“Do you want some more salad, Mom?” Summer busily plundered behind the counter, artfully avoiding direct eye contact.
“No, sweetheart, I’m fine.” Phyllis sighed. She and Summer often often had lunch at the club, at Crimson Lights, even at Newman on occasion, but Summer almost never visited her at work. The situation was complicated. Her daughter was caught between two families, having divided loyalties and she could understand her instinct to want to distance herself from Jabot as much as possible….which was precisely what made today so interesting.
“What about some tea?” Summer continued to flit about the lounge nervously. “There’s Orange Zinger, Earl Grey…”
“Summer,” Phyllis called, her voice more stern than it had been before.
Summer looked up, the tea bags slipping from her fingers and falling back into the box.
“Sweetheart, why don’t you just come sit down and talk to me. You called me and asked me to have lunch because you said you needed to talk and you’ve spent the entire time bouncing around the room like you’re on a sugar high. It’s pretty obvious you’re avoiding talking to me about whatever this is and honestly the things I can conjure up in my mind are probably far worse than what you’re actually going to say.”
Summer smiled, relaxing a little as she took a seat at the table across from her mother. “It’s just…I don’t want you to think” She stopped, considering her words again. “I love you Mom and I don’t want to hurt you.”
“Honey I know that. What on earth are you talking about?”
Summer sighed. Like ripping off a band-aid, she thought to herself… “Its about Thanksgiving, Mom.”
Phyllis looked confused, “ok.”
“Well, you know GCU has their fall break before the actual holiday so we don’t really get any time off and with work and school and Dad going through everything he is, I’m just not sure how much I’ll be around over the holiday.” She took a deep breath, trying to read her mother’s face. “I mean, I know it’s your first holiday without Jack and it’s going to be hard because you’re alone and I don’t want you to feel like I’m abandoning you because it’s not like that at all…I’m just…”
Phyllis held up her hands. “Summer.Summer…Summer!!” She smiled as her daughter finally took a breath and stopped talking.
“It’s ok. You don’t have to explain. I completely understand and I don’t ever want you to feel like it’s your responsibility to make sure I’m entertained. I’m a grown woman–just like you are. You have your life and I have mine. I love spending time with you, but you should never feel obligated to do anything with me, ok?”
“Mom…it’s not just about that…”
“Hush…besides, it’s a moot point. I’ve actually been thinking a lot about Thanksgiving and I had already started pondering how depressing it would be to be alone, so I made plans of my own.”
Summer’s eyes brightened. “You did? Mom, that’s great? You going to see Daniel and Lucy or Aunt Avery?”
Phyllis shook her head. “Actually no. I’m going to take a little break from everyone and everything. I’m taking a break from cold Wisconsin winter and I’m sailing off to a warm, sunny island…somewhere tropical.” She reached into her bag and pulled out the brochure.
Summer took it, glancing at the glossy photos. “Wow,” she sighed, “it looks great.” She looked up at her Mom. “This is good, Mom. You need this. It’ll be good for you..a chance to relax, to get away from work, from a Jack, from Billy, from the fighting and the whispering and the rumors. You can get some rest and some peace.”
“That’s the plan, honey.” Phyllis sighed as she felt her cellphone vibrate. She glanced at the number and at the time in the phone. “Nooo,” she hissed, jumping up and quickly grabbing her bag. “Honey, I’m sorry…I’m late for a meeting. Can you clean this up please?”
Summer nodded. “Sure, Mom. We’ll talk later.”
Billy watched the numbers on the elevator light up, letting out a relieved sigh when the doors opened. He turned to Dave. “Okay, Dave. I’m gonna let you in on a little secret.” He smiled, leaning close to the man as if the information he was sharing was truly confidential. “A few steps down this hallway, there’s a door and behind that door, Dave…” he paused, gesturing wildly for effect, “there are concessions like you wouldn’t believe. Coffee, mini muffins, bottled water, juice, donuts, bagels. I’m not talking grocery store stuff, Dave. I’m talking bakery quality.”
Dave stared at him, stone faced.
“Dave, I know your orders are clear. You have a mission, but if you could just…I don’t know get distracted for two to three minutes while I dart into that lounge, there might be a donut in it for you.”
Dave didn’t respond.
Billy stood still for a moment then slowly took a step down the hall, smiling as he saw Dave slowly turn his back. “You’re a good man, Dave.”
“Nothing with powdered sugar,” Dave said, his voice still deadpan. “It’ll get on my uniform.”
Billy nodded. “You got it.” He smiled as he stepped into the lounge, grabbing a chocolate covered donut and juice for Dave and grabbing a cup for coffee for himself. As he poured the hot liquid into the cup, his eyes fell on a brochure that lay on the table. A cruise ship adorned the front and inside there were pictures of island excursions, beaches, and pools.
He glanced at the back page, the printed contact information representing a travel agent he recognized. She’d done business with Jabot for years. He considered the last time he’d gone away–taken time for himself, no agenda, no plans, just sand, sun, and surf. It certainly sounded a hell of a lot better than fighting with Travis over who would carve the turkey. He slipped the brochure into his coat pocket. A little time away might be exactly what he needed.