Chapter 14: When the Design first emerged

(C) 2011 by Metta Anderson – All Rights Reserved 

“I don’t believe this!” Grace exclaimed, incredulous, hanging up the intercom in her kitchen.

“Believe what?” asked Emma Blake, turning away from the sink where she’d washed a couple of dishes.

“The doorman said it was Julian Pardo, for me.”

“The guy you’ve been telling me about? He’s here?” Now Emma was incredulous. “That’s unreal!”

“Yeah, I know! It can’t be the same guy!”

The doorbell rang and the two women looked at each other, just on the point of laughing.

“It just can’t be Julian!” Grace  repeated, shaking her head as she left the kitchen and turning sharply to her right. The apartment’s front door was separated from the kitchen by a slender wall, forming a short hallway.

She opened the door and froze, as did the man in front of it.

“YOU!?” he exclaimed, leaning back as his deep baritone voice filled the hallway.

“Who else?” Grace replied, not quite laughing but smiling in obvious pleasure. She could hear Emma giggling in the kitchen.

“You live here?!” Julian asked before realizing how ridiculous he sounded.

“Yeah,” she nodded.

“But what about Gwen? Isn’t this her apartment?” He looked around the door frame, trying to find the apartment’s number.

“No,” Grace replied curtly. She knew who Gwen was, and that she lived in 303, downstairs. Grace was in 503, but upon hearing the other girl’s name, she grabbed Julian’s arm and pulled him inside. God forbid Gwen should hear him and come upstairs!

Julian didn’t protest and stopped in the dining area while she shut the door. He thought she might lock it, and smiled to himself. Yes indeed, he’d found Grace again.

“Adamson!” he exclaimed, opening his arms and grinning. “I don’t believe it!”

“Neither do I,” she laughed and moved into his embrace without hesitation. Julian was here! Again! They kissed as if no more than five seconds had passed since they’d last seen each other, instead of six years. They hugged and kissed like two pieces fitting themselves together again after being separated for no reason.

There was a quiet cough behind them and Grace glanced toward the kitchen door, beaming. Emma stood there, feeling floored and wanting to go to her room. She had never imagined the man Grace described as good-looking to be actually handsome, or that his voice would just roll through the room with natural authority. To say nothing of the obviously expensive clothes and shoes he was wearing. She’d expected a short but attractive Colombian guy of indeterminate origins, whom Grace had embellished in her descriptions out of a need to assert herself. But there he stood, the authentic Julian Pardo, smiling at her while holding Grace in his arms, very open and friendly. Grace had said he was upperclass, and–son of a bitch!–he was! Emma felt intimidated.

Grace made the introductions and Julian extended his hand. “How do you do, Emma? Very nice to meet you,” he said warmly. “What’re you doing in Colombia?”

“I teach. At the Colombo. Downtown.” She managed a smile and retracted her hand.

“How do you like it?”

She was surprised to hear sincere interest in his voice. “Ah well. . . It’s nice. I mean, I like working there. Good students. . . Do you teach? Or have you? I think Grace mentioned that you met while teaching. . .?”

“I started, or rather, we started, teaching at Menéndez and eventually I became a director and then they sent me to the one they opened in Chapinero. Do you know that one, on Carrera 13?”

“I know where it is, and where the one downtown is,” Emma replied, nodding. “Are you still there?”

“No, not officially, but I’ve been helping out a couple of times a week for a while. I’ve been out of town. Hey, why don’t we sit down?” he suggested.

“Oh right! Do you want something to drink?” Grace asked, looking up at him, an arm now around his waist.

“Oh. . . A Coke or whatever. Emma?”

“Oh no, no! I just had some tea.”

Releasing each other, Julian slipped off his jacket and hung it on the back of a chair at the table while Grace went to the kitchen. Warily, Emma took the chair nearest the wall in the dining area. It was very sexist of Julian to just take over the way he had, she thought, and yet, it seemed very natural. It wasn’t his apartment, and yet, after a few minutes kissing Grace, it became his. That was very disconcerting.

“Why were you looking for Gwen?” Grace asked, returning with two Cokes and sitting down next to Julian at the table. The other American girl, the one downstairs, was pretty non-descript and seemed to be overweight, but even so, she had no intention of letting him leave, now that he’d reappeared. And she was surprised at how casual she sounded, with not a hint of jealousy in her voice. “Didn’t she show up for work or something?”

“Do you know her?” he asked.

“No, but I know who she is. I know that she’s renting the apartment and moved in just a couple of months ago.”

“How long have you been renting this place?” Julian asked, picking up the glass in front of him.

“I own it,” Grace answered smugly. “I moved in on December 31, 1972. It was just empty! I bought carpet and drapes and the furniture, except for the breakfront over there–” she pointed to a large wooden cabinet along the wall behind Emma “–and a lamp and some other things. My washer and dryer! My bed, a desk. . . stuff like that.” She smiled at him. “I was one of the first people to move in, so I know the people who own Gwen’s apartment. They’ve always rented it.”

