Thursday, December 20, 2012
Hemingway's of Camden Corners
Chapter Twenty Five
Hemingway's of Camden Corners
Alex Kelly's crew was just finishing the last touches of the newly remodeled and restored Hemingway Restaurant. Alex walked through the building inspecting every inch of it. Belinda Henderson was by his side.
“Alex, you did a wonderful job here. I never would have believed so much could be accomplished in just a few short months. Lester will be thrilled to be able to open in time for the December holiday season,” said Belinda.
“We were lucky, this old house was built to last. Even the plumbing only needed a minimal of repair. Most of the changes we made were cosmetic. You and I make a good team, don't you think?”
“The best,” Belinda agreed as she admired the sparkle of the diamond ring Alex had slipped on her finger the night before.
“You are really sure you don't want a big wedding with all the trimmings? I always thought that was something little girls dreamed of.”
“I don't think that was one of my dreams. I think I dreamed of a small wedding in the chapel outside of town. My family, with broad smiles, sitting in the front row and my handsome groom ready to pledge his undying love to me.”
“You don't think your mother is disappointed we aren't having a big wedding?”
“I think she may be relieved. I know Father is. Two weddings in the family in just a couple of months would wear him out.”
“How are the newlyweds doing? Lester hasn't been around much in the week since he married Lily.”
“They seem to be doing well. I wasn't sure how Mother would feel about having Lester move in. She seems to be enjoying the company. She would miss Grandma if she wasn't in the house, so it all worked out well. Now with Jamie finally expecting their first grandchild, my parents are in their glory.”
“I hope it won't be too long before we can add to their happiness.”
“We do have our work cut out for us if we are to have that bunch of kids you want.” Belinda laughed. She was happier than she had ever been. She would be Mrs. Alexander Kelly in just three days. Roger Allen was long forgotten.
The furniture started to arrive. Belinda supervised as each chair was placed in it's proper place. She had found a furniture maker in North Carolina who specialized in the early 20th century style. There were eight different dining areas, each room had its own theme. Alex was truly impressed with the final look. He knew Lester would be too. Hemingway's of Camden Corners was a work of art in itself.
Lester hung up after a phone call from his son. “He did it Lily, Ernie was able to convince Nick Jordan to take over as manager of the restaurant. Ernie said it didn't take much convincing when he heard our location is in Camden Corners. He visited here as a teenager. He's flying in from New York City this afternoon to have a look around.”
“Lester, I'm happy for you. I know you were nervous that we wouldn't be able to open without a manager. Is Ernie coming to show him around?”
“No, Ernie said he trusts me to handle everything,” said Lester, happy that Ernie's faith in him had been restored.
Nicholas Jordan wondered if he had lost his mind when he accepted Ernie's offer. He was managing one of the poshest restaurants in New York City. He was invited to many of the swankiest parties in Manhattan and never lacked for attention from beautiful women. He owed it all to Lester Hemingway and his wife, Eleanor. They gave him a job at Hemingway's in Mapledale when he was just a green kid. His only experience with the restaurant business had been a little joint called Harry's Burger Shack. When Lester and Eleanor discovered he was living in a shelter, they took him into their home. Lester had a way with customers and staff alike and taught Nick everything he knew about the restaurant business. It helped that Nicholas Jordan had movie star looks and personality. Two years later, Reginald Huntington, owner of Augustine's and old friend of Lester stopped by the restaurant on his way through Mapledale. He was impressed with Nick and mentioned to Lester that he would like to hire him as his restaurant manager. Lester hated to see Nick leave, but he knew it was a great opportunity for the boy and didn't want to stand in his way.
Nick packed his few belongings and boarded the train for New York. Lester had given him extra money, otherwise he would never have been able to rent the tiny studio apartment in the city. Reginald was very happy with the way Nick handled his duties and his salary began to reflect his pleasure.
He liked being in full charge of the restaurant but was beginning to tire of the lifestyle. His salary allowed him to move to a much larger place, but he was rarely home and when he was he was rarely alone.
It was early Monday afternoon when the telephone rang. He had just arrived home from a weekend in the Hamptons where he'd had too much wine and too little sleep.
