Sophie thought that if the sun could take just one day off, it should have been that morning. Just one day where it could be pitch black so that her eyes didn’t feel like they were burning holes into her cranium.
Taking two ibuprofen was proving to not be enough for her hangover. Still in her rental car Sophie mused that the entire bottle of Malbec imported from Argentina was good. Too good, and if she’d gone to get a car as well, she would have rented a car anyway. Just to make sure she didn’t toss her cookies at the new leather smell.
Sophie’s mind was as clear as cotton as she showed up at her work. She gave appropriate “Good mornings,” and hand waves as she made her way to her office looking out over town. She got her things into her leather desk chair and tossed her sunglasses down before having the overwhelming urge to purge her insides. She left her office just then and ducked into the corner restroom and did so.
Sophie washed up and came out and rested her shoulder against the hall wall. The feeling of recovery was close at hand.
She looked down the hall and out over the entire floor of Knight Interiors. It was made up of black and gray work stations. Wide tables with swatches of cloth, wood, paint colors and everything in between were laid out in the middle. At the end of the hall where she stood she could see her office and the bright pink shirt of someone in it.
The water cooler was just to her left and as Sophie slowly made her way to it she looked to see who was in her office.
She groaned when she saw the gold bangles and long black hair of Casey. At the water jug Sophie took up a water glass and prayed Casey didn’t see her.
Only she wasn’t so lucky.
“Hey,” she drawled and put a hand on her shoulder. Sophie turned to see concern on the doe eye’d woman’s face. “You should be at home this week.”
Sophie just smiled and put her glass under the cold water nozzle of the dispenser, “And I thought you were going to leave me alone.”
She pursed her lips, “I know, and I totally was but then I went out with Cason last night—”
Sophie felt her teeth grit, “And you felt the need to tell me all about it.” She said depressing the button for cold water, letting the splashing sound fill the air between them.
“Exactly. Sophie, I think he’s madly in love with you.”
Sophie choked, “What? What kind of nonsense is—”
“We went out to dinner - cute Italian place in town - then back to my place for dessert.” She said and waggled her eyebrows at Sophie, “If you know what I mean.”
Sophie felt her jaw go slack, she couldn’t figure out how to get her voice to work. She desperately wanted two opposite things to happen, for Casey to shut up and for her to not stop talking.
“When you said yesterday that he wasn’t your brother and you were cool with me seeing him I couldn’t wait. He’s super dark in that kind of Greek tragedy sort of way and I tried talking with him at dinner and he changed the subject. Which is cool, that kind of thing takes time right? And I thought I’d talk with you about it today but then he and I went back to my place and I don’t think I want to see him anymore.” She finished.
Sophie tried to resist the urge to ask why, but failed, “Why?”
“He’s not into me anyway and he’s incredibly rough. I like a little soft cuddle and gentle kissing, you know?”
“Oh, well—” she said and pointed down, “You’re overflowing.”
Sophie looked down and her water glass, it was indeed overflowing. She let go of the button as Casey continued.
“He just body slammed me against the far wall and grabbed me at my hip and hair, like this.” She said and made gesturing motions at Sophie to illustrate.
Sophie felt like she was losing her mind, her heart hammered in her chest imagining Cason doing those things. She’d felt those arms around her before and knew exactly what something like that would feel like. It would feel solid, unbreakable and will bending.
“His kissing, Sophie. I swear I have bruises on my lips because of him. It was really rough, but the funny part was when I said ‘ouch’ he pulled back immediately. A real gentleman, but there was this split second where he looked at me and it was hot. I mean scorch the Earth hot. And I thought to myself that, ‘OK, maybe I can get a little rough with him.’ Then it was like he really looked at me, like he realized just at that moment that he’d been making out with me. I think in his head he was making out with someone else. I mean he’d been fairly distant the whole night, you know? And he kept asking questions about you, so I figure he was making out with me but was thinking of you.” She said and waggled her eyebrows at Sophie.
Sophie was speechless.
