By M. Ryan
For disclaimers see Part 1
Comments are welcome! email@example.com
The Big Chair
"What deal?" Chris didnt panic often; her experiences had blunted that response. But panic was an apt description of what was welling up and she swallowed it back.
Laura rolled out of bed, grabbing a T-shirt and shorts as though clothes would serve as protection from decisions made when her options were limited. Nervously she pulled the shorts on then squirmed into the shirt aware of green eyes burning a hole in her back. Still facing away from Chris she rubbed her eyes. "Youve never asked about what happened in Dallas. Why not? Lord knows youve asked about everything else."
"Everyone knows what happened in Dallas. Its on half a dozen news sites on the Internet." Chris imparted the information matter of factly. "Roger grabbed you and you punched him. Did you know that our insurance company paid about thirty thousand dollars to the plastic surgeon who fixed his nose?" She shook her head ruefully, "News people are the worst gossips. We couldnt keep a secret if our lives depended on it."
Laura groaned. "Which doesnt bode well for us."
"I thought we decided that I have a little protection. Cmere and tell me what you did in Dallas that has you tied up in knots now." Chris hoped that she at least sounded calm because she didnt know how long she could maintain the charade.
Laura turned to look at her lover. "You know," she murmured, "The most dangerous person in the world is the one who doesnt have anything to lose. I used to be very, very dangerous." She sat down slowly on the edge of the bed. "Not anymore."
Chris moved closer and laid a hand on Lauras back. "Tell me." She urged softly.
It was never supposed to happen. Since when has anything in my life gone according to plan? Laura put her hands together to crack her knuckles, then stopped herself. "I met with Don Farmer, the head of News Operations right after it happened. They didnt want to lose me or let me run to the competition or sue Roger, so they sent me here. The deal was that when Roger retired in three years, Id take over as GM at KDAL." She looked over her shoulder at Chris and took in the tousled blonde hair and bare shoulders. "I have a stock plan. In three years Im vested and I could cash in for about half a million dollars if I left William-Simon. Thats why I stayed with the company."
"So youre going back to Dallas?"
"It looks that way." Laura replied tightly.
Chris felt her fear change to anger and grow until it broke free. "Thats what all this was about? Money and getting back to Dallas? What the hell happened to making us better? Was all that just rah-rah bullshit? And the Network thing That was pretty hypocritical, wasnt it?" She pushed away. "Silly me, I shouldve known you were meant for bigger and better things than a lowly sixty-one market." Chris put a fist against her mouth, appalled that she couldnt stop the tears. Wrong again. Everyone does use everyone else.
"No!" Laura faced Chris. "This was about survival and keeping my word. All I wanted was three years that would give me ten years with Willy-Simon and ten years in news just like I promised." She tried to put a hand on Chris arm but the reporter shook it off and Laura shrank back, smarting at the rejection. "I thought I could stand anything for three years I didnt know that this was going to happen and nothing was ever going to be the same again." She swallowed, knowing that Chris would take this as one more sign that she wasnt capable of trusting anyone.
"You never told me You expect me to figure everything out on my own." Chris let the sense of despair wash over her. "Didnt you think this would affect us?"
"No." Laura barely said it out loud. "We had three years. I thought I was never going back." She looked down at her feet aware that she had miscalculated once again.
Chris looked at the dejected News Director. Im missing something here. "You dont want to go?"
"No." Laura didnt look up.
"Why not? What do you need the money for " Suddenly all the pieces fell into place and Chris slapped her forehead almost comically. "You were gonna quit and play golf Keep your promise to your Dad and walk away."
"Yeah. Thats what was supposed to happen and who told you about my Dad?"
"Thats it?" Chris ignored the question and waited for Laura to say something, anything that would make this emotional rollercoaster ride stop.
Irritated blue eyes locked and held the reporters; glittering with tears that threatened to spill over. "Didja think Id just say I love you Chris, then take off for Dallas?" Lauras voice was hoarse. "I may have the emotional maturity of a five year old, but Im not an idiot."
"You " The rollercoaster plunged again and Chris swallowed against the jerk of her heart.
