Timing: Chapter 1

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“Mom, did you hear me?” Sadie asked, an impatient edge to her voice.

Eva turned quickly and said, “Sorry, Sadie. Lost in my thoughts for a minute. What were you saying?” She turned back to pull greasy strips of bacon from the frying pan and placed them on the stack of paper towels.

Sadie sighed and laid her pen on the table. “I asked if Jared could come over for dinner some night this week. What’s up with you this morning? You’re, like, all distracted and stuff.” She crinkled her nose at the laptop’s screen and tucked a lock of hair the color of beach sand behind her ear.

“Got a lot on my mind today, I guess. This isn’t a good week for Jared to come over. I’ve got estate sales and Louis has been working a lot of evenings,” Eva replied and laid a paper towel over the bacon before adding more to the pan. They hissed and sizzled, popping grease towards Eva. She took a quick step back. “Besides, you know how I feel about you and Jared being alone together.”

Sadie got up and loaded her homework and laptop into the green canvas backpack roughly. “Yeah, I do. Just because you and Dad got nailed by Grandma doesn’t mean Jared and I are stupid enough to do that in the house” she shot back, leaving the kitchen and slamming the front door.

Steeling herself against the bang Eva stared at the floor, tears prickling her eyes. Great, another argument. Taking a deep breath, she felt like throwing the frying pan across the kitchen. Eva choked back a sob before digging her cell out of the monstrosity of a handbag to call Susan, her best friend since childhood. “Susan, I need a girl date. Meet me at Bella’s in fifteen minutes? Awesome. See you there.” Eva grabbed her keys and purse, and set the alarm before heading out.

***

 Louis ran a hand through his spiky, brown hair in frustration and leaned closer to the computer screen. He punched a few keys on the keyboard and muttered out loud, “This can’t be right.” Opening a binder, he double-checked the spreadsheet against the computer’s calculations. “Aha! That’s what happened.” Louis re-entered a series of numbers and hit enter. “Oh, I am so good.” A knock at the door pulled him from his concentration, and he yelled “Yeah!”

His boss, Steve, opened the door with a huge smile on his face. “Louis, my friend, today is your lucky day,” he said with a twinkle in his eye.

“You wouldn’t believe what I just found,” Louis replied with a smile of his own and pointed at the screen. “There was a discrepancy with the flow-”

“Oh, I know,” Steve dismissed Louis with a wave of his hand and sat in the brown leather chair across from Louis. “But that’s not why I’m here. I am here, because the board asked me to deliver the news in person. You’ve been promoted to department VP, man! Congratulations!” He thrust his hand across Louis’ desk, narrowly missing the “I heart Vegas” coffee mug in the process.

“Holy shit!” Louis shouted and jumped up. He shook Steve’s hand vigorously. “How long has this been in the works?” he asked, baffled. He slowly sat down and stared at Steve, waiting for a reply.

Steve hesitated and the smile slipped a little. “I’ve known about it for over a month. The board has been looking into you and Anderson for the position since Melanie…left.” He folded his hands together and looked at them. “I just got word this morning to officially hand down the promotion order.”

“Oh” Louis slowly answered. He knew Steve and Melanie has been an item for years, in secret due to the firm’s no-fraternization policy. “Steve, I really am sorry about Melanie. She was-”

Steve held up his hand to stop him. “So am I, man. So am I.” He let out a quick breath and stood up. “Anyway, you’ll have her office. I’ve arranged for the guys to come up and move everything over there. All you have to do is pack up and be ready when they get here.” Steve turned towards the door.

“Hey, Steve?”

He turned towards Louis as he reached the door. “Yeah?”

“Thanks, man.” Louis smiled at Steve and saluted him military style.

Steve smiled and returned the salute. “No worries, bud. You deserve it.” He walked out and closed the door behind him.

Louis let the news sink in, then dove for his cell. He called Eva to share the good news, but frowned when she didn’t answer. Where is she, he wondered. She doesn’t have any sales scheduled for today. Instead of leaving a message, Louis let his mind travel, suspicions about where or what Eva was doing ran freely. He looked at the cell and hesitantly dialed Daniel, whose phone also went to voice mail. He punched the end button and slammed the phone down on the desk. He tensed and forced himself not to jump to conclusions. Louis decided to text Michael – his best friend, cop and Susan’s husband. He always knew where Eva was. Michael texted back, saying Eva was with Susan at Bella’s having breakfast. Louis was relieved and thanked Michael. Michael returned with: “E&S fighting again about J.” Louis’ relief was short lived. He figured she’d need to talk to Daniel. So much for sharing the big news he thought to himself. “Whatever,” he muttered and returned to the spreadsheet in front of him.

