Parting Gift

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The temperature had dropped considerably since Magdalene Brooks had started out on her walk along Prospect Park West and she found herself pulling her light coat just a bit tighter against her body. She hadn’t planned to go all the way down to Grand Army Plaza, but once she did, the autumn sun was already setting before she could make it half way back home.

Still, even with the sudden chill, it was a pleasant walk as she alternated her gaze between the old brownstones across the street on her right and the tree filled meadows of the park to her left. As many years as she had spent living in Manhattan, this part of Brooklyn had always been dearest to her heart, if for no other reason than the fact that she had grown up less than a half mile south, in the less affluent part of Park Slope. At least that was what it had been forty years ago.

But time moves on, and with it, inevitable change. An influx of new money had dramatically changed her old neighborhood, so much that most of her childhood haunts were long gone. Still, the park remained, as it had done so for over a hundred years, and it was to that familiar ground that the tall brunette had retreated to consider her options as her life faced a drastic change of her own.

By this time next week, Magdalene reflected, she would be a single woman, her marriage a thing of the past. The reason for the change was common enough: her husband now preferred another woman in his bed. As unsettling as that realization had been, it was hard for her to feel as much righteous anger as one might expect. After all, twelve short years before, she had been the other woman and the fact that she had eventually married her lover didn’t mitigate that.

Magdalene had been a twenty-eight year old consultant when she’d first met James Brooks, a rising star in the law firm of McCord, Jackson and Myers. Fifteen years her senior, the celebrated trial lawyer had dazzled her with his charms and effortlessly guided her into his bed, notwithstanding the fact that there was already a Mrs. Brooks of some twenty years. Now, the tables had turned and the new woman in James’ life, soon to be the third Mrs. Brooks, was a twenty-three year old paralegal whom the recently made partner had met two years earlier.

“Well, as they say,” Magdalene muttered to herself as she waited for the light in the crosswalk to change, “karma is a bitch.”

Not that James wasn’t paying dearly for her to go quietly into the night and not cause problems for him at the firm. The pricey townhouse apartment that she now lived in was just part of their separation agreement, along with a final financial settlement that well exceeded what their original prenuptial called for. Magdalene may have been foolishly blind to his infidelity, but no one could ever accuse her of being stupid.


The building she had moved into six months before was only two blocks down from the park, and as she neared the three story structure, Magdalene noticed a slim young man in jeans and a brown bomber jacket standing in front of it. Despite this being a normally safe neighborhood, the long haired brunette hadn’t been brought up to take chances. So she continued down the opposite side of the street until she was well past her destination, slowing just enough to try and get a good look at the stranger. It wasn’t until he moved out of the shadow and into the twin entranceway lamps that recognition dawned. Taking a moment to check for oncoming traffic, she quickly crossed the street.

“Riley, what in the world are you doing here?” she asked, approaching the young man from the opposite direction in which he was looking.

“Hi Magdalene,” the sandy haired eighteen year old said after turning at the sound of her voice, “I was waiting for you.”

“Waiting for me?” she repeated.

“Dad sent some papers that he wanted you to have tonight,” he explained, partially lifting a small leather briefcase in his hand.

Magdalene was understandably curious as to what could be so important on a Friday night that it had to be hand delivered, but she knew that she wasn’t going to get an answer out here on the street. Saying that whatever the excuse, she was glad to see him, she invited him upstairs where they could be more comfortable.

Magdalene had barely taken a step up the stoop when Riley practically raced up past her to open and hold the outer door of the vestibule for her. She thanked him with a smile as she entered the small area, then unlocked the inner door while he waited. As they walked up the stairs to the third floor, she glanced over her shoulder and said she hoped he hadn’t been waiting long.

“Not too long,” Riley replied, keeping a few steps behind her, a reply that, given what she knew of him, could’ve been five minutes or over an hour.

By all rights, given just the facts, people might assume that Magdalene and the teenager following her had an acrimonious relationship. After all, Magdalene had been the one who broke up his mother’s marriage.

Technically, Helen Brooks was etiler escort actually his Aunt, but she had raised him after his parents had died when he was four and that was the way he always thought of her. Just as he always simply thought of Magdalene as his surrogate father’s wife rather than a step-mom because, after the divorce, he had continued to live with his aunt.

