Just Like Romeo and Juliet - Brooke St. James

Chapter 1

November 1995

Houston, TX

Anne Rose Kennedy

Everyone had things that stuck with them in life. I was still young, but I had lived through certain conversations and situations that were wedged into my memory so firmly I figured I'd never forget them.

For instance, Jason Hardesty was standing next to me at my kindergarten graduation when someone behind us passed out and fell forward, crashing into us. We almost fell off the stage. It was a heroic act by a parent in the first row that saved us. Several of us cried, and I was left with a sprained wrist.

Another memory that stuck out to me was the time Becky Gibson told me Santa wasn't real. In an unrelated conversation some years later, the same Becky also told me where babies came from.

I had no idea I was about to have one of those types of memorable conversations.

This news would turn out to be even bigger than Santa, but at the time, I thought I was meeting a woman about an article for the college newspaper.

I had talked to her assistant over the phone and he told me that since I was a senior, they were interested in having me write a short article about the UH Bachelor's in Nutrition program, which I was about to complete. I was not a writer, but the man on the phone assured me it was no big deal and that the editor just wanted to talk to me about it.

I walked into a Denny's, which was where she wanted to meet. Helen was the lady's name. I was supposed to meet her at 11am, and I walked into Denny's two minutes late. I normally liked to be early for things, but in Houston there was always traffic, and today it was particularly bad.

I was less nervous than I thought I would be about the meeting. I felt confident and, honestly, a bit like I would tell the lady I'd pass on doing it. I would have to see how our conversation went, but at this point, I didn't see myself as the writing an article type. As it stood, I rarely read them.

"I'm meeting a woman here," I said to the hostess. "Mrs. Elliot. Helen Elliot."

"Oh, yeah, I think it's that lady over there. Are you Anne?"

"Yes," I said, even though I went by Anne Rose, which was my first and middle name. Only people who didn't know me called me by my first name.

"I'll show you to her table," she said.

I followed the hostess through the restaurant.

I scanned my surroundings until I thought I spotted the right woman. There was a lady sitting alone at a table near the window. There were other people at other tables, but she was the only person I could see who was alone.

She was dressed in designer clothes and wearing a big hairdo. It was all teased and sprayed into an oversized helmet which she adjusted with a jewelry-adorned finger. There was a good amount of gold and diamonds on her hand and wrist. I knew she wasn't what I was expecting from an editor of a college newspaper, but I didn't give it much thought.

She stood when she saw me coming.

I smiled as I approached her.

She didn't smile much. She attempted one, but it was fleeting. She stared at me with an expression that I would call searching or appraising—something more intense than I expected. I held the smile and nodded at her as I came to stand behind my chair. I expected her to be the one to introduce herself, but all she said was, "Good God almighty, you are his spitting image."

"Hi, are you Helen Elliot?" I asked, blowing past her random comment.

"Oh, ye-yes, yes I am." She stared intently at me, looking confused, almost frazzled.

I reached out to shake her hand. "I'm Anne Rose Kennedy," I said. And when she still appeared to be lost in thought, I added, "I'm graduating from the Nutrition program at UH."

"Yes, yes, of course." She nodded absentmindedly as we took our seats. We got settled at the table.

I contemplated opening my silverware and putting my napkin on my lap, but she hadn't done the same, so I waited.

"Hello, can I get you something else to drink?" our waitress asked. She was looking at me as she came up to our table. She set two coffee cups in front of us. There were already two glasses of ice water sitting there.

"No ma'am, coffee's fine," I said.

"Okay, there's cream and sugar