I spend the rest of the weekend physically with mother, but mentally drifting to Taryn; I couldn’t get our last conversation out of my head. Had I upset her, did I say the wrong thing? Why did she leave? I debated between leaving a note or sending a text, but choose not to on the basis that she’s a very resourceful person and had she wanted to get in touch with me, she probably would have. I even went as far as considering using Paola Nandez as I guise to open up a dialogue with her, but in the end I talk myself out of doing anything. It must have been apparent because by Sunday night, mother had had enough of my sulking. Over a glass of her favourite Cabernet Sauvignon from Araujo, she blurts out,
“For crying out loud, why don’t you just call her and clear the air?”
After awkwardly shifting in my chair, I manage to ask quite sheepishly,
“What can I say without sounding childish?,” I was mainly worried I would come off as desperate.
“If there’s one thing you should learn from me not contacting my mother sooner, it is that you don’t want anything to do with regrets. Jonathan, it has been five long years since Isabelle and Sophie’s passing, it’s time,” she paused, as if thinking about something else, “It’s time.”
“We’re not dating mother, I’m not there yet, we’re just coworkers,” as the realisation that Monday was swiftly approaching, I found myself clinging onto that idea that maybe we should just keep it plutonic.
She swirls the large glass in her hands before savouring her sip, “Hmmm, then why does it matter how you’ll appear? Simply put, why are you over analysing a conversation with just another employee?,” she signs the word employee with air quotations.
“I don’t know,” I shift in my seat again, “Maybe because she makes me feel different…alive…more alive than I’ve ever felt,” my candid response surprises me, it was the first time I had uttered those words out loud, but it is also a realization.
“Good. Then go get her. It’s that simple,” mother looks at me squarely.
“I can’t. I’m her boss and I don’t really want to continue talking about this with you….it’s uncharted territory and all,” I avert her prodding eyes.
She puts down her glass of wine, “Well in that case I’ll change the subject, I’ve been meaning to ask you to come down to the estate. It’s been a while since you’ve been out to visit. In addition to that, I would like to have it valued because I’m going to sell The Brownstone.”
“YOU’RE what?! NO! You can’t. It’s…it’s…so full of memories. It’s all we have left…,” I couldn’t believe my ears and I couldn’t finish my sentence.
“Jonathan, dear,” she takes a deep intake of air, “Slow down, I am only having it appraised, I’m not rushing into things. I know it’s a lot to take in, but the house is much too big for me on my own. I don’t visit half the rooms and the gardens are much too ample for me to maintain. Most nights I take my meal in the office because I can’t bring myself to eat alone in the dining room. It’s become a hollow and lonely house and it’s not how I would like to remember it. I had hoped by now I would have grandchildren running around, but I do not…and it reminds me too much of your father & Richard…it just breaks my heart. I suppose I need a fresh start, much like you,” she reaches her hand across the table and takes mine.
This forces me to meet her gaze, mother is always so stoic and poised that I sometimes forget that through it all she lost a husband, a son; her firstborn and her first grandchild. She was the organizer and the planner of all our family events, she used to relish when birthdays and holidays came around because it allowed her to throw lavish parties in your honour, when it really benefited her. Through it all, she never had anything out of place, but rekindling with my grandmother had revealed a side of Diana Pierce that I had never met before; the vulnerable side. I knew that eventually she would have to open up about her childhood, but I wasn’t sure that I wanted to know the details if it meant losing the strong, always put together mother I know so well.
Monday morning met me with an apprehension I hadn’t felt in years, whether it was my unresolved issues with Greg or my nervousness about seeing Taryn, I wasn’t sure which one was eating me up more. Nevertheless, duty awaited so I made my way into the office and hoped the turmoil I felt inside didn’t spill over onto my demeanour. With an air of neutrality, I step off the elevator and into the office.
“Good morning Dr. Pierce!,” June’s singsong voice is especially high today; I cringe.
“Morning June. Hope you had a good weekend,” I state, secretly hoping she doesn’t endulge, but she doesn’t seem to hear. “Anything newsworthy?”
“Oh…nothing really…Dr. Franklin-Dorough is waiting for you in your office, looking a sight for sore eyes…and here’s your coffee,” on cue, she pulls out a steaming cup of dark roast, the expensive kind, I could tell from the smell.
