***Author’s note*** as with all of my stories, this one can be read as a stand-alone; however this one fills in a gap in my Falling Forward story. It’s also related to Falling Apart.
He had outdone himself this time. She thought. The deep red of the dozen roses were all blushing his shame. A brown plush teddy bear sat leaning against the glass vase. Unable to sit on its own, it drooped to the right. Ethan’s guilt was evidenced in the eyes of that teddy bear because despite its sewn on smile, they both knew what happened behind closed doors. The box of chocolates was the sickly sweet icing on the top of the cake she never wanted. Jenny unceremoniously moved the apology to a side table in her office, but not before Evelyn walked in.
“Wow.” Evelyn said. “Someone loves you. What’s the special occasion?”
“Oh, it’s nothing. We fought last night and now he feels bad.”
“I see.” Evelyn responded. Her eyes briefly cast downward, pondering what to say next. “I wish my boyfriend apologized like that.”
Except Evelyn didn’t know the whole truth, and there wouldn’t be a jealous glint in her eyes if she did.
“Are you okay?” Evelyn asked.
Jenny had meant to sit in her chair, but had almost passed out into it instead.
“I’m fine, I’m just klutzy.”
Evelyn rounded Jenny’s desk. She stood next to Jenny. Her hands were on her hips authoritatively.
“You don’t look so good.” Evelyn placed the back of her hand on Jenny’s forehead. “Hmm, you don’t feel warm.”
“I’m fine, “Dr. Wheeler,” thanks.” Jenny was slightly annoyed, but she couldn’t help but chuckle.
“Funny you should say that, my bro-“
“Evie, don’t push it. Seriously, I’m fine.” Jenny snapped.
“Sorry.” Evelyn backed away and moved toward the door.
“No, I’m sorry.” Jenny sighed. “I’m just upset from the fight still.”
“Well, I’m not going anywhere, if and when you’re ready to talk about it.”
“Thanks Evie. You’re too good to me. Could you shut my door? I’m not feeling very talkative today.”
Evelyn complied with the request.
It was oddly quiet with her door shut. Normally Jenny would relish in conversations with her colleagues, but today she couldn’t put two sentences together. A few of her clients had called and she barely managed to keep up. If one more of them said, “I think I’m going to hire a real attorney,” Jenny would have thrown in the towel. Her to-do list was getting longer, and she hadn’t made any progress in two hours. It was then that Jenny heard a soft knock on her door. Thinking it was one of her co-workers, Jenny said, “Come in.” When Ethan walked through the door instead, Jenny quivered. She plastered a smile on her face. He walked inside and shut the door.
“Babe! What are you doing here?”
“Hi love, did you like my gift?” He answered her question with a question.
“I did. It’s beautiful.”
“The chocolates are your favorite.”
“Yes, babe, I love them.”
Ethan spotted the gift on the side table. He picked up the bear and moved its head as he spoke in a child’s voice. “Jenny, Ethan’s sorry. Please forgive him. He wants to take you to lunch.”
“Teddy you can tell Ethan that I know he’s sorry. I will forgive him, but he’s not out of the doghouse yet.” She patted its head.
Then, she looked at Ethan. “Babe, I want to do lunch, but I need a rain check. I have to go to court soon.”
Teddy’s head dropped.
“Aw don’t be sad. I’ll go to lunch tomorrow, Teddy. I promise.”
“Okay, love.” Ethan responded. He leaned in and kissed her on the lips. A light bulb switched on in his head. “How about we do dinner out, then?”
“Actually, Ethan, I have to get my tetanus shot after work, remember?”
“Jenny, you’re fine. You don’t need it. You’re not going to get tetanus. Besides, doctors are nosy. All they do is prod, poke, and pry.”
“There won’t be any prodding or prying. It’ll be one poke, and it’ll probably be a nurse that does it anyway. I’d rather be safe than sorry, babe. Did you see the amount of rust on the nail?” She said.
Jenny’s thoughts wandered.
The rusty nail had been hidden amongst the rubble. The sole of Jenny’s dress pumps were no match for it. Jenny had walked into the new house calling hello to Ethan. When he came into the room she went to hug him, but felt a sharp pain in her foot instead. She hobbled over to a chair. Ethan gently removed her shoe to reveal a nail jammed into the soft arch of Jenny’s foot. Blood was dripping from the site. Ethan ran out to his car and came back inside with a first aid kit. Jenny was panicked, but Ethan was calm. He soothed her. Being no medical expert, Ethan pulled out the nail. More blood spilled, and for a moment they both regretted his decision. Ethan used some gauze and pressed firmly on the wound. Eventually the bleeding slowed, and Ethan cleaned the injury and wrapped Jenny’s foot. After he washed his hands, he hugged Jenny from behind and rubbed her shoulders. He picked her up in a fireman’s carry and brought her to a bedroom that was missing a bed, but was safe with no nails. When they were finished, the house had been christened.
“It’s one poke too many, Jenny.” Ethan’s voice brought Jenny back to the present. “We never spend any time together. If you’re so worried, just get poked tomorrow.”
“I’ve already booked my appointment for today.” This time, Jenny’s voice was stern.
“Stop making excuses!” Ethan kept his voice low, but his tone was biting.
“I’m not trying to hurt you.” Jenny responded.
“Bullshit! Of course you are. You don’t care about me!”
“I do! I promise, Ethan.”
Ethan’s giant hands clasped Jenny’s upper arms. Teddy fell to the floor. Ethan’s eyes bore into Jenny’s but he didn’t move.
“Are you okay?” He asked.
Ethan’s sudden concern confused Jenny. “I…I’m...fine.’
“You don’t look so good.”
“Well then, I’m leaving, so last chance to come to dinner with me.” He was testing her.
“You know my answer.” She said.
“Don’t bother coming home tonight then!” He let go of Jenny, and knocked the vase off the table before storming out. Jenny wasn’t naïve enough to think Ethan’s apology was anything more than a gesture; however, Jenny was still amazed at how swiftly his apology was rescinded.
Jenny jumped as the glass shattered sending shards and water everywhere. The roses lay limp on the floor. Jenny’s colleagues came rushing in.
“What happened?” They said.
Jenny had fallen to her knees. “It’s no big deal. I was moving the vase and it slipped.”
Evelyn helped Jenny to her feet. “Jenny, let us clean that up. Come relax in my office.”
“No. It’s my mess. I’ll clean it.”
“You will do no such thing.” Evelyn gently guided Jenny to her office.
“Thanks, but I have to go to court soon.”
“Shhh. Don’t worry about that. I’ll get someone else to cover.” Evelyn reassured Jenny.
Jenny spent the rest of the day with Evelyn, and at the end of the day, although Jenny didn’t want to go, she hailed a taxi to the clinic.