In this debut installment of The Promises of Theodore Nathanial, Theo decides to keep his word to his mother Bunny as she has a most unusual client for her latest masterpiece...
Theodore Nathanial was a great guy, thought Katriel Pepper as she looked at her childhood friend. He was the founder of Dreaminate computers and made a truckload of billions before selling his company and then buying Queen’s Heights’ entertainment district Carnivalia, where Kat now worked as a children’s performer in the wildly popular The Whimsy’s Monster Show.
Theo was sensitive, sweet, funny, brave, wise, daring, innocent, smart, talented, strong, creative, and an amazing dancer. No one wanted to miss a step when he went on the dancefloor. He was a natural, and had no inhibitions when he busted a move.
He was cute in other ways too. For one, he was an unrepentant eccentric. He would be hanging upside down fixing something in his pajama bottoms while he was singing, just as he was doing at the moment. With Theo, you never could tell.
But there was one thing you could take to the bank: if he made a promise to you, he’d keep it. His word was his bond. If you were in trouble, and he promised to get you through it, the problem was as good as solved.
Everyone in Queen’s Heights loved Theo Nathanial to pieces for infinite reasons, but his honesty and honour made him the great friend and guardian that you could trust with your life – and be grateful to do so.
It was the reason he was hanging upside down from the ceiling of Kat’s house she built in a tree: her electrical wiring was acting up, and he promised he’d take a look at it and fix it the first chance he got, which happened to be three o’clock in the morning.
“Gotcha!” he said triumphantly as he signalled to Kat to turn the power back on. The second she did, the lights in the living room returned to normal.
“Thanks, Theo! Can you get down from there?”
“Sure,” he said cheerily as he grabbed a rafter from above, took out each leg from the rafter he hung from, and then hand-over-hand, moved close enough to a bannister, carefully placed himself on it, and then slid down as he shouted before landing on his feet, shouting, “Ta da!”
Kat laughed as she jumped up and down, clapping her hands, “Bravo!”
“Thanks, Theo. I mean it. You didn’t have to do that.”
“I promised that I would. I have to get back home. Mom has some big shot client for her art who is flying on from Tokyo; so, I want to help her get ready for that.”
“Do you ever sleep?”
“I get my rest, just not today or tomorrow.”
Kat ran over to give him a hug. “You’re the best, you know that? There isn’t a single thing wrong with you. Don’t ever change.”
“Theodore Nathanial, what’s wrong with you?” his mother Bunny scolded him the next morning when he told her of his previous night’s excursion at his loft condo in Carnivalia while they were having breakfast. “A gorgeous woman like Kat Pepper throws her arms around you as she’s wearing a nightie in the middle of the night, and you just leave it at that?”
“We’re just friends, Mama. I’ve known her since we were toddlers. She’s like a sister to me.”
“Are you sure you’re not gay?”
He rolled his eyes as he was accustomed to the question. “Absolutely certain. I’m not gay. How many times do I have to tell you? Why would I hide it or keep it a secret when I come from the place that had gay marriage legal since the day it was founded in the late 1800s? There are no closets in Queen’s Heights. If I were gay, I would be out, proud, unrepentant, and you’d be the second person to know.”
“And who’d be the first?”
“The guy who I asked out on a date.”
She gasped. “Your own mother wouldn’t be the first person you told?”
“My hormones come first.”
“When they work on occasion.”
“They work all the time…”
“Still single after all of these years…”
“I don’t want to get married.”
“What’s wrong with getting married?”
“Mama, I ran a company I founded from scratch. Dreaminate was my wife, and it would have been profoundly unfair to have neglected a person wife when I put my heart and soul into my company that thrived beyond all my wildest expectations…”
“First of all, you’re smart, and a Hoffding, of course it would be that successful…”
Theo rolled his eyes at the Hoffding mention. He and his mother were descendants of Dr. Darda Hoffding, one of the seventeen young women who founded the city-state of Queen’s Heights. Dr. Hoffding was a brilliant scientist who came up with countless inventions, founded the local renowned university Queen’s Heights College that refused to call itself a university as it would ruin a great motto, and came up with the Hoffding Equation: one plus one equals a bigger one, and all equations equal infinity. Whenever he retained any modesty about his intelligence, his artist mother flipped her lid.
“…And second of all, you divorced your wife Dreaminate when you sold your company.”
“I bought Carnivalia. That also needs my focus, love, and devotion. This place is what brings in tourists and makes the arts community here profitable.”
“Oh, so you are denying me grandchildren so I can make a buck?”