From the very beginning, to show that she had no intention of replacing Helen in his life, Magdalene had insisted Riley call her by her first name. At most she was hoping for simply a peaceful coexistence but, much to her surprise, she and Riley developed a friendship that only grew stronger as he moved from his teen years to adulthood.

“Make yourself comfortable,” Magdalene said as the entered the apartment, taking off her coat and hanging it on a rack in the hall.

“This is a very nice place,” Riley said as he stepped into the living room, taking off his jacket as he did so and laying it across a wooden chair before taking a seat on the couch.

“Thank you,” Magdalene replied as she followed him in. “Before anything else, can I get you something to drink?”

“No, I’m fine,” Riley replied, lifting the case up onto his lap.

“Okay, I can take a hint,” Magdalene quipped. “Let me have whatever’s in that case, so I can see what’s so all fired important that it couldn’t wait until Monday.”

Riley removed a slim, legal sized folder and before he could rise to give it to her, Magdalene stepped over and took it from his hands.

Once she held it, she hesitated for a moment, fearing that James had suddenly decided to abrogate the deal they’d already agreed to. That would be just like him, she thought, remembering a number of legal cases he had won by changing an agreement at the last minute when his opposition couldn’t afford the time to renegotiate. She took a deep breath, then opened the folder.

“Oh my goodness, do you know what this is?” Magdalene asked after flipping through the document that was in the folder.

Riley nodded his head. Having spent the summer as an intern at his father’s firm – he would be leaving next week for college – Riley knew full well what was in the folder he had brought. Having him, rather than one of the normal messengers, bring it over had been his father’s idea, figuring that Magdalene was less likely to shoot the messenger if he was that person.

“My understanding was that we were going to do this at the end of next week,” she stated as she continued to read text that was already quite familiar to her. “Why the sudden rush?”

Riley took a breath before answering, still feeling a bit angry that his father had dumped this charge on him.

“Dad and Amanda are flying down to the Virgin Islands this weekend,” Riley said in a soft, even tone. “It was originally just supposed to be a quick business trip, but they decided that it was the perfect place for them to be married.”

“They decided?” Magdalene queried.

“Well, Amanda decided,” Riley clarified.

“And obviously they can’t get married if I haven’t signed the final papers,” Magdalene pointed out.

Again Riley nodded his head.

“And again, obviously, James wants to do anything he can to make Amanda happy,” she added, a touch of sadness washing across her as she remembered a time when he’d felt that way about her.

This time, Riley didn’t even attempt to answer, since that was self evident.

“I can see now why he sent you with this,” Magdalene remarked as she again looked down again at the papers that would officially end her marriage.

Riley braced himself for what he feared would be an emotional response. To his surprise, none was forthcoming.

Instead, Magdalene carried the papers over to the countertop that separated the kitchen and living room and, removing a pen from the drawer, signed them in all the places indicated. She hesitated a short moment before affixing her final signature, but then added that as well.

“Well, that’s it then,” she said, taking another long breath before turning back to Riley and handing the folder back to him.

Riley felt he should say something, but had no idea what. So he just took the papers and slipped them back into his case.

“You know, I think I could really use a drink right now,” Magdalene said, asking after a few moments’ pause, “would you care to join me?”

Despite being three years under the legal drinking age, Riley didn’t hesitate to say yes, feeling that he should at least show some sympathy for what she was feeling. It would hardly be the first time he’d shared a glass with the woman across from him.

Magdalene stepped around the counter and removed an already chilled bottle of wine from the small rack on the bottom of the refrigerator. Two large glasses from the cabinet over the sink followed. Then, both hands full, she walked back into the living room and handed one to Riley before taking a seat on the other side of the small couch.

“So, what shall we drink to?” Magdalene gebze escort asked.

Riley thought about that for a moment, finally coming up with something he thought suitable and thankfully, neutral.

“How about, new beginnings?” he said.

“That sounds appropriate,” Magdalene said with a smile as, after tapping his glass with her own, she took a rather long sip of wine. “As I remember, you’re starting college next week, definitely a new beginning.”

