Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Kimmydon Week 39: Green


Picture 1

Picture 2

Kimmydon's Choice: both


I sat back in his chair and put my feet on his desk, crossing my ankles. It felt weird to be in the office in my jeans, but I was only here to deliver a message anyway. Part of it was written on my shoe. I didn’t care. Not anymore. My limit was reached and I had a way out. In my hand, my resignation. I wondered what he would say when I gave it, what desperate offer he would make to try to keep me. It wouldn’t work. I was done.

I fanned myself with the paper, waiting patiently. One hour ticked by, then two. After three I rose from my perch and walked out to the reception area.

“Are you expecting Mr. Howard soon?” I asked Lacy, his receptionist.

“Nancy! I completely forgot you were waiting. He called to cancel his afternoon, hit the greens.” She started scribbling on a post-it. “Here’s the course address. He should be three or four holes in by now. I would have come and told you, but...”

“You forgot,” I echoed. “It’s alright. Thanks.”

“See you Monday?” she asked as I pushed the button on the elevator.

“Not likely!” I called as the doors closed, grinning madly.

The course wasn’t far away, a large park in the middle of town. How much did the real estate cost, I wondered, trying to tally up a bill. It would be astronomical. No wonder it was members only. I entered the club house holding my resignation.

“I need to deliver this to Mr. Howard. Shall I wait here?” I asked the bartender.

“Nah, go on and find him.” He waved me on. As long as I wasn’t playing or interfering with play, he didn’t care.

My jeans blended in just fine here, but my heels didn’t. They kept sinking into the soft soil, and at one point, I pulled them off, walking barefoot in the cool grass. It felt marvelous. I would definitely being doing more of this in my free time. A lot more free time was coming my way. Well, less structured time anyway. Self-employment - blessing and curse. I’d be always working, but I could work anywhere. I could work here. Surveying the green and trees, I thought it wouldn’t be a bad place to work, actually.

I found the quartet at hole six. Howard’s trophy wife was wearing lemon yellow shorts and white sneakers, preparing for a putt. Honestly, the girl was years younger than me. I had no idea what he saw in her. Probably just C cup. The other couple was familiar as well. Denis Ullman and his wife had attended a number of company functions.

“Excuse me Mr. and Mrs. Ullman, Mrs. Howard. I need to give this to Mr. Howard.” I held the letter out to him, grinning.

He took it as his wife continued her putt. She sunk it and cheered, but he didn’t congratulate her, didn’t respond at all.

“Bad news, Barry?” Mr. Ullman asked.

“Yes, urgent actually. You’ll play on without me?” he asked the three, who shared startled looks but nodded. “Come with me, Nancy?” He started walking toward the clubhouse. That was the way out, so I followed. When we’d gone halfway, he asked, “Are you serious about this?”

If I’d had a tail, it would have twitched in pleasure. “Positively. I have enough clients of my own - I’m going independent.” I slipped on the shoes still slung over my shoulder as we hit pavement.

He nodded slowly. “I see. We would be very sad to see you go. Not only for the portfolio you just mentioned. You are an integral member of our team.” He held open the door to the club house for me and I stepped in alongside him.

I took a moment to regard him as I passed. He only had a handful of years on me, so he wasn’t old, and he’d kept in shape. His chest was broad and the tight shirt showed the cut of the muscles beneath. I scolded myself. I’d long since gotten over my crush on Barry Howard. He was an ass that used me, never giving me near the credit I deserved, and I was happily out from under him now. Still, one more thought of running my fingers through his thick black curls ran behind my eyes before I turned to the bar.

The bartender was filling a drink for another member, an elderly gentleman sitting on one of the stools. “Gary,” Howard asked, “I’m going to snag one of the private rooms. I have some business that needs attending.” Gary nodded and I felt Howard’s warm hand close on my elbow, fingers pressing into the joint. I nearly ripped it out of his hold, but he tugged very lightly in the direction he was nodding before letting go.

I huffed but climbed the stairs he had indicated. They rose to a hall of doors, all open, facing onto the course. I heard a click after the door closed behind us. I turned, crossing my arms, still smiling. I was the one in control here. It was a nice feeling.

“What can I do?” he asked. His husky voice was irritated and angry. Not nearly as desperate as I’d hoped it would be. “Make you a partner? Put your name on the door? What is it, Nancy? What do you want?”

I gaped for a moment. Partner? That had never been on the table before. I must have said that aloud because he answered.

“If that’s what it takes. You are instrumental, Nancy. We can’t lose you.” He took a step closer, his nose just above mine for his few inches height. “I can’t lose you.”

My eyes narrowed. He knew the infatuation I’d had and used his sex appeal to sway me before. It wouldn’t work this time. I tapped my foot remembering the message written there. “You can’t lose me. You who has a playboy bunny. You who has a receptionist that rarely wears a bra. You who keeps his desk immaculate.” I didn’t need to say that it was so he could spread women on it. He got the picture.

His hands closed on my biceps, and I did wrench them free.

“Let go of me. You have no right to touch me, Barry Howard. None at all.” My throat tightened as my voice ran into higher registers, nearly squeaking. That wouldn’t do. I took a deep breath fighting tears that had sprung from no where. There was no reason to be so upset.

