Chapter 1: Season's Greetings
She slowly opened her eyes, and then just as quickly shut them. She groaned softly into the pillow. This is not the way Christmas is supposed to be. Christmas was for family and friends and that someone special. To be alone on Christmas Day in a New York apartment, far from home, was the going to be the hardest thing that she ever had to endure. All because of a deadline.
Andie rolled over onto her back. Tears started and she silently let them roll down her cheeks. Instinctively she stretched her hand out to the other side of the bed, knowing that he wouldn't be there. He hadn't been there for six weeks and he would never be there again. Just the thought of him made the tears flow harder.
She rolled onto her side and pushed her face hard into the pillow and let the tears come. Damn his job... damn her job too. His job was so important to him; let him sleep with the damn job.
Paul was the best sales engineer in his company. His company quickly recognized his abilities and made him the troubleshooter for the really tough projects that seemed about to head for the crapper. Paul always seemed to be able to save the project. For that reason he was frequently in China, Europe, the Far East or Africa. He would often be gone as long as 60 days. Because he had been a transport pilot in the Air Force, he often piloted the corporate jet on his trips. That way he was not bound to airline schedules.
Andie had put up with his absences for two years. One afternoon, when they were driving in Connecticut, the subject of his travels came up. They had been snipping at each other all day for some reason or other. She couldn't even remember what they were arguing about. He had just gotten back from a 20 day trip to Europe. Paul chastised her for not realizing that he was building for their future and that his travels wouldn't be a problem after his next promotion. Naturally, she snapped back at him that she had spent enough time alone.
The rest of the afternoon they hardly spoke to each other as they drove through the Connecticut country-side. When they stopped for dinner they hardly spoke to each other throughout the meal. Andie's pride wouldn't let her back down and Paul was hurt that she had lashed out at him so he withdrew into himself.
When they got back to New York she pulled away when he tried to kiss her and told him that he had better re-evaluate his priorities. Paul said something unkind, she couldn't remember what he had said, except that it hurt a lot, and she went into her apartment and slammed the door leaving him staring at the door to her apartment.
When he called later that night she told him that she couldn't put up with his long absences any more and that she wanted some time to think. There had been frostiness in her voice that she knew he wouldn't miss.
The next morning she knew that she had made a mistake and that she was sorry for what she had said. She had reached for the phone 10 times that day but her pride wouldn't let her apologize to him. After all, he was partly to blame.
That evening he had called and told her that he had to go to Japan for 10 days, an emergency had come up, and that he wanted to see her before he left. Stupidly, she told him that she was busy and that he should call her when he got back if he felt like it. She snapped at him, saying that she had enough of this part-time relationship. When she hung up the phone she instinctively reached for it to call him back and apologize but she hesitated and decided to make him wait. When she called the next morning she got his answering machine. She didn't leave a message.
When Paul returned from Japan he didn't call until two days after he had returned. When he did call, he asked her if she had calmed down while he was gone and she took it as a slap at her and hung up on him.
As the youngest architect in the firm, the job of presenting the drawings for the office complex fell into her lap. She had been working with the developer for months and it was a slam-dunk that he would approve the drawings. Andie was very thorough and, although the drawings were supposed to be conceptual drawings, the only part of the project really left to design was the electrical and the mechanical systems. Once the developer approved the conceptual drawings she would begin work with the electrical and mechanical engineers.
When she had tried to get a flight that would take her back home to Iowa for the holidays she found that the trip home wasn't a problem but she couldn't get a return flight that would allow her to get back to New York in time for the meeting with the developer. It seemed that many other people had the same schedule.
She had tried to get the meeting rescheduled, but for construction to start in the spring, much more work on the design had to be done. The chief architect gave her the "teamwork" speech and told her that this was one of the most important projects in the works and that he needed her to sell this project to the client. Andie knew that this wasn't the most important project they were working on and the only reason that she was going to present it was because everyone else wanted the day after Christmas off.
The phone call to her mother had been hard. She could tell that her mother was heart-broken. She could almost hear the catch in her mother's throat as she talked. This would be Andie's first Christmas away from home. When Andie told her mother goodbye her mother quickly hung up. Andie knew that her mother was crying. She felt empty inside when she hung up the phone. She stared at the phone for a long time; the depression growing inside of her until it felt like ten cinder blocks sitting on her chest.
A bird flew against the window and snapped her out of her reverie. She went to the window and saw the sparrow sitting in the window ledge. Apparently the bird was just stunned because it flew away when it saw her. She watched until the bird was out of site and then turned and walked into the kitchen.
She took a cup out of the cupboard and reached for the instant coffee. She hated instant coffee but she didn't feel like going to the trouble of fixing a pot of coffee; besides she was the only one in the apartment and most of the coffee would go to waste.
Absent-mindedly she put two heaping teaspoons of instant coffee in the cup and filled the cup with hot water from the InstaHot. She looked out of the kitchen window, stirring the coffee. She continued stirring while her mind wandered to the last day they were together. She took a sip of the coffee and grimaced and ran to the sink and spit out the acrid brew into the sink. It immediately dawned on her what she had done. She normally used one slightly rounded spoon of instant coffee on the rare occasions that she did use instant.
Andie put her hands on the sink and lowered her head and let the tears flow. She knew that she wasn't functioning right and she knew that she had to get her head screwed on right before the meeting tomorrow. That's all she had to do was kill a project that was supposed to be a slam dunk.
When there were no more tears left she turned and walked into her bedroom. She pulled a clean set of fleece pants and sweat shirt. She wouldn't be going anywhere today. The fleece would be good enough to lounge around the apartment. Not the sexiest attire but who cares?
She turned the shower on as hot as she could stand it. She let the water cascade over her body for a while before she began to wash herself. The phone rang and she listened and her answering machine greeting droning on. She didn't hear anyone leave a message so she figured that it was one of her friends. A couple of her girlfriends had been hovering around her since her breakup with Paul, being very thoughtful as they listened to her pour out her heart. Each of them told her that she had to start dating again and get on with her life. Andie knew that she would remember and pine for Paul the rest of her life.
The phone rang again and Andie turned off the water. She knew that it was her mother checking up on her, trying to cheer her up on this first Christmas away from home. She dreaded having to call her mother back; Andie didn't know if she could hold the tears back. If she started crying her mother would start crying and that would spoil her Christmas too. As she dried herself off she found her self wondering what Paul was doing. When the thought came to her that he might be with a new girlfriend she felt as if someone had slapped her across the face. She knew that she was being silly but she didn't want to think of him with anyone else, it hurt too much.
She slipped into the bedroom and put on the sweat suit and slippers and walked into the living room. As she passed the answering machine she saw that there were two messages on the machine. As she reached for the button to retrieve the messages she paused; she just didn't want to talk to her mother just yet. Maybe a little later she could talk to her without tears.
Andie sat down at the kitchen table and turned on the TV. The announcers were talking about how the airlines were booked with travelers going home for the holidays and how the roads were going to be packed when everyone tried to get home. She didn't need to be reminded about not being able to get home for Christmas so she turned off the TV.
The phone rang again and Andie listened as the greeting played. Whoever called hung up without leaving a message. She stared into the living room at the answering machine. The silence of the apartment was becoming extremely loud and Andie looked around for something to get her mind off of being alone.
.... There is more of this story ...