“But then I knew at dinner I could capture him with some good old fashioned whipped cream and fudge body paint—”
“Have you tried it?”
“No, don’t need to.”
“Don’t knock it ‘til you try it. Anyway,” She said going on, “I got straight to business at my place, I’d sort of promised him dessert, and he was still pretty distant. Until we fell back against the wall, then it was like…” she said looking out over the mulling personnel of the office, “He came alive.”
“Uh-huh.” Was all Sophie could manage. Cason was thinking of someone else. Hadn’t he just said the morning before that Sophie was complicated for him? She felt all her limbs go pleasantly numb.
“He was an animal. But like I said, that’s way too rough for me.” She said and sighed, “I’m going to call the cute barista guy and go out with him, I think he’s more my speed. And Sophie I know you have all this rage about you and Cason I think has some of it too, you two should hook-up. You’d set some bedroom furniture on fire if you did.” Casey said, then made a sad face at Sophie, “You look tired, you should head home. I can take over your projects while you’re out.” She said and patted her shoulder.
Sophie came back to reality long enough to say, “Over my dead body.” Before snatching up her over full water glass and headed to her office.
Sophie sat hard into her desk chair, not even bothering to move her purse and case. She had to otherwise she’d be on the floor. The thought of Cason being rough with her had her chest tightening. She could use rough.
Sophie closed her eyes, what was she thinking?
Cason was not a man who she fantasized about. Then remembered seeing him without his shirt the week before.
OK, she admitted, not realistically fantasied about. There was too much baggage there. Too much unsaid words and mistrust. She was just out of it because she’d not eaten anything save for a 2006 Malbec the night before.
In the office kitchen Sophie warmed up a blueberry muffin and poured herself a mug of office coffee. She was glad that one morning that they had adoring customers, the kitchen was always full of thank you treats.
Back at her desk she settled in and ran through her list of projects, she updated to-dos and cleared her afternoon for the Mather’s Project. She’d be overseeing the kickoff to their renovation which meant meeting with the contractor at their home to set schedules and project deadlines.
Thinking of the Mathers, Sophie remembered Cason talking about seeing Dr. Mathers that week. What a man like Cason would do with a plastic surgeon was beyond her. She flipped through a few more pages of the project binder when it dawned on her. His hip. He was going to fix his hip? It seemed more of specialist surgeon thing than just a plastic surgeon, but Sophie remembered that Dr. Mathers hadn’t always been a plastic surgeon.
She was thinking about what a good idea it was for Cason to fix his hip problem when her mother called.
“Hi mom.” Sophie said picking up her phone.
“Hi Sophie dear. You available for lunch?” she asked.
Her mother’s tone seemed serious and the lack of social tête-à-tête had Sophie asking, “Is everything OK, mom?”
“Yes, honey. Can you make it or not?”
Sophie was taken aback, “Yes mom I can.”
“OK. Thank you.” She said then hung up.
She’d hung up before confirming the time or asking her to bring something. Sophie looked at her watch and realized that noon was just a few minutes away. Grabbing her things she headed out to her mother’s house.
When she arrived Sophie said ‘hello’ to her mother and hung up her purse. It was evident that something was wrong though. Her mother didn’t look up from setting plates on the table for just the two of them and Sophie noticed her hand shaking when she set the fruit salad down.
“Mom, looks like you’ve made my favorite lunch. BLT’s with fruit salad and iced tea. What’s the occasion?”
“Nothing.” She said briskly before adding, “Wash your hands and come eat.”
Sophie nodded and said, “OK.” As she washed up she thought that Cason had talked to her about the Nigel Project. That would be too much for her mother in just a few short days of having her only daughter in a nearly lethal car accident. God knew that even she was still trying to sort through it all.
As she dried her hands she tried to get it out of her mother what was really bothering her. “Is there something you want to talk to me about mom?”
“What?” Helen’s voice came out like a squeak as she looked over at her daughter, “Did Cason tell you?”
Sophie realized then that this had nothing to do with her. She felt her eyebrows crease, “Is everything OK, mom?” She asked again.
