First Impressions Ch. 05

Amateur

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*****

Laurel was depressed. Jennifer was depressed. Margaret was depressed. Even Cyd and Kat seemed a little less loud and obnoxious than usual. The first week of the New Year was one of the worst the family could remember.

Laurel sat at her desk in the library staring blankly at the screen in front of her not really thinking about anything when she was startled by a knock at the door.

“Come in,” she called.

The door creaked open and Brittney stood in the doorway.

“Brittney!” Laurel stood up and walked to her friend. They hugged for a long time. “Brittney, I’m so glad you’re here. I’ve wanted to see you since that day you were here two weeks ago. I’m so sorry.”

“No, I’m sorry. I was too harsh to you. I didn’t realize how deeply you felt about Carlos. Of course you couldn’t marry Sebastien when you’re in love with someone else. I just hope you don’t hate me too much for accepting him.”

“Oh, Brittney of course I don’t hate you! I just want you to be happy. If moving to France will do that I want you to do that!”

“I hate you leave you and Jen right now after what happened to you. Is she going to be okay?”

“Yeah, she will be eventually. You know, she just needs some time by herself for a while.”

“What about you? I heard Carlos quit the Nebulas…”

Laurel faltered, “He did. He’s also moving back to Spain…”

“Oh Laurel, I’m so sorry!” Brittney pulled friend into another hug.

“I don’t know if I’ll ever see him again.”

Brittney looked troubled for her friend’s poor circumstances. “Well I really have to get going; I’m heading for the airport now. I fly New York to Paris tonight.”

“I can’t believe it. You’re really going.”

“Laurel, promise me you’ll visit?”

“Of course I will! Let me know as soon as you’re married, settled and ready to have me!”

“I’ll hold you to that you know!”

The girls hugged one last time and Brittney left.

In mid January, Cyd and Kat returned to college since Laurel had made things work out for them to return. Heidi restarted her piano lessons in the house and Jennifer was looking for somewhere to do her veterinary internship and write her final thesis. Laurel was helping her fill out applications when she came across an opening in the city.

“Jennifer, did you see this one? It’s at the New York City Animal Hospital. It’s right downtown!.”

Jennifer looked up, “Yeah, I think I did.” She sounded hesitant.

“Jen, this internship would be perfect! You’re a great fit for it and it could get you a job anywhere you wanted!”

“Yeah, but do I really want to live in the city?”

“Of course you do!” Laurel stated. “I’m filling out this application and we’re sending it now!”

Laurel and Jennifer finished the applications and mailed them that afternoon. Jennifer interviewed three days later and was hired straight away. Laurel helped her to find an apartment online.

“Here’s one on 42nd, but it’s on the eighth floor and no elevator!”

“Ooooo this one looks good…wait, they want four thousand a month for one bedroom. Who do they think I am, Oprah?”

“Oh my gosh, Jen this one is perfect! Third story in the business district and the rent is great.” Laurel had a thought and did a quick Google search. The apartment was literally across the street from the New York Nintendo Offices where David worked.

Two weeks later Laurel helped Jennifer move into her NYC apartment. After everything was moved in they sat in the window seat looking out at the tall buildings of the business district.

Laurel tried to be casual as she sipped her wine, “Did you notice which building is across the street?”

Jennifer peered out the window; “Oh…” she recognized the building.

“Maybe you should call David or MaryAnn to let them know you’re living in the city for a while,” Laurel volunteered.

“I don’t know…I don’t want to annoy them.”

“Jennifer, it wouldn’t be an annoyance. I’m sure they’d be very happy to hear from you.”

Jennifer grabbed her cell phone, “Well, I guess I’ll text them.”

“I’m sure you’ll hear back quickly.”

The second week of February Laurel received a long anticipated phone call from Brittney Danielson-now Brittney Izambard- in France.

“Brittney! It’s so wonderful to hear from you! How was your wedding? Your mother has shared the pictures with everyone in town.”

“Of course she has. The wedding was beautiful and the honeymoon was…lovely. We traveled to the coast of Italy for two weeks. Sebastien and I have just moved into our own home on the Northern outskirts of Paris.”

“Oh Brittney I’m sure it’s lovely.”

“Come see it! Can you come visit us? Sebastien says he is more than happy to pay for the flight.”

“That’s really not necessary, but I will put down my pride and accept it.”

“Great! Name the date and a room will be ready for you!”

