EDITH GALLAGHER BOYD - UNDERTONES
Later in the evening, I realized how seldom my dad advised me on my personal life. My parents had been very traditional in their roles, and my dad worked hard at his job and his golf game. Since Mom’s death, he retreated into himself and his work, and he endorsed my choices including my recent move to Boston.
Snuggling with Evan under our new comforter, I tried to dismiss my dad’s comments as protective paternal advice.
“Say it,” I said to Evan.
“You’re my rosebud.”
The romance had ignited like a house on fire. Early on, he picked that gentle, endearing name and I loved it, and I loved him.
Earlier that day, some college friends who lived in Boston threw me a surprise engagement party at a bistro in Copley Square. I flashed my diamond around as I saw brides do in earlier times, not caring what others thought, my bliss filling me completely.
I was disappointed that Courtney didn’t attend but she was working long hours in the District Attorney’s Office. And one evening when she joined us for drinks, her lips were pinched, her smiles less than glowing. I dismissed it that she feared we’d spend less time together. Or did she see something that I didn’t?
Under the toasty covers, I listened to Evan’s breathing slowing into sleep and I spooned into him, smiled, then remembered what my dad had said.
“Margo, take it slowly. I don’t trust this guy.”
I was approaching the restaurant, phone in my right hand, thanked Dad for caring, and told him I’d call him soon, as I was meeting friends shortly.
When I walked into Oak Bar I was delighted to see balloons, banners and friends in a little room to the right. “Congratulations Margo and Evan!” They said. Evan twirled me around a few times then kissed me lightly on the cheek.
“Thanks you guys,” was all I could think of to say.
Before I drifted off to sleep, I savored the memory of my first glance at Evan, his helping the movers angle a couch through my front door, his biceps tightening under the weight of the couch. He just seemed to appear out of nowhere and successfully maneuvered the brown leather couch into my living room.
When the movers were done, Evan sat with me on my brown couch, and I was pinching myself that this attractive helpful guy lived upstairs in the same apartment building. While peeking at his profile, I imagined doing all kinds of things with him. So few guys interested me, and those who did seemed to be unavailable. I hadn’t had a boyfriend since high school.
Evan proved to be very different from the young men I was used to. He complimented the slightest thing about me, a change in jewelry or perfume scent, and he gifted me with flowers for our second month’s anniversary of meeting.
During our take-out anniversary dinner in my little kitchen, Evan brought one of the yellow roses he’d given me from the living room and placed it between us on the table.
“My Mom loved flowers,” he said softly. “Dad was pretty good about gifting my Mom with them.”
If I live to be a hundred years old, I will never forget how touched I was by his saying that. Even after everything that I learned about Evan.
Although the romance escalated quickly, we kept our separate residences. When Evan asked for a key to my apartment I gave it to him because I loved how he spoiled me after a long shift playing music at the radio station. He often prepared a crock pot dinner which I smelled as soon as I parked my snow boots next to the door.
His working at home as a day trader, allowed him to provide both of us with small luxuries which made my long work days easier. Early on, I picked up that Evan didn’t like a lot of questions about his work, and I wasn’t terribly interested in stocks or Wall Street or anything like that.
Shortly after our two month anniversary dinner, Courtney threw a party at her spacious condo near Copley Square.
“Didn’t you say she works in the D.A.”s office?” Evan said quietly as we splashed limes into our drinks in the kitchen. It puzzled me, his saying that.
“Last I heard, civil service jobs afforded studios in Brighton, not this….”
Evan said swaying his arm like an orchestra director to the light-filled view of downtown Boston.
A frisson of annoyance crept down my spine, that he noticed anything but Courtney’s generous spirit. Maybe I was used to the stories of how her parents provided for her every need as she made her way through B.U. Law School. I reminded myself to ask Evan more about his childhood as I mingled with Courtney’s friends and pictured actually living in this frigid weather with snow banks still melting in late April.
Always thoughtful, Courtney and my dad conspired to have Dad surprise me at this gathering. Evan attempted to wash some glassware, and Courtney shooed him toward the front door, where my dad had entered with a bouquet of flowers for our hostess.
I rushed over to Dad and he squeezed me and said, “Margo.”
