Oh, let me warn you, sisters in Jerusalem,
by the gazelles, yes, by all the wild deer:
Don’t excite love, don’t stir it up,
until the time is ripe—and you’re ready.
Song of Solomon 2:7
Summer just looked at Doug, too drained to even feel triumphant. She didn’t even know if this was what she wanted anymore. Funny how only a couple weeks ago, it had seemed so daring and out-there to apply for the Lifestyle department’s sub-editor job, and now Summer felt…flat…at the idea of working with Doug. Sure, it was a step up from her obits position and God knew how much she wanted to escape Fred and the harpies.
The uncertain but expectant look on his face told Summer that Doug expected her to suddenly smile and accept. But she just didn’t know if she could do that, not with The Herald’s policy on dating. Now where did that thought come from? Her reasoning was about her career, not whether she could pursue a relationship with Doug after taking this job. Really.
“So?” he prompted. “What do you think?”
“Do I have to decide right now? I’m—I’m not so sure.” The shakiness of her earlier outburst had only begun receding, and now in the cold light of reason Summer was sure she’d overreacted and made herself look very stupid in front of the last person on earth she’d want to foot-in-mouth in front of.
“No…” he said, sounding unsure. “We do have several other candidates—”
“That’s a relief at least,” Summer interjected before she could stop her self. Well, it was, knowing they hadn’t offered the job to her out of simple desperation. Coming in first out of one didn’t have much appeal, even if the gold medal they handed out was very shiny indeed.
Continue reading.Doug smiled, glanced at a picture on his desktop. “In any case, we’d need to know fairly soon. Within the next couple days.” He paused and Summer saw him gathering himself. “To be honest, I thought you wouldn’t need any thinking time. You seemed so eager before, I was sure you’d just accept right away.”
“I know.” Summer followed his gaze and saw a picture of him and the woman she assumed to be Joanna standing, red-cheeked and windblown in brightly colored parkas at what looked like a mountaintop. “I guess a lot of things have been going on in my life lately, and I’m not sure this is the path I want to follow.” Sincere but vague, appropriate for a coworker, even if she’d practically flooded his office moments before.
“Ah.” She’d killed the conversation and left him with the impression she’d turned down the job already. Not a good plan.
“Not that I’m saying ‘no’ right now. I want to think about it for a bit, consider your offer.” This wasn’t going well at all.
“I’ve got the details here…” He shuffled papers on his desk, reminding her fleetingly of the scrawny, dubious-scruples lawyer who’d so recently assured her he had a lead on her settlement.
As he lifted papers, shifting dust—dust? How had he accumulated dust on his desk?—and picking up various stacks, Summer tried to lighten the mood with a little casual conversation. “So is that you and—um—Joanna in that picture?”
“Yep,” he said, not even sounding all that sad at the mention of his wife. “That’s a few years before the…accident. We climbed Glacier Peak together with a couple friends.”
“Glacier Peak, wow. I’ve seen pictures of it. Looks big.”
“It’s big, alright. Cold, too, but when you’re working hard enough that’s not really so bad. We had a great time on that trip, probably one of my favorite backpacking trips we ever took.”
“So you did much of that, then?” Good, he was talking and looking, the distraction seeming to mute the pain she expected he might feel at talking about his past.
“Oh yeah, tons. Joanna was crazy about the outdoors, just like me. We actually met on a Sierra Club outing to Utah. Ten day backpacking trip in those canyons—gorgeous. Hot as hell, too.” Summer curbed the urge to make a comment about his many references to temperature, which she might have guessed based on the trips’ locations.
“How did you get into backpacking?”
“My dad.” He smiled, pausing from the sorting. Where could he have put that information? It wasn’t as if his desk was that big, and he seemed to have sorted through all his piles a half-dozen times each. “We started hiking when I was a kid. I remember him carrying my backpack for me when I got tired on the way home a few times… Once I fell in the mud and we spent the whole time trying to dry off in the tent. But Dad always made it fun, and when I grew up I just didn’t stop.”
The sorting resumed as he glanced at Summer. She was enthralled listening, but apparently her presence reminded him of why she was there at all. “I’m sure it’s around here somewhere. I swear, I had it just before you got here.”
“It’s OK,” Summer said, “I do that all the time.” Actually she almost never misplaced anything; keeping her life orderly meant a great deal to Summer, and that was part of why her suspicions about Chastity and Hunter terrified her so much. This was a possibly completely disorganized twist to her life that she couldn’t do anything about at all! Calm.
“Anyway… When I got my job here, it worked out great. They pay me to go hiking and write about it—or they used to. When I first started. Now I’m too high up to do that, more’s the pity. Ah!” Triumphantly extracting a slightly-crumpled piece of paper from the middle of one two-inch-high stack. “Here are the details of the job offer.”
Summer laughed, and if she sounded a bit strained, Doug at least admired her recovering her poise so quickly. “How did it get there?!”
“Probably in my search,” Doug admitted. “I bet I missed it and then accidentally moved it.” Or: My NaNoWriMo profile.