***

Susan sipped the Mimosa carefully. She watched Eva through narrowed eyes. Eva was on her second, and didn’t normally drink like this.

        “You know, it’s probably a teen thing. She’s rebelling with words, not actions,” Susan remarked, and exchanged the wine glass for a forkful of eggs benedict.

Eva put her glass down and looked at Susan for several seconds before answering. “It’s not until recently that she’s developed this…attitude. Maybe she’s just picking up on the tension with Louis,” Eva speculated, pointing her own fork at Susan. “Why she’s choosing now to act like this is beyond me. I mean, aren’t teens supposed to be…argumentative…sooner than this?” She put her fork down and looked at her plate with a sigh.

Susan rummaged in her purse and slid a beige business card face down across the table towards Sadie. “Call this woman, please. She’s great, not judgmental, and has been where you are,” she said quietly, taking another sip of wine.

Eva picked up the card and narrowed her eyes at her lunch date. “A shrink? Really…?” she asked with distaste and crossed her arms over her chest. “After everything, you expect me to call a shrink?”

Susan held her hand up and said “Before you go off on me, take a look at what’s happening in your world. Your marriage is questionable, your daughter is rebelling and you’re snapping at me. I’m only trying to help here.” She held Eva’s stare for a long moment then added “Besides, she’s helped Michael and me a great deal.”

Eva blinked and snorted in disbelief. “What do you mean? Since when have you and Michael needed therapy?” she asked.

“You remember a few years ago when Michael got shot?”

Eva nodded. “Yeah, it was really hard on both of you. He was a mess.”

“Yeah, well, it took its toll on us as a couple. He wasn’t sleeping, barely eating. The captain pressed him to seek therapy. And it was probably the best move he made.” Susan hesitated, then added in a shaky voice “We learned more about each other because of that, than we would’ve had we not gone. Truthfully, I don’t think we’d still be together if it weren’t for seeing that woman” indicating the business card with a nod. “Look, all I’m saying is give it a try, okay? If it doesn’t work, then at least you tried.” She watched Eva for a reaction.

Eva sighed and gave in. “Fine. I’ll call this week.” Susan smiled and took another sip.

***

Sadie sat quietly with Jared and her friends at the lunch table, biding her time until next period. She replayed the argument with her mother in her head, wishing she hadn’t said what she did about her parents. Or her and Jared, for that matter. Ami, with her curly red hair and ever-present pink hoodie, teamed up with Trista, self-confessed science geek, to convince Sadie and Jared to sneak out to see a local band play.

       “Sadie. I don’t think it’s a good idea. Your mom will have kittens, then put you on lock down,” Jared said with concern. He’d watched her during lunch period, and could tell something wasn’t quite right. “And that would mean you can’t see me. If you really want to go, ask. No point in sneaking out, just to get busted” he said with thinly disguised frustration. He got up with his tray and left.

Trista rolled her eyes and said “Whatever. He doesn’t want you to have any fun, does he?” She looked at Sadie, who had tears in her eyes. “Kinda controlling if you ask me” she judged and continued to eat her mashed potatoes. Ami nodded in agreement.

Dani, Sadie’s friend since pre-k, put her hand on Sadie’s and said, her words laced with animosity, “Don’t listen to them. I really don’t give a shit about some half-assed band that probably won’t go anywhere. And they’re wrong about Jared. I mean, sure he’s intense, but anyone with half a brain can see he loves you.” She patted Sadie’s hand and took a sip of her soda. “Besides, you’d get put on lock down from me, too” and winked.

Sadie gave a crooked, half smile and thanked Dani. She looked at the clock on her cell and decided to text her mom before next period. It said “Sorry <3.” Mere seconds later she received a response “Me too <3.” Sadie and the girls cleared up their mess from lunch and headed to class. Thankfully I only see those two during lunch and free period she thought to herself.

***

 “Danny! Where the hell are you, man?”

Daniel popped up from behind a rack holding an 84 Harley and saw his boss, Vince, staring at him. He grabbed the stereo remote to turn down the music. “Yeah?” he asked, wiping his hands on a nearby rag.

Vince moved closer and handed him an invoice.

Daniel skimmed the paper and flashed a look at Vince. “You’re kidding, right?”

Vince let out a breath. “Dude, I wish I was. The call came in about twenty minutes ago. What was I supposed to say?” he asked, and held out his arms in resignation.

Daniel thrust the paper at Vince and said with anger, “Uh, how about ‘no’?” He turned towards the bike and picked up a wrench. “V, we both know that isn’t going to go well,” gesturing at the invoice. “Why in hell would we put ourselves in that position?” He stared at Vince, waiting for the old biker to answer. “Well?” he asked impatiently.

