Andrea spent the whole day at work, avoiding Alexis. The days had ticked on and Andrea had not realised how quickly a week could morph into three days. Yet, still Andrea had nothing to do, and still Lucas had not text her with any details for the school play (though Andrea was starting to notice posters around Lansdale town).
Nevertheless, Alexis was as insistent as ever.
Where are you? was her annoyed text at half past one.
Dr. Jenkins room, Andrea texted back, He’s set me a bunch of tasks, mostly involving Mr. Jones. I’m overworked.
Well, at least that was true. She had too much to do. Andrea didn’t like to have so much work towards her birthday, but she, carefully, did not mention that to Alexis.
Andrea was hurrying along to Dr. Jenkins room, conveniently on the opposite side of the building to her own, when she waddled into the reception room and promptly crashed into a familiar lady in a mink coat, scattering light brown patient folders over the linoleum floor.
“Oh, hello,” Andrea replied absentmindedly, dropping to her knees to pick up the folders. Keith’s previous girlfriend bent down and scooped up the few that Andrea missed.
“Thank you. Christine, was it?”
“Yes,” the lady nodded. “I’m here about my mother, and the receptionist told me to wait. I guess you’re not here for me…Andrea.” She narrowed her eyes for a moment. “You’re Keith Murphy’s new girlfriend.”
The awkwardness crackled between them again, but Andrea felt nothing more towards the other woman.
Her folders were hastily shoved back, and Andrea prepared to continue on her way across the building, but something kept her eyes level with Christine’s.
“Why did you break up with him?” Andrea didn’t know why she was asking such a question, but it seemed right in itself.
Christine’s brow furrowed. Andrea saw her eyes flicker down to her left hand, on which sat a large cluster of diamonds in the form of an expensive engagement ring.
“Oh,” she said casually, although Andrea could hear that a list of things left unsaid was arising, “He was boring. Haven’t you noticed how mundane he is when running through life? He’s a rubbish lover- and I mean that less in the literal sense, but more in the sense that he never lent an ear to my problems, and he’s not the type to buy flowers or even do the dishes! Don’t you ever see those times when he’s looking away? When he was with me, Andrea, he was always searching for a better life. Why? Wasn’t I good enough for him? You see, he never will appreciate women.”
Andrea stared at her; Christine’s dark irises stared back.
“He’s changed, Christine.”
“But you don’t love him either.” The lady searched Andrea’s face for any sign of adverse emotion.
Andrea ignored her, though there was that nagging sensation in a part of her brain that told her those words were the truth.
“Bring your mother in for another appointment in two weeks. Dr. Moore is now looking into her deterioration; I’ll just call her and you can sort things out.”
Andrea quickly pressed the button that called Alexis to the front desk, and then pushed past Christine to walk the opposite way.
Andrea returned from work first. The clinic was closer than Keith’s workplace, and he always finished about an hour after her. Having kicked off her boots and slipped into some comfortable pink slippers, Andrea curled up on the sofa, trying to destroy the thoughts that were surrounding her complacency.
She thought about what Christine had said, acknowledging, to herself, that Keith had indeed changed. She couldn’t stop the flow of negativity though; yes, Keith was trying to be a better boyfriend, but, no, he’d never bought her flowers, and, although they never sat down and talked about it, he refused to do the dishes. They were silly pedantic points, and, as Andrea told herself, they were silly things that had placed a barrier in front of Christine’s love for Keith, but they were also traits of the type of person who Andrea did not want Keith to be. It wasn’t his fault that he hadn’t had a successful run of relationships, and his own personality was certainly not his fault, and there would be someone who loved Keith as strongly as Time loved the wax and wane of the moon…she just wasn’t sure if she herself was going to be that person.
Finally, Andrea grew tired of her own thoughts and turned to those of another: Hardy’s Far From The Madding Crowd.
An hour later and there was a tinny click, then an almost-slam. She looked up from the book as Keith entered. He was in rather a bad mood.
“Bad day?” Andrea sighed, closing the book with a snap.
“Just…a colleague. It’s nothing.”
“Okay, if you’re sure. I’ll put dinner on. It might be half an hour, maybe forty minutes if the veg-pot decides to lose heat like last time. You’ll have to have a go at fiing it one weekend.”
There was something mundane about being here at this point. Andrea wondered whether her life was going round in circles, a one-track pony, or an insect following a wheel of repetition.
It was those infected ideas from Christine, Andrea told herself. That was the only reason, she swore. She shuffled off and began slicing carrots.
Whilst they were eating, Andrea became aware that Keith was watching her closely. She looked up from fishing carrots from some gravy, as the heat from his piercing landscape-coloured stare was starting to overwhelm her.
“Hmm?” she said, remembering fleetingly their first time at a table together, eating bitterly cold ice-cream.
“I was just thinking,” Keith replied. Indeed, his features did look deep in thought. “The day after the day after tomorrow I’ll make dinner. You are not required to do anything.”
Andrea blushed deeper as she realised which day he was talking about.
“You really don’t have to do that,” she whispered.
“Andrea, please. Let yourself be taken over by the birthday excitement. I will be cooking a special dinner for you, and, as it’s a Sunday, I also have a surprise for you. But for that you’ll have to wait and see.”
Finally, after inspecting the creases that decorated Keith’s not-bad-looking face, Andrea nodded.
“Alright. Just this once though; I don’t want to be pampered forever.”
“Oh, don’t worry,” grinned Keith, “I know you’re not the type of woman who does excess enjoyment and laziness. So, how was your day?” he added, catching Andrea off-guard slightly.
“Well, it was nothing great. Far too busy, and Alexis and I couldn’t chat, but it wasn’t a ‘bad’ day.”
She didn’t tell him about Christine. He didn’t need to know.
After clearing up the plates, and washing the dishes (Keith was in charge of drying and putting them all back into the right nooks and crannies of his kitchen), Andrea padded back into the living room, exhausted. Instead of the cosy evening that they had participated in the previous evening, Andrea sat reading her book for a while whilst Keith finished off a change to a client’s file and made a couple of phone-calls. The feeling of an ordinary life grew in her chest…and it wasn’t pleasant.
She watched as they both prepared themselves for the next day of work, sharing the pleasant silence between them, as they folded suits and polished shoes. However, Andrea wasn’t keen on ‘letting herself relax’ again. The problem was that when she let herself relax and when she let her be swept away, she’d lose all of her simple life. If she chose, in that way, to be exciting, she would be choosing Lucas.