Laurel flew canlı bahis to Paris in mid February. She had been to France multiple times with her father on wine business, but the site of flying into the city, especially at night, never ceased to take her breath away. The romance of the city was apparent in every site the eye could take in. Maybe it was the beautiful aromas in the air or the beautiful language on the tongue of every Frenchman, but something made Laurel fall in love with the city more and more every minute.

Sebastien picked up Laurel from the airport and was more than happy to see her.

“Laurel!” He greeted her with the customary kiss on both cheeks. “Welcome to Paris! Brittney and I are so happy to have you here! Let me take you home right away so that you can see her.”

Sebastien drove Laurel home through the city, slowly touring past many famous landmarks. Laurel didn’t mention that she had seen them all many times. She was more than happy to tune out his descriptions and just take in the general splendor. After about an hour they were past the city and driving through various fruit trees when a large brick house came into view. The house was gorgeous. Ivy crept up the front exterior and was trimmed professionally around every window.

Sebastien dropped Laurel off at the front door and drove the car around to park behind the house. Laurel approached the house. Brittney flung the door open and ran down to her friend.

“Laurel! I’m so, so, so glad you are here! Come in and let me show you the house!” The women walked into the house. Brittney started a tour.

“The kitchen…the dining room…formal sitting room…informal sitting room…Sebastien’s room…and alas, my room.”

Brittney’s room was totally her style. Lavender accents stood against grey-blue walls. A dark wood four post bed was the focal point of the room.

“You said this is your room and Sebastien’s is down the hall?”

Brittney looked a bit uncomfortable, “Yes. To be honest Sebastien and I aren’t totally used to each other yet. We haven’t reached…physical intimacy yet. He’s been so patient with me and has never been been pushy.”

“I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.”

“No, I’m so glad I finally have someone to tell. I don’t know anyone in this country well enough to talk about things like this. My mother left the day after the wedding. The only person I’ve known for more than a month is Sebastien and I haven’t known him for more than four months. “

Laurel placed a hand on her friend’s arm. “I’m here as long as you need me.”

Laurel and Brittney spent all their time together, walking around the estate and getting lost for hours around Paris. On her fourth afternoon in France Sebastien informed Laurel that he and Brittney were planning to attend the opera in town and they would like her to join them.

“There is no greater joy than the opera,” Sebastien stated. “Had I not been in the wine business with my father, I would have been a singer and a very good one.”

“Of course you would have dear” Brittney said. Laurel tried hard to suppress her giggles.

“Of course, Laurel you will want a new dress for tonight. Feel free to use my name on credit in town.”

“Thank you Sebastien, but I am perfectly capable of purchasing my own clothing,” Laurel was not giggling anymore.

Laurel found a dress and was excited to wear it out. ‘One thing America has lost is a reason to really dress up,” she thought as she zipped the dress up the side. The dress was midnight blue and full sequins. The glimmering material wrapped around her body, fitted to the thigh then flowed out in a mermaid skirt. She fastened a bracelet around her wrist and checked her hair one last time. Satisfied, she grabbed her clutch and joined Brittney and Sebastien in the car. Brittney wore her favorite opera dress-Sebastien had insisted she buy quite a few because they visited the opera so often. They dress was beaded on the bodice and from the waist it flowed down in fire red organdy.

The opera house was as grand as such a building should be. It seemed every surface was marble or velvet, or gold-plated. Laurel was delighted to find that the Izambard box at the opera was a very good one. Plush seats in crimson velvet and ebony sat in two small rows in a balcony box overlooking the stage.

The opera was “Madame Butterfly,” and it was absolutely beautiful. Between acts patrons were encouraged and expected to visit each other’s boxes and mingle. Sebastien left the two women to greet guests and went out to call on others. Brittney introduced Laurel to many people. She was impressed with Brittiney’s control of French, but she had always been a gifted linguist. As the groupings of people drifted out of the box and the lights flickered to warn of the upcoming second act two men slipped in the back door of the box.

The taller man stepped forward and shook Brittney’s hand.

“Mrs. Izambard, how are you this evening?”

“Very well, Mr. Gordan. This is my best friend from America, Laurel Bennett. Laurel, this is-“

“Urs!” bahis siteleri Laurel interrupted loudly as the other man stepped into the light of the opera box.

“Laurel,” he nodded a greeting.

Laurel shook off the shock and looked back to Brittney who was staring at her. “I’m so sorry, how rude of me.” She gave her attention to the tall man in front of her.