Vince sighed and looked at the invoice. “I don’t have much of a choice, Danny. The shop isn’t doing so good right now. We could really use the money.”

Daniel thought for a minute, then looks at Vince. “I can float you some money. That’s not a problem, you know that. Anything but this, man. Seriously -”

Vince cut him off. “No. No, you’ve been more than helpful with that. I couldn’t ask you for more. All you need -”

It was Daniel’s turn to interrupt. “No, Vince. You helped me through losing my Dad. This is the least I can do. Let me call Davis and talk to him. He might listen to me,” Daniel pleaded. When Vince didn’t respond, but instead stared at the floor, he spoke gently yet persistently. “Vince, look. I’ll do this on one condition – just one. After this delivery, you severe ties with him. And I’m talking for good. You feel me?”

Vince visibly relaxed, and said “Thanks, Danny. I promise after this, we’re done with Davis and his psychos. You have my word.” He clasped Daniel’s shoulder and quietly left the shop.

Daniel stared after him and said to the empty room “Yeah, you’re welcome.” Sighing, he cleaned up the bay and headed to the supply room to gather the items needed for the run later. Out loud he said, “Man, this is so not a good idea,” and looked around, a hand running through his spiky blonde hair. Light glanced off something behind a drum of oil in the back corner and Daniel walked over to see what it was. Behind the drum was what he needed: four AKs with muzzles packed with heroine. “What the hell is he thinking, having this shit here?” The longer Daniel thought about it, the more agitated he became. Grabbing a moving blanket off the nearby shelf, he wrapped and rolled the guns carefully. “I’m insane,” he sighed.

***

 Smells of oregano and fresh tomatoes greeted Louis as he opened the front door. He stopped, inhaled deeply through his nose and smiled. Spaghetti night. Perfect, he thought to himself. Setting his briefcase by the teak bench Eva wrestled from an old woman a few months before, Louis called out, “Smells awesome!”

Sadie looked up from the laptop precariously perched upon her lap as Louis walked into the kitchen and wrapped his arms around Eva’s waist, nuzzling her neck. Sadie scrunched her noise at the display and returned her gaze to her homework.

Eva traded the wooden spoon in her hand for the back of Louis’ neck. “You’re certainly in a good mood, tonight,” she chuckled warmly and turned in his arms. “What brought this on?” she asked as her hands slowly ran up his arms.

Sadie rolled her eyes and sighed,” Get a room, you two.”

Eva and Louis laughed, apologizing at the same time. “Sorry, hon.” Louis stepped away so Eva could finish the spaghetti he was dying to get into his stomach. Eva stirred the sauce and tasted it with the wooden spoon. “Mmm, delicious. Needs more rosemary, though.” She plucked a sprig from the window sill garden over the sink and rid the stem of its needles into the pot. “Alright, out with it. What’s got you in high spirits?” she questioned him.

Louis leaned against the refrigerator and smiled. “Ladies, I got a promotion today. You’re looking at the new Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Royce, Ltd.”

Eva spun around, flinging sauce on the wall and exclaimed, “What?! Oh, my Goddess! That’s amazing!” She rushed to him and hugged him, peppering his face with kisses. He laughed and held his free arm out to Sadie. She slowly got up and walked over to join in the hug, feigning excitement. “That’s great, Louis. Really great.”

After a moment, they untangles and resumed their activities. Eva finished making supper and asked Sadie to get the plates and silverware. Sadie complied, and pulled paper plates and plastic forks from the pantry. “Are we doing buffet-style tonight?” she asked. Louis said, “Yeah, be easier that way. And your mom won’t have to load extra into the dishwasher.” Sadie shrugged and handed them their plates and forks. Eva noticed Sadie seemed distant and rather quiet, and eyed her with concern.

As they sat down to eat, Louis asked Eva and Sadie about their day. Eva told him about her breakfast with Susan at Bella’s. Louis nudged Sadie and asked, “And how did your day go?” Sadie shrugged and asked if she could be excused. Eva and Louis exchanged questioning glances, and Eva answered, “Sure. Please tell Jared we said hello, when you get online. But don’t stay on too late, okay? You’ve still got homework.” Sadie put her plate and fork in the trash, dinner barely touched, and went up to her room. Louis said with disinterest, “Well, that was weird, even for her.” Eva nodded slowly in agreement.

