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New Haven, Connecticut
October 1978 to January 1979
It was one of those glorious, crisp autumn days—the kind Natalie Ferrenzo had always loved. The cloudless sky was an intense blue, and the sunlight the kind that hurt your eyes. In Natalie's opinion, this was the prettiest season in New England, which was now experiencing a dazzling display of fall color. The red maples with their brilliant scarlet leaves were especially beautiful this year, she thought as she cruised along on her ten-speed. She was on her way home, finished with classes for the day. A sophomore English major, Natalie attended Southern Connecticut State University and lived only a few blocks from the campus.
Almost home now, she rounded the corner and turned onto her street. Her garage apartment was located midway down the block and, as she got closer, she saw she had company. Red hair blazing just as bright, as the maple leaves in the afternoon sun: Brooke Gallo sat on the bottom step of the outside stairway that led to Natalie's place. She stood and waved as Natalie pulled into the driveway.
"What are you doing here?" Natalie braked, then walked her bike over and parked it under the stairway.
"Is that any way to greet your best and most admired friend?" Brooke countered with a cheeky grin.
Natalie rolled her eyes. "I thought you had class." She fastened the lock she hoped would deter anyone from stealing the bike.
Brooke pushed a stray strand of hair out of her eyes."Professor Miller canceled. Something about his wife being sick. So I thought I'd come over and talk to you about tonight."
They climbed the stairs to the apartment. "What about tonight?" Natalie unlocked the door.
"We've been invited to a party."
Natalie made a face. She didn't much like parties.
Pretending not to see Natalie's expression, Brooke walked inside. "I think it'll be fun."
Natalie shrugged out of her backpack and dropped it on the coffee table. Brooke headed for the futon that doubled as Natalie's bed and plopped down on one end, folding her legs under her Indian fashion. Her knees poked out of the holes in her Levi's.
"Where is this party, anyway?" Natalie reached up under her sweater and unfastened her bra. "Oh, man, that feels better."
Natalie hated wearing bras, yet she didn't feel comfortable going without one the way Brooke did. Of course, Brooke had nice, small A-cup breasts, whereas Natalie's were like her mother's and required a C cup.
"The better to nurse babies with," Connie Ferrenzo always said whenever Natalie or her sisters—who were also C cups—complained. Connie always assumed her four daughters would marry and have lots of babies.
"Somewhere over by the Yale campus," Brooke said. "I have the address written down."
Natalie made a noncommittal sound and headed for the kitchen, calling over her shoulder, "Want a Coke?"
"I'd rather have a beer."
"Sorry. It's Coke or ice water."
"Oh, well. Coke, then, I guess."
While in the kitchen, Natalie decided she wasn't going to let Brooke pressure her into doing something she didn't want to do. Returning to the main living area with two cans of Coke, she handed one to Brooke, then curled up on the other end of the futon. Her jeans, reflecting her orderly personality, had no holes. In fact, they were clean and still showed signs of the crease she'd ironed into them. She pulled the tab of her drink and took a long, thirsty swallow.
"So?" Brooke said after drinking some of her Coke, too, "What do you say? Want to go?"
Natalie shook her head and picked at a loose thread in the futon's upholstery.
"Oh, come on, Nat."
"I'm sorry, Brooke. I just don't want to."
"Because I hate that whole party scene. Watching a bunch of guys barf into the privet hedge is not my idea of a great Friday night. Besides, there's bound to be drugs."
"So? Just because they're there doesn't mean we have to mess with them."
"C'mon," Brooke wheedled. "I don't want to go by myself. Anyway, it'll be good for you to get out and mix and meet some new people. You never go anywhere."
"That's not true."
Brooke's expressive face wore a pained expression. "Oh, yeah, sure, you work, go to class, go to the library, go to church, but you never go out! You're totally boring. You never have any fun!"
"Yes, I do. I read and I write and I go to movies—" And why was she Explaining herself to Brooke, anyway?
"Oh, for Pete's sake, how can you call that fun? What about guys? What about sex? Are you gonna remain a virgin your entire life?"
"I'd hardly say I'm a decrepit old woman at nineteen," Natalie answered, telling herself not to get mad. "You know how I feel about sex."
"Yeah, yeah, I know. Only when you fall in love. Only when it's the real thing, whatever that is."
"You can make fun of me, but I believe in true love."
Brooke made a face. "You and my mother." Brooke's mother had been married three times and was well on her way to number four.
"My parents are happily married."
"I never said they weren't. It's just ... Oh, shoot, Nat, you're too young to live like a nun. Haven't you heard about the sexual revolution?"
Natalie shrugged. Right now, sex was the furthest thing from her mind. From what she could see, when a girl got heavily involved with a guy, the relationship seemed to take over her life. Natalie didn't want that. She didn't need that. She had a goal, and she'd made up her mind when she started college that nothing, nothing was going to deter her from reaching it.
