My feet were screaming and my lower back was aching, but I was filled with a sense of relief. I was perched at the edge of the Allen Room – a new event space at Jazz at Lincoln Center - gazing down through the huge wall of glass on the city below. The lights of the busy midtown traffic streamed past and the adjacent buildings lit from within were a beautiful sight. The dark void punctuated by a few scattered lights to the left indicated the southern end of Central Park. It was one of the most spectacular views in the city.
I turned back to visually sweep the room. So far the evening had gone off without a hitch. Many of New York City's most influential powerbrokers were gathered tonight to celebrate 25 years of The Madden Company, a wildly successful and powerful leveraged buyout firm. A jazz trio provided just enough background music, but it was becoming more difficult to hear them over the rising din of clinking glasses, cutlery scraping on china and dinner conversation. I caught the eye of the bassist and gave him a nod to indicate they could breakdown for the night and headed back to the kitchen to find the catering captain.
"How are we doing, Don?"
"Marvelous, marvelous. Entrees are down and wine has been poured at all the tables. When would you like us to start clearing?"
"Let's give them another 10 minutes. In the meantime please make sure all wine is refreshed. I don't want to rush though this dinner since it's a celebratory evening, but I also don't want the guests sitting with empty plates in front of them."
"You got it."
I moved to the back of the room to find my boss, and friend, Claudine Crane. She was tall, elegant and extremely charming – people loved her and I loved working for her. I'd been with Crane Events for eleven years since moving to the city after college. Claudine offered me an event assistant position, and I'd worked my way up through the ranks to Vice President. Crane Events was one of the most sought after event companies in the city. We had an impressive stable of clients - primarily non-profit organizations with a few corporate clients sprinkled in for good measure.
She ran an appraising eye over the room and smiled. "It's another great event, Sookie. Victor should be very happy."
"Well, we're not done yet. We still have Victor's remarks and the surprise guest. You're sticking around for her, aren't you?"
"Of course – I wouldn't want to miss this."
"Okay, I'm going to check in with the production team and make sure Diana's ready."
I climbed the stairs of the terraced room to the production booth.
"Hey, Quinn. Entrees will be cleared in 5, and then dessert and coffee will go down and champagne will be poured. So we're looking to go in about 20. Cool?" The roughly handsome bald guy nodded in agreement.
"I'll bring Victor up to the podium. He'll make about 5 minutes of remarks and then introduce Diana. I'm going to check on her in the green room now and will get her into place while Victor's speaking."
"Sounds good, Sook. We're good to go." I smiled at him and he winked in return.
Quinn was a production manager with Sight & Sound, an A/V company specializing in events and meetings. I'd known him for years since we worked together frequently on projects. We'd dated a couple of years ago, but it had only lasted a few months. He was a great guy, and we still had a good working relationship.
Pushing through the door to the right of the production booth, I headed down the hallway to the green room. I peeked my head in and saw Amy, one of Crane's trusty event coordinators, amiably chatting with Diana Krall, one of my favorite contemporary jazz singers, and her manager, Tanya.
I gave her a smile and crossed the room to shake her hand. "Hi Tanya, hello Ms. Krall. I'm Sookie."
"Sookie! It's nice to finally meet you."
"It's nice to meet you too. Thank you so much for being here. Mr. Madden is thrilled to have you with us this evening and I know this will make it a special birthday for his wife and an especially memorable evening for all the guests. I'm sorry I couldn't be here for sound check. Did everything go okay?"
"Everything was perfect. Amy's been a doll and made sure we had everything we needed."
"Terrific. We have about 15 minutes before you go on. I'll radio up to Amy in about 10 minutes so she can bring you just outside the entrance. I suspect Victor will want to pop by quickly to meet you before he goes on to make his remarks. He'll then introduce you."
I turned then to Tanya. "We'll have a car waiting downstairs. There's no rush of course, but it's ready whenever you'd like to leave. Amy has the driver's cell and can help you find it."
"I'm heading back to the Allen Room. I'm really looking forward to hearing you sing." I left the three to go find Victor.
As the evening's host, Victor's table was front and center, of course. I'd planned many an event for Victor over the years. He always joked that our relationship had lasted longer than any of his four marriages, which sadly enough was the truth. To his right was his current wife, Margot. She was impossibly thin, fashionably dressed and inappropriately aged. I'd worked with her on a few charity events that she'd co-chaired. She was definitely challenging, but I'd seen worse.
