No Runs, No Hits, No Errors

By Jane Greensmith
www.janegs.com

Copyright 2004.
 All rights reserved.

Chapter 14

 

Kathleen stepped out of the hot shower and quickly rubbed her skin dry. She glanced out the bathroom window and couldn't help smiling despite a growing anxiety regarding what lay ahead of her that morning.  She had left Joanna at the ball field and hurried home to shower and dress for work.  And while she was in the shower, the sun had almost dissipated the last of the clouds left over from the previous night's storm and the wind, having wantonly spent most of its force, was content to linger on as a playful breeze. Summer was returning to Juniper Hills and Kathleen, alive to the energy latent in the storm-washed air, felt her spirits rebounding.

On the one hand, she was relieved to know that she no longer needed to try to fall in love with Phil. No wonder she hadn't felt the spark! He had been in love with Joanna since before he even came to Juniper Hills. And while she didn't much care to be the foil in his and Joanna's little charade, at least her body, with its unerring good judgment, hadn't let her offer up her heart. Her hormones weren't messed up at all! They were dead on the mark and should be trusted from henceforward...which forced her to consider the other hand. The one occupied by an impudent, charming, maddening nerve of a gorgeous man, Harry Kinsley. Apparently, the kiss he had given her in Colleen's basement yesterday afternoon had been neither a fluke nor a testosterone surge--well, at least not entirely.

According to Joanna, he was nuts about her. According to Dorie, he was little short of a Lothario. According to Joanna, Dorie was a woman scorned and so her pronouncements shouldn't be taken too seriously. According to her own body? Well, Kathleen had felt physically ill when Joanna told her that Maggie was after Harry.

Hmmm? Interesting.

She sat down on her bed. What if she were to let her body make all her decisions? Even in the solitude of her room, Kathleen blushed at the decision she knew her body would make if left to itself. She lay back and closed her eyes. It would be delicious to be with Harry. Being with him, she thought drowsily, was like standing in sunshine after a storm--you felt clean and energized and fresh. When you were with Harry you felt like you were walking through clouds of free electrons that he kicked up as he walked or moved or even breathed. Kathleen sighed and gave in to temptation and conjured up her favorite image of Harry, dancing to Wimoweh in the kid's club gym, hands splayed heavenward as he rolled his hips and curved his lips to the rhythm and the beat, completely unconcerned about how he looked, completely at home with himself. Completely in love with her?

The phone rang. Kathleen jumped. She glanced at the clock as she guiltily scrambled to answer it. Nine-thirty! She and Joanna had talked longer than she had thought! And then her little reverie...

It was Harry. Was she planning on coming in to work that day? She assured him she would be right there. Good, all hell was breaking loose and he needed the office managed, if she could fit it into her schedule. She reminded him that she had said she would be right there, but to do that she would need to get off the phone and get dressed.

"You're not dressed yet?"  Kathleen felt a wave of relief wash over her as she heard the old familiar teasing tone back in his voice.  

"Just put your softball clothes back on and hustle on over here."

"They're stinky."

"No one will notice."

"I'll notice."

"Just get to work."

"Harry..."

"Yes..."

"I need to talk to you..."

"Look, I said I was sorry..."

"Actually you didn't, but I need to talk to you about something else."

"Actually I did. What's up?"

Actually you didn't! No point going there. "Are we friends again?"

"We never stopped being friends."

"I need to talk to you about Joanna."

Harry didn't answer, so Kathleen went on shakily, "Joanna is in an awful mess."

"Don't get involved, Kathleen."

"I already am."

Another long pause. He was probably rolling his eyes or holding his forehead. Finally he said quietly, "Please put on some clothes and come to work. I need you here. We'll talk about the other later, I promise."

She smiled. Everything would be okay...eventually. Sunshine and free electrons have a way of beguiling a girl, especially one whose body has taken to demanding its share in the conversation.

"I love you, Harry," she said quickly.

"I love you too, but you still have to come in to work."

Kathleen ground her teeth as she hung up the phone.  Why did he always have to be so nonchalant?

Harry stared out of his office window. Nonchalance was pretty much the antithesis of how he was actually feeling, as his accelerated heartbeat, dry mouth, and faraway eyes could testify.  He watched the street sweepers washing away the green slime that lay caked on the roads and sidewalks of the pretty little town. Soon only stripped trees and empty gardens would remain to remind the people of Juniper Hills of the previous night's storm. Life was messy and cleaning up only got you so far if the damage was deep. Sometimes it took a cycle of seasons to heal nature's self-inflicted wounds; sometimes it took several cycles.

