“Miss this is some mighty fine brandy,” said Tom as he took an appreciative sip of Remy Martin.
“You think you are a real stand up comic calling me Miss. Quick, call Jimmy Fallon. You wouldn’t be so cavalier, if Melanie only called you Mister. Obviously she has no problem calling you Tom,” I said.
“When I met her plane, I told her to call me Tom. I suspect she was so glad to see someone at the other end of her trip all barriers were erased.”
“I realize I’m repeating myself, but the good stuff of life deserves repeating because the bad stuff hogs center stage. The dinner you and Melanie prepared was magnificent. I’ll admit my opinion might be skewed, because the last time I had a home cooked meal was last nine months ago at Thanksgiving,” said Tom.
“I take it, you don’t cook then?”
“Technically what comes out of my kitchen doesn’t fit the definition of home cooked with the exception of my grilled cheese sandwich specials. Those babies allow me to puff out my chest.”
“No way! I’m a major grilled cheese sandwich fan. I look forward to tasting one of those offerings.” I said. As soon as the words left my mouth, I felt a blush slowing ascending. Hello to body— I’m well beyond the blushing stage. To cover my confusion I took a sip of brandy. Why did I say that? What made me think I would ever be at his place to eat a grilled cheese sandwich or there for any reason at all. For all I knew a non-cooking trophy wife was lounging at home in something skimpy and silky impatiently waiting for him to come walking through the door. What did I care anyway?
To redirect the conversation I said in a rush, “It’s time to cut to the chase.”
“Aah the Lady Warrior is unsheathing her sword,” said Tom, elaborately making a show of checking his watch. “Thank you for waiting this long and plying me with food and drink.” Tom put his brandy snifter down, folded his hands across chest and gazed at me intently.
“Bloody Hell Tom. What’s all this talk about skewering you with a sword and then looking at me with your lawyer face? I merely want to discuss Melanie’s welfare.”
“I know. But before you vault on to your horse and begin your charge, allow me to preface this conversation that I too am concerned about Melanie’s welfare.”
“Good, then we’re on the same sheet of music. Here’s the situation as I see it. Even though I personally don’t have the aptitude to mother a child or a life style to accommodate one, she is sweet, bright little girl who deserves a family complete with a Mom and Dad. As I mentioned to you yesterday, her schooling up to this point appears to have been non-existent. However with the few exercises she and I have done together, this kid is beyond quick. It’s essential for her to be in a school which will construct an independent learning plan for her. I feel she will catch up in no time and in fact eventually excel. If Melanie is packed into an overcrowded class room with a harried teacher, she’ll start her school experience feeling pressured and behind and heaven forbid flat out stupid. I’m not going to let that happen. I’ve sourced out a couple of excellent schools. I’ll give you the information and addresses to hand over to the caseworker to add to her file. It’ll save her new family some footwork.”
I reached over and poured more pour brandy into my snifter. “Do you want more?” I asked.
“Since my car’s in the garage and I’m taking a taxi home, hit it,” said Tom as he smiled, which crinkled his cheeks in a boyish beguiling way like Hugh Grant’s smile. Shocking myself, I realized I found Tom attractive both in looks and manner. The dinner conversation had been lively, relaxed and sprinkled with Tom’s humorous banter. Even Porter seemed to enjoy his company. He was easy to be around and for some reason that fact bothered me.
For a few moments we sat quietly savoring the satin glow of the honeyed brandy. The silence lay lightly in the room.
“Eleanor,” Tom said gently. “There’s no doubt Melanie is special little girl. However the reality is harsh. The foster care system is overloaded. We will be extremely fortunate to find her a placement at all and thus there is zero option to steer the system with any requirements. Also it’s common for the foster home to be run only by a woman. You can’t assume there will be both a Mom and a Dad figure.
There is one piece of good news. Since Melanie’s parents are dead and no family member wants her, she would be available for adoption.“ Tom paused and looked at me pointedly. Refusing to meet his gaze, I laid my head on the back of the armchair and closed my eyes. “Adoption is a lengthy process. So during the search and qualifying period Melanie would be in foster care.”
I jumped up and sloshed brandy on my skirt. “That’s so ridiculous. Melanie has been through the wringer. I won’t have it.”
Tom said nothing.
“Well don’t just sit there looking like Yoda, come up with a solution. You’re a lawyer. We all know lawyers are a sneaky conniving bunch, who know how to work the system to their client’s advantage whether it’s right or not. Melanie’s your client. Do something!”
Tom said gravely, “You think I look like Yoda?” Tom ran his fingers through his dark graying hair. “Look I have all my hair.” Then he smiled—big. “See here I have all my teeth. Yoda indeed.”
“Don’t try to distract me by making me laugh. I’m serious,” I said as I sat down again.
“Listen Eleanor,” said Tom as he leaned forward and grabbed my hand between both of his. “I agree Melanie deserves the best. I’m honestly doing everything I can to make that happen, but there is a point beyond which I have no control. You as a relative have more power in what course her life takes than you are fully embracing. Maybe you’ll step into the full power, maybe you won’t, nevertheless she is fortunate to have you in her corner.”
Tom dropped my hand and sat back in his chair. My hand felt chilled without the warmth of his hands and a feeling of loneliness seeped into my immediate awareness. Lonely? No more brandy for me.
To Be Continued:
Take a Look at A Sample of Tom’s Famous Grilled Cheese Sandwiches. I’m sure you will agree there really are something for Tom to puff his chest out about!
Abbe at This is How I Cook created the Guinness Irish Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Bacon
Addie at Culicurious tops the chart with this recipe for Gourmet Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Apple, Brie & Chutney
Jo at Jo Cooks came up with a game ready Buffalo Chicken and Grilled Cheese Sandwich.