Chapters One to Twenty Six
Vignettes 1 - 140

Chapters 27 to
Vignettes 141 -

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Chapter Twenty One: Time

This was the time of day he enjoyed the most, alone after dark while his Papa was sleeping. He always woke up in the middle of the night. He always had. He didn’t know why.

He used to just lie in bed and count the tiles in his ceiling, but that was before. Now he’d slip on his robe and the neat slippers Tippy had bought for him and roam.

This place was so big. It wasn’t that he didn’t love his other home, but this place was different. Before, any little noise he made, any little noise anyone made at night would roust someone. Now he could quietly explore, just a little.

He slipped his feet in the bed shoes kept right where he could stick his feet in them and pulled on the robe, hung within reach. As he tied the belt, he looked at the nightstand and smiled. Looking back at him from the frame were four faces. One of them was his, the other were three people he missed so much. His mother and Miz Hil were gone.

His Grampaw Jude he spoke to every day. It wasn’t the same as being able to touch him. It wasn’t the same as being able to take in the smell of him. Sweet wood and evergreen, Jude always smelled of sweet wood and evergreen.

His mother always smelled of biscuits and lilacs. Miz Hill was roses, she always smelled of roses. Ronnie took a deep breath remember the scents that added up to home.

He didn’t think of his Daddy. Oh he loved him, and there were times he missed him, but Ronnie couldn’t get lots of things about the man out of his head, things that scared him. Things that made him cry.

He felt Rodie stir on the bed. Ronnie looked at the kitty and put his fingers to his lips. “Shhh!” He stood and padded toward the door. As he opened it, he heard the cat lightly pounce to the floor and knew she wouldn’t be far behind his every step.

Ronnie liked the fact that it was never pitch black in his new home. It was dark, but not the scary monsters lurking in the corner kind. If you forgot to put something away, it was dark enough to trip over it, but bright enough to lead the way anywhere you wanted to go.

He knew exactly where he wanted to go. It was his little midnight ritual. First he stopped and looked at that painting in the stairwell. His Papa was right. It was almost like the one he had found in the barn, but Ronnie liked this one better. He could stare at it for hours and always see something new.

Rodie would wind herself around Ronnie’s feet as he looked, rubbing her soft fluff on his bare ankles. Then she’d purr. Ronnie loved the sound of his cat purring in the quiet of the night, a happy sound in the dark.

He reached down and picked her up, Rodie quickly making herself comfortable as they padded to the kitchen. The room would flood with light as Ronnie opened the fridge and get them a snack. Tonight it was cream for her and a leftover cinnamon roll for him.

There was always food in the refrigerator now. Not that he went hungry on Lost Mountain. You just didn’t snack a lot, snacking was a special treat that you never did without asking. It was still a special treat. He just didn’t have to feel guilty that he’d eaten something his Mama had saved for her lunch.

As Rodie licked her paws, Ronnie rinsed her bowl and put it in the special spot for her dirty dishes. He always liked to peer out the kitchen door as he put Rodie’s things away.
Sometimes he’d see Ralphie being walked if Uncle Kellen had gotten home late again.

The best thing was watching the moonlight on the pool. That was just way too cool. Not only did he have a big old pool right in his own back yard, but every night the moon came and danced all over it just for him. Ronnie thought that was God’s way of telling Ronnie He was looking after him.

Ronnie picked Rodie up after the smiles of the moonlight on the water made him sigh a time or two. He went to his favorite place in the whole world. They went right to the staircase again, making sure not to get distracted by the painting and stood in the doorway.

There he was, sleeping in his big old bed. Ronnie put the cat down and quietly rolled a little ottoman to the bedside. He sat on it, putting his chin in his hands and his elbows on his knees. Ronnie loved to watch his Papa, to just sit there and watch him breathe.

He sighed. Things were right. They were so different, but they were finally right. That feeling that he had, the one in the bottom of his belly was gone. Whenever he felt it, all he had to do was look at his Papa and it went away.

