He married a woman two years younger than him, not very beautiful, but capable of a lot of gentleness and comprehension, which was exactly what James had desired.
Their honeymoon had lasted only one week, because his new wife was just caught in the middle of some professional obligations that required her presence in the office.
During his first holiday after 8 months of work, James would spend his days waiting for his chosen lady to come home in the evening, hoping that one day they will succeed in leaving at least for a short cruise.
On one of these resting days, after he had drank his hot coffee and when he started to wake up, James Hoover chose to enjoy the sight that he liked the most, as he would do when he wanted the time to pass quicker. In fact, he adored to look, from the window of his apartment located on the western side of Denver city, the sunrays that veiled the collection of buildings that stretched in front of his eyes.
From unmemorable times, he would feel a strange satisfaction to see how the day light touches the walls of the buildings and the apartment blocks, regardless of their structure in glass, steel or brick. It was a pleasure that he could not explain.
And, sometimes, he was struck by a weird sensation. He started to think about the most recent moment when he was overwhelmed by a confusing fear noticing that the wall next to him started to wave…
The mobile phone on the little table next to the bedroom started to ring. It was Betty, James’s wife. With a slight regret for having to leave the image he was just savoring, James answered the phone:
“Yes, dear. How are you? Have you reached the company?”
Betty, a woman with short dark hair, was talking on the phone while she was driving her beautiful BMW Cabrio series 1, but caught in a not so nice traffic jam. In the ocean of claxons and the revving of engines, she was striving to better hear the voice of her husband.
“James, the traffic is awful, as usual. You have forgotten how it is since you took your holiday leave… I am nearly there. When I was leaving the house and you were sleeping, I happened to see a message from your boss on your phone. Have you seen what he has written to you?”
“Hold on, because I was still enjoying the view… At least on my leisure days I should forget about work and bosses. Anyway, tell me what was written in the message.”
“He lets you know that, starting tomorrow, your holiday is interrupted. He didn’t say for how long. Hasn’t he called you? It is strange that he only left a message. So, you ought to be in the office tomorrow. That’s all. I am nearly at work. Let’s talk this evening, shall we?”
“Of course, my dear. I will think about you. And about what the boss wants to tell me tomorrow. I am looking forward to the dinner I promised to you yesterday. Kiss you and take care!”
James hung up and then dialed Anthony’s number, the only close friend that he could make in this city. While he was waiting for him to answer, James sat on the corner sofa in the living room.
“Anthony, it’s me. I’m sorry but the tennis match we planned for tomorrow is no longer possible. I do not know what my boss wants from me. But I will have to be in the office first thing in the morning.”
“I thought so,” grumbled Anthony. “Now I am at the university, my students have decided to meet me on the campus together with a few other teachers. They want to discuss more: the facultative insurances, the students’ celebration party from the next week and other aspects. Anyway, you have enough to do. The magazine, your wife…”
“Yes, but at least the magazine could have waited another day or two. I hope it is not something very important. Come on, sort everything out and then we can get to our business. I will call you when I am ready. I am hanging up now.”
“Good, now let’s focus on the dinner tonight”, said James. He rose up and stopped a little in front of the mirror in the hall in order to arrange with his hand his chestnut brown hair that he had forgotten to fix since he woke up.
Then he entered the kitchen.
He looked at the cook book that he had left open the day before on the metallic table next to the oven and quickly went to the fridge, wherefrom he got out a pack of beef, a tin of oysters and few turnips.
“Tonight it will be the first occasion for me to demonstrate my cooking skills to Betty”, said James proudly.
“I’ve had a tough day, James,” said Betty while she was cutting the first slice of the roulade that had been carefully prepared by her loving husband who was now waiting candidly and eagerly for even a small appreciation of the work done during the day. “The tax authorities contacted us. We are under suspicion of money laundering. The news came like thunder. It is said that the marketing manager over evaluated some shares, attempting to raise collateral for a loan. I can assure you that I am absolutely not involved in any of this. I hope it won’t affect the image of the whole company.”
“What a contrast! News that overwhelmed us this morning. You having problems at the office; I am going to find out tomorrow what is going on at the magazine. And above it all, I had made the effort to isolate myself to prepare our romantic dinner.”
“James, my dear, don’t get anxious about me. I imagine that everything will turn out fine. Let’s savor this wonderful dinner!”
James gave a satisfying smile, held Betty’s left palm in his hands and gazed deeply into her beautiful hazel eyes. “Betty, sweetheart, you are the closest person I have. You are the woman that offers me the warm heart that I had missed since childhood. Oh, how much I regret that my parents are not here anymore… It would have been a wonderful thing to present you to them. C’est la vie…
“James, you have me and I my only wish is to fill your life with the happiness you long for. I do not know why I have this feeling, even from the first day I met you, I knew that you are a special man. I like dreamers. I like the idealists. Do you remember what you told me on our first date?”
“Yes. I told you that I am the type of man that suffers for every unemployed person in this world. And you should know that I really felt that you believed me. You knew that I did not beat around the bush and I did not use big words just to impress you.”
