Ivy League – Chapters 1-6

IVY LEAGUE

JOSEPH MARTINEZ

Chapter 1

Edwards Apartment Day 1
Edward laid in bed looking out the window watching the early morning sun break through his window. Anna searched for her bra. “You know I wish you wouldn’t be so careless with my clothes,” Anna complained. “Careless?” inquired Edward. “Sex doesn’t have to be as organized as every other part of your life Ana. Sometimes it’s fun to get a little messy.” Edward said as he sat up and reached for his phone to check his schedule for the day. “Grow up Edward. Maybe if you put half of the energy you put into getting me into bed last night into your project maybe we’d actually be ahead of schedule for once.” Ana said as she grabbed Edwards face and pulled him away from his phone. “Get out of bed now! You are going to be late for our staff meeting. And please try to be presentable, it won’t kill you to wear a tie once in a while.” Anna demanded. Edward sat up and looked out again out of his bedroom window, as Anna used his dresser mirror to put on her lipstick. The way the sunrise was breaking through the light cloud cover made his thoughts drift to memories of his early childhood and his father, to the days before the cancer, when he was still in grade school. On Summer mornings like this he would get up early and help his father work on his project car. A 1958 Chevy truck. He can still feel what the morning air felt like. The smell of motor oil on his hands, and the cold forged steel of the wrenches. Edward’s father would tell him about his teenage years when he bought a truck just like this one. His father grew up poor, so of course the truck was not in great condition. In fact that is an under statement. The roof had a hole in it, the doors had large cloud like paint patches where the previous owner had painted over the companies logo, and the seats upholstery was so torn that it had to be covered with old blankets. Despite the actual condition his father talk about this truck like it was the greatest thing in the world. Edward’s father always had a way of making the ordinary extraordinary. Edward missed having his father around. The world was always a little bigger, a little brighter and full of the impossible when this father was around. Edward never forgot the stories of his father’s youth like the ones where he’d cruise the local high school and flirt with all the pretty girls. Sometimes he talk about the how he met Edward’s mother. Those mornings life was so simple and full of endless possibilities, but I guess it always is when you look back to those childhood days. Edward wanted to feel that again, to see the world through those eyes. He loved his life now. He had a very nice lifestyle. He had a beach front condo in the trendy part of Manhattan beach. His nights were full of trendy bars and restaurants. In the winter he would spend several weeks in the Bahamas and his summer’s he usually spend in the south of France or Italy. This was the life that his father sacrificed and believe me Edward took full advantage of it. “See you at the office. I need to run I have an busy morning. Quit day dreaming and get in the shower” Anna said as she walked out of his bedroom without looking back. “Yeah love you too,” Edward said as he laughed and sank back into his bed. Edwards father died when he was 21 and he always wondered how his life would have been different if his father had lived. “I miss you dad,” Edward thought to himself as he pull himself out of bed to start his day.

Edward pulled into the parking lot just as his co-worker and drinking buddy Derik was pulling in. “What’s up fucker. Where did you go after happy hour last night?” Derik asked Edward. Edward responded,”No where just home to feed the dogs.” “Well you missed out. We took the new interns to that strip club down the street, and the corporation paid for it. Well my receipt says I bought 40 steak dinners. It was a great team building event. Even that hot asian intern, Loo Sim or Kim Soo got a lap dance.” Derik continued as Edward put on a tie he found in his glove box. “Ready for another day in paradise,” Edward inquired. “Lets do this,” Erik said he smacked Edward on the back. The two walked into the main lobby and made their way to the elevator. “Hold the elevator!” a voice yelled. It was Ivy Edward’s best friend from childhood. She had recently started with the corporation and now was going to be assigned to Edward’s new project. “Morning sunshine,” Derik said as his eyes made their way slowly up from her feet to her breasts. “Please, it’s too early to be visually assaulted,” Ivy said snidely as she looked away in disgust. “Here let me fix that for your,” Ivy said to Edward as she straightened his tie. “There that looks better. So are we still on for lunch today. I want to go over the budget for this new project with you before this afternoons meeting.” she continued as she adjusted Edwards collar. Derik interrupted,”So where we going to lunch?” “Oh I’m sorry we are going to a restaurant that requires you to use utensils, plus I think they only allow service animals,” Ivy shot back. “Oh I’m a service animal,” Derik said under his breath. “See you at lunch Edward,” Ivy shouted as she walked out of the elevator. Ivy had always been Edward’s best friend. She grew up across the street from Edward, but moved away when her mother died during junior high. They reconnected after college when she attended his father’s funeral. Last summer she was hired on as a contractor and now was the lead financial analyst for the Real Estate development firm. She lived a few blocks from Edward’s mother on the east side of Los Angeles, which Edward never understood especially now since her new salary would easily afford her a nice condo on the west side.

Walking into the board room for their staff meeting Edward and Derik first make their way to coffee cart before grabbing a seat near the head of the table. Jack their senior VP walks in. “Take your seats everyone. We have a lot to cover this morning,” Jack commanded. Jack casually grabbed the coffee out of Derik’s hand just as he was about to take his first drink,”Thank you. Just the way I like it Derik. By the way how were those steak dinners last night?” “Very tasty.” Derik said without missing a beat. “Ok the first slide shows next quarters projections,” Jack started as everyone made their ways to their seats. Edward tries to concentrate on the PowerPoint slides flashing through the screens but his mind keeps drifting back to those mornings with his father. He tells himself after work today he will stop to visit his mom. She had left a message last night when he was with Anna. It had been almost six months since he visited his childhood home. He usually would send a car for his mother once a mother and take her to an expensive 5 start restaurant in his neighborhood. The staff meeting took up most of Edward’s morning. A few phone calls, a couple of emails later and it is almost time for lunch. The vibration from a text message on his cellphone breaks his concentration. It’s a text message from Ivy. “Lunch time. Hurry I’m hungry. : ) ” “Finally,” Edward thinks to himself as he gets up and tells his assistant, Gretchen, he will be out to lunch.

