Read By Design Online

Authors: J. A. Armstrong

Tags: #Gay & Lesbian, #Literature & Fiction, #Fiction, #Lesbian, #Romance, #Lesbian Romance, #Genre Fiction, #Lgbt, #Lesbian Fiction, #Short Stories

By Design

 
 

BY
DESIGN

Episode One

J. A. Armstrong

 

Text © Copyright 2015 J.A. Armstrong Books

All Rights Reserved. This book, or parts
thereof
, may not be reproduced without
permission.

Chapter One: Candace

“I
don’t care,” Candace Fletcher said to the man in front of her desk. “I don’t
care
if the president
himself told you
that. That was not our
agreement,
and you
know it.”

“Now,
Candy…be reasonable,” Bob Miller said cautiously.

“What
is it…exactly…
Bob,
that you
find unreasonable in my position?”

“The
president needs you on this.”

“The
president is not my boss. The people of New York are. You want me to endorse
something that will further cut spending on infrastructure in a state that
houses one the largest cities in the world.” Bob opened his mouth to
speak,
and Candace ran right over him. “A city
that depends on public transportation to function. Might I remind you of the
cost to the city of New York, the cost to business, and the cost to the federal
government when New Yorkers can’t get to work?”

“You’re being
a bit
dramatic, don’t you think?” he said. Candace smiled so sweetly at Bob Miller he
thought she might give him a cavity. That spelled trouble.

“Dramatic.
Well, I do like the theater. No, Bob. I am thinking ahead.
So, when the subways are stopped, or the George
Washington Bridge is forced to close down, or the Lincoln Tunnel suddenly
springs a leak; you can tell President Wallace that he can explain that to the
millions of people inconvenienced, losing pay, and the companies losing
profit.”

“Candy


“Don’t
you dare Candy me…Get me a proposal that is
reasonable,
and I will be agreeable.”

Bob
Miller sighed. “This job sucks,” he said.

Candace
laughed heartily and came around her desk. “Well, Mr. Vice President, welcome
to The White House,” she laughed some more.

“Oh
yeah, it’s a joy,” he returned.

“You
wanted the job,” she reminded him.

“Well,
if you had shown any interest,” he began earnestly.

Candace
laughed harder. “Oh yes, a
fifty-five-year-old
,
divorced mother of three who happens to be a lesbian; that’s always the first
choice on a presidential ballot.”

“Senator
Fletcher?” a woman’s voice called through the door.

“Come
in Susan,” Candace said. “The vice president was just leaving.”

“Still
having that Christmas party?” the vice president asked.

“Me?
Turn down the chance to throw a party? Should I expect your regrets?” she asked
her old friend.

“Not
even a Republican landslide could prevent me from making that party.”

“Bite
your tongue,” Candace said. “The election is only two weeks away. No way are we
losing that much ground.”

“I’ll
talk to our people,” he assured her.

“I
know you will. I can’t endorse it, Bob,” she said almost apologetically.

The
vice president nodded. “I’ll be in touch.”

Candace
watched him leave and chuckled. “Poor thing,” she said before turning to her
personal assistant. “I have no idea why he wanted that job.”

Susan
shrugged. “Why wouldn’t he? Wouldn’t you?”

“Hell
no!” Candace answered with another laugh. “No way. I am happy where I am until
I retire or get my ass handed to me.”

“When
do you think that might be?” Susan asked jokingly.

“Depends
on which way it happens,” Candace answered. She took a seat in a large leather
chair and stretched.

“Well,
from where I sit you do most of the “quote” ass handing,” Susan observed.
Candace raised an amused brow at her assistant. “And, as for retirement?
They’ll be wheeling your ass in here while you hand them theirs at the same
time; oxygen tank and all; I am sure.”

Candace
smirked. “So? What do you have for me?” she asked.

“Just
the usual. Dana dropped
off
your press
schedule,
and Brian said he would get you the
revised budget request from the Department of Transportation.”

“Great.
That’s timely,” Candace mumbled.

“Not
a great meeting; I take it?” Susan surmised.

“It
was fine.” Senator Candace Fletcher was the chairman of the Transportation,
Housing, and Urban Development Subcommittee. Appropriations. The job always
came down to appropriations; how much money
who
could have to spend and where they would be spending it. Candace groaned. “I
have no idea where they are going to pull more money from,” she said. “All I do
know is that we have a lot to repair before we end up in a situation we can’t
fix
so
easily
.”

“Speaking
of,” Susan said as she handed the senator a folder.

“What’s
this?”

