Annie & Jack After Forty

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Chapter 51


I’m back in New York this weekend for a celebration party for Silvia. The ten-story museum is almost complete. Areas are dry-walled, and you can tell what it’s going to look like inside. I can’t wait to see it when the people from the Silva Foundation put all of their pieces inside this beautiful building.

I’m glad Ben and Leslie are staying with us here in New York this weekend. For Jack’s part, the project is almost finished. He drew and designed the plans for the exterior, for its new place in the skyline. He has a skyscraper, and now a cultural museum; his success still blows my mind.

He’ll be moving home in two weeks; we are getting married in three months. I’ve learned to navigate New York, and I love my good friendship with Brenda and Josie. But I’ll be glad when I don’t have to come here every month to see my man. He’ll be right upstairs from me, always. I take a moment to think about how much happiness that will bring to both of our lives.

I watch Marybeth speak with Jack, Eli, and Hannah. I won’t miss this part at all. Marybeth doesn’t overtly flirt with him, but she tries to engage him and include him in every one of her conversations. It’s the way she looks at him, rolls her eyes at him when he’s demanding. I have to admit I don’t like seeing their familiarity with one another.

“I don’t like her,” Leslie whispers into my ear. “I don’t know what he ever saw in her.”

I bump my hip to hers, making sure I don’t spill our drinks. “Stop pretending you’re blind. I don’t let myself think of them, twenty years younger and together. I’m going to make an appointment with a dermatologist before the wedding. What do you think? Her skin, heck, everyone’s skin anymore, is flawless. We need to get on board. ‘Make up for the years of using whatever is on sale at Odd Lots’ is what-I-use-this-month routine.”

“I’ll make our appointment, no need to say anything else.” Leslie’s excited if her blond eyebrows reaching her forehead wasn’t a clue, the no-nonsense answer she had ready means she’s on board.

I giggle, “Why are you so eager, Miss I Just Turned Forty? You look great. ”

“I’ve read up on everything for the skin. I know every injection and product we need to prevent us from looking any older. Not any younger, but to slow, to a crawl, the aging skin thing we have to look forward to. I’ve been saving since last year. I’ll make our appointments. Any afternoon good with you?”

I shake my head, yes, knowing that within a week or two, I’ll be taking her crazy advice. I look at Jack. “I’m good any time you are. I’m going to go over and rescue my man from that group of people. Marybeth needs to keep her hands to herself; I’ve lost count how many times she touched his arm tonight. Eli and Hannah have to see it too, it’s plain as day, for crying out loud.”

“Ooh, good, go get ’em, tiger. I’ll get Ben and a fresh drink and then rescue you in a few minutes.”

I laugh and walk straight to Jack. He watches me walk over. He holds his arm out for me and doesn’t break the conversation, which is getting pretty animated. I wrap my arms around his middle, look up, and lean into his body.

His dark eyes warm, and that’s all I need. I smile at him. I smile another greeting to the group of people I’ve become pretty accustomed to over the last year. “Another wonderful, successful night,” I say. Jack squeezes me to him and kisses the top of my head.

“You ready to head out, sweetheart?” He asks into my hair.

“No, not at all. It’s your call tonight. Your Mom and Richard took the girls back to the hotel, and Ben and Leslie are happy to do whatever you choose.” I raise my eyebrows when I call Dick by his full name. Leslie and I can’t handle the dick jokes and comments any longer. They’re not funny anymore.

He gives me the smile I consider mine. It’s easy, a half-smile, but you can see the happiness in his dark brown eyes. I try not to sigh out loud. I love him so much, and I’m so proud of him and all he’s accomplished.

Marybeth chokes on her drink and then gets the giggles. “I’m sorry. Excuse me.” Mick joins us and shakes his head at his wife.

Jack squeezes me, and thank God, Ben and Leslie join us. The eight of us are the only ones left at the small party, I heard, a bunch of couples were going to some night club in Midtown, or somewhere fancy. I doubt that Jack will want to go.