Ivy requested they meet at the sushi bar across the street from their building. Walking in Edward quickly scans the restaurant and finds Ivy sitting at the sushi bar. She laughing and being her usual charming self. The older sushi chef is obviously flirting with her. Ivy is actually very attractive, but she would never admit it or maybe she doesn’t see it. She dresses quite conservatively, rarely wears dresses and tries to show as little as skin as possible. Her father was german and mother was Chinese, so her features are quite beautiful and exotic. Her her dark silky brown hair flows several inches past her shoulders. It only takes a moment to get lost in those big brown eyes. Compassionate, and childlike they shine with a light rare to this world, but to those close to her know there is also a shadow sadness that follows those eyes. She hardly speaks of it and rarely acknowledges it out loud, but her father was an alcoholic and quite abusive to Ivy and her mother.
“So did you order?” Edward asked as he sits down. “No I haven’t, but the Chef says they have some Blue Fin toro that I have to try.” “Yeah I’m sure he wants you to try his toro.” “Stop it! All men do not want to sleep with me.” “Whatever, Ivy you are so naive sometimes.” The two sat silently as they scanned the order sheet. Ivy quickly marked the sheet with 6 different sashimi and rolls. “Wow, fatty! You weren’t kidding about being hungry,” Edward laughed as he handed the order sheet to the waitress. “Shut up I didn’t eat breakfast,” Ivy defended. “Hey I love a woman who can eat. Nothing is more sexy.” Edward wasn’t kidding about that. He loved that Ivy was real and never tried to be anything else but who she was. He just wished the women he dated could take a lesson from Ivy. Their items quickly arrived. He always enjoyed watching Ivy eat. He tried not to be to obvious in his stares because he knows how neurotic and self conscious she can get. Watching her meticulously prepare each piece of fish. She with the delicate precision of a surgeon she would dip each piece of fish in her soy sauce before she skillfully put it in her mouth. Edward was actually secretly jealous of how she enjoyed the small things. He tried to articulate in his thoughts why he enjoyed meals with her so much. It was the way she surrendered herself to her appetite and did it with such deliberate grace. Ivy and Edward shared a unique understanding that they never found in anyone else. Surprisingly they never explored any romantic possibilities. Maybe it was because the timing was always off. Maybe it’s because sometimes you are blind to the obvious if it’s too close. Their meal was over faster than Edward would have liked. “Ok time to get back. I have to finish the resource planning for my new project. The new financial analyst on my project is waiting for the numbers. I never worked with her but I heard someone compare her to Gengis Khan. a ultra a-type personality. You know the type. She probably arranges her sock drawer by color,” Edward joked as he grabbed the bill from Ivy’s hand. “What are you doing?” she asked. “You know I hate when you try to pay for my meals,” Edward replied. “Always trying to steal my manhood.” Edward quickly signed the bill and the two walked back to the office.

As Edward stepped out of the elevator he could hear Gretchen, his assistant, talking to Ana. Ana sounded irritated, which was her normal mode of communication when she wasn’t talking to someone who didn’t have something she wanted. “Well do you know when he will be back?” Ana inquired. “I don’t know, but his afternoon is fully booked,” Gretchen said without looking up from her monitor. “Is this person bothering you Gretchen” Edward asked as he handed Gretchen a stack of legal sized papers. “Here is the presentation for this afternoon. Can you make 20 copies? Oh, and here by the way I stopped at that bakery down the street on my way back from lunch and picked up one of those muffins you like.” “Thank you Edward,” Gretchen said with a sigh of relief. “Ana would you be so kind as to step in my office,” Edward said with a wink to Gretchen.

Edwards office was reflection of the inside of his mind. There were a line of rocks on his desk from his favorite travel destinations. A sandstone from Zion, a smooth beach stone from San Simeon, and pavement stone from Prague. Along the wall was photos of favorite family moments. His high school graduation with his father, the picture of the first house he bought, and all his family dogs. The bookshelf of his office was litter with random books he felt best represented his intellect. A book on Zen Buddhism, Sun Szu’s the Art of War, a special edition of the Kama sutra, a bio-chemistry book, a book on Frank Lloyd Wright, the compete writings of Edgar Allan Poe, Homer’s Odyssey, Plato’s Republic, a large print of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, and a plethora of other glossy coffee table books. His office was on the top floor of the building. Jack had leased a building in the trendy section of the Arts District in Los Angeles. In Edward’s youth this area was full was not a nice place full of homeless, prostitutes and drug dealers. Twenty years ago his drive to work would have taken him through a different world. Today it’s home to billion dollar starts ups, gastro pubs, organic cold brewed coffee and trendy establishments infested by hipsters. On a clear day from his window you could see the silhouette of Catalina and the tall of downtown Long Beach skyline. To the west you could see Staples center and the Los Angeles Convention center. If Edward looked directly below, he could see skid row and the lines of lost souls and mentally ill as they lined up for their daily meals and the free medical clinic. Edward tried to refrain from looking to the east side. Being born and raised in Southern California he always viewed the east side as a lower class version of Los Angeles. His world was now full of mid-west transplants and the pretentious upper class. Edward grew up in a lower middle class household, but he never acknowledged this fact out loud. The east side is never the Los Angeles you see in movies, and as much as Edward tried to fight it was home to all the great memories of his life. His first kiss, his elementary and high school, the hospital where his father died, the church where all his families funerals and weddings took place, the projects where his father and mother met, and the neighborhood streets where he played with Ivy. This was home. This is where the people he loved lived and died.

“Ana why do live insist on living your life in a constant state of confrontation with every living thing that crosses your path? Life is not a war.” Edward said with his signature smirk. “Shut up Edward.” Ana never had a reply to Edward’s witty retorts. Edward always took this as a sign of their essential incompatibility. In his heart he knew this wasn’t the one. She lacked the compassion Edward craved in a mate. Being in his thirties Edward was more aware of what he needed in a mate, and Ana was definitely not the source of this satisfaction. Still she denizen of his new world so she was a good companion. “Have you decided on a direction for Jack’s new initiative?” Ana inquired in her usually aggressive fashion. Her inquiries always felt infused with accusation and contempt. He contemplated on this fact often. The only consoling thought he could settle on was the sex. At least the sex was good and she was a warm body to keep his bed warm. Edward was never one to be selfish when it came to matters of the heart, but he knew Ana only viewed him as prop on the stage of her life. “Ana why don’t you concentrate on your own projects, I will handle this one.” “I just don’t want you slowing me down, my new project has dependencies on your project. There are several phases to the development and I want my bonus for delivering on schedule. I don’t want to have to adjust my timelines.” “Don’t worry Ana I will not affect your precious timelines.” “Ok bye Edward. You have already made me late for my two o’clock,” Ana said in a contemptuous tone. As she walked out Edward smirked and found a guilty satisfaction thinking of how despite domineering her day time persona is she was quite submissive in bed.

