Driving through the streets of Harmony, Eve watched the buildings carefully, looking for the hospital. She wanted to know where it was before her first day of work. The hassle of looking for it on the first day would make the stressful day worse, so Eve kept on searching.
As she continued down the street, she came upon a towering building which looked like a law firm or maybe a large business with many offices. Interested, she made a mental note to get the name above the doors. As she was almost upon it, a sudden honking snapped her attention back to the road, and she missed the sign completely. The building was Crane Industries.
Finally after a series of turns, Eve found the hospital. She paused for a moment and looked at it, wondering what it held in store for her.
Driving off, she spotted a small coffee shop called The Book Café. Deciding to get a cappuccino, she parked her car and unbuckled J.T., who had been sleeping for most of the trip to Harmony. “Wakie, wakie, sleepy head.” She nudged him gently.
J.T. awoke and stretched. Looking around, he seemed in awe of the strange surroundings. He then reached up and said, “Out, Mommy.”
Eve chuckled softly. “Maybe they will have an orange juice for you. Would you like that?”
“Yea!” he chirped and leaped into her arms.
Soft music greeted them as they entered the cozy little café. “What a lovely place.” Eve smiled with pleasure.
A dark-haired young woman came to serve them as they sat down at a corner table. “Hi, my name is Beth. Are you new in town?” she asked.
“Umm…yes.” Eve hesitated for a moment, and then decided there was no harm in getting to know the locals.
“Well, I hope you like it here. It is such a…lovely town,” she said, gazing dreamily after a good-looking, dark-haired Latino guy who had just walked in.
Noticing her love-struck look, Eve replied, “Yes, I am sure I will.”
“Well, what’ll it be?” Beth turned her attention back to Eve and J.T.
“French Vanilla Cappuccino and a small orange juice, please.”
“OK, I won’t be but a minute.” Beth stuck the bill in her apron and left to get their order.
While they waited for their drinks, J.T. played with his stuffed Pooh bear, and Eve glanced around the room.
In the opposite corner from where they sat, Eve noticed a young black man. She guessed he was probably close to her age. He was drinking coffee and totally immersed in a tennis magazine. He took a sip from his coffee and then glanced around the room. He caught her looking and smiled.
Feeling suddenly foolish, Eve smiled weakly and looked away. She wasn’t one that usually let herself stare, but she had to admit he was attractive.
Finally, Beth came with their drinks. “There you go.” She placed them on serviettes. “Is there anything else that I can get you?” She smiled distractedly, trying to keep her eyes on the dark-haired boy.
Clearing her throat, Eve smiled at her stiffly. “Well, if it is not too much trouble, can you please bring my son some fries?”
Catching her drift, Beth straightened up and said, “Fine, I’ll be back as soon as they are done.”
Eve took a sip of her cappuccino and closed her eyes in pleasure. Her favorite hot drink! “Mmmm, how is your orange juice, J.T.?” She opened her eyes. Horrified, she saw that he was gone from his chair. She jumped up and frantically looked around the room.
“J.T.?!” she called.
Relieved, she spotted him sitting with the young man reading the tennis magazine. Rushing over, she apologized for the intrusion. “I’m sorry. I only closed my eyes for a moment, and he was gone.”
“It’s OK; he wasn’t bothering me. He was looking this way, and I waved. I guess he thought it was an invitation.” The man laughed.
“Well thank you, thank you for your kindness.” Eve grabbed J.T by the hand, ready to march back to their table.
“Wait,” he said. “Aren’t you going to tell me your name?”
Eve extended her hand and smiled sheepishly. “I’m Eve Johnson, and this is my son J.T.”
His hand was warm and gentle. “Eve and J.T! Well, I am T.C. Russell.” He laughed. “How about that, little fellow? We both use our initials for a name.” He ruffled his hair.
“Well, Mr. Russell, we won’t take up anymore of your time. Thank you again for being so understanding.”
“It was no problem; he seems like a wonderful little boy.”
“He is.” Eve smiled proudly and hugged J.T. to her side. “Well, we have to go now. Say goodbye to the nice man, J.T.”
J.T. raised his hand and waved. “Bye-bye.”
“Hey, are you staying in town long?” he asked.
“Actually, yes, we just moved here.”
“Well, maybe I’ll see you around then.” He smiled hopefully.
“Maybe.” Eve returned his smile. Although she thought he was a nice enough man, she knew that she could never really commit herself to seeing anyone till she was completely over Julian Crane. And that, she feared, was probably never going to happen.
Returning to their table, Eve discovered her cappuccino was cold, so she took their order of fries to go. Once she was back in the safety of the car, she shared the fries with J.T. and sipped some of his OJ. When they finished, she disposed of the containers in a plastic bag on the rear seat floor. Making sure that J.T was still buckled securely, she shifted the car into drive and drove off to find their apartment building.
After a few turns, she was delighted to find that their home was only a couple of blocks from the hospital. Parking the car, she and J.T. spent a few minutes just staring at the building. It was a lot bigger than she had expected. It appeared to be twenty stories high, and actually looked more like a hotel than an apartment building.
As they approached the door, and were about to buzz for the superintendent, the door swung open and an elderly door man ushered her in. “Hello, my dear. Come on in out of the cold.” He smiled warmly.