***

 Sadie sighed as she sat at the white pine desk Daniel had built for her tenth birthday. She’d written a lot of stories, and done a lot of homework at that desk. Sighing again, she switched on her laptop and signed into Skype, waiting for Jared’s user name to appear. She sat for what felt like hours, but in reality was only minutes, before he came online. Immediately, she opened their chat window.

u there?

sorta…what’s up?

need to talk to u…

great (sigh) is this about the concert? coz i already told u im not goin

no, we might have a problem

what u mean?

im late

late for what?

do I really gotta spell it out?

oh hell

…yeah…

u sure its mine?

who else would it be???????? im only ever with u, my mom or dani!!! nice j, real nice

well you never know

f*ck off!!

Sadie slammed the cover of the laptop and launched herself onto the fluffy, plaid bed. How could he say that! she thought, bawling into the purple pillow and twisting her hands into the comforter. After a few minutes of heavy crying, she pushed herself up to a sitting position and brushed the tear-soaked hair out of her face. She took a deep breath and held her hands out, calmly saying, “Okay. I can do this.” With new determination, she got off the bed and curled herself into the upholstered chair at the desk. It took another full minute for the courage to open the laptop and bring it out of sleep mode.

***

With the dishwasher and washing machine started, Eva and Louis went to their bedroom to celebrate Louis’ promotion. After the long overdue tenderness, they showered and settled into bed – Eva with a book and Louis with his laptop. He asked again her how her day went.

Eva chewed on her lower lip and hesitated, picking up the card from the nightstand. “Susan gave me this,” she almost whispered, looking at him. Slowly she handed him the therapist’s card and said a little louder, “She said it helped her and Michael after he was shot.” She looked at him out of the corner of her eye, and waited.

Louis tore up the card and tossed it in the small trash can by the bed. He turned to her and Eva could see the vein bulging near his eye. He was near growling when he said, “We. Don’t. Need. Therapy.” He turned back to his laptop and fought to maintain control of his growing temper. He turned toward her abruptly and asked, “Since when do you talk to her about our problems? It’s not her business.” His tone caught her off guard and she stared at him.

“I…it didn’t start out that way. We were talking about an argument Sadie and I had this morning,” she fumbled. Eva laid her hand on Louis’ arm and he pulled away. “Louis…I don’t have many friends, you know that. What friends I do have are the few I can trust. And, I wholeheartedly trust Susan.” She watched his face, seeing it smooth over with a tinge of relief. “Yes, our relationship is our business, but there are times I need to talk about it.” She didn’t speak again, waiting for him to either lay into her or reach out.

Louis took several minutes to regain composure. He took her hand in his and looked into her deep, brown eyes before taking a breath. When it released, it was filled with tension. Then he began, choosing his words carefully.

“I know, babe. And I’m sorry. Sorry for biting your head off, letting my ego get in the way, and a host of other…stuff. Plus, and I hate to admit this,” he said as he ducked his head a little and traced the quilt’s pattern with his eyes. “But, I’m really jealous of Daniel, still.” He held up his hand when Eva opened her mouth to protest. “You can give me all the reasons I shouldn’t be, but they’re still gonna be there. Daniel was, still is, my best friend. It would kill me if you went back to him. And yes, I know you share Sadie. I just can’t help how I feel. That’s something we both have to deal with…” he trailed off, expecting her to kick him to the spare bedroom or couch.

Eva didn’t have time to say a word, as her cell rang. He looked at Eva, then the phone, and back, begging with his eyes for her not to answer it. She reached over and picked it up. Louis ran his hands through his hair and dropped his hands on the bed. Of course, he thought to himself.

“Daniel? It’s really late. Can you call…What? Where?” She looked at Louis and flapped her hand at him, then pointed to her closet. He looked at her with arms spread in a What does that mean? gesture. “Okay, we’re on our way. Do not move and make sure you call Michael…Okay, good. We’ll meet you there.” Eva snapped the cell shut and climbed out of bed. “Daniel was hurt making a delivery. We gotta go.”

Louis sighed, taking his time getting out bed. “See? This is what I’m talking about!” He pointed to Eva’s cell phone. “You run to him every time he calls.” He narrowed his eyes and watched her put on sweatpants and sneakers. Slowly he donned a pair of jeans, hoodie and sneakers. “This is insane.”

Eva pulled a random hoodie off the closet shelf, tugging it over her head. “Yeah, well, we can talk about it later.” She moved toward the door and stopped. “You know, he’s supposed to be your best friend – you told me that not five minutes ago. You should want to help him.” She turned and went into the hall, Louis following behind with his head hung. They stopped long enough to tell Sadie they were going out on a food run and would be back soon. She waved at them from her desk and said “I want Chinese.” Eva blew a kiss to her and off they went to see how much damage Daniel had done to himself.

Please leave comments and/or questions – Thank you for reading today!

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