Chapter 2

Leaving the Office Day 1
“Good bye Gretchen, please don’t work to late. I’m off to see my mother.” “Goodbye Edward. I’d take the back elevator if I was you. I heard Ana is on another rampage today and is not happy about the changes you made to the timelines of the new project.” “Thanks Gretchen, but you know her bark is worse than her bite,” Edward said with a smile. “Yeah but I hear all those rabies shots are painful,” Gretchen said with a chuckle. Edward wasn’t afraid of Ana, but he knew any run in with Ana would delay him at least 30 minutes and he really wanted to avoid getting stuck in traffic. He was looking forward to seeing his mother, but not the drive to his old neighborhood. In a way he felt sorry for Ana. He thought it must be horrible to live in a state that was two seconds from anger. Edward walked with a quiet quickness cadence to the back of the office, past the storage room, to the freight elevator. His mind had already left the office and was mentally preparing for the visit with his mother. It had been almost 6 months since Edward visited his mother. To be honest he hated driving back to the east side of Los Angeles. It was his home town but he no longer identified with the old neighborhood. Now living in Manhattan beach he subscribed to the lifestyle of the west side. His mother refused to let Edward relocate her. Today the Freeway was jammed with traffic so he took a detour that took him down Whittier boulevard. He lost count of the number of laundry mats and taco trucks he saw. Slowly the scenery changed as he passed through Boyle Heights and East Los Angles and eventually to the San Gabriel valley where he grew up. He was raised in a solid blue collar neighborhood. It was the suburbs, nothing fancy but not the Los Angeles that comes to mind when most people think of L.A. It was not anyway close to the beaches, and far from the uppity west side. Edward loved his mother, but the years after his father’s death left her a broken version of herself. She was still a loving mother who never forgot a birthday, or holiday. In fact she still gave Edward a Easter basket to this day, and always had a fat Christmas stocking . The issue was in her role as head of the family. Edward being the most responsible sibling she leaned on him heavily and in some cases unnecessarily. Edward’s father left his wife with a very generous pension, but some how she was always short of money and neglected many of her bills. Instead she donated much of her time and money to the local church and other family members. Because of this Edward always had some apprehension when visiting his mother. He really wished he could just visit his mother without hearing about someone else’s trouble or having to deal with some financial obligation his mother neglected. Regardless Edward was always there for his mother no matter the need. “I only have one mother, and she is doing the best she can,” he would remind himself before walking through the front door. Edward pulled up and noticed an black sedan in the driveway with company plates. “Oh great, what is Jack doing here,” Edward thought to himself as he stepped out of his truck. Edward idolized Jack in the professional world but an uneasiness alway came over him when ever Jack was around his mother. They had dated in high school and both Jack and Edward’s father courted his mother, but in the end Edward’s father was the choice she made. His mother never really talked about her decision. All that she ever told Edward was that she always knew his father had a good heart and that was more important than anything else in this world. ”Hi mom.” “Hi son. Guess who is here?”, Edward’s mother asked as she gave Edward a kiss on the cheek. As Edward’s eye’s adjusted to the darkness of his mother’s house, he made out a male figure standing in the doorway of the kitchen. It was Jack. “Hey Jack. Long time now see.” “Hello Edward. I just thought I’d stop by to and visit your mother. It had been a long time, and I thought it was shame I only see your mother at weddings and funerals.” “Smells great mom, what are you cooking?” Edward asked as he took off his jacket and placed it carefully on the arm of his mother’s couch. Edward’s mother as all mother’s loved to feed her son, and even though she always used to much grease and left Edward with a bad case of heart burn Edward always looked forward to her cooking. “Are you staying for dinner Jack?” Edward asked as he lift the top of a large pot on the stove. “No I have to get going. I am leaving to Utah tomorrow and need to finish up some work.” “Well it was nice seeing outside of the office. Good luck in Utah,” Edward tried to hide relief over Jack’s departure. Edward never really knew why, but he never trusted Jack around his mother. Jack was never disrespectful when he was around Edward’s mother, but there was something about the tone of Jack’s voice that made Edward uneasy. There was an insincerity to his words and in a way it was almost predatory. Jack and Edward’s father were colleagues in the early days of the corporation and long time friends. Edward’s father left the corporation a few years after they launched the business for unknown reasons and opened a small contracting business. Edward’s father was forced to retire early because of the cancer, and despite their long time friendship Jack never visited his father in the hospital. Edward always thought this was odd, but his father’s condition progressed so quickly there was never a right moment to bring it up. Jack wasn’t the type to feel guilt. Edward had watched Jack negotiate and navigate the corporate world for years and he never showed any signs of compassion. Even a few year’s back when Jack’s own mother came down with a terminal illness he seemed almost bothered when he had to cancel the corporation’s yearly off site trip to the Cayman Island’s to plan her funeral. So now that suddenly Jack actually cared to see check in on Edward’s mother just seemed beyond strange. “So what did Jack want Mom?,” Edward inquired as he set the table for their dinner. “Oh nothing he just wanted to see how I was doing.” “That’s strange he never cared before Dad died.” “Be nice Edward. Jack has had issues with personal relationship’s. Maybe now that he older he is seeing things differently. People can change Edward.” “Yeah maybe.” Edward didn’t want to waste anymore time talking about Jack so he changed the subject. “So I was thinking I am going to make some time this summer to work on Dad’s old truck. I promised him I would get it running one day.” “Let’s eat first Son, I told Father Killeen I would help teach tonight’s teen bible study,” she said as she place two large pieces of meatloaf on Edward’s plate. “I really wish you would take some time for yourself. Maybe go on a date one day. I worry about you Mom. It is not good you spend so much time alone in this house.” “I’m not alone I have my children, and I have my volunteer work.” Not wanting to argue Edward ate his meatloaf and change their conversations to superficial topics about his workday and the weather. After dinner he drove his mother to church for her bible study class, and returned to his family home to have a look at his father’s old truck. The garage door opened with more than a little resistance, the rusty hinges making a large screech, and as the door opened he could see the rays of the evening sun burn through the heavy dust as it illuminated this father’s truck. There it sat, a 1958 Apache Chevy truck, dark green with the same cloud like patches that were on his father’s first truck. As a child Edward always wondered why there were clouds painted on the door, but he realized now this was a service truck of some type and before selling it the previous owner painted over the companies name and logo with white spray paint. The garage was packed with boxes of long forgotten items, and holiday decorations. It took sometime to arrange the boxes before Edward was able to open the driver side door, but eventually he worked his way from the front of the truck to the side door. “God my mother is a pack rat,” Edward said to himself as he made a mental note to call Goodwill to pick up some of this clutter. He worked into the night clearing space and sorting through boxes of his families memories.

