Every place has a heartbeat. Every place has a song. And everyone has a story. New York’s heartbeat is the millions of footsteps that walk its streets. New York’s song is the one that Billy Joel sings. And it’s story? There are many… eight million people’s stories. All wrapped up on an island. Sometimes their stories stretch past Manhattan and sometimes they stay confined to the old buildings for which New York is synonymous.
On a quieter brick laden street outside of Greenwich Village, there stands a 20-story building with a doorman. It is done in the Art Deco style. It’s residents are an eclectic group, ranging from Wall Street types, to attorneys, and some who’ve acquired or inherited an apartment in the building, as well as the wealth that comes to afford the location.
The building, much like the residents themselves, outwardly appears to be in perfect condition. However, the building has been through many challenging times and inwardly has started to show its age. The residents of The Cavendish have as well.
For Cecily Parker, New York City and The Cavendish had always been home. Of course, she’d spent long summers in the Hamptons, and extensive time abroad, but this little corner of New York was the place that she felt the safest.
On a particular day in November, when the wind was just starting to bite, Cecily was looking forward to spending a quiet evening alone. Alone was relatively new for her. She’d spent years in serious relationships. The most recent had ended only days prior. The crumbling of this relationship was perhaps the most painful for her. She’d loved James Kirsch. He’d challenged her, brought her laughter, and had offered the promise of a life she’d never known. While her family was tightly knit, it was bound by duty and structure. Very much unlike the life James knew, where hugs and moral support were doled out without a second thought.
The relationship had dissolved because of many things; mostly over things that Cecily could not change. Cecily could not change her neurotic mother. She could not change the fact that she came from an affluent family. She could not change that James always felt inferior to her. She’d offered him love and support. She’d seen him through three grueling years of law school. And as his career and life started to find success, hers started to find crisis.
And so over sushi and too much sake, he’d ended their relationship. She was stunned. The few days that passed after that evening were all a blur. She’d been busy with work at the gallery, her youngest sister was in the throws of wedding planning, and her mother was off, terrorizing the Upper East Side, in hot pursuit of the most opulent venue for Rachel’s wedding.
So on this day, all she wanted to do was retreat; wave the white flag, walk her four-legged best friend, and spend an evening sulking alone. Ice cream and delivery were on the agenda. A bubble bath, Pinot, and lots of tears were inevitable.
As she walked through the gilded doors of her building, a blur of fur and perfume came stomping through the foyer. A tall, slender, dark haired woman was waving her arms wildly in the air. Her face was filled with a grimace. Every word that escaped her mouth was in hushed hisses. As Cecily discretely watched the encounter, she noticed that the woman was Vivian Clancy, the wife of Martin Clancy, a successful New York businessman. His reputation was not at all becoming. He was known for being a direct and ruthless man. But at that moment, as he looked at his wild-eyed wife, his demeanor contradicted this chatter.
Mr. Clancy, for being such a powerful man, at that instant, looked quite small beside his wife. His stature was normally bold and intimidating, but as he stood in front of Mrs. Clancy, his shoulders were slumped and his eyes were pleading.
Cecily fumbled in her purse for her keys, or for her phone, or for whatever object she could use as a stall tactic. Her interest was mildly piqued. Any opportunity to glimpse at something other than her recent misfortunes seemed like a nice respite.
But her cover was quickly blown. At a moment when Martin happened to look up, Cecily did too. The look they exchanged was a knowing one. They’d both been scolded enough in the past few days. Cecily turned scarlet, ashamed of her bad form. She’d normally never eaves drop.
In an attempt to escape the situation, she clumsily pushed the elevator button for her floor, only realizing after that’d she pushed the wrong one. As the bell rang and the lift doors began to open, Martin feebly walked up alone. She blushed again, realizing she’d be alone with Martin for 18 floors, with only silence and the knowledge that she’d been an intruder on a private but very public row.
He acknowledged her presence with a nod, and did what most do, by sliding into the furthest corner. She did the same. The elevator hummed, propelling them up floor after floor. At 18, the elevator came to a halt. As Mr. Clancy made his exit, he gruffly mumbled “Good Evening.”
“Good Evening,” she sputtered and slid further back into her corner.
