She squirmed as Andrew stuck the pin in the dress, the pearl headed thing bouncing with his hesitation as he pulled it away from the skirt and her leg.
“Harrie, if you don’t stop moving I’m going to stab you.” He said and gave her a look before he went back to pinning up a pleat.
“Was that another $ex joke?” Harriet asked and examined her watch. If was almost seven and she had to be on a plane at five in the morning.
“I’m not a sadist,” He said and pulled another pin from the little pincushion bracelet around his wrist. “So no. I’m just trying to get what I can from my best model before she leaves me.”
Harriet knew it was a joke, but it still stung. He’d known from the beginning that this was coming. When she’d graduated with honors over the summer, he’d cheered the loudest from the stands. He’d been the one to brag about her almost to the point of annoyance. A few days after her twenty-third birthday, he’d taken her camping in the woods and they’d planned out their lives together in the dark of the tent, the sounds on night and wild just a thin cloth away.
Her cousin Chris had already gotten her room ready at the house in the Hamptons. It was technically Harriet’s house. Her dad’s dad had willed it to her over the guilt of knowing her past. She had only been ten when he’d died and had been happy to allow her older cousins to live there as they went to school and now that they were gone, a new generation had moved in. In her family, you went to medical school in one place, did your residency in Long Island, then moved wherever from there and got their license to practice in their new home. She would have three cousins waiting for her, all male, all residents, all older and better than her.
“Families that are hard on each other,” some old Thatcher saying went. “Love each other.”
Meaning that Chris, who would pretty much be her boss, would not give her any special treatment. If anything he would push her even more.
Harriet wished more than anything that Andrew would be with her to help defuse the pressure. She wanted to wake up beside him in Long Island and see his goofy smile and hear him say how everything would be alright. But wishing was futile and Andrew wouldn’t be with her for a while yet. She would face her cousins and Long Island and her residence alone.
“I’m not a model.” She told him, trying to reign herself back into this conversation. There was no use fretting when the thing she was dreading hadn’t even happened yet.
“You’re five-foot seven of pure beauty.” Andrew smiled up at her, looking for all the world like the sadist he claimed he wasn’t. “And you let me stick pins near your body.”
“I trust you.” She said, even though he was just joking. Harriet felt as if she had to pack everything she wanted to say together. A double-meaning that only showed how scared she was of leaving. She trusted him, she did.
“Harrie.” He sighed and pulled off the bracelet and put the pearl headed pin down on the desk behind him. He took a gentle hold of her hand and pulled her off the elevated circular platform. He pulled her close and kissed her forehead before pulling back and looking her deeply in the eyes. “We’re going to be okay. I promise, everything will be fine.”
“I know that.” She said, talking more to herself than him. “I know, it’s just—”
“You don’t want to leave your flawless lover, I know.” He said and she snorted. But even with them both smiling, the tension in the room was thick and sad, like a black veil of mourning draped over them both. He spun her around slowly and began to unlace the back of the dress that was to go on a mannequin in the shop downstairs. She gripped his arm tight as she stepped out of the big plume of silk and velvet.
Harriet wrapped her arms around her body to protect herself from the cold that wasn’t there. She was in her matching underwear set and a pair of socks. Andrew had seen her in less, much less, but for some reason she still felt discomfort and she didn’t know why nor did she like it. Over the past five or six weeks, they’d spent almost all their time in bed, trying to make up for time they were going to lose. It was to the point that she hadn’t showered alone once in the past month. Not that she minded. It was funny actually. What with all the calories they were burning, Andrew was looking fit and slim his upper arms looked thicker to Harriet than they had before she’d gotten news of her accepted residency.
Harriet, however, was not losing weight at all. If anything, she was slowly gaining it. The impending move and new job had proved her a nervous eater, something she hadn’t known before. It was like LA couldn’t keep up with the amount of lemons and chocolate and tacos she kept eating to distract herself.