"Sookie!" Margot cooed and air kissed me three times. It didn't matter how many times we did this, the third kiss always threw me for a loop, but luckily i always seemed to be able to recover.
"Margot, you look stunning as always. Oh, and Happy Birthday!"
"Thank you, Sookie. You look beautiful too, but I'd love to see you wear something other than a little black dress sometime."
"Well, you know this is pretty much my uniform." I have about 15 black dresses in my closet – it was all I ever wore to events. People weren't there to look at me, so I just needed to look presentable and a bunch of black dresses were the most practical way to go.
"Sookie," a deep voice boomed in my ear and a warm hand came down on my shoulder.
"Hi Victor," I smiled. "Everything going okay from your end?"
"Perfect as usual. One of these days I'll convince you to join my team at The Madden Company full time." He said this at every event – but he knew I had no interest in leaving Crane.
"Everything is on schedule Victor. I'll come get you in about 10 minutes once desserts are done to bring you to the podium."
I winked at him conspiratorially and left to check in one last time on the catering operation. My feet were really pounding by now, and my whole body was starting to ache, but I knew I just had another half hour or so and then I'd be able to finally sit.
I poked my head in the kitchen. Don looked up and spoke before I had a chance.
"Dinner's been cleared. Desserts, champagne and coffee are ready to go"
"And the cake for Margot?"
"We've assigned one of our best servers, Marco, to bring it out to her when cued."
"Thanks, Don. You and your team are amazing."
"Right back at you, Sookie."
I spied an empty chair and was tempted to sit for just a minute to relieve my feet, but knew if I sat down I may never get back up. Half an hour, just half an hour more I told myself. By sheer will I entered the Allen Room one more time and decided to walk around the room and look for any potential problems. The tables were covered in deep midnight blue silk linens with just a hint of sheen to give them a little life. Victor had very specific tastes – he never wanted anything too feminine, and definitely nothing too daring. The centerpieces were gleaming silver revere bowls filled with gorgeous hydrangeas in varying shades of blue surrounded by silver candlesticks with white tapers. Lafayette Reynolds had designed the décor and had really knocked it out of the park. It was classic, understated and very rich. Just like Victor.
I first met Victor when he was being honored by the City Education Fund. Crane Events had been hired by the Fund to manage the event, and we worked closely with Victor's office. Because of the sensitive nature of his business dealings and the high level of his contacts, it was imperative that the event was executed to perfection. The benefit was a huge success, and from then on Victor engaged Crane Events to handle all of The Madden Company's corporate events and the charity events that Victor and his wife at the time were co-chairing. It was a very lucrative relationship for Crane Events.
Establishing and fostering beneficial connections has become one of my favorite aspects of my job. We strive to help our charities build partnerships with corporations that have similarly aligned values and goals and vice versa. We're kind of like matchmakers.
Crane Events had in our own little way, helped The Madden Company expand their business in the telecommunications sector by pulling Victor in as a Co-Chair for an Boys and Girls Club Gala honoring the Chairman of AT&T. Victor made valuable relationships due to his dinner involvement that enabled his company to purchase a struggling AT&T subsidiary, which he eventually was able to sell for an obscene amount of money. He also made a generous personal donation and tapped his contacts to raise a ton of money to benefit the Boys & Girls Club in turn boosting his public image. Win-win all the way around. Crane Events worked to find these relationships for all our clients, both charities and corporations. Victor now sought my advice for determining much of his philanthropic giving and I loved helping him find deserving charities to support.
Don caught my arm, "Desserts are down and coffee and champagne are being poured. We'll be able to clear the floor of service staff in 5 minutes."
"Thanks, Don. I'll let Victor know." I radioed Amy to bring down Diana, and looked up to the production booth and flashed a five to Quinn. After maneuvering through the tables I was close enough to catch Victor's eye and gave him a quick smile to let him know it was time.
As we left the table I leaned in to quietly tell him that Diana was just behind the doors so she could meet him. He nodded and pushed through the doors. I left him to speak with her in private for a couple of minutes before opening the door to indicate it was show time. Victor strode to the microphone as the lights dimmed in the room and went up on the podium.