Safely at home, she curled up on the sofa with her pup, Blair, thankful for the comfort of her home. 33B at The Cavendish was her paradise.
Several days had passed since the awkward encounter with Mr. Clancy. It was nearly forgotten, when one morning, in a rush out the door, late for work, she anxiously awaited for the elevator.
The bell rang; the doors opened, and there, Mr. Clancy stood before her.
“Good Morning, Ms. Parker “ he said, offering a sly smile. He looked much more alive than he had days before. Polished, in a suit and tie, and smelling of Yardley soap.
Cecily felt startled once again. His smile unnerved her. She couldn’t understand her feelings. Yet she managed to muster a paltry salutation. The doors of the elevator opened and off they both went; out onto the street, he off to the left, and she, to the right.
Her work at the art gallery began to consume her days. A new installation was in the works and the showcased artist was causing a delay. There was still much work that hadn’t even been created yet, leaving a large gap in the collection. Cecily worked long hours, looking for a suitable artist to fill this void.
All the while, her youngest sister, the baby of the family, was only interested in wedding planning. Her mother and sister often stopped by the gallery, bringing color swatches, endless photos of flowers, and bridal magazines. These visits were dreaded, not just by Cecily, but by the whole gallery. Her mother cared not much for art, and her sister only deemed something art-worthy if it were consistent with themes in pop-culture. Many took offense at their blasé attitude, and found their bull-in-china shop antics unbearable. The gallery wasn’t their own personal lounge room, despite what their behavior reflected. The two never really understood Cecily’s interests, and didn’t believe her career passions to be noteworthy or respected.
Most of the time, she was able to brush aside the annoyance she felt for the two. And over time, she was less embarrassed at their gauche behavior; it was the way they were, and she accepted them. But they never really seemed to accept her.
Cecily was not the only one spending long evenings at the office. As Clancy’s marriage began to come to a close, he also felt comfort in keeping his head down, immersed in his work. Business had always been his first love. It had never left him like so many women had. And when it treated him badly, he found a new one.
Because of their similar hours, the two often found themselves sharing a ride in the elevator. After weeks of simple greetings, their exchanges advanced to small talk. Cecily found that she actually really liked Martin. She thought him to be funny and charming. He had an air of confidence that was alluring. The Martin she was beginning to get to know was not the same person she’d seen weeks back. The decline of his marriage had drained him and the years of trying to make his relationship work had taken their toll. When Vivian walked away from him that day in the foyer, he knew his marriage was over. But what was beginning, he’d soon discover.
On a Saturday afternoon in the spring, Cecily and her mother strolled back to The Cavendish from a long celebratory bridal shower for her sister Rachel. Cecily’s mother, Claire, was in usual form. She was loud and bossy, tossing judgment wantonly at her eldest daughter. The endless mimosas and champagne cocktails seemed to lubricate her mothers’ filter-less mouth even more than normal.
Cecily paid no mind. The months of separation from James and a successful exhibit at the gallery had all been enough to invigorate the once meek 29-year-old lady. They walked through the foyer and towards the corridor that held the elevator.
Claire was rambling from an afternoon of overindulgence. And Cecily was off in her own thoughts, away from her babbling mother, when out of the corner of her eye, she saw Mr. Clancy walk up towards the corridor. A sudden panic began to spread throughout her body. A foreign feeling started to erupt within her. Cecily began to hope that her mother would cease. Would she just shut up!
But no, continue she did. Martin walked up and tipped his head in a familiar but formal gesture. And then, there she went; Claire Parker began the barrage of questions so venomous in nature that Martin began to seek the shadows of the elevator.
“Cese, I’d really like to see you get married someday soon! Why can’t you find a nice guy like Rachel has? You know dear, you aren’t getting any younger. And are you ever going to tell me what happened with James? What did you do to chase him off…? I mean, he wasn’t my favorite of your suitors, but you two were engaged! That’s something!”
Cecily tried to collect herself quietly. She was hot and flustered from embarrassment, an embarrassment she hadn’t known she could experience. She felt her heart beating outside of her chest. As the elevator propelled them up through the building, she wished for the comfort of her apartment. She wanted her mother to leave. She wished Martin hadn’t heard the most private details of her relationship with James.