It wasn’t that he didn’t love his Mommy and Daddy, he just never felt like he belonged. He was happy and they loved him, but somehow he always knew. He never really knew what that was until he came to live with his Papa.

He’d heard the whispers that he didn’t really understand. He could hear the things people said when they knew his mother was too busy to be paying attention. He never understood why they didn’t know that he could hear what they said. It was kinda mean.

Then Stevie Rose told him flat out and he mean it to be mean. At first he just thought he was lying, but it made him so sad. Finally his Mama asked him if he wanted to talk about whatever had made him so said.

He didn’t want to, but he couldn’t stop crying. “Stevie Rose says nobody ever wanted me. That I ain’t really yours. He said that a horrible monster left me on your doorstep and you took me in because you were afraid he’d come back and eat you if you didn’t.”

“Aw Honeypot.” His Mama smiled. She always called him Honeypot, and when she smiled there was always that little sad place right in the corner. She pulled him into to her biscuit and lilac smell and told him.

She told him that Stevie Rose was just being mean. When he asked her why he would be so mean, she told him that he was just jealous, because his Mama and Daddy didn’t get to choose him, but Ronnie was special because his Mama and Daddy did.

From that day on Ronnie understood a little better. When that feeling would come into the bottom of his belly, he would just remind it how special he was and that Stevie Rose’s parents got stuck with a loser.

Now they were all gone. Sometimes it made him sad, but it was a different kind of sad like knowing you’d eaten the last candy in the bottom of your Trick or Treat bag. He knew it was gone and things would never be quite the same, but he had such sweet memories that far outweighed the sad.

This was where he was supposed to be, in his favorite spot in the whole wide world watching his Papa sleep. He looked so peaceful, most of the time. Ronnie liked it when he’d steal into the bedroom at night at his Papa would be sprawled out gently breathing.

Once and a while he’d let out a big old sigh, just like he’d finished doing something he loved more than anything. His Papa would then smile in his sleep, his face relaxing and his body melted into the bed.

Ronnie gently reached out and wiped his fingers across the sleeping man’s forehead pushing that stubborn tuft of black hair back into place. His Papa seemed so at peace. Ronnie liked to think he was having a happy dream. He didn’t seem to have too many of those.

It wasn’t fair. All his Papa needed was a little peace and a whole lot of love. He looked happy all the time, but Ronnie knew better. He could feel it, like the strange tickle that used to always be in his belly only this was in his father’s eyes.

Sometimes when he didn’t know you were watching this look came over his face. Ronnie couldn’t put his finger on it, but he knew it wasn’t good. It was like he was watching the family dog get run over in slow motion and knew there wasn’t anything he could do about it.

But tonight was a good night. His Papa was sleeping so peacefully Ronnie had to watch his chest just to be sure he was still breathing. It was the best place in the world to be.

Sometimes, Ronnie needed to be there. Some nights, his Papa’s eyes would dart back and forth beneath closed eyelids. He’d tremble and sweat, sometimes moaning in pain. He’d ball the sheets up in his fists until his knuckles turned white, lying still but thrashing his head back and forth.

And there were the nights his father would sit up and scream. It didn’t scare Ronnie, it only made him feel bad that he wasn’t there to hold him and soothe him back down to sleep. It didn’t happen too often, but the two or three times it had were two or three times way too many.

Ronnie wanted his Papa to be happy. He wanted him to not have bad dreams, especially the ones that made him scream in his sleep. He knew it was impossible not to have a nightmare once and a while, but his Papa had had more nightmares asleep and awake that any one person deserved.

His Papa stirred. Ronnie leaned in close, just in case. The sleeping man sighed and relaxed. It made Ronnie smile.

Ronnie got up and quietly pushed the ottoman back to its place in the corner. He walked back to the bed and watched him sleep for just a second longer. He leaned over and kissed his sleeping Papa’s cheek.