Victor entertained the crowd of his peers and business associates with a few anecdotal stories from the 25 years that The Madden Company had been in business. He then announced that it was also his wife's birthday and asked everybody to raise a glass to toast Margot.
"I've high jacked my lovely wife's birthday with this affair, so I thought it would only be fair to make the evening as enjoyable as possible for her. Since we're in this beautiful jazz hall it seemed fitting to have one of Margot's favorite singers with us this evening as a special birthday surprise. Ladies and Gentleman, the brilliant Diana Krall."
Diana stepped through the door to wild clapping from the guests and approached the gleaming grand piano. It was just a few feet in front of the glass wall with Midtown Manhattan and Central Park as the backdrop.
"Thank you everybody. Thank you Victor for having me here tonight – Margot, I'm so happy to help celebrate your birthday. Before we go any further though, we need to all sing for the birthday girl."
On cue, Marco the waiter approached Margot's table with a lit birthday cake and Diana sang Happy Birthday, aided by the 70 some odd guests in the room. Following the birthday song, Diana settled in for her set.
I headed to the back of the room to find Claudine. Her back was against the wall watching the performance and there was an empty ballroom chair next to her. I sank into the chair and let out a big sigh. She handed me a glass of champagne and clinked her glass against mine.
"Well done, Sookie."
I allowed myself to sit and enjoy Diana's smoky and sultry performance while I sipped my champagne. Moments like these were definite perks of the job. Not many people got to have these experiences and I knew it was a privilege. It was an intense and at times tough career, but I really loved it.
I knew the performance would be over soon, so I hauled myself to my feet so I could prepare for the exodus.
"I'm going to take off now. See you tomorrow." Whispered Claudine. And with a quick hug she was gone.
A few minutes later Diana finished her last song and Victor and Margot approached the piano to give her farewell hugs. Diana waved to the crowd and I was pleased to see Amy waiting close by to escort Diana back to the green room and to her car.
Victor said a few last remarks into the mike to thank everybody for coming and to have a safe journey home. Guests began filtering out and I tried to mentally will everybody to leave as soon as possible so I could drag my sorry self home and fall into bed.
The homestretch was always the longest part of the night. I pushed through the catering doors and was surprised to be swept into a giant bear hug. I pulled back to see who it was and laughed to see Lafayette grinning down at me. One look at me and the smile instantly left his face.
"Girl, you look like sh-" he started.
I quickly interrupted "Don't say it Lafayette. I know I must look awful right now. It's been a long day and I'm exhausted. Let's talk about something much prettier. The tables and flowers look amazing! Thank you for doing such an awesome job."
"As if I'd do anything else." He smirked. Lafayette has rapidly risen in the ranks of event designers. He'd started years ago as a grunt in a prominent event design studio schlepping buckets of flowers, and had branched out on his own a couple of years back. I used him whenever I could and his career was really taking off.
"Sophie-Anne Leclerc's office called today to ask me to send my portfolio." He said rather smugly cocking his head.
"Oh my god, that's fantastic, Lafayette! Do you know what she's considering you for?"
Sophie-Anne Leclerc was Editor-in-Chief of Stila, the foremost fashion magazine in the US. She was a formidable figure in the fashion world and wielded power and influence like a machine gun. She had a reputation for being an ice queen and was know to be tough as nails. I'd never worked with her, but certainly had read a lot about her. Every year she chaired the Costume Institute Benefit, also known as the 'Party of the Year' for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She was a trustee of the Met and used the event to draw A-list celebrities and the world's top designers to dress them. The event was legendary and had held the crown as New York City's most glamorous benefit for years. People, including celebrities and designers, always clamored to get their hands on a ticket.
"I don't know but I'm hoping it's for the Party of the Year. Rumor has it Sophie-Anne had a falling out with David Bardin and is looking for a new designer."
"Whoa! That would be huge for your career, Lafayette! But then you'll probably become too big to do events for me, eh?" I elbowed him a little.
"Never, girl. I'm like that bad rash you just can't make go away."
"Ewwww. That's disgusting." I wrinkled my nose and stuck out my tongue like I was gagging. "On that delightful note, I'm going to see if everybody's left so we can break down and I can get the hell out of here."
Everybody had left except for a handful of guests talking to Victor and Margot. As I approached Victor looked up. "There you are, Sookie. We're on our way out. I want to thank you again for making this such a wonderful evening."
