Authors: Warren Adler
Tags: #Fiction, Brothers and Sisters, Domestic Fiction, Married People, Psychological Fiction, Single, Families
BOOKS BY WARREN ADLER
Banquet Before Dawn
Death of a Washington Madame
The Casanova Embrace
The Children of the Roses
The David Embrace
The Henderson Equation
The Housewife Blues
The War of the Roses
We Are Holding the President
Jackson Hole, Uneasy Eden
Never Too Late For Love
New York Echoes
New York Echoes 2
The Sunset Gang
The Ties That Bind
The Witch of Watergate
by Warren Adler.
ISBNÂ Â 978-1-59006-108-4
All rights reserved. This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced
in any form without permission. This novel is a work of fiction.
Names, characters, places, incidents are either the product
of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously.
Cover Design by Jowdy Design
To my Grandparents on both sides who had the good luck
to emigrate to the United States more than a hundred years ago
and the good sense to settle in the greatest city on the planet.
“Hi, I'm Caroline Kramer,” she said to
the older woman in the elevator of their West Side apartment building.
“Sandra Siegel,” the woman replied,
nodding, somewhat taken aback by the introduction. She held a little
white-haired dog in her arms. Caroline petted it and exclaimed how beautiful it
“Her name is Betsy,” Sandra Siegel said.
“She's absolutely gorgeous,” Caroline
said, letting the dog lick her fingers.
As a general rule, few
people in Manhattan introduced themselves in elevators. The lady with the dog
was short-haired, graying, wearing slacks, sneakers, and a sweatshirt, the
usual dress for a Central Park dog walk in early fall.
When the elevator
reached the lobby floor, Sandra Siegel let Betsy down and snapped on its leash.
Then she nodded an acknowledgement and hurried away with Betsy in tow through
the lobby to the street.
Later when Jules came home from work and
they were having a glass of white wine before dinner, Caroline told him what
she had done.
“Brave girl,” Jules snickered, helping
himself to a handful of nuts and washing it down with a deep sip of the wine.
“I felt good about it,” Caroline said.
“I think it's awful that people don't communicate in New York apartments. Our
elevator bank is a good place to display neighborliness. We lived too much in
isolation in these apartment buildings in New York.Â After all, we do live
under one roof.”
“I suppose you're right,” Jules
acknowledged. He was a dyed-in-the-wool New Yorker, having been brought up in
Brooklyn, migrating to Manhattan in the early nineties.Â He was vice president
of a media company, married to Caroline five years now, but still postponing
having a family. Caroline was from Hempstead, Long Island, a freelance
copywriter who worked at home. They had bought the one-bedroom co-op on the
fifteenth floor of a twenty-floor pre-war building.
“Why not, Jules?” she said, as if
convincing herself. “I go up and down the same elevator bank and often meet the
same people. It doesn't hurt to be friendly, which is different than becoming
fast friends. Why shouldn't we at the very least introduce ourselves? And she
had a cute little pooch with her.”
“And you fussed over her dog?”
“Her name was Betsy and she was
“No dogs for us, baby. Ties you down and
you have to worry about kennels when you go away.”
“I'm not tempted, but it was a cute dog
and the lady was very proud of her.”
“Cheers,” he said, lifting his glass.
“May she and her canine have nothing but happiness.”
They clicked glasses and drank.
Caroline acknowledged that she was one
of those people who were naturally friendly. She liked to engage people in
conversations, make eye contact, offer smiles. On buses she talked to people
and knew she had the kind of face that invited openness. She had the look of a
compassionate person and with her open, white-teethed smile; round, cherubic,
naturally rouged cheeks; and large, blue eyes, she made others feel
“You're you,” he said, reaching for her
hand, caressing it and bringing it up to his lips. “I adore you.”
“I know it's the right thing to do, to
break this pattern of isolation. It startles people. They're not used to it.”
“That's for sure,” he said, agreeing. “I
guess we New Yorkers are wary of intimacy in our apartment culture.”
“I'm not talking about intimacy, just
“Maybe when you're surrounded by crowds
everywhere you go, people welcome privacy.Â Like now. You and me. Cozy,
intimate and, above all, private. Delicious, quiet time.” He bent over and
“That doesn't mean people can't be
neighborly when they venture out. Say hello on the elevator.”