“You only hand me St. Helena Coffee at the door, when there’s a problem. What is it?,”
June giggles uncomfortably, “Well it looks like Dr. Wingham won’t be in for quite some time…,” she flashes a quick glance in Sam’s direction and back at me, “Don’t get that look Dr. Pierce. We’ll figure something out, but you should know, he’s left an intense message for you on the voicemail, don’t know what you did, but it sure pissed him off,” she giggles uncomfortably yet again.
“Delete the message for me please, June. We’ll have a quick meeting once I’m finished talking to Dr. Franklin-Dorough. Thank you for the coffee, I guess I’ll need it.” A stunned look crosses June’s face. “What?,” I take the bait.
“You took that pretty well, I was expecting more of a reaction…that’s all.”
“To be fair, I kind of saw it coming. Besides, if this is how Greg deals when he’s under pressure, then it’s probably best he’s not in the office. I’ll see you in a bit.”
My friendship with Greg was heading in unfamiliar territory, but it didn’t mean that he didn’t have a professional duty to me and the business to at least show up to work. This really irritated me and reaffirmed just how out of sync we were becoming. Conversely, what really upset me was his lack of commitment; while dealing with the loss of both Sophie and Isabelle, I came to work and performed my duties. I didn’t miss a day, I might of been distant and withdrawn, but my role as a physician never suffered, in fact we thrived in spite of my tragedy. Work was my saviour, it gave me something to look forward to. What was Greg playing at? I suspect this is bigger than me and has more to do with him, Leelah and their upcoming baby, nevertheless this didn’t diminish my anger towards him.
I turn the knob on my office door half hazardly, though June had told me to expect Taryn, nothing prepared me for the sight I was about to behold. She was looking out the window at the amazing view of Michelson Park, one of the few reasons, I was happy Greg allowed me this office. Yet, what she was wearing was much more breathtaking than the park. Wearing a figure flattering magenta coloured dress, with black heels which accentuated her calves, her hair was around her shoulders in loose curls, as she turns to greet me, they bounce around her face.
“Hello there! Jon, I hope it’s not too soon to call you that,” her smile was enough to make me forget that I was going to have to pull a double shift today.
“Good morning. No, it’s alright. I already call you Taryn so it’s only fair,” I clear my throat. “Would you like some coffee? I can have June whip you up some.”
“No, she’s already done that. She was very catering. Thank you, though. You’re not uncomfortable are you? I didn’t want to impose on Saturday, I’m sorry I left so suddenly, I just didn’t know what to do. I suppose what happens outside of work doesn’t need to be mentioned in work. I just wanted to clear the air.”
“I didn’t know what made you leave and my mother was a bit upset, but I suppose she’ll soon get over it,” I offer her a smile.
“Were you upset that I left?,” she asks sheepishly.
“Honestly?,” she nods the go ahead, “I was. I enjoyed seeing that gorgeous smile of yours,” my cheeks were starting to burn again.
“Good to know. I guess I’ll keep smiling then. Shall we carry on with work then?”
“For sure!,” I say as I make my way to my desk, “Busy day today. As you may or may not know, Dr. Wingham will be off indefinitely. Until I speak to him and get a grasp of how long for, will you be able to jump right in and take over some of his patients? I know it is a lot to ask, but since you’re here…”
“I’d love to! Just tell me what you need me to do and I’m all ears!,” she replies excitedly.
“Ok. I’ll have Sam show you around, until we get your office set up, I suppose you can use Greg’s. I’m very glad you’re on the team, we’ve lacked a female’s perspective and such a beautiful one at that.”
The last words out of my mouth surprises both me and Taryn, I quickly apologise and usher her out of my office. Leaning on the door, I hit myself on the forehead; why do you have to be such a loser? You could of done with keeping that to yourself. Good job, shortstop, borderline sexual harassment on day one. I groan.
I don’t know what it is about her, but I become such a wreck, I had to hold it together, especially today, when I require focus.
At lunchtime, I receive a call from Taryn offering to take me out for lunch, I politely decline, claiming I was under a ton of paperwork. The truth was I couldn’t be sure of how I would be around her, but also because I needed a distraction and Lee provided that.
I got a hold of her at home, sounding surprised to hear it was me on the other end, but she recovers quickly,
“Hi Jon! Has something happened to Greg? You managed to get reception where you guys are fishing?,” she asks.