"Have a safe trip home, goodnight." I smiled with the last strength I could muster and gave a quick wave as they walked to the elevators.
I made quick rounds to say thanks and goodnight to Don, Lafayette and Quinn before gathering my things and rushing downstairs to hail a cab. Mercifully I was less than a ten minute ride from home, and within half a hour of leaving was cocooned in my bed and dead to the world.
The next morning I was running a little slow and made it into work just by nine. I felt like I'd been hit by a Mack truck. The previous night's dinner was small in comparison to most events we do, but it didn't make it any less taxing on me physically.
I'd just settled into my office chair with my coffee when Claudine strode in dropping the New York Post down on my desk with a flourish.
"Last night's event was mentioned in Liz Smith's column." She grinned.
"That should make Victor happy." I scanned the column and took out my scissors to clip the column and found a spot to pin it on the crowded bulletin board crammed with other mentions of our events.
We loved to scan the gossip columns to keep up on the comings and goings of New York's elite since we worked with them on a daily basis. Not only was it valuable to know who was having affairs, losing their jobs, involved with shady business deals, and on the verge of divorce – it was also highly entertaining in a twisted way. Liz Smith was a great column, and reported on who was going to this party, or that. It wasn't as dishy as Cindy Adams or our beloved Page Six. Our favorite pastime was trying to figure out the blind items – especially tawdry gossip that witholds the identities of the players to protect the 'innocent'. And avoid lawsuits.
We also religiously scanned the social blogs to see the photos of the bold-faced names attending the various benefits around town. It was helpful to know who the players are and which benefits they attended. We tried to piece together their motivation for attending whatever benefit for which they were photographed, because it was rarely about the cause itself. Most likely they'd been strong armed by the chairs of the event into buying a ticket or bought a ticket to curry favor with somebody.
It wasn't my most productive day at work. I pushed forward minimally on a few projects and returned some calls, but I was so worn out I was having a hard time staying focused. At five I packed up my things and popped into Claudine's office to say goodbye.
"Any plans this weekend, Sookie?"
"The usual. Volunteering tonight for a couple of hours and then I have that portrait class tomorrow morning that I started last week, but nothing really other than that."
"Sookie, you're an attractive 32 year old living in New York City. I know I sound like a broken record, but I just don't understand why you never go out on dates. It's been like two years since you had a boyfriend, and that was Quinn." Claudine was no fan.
"I know, I know. You know I've tried going on a couple of blind dates, but the guys were creeps. Frankly I'd rather sit at home by myself and read a book than subject myself to some of the weirdos out there." Claudine looked at me with a weak smile and sighed heavily at my remark.
"I think you snagged the last nice guy in the city."
Claudine's smile widened and she said, "Well, Jonathan was quite the catch, but there are other good guys in the city. I think you're just looking in the wrong places. Uh, scratch that. You're just not looking."
My head dropped back as I rolled my eyes. "Good night, Claudine. Have a good weekend."
I hopped on the subway as I did every Friday to begin my weekend. Most benefits and galas in the city were Monday through Thursday nights, leaving the only consistent time that I had to myself Friday evening and Saturday morning. Frequently I had to go into the office for the rest of the weekend because the workload was so crushing. Claudine was always very respectful of my volunteering commitment and Saturday morning class and never asked me to stay late on Fridays or come in early on Saturdays.
I rode the subway up to the 116th Street stop. Every Friday I spent a couple of hours at a group home for kids in the foster care system. I'd been coming here for the last five years, when I'd hit a major low point in my life. My parents died when I was eight years old. They were swept over a bridge in a flash flood. The loss of my Mom and Dad was enormous, but my Gran had taken my older brother Jason and me into her home and raised us until we left for college. She was everything to me, and when she died I had a really rough go of it. I'm not particularly close to my brother, and I felt like I'd suddenly been cut adrift. I missed my Gran terribly. Volunteering here didn't take away the pain of her loss which I still feel five years later, but I did feel like I was able to channel my energy into something that was positive for kids who were dealing with precarious family lives. It wasn't a structured volunteer position, I just went in and hung out with the kids for a couple of hours.
I always carried a few little wire bound sketch books with me so I could give them to kids who were interested. I'd started sketching when my parents died – it was very therapeutic for me and I still do it to this day. I knew five of the kids who were at the house today, and three were new. They ranged in age from five to eighteen.
