Book Clubs, Serpent Ladies & Old Friends

What a strange night! Emma had already secured a primo table near the towpath wall when I arrived. I filled her in on all of the renovation news; she filled me in on the "Susan" dilemma. Emma's latest novel had caught the attention of some staffer at the Susan Jeffries Show and they had approached her about being added to Susan’s Book Club.

“I mean it is really flattering and would mean an astounding sales increase for all of my books, but I have to agree to appear on her show and talk about the book with her and her audience. I really don’t want to have to explain my narrative or characters to anyone. The whole point of my style is that the places and people are described just enough to hinge everything together yet vague enough that the reader can easily translate them to their own experiences. Discussing them publicly would ruin that. And do I really want people reading it who are just following the leader? Do I want it to become a cliché? Not to mention the fact that I am not sure I could sit next to that women long enough to tape a show without wanting to cut off my ears or out her tongue! She is just so full of herself and her own opinions.”

“Calm down Em! You don’t have to do it…”

“Are you kidding!!? Of course I do! As much as I hate it, it will do wonders for book sales, and that helps me, my publisher, and my assistant who is in desperate need of a raise. I can’t turn it down.”

“You have an assistant!? Are you kidding me?”

“I figured you knew. Maeve has been my personal assistant for almost a year now, but there isn’t much money in it.”

“My cousin Maeve? She never said a word that little stinker!”

We proceeded to invent potential Emma vs. Susan scenarios ranging from peaceful encounters Amy Vanderbilt would approve of to potential slasher film scripts.

“You have an admirer,” Emma suddenly interjected as I was detailing the spontaneous combustion of Susan Jeffries when Emma walked on her stage in a polyester Hawaiian print shirt and cut-off jeans.


“Over on the porch at the boat house. He hasn’t taken his eyes off you for at least 20 minutes. So what is going on there?”

“Nothing really. We’re neighbors; he lets me use his shower; sometimes we have dinner together; nothing special.”

“That sounds a lot like dating This.”

“No. Really it is strictly platonic. I’ve tried inviting him out with us a few times, but he always turns it down. And honestly, if he were interested something would have happened by now, as many times as we have sat up until all hours on his porch. And anyway, I’m not so sure he is even looking at me. He seems to be looking behind us.”

Emma turned around slowly, and then nearly gave herself whiplash spinning back around. “You are right. He is staring behind us. At his ex.”

“Do tell.”

“Well…Logan dated this girl in college, Noela Tanith. Her last name means serpent lady, but that will become evident. Anyway, he planned to be an architect and by all accounts was very talented. Won a couple of awards and was spending the summer after graduation at home while deciding which job offer to take; super prestigious New York firm, equally prestigious Chicago firm, avant garde LA firm or progressive Seattle firm. The girlfriend came home with him for the summer to meet the whole family and see where he grew up. Well after being here about two weeks she was ready to return to “civilization”. Seems she was more interested in Logan’s future than his past. Logan proposed to her anyway. Love isn’t just blind; it is also deaf and dumb! She accepted and went off for a few weeks with friends. While she was gone, Logan’s father had a massive coronary and was soon pushing up daisies.”

“Why are you talking like Edward G. Robinson?”

“Am I? I’m working on a short story set during prohibition. Lake runners, hooch hawkers, painted ladies. You know I get absorbed by my characters sometimes. Back to Logan though. So his dad is gone, his fiancée is too 'busy' to return for the funeral so he goes through it all alone. A week later she finally comes back and he tells her that he is going to defer the offers until January so he came help his mom adjust and to decide what to do with his inheritance. See his father left him the boathouse, but on condition that he must live there and operate the business himself. Should he choose not to, the whole thing goes to the historic commission and he is left with nothing.”

“But the business has been in there family forever.”

“And Daddy dearest wanted to keep it that way. He knew Logan wouldn’t be able to walk away from it. Noela was though. She broke off the engagement and went back to New York a day later. Logan was devastated. Six weeks later the society page was running a new engagement notice: Noela Maria Tanith to wed James Thomas Cromwell.”

“Mary Elizabeth’s brother?”

“You got it! Dragon lady found her new prey quick. She and JT dated all of five seconds before tying the knot. JT was a hot shot young stock broker in New York at the time and the little snake coiled herself right around his wallet. Jokes on her though...nine months after they were married, he quit his job and they moved back here. He joined his father's advisory firm and bought the house right next door to dear old mom and dad."

"That is terrible!! What a selfish little twit. No amount of money or status could possible make JT any less of a schmuck!"