As Ronnie turned to go he saw his father’s eyes flutter. Those half sleepy blue eyes shined in the dark. His Papa smiled.

Ronnie smiled back.

His Papa lifted the covers and Ronnie scooted in beside him. In a moment his Papa’s arms held him tightly and the boy was all nestled in his father’s perfect loving warm. He heard the cat leap lightly on the bed and roll up in a ball at his feet. Ronnie sighed and drifted off to sleep.

He was wrong. This was his favorite place to be.

Just a roast beef sandwich on white please.” He handed the menu back to the waiter. “Hold the mayo.”

“To drink, sir?”

“A tall glass of milk. It’s been a long time since I’ve had just a simple glass of milk.” He smiled as he turned back to his companions.

“Going back to the basics, Jamey?”

James Redfield shrugged his shoulders. “Why not? We may all be right back where we started soon.”

“Don’t curse it, for God’s sake.”

“Sorry, not being negative, Dave. We know this is a gamble, I’m just trying to be frugal.”

“Not a thing wrong with that.” Lucille smirked. “This time next year, we can rub the studio’s nose in it. A diet of nice basic fiber will only make it all the richer.”

“We’re all putting everything we have into this film.” Turner said. “It’s either the beginning or the end.”

“This was your idea, Dave.” She glared at him. “Don’t tell us you’re having second thoughts now.”

“Not at all.” He sighed. “The studios don’t like it. They’ll try everything they can think of to stop us. I’m just bracing for a difficult time.”

“You know they offered to buy the script.” Redfield admitted. “When I told them I wouldn’t sign the new contract unless they let us do it.”

Lucille perked up, half mad, half intrigued. “They made a counter offer? Why didn’t you tell us?”

“Not a counter offer.” James picked a pack of crackers up from the basket in the center of the table. “They offered to buy the script, but they didn’t want me in it and didn’t want Dave to direct.”

“Bastards.” Dave mused.

“It’s a period piece they said.” Redfield mashed the crackers in the package to let off steam. “You don’t do period pieces well, Fairbanks is perfect. Well decide on your next picture. Don’t go thinking beyond your abilities. What an insult.”

“What did they say about Dave directing?” Lucille asked.

“I’m not sure I want to hear this.” Dave leaned on the table. “Or if I even care.”

“Too large a scope for a B-movie mindset.” Redfield said anyway.

“They made an offer for the script.” The fourth companion said. “Booker called me and told me they offered him the moon.”

“He didn’t sell it on us, did he?” Dave sat straight up.

“Of course not.” The man said. “He’s as fed up with the studio as we are.”

“How did Forbush react when Booker turned them down?” Jamey smiled. “I assume it was Forbush.”

The man nodded his head. “Oh the usual, told him Four Stars could make the picture the way it should be made, guarantee a big market push even offered a contract for just two more films…of their choice.”

“And?” Someone at the table encouraged.

“Booker said the man turned into Rumpelstiltskin when he told him to kiss his behind.” The group laughed. “Threatened none of us would ever get this made and no one would ever work again.”

“We’ll get it made.” Dave was determined.

“And I can guarantee distribution.” Lucille smirked. “Four Stars has ticked off enough houses, and I’ve got the goods on enough others to make sure that we get it in every major market for at least a week.”

“If it’s a bomb though, none of us will ever work again.” James reminded everyone.

“I will.” The fourth man said. “No one gives a rat’s ass about make up people.”

“If worse comes to worse, you may have to teach us all.” Dave smiled.

“Jamey’s pretty good at it already.” He laughed.

“What are you talking about?” Jamey wanted to know.

“Remember last Halloween? You got drunk and dressed up in Lucille’s ball gown?”

Lucille laughed and James turned red. “Herman, do not remind me.”

“I thought you looked real pretty.” Lucille pinched her husband’s cheek.

