Monday, February 22, 2021

Some Things Never Change Chapter II

 I avoid Erick for the rest of the weekend. He texts me a couple of times, but I don’t even open the message. I know it’s rude, but I need some space. 

It’s Monday morning though, and I see him as I approach the café. I knew he would be here. I spent the weekend trying to get my head straight for when I saw him today. Once the alcohol was out of my system, I came to my senses and remembered that Erick is just my friend. However, as I see his short silhouette concealed by the partial darkness of the early morning, his back hunched down in his chair, I realize I’m still dreading the moment slightly.

“Morning handsome,” I say my usual line but in a nervous tone.

“Did I do something to upset you?” He asks abruptly. 

He looks even more nervous than I feel. The top button of his shirt is not done, which is very out of character, and his hair is standing in every direction. His right leg’s twitching, which makes him look it all the more, although I know he can’t control that.

“Morning Jules,” I say his line to buy myself time to think of something else to say.

“Please tell me what I did so I can fix it,” he presses his palms over his thighs to try to straighten his position. Then, he attempts to run a bent finger hand over his hair, which makes it stand all the more. “Was it that stupid song? Jules, you know I was just fooling around. Did you think I… did I offend you?”

He stares at me in expectation, the crease in his brow accentuating each second it takes me to reply. l let out air.

“No, Erick. I loved the song,” I say sincerely. 

I’m such a fool. I don’t know what the hell I’ve been scared of. Erick and I are not friends, we’re family. Nothing could ever be weird between us. I place my cashmere gloved hand against his cheek. I do that a lot, I know it may seem overly affectionate. If he were any other person, I might touch his hand or his thigh right now, but this is Erick. There’s so much of his body he can’t feel, and I want him to be able to feel me. 

“You can sing Sinatra to me any time,” I look him straight in the eye to make sure he believes me. “I’m sorry about the weekend, I was… uh. I’m crazy and stupid. Please ignore me,” I puff.

“So it was Tony, right?” He sighs.

I shrug.

“Jules, I know he hurt you,” he starts softly.

“No… I...”

“A lot.”

“It’s over!” Tony’s eyes are pure rage. 

“You don’t mean that,” I beg.

“Oh yes, I do!” He doesn’t hesitate. “I can’t even look at you.” His voice is so low it scares me. 

I stare at Erick in silence for a moment. “It was my fault,” I finally say.

“I can’t even look at you.” Tony’s words echo in my head.

“That’s not… It doesn’t matter whose fault it was. Either way, he hurt you.” Erick’s looking up at me with curved eyebrows. He’s got both his hands on his rims and he pushes them slightly to roll closer to me. I stay quiet. “Badly,” he adds. 

Tony’s tall figure has crumbled on the hospital floor. He just sits there in silence. His head is bowed down. His wet eyes stare at the cold ground. Now I know for sure he will never forgive me.

“He didn’t mean to,” I defend Tony but I have a lump in my throat. Just the mention of it has brought a wave of pain back. It’s so tangible, so present, that I have to fight back tears. 

I shake my head in a useless gesture to scare the sadness away. 

“I feel awful to think that even a fraction of that was on my account,” he continues. 

“No, Erick…”

“I know it was, Jules, and I’m sorry.”

I don’t answer. I’m suddenly really cold. I use both my arms around my torso to hug myself.

“Maybe he still hurts you,” he continues, “everyday, by coming here for breakfast. Every time he kisses your cheek. Maybe his mere presence hurts you…”

I suck in a breath at his words. Maybe he does. 

“I think that’s the reason why you haven’t found a boyfriend yet. I don’t know if you’re scared to be hurt again, or if you’re still holding on to the hope that you’ll get back together. But Jules, you deserve to be happy. And I don’t think you can be until you get over him.”

My chest is tight. He’s right. And the fact that he’s never said that to me before makes it even more painful. A tear escapes my eye and rolls down my pale face. I immediately wipe it out because I still want to be tough. 

“Aw Jules,” Erick attempts to grab my free hand but of course he can’t. He ends up just striking it sideways in an attempt to comfort me. I dare to look down at him from behind misty eyes. And I find his face so comforting, so endearing. I lower myself down to his lap, which I’ve only done a few times in all these years. I fall into his arms and weep.

“What happened? Are you alright?” Tony grabs my arm hard and turns me around to face him. I refuse to look up at him. I know I have puffy eyes and I don’t want him to know I’ve been crying. 