Laura scooted closer and reached for Chris. Taking advantage of her momentary loss for words she wrapped her arms around the smaller woman. "I love you. If youre still keeping score, Im way ahead of you. I love you and Ive gone as far in news as I want to go. I dont want to go back to Dallas, not to be a news director and not to be the general manager. I need the money to support myself on tour but thats still three years away." She buried her face in the pale gold hair and knew that she was crying. "You asked at the press conference and I didnt lie. Im not turning pro any time soon."
"You planned it all." Chris murmured as she breathed in the clean smell of the T-shirt and the strong shoulder under it.
"I didnt plan this." It would be easier if I was gone.
"Dont even think about it."
"Running away." Chris pulled back and took Lauras face gently between her hands. "As messy as this is, as dangerous as you think it is and no matter how much better off you think Id be if you were in Dallas, dont you dare give up on us. You may have your reasons to leave but I can think of at least a hundred more reasons for you to stay."
"Its not that easy."
"Im not saying that it is. Im saying that if you want to stay you can work it out somehow, some way. Its what you do." Blue eyes looked away uncertainly as Chris said softly, "Come back to me."
Laura focused again. The wanting was so intense she almost forgot to breathe. "Ill be back. I promise."
She checked for the exits automatically, counting the rows of seats so she would be certain to find a way out even in the dark. After adjusting the blower Laura fastened the seatbelt and cinched it tight, paying heed to all the stories shed seen, done and read about in flight injuries. Finally she relaxed, closed her eyes and waited for takeoff. It wasnt long before the second-guessing began. No, no, no. She never said she loved me, only that she couldnt believe I beat her to it. Thats what Im missing.
Theyd been in the air for about fifteen minutes and shed finally gotten a tiny glass of Coke when the man sitting next to her politely inquired if she was Laura Kasdan, the golfer. She swallowed some of the beverage and grimaced at the burn. "That would be me." She replied.
"Oh this is fabulous. I watched you make that shot at 17 and I just knew you were going to win it all," he enthused. "Then that putt didnt go in." He left the comment hanging and Laura shifted uncomfortably as she looked out the window. Get used to it. "So when are you going to go on tour?"
"Not for a while." She really didnt have to answer since he just prattled on, oblivious to her disinterest. She was never so relieved in her life than when the announcement came that they were on final approach. After fending off an invitation for dinner she escaped the cabin and made her way past the claustrophobic crowds at the gate and on to the concourse scanning the faces briefly for the corporate representative sent to retrieve her.
She spotted him at the shoeshine stand a little way down the concourse. Shouldering her carryon bag she threaded through the traffic and with little effort, climbed up next to him setting her booted feet on the metal footrests and gesturing for a shine as well. "Im surprised. They dont usually send corporate VPs to pick up errant news directors at the airport."
"Youre not an errant news director anymore Kaz." Don Farmer folded the newspaper he had been reading and looked down at his feet as the gnome-like shoeshine man gave a final flourish. "You can get the best shines in the world here. Bet you dont see many women though."
"No sir." The man smiled. "Extra for the boots maam."
Laura shrugged again. "Thats okay, they need it." She watched as he applied the paste in quick efficient circles. She implied it; she never really said it.
"You did good Kaz. Got their numbers back up, research looks great and then there was the added benefit of the Open and that generated a whole lot of interest, even with the questions about Dallas. Since Rogers gone we dont even have to worry about that anymore."
Laura swallowed, sickened by the dismissal of the anchor. "Jesus Don, hes not even in the ground yet."
"Dont be a hypocrite Kaz. You hated him." He adjusted the knot of his tie. "Time to move on dont you think? Well get you out of Bumfuck Egypt."
"Its a good station," she said carefully, still watching the hypnotic motion of the shoeshine man.
She said to come back to her.
"Youll meet with John Simon this morning." Don said, ignoring her comment. "Well go over a few things and then your tenure in Burkett Falls is officially over."
What if I dont want it to be over? With one final pop of the rag the shine was finished. "Good job." She twisted her foot to examine one boot and then the other. With a lopsided smile she hopped out of the chair and jerked her thumb at the executive. "Hell take care of it. Give him a good tip Don." She stood and watched to make sure that he did. Its not over till I say it is. And with long strides she started down the concourse forcing Don to hurry to catch up.
The newsroom was uneasy. Chris could feel it in the morning meeting and see it in the faces of her co-workers. Keith spilled his coffee twice and Janie snapped at Bobby causing the photog to stomp out slamming the door to the edit bay, knocking down a shelf of tapes.
