Monday, April 21, 2014

The Huge Roses: Chapter Three, part two

In chapter one, American nurse Tory Bird, visiting Amsterdam with her sister Jane, meets Dr. Maximilan van den Nie whilst giving first aid to an injured English tourist.  After a lovely weekend, Tory returns home to the United States.  In chapters two and three, Max arrives in Tory's New Hampshire village in time for an early snowstorm.

Installment One - Installment Two - Installment Three - Installment Four - Installment Five - Installment Six

THE HUGE ROSES (working title)
copyright 2014 by Betty van den Betsy; not for reprint or publication without permission

Chapter Three, part 2:

Forty minutes later, she heard the doctor’s car pull up to her house, and was glad she hadn’t dawdled over her shower and change of clothes.  She’d made time, though, to flick on some mascara and whisk a pale gloss across her lips.  She pulled on her heavy tweed coat, tweaked a beret into place, grabbed her purse, and pulled open the front door to find Max on the doorstep, reaching for the heavy brass knocker.
“Hello again,” she greeted him.  “That needs polishing.”  Digging gloves from her pockets, she missed seeing him grin.
“Hello again, yourself,” he answered.  “You’re admirably prompt, and your hair looks glorious.  Do you bring your own prayer book?”
Taken aback by his compliment – mousey hair rarely gets described as glorious – Tory had to think about the question for a moment.  “My mother does, but I don’t even own one.  I think Neil’s the only one of us who does; his godmother took her work seriously. But he doesn’t bring it; we’re regular enough churchgoers that we know most of the words, and Neil’s not shy about mumbling when needed.”
“I hope I get to meet him one day,” Max murmured.  Then, louder, he asked, “Neil is your brother?  The one who has made use of Josh Brown’s services?”
“Yes; he and Emma – they’re twins – both ski and snowboard competitively.  Sometimes maybe too competitively.  Collarbones and shoulders and tibias and ankles and one quite drastic femur.  That was Emma’s.  It’s not really a bad record, when you consider they’re almost thirty.”  Tory was confused to see that the doctor was coming around to the passenger side of the car with her, and boggled slightly when he opened her door for her.  “Oh,” she exclaimed, and tried to recover with a more subdued, “thank you.”  Shoulders shaking, he closed the door and walked over to the driver’s side while she buckled her safety belt.
He seemed to be quite familiar with the route, though she volunteered a suggestion or two.  Other than that, conversation was minimal, and the silence perfectly comfortable.  ‘That’s because it’s not a date,’ Tory thought to herself.  ‘If it were, I’d be struggling to seem interesting.’  Rather than struggle, she contented herself with watching the passing trees, checking on neighbors’ shoveling progress, and enjoying the comfort of the powerful, well-padded car.  “Rear-wheel drive,” she announced, speaking a thought aloud.  “Mercedes are always rear-wheel drive.”
“My friend Jaap arrives tomorrow to housekeep for me,” the doctor replied, “and he’ll have a Land Rover for us.  I’m not entirely impractical.”
‘Just stinking rich,’ Tory thought, and felt a guilty pang immediately as the church steeple came into view.  ‘But it wasn’t judgmental,’ she reasoned.  ‘Only an observation, really.’  As he parked the car, she reminded herself of the old-fashioned courtesy he’d offered in holding the car door for her, and except for unbuckling her seat belt, kept still after he cut the engine.  Sure enough, he swung his long legs from the driver’s seat, then walked around to her side and opened the door for her.  Despite feeling self-conscious, she managed to exit the car, one hand on his, without stumbling, dropping anything, banging into her companion or otherwise disgracing herself and her athletic family.  ‘Although,’ she reflected as they entered the lovely old white-clapboard building, ‘he’d be a decent person to bump.’  Sitting down, she stifled the thought and stilled her mind for the service.