Chapter 3

Edwards Apartment Day 2
The next morning Edward was awaken by excited by the thoughts of his new project. This was the first time he was going to lead a project of this size and he knew this was a clear path to be partner of his firm. The Real Estate development company was founded by Jack and his father over 25 years ago when Edward was in grade school. Edward’s father died when he was in college and Jack became a mentor to Edward. He even paid for Edward’s college tuition and helped his mother save her home when it was about to go into foreclosure. With that said Edward has a deep sense of loyalty to Jack despite. Jack had made Edward the lead on a multi million dollar development on the east side of Los Angles. The project was a multi phase project in Edwards hometown. It was a three phase project that included a large corporate center, a new commercial retail center, and a residential development. In his mind Edward felt this was his chance to bring some shine to the city he grew up in. Edward never really felt at home in a large corporation. He actually enjoyed writing. In college he studied architecture and literature, but somehow fell into the world of real ester development. He ended up settling for a business degree due to the guidance of Jack. He had a mind for business and a natural aptitude for the world of real estate. Sadly he never really felt fulfilled in his role at the corporation. If this new project was successful would make him a great candidate for partner. Secretly he played with the idea of taking the bonus he’d receive when this project was over and take a sabbatical form his corporate job and write. Maybe he would finally finish the novel he started in college. Despite his excitement for this new opportunity Edward had a hard time forgetting about Jack’s visit to his mother. “What is he after?” Edward wondered. This thought occupied Edward’s mind all morning. Well at least until he walked into his office and was surprised to see Ana sitting at his desk. Ana was looking through Edward’s notes regarding the new project. “Really Edward. Jack gave you complete control of this project and this is the team you want?” “What wrong with the people I picked?”, Edward said as he pulled his notebook out of Ana’s hands. “Well first of all I don’t see my name anywhere on this project. You know you’ll need someone with my experience on residential zoning laws,” Ana said as she pulled Edward close the her. She was still sitting in Edward’s chair and this brought her face about six inches from Edward’s crouch. “I really enjoy working under you,” Ana said as she slide her hands slowly up Edward’s inner thigh. “Stop it. I do not want any unnecessary distractions on this project. This new project has the potential to be big, and I don’t know, I might actually be able to bring some class to the east side. Edward said sternly as he quickly grabbed Ana’s wrist and firmly placed them back in her lap. “Distraction’s is that what I am to you Edward?” “Knock knock. Am I interrupting something?” It was Jack. “No nothing that can’t wait,” Edward as he politely motioned Ana towards the door. “Morning Jack. Edward and I were just discussing the resource plan for the new solar project, but we can finish this at lunch.”

As Ana walked out the door Jack let his eyes fall down to her ass, “You having fun with that Edward?” “She is definitely a handful,” Edward said as he docked his laptop. “Just give me a moment to pull up the spreadsheet with the numbers for the new project Jack.” “No need Edward I trust you. I actually came here to ask you if you would mind if I invited you mother to our company offsite next week?” “I’m not sure my mother would enjoy the atmosphere, and besides don’t we have a full agenda.” “Edward I just think she would enjoy seeing spending sometime with her son. Last week she mentioned she hardly sees you anymore.” “Jack I appreciate your concern, but I don’t think she would be interested.” “Well just ask her, see what she says.” “Ok I will ask her.” With that Jack walked out. For the next few hours Edward environmental impact studies for the new project. As Jack walked out of Edward’s office he paused and turned two steps to the door. “Oh one more thing Edward, we are getting you some help with this new project. We just hired on new body on. He’ll be a great help on with the design phase.” “What? Help? Why would you think..?” Edward said in a surprised tone. “I know you don’t think you need help, but this guy is really good. He’s new to the company, we moved him over here for the London branch, and this project will be great for him to get his feet wet.” “Jack I don’t really need any help.” “I know Edward but you will be helping me on this one. I really want to get this guy up to speed and no one knows this company like you. At least meet him before you make up your mind.” “Ok, Jack I will meet him. What’s his name?” “His name is Liam.” “Ok I will give him a shot,” Edward said with a sigh. The truth was that Edward had already judged this guy. “Liam?”, he thought with a laugh. “He probably rowed crew in college, play cricket and wears an obnoxious sweater over his shoulders. A typical Ivy league douchebag,” Edward thought to himself. Edward had this new guy weighed and measured just off his name.

“Ready for me?” Ana said in an unusually sweet voice. Edward knew this was Ana’s “I need something voice.” “Actually I have to reschedule Ana. I need to talk to the architects and I need to review our zoning permits.” “Ok dinner. You are buying me dinner then.” “Ok, fine. Now please let me work.” Edward replied.

“Drinks?” an instant message flashed on Edwards laptop screen. It was 4:58 PM. Edward didn’t not have to even look at the contact info to know it was from Derik. It was Thursday, their regular happy hour night where they vented and lamented on the emptiness of corp life and their golden handcuffs. “Shutting down in five,” Edward quickly typed.