It’s seven o’clock and the café isn’t open yet. I cried on Erick’s lap for twenty whole minutes. Well I wasn’t on his lap the entire time, but when I got off, I was still crying so he spent about ten minutes trying to comfort me by saying sweet nonsense. Finally, he started singing, Sinatra of course, until I burst out laughing. Then he tried to make tea for me, but it turns out my kitchen is completely inaccessible. At five to seven, he simply gave up. 

I don’t know what the hell is wrong with me. It’s not like I haven’t cried over my divorce before. I must have spent an entire year crying myself to sleep. Yet here I am, eight years later, and a few words from Erick send me back into an uncontrollable crying spree.

So obviously, when Tony walks in like clockwork at precisely seven, there are no tables outside. The chairs are still up, there’s no bread in the oven. Not even the coffee machine is on. Ever since I opened the café five years ago, Tony’s been here for breakfast every weekday religiously. I’m sure he’s at a loss now that his precious routine is out the window. 

“I’m sorry. I’m running late. Let me just get the table, and I’ll have your coffee ready in a minute,” I say with a surprisingly steady voice as if I were talking to a client.

“I don’t give a damn about my coffee, Jules,” he lets go of my arm now and uses his large hand to lift my chin up. He’s got long elegant fingers. “You’ve been crying. What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” I manage to free myself from his grasp and turn around. “I’ve a cold,” I lie.

“Jules,” he says behind me, and I can feel his breath on the top of my head. He places both his hands on my arms and slowly turns me around in what I’m sure is his version of gentleness. “Tell me what happened,” he mutters. “Please,” he adds at my silence. 

I’m looking straight ahead, which means I have my eyes fixed on his chest, since he’s more than a full head taller than me. He slides his hands from my upper arms to my shoulders and then to my face, where he encompasses it between his large palms. Then, he hunches down and for a second I think he’s about to kiss me, but he stops a few inches from my face and just stares. 

He waits patiently in that position until he realizes I’m not going to speak. He lets go of me frustrated. 

“Erick?” he circles around me to get a clear view of his friend, who’s rolled himself to the farthest corner of my tiny kitchen.

I don’t turn around to see Erick’s face, but I hear his silence. 

“Damn it, Erick! Tell me what happened to her?”

I turn around now, if only to give Erick some moral support. Tony blows air through his nostrils exasperated. Then he storms out. I think he has left, then I notice he just backed down to hang his coat. Now, he’s picking up chairs and setting them down on their places. He grabs the tables that go outside and carries them like they’re nothing. His shirt is tight around his biceps. 

I must have fallen prey to some sort of spell because I’m frozen in place. I watch him move from one corner to the other of my very small coffee shop, arranging tables and chairs, setting tablecloths and sugar bowls. My eyes follow him mesmerized. 

“What time does Jessica arrive?” my hypnotist asks.

“Uh,” I struggle to find my voice again. “At noon.”

“Ok, I’ll help you until then,” he declares.


“I’ll stay with you and help you until Jessica gets here.”

Yeah, I heard that, I’m not stupid, in shock perhaps. 

“What about the company?” 

“They can do without me for a few hours.” Tony’s voice is grave. It leaves no room for debate. Except, I hear his same voice in my memory.

“I’m not letting my father’s company go bankrupt. Better we lose the house than the company.”

Before I can argue with him, one of my regular clients walks in. He’s a bald man in his seventies who always orders a late and a croissant.  

“Mr. Bowman, I’m so sorry, I’m running late. Would you give me a few minutes?”

That seems to release me from my spot, and I quickly resume motion. I tie my apron around my waist and walk behind the counter. I notice Erick has turned on the coffee maker. He’s also taken the coffee out, but he hasn’t been able to pour it. He doesn’t look up at me when I stand next to him. He’s staring at the counter where he has piled up the supplies I use every morning, except for the ones that were stashed above his reach. 

This is his attempt to help me. He got the milk out of the fridge, he placed it next to the coffee, but he wasn’t able to free the filter basket nor the frothing pitcher from the coffee machine. He turned the oven on, but I keep the pans on the upper shelf, so he couldn’t put the bread in. 

“You head down to the office, Erick. There’s no point in you staying here,” Tony gives him the final blow.

I’m sure Tony didn’t mean to, but I can see Erick’s shoulders sag. He huffs almost imperceptibly. 

“Erick,” I start and rest my hand on his shoulder, but he rolls away. 