Instead of carefully packing and hanging the dress or putting it on the dummy, Andrew tossed the thing in the corner and pulled Harriet into his arms. She clung to him and buried her face in his neck. He still smelled like sandalwood and Old Spice which was funny because since she’d sort-of moved in with him five months ago, she’d never seen any sort of cologne in the bathroom or bedroom. She breathed him in until she couldn’t smell anything through her tear stuffed nose. She cried into his shirt and he held her tighter as if he could hold her to him forever.
She didn’t want to leave him. She really, really didn’t. Being around him through every logical thought and learned mannerism from her head and she wanted nothing more than to just hold him and love him. Being around him hurt almost as much as not being around him for some reason she couldn’t explain. Maybe things would be different after he found his way to the Hamptons. Maybe that constant need will have given way to the comfortable, content, loving silence her parents enjoyed. Somehow it didn’t seem likely.
“Come on Harrie.” He whispered. “I’ll be there before you know it. You’re going to be so busy, you won’t even notice whether I’m there or not. Just think about all those phone calls you have to take, all those whining patients, all those pissed-on sheets.”
Harriet found herself laughing through her tears. “Thanks for that.”
“Anytime.” He pulled back and wiped away her tears with a smile. She tried to ignore how it wavered. “Now let’s get you into the dress I was telling you about.”
She wiped her nose as he stepped away from her and toward one of the many wracks in his work room. There were two more dummies in the room with dresses on them, waiting for him to complete them. One was a sleek black thing with a slit up the side whose beads he was painstakingly sewing on, and the other was a red and gold quinceanera dress that more than lived up to the title. It was hard to believe her Andrew had made it himself and not one of those big-time dress makers. Well, he and Seymour who had been Mr. Montgomery’s other apprentice. Seymour was one of those people that didn’t have any particular talents, but made up for it in enthusiasm and persistence. Andrew and Harriet had a small bet going on when Seymour would come out of the closet. It made them both feel a little guilty, but at least they were betting pride, not money.
“I thought that was the dress.” Harriet said and looked longingly at her clothes that were hanging over the back of his desk chair. Why was she suddenly lost so much confidence? It couldn’t be the weight she was gaining, she was never self-conscious about her weight. But then again, she had never been so fat before. Maybe it was because she didn’t want Andrew to realize it either. He couldn’t see her stretch marks in the dark.
Stop it¸ she had to tell herself. She was being ridiculous. She was just nervous about leaving him. She trusted him, but she had never even attempted a long distance relationship, and didn’t know how it would go down. And if it somehow began to break while they were apart…
“No.” Andrew said and pulled something off the rack. “This.”
Andrew had always had a special loathing for all the fitted nylon dresses with the puffy one-shoulders that he was always having to make for girls’ prom dresses. Instead she got a beautiful skirt of blue satin, darker than the night sky, allowed to fall wherever it wished above her knee. Instead of fluffy sleeves, it had no sleeves at all, it skipped that step and led right up to the high-collard neckline. The whole bodice was a mix of black lace-like velvet and black netting and dark blue beads that shone in the bright light like water in a dark lake. It was nothing like anything she’d ever worn. Andrew always made sure that she stood out, even when she didn’t want to. It was for love and because of that, she was glad to stand out.
It was beautiful, purely beautiful.
The dress did, in fact, fit. Andrew had laughed when she had expressed her surprise. He said if she’d gained any weight at all, he hadn’t noticed it. He helped her into a pair of surprisingly comfortable blue heels and a couple of bangles that looking as if they were made of onyx or some sort of rock.
“I need you to walk down the stairs for me.” Andrew said after having her spin around a few times in the mirror.
Harriet looked at him, but his face gave away nothing. “Why?”
“Because it’s hard to tell if the skirt hem will turn out even on the rack and stairs get those sexy hips moving in just the right way.” Andrew grabbed her waist from behind and tugged her to him and kissed her neck. “You look beautiful.”
She smiled and looked at them in the mirror one more time. “You did a good job.”
“Wear it in Long Island, okay?” He give her neck one last kiss and released her. “Tell them your wonderful boyfriend made it for the most beautiful woman in the world?”
“Molly Ringwald?” Harriet asked. His never-fading school boy crush on the red head was legend.
