A French Song in New York(8)

By: Anna Adams

“What about Maude? Will she be annoying?”

“She raised hellish twins in France and she had to deal with me and my video games obsession. She knows what she’s doing.”

“You like video games?”

“They’re life.”

“You’ll want to die once I crush you. Fool.”

“You’re good?”

“I’m the best.”

“Next weekend, we’re having a Tekken marathon.”

“You’re on.”

“Guess you’ll be living here after all.”

Ben jumped off the bed and did not see Grace’s surprised but pleased expression as he headed for the door.

Just like that, without even noticing it herself, Grace had agreed to extend her stay in the Baldwin household.

Chapter 4

EVER SINCE CYNTHIA Baldwin had come back to New York, she’d felt a growing dissatisfaction with her existence.

Life was less crazy than it had been on the road. She’d enjoyed having adventures and discovering exciting things each day: feeding baby elephants in Sri Lanka, swimming with dolphins in Hawaii, exploring the pyramids of Egypt, learning the history of the Massai tribes in Kenya. New languages, stories, traditions and customs; weddings, religious ceremonies, feasts.

All that was now over.

She was back, had succeeded the New York Bar Exam, and yet she felt empty. This emptiness was not merely a void. Like a radioactive cloud spreading inside her, her discontent suffocated her vital organs until it withered the joy she’d once known.

The fact that she could not find a job in a law firm did not help matters.

Uselessness filled her days.

The most infuriating downside about being back in New York was in having to deal with her in-laws, Alan and Irina Lewis.

Though she loved her husband with a passion, she often found herself wishing that the people who had raised him lived on an entirely different continent than hers.

Not two blocks away.

The Lewises dined every Friday evening at Cynthia and Daniel’s apartment and reminded the young couple with a relish bordering on obscenity that the apartment was not theirs.

Alan and Irina had lent them one of their Manhattan apartments while the newlyweds searched for their new home. The apartment had a view of the Empire State Building and all the latest appliances. It was comfortable, though not homey.

The Lewis’ kindness did not come without strings attached. That was one lesson Cynthia had never learned from her loving parents, who gave without expecting anything in return.

Her in-laws dropped in whenever they felt like it, which turned out to be frequent.

How the Friday night dinner ritual had come about, Cynthia did not know. She remembered having invited them once, but could not recall renewing the courtesy.

That Friday evening, she sat at the dinner table, her attention focused on a single drop of red wine rolling down Alan’s glass. Of little consequence, the drop’s trajectory was nevertheless more interesting than her father-in-law’s boring conversation.

Alan Lewis was a man who prided himself in giving advice that its recipients never asked to hear in the first place. Though he despised James Baldwin for his success and secretly wished to work for Soulville Records again, he was fond of Cynthia as a daughter-in-law. He saw her as a woman who would increase the family fortune once she found a job in a prestigious law firm. She was from a notable background, but even if she had come from a humble family, he would have still considered her a suitable match for his son. The sharp intelligence she wielded like a sword was worth at least two houses in the Hamptons.

He’d always thought that talent, not wealth, was the real cause for discrimination between human beings. The poor but talented possessed the means to achieve success.

Poor but talentless was the worst fate.

As he sat across from her and played with his wine, tilting it from side to side, he shaped Cynthia’s future like a glassblower manipulating molten glass.

“Don’t you agree, Cynthia?” Alan asked, once he’d finished discoursing.

Cynthia coughed and sat up straight. “Sorry?”

“Don’t you agree? You should consider applying for corporate law firms.”

“I’m not interested in corporate law. You know I want to help people.”

“You’d be helping people. Consider big firms like Mendez & Larry. They’d make more money. That will enable them to hire more people and that’s good for the American economy.”

“You know what else is good for the economy? Peace,” Cynthia stated calmly. “International human rights lawyers participate in world peace.”

“They work many hours without making much money. Corporate lawyers, now they work a lot, too, but you know, they make a ton. You’re going to have rent to pay once you two move out of here. We’re going to want to rent this place out again soon.”