Home > More Than Words(5)

More Than Words(5)
Author: Jill Santopolo

“Delicious,” Tim answered back, tipping the chair forward again. “Can’t wait.”

* * *

• • •

When Nina left after dinner that night, Tim did too, and they got a drink at Weather Up, the cocktail lounge right near her apartment, and then another. And went to sit by the river. And soon they were talking about life and love and the future, their breath making puffs of smoke in the cold night air. And then Nina was crying, and Tim was holding her, and maybe it was the alcohol, or maybe it was just the time it was meant to happen, but Tim kissed her, and Nina relaxed against him, and he tasted like the past and the present and the future all at once.

By the time Priscilla called to ask what those photos from the press conference meant, Nina and Tim were finally dating. “You two were meant for each other,” she’d said. And maybe it was true.


Since Joseph Gregory relapsed, Caro called Nina more.

“Hi, darling,” she said, late Sunday afternoon, the weekend after the brunch. “I’m down at the Seaport hotel checking on a few catering concerns.”

“Is everything okay?” Nina answered. She’d been reading a new speech out loud in her living room, dropping her voice to see how the words would sound in Rafael’s register.

“It’s all fine,” Caro said. “But since I’m down your way, how about a walk along the river?”

Nina was one of the few people in Caro’s life who didn’t mind taking long walks with her. Caro built them into her schedule, but TJ thought it was an inefficient use of time.

Nina put down the speech she’d been reading. “Sure,” she said, glad for the break. “I’ll see you soon.”

The two women planned to meet in the lobby of The Gregory by the Sea. Just after her grandfather died, when Nina was two years old, her dad had opened the second hotel by the seaport and named the rooftop bar Nina’s Nest. You could see all of New York Harbor from there. It was one of Nina’s favorite views of the city.

* * *

• • •

When Nina got to the hotel, she said hello to the staff and then waited in front of the framed spread of her parents from People magazine hanging next to the elevator bank. In one of the photos they were both laughing, her mom’s dark brown hair loose and sweeping across her face. Nina wondered if that was how her mom had looked when she caught her father’s eye in Barcelona. He’d been enjoying paella and a glass of wine on the beach, just as Nina’s mother was finishing her doctoral thesis on the depiction of the female body in Spanish literature. He’d always said that she’d been so beautiful reading on the beach—serene, ethereal—that he’d had to invite her to join him.

The media loved the story: New York’s most eligible bachelor falling in love with an unknown woman from Colorado while on vacation. Their wedding was held in the ballroom on the thirty-second floor of The Gregory on the Park and was covered in the New York Times, the New York Post, Newsday, New York Magazine, and the Daily News. Shorter pieces even made it into the national magazines. The pieces were scattered throughout the two hotels in frames. Nina had once drawn a map detailing where they each hung, her parents’ love story made into her very own treasure hunt.

She remembered the first time she’d ever seen the People magazine spread. She’d been five years old, and the piece had been published as part of the coverage on the opening of the rooftop bar at The Gregory on the Park. Her dad had named the bar Los Tortolitos, Spanish for the lovebirds, something her parents had been called in the Spanish press, and jokingly adopted for themselves. Nina had needed her mom to read the article’s title to her. “Los Tortolitos: A Love Story for the Pages,” she’d said, when Nina brought her the magazine, “and then underneath it says, ‘Don’t you wish your man looked at you the way Joseph Gregory looks at Phoebe?’”

“I do, Mommy!” Nina told her.

Her mother laughed and picked Nina up. “When you’re older, you’ll find someone who loves you like that, but not for a long time.” Nina wondered if that was how Tim looked at her now.

* * *

• • •

“Nina, darling,” Caro said, crossing the lobby and shaking Nina out of her reverie. She was wearing white tailored pants, a boat-neck sweater, and a pair of flats. There was a silk scarf around her neck. She was dressed down, since it was a Sunday, but dressed down for her was dressed up for most people.

“My parents looked so happy together,” Nina said to Caro as they started walking along the water, her mind still on the magazine spread.