“I couldn’t get over how much you looked like my sister.” Herman joked.

“I guess I’ve got a career in Vaudeville then, if there’s even a Vaudeville left.” James sighed. “Has anyone heard from Malvina?” He changed the embarrassing subject.

“She’s in.” Dave confirmed. “She just has to finish up this last picture and her contract with Four Stars is complete. She’ll jump right in.”

“Malvina Golden and James Redfield in ‘Breathe’ directed by David Turner.” Three of last year’s Oscar nominees in one film, that will pack ‘em in.” Lucille drummed happily on the tabletop.

“Four Stars won’t know what hit them!” Turner added.

The waiter came carrying a tray with their order. He began to serve. As he put Lucille’s filet in front of her she sneered at him.

“It’s about time.”

“Sorry for the delay, Mrs. Redfield.” The waiter apologized. “The chef wanted to make sure everything was perfect. It’s not every day stars of your caliber grace our humble establishment.”

It was just what she wanted to hear. “Give him our gratitude. We are always willing to wait on perfection.”

“Of course, Mrs. Redfield.”

“Okay, where are you?” She asked as she searched, not quite in panicked desperation, just a few seconds from it.

She was sure she’d slipped it off and laid it right on her dressing table. She remembered distinctly sitting there when she took her make up off last night, holding it up and watching it twirl in the mirror. It had to be right there.

Saxon pushed her freshly dried curls behind her ears and took a seat at the vanity. She didn’t reach for her brush. She pushed the bottles and loose earrings around.

“I can’t have lost it, not now.” She sighed and pushed a bottle of nail polish aside. “I know I put it right here.” She crossed her arms and pouted in the mirror.

“That always helps.” She could hear him say in her head. Funny, no matter what, no matter where, it was always Ian’s voice she heard in her head.

“Oh, sugar.” She uncrossed her arms and stood up banging her knee, as always, on some corner determined to keep her black and blue.

She rubbed her boo boo and watched the bottle of Aztec Blue nail polish rock and sway, fall to its side and roll off the vanity. She watched its free fall to the plush carpet. Fortunately the lid was on tight. She reached down to pick it up.

There in the plush white carpet was her treasure. She smiled as she squatted and picked it up. She placed the nail polish firmly in place and looked in the mirror as she put her treasure around her neck.

It was just a little half penny, dangling on a little gold chain. She held the penny in her fingers and looked at it. She kept it polished and rarely took it off, only when she showered before bed and when she walked down the aisle the first time.

The first time she got married Josh knew all about it. He knew all her secrets. She knew all of his. They thought it the reason people got married because they knew each other well enough to share it all, the good and the bad and that made the heart grow fonder.

They were best friends, suddenly in a maelstrom of publicity. They had known each other for two years, roommates for most of it. They were starving artists trying to hit it big in the big city. She was a poor small town girl from Grundy, Virginia. He was spoiled rich kid from Chicago running away from the parents who wanted him to go into the family business.

Josh’s family didn’t approve of his choice of professions and cut his monthly allowance down to just enough to keep him from living in a hovel and starving to death. They had met in a workshop on how to survive in show business. The opposites attracted immediately. Saxon was a survivor. Josh needed to learn how.

She taught him how to live frugally. He taught her how to light up a screen. She wanted to be an actress. He wanted to be a director. She had a monologue. He had a camera.

She taught him how to save money eating meals of peanut butter instead of Bruschetta. He taught her how to use make up to make the most of her features. She taught him that the endless auditions and interviews where all performances to be enjoyed and relished. He taught her how to develop a performance for the camera with subtlety and nuance.

They struggled together, making the most of every rejection. She did under fives on daytime television and a commercial for Wendy’s. He videoed weddings and birthday parties, and uploaded original shorts for You Tube.

Then his great aunt died and left him enough money to make his own little film. It was just $75,000, but that would be enough to guerrilla a little indie with enough left over to take it to a few film festivals.