Soothed and centered by the ancient liturgy and rites, Tory rose for the processional, enjoying the rumble of the doctor’s deep baritone beside her.  After the benediction, they began their shuffling exit.  Max complimented Mr. Rourke on his sermon regarding humility, and Tory led the way to the parish hall for coffee hour.  “We should spend a few minutes, anyway,” she explained to the doctor.  “It’s not a large congregation, and we’re always very excited to see each other, let alone guests.”  That time she did notice the sudden quirk of Max’s lips, and his dropped eyelids, but had no chance to ask what he’d found funny before old Mrs. Tambor from the Altar Guild pounced.
Fortunately for the doctor’s sense of privacy, neither she nor any of the long-time parishioners who followed her were as interested in him as they were in talking about themselves.  Tory made an introduction or two and then wandered away to find a cup of tea and a cinnamon bun, leaving Max to stories of grandchildren, cataracts and snowstorms past.  Glancing at him from across the room, she thought of an ocean-side cliff, massive and reliable as the waves of elderlies eddied around him.  Not a perfect analogy, she realized, but a vivid one.  After fifteen minutes or so, she returned to offer him tea and a chance to leave, and he took both graciously, leaving an interested murmur behind as they walked toward the door.
“A very welcoming group,” he observed as they stepped outside.  “Thank you for introducing me.”
“I hope you don’t mind,” Tory said, “I mentioned to a few people that you’re here to cover for Josh.  After she talked to you, Mrs. Tambor came over fishing for information, and she’d gotten the idea that you were staying at our house or something, so I wanted to straighten that out before the game of telephone could start.”
He looked at her quizzically, and she explained the children’s game of a whisper chain, where the sentence the final player hears can be dramatically different from the one the first player whispered.  “Aha,” Max nodded.  “Gossip.”
Tory laughed.  “I suppose,” she said, “but that’s got a very negative connotation, doesn’t it?  I’m just thinking about people chatting; keeping each other up on the local news.”
“In fact, a valuable social function.  And research certainly seems to be moving toward a conclusion that interaction with others, and especially forming intimate relationships, is vital for longevity in good health.  Though exchanging information about a newcomer to the community hardly qualifies for intimacy.”
“No, but it may be a step in the process.  And that kind of deep relationship is really valuable, but I suspect any engagement in the social web is useful.  From my candy-striping through my hospital clinicals and now at Dr. Bachman’s, I see so many people I wish I could prescribe a couple of friends for.  It’s not just old people, either.  We get people in their twenties and thirties who are just doing so much, or focusing on one goal, like a fast-track career or raising super-children or even just buying a Camaro or whatever that they’re giving themselves blood pressure problems, stress injuries, digestion issues...  I want to  sit them down and tell them to spend ten minutes patting a dog before they can leave.”
Max’s rich laugh enlivened the chilly air for a moment, and Tory smiled at the friendly sound.  “I want to tell you a bit about my research,” he said, “but I’m not sure where we’ll be going.  Do we want the car?”
Recalled to the purpose of their outing, Tory declined the car and swept an arm before her to show Max the small town center.  “Just down the hill,” she said, “is pretty much everything we offer, except groceries, which are to the west on Pleasant Street.  Otherwise, we’ve got the library, yoga, several burger and pizza options, beer and plenty of antiques.  A lot of places don’t open on Sundays, especially in the winter, and some close down completely for the season in mid-October, and don’t open again until April or May.  Restaurants are mostly pizza and burgers; the diner will give you breakfast all day, and it’s a pretty good one.  Real eggs, from shells.”
“Should I ask what other kinds of eggs there are?” Max inquired doubtfully.  Tory paused a moment, pursed her lips and shook her head.  “Well,” he responded, eyes twinkling, “shall we take a bit of a look around, or do you need to get back home?”
“Oh, I’m always happy to poke through a few shops,” Tory assured him, and they headed down the hill together.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Huge Roses: Chapter Three, part one

In chapter one, American nurse Tory Bird, visiting Amsterdam with her sister Jane, meets Dr. Maximilan van den Nie whilst giving first aid to an injured English tourist.  After a lovely weekend, Tory returns home to the United States.  In chapter two, an early snowstorm hits on Hallowe'en night, and Tory is surprised that the car that goes off the road near her house (what a coincidence!) contains Max van den Nie, and the two enjoy a snowy day together.

For installment one, look here.  Installment two is right here, installment three here, and installment four here; installment five is here.