So Tony ends up staying with me throughout the morning. He makes himself busy taking clients’ orders, handling the register, serving food. It takes him a moment to figure out the coffee machine, but after a couple of tries, he gets the hang of it. He’s doing an excellent job. On top of that, he’s making use of all his charm to keep the customers happy while they wait, because I’m extra slow this morning. Mostly, it’s because I’m really distracted by his presence. He’s rolled his sleeves up to his elbows, and his shirt keeps tightening around his biceps. He also took off his tie and undid the upper buttons, letting me see some of his chest hair. I always thought Tony had just the right amount of hair on his chest. It’s hard not to stare. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen him shirtless, and I can’t help but think that his upper body has only gotten stronger and more attractive. He was never in bad shape, but he didn’t use to exercise as much when we were younger. Now I know he goes to the gym every day after work. 

We don’t talk, except for when he lets me know customers orders, or when he asks me for the location of supplies in the kitchen. Yet it’s really nice to be working side by side with him. A few times during the morning, we brush against each other in the tiny kitchen. His elbow against my arm, his side against my back, his hand against my finger. Every time, a bolt of electricity runs through my entire body. I don’t know how I’ve managed to keep my hands off him for eight whole years when I clearly desire him so much. 

“Come here, baby,” he nibbles at my neck. “I go crazy,” he says with my earlobe between his teeth. He’s on top of me, his right hand under my pajama shirt encompassing my breast . “Crazy,” his tongue travels down my cleavage. He takes my top off and runs his large strong hands from my hips to my chest. His mouth kisses each breast. He scratches my nipples with his teeth but lets go far too soon and kisses a downwards path across my belly. The tip of his tongue draws a straight arrow to his target. 

Too soon, Jessica walks in and Tony takes off the apron he put on earlier, and hands it to her. 

“Are you gonna be ok?” He asks me with his coat between his large beautiful hands. 


“Do you want me to stay?”


I shake my head no. 

“Are you sure?” He looks down at me, a concerned look in his eyes. 

Damn, I feel like crying again. 

I nod because I don’t trust myself to speak. If I open my mouth now, I’ll probably end up telling him I’m still in love with him, and I desperately want him to stay with me, not right now, but forever. 

He stares at me for almost an entire minute. Then, thankfully, he nods back and turns around to leave. The second he’s out the door I collapse into the nearest chair. 

The day drags like a bad movie. For some reason, I feel exhausted, even though I’ve done less than half the things I do on a usual Monday. By five o’clock, I desperately want to close the place up and head home. I’m about to give in and tell Jessica to just handle things without me, when my landlord walks in.

I’ve been expecting this. My contract is almost up, and every year, Mr. Cohen raises the rent. He’s usually kind enough to let me know in person, so I’m not surprised when I see him.

The place is empty right now. A couple of girls have just paid up their check and are walking out. 

“I’m glad I caught you unoccupied,” Mr. Cohen says after the customary greetings. “Do you have a minute?”

“Sure,” I say and signal him to sit down at a table. 

“So, you know your contract ends in December,” he starts just as I had foreseen it. “As you know, the neighborhood is on the rise. They built that office complex around the corner, and businesses on this street are getting a higher revenue.  You’re a good tenant which is why I’ve been reluctant to increase your rent, but your neighbors are paying over twice what I charge you and it’s time we adjust your rate to market value.”

I start to get nervous at that introduction. I thought he would just raise me the legal three per cent. He hands me a copy of the new contract for me to review. I scan it looking for the amount and I’m horrified when I find it.

“I can’t pay this much,” I let out, unable to put my thoughts into a more formal and diplomatic sentence. This is insane, it’s roughly twice what I’m paying now. 

I love my little coffee shop, but sometimes I wonder if I’m not just keeping it open out of denial for yet another failure in my life. I mean, once you take out the monthly expenses, consumables, Jessica’s salary, and taxes, there’s barely enough profit for me to make it through the month. I would probably make more money as an employee somewhere else. There’s no way that I can afford to pay that amount of rent and keep a float. As if I wasn’t having a bad enough day, it looks like I’ll have to give in and lose yet one more thing I care about. 

I feel tears pricking my eyes again. I desperately struggle to keep them in. Maybe it’s PMS or something; I vaguely try to summon my inner calendar which I really don’t pay much attention to these days. That manages to keep me distracted for about thirty seconds before I just give up and crumble. Oh well, now I’m crying again. It’s embarrassing. I really wish I had more control over my emotions, but this is just too much. 

“What the hell?” I hear a familiar voice somewhere among the fuzz that my head is right now. 

