Authors: Emily Jane Trent
French bistro was humming the night Natalie arrived for dinner. Her sister spotted her and excused herself. The customers she had been chatting with smiled and nodded. Jazzy went to the front of the restaurant.
“Natty,” she said, giving her a big hug.
Natalie was glad to see her. Jazzy looked stylish, wearing a black-on-white flocked skirt with a long-sleeved blouse. Her black high-heeled, ankle boots completed the look. Whatever fashions she chose looked chic on her. Her long brown hair had been flat-ironed, so it was straight and shiny, making her look several years younger.
“Let’s sit. Will Tanner be here soon?”
“Yes, he’s meeting me here.”
“Okay, Ellis is getting the kitchen covered so he can join us. He’s prepared a special dish for you.”
“Everything he prepares is special.” Natalie noticed her sister looked paler than normal, and thought maybe she was working too much, knowing that both Jazzy and Ellis were at the bistro long hours. “How’s it going here?”
“Oh, good, good.
Ellis is an amazing chef, as you know. We’ve been getting some good write-ups in the paper. I think it’s bringing in more business.”
“Looks like it. It’s still early and it’s really filling up.”
Jazzy leaned closer, and in a low voice said, “Natty, I want to tell you something while we are alone.”
“Sure, honey, what is it?” By the look on her sister’s face, it wasn’t good news.
“We are having trouble. I mean
having trouble getting pregnant. We’ve been trying and trying but it’s not working.”
“Did you see the doctor?”
“Yes, and she says it’s a hormone imbalance. I never knew you could get that from taking the pill, but I guess you can. She thinks that is what it might be.”
“Well, then, you can fix it.”
“Maybe. I’ve been taking what she prescribes, watching my diet, everything, and it’s still not helping.”
“Is she sure that’s what it is?”
“Well, it could be other things; stress, for one.”
“I’m sure worrying about it doesn’t help.”
“No, that’s true. I’m trying to stay relaxed but it’s hard. I want a baby so badly, and I don’t want to disappoint Ellis.”
“He will understand. Ellis loves you.”
“Yes, he does. And he
understand. But I’m still concerned. What if I can’t have a baby, Natty…ever?”
“I wouldn’t assume that. Can you try other things? Reduce stress? It must be a strain working so many hours here.”
“I like it, though. I love the restaurant, and we are really starting to make it. It’s our future. But Ellis has been sending me home more often. I hope Paul will be here with him soon; maybe he will give notice at Artisan. For now Ellis says he can handle it here. But I feel useless just sitting at home. I don’t know if that’s helping. It might be worse. Then all I do is worry. At least here the customers take my mind off of everything.”
Natalie felt so bad for her sister. Jazzy would make a wonderful mother, and she wanted it so much. It didn’t seem fair. “Give it more time. Maybe you can get your hormones balanced again, and you will get pregnant.”
“I hope you are right.”
Ellis walked up to the table and slid into the chair next to
Jazmin. “How are my two favorite ladies?” He put his arm around his wife and kissed her cheek. Natalie shifted in her seat. Now knowing about their issue, she empathized with them.
“Good to see you, Ellis,” Natalie said. Over six feet, very fit, with striking blue eyes and brown hair, Ellis was handsome. He’d removed his chef’s coat and wore a beige dress shirt with dark slacks.
“And Tanner will be here soon. I’m so glad you can join us,” Jazmin said, looking at Ellis, and it was a look of love if Natalie had ever witnessed one.
“Wait until you see what I have prepared for you,” Ellis said with a gleam in his eye, but Natalie thought he seemed a bit more protective towards his wife. He kept his arm around her, and had a mild look of concern despite his pretended good cheer.
“So, you saved a place for me.” Tanner had found them. He was still dressed in his business attire, and Natalie had to admit he looked sexy and powerful in his Armani suit. Taking his jacket off and loosening his tie, he sat down. Taking Natalie’s hand, he kissed it. “What have you got to drink?”
Ellis handed him the wine list. “Take a look. I’ll be right back. I have to check on the food.”
“You look nice,” Tanner said to Natalie, ignoring the wine list for the moment. She’d worn the black onyx and diamond butterfly necklace he’d given her so long ago. It was special, and wearing it reminded her of the joy they shared. “I like that dress.” He pulled her to him and kissed her, paying no attention to Jazzy, grinning.
Tanner chose a 2009 Sea Smoke Cellars Pinot Noir, after checking to see what Ellis had planned for the meal. The wine was served, just the right temperature. They sipped their wine and enjoyed reed-thin breadsticks and olives until dinner was served. Tanner described the wine as oaky, and Natalie had to agree. She could smell its smoky aroma.
The waiter served the meal Ellis had prepared. It was salmon dijonnaise, a filet baked in mustard, citrus, and tarragon, accompanied with baby vegetables in butter sauce and red potatoes. Natalie had eaten many dishes Ellis had prepared over the years. In fact, he’d helped her cook when they were in high school together, giving her easy tips and suggestions.
After attending chef’s school and working in New York, first as
sous chef then as the chef of his own restaurant, his skill had developed. Natalie was impressed. “What did you do to this food?”
“You like it?” Ellis beamed, still chewing.
“Mmm,” Natalie mumbled, swallowing her food. “It’s delicious. It melts in my mouth.”
Tanner agreed, and held up his glass to toast the chef. Jazzy kept grinning, and couldn’t take her eyes off her charming husband.
Though the dinner was filling, Ellis didn’t let them leave without dessert. He had the waiter serve crème brûlée—creamy vanilla custard with a thin, brittle topping of caramelized sugar. It was so good Natalie finished hers, as did everyone else. They finished with tiny cups of espresso.
