Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Lester P. Hemingway
Chapter Twenty Three
Lester P. Hemingway
“Here you go Mr. Hemingway, corned beef on light rye. How about a little mustard to go with that?” said Grace as she put the sandwich down in front of him at the dining room table.
“Mustard would be good. My favorite is horseradish mustard. Nice and tangy. As I told your husband, I wouldn't mind a beer to wash it down with.”
“I'll fetch him the beer, Grace, while you find the mustard.”
“I'm afraid we only have regular mustard and Mr. Hemingway may have a root beer. It's best if we wait to hear from his son before we start giving him alcohol. We don't know what kind of medication he is taking and we don't want to do anything to put him in danger. Do we, Lily?”
The doorbell rang. “Good afternoon Mr. Henderson. I understand my father is here. I'm sorry for any trouble he has caused.”
“Come in Mr. Hemingway. Please call me Walter and this is my wife, Grace.”
“I'm sorry, I have forgotten my manners. I have been so worried about Dad. I'm Ernie Hemming, I changed it from Hemingway several years ago. I was tired of the jokes about my name. Dad has quite the sense of humor and thought it was funny to name me after his favorite author.”
“Nothing wrong with that name. He did win a Nobel prize, you know.”
“Yes, and later committed suicide. Which I may be tempted to do myself if you keep pulling these stunts, Dad.”
“I won't be pulling any more stunts if you will stop ruining my life. I have a very nice looking corned beef sandwich to eat and I plan to do that right now.”
Lester walked back into the dining room and was pleased to see Lily had gotten him a beer while he was gone.
“Walter, I must say, I'm at my wit's end. My father was a very busy man until two years ago. He is the original owner of the Hemingway Restaurants. You may have heard of them. There are four located in the state. After my mother passed away, he lost interest in all of his restaurants. He turned them over to my brother and me. Dad sat in front of the television set all day. We tried to hire housekeepers but he was so cantankerous, not one of them stayed more than a week. Mom and Dad were both excellent cooks but he even lost interest in that. My brother, Jerry and I talked to his doctor. He suggested a place in Brennan where he would have a small apartment to himself and would be able to have his meals with the other residents. I took him there one day and he seemed to accept the arrangement. Jerry and I moved over some of the furniture from Mom and Dad's house and thought everything was fine. That very evening I got a call that he was nowhere to be found. That was four days ago. He seems to think he is capable of caring for himself. Maybe he is, but I just don't feel comfortable having him live alone.”
“I thought your dad looked familiar. I remember him from Hemingway's. I think Grace and I have gone to every one of them in the state.
“Remember Grace, Lester always greeted his customers at the door and stopped by each table to make sure we were enjoying our meal.”
“I do remember! Your mother's name was Eleanor, wasn't it? What a lovely woman she was. We haven't been there in such a long time. I didn't realize Eleanor had passed away. I'm so sorry to hear that,” said Grace.
“It was kind of you to give Dad some lunch. I'll see if he is finished and we will be on our way.”
“Ernie, I don't want to interfere, but it seems your father is enjoying being in Camden Corners and I know my mother is very happy he is here. He may be comfortable at the Merryweather Resort. It is a very nice hotel, we have known the owners all their lives. I know they would watch over him and he could have his meals with us.”
“I can't ask you to do that. Dad can be quite a handful.”
“My own father was a handful,” said Walter. “Not a pleasant handful either. Grace is an excellent cook, he will be well fed and my mother seems to have taken a shine to him. At least consider letting him stay for a few weeks until he feels more comfortable about moving away from his home.”
The door from the dining room opened. “I have made a decision. I am selling my house and buying the Penderghast place. Lily and I will open another Hemingway Restaurant there. We will need to do some repairs, but it is a fine old house and I know it will be perfect for a restaurant.”
“Dad! You really have lost your mind this time. Please, calm down. Walter has made a suggestion, how would you feel about staying at The Merryweather Resort for a few weeks? You have been invited to share your meals with Walter and his family. You have to promise me you will behave yourself. You know, I will be coming to take you back to Brennan if you don't.”
“Ah, yes, The Merryweather is a fine hotel. I would enjoy my stay there. Walter I accept your offer. Grace, dear, I hope you will allow me to prepare some of my famous dishes while I'm in your home. I think I could give that chef at The Merryweather a run for his money too.”
“Grace,” whispered Lily, “would you mind stopping by that fancy ladies shop in town? I'd like to pick up some pretty beach wear. I want to be ready if Lester invites me for an afternoon swim at The Merryweather?”
“Now that the matter of my accommodations have been settled, I want to start the process of buying the Penderghast house. I would like it to be up and running by the holiday season. I have examined every room in that house. Do you know I counted 10 fireplaces. Lily, you will be in charge of decorating each one for Christmas. You'd like that wouldn't you?”
“Dad, you are getting way ahead of yourself. We know nothing about the structure of that old place. From what the sheriff told me, it has been vacant for years. I'm sure the pipes are in need of repair. Even if it was something worth saving, you don't want to start a new business at your age, do you?”
“There you go again. You don't have to tell me I'm old, son, I am aware of it. I would like you to acknowledge that I'm not dead yet. Someday your children will want to put you out to pasture and I'd like to be around to see how you handle that. I don't think you will like it very much.”
“Dad, I didn't mean you were too old. You worked hard all your life and I just think it would be nice if you could take it easy from now on.”
“Son, you are just making it worse. We will not discuss my retirement any further. Do you remember that young fellow who rebuilt those historic homes in Brennan after the arsonist torched them?”
“Alex Kelly is his name. He is an expert in restoration, I can check with him to see if he would be interested in this project if you'd like.”