“Ernie, what a surprise. Nothing has happened to Lester, I hope?”
“No, he's doing great. He just got married again and he bought an old house that he had remodeled. It is now another Hemingway restaurant. Nick, I'm sure you aren't interested, but I told Dad I'd ask you. He would like you to manage the place. We couldn't begin to meet your current salary and I don't expect you to accept the offer. As I said, I told Dad I would ask.”
“Ernie, don't be so sure. Maybe it's because of the weekend I just had but this lifestyle is getting the better of me. I think I need a change. Camden Corners brings back some fond memories for me. I spent a summer there a few years back. Let me see what I can work out here. When does the restaurant open?”
“In less than a week. We have been looking for a manager but Dad hasn't found anyone he likes, that's when he suggested you. Nick it would be such a load off my mind if you could help us out even temporarily.”
Nick hung up with the promise he would call Ernie back. His assistant for the last year had worked out quite well. She was an ambitious little thing and would do well as manager. He called Reginald and explained the situation.
“Nick, I hate to lose you, but I understand your wanting to help Lester. I can't believe that old goat has opened another restaurant at his age. Good for him. Tell you what, let's make it a leave of absence. You go back and get the place rolling. We'll put Hillary in as acting manager. She'll want the position permanently, I'm sure, but she will have to step aside when you come back. At least I hope you will be bored to death in that little town.”
“Thanks, Reginald. I'll stop by and give Hillary the good news. You're a good friend.”
“Lester has been a good friend to me for many years. I hope he makes a go of the new place. I'm sure he will with you there to help him get started.”
Nick wondered if Camden Corners had changed. It had only been eight years since he spent the month of July there. It was a small town, but a growing town too. He wondered about her. What a beauty she was. Not beautiful in the way the women he involved himself with these days were beautiful. She had an innocent beauty. He still felt guilty about the way he left the day after their night together. He said he'd write but under the circumstances, it wasn't an option anymore. He never intended things to go as far as they did that night. He loved Emily, but he was just a kid and self control was not part of his vocabulary.
Nick lived with his mother in a rented trailer outside of Mapledale. His mother worked in the pub about a mile down the highway. Nick never doubted his mother's love for him but her life wasn't easy. He didn't remember his father. He'd left when Nick was around four years old. While at the pub, his mother heard of an organization that invited underprivileged teens to stay with a family during the summer. She signed Nick up. He was picked by a family named Wallace. Chad Wallace was Nick's age. His parents thought it would be a good lesson for him to be associated with someone who didn't have his advantages. They arranged a month's stay at The Merryweather Resort. The Resort had only been opened a couple of years but they'd heard good reports about it.
When Nick showed up at their door the day they were leaving for Camden Corners, Mrs. Wallace, with the help of her maid, ushered Nick into the bathroom and insisted he shower. Luckily he was the same size as Chad and she handed him an entire outfit. He did as he was told but couldn't understand why he needed a second shower. He was clean and so were his clothes. His mother hand washed and pressed everything he owned the day before. Mrs. Wallace packed a suitcase filled with Chad's clothes for Nick to take with him. His own suitcase and clothes were placed in the garage. He could take them back home with him after they returned.
Chad liked Nick. He was home for the summer after spending his last year in boarding school. He wasn't happy about going to Camden Corners. He didn't like being with his parents and their friends. At least Nick was his age. He could see the way the cook's daughter looked at Nick and thought he might be good for attracting girls.
“Now you look like a Wallace,” Mrs. Wallace said as he walked from the bathroom. “The hair is a little long, but we don't have time to worry about that now, Mr. Wallace is anxious to get on the road.”
Nick knew he had been insulted by this snobby woman but he chose to ignore her. He was glad he was away from the trailer park for a whole month. When he got back home, he was determined he would get a job and get himself and his mother out of that filthy place.
The Merryweather was the most beautiful place he had ever seen. The room Chad and Nick shared was larger than the entire trailer.
“Nicholas, I want you to be very careful when we are in public. You watch everything we do and follow our example. We don't want you picking up the wrong fork now do we?”
“Marian, leave the boy alone,” said Mr. Wallace. “He's here to have a good time not learn impeccable manners from you.”