“They balanced each other out well,” Caro said.

Boats were pulling into New York Harbor, and Caro paused to watch one drop anchor.

It was funny. When Nina was dating other men, she talked to Caro about them. Asked questions, wanted her opinion—not necessarily on the men themselves, but on what to say, on how she felt, on how to navigate both their emotions and her father’s. But now that she was dating Caro’s son, she didn’t feel like she could talk about it with her. At least not directly.

“What do you think is the most important thing, the one thing that makes your relationship with Uncle TJ work so well?” Nina asked.

A foghorn sounded in the distance, and Caro turned. “Honesty,” she said. “I’ve always told TJ that we can handle anything that comes our way as long as we’re honest with each other. Then we can be partners. A team. Face the world with a unified front. I know I can trust him, always.”

Nina nodded. She wondered if Tim felt that way about her. That he could trust her with everything. He definitely used to. He shared his triumphs, his dating disasters, even his most secret failures, like the mistake he’d made at work the previous year that cost his company an investor. He’d barely been able to give voice to it. She knew she told him everything—all about her jobs, her boyfriends, her embarrassments and fears. And then she realized with a start that she hadn’t told him about her conversation with Rafael in the car before the fund-raiser.

She wanted to ask Caro if she thought that was a problem, but instead she said, “When you and Uncle TJ started dating, did it feel . . . exciting? Did it . . . make your heart race when he touched your shoulder?”

Caro laughed. “Watching him walk down the street made my heart race,” she said. “I’m glad you and Tim have that, too.”

“Right,” Nina said. Caro tilted her head slightly, as if she needed to see Nina’s expression from another angle.

“You two are happy?” she asked.

“We are,” Nina said, as both women moved away from the pier and started walking down the path. “Now, what was going on today with the caterers?”

Nina wished she could confide more in Caro, but right now that seemed impossible. And Nina wished, for probably the millionth time in her life, that her mother were still alive. But that was impossible, too.


When Nina got back to Tribeca and put her key in the elevator that led to her loft, she dialed Leslie. She needed a dose of her best friend: Just hearing Leslie’s voice made Nina feel stronger, more able to handle what was being thrown her way.

“Les!” she said, when her friend picked up the FaceTime call. “Where are you?”

“Cole’s soccer game,” Leslie said, flipping the phone around so Nina could see the field. “Why do we make four-year-olds play soccer? Half of them can’t even kick the ball when it’s two inches in front of them.”

Nina squinted and saw Cole, his dark curly hair flopping as he ran. “Well, he looks like he’s having fun at least,” she said.

“He basically just runs back and forth from one side of the field to the other,” Leslie told her. “And we pay for this. He could run in the backyard for free.”

Nina laughed. “Do you need to get back to the game?”

“Not at all.” Nina saw Leslie standing up, telling Vijay she’d be right back, and walking down a set of bleachers. “I’m glad you gave me an excuse to get up,” she said as soon as she was in the privacy of a little grove of trees. “Those benches could use some cushions. How’s everything going? Campaign? Your dad? Tim?”

“It’s all going . . .” Nina stood at the floor-to-ceiling window in her living room and looked past her phone, out at the cobblestoned Tribeca streets below her. “I just got back from a walk with Caro. I miss my mom, Les.”

“Oh, Neen,” Leslie said, sitting down on the grass, leaning against the trunk of a tree. “It sneaks up on you, doesn’t it.” Leslie’s mom had died when she and Nina were in college, and other than Rafael’s surprise moment of empathy, she was one of the only people Nina felt could truly stand with her in the darkness.

“She died almost twenty-five years ago,” Nina said, wishing she were there, next to her friend, her back against a neighboring tree. “I used to think at some point I’d stop missing her. But I don’t think I ever will.”

Nina remembered going with her mom to Columbia University when she was very young, sitting in a small office filled with books, her mother’s students asking Nina how old she was, what her favorite color was. And her mother urging her to answer “en español” after she’d answered in English.

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