She gathered her note pad and left the sounds of the scanners behind her as she pushed open the door and trod down the stairs to the news unit parking area. Jody was closing the trunk of the Taurus theyd been assigned and Chris opened the passenger door, slipping on a pair of sunglasses as she sat down. "Lets get out of here."
"Yeah. Park by the Atrium." She fastened the seatbelt and fidgeted while Jody drove. The story was a no-brainer. Talk to the Assistant Chief Administrator about how state budget cuts were going to affect the hospital, the second largest employer in Burkett Falls and package it for the Five. Every time theres an election we go through this. Fervently she wished for a story that commanded all of her attention since this one gave her too much time to think about what was going on in Atlanta and the possible outcomes.
Begging. It was a word offensive to Chris and she had to forcibly restrain herself from doing just that; begging Laura to stay. Come on, it wouldnt be the end of the world. Then she sneered at her own optimism. In her heart she was afraid that physical distance was all it would take for Laura to retreat back behind the walls forever. Easily.
With a start she realized that they had reached their destination and she got out to help Jody with the gear. A lot of the reporters wouldnt help the photogs lift and tote, but Chris thought it was only fair to do her share. After all, the videographer had most of the responsibility of making her look good on air and a little consideration went a long way. Besides, the tripod wasnt that heavy. A man held open one of the glass doors to grant them entry and they stepped into the cool lobby. The bank of elevators was against one wall and Jody pushed the button. When the doors slid open they stepped inside. "Eighth floor?" Jody inquired.
"Mm Yeah. Interview first then B roll." Chris crossed her arms. They were alone in the elevator but it felt like it was straining as it started to move. They looked at each other in mild alarm then the car seemed to pick up speed. Settling back against the wall she waited, brushing one hand down the front of her dark red jacket to straighten it.
A jarring lurch sent them both staggering and the folded tripod fell over with a crash. With one more jerk the elevator ceased all movement then the hollow quiet was broken by a clanging alarm. Looking across at the photog, Chris knew with the certainty of a clairvoyant that she wasnt going to be able to package her story for the Five Oclock newscast.
The Corporate offices of William-Simon Communications took up the entire forty-seventh floor of the Sun Trust Plaza in the middle of downtown Atlanta. The opulence was a testimony to the high profit margin of a business that sold nothing but air. All marble, mahogany and brass it gleamed with the power to intimidate. Laura was irrationally glad that shed had her boots polished.
"This your first time here?" Don led her past the reception area to a wide hallway and the offices of the Vice Presidents.
"Yes, you were in the other building the last time I got the call." Laura frowned, remembering. Brian wanted her to be News Director at KDAL but no one else had seemed to. The trip to Atlanta had been a test, one that she had passed with flying colors, but she never quite got over the feeling of being a specimen on display.
"You can leave your bag her in the conference room, no one will bother it." Laura complied, tightening her jaw in anticipation of the confrontation with the CEO. She hated power suits and had chosen to wear only a more formal version of her usual chinos, blouse and jacket. The black cowboy boots added even more height and should not have worked with the outfit. But they did. She and Don continued down the hall, past cubicles and workstations until they reached a massive wooden door. Don pushed it open to reveal a desk set in a wide expanse of almost white carpet. "Ah, Mr. Farmer It will be just a moment." The sleek efficient looking woman at the desk spun around to use the phone and announce their presence. After a moment, the door opened and an immaculately dressed middle aged man was standing there, his beady eyes flickering over Laura behind gold wire rimmed glasses. "So this is the great Laura Kasdan Although you prefer to be called Kaz, Hmm?" He nodded them into his office and gestured to a chair as he moved behind his desk. "Your flight was good I trust?"
Laura folded her hands. "Yes, it was fine."
"Good. Then on to the business at hand. As of yesterday morning, we have acquired an additional four stations: Phoenix, San Diego, San Antonio and Portland, Oregon. That brings our total to thirty-eight, and now we need another regional manager. Brian Springmeyer is our prime candidate and that leaves us one General Manager short in Dallas. With Roger McNamaras untimely demise," the beady eyes smirked and Laura was repulsed. "There is nothing to prevent your return to Dallas."
Laura took a deep breath and raised an eyebrow slightly. "Theres just one tiny problem."
"And that is?" John Simon waited expectantly.