“Yes, and every other artist here. Besides, since when did you want to be a grandmother? You throw a fit if someone asks if I am your son and not your brother.”
“You know how much Sassy Goddess Night Cream costs for a jar? It had better make me look like your younger sister…”
“Look, I don’t want to leave you alone in the world…”
“Alone in the world? You’re not old. You could pass off for a thirty-five-year-old with the way you dress.”
“Distracting me with accurate compliments won’t make me change the topic…”
“I’m content with my life, all right? I don’t need a wife to make me happy.”
“But you were made to be one half of an adorable power couple…”
“Do not set me up on a blind date again, all right? Because if you do, I promise not to go…”
“That’s playing dirty…”
“Besides, why don’t you get married? You’ve been a widow since I was a kid. I don’t see you rushing to the alter again.”
“Your father Joel was all I ever wanted or needed. You can’t have an encore like that.”
“I wouldn’t object…”
“Look, I’m in demand, and my art career keeps me…” Bunny made a face as her only child’s triumphant smirk told her she had made a fatal tactical mistake in her argument with him. Just as she was about to forbid him from holding her to the same standards, her smart phone rang. She looked at the screen and groaned.
“Damn, it’s Bingo Bailey…”
“I thought she was your bestie…”
“She is! And I forgot we were supposed to design the new studio for her children’s show before going to Toronto to go shopping…”
“But I have a…”
“Tell her you’re going. I’ll handle it.”
Theo grabbed the phone from his mother, and swiped it. “Hi, Auntie Bingo! How are you? Great. Mom’s right here…” he said cheerily as he gently fended off his mother trying to grab the phone from him. “What did you say? Of course, she’ll be there. She wouldn’t miss it for the world. Say hi to Annie for me, and remind her of our own lunch date on Friday. I will. Love you, too. Bye.”
He hung up the phone as his mother smacked the back of his head as he guffawed.
“Have you forgotten?”
“No, I know about Mr. Yanaihara coming here to pick up the statue he commissioned from you, and you hoping he picks up a few more pieces for his collection.”
“I have to be there!”
“No, you don’t. I’ll do it.”
“You have a job running this place, young man.”
“No biggie. I have a big staff, and I delegate. Mama comes first.”
Bunny looked concerned.
“Mama, don’t worry, okay? I promise I’ll be around when Mr. Yanaihara comes by to pick up your sculpture, and perhaps a few other pieces of yours. Go have fun with Auntie Bingo.”
“Are you sure? I know you’re busy…”
“Absolutely. I’m never too busy for my mom. I promise I’ll get him to buy you out. Now go and live it up – even if you aren’t married because your career takes precedence over wedded bliss.”
“Oh, hush up, smarty pants,” his mother groused as his infectious laugh made her smile in spite herself. She got up, gave him a kiss on top of his head before wrapping her arms around his shoulders and giving him a big hug. Of all of her creations, he was, by far, the best one she ever created, and her favourite masterpiece by far.
Theo had an hour to form a plan, and he didn’t waste a second. He made his various calls, and was furiously typing on his Dreaminate laptop when he his thoughts were interrupted.
“Knock, knock,” a sultry voice said as a familiar beaming face popped her head inside and winked with an equally sultry air.
Dr. Cleo Hughes was a world-renowned experimental psychologist, brunette glamour puss fashion plate and one of Theo’s childhood friends that made his mother question his sanity for not slobbering all over her, “I’ve arrived for our latest little top-secret mission.”
“You don’t mind?”
“For you, Theo, anything.”
“I just don’t want you to have any regrets.”
Cleo smiled. “My only regret in life was when I was a kid and I went with my sister and cousins to Somerset, Pennsylvania when you and Elah Ganet founded the Birch Tree Science League, and I missed all the fun of sliming your entire backyard with some strange goo that turned your mother’s birch tree looking kind of wonky. My niece is devastated that our family wasn’t one of the founding members of that years-long tradition around here...”
“Knock, knock,” said another female voice.
When Theo looked up, two other gorgeous women and childhood friends sauntered in: Alma Montgomery, the owner of the local newspaper and former investigative journalist, and Victoria Darling, owner and captain of the town’s cruise boat. “So, what’s the mission, if we choose to accept it this time?” asked Alma as she gave Cleo a hug and sat down with Victoria following suit.
“Here’s the deal,” said Theo, “My mother sold one of her sculptures to some loaded businessman who is flying in from Tokyo to pick it up. She had a work and play date with Bingo at the same time, and I thought she shouldn’t wait around, but then I got carried away and I said I’d get him to buy a lot more.”
