even when I paddle my boat upshore
well, the river keep on floating me right back to your door
- Sheryl Crow, "Live Wire"
"This is ridiculous," you hiss at Andréa,"I refuse to be held hostage by a hysterical woman."
Andréa makes a slicing motion through the air with the hand that isn't holding a cell phone to her ear. It's a rare gesture of annoyance, and you freeze in place. Seething, but silent now.
"I can understand why you would find that upsetting," Andréa says into the phone, "but please, please reconsider quitting."
Upstairs, a door slams. No doubt Hannah, still throwing a fit about all of this.
"Give her whatever she wants," you whisper to Andréa. "A raise. A car. I don't care."
She waves you off, a look of exasperation on her face. She loves you, you know she does, but that doesn't mean she's thrilled to go around, cleaning up after one of your temper tantrums.
"I have an appointment," you remind her. And she motions for you to go. Before you can turn to leave, Andréa pulls you back by your elbow, planting a kiss on the corner of your mouth.
"I give you my word," Andréa says into the phone, "you'll only deal with me from now on."
"Andy still begging Lucinda to stay?" Caroline needles you, when you come down the back stairs and into the kitchen. She's seated at the island with a cup of coffee and the newspaper you haven't been able to read yet. Her mongrel of a dog barks in the next room, likely a futile attempt to rouse your elderly Saint Bernard into playing.
You grit your teeth and look around for your cell phone. You left it in here, didn't you?
"I don't care if I ever see that woman again," you tell her. "But as I'm of the minority opinion on the matter... Yes. Andréa is negotiating with her. Have you seen my phone?"
"It was only a blouse, mother," Caroline sighs.
You quell your urge to correct her - to snipe that it was a one of a kind garment made for you by a designer you've handpicked out of obscurity. That line of argument is unproductive, and Hannah has been in tears all day. Lucinda has been employed by Hannah's household since Hannah was barely toddling around her father's home.
Some hills simply aren't worth dying on.
"I know," you say. "Check on Hannah for me later, will you?"
If things proceed in their usual manner, it will be Cassidy who first calms Hannah down from the initial hysterics. And later, it will be Caroline who draws Hannah out in conversation, soothes her without coddling.
It almost makes up for that horrid little dog Caroline insists on bringing into your home.
"Sure thing," Caroline says. "Here's your phone."
"Bless you," you say, and she snickers. You press a kiss to her forehead anyway.
"Call Heather back," she calls after you. "You have a million missed calls from her. She must be having a nervous breakdown."
You fire off texts to Heather in the car. No to a second meeting with that obsequies menswear designer who came out of Parsons. Yes to meeting the accessories designer from Arizona. Maybe to the charity dinner next month, dependent upon Andréa's travel schedule (and here you remind yourself to text Nigel about dinner next week). You do not dignify the request for comment on a certain magazine's retrospective on your career, as you have no doubt Heather only forwarded it along as retaliation for ignoring her phone calls.
The car stops, and your driver opens your door for you. It's been a cold March so far, but today has finally brought the promise of a thaw. The mid-day sun shines down and you vow to yourself that when you get home later, you and Andréa will do something together, alone.
"Hello," Dr. Steiger greets when you enter her office. "It's been a while."
"I was traveling," you explain. "And all three girls are out for spring break."
"Hannah came home from Oberlin?" she asks. Hands you a scalding cup of coffee, which earns her a grateful smile.
"She did. Which means we have-"
"A full house," she finishes for you.
"Exactly," you sigh tiredly.
"You must be very behind on work," she observes. Watches you carefully for a reaction.
"Yes and no," you hedge. "There are times when I wish the house were quiet in order for me to concentrate. But it isn't as if we get all three girls home all that often, so it seems a waste to squander it."
Caroline transferred to Columbia more than two years ago now. It's nice having her closer, but she and Cassidy stay fairly busy, wrapped inside the bustle of their own lives. Save, of course, the few times Caroline's landlords have grown angry about her mutt of a dog, and she fled home after having her lease terminated.
"How's the foundation work going?" your therapists asks, looking down at her notepad. She know her well enough to see that she's trying to remember a question she meant to ask you, but she can't find it in her notes. She's hoping you'll say something here that will jog her memory.
"Frustrating at times," you admit. "But mostly it’s... deeply rewarding. All of the staffing has finally clicked into place, which makes things easier."
You can still remember the smug look on Andréa's face when you put out feelers for the assistant director job, and Heather put in her application within the first hour.
"Pay up," Andréa had said, and you'd tossed a throw pillow at her head. You'd ended up making love on the couch.
"Any plans when you get out of here?" Dr. Steiger asks, jarring you from your thoughts. She's apparently given up on trying to remember whatever it was she wanted to pin you down about.
"I think I'll talk Andréa into taking a stroll with me," you muse. "Late March has always been her favorite time of year."
. . .