Authors: Christina Leija
It was chilly now, mid-September and 630pm. Dusk, oh, how she loved this time, the day light was becoming dimmer and she loved the sunset. The way the light radiated off the busy street buildings was bliss to her. Before Charlotte knew what had happened she was struck by something hard that knocked her from her feet.
Charlotte groaned at her bruised ego and tail bone as the face of the most handsome man she had ever seen held out a welcoming hand. Reluctantly she held her urge to curse him for knocking her down with the door.
“Hey are you okay?” The voice was as sweet as the face in front of her.
Dazed she responded with the first thought that came to her mind, “Huh, what?”
“Are you okay?” he asked again, showing a slight annoyance he stared at her. “You know most people don’t just walk into a door and not to mention, not that hard, you really should watch where you’re going.”
Now showing her annoyance at his arrogance she just glared, how could he blame her when he was the one who just swung the door open! Ugh, Are all men pig headed and think everyone should walk at their feet and worship them? “Watch where I’m going?, You swung the door open at me.”
“Honey the door has been open for over 20 minutes, it’s such a nice day out we like to let the hot sweaty air out and fresh air in to comfort our members.”
“Members?” Charlotte looked up and answered her own question before the handsome pain in her butt could respond, and she meant pain in the butt in a literal context. Man her tail bone was sore.
The gentleman held his hand out to help her to a seat to compose herself again and to hand her a flyer. The flyer read “Open membership day.” After a brief conversation and pitch from an enrolment advisor about joining a gym, which she had to agree would be a good start over for her, she agreed to try it out for 30 days before committing to anything. Heck what could it hurt?
Just as she was about to head out a voice called her name through the now busy front area of the gym, the voice was familiar. “Charlotte” As Charlotte turned around she saw the one person she never thought she would see, her childhood friend, Victoria.
“What are you doing here? I thought you moved to California?” Charlotte hoped that her voice didn’t sound too shocked, she was always semi intimidated by Victoria. In school Charlotte only saw her in all her perfection, never flawing, wealthy and sweet, loved by all and worshiped by all the men around. Her husband however never seemed too thrilled by Victoria and often never wanted them to be around each other, let alone let them talk.
“Ahh you know been there done that, then decided to move back home, an opportunity recently opened up that I couldn’t refuse,” Victoria had lost her new York accent a bit, Charlotte assumed it was from her time away in California. “Are you joining the gym? It’s a great place,” asked Victoria.
“I’m thinking about it, but the jerk at the door doesn’t make this place too appealing.” Victoria didn’t seem interested in the details so Charlotte didn’t offer them, it was an embarrassing story anyway.
After a few short weeks Charlotte had gotten use to her daily routine and the visitation schedule that the judge had set out for her and Alex in regards to Andrew. She used a mutual and very public meeting place to exchange her son with Alex every other weekend and every Wednesday night. Lately she had been meeting him in front of the police station on E 67th St near Hunter College. The 19th Precinct had been her saving grace lately against her Ex-Husbands on-going anger over the custody battle. He may not be the brightest at times despite his anger management issues meet-ups in front of a police all but ensured his full compliance.
Often times Mrs. Nelson had offered to meet Alex for her so she didn’t have to ask for the extra time off of work and could pull extra shifts to try and save up. Mrs. Nelson may be small but she was not easily intimidated by Alex or men like him. She said more than once it gave her a slight empowerment to stand up to him and just be strong in her demeanor when exchanging Andrew with Alex.
Mrs. Nelson and her 5’2” frame could scare a slew of robbers with her look. Like I said; small but mighty Charlotte thought quietly to herself. Charlotte had to admire Mrs. Nelson for her courage. With her greying hair, glasses and short frame, Mrs. Nelson had the typical old lady image. In her younger days Mrs. Nelson was a knock out with that perfect hour glass figure, which over the years had given away to old age and diabetes. Mrs. Nelson however was still a beauty in her own right and extremely protective of her family, which graciously included Charlotte and Andrew.
Charlotte often worked swing shifts at work, making her hours like that of any other nurse, all over the place. She would run over her shift due to emergencies and extra shifts at the main hospital. Because of budget cuts, instead of overtime pay; after 15 hours Charlotte was given Comp time to be used later. She didn’t mind as she knew someday soon she would need all the time off she could get and she couldn’t afford not to have a pay check coming in. Charlotte had learned quickly to cover all her bases in preparation for what was to come.