“Thank you,” Eve said as she ushered J.T. into the lobby.
A middle-aged gentleman came and took her bags. “Good evening, miss. We are glad you had a safe trip. I am the manager here, and I have been ordered to take care of all your needs.” He smiled and took her bag for her.
“You have?” Eve asked in surprise.
“Yes, dear. We were expecting you an hour ago.”
“Actually, I think that I have the wrong address. You must be waiting for someone else.” Eve fiddled nervously with her jacket, her other hand holding onto J.T. a little too tightly.
“Ouch!” He tried to yank his hand away.
“Oh, no, I am positive you are the right lady. The note said, ‘Beautiful African-American woman with a small boy, about two years of age, by the names of Eve Johnson and J.T.’ Is that about right, ma’am?”
“Well, yes, but there is no way this can be the right place. It is too much. It can’t possibly be right,” she said, feeling like she was about to faint.
He laughed. “Oh, you are in the right place, all right. Let’s just say your gentleman friend who arranged this for you was feeling generous.”
“Well, I must say I am a bit overwhelmed,” she said breathlessly. “To say the least.”
“Well, my dear, I hope that you will enjoy your new home.” He smiled. “By the way, my name is Jack.” He led her to the elevator and pressed floor number 5.
As they rode the elevator to the fifth floor, Eve felt a sudden uneasiness about the whole thing. Joel had told her that he had made arrangements for her, found her a home. But something didn’t make sense. Why would Joel spend so much on her? It was such an expensive way to show affection. Well, for the time being, she didn’t have much choice. She was starting work on Monday, and that left no time at all to find a decent place.
When they reached the fifth floor, Jack stepped out and bid her to follow him. A few doors from the elevator, he stopped. Room 503! He opened the door and stepped aside, letting her enter first.
The apartment was simple but beautiful. She was actually surprised how cozy and welcoming it felt. A nice kitchen was off to the right, and straight ahead was the living room, with large windows overlooking the town’s waterfront area.
To the left of the living room was the master bedroom with a large queen-size bed and cozy looking cotton sheets, and a smaller room that would be perfect for J.T. with a small single bed with railings on both sides to keep him from falling out. The bathroom was surprisingly large, equipped with towels and soap, and the tub was so inviting.
The apartment was spacious and comfortable. Eve loved it! She knew it was probably more than she could afford, but she felt that it was ‘her.’ Crazy as that sounded, it almost felt like she had picked it out and decorated it herself. Although she did have a substantial amount of money from a source that she was very unwilling to talk about, she had put most of that toward medical school. The rest she was saving for a rainy day and J.T’s education. Well, no matter, she was taking it!!
“I love it!!” She smiled happily.
“Good! I am glad you like it.” Jack smiled back, heading for the door.
“Wait, what is the rent on this place?” Eve wondered, wincing at what she was sure would be a large sum.
“Actually, ma’am, I wouldn’t know. I am sure that the owner will take that up with you when you meet with him.”
“Well, where is he? I would like to find out, before I get carried away here.” She laughed.
“I wouldn’t worry about it, miss. It seems that the gentleman who called for you took care of the first six months of your rent,” he offered.
“Really??” Eve asked, astonished. “How generous of him.” She made a mental note to call Joel and thank him.
“Well, I hear that he cares for you a lot, my dear.” He grinned knowingly.
“Oh, it’s nothing like that.” She laughed. “He’s just a friend.”
“If you say so, miss.” He gave her the key and turned to leave. “If there is anything that you need, just call downstairs, OK?”
“OK. Thanks, Jack!” She smiled and closed the door after him.
Touring the apartment, she felt like shouting as she looked out over the water. What a great place!!
J.T. was also enjoying the spacious rooms. He ran from one end to the other, not quite sure what to make of all this freedom. This was nothing like their previous, quite a bit smaller, home.
Eve went to the kitchen and looked in the fridge. She grinned happily. It was fully stocked, along with all the cupboards. “Joel, you are an angel!” she said. She went about preparing a light supper, and then settled down to watch a bit of TV before giving J.T. a bath and putting him to bed.
After Eve was sure that J.T was sleeping, she filled the tub with hot water and stepped in for a good long soak to relieve away the day’s drive. She wondered, though, what exactly she was going to do with her stuff when it arrived tomorrow. She had planned on staying in a hotel tonight, but since that wasn’t necessary, she would just soak here and enjoy the rest of the night. She slipped deeper into the bubbles and smiled in contentment.
One the outskirts of town, on a large sprawling landscape, rested the Crane Mansion. Julian was sitting in his office enjoying his favorite brandy. Tonight he was going to celebrate. He had done it! He had gotten her to Harmony…set her up in a lovely apartment, one that he could have made much more lavish. But he knew Eve. She would have been suspicious; she knew his tastes. So he dressed it up according to what was practical, and he also felt that it was more appropriate for a child.
A child! The thought of J.T. pained his heart. ‘Why Eve? Why would you have another man’s baby? Why couldn’t he be ours?’ A tear escaped his eye, and he brushed it away with a flip of his hand.
Taking another sip of brandy, Julian gazed longingly at a picture of Eve and vowed, “Soon, my sweet, soon we will meet again. And this time, you are not getting away. This time you will give me what I want. Nothing and no one will get in the way. And that is a promise.” He raised his glass to her and then drained it.