In true daytime drama style- When last we left our hero's Alex was on her way to meet her boyfriend in New York City. Her best friend Jay sold his classic Nomad to pay for her trip. Unbeknownst to Alex, Charles, her boyfriend, is drunk in Manhattan while she is snowed over in Chicago. Jay has discovered her true plans from her Dad, and now finds more than his wallett regretting her trip. Alex's mother, Tricia, desperate to make Alex see what she was giving up by leaving Jay sent a manuscript of journal entries along for Alex to critique on her trip. The journal entries convinced Alex her mother's story is one of cheating and betrayal, just as Charles' drunken revelation of his hesitancy to marry her comes out. Now Alex has determined to fly to New York to meet Charles and work it out. Can Alex untangle her heart from her desires? Will Jay find the courage to tell her the truth about his feelings? Does Tricia's story of love lost help Alex see her own heart?
Find these answers and more as we read the reasons you should love a man who loves an ugly car. To read the story from the beginning go to the archives and find 'For The Peanut gallery, Ugly Car week 2 and everything titled Why Love A Man Who Loves An Ugly Car. In the meantime...
The morning crowd at La Guardia, teemed like a tide pool of colorful sea life. The swirling faces and mixture of languages pulsed around her. Alex felt as if she were floating on a cloud of caffeine and chaos. Her flight had landed at 7:30. After retrieving her bag from baggage claim she looked for Charles at her gate again. She called his cell phone a dozen times, becoming frustrated when it only went to his voice mail. Now, after what seemed like a lifetime later, she passed through terrified, to sit, huddled against a wall fighting back tears. Reaching into her large over shoulder bag, she pulled her cell phone out again. She should call her dad and ask him what to do. The panic that would crease her mom’s expression when Tricia learned Alex was abandoned, alone in New York city, clamped her cell in her hand. She shook her head to dispel the throbbing behind her temples. She couldn’t spend any more time refusing to make a decision. Her watch of the pulsing stream of people flooding by her didn’t help. The vibration of the phone startled her frayed nerves and she nearly dropped it. Frantic, she forgot to check the number before answering
”Hello?” she choked, desperation clinging to the short syllables.. The brief moment of silence draped across the phone made her heart jump, as her mind feared it'd been a wrong number and she was indeed alone again.
“Lex.” Jay’s voice said. “What’s wrong?”
Alex took a deep breath to calm herself but only managed to dislodge her tears from where she’d been ’fighting them back from her eyes.
His calm reassurances and understanding of the whole terrible morning only made her tears spill the story more dramatically through the phone. She could hear him breathing, with only a deep grumbling growl of protest escaping when she explained her current predicament. Except for a few dark threats against Charles, his voice remained steady as he promised her that she was fine and there was nothing to worry about. She blewout a stream of soggy air, scrubbing at her tears as she settled her emotions. The muscles bunched in her neck relaxing in the embrace of his patience.
“Listen,” he said.. she flicked tears from her eyes, biting down on her bottom lip.
“Here is what I want you to do. Do you see the main doors?”
Alex looked around the wide expanse of airport, following signs with her gaze to where the main exits and entrances were marked.. ”Yes,” she said the edge of hesitance in her voice.
“Good. Now, there are ten, ten dollar bills in the front pocket of your bag, take five of them out and put them in different pockets of your clothing. One in your jeans a couple in your coat and a couple in your wallet. Take the other five and put them into your shoe.”
Alex waited, expecting him to go on. When he was silent, she began fumbling with her bag. She gulped back the catch in her breath as her shaking fingers closed around the stack of money. “Jay, Where did this come from?”
A slight chuckle drifted through the phone, and Alex stared out into the swarming airport crowds..
“Just do it Lex.” He said softly, “I put them there before you left in case of an emergency. I think this counts.
She began scattering the money as he directed but continued her questions.
“Why am I doing this Jay? Am I going somewhere?”
“Yeah, I’m sending you to my grandmother’s brownstone. She’s in Florida for the winter and its empty, but she lets me stay there when I come, so you’re going to go there until we..er you, figure out what to do next.”
Her eyes filled with tears again.
,” How, Jay? I don’t know anything about New York? And what’s a brownstone?”
He cleared his throat as his voice caught and tripped on the words
“, Lex I’m sorry this is the best I can do, but you need to Just listen. My Grandmother’s house is a two story brownstone building, kind of narrow and tall. It will be on a street with a bunch of other brownstones. Various colors and designs but all looking like shoeboxes stacked side by side standing on end.” Alex nodded and tried to form the picture in her mind. “I’m going to a shoebox?””
“It’s an apartment, kinda. You’ll be safe there.”
Her lip burned where her teeth bit into the tender flesh. “Okay, how do I get there?”