It was a memorable meal, all the more so since they were all together. With everyone’s busy schedule, that didn’t happen as often as Natalie would like. “I’ll call you,” she said, hugging her sister goodbye. She really hoped Jazzy would have good news soon.
On the way home, Natalie settled against Tanner in the back of the limo. They talked about dinner, family, and work, catching up with each other as if they’d been apart for weeks instead of hours.
“As a point of interest, my stepmother is now dating Pierre
Clarins. Anything he does is newsworthy, considering he’s a bachelor and worth a fortune. Aaron emailed some magazine articles to me.”
Clarins? Didn’t he take over Clarins Fine Watches when his father passed away?”
In fact, William did business with his father. I remember him. That’s how Gabriella met him; they knew each other through Clarke Luxury.”
“Yes, very. She’s does gravitate to the money. I’ll give her that.” Tanner smirked, and Natalie shook her head.
She was just glad Gabriella wasn’t around causing trouble for Tanner anymore. She didn’t know Pierre
Clarins; had only seen pictures. But she hoped he knew what he was getting into. Although it was doubtful he did. If you didn’t know her, Gabriella could be very charming, and did look awfully good for her age.
“Oh well. I guess it’s not our business,” Natalie said.
“No, and I have no interest in making it so.”
Operations at Clarke Foundation
For Young Orphans grew with Tanner’s ongoing funding activities. Using his connections in the business world, he continued to funnel money into the foundation to benefit the children. Orphanages, as such, were not as common. Residential institutions called group homes had replaced them for the most part.
The first option was to locate a relative willing to care for the child. When this wasn’t possible, the next action was to work through the state system to find foster care. As a ward of the state, a child had limited options. If foster care could not be arranged, a small home set up to care f
or children was an alternative.
Ideally, a child with no living relatives would be adopted, but too often the child was not that lucky. Tanner considered himself one of the lucky few, knowing that his adoption had changed the course of his life forever.
The funds from his foundation supported many programs to make life easier for orphans in New York. With the opening of the new administration building, expansion followed, and more could be achieved. One of the goals was to open more small homes for the children that could not be put into foster care by the state.
These homes were on the list to receive aid in the form of clothing and food, as well as money. Emma’s homemade clothes for the children did make an impact. Many of them struggled for proper clothing at all, much less a garment made with love and produced in their size. The licensed guardians who ran the homes and were charged to oversee the care of the children often sent notes of gratitude to Emma.
At Natalie’s urging, an outing was arranged. She wanted Emma to be able to meet some of the children she clothed. Jazzy and Tanner went along. The home was small, a square structure with pale green wood siding. Four steps led up to the wooden porch from the tiny square of grass in front.
Helen McKay, the middle-aged woman in charge of the facility, greeted them at the door. She wore beige slacks and a knit top; her graying hair was cut short. When she smiled, her hazel eyes lit up. She was glad to see them, and gave them a warm welcome.
The children were playing in the backyard, and looking out the window, Emma could see many of them wearing clothes she had made. “It’s good that the clothes fit,” she said.
“Yes, we appreciate your efforts. Clothing is something we always need,” Helen said.
Natalie happened to notice Jazzy staring at a boy bouncing a ball. Sadness came over her, knowing how badly her sister wanted a baby of her own.
“Can we go out?” Jazzy asked.
“Sure.” Helen opened the door and they all went outdoors. Being the last, Tanner closed the door behind him.
Jazzy went right up the small boy. He didn’t look older than four, and he was small for his age at that. He looked up at Jazzy, and Natalie saw the questioning look in his chocolate-brown eyes. Probably the facility didn’t get many visitors.
Natalie watched Jazzy talk to him, and he seemed to respond, but he never smiled. His dark wavy hair was a bit shaggy, his pants a little baggy. He held his ball in his arms as if to prevent anyone from taking it from him. After a few minutes, the boy nodded and then began bouncing the ball again.
As they looked on, Natalie, Emma, and Tanner saw the other children playing various games. To think that they had no parents to go home to was not a pleasant thought. Natalie caught a strange look in Tanner’s eyes, and she thought she understood. He used his fortune in life to help make the lives of orphans a little easier, maybe changing their lives for the better. He knew from personal experience how important that was.
“What’s his name?” Jazzy asked, looking at Helen. “He wouldn’t tell me. I think he’s shy.”
“Asher. He just turned four. His mother died in a car accident over a year ago, and he has no living relatives. He’s was in foster care for a while. For now, he’s here.”
“He’s cute. Maybe someone will adopt him,” Jazzy said.
“Maybe, but normally families wanting to adopt choose infants. It’s harder when the child is older; often their chance for adoption has passed. But we will see.”
Helen guided them back inside, and Jazzy turned to look out the window, probably trying to spot Asher.
“Thank you,” Emma said. “I’ll be sending some new clothes soon.”
“Yes, we always need them. Children come and go. The new ones always seem to be in need.”
Tanner thanked Helen, telling her how much he appreciated the work she was doing. On the way back to the car, Natalie kept looking at Jazzy. She had the strangest look on her face, like she was far away. Maybe she was just sorry to leave.
Natalie wondered if the outing had been such a good idea. The last thing she wanted to do was upset Jazzy. And Tanner looked a bit somber also. It had been good for Emma to see the results of her hard work, and Natalie vowed to try to do more with the foundation. Seeing the parentless children had touched her.
It made her think of her own father. If it weren’t for Emma, both Jazzy and she would have been no better off than the children at the care home. Leaving, never knowing if your own child was all right, seemed unthinkable. Yet her father had left his daughters and never looked back. Natalie and Jazzy had a mother that really loved them, though. And that meant everything. Looking out the window on the way home, Natalie felt lucky,