Back on the usual schedule this week! Here’s an extra long excerpt if you haven’t read the community perks yet. If you have… well, here’s another piece of the part 12 puzzle. 😉
Have a great Wednesday,
Mary’s weekend had flown by.
She had wanted Karen to have the day off on Saturday and so she’d taken her shift. It was only fair since Karen had to put in extra time while Mary would be in Washington this week.
Yesterday, on Sunday, Mary had slept until 9 a.m. She rarely slept that long and had woken up feeling groggy. Around 10, her grandma had knocked on the door and asked if she was up for a stroll in the park.
It was still frisky outside, but the first signs of spring had lifted Mary’s spirit within minutes. Elza had chatted on about the French class she was considering taking. Mary had only been too happy to talk about her grandmother’s latest projects.
She had purposefully avoided discussing her own life. Especially her work life and Lex Emsworth. Now that Monday morning had arrived, Mary had no choice but to face reality.
She was supposed to meet Lex at the train station in less than 90 minutes.
Looking in the mirror, she wrinkled her nose at the thought. “No! You’re going to do the best you can,” she reprimanded herself. “No whining!”
She repeated that last phrase a few times while checking her hair in the mirror. “No more whining,” she whispered and nodded, satisfied with her resolve, and her hair.
She looked pretty okay today, Mary decided. The navy blue of her sweater suited her well. The boyfriend-style jeans she had picked for the train ride were casual and well-worn. Her sneakers were a brand-new pair of red Chucks.
“I bet Lex shows up in a suit,” Mary thought, snorting. “A dark one.”
She raised an eyebrow at her reflection before turning away from the mirror. She had promised herself she would stop making assumptions about Lex. And the best way to do that was to not think about her at all.
Unfortunately, that had proven to be a difficult task. Lex Emsworth had a way of popping up in her mind at the most ridiculous moments. At first, Mary’s musings about Lex had been mostly work-related.
But when she had seen a couple stroll by in Central Park yesterday, Mary had suddenly wondered who Lex was dating. Was it one of those square-jawed men with aviation glasses like the specimen in the park?
“Or maybe she’s single,” Mary had considered. That actually made a lot more sense. Lex seemed like the workaholic type, right? The only reason she had stopped thinking about Lex’s love life was her grandmother.
“What are you thinking about? You’re frowning a lot,” Elza had asked as they strolled out of the park.
Mary hadn’t told her grandmother the truth, of course. She had also sworn that she would stop this madness right there and then. She didn’t care about Lex after all. All she cared about was the future of the store. Period.
Oh, but who had she been kidding? Mary had thought about Lex all evening. How annoying she was. How arrogant. How spoiled. And here she was doing it again. Thinking about what Lex would be wearing was definitely a new low.
“Get over it,” Mary hissed at herself while hurrying into the bedroom. Her carry-on suitcase was waiting on the bed. She tucked her toiletries bag inside and closed the lid. She was ready to go.
A quick glance at her phone told her she had 10 minutes left before she had to leave. Mary pursed her lips. She was itchy and impatient but didn’t want to get to the train station before Lex.
She mindlessly strolled around her basement apartment and checked things she had already checked. Not a single lamp was turned on. She had unplugged her computer. Her fridge was closed and the oven really was off.
Mary finally lifted her suitcase off of the bed and pulled it to the hallway. There, she put her winter coat on, but left her wool hat on the shelf. She didn’t want to ruin her hair and it wasn’t that cold anymore.
After a final check of the zippers of her bag, all of which were pulled up, she carried it outside. She locked her door and went on her way. Her first stop was Willy’s. Mary wasn’t going anywhere without a good espresso first.*
It was very busy at the train station. Mary had no problem finding Lex. She stood in the middle of the station’s huge hall, leaning on the handle of her black carry-on suitcase.
Lex looked extremely confident and relaxed. If the train station was a busy hive, Lex Emsworth was its queen bee. She didn’t seem bothered by the noise or the people racing past her to catch a train.
Mary blew out a breath and pulled her own suitcase in Lex’s direction. She made her way through commuters, most of whom were glued to their screens, and groups of tourists, who were taking endless pictures.
When Mary was about ten steps away, Lex spotted her and straightened. Her gaze went up and down Mary’s body. Mary bristled, but then did her own quick inspection of Lex’s appearance.
Well, she was not wearing a suit. Lex was in one of her casual outfits. It looked like it cost over two months’ rent for Mary. Her jeans and sweater screamed designer. Her ever-present leather jacket accentuated her curves perfectly.
“Good morning,” Mary said as she came to a halt near Lex, glancing down at Lex’s sneakers. Even those were from a fancy brand, Mary saw.
“Morning,” Lex replied and ran a hand through her short hair. Why did it always look perfect?
“Wanna grab some coffee before we find the platform?” Mary suggested, eager to have something to do.
“Sure,” Lex agreed, “Good idea.”
Mary pointed at a small coffee stand in the corner of the large hallway. “I prefer their coffee over Starbucks.”
“That’s fine,” Lex shrugged.
Mary quickly pulled her carry-on to the coffee stand without looking back. She desperately needed another espresso before getting on the train for three hours. Once she had made it through the hall, she unzipped a small pocket of her suitcase and took out her wallet.
“Want something?” she asked Lex.
“Eh, Americano, small size, please,” Lex replied politely, padding her jacket.
It was the ‘please’ that made Mary uncomfortable. Why was Lex so friendly all of a sudden? It was disconcerting.
She nodded, “Alright, one small Americano coming up. My treat.”
Before she could turn to the employee behind the counter, Lex said, “Thanks! Eh, Mary?”
Mary instantly felt the little hairs on her arms rise. It was something in Lex’s tone that did it. Had she ever heard Lex say her name without a hint of anger or frustration before? She gave her a questioning look.
Lex’s eyes were darting in all directions and she was wringing her hands now. The queen bee air of arrogance had evaporated entirely.
“I want to apologize,” she croaked.
Mary’s jaw dropped. “What for?” she asked.
Lex gritted her teeth. Was she frustrated that Mary was making this even more difficult for her? Mary was doing no such thing. She honestly had no idea what Lex was trying to make up for.
“For what I said,” Lex reluctantly added. “In your office.”
“Oh,” was all Mary could say. She felt her own cheeks starting to burn. Who on earth apologized in the middle of a busy train station for something that had happened days ago?!
She pointed at the coffee stand. “I should order.”
Lex crossed her arms and sniffed nervously. “Yeah, of course.”
Mary was still frowning when she turned around. The girl working at the coffee stand had placed both of her elbows on the counter, staring at them with an expression that was both amused and snotty.
“An espresso and a small Americano, please,” Mary ordered, wanting to wipe the smile off of her face.
The blonde twenty-something pushed herself up slowly and popped some gum in her mouth before she got to work. Mary felt Lex’s gaze burn on her back. She tucked her hands in her pockets and stared at her feet.
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