Chapter 26. Starting Fresh
When I woke later that morning, I was alone in Meg’s bed. I felt as if I had been beaten up pretty badly through the night from Meg’s fidgeting during a dream, but I wouldn’t have traded that night for a week of complete sleep because it felt wonderful to hold her in my arms. When I’d shush her back to calmness, Meg would sigh and press closer against me and continue sleeping as I had to work to get back to sleep again.
I supposed that Meg was in the office, since she seemed to be the only one awake. Ruby and Sean said last night that I should have padlocked its door, because keeping Megan out of there and in bed was going to be next to impossible. All I could hope for was that the foundation work would help her out of this funk. After I showered and dressed, I decided to investigate and see if what I had predicted was true, that she’d have a plan of action outlined for us at breakfast. When I descended the back stairs, I smelled coffee.
The kitchen was empty but a fresh pot of coffee was brewed and setting before it was my mug. Meg was home.
I took my coffee to the office, where I found Meg at the computer. A pencil in her good hand, she was using the eraser of it to type and pecked at the keyboard while I sat down and sipped my first cup of coffee there on the futon.
“Damn it,” she exclaimed, “they had better have set this hand right this time around. I can’t stand not being able to write, type or style my hair.”
Not answering her, I just sat there sipping my coffee. She knew that I didn’t mutter two words until I had my first cup, and this morning was no exception, especially after getting me out of bed in the middle of the night for a Pow-Wow with Ruby, of all people.
Regardless of what Ruby had to say about the subject, to some degree, I liked that Megan needed me. That’s not something Bianca ever did. Need me. Bianca liked my name and fame: Music Mogul Alex Corwynn; Executive Director of the Associated Artists for the Prevention of AIDS Foundation, Alex Corwynn; former eighties pop star and front man of Heartbeat, Alex Corwynn. She liked who I was and what I made with it more than me.
Meg opened a file on her desk and was flipping through it while I finished the last sip of my first cup of coffee.
“So we hire you an assistant,” I finally interjected. She shot me look then concentrated back on the file.
“By the time I have her trained, I’ll have use of my hand again.”
“I really don’t want anyone outside of the foundation working in here. They’ll just confuse this disaster area.”
Just then, Ryan dressed in a crisply pressed pair of gray chinos and a tight cashmere sweater a shade lighter than the chinos came into the office with a cup of coffee in his hand. “So Megan needs an assistant?”
“She doesn’t want one,” I replied, standing to fetch my second cup of coffee before Anna arrived to make breakfast.
“Why not?” Ryan asked, flipping his long blond bangs from his forehead before putting the cup of coffee to his mouth again.
“Because I would have to train someone.”
“No, you wouldn’t,” argued Ryan.
“Yes, I will.”
“No you wouldn’t. Not if the assistant already works for the foundation.”
“Are you serious, Ryan?” she asked, swiveling in her chair.
“Of course, let me get some breakfast and we’ll get right to work. Consider me your personal secretary.”
She sat with a tablet between Ryan and me with what appeared to be a cross between shorthand and hieroglyphics on the paper. Her list of things to do was three pages long with her so-called script, yet she had already assigned tasks to us and was lying in wait for Sean.
“Alex, since you have to sign the checks, you get to write them as well. I’ll help you record them in the computer when they’re done. Ryan, I need a letter typed and mail merged to be sent to grantees reminding them of their year-end report and application for funds in January. Can I dictate it to you since I can’t very well write it?” she asked as Sean walked into the kitchen.
“Sure, Meg, we’ll just have to take it slow, though.”
Meg walked over and took the hot kettle off the stove. She had kept it on a low boil for Sean’s tea, poured it into the teapot with a couple English Breakfast teabags and set a spoon and a mug in front of Sean, who was seated next to me at the center island. It was as if she never left.
“Sean and Alex, I need some correspondence on your end. We need a letter for the fundraiser, and we must get it to Hal, our printer, today so we can have the mailing out by Monday.”
“But will Hal do that?” I asked. Meg poured the tea into the teacup in front of Sean then fetched the cream pitcher out of the fridge.