Saxon pulled together a few actor friends and they made up a script as they went along. It was a silly little horror film, done with a hand held camera in eight days. Instead of monsters and vampires, they made the camera the monster.

They called it “Watching You”. Josh culled every horror movie cliché and deftly told it from the unseen monster’s point of view. It was at times horrifying, at times side splittingly funny and throughout ironically tragic.

It became the talk of the film fest circuit. Josh was invited to enter it in Sundance and it won the Audience award. It touched off a bidding war between distributors, Lion’s Gate finally winning. The little film became an instant hit and raked in big bucks for everyone.

Saxon and Josh went from nobody to royalty overnight. Offers came pouring in. They were smart enough to take advantage and make the right choices. She smartly did a small series of Scream Queen roles, and he stayed with small budget features he could maintain artistic control of.

Then they combined forces again, in a parody of their own careers achieving even bigger success. Disney came calling. They were smart enough to answer. They also thought they were smart enough to get married. Neither turned out to be the brightest decision either had made.

Disney stuck them both to a quick series of generic family comedies. None were successes. I do’s and a marriage license didn’t change their relationship at all. When their quick contracts ended, Disney sent Josh packing, but wanted Saxon for a small role in a series.

Saxon wanted more than television. She had always wanted to be a movie star, and with Josh’s encouragement, turned down the series and stuck it out. It turned out to be the right choice for her career, but the wrong one for the marriage.

It was a pseudo scream queen role, the damsel in distress in a sci-fi action flick starring Jeremy Tyson. It was a guaranteed hit adding box office luster back to Saxon’s resume. The reviews were better than average, critics latching on to the romantic chemistry and the comic edge Saxon brought to a thankless role. It led her to the series of romantic comedies that made her a superstar.

It also led Josh to meeting Caleb Hunter, the villain’s sidekick in the picture. It was a match made in heaven. Saxon had always known that Josh was gay. She just assumed she could live with it. It turned out she couldn’t.

They quietly divorced. Josh and Caleb went off to live openly ever after. Saxon had lost a husband, but gained a career. She carried on, remaining in the spotlight as America’s sweetheart.

Josh, too, carved out a good career in quirky independents. They remained dear friends. She even starred in one of his biggest mainstream hits, parodying once again her own career and netting her first Oscar nomination.

In between she thought she’d found love again. This time with Brady Brandon, a Canadian hockey player. It was love at first sight, a whirlwind courtship and as traditional a marriage as possible.

Saxon put behind all loves and hopes of the past. She concentrated on being a good wife and hopefully one day a good mother. She put the career on the backburner and followed Brady around the continent being his number one cheerleader as well as his wife. It was everything she’d ever dreamed of.

Then Brady got caught with his pants down in the locker room after a big game. He claimed the couple got him drunk and he thought it was all a big joke. Unfortunately the girl got the whole story with her cell phone camera and anyone with Internet could see the antics.

Saxon believed him and stood behind her husband. He was a hockey player for crying out loud and he was obviously under the influence of something. It wasn’t until she came home one evening early to surprise her husband and caught him in bed with the pool boy that the truth finally hit her.

She had hoped for another quiet friendly divorce, and it was, until Brady went on a daytime talk show on National Coming Out Day and came out. By the time the Nightly News came on, Saxon found herself embroiled in a very public divorce to another gay man.

It made her a martyr to every woman in America and an icon to every gay man in the universe. She plunged back into her career and just assumed that her private life would always be a very public disaster. Very few men wanted to be seen with her, assuming the public and the paparazzi would assume the worst.

Saxon became a team player, appearing in public with every costar. She was secretly called America’s Favorite Beard. She did what she had to and ignored the title hoping someday the right man would come along.

And Ian Justyn dropped right back into her life. She’d never forgotten him. How could she? Sure he was handsome. Sure he made her laugh and forget about all the silly difficulties of the past and present. Somehow, he was the other half of her soul.

