Brooke is exhausted after too many long days (and nights) doing her corporate job. When Aunt Maggie leaves Brooke her woodsy cabin upstate, it’s clearly a sign. It’s time to get away from New York City.
Brooke isn’t looking for a man, although she can’t help but notice the handsome and observant guy at the local store.
What she needs is a rest. What she finds is better.
Age Rating: 18+
It was a cool October day in the city. As I walked down the sidewalk, I noticed a few leaves dancing on the ground in the wind. It was starting to change seasons, and I was ready for the fall.
The streets were busy with yellow cabs, food carts, and everyone talking on their phones. I had to dodge a younger kid on a scooter who almost made me scatter my folder of paperwork all over the ground. That would have been a few days’ worth of work wasted. But I still enjoyed the daily hustle of New York City.
And I loved most of my co-workers. I was meeting my favorite one right now.
“Leah, I’m right behind you. Slow down,” I shouted. We were meeting for coffee around the corner from work to catch up.
She stopped in her tracks and turned around to give me a huge hug.
“Brooke, you look beautiful. How are you? Ready to catch up?” The excitement in her voice to see me made me instantly wake up. We were both stuck working on separate projects at work and hadn’t gotten to hang out in weeks.
“I have been good, tired, you know. Busy, overworked, the usual. Let’s get inside and catch up.”
Leah opened the café door, and we made our way in to join the line of patrons.
Tired was an understatement. I was exhausted. I had been working my butt off over the summer, so many extra hours and long nights. Trying to work my way up the corporate ladder, but never feeling like I was getting anywhere.
Sometimes I wondered if all this time spent pleasing other people was worth it. Was there even going to be anywhere for me to climb up the corporate ladder, or would they let me go and get someone two years younger who they could pay less? Did they even notice I was trying?
I got stuck in this corporate rut a few years back. I was several years out of college now, trying to make my own path. Two failed startups later, I needed to get serious about making money.
I was lucky I could fall back on my degree, and I got my foot in the door working as an account executive for a large public relations firm in the center of the city. I didn’t manage any impressive celebrities, but I did deal with Fortune 500 companies.
She held the door for me. I loved this café. Upon entering, the smell of roasted coffee beans quickly brought a smile to my face.
This had been our go-to spot for years to unwind. It had that cozy feeling, like being at home, with a real fire crackling and popping in the large stone fireplace and warm vintage light bulbs strung across the ceiling.
The weathered barn wood on the walls made me think of the summers I used to spend at my aunt’s cabin in upstate NY. I missed my Aunt Maggie.
“What would you like?” asked the clerk at the register.
My friend butted in before I could speak. “We will both have a cup of mocha with whipped cream, and I am paying for both.”
“Thanks, girl, you’re so sweet. I will get it next time.” While she was paying, I went over to find us a table in the corner where we could stay awhile.
We would always decompress here after work and gossip about the girls that we couldn’t stand in our department. I was eager to hear her news. Before I knew it, Leah was setting our cups down on the table and settling into her comfy chair.
She spoke first. “So, did your group get their project done? I heard that Kathy was slowing things down, and you guys almost didn’t meet your deadline.”
“Yes, but barely. I hate when I get stuck on a project with her. She steals everybody’s ideas, complains, and is so unorganized. I told Mark that if he puts me in her group again, I will walk out.”
“You said that?” she asked with shock. “You’re going to quit on me?”
“I said it, but I wouldn’t leave. I have worked too hard there to leave now. I just get so frustrated sometimes. This daily grind is getting old. I feel like everything is moving so fast, and I can’t stop and enjoy things. Sometimes I just want to slow down a little, relax, and smell the roses, you know?”
“I hear you, girl. Corporate life is not what I wanted either, but you got to work to pay the bills. Too bad we can’t find a rich man to take care of us,” Leah joked.
We both laughed. “You know that’s not my thing. I don’t need a man to take care of me.”
Leah spoke over me. “I know, girl. You are too independent to ask for help or let alone have a man pay your way. But don’t you ever just want to feel taken care of, with no stress?”
“Sometimes. But I would rather us be a team, instead of the man having control over everything. After Christian, I will never date a high society NY businessman again. I felt so trapped, like a prisoner. I didn’t have a say in anything. I feel like all the guys in this town are the same, all looking for their trophy.”
She grabbed my arm. “Check out that guy by the drink stand. I want some of that.”
I slowly turned in my chair and glanced in that direction. He was nice-looking—perfectly tailored suit, slick haircut, and a tight butt that looked great in those pants. But after my year-long romance with Christian, I was fed up with nice butts in business suits.
“Yeah…he is all right, just not the right time,” I said with a big smile while I nodded.
“So, you do think he is cute,” she teased.
Deep inside, I felt a warm hunger for a man’s touch. But I stopped thinking about it before I got too carried away. “We are not here to pick up guys. Come on, tell me what’s up with you?” I asked.
“Same old stuff. Oh, wait, did I tell you what I overheard in the bathroom the other day at work?”
Before I could reply, I felt a vibration in my purse, so I grabbed my phone. I didn’t recognize the number, but something told me I should answer it. “Just a sec.” I slid my finger slowly across the screen, somewhat hesitant to answer the call.
The voice on the other end was deep. “Is this Brooke Williams? I am Larry Conrad with Conrad Brothers Law firm.”
I was a little confused about why a lawyer had my name and number. It made me nervous. I quickly replied, “Yes, this is she.”
“I am calling about your Aunt Margaret’s estate. We need to meet with you regarding her will. Are you able to meet at our office tomorrow morning? We are at 68th Street and Madison Ave. Suite 15B. Let’s say nine o’clock.”
As I noted down the address, I didn’t even think to check my schedule. She’d left me something? No one in the family had mentioned it. Her death over the summer had broken my heart, even though she was older, and it wasn’t a surprise. “Yes, I will be there. See you in the morning.”
The caller said they would have more details for me tomorrow and then hung up the phone.
Leah was staring at me this whole time, probably wondering what all that was about.
“That was strange. It was a law firm, and they want me to come in tomorrow regarding my aunt’s will.”
“Really,” she whispered, raising her eyebrows and grinning. “I wonder if your aunt left you a ton of money.”
“No, my aunt wasn’t rich; she was a simple lady. She always said not to get carried away with all this material stuff in life.”
I explained to her that my Aunt Margaret was always telling me to slow down, not to work to death to buy stuff I didn’t need, and not to get caught up in the hoopla. Spending a huge chunk of my paychecks on the latest fashions was probably a waste of my hard-earned money.
When deadlines from the job were causing me to break under the pressure or working overtime to try to impress the boss was leaving me without any spare time to enjoy any hobbies, I often wondered if she was right.
At that point, it was getting late, and the sun was almost set. The two of us said our goodbyes and left the café. Luckily, the shop was just around the corner from both of our apartments, so we both had a quick walk home.