First Page: Unpublished Manuscript – Contemporary Romance
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Nick … Nick … Nick …
I know that it’s just the sound of my heels on the hardwood floor, but I can’t help hearing his name in my steps. He is everywhere here—in the winding curve of the stairway, in the neat black-and-white backsplash in the kitchen, in the reading nook with built-in bookshelves in the master bedroom. How many weekends had we spent here, ripping things out, sawing, hammering, sanding, painting? Nick had grown up doing this stuff—his dad owned a construction company and he’d worked for it in the summers during college—but for me it was all new. At first I’d sucked so much I was certain that I would do irreparable damage to something. Nick had gently guided and occasionally laughed at me, and before I knew it I was nailing up molding and cutting ceramic tile with confidence.
Finding a townhouse in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village that doesn’t cost you a kidney and your firstborn child is next to impossible, but since Nick wanted something to renovate we’d lucked out. From outside it was beautiful, a three-story brick Italianate with white accents. Inside, however, was a different story. It had been owned by a woman who’d lived there for over fifty years … and had never thrown anything out in that time, it seemed. If you’re willing to clean out a hoarder’s house, it’ll practically be given to you. It had taken four days to get all the garbage out; thankfully no mummified cats or piles of human feces were found but the walls and floors were rotten. I inwardly cringed when I saw that we’d basically have to rebuild the inside. Nick, on the other hand, had practically rubbed his hands together and chortled with glee.
“We can make this place totally ours, sweet girl,” he’d said. “Let’s do this.”
How many weekends? About a year and a half’s worth. I’d often marvel at Nick, who routinely worked fourteen-hour days during the week but still found the energy to bounce out of bed early on Saturday and Sunday mornings to come down here and put in another twelve-hour day. We would be sweaty, tired and grubby when evening came, but amazingly John’s of Bleecker Street would still let us in, and we would chatter about what we would do next over pizza and beer.
We were to have moved in three months ago. Two weeks before the move I’d been looking at furniture online, goofing off from work, when the buzzer in our apartment went off—and my world as I knew it ended with a literal bang.
I listened in complete and horrified astonishment as a nasal-voiced New York police detective described a scenario out of my wildest nightmare. Nick was a vice president for a brokerage firm in the Financial District, and like every other weekday morning he had shown up in the office with a smiling greeting for the receptionist and a Starbucks latte in his hand. He had gone into his own office and called a meeting for several of the managers that worked under him. He’d asked one to close the door, waited until everyone was seated around his desk, then opened a drawer. He’d handed one guy an envelope.
“Make sure Allison gets this,” he’d said. “It’s been great working with you all but I’m sorry, I have to go.”
And with that he had calmly pulled out a gun, placed the muzzle in his mouth, and blown his brains out.