I hope my obvious pause doesn’t give me away, I was floored, for whatever reason, I never suspected Greg would lie to Lee about his impromptu disappearance.
“Fishing?,” I ask, attempting to organise my thoughts.
“Yes…fishing…you know…the so called sport where you attempt to catch fish…the hell Jon…Greg said you guys were heading to Lake Louise…wait a second…,” she fumbles with her phone and it hits her, “you’re calling me from the office! You didn’t go with him?! Why would Greg lie about you guys going fishing?!?,” she was catching on to things a lot faster than I’d anticipated and I wasn’t coming up with answers to match.
“I…I…didn’t know he’d be taking time off…I’m just as surprised as you, Lee,” I opt for the truth, choosing to omit one vital piece of information- the fact that I knew who he would be with.
“So, he’s just didn’t show up at the office?! What the actual HELL?!? Jonathan do you actually have any idea where Greg is?!,” she was starting to raise her voice.
“No…no…idea at all…,” I opt for a lie this time, even though I want nothing to do with this debacle, I find myself taking on my usual role as keeper of Greg’s secrets again.
“I’m not really sure what I’m supposed to think…you’re his best friend and his partner…he just upped and disappeared?!,” Leelah begins to cry, “what am I supposed to make of this? I don’t know if I’m supposed to be mad that he lied, worried that neither of us know where he is or impressed that he was able to dupe the both of us…” Her voice cracks and I don’t know where to begin to console her, but I make quick work of calming her down and end the conversation by promising to do what I can to contact Greg; all the while cursing him for putting me in the middle and mad at myself for actually thinking that calling Lee would be a distraction. After I hang up the phone, I lay my head on my desk, looking for some reprieve, but my wish is not to be granted, as there is a knock on my door.
“Come in!,” I yell, without looking up, fully expecting it to be June.
“Are you alright?,” Taryn’s voice wafts into my office.
I jolt up immediately and clear my throat, “I’m fine. How can I help?”
“Well, I came to bring you lunch, I picked you something up while I was out getting mine. June says you rarely take a lunch, so I figured of all the days, today would be one day you needed a break. Brought you a minestrone soup and a provolone and ham on rye, I hope that’s OK. If not you can swap it for my Cesar salad. You looked like a soup-and-sandwich-kind-of-guy…sorry I’m rambling,” she smiles coyly as she looks up at me and just like that the stress I was experiencing melts away.
“Thank you so much! I’m flattered. Is it bad to be a soup-and-sandwich-kind-of-guy?,” I grin at her.
“Nope, but you can pull it off.”
“Taryn, I hope I’m not overstepping, but are you coming on to me?,” I pose the question with every ounce of self restraint I have, so as not to appear overly excited for her response. Yet, poised as ever, as if she was expecting this question, she replies,
“You know, I think I might be. Would that be so wrong?”
In that moment, the room felt like it was spinning…she couldn’t of really said that.
“Well then, I don’t think I’m complaining,” I reply as I unwrap and take a bite from my sandwich.
For the next few days, like clockwork Taryn & I go through the same process; she would invite me for lunch, I would decline, she brings the lunch to me. On Thursday, once finishing up with my patients earlier than expected, I look at the clock excitedly, 12:25pm; awaiting the much anticipated call, but today…it doesn’t come. My heart sinks. All good things…I think. I had no intention of breaking the cycle and initiating the call, as I wasn’t sure about my feelings for Taryn, no matter how obvious her intentions were. Somehow, in my mind if she is the one to initiate anything then, no line is being crossed. Sure, whatever keeps your conscience clear, states my subconscious. My phone buzzes, it’s June.
“Dr. Pierce, I finally have Dr. Winham on the line for you.”
“Thanks June,” after three days of constant calling, Greg was finally willing to pick up his phone and I was finally really ready to give him a piece of my mind.
“Greg…,” I decide to start of gently, “Nice to ultimately be able to speak to you.”
“I just wanted to apologise for not taking your calls and for just leaving the office, how I behaved was unprofessional. I can’t say sorry enough,” he sounded sympathetic enough, but then again Greg was always good at apologies, too good.
