Friday, December 28, 2012
A New Millennium
A New Millennium
“Good morning, Holly,” Tracy said poking her head in Holly's office. “You look lost in thought.”
“Good morning, Tracy,” she replied. “I'm feeling a sense of sadness this morning. I guess the excitement of the new millennium has worn off. I saw the crew taking down the Christmas decorations and began to think of all those we have lost in the last couple of years. Aggie's passing has hit everyone hard. She was always so full of life, I guess we thought she would go on forever.”
“I know how you feel. It's been two months and I still look for her when we visit Melanie and Joe. She is with Hap now. Isn't it wonderful they had so many years together after being alone for so long?”
“Same with Lily and Lester Hemingway. Remember when Lester came to town and made himself at home in the old Penderghast house? Everyone thought he was just an eccentric old man. Look at the contribution he made to Camden Corners. Hemingway's is always a busy restaurant and it will keep Lester's memory alive for years to come. Lily was always stronger than anyone ever gave her credit for. I think it was because of her that Lester lived well into his 90s. He seemed to give up after Lily died. Have I succeeded in making you sad too?” laughed Tracy.
“I guess I am a little melancholy now. We do have new lives to celebrate. How is your new grandson? A Christmas baby for Mark and Robin.”
“Andrew Jack Crowley is wonderful. I am always amazed at the size of newborn babies. Grampa Jack can't get enough of him. He just stares at his grandson. He's a good baby so far. I hope Kelli's little guy is doing better. I understand he is suffering with his new teeth coming in.”
“He's better today,” replied Holly. “Can you believe we are talking about our grandchildren? Seems like only yesterday we were suffering through teething problems and diaper rash for our children. Where have the years gone?”
“Good morning, ladies,” came the booming voice of Donna Grant. “I trust you behaved yourselves on New Year's Eve.”
“We did, Donna. How was your New Year's celebration?”
“Mr. Penelope and I had a wonderful time watching the ball drop.”
“That poor cat, you are going to confuse him with that name.”
“He's used to it. When he looked at me with those big sad eyes at the animal shelter, I told him if he came home with me he would be called Penelope. He meowed in agreement. He knew if he wanted to be called Ralph or Butch, he was out of luck.”
Holly and Tracy laughed. As far as either of them knew, Donna had never been on a date with a man. She seemed content to be at home with her cat. Mr. Penelope was the third cat she'd adopted since moving to Camden Corners. Tracy and Holly mourned along with her when she lost each one of her best friends. Donna excelled at her job and was compensated well for her services. They knew she was reaching retirement age, but she assured them she would be there until the day they carted her off the premises.
“A young man checked in last evening. He is having breakfast now. He asked the desk clerk if she knew anyone named Lacey Marino. The girl fibbed, said she didn't know Lacey and gave me the fellow's name in case we want to follow up.”
“Julianna will be by in a little while. She is going to be taking photos to add to our website. I'll check with her to see if she knows the man. School started back today and I'm sure Lacey is teaching.”
Ross McCoy was sitting alone at a table near the window. He hadn't lived in an area with snow for several years and was enjoying watching it pile up on the grounds outside. He had come a long way from that arrogant kid he was at twenty two. He would never forget the day Mr. Helmut Claussen knocked on the door to his apartment.
He recognized the old geezer from the drugstore a few doors away. He started in right away about how Ross had broken a young girl's heart. She was much too young for him and he should never have started up with her in the first place. He tried to explain the kid just hung around him and he couldn't get rid of her. When she showed up at his doorstep with a suitcase in her hand, he knew things had gone too far. He did the only thing he could think of at the time. He made her think he and Anabel were together.
Mr. Claussen seemed to calm down after that. He told him he had done the right thing. He was proud of him for not taking advantage of the girl because she probably would have done anything he asked her to do.
Ross felt comfortable with the old guy. He asked Ross what he did to earn a living. Ross said he was learning to be a mechanic. He never had any formal training but seemed to have a knack for it. He was learning the trade from his boss.
It turned out Mr. Claussen was a teacher in the old country. He came to America for a fresh start and because he didn't speak English at the time, he was not able to continue teaching. He and Berta bought the drugstore with the last of their savings. He never went back to teaching, but he continued his interest in young people and their education.
“I always liked math in high school,” Ross told the old guy when he learned the subject Mr. Claussen taught. “Mr. Willard, my boss at the garage, likes me to check his figures at the end of the month. He talks about putting me in charge of the books one day. I think I'd like that.”
