Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
6 o’clock in the morning on an unassuming Monday. The most unassuming day of the week. The sun had barely set to rise above the skyline, left the old neighborhood dusted in swatches of rosey pinks and dusky oranges. In times like this she had long realized that it was only the Abuelitas and the babies they took care of, while their exhausted mother slept off their late work night, were awake to bring on the soft sounds of shuffled steps and muffled cries.
Nevertheless, contrary to the norm of the other houses, Anita had long since started her day. Sitting now, sipping on a steaming mug of a Columbian dark roast, coffee being one of very few things that she wasted her money on, letting the heat seep into her hands while she listened to the neighborhood slowly but surely wake from its slumber. Doing her best to tune out the blare of sirens in the distance. It was too early for that.
“Nita, mi hija. You’re up already?” Sparring the moment, Anita tore her gaze from their small section of Jackson Heights, glancing back at her own grandmother who, in turn, smiled warmly at her. Just as she always had.
Rosario Villanueva had to have always been the sweetest, most caring person she would ever meet and Anita strived every day to be like her. Perhaps that was why she chose the profession that she had.
“’morning Abuelita.” She sighed, taking another sip from her novelty mug. Absently noticing that the bright red heart in the center of the cup had begun to wear off.
Rosario tisked at her granddaughter, a sound she made more often than not, worried about her habits as of late, “You come home too late. You leave early.” She was disappointed, always had been when it came to the house and family she worked for, “You are doing more than anyone should.”
She had not meant the heft of the exhale to show her complete exhaustion. But they had this very same conversation near ever single morning and for Anita, tired as she was, it was too early for them to once again have this argument. The both of them doing no more than beating an already dead horse.
“They need me Abuelita. Wasn’t it you that said to always help others when they need it. No matter if it inconveniences you.”
The older woman, after pouring a cup for herself stood next to her granddaughter, taking in the view of their neighborhood, their own little Spanish Queens. Placing her hand on the crown of the younger woman’s head. Smoothing down the untamed nest of thick fat curls. Never able to be tamed, even in her childhood. She smiled a little at that memory.
“You are already a good girl Anita. You do not have to try at it so hard.” Stooping to her level, Rosario placed a kiss against the girl’s forehead, “Mi bebè con la carita bonita y hermosa corazon.” Pretty face and beautiful heart was something she always used to describe her granddaughter, “I just don’t want to see you get hurt.” Because she could see it. Whether her foolish girl believed she could or not, she could see it. The dangerous love she held in her heart.
Anita looked up at her grandmother catching her gaze. Brown eyes, just like hers, framed by a smattering of dark freckles. Another thing that they shared, “I’m fine. I promise.” She smiled up at the woman who raised her. Unknowing of the lie she just told. Something that Rosario knew she would figure out soon enough. Because she could see it, placed strategically in a moment in the not so distance future. She would be far from fine. But she would do nothing to stamp out that optimism that would serve to keep her going when it would seem that all good and hope was lost. But what Rosario did not know was just how dangerously accurate her prediction would be.
The sharp beeping that came up from her phone, left forgotten in the center of the kitchen table, effectively broke the bonding moment between the two women. Taking the last few gulps from her mug Anita swiped the piece of toast from the side dish. Stuffing the bread between her teeth. Then shooting up from her seat she snatched up her keys, purse, and phone. Kissing her grandmother on the cheek, leaving a mess of crumbs on the smooth brown skin there. Something she knew she hated, yet doing it anyway. Mumbling a quick goodbye and offering a hearty laugh as Rosario’s loud outburst behind her. Then shouting a quick ‘I love you’ in return to the annoyed Spanish tirade sent her way, Anita locked the door behind her.
Later she would wish that she hadn’t rushed off like she did. She would wish that she had taken a longer look at her grandmother. Offered her a proper goodbye. But that was later and there was no way she could have known what would happen to her as her day progressed. She couldn’t know that there would be a very real possibility that she would never see that worried, freckled face again. So for now she made her way to the nearest entrance to the subway.
For most, being underground made them nervous. Anita was no exception. Even while swiping her Metro Pass her eyes darted to and fro. Scanning every nook and dark space around her for anything or anyone preparing to jump out at her.
It was true that in all her time using the Metro nothing had happened. Still that fact did absolutely nothing to assuage that built in paranoia. She blamed it on the New Yorker in her.
Slipping through the doors she took a seat, preparing for her commute from Queens to Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Pressing the buds of her head phones into her ears, Anita proceeded to block out the rest of the world. Unawares of the set of eyes keeping close watch on her.
Thirteen stops and a crossover later, Anita found herself standing on the front stairs of the most interesting townhouse on East 61st between Lexington and Park. The house, like many of the others, had been built straight up. Levels stacked one atop the other in a complementing mix of contemporary and what she liked to think of as old school New York architecture. No matter the eccentric style the building was still very much a clear testament to the fact that this family came from some substantial money. A queer proof, but proof none the less.