“Dana
dropped it off with your press schedule. Said to tell you it’s Steven’s college
friend that she mentioned,” Susan explained.

“Oh,
the illustrious architect he had such glowing praise for,” Candy commented.

Candy
loved her staff. Susan had been with her since her days in the New York State
Senate. Dana Russo was Candy’s press secretary. Dana’s husband, Steven owned a
large law firm in Maryland. He and Candace had both graduated from Cornell
University, both studied political science and international law, and both had
a secret passion for National League Baseball. Dana often joked that the only
reason Senator Fletcher wanted her on staff was so she could drink beer with Steven,
talk about Cornell, and watch the Mets.

“Well,
interesting,” Candy mused as she studied the contents of the folder. “J.D. Reid
Architectural Design. Jameson Reid. Summa Cum Laude from Cornell University
2002,” Candy read from the file. “And then again in 2005, huh? Wonder if
Jameson likes the Mets,” Candy laughed.

“Still
thinking of having the house restored?” Susan asked.

Candy
smiled. She loved her home in upstate New York. She’d bought it from her
brother shortly after her father’s death. For years, she had thought
of
restoring it to its original grandeur, and
building an addition to expand the kitchen. “Oh, well…I am thinking about it,”
she said.

“You’ve
been thinking about it for the last fifteen years. Why not just do it?” Susan
asked.

“The
kids aren’t interested in the house,” Candy replied. Susan could detect a note
of sadness in the senator’s voice. “You know, they thought I was crazy when I
bought it from David. If they had their way I would sell it now and downsize,”
Candy snickered sarcastically. “I swear they think after fifty you are just
planning for the nursing home,” she laughed.

Susan
nodded. The senator had three grown children, Marianne, Michelle, and Jonah.
Susan had known them since they were small. They adored their mother, but they
did not always understand her choices. Not the least of which was her coming
out at forty-three as a lesbian after her divorce from their father. “They
probably all want you to move closer to them so you can babysit.”

Candy
snorted. “Well, last I checked the senator from New York did not keep
residence
in Massachusetts, California, or
heaven forbid, Texas. No, I am a Yankee through and through,” she said. “They
think smaller. Buy a condo. Buy a townhouse,” she laughed again. “Not my
style.”

“So…call
Mr. Reid,” Susan suggested.

“Maybe
I will,” Candy said.

Chapter Two: Meeting
Jameson

“Did
I miss something?” Steven Russo asked his friend.

Jameson
laughed. “No, you didn’t miss anything.”

“I
thought this was your one true passion,” he joked. “So, what’s the problem?” he
wondered.

“God,
I hope that’s not my only passion,” Jameson laughed. “Steve, you know how I
feel about politics.”

“Yeah,
well you aren’t going there to debate her. You’re going there to look at her
house,” he pointed out.

Jameson
looked at the photograph of the Georgian style colonial home. The house had
been built
in 1798. This picture
was dated
1998. Moderate changes were evident.
The windows were custom; far more modern than the period that they were meant
to reflect. The old
clapboards
at some
point had
been replaced
with what
appeared to be synthetic siding. The landscaping was pristine, certainly not
the type that would have adorned this building in its youth. Jameson sighed. It
was true.
This was
her passion. It was
not the
kind
of work that made her
millions. It was the kind of project that was, simply put, fun.
This was
a project she could dig into,
research, design, and that would allow her to get her hands dirty.

“Come
on J.D., just go talk to her,” Steven urged his friend.

Jameson
puckered her lips and arched her eyebrow. “Fine.”

Steven
flashed a sly grin at his friend. “You won’t regret it.”

Jameson
had to snicker at the hop in her friend’s step as he left the room, phone in
hand. She shook her head ruefully. “Why do I have a
very bad
feeling about this?” she muttered.

***

Candace
stretched and rubbed her tired eyes. The weekend had been exhausting. Tuesday
was Election
Day,
and that meant the last
week had been full of stumping for local candidates and the district
congressman.
Typically
, she thrived on
this season. Campaigning could be tiresome, but Candace had spent her life
around politics. It was in her blood. Her father had been a congressman for
twenty years before his unexpected death, and her grandfather had served as
Governor of New York for two terms. Candace’s brothers had both served locally,
but neither seemed to have caught the “bug” as her father called it. She
enjoyed meeting people, pressing the flesh as the like to call it, and rallying
a crowd. This year, however, she was struggling with fatigue.