Chapter 4
The Groto
Edward made it to their favorite watering hole in record time today. They affectionately called it the grotto, but it was anything but. In fact it was just a corporate chain bar/restaurant down the street from there office. You know the type. The ones that have around the world menu, burgers, Korean food, Italian, Mexican, etc. the place really didn’t have a soul, but it had cute friendly waitresses, cheap strong Long Island ice teas, and it was walking distance from the office. There was no sign of Derik so he took their usually spot at their bar. Susie their favorite waitress was working today. She was actually the only waitress that was smart enough not to sleep with Derik, and that’s why Edward liked her. It wasn’t that he didn’t respect Derik, but subconsciously he always he thought less of any women dumb enough to fall prey to his games. “The usual?” “Yes, please. Thank you.” She knew Edward’s usual was a Long Island ice tea. Just as Susie walked away Edward heard a Derik’s voice shout, “Hey bitch. I ran into Ana in the elevator. I invited her for a drink.” It was Derik. “I know you know better than to invite her. She’s been hounding me non-stop lately. There are no safe boundaries with her. At first this whole thing was fun and I hate to admit it…but it was convenient,” Edward confessed with a hint of guilt in his voice. Contrary to Derik’s advice Edward liked to respect the women he slept with. “Yeah she is ruthless with a dash of crazy. My favorite type of woman. I’m sure you don’t mind that when she is on top of you,” Derik said as his eyes visually undressed Susie. Derik played baseball in college and did a minor stint in the minors. Unfortunately, he suffered a shoulder injury his first year in the minors. This injury immediately ended any professional aspirations he had for baseball. Luckily he completed his business degree while in college and did have a good head for numbers, so he easily fell into a corporate project management job. He was Edward’s drinking buddy, and despite for some obvious differences in the way they lived their life Edward trusted him. “Ana and I need to have a talk. I tried to have this conversation this morning, but somehow ended up inviting her to dinner.” “Just make sure it’s somewhere public and keep all sharp objects out of her reach.” “Yeah it will be in a public place. I’m not stupid. As Shakespeare said ‘Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,'” Edward said as he toasted their first drink. “Salude, here’s to one more day closer to Friday. Did you hear they hired a new project manager?” Edward asked Derik. “Yeah some guy from England. I over heard Jack talking about it in the coffee room.” “Jack wants him to help me on my new project. He said it would be a good project to get his feet wet.” “Really I thought you were leading this project?” Derik said as he grabbed a few olives from the bar and tossed them into his mouth. “Yeah I thought this was going to be my baby. This is my shot at partner. I don’t know want to worry about watching my baby with this new guy around. I should quit and finish my novel, maybe get lost in Europe for a few months. I’d probably starve but at least I’d be happy,” Edward said as he swallowed the last few ounces of his drink. Instinctively he motioned to Susie across the bar for another drink. “Just hang in their bro. This new guy can’t compete with you. Who knows maybe you’ll get lucky and he’ll take Ana off your hands, you know how women love that english accent. It’s a real panty dropper.” “Yeah I am not that lucky,” Edward joked just as his phone rang. It was his older sister. Edward knew it couldn’t be good, she only called him to either complain about their younger brother or deliver bad news. “I need to take this outside,” Edward said as he took a quick gulp from his drink. “Hi Valerie.” “Hello Edward. We need to talk about Mom. She just doesn’t seem herself lately.” “What do you mean? I was just there yesterday and she seemed fine.” “Edward you don’t see her as often as I do.” Edward’s mother baby sat Valerie’s 9 year old daughter after school. “She is starting to forget things, and it’s not just small things. Yesterday she got lost on her way picking up Isabella from school.” “Val, you know she’s never been good with directions.” “Edward there is something wrong. I just feel it. The other day she wrote me a check and I could barely recognize her handwriting.” “Ok, let’s talk to her this weekend. I am swamped at work the next few days, but let’s take her out for breakfast on Saturday. I have to go Val, I will call you when I get home later.” “Ok bye Edward.” Edward sat down on the wrought iron bench in front of the bar. He knew his sister was right. He had noticed his mother’s memory declining during the past six months, but chalked it off to old age. There were other small things he noticed, but part of him was in denial. The loss of his father affected him deeply, and part of Edward never recovered. His eyes trailed upwards into the sunset as he momentarily got lost in thoughts and memories of his father. He wondered how his family and his life would be different if his father was still alive. It was a cool autumn evening a few minutes before the last bit of sun was swallowed up by the horizon. This was his favorite part of the day. Even as a child he would climb on the roof of his parent’s home to watch the sunset. During those days he dream and write, but as he got older based on his father’s advice he turned his energies towards more sensible things. His father never understood his fascination with writing. Even though Edward’s teachers identified his aptitude for literature at an early age. His father grew up poor and never really saw any value in Edward’s love of writing. Ivy was really the only one he shared his writings with. When they were younger most of his poems were about Ivy, but this was something he never confessed to her. “Ok back to the real world,” Edward told himself as he pulled himself out of the cold metal bench and walked back into the bar.”Susie can I close out our tab. Derik I need to go.” “What we only had two drinks?” “Yeah I know but I need to meet Ana at the restaurant down the street, and I’m 15 minutes late. Wish me luck,” Edward replied as he quickly signed the receipt. “Call me if you need back up,” Derik laughed. Edward was about to turn the ignition of his car when his phone rang again. It was Ana, but knowing she was probably upset that he was late he sent her to voicemail. The restaurant was just down the street. It was one of Edward’s favorite Italian restaurants. He arrived in five minutes, quickly parked and walked in through the back entrance. Ana was sitting in his favorite corner booth. The restaurant was dimly lit for their dinner hours. The decor was a throw back to the 50’s with dark wooden paneling, and dark red vinyl booths. They usually had some Dean Martin or Frank Sinatra playing in the background. It honestly looked like a scene from a mob movie. You know one of those scene where the bosses meet in a dark dimly lit backroom to plan a hit. It was a little cliche, but the homemade pasta and sauce reminded him of his grandmother’s. This provided comfort to Edward. He wasn’t looking forward to this conversation with Ana. “Hello Ana. You look nice. Did you go home and change?” Ana was a very tight and low cut black mini-dress. Despite the inability to emotionally connect and her lack of compassion Edward still found her attractive and fun to be around. In someways he wanted to save her from herself, but he knew she had too much pride to admit she needed to be saved from herself. In Ana’s mind she had all the answers. “Well I thought we could go get a drink after or maybe even dancing. It would be a shame to let this dress go to waste.” “Yeah well I’m not sure I can go out tonight. I promised Jack I’d show the new guy around tomorrow and I have an 8AM meeting.” “Well I don’t mind going back to your place Edward,” Ana said playfully as she grabbed Edward’s tie and pulled him in for a kiss. “Let’s talk first Ana. I really think we need to talk. This thing we have been doing is complicating things at work. In the beginning it was fun, and we both knew what we were doing, but now…I don’t know. It’s just different now,” Edward said trying to push her away. He really didn’t fight that hard. He fought for about 2 seconds before he gave in and kissed her. Who was he kidding? She looked damn good in that dress, and with that kiss part of him wanted to see that dress end up on his bedroom floor. “Let’s just enjoy a nice dinner Edward. I ordered a bottle of wine. I know you had a bad day, let’s just leave the serious stuff for tomorrow.” Ana wasn’t as clueless as Edward liked to think. She knew which strings to pull to get what she wanted. Ana was young, beautiful and she knew it. Edward thought to himself, “What the hell? It’s been a hard day.” He rationalized with himself and convinced his mind one more night wouldn’t hurt. The sex was good. It would get rid of the stress of the day, and hell he was going to have some long work weeks coming up. So with that thought he surrender to Ana’s ploy and settled in for one more night of fun.

