Emily and Einstein by Linda Francis Lee
By SMW Staff
I had ripped down ancient wallpaper, torn up broken bathroom tile, replaced outdated appliances, entwining myself in a place that represented everything I had been working toward my entire life. A home with a husband and children, Sunday dinners and friends. A life of work and family, the lines filled in with love, colored by years steadily passing. A life so different from the one I led with my mother where we moved from one apartment to the next, uptown, downtown, Alphabet City. We even did a stint in Chinatown, where plucked chickens and ducks hung in steamy shop windows like ornaments on a tree.
Over the years I learned to guard my heart, didn’t let myself become attached to people or places despite my dream of having both. But the day I met Sandy in the Caldecote conference room, something inside me opened up. As everyone was leaving the meeting, Sandy stopped me. He didn’t notice, or perhaps didn’t care about, the glances others gave us. He looked only at me, his lips hiking up at one corner, turning what would have been a wicked smile into something boyish and playful. “Come away with me,” he said. “Right now, before everyone gets wise to us and reminds me of schedules and broken legs and all the things you make me forget.”
I must have given him a strange look because his smile widened and he added, “At least let me take you someplace for a drink. Then you can tell me all about why you downplay your amazing looks, and I’ll tell you all the reasons why I’m falling for you.”
He startled me, but I didn’t show it. “Do lines like that really work in your world?”
He laughed out loud. “They do.” Then that smile again, this time bordering on sheepish, his hazel green eyes flashing. “Hard to believe, huh?”
My guess was that it wasn’t the lines that worked, but his looks, his easy charm. This was a man used to getting his way without having to bargain or even ask.
I smiled despite myself. “One, I have nothing to tell, and two, you don’t know half the reasons why I’m worth falling for.”
This time he was surprised, but he recovered quickly. “Then I’ll take notes; you can dictate. It will give me an excuse to keep you out all afternoon and turn a drink into dinner.”
I just shook my head and stepped around him. But at the door I turned back. “Dinner. After work. My choice of restaurant.”
He cocked his head. “Ever the negotiator. But fine, I’ll meet you in the lobby at seven.”
“Make it seven- thirty.” I started to leave.
“Do you always win?”
My smile softened. “Does anyone?”
He studied me for a second, then told me I should have been named Diana after the Huntress or Helen after the woman from Troy. “Emily is too soft, too much like that boring cream dress you’re wearing. Neither does you justice.”
I raised a brow. “For someone who doesn’t know the first thing about me, you have a lot of opinions.”
What I didn’t say was that in every woman there is an Emily just as in every woman there’s a Helen of Troy. It depends on which part is nurtured. I’d had no choice but to be strong. And didn’t the hardness of strength come when the softness underneath was a threat?
I would have written him off as yet another good- looking guy who used his charm to get what he wanted. But then his brow furrowed. “On second thought, I bet there’s an Emily in there somewhere. You just keep her hidden.”
My breathing grew shallow. Somehow this seemingly all- surface guy understood.
He walked past me through the doorway, stopping just long enough to tuck a single errant strand of hair behind my ear. “See you at seven- thirty,” he said.
I had just finished putting the final touches on the painted border when my BlackBerry rang.
I clattered down the ladder, paintbrush still in hand, lavender paint splattered on the old shirt I wore to protect my clothes. When I glanced at the clock I was surprised to see how late it was. I’d have to hurry to get cleaned up before Sandy got home.
“Hello,” I said on the fourth ring.
But it wasn’t Sandy. It was Birdie Baleau, a woman who had recently moved to New York from Texas, and was like no New Yorker I had ever met. We had become fast friends almost instantly.
“Congratulations!” Birdie squealed on the phone, like we were still in middle school. “I just heard about your promotion to senior editor!” I fell into a chair and kicked my feet up on the desk as we talked and laughed, excited over this new phase in my career. When I got off the phone, I tried my husband again, but his voice mail was still full.
I showered, then poured myself a glass of wine, found my iPod and cranked up a crazy mix as I danced through the apartment. “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” by the Beach Boys. Harry Nilsson’s “The Puppy Song.” Adam Lambert’s “No Boundaries.”
Then “Broken” by Life house.
I didn’t remember downloading the song to my playlist. But I closed my eyes and sang to the century- old walls, twirling, arms wide open, head thrown back. My life felt full, my career soaring, a simple happiness wrapping around me as if there could be no stopping me.
An hour later, Sandy still hadn’t shown up. I told myself there was no reason to worry. He had been late before. But another hour passed, then two, and still Sandy hadn’t called.
At some level had I known? Had I remembered the premonition, had I thought of the song, but refused to assign meaning to it? Maybe, maybe not. All I know is that I danced and sang in my bright yellow room while snow came down outside the window like thick white curtains that blocked out the view.
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