Failure. Her mother knew how to make her feel a failure.
As the elevator doors swung open, Cecily looked back at Martin. He gave her a long, consoling look, as if to say, “I’m sorry.” She stepped off and the doors closed.
Life went on as it always did. Cecily found herself devoted more than ever to her work, in addition to working with charities throughout the city. She felt somewhat spread thin, but could not help herself from spending afternoons working with a pet rescue charity devoted to finding abandoned animals new homes. She loved the dogs and was also becoming interested in another volunteer. His name was Iver Sampson. He was in his early thirties, athletic, and successful. He also seemed smitten with her; coffee dates turned into lunches, lunches turned into dinners, and eventually, weekends were spent exploring the city.
One late summer afternoon, after a long day devoted to the New York Animal Rescue, Iver and Cecily found their way back to the stone building that she called home. They were both exhausted, wanting to spend an evening with food ordered-in and movies. They were in the midst of flirty banter whilst waiting for the elevator when Martin gingerly walked through the corridor. Cecily’s eyes met Martins, and immediately she felt the need for introductions.
Despite the fact that both men displayed civility, Cecily couldn’t help but notice Martin’s demeanor was much more reserved than usual. Iver had been more than friendly, and yet, Martin stood back away from them both, keeping his distance. It irked Cecily. As the elevator doors opened, she gave a curt salutation and the two made their way to 33B.
As summer ended and the days got shorter and colder, Iver’s affections for Cecily became warmer. The two were spending most days with each other, most often residing at The Cavendish. Life seemed to be falling into place, yet Cecily couldn’t help but feel like something was missing. She beat herself up for overthinking and worked to push these feelings aside.
Thanksgiving was approaching, and Iver early on in their short relationship had insisted that Cecily spend the holidays at his family’s home in Connecticut. She’d enjoyed their relationship thus far, but felt hesitation at the speed in which they were moving. It all felt so soon. But despite her apprehensions, she agreed to be his date for Thanksgiving dinner.
Thanksgiving morning Cecily and her dog Blair made their way down to the front of The Cavendish to wait for Iver’s arrival. As she made her way through the foyer, Blair yanked at her leash, causing Cecily to lose her grip. Her heavy overnight bags fell precariously off her shoulders on to the ground causing Cecily to lose her balance. At that same moment, Martin pushed through the doors from the street, his hands filled with bags, and Blair pushed past him, making her way out onto the street. Cecily quickly abandoned her luggage and Marin his groceries as the two rushed out of the building in pursuit of the Whippet.
“Blaiiiiiir!!!!!,” Cecily screamed.
The dog ignored her owner’s calls and continued to sprint down the brick street. Martin ran, his long, wool coat flapping wildly, his hair matted against his head as he perspired.
Tears and yelps of angst escaped Cecily; just as her beloved Blair had escaped her. As Blair rounded the corner of the building, Martin gained speed, Cecily followed closely behind. A yellow cab came barreling up to the stop sign and in one feeble swoop Martin leapt and fell face downward; a single finger grasped the dragging leash. The collision between pup and cab were narrowly avoided. Cecily fell to the ground, in a fit of tears, exhausted and relieved. She looked at Martin, disheveled, dirty, and scratched up and felt immense gratitude. Their gaze lasted just a second too long and both quickly rose to brush themselves off. Martin feebly handed Cecily the leather leash and worked to catch his breath. She stared off into the street, and Martin paused for a brief moment.
“Happy Thanksgiving, Cecily,” Martin managed and began his way back towards the apartment.
“Happy Thanksgiving,” she whimpered, as her voice trailed off.
At that moment, Iver’s black Range Rover pulled up to the curb. He looked at Cecily, bewildered at her disheveled appearance.
Mr. Scott, the doorman of The Cavendish made his way down the street with Cecily’s luggage, loading it into the back of the SUV. Blair hopped into the back, and Cecily into the front. As they sped off, Cecily looked out the window and saw Martin watching her leave; leave with Iver.