Ever since she'd started working at the Emerson Library in her junior year Of high school, she'd known what she wanted. Unlike her older siblings, she was going to college, where she would work very hard, earn top grades, get her degree in English, and then head for New York, where she intended to land a job with a publishing company. And then someday, after she learned the business, she might take a stab at writing a hook herself.
That part of her dream was still her secret, though. But her goal would not be met if she spent her free time mooning over some guy. It was hard enough going, to school and working, too. "I don't have time for guys."
Brooke gave her an exasperated look. "An occasional party doesn't mean you're committing your life!"
"I know that. But why waste time on something that's not important to me? You know the terms of my scholarship. I have to do well, or I'll lose it." At Brooke's long-suffering look, she added, "Anyway, this is a Yale party, right?" The moment the words were out of her mouth, she could have kicked herself. Why couldn't she just say what she felt and leave it at that? Why did she always feel guilty when she couldn't please other people?
Natalie sighed. "Oh, come on. You know those guys look down their noses at us. I'm sure they think if we had any brains, we'd be going to Yale."
"You're paranoid. Besides, even if they do think that, who cares? We're dot gonna marry 'em. We're just gonna eat their food and drink their beer and have some fun."
"You're just going to eat their food and drink their beer. I'm not going."
"But I don't have anyone else to go with," Brooke whined, pouting. "Just come with me for a little while, okay? If it's awful and you hate it, we'll leave. I promise."
"Please? Pretty please?" At this, Brooke slid off the futon onto her knees, her hands clasped together as if in prayer. She gave Natalie a pitiful look.
Despite herself, Natalie started to laugh. "Oh, honestly."
Brooke's face broke into a delighted grin. "Does that mean yes?"
Natalie sighed again. R was Friday, and even though she was working tomorrow, she had all Sunday to finish her English lit paper on Jane Austen. She guessed it wouldn't kill her to go to one party. Hoping she wouldn't be sorry, she finally said, "Oh, I guess so."
"Thank you, thank you." Brooke jumped up, very nearly spilling her Coke in her exuberance.
"But remember," Natalie added, "if I want to leave, we're going. No arguments. Understood?"
"Cross my heart."
"I'll hold you to it."
"Fine," Brooke said, waving her hand airily. "Now, what're you gonna wear?"
"I don't know. Jeans?"
"Absolutely not. Want to borrow my black skirt?"
"Your leather skirt?" The skirt in question was in the new long style, but it fit like a second skin.
"That's not me, Brooke. If you don't think I should wear jeans, I'll wear my gray skirt and sweater."
The outfit, smoky gray cashmere and the nicest Natalie owned, had been a gift from her older sister Rose the previous Christmas. In giving it to her, Rose had said, "You work so hard, sweetie, and every girl needs to have one outfit that's beautiful. Besides, it matches your eyes exactly." Ever since, whenever Natalie had worn it, she'd felt special.
"Perfect," Brooke said happily, now that she'd gotten her way. "Well, guess I'd better get going. I'll pick you up at eight, okay?"
"Okay." Brooke had a car, a secondhand Camaro that had belonged to her Older brother, whereas Natalie relied on her legs, her bike, and public transportation to get her wherever she needed to go.
Brooke left, smiling, and Natalie decided she'd use the time until she had to get ready for the party to clean her tiny apartment. The apartment was her only extravagance, but it was one she was determined to manage. Last year she'd lived in one of the dorms. That was how she and Brooke had met They were assigned to rooms across the hall from one another. By the second semester, they had traded roommates and were rooming together.
Yet as much as Natalie liked Brooke, it drove her crazy to live in constant chaos, The trouble was, Natalie was obsessively neat and organized, and Brooke was a slob. But even more importantly, Natalie knew if she were going to keep her grades up, she had to have some privacy and quiet time to study. So she'd worked two jobs over the summer and saved every possible penny, earmarking it for a place of her own this year.
Affordable small apartments in New Haven weren't easy to find, and Natalie knew she'd been extraordinarily lucky. Hers was owned by an eighty-year-old widow who lived in the small shotgun house in the front of the narrow property. Most days Natalie rode her bike to school and work; she worked two days and two nights a week for a textbook supplier, doing typing and general clerical work. On bad-weather days, she caught a city bus at the corner, which deposited her at the southern entrance to the campus.
The widow, Mrs. Buckley, had said, "I don't hold with noisy parties and shenanigans like dope and drinking."
"I don't drink, and I don't do drugs," Natalie had assured her.
The woman's stern expression gradually softened. "I think I believe you," she finally said, and the apartment was Natalie's.
Natalie had been elated. She still was. This was the first time in her life she'd ever lived alone, and she loved it. She kept the place spotlessly clean and neat, with a place for everything and everything in its place. And even though an apartment of her own meant there was no way she could afford a car, she didn't mind. The biking and walking she did were good exercise, the only exercise she got.
