My cell rang as I was rushing down Broadway, I was late for an appointment with a client who had proven to be as elusive as he was wealthy and I was determined not to let him escape without handing over his rather major account to me. Thinking the person on the other end of the line was the client I answered briskly, my mind already working on rebuttals to any delays he might have to offer up.
Instead of the client my sister Leah spoke, “Rachel you have got to come help me for a few weeks.”
I groaned inwardly, Leah was always in the middle of some crisis or another and it always seemed that somehow or another it always became my problem. “I’m sorry Leah, I can’t come up right now I have work and my apartment is being remodeled, if I leave the contractor will rob me blind…”
“Please Rachel, please help me.”
I closed her eyes for a second and nearly ran over a slow footed tourist who was peering into the windows of a trendy clothing store. I hated being manipulated, and I knew that was exactly what Leah was doing.
“Leah I am really, really busy.”
My words were met by a stony silence followed by a decisive click. Sighing I stuffed the phone back into my bag and ducked into the restaurant to meet my client.
Two days later I was soaking in the tub when the cell rang again and Leah’s number showed on the screen. I was tempted not to answer, I was certain that Leah had not resolved the dilemma that had caused her to call me in the first place and I didn’t want to argue or be put on a guilt trip. When the ringing didn’t cease, however, I gave in.
“Hello Leah,” I didn’t try to disguise the mild irritation in my voice. “How have you been?”
“I’m fine,” the sulkiness was at a low boil but there. “I was just calling you back, we got disconnected somehow.”
I wanted to say, it was two days ago and you hung up on me but I didn’t. I knew that was a large part of the problem. As kids, Leah and I had been taught never to say when things were wrong and we had taken that into our adult lives.
A long sigh sounded over the line and I wondered if it would be safe or worth it to just drop the phone in the water. I could call her back in a week or so and say, ‘hey here is my new number’ and by then whatever was wrong would have blown over but instead I gritted my teeth and asked, “What’s wrong?”
“What’s wrong with him?’
“He’s Logan,” Leah said and the sulkiness was at full boil then, “I need some time and space Rachel, you have no idea of what it is like to be married, to have to deal with the house and kids and him all day long!”
I said nothing to that; I had never married simply because I didn’t want the responsibility of a family. I had raised the much younger Leah for several years after our parents had died in a car wreck and that experience, coming so young and on the heels of such personal tragedy, had left me marked. I had had to work in order to support myself and Leah so I had to put my plans for college on hold. I had been twenty four before I had been able to start college courses and I had pursued my education, and then my career, with a determination born of the knowledge that I was starting later than other people did.
My ambition had grown with every year and as my salary increased so had my goals. The titles on my door had changed over the years and I had the well-earned reputation of being a barracuda in the boardroom. I did not know what marriage and kids were like, and I had no intention or desire to find out either.
Leah’s venting took a different turn so abruptly that my attention was yanked back to her words almost involuntarily. “I know if he catches me he will kill me,” Leah said in a breathy little whisper, “You don’t know how bad his temper has gotten. You have to come help me!”
I sat up, the cold air hit my water warmed shoulder and nipples, causing shivers and gooseflesh to break out on my skin. “Wait, you want me to come up there and help you cheat on your husband?”
“Oh don’t go all sanctimonious on me,” Leah shot back, “I seem to remember you sleeping with your boss, who was married, to get a raise.”
Stung, I did not reply at first, when I did, my voice was thin with anger, “Leah I am not, repeat not, coming up there to help you cheat on Logan. Forget about it.”
“I need you to come up here to help me break up with the man I’m having an affair with.”
“Yeah, see I’m afraid he will get mad and tell Logan, if he does Logan may get violent.”
“You’re living dangerously these days.” I said dryly.
“I have to tell you it’s been a lot of fun.”
It was the wistfulness in my sister’s voice that put the largest dent in my determination not to get involved in another of her messes. “I can’t stay a few weeks Leah, I can manage a weekend. I have a career that is always in jeopardy, I’m only ever as good as my last accomplishment and there are always new people being hired.”
“Thanks so much!” Leah said fervently, “You have no idea how much I need you here!”
I hung up and laid back down in the grown cold tub, “I’m going to really regret this,” I said to the ceiling and closed my eyes.
Instantly Logan’s face and form swam into view. He was a good looking man with black hair that fell in thick waves over his high forehead, piercing blue eyes, a set of full and sensual lips and a lean long body that filled out a pair of jeans and faded tee shirt so well that women often turned around to stare as he walked past.
I had stopped going to my sister’s house a year or so before. It had occurred to me at that time that I was incredibly attracted to Logan; he had that broody bad boy poet thing down. He was, in fact, a poet and one who was well renowned. He wrote passionate, volatile verse and incredibly vivid horror novels, the novels were the family’s main income but Leah worked too, she held down a part- time job as a bank teller. I wondered if she were having an affair with someone she worked with. I imagined that she was, Leah didn’t get along with many of the people Logan socialized with and she didn’t go out too much otherwise.
Pulling up in front of the large two story house that Leah shared with her husband and two small children I felt an undeniable impulse to tell the cabdriver to forget it, to take me back to the train station. I didn’t, I tipped the surly man generously even though he tossed my designer label luggage to the curb then pasted a smile on my face as the door opened and Leah strolled out into the early summer sunshine.
“You look good,” I said. Leah did, her normally brown hair gleamed with high and low lights that had never been there before and her skin had a youthful glow to it. The jeans she wore flattered her trimmer figure, and they sat a little more snugly against her crotch and ass than the ones she had worn in the past.
Maybe I should have an affair, I thought ruefully as I surveyed the cockier walk that twisted Leah’s hips all the way to the house, it might do me some good.
The house was as cluttered and noisy as ever. The twins were seven and the baby, Jessica, was four. Toys littered the front hallway and stairs, a skateboard hung over a step, poised to trip anyone who accidentally stepped on it.