“Annie, I’m not ready to let Jack go tonight. Whatever he does, it needs to include all of us, because none of us are stupid enough to think that we’ll see him again until Silvia is ready to be revealed to the world,” Eli banters, and everyone chuckles.

Ben agrees, “I think you’re right about my brother. I’m in favor of ordering food and getting drunk at Jack and Annie’s.”

Jack shows a rare moment for him when he throws his head back and laughs long and loud. I see him laugh a lot, but every time he laughs in front of other people, I see the surprised look on their faces.

“What?” Ben asks he’s trying to figure out what Jack finds so funny. I’m wondering myself.

“Again, works out perfectly for me, Ben.” I still don’t understand, but Ben rolls his eyes at whatever that comment means between the two of them. I’ve learned a lot about men and brother relationships since meeting Jack. It’s different than the relationship between women. It’s stunted, it doesn’t evolve past silly high school type antics and crude jokes. I shake my head.

I look at Leslie, “Want to help me throw a party right now?” I smile.

She laughs, “Sounds like a plan.”

“Christ, my little brother must be shitfaced.” Jack teases and chuckles at the compliment Ben just gave him.

“I am shitfaced, but I’m in the truth-telling phase of my shitfaceness. It’s the phase right before I take Leslie to bed.” Ben smiles. Leslie fake scoffs, “Please Benjamin; you’ll be passed out before your pants come off.” She smiles, pretty proud of herself for the comment.

He bends down and whispers something meant just for her to hear, in her ear. She turns red and bats his hand away from her face.

“Thanks, Ben, any compliment from you means a lot.” Jack holds up his whiskey. Everyone takes a drink of their drinks except for Leslie and me. I’m snuggled into Jack’s side on our couch. I wish I could close my eyes and go to sleep right this minute. I can tell Jack’s not far behind me, because he’s playing with my hair. It’s what he does right before he falls asleep each night when I’m in his arms. I don’t even think he’s aware he does it. It brings me love, comfort, and warmth.

“One last thing to drink to, tonight. To Jack and Annie getting married, unfuckingbelieveable. I think Dad just did another turn in his grave.” Ben holds up his drink and downs the rest of what was left in his glass.

Jack barks out a loud laugh. “Ben, you’re right, I proudly take credit for this turn.”

Ben laughs, “I want the next turn, it’s mine. I need to work on something,” He looks at Leslie, and I swear I almost feel embarrassed, witnessing the filthy, dirty, promising, dark look he gives her. He stands suddenly and hauls Leslie up with him. “Night all. Great night, I’ll see you guys opening night.”

“Put me down, ya goon.” Leslie’s a tall woman, and he has her flung over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes. He smacks her ass, hard. “You did not just do that, Benjamin Phillips,” she says before we hear the slam of their bedroom door.

I stand and stretch. “I’m hitting the hay too. Thanks, everyone, for coming over tonight. It was a lot of fun. We should have done it more often-”

Marybeth’s laugh interrupts me, “Oh, we had many fun nights here in Jack’s apartment together. Just so happens it was when you weren’t around.” I feel tension fills the air. Jack starts to stand, and I hold my hand out for him to stop and let me take care of this on my own. The mean look on his face, pisses me off because he was just laughing, and this bitch is not going to ruin our night.

“That’s nice to hear, Marybeth. I’m glad you enjoyed yourself here, in Jack’s wonderful apartment. I can tell you, without a shadow of a doubt, I’ve had some of the most memorable moments of life here.” I twist my two karat diamond engagement ring around my finger. “I’ll miss it a lot too.” I’m not good at catty smiles, but I give her my best one, I think it’s pretty good, I’ve had several glasses of wine tonight. I force myself to relax when I see a smile on Mick’s face, and Hannah is looking anywhere but at me. “I had a good time tonight. I’ll see y’all soon at the official opening. Goodnight, guys.” I turn and walk away with my head held high and my back straight, just like my Mama taught me.

I don’t even have my dress off before Jack comes into our room and pins me to the bed. “Christ, I love you, Annie.”

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