"I dont want to go back to Dallas."
They dont need to cut the budget until they make sure the goddamn elevators are working. "How much longer?" She called through the door. There was no answer from the workmen outside but at least the alarm had stopped ringing.
"Chris, its gonna take as long as it takes." Jody slid down the wall opposite the door and stuck his legs out in front of him crossing them at the ankles. "Cant do anything about it."
"Isnt there another way to get out of here? In movies they just climb out through the top." Chris looked up at the repair panel as she contemplated doing just that.
"Nope, you could lop your head off. Then Kaz and Keith would kill me for letting you."
Sheepishly Chris nodded acceptance and crouched down next to the cameraman. "Youre always the reasonable one." And Kaz is the practical one. Keith bullies me into doing it right and Kate puts it all together. How could I do it without any one of them? She wasnt claustrophobic; she just couldnt stand the inactivity. Shes there. I wonder whats happening. Will she call?
"Did you send a tape to that Jan Sheffield?" Jodys question interrupted her thoughts.
"No." Chris bit her lip. "I cant go Jody, and itd be unfair for me to send it. In three years, who knows."
"We were supposed to get out of her together," he reminded her softly. "Youre my ticket out."
She gave a short laugh and looked at him fondly. "You are your own ticket out. You could work in any market you want or even go to network. Kaz told me something," Chris paused in concentration. "It was that there is nothing special or unique about the people who make it to network, they only pursued the opportunity. You just have to want it badly enough I guess."
"But youll stay."
She looked down and nodded.
"For as long as shes here." He said slowly. Chris met Jodys eyes and there was nothing but understanding in them. "What if she doesnt come back?"
The blonde reporter had no answer for him or for herself. "I dont know." She said miserably.
"I see." The CEOs expression was unreadable. "Why not?"
Laura kept her gaze level. "Id like to stay at WBFC."
"My understanding was that you wanted to return to Texas above all else." His eyes flicked over to where Don Farmer sat and the Director of News Operations gave a startled shrug.
"Kaz " Don started but the CEO held up a hand to keep him quiet. "You are a valuable commodity Ms. Kasdan. Hiding you in a medium market is not the best use of our resources."
It was two months ago. Her eyes narrowed as she considered what to do next. Hes never said that I get the GMs chair in Dallas, only that the way is clear for me to return Maybe as the News Director. "Who replaced me in Dallas?" Laura asked the question, already knowing the answer.
"Roger McNamara was handling the News Directors duties. You know that." Don answered.
With that, Laura realized that the deal was busted. Call him on it. Make him say News Director not GM. Tapping fingers were the only outward sign of her discomfort.
The CEO rolled a pen carefully between his hands. "Don Farmer has an affection for you and your work that I do not share. Of course I cannot argue with results. Perhaps we should consider more than just returning to Dallas."
Lauras patience snapped. "Oh for Christs sakes say it! Im not ready to be the GM in Dallas, youre not gonna give it to me, and I dont want to go back as the News Director. So unless youve got something else up your sleeve, were stuck."
The two corporate officers stared at Laura, almost comically gasping at the breech of protocol. Thrown off guard the CEO cleared his throat. "You want to stay in Burkett Falls." It was a statement, not a question.
"Yes." Laura replied, tired of the double meanings and the games. John Simon regarded her coolly, his eyes never once wavering. "There is only one way that can happen."
Lauras lips twitched into a wry half smile. Ah, what the hell. Another day, another deal.
Chris and Jody went into the elevator at 10:37am. At 5:08pm, exactly four minutes after the story on the proposed budget cuts ran on the Five, the doors finally opened and Chris sprinted down the hall to the nearest restroom. Then it was back to the station to get ready to anchor the Six. Frustrated with a day of forced inactivity, she barely smiled as she pushed open the door of the newsroom to scattered applause and whistles. She spread her hands and gave a mock curtsy before digging her makeup bag out of her desk. "Any word?" she asked as Keith came up and handed her the scripts.
"Nothing. Nada. Zilch." He was nervous as evidenced by his foot shifting. "Arts called a station meeting for tomorrow at ten. I guess well find out then if we dont hear something sooner."
"Great." She kneed the desk drawer closed.
"Are you okay to do the Six? Tom can do it by himself."