Chapter 5
The next day Edward awoke to an empty bed. He was half surprised, usually Ana wakes him up to harass him about something. As he sat up in bed he notice a small Starbucks bag on his bedroom dresser with a post it that had a lipstick stained kiss. “Wow, she must have enjoyed last night to leave me a treat,” Edward thought to himself. “Maybe she does have a soft spot in that heart,” this may have been a small token of affection but for Ana it was more than coffee. She usually ridiculed romantic gestures. He got out the bed drank his coffee and ate the chocolate croissant as he pulled up his email and checked his schedule on his laptop. He took the long route to work so he could drive along the coast and feel the ocean air. He enjoyed his life, and felt lucky that he had no real problems at the moment. He tried not to think about it too much. It was a kind of superstition he held. You see the last time he felt this care free was the week before his father was diagnosed with his cancer, so he always held back in his enjoyment of life. Today though he was throwing caution to the wind and was going to love life. Pulling into the parking garage he remember today was the day the new guy, Liam, was going to start. He wasn’t looking forward to it, but he knew Jack wanted him to play nice. He parked in his usual spot and walked to the elevator. As the elevator doors opened he could hear Gretchen’s laugh, she had a very distinct laugh. Gretchen was from Boston, so with her Bostonian accent her laugh was more of a cackle, but it always made Edward laugh. As he turned the corner into his office he saw a man who immediately identified as Liam sitting at the edge of Gretchen’s desk. He was a tall, slim with an athletic built wearing a grey pinstripe suit, gold cufflinks and a box tie. “Really a fucken bow tie,” he thought silently as he greeted the stranger. “You must be Liam,” Edward said as he extended his hand. “And you must be Edward,” Liam immediately responded. “Jack has told me all about you Edward. I look forward to working with you. Jack says you are the most valuable member of his team.” “Well I try. Let go into my office so I can give you an overview of our new project.” Edward was doing his best to hide his contempt but he didn’t like this guy. Sure he was polite, good looking and his resume Jack had sent over seemed flawless but he didn’t trust this guy. “See you later beautiful,” Liam said to Gretchen as he walked away. “Nice meeting you Liam,” Gretchen said as she blushed. “Liam go ahead and take a seat in my office I need to talk to Gretchen real quick.” “Gretchen don’t be nice to the enemy. This is the new guy Jack brought in from London to take over my project.” “Edward don’t be paranoid. He is only here to help.” “I don’t anyone who wears a bow tie,” Edward said with a whisper. “You’re being silly Edward. Just keep an open mind until you get to know him. You’ve known him for all of 30 seconds.” “We will see Gretchen. We will see,” Edward said as he walked backward into his office. “Now where do you want to start Liam?” “I guess we can start by giving me an 50,000 foot overview of this new project.” “Ok well this new project is on the east side of Los Angeles. In the small town Whittier. It is a multi phased project. The first phase is a large industrial park, the second is a large retail center, and the last and largest phase is a large residential community with several parks, a school, and a community center,” Edward said as he pointed to architectural renderings he had pinned to his wall. “Sounds lovely. So what do you need help on,” Liam said as he scanned the drawing on the wall. “Well I’m not sure yet. I am still trying to get my arms around this project. Give a few days. Until then I will send you some documents to review to get you up to speed.” “Excellent Edward, I will be in my office if you need me. My personal effects should be delivered today so I will spend the day tidying up my office. It was nice meeting you.” With that Liam got up and walked out. Edward really didn’t know what to make of this guy. He was good looking, well educated, polite, and even Gretchen found him charming. Edward trusted her judgement usually, but in this case he was doing his best not to like this guy. To Edward he was the enemy and he was determined to find him flawed. Edward docked his laptop and sipped the last bit of the coffee Ana had left him. “Thank you, and not just for last night. : ) Lunch?” he instant messaged Ana. “Sure, when and where?” “I’ll surprise, just be ready at 12.” Just then another message popped up, it was from Ivy. “We need to take a field trip,” Ivy’s message read. “A field trip?” Edward responded. “Yes, a field trip. I want to walk through the areas impacts Edward.” “I don’t have time for this Ivy.” Edward responded. “I don’t care what you have time for, you have to for Edward. We can have dinner while we are out there.” “Ok Ivy.”

