On Being There
Sometimes, all you can do is be there. Just don’t let them convince you they don’t need you. They do. And they will. – Jane Austen Girl
“Is there a girl out there who doesn’t want to be looked at the way Mr. Darcy looked at Elizabeth?”
Grier McAllister – Blog at Jane Austen Girl
The morning had started out typical enough, and might have remained so, if it hadn’t been for the eagle flying just above traffic on Park and Sixty-fifth.
From the back seat of a Lincoln town car, Grier McAllister removed her sunglasses, lowered the window and stuck her head out for a better look. Surely, she’d been mistaken. But there it was, soaring in a left to right pattern, no higher up than the top of the street lamps. An eagle? In Manhattan? What in the world?
She remembered then something she’d once heard her mother say when she was a child. Eagle sightings hadn’t been so unusual around Timbell Creek, although it was still something to make a person stop and look. Grier had been six or so the day she and her mama had taken a picnic out in the pasture behind her grandparents’ house. Her grandpa had an old mule named Lloyd who was willing to act as their shade tree in exchange for the carrots she kept stuffed in her pockets. It was actually a good memory of her mama, and maybe one of the last Grier could actually recall.
They’d spotted the eagle at the same moment that day, watching the majestic bird swoop low out of the sky, like an airplane guided by radar.
“What’s he doing, Mama?” Grier had asked.
“Looking,” she’d said.
“Most likely his next meal. But my daddy once told me that whenever you see an eagle, it’s a sign that maybe you need to pay closer attention to what’s happening in your life. Or even what’s not happening.”
Grier had frowned and asked, “Why?”
“Some people believe eagles are messengers and that they appear when there’s something we need to do in our lives.”
“Is he trying to tell us something?”
“I guess that’s the part we’re supposed to figure out.”
Even at that age, Grier had wondered if the eagle might be trying to warn her mama about the glass bottle she kept hidden in her nightstand. Sometimes, the bottle would disappear, and their life seemed almost normal. No men Grier didn’t know coming into the house late at night. No hearing her mama throw up in the toilet in the morning. But then, the bottle always reappeared again, and those were the days Grier wished she could be somebody else, anybody else. The days when she would disappear inside a book, the only escape hatch she could find at the time.
“Did you see that?” she said to Jason, the twenty-something driver maneuvering her through the rush hour traffic to her office on Madison and Sixty-first.
He looked up, blue eyes locking on hers in the rear view mirror.
“That eagle,” she said, pointing at the sky.
“An eagle? Really?”
“Yes,” she said. “It was right there.”
He opened the sunroof and looked upward, shrugging. “You sure?”
“Positive,” she said, peering up again only to realize it had now completely disappeared.
“Not too many of those in Manhattan,” Jason said, the twinkle in his voice suggesting she might have added a little shot of something to her morning o.j.
“No,” she said, feeling silly now and wondering if she had indeed imagined it. “I guess not.”
Jason slid the car into a spot in front of a Starbucks green awning. “Same as usual?”
“Yes, thanks,” she said, watching as he got out and jogged inside the store. She leaned forward again and searched the strip of sky in between the buildings on either side of the car. She couldn’t seem to shake the uneasy feeling that she’d seen that eagle for a reason.
Resolving to put it and any unintended symbolism from her mind, she pulled her phone from her purse and began checking e-mail. Twenty-five new messages since she’d gone to bed at midnight. Several new client requests. Seriously needed. A few pleas for last minute appointments. Would see what she could do.
Jason arrived back with her coffee and passed it to her over the seat. “One sugar. Shot of half and half,” he said.
“Thanks,” she said, returning his smile.
He held her gaze for an extra moment, and then said, “No problem, Ms. McAllister,” before pulling back into the traffic.
This wasn’t the first time Jason had given her the look, or the first time she’d decided to ignore it. Aside from the obvious, at thirty-seven, the only thing she was likely to have in common with a barely twenty-something guy was an unfortunate weakness for pizza.
And besides, she had recently decided to excuse herself from the predictable course of events that disguised itself as dating in Manhattan. Attraction. Pursuit. Greener-grass-syndrome. She’d just experienced the third phase of this sequence, a nice way of saying she’d recently been dumped.
Carter Mathers – fresh off the divorce train, eyes glazed by the sudden buffet of available women – hadn’t actually put it like that. His wording was more along the lines of, “Grier. We’re at different places just now. I don’t want to lead you to think I have something more to offer you than I do. That wouldn’t be fair, would it?”
Fairness being his personal life mantra, of course.
Dating in New York City was its own basic training boot camp. After a while, Grier developed an ear for the subtext and knew that what he really meant was: “Grier. I think you’re getting too serious. I like you, but it’s only fun as long as no one cares. Besides, there’s a great-looking blonde at the table by the window. I’d really like to ask for her number.”
Grier had decided long ago that the key was to make expectation parallel with reality. If you knew that, for the most part, Manhattan was full of men who didn’t want to see the same face two nights in a row, then expecting to find one who did was simply unrealistic, like hoping your tricep jiggle would completely disappear after two workouts with Gunar at Fitness House.