Chris was irritated and tired of being coddled. "Could you let me do something today? Honestly, Im about to go insane and I " Swallowing, she pressed her lips together and closed her eyes briefly. "Im okay, I just need to do this."
"Sure. You better hurry then."
Twenty minutes later she was on the set. What a great way to make a living. I talk about death, destruction and human tragedy, and I get coached on how to look pretty doing it. Chris shook herself out the bitterness and focused on the teleprompter as the show open rolled.
It only got worse when Chris unlocked the door to her house. Left alone without his mistress for far to long, Biggio the cat had decided to do his own version of remodeling. Books, paper, framed photographs and other odds and ends had been pushed from whatever flat surface they had been resting onto the floor. Chris berated herself for the neglect of her pet, and spent a long time stroking away hurt feline feelings. Her neighbor had fed and watered the cat while she was in Mississippi, but the normally easygoing animal was tired of being ignored. Amidst all the clutter she never noticed that the phone had been knocked off the hook; its warning tone long silenced by the passage of several hours. Exhausted from her day and the stress of the night before, Chris crashed on the sofa, wondering why Laura didnt call.
No answer, no machine. What the hell is she doing? Laura frowned as she dug her card case out of the front pocket of her bag, fanning out the various credit cards and ID looking for her laminated pager list. With a muttered curse she remembered seeing it on her desk next to the Rolodex.
She met with the other Vice Presidents and filled out reams of paperwork. Then there was dinner and hanging out with the boys. It wasnt what she wanted and she felt like she was signing her soul away, but it was the best she could do. Now all she had to do was get back home and wait for the explanations. This is the last one, I swear.
Laura looked around at the opulent hotel room and realized that everything had changed again. Picking up the phone she dialed the newsrooms direct line figuring that it was just before nine there. Henry, the Executive Producer and third in command, answered the phone. Surprised to hear her voice he started with his usual list of complaints. The EP had uncanny news sense, but working with him was difficult to say the least.
"Well, Chris Hanson got herself stuck in an elevator today for some six hours, so we were short handed and the IFB in Live 2 is still acting up. I hope youre not holding us to two live shots per newscast until that little mess is straightened out, plus "
"Henry," Laura interrupted, proud of herself for not voicing too much alarm. "Is Chris all right?"
"Of course shes fine. They didnt even singe her with the blowtorch."
"Henry " Lauras voice growled in warning.
"Hey, I was kidding. Art scheduled a station meeting for ten oclock tomorrow morning. Know anything about that?"
"No." Laura lied. She thought about asking for Chris pager number and decided against it, still trying to maintain some semblance of discretion. "Just checking in. Tell Keith I called."
"Mm Hm. I will." Laura could hear the clatter of his keyboard as he hung up, knowing that there was a fifty-fifty chance of the message being delivered. The aching need to talk to Chris was almost unbearable so she played a game with her self-control and forced herself not to want. Im pressing. She has her own life Probably went out with Kate or something. Miserable, Laura continued to brood. I hope this works because I dont have any more cards left to play.
Rust was supposed to be a good color for Chris and certainly the new outfit was exquisitely made, but the heels on the new shoes were a little high for her taste and not really practical for a working reporter. Still, she couldnt fault Martis clothes judgement. It ought to be nice for what it cost. She straightened the collar of the silk blouse and checked the mirror one last time. Still no word from Laura and Chris was starting to get concerned. Rummaging through the jewelry box on her dresser for her favorite hoop earrings her eye was caught by the golf ball that the News Director had pressed into her hands after the remarkable shot on 17. Picking it up, she looked at it as if seeing it for the first time. Laura had used a permanent black pen to mark it boldly as her own to ensure against hitting someone elses ball. From office memos and notes she recognized the familiar scrawl. Just Kaz. Thats all.
For a minute she rolled the ball between her thumb and middle finger remembering the shot, the hurt, and the sudden elation when it went in. Its what she always does She makes the impossible possible and brings us all along for the ride. If they cant appreciate that in Dallas, they dont deserve to have her back. Without really knowing why, she carried the ball with her like a talisman and dropped it into her briefcase. The earrings went on next and then she was out the door.