"Harry?"

Harry turned and waved Jack and Lettie into his office. Jack closed the door behind them.

"I think we need to get the lawyers involved this time..." Jack began.

Harry sighed. It was going to be a long day.

#

Meanwhile Kathleen, mindful of Harry's directive to get to work pronto, quickly put on her makeup and dried and styled her hair, then she opened her closet and scanned the possibilities. She didn't feel in a shorts mood. She wanted to at least have a semblance of control when she faced Harry. K-B-K was the most casual office in which Kathleen had ever worked and early on she had jokingly suggested that they institute a dress-up day the way other companies had dress-down days. Kathleen liked to project a certain "put-together" image and never felt quite comfortable if she wasn't tidy, crisp, and coordinated.

Her eyes rested on a pale blue sleeveless linen dress. She fingered it, enjoying the look and feel of the soft knobby material. Normally, sleeveless wouldn't make the cut for work, but this particular dress had a certain panache and its silk lining was sheer heaven. She slipped it off its hanger and over her head. Then she stepped back and admired herself in the mirror. The square cut neckline contrasted nicely with the heavy darts that accentuated her figure. It wasn't short, just above the knee, but it looks short, Kathleen thought with satisfaction. The last time she had worn the dress Harry had commented that she looked like "Little House on the Prairie Meets Hugh Hefner." She assumed he meant it as a compliment, but you never could tell with Harry. She stepped into a pair of sandals, kissed her reflection affectionately, waved goodbye to the lovely flowers on her desk, and stepped forth into a cloud of free electrons.

#

By eleven Kathleen was starting to get worried. The door to Harry's office remained closed and allegedly Harry, Jack, and Lettie were behind it in an unscheduled conference. Rob Haskins, when questioned by Kathleen, revealed that shortly after Jack and Lettie had gone in, Harry had poked his head out to tell the office that they were not to be interrupted. Gail Hawkins whispered that she had taken it upon herself to answer the phone in Kathleen's absence--"My friends tell me not to do a secretary's work, that it will hinder my career, but I like to be a good team player...what took you so long this morning anyway?" Gail showed Kathleen the pile of messages that had already come in for Harry and Jack. Kathleen shuffled through them, and was dismayed to see three already that morning for Harry from Maggie Obermann. Some people were so pushy!

 

At eleven-thirty, Lettie emerged from Harry's office, her eyes and nostrils red-rimmed and raw but she looked relieved, happy almost. She stopped by Kathleen's desk for her messages, and then laid a hand on Kathleen's shoulder.

"Never be afraid to follow your heart, Kathleen dear. Even when it takes you down a dark road..."

Kathleen looked up into the older woman's face. She had never understood Lettie, never even thought she was worth understanding. Lettie Bridges had simply been part of the backdrop of Kathleen's life for so long that Kathleen actually gave the furniture more thought than she gave to Lettie and her life and all that it might entail.

"Kathleen!" Harry was beckoning her into his office. She smiled at Lettie and skirted around her.

Harry asked her to close the door and then he started rifling through the papers on his desk and barking orders. He wanted Kathleen to set up a meeting with Matthew Dixon for that afternoon--"I'll play golf with him if I have to, but I have to see him today."

"I don't think we should deal with Matthew Dixon anymore," Kathleen said testily.

Harry looked up sharply. "He's our lawyer, we need a lawyer, set up the meeting, please."

"But he's...he's..." Kathleen blushed, stammering. Harry's impatience with her had undermined her resolve, but if Harry knew what she knew about Matthew Dixon's ethics, surely he wouldn't want to have anything to do with him. Besides, she felt as if any contact with Matthew would be a betrayal of Joanna.

"Look Kathleen. I don't know why you've decided you don't like Matthew anymore, but business is business." He glanced up at her and then shifted into his professorial stance: "The first thing you need to learn is that you don't have to like everyone you deal with. Just ignore the stuff you don't like and that way you'll always have a full roster when it's game time."

"Ignore the stuff I don't like? I don't believe you, Harry. You're telling me to ignore..."

He interrupted her. "Kathleen, let me put it to you this way. Lettie is having a breakdown. She screwed up her part of the Heidelberg project royal. She stamped work she didn't check, and the contractor has been ringing the phone off the hook about mistake after mistake he's discovering. Skip Heidelberg is ready to sue us from here to kingdom come, and Lettie has now decided that she wants Jack and me to buy her share of the partnership so that she can go off and 'find herself.'"

