Monday, October 05, 2015

Chapter 15: Liam's voice

And Liam wrote...

When it rains, it pours.

Well, here a position I never expected us to be in: my departure has been put on hold "indefinitely."   In somebody's infinite wisdom, it was decided that I have to stay and help clean up the mess that's left of the project Meredith and I had created over the last several months.  The bottom really has fallen out.  I'm just glad that I'm mostly out the door.

All of my worldly possessions are sitting in a moving truck about 300 miles away right now.  I'll be staying at the Omni on the company's dime.  The accommodations are nice, as is the per diem.

Last night I dined alone.  Worse, I drank alone. The label was Bruno Giacosa, '97... a great year.  I was thrilled to discover that they had it.  It was a dark, rich red, almost the color of a black cherry.  To top it off, its bouquet was sweet and deep all at once, like walking into a warm room with a basket of fruit on the table.  It was heavy on the tongue, rich and full, suggesting dark red fruits and hints of dark chocolate.  The first sip was like glimpsing an old friend on the approach.  The second sip was comfort.  The third sip never had a chance to emerge because she walked into the lounge at that moment.  Meredith.

The wine might as well have turned into water.

I could feel my face smiling. I hoped she wouldn't notice the quickening of my breathing.  By the time she got across the room to my table, I was breathless.

As if we had just bumped into each other in the food court of the first floor in our office building, she grinned.  "Hey, whats up?"

Okay.  If she was going to be casual, so was I.  "I'm fine, nothing much.  You?"  She smiled and sat down, asking if I'd eaten.  I told her I had, something simple, chicken parmigiana.  Not the most daring, but the hotel chef did a wonderful job.  

"Whatcha drinking?"
"Wine," I replied, answering in my best smartass accent.
"Right," she said. We've had this discussion before: if it doesn't come in a box that sits on the refrigerator shelf, she probably hasn't tasted it.
"An Italian. A Barbaresco."
"Right.  Italian.  I like Italian," she smiled. She has the best wicked smile.  It makes my cheeks turn red; she is one of the very few women I have ever met that can make me blush.
"Finish up," she said.  "I have a surprise."
"Oh, really?"
"Yes, really."

I drained my glass, said a little prayer of thanks, and followed her out to the foyer.  I could smell her now, the now-familiar scent like sweet, subtle flowers and clean air.  Once she held my hand for the better part of a subway ride across town, and I noticed an hour after she'd gone, when my chin was resting in my palm as I sat at my desk, that I could still breathe her scent.  I didn't get much work done after that.

Anyway, we both made it out of the front door and there, in the turnaround, was a red convertible Ferrari.  To my utter surprise, she did not walk past it but opened the driver's side door.  "Let's go for a ride," she said.

I scraped my jaw off the ground.  "What... where did.... what... wow...."  She laughed at my stuttering.  She always does.  I wish I could say that I do it on purpose, but I don't.  She brings it out in me.  

Expertly, she pulled out and into city traffic... We talked about driving.  She said she likes to drive, especially when she has no particular place to go.  Okay by me.  I was exactly where I wanted to be.  It was less than a minute before my hand found hers, my fingers lacing themselves between hers.

"So where are you taking me?"
"I told you, for a ride."
And she did.  We talked about everything, anything.  Sometimes nothing. 

At one point she told me about an account at work that she just completed.  The company sent a rep to personally thank her.  When she mentioned that she was thinking about buying a convertible, the rep arranged for a three-day test drive with one of the dealerships the company owned.  I'd never heard of such a thing, and I was more than a little jealous.  I'd passed on the account a year ago.  "See, you do good work," I said, then paused, having a strong feeling all of a sudden.  "Mer, please, don't let them take you down in all this mess."

"I won't.  You know they can't touch me."
"That won't keep them from trying."
She just smiled.  She had that determined look that she gets when she is about to let nothing stand in her way.  "It's getting late," she said, changing the subject and turning around.  "We have a big day tomorrow."  She let go of my hand for the first time and turned up the radio.
"I know."
My hand came to rest on her thigh.  At first, I felt her stiffen, surprised at my touch.  But she didn't say no.  She didn't take my hand away... not even when my fingers gently pulled at her hem until it rode up over her knee.

We pulled up to the hotel.

"Would you like to come up for a glass of wine?"