There
were multiple issues weighing on the senator’s mind. Her children, while she
adored all three, were increasing the pressure on her to consider stepping back
a bit from the fast lane. Candace found their concern amusing most days.
Marianne was twenty-eight and had just had her first baby. She lived in Austin
with her tech savvy husband, Rick. Candace was still not sure exactly what her
son-in-law did.
 
He was a southern boy
through and through, and her daughter’s move to Texas seemed inevitable once she
was engaged
. Marianne seemed to think
that Candace should start considering retirement. She pointed out that her
mother’s considerable wealth meant that Candace would never have to work again.
And, why wouldn’t she want to be closer to her family? Candace had tried
numerous times
to explain gently
that she
had three children that qualified as
family
,
and that she enjoyed her work. Marianne was much more like her Candace’s
ex-husband. She had been daddy’s girl from day one. Candace finally suggested
her eldest child might have more success in an attempt to entice her ex-husband
to the Lone-Star State.

Michelle
was Candace’s middle child, and by all accounts the most like her mother. She
had chosen to stay closer to home after graduating college and was teaching
high school outside of Boston. Candace was eternally grateful for Michelle.
They
frequently visited
and Michelle
seemed to understand Candace’s life more than her other children. When Candace
and her husband Jonathan split, it was Michelle who had remained her mother’s
stalwart supporter. Candace’s youngest
child
,
Jonah was twenty-two and was pursuing his graduate studies at Caltech. Jonah
tended to stay out of the family mix as much as possible. He had little
interest in the political
landscape,
and
Candace was aware that her public persona sometimes caused her son a degree of
discomfort. She was unsure if that had more to do with her political positions
or her sexuality. She suspected it was a bit of both. Many of Jonah’s friends
came from conservative backgrounds. Candace was
satisfied
that he had made his peace with her life, but she was often in the
press.
She suspected Jonah took a fair amount
of ribbing over the years from his peers about his mother’s relationship.

Personal
issues and stresses aside, there were several pieces of controversial
legislation set to
be addressed
in the
new session. It was never comfortable to depart from one’s party platform.
Candace had done it before, but never on a major piece of legislation. The
president had a new education bill that he was set to propose. The House had
made its
revisions,
and the issue was
expected to come before the Senate early in the new legislative session.
Candace sighed as her thoughts ran over the finer points that concerned her. It
wasn’t the spirit or intention of the legislation that bothered her. The devil
as they say was in the details. There were too many loopholes, too many obscure
expenditures that she did not feel had any business in an education bill. If
she decided to vote against the bill, others would likely follow. It was a
decision she would need to weigh carefully, and just thinking about it was
bringing on a formidable headache. She was ready to pour herself a stiff drink
when she was startled by the doorbell. Candace looked at the large grandfather
clock and furrowed her brow. “Who the hell could that be?”

***

Jameson
made her way up the narrow brick pathway to the front door of Candace
Fletcher’s home. She studied the building in front of her as she walked. It had
been well preserved, but
clearly
updated
throughout the years. She wondered what the senator envisioned. Jameson could
see the structure in her mind’s eye as it would have appeared just over two
hundred years ago. It brought a brief smile to her lips, and she took a moment
to imagine the area with no driveways, roads, or street lights. “Must have been
magnificent,” she mused. Jameson took a deep breath and reached out to ring the
doorbell. “This ought to be interesting,” she chuckled.

***

“Pearl?”
Candace called out. She was making her way toward the door when the older woman
met her. “Are we expecting someone?”

Pearl’s
eyes crinkled in amusement. She had worked for Candace’s family for years and
considered the senator one of her children. “You mentioned someone coming
about
the house,” she winked at Candace.

“Oh
my God, that’s right! How did I forget that? Damn good thing I’m not in my robe
already.”

Pearl
shook her head. It was only four o’clock and Candace was never that comfortable
before the clock struck nine or ten. “You want me to send him away?” Pearl
joked.

Candace
waved the older woman off. “Go home, already,” she scolded. “I’ll take care of
Mr. Reid,” she assured. She was still busy
shooing
the older woman away when she pulled the door open. “Go on, go home,” she waved
Pearl off.

“I
just got here,” Jameson offered lightly.

Candace
caught the amused expression on Pearl’s face and turned to the figure in her
doorway. It took her a moment to register the sight. “I’m sorry? Can I help
you?”

“I
think the question is; can I help you?” Jameson replied. Candace stood
bewildered. “J.D. Reid,” Jameson said as she extended her hand.

“The
architect?”

“That’s
what the degree claims,” Jameson countered.