“I already talked to him and Mother Bea. They assured me that they’ll get it done in time and that they are at a lull right now, so the business will do them good. He can guarantee delivery of the mailing to the post office by no later than Monday,” said Meg as the back door opened and in walked Anna to prepare breakfast. Meg joined us for a cup of coffee while Anna pared and cut her an apple and opened a yogurt for her.
“That’s not bad for the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.”
Just then, Ruby sauntered into the kitchen, seeing us all huddled over Meg’s tablet. She sneaked a peek and raised an eyebrow as she could barely read it herself. Anna poured her a cup of coffee and Ruby stood back listening to Megan coordinating our efforts by her micro-managed to-do list.
“Good morning, Ruby,” said Meg, looking up from the tablet.
“Good morning, Megan. I see you’re hard at work already? Don’t let me interrupt. It looks as if you all are first and goal in a huddle there, so don’t mind me.”
“Pardon?” asked Sean.
“American football, four downs in order to get ten yards. To be first and goal means to be first down and the yardage would end at the goal line,” I explained.
“She’s saying stick to your business because what I’m saying is important,” translated the peeved Megan whose thought had been interrupted. No matter, she picked up where she left off.
“Yes, well, you all have your jobs to do. Let’s see how much progress we can make by lunch. In the meantime, I have 245 emails in my box to go through. Alex, could you download them on your laptop so I can be out of Ryan’s way?”
“Sure, it would be easier for you than dealing with a mouse on the desktop anyway.”
“My thoughts exactly,” she replied. After breakfast the team went to their prospective places in the office. Meg ended up on the futon until the doorbell rang.
Before we knew it, the office was being invaded by a visiting nurse who insisted that Megan go upstairs to her bed to receive her antibiotic so the bag could hang on the pole. As they continued to argue, I stepped out of my office to referee.
“But I have so much work to do,” whined Megan. “Can’t we just bring the pole down here? I promise to stay on the futon while it empties.”
“I’m sure your body could use the rest and not the stress of the office, Ms. Beal,” argued the middle-aged nurse in a loud teal scrub set and white nursing shoes.
“She’ll be down here or buzzing us to death with the intercom. By all means, let me get her pillow and pole,” I said, reasoning with the nurse.
“Fine, Mr. Corwynn,” she said dismissing me from the office. I stood my ground to see if she needed any additional reinforcement with Megan who had that obstinate look on her face that I knew all too well.
“You,” she said pointing to Mgan, “I need to do your vitals. Put the pencil and tablet down and sit right here and now.” Ryan and Sean smirked as Meg acquiesced.
“Dr. Jamison warned me about you, so don’t think I will tolerate any of your antics, Ms. Beal.”
The doorbell rang again. Anna answered it and moments later, Dr. Jamison entered the office.
“Hello, Megan, my you look better than the last time I saw you. How are you feeling today?”
“Good, I just want to get some work done.”
“Always the workaholic, eh Alex?”
“How are you, Don?”
“Can’t complain. I see you got her home safe and sound. How did we sleep last night?”
“Not without interruption. Ruby is increasing her dosage today.”
“I see, and where is the beautiful Dr. Amira?”
“Don Jamison, is that you?” asked Ruby coming into the office. It was getting very crowded in there as I excused myself to fetch that pole and pillow from Megan’s bedroom.
“Why hello, Ruby, how’s that tennis game of yours?”
“Can’t complain. I haven’t seen you out on the court lately. Where have you been hiding?”
“I’ve had some tendon damage that I’m working on right now. I see that my favorite patient is keeping you busy as well?”
“We need to talk turkey, Don.”
“C’mon, let’s go to my unofficial office.”
Dr. Jamison winked at Megan and followed Ruby out to the den as I headed up the front staircase. We all went about our duties while the nurse finished Meg’s vitals. I had just returned with the pole and pillow and helped Meg get comfortable when Dr. Jamison and Ruby re-entered the office. This time, he had his half glasses on his face and had his prescription pad in hand.
