Park Avenue PrinceBy: Louise Bay
“It’s huge, Sam,” Angie said as she walked into the empty living space with high ceilings and views of Central Park and across the city. The sun was so bright I had to shield my eyes as I looked out the windows on the west side. I sucked in a deep breath as I took it all in. Did I really own this place? I knew it was my signature on the paperwork but sometimes it felt as though I were leading someone else’s life.
“That’s what they all tell me.” I chuckled. Like most men, I still had the puerile sense of humor of a fifteen-year-old boy. But after fifteen years of friendship, Angie expected nothing more.
“You’re disgusting. I’m not talking about your penis, for crying out loud.”
“Who said anything about my penis?” I held my arms out wide. “I’m talking about this place. As usual, your mind is in the gutter.”
Angie shook her head, but there was no denying the size of the new apartment I’d just bought. It was seven thousand, two hundred eighty-six square feet of the Upper East Side and I lived here now. “The view will ensure it keeps its value,” I said, looking out at the Manhattan skyline.
“The location alone will make sure that happens. It’s 740 Park Avenue, Sam.” She was shaking her head, incredulous. I didn’t blame her.
The address had been important. One of the most sought after listings in New York made my purchase one of the safest real estate transactions in America. A victory for me, but also a good place to put my money, or some of it, anyway.
“Do you ever think this isn’t your life at all?”
“Sometimes.” I’d made every dollar it took to buy this apartment in the last decade. When I’d graduated high school, I’d left the group children’s home where I’d spent the previous six years with nothing but two pairs of jeans, two t-shirts, a sweatshirt and some underwear. For me, leaving my old life behind, getting to start again, had been liberating. The only thing that’d tagged along from those days was Angie. We’d met the first day in my new school after I went to the home. She was in the girls’ home nearby and must have recognized a fellow orphan. We’d been best friends ever since.
In fifteen years, I’d not managed to shake her off. All the odds had been stacked against me. But here I was, standing in my apartment on Park Avenue overlooking the whole of the city. I’d always known, even when I wasn’t sure where my next meal was coming from, that if I was in control of my life, things would get better.
And they had.
“You thinking about Hightimes?” Angie asked.
I shoved my hands into my pockets. “How could I not be?” The group home where I’d spent the last part of my childhood couldn’t have been further from Park Avenue. And it was where I’d developed the drive and determination that had me standing right where I was.
Just under a decade ago I’d graduated high school on a Friday and started my job at a sportswear retailer Saturday morning—the same day I’d moved out of Hightimes and into a rat-infested New Jersey studio. I’d never gone to college, but I was pretty sure today counted as my graduation.
“How many bedrooms?” Angie asked as I followed her through the apartment. The place was bare, but the old moldings, the mix of refinished hardwoods and brand-new marble managed to make it feel warm somehow. The real estate agent had been quick to point out the original details and high-end finishes. But what had made me say yes was the tile in the main kitchen. It had reminded me of my mother—she’d loved to bake and I’d sit on the counter next to her, passing her utensils and tasting as she came up with peanut butter cookies and carrot cake. Her bread was my favorite—even now going by a bakery would conjure up my mother’s smile in my memory.
“Five. And two kitchens. Why would anyone want two kitchens?”
“One is for staff,” Angie replied. “Come on, keep up. You’ll need people to help you with this place.”
I snorted. “Don’t be ridiculous.” I wasn’t about to pay someone to cook for me when I could make the best PB&J sandwiches in the state of New York.