April's Chill






April's Chill

 

 

"You need to stop taking those painkillers," Susan called to Hunter. She sat at the kitchen table, her laptop open, a cup of black coffee steaming nearby.

 

He called from the living room, "I know, but the doctor said—"

 

"Or at least switch to Advil," she replied, an edge to her voice. "You don't want to become dependent."

 

Dependency would show weakness, which she would not abide. Not in herself, not in someone she was attached to. Even if that attachment turned out to be, ultimately, tenuous.

 

She checked her inbox, the financial dashboards that her assistant Evie had built for her, and her inbox again. She texted Evie: I'm coming in

 

Evie replied almost immediately: Ok. But don't you need to be there for Hunter?

 

Susan: He's fine. Just be there.

 

She slammed shut her laptop and strode into the living room to find Hunter lying on the couch, propped up slightly, staring into space.

 

"I'm going into the office. I can't concentrate here."

 

He turned to her and took a moment to focus. He was wearing sweatpants and a T-shirt and had not shaven in days. He looked like a little lost boy.

 

"Um—"

 

Susan snatched up a prescription bottle from the end table. "How many of these did you take today?"

 

"...two. One didn't work," he said.

 

"Right," she said, closing her fist around the bottle. "You're done with these. Here's your cane. Anything you need is in the apartment. The physical therapist said you need get as mobile as you can as soon as you can, so push yourself. Maybe contact some of your clients?"

 

Without waiting for a reply, she grabbed her bag, shoved her laptop in it, and hurried out the door.

 

"Ok... see you later," Hunter said. He watched the closed door, turned and sighed and picked up the TV remote.

 

Susan arrived at the office to find its usual bustle. Phone calls being made, wall-mounted monitors showing sales projections and portfolio performance, leaderboards highlighting competition standings among the alphas: all this soothed Susan. Men and women fighting for dominance, the strongest or most ruthless coming out on top of those who lacked the requisite skills or cunning.

 

She no longer had to prove herself, but it remained a sport to her. Periodically, she threw together a portfolio, just for practice, and no one was surprised when it outperformed those belonging to any of the rising stars.

 

People's chatter subtly quieted as she approached and resumed as she passed by. She smiled in response, but those who glanced in her direction only saw a contemptuous sneer.

 

The smile vanished when she saw Evie's desk, without Evie. Susan continued toward her office door, shrugging off her coat. The sound of shoes quickly slapping the floor announced Evie's rushed arrival.

 

Susan's glare dripped icicles. "I told you to be ready when I got here" She held out her coat, which Evie grabbed, out of breath, still wearing her own coat.

 

"I know, Susan, I'm sorry," Evie said, tripping over her words and handing Susan a cup of black coffee. "I couldn't get out of our apartment quickly enough."

 

Our apartment. The phrase bothered Susan. Evie sharing part of her life with anyone other than Susan was not what she expected from her assistant. Her sole focus should be Susan.

 

Looking Evie directly in the eyes, she shook her head, almost imperceptibly, once to the left, once to the right. Evie's eyes began to fill, her head drooped. Susan closed the office door in Evie's face.

 

Cushioned leather embraced her as she sat behind her desk. She took out her phone and found Evie's home number, dialed the number, waited.

 

A male voice she knew to be Evie's boyfriend Jimmy answered. Evie had described Jimmy as everything Susan despised in a man: frivolous, unambitious, not involved in business. He worked at something in the arts. And if Susan was any judge, he could be led by the nose as easily as any man.

 

"Hello?" said Jimmy.

 

"Oh hi!" answered Susan, raising the pitch of her voice and giving it a helpless-girl tone. "Is Evie there?"

 

"Nope, sorry. Who's calling?"

 

"Oh is this the famous Jimmy?" Susan asked, fluttering her eyelids to get more into the role. "This is Susan. Susan Carlyle. Evie's boss."

 

"Oh, um, hi. Yeah, she talks about you. A lot. She's not here," Jimmy repeated, his voice friendly, open, questioning. "She should be at the office. Did you try her cell?"

 

"Yes. No answer." She sped through the words, not giving Jimmy a chance to interrupt. "But I'm so glad to finally get a chance to speak with you. Evie said such wonderful things, and when she talks about how you'll be getting engaged soon—or was it starting a family—I can't remember which, or maybe it was both…" She giggled and waited.

 

"She… what? What did she tell you?"

 

Evie had never actually mentioned marriage or children—having specifically noted that the casual nature of her relationship with Jimmy suited them both quite well.

 

"Ohhh... I probably wasn't supposed to say anything. Please don't tell her I told you this."

 

Jimmy's voice had an edge. "No, I won't. I'll just let her know you called. Bye." The call disconnected.

 

Susan could practically hear Jimmy getting ready to pack his bags as he hung up. She put her phone down and opened her laptop.

 

Soon, hopefully, Evie would be less distracted and able to give Susan the full attention she demanded. As she logged into the office network, Susan realized she could have just told Evie to break off her relationship with Jimmy, and she would have done so without much fuss, but doing it this way was just that much more fun.

 

An instant message from Evie popped onto Susan's screen: By the way, happy anniversary to you and Hunter. The gift you had me order for him should be delivered this morning.

 

Jeremy Warach

 

Jeremy Warach is a technology professional, mediocre musician, stargazer, appreciator of irony, and occasional author. He and his family live in the suburbs of New York City. His work has appeared in Synchronized Chaos and Zouch Magazine. Check him out on FB: facebook.com/jeremy.warach

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