'Hey Sookie! I wanted to show you some of my drawings from this week,' smiled a sweet twelve year old girl named Dawn. I'd know Dawn for a couple of months now and was really impressed to see how her drawings had progressed – becoming much more confident and expressive. She was nearing the end of her book, so I pulled out another one for her.
"Can my brother and I have one too?" the taller of the two new boys shyly asked me.
"Of course you can! What's your name?"
"I'm Hunter and this is my little brother Ian."
"Well, I'm Sookie. It's nice to meet you both. Here you go. You can do anything you want with this – doodle, sketch a picture, write poetry, or even play tic-tac-toe."
"Thank you." Hunter squeaked and gave me a little smile and retreated to a far corner of the room with Ian and they cracked open the sketch books and were soon consumed in their own little worlds.
I sat around and chatted with Dawn and a couple of the others and the time quickly passed. When it was time for me to leave I gave everybody quick hugs before crossing the room to Hunter and Ian.
"Thank you again for the sketch books, Sookie. Maybe we'll see you next week?"
"Maybe so. It was sure nice to meet you and your brother. Have a good weekend." I ruffled his hair, smiled brightly and turned to leave.
It was heartbreaking to see kids with family lives in such turmoil. They didn't know what to expect from one week to the next, so I never presumed or promised that I would see anyone the following week. I would most certainly be back the next week, but I never knew if they would.
When I got back to my apartment on the Upper West Side, I ordered in Thai from a great neighborhood joint and took a quick shower while waiting for it to come. I popped in A Room With a View and settled in to watch as much as I could before I was consumed by sleep.
My eyes were drooping before too long, so I shut it down early. I had an 8:00 a.m. drawing class and wanted to be alert and focused for it.
The early night paid off. When my alarm went off at 7:00 a.m.. I was feeling good, and once I had my morning coffee I felt like a million bucks. I threw on jeans and a turtleneck sweater and pulled my hair into a messy bun. Gathering my drawing materials, I left my apartment to hop on the crosstown bus to take me across the park to the National Academy School of Fine Arts. I'd taken several drawing classes there and had just started a portraiture class last week. I was finding it challenging to say the least.
After two hours of sketching the model, the instructor, Bernard, circulated the room to give the class feedback. "Sookie, you have some nice lines here, but the overall result is rather wooden and detached. You have technical skills but you need to be an empathetic observer of your subject. You're not alone. Most of the class is struggling with this too." He turned to address the class. "This week, I'd like for you to draw a portrait of someone you know - your spouse, roommate, boyfriend, whatever. Drawing somebody you know will help immensely to cross the hurdle that so many of you seem to be facing. Thank you and I'll see you next week."
Well, I wasn't sure who I would draw that I knew, but I'd bring my sketch book with me to Muddy's and see I could find somebody who would inspire me to draw a better portrait. Muddy's was my home away from home and just around the corner from my apartment. It was an independently owned coffee shop that was large enough so you didn't feel like you were sitting on the lap of the person at the next table, but still cozy enough to make you want to stay for hours.
I loved to come here after my drawing class and have a latte and work on the New York Times crossword puzzle or draw in my sketchbook. It was my decompression time from the work week and I savored my lazy time there. The familiar jingle of the bell above the door and smell of fresh roasted coffee comforted me and made the city feel a little smaller. I caught the eye of the pixie-haired waitress, Amelia, and smiled, heading back to my usual table tucked in the back corner. It was a prime position to people watch because it was out of the way but still afforded great views of the rest of the tables. I didn't really want to chat with anybody here other than Amelia, and the corner table helped to ensure I would be able to spend a solitary morning in peace
"Good morning, Sookie. You want a skim latte?" Amelia smiled.
I nodded gratefully and pulled out my sketch book. A pretty young brunette was sitting a couple of tables away looking wistfully out the window. I thought she would be a good subject, so I started to quickly record her general gestures and posture with my pencil. I was starting to start roughing in the features on her face when Amelia came over with my latte and took the seat opposite mine.
"You don't mind, do you?"
"Of course not! How's your week been?"
Amelia's face brightened. "I have great news! I was cast in this play that will be directed by that same guy who directed me in the Fringe Festival. And I have an audition on Wednesday for a Doritos commercial."
"Nice! When is the show?"
"It's in February."