Helen clutched the napkins she was setting in her hands, “I’m sorry Sophie, I just wanted to have a good lunch then afterward we could talk but I can’t seem to get through just setting the gosh darned table.”
“Mom, it’s OK. What’s up?”
Her mother took a deep breath and said in a rush, “Doctor Lowe and I have been seeing each other for two days now.”
Sophie was so relieved that she laughed.
Helen’s face went from concern to admonishment, “I’m not so sure what you find funny in that Sophie.”
Sophie shook her head, “No, sorry mom I just thought that you were about to tell me some dreadful news. Seeing Dr. Lowe is nothing compared to what I thought you were going to say.”
“Oh, well. OK.”
“If you want to carry on with a man your age mom, that’s fine. Just be sure to wear protection—”
“What?” Helen asked shocked.
“Mom, if you want to… you know… just be safe.”
Helen’s face was one of horror.
When she didn’t speak Sophie felt uncomfortable, “Your face is scaring me… Did you not just say you were dating him?”
Helen blinked rapidly at her daughter, “Yes, but no. But Dr. Lowe—”
“Mom. It’s okay if you call him Martin.”
Helen pulled out her chair and sat hard, “I was expecting to tell you that he’d been coming over to help with the crosswords. He’s very smart you know, and then to prepare you for the fact that I might invite him to brunch one weekend.” She said and heaved a breath, “But you’ve thought I’m some hussy who’s sleeping with him in the house of her dead husband!” she exclaimed.
Sophie felt her eyes go wide, “Wow.”
“I’m not some floozy who’s going to just sleep with a man who finds her nice to talk to. What do you take me for Sophia Anne Sparling?”
“Wow.” Sophie said again watching her mother’s face turn red.
Helen stood again, still clutching her napkins, “Is that what people are saying about me in town? That I’m some sort of home wrecker now that Martin has been seen coming here?”
“Mom, stop. Breathe.”
Helen swallowed hard and breathing deeply nearly hollered, “Well do they?”
“No, not a soul thinks that mom. He’s been divorced for years. How about you sit down and tell me what you wanted to tell me about Martin.”
“I just did!”
“OK. Crosswords are fun! You say you’ve seen each other twice now?” she said trying hard to turn the drowning ship of the conversation around.
Ignoring her Helen continued, “And you think we’re having sex? Cason lives here! I’m not that kind of woman! Martin’s just gotten divorced!”
“Mom, again, he’s been divorced for years, you’ve been widowed for decades. You deserve to be happy in your own home, so if that means loving someone—”
“I’ll not have sex with him!”
“That might disappoint him.” Sophie mumbled and changing tactics picked up the salad bowl and started digging into her favorite lunch.
“I’m just saying mom that crosswords lead to sex. Everyone knows that, you shouldn’t be toying with him like you are unless your willing to go all the way.” She said giving up on helping the conversation and simply slopped creamed fruit pieces onto her plate.
Helen sat abruptly.
Sophie looked over at her blanched mother and exclaimed, “Oh my god mom, I’m kidding!” she said and reached over to her and put a hand on her shoulder, “You’re being very proactive in telling me and I appreciate it, but I also think that you should be happy and if that means more than crosswords and brunches. I’m OK with it.”
“What if he wants s-s-s-s…”
“You’ll ask your girlfriends what they think. Not me, that’s what you’ll do.” Sophie said.
“Right…” she said and when Sophie nudged her plate closer to her, she took the queue. “Now all of this ridiculous talk has me out of sorts, you can have my sandwich. You look dreadful, have you eaten since I saw you last?”
“Honestly?” Sophie asked.
“Oh for God’s sake Sophie.” Helen said guessing the rest of her daughter’s answer, “I’ll make you a bag of leftovers and our dinner for tonight. You need to eat!”
“I’m eating now mother. I don’t need all your food, you need to feed that dolt Cason, remember?”
“Don’t speak of him that way, I know you two are like circling cats but you can’t talk about him that way under my roof, you hear me?”