"She got her's though. She may have the money and prestigious in-laws, but JT is not the spend-thrift she had hoped. That boy keeps an iron grip on his cash. Even put her lazy ass on an allowance. A couple months back, she was in the designer section over at Forman’s buying $100 t-shirts and her card was declined. Seems JT thought she was spending too much so he cancelled the card.”

We then proceeded to analyze Noela ala Susan Jeffries pal Dr. Dave, who is quite possibly the most annoying man on television. It was so engrossing that we didn’t notice Sean, Aleksi and Zara until they were standing over us.

“You two are absolutely evil,” Zara interjected. “That poor girl has had to watch all of her scheming and manipulations go up in flames.”

“It is all her own fault!” Sean added. “You can’t do what she did to Logan and expect you are going to have a good life. Signing that pre-nup was by far her dumbest move though.”

“Oo do tell!” I said, a bit too eagerly. This was rapidly turning into an episode of Melrose Place.

“Well she gets nothing unless they have kids.”

“So she pops one out and then leaves him, she wouldn’t be the first gold-digger to pull that stunt,” Emma said.

Aleksi jumped in, “But remember the soccer match junior year against Lourdes Prep? The one where Logan and JT got into that huge fight?” I nodded slowly as I trolled my memory for the event. “Well, it seems Logan did some permanent damage to the Cromwell family jewels!”

Trying not to burst out laughing Emma asked, “So the little princess landed herself a eunuch that she can’t afford to leave. This just keeps getting better!”

Sean, who I quickly learned now goes by Dec, short for his middle name Declan, is one of my Irish cousins. My father’s two sisters married Irish immigrant brothers, the Bradaighs who live here and the Bradys who live in County Cavan. His younger brother got involved with their sister, begetting Sean just before he was killed in a car accident, so Sean has only ever known his stepdad Steve Reilly. Anyway, the Bradys in Ireland are completely normal, the Bradaighs here are…well let’s just say that they overdue it on the heritage.

Aleksi and Zara Petrovic are my oldest friends. Our parents all met in the 70s while attending the same church and became fast friends. The Petrovics are practically my second parents. Our families have spent every Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Easter together for as long as I can remember. Even after my parents moved to Virginia, the Petrovics just kept showing up at my mother’s dinning room table. Aleksi, who has been one credit short of a mechanical engineering degree for nearly ten years, is the women’s soccer coach at the University of Brighton. Zara, who is working on her second masters, teaches English at one of the high schools and judging from the sari she was wearing is probably a Hindu this month.

We spent the evening catching up with eachother. Zara is in fact a practicing Hindu this month. It seems last month she was Russian Orthodox, and the month before that atheist. Sean, I mean Dec, just passed his detectives exam, something his stepfather was never able to achieve. Aleksi is dating one of his star players from last year, who thankfully has graduated.

“One girl? I seem to remember you having a policy about that…a minimum of 3 ladies at a time, innocent girl, experimental girl and worldly girl” Dec said.

“You have a policy!? Which one was I?” I grinned. Back in high school Aleksi and I had “dated” briefly. Not because we were actually interested in eachother, but because everyone around us, especially our mothers, thought it the right and natural thing to happen.

“Yes, I HAD a policy. I am trying something different for awhile,” Aleksi replied. “You were the innocent.” With that he very quickly excused himself.

“This, seriously, the boy is definitely watching you,” Emma interjected.

“Who? Who’s watching her?” Zara babbled. “Do you have a boyfriend already? Who is it? You have to tell everything!”

“There is no boyfriend, and no one watching me! Emma is just trying to make something of nothing.”

Dec, who I thought had averted his eyes from the table to avoid getting sucked into the girly abyss, said, “Logan is definitely watching you This. His gaze wanders over to Noela every so often, but it is pretty much fixed on you. It isn’t that surprising. I’d be staring too if you weren’t my cousin.”

“Creepy Dec! Super creepy!” I retorted

“Seriously, cuz, you are a good looking girl, a guy would have to be blind not to notice that. And with you going in and out of his house using the shower everyday the guy would have to be dead not to have a thing for you.”

“How do you know about me using his shower?” I demanded.

“It’s my job to know everything that happens in this town,” he winked.

“Come off it Dec!” Emma said. “You know because Logan probably said something to you at poker last night.”

Aleksi reappeared as I was explaining things to Zara. “Not quite the innocent anymore, are you?” With that he pulled out his little black book, which is actually two Moleskin notebooks rubber banded together and made a notation after my name.

“Make sure to add that you blew your chance when you were 16, much to your eternal shame” I joked.

The rest of the night passed uneventfully. We all went home around 11pm promising to meet up at Killeshandra Thursday night.