“Here for business?” I said to him after he parked his boots by the door.
“Here for you, Margo.”
I could feel Evan’s gaze and turned to him and asked him to come meet my dad. Dad gave Evan a strong handshake, and I let them speak to each other without me. Dad showed no signs of displeasure, no shoulder up to his ear, as he had with my high school boyfriend. I couldn’t wait to ask each what he thought of the other.
As I file through the events of Evan and me, I remember each of them, my dad and Evan tended to change the subject of what was thought of the other. At the time, I took a child-like pleasure that each considered me his treasure.
Evan liked to warm my ears with his big hands, and I remember, interrupting him to ask about my father, and his tickling me and distracting me. Dad asked me something about my financial situation, and I took it for code that he was still the boss in my life, however subtly.
During one of my father’s short visits to Boston, Evan and I met Dad in a bustling bar in Cambridge, as he was staying nearby at The Charles Hotel.
Dad waved us over to a booth and said, “Thought you kids would like this better than my hotel bar,” sounding somewhat nerdy but endearing.
He’d even ordered a pitcher of beer before we arrived, and the three of us toasted one another with our frosty beer mugs. Dad had also ordered appetizers saving us from the awkward thumbing through menus while making small talk.
While we were finishing off the chicken fingers, Evan took a sip of beer and said to Dad,
“Did Margo’s mother enjoy getting flowers like Margo does?”
Evan and I fought later that night over his probing question.
Dad stiffened upright in the booth and said, “I don’t talk too much about my life with Emily.”
I felt annoyed with both of them, especially my father.
Evan said, “I’m sorry, sir. I didn’t mean to intrude. Margo loves roses and so did my Mom.”
My father switched gears smoothly and said, “No. I’m sorry, Evan. That came out wrong.” But knowing Dad the way I did, I could tell he wasn’t sorry about anything but maybe my choice of a beau.
After our Uber driver dropped us off, I kicked the dirty snow bank lining our walk and said, “Snow in April. I hate Boston!”
“I don’t think it’s the snow or Boston you’re mad at, Margo,” he said while unlocking the outer door to our building.
“I blew it with your dad, and I’m sorry.”
“How could you ask him such a personal question?” I said to him when we got into our apartment
“Maybe we should re-think this thing we’re in,” he said, and grabbed his coat and left.
Within an hour we were together under the covers no time for talk of rosebuds.
In the middle of one of our music segments at the studio, I could feel myself building a resentment against my father. I wouldn’t say this to Evan, but my uptight parents never got with the new times at all.
“I’ll never learn to text,” my mother used to say archly.
Oh Mom, I wanted to say, you never met an i-phone. You’d be texting me as I left the radio station, insisting I “let you sleep” knowing I was safely home. You would tell me how you feel about Evan slightly more directly than Dad. I didn’t expect you to be blunt with me, but I expected that your reaction to Evan would be easier to read.
“I miss you, Mom,” I said aloud until one of my co-workers nudged me to cut to an ad. The music, which sustained me and warmed me in the chilly air of New England, was stopping so we could sell heart meds to aging baby boomers.
As I re-construct time frames in my mind, I think it was shortly after our engagement, that a police officer tapped on my door, his partner out of sight of my peep hole.
“Sir, “I said aloud. “How may I help you?”
“Routine crime alert, M’am. “
I asked to see their badges, and opened the door and showed them to the brown couch.
They refused my offer of water, and told me of a “weirdo thief M’am,” in the area.
Officer McDermott told me this perp was an expert jewel thief and a bit of Peeping Tom.
“Just want the ladies being careful,” McDermott said.
I could picture my friends erupting over his saying ladies, but this was a good guy, an earnest civil servant and I was grateful for the warning.
More news spread about the bizarre thief and I often brought Evan with me to the joint laundry area which creeped me out in many ways. I wasn’t as pampered as my friend Courtney, but I learned real estate in Boston was steep. And it took nearly six figures to rent a place with its own laundry area.
One evening in May, when the daffodils were peeking through the grassy plot behind the radio station, I received a text from Courtney.
“Margo, I need to see you. This can NOT wait.”