“You promised? That’s so sweet,” said Alma.
“No problem,” said Cleo, “Just tell me about the guy, and I can tell you how to approach him…”
When everyone looked toward the door, two more voluptuous women popped in: it was Lucky and Mia Eckhart, the town’s resident business tycoons who always made their own powerhouse corporations from scratch.
“Theo!” they chirped in unison, “Sorry we’re late!”
“We just started,” said Victoria, “Grab a chair.”
“So, where are we?” asked Lucky.
“Cleo’s devising the strategy,” said Alma, “I’m going to do research on the man who is going to be buying every one of Bunny Nathanial’s works of art.”
The Eckhart Twins perked up. “Oh, I just love a good business strategy,” said Mia, “Remember when Cleo devised our first one, Lucky?”
“How could I forget? Our lemonade stand turned into a lucrative franchise chain and we were barely six-years-old.”
“Yeah,” smirked Alma, “And, you took your money and invested in my little newsletter I put together in my bedroom.”
“It was a great investment,” said Lucky, “We tripled our profit, and then things really took off from there.”
“So, what’s the plan?” asked Mia.
“Alma is going to find something about my mother’s client that can help Cleo,” said Theo as he passed around a dossier, “You two can consult with Cleo, while Victoria takes our strategy and helps me set up her ship for the lunch I throwing together for him when he arrives.”
“Sounds like a plan,” said Alma.
“Anything for Bunny,” said Lucky.
“She’s such a doll,” agreed Mia.
“After that’s all over, I owe you ladies a big one.”
“Nonsense,” said Cleo, “I owe you for your ideas for renovating my labs at Queen’s Heights College and the Bonhomme School in Somerset.”
“Don’t worry, Theo,” said Alma, “We’re always doing things for each other. We’ve always been more like family than friends. Let’s get to work.”
When Mr. Yanaihara arrived to the Queen’s Heights airport, Theo was there to greet the stern-looking and forlorn man. He introduced himself and explained his mother’s absence, but as the man immediately recognized Theo from his Dreaminate days, he was anxious to talk shop as he himself own a thriving social media company in Japan.
The man was young, while exuded confidence in his business acumen, his demeanour betrayed that there were other areas weighing heavily on him.
Theo promised the man a whirlwind tour of the best places in the city-state, and they immediately boarded Victoria Darling’s finest boat where a feast from the Magician’s Roar was waiting for them – but used the recipes of the once iconic restaurant Viand that was no longer in business as the family who owned it no longer had anyone who were chefs. Mr. Yanaihara had mentioned that he had heard of the fabled Viand from his girlfriend who was a fan of the Heights, and immediately sent her photographs through his smart phone to show her everything she was missing. He guffawed at her jealous responses as he happily translated to Theo who merely smiled cherubically and said that merely meant he should bring her here the next time, and would shortly give him the perfect pretence to come again.
They had their lunch and chatted animatedly, but as they left the boat and entered a limo, Theo quickly excused himself to make a quick call to another gorgeous childhood friend Miranda Tenney who laughed at his request. “Nana Jolene will kill me if I said no to this, and she missed a great story. She adores you. She says you’ve got spunk.”
“The adoration is mutual.”
“Don’t I know it. I think I am the only person in the world who runs a nightclub where her granny is one of the regulars. She’s always crowing how she taught you all of your dance moves. No worries, Theo, I’ll get everyone ready when you arrive. Twenty minutes is all I need. Too bad she can’t be here when this goes down.”
“Yeah, but it’s her poker night at the Greatest Show. Thanks, Randi.”
After he hung up and got in the car, they drove around several iconic places where Theo explained the history, including the iconic hammer and nail clock tower at the still in business Weavers and Tenney Tool Emporium that was still owned by the original families. Mr. Yanaihara was familiar with the Weavers and Tenney line of tools as they were popular in Japan and they had a factory in Hiroshima, and he mentioned this his current girlfriend’s love for Queen’s Heights began when she was a little girl and her mother worked for the Weavers and Tenney factory as a single mother. He looked down sadly, and confessed that he was beginning to feel as if he was losing her to someone else, and the statue was his way of trying to understand her and connect to her.
Theo smirked boyishly. “Then you have come to the right place, and the right person. We have one more stop before you pick up your statue.”
“Carnivalia’s best-kept little secret that has been in my family for generations – from the days of one of its founders, Dr. Darda Hoffding.”
