HAYES, (WO)MAN HUNT
Aidan doesn’t think Sophia was hooking up with Jeremy – despite what I saw, or think I saw. I knew the guy was a piece of shit but apparently, according to the rumours Aidan has heard – he’s a real pile of garbage. Inappropriate touching, lewd language and aggressively intimidating the women around him in various ways. None of the women have spoken to management and no one has ever pressed charges, so our hands are tied but if all this is true – not only do I have a huge problem on my hands, but I’ve also fucked up.
Aidan starts working with HR and legal to see what can be done about Jeremy while I contemplate what this means for me. I try not to worry about it professionally – that is what I pay people a lot of money for, but I think it is quite possible I’ve allowed Jeremy to affect me personally, to influence my personal life. Goddamnit! First of all – is it possible I witnessed Sophia being assaulted and instead of helping her, I instead fucking assumed the worst and blamed her?!
Yes, yes, it is possible.
Secondly, is it possible that by assuming the worst – and not helping her - I blew any chance at a relationship with Sophia?
Lastly, fuck… is it possible that all of these things are true and she was so devastated that she ran away? Probably all the way home would be my guess.
Yeah, fairly sure that one is true too.
SOPHIA, MISSION ACHIEVED
While I’ve tried to keep as busy as possible, I’ve also been sending out job applications wherever I could. I don’t limit myself to one city – I can set up a new home base anywhere so I’ll go where the job is, and the more open I am, the more options there are.
After weeks of nothing, I finally get the opportunity to do a phone interview with a company in the capital city – Regina. It goes well and a couple of days later they offer me the job.
The lodge sends word there is a private charter coming in and I can get the plane on its’ way back. I repack and head across the lake with my family toward the lodge. Mom and Bella are crying while Dad is clearly trying not to, but nearly failing. We group hug before everyone embraces me one at a time as we hear the plane land on the water before taxiing in to the dock. Mom grabs me for another hug while she continues to bawl and I fight the tears that are falling freely down my cheeks. I hate goodbyes – I love my family so desperately that leaving them behind is physically painful but staying here forever is not where my happily ever after lies.
“Sophia!” I hear someone shouting my name so I say a final goodbye to everyone and prepare to leave, assuming it’s someone telling me to come to board the plane. “Sophia!” The voice shouts again, closer this time and more recognizable.
It can’t be.
Not believing what I’m hearing I slowly turn around to face the source of the voice only to be stunned when I have my suspicion confirmed. It doesn’t seem real; he is so out of context being here that nothing seems logical anymore.
HAYES, MISSION NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE
Thankfully, because of my brief friendship with Sophia, I know roughly where she is from. With her last name and by calling in some favours, we track her down to a remote lodge in the northern part of the province. At least, that is where her mail is delivered to four times a year. She herself is somewhere more remote so I’m hoping someone at the lodge will be able to point me in the right direction. There are a lot of woods up there and finding one woman will be next to impossible without help.
What are the chances she’s waiting for my plane?
I recognize her immediately, as soon as I get off the stomach-churning tin can that got me here. Seriously, what are the chances? A million to one? My excitement gets the best of me and I’m shouting her name before I’m even fully deboarded - it’s a scene straight out of the latest rom com, I swear.
The look on her face when she sees it is me is priceless and not overly reassuring – she’s shocked to say the least. She is surrounded by a group of people, none of whom she shares similar colouring with yet it is obvious they’re her family. Then I remember that her biological father is passed – she must take more after him than her mother.
“I’m sorry to intrude like this – my name is Hayes Matthews,” I introduce myself first to who I believe is her Dad, then her Mom. I shake hands with the rest of her family as well – everyone’s opinion matters, especially in a family as close knit as hers is.
“Yes, uh, no – no intrusion at all,” her Dad says awkwardly while trying to be as polite as possible. “It’s a pleasure to meet a friend of Soph’s,” he adds on with a sly glance toward his daughter as if seeking confirmation on the status of our relationship. Sophia shrugs slightly, likely not wanting her Dad to make a scene and throw me out on my ass – which is what she should do.
It is what I deserve.
“I’m so sorry to show up like this but I was wondering if I could have a minute of your time, Sophia?” Her family makes busy loading her two bags onto the plane and talking to the pilot to give us privacy.
“I only have a minute – I’m leaving for a new job,” she tells me, slicing my heart into even more pieces than it is already in. I wouldn’t have believed that was possible if I weren’t experiencing the agonizing misery myself.
Shocking everyone, I ask them to reload my luggage back onto the plane. I only came to see Sophia and if I need to get back onto the flying death trap to have longer to speak with her, then that is what I will do. Being the only two passengers on the return trip, my expected addition isn’t a problem for the pilot, especially after a generous tip to smooth things over.
She says one final goodbye to her family, I shake their hands one more time and then we both board the plane. In minutes we’re skating across the water and in no time, I’m back in the air. I turn to her so I can plead my case.
“I owe you so many apologies – I don’t even know where to start, Sophia,” I tell her shamefully, unable to hold her gaze. Staring at the floor, I contemplate my next words.
“Start at the beginning, Mr. Matthews,” she tells me coolly. I nod, take a deep breath and do just that.
“Get comfortable, Sophia. I have a lot to say.”