Alex sneered at his mother’s constant complaint that he wasn’t moving forward fast enough in getting full custody of Andrew. His only distraction was Victoria, who by the way knew exactly how to make him forget life in a welcome way. She spoke up as soon as she walked into the room; “Really Magda give it a rest will you, you’re stressing my poor Alex out. He can’t file for a change in custody for a year after the final settlement unless there are extenuating circumstances to show that she is unfit to raise Andrew.” The way she said “Unless” was slow and methodical and caught the attention of both Alex and his mother.
“Victoria my dear you are a genius!” Magda lit up with new thought, and certainly an evil one, that neither Charlotte nor her attorney would like.
“Mother what are you thinking?”
“If we can prove she’s unfit, maybe just maybe you can get Andrew sooner than we thought.”
“She’s not unfit though, clean as a whistle, poorer now than she’s ever been but not unfit, the only thing she does is turn my son into a wimpy momma’s boy with no back bone, which will cease as soon as he’s in my house! That boy needs to learn that life isn’t peaches and cream, it’s about taking what you want and not fearing those bigger than you, only one way you can learn that.”
“Oh stop it my love, you don’t need to stress yourself over that, Leman Prep will do all the raising and man shaping Andrew will ever need and give him an academic reputation and backing that will last him a life time, just look what it did for you, even with your history” Victoria sneered as she blasted Alex’s shady and troubled past out in the open. She knew he hated that and wished to dismiss it as if it never happened.
“Victoria dear” Magda interrupted with sweet salt in her voice, “We can’t afford that without a substantial financial backing, you know that unless you want to pay for it out of your little nest of cash you have?”
“Oh Magda you won’t need to worry about that, as of right now Andrew can’t touch his trust until he’s 21 thanks to his whore of a mother being disinherited but once Alex has Andrew he will have control over his trust that dear ole’ grandpa left him and access to all funds as a trust in his accounts, see it’s too perfect and works best for everyone.”
‘Trust me ladies, that’s exactly what I’m betting on.”
Charlotte had become accustom to working out before or after her shifts as the local Athletic Club was just down the street from the main hospital, a quick jog down to get a warm up and 30-45 min was enough to satisfy her new found craving without tiring her out on most days. Soon she would be starting treatment and her doctor had encouraged her to start building endurance, that it doesn’t help everyone but most people it can ease the side effects of treatment. Not that treatment will really help but maybe prolong the inevitable. Any extra time she can get with her son and Mrs. Nelson is worth the risk and attempt. But she wouldn’t think about that right now.
She had quite a few times been approached by the jerk at the front about help in her workout. He had knocked her on her butt and bruised her ego with the door he opened a few weeks ago, why would she want his help? Even if he was attractive and delicious. She had no time for men or sex in her life and she sure couldn’t think about it right now.
“Hey so you’ve never let me introduce myself, come to think of it you usually seem like you go out of your way to avoid me. I’m Johnathan, John if you will. We met the day you ran into my door.”
“Yes I know who you are, well not your name until now, but geeze I wonder why I was trying to avoid you, you weren’t exactly full of Chivalry that day.” Charlotte now irritated cursed herself for finding his stupid charm attractive, she always thought of herself as a bad judge of character and this one was screaming run away and she couldn’t help but be flattered by his persistence.
“Hey I’m sorry about that, it was a long day and you were more embarrassed and not exactly nice yourself so I responded back in a defensive manner, which I shouldn’t have so can we start over?”
John Giving Charlotte puppy dog eyes and a sweet seductive smile which caused Charlotte to give into right away even if her inner conscious was screaming NO!
“Fine hi, I’m Charlotte Jackson, pleased to meet your acquaintance”
“Wow so formal, I thought we might be pass formal introductions, but for shits and giggles, Hi! I’m John Smith.” Laughing John corrected himself quickly seeing a slight annoyance and confusion of Charlottes face, “just joking it’s John Ranger.”
An unimpressed Charlotte was a bit shocked by his slight crudeness and joking but brushed it off as part of his personality. She had been sheltered all her life and only been allowed to play with members of society that her parents deemed fit in their life style, so curse words for something other than anger and defiance of the social norm were a new thing to her that she’s slowly gotten used to.
As she promised during their last conversation she waited eagerly at the local coffee shop during her lunch break from work. What was she doing here? This was ridiculous! In no way did she want to think about men, especially with everything going on and especially after her bruised past but she just couldn’t help it. The man was delicious to say the least, with dark brown almost black hair, shorter than any guy she had ever thought of dating at 5’3” he held his own against the taller population with confidence. His eyes were that of amber and dreamy to say the least, the very least. Just as Charlotte was daydreaming he walked in, that tawny skin and buff physique was enough to take her breath away. He was more handsome than any man she had encountered.
