“You had better remember to come up for air, there, honey.” The soft, concerned voice said sympathetically, while its owner looked at the dark rings and heavy lids that surrounded the deep blue eyes of Carlotta McBride.
Mary took another sip of her chicory-laced coffee before concluding, “You really need to get him away from your thoughts right now, Car, before you start going nuts. I mean, look at you, you’re halfway there now!”
The morning sun beamed through the large floor-to-ceiling window, reflecting off the white sterile walls that surrounded them in the tiny cubicle that was Carlotta’s working space on the tenth floor of Nadsgrab Enterprises. It was a finance company operated mostly by savvy business women that provided funding, for a fee, to the downtrodden and lower income folks of the New Orleans area.
Open boxes with papers in disarray cluttered the area around filing cabinets that were of the same unkempt disorder, belying the state of Carlotta’s mind.
“I know, honey,” Carlotta shrugged, and weakly told Mary Trombino, her co-worker and closest friend. It was a line repeated for the hundredth time this month. “I’m just worried for him, is all. I just can’t seem to shake the feeling that something is going to happen to him.”
“Yeah, well, you happened to him, and even that didn’t change his ways, did it?”, Mary implored her. “I mean, some things just weren’t meant to be, and you and he are just one of those things.” Mary softened her expression, concern etched deeply in her face; frown lines appeared where there were none. “Do the children know?”
“Mary,” Carlotta began, trying to find the right expression, the right words, “I know that you’re concerned, and I really believe that I’m over him, but I just feel….”
“Look, don’t do this to yourself,” Mary told her, putting down her cup and taking up Carlotta’s hand in her own coffee warmed fingers and squeezing tight. “It’s a done deal, Car…try to forgive him and yourself and move on.” Mary’s tenor changed then as she continued, “How do the kids feel about all this…how much do they know and how much have you told them?”
“To tell the truth, Mary, I haven’t heard from him so much as since I left him!” Carlotta giggled like a schoolgirl as she said this. Her soft eyes taking on a soft glimmer of inner reflection, before saying, “the shoe’s on the other foot, now, and it don’t fit!!!”
“Ouch!” Mary giggled in return, infected by her friend’s apparent change of demeanor. “It’s about time; from what you tell me, this isn’t the first wrong shoe he’s tried on and made himself wear around his world, Car.” Mary told her with soft eyes and a warming smile, her full attention held Carlotta’s eye “And I’m also certain it won’t be his last.”
“But he’s such a little puppy deep down…” Carlotta said, wistfully, the smile on her face becoming slightly strained. Her eyes suddenly shifted away, as though seeing another place - another time. “The kids don’t know anything of Alex’s past; only that he’s gone out of their lives. How could I tell them what he had done? Hell, Mary, I only have come to absorb it all as time has gone by, myself.”
“You know what my mama told me?” Mary said, her face one of concern once more; her hand squeezed Carlotta’s again, regaining her attention. “She told me that stray cats and dogs are just that…They’ll always be lookin’ for a warm place to stay – and leave when the food runs out.”
“Yeah, but I left him…”
“Look, Car…break time’s over…in both cases – I’ve got to get back to work and you’ve got to get over him, Ok?” Mary looked desperately at her before removing her hands. “You only left him because of his past…because he had hurt you so long ago…”
Grabbing her still warm mug, and retrieving her briefcase from the floor beside her, she looked imploringly once more and said, “I’ll meet you out front for lunch and we’ll catch a parade. In the meantime, if you need something to do, I’d suggest you clean up your office, or I’ll have to pull rank on ya’ and I really don’t want to.” With that, she was around the corner and down the hall, blowing her an unseen kiss and saying cheerily, “Luv ya!”
That left Carlotta with her mess and with her thoughts. She decided Mary was right and lent herself to the task at hand. At least she could do something about that which was before her, and was soon busy forgetting, doing her best to put her past in the rearview mirror.