THE HUGE ROSES (working title)
copyright 2014 by Betty van den Betsy; not for reprint or publication without permission

Chapter Three, part 1:

Sunday morning showed the New Hampshire scenery at its finest, with pure white snow frosting the evergreens under a brilliant blue sky.  The sun brought enough warmth to make an early-morning walk tempting, so Tory pulled on her fleece-lined snow boots and set out, with the dogs pushing along with her.  They trudged down to the lake, which had a thin coating of ice that cracked and shifted under Hal and Jennet’s investigations.  That early in the day, almost no one else was about.  The minister drove past on his way to take early service, and Tory saw another walker in the distance, but otherwise she had the beautiful scene to herself.  She’d brought a camera along, with vague thoughts of turning a picture into her Christmas card in another month or two, and snapped a few photos of some of the more picturesque trees framing the lake.  In the muffled quiet of the dripping day, she let her mind wander.
Peace and quiet, a serene morning, a lovely, lonely scene – they were all important elements of her happy life.  Still, the lonely part sometimes felt too prominent a part of her days.  Even when her parents were home, Tory sometimes felt an almost-overwhelming yearning for company; for someone who shared her interests and respected her views.  ‘Not that Mom and Dad don’t respect me,’ she thought, then shouted to the gamboling dogs, “but you know it’s not the same!”  She laughed aloud, reveling in the feeling of independence and abandon that comes with stomping the first set of footprints into a fresh snow.  She scooped a handful of snow from a convenient branch and formed a ball, throwing it hard toward the dogs, who chased after it delightedly.  They charged back toward Tory, undismayed that their toy vanished on impact with the ground, and the three of them continued to play their abortive game of fetch as they broke ground through the pines toward the town.
She noticed her fellow walker drawing closer around the lake’s edge, and felt a pleasant bubble of excitement on recognizing the tall, smiling Dutchman.  Thinking he may have had quite enough of her company, she hesitated about continuing toward him until his welcoming wave drew her forward.
“You’re a morning person,” he greeted her, as the dogs accosted him with wriggles and head butts.
“Not always,” Tory admitted.  “Though with these two around, sleeping in just isn’t an option.  It’s such a beautiful morning, though, and this snow won’t last, so I thought I should get out and enjoy it.  We’ll be ankle-deep in mud by Tuesday, I expect.”
“Isn’t this early for a snowstorm, even in New Hampshire?  Not that I prefer mud.”
“It’s early for this much snow, certainly.  We usually get a few days in November, though, and December through February should be pretty snowy.  Of course, it’s not like it was when my parents were kids!” Tory joked.  She felt an instant’s surprise that she could talk so easily with this accomplished, impressive man.
“It never is, is it?  My parents grew up skating on the canals of Amsterdam as a regular recreation; these days the ice only gets thick enough every five years or so.”
“Oh, I love ice skating!” Tory exclaimed impulsively.  “But I’ve never felt comfortable doing it at an indoor rink.  It has to be a pond or lake for me.  I’d love to skate along the Amsterdam canals.  It’s such a beautiful city.”
“I will say, I think we celebrate the ice quite well in my hometown,” Max answered.  “We put up impromptu caf├ęs on the ice, and serve erwtensoep – the richest, most warming pea stew you can imagine.”
“We have to bring our own supplies – usually just cocoa in a thermos.”  Noticing a particularly graceful tree limb, Tory raised her camera, aimed and shot a few images.
“You’re a photographer?” Max asked.
“Very much an amateur,” she answered.  “I thought I might find a pretty scene to use for my Christmas cards, though.”
“I expect my efforts would be amateurish at the very best, but if you’d like me to take a photo of you for consideration for the card, I’d be happy to do so.”
Tory gave it some thought.  She hadn’t ever included her own photo in her annual Christmas mailing, but far-flung family and friends often did so, and she appreciated seeing those visual updates.  “That might be nice, actually,” she said.  “With the dogs, maybe – otherwise it feels conceited.  Or are the dogs too twee?”
“Certainly not,” Max said, after coughing awkwardly, twice.  His lids were lowered, a fact that barely registered as Tory looked around for a good backdrop for a picture.  Feeling self-conscious, she tried to strike a natural pose, wondering how the doctor would get dogs, snow-covered pine branches, and her into the frame.  Maybe it was a silly idea – and he hadn’t even had to talk her into it.  Posing was just not her style.
But Dr. Van den Nie had the camera up and pointed so she grinned in his direction while pushing Jennet’s head away from her knees and toward the camera.  “That’s lovely,” he called.  “I’m not much of a photographer, but I do not believe anyone could fail, with such a beautiful scene for a subject.”  A few more clicks, Tory desperately trying to think of some way to start a conversation, and wondering what he’d meant by ‘a beautiful scene.’  The pine trees, surely?  Before she could come up with anything to say, he asked, “Would you want to kneel, to be closer to the dogs?”
