"Sweetie, of course I remember." She was so tired. "We'll plant the irises, but the impatiens and daisies will have to wait until tomorrow."
She hung up and started to the door. Vince was leaning on the wall outside his office.
"Leaving, huh?" His tone was laden with echoes of his past complaints about her rushing home right after work. "Want to join us for a drink?"
She turned around to face him, feigning a smile. "Sorry. Another time?"
"You said that last week. Rachel, we're a team here--"
"If bringing in more ad pages is the team's goal, then I hit the most home runs." She softened her tone. "But I have a child, and there's no time for beer parties."
"That's not what it's all about," he said pointedly, then added with a sigh, "Good night."
"Have a nice evening." Her forced polite tone sounded awkward even to her ears. She pivoted on her heel, her briefcase flapping against her knee, and walked away, feeling Vince's eyes piercing her back.
In the subway to Penn Station where she would catch her train home to Green Hills, Long Island, an errant thought wormed into her consciousness. What Vince resented the most was her intensity. His own boss, the publisher, and her male colleagues' work style was as casual as his. While she talked statistics and market share, they arranged golf foursomes.
Her pleasure came from the energy of strategizing a sale, as she was doing for Baroness, the giant cosmetics company she hoped to snare as a new client. Designing the research, writing the presentation, developing the statistical charts, and creating the video with the art department were intoxicating. The excitement was like a chemical stimulant that altered the formula of her days.
Perhaps Vince was right; she was unlike the rest of his team. She was a woman, with one child and many problems, and she could never play in their sandbox. Even if she loved her work more than they did.
On the train, finally alone with her emotions, Rachel tucked her briefcase between her head and the window, leaned against it, and closed her eyes.
That's when the pain seared through her. She could feel its physical presence, an inflated balloon painfully contained within her ribs. She'd have to send Ellie on Monday. She wished she could trust Ortman's promise that Wes's girlfriend would sleep in his bed, not Ellie.
Rachel rearranged herself in the seat and listened to the train's steady chant of steel rolling over steel. The train came out of the tunnel, and a bright red sun hovered above the western end of Long Island Sound, presenting itself with pride, like a teenager showing off her prom dress. There would still be enough daylight for Ellie's picnic dinner.
What if Chuck was wrong about the outcome of the trial? Loyal and devoted, he had propped her up when hope and despair tore at her with their opposing pulls. But what good was a caring lawyer if he didn't win?
To satisfy McGillian, she'd have to take the risk this one time; she'd send Ellie to Wes on Monday and pray for the best. How she wished she had enough religious conviction to believe in a divine entity that could change the marching doom of events.
If she couldn't protect Ellie, then her child needed an angel to take care of her.
Copyright Talia Carner 2002. All rights reserved. For permission to reproduce this excerpt please contact the author at www.taliacarner.com
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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