“Thumping Hearts, Broken Hearts, Hearts United"

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Having your best friend die is rather unsettling, especially if it quite literally is in your arms.

Mary and I had been talking in the office when she suddenly had a massive heart attack, uttered a few confused words about me and heart and then collapsed. I caught her but before I, or anyone else, could do anything it was too late.

She was a great loss not only to me personally and for her family, her husband Pablo, sixteen year old José Maria and fourteen year old Cory. The publishing company we worked for, “Descartes Publications”, was just as badly hit. Mary had been the “handler” for one of our most profitable authors and she had kept the contacts with the anonymous author very close to her chest. As it turned out she was the only one in the company that knew the true identity of “Corazón Tenderheart” (or as on the books Corazón Tender❤), bestselling author of “Thumping ❤❤, Broken ❤❤, ❤❤United” series of books. In my opinion the soppiest, most braindead romantic drivel ever written, or at least published.

Opinion about that series was, to put it mildly, rather divided among us. It certainly was not something that we usually published. There had been very strong opposition to publishing the first book in that series two years ago but at the time the two century old publishing company was close to closing it’s doors and the management was ready for desperate measures. Mary had been a strong proponent and after a thorough evaluation process they had decided to publish that first book.

Of course the “thorough evaluation process” had consisted in letting our kids read the manuscript. Target audience lower teen children. As it turned out the target audience is lower teen GIRLS. My then fourteen year old lazy bum of a son must have read all of one chapter before coming out to me in the kitchen and said:

- Dad, about that book …

and then proceeded to making retching sounds. As it turned out his was the most positive male reaction. The girls on the other hand ….

Well, the book, and it’s follow-ups, turned out to be a minor publishing phenomenon. The young girls couldn’t get enough of them. Academics have already started to write seriously about them and how, in the words of one of the more daft sociologists involved, “Thumping ❤❤, Broken ❤❤, ❤❤United” throws the gates open to the budding young woman’s inner core”. That same academic had pestered Mary to get access to Corazón Tenderheart. Mary absolutely refused. As a matter of fact the mystery about the true identity of Corazón Tenderheart was part of the success of the books. There were rumours about her being an established, serious, author. Backers of this theory pointed to the “deceptively simple but yet profound” writing. Hogwash!

However, Mary’s secretiveness had been more thorough than I or anyone had realised. She was the ONLY one who knew the secret identity. There was nothing in her files that identified her. Not even a contract! Upper management was seriously distressed when they realised that Corazón Tenderheart had no legal obligations whatsoever towards Descartes Publications.

From my point of view, as the head of the legal department, there was something even worse: for two years we had been transferring substantial amounts of money to an account where we had absolutely no idea who the beneficiary was!

Paula, who had been given the thankless task of trying to get this mess sorted out found an email address to Corazón Tenderheart (I keep gagging when saying that name so let’s keep it to CT from now). She managed to establish contact with the elusive author. Now things started to get even more interesting.

CT revealed that she was only sixteen years old and that her father, her sole surviving parent wasn’t aware of her being Corazón Tenderheart.

Paula managed to set up a meeting with CT to discuss the situation. CT absolutely refused to set her foot in our premises so, on my suggestion, Paula proposed that they meet at my favourite restaurant “Chez Jean”. In my opinion an excellent setting to conduct business meetings. Relaxed atmosphere, you can discuss business privately without being overheard, good food but not so good that it completely distracts you. CT turned down that suggestion. Instead she proposed another restaurant with similar characteristics. Smart girl I thought. While recognising the advantages she also realised that it was not optimal to let Paula have the benefit of familiar surroundings.

Paula had dragged me into this since there were so many legal traps involved. I agreed but I felt uncomfortable about the fact that Paula hadn’t informed CT that Paula would not be alone. Not a good idea to spring something like that on scared, sensitive, secretive and probably overly romantic teenage girl. Not my call though.

Then came the day of the meeting. Paula and I had arrived early and were sitting at the table when CT arrived. Looking at her I approved. After having been in innumerable meetings I had learnt that most people don’t know, or don’t care, about the signals they send with their clothes, body language etc etc. In this case I recognised someone who clearly knew exactly what she wanted and what signals to send. The skirt suit, the height of the heels, the subtle make-up; she clearly signalled that this was a young woman who knew her worth and what she wanted. She also signalled that she took the meeting seriously but had absolutely no intention of letting us overawe her. I seriously approved. I was pleasantly surprised. I always prefer to deal with professionals.

At the sight of the two of us her perfectly composed face slipped. Not much, just for moment. Then, almost before a trained observer could notice anything, her composed face was back again. Very good considering that she was only 16. I knew it had been a bad idea not letting her know that Paula be accompanied by legal counsel. Well, it was too late now.

CT sat down and we stared the usual introductory small-talk. I had a nagging feeling that I had met CT before but it took me nearly five minutes before I realised who CT was. As it turned out my poker-face is not as good as CT’s and she immediately saw that I knew.

With a shy smile she said:

- Hi, Dad!

Why me!

This was a complete disaster! This destroyed everything!

Don’t get me wrong. I loved my lazy bum of a son but I had never seen any signs of him actually being good at ANYTHING so I thoroughly approved of the new and improved kid 2.0. She’s a delight (unless she’ll actually insist on calling herself Corazón). Any father would be proud of her. Despite this this was really, really bad news!

Unless …

Turning my head towards Paula I at once realised it was hopeless. My career was going down the drain. Her evil grin showed me that there was no way she’d refrain from telling everyone that I’m the father of Corazón Tender❤, bestselling author of “Thumping ❤❤, Broken ❤❤, ❤❤United”.

I’d be the laughing-stock at work and as for my legal career; who’d ever take seriously the father of the soppiest, most braindead romantic drivel ever written or at least published?

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This story is 1248 words long.