“Go out the main exit and have one of the concierge’s flag you a cab. There should be plenty at this time in the morning. The envelope with the money also has the key to the brownstone and the address on it. Give the address to the cabbie and tell him to take the bridge, not the tunnel to west 86 th”
Alex dug in her bag for the envelope tucked between her ticket and the printout Jay gave her before her flight to Vegas.
”How did you know I need this?”
“I didn’t. I just couldn’t stand the thought of you alone in New York if something went wrong. So I had a back up plan.”
Alex sniffed and took a shuddered breath.
“I...don’t know what to. I…Thank you.” she said finally, “What would I do without you?”
“Let’s not find out OK.”
His voice was suddenly flat and hollow as it broke with his next words.
. “Alex, New York City can be a dangerous place for a beautiful, young, inexperienced woman, traveling alone. You need to be careful. Hang your bag over your shoulder and across your chest, and make sure it’s zipped closed and you tie it shut with that string thing.”
Alex laughed a forced gasp to break a strange tide of emotion welling inside of her. He was talking about the dangers of this city and she knew it, but somewhere in the deep tones of his voice she thought she heard him whispering an altogether different plea.
“The toggle?” she asked her voice quieter now.
“Whatever.” Jay said the edge still in his voice. “When you get a cab, I want you to write down the medallion number and the cabbie’s name. It will be on his license hanging from the rearview mirror. And then call me back.”
Alex shook her head as if Jay was sitting next to her watching the dismay scamper across her features.. “Wait, The what? She said unzipping her bag and pulling a pen and paper from it.
“The medallion number.” Jay reiterated. “It’s the number on the light on the top of the cab. It identifies which cab it is and which cab company they drive for.”
She scowled. “And why am I doing this? “
Because no one knows who you are or where you’re going, including you. I want you to get the number and the drivers name and then call me and give it to me. Do it from inside the cab and let the driver hear you.”
With a groan into the phone, she turned her head, searching the teeming crowd for Charles’ face once more.. “Jay” she complained. ”He’ll think I don’t trust him and then how helpful will he be.”
Jay’s teeth snapped together and Alex heard it, along with a growl from his throat. Her eyes left the swarming faces and focused back on his words as he enunciated them. “You don’t trust him, Alex. He’s not going to help you. He’s going to do his job and take your money. if you’re lucky. Even if he offers to take a shorter route, or show you the city, tell him no thank you . Just go to my Abuelita’s. Even an honest cabby is still going to leave you alone in Manhattan. He’s not going to become your new pen pal, or save you from all the other creeps out there.”
Jay’s voice was starting to pick up remnants of her panic. She felt his growing anger.. “Okay, Okay,” she said, “I would just feel safer with the cab driver on my side.”
“That would be great, but neither of us know if he’ll be.. I need to be able to track you down if anything goes…”
Alex felt her heart rate quicken as Jay’s tight words suddenly broke off. She bit her bottom lip and then whispered.. “Okay, I’ll call you back once I’m in the cab.”
She stood from her corner glancing around and grasping the handle of her suitcase. “Relax.” She said with a shaky laugh, “I’ve come two thousand miles on my own, I can make it another couple of thousand feet.”
Jay’s voice was so quiet now, that she could barely hear him over the noise of La Guardia. “I know, Lex, You just shouldn’t have to.”
Following Jay’s directions to the letter, Alex climbed into a yellow cab before calling him. The driver, a heavy set Jamaican woman in her forties, just smiled as Alex whispered her name and the number to Jay. Glenda Robinson’s coffee brown eyes sparkled in the sunlight streaming through the windshield as she turned up the volume on her radio and hummed along with the music.
With her aching head resting against the back of the seat, Alex brushed ice from her coat to absorb the warmth of the sun filling the windows. Her bleary gaze studied the light dancing off the water all around her, like tarnished aluminum instead of ocean.
“What time is it?” Jay asked, the strain in his voice making it obvious to her that he was trying to hold back a yawn.
Alex looked around at the crisscrossed veins of automobiles honking and bleating like multicolored sheep headed for the same slaughter. Her gaze fell on the clock in bedded on the dash before she closed her eyes. “It’s after nine." She settled back into a puddle of sunlight drifting through the window, her yawn going unrestrained
. “Good. That’ll get you into the city after rush hour and you should be at my grandmother’s place in a half hour or so.”
“I don’t know about this Jay. Won’t your grandmother be upset when I just show up?”
“She’s in Florida, no one’s there. Just find My room at the left of the stairs and there’s towels in the trunk at the end of the bed. There’s no food in the house, but next to the phone in the kitchen, there’s a list of takeout places that deliver. There’s a bodega up the street that will deliver stuff like milk and bread if you want it too.
