Settled into her office, Martha pushes herself to go through the motions, but her mind slips back into the past…and all that she has lost. Then a phone call reminds her of her new life and what lies ahead. Excerpted from “Interior Designs.”
By nine o’clock, the phone began ringing. I had booted up the computer and gone through a few designs, followed by my usual perusal of my task schedule for the day. My assistant, Caroline, had set it up for me a couple of years ago, and I enjoyed how orderly it all seemed. She arrived daily around 8:30, and now buzzed around my office space without intruding. Her own little niche was the adjacent space that had once been Hal’s.
Don’t even go there, I reminded myself. At least I’d totally redesigned that space, as if to eradicate any trace of him. Now the room was efficiently arranged, but with feminine touches. I had elicited Caroline’s thoughts on the plans; it would be where she spent her days, so she might as well feel comfortable.
Her tastes were more minimal than mine: sleek lines in gray, black, and touches of red.
She stopped in front of my desk abruptly now, and I tore myself away from my thoughts to ask her what she needed. “It’s this client,” she began, pointing to the name on the message slip. “I thought we finished with him…so why is he calling again? Do you think he has a problem?”
I felt the blush tingeing my cheeks, even as I struggled to remain business-like. “Oh, don’t worry about that one. I’ll handle it personally. And no, I don’t think there’s a problem.”
Caroline studied me curiously, but then nodded and moved back into her space.
Long after she’d exited the room, though, my thoughts tumbled backward to the months when I’d worked with Zachary Lowenstein, redecorating his condo. What had begun as a professional relationship had quickly changed into something more….
But I had no time to waste on those memories. Even though I’d known the relationship would end, and I hadn’t actually felt that sad about it, sometimes a pang would hit me. Like another stab of betrayal—which was totally out of line, since I had known from the beginning that the relationship was temporary. Hadn’t I?
Shaking my head at how my own crazy expectations had derailed me, time and time again, I focused sternly on the tasks ahead—answering phone calls, checking things off the list, and making changes on some of my sketches. Sometimes my work demanded very little from me. After all these years, my work flowed smoothly, even though the rest of my life was a total mess.