The darkened News Directors office cast a shadow over the newsroom and added to the fitful air. The morning meeting served its purpose of clearing the table of news issues as the entire staff waited for the station meeting. For a change the newsroom was quiet except for the ceaseless crackle of the scanners. Chris hung up the phone, her contact on a city construction project that was in danger of a lawsuit refused to talk on camera and she was effectively back to square one. She heard a noise behind her and looked up as Keith rolled his chair closer. "Have you heard anything?" he asked softly.
"No, she didnt call." Chris tried to feign nonchalance but failed miserably.
"Henry said she called about nine last night but didnt leave a message." His eyes were worried as he glanced at the door to Lauras office. "This meeting "
"I dont know. They could send her back. Its complicated." Nervously she tapped on the desk. "Cmon, they set up chairs in the studio. Lets get this over with.
Laura took a cab from the airport. Chris had dropped her off the day before, hugging the taller woman fiercely before releasing her into the crowded terminal and Laura had carried the memory with her to Atlanta, but now she was missing the real thing. I could just bury my face in her neck and stay there forever. Ah Chris. Not much longer. She checked her watch; it was a little before ten. Should be right on time.
The taxi dropped her off at the front and she entered the building through the front door for only the second time. Ever since the day of her interview she had entered the building through the back door. With new eyes she looked around the attractive lobby with its potted plants and bank of talent portraits, settling on the photograph of the Six Oclock Anchor. Doesnt even come close to the real thing. The receptionist buzzed her through and she strode down the vacant hall and sales area to the double doors of the studio. Noiselessly she slipped inside and took her place along the back wall with the rest of the department heads. Mark Wilson, the General Sales manager looked over at her with open hostility. He knows, Laura thought, and hes pissed.
Art was saying something about the book and she listened with half an ear as she scanned the mass of employees looking for a pale blonde head. She felt an immediate sense of relief when Keith leaned forward and she saw Chris sitting beside the Managing Editor. Were good to go now. She let out the breath shed been holding and dipped her hands in her pockets.
"Thanks to everyones hard work, we are going to have a fourth quarter to remember." Art was on a roll now, his enthusiasm making him a better public speaker than Laura thought possible. "And this book is just what we need to establish ourselves as the dominant station in this market." At that point Arts eyes met Lauras and she gave a brief nod. "I almost wish I was going to be here to see it." The GM smiled ruefully and waited for his comment to sink in. "I have an opportunity to take over as General Manager at KDAL in Dallas. Its something that Ive wanted for a long time, and Im really excited about it."
Chris and Keith looked at each other in disbelief, their thoughts identical. Hes taking Kaz with him. It was real panic for Chris now and it was all she could do to keep from bolting. No! She promised!
"Which leaves us with the matter of my replacement. You have no idea how lucky you are." Art looked to the back of the room and gave a slight wave.
"Kaz, Its all yours.
When things happen in television they happen very quickly. Art didnt have much to move out of his office so the transition was slated to happen that afternoon. In keeping with the philosophy of never bringing more into a television station than you can carry out in one box running, his personal belongings packed up into a little over two boxes. Laura inherited his executive assistant, the dark cherry furniture, white carpet and the big leather chair. Laura looked around and wondered how long she had to graciously wait before she could change the décor. Art handed her the keys to the office and shook her hand briefly. "I start day after tomorrow. Everything okay back there?" He jerked his head in the direction of the newsroom.
"It will be. Its not like Im gone."
Art looked around his office one last time and then turned back to the new GM. "I know we havent always seen eye to eye Kaz, but I wish you the very best."
"Right back at you." Laura smiled at the shorter GM. "Dallas wont be easy you know. Brian had to fight every single day."
Art nodded. "I know, but I hope Ill be at least as successful as you were."
One eyebrow arched. "I wouldnt wish that kind of failure on myself if I were you."
"You didnt fail Kaz. It got you here, didnt it?"
Laura didnt even need a box. Most everything she wanted to take with her went into her briefcase and she snapped the leather flap shut. Its just another job in a familiar place. How hard can it be?
"Am I ready for this?" Keith stood in the doorway watching as she packed up her career as a news director.
She looked at him wishing that she could impart some knowledge that would make it easier and spare him some of the frustration that she had suffered through. "No one is ever ready for this. I wasnt." She picked up the key to the news directors office and handed it to him. "I was younger than you when I took over in Dallas. Now Im the youngest GM in the country. Its gonna be hard for both of us It always is when the number two guy takes over the number one spot. Youll be a good News Director. I have no doubts."