“Young man, why don't you go to school and become an accountant if you think you would like that line of work?”
“I have barely enough money to pay my share of the apartment. I have checked into the cost of college. Even community colleges are too much for my finances.”
“Would you allow me to make some inquiries? I think I may be able to figure a way for you to continue your education.”
Two days later, Mr. Claussen showed up at Ross' door again, this time with a stack of papers. “I have papers here for you to fill out and send to the college. Scholarship applications and grant applications. You do this, and I will advance you the money for the rest of your tuition.”
“Mr. Claussen, I can't let you do that, I am a stranger to you.”
“Nonsense, you are a boy who had some tough breaks. I am a man who owes my new country a debt of gratitude. If I can help a young person to improve himself, I will be a happy man.”
Mr. Claussen had a way of encouraging people to tell him their life story. Ross had been on his own since the day he'd graduated from high school. He came from a cold, indifferent family. His parents were divorced and he was shuttled back and forth between the two homes. He hadn't spoken to either of them since the day he left four years before. Mr. Claussen could see the good in the boy and could tell he was too smart to waste his life playing pool and drinking beer with his friends.
Ross was able to begin classes that same August. By December, Annabel moved into the apartment and was expecting a baby. Ross moved into the spare bedroom in the Claussen's home above the drug store. Ross didn't know how he was ever going to pay the Claussen's back for their generosity. Berta told him to do well in school, stay out of trouble and someday find Lacey Marino. She wouldn't be surprised if Lacey still dreamed of her prince charming in the form of Ross McCoy.
Seven years later, after four years of school and three years working in the accounting department of a hospital, Ross was sitting in the coffee shop of a resort in Camden Corners, watching the snow fall. He had a 10:00 appointment with the financial officer of Shane Howard Memorial Hospital. His friend, Helmut Claussen arranged for an interview at the hospital that just happened to be located in Camden Corners, New York.
His appointment was still an hour away. He had rented a car the night before. He decided, since he wasn't used to driving in snow, he'd better give himself enough time. He could wait at the hospital just as easily as waiting here.
He drove without a problem to the hospital. He was surprised when he saw the facility. It was much larger than he expected a small town hospital to be. He found his way to the executive offices and gave his name to the receptionist. “I'm early, I know,” he said. “I was afraid I might get stuck in the snow and didn't want to take a chance being late.”
“I'll let Mr. Hanson know you are here, Mr. McCoy,” the receptionist said.
Before long, Carl Hanson greeted Ross.
“Hello Ross, Carl Hanson.”
“Mr. Hanson, good to meet you.”
“Call me Carl, I'm glad you were able to make it through the snow, I'm sure you aren't accustomed to snow after living in California. My earlier appointment canceled because of it. Come into my office where we can chat.”
Ross followed Carl into his office and sat across at the small conference table.
“I'm going to be honest with you, you are one of three final candidates for the position. You don't have as much experience as the other two. However, that is not the deciding factor. I have received several letters of recommendation. Is Mr. Helmut Claussen a relative of yours?”
Ross smiled, “Believe me, Mr. Claussen is not like any relative I ever had. He is a kind old gentleman who took me under his wing. If it weren't for him and his wife Berta, I guarantee I would not be sitting in this chair today.”
Ross gave Carl a brief history of his relationship with the Claussens. He detailed his position at the hospital in California. He told Carl he had no qualms about moving east. He grew up in a small town in New Hampshire and actually had missed the change of seasons while living in California.
Carl told Ross a decision would be made by the end of the day and he would be notified. The men parted and Ross walked out to find his rental car covered with fresh snow. He thought the interview went well, but knew his lack of experience was not a plus for him to be selected for the position.
As promised, Julianna stopped by The Merryweather with her photography equipment. She snapped away at every nook and cranny of the lobby. She loved photography and had a small studio in the center of town. She worked by appointment only which left her plenty of time to visit with her daughters, Lacey and Erin and Erin's little girl, Callie. Erin was happily married to Jake Grayson, they were expecting a brother or sister for Callie in just three months.
Julianna was caught up in her work when she heard someone say, “Hello Mrs. Marino.” She turned around and saw a handsome young man standing there. He looked familiar, but she couldn't place him.
“I worked on your car in California several times. It's been a few years, I'm Ross McCoy.”