Candace
finally smiled. “I’m sorry. I was expecting…”

“Let
me guess; someone slightly taller with more facial hair.” Jameson winked
playfully. “Guess Steven left a few details out.”

“Yes,
he did,” Candace admitted. “Come in.” She watched as Jameson walked through the
door and shook her head. “I am sorry,” Candace apologized.

“No
need to apologize Senator Fletcher. Steven has a unique sense of humor
sometimes.”

Candace
nodded. “That he does,” she agreed. “And, please, just Candace.” Jameson
nodded. “So, Ms. Reid…”

Jameson
stopped the senator’s thoughts. “J.D.”

“I’m
sorry?”

“J.D.,
that’s my name, Candace.”

Candace
laughed. “Touché. So, J.D.; what do you think of the house?”

“From
the outside?” J.D. asked lightly. Candace nodded. “It’s beautiful.”

“But?”

“No
but.”

Candace
frowned playfully. “Ah, J.D. I’ve made a career out of my ability to read
people. There is
definitely
a
but
.”

“It
would be even grander without the modernization.”

“Which
is why I called you,” Candace returned. “Would you like to see the inside?” she
offered. Jameson nodded.

Candace
spent the better part of the next hour ushering Jameson through her home. She
explained the history of ownership and
reveled
in the attentiveness of the architect. Jameson remained quiet, listening to
each detail and every anecdote with fascination. Candace watched Jameson’s eyes
study each room methodically. It was clear that the architect was noting even
the finest details. Jameson’s eyes seemed to twinkle when Candace would offer a
short story about some historical moment in the home, or some treasured memory that
had been passed down.

“So....this
house has been in your family
for a while,”
Jameson commented as the senator led her toward the
kitchen
.

“Five
generations, so yes. Can I offer you something?” Candace asked as they entered
the kitchen. “Wine, coffee? Water?” she asked as she set about starting a pot
of coffee. “I know; it’s late. It’s my addiction.”

“It’s
never too late for coffee in my book,” Jameson replied. “I’d love a cup.”

“Well
then, I suppose we have at least two things in common.”

“Two?”
Jameson asked.

“We
share a love of old houses, history, and coffee.”

“Three,”
Jameson said.

“What?”
Candace asked as she pulled the cream from the refrigerator.

“That’s
three things we have in common; unless I counted wrong.”

“Ah,
I suppose so. So, tell me, J.D.; I’ve seen your portfolio; you’ve designed some
impressive buildings. Why an interest in this old place? And interior design?”

Jameson
smiled. The truth was that Jameson had not had an opportunity to work on any
historical projects in a long time. Her time and efforts had
been consumed
with building her firm. She had
deliberately taken on larger projects for the last few years, designing
corporate buildings and industrial complexes. Her success allowed her to bring
on four additional architects and a robust support staff. Now, she was ready to
take a small step back and return to her roots. This project had come about at
the perfect time.

“Well,
it’s true; the last seven years have been full of larger projects. And, those
are always challenging, but not nearly as
exciting
as something like this,” Jameson said. She noted the curious glint in the
senator’s eye. “I have a secret passion for American History,” she explained.
“My mother was a teacher. My father worked in construction. I guess the two
were destined to meet
in
me,” she
shrugged. “As far as design; I don’t know how you dismiss one from the other. A
home is the sum of all its parts. It’s what makes projects like this so much more
interesting than designing office buildings. There is history;
memories
. The buildings I design have yet to
tell their story.”

“A
soft spot for history, I see.”

“Like
I said, it was destined,” Jameson answered. “I spent years with my father
traveling to jobs. I loved to watch him work. Every house he worked on, he
would remind me that it was someone’s treasure; their home; never a structure,
always a story,” Jameson explained. “Crazy?”

“Hardly,”
Candace said before shifting gears. “What do you think about it? The house, I
mean,” Candace clarified as she placed a steaming cup of coffee in front of
Jameson. “Is it doable?”

“Doable?
Anything is
doable
, Senator,” Jameson
quipped.

Candace
nearly
spit
out her coffee. Jameson had a
dry humor and a quick wit. “You sure you aren’t a politician?”

“Nope.
No politics here. Safer that way,” Jameson answered. She was surprised to see
Candace’s cheerful expression dim slightly. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean
that the way
it sounded.” Candace smiled. “To
answer your question; I think the house could be restored very closely to its
original look. And, yes; I am
confident
we can design an addition off of this room that will appear seamless. Of
course, with all the modern conveniences. We’ll look to blend the old and the
new eloquently. Assuming that is what you are hoping for.”

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