Did that stop him? No, of course not.
“Come on, man. You have a fight? It was bound to happen eventually. Tell Dr. Carlos about it. I’ll get you all fixed up.”
Drew couldn’t take it anymore. He’d slept like shit, because of the rum and the pizza and the absence of Alexa’s soft, welcoming body next to him, his stomach was full of nothing but strong coffee, he had the worst possible taste in his mouth, and Carlos apparently wasn’t getting the message that he didn’t fucking want to talk about it. He pushed himself up from his desk, and his chair slammed back against the wall behind him.
“I SAID, leave it alone.”
He threw open his office door, ignored the stunned look on Carlos’s face, and walked out of the hospital to his car. He had thirty minutes before his next patient; that was enough time to eat something disgusting and terrible for him.
Alexa walked into City Hall bright and early Tuesday morning. She’d been up since four, so at five thirty she’d given up on more sleep and had gotten ready for work.
At least she hadn’t dreamed about Drew, though her anxiety dreams all had very loud Drew subtext. Awake, he was never far from her thoughts. She kept thinking of what he would say about her presentation, if he’d thought about her at all, the look on his face when they’d made love that last time, the way he always held her as they slept. It was a lot easier to think about work.
She brought a carafe of coffee and a box of doughnuts into the office, along with a bag of doughnut holes. She ate the doughnut holes all morning while catching up on email and expense reports, and got so absorbed in the mindlessness of it that she jumped when Sloane exclaimed from her office doorway. “You brought doughnuts, thank GOD.” Sloane walked in and popped open the box. “Wait, all dozen are still here? You haven’t had one yet?”
If she hadn’t bought herself the bag of doughnut holes, she would have demolished the entire box of doughnuts before anyone else had gotten there.
Theo walked in right behind Sloane and dove into the doughnut box. He came up with the maple bar that she’d gotten for him.
“You’re a queen among women, Lex.”
“She is, isn’t she?” Sloane picked up the box. “Want me to bring this out to my desk? Need more coffee?” Alexa nodded to both questions. Theo dropped into her office chair as soon as Sloane left.
“Got your email last night. Did you see mine?”
She nodded. She’d seen it at four this morning when she’d woken up and checked her phone. They talked city council strategy as they drank coffee and ate their doughnuts, and argued about whether they could count on Councilman Goode to be on their side or not. The conversation soothed her. This she knew how to do. This she was good at.
Theo reached for her bag of doughnut holes.
“Hey, how was your weekend in L.A.?”
She shook her head. If she said anything to Theo, she might break down again, and work was the last place she wanted to do that.
Well, the last place was probably Drew’s bed at one in the morning with him there to witness it, but work was second to that.
“Oh no, what happened?” Theo asked.
She shook her head again before he could finish his sentence. He reached for her hand and squeezed it. She squeezed back and let go.
“I can’t, Teddy. Maybe later.”
“Okay. But you know that if you ever want to talk . . .”
She nodded down into her coffee. Yes, she did know.
Theo took a deep breath. “Okay, onto another topic that may also be sensitive: have you talked to Olivia about any of the TARP stuff yet?”
Alexa looked up from her coffee. Theo was one of the only other people who knew about the history with Olivia. She’d told him all about it on a drunken night last year, right after they’d both had a terrible day at work and when she was already anxious about Olivia coming to visit that weekend.
“What? No, why?”
He sat back in the chair, crossed his legs and uncrossed them, and sat up again.
“You don’t have to, of course. But I know we talked a while ago about how she might have some ideas that we hadn’t thought of.”
She started to interrupt, but he kept going.
“And also . . . we have all of those personal stories from people who went through programs like this and turned their lives around, and I thought maybe Olivia might be willing to write something up for us, or . . .”
Alexa looked down into her coffee again, gazing into the dark brown liquid like it was Dumbledore’s Pensieve. She knew Theo too well to be fooled by this. He was just making up reasons for her to talk to Olivia about TARP. But maybe he was right?
“I never thought of that,” she said, not looking up at Theo.
He stood up and walked toward her office door.
“You don’t have to, of course. But . . . maybe you want to? I think she’d be pleased to hear you’re doing this. I bet she’d be pretty touched.”
Alexa looked up at him, the tears threatening again.
“Somebody . . . somebody else said that, too. Maybe I will.”
Theo’s eyebrows went up.
“You told . . .” She looked down at her desk, and his voice trailed away. After a minute, he said, “Think about it. It might be good for you to talk to her about it.”
She’d think about it. Maybe Drew had been right about this. Damn him.
Theo was halfway through her office door before she stopped him.
He turned around.
“Thanks. For . . . everything.”
Friday after work Drew went home and changed into his running clothes. He ran on the beach for ten miles, trying to exhaust himself so much he didn’t think about Alexa, and how he should be on a plane to go see her at that very moment. It didn’t work.
The shameful thing was that he’d already bought a ticket to fly up there that weekend. He’d bought it the day before she flew in for the 4th of July weekend, and he hadn’t canceled it yet. He kept thinking he’d hear from her; he’d feel his phone vibrate in his pocket and it would be a text from her. She’d say she was wrong to leave, she’d missed the hell out of him all week just like he’d missed her. And then he would fly up there this weekend, and . . . but that hadn’t happened.
So he’d canceled his flight right before leaving the office, and now he was even grumpier than he’d been all week. Now it truly felt over.
He climbed up the stairs to his apartment after his run, hot and sweaty and irritable, but no longer in the kind of mood where he would knock over small children in his path. That mood had been kind of inconvenient for a pediatrician.
He pulled his house key out of the pocket in his running shorts, confused by the sound of the TV. It must be his neighbors, though they usually . . . oh no.
“Who the fuck told you to come over?” he said as he opened the door, knowing what he would find. Yep, Carlos sitting on his couch with a beer in his hand.
“Hey, man.” Carlos gestured to the spread on the coffee table. “I brought burgers. And beer.”
Drew looked at the food. His disloyal stomach growled. Okay, fine. He dried his face with a paper towel and opened the fridge for one of Carlos’s beers. This was bribery, but it’s not like he was going to reject beer. Carlos would just have to deal with his sweat; he’s the one who’d barged in uninvited in the first place.
He finished a burger and a beer without them saying much to each other except for grunts at the Dodgers game on the TV. Carlos went back to the kitchen and opened two more bottles. Maybe he’d just come over because he wanted company. Maybe Drew had been ignoring his friends because of Alexa, and Carlos had missed him, and was taking advantage of this Friday night that Drew was in town to hang out, watch baseball, eat burgers, drink beer. Maybe . . .
“All right.” Carlos turned off the TV and set a beer in front of Drew. “How drunk do I have to get you before you tell me why you’ve been scaring the nurses and making your patients cry all week?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Drew downed half the beer. “And that kid always cries—it wasn’t my fault.”
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