“Also,” he added. “They may be too
self-absorbed in their daily business. Like me. Sometimes I start thinking
about the office the minute I close the door.”
“You can still offer a smile and a kind
word. You don't have to be bosom buddies. Just a good neighbor.”
“As long as they're
not nosy neighbors.”
“There is a big difference between nosy
neighbors and good neighbors. They don't have to be intimate friends.”
“We have plenty of
those,” he said. “And people who are important to us on the job. And relatives,
and old school chums. What I'm saying is that we have enough people on our
âknown to' list.”
“Still, it would be
nice to know our neighbors.”
“Our circle is wide enough as it is. We
have barely enough time for further obligations.”
“You have a point,” Caroline
acknowledged, wondering how the conversation had reached this strange
territory. “But you never know when you need a neighbor. After all, we do live
in the same house. We share services, utilities, and doormen.”
“Who can forget doormen?”
“They deserve our acknowledgement.
They're always ready with a smile and a few words of greeting.”
“Especially around Christmastime, and
remember, we only own shares in the building. This is a co-op in case you
forgot. With a board that has to approve everyone and keep the riffraff out.”
“Snob,” she said playfully. “As for me,
I am an egalitarian and from now on, I plan to introduce myself to the
neighbors on our elevator bank as a start.”
“I think you are undertaking a noble venture,”
he said. “And I'd be flattered if a beautiful, open-faced charmer like yourself
said hello to me on the elevator.”
She started to introduce herself to
those who came up and down with her on the elevator. Not many remembered her
name, and more than once someone asked her, “What was your name again?”
She was, however, determined to remember
theirs so that she could greet them by their first names whenever she met them
again. There was Bob Rainey, who got on at the tenth floor, a thin-faced
elderly man with a pencil thin moustache. Mary Schwartz lived on an upper
floor, a youngish woman with flaming red hair. And Benjamin Agronsky, who got
on at eight, a preppy-looking man in his thirties in pinstripes and
button-down, white shirts and thick-soled brown shoes. Paisley McGuire, a
young, Irish-looking girl with creamy skin and dark curly hair, got on at floor
five. Caroline liked the idea of saying hello by name although the extent of
the conversation was mostly about the weather. She did not encourage any
There were four apartments on each
floor.Â One of the tenants of the four, she assumed, lived in another city and
came to New York seldom. Another was a secretive bachelor named Sheldon whom
she knew by sight, although he always turned away when they waited for an
elevator and never even grunted an acknowledgement. The fourth apartment was
occupied by a woman named Anne Myers who lived alone and apparently traveled a
great deal. Anne was the only other tenant on the floor who received home
delivery of the
New York Times.
Caroline had had only one brief
conversation with her.
“I travel a great deal,” the woman said.
“It's a bother to cancel the
every time I go away. Could you
please not let them pile up? You know, just in case. We don't want people to
know when I'm not home.”Â
Caroline consented, since the trash bin
was close to her own apartment. When two
lay in front of her
apartment, Caroline dutifully threw them away, always knowing when the Myers
woman was home because the
was not on the floor in front of her
“Why doesn't she cancel them when she
goes away?” Jules asked.
“I don't mind,” she countered.
Because she worked at home, she spent
more time coming up and down the elevator, at times to shop, at other times
when the weather was good, to take a break by walking in Central Park,
sometimes watching the dancing roller skaters or observing the rowboats glide
through the water or sitting on a bench by the pond and watching the hobbyists
sailing their power-operated little sailboats.
One day as she worked she got a call
from the woman who introduced herself as Sandra Siegel.
“Remember me?” the woman asked
pleasantly. “Sandra Siegel, the woman with the little white dog.”
“Betsy,” Caroline said. “How could I
“I took a chance, hoping you were home.”
“I work at home, freelance,” Caroline
responded, thinking the woman might invite her to tea.Â Â Â Â Â
“I hate to bother you,” Sandra Siegel
said. “I have a favor. You see, I twisted my ankle and can't take Betsy for her
walk. And Sam, our doorman, is off on vacation. He's the only one I can trust
to walk her. So I'm in a bit of a jam. The dear little girl needs to go out.