“Sure, yes, right,” she said – and was suddenly desperate not to talk.  And then, as he kneeled also, “Oh, no, you shouldn’t... you wouldn’t... I mean, you’ll get wet.  In the snow.”
“I’m dressed for it today,” he replied.  “And I’m having fun.  How about getting the dogs’ attention with a snowball?”  Tory did as he suggested, but after a few more clicks, insisted on stopping the photo session.  “Thank you so much,” she said.  “I’ll sort through them at home.”
“It was a pleasure,” Max answered.  “You, Hal and Jennet are all excellent models, though I’m afraid, ‘Work it, baby,’ aren’t words that come easily to me.”  He choked a bit with laughter as he pronounced the incongruous phrase.
“Okay, this might sound a little stupid, but I’d probably just get confused if you said something like that.  I don’t watch a lot of TV, or even movies, so I’m not up on slang and things as much as I should be.  We get teenagers at the office of course, but it’s mostly old people, so I hear ‘groovy’ and ‘hip’ a lot more than ‘work it, baby.’”
“Two peas,” Max answered.  “I suspect you’re a book lover, like me.”
“Mostly, yes,” Tory confessed.  “I love music, too – Gregorian chants to hip hop – and I like movies, but I can’t stand commercials so I can only watch pay movies online, or on disc.”
“Have you seen any you enjoyed especially recently?” he inquired, and they were off.  Comedies, mysteries, classics.  The doctor matched Tory’s reservations about supernatural dramas with a dislike of most superhero films – “I admit I enjoyed The Avengers.” – and they shared an enthusiasm for Bollywood.  Movies quickly yielded to books, with recommendations, disputes and a strong connection over the excellence of Cry, the Beloved Country.
“My brother found a list of the 100 best novels of the 20th century somewhere, and that wasn’t on it.  It was the Modern Languages Association or something, and I couldn’t believe it.  That may be the best book I’ve ever read,” Tory proclaimed.
“Absolutely,” the doctor agreed.  “The language is so vivid, and the story such an honest mix of tragedy and hope and ordinary human life, and the period he’s describing is such an important one in the history of modern civilization, I’m not just surprised by how overlooked it is, I’m close to appalled.”  They both went quiet, Tory brooding on unrewarded excellence as she listened to the shush of her boots through the snow.  The doctor spoke after a moment.  “Let me guess what was on that list your brother found – Joyce, right?”
“Oh, of course.  I’ve never tried Finnegan’s Wake; have you?”
“At university.  I was glad to have my tutor as a guide through its mysteries.”
The peace and tranquility she’d felt in the early part of her walk was transforming, becoming something shared.  She and Max talked as easily as she did with her sisters and brother; as easily as she did with her closest friends in college days, cross-legged on dorm room beds surrounded by nutrition and anatomy textbooks.  He wasn’t an intrusion into the serenity of the morning, but an enhancement of the beauty of the day and the joy of an invigorating walk with the dogs gamboling through the morning.  Tory noticed the comfort and happiness she felt, but chose not to examine it too closely.  One quick thought flitted through the part of her mind that was detached from the conversation:  it’s easy enough to have a pleasant chat about books, especially when you’re trying to be agreeable.
The pleasure was undeniable, though, and Tory regretted arriving at the fork in the path that would take her back to the house.  “Here’s where I turn,” she told Max, who had been politely waiting for her to try to dredge an author’s name from her memory.  “Thanks for your company.  I hope you enjoyed getting to see a bit of Bristol’s scenery.”
“I enjoyed it very much, indeed,” Max answered with grave courtesy.  “You’ve been generous in sharing your time with me.  I wonder if I could trespass further on your kindness, and ask you to introduce me to some of the shops in the town.  My friend Jaap will be coming over in a few days to keep house for me, but until then I need to stock up on a few necessities.”
“Sure, of course,” Tory said.  “I’ve got a few errands to run after church, so I could meet you on Beech Street, by Dr. Bachman’s office.”
“Would it be an imposition to join you at church?” he enquired.
“Whatever the opposite of imposition is,” Tory assured.  “I’m planning to drive, though, given the weather and the Sunday shoes issue.”
“If you’re willing to trust me after yesterday’s mishap,” Max said, smiling, “I’d be happy to pick you up in my car.”
“Oh, of course.  If you’re sure.  Um, I’m, I guess I’ll go home, then, and change, and I’ll be ready in about...” she checked her watch, “let’s say 45 minutes.  That will give us a few extra minutes for the roads, and still early enough to get in the front third of the pews.  Mr. Rourke’s voice is getting a bit reedy.”
Max’s laugh boomed into the snowy morning.  “Lovely,” he said.  “I’ll be with you in 45 minutes.  Suits and ties?” he queried, one eyebrow quirked.
“If you like,” Tory reassured, “though plenty of people wear slacks and sweaters, and some come in jeans.”  She collected Hal and Jennet with a whistle, and set off, kicking puffs of snow ahead of her with the delight of a small child.

