Pandora’s Box (part 4)

A Valley Girl “Ohmygod!” ran through my head. I stared while she inhaled to ignite the cigarette, then quickly fixed my wide-eyed stare at the ground. Isabelle was responsible for firing my sister. I was as sure of my conclusion as I was that I’d satisfy my next PMS sweet tooth with a fresh batch of chocolate chip cookies. All the pieces fit—dates, locations, descriptions. I felt like one of those reluctant mystery novel sleuths. “What did you do?” I asked when I could speak again.

“That doesn’t matter,” she cocked her head, took another drag. “Do you really want to know?”

Now this was a dilemma. My sister is my best friend. I’d give my right kidney for her. But, once I had this information, would I give it to her? To what end? Life was good for her. She was happy. Would reopening this wound help anybody? I felt like I was playing with the lid to Pandora’s box. Well, Mom always told me I wanted to know too much for my own good. Why prove her wrong now? “If you want to tell me,” I said, trying not to appear in the least bit anxious. It worked. Isabelle continued.

“Clever but simple,” she said matter of factly. “A few strategic changes to Kurt’s appointments on the computer that of course couldn’t be traced, some anonymous calls to clients, a misplaced contract or two… Within a couple of hours, the entire place was in chaos. I knew there was a chance our firm could be fired by one or two of our more anal clients. At the time, I figured the risk was worth it.”

Wow, I thought, so that’s it. The secret behind the most recent dark blip on my sister’s life course. Isabelle looked pleased with herself. Maybe I would be too, I thought, blood pressure rising, if I were that maniacal. I opened my mouth to say something, but she was talking again.

“I assumed everything would return to normal within just a couple of days. I, of course played a major role in getting everything put back to normal. Or so I thought.” She paused.

I pointed to my watch. We stood and she let me gently direct her in the right direction as she continued. “Last Wednesday night as I walked into my condo from working out, the answering machine was just coming on. It was Kurt. He never calls me at home. So of course, my stomach did a little flip flop. He said he wanted to see me. I didn’t know what to think. But I said yes.

“We met at a coffee shop around the corner from my place. He told me he’d been thinking about whatshername. He was unsettled, he said. Kurt unsettled is not a pretty sight. ‘We didn’t do right, just firing her like that,’ he said. ‘The proof was there,’ I told him, ‘What more do you need? She was an incompetent idiot. And she was after you.’ As soon as those words came out, I wished I could take it all back. He knew I was jealous. I hated having that out there between us. Being jealous of someone like her. I got angry, defending myself, you know, using the firm’s welfare as my excuse. I’ve been there longer than anyone else except Kurt. I helped him start that company.” She took a long drag. “But then he squeezed my hand and all my excuses melted away. I felt tired, and I guess, betrayed by my emotions. He knew I loved him. He had that power someone holds over you when they don’t love you back.” She threw another spent cigarette onto the street.

“I thought you said he loved you.”

“Yeah, well I lied,” she smiled sadly. “Another one of my wonderful habits. I don’t know if he does or not. Maybe I just want him to. I want all the time we’ve spent together to mean as much to him as it has to me. I guess you can’t force that though, huh?” She looked at me.

I shrugged, not even capable of feigning an answer.

“Anyway, the next day he signed me up for this thing and gave me a couple of weeks off to think things over. To think over what? If I want to quit or be fired? I can’t go back with him knowing how I feel. My edge will be gone.”

“Maybe he loves you too?” I offered. “He did send you to this after all, instead of just getting rid of you.”

“That’s true,” she sniffed.

I offered her a Kleenex. “What do you think you’ll do?” I asked gently.

“I’m not sure. I’ll see how I feel when this thing’s over. Maybe he’ll take me back if I pass with flying colors,” she laughed weakly.

“Is that what you want?”

She gave me a long look. “I don’t know.”

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