It's her regular routine. I hate to ask. It would be just this once. Could you
take her? I'd be so grateful. I'm sure I'll be better by tomorrow.”
“You mean now?” Caroline asked.
“Say in a half hour, if you could. I
really hate to ask. But you see my dilemma.”
Caroline contemplated the request.Â She
was about ready for a break, and there was no pressing time factor.
“I really hate to ask,” the woman said
In the brief interval before her
consent, she thought of Jules and determined not to mention it, since it would
provoke his “I told you so's.” She snickered to herself, deciding that to
accept was still in the realm of good neighboring.
The woman lived on the twelfth floor,
and she opened the door leaning on a cane and handed Caroline Betsy and the
leash after first planting a big kiss on the dog's snout.
“She likes the walk that goes to the
baseball field. That gives her the greatest sniffing pleasure.” She handed
Caroline a plastic glove. “She makes such tiny little bitsy poopies.”
It was a nice day and Caroline actually
enjoyed watching the little dog sniff about, and disposing of her little bitsy
poops was hardly a chore. In a half hour she was back to the grateful Sandra
Siegel, who expressed her heartfelt thanks.
“You are a real princess,” she said.
“I'm eternally grateful.”
She did not include this little episode
in her and Jules's review of their day and she felt quite comfortable with her
good deed, even when it repeated itself the next day, and the next.
“The doctor said I should be better in a
week or so. I am so grateful.”
After the first few times, it became a
kind of routine, and she didn't mind it as long as the weather stayed good.
Besides, it didn't take much more than a half hour out of her day. Still, she
didn't tell Jules.
As part of her regular regimen, she
would often take a break in the afternoon and go down to the Starbucks a half a
block away and get a Frappuccino, a sort of gift she gave herself before going
back to work. Usually she sat alone, thought about the work she was doing, then
after draining the concoction she went back up to her apartment.
One day, a voice intruded. She was
sitting at a table by herself staring into space, tranced out on her work.
“You're Carol, am I right?”
“Caroline,” she corrected.
She looked up and saw Bob Rainey, whom
she recognized by his pencil-thin moustache.
“You're Bob Rainey,” Caroline said.
“May I join you?” Rainey said.
They chatted amiably as she sipped her
Frappuccino. Rainey was nursing a large-sized coffee.
“Not a very good day for me,” he said
suddenly. She studied his face, which seemed to mirror his announcement
suggesting internal pain. “I never come here, but you see, Lila is moving out
as we speak. I didn't want to be there.” He swallowed hard and his face seemed
to grow ashen. “Eighteen years together,” he shook his head. “Not a very happy
“Sorry to hear that.”
“Problem is my wife won't give me a
divorce. That means I can't marry Lila.” He shook his head. “Can I blame her?
She wants stability. But, you see, my wife is determined to extract her pound
of flesh. No divorce, no Lila. Can you blame her?”
It seemed a question directed at
“I suppose not,” Caroline shrugged,
sipping her frothy drink.
“Lila was a wonderful companion, but you
see, there is no legal future for her. That's what she wants. A ring around the
finger. Who can blame her?”
Inadvertently Caroline reached for her
ring and traced its smooth surface.
“I understand. I'm very happily
“Lucky girl,” he snickered. “Lucky guy.
My wife was a monster.Â My life was a hell until I met Lila. She was a saint,
that woman, but after all, you can't live on hope alone. She wants to be Mrs.
Bob Rainey, not a mistress. She's a traditional girl. I can't blame her.”
He looked at his watch.
“She should be out by three. Her sister
is helping her pack. We agreed, no long goodbyes. Frankly it's a lot better not
to be there, don't you think?”
“A lot better, I'm sure.”
“I'm devastated,” Bob Rainey said. She
watched his eyes grow moist. He wiped away a tear that slid down the side of
“Frankly, I don't know how I'm going to
get through the day.” He sighed. “And the night which will be worse. It will be
a mighty cold bed.”
Caroline wondered whether he was dishing
out a seduction line, but then, seeing the man's pain, decided that it wasn't.
Besides, he was elderly and too broken up to pursue such a line. Poor guy, she
thought. She looked at her watch.