Friday, January 4, 2008

Feel the Burn, Week VII


NYSD readers may recall an early contributing weekly series "The Adventures of Dickey Scott." Dickey Scott, the creation of a New Yorker named Scott Briggs, was a kind of roman AA clef about a personal trainer working in the gilded halls of Manhattan's higher social circles. Once upon a time, in real life, Mr. Briggs was one of those personal trainers. He discontinued the series a couple of years ago when he sat down to "write the book" about Dickey Scott. Today, Feel the Burn is completed and now available.


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Chapter 8: Old Friends/New Lovers

One hundred miles east of Anika Rand’s apartment, on that same Friday morning, Charles Levine was checking into the Keystone Arms Bed and Breakfast in East Hampton.  His bid for the house on Toylsome Lane had been accepted and having cleared his calendar, he was eager to spend a few days exploring his new abode.
           
So after unpacking, Charles climbed into his new, Oyster Gray, Audi 8L and headed west on Route 27 towards Southampton and Toylsome Lane. But the traffic was brutal so when he hit the Sag Road intersection, he hung a left and took the back roads. Along the way he passed Loaves and Fishes, the ridiculously priced deli where a crab cake and a quarter pound of potato salad could cost you more than bus fare from Toledo to Vegas. But it was nearing three in the afternoon and Charles had skipped lunch, so he screeched through a U-turn and headed back to the little white shack for some nourishment.
           
As always, the line in Loaves and Fishes was ten deep, which meant at least a twenty-minute wait, so Charles grabbed an abandoned copy ofThe Wall Street Journal and scanned the previous day’s stock closings.  A few minutes later, a tall woman, nearly five feet ten inches, with cinnamon hair and a windswept, blushed complexion, approached Charles with an expectant grin on her face and tapped him on the shoulder. He turned and his jaw dropped.
           
“Claire Goodman?” he said, hardly believing his eyes.

“I was afraid you wouldn’t recognize me,” she mused.

“You look exactly the same.” Charles set aside the paper and gave her a hug. “My God, it must have been a dozen years since I’ve laid eyes on you.”
           
“Don’t kid yourself. We’re not that young. It’s been fifteen years since you left your practice for a life on the bench and I left the country”
           
Charles nodded sheepishly. “I’ve thought about you often.”
“And I you,” Claire said in all honesty.


For years, Charles’ law firm had been legal counsel to Gilbert Goodman’s, Claire’s husband, import/export company. Charles had worked closely with Gilbert during an extremely contentious lawsuit and the two men became fast friends, playing golf together and socializing as couples. When Gilbert died of a heart attack two days after his fiftieth birthday, Charles was there for Claire. He helped her sell the company for what the Wall Street Journal said was twenty percent above book value – or 550 million dollars.
           
When the dust had settled, Claire was obviously a very rich woman. She sold her Manhattan apartment and moved into the pied a terre that she and her late husband kept on the Left Bank in Paris. It was to be a temporary move but Claire fell in love with the French lifestyle. She sold the small apartment and bought a larger one on Rue Jacob. It would be her home for more than a decade.
           

“Are you still in Paris?” Charles asked.
           
“Rarely,” Claire remarked. “My younger sister, Barbara, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma a year ago. I more or less have been back in New York helping take care of her two teen-aged girls.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. How is she doing?”

“She’s been in remission twice but she just had another small tumor appear in a lymph gland. The oncologist says her five year life expectancy is about fifty – fifty. Charles squeezed her hand in condolence. “So I bought a ‘classic six’ on Eighty-first Street six months ago and now call New York home.”

“You don’t deserve all of this chaos,” Charles remarked.

“I suppose everyone’s life is chaotic from time to time,” Claire said resignedly.

Charles chuckled with affirmation. “Well, speaking of moving, I just bought a house on Toylsome Lane in Southampton.”

“Really! Claire beamed. “You’re jumping back into the fray?”

“I guess so. It’s been over two years since Fiona passed. Albany’s fine when I’m busy but I miss all the mess out here.”

Claire laughed.  “Mess is the right word for it.”

“Do you have a place out here?” Charles asked. “I thought you sold your home on Middle Lane before moving to Paris.”

Claire nodded. “I did. But my sister has a house in Water Mill. I’ve been staying there.”

“Listen, I’m fairly tied-up today with contractors and the like,” Charles explained, “but if you’re out here for a few days you should stop by for a cup of coffee. I’d love to show you the place.”

Claire hesitated, surprising Charles. “Uh, well, that would be fun!” she finally spit out.

“How about tomorrow morning?”

“Perfect!” 
           

When Dickey arrived home later that night, he had two messages on his answering machine. The first was from Max telling him that the reading of Consuelo Piermont’s will was scheduled for the following Thursday. The second message was from Dickey’s newest client, Claire Goodman. She was calling to cancel her Saturday morning workout. She said something had come up in the Hamptons and she would be delayed in returning to the city.

Chapter 9:  There Goes the Neighborhood

It was the summer after Dickey’s second grade year and new neighbors were moving in across the street. He was shooting hoops in the driveway while his mom and two other suburban Kansas City, neighborhood mothers stood by their cluster of mailboxes and watched as a moving company unloaded the young family’s belongings. At some point, the man of the house showed-up, driving an 18-wheeler. His wife followed close behind driving a pick-up truck that was towing a relatively large fishing boat. The man got out of the truck and waved to my mom and her friends. He had on a John Deere hat and was sporting a large tattoo on his fore arm. The three ladies smiled and waved. They didn’t say a word but even at seven years of age, Dickey knew what they were thinking. “There goes the neighborhood.”


If Dickey, on his way to the reading of Consuelo’s will, had turned left on Eighty first Street and Lexington instead of a block earlier, he would have run into Claire Goodman, in front of her apartment building, loading a few odds and ends into her Mercedes station wagon in preparation for a long weekend in the Hamptons. Any guilt she should have been feeling about canceling her annual sojourn to Nantucket and more specifically her aunt’s summer home, were pleasantly buffered by the expectation of dinner the following night with Charles Levine. She had in fact stopped by his new home the previous Saturday after his invitation at Loaves and Fishes and the two had spent the better part of the morning exploring his new house and catching up on old times. 

Author, Scott Briggs
It had been a wonderful morning for Claire, leaving her feeling surprisingly giddy. It had been a long time since she had been in the social company of an intelligent, attractive man her age and she realized how much she had missed the high – the dopamine rush – that comes from frolic and banter with desirable catches of the opposite sex. So when Charles called her early in the week and invited her to dinner on Friday night, she felt herself flush and accepted without hesitation.

Charles on the other hand, had mixed emotions after extending the invitation to Claire. He too had felt great chemistry during their morning together only six days prior, but his excitement was laced with trepidation. He knew the source of his consternation but he wouldn’t let himself confront it. Instead, after hanging up the phone he sipped his scotch and said aloud to no one but himself, “We’d make a damn fine couple.” And he was right. They made the perfect couple – almost.