Sophie hadn’t felt the jab anyway. Her mind was slowly changing about him, into what, she wasn’t sure and was doubly sure she didn’t want to look too closely at it. “Yes, mother.” She said and added, “Besides I hear he’s moving out for real this time.”
“Yes, well. I think it has to do with Doctor Lowe coming over.”
“Yes, Martin. He walked in as we were finishing the Times puzzle and I think it was awkward for him.” She said and grabbing the fruit bowl scooped a bit of the creamy goodness onto her plate.
“Mom, have you thought that he may want a place of his own?”
She was quiet as she replaced the spoon and lifted a half BLT sandwich from the platter in front of them. “Yes, but I think he’s still in recovery. He is making some changes though, going to see Dr. Mathers was quite a step.”
Sophie’s interest peaked, “I heard about that,” she said stretching the truth, “It’s great news isn’t it.”
“Yes, he’s finally thinking he’s going to take care of that hip of his. Well, truth be told the cost of the surgery isn’t covered by his insurance. I heard his conversation with them this morning. So I offered him to stay here as long as he needs to, I think he might take me up on that. This surgery is going to cost him his entire savings no doubt.” She said taking a bite of her sandwich.
Sophie knew it then, she had to pay for that surgery. He’d never allow it, but suddenly deep in her gut she knew she had to. It was as if she was waiting for a moment when she could do something for Cason after finding out what he’d done, really done, in Afghanistan for her brother. It wouldn’t right all the wrongs she’d tossed his way since he’d lied and said he’d left her brother to die. When she allowed pain and grief to cloud her judgment.
“Really?” Sophie said around a mouthful of fruit salad.
“Honey, really. Don’t talk with your mouthful and sit up straight. You’re wearing such a beautiful pant suit. You really look like a lady but slouching makes you look like you’ve wilted.”
“You’re just admiring my pearls, and I’ll have you know that tiny, long three strands,” she said fingering her necklace, “Is no where near archaic as the set you wore at brunch with the Barney’s.” She said teasing her mother.
Before her mother could respond something clanged out in the garage.
Sophie put her fork down, “What was that?” She asked making to get up.
“Oh it’s just Cason, he’s changing the oil in my car for trade. He’s taken the afternoon off to go to his pre-op appointment at the clinic. I’ll be taking him to his surgery tomorrow morning and picking him up. A good trade if you ask me!”
Sophie looked from the hallway that led to the garage back to her mother, “That was fast right?” she said incredulously, “I mean, these things take time, and how did Dr. Mather’s fit him in?”
Helen nodded after taking another bite of her sandwich, she chewed for a bit washing it down with iced tea, “I was thinking the very same thing. I didn’t know he’d even seen Dr. Mathers. But I realized that when Cason went in to get his pain medication refilled he had to see his doctor again. Well, that was the day the clinic was in an uproar—”
“You heard that from Martin?”
“Yes, of course. You see Cason’s regular doctor had a family emergency. So, you know the drill, he’s out and everyone has to fill in for him. I bet he got to see this doctor Mathers and instead of a prescription he got a solution to his problem.” She said and nodded at her good detective work. “I just hope he knows what he’s doing, I’m not sure of this Mathers fellow. Although Martin has nothing but high praise for him as a colleague.”
Sophie finished her sandwich off and added, “From the nose and chin work of your friend Lucille Barney, I’d say he’s the best.”
Sophie finished lunch in a healthy argument with her mother of whether or not Lucille Barney had ever had any work done. Helen smiled as she picked up their plates to take to the kitchen, “Maybe I’ll get some work done as well if Cason’s surgery turns out well.”
“What in the world do you need done mom?” Sophie said carrying their glasses in behind her, “A boob lift?”
Her mother put the dishes in the sink and turned on her, “A lift? Well, I never!” she exclaimed then waved at her daughter, “Git, shoo, you horrid little girl.”
Sophie laughed and said, “I’ll tell Cason congrats on removing his pain in his ass, then get out of your hair.”