Annie & Jack After Forty

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Chapter 32


I can’t wait to walk around today and soak up the New York's atmosphere. I step off the elevator and run into Marybeth. I again pick up awkward vibes from this woman. Marybeth stares me up and down like she always does. I feel awkward, but I plaster on a smile, “Hi, is today’s meeting starting at a later time?”

“I’m here for a late breakfast; I’m in between meetings.” She answers and looks at her nails.

“We had the Egg Benedict for breakfast. It was great-” She looks up from her nails and interrupts, “I know.”

I try to control my flush. Of course, she knows the food here is excellent. “It was nice to see you again. Enjoy your breakfast.”

Before I can make a break for it, Mick joins us and cocks his brows at his wife. A smile that could only be described as an irritable and deliberately nasty smile crawls onto his face. It’s aimed at her. He clears his throat. He barely glances at me when he says, “Nice to see you again, Annie.” He leaves without saying anything else, not a single word. He leaves Marybeth behind again. Their relationship is strange and not in a good place.

“Enjoy your breakfast.” I walk away without waiting for her to say anything, not that she would anyway. My impression of her is she’s a cold, miserable person in an unhealthy marriage.

I shake off my run-in with Jack’s business associates and explore the hotel and the surrounding streets.

“So, what did you do while I was at my meeting?”

“I walked around and looked at the architecture of this building and the surrounding ones.” I straddle him in his chair, like always, at his work table, and flash him a sassy smile.

“What do you think of the architecture of Park Avenue?” he asks and smirks.

I play with the wings and curls of hair around his ear. “Hmm, it’s a great mix of architecture styles, but I couldn’t help but feel something was missing. Some awe-inspiring, show-stopping structure. One that takes one’s breath away. Don’t get me wrong, the buildings, the history, and the architecture are, of course, well known all the world over, so it’s pretty remarkable. But I think it still needs something. I don’t know, maybe a museum, or a new structure, one that is a bit more modern looking, to keep it current but blend in beautifully with its history. Once it adds something like that, then I think it could outshine, any street or avenue, in the whole world.” I smile.

He kisses me through his smile. “My sweet Annie is teasing me. Tell me about your day, sweetheart?”

“Oh, first, will you tell me about Marybeth and Mick Laulo?”

“Why?” He frowns.

“I’ve had two uncomfortable run-ins with them. What’s their story? Are they having marital problems?”

“What made you uncomfortable? Where did you see them, in the lobby?”

“Stop frowning, and yes. I was introduced to them last night when I was speaking to Eli when I first arrived. Mick and Marybeth introduced themselves, she was rude, and he didn’t hide his dislike for his wife. I asked them if they were married since they don’t look anything alike and have the same unusual last name.”

Jack groans.

“What? Are they divorced? I’m sorry if I made things awkward.” Lesson learned. I need to keep my questions to myself like Lisa always advised me growing up.

“They’re married. Their relationship seems to be hot and cold. Did you run into them today too?”

“Yes, they were going to eat a late breakfast. I ran into them in the lobby. Jack, both times, Mick has walked away without her. Both times he politely told me goodbye and walked away without a word or a look to his wife. That made me feel very uncomfortable, do you guys have to deal with that in the office?”

He sighs. “You already know, Eli, Mick, Marybeth, and I all worked together for years before we even won The Spalding project. What I haven’t shared was that Marybeth and I dated for two years and lived together for eight years during that time. When the project was coming to an end, she moved out of our apartment, and two weeks later, Mick and Marybeth were dating and living together. I assumed it had been going on for a while. I don’t know, I never asked.”

“What do you mean, assume? You didn’t ask? Why did the two of you break up?” Boy, I’d never, in a million years, would have put the two of them together.

“It had been over for a while. Also, she’s cold, bitchy, calculated, superficial, and vain.”

“Wow, that’s pretty harsh, Jack.”

“It’s true. She knows it, hell Mick knows it.”

“Okay, enough with the meanness. Tell me about your relationship. Where did you meet, at work?” I want to know all about their relationship now that I know they were in one, and for a lot of years at that. That he never thought to give me a heads up, inform and share this with me, is beyond rude.

“Yeah, the four of us, we were all young professionals, who were starting to get noticed, each in our specialties. Eli was already with Hannah, and she kept a tight lease on him. Mick lived with his high school sweetheart from his old neighborhood in Queens. Marybeth and I started hanging out and spending time together, alone, neither one of us in relationships. Things evolved, she moved in eventually, and we worked a hell of a lot of hours. My proposal, along with our team, won, and we knew the four of us had a chance of a lifetime. With that chance came instant high-level success and opportunities out of the woodwork, sweetheart. Social opportunities beyond belief, everyone sucked up the spotlight and the partying, I did not, Annie. I did not want it. I had figured that out shortly after I arrived in New York that I didn’t want a lifestyle like that. I didn’t become a different person, and I wasn’t going to become one. I was satisfied with what I’d accomplished; I made my family proud and happy. I was now in a position to be able to choose to do whatever I wanted. I moved home to Ohio shortly after The Spalding was completed and have never doubted or regretted moving home. Marybeth and I broke up towards the end of the project. None of us are stupid; we didn’t let it affect our goals. We finished the project on time and on budget, you’ve seen the results, we didn’t disappoint.”

“What about your relationship with Mick? If they started dating so soon after, she moved out, and you think maybe before…” I have no idea how I’d react if that happened to me.

“I was okay with everything. They both loved the attention. Mick broke up with Iris, his girlfriend since junior high, of almost twenty years—”

“That’s so sad, Jack; he left Iris for Marybeth?” I but in, asking, shocked even though they are virtually strangers to me. I bet it’s a sad and messed-up story of Mick and Iris after so many years together.

“Hell no, he left Iris a year before because he was fucking all the ass he had available to him, not for Marybeth, before.”

“So, you think they cheated on you?” I ask curious to figure out the whole picture.

“I assumed. To be honest, I didn’t give it a lot of thought.”

I can’t hide the look of shock and surprise that crosses my face.

“I’m not being mean, Annie; I’m being truthful. Everyone knew it was never going to work out, everyone. She knew I never intended to get married like I never intended to remain here in New York. Everybody knew it had run its course. I think we did a pretty decent job of moving on and continuing a good working relationship. There was no drama. There was no need for it; we continued working together, like always, until I moved home.”

I nod my head at him, thinking that doesn’t sound like the Jack I know at all. He likes to keep people away with stern looks and scowls, but he’s warm and loving once you get past that. For him to move on so quickly and casually, after ten long years, not even to find out the truth if they were cheating on him. All of that sounds a little cold, not the Jackson I know and love.

He holds my long bangs away from my face. His thumb lightly rubs my bottom lip. “What are you thinking about, sweetheart?”

I shake off my thoughts and kiss his dark stubble where his dimple pops out when he laughs. “I can’t remember what I was thinking about now. You touched my mouth. Now all I can only think about is you taking me to bed.”

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