I look up and find Tony staring down at me, a horrified look on his face. Before I can bring myself to say something, I see my husband pick Mr. Cohen up by the collar. Oh shit!

“What did you do to her?” I hear him ram at my landlord.

I try to get up, but I’m such a slow reactor. Mr. Cohen mumbles something unintelligible. I finally spring to my feet. 

“Tony,” I whisper. I had meant to yell, but somehow my voice is weak. 

Mr. Cohen has both hands up in front of him in defense. He’s going on about how his request is fair and he has no idea why I’m crying. Tony’s a good foot taller than him and he looks furious. My husband is usually a very restrained man. In all the years I’ve known him, I’ve only seen him lose his temper a handful of times. Right now, he’s scary. Both his hands are rolled up into fists, his neck is all red, and his eyes are fuming. 

“Tony,” I manage to speak up this time. “Let him go,” I beg. 

I grab his left arm with both my hands, but he’s like iron. There’s absolutely no chance I will be able to pull him back on my own. Jessica’s come out from behind the counter, but she’s keeping back, wisely, I think in the back of my mind. 

Tony takes two steps forward, pushing Mr. Cohen along with him. Now, my landlord has stopped begging and is threatening to sue him. 

“Tony, Tony,” I keep saying, but he’s not listening. 

“I’m completely entitled to raise the rent. I’m giving her fair notice. We were having a civilized discussion. Who the hell are you anyway?” My landlord lets out among his rambling. 

“I’m her husband, you bastard!”

That knocks the air out of me. I stare at him dumbfounded, unable to move an inch. So I’m not the only one who refuses to accept our divorce. 

Tony twists his left hand around Mr. Cohen’s shirt and pulls him up, while he balls the other hand into a fist and  backs it up preparing a punch.

“Don’t do this, Tony,” I beg him in panic. “You’re making things worse.”

That seems to get through to him. He breathes heavily through his nostrils for a full minute, but finally he let’s go. The moment he’s free, Mr. Cohen almost runs to the exit. Once he reaches the street, he starts ranting that he’s going to press charges for assault. Great, just what I needed. Tony takes a step towards him, and my landlord quickly walks away. I hear his distorted voice for a few more seconds until he disappears around the corner. 

I walk past Tony and Jessica into the kitchen and head for the top shelf. I take out a bottle of scotch and fill a coffee mug with it. Then I drink a big gulp. The alcohol burns my throat and makes me cough a little. I look up to find both Jessica and Tony staring at me. 

“You want one?” I offer.

Jessica looks at me like I just escaped the looney bin. I can’t think of why since I’m not the one who almost beat up my landlord without even knowing what was going on. She’s a young girl, fresh out of highschool. I guess she’s not used to this kind of drama. Does she think I am?

“Jessica,” Tony turns to her and he seems perfectly calmed now. “You can head on home. I need to talk to my wife.”

There it is again, like the last eight years never happened. Today, he’s my husband and I’m his wife. I take another large sip of my scotch. 

Jessica nods and quickly grabs her coat to leave. Then, she notices she still has the apron on. She comes back and unties it as fast as she can. She holds it awkwardly in her hands while she looks at us wondering if she should go into the kitchen to hang it. Finally, she decides against it and just drops it on one of the tables. Tony hasn’t moved an inch. He’s staring at me from across the room. On my part, I feel oddly relaxed, I’m standing behind the counter with my mug tightly pressed between my palms, drinking. Perhaps I’ll become an alcoholic now that I’ll be unemployed. 

“Jules?” Tony walks to me once Jessica’s gone. His voice is contained, I know he’s deliberately trying to soften it. “Why didn’t you tell me about it?”

I don’t know what I was expecting him to say, but that was not it. 

“What do you mean? He just showed up half an hour ago. I mean, I knew he was gonna raise the rent, but I had no idea he planned on doubling it.”

“But I thought… This morning…”

Of course, he thinks that’s why I was crying this morning, and It would’ve been so easy to let him believe that and skip the twenty questions. Sometimes I think I’m just stupid. 

“Then, why were you crying earlier?”

I desperately want to come up with a feasible excuse, but like I said, I’m slow. 

“Why don’t you want to tell me, Jules? It’s me. We tell each other everything.”

Do we? This is news to me. 

“Whatever it is, we’ll fix it,” he carries on when I stay quiet. “This too. That ashole can’t get away with this. I’ll talk to Oswald.” He wraps his hands around mine which are still holding the mug resting over the counter. “It’ll be alright, you’ll see.”