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Huge Roses: Chapter Two, part three

In chapter one, American nurse Tory Bird, visiting Amsterdam with her sister Jane, meets Dr. Maximilan van den Nie whilst giving first aid to an injured English tourist.  After a lovely weekend, Tory returns home to the United States.  In chapter two, an early snowstorm hits on Hallowe'en night, and Tory is surprised that the car that goes off the road near her house (what a coincidence!) contains Max van den Nie.

For installment one, look here.  Installment two is right here, installment three here, and installment four here.

THE HUGE ROSES (working title)
copyright 2014 by Betty van den Betsy; not for reprint or publication without permission

Chapter Two, part 3

His lavish compliment set Tory to stammering and blushing again.  Before she became hopelessly entangled in counter-thanks and disclaimers, Max had leaned down from his great height and kissed her, very lightly, on each cheek.  “The continental style,” he’d explained, and swung around, sliding gracefully into the powerful Mercedes before putting the car into gear.  Thankfully, Tory had had – just barely – the presence of mind to reply in kind to his farewell wave before pressing her mittened hands against her cheeks.  “Oh, my,” she breathed, watching her breath fog in the cold air.  “Oh, my.”
The sudden hum of the refrigerator, leaping back to life, brought her back to the here-and-now.  “A kiss on the cheek and I’m mooning around like a Victorian maiden!” she exclaimed to the puzzled dogs.  “It’s already dark out and I haven’t gotten a thing done all day!”  It was a silly thing to say, she realized, given the work she had done.  “Anyway,” she thought, “what needs to be done on a snowy Saturday?  I should bake some bread, or knit something, or, or, I don’t know – clone cartilage or something.”
She stood in the center of the comfortable kitchen, suddenly itching for a more dramatic, more active life.  After the quiet company of Max van den Nie, her empty home seemed emptier than usual, and her busy, chore-filled life seemed prosaic and even dull.  As she stood wondering what to do with her sudden burst of energy, the telephone’s loud bell burst into her discontent.
“Hey, kiddo,” her brother’s deep voice caroled through the phone.  “We tried to call earlier, but you must have been out.  Did you lose power?  How are you holding up?  Are those goofy dogs doing anything useful?”
“Neil,” Tory acknowledged with pleasure.  “Everything’s fine.  What on earth would you expect the dogs to do?”
“I’d expect nothing of those useless hounds.  You and Mother ought to have picked out a St. Bernard, then at least you could rescue stranded travelers.”
“But we did,” Tory reported.  “Someone went off the road right at the bend, and the dogs brought him in.  He’s an orthopedist, by the way, and he’s taking on some of Dr. Brown’s work, and his house, I guess.”
“Oh, yes,” said Neil.  “A Dutch guy, right?  He’s been working with Josh and Carrie Frieder at the university on sports medicine rehab techniques.  They published some of their early results in the New England Journal of Medicine, I think.  It’s very promising.  Hey, Emma,” he called to his twin sister, and Tory heard mumbling in the background.  Returning to the receiver, Neil told Tory, “Emma’s going to a lecture demo he’s doing week after next.  It should be really interesting, especially with ski season just starting.”
The topic dearest to Neil’s heart having been introduced, Tory got caught up on all of her brother’s plans for winter training, his recent trip to one of Canada’s best ski resorts at Whistler and some news of the latest gear to come his way.  Both Neil and Emma excelled at skiing and snowboarding, competing internationally and even receiving some sponsorship offers that paid for equipment.  To tease her speed-demon brother, Tory said, “I may do some snowshoeing tomorrow if the cold and snow stick around.”
“Well,” Neil said dubiously, “I suppose that’s good conditioning if you can’t get up here for some real runs.  But wouldn’t you rather take your board out?”
Tory burst out laughing at his perfectly predictable response.  “Neil, you’re too easy!  The dogs will like a walk, and I’ll have plenty of chances to ski and snowboard if this is any indication of what kind of winter we’ll get.”
