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The Finer Things in Life

published by Wings-Press, 2002

 

As far as Emma was concerned, it was a done deal.

After spending two hours with four-year-old Meredith and two-year-old Mallory, she wanted the job. Taking care of those two adorable, motherless children would be a job made in heaven.

"Call me later this afternoon and I’ll give you their father’s name and address," John McCurdy had said as he’d settled the girls in his car for the drive back home. The four of them had spent two hours in City Park riding the carousel, watching the ducks wade in the lagoon, and eating chocolate-swirl ice cream cones. It had been love at first sight between Emma and the children.

It was fine with her.

Emma plucked a pencil from the plastic cup decorated with scenes of last year’s Mardi Gras, and hastily scribbled the meeting date, Sunday, January 2, while her caller continued.

"His name is Sam Stone. He’s presently head of the Department of Anesthesiology at City General."

John--he’d insisted before they parted yesterday that she address him informally--was on the phone now, asking if the following Sunday afternoon was a good time for her to meet the children’s father.

She wrote Dr. Stone, Sam, anesthesiologist, next to the date, followed by two p.m., which John suggested, and she quickly accepted.

"There’s still that one condition of employment Dr. Stone will discuss with you in person before the job is yours," he reminded her.

No problem there.

Certainly, the yet to be revealed job responsibility couldn’t be that difficult or distasteful. And it certainly couldn’t be illegal.

John McCurdy had picked up the tab for a lawyer to act in her behalf to check out his client’s background. A confidential agreement between both counsels had allowed her lawyer to conduct the check without divulging the client’s identity to her. She had been assured by her lawyer that her prospective employer’s character and reputation were above reproach.

"I’ll call a day or so before the meeting, just to confirm it," John said, signalling an end to the conversation.

He could save himself the trouble. It wasn’t likely she’d forget. Smiling, Emma hung up the phone, walked into the living room and opened the middle drawer of the desk that had seen more than its share of late night studying these past ten years.

She riffled through the contents of the drawer until she found the newspaper clipping. Even now, weeks after she had answered the ad, it still seemed like a dream. She read the ad again, even though it was already committed to memory.

Widower, well respected in the community, seeks refined, educated young woman to care for two pre-schoolers for a minimum of two years. One year international travel mandatory. Luxurious home, full room and board, generous monthly wage, five-and-a-half day work week. Valid driver’s license required. Specific duties to be discussed at personal interview. Twenty-five thousand dollar bonus at end of completed two-year contract.

Twenty-five thousand dollars. And a year of travelling abroad to boot. It still made her head spin.

Emma re-folded the piece of paper and slipped it back into the drawer.

All that was left now was for her to meet the illustrious Dr. Sam Stone.

According to John, the Stones were one of the oldest and wealthiest families in New Orleans. Old money, old name. Aristocratic, he had called them. And Sam Stone, John had assured her, was the most genteel of them all.

Working for a wealthy socialite was not a job she would have sought on her own, having heard too many stories about the snobbery of the blue-bloods who lived on St. Charles Avenue. But after losing her heart to the children, she was willing to take a chance on their father. After she met him, she might feel differently. Until then, she would be guardedly optimistic.

She was in no position to pass up an opportunity for a good job and a place to live. Not when she would soon be out of a job and her apartment building was being converted into condominiums that she couldn’t afford. If she got this job, she would bend over backwards to please her new employer in spite of his social standing.

As far as she was concerned, unless Dr. Stone kicked dogs and swung cats by their tails, she would forgive his being born with a silver spoon in his mouth.

She might even try to like him.

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