A seal upon your heart, p.5
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       A Seal Upon Your Heart, p.5

           Pepper Pace
 

  Jane held her head high and walked proudly to her cubicle. Jen arrived and poured herself a cup of coffee. After watering it down she turned and watched her curiously.

  “Good morning.” Jane said.

  “Good morning.” Jen responded. She didn’t ask about her outfit so Jane didn’t volunteer. And she seemed a little unsure since it wasn’t her sitting in front of the computer today . Jane had been given the closing argument to type up and Tim wanted it by Monday. It meant that Jen couldn’t check her email and play some online scrabble game. She finally sat down in the second chair that had somehow, unofficially become Jane’s chair.

  “So, any plans for the weekend?” Jane paused in her typing. She liked Jen but knew that the girl had no interest in her plans. She had already figured her out and knew this was just a question for her to segue into detailing her own plans for the weekend.

  Thankfully Tim arrived before she could think of a response. Tim was tired and cranky. He had to make a closing argument Monday and it still didn’t ring right to him. It wasn’t a case that he liked but it was given to him because he had a knack for making unpleasant things ‘work’.

  His client was sitting in jail, unable to make bail and he really didn’t like his daily jaunts to the Justice Center. He didn’t like the young bastard’s attitude; it was the third time he’d gotten caught selling crack. Three strikes. There was no doubt that the punk was going to jail, the question was for how long.

  “Good morning.” He mumbled as he walked past. He didn’t even look at them. The girls responded likewise though he barely heard it as he entered his office. He hung up his coat and sat down in his chair. He turned on his computer, looked at the photos on his desk and then with a sigh he checked his messages on speaker as he looked at his planner.

  Jane placed the coffee on his desk. “Thanks J-” The words fell from his lips as he stared at the tall dark skinned woman that he had only seen as frumpy and too skinny. As his eyes got wide, Jane smoothed down her blouse nervously.

  Her bangles clacked together and she took a step back and turned for the door.

  Damnit…he should say something nice. He’d just make made her feel self conscious when in actuality she had just surprised him at how pretty she actually was. “Jane.”

  “Yes, Tim?” She turned with a cautious look in her eyes.

  “That blouse is very nice. What’s the occasion?” She smiled shyly and it did something to him; made him feel good that he’d made her smile.

  “I was going to meet friends after work tonight.”

  He tried to place her accent and couldn’t. She was very pretty. He hadn’t quite noticed that before. “Where are you from, Jane? You have a slight accent...”

  “I’m from Africa, Rwanda.”

  “Oh.” The pieces fell into place; young orphaned girl living in a convent. It was 1994 when the Hutu’s were ordered to kill the Tutsi’s. Before it ended over eight hundred thousand people would be dead—on both sides. He couldn’t even fathom that, not in this day and age. But looking at her standing there in her African print blouse and covered in jewels made it disturbingly real. Tim tried to gauge her age. How old would she have been back in 1994? Five, six? Damnit…he hadn’t even taken the time to learn anything about her.

  “So, how are you getting along?”

  “Very well, thank you.”

  “Well…if there’s anything you need, you’ll be sure to let me know?”

  She nodded. “I will.” She left the office not realizing that she had held her breath until she let out a relieved ‘swoosh’. Jen was frowning at her.

  Tim was too busy to take a lunch, so that meant that she and Jen were on their own. He had two appointments scheduled with perspective clients and he still had court. Once he left Jen practically grabbed her arm and dragged her off to lunch.

  “Where are we going?” Jane barely had time to grab her sweater. Jen wasn’t pleased that Tim had complimented Jane on her looks. She had been coming to work each day dressed in her finest clothes and he had barely noticed.

  Jen was not planning to stay with Rick for the rest of her life; not when his thirteen year old hated her and had threatened to kill her. She was pretty, why shouldn’t she be married to a lawyer? And Tim had married his assistant once before…

  She had never thought to worry about Jane. She’d overheard Tim mention a convent and Jane herself had mentioned nuns. She suspected that the girl actually lived with nuns; she certainly dressed as if she did. She didn’t even wear a stitch of makeup.

  But today she had come in looking…pretty. “I know a great place that serves the best salads.”

  “Salad?” Jane asked.

  Jen gave her a quick look. Of course she didn’t have to worry about her figure. The girl was as thin as a…well as one of those starving people in Africa. Jen grinned at her private joke. “They have other stuff.” Jen didn’t ask she just led the way to the small Italian restaurant.

  “Tell me about yourself, Jane. I don’t feel like I know you at all.”

  Jane shrugged. There was nothing interesting about her. “I just graduated from college. I have a degree-”

  “I mean do you have a boyfriend?”

  “No.” She shook her head.

  “Why? Pretty girl like yourself.”

  Jane stared at her and blinked. “I…well it’s hard to meet boys when you’re raised in an all girl’s school-”

  Jen’s eyes got wide and she covered her mouth. “Jane, are you an orphan?”