“Well, duh. You’re only modelling it for her.” He gave her that wonderful, lovable, goofy smile and she felt her heart begin to break. He saw the tears rise up again and gave her a long, deep kiss. When he pulled away, he smiled. “I’m serious about the stairs though.”
Harriet huffed and pulled away, going for the door leading to the hallway and those damn stairs. She loved helping Andrew with his work and trying on clothes, but sometimes he had her do the weirdest things. Like last week when he’d had her do jumping jacks wearing only the bodice to a dress. Sometimes she had to question a boyfriend who lived above a dress shop he’d inherited.
Andrew followed her down the stairs. He was watching her hips she assumed, when he suddenly shouted. “Hey, do you wanna get some pizza?”
Harriet was on the last step and almost fell off of it from his voice. She flipped around and started to ask why he was shouting, when the lights suddenly flicked on and where they had been alone, there were suddenly a herd of people yelling. “SURPRISE!”
Harriet stared at them all as they laughed at her expression. “I—what?”
Andrew pushed his way past her to where Susan was carrying something and took it from her. He made his way back to Harriet and showed her his load. “We made you cake.”
“I made cake.” Susan said and licked some stray frosting off her wrist.
Harriet looked at its peculiar shape and the bent up Tootsie Rolls in the center. “Is that…is that a bed pan?”
Andrew just smiled as everyone laughed. There were a million excited conversations going on at once, and a dozen laughing faces around her.
“Just don’t ask what we used to bake it into that shape.” Her dad said and raised his juice box to her in salute.
“Congradulations baby.” Her mom said and came up and gave her a big hug.
When she pulled away, Harriet looked around. Andrew’s parents and hers and Aunt Phyl and Uncle George (no Veronica) and Susan were all present. Em and a couple Octet members were setting up in the corner and Em turned to give Harriet a bright smile. Seymour and Kim from school and Mr. Montez and his wife and people from her dad’s work that she had grown up under. They were all laughing and talking and smiling at her. Harriet felt her eyes start to water.
Quinn was there too, sitting in a chair in the corner, feeling the fabric of a display wedding dress skirt and not talking or looking at anyone. Harriet knew without being told that they’d had to drag him out of the house.
Andrew handed the cake back to Susan who went off in search of a knife to cut it. He came up behind her and slipped an arm around her waist. “Happy first-day-of-the-rest-of-your-life.”
Harriet couldn’t say anything as she held back her tears of gratitude.
Andrew kissed her temple and whispered, “I’ll be with you soon.”
The party lasted for a long time. Harriet had broken down after ten minutes of persuasion and played the baby grand piano in Andrew’s shop downstairs, accompanied by Em on the violin. It was one of the few times he’d heard her play and each time, she managed to sound more brilliant than the last. The cake was wonderful as was all of Susan’s cooking, including a homemade pizza, pigs-in-a-blanket, a fruit salad, and the lemonade and fruit punch. He’d even gotten two Tootsie poops in his cake.
But the fun didn’t last.
Everyone had to go home eventually to prepare themselves for tomorrow. They would be going off to work or school or some other obligation. And Harrie, she would be getting on a plane at four in the morning and flying off across the country to a place Andrew had never even seen. She would be starting her job in two weeks under the eyes of her cousins who would push her to the breaking point, or so she made it seem. Dr. Thatcher had dragged her home eventually to get some sleep before she flew out. Andrew wanted nothing more than to scoop her up and carry her upstairs into his bed and lay beside her one last time.
But he knew she had to get her sleep.
So instead he went up to the third floor, two bedroom apartment. The smallest bedroom was sparse, only a bed and small dresser filled with some of Quinn’s clothes for when he spent the night. Andrew’s bedroom looked empty too. Harriet had sort-of moved in with him a few months ago, but she’d packed all of her stuff and sent it east to her new home. It looked bare and lonely without her pink ladybug stuffed animal that she slept with (it always ended up getting shoved into his face in the middle of the night) and her med books scattered all over the desk and his middle two dresser drawers filled with her clothes, much of which he had made for her. Even the bathroom looked dull without her makeup and hair products. He wondered how long it would take for the lavender smell of her shampoo to fade.
