It interested him how many of the women on the staff were loitering around that particular sitting room at that exact time.
“Hello, ladies. Nice to see you all this morning.” He flashed a smile, straightening his tie and smoothing his jacket. “Did you need something in particular?”
They bustled away, whispering and giggling.
Talk of the town by nightfall, he predicted cynically. How am I gonna explain this to my mother?
Deciding that he’d better call her, he took out his phone. He was facing the wall, back to the room, when a whisper of movement made him turn around. His mother answered just as he spotted Marka and all the air went out of the room.
“Hello? Frank? Francis!”
“Hi, Mom. Um. . . . How’s it going?”
“Better for me than you. What’s all this I hear from everyone but you? Your office, house, car? Frank, what’s going on? Hello?”
He explained briefly, trying to breathe while he concentrated on his conversation.
Marka was a major distraction. She was dressed in white linen suit. Her blouse was bright red with white polka dots scattered over it. She carried a red patent leather purse. What made the outfit were the shoes. Four inch, stiletto heels supported her tall, slender frame. The shoes were the same shade of red as her blouse. They glittered like the Ruby Slippers. Her hair was pulled back in a loose, sloppy chignon at the base of her neck. She’d done her makeup to go with the dress, her lips a slash of scarlet across her face, enticing and teasing him with their full moistness.
“Francis Joseph Augustus Steven Atherton!” His mother used all his names. She wasn’t furious yet, she hadn’t added his confirmation name, but it was close.
Pulling himself together, he forced himself to concentrate on the phone. “Sorry, Mom. My—uh—colleague just showed up.” Nice save, like she’ll believe that.
“What does she look like?”
Why does Mom have to be so damn smart?
“I’ll bring her by this weekend. So, I guess you heard about—everything.”
“You couldn’t tell me yourself?”
“Mom, I’ve had a rough couple days. About all I thought of was getting through it without another mishap. I didn’t want you to worry, so I thought I’d better call.”
“Not a scratch on me.”
“Stay that way. I worried about you the entire time you were in Iraq. I thought once you were home, I could stop freaking out every time the phone rang!” Her tone changed, rising in pitch and intensity. Mom was near tears.
“Unusual circumstances. I need to go, Mom. We’re going to get some breakfast and go to the office.”
“Okay. You be careful. And you be sure to come by this weekend. I want to meet the woman who makes my son forget he’s talking to his mother.” She laughed, making a kissing sound as she hung up.
He dropped his phone in his pocket. Taking Marka’s hand, he brought it to his lips. “You look absolutely stunning.” He twirled her under his arm.
“So do you. We don’t match as well as yesterday.”
“We’ll have to work on that.”
He offered her his arm. She looped her hands around it. Feeling rather like Fred Astaire leading Ginger Rogers to the dance floor, he walked her to the elevator. They rode down with several other
people, so they didn’t speak to one another until they got to the cafeteria. Despite sitting in a far corner, they were still the center of attention. When they finally had a quiet moment, Frank leaned forward.
“You know we’re the major topic of gossip, right?”
“Does that bother you?” She countered.
“Not particularly. I don’t want you upset by it.”
“I’m tougher than I look.” She smiled, taking his hand. “I’m proud to be paired up with you. If people want to talk and make up stories, I don’t care. Eventually, it will happen.”
“Almost did. . . .”
“It will be epic.”
“It will. I wanted to thank you for last night. Having you there meant a lot. I needed that.”
“You’re welcome. We never had dessert.”
They cleared their places and headed to their offices. Marka had a session at 9:30. His meeting wasn’t until 10:00, but all the principle players were already arriving. Jerry stood outside his office door. Mabel’s surrogate arrived a few minutes later.
Jeff invited them all into his office. “Frank’s is still more or less out of commission. Do you need me for this?”
“Not unless you want to be, Jeff.”
“I have to admit, I’m damn curious about it, but I don’t think you need me in the way.”
“Do we have a picture of the watch?” Frank asked.
© Dellani Oakes http://www.smashwords.com/books/search?query=Dellani+Oakes