Oh yes it can, I thought spitefully as I pictured her absence during the engagement festivities at the Oak Bar.
Coupled with my father, I had begun to resent Courtney, with her oh- so- perfect apartment and oh -so -perfect boyfriend.
I remember her near sneer when I told her Evan was a day trader.
Everyone isn’t born with a law degree, I wanted to say.
When I arrived at my apartment, there was a note taped to my door from Melinda upstairs.
“Margo, I made too much chili. Text me if you’d like some.”
I wasn’t crazy about chili, but I liked keeping up with a young woman in my building so after I changed into jeans and a sweater, I sent Melinda a text. She was born in Maine and I knew she’d notice my sweater on a May evening, but I was convinced I’d never warm up in this chilly city.
“Give me five minutes” was her reply.
And I did.
She poured me a glass of red wine and we caught up on the events in our lives.
There was a loud knock on the door, and she looked out and said, “Margo, it’s the cops.”
I joined her at the peephole and saw one of them was Officer Mc Dermott and told her not to worry because it was a routine crime alert.
She let them in and Officer Mc Dermott nodded to me indicating he remembered me and Melinda offered them her tattered couch. She pulled two card table chairs out of her closet and we sat facing the officers.
Looking at his notes, McDermott said, “Margaret, nice to see you again.”
Melinda looked wary and I remembered all the foot traffic coming here and hoped the cops weren’t here to bust Melinda.
“I told Margaret here to be careful of a weirdo jewel thief, but we have more details to share, “Officer Mc Dermott said.
I could feel Melinda’s relief that the focus of this visit had nothing to do with her brownies.
“This guy is good. Creeps in un-noticed to women’s apartments,” I wondered if he’d been corrected for the word ladies, “steals some jewelry and brings a piece to the sleeping victim and whispers, “ ‘You’re my rosebud.’ “
It borders on the miraculous that I didn’t scream and drop my wine.
“He doesn’t hurt them, just steals their stuff and scares the be-Jesus out of them. He leaves as quietly as he arrives.”
Stunned, dazed and absolutely devastated, I agreed to meet Courtney at the Oak Bar.
She was seated at a high top table in the bar area and she hopped off the stool and hugged me and said, “Margo.”
Not trusting myself to speak, I sat and watched her fumble through the folder in front of her.
“I have bad news,” she said. “Evan is not who he says he is.”
“And you know this, how?” I said, still clinging to the myth, the euphoria of our romance.
“The night your father came to my party, I saved Evan’s glass to check his fingerprints,” she said looking down at the folder.
“I set it aside for as long as I could stand it, but news of your engagement propelled me to check him out. I’ve never felt right about this guy,” Courtney said.
“How much or how little do you want to know?” She said, assuming a lawyer-like tone.
“Everything you’ve got, Courtney.”
“His name is Billy Colton. Not William, just Billy,” she said,. There are bench warrants out for him in several states.”
“Stop!” I said.
“Please just tell me about his parents,” I said.
“Both heroin addicts who died before his first birthday. Grew up in the foster system in Upstate New York,” she said, and then, “I’m so sorry, Margo. I really am.”
Courtney’s sources in the D.A. Office informed her that they already had Evan, as I will always remember him at the station, and he was docile and cooperative.
I accepted Courtney’s offer to stay in her guest bedroom as long as I liked.
She accompanied me to my apartment to help me pack a suitcase for my stay, and my mouth felt like cotton candy as we walked by the brown couch.
My stay at Courtney’s was much longer than I intended, but she assured me repeatedly, that she enjoyed having company. She offered to return to my apartment with me several times, and on one such visit we saw Melinda who mercifully didn’t mention Evan.
There were days at work when the taste of betrayal threw me into a rage making my choice in music rather blaring and off for the mood of our station. When my insurance kicked in, I found a therapist to work through my angst and disappointment.
On the evening I accepted Courtney’s offer to move in with her, I felt hopeful about my future.
Although I wouldn’t share this with Courtney, as I was drifting off to sleep that night, the lights of the Boston skyline across the foot of my bed, I consoled myself that my instincts weren’t completely wrong about Evan, ……that I saw something good in the boy who wanted his father to delight his mother with yellow roses.