"Well, count me in. I'll round up a crowd to come."
She gave me a huge grin. I'd met Amelia when she started working here two years ago. In that time she'd become a great friend and I really enjoyed her company. I rarely met people outside of work, so it was a welcome break from talking shop all the time.
"Did you see who's here today?" I scanned the crowd until I saw the tall blond that I knew she was talking about.
"Mr. Love 'em and Leave 'em himself!" she giggled
He earned his nickname when Amelia first started working here. On several occasions he'd bring a 'date' to Muddy's on a Saturday morning and they'd order coffee. After a half hour or so, like clockwork, the woman would push back from her chair and leave, having clearly been dumped. Their reactions ranged from irate to just plain pitiful. It had been highly entertaining while it lasted, but he'd been coming in solo for over a year now.
"I wonder if he's been single all this time or if he just hasn't found a reason to break up with his latest girlfriend yet." Amelia pondered.
"He's not single." I said. "I think he's with this Upper East Side socialite type name Felicia who works at the Met."
"How in the hell do you know that?" Amelia asked wide eyed.
"I've seen his picture in some of the social blogs out at various events. He's always photographed with her."
"You need to lay off the social news. You know way too much about people you don't event know. That's kind of creepy."
"It's my job, Amelia. It's helpful to know stuff like that. Although, yes, it is kind of creepy that I know this about the random gorgeous guy who dumps girls in Muddy's like it's his job."
"Well what's his name?"
"I don't know – they've never listed his name."
"Ooooooh. Mysterious. Well, I got to get back to work before I get fired. Maybe we can get drinks this week?"
"Sounds perfect. Call me when you know your schedule."
I turned back to my sketch book and realized that my subject had paid her bill and left while I was gabbing with Amelia. Fudge.
My gaze was drawn back to the blond guy and I wondered what his story was. He really was a handsome man with strong features and icy blue eyes. His golden blond hair stopped a couple of inches above his shoulders and was tousled from his fingers running through it. He had a pen out and was intently looking at the paper in front of him. The corners of my mouth edged up into a small smile when I realized he was working on the crossword. At that very moment he looked up and caught me right in the eye. Gah. I quickly looked away but knew my cheeks were hot pink.
Who was this guy? He didn't seem like the kind who usually went out with a 'Felicia'. Not that I knew her, but I'm pretty sure I know her type - your standard issue pretentious and entitled trustafarian. He didn't strike me as a lawyer, attorney or an investment banker. Maybe he was a musician? No. A 'Felicia' would never go out with a musician. Maybe he was a writer. Or a night club owner. Maybe a restaurateur? He looked Scandinavian. Maybe he was born and raised in Sweden. His mother was a fashion model and his father a famous novelist. He developed a love for food and wine and wanted to share it with the world so he came to America to establish an empire, first stop New York. Or he could be a spy.
I scoffed at my own ridiculousness and shook my head to clear my brain. Who knows what his story is, but I was surprised and disappointed that he would be attached to a 'Felicia.' I assumed he was intelligent by the mere fact he was working on a crossword rather than reading Men's Health. And he had kind eyes - although I had witnessed him break at least five hearts. He seemed like a man of substance and the whole long hair thing seemed to indicate an independent streak. AND, he must live on the Upper West Side since he frequented my favorite coffee shop. Got to give him points for not living on the Upper East Side where Felicia undoubtably resided.
I'd been so caught up in my thoughts, that I wasn't cognizant of the fact that I'd been studying his face and begun sketching his portrait. Fortunately he was engrossed in his crossword so he didn't catch me looking this time. I fleshed out his nose and strong brow, high cheekbones and started becoming a little heated when drawing lips that looked like they'd been lifted from one of Michaelangelo's masterpieces. This man was really a sight to behold and my heart started racing a little bit. I worked on recording his sexy tousled hair. I added in a little shading to emphasize the planes of his face and was very pleased with the result. I forced myself to stop before he caught me looking at him again and flipped to an empty page in my sketch book so the neighboring tables couldnt see what I'd done. I'd seen this man several times in here before, and of course registered that he was attractive, but had never noticed what an Adonis he was until today. I needed to get out of here before I embarrassed myself again.
I'd finished my latte, packed up my things and beat a hasty retreat. I gave Amelia a quick wave and walked home enjoying an unseasonably warm and sunny November day.