Nick heeded her advice and watched everything the Wallace family did in any situation.
They walked into the dining room and he saw her. She was refilling water glasses with one hand and coffee cups with the other. She had a smile that would brighten any day. She came up to the Wallace table. She filled each water glass and looked directly at Nick. She came awfully close to overfilling his glass as she gazed into his eyes.
Her name tag read Emily. Nick thought that was a lovely sounding name. Chad and Nick were left on their own while the older Wallaces paid visits to Mr. Wallace's wealthy clients in the area. Chad took a liking to one of the waitresses at the pub by the lake and spent most of his time with her. Nick stayed close to the Merryweather and to Emily. They were inseparable when she was off duty. Nick never let on he wasn't part of the Wallace family. Emily knew he was a friend of Chad's and assumed his family was wealthy too. Whenever Emily asked about his life in Mapledale, he would change the subject.
Emily had never had a serious relationship with a boy. She was popular in school and had many friends but hadn't felt more than friendship for any boy until Nick came along. The night before Nick left for home, they each confessed their love and gave into their desire for each other. Nick promised to call Emily as soon as he got home. That call never came and six weeks later, Emily knew she was expecting Nick's baby.
After the initial shock wore off, Emily's parents were supportive and agreed with her decision to keep the baby. Molly Nicole Ryan was born the following spring.
Emily graduated from high school two months later. She took classes at the local community college and was accepted into the university and graduated with a degree in hotel management. She had never left the employ of the Merryweather. She was currently director of catering.
Lydia greeted the good looking gentleman who walked through the doors of The Merryweather and towards the front desk. “Good afternoon sir. Welcome to The Merryweather.” Lydia thought he was the dreamiest guy she had ever seen. She automatically glanced at his finger and saw he didn't wear a wedding ring. That was good sign.
“Is this your first visit to our hotel?”
“No, I was here a number of years ago. I noticed it has expanded since I was here last. Tell me, do you know a young lady by the name of Emily Ryan?” He hadn't intended to ask that question but just walking through the doors brought back memories of her.
“Emily, of course, I know her. She is our catering manager. She's the greatest. I think she's in her office, would you like me to call her?”
“Why don't you tell me where her office is, I'll drop in and surprise her.”
“It's just around the corner, the second door on the left.”
Nick walked to the door that read Catering Office. He suddenly felt like that seventeen year old kid again. A pretty young lady was sitting at the desk. “Hello, sir. How may I help you?”
“I'm an old friend of Emily's. Do you suppose I could just stick my nose in her door and surprise her?”
“I think that would be alright. She is alone at the moment.”
Nick walked to the door and saw her. She hadn't changed, she was just as beautiful as she was back then. He could still remember the tears streaming down her cheeks the day they parted. He tapped lightly on the door and said, “Hello Emily.”
Emily looked up and blinked her eyes. She couldn't believe Nick Jordan was standing in her doorway. Her first thought was to throw something at him.
“Nick?” she could barely say his name.
“I'm glad you remember me after all this time.”
Remember you? she thought. It's hard to forget you when I have a little girl at home who is the spitting image of her father.
“I do remember you,” she said coldly. “What brings you to Camden Corners?”
“I'm going to be managing a new restaurant in town, Hemingway's, have you heard of it?”
“Yes, of course I have, this town isn't that big. I didn't realize you were in the restaurant business. Not that I would know what you did for a living because you never did call after you left town.” She hadn't intended to say that. She wished he would just leave. She couldn't believe he would be here in Camden Corners. Suddenly she remembered her mother was dropping Molly off after school. They were going to get a bite to eat and then do some early Christmas shopping. She had to get him out of here before it was too late.
“Hi Mommy,” came a little voice.
Nick turned around and saw a young girl who looked exactly like his mother. He turned to Emily with a questioning look on his face. He looked back at the child. “Hello young lady, what is your name?
“My name is Molly Nicole Ryan and I'm 7 years old.”
Nick knew immediately that the little girl standing in the doorway was his daughter. He looked at the girl he loved so long ago, “Why didn't you tell me, Emily?” Nick said in astonishment.