Fez helped Emberlyn through the next few difficult weeks as she watched her life began to disintegrate. She felt as if she was watching one of those movies where a pivotal moment is played in slow motion.
A company had been hired to come in, categorize and label everything in the house to be prepared for auction. To them it meant nothing more than a few days’ work. To her, it meant the end of everything she had come to know and love. She resented it, even though she knew the proceeds would be going to charity.
All of these things represented her beloved Mr. Carrington and it was like they were selling him, piece by piece. She looked at Fez and said “is this what happens when you get old? You don’t matter and your things don’t matter? I would think his children would want something to remember him by.”
Fez said “I’m sure you have met his children.” She smiled and said “yes.”
“He would have left them something,” he said. “But he knew that all it would have meant to them was how much it was worth when it was pawned or sold. It’s a shame but it’s true.”
He asked her if she had made any plans when it was time to leave. “I haven’t even thought about it,” she said. “I really don’t have anywhere to go.”
Fez said “I have an apartment above my law office. You can stay there as long as you want.”
Emberlyn was completely caught off guard and fumbled when she tried to express her gratitude, while at the same time being insulted by the suggestion.
Fez quickly read her face and said “there are no strings attached. I had the top floor of the office turned into an apartment for my daughter. It was a sort of playhouse for her at first. She would come to work with me during the summer and play up there. Later, she was allowed to have slumber parties, supervised of course by her mother.”
A little more at ease, Emberlyn asked “but what if she wants to come visit while I’m there?
“You don’t have to worry about that,” he said. Then his voice trailed off. “She won’t be coming to visit anymore.” Emberlyn could see a look of intense sorrow when he said that but she didn’t want to pry.
Mr. Carringtons’ estate was finally settled and she had said her goodbyes. She moved into the apartment and tried to begin a new life.
Two years had gone by and she and Fez were spending more and more time together. They enjoyed dinners and took in a movie from time to time. She realized that she was becoming attached to him. He made her laugh and it had been a long time since anybody had done that. The idea that she might represent a surrogate daughter to him was not lost on her but he had never made her feel like a child.
He eventually opened up to her about his life. He had been divorced for nearly ten years but not for the usual reasons of screaming, irreconcilable differences or abuse or adultery. Their marriage had been fractured beyond repair due to the death of their only child, the daughter he had built the apartment for.
She had been killed in an automobile accident. Against her mothers’ wishes, he had bought her a car when she turned 16. Against his wishes, her mother had allowed her to go out with friends during a particularly bad rainstorm.
Invisible fingers were pointed at each other as they tried to recover but it was as if all three of them had died that night. The grief was just too overwhelming and they eventually parted ways.
He had taken care of his ex-wife until she remarried. They sent Christmas cards to each other for a few years, wishing the best but eventually all communication ceased after she moved to another state with her new husband.
Mr. Carrington had made Emberlyn feel special and she would always treasure him and his memory. Fez made her feel special too and he also taught her that it was okay to have fun.
She loved to play pranks on him and he loved it when she did. One day she anonymously called his office and made an appointment for a consultation. When she arrived, she told his secretary that she was his “11:00.” Watching the dumbstruck look on the secretarys’ face, Emberlyn said not to bother announcing her. She walked into his office, dressed as a Tyrannosaurus Rex.
Fez had opened his world to her and she had accepted it with aplomb. She was playing dress-up again but this time it was different. She was wearing designer clothes and elegant gowns. The only dances in her life were Waltzes and Tangos. Fez could cut quite a rug and she was impressed.
Even though she was now twenty, there was still a little girl hiding behind her grown-up facade. The little girl she never got to be. Fez had seen it emerge now and then but not as much as one night when they went to the symphony. As they were leaving, she excused herself to go to the ladies’ room. When she came out, she was squealing with laughter. As they got into the car, she could hardly stop giggling long enough to lean over and whisper “you’re never going to guess what I found in the bathroom.”
Fez smiled and said “tell me.” She pulled out what looked like two flattened flesh-colored balloons and said “a pair of boobs!”
They were both laughing uncontrollably. Then he looked at her and said “do you have any idea how much joy you have brought into my life?
The laughter suddenly stopped and that night, they shared their first kiss.
To be continued________________________