No Runs, No Hits, No Errors

By Jane Greensmith
www.janegs.com

Copyright © 2004.
 All rights reserved.

Chapter 18

 

Kathleen rolled over and opened her eyes onto a starry sky. Cool air cascaded through the open skylight over Harry’s bed, sending delicious shivers down her arms and back and legs. She smiled, remembering where she was and how she had gotten there, then she arched and stretched before snuggling back into the warm body asleep beside her. At her touch, Harry emitted a small round sound, half moan, half sigh, and then rolled over, tucking Kathleen, on the blissful edge of consciousness, once again inside his firm embrace.

In the morning, Harry told Kathleen that it was Polaris she had seen through the skylight. He said that he aligned his bed so that he could always find true north instantly. Kathleen asked him how often he lost his way while in bed, and he replied that she could laugh all she wanted but getting lost in bed was more common than she might think. He then proceeded to demonstrate just how disoriented a body can get when it goes off in unfamiliar directions. She thanked him for the lesson.

Kathleen learned a tremendous amount about Harry during their first night together. She learned that he liked feather-light backrubs instead of bone-crunching, muscle-mangling ones. She learned that he could go from playful to deadly serious and back again in the time it took him to unzip her dress.

Harry learned a great deal about Kathleen as well. For starters, he learned that she didn't check her modesty at the door with her shoes and her purse.

"Kathleen, where are you going with that sheet?"

"To the bathroom. I don't want you to see me..."

"Surely I don't need to remind you that we've just been..."

"Shh, that doesn't mean I need to waltz around buck-..."

"Waltzing would be nice"

"Just hush..."

He caught the pillow she heaved at him before she closed the bathroom door behind her.  

#  

Kathleen also learned that when she didn't show up for work Tuesday morning, her office mates assumed she was simply running late again and thought no more about it. But when Harry didn't show up, they practically called out the National Guard.

Kathleen had just embarked on her second breakfast--she was astounded at how fabulous scrambled eggs tasted when made by a man wearing nothing but boxers--when the phone rang. Harry adjusted Kathleen in his lap and answered the phone with one hand while continuing to rub her back with his other hand.

It was Jack.

"Nope. I'm not sick," Harry answered to Jack's opening question. 

"No, I don't think I'll be in today."

"Yeah, I remember that Lettie is quitting and there's a mountain of work to do."

"Yeah, I do care."

"Did he? And did Matthew tell you that we're off the hook with Skip Heidelberg?"

"Yeah, Lettie's got to go. I didn't even try to talk him out of that. Matthew will be dropping by papers for her sign by end of day today."

Harry was quiet for awhile as Jack talked and vented and worried, then finally he said, "Just a minute."

He put his hand over the receiver and asked Kathleen whether she thought they would be ready to leave Kenwood and return to Earth by tomorrow morning.

Kathleen kissed his nose and his ear and was aiming for parts south when he put up a finger, cautioning her to slow down.  He quietly resumed his conversation with his brother.

"Yeah, I'll be able to go with you to see Lettie tomorrow morning."

Harry listened again, punctuating Jack's comments with an occasional "Okay," and he finally concluded with, "Now, no more phone calls today, okay? Okay. Bye."

He hung up and grinned at Kathleen, "Jack says to say 'hi.'"

"Will there be anybody in Juniper Hills who doesn't know by noon where I spent last night?"

"You are one lucky girl, you know that don't, don't you?"

"Mister, if we're talking about who's lucky..."

#  

The only thing that saved Kathleen from acute embarrassment when she and Harry returned to work on Wednesday morning was the fact that Lindy Loftstrom, K-B-K's real office manager, had finally had her baby, two weeks late, the night before, and the office was buzzing with the news. Kathleen was grateful that Lindy's baby and Lettie's departure, which by now was common knowledge in the office, kept her colleagues from razing her about her and Harry both missing work the previous day, unexpectedly and without explanation.

Kathleen had tried to get Harry to promise not to treat her any differently at work. She tried to convince him that they needed to keep their relationship under wraps, but he laughed at her. He was one of the bosses, he said, so he could fraternize with whomever he darned well pleased, and they both knew that her job at K-B-K was for the summer anyway--it wasn't exactly like she was sleeping her way to the top of a Fortune 100 company, was it? He asked her this last question while they were walking back after spending the afternoon exploring the canyon up the river from Harry's house. Kathleen wasn't sure whether to be affronted or relieved. On the one hand, it was nice that he didn't feel the need to hide her in the closet. On the other hand, she didn't care to think of herself as a summer fling. 