He sat down next to Megan. She sighed.
“You still need to be resting,” argued Dr. Jamison, with her. “I know the foundation is important, but where would it be if that infection lands you back in the hospital again?”
“Ruby already has my afternoons tied up with a session and a nap,” argued Megan.
“And you will have your antibiotic in the mid-morning.”
I leaned against her desk with my arms crossed in front of my chest. “As if you can do anything more than supervise us right now,” I sided with Dr. Jamison.
“I’ll seal envelopes and affix stamps and labels.”
“You’ll rest and let us take care of it.”
“Alex, no,” whined Megan. “C’mon, did I even bother for single file while I was in the hospital?”
“You couldn’t talk to bother me for one.”
Meg glowered at both Jamison and me. “You two just don’t get it. I need the foundation work.”
Don sighed and ignored that last statement, realizing it was not a battle we needed that morning as the nurse handed him the piece of paper with Megan’s vitals on it.
“I need levels drawn on her and the results by this afternoon. For now, let’s get her a bag every eight hours, but if her white count is over seven thousand, then we’ll increase it to every six hours,” said Dr. Jamison to the nurse who was scribbling down his orders in a notebook.
“Alex, Megan still has a low grade fever, and I need you to insist that she rests for an hour in the morning and the afternoon.”
I agreed with Dr. Jamison and realized that I could get a nap out of the deal, since I’d have to be nearby to make certain Meg didn’t sneak down to the office when she was supposed to be resting. The nurse tied a rubber tourniquet on Meg’s arm and searched for a vein. She had taken it off twice and replaced it before finding a vein that was half amenable to the invasion of yet another needle. Meg sighed and pushed her head back against the futon cushion, waiting for the torture to end. Dr. Jamison came over to see the track marks and bruises on Meg’s arms from blood work and IV sites.
“I found a little one that might cooperate,” said the nurse, “but I’ll have to butterfly it.”
“Try again, I think that will collapse.”
“Maybe, maybe not. I’m going to try it since it’s holding up so well.”
Well, the nurse was right and Meg sighed with relief as the blood flowed through the narrow plastic tubing into the test tube for the sample. I held her other hand and sat with her. She turned her head in my direction, and I winked at her.
“Now, you, Megan, I want you to rest while the bag empties,” said Dr. Jamison as the nurse attached the bag to her IV. Meg pouted.
“I agree with Dr. Jamison, you must rest so the antibiotics will work and finish their job.”
Ryan stopped typing and watched the activity. Anna brought in another couch pillow from the den so Meg could be propped up more comfortably and once Meg was settled, we all got on with our work as the nurse released the stopcock on the antibiotic bag. Meg cringed as the flow entered her. I bent down and kissed her, knowing how much it pained her to receive it.
“It always burns at first,” she explained to Ryan.
“Only a few more days of it, Meg, and it will be all over.”
The nurse showed Megan how to detach the needle-less antibiotic bag from her IV and told her to toss it in the trash when it was all gone. As soon as the nurse left, Meg got right to work. Ryan printed out what he had thus far and Meg was busy editing his copy.
When I had the first draft of the fundraiser letter written, Sean and I edited it, worrying about Megan’s opinion.
Since it was the Thanksgiving and Christmas season, we decided to take an approach of being thankful for Megan’s recovery and safety as well as what a valued and vital member of the foundation. This is the same Associate Director of the foundation whose face with mine had been plastered all over the tabloid press this fall. I had explained how she was home again, working at half capacity, yet Megan’s half capacity ran circles around Sean and I at full capacity. Meg was more than an Associate Director. She was the foundation. Meg brought us the first million this last year, she found funds where no one else did, and assisted twice as many programs than we had even projected the year before.
“Damn, that’s good,” said Sean, handing the copy back to me.
“She’ll cut it, you know Meg won’t go for this.”
“Go for what?” she asked from the couch. I forgot how she hears everything. According to Megan, when it came to the foundation, everything was her business. I walked around the desk and shut the door. She’d be here any minute, and I had to rally Sean to agree with me so she couldn’t cut this from the letter.