She hadn’t realized how incomplete she felt until he appeared in the room. How could someone do that? How could some one just waltz in from the past and instantly make all the insane mistakes seem so insignificant? Most of all, why couldn’t either of them let go of it all enough to just let go.

Saxon smiled as she clutched the half penny and tucked it beneath her shirt. It had meant so much to her and it was the one thing he didn’t remember. She sighed and sat back down at the vanity in an attempt to tame her morning locks and not think about the only time Ian Justyn ever disappointed her.

Ian was trying hard not to laugh when she handed him her little closing night gift. It was wrapped in blue Kleenex tied together with a little gold Christmas ribbon.

“Go ahead.” Saxon crossed her arms and rolled her eyes. “I knew you’d think it was funny.”

“I’m so sorry, Bessie.” Ian stifled the last giggle. “But the irony…”

“Just stop.” She smiled with him. “I get it. Kleenex girl wraps her gifts in Kleenex. I didn’t have time to run out and buy proper paper so I just used what was at hand.”

Ian guffawed.

“Okay, that didn’t come out right.” She said and then couldn’t help but laugh herself. “If my Granny knew that teaching me that being a lady meant you always kept a tissue under your brassiere strap for emergencies would lead to a nickname she’d be rolling over in her grave.”

“If your Granny knew you’d have the sniffles on the first day of acting seminar, she’d have told you not to be seated anywhere near that snooty curr from Kingsport.” Ian told her.

“You mean Clare Humphreys?” Saxon asked.

“Whatever her name is.” Ian said, his attention back to the little gift in his hand. “Shall I open this or wait for the cast party?”

“Open it, Clem.” Saxon was excited. “I don’t want to have to explain it to everyone.”

“Or have them see the wrapping paper…” Ian teased.

Saxon snorted. Ian loved it when he made her snort. “Stop…or I’ll take it back.”

Ian carefully untied the ribbon and waded through the layers of blue tissues. When he got it all folded back he looked at what was swaddled there in the palm of his hand. “A penny cut in half?” He looked up at her.

Saxon smiled. “Remember dress tech?”

“When those nasty kids from Abingdon High started throwing coins on the stage?” Ian recalled. “And during your final monologue one went down your bodice?”

“The very one.” She pointed. “Jeff Munson and I struggled to get it in a vice and cut it in half.”

“Why in half?”

“Because one part is for you and one part is for me.” She smiled and reached over and plucked one of the palm of Ian’s hand. “Think of it sort of as a physical reminder of our promise.”

“Which one?” Ian knew, but he liked to tease her.

“The big one.” Saxon kissed her half penny and dropped it in her clutch. “Which ever one of us gets nominated for the Oscar first…”

Ian shook his head. “…Takes the other as their date.”

“Then we can put the penny back together.” Saxon sighed. “Reunited symbolically like Romeo and Juliet.”

“From whence the penny came.” Ian said.

“I knew you’d understand.”

“Here give it a kiss for luck.”

He held his half penny to her lips. She smiled and kissed the shiny copper before he slipped it in his pocket.

“Don’t lose that.” Saxon warned. “I’ll have to kill you if you do.”

“I’ll give it to Aunt Hil. She’ll know where to put it for safe keeping.” Ian assured her. “Now, my Juliet I have something for you.”

“You didn’t have to.” But she was thrilled he did.

Ian held out a little white box tied together in a red Christmas ribbon. “Open it now, so I don’t have to explain to everyone. Besides that will take the karma off it.”

Saxon eager slipped the ribbon off and opened the lid. Peering inside, she found a single rosebud nested in a layer of white cotton. She looked up at Ian with a question in her eyes.

“It’s an almost forgotten theatre tradition.” Ian explained. “I read about it in a book. When you have your first lead in a play, you keep the most perfect rose bud from the first bouquet you are presented on Opening Night. On Closing Night you present it to the person in the cast you think is destined to be the biggest star.”

