Alexander surprised me then. He reached over and picked up a piece of my hair that had fallen out of my bun and tucked it behind my ear. It was a quick, gentle touch but it seemed like such an intimate one between an employer and employee. As soon as he drew his hand back I found myself wishing that he would touch me again.
“You’re beautiful,” he said. I almost fell out of my chair. Instead, I picked up my wine glass and drained it.
“Thank you,” I told him, finally.
He smiled. He was beautiful… incredibly so. “Again, I could be wrong and over-stepping but my thought would be that he said ‘a break’ instead of ‘break-up’ because he knows what a fool he would be to let you go, deep down. But don’t let him make all the decisions here, Vicki. Remember your own self-worth. If you’re not truly happy with him, then spend your ‘break’ deciding what it is that you want from him if you do take him back. Realize that by initiating this, he thinks he has the power, but he really doesn’t. Your life and your happiness are in your hands, not his.”
I forced a smile. My head was buzzing. I really wasn’t much of a drinker and the two glasses of wine had already gone to my head. “I will. Thank you. Is that what you’ve been doing?” That was such a personal question. I wanted to take it back as soon as I asked it but Alexander didn’t seem offended. Instead he looked embarrassed.
“No, I give great advice, but I don’t live it. What I’ve been doing, Vicki is avoiding it all. I don’t want to fight over material possessions, yet I don’t want to give this woman I was married to for five years everything I’ve worked for and amassed in my adult life. Does that seem selfish?”
“Not at all. I personally have always had difficulty with the idea of alimony. It’s 2015 and female or not, I’m as capable of making a billion dollars as the person I decide to marry is. At least I hope I am. Lately I haven’t been feeling very proud of where I am at this stage in my life. I have always intended to do so much more. I want to give back to the community, you know? I don’t want to live in this beautiful place surrounded by beautiful landscapes and only enjoy it. I want to be a part of the solution to problems like homelessness and environmental issues. I mean… obviously I won’t do that working as a maid, but I don’t intend to do this job forever… Shoot! I mean, I love my job, it’s just…”
He laughed. “It’s okay, Vicki. I haven’t had a lot of opportunity to speak to you one on one like this, but from what I do know about you, you’re much too intelligent to be doing physical labor your entire life. I would be nothing but happy for you if a better opportunity comes along. What do you see yourself doing someday?”
“I finished my prerequisites for the Physician’s Assistant program at UC Davis. I just took a year… or two off to save some money.”
“Physician’s Assistant, huh? That’s admirable.”
I shrugged. “I’ve just always liked healing things. I had a stray animal hospital in our basement when I was a kid.” I laughed at the memory of birds with broken wings and stray cats that had been in fights and needed patching up. Back then I would tell my mom I wanted to be a surgeon. She would tell me to “Marry one” instead. Gotta love my mom.
“So why a P.A. why not a physician?”
“Medical school is really expensive,” I said. “Plus it’s very intense. Even when I get into the P.A. program I’ll have to keep working to support myself. I can’t see myself doing that and still doing well in a medical school.”
“I admire your drive, Vicki. It was one of the many things that Cassandra and I fought about when she lived here.” Cassandra is his wife and I had heard one or two of those fights as I kept my head down and tried to pretend I didn’t. “She doesn’t have any at all. She never wanted to work, which I was okay with at first. But I had pictured her heading up charities or at the very least having our children and caring for them. As it turned out, she had no interest in any of that at all. She informed me two years into our marriage that she wasn’t interested in being a mother. I can’t believe that I’m telling you this,” he said suddenly. I realized he remembered who he was talking to. Not thinking I shot my hand out and covered his with it.
“That had to be hard. Please don’t worry. I will keep your confidence. I appreciate you talking to me about this so much. I know how busy you are and for you to take time out of your day like this for the likes of me…”
He moved his hand, but he didn’t take it away. Instead, he wrapped mine up in it and looked intensely at my face as he said, “Don’t do that, Vicki. Don’t say things about yourself like that as if I’m better than you and I’m slumming by sitting here having a pleasant conversation with you. The things I just told you about Cassie… they’re not things I shared with anyone else, except my attorneys, that’s why I said I couldn’t believe I was telling you. It actually feels good to be able to talk to someone about it.”
I smiled and nodded. He was still gripping my hand. My heart was speeding up and I was suddenly having a hard time breathing. “You can talk to me about any of it, sir. I won’t tell anyone.”
He grinned. “I really wish you’d stop calling me sir,” he said again. “Tell me about you, Vicki. Where did you grow up?”
“I grew up in L.A. out near Glendale.”
“I grew up here too, in Orange County,” he said. Of course he did. I wasn’t certain of his background, but it was obvious wealth wasn’t brand new to him. He wore it so well though. I’d never seen him be haughty or arrogant about it, unlike his dear wife.
“I spent a lot of time in Orange when I was young,” I told him. “My mother worked in a place there and I’d go out and spend time on the playground near the pier at Seal Beach or watching the sunset or eating a burger at…”
“Yes,” I said with a smile. “I loved Ruby’s.”
“Me too, it was my favorite spot.”
“It was not!”
“Seriously, I used to sit at that booth in the far corner and play music on that little table jukebox and watch the sunset nearly every Friday night.”
“I loved those jukeboxes and I loved that booth too! It was always taken. I think I only actually got to sit there once.”
“It was probably me,” he said with a grin.
I smiled back at him, who could help it? It was funny to imagine our lives intersecting like that as kids and us not even noticing. He was seven years older than me though. I was about twelve when I started spending a lot of time down there. He was probably already in college. Still, it was nice to know we had that in common.
“Thank you, sir,” I said. He’d taken my mind off of Jason and I was very appreciative.
He laughed and said, “You’re welcome… for what I’m not sure.”
“For making me forget my problems and remember being happy on the beach. Really, it was so nice of you to take time out of your schedule for me, sir. I appreciate it.”
He suddenly had a look in his eyes that wasn’t amusement and his voice was husky as he said, “I really wish that you’d stop calling me sir. I want to kiss you, Vicki… badly. When you call me ‘Sir’ it reminds me that I shouldn’t.”
I was shocked, excited and scared all at the same time. I told myself to politely decline. I told myself to go back to work, and then, I don’t know what came over me. Maybe it was because now he was touching me. He’d let go of my hand and now his fingertips were lightly skimming along my bare arms and sending delicious shivers throughout my body that landed in the deepest part of my belly. Or maybe it was because of the intense way he was still looking into my eyes and I knew now that what I saw there was desire. Maybe it was all of it. I don’t know. But I opened my mouth and as if I were a bystander and not a participant, I heard myself say his name, “Alex.”