The studio apartment was less than three hundred square feet and consisted of the combination living room/ bedroom, a minuscule kitchen with a tiny extension into which a table and two chairs just barely fit, and a bathroom. But it was enough. More than enough, in fact.
In addition to the futon, Natalie had filled the main room with a cheap bookcase and desk, a dresser, a small color TV set, which had been her parents' gift when she'd started college, two lamps, and a hand-me-down maple coffee table and end table donated by her brother Tony. The walls were decorated with posters of New York. Her favorite was one of Central Park at night, with the New York skyline in the background. Every time Natalie looked at it, she Smiled and thought how she would be there someday.
The table and two chairs in her eating area were the only items she'd purchased. She'd bought them at Pier One, and they reminded her of the old-fashioned ice cream parlor in her hometown.
The small refrigerator and gas stove had come with the apartment, and although Mrs. Buckley had made previous tenants go to the Laundromat to do their laundry, she d given Natalie permission to use the washer and dryer in the basement of the main house.
"Just as long as you buy your own soap and bleach," the older woman had said. Her voice was stern, but her eyes were kind.
Natalie knew she was lucky. Mrs. Buckley had taken a liking to her, that was clear. In fact, Natalie hadn't lived there a week before Mrs. Buckley was bringing over "half a loaf of bread I baked today" or "a couple of slices of my meat loaf, it's too much for me" or "just a bit of my stew, I've got way too much." At first Natalie protested, but when she realized it was giving the older woman pleasure to help her out, she stopped feeling guilty about accepting the welcome offerings. One day, she promised herself, when she was out of school and had some money, she would do something nice for Mrs. Buckley. In the meantime, she showed her gratitude by helping out with chores.
She made a mental note to ask her landlady if she wanted Natalie to rake the leaves in the front yard sometime this weekend.
After cleaning the apartment, Natalie took a quick shower, changed into the cashmere outfit, and was ready and waiting when Brooke tooted the horn a few minutes before eight.
The wind whipped her hair into her face as Natalie descended the outside stairs, and she was glad she'd grabbed her trench coat. She could already feel winter in the air, but she didn't mind. She'd always liked winter, maybe because there was nothing quite so nice as being warm and snug inside when it was freezing outside.
Brooke chattered gaily as she drove to the slightly seedy area near the Yale campus where the party was being held. Even the fact she had to park three blocks away couldn't dampen her spirits.
"We're going to have a great time tonight!" Brooke predicted as they walked arm in arm toward the house.
Posted July 29, 2001
Patricia Kay has taken a theme from historical and European romances, given it a contemporary face-lift and produced a story that leaves the reader wondering who really is the 'other woman'? Natalie Ferrenzo, a beautiful, intelligent young woman meets and falls in love with handsome, charming, wealthy Adam Forrester while in college in the late 70's. Love blossoms and Adam returns home to tell his parents of his intent to marry Natalie. His father is furious and tells him he must marry Julia, a childhood friend, or so Adam thought. It seems Adam's father is indebted to Julia's father and unless he marries Julia, the Forresters face financial ruin. Steeped in familial responsibility, Adam tells Natalie he must marry Julia. They part and do not see one another for @ 12 years. In an accidental encounter they both realize they have never stopped loving each other. So begins a secret romance. Adam's guilt over loving Natalie and not being in love with his wife drives him to ask Julia for a divorce. Tragedy ensues and eventually Natalie is forced to make the ultimate sacrifice. However, due to a cancelled plane flight, Adam returns home to find that Julia was not exactly what she seemed. I won't give away the ending but will say this: sometimes we do get a second chance at making things right. And, the 'other woman' is not always who you think it is.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 9, 2008
In late 1978 going into 1979, Adam Forrester is the oldest child and an only son with a wealthy Westchester County pedigree. Unlike his rebellious younger sister, he will listen to his parents and do what is expected by marrying the boring daughter of father¿s business partner. However, while attending Yale he meets and falls in love with Natalie Ferrenzo, a student at another school. Adam decides to defy his parents by marrying Natalie instead of Julia, but he soon learns that if he fails to wed the latter his family faces financial doom. Natalie breaks with Adam who marries Julia. <P>Over a decade later in New York City, an unhappy Adam accidentally meets Natalie. He decides this time to go for love and plans to divorce Julia. However, his wife refuses to go quietly into the night and Natalie has kept a secret from him all these years making a second chance at love seem doomed again. <P>THE OTHER WOMAN is a well-written contemporary romance whose main plot centers on a notion that seems out of place in the modern era. Taking that initial leap past the ancient theme, readers will enjoy the lead characters as they struggle with love the first time around and even more so the second time. The story line is cleverly written so sub-genre fans will enjoy Patricia Kay¿s passionate tale in spite of the anachronistic key concept. <P>Harriet KlausnerWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.