Chapter 12. Putting My Foot Down
The following afternoon, Meg sat silently in the passenger seat of my Jag. She appeared so pale, quiet but unsettled from this emotional battery. At a stoplight, I reached for her hand resting on her lap and held it until she looked at me.
“It’s going to be all right, trust me.”
Meg nodded and resumed her stare out the passenger door window, her long hair braided in a single tail that snaked around the front of her left shoulder. At a high-rise apartment building in Jamaica Plains, I parked the Jag and set the alarm. Meg, looking more fashionable than usual in a sleeveless mustard hoodie and khaki Capri’s, stood at the passenger side of the car, hardly moving towards me so I walked to her.
“Maybe you should take me home,” she stammered, turning towards the passenger door. I deactivated the alarm before she set it off. Meg recognized her error as her face blushed and raised her hand to hide her embarrassment, only for me to reach for it and caress it with my thumb. I stepped very close to her, almost against her as she looked up to my face as I gestured with the tilting jerk of my head for her to move away from the car.
“No, we have an appointment with Ruby. C’mon now, before we’re late. She juggled her schedule for you.” Meg’s sad eyes met mine.
As I led her from the car with my other hand resting gently on her hip, I clicked the remote to reset the alarm. “I’ll take you out for ice cream afterward.”
“Don’t bribe me. I’m not a child,” she replied.
“Then I suppose you ought to quit acting like one, eh?”
We entered the lobby and signed in at the desk, a security guard called Ruby’s office to admit us. Megan hadn’t said a word to me since I walked her from the car, and I could tell she was more than slightly peeved at me.
When the elevator doors opened upon the third floor, I led Meg down the dimly lit hallway to Ruby’s humble office. Clad in African masks and Kente Cloth throw covers over Naugahyde couches, I set Meg down and then went to investigate the scent of freshly brewed coffee in her kitchenette.
“Want a cup?” I asked Megan. She shook her head and I poured myself a cup in my favorite mug not telling Megan that Ruby had been my therapist a few years back. When I considered how I was then, I wasn’t much better than Megan was now. I heard the door to the back office open and the sweet purr of Ruby’s voice.
“Now, I’ll see you on Tuesday. You have yourself a good week. I’ll be thinking about you.”
“Thanks, Ruby,” said the young blonde man, who hugged her then left through her front door.
“Alex Corwynn, I knew I’d find you here,” said Ruby, coming into the kitchenette. The petite chocolate-skinned woman in an eggplant sweater set with black slacks extenuated her lack of height with a high Kente cloth turban on her head. Always the African Queen, Ruby would have given Nephritis a run for her money.
“Look at you! When I heard about your heart attack, I was afraid we had lost you,” she said, hugging me.
“Nah, I’m too evil to die, you know that,” I replied, returning the embrace.
“You’re looking good, Alex. How’s your Mom?” she asked, separating herself from me so I could continue my ministrations at her coffee pot.
“She’s Mom, busy as ever. Guess who’s living with me now? Would you believe, my Angie?”
“Your baby? Oh, Alex, I’m so happy for you.”
“Thanks, it was all a great shock, but I managed.”
“You look a bit worn for wear, Atlas. What’s going on?”
I tilted my head towards the lobby and she nodded. “My assistant, Megan. C’mon, I’ll introduce you, and let her fill you in on all the gory details.”
“She’ll be fine in due time,” purred Ruby as I followed her into the lobby. When I introduced them, Meg looked up at Ruby with her sad eyes, and Ruby smiled at her and reached for her hand.
“Come now, let’s go back to my office for some girl talk. We’ll leave Alex to The Times and the coffee pot.”
My eyes caught Meg’s once more before she disappeared into Ruby’s office. While they spent the next hour getting to know each other, I poured myself another cup of Ruby’s imported African coffee and read through the financial section. Since my coffee consumption was restricted at home, I must have drunk three cups of coffee that afternoon while waiting for Megan to come out of Ruby’s office.