No matter though, Anita had never thought of the home in that way. She had come here and stared up at the door, with the coffee and croissant she would always get during a quick duck into the Pret shop down the street, taking it all in at least once every day for the past four years. Not because of what it symbolized fro others but because she knew of and appreciated what lived inside, passed that unique red door. Something that no matter how they tried, gaggles of ‘others’ simply couldn’t do.
She knew that money was not what drove the young master of the house. It was the love for his family, his son, and the passion for what he did. It was his life’s work in medicine and what he contributed to the world with it that drive him. He was humble and honest. Caring and kind. He was the trustworthy type. The kind of man that made you feel safe with his genuine smile. One you couldn’t help but to spill your guts to. Something that she found herself doing on more than one embarrassing occasion.
She never felt out of place here like she did in other places. And those facts made it all seem even more modest.
Pulling the set of keys from her coat pocket, Anita took a calming breath and pushed through the door, stepping over the threshold. Only to be greeted by the most amazing of sights. One that, just as her arguments with Rosario went, she saw more often than not. Yet it still managed to make her feel in a very inappropriate to business.
Her long time employer, Doctor Jameson Whitmore, not only took great care of his son and others but he also took exceptionally good care of himself.
Mouth drying instantly, she tried her hardest not to gape at the image of his bare back and each muscle there flexing and releasing with each push from the ground. A light sheen of perspiration covering him. She knew he’d only been biding time for her arrival so that he could head out for his morning run.
Squatting, after coming from his final plank and push up, he smiled that particular smile that always seemed to melt her very bones.
“Hola Nita.” He huffed.
She loved it when he spoke to her in Spanish. His subtle Australian lit giving it a uniqueness. It wasn’t condescending as others may have interpreted it to be. In all honestly it was actually comforting. Even though she spoke English fluently, he’d taken the time to learn the language after he hired her. Realizing that from time to time she had missed her childhood home in Venezuela, where the ashes of her mother and father now reside since their deaths years ago.
She gave herself only seconds to coach her body into breathing, “Good morning Mr. Whitmore.” No matter how many times he told her to use his first name. No matter how many times she did use it in her private thoughts, Anita couldn’t bring herself to actually do as he asked. Especially not while he was sporting around half naked. She needed that boundary if she wanted to keep the peace. Keep their queer friendship. If she wanted to keep him.
“Still not Jameson?” He asked, whipping his reddened face of sweat. Scratching at the incoming beard on his square chin.
“No sir.” She smiled weakly, “Please ask again tomorrow.” She’d said the same words every day. But today she thought she caught a slip of disappointment. His nostrils flaring slightly and his mouth pressed into a thin line.
She wanted to ask what turned his mouth usual smile into that unattractive line. Wanted to bring it back. But that was far from her place.
She often wondered that if circumstances were different, if she had come from a wealthy family. If she had been brainier. That things might have been different between them. That the intimacy they had eventually discovered in their years of close proximity would have grown into something greater.
Anita looked down, hiding, feeling her cheeks flush. The heat from them burning down towards her chest. It wasn’t possible and it wasn’t going to happen no matter how much she dreamt it.
“Nola Nita.” The small sleepy voice was the only thing that managed to break the awkward and confusing air between the two adults as she looked down smiling warmly at the source.
Christopher Whitmore came to stand in front of Anita, dragging his favorite blanket behind him, oblivious to the weird tension in the room.
“Buenas dias pequeño tigre.” She picked him up. Balancing him on her hip when he raised his little arms up for her.
Rubbing his eyes with the ball of his tiny fists, he shook his head, “No tigre Nita. Estoy cansado.” He poked out his bottom lip. Apparently feeling farm from the little tiger he liked to be.
“And why are you so tired?” she asked him.
“Don’t let him fool you.” Jameson interrupted the two, “He’s not sleepy. He’s in trouble.”
“He decided that instead of sleeping last night he was going he had bigger and better things to do.”
Christopher snuggled into her, pressing his face deep into her neck, protesting his father’s claim, “Show Tia Nita what you did.” Jameson admonished, still obviously frustrated.
“No.” The boy whined, burrowing deeper into her.
That was when Jameson came close to them. Too close for her comfort as she could feel the heat that fell off of him in relentless waves. In his nearness she could easily pick up everything she should not have, down to his masculine odor that didn’t bother her in slightest. So close that with her smallest shift she would be able to feel the touch of his slick skin against her bare arm, made exposed when she slipped of her coat, hanging it on the rack at the front door. Pushing rampant thoughts aside she focused on the boy in her arms as his father lifted his shirt.