  She nodded.

  “I’m sorry to hear that.” She said honestly. “But you’re still living there? In the convent?”

  “Just for a while longer.” They reached the restaurant and Jen continued asking her questions. She explained that she had continued living there until she finished college but would now find her own place. Jane was not comfortable speaking of it, though for once Jen listened intently. Eventually she warmed up and described what it was like to live in a household of nuns. Boring.

  They ordered their lunch. It was pretty expensive even for the salad that Jen ordered. Since it was the cheapest thing on the menu she ordered the same. But nearly nine dollars for a bowl of raw vegetables that she could get for free from Sister Brown Mary’s garden? From now on she would pack a sandwich.

  They returned to work happy and laughing and Jane felt really good. She had her degree, a good job, a new friend; someone that didn’t judge her, an old friend that had never stopped caring about her, and the world didn’t seem like such a scary place after all.

  “Let’s stop at the canteen and get some chocolate.” Jen said.

  “You just ate a salad to keep your weight down!”

  “I know but its Friday. We should treat ourselves!”

  Jane grinned. “I’m just saying; you could have had the lasagna and treated yourself.”

  They stopped at the 4th floor and headed for the vending machines that sold everything from questionable sandwiches to chips and candy. Jane saw Jen’s friends and hoped she wouldn’t want to sit with them. They’d been gone a long time and she was anxious to get back upstairs to check the messages. She knew that they were allowed lunch but they had been gone much longer then their allotted half hour.

  “Let’s go over and say hi.” Jen said, already leading the way, her chocolate bar quickly hidden away into her purse.

  The three women at the table had yet to see them approach. The white haired woman was the assistant to Mr. Bradbury and was chuckling.

  “…there isn’t enough work for one let alone two. Tim has her training her own replacement and she hasn’t even figured it out.” Claudette suddenly nudged the gossiping woman as all eyes fell on them.

  “Oh there you are, stranger. Where have you been?” The white haired woman said so sweetly to Jen, as if she hadn’t just been talking about her one second before.

  Jen plastered on a fake smile but her face had gone white. “Great. It’s Friday. Jane and I thought we’d say hi but we bette
r head back before the office collapses without us.” Jane nodded at them not sure what this was and how she was supposed to play her role. She didn’t understand this and there was more going on than what she could see.

  Jen turned and left chatting endlessly about her weekend plans. Jane realized that she was pretending as if she hadn’t heard any of it. Jane wanted to say, stop. Let’s talk about this. But she didn’t.

  CHAPTER 7

  Tim stared into his closet at a loss for how he should dress. Going to dinner at his best friend’s house had never been this complicated. He cursed Elaina for wanting to introduce him to this woman. He didn’t want it and now he was a nervous wreck!

  He snatched down a pair of beige Dockers, and then stared at them in disbelief. What the hell was he doing? He wasn’t going on a casual stroll somewhere! This was dinner…wait…no. He tossed the pants on his bed and returned to his closet, bypassing the black slacks and settling for dark blue Dockers.

  It took him another 15 minutes to select a shirt; baby blue. Corrine said the shirt brought out his eyes. Tim shaved and showered then he stood naked in front of the mirror. Yikes. Jakob might not have been exaggerating. He sucked in his stomach and slapped his chest. He was still mostly muscle but it was definitely becoming soft.

  He blow dried his hair. He’d gotten it cut yesterday and had stared in wonder at the length of the clippings scattered along the floor. He just didn’t realize how much he had let himself go. He dressed and the next time he looked into the mirror he saw a man that he recognized. There were more creases at the corner of his eyes and he was definitely too pale. But he had never had occasion to doubt his looks. Corrine had said once, ‘Honey, you are like Sean Connery; you’re just getting better with age…’

  The memory made him smile. That was a first. When he thought about Corrine he usually felt…depleted. As if someone had drained the life right out of him.

  Tim walked into the kitchen and was hit with a bad odor. He looked at the sink full of dirty dishes. It wasn’t that, it was the refrigerator. Damnit, he needed a housekeeper except a housekeeper would invade his space; disrupt the careful balance he had between memories and reality. His brother had asked him why he still lived in this big house. A four bedroom house for just two was excessive, but for one—it was downright crazy.

  Except that moving would require him to touch everything that she had so lovingly placed; to then place those items into a box and to seal that box. And once the boxes were sealed they would never be opened by him again. And the idea of that was like burying her all over again. He just couldn’t do it.

  So yes, he was very aware that he lived in Corrine’s tomb. Tim’s face pulled down into an angry scowl as he flung open the refrigerator and began to sweep almost everything into the trashcan that he had pulled forward. All he had left was butter, condiments, and his beer. Then he moved to the sink and ran hot soapy water so that the dishes could soak. Later he’d fill the dishwasher. For now, he vowed to buy paper plates and plastic eatery.

