Eli. He shakes his head, “Ignore them. We are all a little stressed at the moment. Nice seeing you, I’ll let you get up to Jack.” And with that, he leaves.

I get in the elevator and hit our floor. I wonder if Jack is stressed out. I wonder if the meeting didn’t go as planned. I hope they didn’t lose the Silvia. I use my key to open the door. Jack is sitting at a table surrounded by papers in his reading glasses. “Is everything okay?” I ask as soon as I walk in through the door.

He stands and pulls me against him. I drop my bags and wrap my arms around his neck. “I like your dress, sweetheart. I’ve missed you; everything is perfect now.”

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