She snorted. Failing to suppress the laughter that bubbled up from deep in her belly, “Oh, mi niño! What did you do?”
“Found that surprise this morning.” The boy had used his belly as an art canvas. Marking himself up with a full array of colors, “I blame you by the way.” Jameson dropped his son’s shirt, nudging her shoulder playfully.
“Blame me?” She asked full of pseudo shock, knowing full well the very valid reason.
“Yes, you.” She had been the one to get him the supply kit for his birthday almost two months ago.
Anita laughed loudly, barely covering her mouth at the sharp look he gave her, “Is it anywhere else?” She managed to choke out the question after a long, obnoxious moment.
Jameson snorted in response, “What do you think?” It was on the walls. Had to have been.
Hiking Christopher up higher on her body she promised him, “No worries. We’ll take care of the mess.” She jostled the boy when he made no comment, “Right Christopher.” Reluctantly he nodded into her neck, “Ah, pobrecito chiquito.” She mumbled into his sandy colored hair as she kissed the side of his head, making her way into the bathroom.
“There is nothing poor about that kid.” Jameson called after them. Waving a dismissive hand when no answer came.
Anita set Christopher on his feet once they stepped inside of the brightly painted bathroom. Then kneeling in front of the tub she began to run the equally colorful boy a bath. Listening out for the familiar click of the front door’s deadbolt.
“Nita?” He finally asked once she began to scrub the ink from his belly.
“Si mi hijo?” A dangerous shock zapped at her chest when she called him that. Of course, she meant nothing by it, it was only a term of endearment. But sometimes during those comfortable mornings when things felt a little too domestic. Calling him by that particular name seemed all too real. As if he could have actually been hers.
She quickly shook the thought loose. That would have meant that Jameson was hers also and that there was strictly a figment in her imagination.
“Lo siento.” She barely recognized the little apology over her own loud thoughts.
“What are you sorry for?” She asked, “Marking the walls?” She clucked her tongue, much like her grandmother would do to her, when he nodded and lowered his head, “Don’t be upset pequeño tigre.” Hooking the knuckle of her index finger beneath his chin, she lifted his head, “We can clean it up just like we can clean you up.” He shrieked, giggling from her assault on his round belly.
Placing her hands on each of his chubby cheeks, she worried his fingers through his wild hair, slicking it back with her damp hand. Smiling when he grinned exposing a mouth full of tiny teeth and pinching his dimpled cheek.
“Pretty face and beautiful heart.” She may have been channeling her grandmother, not that either one of them seemed to mind. Still, regardless of where it came from, at the moment it felt like the most appropriate thing to say.
Christopher began to rattle off in his baby Spanish, asking after ‘Abuelita’ and what interesting things she may have seen on the way to the townhome.
Anita chuckled proudly, he soaked up everything like a sponge. His grasp on her language getting better with each of their conversations. Yet, despite her pride she was beginning to feel guilty. Especially after her latest encounter with his upper crust mother the afternoon she brought him home to his father at the end of her weekend. That woman was something else and if she were being honest she would admit to prefer to not have that snake hiss at her again.
“Que lindo chiquito. Your Spanish is getting very good. But I think that it is time for English now. Don’t you?”
“Why?” he lamented, wriggling around in protest.
“Because you have to use that too. Both languages deserve a chance to grow.” She pulled him up, helping him step out of the tub and into the plush towel she had waiting.
“But I like Spanish better.” She felt her chest swell with admiration.
“Your mommy speaks English Christopher.” She stated firmly, “And I heard that on your last visit you refused to use it.”
“Yes.” She understood why he saw no reason to deny it.
“But do you know how that made her feel?”
He frowned, a look that reminded her of his father, as he picked up the admonishment in her voice, “No.” She dried him off before wrapping him up tightly in the material.
“It made her sad.” Anita may have exaggerated but she refused to allow him to continue the disrespect he held towards his mother as of late, no matter how much she deserved it, “Because she couldn’t talk to her little boy.” She continued to build the woman up for Christopher even though he perceived just fine what little the woman actually thought of her son.
“I know that if I had a little boy like you I would want to talk to him all of the time.” She offered him the truth, tweaking his nose.
Her young charge lowered his head. It was complicated for him. Hell, it would be complicated for anyone. Forced to be the one to act as the adult. To be the bigger person when he should have been able to whine and cry and tantrum his way through his problems like any other four year old. Better yet, he shouldn’t have had to deal with this particular problem at all. Why did he have to bend over backward to make someone happy? The same someone that should have been living only to do that for him. But who instead barely spent time with him. She felt her face transform into that of a scowl.
Shaking it off, she gently shook his shoulders regaining his lost attention, “I tell you what. Since you have no school today, how about we go to the park after breakfast and see if the baby sparrows beneath the willow have hatched.”