“I see you know my friend, Miss Bennett,” he took her hand. “I’m Josh Gordan.”

“Lovely to meet you,” Laurel smiled.

“Not as lovely as it is to meet you.” Laurel felt a blush creeping in at her cheeks, but then remembered Urs was there.

“How are you Mr. Buhler?” They did not make eye contact.

“I’m doing very well. How is your family?”

“They’re doing well. My sister, Jennifer is living in New York City for the spring and summer, did you know?”

“I did not.”

Laurel opened her mouth to say something but the lights flickered again.

“We should be getting back to our seats,” Urs concluded.

“I hope to meet you again, Laurel,” Josh said.

“Come see us,” Brittney interjected happily. “Are you available tomorrow night?”

“Amazingly, I believe I am,” Josh smiled.

“Of course, you’re invited too Mr. Buhler,” Brittney added.

“Thank you,” he nodded once more and left the box. Josh followed him out.

Brittney and Laurel retook their seats. “He likes you!” Brittney smiled.

“Who?”

“Josh! I had to invite him over! You will like him too when you get to know him.”

“Oh, I’m sure I will,” Laurel was feeling very distracted. “What does he do?”

Brittney laughed, “Very little these days. He’s the heir to millions that’s been in his family for centuries. The Gordan family has ties to Sebastien’s family, and lots of other prominent European names-like the Buhlers.”

“Did you know he would be here?”

“Who? Urs? I had no idea. I’ve never seen him here before. But it doesn’t surprise me that he knows Josh.”

Laurel remained silent. Sebastien soon rejoined them and the opera continued. Laurel had trouble paying attention. She glanced around the darkened opera house and found Urs and Josh a few boxes away. She was surprised she had not seen them sooner, but then again she hadn’t been looking. Urs sat rigidly in his seat and she thought she saw him glance her way a few times as well. She hoped he’d caught on tonight and wouldn’t show up with his friend the following evening.

Promptly at seven thirty the butler showed Josh Gordan and Urs Buhler into the front sitting room at the house. Sebastien greeted them both enthusiastically.

“Josh, it’s so wonderful to have you here again!”

“It’s been too long my friend. I see having a woman here helps the atmosphere immensely.” Brittney smiled.

“And of course, Mr. Buhler, you are welcome to our home whenever you are in the country as well.”

“Thank you Mr. Izambard.”

“Please call me Sebastien. You’re a friend now.”

Josh slipped away from his friend and walked to Laurel. “Laurel, it’s good to see you again. I’m sorry we didn’t get a chance to talk much last night.”

“I’m sure we’ll have that chance tonight,” she smiled.

“I hope so!”

“Dinner is ready when you are,” Brittney announced.

“May I?”Josh offered Laurel his arm.

“You may,” she took it gladly and they walked to the dining room.

Sebastien took his seat at the head of the table with Brittney at the other end. Josh pulled a seat out for Laurel then took the chair next to her. Urs walked around the table and took the seat directly across from Laurel. She glanced at him, but looked away immediately when she saw he was also looking at her.

The dinner went smoothly with sufficient conversation about travel, work, and events in Paris. After dinner they took to the informal sitting room. Sebastien asked Urs if he would like a full tour of the house since it was his first time there and Brittney went to turn on the stereo knowing Josh would want to talk to Laurel. They picked two overstuffed, suede chairs in a corner.

“Tell me Laurel, how do you like Paris?”

“Very much, every time I’m here I know why everyone says it’s the best city in the world.”

“Who was it that said, ‘America is my country, but Paris is my hometown?'”

“Gertrude Stein,” Laurel answered. “I think she was right.”

“Tell me about your family Laurel,” Josh asked. Laurel and Josh talked for probably an hour and didn’t even notice when Sebastien and Urs came back to the room. Urs approached them.

Josh looked up at his friend, “Why didn’t you ever mention that you knew this amazing woman, Urs?”

“I’m sure Mr. Buhler is doing his best to forget his fall in Willow Springs. It’s a bit small for such a prominent man,” Laurel said a bit coolly.

Josh laughed and Urs looked uncomfortable. “Tell me; what was my friend like in the American countryside?”

“Are you sure you want to hear it?”

“Yes, please!” Josh scooted forward to listen closely.

“The first night that Urs came to the town square bahis şirketleri he barely talked to anyone and absolutely refused to dance with anyone even though there were dozens of women waiting to be asked. Then for the next three and a half months rarely left the house and never visited anyone in their homes, even when invited.”