Alex followed the flurry of information, wondering if she should be taking notes. Jay seemed intent on telling her everything in the next few seconds and her heart momentarily panicked with the thought of him hanging up.. “The gas and water are still on for these last minute visits.” He was saying, as Alex heard fatigue slowing down his speech. “You’ll have heat and hot water so you should get some sleep and take a shower at least before you try to track Charles down again.” Alex swallowed hard but didn’t answer. “Are you still there?” he asked, his voice tightening again.
“Why are you up so early? How long have you been awake?"
“What are you talking about? Nine isn’t early for me. I open this place up at eight.” His words were innocent and the edge of panic was gone but she could still hear something in his voice.
“How much sleep did you get last night, Jay?”
“Can you give me a number?”
“I can, but you won’t like it,” he mumbled.
Alex yawned again . She heard Jay echo the exhaustion from across the line. Her mind sharpened as she stared at the water surrounding the traffic. The golden globe of the sunrise sparked her mind to clarity.“It’s nine here, Jay.” She said. “Its seven in the morning where you are.”
Jay’s low chuckle drifted quietly in her ear and she frowned.. “You know me. Lots to do, not enough time in the day to do it.”
Alex grimaced, the spurt of guilt stabbing in her chest again.. “You’re not getting anything done being my travel agent.”
“Your travel plans were the only work I had this morning that couldn’t wait. It will all still be here once I know you’re locked behind three deadbolts and two security chains at my grandma’s house.”
Alex laughed, hearing Jay take a deep breath. “Are you going to stay with me until then?”
“At least until then,” he promised.She said goodbye to him as her car pulled up to the row of brownstones. With a shaky sigh, she paid the driver with the two ten’s from her wallet, pulling another from the pocket of her jeans, afraid of the cabbie’s scowl at the amount. When the cab pulled away in a cloud of gray exhaust, she dragged her bulky suitcase across the uneven sidewalk. She stopped and stared at the brick houses, appearing just like Jay said, towering tightly and stacked beside one another. The only alterations between them were the placement of the windows and the color of the doors. Kids on scooters sped past her, their voices melding with the rush of morning traffic as she made her way up the stairs and inside the bright blue door. Heavy wooden construction blocked the street noise out as she slid the thick locks and chains into place. Abuelita Maria’s key was dropped in her coat pocket as she faced a crowded, but organized living room. Scattered couches and chairs, along with doily draped tables beckoned her into the dust of an empty house. The sparse layer clung and drifted slightly in the streams of light breaking from the eastern windows. Alex shuddered in the brisk cold of the unheated room. She went to the open mouthed fireplace flipping the switch for the gas flame to ignite. Just as Jay promised, the pilot light hissed and caught in a burst of blue fire. Shivers stole over her body as she crouched before the flames, her heavy eyes glancing around as she began to feel like a burglar. Her nervous perusal of the house brought her gaze to rest on a familiar face, settling the tightness in her chest. Jay and his parents peered out from a silver framed photograph atop the mantle. This is his Grandmother’s home, she soothed. Jay told her stories of Maria Sanchez’s life in New York City since 1924. Jay spent summers with her following the death of her husband three years earlier. According to his tender memories, she was the toughest lady he knew, living alone in the city despite her ninety years. Alex caressed the gilded frame of a faded photograph. The smiling face of a dark haired young man in a dress blue uniform, looking strikingly similar to Jay also graced the shelf above the flames. She smiled feeling a little less intrusive with the heat, but no longer able to keep her drooping lids open. Her legs protested as she trudged up the treads of the steep staircase, too tired to haul the enormous suitcase with her. Hall ways stretched out in a hardwood tongue away from her, a slim rug rolling its pale blue welcome as she turned toward a narrow archway. An antique, glass door knob at her left flashed a beckoning ray of light into her eyes when she grasped and opened it. The room was paneled in cherry wood, it’s long window opening to the west and looking out onto the flat stone face of another building. The navy blue curtains were held back with replicas of classic cars, confirming she’d found Jay’s room. It was narrow and the pitched ceiling’s plaster rattled slightly as she turned the light on. The heavy trunk at the foot of the bed was open, thick green towels folded neatly on the top, the lid forming a footboard at the bottom of the full size four poster bed. She laughed under her breath, trying to picture Jay’s long legs finding a comfortable spot to rest in the small room. With a quiet sigh, she took her coat off laying it across the patch work quilt spread on top of the bed. Caution lowered her slowly on its edge., expecting to hear the creak of floor boards or the groan of old springs. the soft bed only invited her tired limbs into its serene comfort. Alex obliged by crawling between the crisp linen and snuggling under the warm blanket. The scent of clean sheets and Lysol numbed her mind as she sank into welcome slumber, Jay…or Charles…or whomever drifting through her dreams.