Heavy mood forgotten for the time being, Christopher nodded with pure excitement, taking off as fast as he could toward his room.
“Stop running in this house little boy!” She shouted after him despite knowing that her command would have fallen on deaf ears.
As per their agreement, the moment he was dressed and fed the duo passed by Jameson on his way in as he smiled and waved at them both making their way to Central Park.
No matter the time of day the area was always busy with either tourist who’d gotten an early start in their seeing of the sights or by the native New Yorker, like Jameson, on their morning run before a long day behind a desk. Then there were those that simply meandered the path, much like the bundled duo were doing themselves.
A coffee in one hand and Christopher’s in the other, who held his own paper cup of hot chocolate, looking every bit the part of a budding city boy.
“Do you see them?” Anita called, pointing to the low hanging willow.
“No.” He pouted, squinting.
“They hatched.” She directed him to look passed the drape of grey Spanish moss. His gasp was priceless as she let him go to catch a closer look, “You can look but don’t touch them.”
She could hear, clear as the day itself, her grandmother’s scolding voice reminding her of how dangerously stupid she was being. Yet no matter how right she was, Anita could not bring herself heed that admonishment. It was too late for all of them for her to build a wall there.
“You’ve got a good kid there.”
The flutter in her chest traveled to tint her brown cheeks a rosy hue, “Oh, he’s not…” She frowned, her voice trailing off at the stranger’s presence. It was something about him that immediately put her on guard. It was odd to say the least. There was no real reason, just a vibe that permeated the air around him. Perhaps it was the unreal attractiveness that fell off of him so easily. Like bait. The way he smiled, made to pull in everyone to see it. Or maybe it was his eyes, too perfect and a clear cornflower blue.
Not to say that Anita automatically assumed that he meant her or Christopher harm just because he was too pretty. But that as he stood there, simply smiling, he was…creepy. That’s it, he was beautifully creepy.
“…Thank you.” She finished instead. Calling for her charge to return to her side. Who, with a dramatic huff, stomped over to hold her hand.
“Come on kid, it’s time to go.”
“But I thought…” Anita pulled him to her side stopping all protests.
“I know. But we have to go back now.” She smiled politely at mister blue eyes before moving to hustle them as far away as possible as quickly as possible.
“Stop!” He called after them, the timber of his voice low and, to her frazzled senses, menacing. Halting her in her tracks. Her nerves bubbling in her belly, burning against taunt muscle. Preparing her to run.
With caution she turned her head to face him. Careful to keep her boy the farthest from him as she could.
“Can’t forget this.” He was too cheerful, playing too hard at being innocent. She realized then what she did not like about him and she knew the act well from her experiences with men in Jackson Heights. He wanted something. Something he knew that she would not be quick or willing to give. So to relax her, over that desire, he placed that false face.
She almost told him to keep it, what he held in his hands, Christopher’s navy blue knitted scarf. Instead, rather than admit that he had been made, she held out a hand to accept it. Barely managing to get out a cool ‘thank you’.
The smile that stretched his face, revealing a dimple in his left cheek, would have been considered utterly handsome to absolutely anyone else.
“You are very welcome.” He continued to speak even as she turned her back to him and what he said, though it was nothing out of the ordinary, sent a chill so cold down her back that the dip in the whether no longer bothered her.
“You should stay inside today. It’s supposed to snow I think.” It was simple and rather innocent and still she could barely mutter a quick thanks before nearly running out of the park and into the busy sidewalk.
“Tina Nita, why are we going so fast?” Christopher complained, pulling at her hand in an attempt to get free.
With no explanation to give she only scooped him up, settling him against her hip. Unable to shake the feeling of particular heaviness that was suddenly compounded with the niggling tingle of being watched. Regardless if there had not been valid reason for it she still could not shake it. Which should have been ridiculous because there was nothing important about them, a kid and his nanny. It was true that his father was amazingly wealthy. But he wasn’t news worthy nor did he have any enemies…that she knew of; and yet, she just could not shake that feeling. That sense of dread even as she shut the door behind them. Yea, dread, that’s what it was.
Sooooo I probably should have finished Specter before making a little side story in the series...yuppers a series...but it isn't necessary. This stands completely on its own I just like the idea of it all happening in the same universe. Teehee. Now I know this first chapter is pretty slow, but every story needs a beginning and since these are characters never seen before I thought they deserved at least a little bit of introduction if only an introduction haha. So boom, like I always say, I hope you enjoy and stick with me until the end and if you like it that's cool and if you don't that's cool too.
Also! If any have read Rush: Specter you may find that you see some characters you already know. :)
Happy Reading Chamber mates and please do not post on any other site without my explicit permission. Muchas Gracias, Thanks so much, and all those good things. -L.C.