“You are her descendent?”
“Since the day I was born. We’re going to her old science lab.”
“And all top secret. Darda had her own ideas about the place, but then her grandson – my great-grandfather – Dieter Menzel changed a couple of things.”
The limo stopped in the middle of a secluded area of Carnivalia.
“In four…three…two…” Theo said to a confused Mr. Yanaihara until the car suddenly seemed to fall into the ground, causing Mr. Yanaihara to scream and Theo to roar with boisterous laughter. “I never get tired of that,” he chuckled as the car landed safely in complete darkness before lights came on one by one from all sides and the chauffeur left the car nonchalantly and opened the door for Theo and his guest to exit.
Mr. Yanaihara seemed duly impressed. “Now, I am more than intrigued, Theo. What secret scientific experiments you have stored here has piqued my curiosity.”
“Science? Oh, that ship sailed decades ago.”
“Knock, knock,” Theo shouted through the door as soon as they reached it.
“Come on in, Theo!” a group of excited voices shouted back.
He opened the door to a wide-eyed, but very pleased Mr. Yanaihara who saw his statue in the middle of a very busy dancefloor as there was music, dancing, and cheering as there was a large banner greeting him.
“Mr. Yanaihara, let me introduce you to the Nethersphere, the hottest nightclub of the Heights.”
“I may never wish to leave. It is a technological wonder I have never seen before.”
“You can tell your girlfriend all about it.”
“Your mother’s statue is stunning up close.”
“It’s not as swanky as some of her other work.”
Mr. Yanaihara made an intense face as he was already furiously plotting his next moves right after he busted a few himself on the dancefloor. Now he had more than a fighting chance to secure his relationship as he suddenly began to understand the enigmatic ways of the Heights that until that moment, he always assumed was a staid and girly place that played it safe.
When Bunny returned to her studio, she gasped at the sight. There was not a single piece of her work in the now empty room.
“Theo!” she shouted as he nonchalantly sauntered in.
“Hey, Ma, back from Toronto?”
“Where is all my work?”
“Being packed and crated out in the back,” he shrugged.
“Because Mr. Yanaihara bought them all.”
“You no longer have any stock.”
“But how did you…?”
“A promise is a promise.”
“That’s all you’re going to tell me?”
“He likes your work.”
“He likes your work, he has money to burn, and has a hip and good-looking girlfriend who wants to open a feminist art museum in Tokyo, and he didn’t want to lose her to a rival. He thought buying a token statue was enough, but I convinced him she’d see right through that, and then when he called her to tell to run his revised plan, she was so happy, that he bought you out, and not only are they tight, they’re opening a gallery together. She knows her art, and he knows his business, and now they’re opening a feminist art gallery that turns into a secret night club in the evening. They’re both so excited that they can’t see straight. Oh, they’ve invited the both of us for opening night.”
Bunny began to laugh. “You’re kidding. You found all of that out about him, and got that far on it?”
“Ma, I ran a multi-billion-dollar company all by myself without compromising, joining some horrific cabal, or offering potential clients illegal favours, substances, or hookers to grease them over. I promised I’d do things the honest way, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know how to get what I want some other way. He had a problem; I had a goal, and we worked it out in a mutually beneficial way where we both came out with equal gain.”
“You’re something else.”
“What can I say? I got to be me. I had a couple of long days. I am going to check myself in at the Verity Lake suite at the Grand Empress for a couple of days to get some undisturbed rest.”
His mother nodded in approval. “Good for you. You earned it. Don’t worry about things at Carnivalia. I’ll look after it while you veg out. It gives me a chance to get inspired for all the work I will have to make now. In all my years, I never just sold out. I need to think things through.”
“I promise. That you got from me, young man.”
He smiled as he nodded. “If anyone needs me…”
“They’ll wait until you get back. Go, you earned it. I love you, Theo.”
“I love you, too, Mama.”
He gave his mother a kiss on the cheek, and walked out of his office and made it across the street to the marquee hotel The Grand Empress hotel where his reserved penthouse suite was waiting for him. It had the most beautiful view of the place he called home, and nothing gave him peace the way the little haven did when he came there to unwind. His life may have been hectic, unpredictable, and one that had no rules, but it was one he was grateful for as he lived it to the fullest with no shortage of those to share it with.
But tonight, there was also the Nethersphere where he could kick back, flirt, mingle, let loose, and dance to his heart’s content. He had it all, whether he chose to be peaceful or wild. It was his call, his life, and it was just the way he liked it.