He paused and stared into Kathleen's widening eyes. "Now would you please set up a meeting with our lawyer so that I can get some help in figuring out how to turn this thing around. You can call up Colleen later and moan and groan about horrible it is to work with people you don't happen to like, but right now I need your help."

"Any time this afternoon?" Kathleen asked curtly.

"Any time today--I'll buy him dinner, I'll take him to a Rockies game, I'll drive him to the airport, but I have to meet with him today."

Ten minutes later, Kathleen informed Harry that he had a two-seventeen tee time at the country club with Matthew Dixon. She brought him a sandwich and a cup of coffee, gave him his messages sorted by caller and time, and waited for further instructions.

#

Kathleen had a busy afternoon. Harry's further instructions filled two sheets of paper, and that was just what he came up with over lunch. There was no doubt the man was thorough. Like a field marshall, he was shoring up his flanks, making sure his supply lines were open and reinforcements were on their way. Jack mobilized the rest of the office, pulling them off the Forsythe project to do triage on Lettie's Heidelberg work.

Late afternoon Harry called from the golf course. He wanted Kathleen to set up dinner at the club for seven-thirty. She could work out the details with Wendy, Skip Heidelberg's secretary, but the meeting needed to include Skip, Matthew Dixon, and Harry.

"Matthew wants you there too, to take notes. He says a law clerk will make the meeting too formal and will make Skip nervous, but you'll be able to listen and pick up things and Skip won't mind you being there."

Window dressing with a notepad, Kathleen thought. "Seven-thirty, at the club. Do I need to arrange anything with Matthew's office?"

"Touch bases with Angela, but I don't think they need to do anything."

"Anything else?"

"I need to talk to Jack about how the fixes are going." He lowered his voice and asked, "Has Lettie been in?"

"Not since she left at noon."

"Swing by the house and check on her before dinner, okay? Make sure Joanna knows what's been going on and will be there for her. I think Lettie's pretty confused right now."

Kathleen transferred Harry to Jack, and then started on Harry's latest list. Jack transferred Harry back, "One more thing, can you buzz up to Kenwood and get me a clean shirt and slacks? Jack has a key he'll give you."

"Anything else?"

"Thank you."

#

Kathleen pulled into Harry's driveway at six-thirty. She had been longer at Lettie's than she had planned and was running late.

Harry was right--Lettie was a mess. Glad to finally be out from under the weight of a life she hated but full of remorse for taking the coward's way out, Lettie was only too happy to explain the situation to Kathleen. "I never wanted to be an engineer, but Daddy was so insistent that a Bridges stay part of the firm, especially after he and Wilson Kinsley had that awful fight back in the 70's. I just couldn't say 'no' to him. Worst of all, I got good grades and passed all the exams and before I knew it I was taking over from Daddy. And meanwhile I wasn't getting any younger. I've always wanted to go to Tibet , you know. And Peru . Did you know that Maggie Obermann is going to go to Maachu Pichu next year? She said that Harry wants to go too. I didn't know he wanted to see the world, but Maggie says he does, awful bad, just like she does, just like I do. I know I should have resigned, but whenever I tried to I remembered Daddy's face when he told me to suck it up and be a man. God knows I've wanted to be a man plenty of times. I thought maybe I'd like being an engineer better if I were male. It's awful, my causing so much trouble, but at least I don't have to go in and stare at that awful computer every day anymore."

"So do you know what you want to do, Lettie?" Kathleen inquired when Lettie paused for breath.

"I want a baby."

Kathleen shot a glance at Joanna, who was sitting next to Lettie on the couch, holding her hand. Gramma Bridges, Lettie's mother, was dozing in a chair in a sunny window.

"Lettie's thinking about adopting a baby from China ," Joanna explained.

"But first I'm going to become a teacher. A P.E. teacher. Daddy always said that 'those who can--do, those who can't--teach...'"

"Oh, forget what he said, Lettie," Joanna cried. "That was twenty years ago, and it was a stupid saying then and it's still a stupid saying. If you want to go get a teaching certificate, then do it. If you want to adopt a baby and be a mother, then do it. You're not trapped anymore. You've gotten out of your cage, so run, run!"

Kathleen thought Joanna looked like she wanted to run as well. Kathleen wondered whether Joanna would contrive a total screw up in order to get herself out of her cage the way her aunt had. Maybe Joanna's lie about being pregnant was her way of totally screwing up a modeling career.

 

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