Nevertheless, Kathleen was relieved that her office mates could talk over Lindy's baby and Lettie's breakdown in addition to her love life. Her relief lasted until shortly after noon when Joanna burst into the office, cast wildly about as if looking for someone to strangle, and when she found Kathleen, unleashed a torrent of venom.

"You couldn't leave well enough alone, could you? You meddling, ignorant, skinny, back-stabbing little twit."

Kathleen tried to get to her feet, but Joanna’s flood of words pushed her back down into her chair.

"Matthew Dixon has fired Phil, and I'm without a contract,” Joanna wailed.  Campbell not only got rid of the 'no-walk' clause, they've gotten rid of me. Why did you have to tell Matt that I wanted out? I didn't want out on my rear, you dim-wit. Now we can't sue for damages and we have no money to start our own firm and I'M STUCK WITH PHIL!"

Kathleen was more than speechless. She was motionless.  She was stunned.  No one had ever yelled at her like that before.  Granted, Joanna’s situation was worse than before Kathleen had tried to help her, and she was seconds away from bursting into tears when Joanna delivered one blow too many.

"If you think you're cute, playing house with Harry while wrecking my life, then you've got another thing coming 'Miss Goody Two Shoes.'"

Perhaps it was the sneer in Joanna's voice when she labeled Kathleen 'Miss Goody Two Shoes.' Perhaps it was the fact that she had once again forgotten to put on a bra but had remembered to put on a tank top. Perhaps it was the fact that all of Kathleen’s office mates were about to come to her defense and only Harry's arm was restraining Jack from rescuing her. Regardless of the cause, Kathleen felt a tiny bubble of hot blood set out from the vicinity of her toes, where it had been laying dormant, and travel up her body and through her heart on its way to her brain, gaining momentum and volume and heat, until she found her voice and temper in the same instant and rose to her feet.

"You don’t actually think that I would let you destroy Matthew Dixon just because you and Phil are greedy and selfish?” she found herself yelling.  “There were no actual damages to sue for, were there?" The light bulbs were now popping in Kathleen's brain at such an alarming rate that they almost blinded her. "Matthew Dixon never coerced you into anything, did he? Yes, you had an affair, but I’ll bet that when he wouldn't leave his wife for you, you decided to get back at him and ruin him. So you suckered Phil into falling in love with you and then convinced him to go after Matthew, all the while ruining Matthew's reputation in Juniper Hills. You even faked being pregnant so you could be sure that poor old Phil would do your bidding."

The stunned look on Joanna's face told Kathleen that she had guessed right, and she rocketed on, full of the bravado of a lucky guess: "So, get out of my office, and get out of this building, and go crawl back under the rock you slithered out from before I really lose my temper."

Joanna turned tail and ran. At least that was how Kathleen saw it. In reality, she turned with a flounce and bounced out of the door.

Kathleen sat down limply and wondered why she suddenly felt drained.

Then someone, maybe it was Gail Hawkins, maybe it was surly Bob Martin or suave Elliot Marsh, it might even have been a Kinsley, but someone started clapping, and then someone else joined in, and then another until the entire office was clapping, cheering, pounding their desks, whistling, and finally chanting "KATHLEEN--KATHLEEN--KATHLEEN..."

Kathleen shyly rose to her feet.  She pumped a fist tentatively into the air and was surprised to feel an answering surge of energy. Her simper became a smile as she pumped the other fist into the air.  Another power surge.  Her smile became a grin as she punched again and again, higher and higher until she was dancing in a circle with both arms raised over her head.  She felt as if a valve somewhere deep inside of her had been opened, and she was bathing in the sweat of a job well-done.  She leaned back her head and let loose an honest-to-God howl as she spun around, dancing in victory, drinking deep draughts of adrenaline.  She felt as if she was the number one kicker on the feel-good team and she had just brought home the gold.

#  

"Now don't you think," Jack Kinsley said, as he sat on Elliot's desk the next day, addressing the assembled K-B-K employees, "that Kathleen looks quite fetching holding a baby?"

Kathleen blushed prettily, rolled her eyes at her teasing brother-in-law, and cuddled Lindy's newborn daughter closer to her breast.

"She needs to get married first," Gail declared, self-consciously twirling a new ring on her own left hand, courtesy of Eliot.