“We’ve got to fight her on this with a united front. If this is a success, she will see that our donors do care more about the work that she has done for the foundation than what the media has said about her.”
“Meg, you can’t get up,” argued Ryan, as she worked her way across the office with her IV tubing extended as far as it would reach from the pole.
“Then hit the intercom button for me.”
“She’s trying to eavesdrop. See, there’s the light. Meg, I know all of your tricks, remember?”
“Then come out here where we can talk. What are you up to, Alexander Corwynn?”
“Ooh, the Sunday name. She learned that from your Mum,” laughed Sean.
“You wait until Mom hears Meg’s home. She’ll be here next.”
“She likes Meg, eh?”
“She loves Meg, Sean. All I’ve heard since Meg started was, Alexander, why can’t you marry a nice girl like that? She’d make you beautiful children, you need a young girl like that to keep you spry.”
“Your Mum said this?”
“Every conversation since Megan started.”
“I heard that,” said Megan on the intercom. “You didn’t answer me. What are you up to, Alexander Corwynn?”
“The very letter you ordered us to write,” I replied, then turned back to the letter and Sean.
“Let’s make sure we add the plan regarding the biochemistry grant towards an AIDS vaccine.”
“Yes, in the final paragraph,” agreed Sean.
“This approach won’t fly with Megan, you know that,” replied Ryan, after he read it when he had come in to warn us of the brooding Megan grounded to her futon by IV. I nodded and knew that this time, I would have to fight her to get my way.
By the time the second draft was printing, Meg was in my office, disconnected from the antibiotic bag with her IV slung over her shoulder in its purse.
“Well?” she asked, with her fists perched on her hips. When I glanced up from the copy to see her standing there in the doorway across my office, I realized how much I missed seeing her pencils sticking out from on top of her head where they held all her hair twisted up in all directions.
I nodded in her direction and Sean handed her the copy of draft two. Meg read it. By the second paragraph, she was leaning on the door frame, as if her legs wouldn’t hold her up through the rest of the letter.
“You can’t send this out.”
“We are, and we will,” I replied, “Did you even finish reading it?”
“No, I’m halfway through. This will devastate our donors. You cannot send this out.”
“It will not devastate them. Most of them are our friends from the recording industry, Megan. People who have been scorned by the press and who will acknowledge the fact that you do good work for the people we serve.”
Ryan stood behind her and read the letter again. Finally she handed it to him. Her arms were folded across her chest.
“It’s beautiful, Alex,” replied Ryan choked up, liking what I included in the last draft of the letter.
“Alex is right. We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention you. It would seem as though we were covering up what happened. The letter demonstrates our acceptance and moving onward while we ask them to do the same.”
“Someone will ask for my dismissal.”
“Let us deal with that,” replied Sean, as he stood up and walked to her, with only a few inches separating them. “Know this, Megan, nothing anyone requests will make us dismiss you.”
“Sean’s right. Only you can make us do that.”
“I don’t care what either of you say, this won’t fly. Our donations will drop off with a letter like this.”
“Let our donors be the judge of that.”
“What if our donations drop and we can’t fund the school programs or pay the tuition for the scholarships? Or it sabotages this research grant? We can’t take a chance like that, Alex.”
Meg had her foundation and grantees in mind. We were still arguing when Anna announced that lunch was ready. Meg joined us at the table with the letter after she sat in the office and read it.
“Fine, have it your way, send the letter.”
Sean and I smiled at each other. We had won against the mighty Megan. Not an easy feat, mind you. She’s more strong-willed than a mule on a hot day when she gets in one of her famous moods.
“I’ll need to do some RFP’s, in case the funds don’t come through.”
Her copy was red with editing and semantic changes. She fixed a line and pasted it somewhere else. Meg fixed my spelling, swearing once more that I had ignored the spell check tool on the computer. Soon after the corrections were entered into the computer, Meg had gone into session with Ruby. We got her final okay on the letter then put it and database addresses on the flash drive that I would run to the printer after I dealt with my life in California.