  When he finally reached Jakob and Elaina’s house, he was tempted to turn away and maybe make up some excuse like…a car accident. Of course he’d have to run the car into something. Elaina wouldn’t buy anything less. But of course, they’d heard his car pull up into the circular drive and Elaina was already at the door pulling him inside and greeting him with hugs and kisses. He smiled. Elaina was a pretty fifty-something woman that appeared at least ten years younger than that. She was petite with ash blonde hair that was always perfectly coiffed. She never had one thing out of place from her perfectly painted nails to her flawless makeup.

  “Hello,” he kissed her cheek. “You should have let me bring something; wine-”

  “No!” She led him into the living room. “Then you would find an excuse not to come because you couldn’t find the perfect wine. Don’t think I don’t know how you operate, Mister.” She chided. He chuckled, okay, so she did know him well.

  Jakob was holding a beer and he grinned and shook his friend’s hand. “I’ll let Elaina do the intros. You want one of these?” He held up his beer and Tim allowed his eyes to rest on the third person present.

  “You know it.”

  Elaina was beaming when she introduced the pretty woman. “Tim, I’d like you to meet Priscilla Hosgrove. Priscilla, this is our dear friend Tim Singleton.” He took Priscilla’s hand. She was very pretty; tall, dark short hair with boobs that captured his eyes before he moved them to her satisfied green eyes. He hoped he wasn’t blushing.

  “So Tim, I understand that you and Jakob were roommates in college.”

  “It would be safe to say that I know this man better than I know my own brother.”

  Jakob handed him a beer. “Actually Tim is my non-Jewish brother from a different mother and father…and with no discernible similarities beyond a mutual desire to rule the world.”

  Tim shook his head and grinned. “I warned you against the path of world domination.” He looked at Priscilla. “Don’t listen to him, Priscilla. I’d much rather have a home cooked meal than rule the world.”

  Tim found that he enjoyed dinner, despite the moment of discomfort when he realized that Priscilla was sitting in the seat that Corrine had always used. Then it seemed horrible that he would be sitting next to this other woman while they all laughed and talked the way they used to when his wife was here.

  But Elaina smiled at him and he knew that she understood and was secretly telling him that he was doing well. The moment passed and he felt comfortable talking and laughing again.

  Priscilla was divorced with 2 adult children, and from what he could tell she didn’t have any type of job. She went to the same Temple that Jakob and Elaina did and Tim thought they must feel awfully sorry for him if they were setting him up with their Jewish friends.

  After dinner they had coffee in the living room. Priscilla sat down next to him and he gave her an inviting smile while attempting to keep his eyes away from her breasts. He hadn’t made love to a woman in three years; two of which was while his wife was undergoing cancer treatment. He’d learned to get use to taking cold showers and going without. But Priscilla had worn a sweater that hugged her huge breasts and her otherwise slender body. And tonight he thought he’d need a cold shower for the first time in a long time.

  “What kind of law do you practice, Tim?”

  “Mostly criminal but some family.”

  “Do you enjoy it?”

  He hesitated. “It’s…not something that you generally enjoy. It’s more like…someone has to do it so it might as well be you.”

  “I told this man to go into corporate law like me.” Jakob said as he placed his arms around Elaina where the two were sitting on the couch opposite him and Priscilla.

  “I don’t think I can deal with boring contracts day after day.”

  “True, but at least you don’t have to do your attorney consultations from behind bars.”

  “Okay boys.” Elaina held up her hands and shook her head at Priscilla. “They’ve been having this same argument for years. Priscilla, tell Tim what happened when you went to that spa in Vancouver Island! It was hilarious!”

  Priscilla began her story about a touchy feely masseuse while Tim politely tried to appear attentive. He’d figured out that he really wasn’t interested or ready to pursue anything with the woman. There was absolutely nothing wrong with her; even if her breasts were fake. But other than a mild interest in seeing her sweater possibly pull apart at the seams and fall off, there was nothing.

  He knew that he could offer to take Priscilla out because it was the polite thing to do. And they might even get into an unofficial routine of meeting up once or twice a week just for the purpose of keeping each other company. But before long it would become a ‘thing’, and not because he necessarily liked her in that way…but just because he had been lonely and polite.

  If he was going to have a ‘thing’ with someone, it wouldn’t be out of a sense of expectation.

  After a polit
e span of time he announced that he was leaving and told Priscilla that he had enjoyed meeting her. He kissed Elaina noting her look of disappointment. He shook Jakob’s hand, grabbed the leftover brisket that Elaina didn’t have to twist his arm to take, and then he went home.

  CHAPTER 8

  Sunday was always hectic. Everyone got up at 4:30 to prepare for morning Mass. The girl’s would be hungry and restless and they wouldn’t be allowed breakfast until they returned. Later would be the evening mass then dinner. Between that your day was yours to do as you pleased. Jane didn’t feel like watching television or even being with the other girls not even the littlest ones that she usually enjoyed holding and hugging as if they were little doll babies.

 
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