“Let’s drink a bit of this champagne,” said Betty with a suddenly refreshed voice. “It’s a wonderful evening, James! Let’s not think at all about what will happen tomorrow or what was before! Let’s toast!”
“I dedicated all my day to you, said James as he slowly poured a glass for his wife. I bought exactly the same champagne that we drank on our first date at the restaurant, Blanc de Blancs.”
“Oh, how nice! You remembered.”
James poured little of the Champagne into his glass, too, waiting then for the foam to “rest”. Adopting the amused look of a teacher sincerely dedicated to the art of teaching, he began a short explanation for Betty.
“You know why the champagne glasses have long stems? So that the temperature of the hand should not affect the champagne in the glass. The glass must be held by the stem. And you must not gulp the entire content! Drink slowly and savor each mouthful! Do you really want to feel its taste? Take a sip and „roll” it slowly around your mouth for few seconds!”
Betty was listening carefully and was doing exactly as the dear “teacher” explained to her, coming also with a remark that she found easier to say.
“The touch of the champagne on my lips and then into my whole mouth makes me feel as if I detached myself from all the things that are not praiseworthy…”
“The touch… on your lips…,” murmured James.
A strange feeling flashed all through his body. He froze for a moment, with his look lost on the glass that Betty was holding in her hand.
The sun appeared above the horizon hidden behind the outline of the skyscrapers and heralded the start of a new day, together with the daily ritual of the car swarm that snaked its way around the city’s huge road network.
James parked his car, a Buick that the he had struggled to buy, without installments, about which he was very proud, on the sole parking place that remained free in front of the building with 30 floors that hosted the office of the „Harmonics” magazine, a publication dedicated to scientific themes.
“Ok, let’s go,” he said to himself and took a deep breath. He got out of the car and headed towards the entrance of the building.
The attention of the doorman seemed to be currently attracted by two Asian tourists who were asking for information about a place they wanted to reach.
Struggling to provide them with the information requested, using simple words and phrases, that he hoped would be easily understood by them, the doorman noticed however that James was getting closer and he bent his head respectfully. The two tourists let him understand that the guiding provided was sufficient and they moved away gesticulating towards the building complex located on the other side of the building where James was just entering.
“Every time when I come back from holidays, the weather is wonderful, Charles, said James to the doorman, stopping for a while with a friendly smile. And I always find you on duty. How are things around here?”
“Mr. Lavington just reached the office half an hour before you, Mr. Hoover. He seemed to be deep in thought…”
“In deep thought? Hmm… So be it, I will immediately find out what it’s all about. I wish you an excellent day, Charles!”
“Good luck, Mr. Hoover!” the doorman wished him, with a wide smile.
James released a bit the knot in his blue tie, while he was heading towards the elevator that was going to take him to the 23rd floor where the office of the magazine manager was located.
“It seems that not even the air conditioning is enough”, he said to himself. “Could this state be connected to my impatience?”
Lloyd Lavington, the president and the manager of the „Harmonics” magazine, was already seated at his desk that was loaded with piles of magazines, old newspapers and files.
Burly enough, Lloyd rose bearishly from the armchair covered in black leather and shook hands with James.
“Please, have a seat, James. Believe me that I would not have called you today if it had not been for a situation whose solution I would rather see under your control.”
“I answered your call, Mr. Lavington. And it is not a problem from my point of view. I came without asking questions, according to the rules we agreed upon.”
“Ok, I will tell you quickly what it’s all about. Things are no longer going well with the magazine. From a financial point of view, I mean. Don’t get scared. There is still hope. It is purely that it happens that I am one of the managers who are not able to read a balance sheet. But, in the end, I am the one who is responsible for the financial problems of the magazine. I had a bookkeeper whom I charged to do this type of work on my behalf. I had confidence in him. Unfortunately I had to fire him and to urgently hire another one to replace him.”
“I hope that this new bookkeeper is at least worthy of your trust,” said James.
“He is worthy for sure. And he will help us to recover. He is a master of his profession, honest, and he succeeded in making me understand how this situation was reached and why. Good, now to tell you what job I have for you. You are the best scientific reporter on the magazine and everybody knows it. We urgently need a highly attractive article. We need to increase the sales, James.”
“I am starting to understand, Mr. Lavington,” said James, clearly more relaxed.
“Perfect! And I do not know how, but we have a chance. I hope it’s a lucky one.”
“Yeah. We need something that shocks. What’s it about?”
Lloyd opened a drawer behind his desk, got out a file with a blue cover and handed it over to James.
“Are you acquainted with the term «pranotherapy»?”
“I read about it once,” said James while he was opening the file and was reading the heading of the first page.
“But if you do not have details. It’s not a problem; you can find information about pranotherapy in the file.”
“I know it is a novelty in the new age therapies of alternative medicine.”
“Exactly. And, in one week the biggest event in this field will be organized. Specialists from all over the world will be invited. They will make public their information of high interest for many readers. And I will not hide from you the fact that the reporters from our competitors will also be attending this conference…”