“ Our daughter, Belinda is an interior designer. Who knows, maybe the house could be turned into a nice restaurant. I'll have her meet us there when your guy is available.”
“You fellas work out all the details, I'm taking Miss Lily for a stroll by the lake. Walter, you may pick us up in an hour,” said Lester as he winked at Lily.
“Walter dear, first thing Monday morning I want to take young Mark Crowley to see for himself there aren't any ghosts in the new restaurant,” said Lily as she turned to Lester. “Lester dear, I am not much of a cook. I don't think people will pay money to eat anything I prepare.”
“No dear, you won't have to cook. We will hire chefs for that. We will both be there to greet people. You will like that, won't you?”
“Oh yes Walter, it will be such fun,” Lily put her arm through his and off they went to watch the boats and skiers on the lake.
“If this thing goes through, the first thing I'm going to have to do is find a manager for the restaurant,” said Ernie. “It will have to be someone with the patience of Job. He'll have my father to contend with.”
Belinda's wedding shower was held that Sunday afternoon at Jamie's house. All the ladies toasted the soon to be Mrs. Roger Allen. Belinda couldn't shake the feeling that something was not right. She smiled and thanked everyone for the wonderful gifts. She remembered the month before Jamie and Mike were married. Jamie was walking on air the whole time. After the party was over and all the guests had left, she sat down with her sister.
“Jamie, did you ever have second thoughts before you and Mike were married?”
“I think everyone does, Belinda. This is a big step you are taking. You will be tied to Roger for the rest of your life. Do you love him?”
“Yes, I do love him, at least I think I do. Lately, some of his little habits have started to get on my nerves.”
“You mean the way he taps his fingers on the table?”
“Yes, you've noticed, and the way he stirs his coffee for a full five minutes before he puts that darned spoon down. I know I'm being too particular, I just wonder if marrying him is the right thing to do.”
“Belinda, if you are having serious doubts, maybe you should postpone the wedding.”
“Mother and Father have invested so much money in this wedding. I only wanted a simple ceremony and it has gotten way out of hand.”
“Mother and Father would never want you to marry someone you don't love. I wish I had an answer for you. Why don't you sleep on it for a few days. If these doubts linger, maybe you should rethink your future.”
“There's Roger now, thanks for listening sis. Do me a favor, don't offer him a cup of coffee.” The sisters both laughed.
“Hi sweetheart, how was the hen party?” Mike said as he walked in the door an hour later.
“The party was fine, it was the conversation after the party that worries me. Belinda is having second thoughts about this marriage.”
“I can understand that. I could never see Belinda with Roger Allen.”
“Why do you say that? I always thought Belinda could do better but I didn't realize you felt the same way.”
“I guess he's an alright guy, but your sister is so full of energy and personality. Roger lacks both of those qualities. What did you tell her?”
“I said she should sleep on it for a few days. I just want my little sister to be as happy as I am,” Jamie wrapped her arms around Mike's neck.
“Is there any of that champagne left? A little bubbly would be nice right now and then you can show me just how happy you are.”
Jamie went into the kitchen and brought out the bottle. She would worry about her sister tomorrow, tonight she was going to enjoy being with the man she never doubted was the one for her.
The next morning, Belinda was at the Penderghast house before she went into her office. “Lester, what ever made you think of opening a restaurant here? Looking around, I can see the possibilities.”
“I'm glad you can envision it my dear. Shows you have a good imagination. There is Ernie now.” Introductions were made.
“Belinda Henderson, I believe you designed the Sherman law firm in Brennan. Your design was very unique” said Alex Kelly.
It must have been the way he said it or it was because he was the best looking contractor she had ever seen in her life but it threw her. “Thank you, I think. The partners at the firm had a lot of input in that project. My designs are normally a little more traditional.”
“Don't sell yourself short. I have dealt with that group and they are not easy to please.” I wonder what's with that rock on her finger, he thought to himself. Too bad.
Belinda was finding it difficult to concentrate on her notes. Alex Kelly was going to be a major distraction for her. She could see his biceps poking out of his shirt sleeve. She never was one to drool over a man's muscles but this guy was an exception. She just hoped nobody noticed. Alex looked at her and smiled. She could feel her cheeks burning.
“What's the matter dear?” said Lily. “You look positively flushed, are you feeling alright?”
“I'm fine Grandma, it's very warm in here.”
“I agree,” said Alex with a knowing look.
I hate him, thought Belinda. I have never let a man intimidate me like this one is doing right now.
“Ms. Henderson, I have some suggestions for you. Shall we get out of this dusty house? I noticed a coffee shop down the street, maybe we could find a table and discuss your plans.”
“Good suggestion, Alex,” said Ernie. “You have Dad's and my recommendations I think you and Belinda can handle it from here.”
Belinda didn't feel she had a choice. She and Alex walked down the street to the coffee shop. He ordered his coffee black and she felt a sense of relief.
They talked about the plans and as Belinda was getting up to leave. Alex took her hand. “Can you sit for a little while? I like to get to know my associates before we start working together.”
“Nothing has been settled, Mr. Kelly. I was under the impression you were going to assess the project before making your recommendation.”
“Once you get to know me, you will realize I don't waste my time with projects that don't interest me. Let me just say that I am very interested in what Camden Corners has to offer.”
“I really need to get to the office.”
“I really need to know about this. He took her hand in his and pointed to the ring on her finger.
“I'm getting married next month.”
“Do you love him?”
“I don't see how that is any of your business, Mr. Kelly.”
“It's my business because I can see doubt in your eyes.”
“You are being ridiculous. Thank you for the coffee. I don't see any reason we should get together again until the project begins.”
Belinda's legs felt like rubber. She was only sure of one thing. She was going to have to call off the wedding. There was no way she would be able to marry Roger Allen, a man she didn't love.