Authors: Lara Hunter
As the first rays of a Florida morning broke free through the panes of a nearby window, I reluctantly took leave of my luxurious hotel room and made a very reluctant trip back home—or, more accurately, the crime scene that I used to call home.
Sure, I now had new locks and a security system to give me peace of mind. Yet as I looked around at a living space that was now cluttered, disorganized and in a state of frightening disarray, I wondered if I would ever feel secure or in any way comfortable here, ever again—if I would ever sleep sound through the night in the sheets of my own bed, or if I always would sleep with one eye open. I wondered if every noise, bump or thump I heard here would strike terror in my heart; making it impossible to watch TV, enjoy one of my favorite movies, or host a visit from friends and family members. Would I ever feel at home again, between the walls of my own place? Or would the residence that I knew and loved feel more like a prison?
Perhaps, I decided with a sigh, it was time for me to move—but where? Oliver and I had talked about moving in together from time to time but in the wake of his recent behavior, I wasn’t sure if the offer still stood—or, for that matter, if I would accept it. I wasn’t sure that cohabitation—or, even, for that matter, a meaningful, lasting relationship—was still on the cards for us.
And it also might not be the best idea to share an apartment with my good buddy Kirk Taylor; a friend who had become just a bit too friendly on the occasion of our last visit. Oh, he had in no way tried to hurt or assault me—he just misread the situation and made a mistake. I was sure our friendship could survive the situation; right now though, we needed a break.
Sure I could find another place, one I could call my own; yet this process would take a great deal in the way of time and consideration—neither of which I had a lot of at this particular moment.
Today, it turned out, marked the last day of my official ‘vacation’ and although I felt anything but relaxed and revitalized, I nevertheless had to go back to work. And before I went back to work, I had to go home and get the clothes, the briefcase, the bare necessities I needed to do my job properly. I had to regroup and get my head together and carry on with things as I best as I could under the circumstances.
For although this foreign, besoiled place was the last I wanted to visit, I just had to go on with my life—and, for that matter, my work. I figured that if I buried myself in my duties and responsibilities—doing work that I enjoyed and felt confident in performing—that it would take my mind off of my mess of a personal life at least for a while, long enough to clear my head and stabilize my scattered, fractured nerves. Lily the career woman was always far more balanced and together than Lily the single gal, anyway and if anything, right now I really needed to stick to what I knew best.
And in order to make my first day back at Clark Industries a productive and successful one, I had to at least dress for success; pulling a clean, fresh pressed blue velvet business suit from the far corner of my bedroom closet and donning it to full effect—also throwing on a pearl necklace and professional-looking pumps, to complete this effect.
Finally I faced the full-length mirror that told the truth of the tale; showing me a grim, rather weary woman who was nonetheless strong, bright, and more than ready to face a new day.
In my mind I mulled over the many projects and accounts that I had awaiting me at work; determining exactly what tasks needed to be done before the day was out. I had so many phone calls to make, reports to write, and memos to pen but that was fine, that was my job. I knew just what to do, and when, where and how to do it. And I was pretty confident that I could do it well.
What I wasn’t so sure of, however, was what I would say to Kirk Taylor when I saw him today at work. My feelings toward him were so conflicted at this point, and I was sure he felt the same and while I was sorry that I had to walk away from a man who had opened his home and life to me when I needed him most, I still felt that he had crossed a line the evening before and frankly, I just wasn’t sure what I would say when I came face to face with him at work today.
Oliver Clark, on the other hand, was an entirely different story. I knew exactly what I wanted to say to him; the questions that I would ask when I saw him at the office this morning. Why had he left me? Where had he gone? How could he do this to me?
So yes, I knew precisely just what I would say when I—finally—came face to face with the man who had abandoned me. And I knew furthermore that I had to be strong and make my feelings known; to let him know, in no uncertain terms, that I would not be trifled with, cast aside or avoided.
Only I had no idea what he would say to me in response. Would he cut me off with a cold, hard rejection, or would he make lame excuses while all the while assuring me that I was the one for him—that he just needed a little time to think things through, sort things out, make a little space in his life? Or would he just come clean and admit to me that he had fallen in love with another woman; or that, at the very least, he’d fallen out of my love with me?
As I cleared the front door of the house that didn’t feel like a home, en route to the car that would take me to a workplace that itself felt like a site of confusion and uncertainty, I took pause to ponder just what the hell had happened to my life. In just a few days I’d gone from being a happy and successful woman in love, to a walking mass of worry, uncertainty, and worst of all, fear. Fear for my future. Fear for my love. Fear for my very safety.
Indeed; although I still had no idea as to who had violated my private living space, morphing my basic but comfortable home into a place of nightmares, I knew all too well the identity of the person who had broken my heart.
And today, I determined with a resolute nod, this man would give me the answers I deserved.
An hour later I found myself standing in my office at Clark Industries and, I was sad to note, even my workplace seemed gravely transformed since the occasion of my last work day.