Josh laughed heavily and Laurel was surprised.

“That is Urs,” he finally said. “Not much for social interaction.”

Urs still stood near them silently, but opened his mouth to defend himself when Sebastien spoke from across the room.

“Josh, come try this Scotch. It’s the vintage I was telling you about last night.”

Josh smiled at Laurel, “Please excuse me.”

Urs looked down at Laurel icily, “I’ll remind you that on that first night in Willow Springs I knew no one except David and MaryAnn and I dislike dancing.”

“And it’s so hard to meet anyone when you’re surrounded by hundreds of people and armed with alcohol,” Laurel replied sarcastically.

“I don’t find it as easy to strike up conversation as David does.”

“Maybe you should ask for lessons,” Laurel said tartly, standing and crossing the room to Brittney.

Josh and Urs stayed an hour longer but the major conversation was over. Josh made sure to say goodbye to Laurel before leaving.

“Laurel I wonder if you would like to go out to town tomorrow evening?”

“I would love to” she accepted gladly, waving goodbye to him.

Urs passed her at the door but they didn’t even look at each other.

In New York City Jennifer was very busy with her veterinary internship that she had barely had time to think about David, but it did cross her mind when she sat near the window and looked out at the Nintendo building across the street. As Laurel had encouraged, Jennifer had texted both David and MaryAnn when she moved into the city but neither had responded. Now, nearly two months later Jennifer’s phone beeped.

The text was from MaryAnn and it read, ‘Jennifer, so glad you’re in the city. Can you come out and join me for a drink tonight?’

Jennifer responded right away and got ready to go out. They met at Club Blue on West 55th. MaryAnn was already there.

Jennifer expected MaryAnn to stand and hug her but she barely moved when Jennifer came over.

“Hello MaryAnn, it’s wonderful to see you!”

“Hi Jennifer,” she shifted slightly. “How are you?”

“I’m doing alright. How are you?”

“I’m fine, of course,” MaryAnn fell silent and Jennifer felt extremely awkward. Thankfully the waiter came up then and Jennifer ordered a drink.

“Are you enjoying your time in the city?” MaryAnn asked boredly.

“Yes, very much, although it is hard to be so far away from everyone I know. I know very few people in town.”

“Yes, I’m sure it is.” MaryAnn sipped her drink never looking directly at Jennifer.

They fell into another awkward silence that Jennifer decided to break with a question of what she really wanted to know. “How is your brother, MaryAnn?”

“Oh, David? It’s fine, wonderful really. He’s been traveling Europe and Asia. He’s been seeing quite a bit of Urs Buhler’s sister, Elinor. They’re quite a lovely couple.”

Jennifer felt like she’d been stabbed with an icy knife and the air went out of her lungs. She took a large gulp of her drink.

“Have they been in New York at all?”

“Oh, in and out a bit with business, but he never stays long because all his close acquaintances are out of the country at the moment so he has no one but me to really see here.”

“…I understand.”

MaryAnn took a final sip of the drink she had. “Well, I really must be going. Thank you for meeting with me. Have a good semester.”

Jennifer stood to say goodbye but MaryAnn was past her and out the door almost instantly. Jennifer started after her for a moment before grabbing her drink and downing the rest of it and ordering another.

Laurel split her time between Brittney and Josh for the next week, days with Brittney and nights with Josh. Laurel knew she should be taken with him, but found herself only feeling a sisterly affection for him. She wished she felt more for Josh since he was such a gentleman, but her mind was still on Carlos.

As they walked down the street past shops and cafes one evening Laurel asked a question she’d been waiting to ask.

“How long have you known Urs Buhler, Josh?”

“Well, my entire life. He’s one of my dearest friends. Of course his closest friend is David Miller the gaming tycoon; but you knew that.”

“Do you know David?”

“I do not. We have never crossed paths, but I he must be a great man if he is friends with Urs.

“David does seem like a great man, but Urs…”

“Urs is one of the most trustworthy men I know. He’s done much for me and I know he’s done much for David as well, recently helping him out of a troublesome relationship so I’m told.”

“A troublesome relationship?” Laurel was shocked.

“Yes, apparently David was in over his head, but Urs was able to sort him out before he really messed things up.”

“And what was wrong with the woman?”

“Apparently the problem was not with the woman herself but with her family. A country bunch with financial problems-not a good match really.”

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