Thanksgiving and meeting Iver’s family was considered a success. Cecily’s own family gatherings were much like Iver’s; food was cooked by the family kitchen staff, stiff drinks were poured, and slurred, raucous discussions were had into the wee hours. Yet despite their similarities and attraction, Cecily wasn’t quite sure about Iver. His devotion felt too quickly acquired. His adoration felt overbearing; and his genuine care for her felt lacking. There were moments in their relationship in which Iver had expressed raw, uncontrolled emotion. He’d held her hand too aggressively, or questioned her motives and behavior.
During the beginnings of their courtship, countless evenings had been spent at dinners and at home. Most of these events had been shared over bottles of wine. It was only a little more than half a year into dating when Cecily realized that most of Iver’s hobbies revolved around Bordeaux, Burgundy, or Champagne. Cecily loved travel; however, she didn’t love that he traveled there every evening after 6:30. It seemed that after a couple of glasses Iver’s intensity increased; either in her favor, or not. When these moments occurred, she often questioned herself. Why did she stay in a situation that seemed so good and yet seemed so bad? How could this person have been so incredibly loving and then so volatile? Iver Sampson was Jekyll and Hyde.
Their strained relationship continued through the holidays. Christmas was spent this time at Cecily’s family in Upstate New York. Her parents had purchased an old estate in the late 80’s when Cecily’s mother needed a project other than tending to her children. The house was Claire’s new baby, and was renovated in an elaborate fashion. It was there that the Parker family had spent Christmas together for the past 20 years. And it was this year that Iver had joined; Paul and Claire, Rachel and her new husband, Simon, and Cecily and Iver. The Parker family seemed to finally approve of Cecily’s new beau. Iver was smart, esteemed, and affluent, and behind closed doors, quite moody. Cecily wasn’t quite sure how to handle the approval of her family coupled with the strong foreboding feeling that her relationship with Iver had an expiration date.
A week had passed when Cecily slipped on the gold sequin dress bought just for New Years Eve. She spritzed herself with Eau de Soir, slipped on her Louboutin’s and made her way to the elevator. She brushed her worries about the evening aside and climbed into the town car that would whisk her away to 11 Madison Park. There, she and Iver would drink Champagne, dine on oysters, and ring in the New Year. But by the time she’d managed to make her way through Midtown traffic, Iver was already a bottle in. He slurred his words, he spoke too loudly, and he aggressively kissed her and grabbed her face so hard she winced in pain. Throughout the dinner, he continued to get louder and louder, his words clouding her thoughts, his behavior leaving her wishing to be alone.
And just when she thought that it couldn’t get any worse, she sees James Kirsch walk towards her table, a smile spread across his face. Cecily felt delighted to see him and was surprised at how un-painful his presence was for her. She rose from the table to greet him with a friendly hug.
“James! How are you? So lovely to see you.”
“I just wanted to stop by and say hello. Cecily, you look wonderful!” James replied.
“Oh, thank you, really, and umm this is … Iver… Iver this is James.” Cecily introduced the two. Iver smugly shook James’ hand.
As James walked away, Iver slid his arm from one side of the table to the other, knocking over glasses of water and champagne, spilling them onto Cecily, onto the table, and onto the floor. The room became silent and all eyes were on Cecily’s table.
“You like that guy???” Iver hissed. His eyes were dark and angry, his hair unkempt, his bowtie undone.
At that moment Cecily had reached her breaking point. She slid to the side of the banquette and stood up, her dress soaking wet and clinging to her form. In a fit of rage and resolution, she threw her sopping napkin towards Iver’s drunken face and stormed through 11 Madison Park.
Cecily pushed her way through the exit and sobbed. She sobbed for relief; she sobbed for joy; she sobbed because she’d left everything behind. And she began to run. She ran down the streets of Manhattan towards her apartment.
Her face was swollen from tears and exhaustion, exhaustion from trying to be someone that she wasn’t. Her vision was blurred from the champagne and from her tears. As she reached the entrance of The Cavendish, Martin was making his way out. In that instant, the two looked at each other and their eyes locked. He swiftly walked up to Cecily and threw his wool coat upon her shoulders, wrapping his arms around her, and began to walk with her.
They made their way through the doors of The Cavendish. They stood in the corridor, but this time together in an embrace. The elevator doors opened. The bell rang. And up, up they went.