“I need this,” he said, flicking my forehead with a finger. “I mean, I won’t turn down all the rest,” he said leering slowly down and up my frame. “This is what I need though.” This time he leaned forward and placed his lips gently on my forehead.

He shouldn’t know me so well. He did - we had worked together almost a decade, making HowTwo a top name in design.

I melted at the small gesture, the way I wouldn’t have if he’d done something grandiose. All thought of the trials he’d put me through were gone from my mind.

His lips brushed mine, breaking me from the moment. “No!” I shouted, backing up. “It’s too much. I can’t do this anymore. I’m tried of being in the background, being pushed aside. It’s time for me to step out from behind you, Barry. I’ve been in your shadow too long.”

“I know,” he said softly. “I should have done something sooner, before it came to this.” He took my hands now, just holding them. “What can I do?” he asked again. The bitterness from before was gone, and he pleaded, just as I’d hoped to hear. Or as I thought I’d wanted. Looking up at him and seeing the loss painted on his face, made me less sure. “Name it. I’ll change the name. I will,” he insisted, tightening his grip and pulling me closer again. “HowStan is just as good. Or HowFord.” My name was Stanford.

I snickered. “Stanward?” I asked. He rolled his eyes. There was good reason to keep the name, it was already known. “No, I don’t want you to change it.”

“Then what? You need more time off?” He looked past me out the window. “Maybe a membership here? We can arrange that. I push you because you do this so much better than me, but you could do more of what I do, work from a place of comfort.” He was actually working, pitching and feeling Ullman. I’d known him to do it before, but always scoffed. Since I’d had more clients of my own, I understood his tactics better. Learning about the person outside their office helped you better meet their needs.

That had been part of what I was looking for. “More autonomy. I want to make my schedule and choose my projects, not you.” I watched him for a reaction. He pursed his lips, but nodded.

“I’ll take a new junior to foist that onto. I’ll pass them by you first, though, so you can grab what you like,” he suggested, watching me.

I nodded, agreeing to that. He sighed in relief, letting our hands drop slightly. I couldn’t help but chuckle. He had been more desperate than he let on. It reminded me of the few times we’d played poker. We both had excellent game faces.

Arms wrapped my shoulders, pulling me in under his lifted chin. He squeezed me carefully. “You had me scared, Nancy,” he murmured. “You weren’t bluffing, were you?”

I shook my head. “I actually made plans for Monday,” I admitted with a grin.

He groaned. “Keeping them?”

“You bet your ass. I have a pedi with Grace Newman and tea with Darlene Herter.” Both were clients of mine. Ones I had planned to usurp, but now would just field for new projects.

He smiled, following the ball. “You’ll let me know how they go?”

“Tuesday?” I asked.

“Monday evening?” he met my eyes again, his blue ones more expressive than I was used to.

“Uh, sure. You bringing Angela?” I asked, thumb to the window where she would be playing with the Ullman’s.

He shook his head. “She’s... visiting her mother next week. She’s...” he sighed. “Why did you let me marry her?” he asked, his head hanging.

I snorted from laughing. “Let you? I think you’re quite old enough to choose your own spouse.”

“You know what I mean. It was a terrible idea. We have absolutely nothing in common.” He grimaced. “Not even sex anymore...” That was whispered.

I had to cover my mouth to keep from laughing louder. “I’ll see you Monday night, Howard. Where?” I stepped past him reaching for the knob.

He turned, covering my hand to stop me. His other hand he placed palm down against the door beside my head. “I should have married you.”

Oh no. Oh no, no, no, no, no.... I jiggled the knob, twisting it under his hand, but he’d locked it. I couldn’t take this. “No, Howard. Open this door.”

“You can call me Barry. I’ve told you that before.” He leaned in closer again. “I’m not trying to keep you, now. You’ve already agreed to stay.” His breath tickled my ear. I closed my eyes, willing resistance my body couldn’t seem to muster. Already my stomach had fallen and my knees shook.

Agreeing to stay didn’t make it any better. “You can’t keep me,” I declared. “You can’t keep yourself to one woman for more than a week. No wonder Angela is leaving you.”

His face hardened. I’d struck a nerve. As soon as he’d said Angela was going, I knew it had been her decision. Even if he was unhappy, he would never put her out. It was too convenient to have someone to go home to. He’d complained about compatibility before, in conversations I did my best to forget after they occurred.

“Please, Nancy. Let me try?” His voice was soft again, caressing. His hand dropped from the door to my cheek. “I will tell you. That’s better than I did for any of them, right? And maybe I’ll succeed. Maybe having someone like you...”

While his blue eyes bore into mine, I jiggled the knob harder, needing out.

His lips found mine, pressing me against the door. I whimpered slightly, feeling my resolve melt away. Had he been bluffing? Why would he? He had me, as he said. This wasn’t for the company. This was for him.

The kiss was chaste, his lips closing on first my top and then my bottom lip before backing away and unlocking the door for me. My breath was still coming in small gasps, preventing me from opening the door immediately.


“Yes, Nancy?” He asked running his nose along mine.

“If you ever do that again, I’ll sue for sexual harassment.” I opened the door and fled.