“Why’d you buy it?” he asked, hoping he sounded very casual. Owning a nice apartment at a good address meant that she was solvent and secure, someone who could give him a place to stay where no one else would find him. Especially Elisabetta. “I mean, do you really plan to stay here, in Bogotá?”

“Sure, why not? But what about Gwen?”

“She’s pregnant and working at Menéndez and the guy who knocked her up can’t decide if he should marry her and she’s afraid to tell her parents,” he explained. “I’m just trying to make sure she gets the things she needs, like doctors’ appointments and baby clothes and things like that.”

“How’d she get pregnant?” Grace asked without thinking, and Julian looked at her, raising an eyebrow, as if she were demented. “No, I’m sorry, wrong question,” she murmured as Emma and Julian laughed. “I mean, was she seriously dating some guy or was he married or is he well-known or what? She didn’t do it on purpose, did she?”

“No no, it was accidental, and she’d been dating the guy, but. . . I think they even lived together for a while, but then she got pregnant and he’s kind of disappeared or something like that,” Julian answered.

“Or ran home to Momma,” Emma muttered.

Julian laughed and nodded. “Yeah, I think he did! So in the meantime, she moved out of the place where she was living, which was a dump anyway, and now she’s going to have the baby in a few months. I think she’s told her parents, though, or was about to. That’s why I was here, to find out how her parents reacted.”

“Wow, I feel like I’ve been warned,” Emma said, a little introspectively.

“Why?” he asked, curious.

“I’ve only been here a few months, since March, and I’ve gone out with a couple of guys I’ve met at the Colombo, but–” she shook her head–“pregnancy never crossed my mind as a teaching experience!”

“This is the first time I’ve had to deal with it myself,” Julian said and both women looked at him in disbelief. He smiled and shifted in his chair. “No, what I mean is, in all the time I worked at Menéndez, as far as I know, none of the women teachers got pregnant, even if they were married. They’d fall in love, out of love, get drunk, get stoned, get sick or whatever, but pregnant?” He waved a hand. “No, I can’t remember anyone getting pregnant. And I know I’d remember, because I’m probably the first guy who’d get blamed for it!”

The women laughed. “Yeah, you would,” Grace agreed.

Emma stretched and sighed. “I have to get to bed. I have an early class.” She stood up and stretched her hand across the table. “Nice meeting you, Julian. Hope to see you again sometime.”

“Thanks,” he answered, shaking hands briefly. “I hope so, too. Good night.”

“‘Night,” Emma replied, waving a hand as she walked toward the hall leading toward the bedrooms.

Grace turned more toward Julian and put her legs across his lap. “So where’ve you been? How’d you find me?”

He leaned back, resting a hand on her leg. ” I was not looking for you,” he said bluntly. “I had no idea you were here. In fact, I never thought I’d ever see you again. But–“he gestured toward her–“here you are.”

“Ah-huh, here I am. And where were you?”

“In Europe. In Germany.” He stopped and passed a hand over the table top. And now he was back in Bogotá, his future was as uncertain as it had been a few years ago, except that now, he was divorced. He had to tell her that. “Where’d you live before?”

“Carrera 5 with Calle 68. You were there.”

He nodded. “Right. Okay, I was married to Tere, we had a baby and then the marriage fell apart and we got divorced. And then she married a guy, Al Londoño, who was supposed to be MY best friend! And we worked together, for a while, which is how he met Tere in the first place. But that was after I stopped working for Menéndez. I quit.!

“I thought you’d quit before,” she commented, leaning sideways against the chair’s back.

“I did. I got to be a director and one day, I just didn’t want to do that any more, so I quit, and then I got divorced. But then, I worked with Al for a while and that was. . . Well, it was a good job and the salary was great, but then I found out he was seeing Tere, so I quit and went back to Menéndez. They even offered to send me to Cali, because they have an institute there now, too, but I just don’t like Cali, so they sent Bill Grant. . . You remember him? Tall, real thin, blond. . .?”

“Yeah, sure,” she nodded.

“They sent Bill, and he was ecstatic, because his wife’s from Cali and he just loves it there, and I got his job here in Chapinero. But then. . .” he paused. It was late and also he didn’t want to spoil the mood, the way he felt, by bringing up Elisabetta and how they’d met and whata happened after that. “Then I got the chance to go to Europe, so I took it.” He stared at the table, withdrawn for a few seconds. Then he straightened up, stretched and looked at her. “And now I’m here.”

She smiled back at him, nodding.

“But it’s late, and I should get going. . .”

“It’s kind of late for a taxi. . .” she murmured.

“You don’t mind if I stay. . .”

They leaned toward each other as she whispered, “No. . .” and they began to kiss, taking their time, because they had the time, in the long Bogotá night.

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