“Hey, what’s up” he said with ease, snapping her out of her temporary dream.
“Hello, it’s a pleasure to see you today”
“Ya were gonna have to work on that formalism you got there, just a simple hey would have sufficed”
“You know I should be slightly offended by your correction, but somehow I’m more intrigued than anything”
Laughing John walked towards the counter to order “so whatcha drinking?” A big tall cup of you, God what was her problem, she never had thoughts like this, she should be slightly embarrassed yet somehow she was attracted to his confidence. “Um, a Grade Caramel Latte please.”
He turned back to the coffee attendant with a smirk to order their drinks, slightly leaning on the counter when he spoke to her. Charlotte could feel a twinge of jealousy as the coffee girl flirted right back with him. Ignoring their exchange Charlotte went to find a new seat since hers had been conveniently stolen by an older gentleman and a rather large laptop. Finding a table for 2 in the back which sat next to a window she almost ran to snag it before someone else could get their grimy hands on it. Charlotte fidgeted for a few minutes with the seats before settling as John walked around the corner with two coffees and a couple sandwiches for them.
“So that will be 13$ for yours by the way,” shocked Charlotte hesitated for a minute looking at the smirk on his face before attempting to grab her wallet. “Just joking calm down, wow you really need to relax.”
“Excuse me?” Charlotte snapped
“I was just joking but the look on your face was classic for appalled, your clearly not use to a gentleman in your presence are you?”
Calming down a bit Charlotte responded with her meek and mild voice “No not really, it’s been a while.” That stung John as he saw the sincerity in her eyes, wow she really has been damaged a bit hasn’t she. As far as he was concerned at that point he would make sure she was treated like every woman should be treated, nothing less than a queen.
The afternoon wore on way past her lunch break, shocked when she looked at the clock Charlotte jumped up nearly knocking the table over in her efforts to rush out. “Oh my, I’m late its way past my lunch break.”
“Calm down you’ll be fine, the clinic is right around the corner, its only 30 min past.”
“You don’t understand! I NEED this job,” Charlotte all but yelled the word need which set off some embarrassment in her cheeks as she realized she sounded panicked. “Look I’m sorry but I need to get back to work, thank you for lunch and I’ll see you at the gym in a few days.”
“Wait a few days? I thought you were coming tonight like last Wednesday for that new class?” John shot back eagerly.
New class, had he really been playing that much attention to her? She should be creeped out by that but Charlotte was in a way touched by his slight action that in other people’s eyes could look like a bit of a stalking action. “I have my sons school play tonight, I never miss an activity with him.”
Son? John thought as she flew out the door headed towards the hospital clinic. Well that was a curve ball John didn’t see. She hadn’t mentioned him yet in their conversations, but why should she they were just getting to know each other, heck they had only just met a few weeks ago.
Back at the hospital Charlotte was thankful that her direct shift supervisor wasn’t upset with her, actually Joanna was thankful that Charlotte had let loose and wasn’t as perfect as she thought she was, it was a miracle that the girl was actually human. Laughing Joanna was thrilled to hear about Charlotte’s lunch “date,” and she used the term date loosely. Charlotte was always so well put together and collected. Joanna appreciated her honesty in her lateness. Those were qualities that were hard to find, she just advised that Charlotte not make a habit out of it. As the two women were stalking the carts, an emergency tone came from the radio, both women briskly walked to the door for their car crash victim with possible neck injury at the ER doors.
The doors opened and what Charlotte saw turned her blood cold, why does the devil always try to ruin her best days? Her ex-mother in law lay on the stretcher and when she saw Charlotte you could tell that her injuries were the last of her worries at that point. The woman was evil and Charlotte knew it.
“Charlotte, grab the cart,” her supervisor seemed a bit stunned when she had to ask twice.
“Sorry I was in a bit of a shock, that’s my exes mom” Charlotte confided. Just then Joanna knew what Charlottes worry was. Before now Charlotte hadn’t told her ex where she was working. Her attorney offered her salary to the courts during the child support portion but inclined that due to their abusive relationship Charlotte was fearful her ex would cause problems and filed for privacy against the reveal of her employment location. Reluctantly the judge granted it. Well the cats out of the bag now…..