Kathleen bent to kiss the baby's forehead, praying that the conversation would veer away from her marital and maternal prospects. It was one thing to bring home the gold, it was quite another to be forever in the spotlight.  When she glanced up, she found Harry looking at her intently.  He wasn’t exactly smiling, but his face wore a soft expression, one that wasn’t too different from the one he had worn the first morning she had woken in his arms. She flushed again and was about to look down and away, but a sudden urge to corner him overcame her. Why should she always be the one to retreat, to be flustered, to look away? Even after her sparring match with Matthew Dixon and her victory over Joanna Bridges, she hated the fact that she automatically conceded to Harry at every turn.

"Your turn," she said suddenly, offering the baby to him. She expected him to flinch or backpedal the way most childless men react to proffered babies, but he didn't. He reached out without hesitating and slipped his hand under hers so that she could shift support of the baby's head to him as he wrapped his other arm around the tiny, blanketed bundle. A small gurgle bubbled from the blanket, followed by a milky sigh. Long eyelashes once more nestled on downy cheeks.

"You see," he said complacently, "babies love me. They never cry or fuss when they're with 'Uncle Harry.' Now, aren't you a lovely little girl?  Look," he continued, proudly holding up his finger, clutched inside a tiny baby fist, "she's going to be a power hitter just like her mama. Aren't you, sweetheart?"

Kathleen felt her stomach turn over. 

#  

When it was time for Lindy and her husband Dan to get their baby and all her new toys and books and clothes and mobiles and rattles home, Harry and Kathleen walked Lindy and her family out to the car, and Harry expertly strapped the baby into her car seat, shook Dan's hand and gave Lindy a hug while Kathleen kissed the newborn goodbye.

Harry slipped his arm around Kathleen's shoulders as they watched the little family drive off.

"You want one of those?" he asked, looking where the car had been.

"A baby? Someday, but..."

"Kathleen, Connie Martinez wanted me to talk to you. Are you dead set on going to grad school in a few weeks?"

Her stomach turned over again.  "Harry, you know I am. Why wouldn't I?"

"She wants to offer you a full-time job at the Boys and Girls Club."

"Do you want me to take it?"   She searched his eyes, desperate to find reassurance.

He smiled slightly, and shook his head, "I'm not answering on the grounds that it may incriminate me."

"Please Harry, tell me what you want. If you want me to stay in Juniper Hills, I will," she pleaded.

"No way. I'm not making this decision for you. I'm simply a messenger from Connie."

Kathleen slumped her shoulders, dejected. She knew Harry liked her—liked her well enough to go to bed with her and get up with her and make her scrambled eggs and not try to hide her in the closet—and she was pretty sure he loved her,  but when you got right down to it, he hadn't asked her for much of a commitment. Maybe Dorie Eastman was right. Maybe she was just the latest in a long line of girlfriends. Maybe Harry would never want to settle for just one woman forever. Maybe he wouldn't tell her not to go to Albuquerque for grad school because that would tie him down too much.

Finally she said, "I'm not even going to think about this until after the benefit. Let's get through this week--the benefit auction is Saturday night. I don’t want to think about this until that’s over.  We can talk about this next week."

"I can't," Harry said. "Maggie and I are climbing the Crestones next week."

"You're still going?"

"Why wouldn't I? We've had this climbing trip planned for months."

"But...but...Jack isn't going. And neither is Bob or Rob."

"So?"

"So? So? You and Maggie--alone in the wilderness. Maggie, who thinks it's her turn with you."

"Kath, darling, you're nuts. Maggie is an old friend. She's my trainer at the gym. We climb together. She's not interested in me. Where do you get these ideas, anyway?"

"Joanna."

"Yes, and we all know how reliable a source Joanna has turned out to be."

"Don't get snotty. I've seen how Maggie looks at you."

"I can't help how people look at me."

"Yes, but you can prevent them from getting the wrong idea by not going on unchaperoned camping trips with them."

"Unchaperoned? Kath, I'm not exactly a fourteen-year-old."

"Then you're still going to go?"

"Yes, I'm still going to go camping with my good, old platonic friend Maggie."

Kathleen's brain, which had been resting since its last big exertion when she had bested Joanna Bridges, started humming once again. So is he or is he not a commitment-phobe? One minute he practically asks me to have a baby with him and the next he won't even consider putting himself out of harm's way.

They turned and walked back towards the office together. Harry stopped her outside the door and kissed her lightly--"Don't think so much, Kath. You drive yourself crazy imagining things. I love you, I promise I do. You've just gotta trust that."

 

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