He took a shower and sat down in the bay window, looking out into the sky. There wasn’t much to look at. The LA skyline was smoggy and you could barely see any stars, even on the blackest night. Lights from distant buildings were his only stars. The honking of cars and the screams of drunken laughter were his night sounds. He’d made that dress of Harrie’s to look like how he thought the night sky was supposed to look. One day, he’d told her, they’d find a place where you could walk outside at midnight and the only light would be that of the stars and the moon, and the only sounds would be the wind in the grass and the owls in the trees. He would find that for her because it was what she dreamed of. He had never really been outside LA and Harriet had only ever gotten a taste of the sky before it was ripped away from her.
His eyes searched through the smog for what felt like an eternity before he found a star. Just one, twinkling so softly he had to rub his eyes to be sure he wasn’t imagining it. But the little thing remained even after.
“Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight, I wish I may, I wish I might, have this wish I wish tonight.” Thirteen years of being around Quinn made him say it automatically. Silly as it was, that night he sat in the window for a long time, thinking about his wish. “I wish… I wish that someday Harrie and I will find a house on hill somewhere we can see the stars. I wish that one day we’ll maybe have a kid or two and they’re smart and funny and be as beautiful as her. I wish that she knows I love her.”
Andrew watched as the slow rolling clouds slowly covered the star until it was like it was never there at all and he knew that it wouldn’t work like that. If he wanted a house on a hill somewhere, he’d have to find it himself and work hard to get it. If he wanted children he’d have to marry her and have a life with her. And if he wanted her to know he loved her, he’d have to tell her so himself.
So he got up, put on his shoes, grabbed his keys, and drove to her house.
“We have a front door you know.” She said as she pulled him through her bedroom window. “We’re twenty-four, nobody needs to be climbing through anyone’s windows.”
“I’m twenty-five.” Andrew grunted and landed on the floor. He was all wet from the sprinklers outside.
“I averaged our ages.” Harriet said and folded her arms, staring down at him. “What are you doing here?”
He stood up and dusted of the invisible dust on his pajamas. He took her by the arms and pulled her close, kissing her hard like it was the last time they would ever kiss. Harriet jolted in surprise, but she closed her eyes and kissed back just as passionately. She wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed her body up against his. She was the one to tug off his shirt and pull him to the bed where he stripped her of her pink pajamas and made love to her as gently as he possibly could. She began to cry half way through and it took all Andrew had not to join her.
“I don’t want to go.” Harriet whispered and Andrew halted in his movements, telling his body to shut up and listen to her. She placed a hand on his cheek and stared up into his eyes with hers. This close they were more green than brown and they were over flowing with tears. “I love you.”
Andrew’s heart almost stopped. They had been dating for a year, but they had never said the words, not really. They had said it jokingly before, but never had they really looked into each other’s eyes and said it, meant it. Andrew kissed her pert little nose and smiled. “What do you think I came over to tell you?”
Harriet laughed through her tears and wrapped her legs around his waist, urging him on.
When he was able to pick himself up off the cliff floor, he leaned his sweating forehead against hers and whispered. “I love you Harrie, for forever and a day.”
So this is the part in the story where things are going to get really tricky for me. I have to fit ten years of story telling into a book under 400 pages. I want to look more seriously into publishing after I’m done with this and modern timed novels shouldn’t be more than that so I’m trying to keep it low. Chapters after this might be happening at the same time or a week or month or even year apart. I’ll try to let you know if there’s a time jump, but just keep that in mind. Those who read Mother Superior know that there is A LOT that happens in those ten years. Also you might notice that some little things deviate from how things happened in Mother Superior and know that I changed them on purpose. Part of it is because Lani doesn’t know the whole story and part of it is me changing it because I want to change it. If there’s any small thing that seems like a random change, let me know because I might not have noticed it from one story to another. Sorry for the long spiel, hope you’re all enjoying the story