Riley smiled before taking his own sip, thinking that was hardly the new beginning he had thought of, but it would do.

“Are you excited?” Magdalene asked.

“I guess so,” he replied. “It’s a big step, not only school but moving out on my own. California is pretty far away.”

“I’ve no doubt you’ll do fine,” the brunette replied. “I have every confidence in you. I always have.”

That was certainly true, Riley thought. Despite the differences in their ages and the somewhat awkward connection her marriage to his father made between them, Magdalene had always been a friend – be it someone who was always there to help with school, or discuss more personal matters he couldn’t bring himself to talk about with his parents.

They talked a bit more about his college plans and the move cross country, finishing their glasses of wine. Without asking, Magdalene refilled both, indicating non-verbally that she really didn’t want to be alone right now.

“Are you going down to the islands too?” she asked after taking a taste of the second glass, changing the subject.

“No, I wasn’t invited,” Riley said after sampling his own.

“That’s surprising,” Magdalene replied. “You and your dad normally get along so well, I would have thought he would want you to be his best man.”

“To be honest, I was sort of expecting that too,” Riley admitted, “but he didn’t ask.”

“Any idea why?”

“Well, it’s no secret that Amanda really doesn’t even like being in the same room as me,” Riley pointed out.

“Why is that?” she asked out of curiosity.

“I’m not totally sure, but I think that the fact that dad has a son nearly as old as she is kind of freaks her out,” he explained.

“Well, she is marrying a man who’s fifty-five and now has two marriages behind him,” Magdalene stated. “That has to come with at least some baggage.”

“I guess so,” Riley agreed.

“How do you feel about her?” Magdalene then asked after another bit of wine.

“Well, to be honest, I really don’t have a high opinion of her,” Riley replied almost without hesitation.

“Why is that?”

“I’m not really certain,” he answered. “I’m not around her all that much, but when I have been, I really think she comes across like an immature airhead. I mean, I knew girls in high school that acted more adult.”

“Well, your father obviously sees something in her,” Magdalene pointed out.

“Yeah, and we both know what that is,” Riley laughed.

Magdalene couldn’t help but chuckle a little herself.

“Also, it really pisses me off, what she did to you,” Riley abruptly added.

“What she did to me?” Magdalene asked, a bit confused as she could only recall two or three times that she even met Amanda, and all had been exceedingly brief encounters.

“She destroyed your marriage,” Riley said. “If she hadn’t starting fucking my dad, the two of you would still be together and you’d be happy.”

“Riley, I think that your dad had as much to do with that, if not more, than Amanda did,” Magdalene heard herself say, not believing that she was actually coming to the defense of the woman she’d referred to in her initial anger as that ‘little blonde whore’.

Then, another thought filled her head.

“Riley, you’re an adult now, but even when you legally weren’t, I’ve always tried to treat and talk to you as one,” she began.

“I’ve always appreciated that,” he interrupted.

“So I’m sure that somewhere along the way, someone in your family told you about how your mother’s marriage ended, and my role in it.”

“Yeah, Aunt Carol made sure she told me all about it when I was a teenager,” Riley replied, “she still refers to you as that bimbo with the big boobs.”

“Well, it’s no secret that your Aunt Carol and I haven’t gotten along from the beginning,” Magdalene said, having heard that description of her before. She thought it said more about the older woman than it did about her, as neither of the Floyd sisters had been particularly blessed in the mammary department.

“Riley, I’ve never asked you this before, but I’ve always wondered about it,” Magdalene said, a bit emboldened by the wine. “Seeing that we’re always tried to be totally honest with each other, you must realize that Amanda isn’t doing anything different to me than I did to your mother. So why were you never as angry at me as you seem to be at Amanda?”

“Aunt Carol used to get upset about that too,” Riley replied, “The fact that I didn’t hate you, I mean. But mom never seemed to hate you, or have a problem göztepe escort with us being friends, so I really couldn’t come up with a reason why I should. Besides, by the time Aunt Carol dropped her bombshell, back when I was thirteen, by the way, I already liked you and wasn’t about to change that.”

“Your mother is a very smart woman,” Magdalene noted, actually meaning it, as she had come to truly respect her predecessor over the years.