“Oh Ian.” Saxon didn’t know whether to laugh, cry or kiss him. She did all three.

Marco Dane sneered as he signed in that morning. Rusty was all smiles as usual. It was too early in the morning for all that cheer. He scribbled his name on the pad, tossed the pen on the counter and grabbed his caramel macchiato taking a big swig as an excuse not to have to respond to whatever positive mumbo jumbo Rusty was spewing.

He hated having to wait for the elevator almost as much as he hated having to be in the office that early, but his boss was on a mission. He hated his boss, and his boss didn’t care. His boss went through assistants like peanuts. Marco was determined to hang on.

Simon Kent was soon to be the most powerful man at HRT, next to the big boss. As long as Marco kissed his butt and praised his every breath as brilliant, Kent would take him along for the ride.

Sooner or later, someone would figure out that all of Kent’s “brilliance” came from Marco. His boss did little beside figure out ways to get rid of Ian Justyn; everything else was of little importance to him. Marco did it all and as long as he kept Kent’s ego fed, he’d be allowed to keep doing it.

The elevator slowed to a stop. Marco looked at the floor, rolled his eyes and slumped against the back wall. The last thing he wanted to do was to even have to smile at whatever miserable creature was about to walk through the door.

The doors slid open and he dared to look. He couldn’t hide the smirk on his face. “Sorry, Wella, going up…not down.” Marco started to push the button.

“Me, too, Marco.” She beamed, balanced a box and pressed the number two as she got in the elevator.

“Returning a few things to the big cheese before someone finds they’re missing?” He shouldn’t be so mean, but he loved the smell of defeat.

Wella just laughed, then had the audacity to turn and ignore him. Marco stepped up beside her.

“You’re in early.” He said wanting to make small talk, hoping to get a rise out of her.

“Nope.” Wella smiled at him and then turned back to stare at the closed door.

Marco tried to nonchalantly peer into the box Wella was holding. Kent was already calling decorators for the second floor. It wasn’t official, and Marco was supposed to be the only one who knew, but he was dying to rub it in. Sometime today the announcement would be made that he was the assistant to the future VP of the network and everyone would find out that Justyn and his team had been sent packing.

He decided on another approach. “Is there anything I can do for you, Wella? I know our bosses never got along, but let’s just let all that be between them. The best man won. No hard feelings?”

“Of course not.” Wella smiled but didn’t look at him.

“I guess your working hard to clear out the office today.” Marco decided to just put out there. There was always the possibility she didn’t know. “I’ve got pretty full schedule, but I’ll be happy to help out if I can.”

“Thanks, Marco, but other than these personal items everything else is being taken care of for us.” A smile crept across her face, and this little glimmer in the corner of her eye flickered. “I’m just gonna plop this box in my new office and then go get my hair done.”

“New office?” Okay, there was some bit of information he didn’t know. If he didn’t know it, Kent didn’t know it.

“Didn’t you hear, honey?” Wella finally turned to look at him. “The team got a promotion. We’re all moving to the second floor.”

“Promotion?” That word was harder to get out than he thought. “Second floor?”

“Uh huh.” Wella turned back to face the door.

She was enjoying this too much. Something was wrong. He wasn’t sure he wanted to know, but better piecing it together from Wella Johnson than have it come bellowing at ear splitting decibels from Simon Kent.

“Second floor? That’s were the VP of the network is supposed to office…” He tried to say nonchalantly.

“Uh huh.” Was all the woman would say.

Marco heard the little bell and the door came open. He stood there looking at Wella. She finally turned to him.

“Isn’t this your floor?” She asked.

“Oh…uh…yes.” He had no choice but to step out into the foyer of his office suite. He turned back to her to see if he could come up with an excuse to get back in the elevator or get more information.

Wella grinned from ear to ear. “The best man won, Marco. No hard feelings?”

The doors shut before he could answer.

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