Oh, Trisha Vance’s
office was still a crisp, professional berg of polished cherry wood furniture, high tech computer machinery and polished stainless steel filing cabinets. As per usual, Trisha herself looked resplendent with her smooth lavender business dress, her manicured fingers, the silvery upsweep of her perfectly coiffed hair, her greyish blue eyes that shone with keen intellect, the graceful strength of her tall, sturdy figure.
Yet today her impressive features came marred with a look of grave concern and her office—along with the halls that surrounded it—resounded with an aura of eerie quiet that sent chills down my spine.
“Trisha?” I arched my eyebrows, stepping into the office with slow, cautious steps. “Is everything OK around here? Things just seem…”
I took in my breath as a somber Trisha caught me up in two maternal arms.
“Lily, Kirk told me what happened to you—I’m so sorry and have been so, so worried about you. What a horrid thing to happen to such a kind, sweet woman—who would want to do this to you?” she uttered, voice barely above a whisper. “Tell me what I could do.”
I bit my lip.
“Thank you so much for your concern Trisha but I have new locks and a security system now and the police have assured me they’re doing everything possible to find my intruder. Please don’t worry about me.” Giving my concerned employer a brief squeeze, I stepped away from her as I asked, “Trisha, seeing as to how he is my boyfriend and everything, I feel most embarrassed about asking this question. But do you know where Oliver is? Has he even been in to work the past few days?”
“He has come to work,” she affirmed. “And it’s a wonder that he has, with all of the terrible things that have happened to the poor man these past few days. It’s just hard to tell how he’s dealing with it all, given the fact that he won’t speak much to any of us…”
“What? Trisha, what are you talking about?” I interrupted, my blood running cold as I heard these words. “What happened to Oliver?”
“He didn’t tell you? You, of all people?” she queried, adding quickly, “Well Dear, I wouldn’t take it personally. We all have different ways of dealing with tragedy and some people inadvertently push away those who are closest to them…”
I had heard enough.
what are you talking about?” I pressed her, tone now emphatic. “What has happened to my boyfriend?”
“Oliver is fine,” she assured me, adding as she bowed her silver-haired head, “His father, however, is not.” She paused here, adding in a trembling voice, “Lily, I’m sorry to tell you that Harry Clark was in a serious car accident a few days ago. The last we heard, he was in the critical care unit at Bennington Hospital, and—well—he doesn’t seem to be doing very well at all. Oliver has been coming into work, bless him, but doesn’t say much to anyone—you know how men shut down sometimes when they don’t know how to express emotion. He did tell us he would either come in today or call from the hospital to let us know how his dad was doing. So far though, none of us have seen him or gotten any calls…”
I had heard enough.
“Trisha, I’m so sorry but I have to go to him,” I interrupted her, adding as I turned for the door, “I know I have no more vacation days, but…”
Trisha shook her head.
“No worries, Kid,” she reassured me, waving me out of the office, “Go to your man. He needs you even more than I do.”
Throwing a quick expression of thank you over my shoulder, I rushed into a nearby elevator; pushing the button of the floor that would take me to my lover’s office and also to the place where our romance had begun.
I sighed with relief moments later as I arrived at the glass arched doorway of Oliver’s office suite.
Bursting through the door I came face to face with Leslie Peterson; the man who had filled my position as Oliver’s administrative assistant. And as I saw the bleary, tear filled eyes of the excessively macho Les, my blood ran cold.
“Leslie,” I called out to him, standing stock still in front of his desk. “Is Oliver here?”
Les shook his head.
“He’s at home,” he said, accenting his words with a loud, pronounced sniff. “He just called in five minutes ago, to give me an update on Harry.”
I stared at him.
“What did he say, Les?” I asked, voice low and hushed. “How is Harry?”
Les said nothing, just bowed his head in the direction of his desk and shook it slowly from side to side.
That was all I needed to see. Without awaiting a further reply, I turned once again for the elevator; this time hitting the ground floor button.
Whether Oliver Clark wanted to see me or not, I decided I was going to go to him. I knew he needed me and by God, I was not about to allow the man I loved to go through this personal hell all alone; without his lover beside him, to nurture and comfort him.
As I cleared the elevator door en route to the front entrance of Clark Industries, I briefly scolded myself for having ever doubted Oliver in the first place. The feeling was fleeting, however, when I considered the fact that I hadn’t spoken to him in days and when I thought about his overall history as both a playboy rogue and as a man who hadn’t always acted as the most sincere or dependable human being on the face of God’s green earth.
Oh well, it doesn’t matter now
, I mused, racing through the office lobby as I headed with quick, frenzied steps in the direction of the parking lot.
Now at least I know where he is and why he left me. Now we can finally be together—to comfort each other through a time that, for different reasons, has been so traumatic for both of us. Surely, in some way, we can weather this madness together. We can help each other through this or anything—I just know we can.