“I always thought so,” Riley agreed, draining the last of his glass.

Holding hers up to note the small amount left, Magdalene did the same.

“Well, since I have no place I need to go, I think I can handle one more,” she said as she glanced over her shoulder at the more than half empty bottle on the counter. “But I’m sure I’ve kept you from whatever you were planning for tonight long enough – after all, it is Friday night.”

“I really didn’t have any plans,” Riley replied, “and I’d really like to stay, if that’s okay.”

“Riley, you’re always welcome in my home, wherever that might be,” Magdalene smiled. “But if we are both going to finish off the bottle, I’m going to have to insist that you stay over. I don’t have a guest room but I know from experience that this couch is pretty comfortable.”

“Couldn’t be worse than the first time I slept on your couch,” Riley laughed.

Magdalene smiled more broadly as she got up and carried both glasses back to the counter where she split the remainder of the wine between the two. Her thoughts flashed back to the night when Riley, all of sixteen, had shown up on her doorstep totally sloshed, after having attended a friend’s birthday party, during which they had gotten into his friend’s parents’ liquor cabinet. She had simply cleaned him up and put him to bed, letting his head at least partially clear before reading him the riot act the next morning about responsible drinking. It was a recitation he had never forgotten, and one which his parents had never learned of.

They discussed more mundane matters as their glasses slowly emptied. Somewhere in the middle of it all, Magdalene heated up some snacks in the microwave to go along with the wine.

A bit later, Riley became unexpectedly quiet. At first, Magdalene thought it might have been the wine, after all, he wasn’t as used to it as she was, and the half bottle he’d drunk might have a much stronger effect. She suggested that perhaps they call it a night, but it seemed that the young man had something on his mind, which was the actual reason for his sudden sullenness.

“It just occurred to me,” Riley said, a touch of sadness in his tone, “we’re really not connected any more, I mean we’re no longer family. In just a couple of days, Amanda is going to be dad’s wife and you’ll be … I don’t know. I mean, I know that you were never my step-mom, but there was always something there.”

“What was there was friendship, and even love,” Magdalene offered, “and that’s not ever going to change.”

“But it will still be different,” Riley insisted.

“Yes, I guess it will be,” Magdalene reluctantly agreed, “but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.”

“How could it not be?” Riley asked.

“Well, if we think about it, I’m sure we can find a way it might be better,” Magdalene suggested, not really sure what that might mean.

“Name one,” the young man said.

“Hmmm,” Magdalene mused, trying to come up with a good example, but failing in that, came up with one that she at least hoped was funny. “Well, the next time I catch you staring at my boobs, you won’t have to feel so embarrassed.”

“I’ve never stared at your…” Riley started to say, then stopped as he realized what a lie that was.

“Really?” Magdalene grinned. “Not even that time we were staying at the summer house out in Oyster Bay and you came home early and found me sunbathing?”

“Oh God, you knew about that?” Riley blushed.

“Did I know that you were watching me sunbathe in the nude for almost a quarter hour?” she smiled, “Obviously I did.”

“Why didn’t you say something?” he asked, the blush barely fading.

‘Well, you had just broken up with Jenny Morris, and I figured you were feeling bad enough without being called on it,” Magdalene explained. “And to be honest, it was sort of flattering that you thought an old lady like me attractive enough to spy on.”

“I never thought of you an old lady,” Riley quickly said. “In fact, some of my friends thought you had a really hot body, that you were a real MILF.”

“MILF?” Magdalene repeated, not familiar with the acronym.

“It’s a sort of complimentary term,” Riley offered after a pause, now wishing he’d never used it.

“What does it mean?” Magdalene asked, her curiosity piqued.

Riley hesitated.

“Come on, I promise I won’t be offended,” Magdalene insisted. “We’re both adults and I’ve always said you can tell me anything without judgment.”

“Mother I’d Like to Fuck,” Riley finally admitted.

“Oh my,” Magdalene exclaimed, feeling both a bit embarrassed and thrilled at the same time.

Then another more interesting, and perhaps even dangerous, thought entered Magdalene’s head. One she wasn’t sure she should be entertaining – but on the other hand, if she didn’t ask, she would forever wonder what the answer might have been.

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