“Do you have any idea how much stress you’ve put Lee under?!? In case you hadn’t realised, she is pregnant with YOUR child. And as for me, we’re supposed to be running a business. A legitimate business, you can’t just pick up and disappear; how can you be so irresponsible? It’s just lucky that we hired Taryn, so she’s been able to cover your patients for the week…where the HELL are you anyways?,” I would of continued, but I suddenly felt tired.
“I’m in California. I’ll be back in the office on Monday…if I survive the weekend that is…how’s Lee? Is she really upset?”
“Oh, you’ll find out for yourself, I’m not going to be a buffer for you in your relationship anymore. I’m tired of it. I always get caught in the crosshairs. I’ll tell her, you called-but that’s it. The ball is in your court,” I was very curt with him, but I meant it this time. I was fed up.
“Okay?! That’s all you have to say? Tell me something, is Bethany with you?,” I ask, afraid of the answer.
“Jon-don’t ask questions you won’t like the answer to, especially so you don’t compromise your position with Lee. It’s best if you don’t know…”
I chuckle, “That was a very diplomatic way of saying yes…geez Greg. How have you gotten yourself in this mess. You have a baby on the way, are you trying to have another?!”
“Oh please! It’s not that dramatic. Lee will forgive me, she always does,” he sounds so confident, I can’t help but believe him.
“For your sake, I hope so,” I mutter.
Greg and I conclude our conversation on a positive note, I am relieved that we finally know where he is and he’s safe, but lately it seems that with Greg, every revelation leaves me wishing I was ignorant to it all. I take five minutes to send Lee a quick email updating her on Greg and close up the office at around 4:15pm, having this extra time to spare, I decide to go for a run.
I take Selkirk street for four blocks until I get to McDavis street and by then I’m already out of breath, I have no idea why I decided my time would be best spent running, but I keep at it. By the time I get to Lafontaine Lake, I’m drenched in sweat and my hair, amongst other things, is sticking to my forehead. Just think, you gotta run it again on the way back… I decide to find the nearest park bench in order to catch my breath. After Sophie passed away, when I wasn’t in the office, I would spend a lot of my time at this park. Hours would pass as I watched the ducks, pigeons and people pass me. Engrossed in their serene existence, it would take me away from my reality; I had just lost my daughter and I was slowly losing my wife as well. Being swept up in my thoughts allowed me the kind of solace, I knew I wasn’t afforded at home.
“Fancy meeting you here,” a voice comes up behind me, my nostalgia quickly dissipates, I recognize the voice instantly, without having to turn around- I could pick out her beautiful voice anywhere.
I turn around, to find Taryn smiling down at me.
“Right back at you, what are you doing here?,” I try to sound laisse faire, but the truth was, I now felt self conscious about my sweaty appearance.
“What are the odds? My neighbour told me about how beautiful this park was and since I have a very generous boss, I took the extra time and decided to come see it for myself. What’s your excuse?,” she says as she sits down next to me on the bench.
“It’s my favourite spot to clear my head,” I reply honestly.
“Hmmm. Does it need a lot of clearing?”
“Some days,” I say shyly. “So how are you finding it at work? I didn’t get to see you today to ask how your week was going.”
“It’s going wonderfully, I don’t get to see my boss as much as I would like, but I guess I shouldn’t complain, right?,” she flashes me a disarming smile.
I didn’t know how to respond and if it wasn’t for my sweat drenched face, I would grab a hold of her and kiss her, but common sense prevails slightly and I opt for the truth.
“No, you shouldn’t, but if I wasn’t your boss, I would give you a kiss right now…”
As the words leave my mouth, I could see its effects on Taryn’s body; she pushes her hair behind her left ear and tilts her body towards me.
“Well, right here and now, you’re not my boss. You’re sexy but sweaty Jonathan Pierce…and I say go ahead and kiss me.”
She looks at me, batting her eyelashes and in an instant I am overcome, before I know what’s happening, I feel my body inch close to hers on the bench. I cup her face in mine and tilt it upwards, her full lips are a few centimetres away from mine. I could feel her intake of breath as I begin to stroke her cheeks, my heart rate rising with every heartbeat; I have been thinking of this moment for a long time, I didn’t want to mess this up.
“You. Are one of the most breathtaking women I have ever met,” her eyes meet mine, searchingly, but she doesn’t speak. Finally, after what seems like hours, I give in and plant a long and passionate kiss on her available lips.