“I’ll hold you to it,” Neil promised.  “You can’t spend all your time knitting and collecting cats, you know.  Everyone needs a little extreme, a little rock ‘n’ roll, a little mirrored shades and fuchsia spandex, right?  You know I’m right!  Here’s Emma.”
“Is Neil wearing fuchsia spandex?” Tory demanded of the older twin as Emma came to the phone.  “Fuchsia?!”
“Not quite fuchsia,” Emma reported.  “A kind of off-purple with burnt orange.  It sounds loud, but they’ve dulled the colors enough that it doesn’t give you a headache.  And the other choice was crimson and lime green, so it’s not as bad as it might have been.  How are you?  Why were you asking about Maximillan van den Nie?”  Tory explained about the Dutchman’s unanticipated visit, and their earlier meeting in the Netherlands.
“Well, goodness sake, child, you’ve encountered greatness.  He’s really been leading the work Dr. Brown and this woman at the university are doing, and they’re getting impressive results.  How’s his English?  We had a Ukrainian lecturer here this spring and I couldn’t make out one word in ten.”
“You’ll get every syllable,” Tory promised.  “He speaks better than we do.”
“And how’s the attitude?  Arrogant?  Impatient?”
“Absolutely lovely,” Tory contradicted.  “He’s told me a couple of times how important nurses are, and he shoveled like a pro all morning, then laughed his way through a P.G. Wodehouse until the tow truck arrived.”
“What are you getting up to down there?” her sister demanded.  “It sounds like you’ve set up housekeeping with the guy.  Is he cute?  Young or old?  Ready to rumble?”
Feeling her cheeks warm, Tory gave thanks that the phone allowed her to blush without anyone’s knowing.  “He’s tall and fit enough to throw snow around for hours, and he’s probably about Jane’s age,” she answered.  “He gave Jane and me concert tickets when we were in Amsterdam.”  She immediately wished she hadn’t divulged that detail when she heard Emma call out, “Neil!  Tory’s got a boyfriend!  She’s been playing house with a handsome doctor!”
“Emma, cut it out,” Tory insisted.  “He drives a Rolls Royce in the Netherlands, and he’s got a Mercedes for his rental here, and he’s staying at Josh and Sheila Brown’s house while they go to Maryland or wherever.  And if you tease me, I’ll ask him to kick you out of his class,” she added.  “Especially since there’s nothing to tease about – I just bumped into him twice, and he’s way older than I am.”
“Oooh, you’re fierce,” Emma replied.  “Actually, if I get to talk with him I’ll be sure to say we’re sisters.  Maybe I’ll get points-by-association for some of your do-gooder sweetness and kindness.  Are you sure you’ve got everything you need, and you can survive a snowstorm all by yourself, and you’re not going to starve and burn down the house and get lost in the blizzard on the way to the barn?  Neil wants to rush down and rescue you.  He’s been feeling macho and big-brotherish all day, which sounds kind of pathetic but it’s sweet, too – in a kind of pathetic way.”
“I’m totally fine,” Tory reassured her sister.  “It’s only about three or four inches, and we’re supposed to get warmer weather by mid-week, and I’m a lot better at keeping myself warm, fed and safe than Neil ever will be.  Any chance you guys will visit before Thanksgiving, though?  I wouldn’t say no to some company.”
“You know we will, little sis.  Our schedules are way out of sync this week, but we should both be off work the second weekend in November, and we can come down then.  Or you could come up for a few runs.  We can talk about who’s doing what for Thanksgiving while we’re there, too – and Neil will make you snowboard!”
Tory hung up laughing, looking forward to the twins’ visit, and just a little bit more impressed, and maybe intimidated, by the internationally-known Dr. Max van den Nie.  She hoped she had alleviated any ideas of romance Emma might harbor, though.  While the Dutchman was certainly attractive, she didn’t see him as boyfriend material – with his looks, smarts, age and money, he was out of her class for sure.  Then, too, no one ever wanted the face the full force of the twins in sibling-teasing mode; Tory loved them, but had to admit they could be relentless if given the chance.