For a minute, I let him convince me. Oswald is Cross Transports’ lawyer. Surely there’s something he can do. Even if he can’t, Tony’s voice is so reassuring. The heat of his hands feels good on my skin. Even though the counter is standing between us, Tony’s body feels really close. And his presence makes me feel protected, like nothing can hurt me while he’s around. 

Except I know it can. 

“I want a divorce.” 

I gasp.  “But…”

“I’m filing the papers tomorrow.”

“Tony, I…”

“Don’t! Just don’t!”

I take my hands out from under his. 

“Thanks,” I say tightly, “but I’ll handle it.” God knows how. 

I end up closing the café early. Tony helps me clean up since it was him who sent Jessica home. But it was a slow Monday so there’s not that much to do. He insists on taking me home. I resist at first, but finally I let him.  

“Thanks,”I say when we pull over outside my mother’s house. 

Tony stares at me with a crease between his brows.

“Where are we supposed to live if we lose the house?”

“You and Sean can move back to your mother’s. If we save the company, eventually we’ll have money to get another place.”

“Me and Sean?”

“Yes, I’m not coming.”

“See you tomorrow,” I get out of the car.

“Jules?” he steps out as well. 

I turn to look at him wondering what he’ll say. For a moment I let myself fantasize he confesses his love for me. I hear him say he forgives me for everything and that he wants me back. I imagine him walking over and kissing me. But he just stays there, with one leg still inside the car.

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” he finally says. 

I let out the breath I’ve been holding. I nod and walk inside the house.

“Why did dad bring you home?” My son Sean asks when I cross the threshold. Apparently he was  watching from the window. 

“Just because,” I walk past him and drop my purse on the couch. 

“Did you close the Valhalla early?” 

The café is named after the band the boys had in high school. The ridiculous name used to give us a laugh everytime we stared at the sign. Maybe it was bad luck naming it like that. 

“Yes,” I don’t elaborate. “Are you hungry?”

“Are you sick?” Sean asks me. I notice the same concerned look I saw on his father’s face just a minute ago. 

“No, I’m fine, honey.”

I cook dinner and then do the dishes. My mom asks me to do some extra chores since I’m home early. For once, I welcome it because I need something to keep myself busy. When I finish, I check my watch, half past nine. I’m still feeling kind of down and I don’t want to be alone. But even worse than being alone, I don’t want to be with my mother. I knock on Sean’s room and find him on the phone. The way he looks at me like I’m interrupting something really important leads me to believe he’s talking to a girl. I leave him to it and decide to just sit in the backyard for a while. But when I’m coming out, my mother follows me and starts talking about bills and how tight money is, and how she wished I got a real job and that she knows I could do so much better. She says I was the smartest girl in highschool and she always thought I would end up being the CEO of some company. 

Sometimes I really hate my mom. I mean, I love her, but most of the time, I hate her. 

“I’m going out,” I announce. 

“At this hour?” She asks outraged.

“Yeah, mom,” I roll my eyes.

“Where are you going?” 

Anywhere but here. “I won’t be long.”

I walk out of the house without a destination in mind, but as soon as I reach the street, I know exactly where I’m going. 

“Good evening, Mrs. Sanders,” I say to Erick’s mom when she answers the door. “I know it's late, but can I see Erick?” 

His house is only about thirty feet from mine.

“I think he might already be in bed,” she says, but she clears the way to let me pass. 

I cross the house all the way to the back where a bedroom was built for Erick after the divorce. Yeah, he too suffered the loss of the house, because after his accident, he had moved in with us. I knock on his door. 

“Come in, ma,” he answers thinking I’m his mother. 

I walk in without correcting him. He doesn’t raise his eyes right away. He’s sitting on his chair wearing only boxers and an undershirt. His legs are tied up by a strap at the ankles. They’ve gotten bonny over the years. And although he’s thin, thinner than I would like, he has a gut on account of the lack of muscles on his belly. He’s strapped his chest to the backrest of his chair with a velcro band as well. He doesn’t usually do that, but he needs to in order to keep his torso in place when he’s exercising. I notice now that he’s got a pair of wrist weights wrapped in. He stretches his arms out as far as they’ll go, which is not all the way, and lifts them up about as high as his chest. His arms tremble when he does that, but he holds it a few seconds. I know that’s as high as he can lift them in that position. 

He looks up then and when he sees me, his hands plummet down heavily. 

“Jules,” he says high pitched. 

“Hey, handsome,” I greet him. 