It was finally time for Edwards date with Ana He had said he was going to surprise her but he really had not given it much thought. He decided to take her to the Japanese steak house in little Tokyo. It was walking distance from the office and he knew she enjoyed the show. It was actually the location of their first date and Edward thought she might enjoy the significance of it all. “Are you ready for me?” he asked as he poked his head through the doorway. Ana was on the phone so she silently raised on finger and gave Edward the universal signal for one sec while blowing him a kiss. She was wearing a business suit, he could never resist a women in a nicely fitted business suit. Especially the way Ana wore her with a nicely pressed white collars shirt underneath. It was probably one size too small, but Ana had the figure that could pull it off. “Ugh finally,” Ana said with disgust as she hung up the phone. “That was my mother. She just doesn’t get it. Her and her new boyfriend are having problems. I told her she could do better, but still wants to give the loser a chance. Anyway let’s forget about her and enjoy lunch.” “Thank you for my coffee this morning. I didn’t even hear you get up to leave.” “Yeah well you looked so peaceful sleeping I thought I would let you get your rest, and I had some errands to run early in the day. How did your meeting with the new guy go today?” “Liam? I met him. He doesn’t seem totally defective, except for that bow tie. I don’t know I really didn’t like him. Maybe it was his British accent, and his excessively proper behavior. Come on lets get out of here I will tell you about it during lunch.” Edward watched Ana gather her things, put her suit jacket on, and touch up her lipstick. He quietly admired her and she prepared herself for their departure. He thought to himself women are wonderful creatures. Such a juxtaposition of a range of qualities. They could be gentle when the wanted to be, and yet fierce when needed. They may seem vulnerable and maybe to men overly sensitive at time, and yet they can be strong in the toughest of situations. Maybe Ana didn’t display all these qualities. Maybe she didn’t even consciously possess them, but Edward felt all women by nature are beautiful and hold these qualities. Even if subconscious and dormant they all possessed them he thought. As they walked down the street Edward continued to give Ana his assessment of their new co-worker Liam. As they walked in the doorway of the restaurant Edward signaled he waiter a table for two. The restaurant was empty and they were quickly seated. “So what are you doing after work today? You want to come over to my place?” Ana asked as the waiter walked them to their table. “I can’t I have plans with Ivy.” “Ivy huh. Don’t you ever get bored, she doesn’t seem that interesting. She seems dull. Look at the way she dresses.” “You don’t know her Ana, so please don’t talk about her. She can be funny and there is more to her than most people see. She just because she doesn’t like to make a spectacle of herself doesn’t mean she is dull.” “Oh so you think I like to make a spectacle of myself? Is that who you think I am Edward?” “No I am just saying you are wrong about her, lets leave it at that. God, everything isn’t about you Ana. Look at the menu, decide what you want.” “I thought you knew what I wanted,” Ana said sweetly as she ran her foot up from his ankle all the way to his crouch when she proceeded to gentle massage Edward. During lunch Edward didn’t speak of it, but his mind was preoccupied with his dinner date with Ivy. He wondered why she felt I needed to visit the old neighborhood. He normally would be dreading this visit, but with Ivy life was always interesting so he really didn’t mind. His workload lately prevented him from spending much time with anyone, and she was the one person he missed on a regular basis. Not many people matter to him, but she was someone that he always knew brought value to his life. On the way back after lunch Edward made his usual stop where he stopped to pick up Gretchen her favorite muffin. To his surprise he ran into Liam and Ivy. “Hello Ivy, I see you have met Liam,” Edward said without the slightest acknowledgement to Liam. “Yeah well we had a meeting before lunch and I mentioned there was a bakery down the street that made great sandwiches, and it being Liam’s first day I couldn’t let him eat lunch alone,” Ivy responded. Edward was secretly bothered. First he charms Gretchen off her feet, and now he’s taking Ivy out to lunch. Liam was invading his territory quicker than he expected. “What do all these women see in this guy? Especially with that freakin bow time. A god damn bow tie?” Edward thought to himself. “Well I just stopped to get Gretchen something. We will be on our way quickly we did not want to crash your lunch date. Good seeing you again Liam.” Edward put in his ordered and pulled Ana by the hand to a table in the corner. “I’m Ana by the way,,” Ana said as she followed Edward to the table. Later that day Edward continued to wonder about Liam’s true purpose at the firm. He trusted Jack but he knew Jack always had layers to his intentions. Sure he wanted Edward to get Liam familiar with the companies operations, but they really wasn’t a clear need for another project manager on this project. Was it a lack of trust? Either way Liam was already stepping on his toes, first Gretchen and now Ivy.
“What time do you want to get out of here?” Edward instant messaged Ivy. “Be ready in 15. Meet you by the elevator.” Ivy was always punctual when it came to time. Edward knew being on time meant being early Ivy’s book. So that 15 minutes really meant he had ten minutes. He quickly shut down his laptop and proceeded to clear his desk. Walking out he stopped briefly to talk to Gretchen. “So what do you think of the new guy?” He asked Gretchen. “Don’t worry Edward he’s charming but he’s not you.” “Thank you Gretchen. You need a raise,” Edward said with a smile. Somehow she always knew what Edward needed to hear. “I’m ready for my field trip teacher, even have my permission trip signed,” Edward joked with Ivy as they stepped in the elevator. “So are we taking separate cars?” Edward asked. “No Let’s take your car. I can take the train into work tomorrow.” Ivy insisted on taking the streets to their destination. The two laughed as two laughed and reminisced as they past all the places of their childhood. Many of their childhood hangouts no longer existed, but a few of the important ones were still there like the local family owned pizza parlor, or the video store they used to walk to during their summer vacations. They stopped for pizza and after Ivy took Edward on a walking tour through their old neighborhood. “Wow in a way its shocking how much has changed and at the same time it’s shocking how much hasn’t changed,” Edward said as he walked with Ivy through the streets of their childhood. “Don’t you ever look around when you come visit your mom?” “No not really, and even if I do I drive around it is directly to church to drop her off.” “Edward there is nothing wrong with this neighborhood. I know feel with this project you can help turn this city into something better, and I am not saying that there aren’t things that can be improved but not everything is broken in this city. There is no need to completely change the face of this place. Maybe there is a way to redevelop this place without completely wiping out its identity.” Edward didn’t have a response. His philosophy of redevelopment had always been to chop the head off and start again. “Ivy I don’t think any of these old building could add value to our design. I mean look at this block for instances, it would be much easier to tear down their old brick buildings than to retrofit them for earthquakes. Even the layout of the building isn’t as efficient as what we could do if we started with a blank slate.” “Just consider the possibilities Edward. Also on this block around the corner from this building is the place you taught me to play pool. Do you remember that summer?” Edward could never forget that summer. It sounds cliche but it was probably the best summer of he could remember. It was the summer returned from her aunts house in Texas. They both had just graduated college. Ivy had moved away to live with her aunt after her mother died. She had lost contact with Edward but reconnected thanks to the wonderful world of social media. The place Ivy was referring to was the Colorado. It was dive bar if there ever was one. The outside was painted black matte with red trim. The name “The Colorado” was painted in cursive on the outside in a bright yellow paint. The inside was just as unimpressive. Dark red carpet, and dark wood paneling. The bar was separated into two rooms. The front room had a long wooden bar with a juke box near the entrance, and along the back for this room were a line of vinyl booths. The back room was painted an institutional green adorned with numerous neon beer signed that gave the room an almost dreamlike blue glow. There were also the men’s and women’s bathroom in this back room. The men’s bathroom had a novelty condem machine and the typical vulgar graffiti scribbled on the bathroom stalls. At the very end of this back room was an “emergency exit” door that its patrons used regularly to exit to the back parking lot for their smoke breaks. After reconnecting they met here on a regular basis to catch up on the years they spent apart. This bar had been in their neighborhood for as long as they can remember. Edward’s father and Jack were regulars here as well. This place held a special place in their hearts. It was a place they went to feel safe and forget the world. Nothing outside of these two rooms existed when they were here. “So you feel like a game of pool?” Ivy asked Edward. “Sure why not,” Edward replied. As they walked in they were surprised to see the same bartender working the bar. “Hey you two. I can’t remember the last time I saw you here together,” the bartender greeted them as he wiped the bar down with a dish towel. “The usual Ivy?” the bartender asked. “I guess you still come here often,” Edward said as he pulled out the barstool for Ivy. “I come here on occasion. I like this place Edward. It always feels like home.” “I’ll take the usual too. It’s still Jameson and Ginger?” Edward asked as he sat down. Ivy replied with a smile and a nod. The rest of the night both Ivy and Edward fell into the familiar rhythm they had always had when they were together. They had an understanding and comfort when together that is rare for this world. That night she remembered the best and worst times of their chilldhood.