Julianna took a second glance. Granted it had been a few years, but she couldn't get over the transformation of the bearded arrogant young man who broke her daughter's heart.
“Hello, Ross,” she said rather coolly. “I would never have recognized you. How did you find your way to Camden Corners?”
“I'm here for a job interview. I don't think I will be accepted for the position, but I had to try. I would like very much to see your daughter, unless you have any objections.”
“Ross, Lacey is a grown woman. She is very capable of making her own decisions. I will tell her I ran into you. How long do you expect to stay in town?”
“I'll be here through the weekend. Tell me, is Lacey married or in a relationship?”
“No, there is no one special in her life. She is a math teacher at the high school. She also coaches the girl's basketball team and that keeps her quite busy.” To herself, Julianna thought, 'Of course she doesn't have anyone special in her life. She fell in love with you and you broke her heart in pieces.' Julianna knew Lacey had never quite gotten over her first love.
“Would you give her my card? My cell phone number is on there.”
“I'll give it to her. Ross, I want you to be honest with me. You broke my daughter's heart once and I don't want it to happen again. Are you married?”
“No, I'm not married. You see, Mrs. Marino, I never got over my first love.”
Ross was sitting in front of the television set, the evening news was on, but he wasn't paying any attention to it. He was remembering the sweet face of Lacey Marino. If only the Claussens had come into his life sooner. Maybe he and Lacey would be married by now. He was attracted to her from the first time she looked at him with those love sick eyes. He knew she had a crush on him. He thought of her as a pest and someone to take advantage of. She did buy him a number of cheeseburgers. He was embarrassed thinking back to those days. He'd had a chip on his shoulder and found it difficult to treat anyone with respect. Lacey deserved his respect and he just trampled all over her heart. His cell phone rang bringing him back to reality.
“Ross, Carl Hanson here. I've made my decision about the position you applied for.”
This is it, Ross thought to himself, he's letting me down gently.
“Ross, as I told you, your experience is far less than other applicants we were considering. However, I think you would be a good fit for the hospital. I'm offering you the job at that salary we discussed when you were in my office today.”
“Thank you, Carl, I accept the offer. You can't know how much this offer means to me. I look forward to starting the first of the month.”
Just as Ross ended the conversation, the telephone in his suite rang.
“Mr. McCoy, you have a visitor. Lacey Marino is here to see you.”
His heart skipped a beat. “Please ask her to come up.”
There was a pause on the line and then he heard a vaguely familiar voice.
“Mr. McCoy, this is Ms. Marino. I will not join you in your room. If you are interested in meeting me, I will be in the bar.” He could hear the click of the receiver in his ear.
“Lacey, your hands are shaking, are you alright?” said the desk clerk.
“I'm fine, Ellie, I just never thought I'd hear that voice again, it brought back memories that I'd prefer to forget.”
She walked to the bar and sat down trying to calm herself before greeting the man she never did get out of her system.
“Lacey, you look wonderful,” Ross said as he walked toward her not knowing whether he should give her a hug or a handshake. Seeing the look in her eye, he decided neither would be welcome.
“Ross, I wouldn't have recognized you,” she lied. She would know those eyes anywhere. “You have changed since our last encounter.”
“Yes, I'm wearing a shirt.”
For seven years, Lacey tried to erase the vision of him shirtless with his belt unbuckled. It was a very painful time in her life and yet she couldn't seem to forget that day or the man himself.
“I'd like to explain about the last time we were together.”
“Ross, we were never together. I was a foolish teenager who threw myself at you. I can't even blame you because you never encouraged me. I embarrassed myself enough. I'd rather we didn't talk about it any more. My mother told me you were in town. I thought if I saw you again, I'd be able to face the past without the shame I have felt all these years.”
“Lacey, you have nothing to be ashamed of. I was the one who acted like a jerk. Maybe I didn't encourage you, but I certainly didn't discourage you. There is something you need to know about the last time we saw each other.”
“I know everything I need to know. This was a mistake.” Lacey got up to leave.
Ross caught her arm. “Don't go, please,” he whispered. “I love you.”
Lacey was speechless. She was tempted to slap him, but thought better of it.
“What kind of a fool do you think I am. Get out of my way and go back to California. I never want to see you again.”
She grabbed her purse and her scarf. She practically ran to the parking lot not even feeling the cold until she realized she had left her keys in her coat pocket and she left her coat in the bar.