“What are you doing here?” He asks and laboriously moves his hands to his rims. the weights must only be a pound each, but he has a hard time moving his arms without them, so I guess it’s even harder when he’s wearing them. 

“It’s nice to see you, too,” I smirk, sitting on the bed. 

“Sorry,” he smiles back. “I’m just surprised. Are you ok?”

“Yeah,” I say not very convincingly. “I just…” 

He takes his right hand to his face and uses his mouth to unstrap the velcro around the weight. When it's loose enough, he lets it drop to his lap. Then he repeats the procedure with the other hand. He picks them up one by one, using both his palms to lift them, and throws them on the dresser. Once done, he puts his hand to his rims and reaches me in a couple of pushes. 

“Still feeling down?” He asks me.

I nod.

“I’m losing the Valhalla,” I blurt out, unable to hold it in any longer. 


“My landlord came in this afternoon to tell me he’s doubling the rent.”

He tries to lean in to touch me but he’s held back by the strap around his chest. Apparently he forgot about it. He starts pulling at it trying to release the velcro, but he’s having a hard time at it. I know he can do it himself, just not as fast as he’d wish. So I lean in to help him. I ask permission with my eyes and he nods. I unstrapp the velcro band and take it off of him. He then puts his palms on his lap and uses his head to jerk forward. He slides forward in the chair and places a hand on the mattress. He wants to transfer, but he’s attempting it from this position at the foot of the bed, rather than the usual way he does it.

I know Erick can transfer to bed on his own. He does it every night without any help because his mom isn’t strong enough to lift him. I also know that it took him almost three years to learn how to do so. It’s still not an easy process, but he has developed his own technique, and now it takes him only a couple of minutes. However, everything he does requires a series of steps, adaptations, tricks he has learned over the years. He usually transfers from the side of the bed, he has a rail there which he grabs on to. Also, he throws his legs into the mattress first and then his butt. This time, he’s trying to do so with me on the bed, so he can’t throw his legs first, and the rail is too far for him to reach so it won’t be of any help. He scoops his body forward and uses his elbows to sort of swing his body and get it to turn. But at some point, he realizes he’s not in a good position. 

Erick is still young. He’s in good shape for someone with his disability. There are a lot of quadriplegics out there, with similar injuries, who could do this transfer. But Erick can’t fully extend his arms, they’re permanently bent on his elbow, contracted, just like his fingers are. This could all have been avoided if they had been stretched out by wearing splints when he first got injured, but he wasn’t at a specialized hospital, and he didn’t get the best care in that regard. Just one more thing Tony blames me for. Because of that, there are a lot of things that are just short of impossible for him to do. 

“Sorry,” he sighs heavily. 

“That’s ok,” I shrug. 

He scoops back on his chair, but not all the way. I guess what he wanted was to be close enough to hug me or at least touch me to comfort me. He settles for laying a hand over my leg. 

I tell him everything that happened, what Mr. Cohen said, about Tony almost beating him up, what happened afterwards, and how Tony thought that’s why I was upset this morning.  I also tell him about him bringing me home, and then my mother being impossible. He listens attentively all through it. It’s such a load off my chest to talk to Erick. The only thing I leave out is Tony saying he was my husband and calling me his wife. I don’t know why I don’t mention that part, since I trust Erick completely. I know he will understand how I feel, but for some reason I don’t want to share that part. 

“I’m so sorry, Jules,” he says in a soothing tone. “I’m sure Oswald can talk some sense into Mr. Cohen. If he can’t, we’ll get the money.”

I shake my head at him. “Maybe it’s all for the best,” I say. “You know I don’t really make that much money anyway. Maybe it’s just not what I’m supposed to be doing. My mom thinks I should get a real job, you know, put my business degree to use.”

“What do you think?” he asks.

“I think I’m gonna end up singing at a seedy bar.” I’m only half-joking.

“I’d come to see you,” he jokes too. “You’d be the prettiest singer ever. I bet you’d get a crowd.”

“Just pretty, huh? What about my amazing voice?” I ask playfully. 

“Oh, that too. You should try out for America’s got talent.”

I laugh. “Too bad I didn’t become a stripper when I could. Now, that’s a career!” 

“Oh, you could still be a stripper,” he teases. “Wanna practice?”

I swat him in the arm.

“Ouch!” He fakes a pain expression.

I stare at him for a moment, grinning. Then, I impulsively throw myself at him with a bear hug. I make him lose his balance. He falls back against the backrest of his chair, but he hugs me back tight.

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