Chapter 6
The ICU
It was a long night in the ICU. Finally having been admitted Edward’s mother had been assigned to a room in the ICU. Edward knew the ICU was never a good place to be in, but he felt relieved that his mother was being watch and was receiving the care that she desperately needed. A feeling of dread was hanging over him as he watched her sleep. The room was filled with devices monitoring Edward’s mother’s breathing, blood pressure, and heart rate, each with it’s own cycle of electronic beeps. At least she wasn’t in pain at the moment he thought, and despite this being a county hospital she had received decent care so far. The horror stories of the uninsured was what had worried Edward. It was a long night and road to get to this place. His siblings had all went home and he sat alone in the ICU listening to the electronic rhythm of his mother’s heart monitor. It was 4:15 in the morning and his cell phone was about to die with 10 percent left. The only person he thought of calling was Ivy. He had tried reaching her but for some reason it went to voicemail. Was she out with Liam? Did she fall asleep? Was she still pissed at him for the way he acted the last time he saw her at the office? His thought fell into a chaotic storm as he thought of all the possibilities. His previously feelings of jealousy was overshadowed by his concern for his mother. He tried to get some sleep before the next nursing shift change, which was at 5 AM, but sleep wasn’t an option at the moment. No matter how hard he tried he couldn’t stop going through all the possible scenarios that could have prevented his mother from being her at this moment. What if I didn’t work so much? What if I would have visited more? What if I would I would have made her go to her doctor’s appointments? Edward cycled through these thoughts for hours, but knew there wasn’t a point to it all. His mother was here. She was very sick and whatever the doctor’s find it will not be good. Exhausted he fell asleep in the small vinyl recliner next to his mother’s bed.

Edward again woke up to the vibrating alert of his cell phone. This time it was his sister. He knew she was calling to come relieve him from his shift at the hospital. Quietly his lifted himself out of the chair and walked out of his mother’s room. The outside area was a flurry of activity with the nurses getting ready for their shift change. Edward found a vacant room across the hall from his mother’s room so he could take his sister’s call. “Hello.” “Hi Edward. How’s mom?” “She’s still sleeping. The nurses are changing shift, but I still haven’t talked to the doctor. They said they will be taking some scans this morning.” “At least she is sleeping now. I’m about to leave for the hospital. Did you want me to bring you anything?” “No I’m ok, just tired. I’ve never been able to sleep in these hospital chairs.” “Ok, see you in a bit. Oh one more thing. I talked to Ivy. She lost her phone last night, but I told her about mom. She said to give her a call.” As Edward hung up he thought it was weird Ivy called his sister, but not having the energy to obsess about her at the moment he dismissed the thought. Just then the new nurse for the morning came in to introduce herself. “Good morning. How is everyone doing this morning?” the nurse asked. Edward replied,”She’s sleeping. Do you know when the doctor get’s in?” “The doctor on duty usually makes the rounds at 7 AM,” the nurse said as she reviews the chart sitting at the foot of the bed. She continued,”We have some scans scheduled for the morning. Right now I need to take some blood. Good morning Josie, I just need to take some blood.” Edward’s mother slowly opened her eyes as the nurse gently touched her hand to wake her. “Good morning,” Edwards mother said as she slowly opened her eyes. “Where is my son?” “I’m right here mom.” “Good morning son. Did you get any sleep?” “A little. I’m ok. Diane called right now and said she was on her way, and the doctor should be here in a few hours.” “Ok, you should get yourself something to eat.” “I will mom. I just want to talk to the doctor first.” “It will be a while before the doctor gets her. You have time to go to the cafeteria if you want. I can take your cellphone and call you when the doctor gets here.” the nurse offered. “Ok, thank you. Mom I’m going to be back in 20 minutes.” Edward felt guilty for wanting to get out, but it was going to be a long weekend and he needed a break. Sitting down at a vacant table in the cafeteria he thought about calling Ivy. Just then several missed voice mail messages came in. Apparently the cell reception in the ICU was weak and caused several missed calls that went to voice mail. Two messages were from Ivy. A sense of relief came over Edward as he pressed play on the message.
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