Keith looked at the brass key gleaming dully in his hand. "Thanks. I know you went to bat for me."
Laura smiled uncomfortably. "This is where I tell you that Ive been a news director and I cant be one anymore." She swallowed against a pain she never thought shed feel. It should be relief. I dont want to miss it. "Im going to have enough trouble learning everything I need to know to be a GM than to " He looks so scared. Did I look like that? Do I look like that now? "What Im trying to say is that Ill help, but its not my newsroom anymore."
Keith didnt say anything; he just nodded and didnt meet her eyes.
"I wouldnt set you up to fail, Keith." She said softly. "Is Chris around?"
"Ah, no," he swallowed. "Out on a story. Is that going to be an issue? My being her boss now?"
"Was it before?" Laura asked.
"Status quo then. Im taking the rest of the day. Its your show, enjoy it."
Chris knew shed be there waiting on the swing instead of steps but the meaning was the same. Laura had changed into Khaki shorts and was drinking Coke from a small glass bottle like the ones that came out of vending machines a long time ago. "I met your neighbor. He was worried about the strange woman sitting on your porch. We talked about golf and his terrible hook. Is it okay if he comes out to play at my club sometime?"
Chris felt a hitch in her breathing and bit her lower lip to keep it from trembling before she answered. "You just take over the world and then show up at my house asking if my neighbor can come out and play?"
Uncertain, Laura blurted out the first thing that came to mind. "I called. No one answered; the machine didnt pick up. I shouldve paged you but I didnt want to seem " She shook her head, searching for a single word that meant shed given up all pretense of being a loner and was afraid
of grabbing on to someone else. "Dependant," she finished lamely then took it back. "I dont think thats what I meant."
"What did you mean?" Chris asked.
"I meant that I would have done anything to come back because you asked me. I cant imagine my life without you anymore and Im scared because I really dont know...where we stand. Im the GM now, it makes things easier and harder. The golf makes me more public too, and its going to get worse."
"What about the deal with your Dad?"
"I guess I can thank Charles for shooting off his mouth again." Wryly Laura shrugged. "He wanted me to make a difference in the way television news was done. I can do that from the big chair. It isnt breaking my word."
"And in three years?"
"I walk away."
Chris rummaged in her briefcase, retrieved something, and then dropped the leather case before sinking down on the swing. "Here." She held out the golf ball. "You left this with me."
"Oh that." Laura shook her head. "If the putt had gone in it mightve been worth something." She took it from Chris and ran her thumb over the dimpled surface. "It was the one time in my life when I had to be perfect " She breathed a short laugh. "And I was."
"You were perfect for four days. Not a single bogey."
"No Chris, not perfect. Its kind of like the difference between a no hitter and a perfect game. Flawless maybe, but not perfect." The dark haired woman looked away.
Chris closed her eyes. The impossible, possible and we all come along for the ride.
"Have you ever known something to be true for so long you just took it for granted?" She asked the question in a voice a little louder than a whisper.
"I dont think so."
"Hmm." Chris reached for Lauras hand and laced their fingers together. "This is as much of a public display of affection that we can indulge in here, but I can tell you that I love you. I can say that a million times a day and it wont even come close to expressing how much I feel the actual fact pardon the newspeak." She fastened on Lauras eyes and her lips turned up in a sweet lopsided smile. "I love you, and we dont need to keep score."
Laura could smell Chris perfume and it was scrambling her senses. "I want us to have a life, and I dont know how. This is one thing I cant plan for."
"Did you ever think of just winging it?" Chris tucked one leg under her
"It may come as a surprise but Ive been winging it since the first day I saw you with that wrecked news unit."
Chris chuckled as she looked out over her yard. "We could plant some big ol privacy hedges here so we could neck on the swing."
"You are obsessed with necking."
"But its such a nice neck." Chris sobered and looked down at their joined hands. "We can make this work, but no secrets, no re-thinking and no running away."
"But what happens tomorrow?"
"We deal with it."
Laura rolled her eyes, "Yeah, but with your luck "
Chris smiled. "Anything could happen."
Thats it. Thanks for reading. Gonna be a sequel but Ive got to get through November sweeps first. I can tell you that the transition from News Director to GM is going to be difficult, network opportunities do not go away and introverts make lousy celebrities.
Comments welcome! Let me know what you think.
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