Daughters of the Hall – Chapter 13

chocolate_croissant_lgJuly 3Chapter One, Chapter TwoChapter Three,Chapter Four, Chapter Five, Chapter Six, Chapter Seven,Chapter Eight, Chapter Nine, Chapter Ten, Chapter Eleven, Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Jenny opened the shop a little later on Saturday mornings and spent the extra hour having tea and croissants with Fiona. It became a tradition, and one that she cherished.

On time as usual, Fiona knocked at 9 a.m. with fresh chocolate and raspberry croissants from the bakeshop on the corner. Jenny smiled when she opened the door, as the teakettle began to whistle in the kitchen.

“You look happy,” Fiona said. “Something good must have happened. Did you run into your professor again?”

Jenny shook her head. “No, nothing like that. I have a little different perspective on my situation, that’s all.” Last night’s dinner with Mr. Hiller helped her sort through the mania in her head, and even though she felt the occasional pang when she thought of Andrew, she felt at peace.

“Tell me everything,” Fiona said as she placed the pink bakery box on the counter “Maybe it can help me, too.” They sat down at the small café style table in Jenny’s kitchen, while Fiona opened the box of croissants and Jenny poured tea.

“There’s nothing to tell,” Jenny said. “I’m in a better mood, that’s all. I had dinner with one of my customers last night, and it helped me look at things a little differently.”

Fiona’s eyes widened to take it all in. “Oooh, who?” she asked. “Anyone tall, dark, and handsome?”

“I would say yes to that, but not in the way you think,” she said. “Mr. Hiller. You know the older English man who comes in for lottery tickets. Speaking of which, I can’t find the ticket he bought me anywhere. I looked for it last night, and I suppose I did throw it away.”

Fiona seemed quiet for a moment and then added her two cents. “Mr. Hiller? You could have had pizza with me last night and had a better time.”

Jenny shook her head. “That’s not nice, Fiona, and it’s not true. He is a charming man and I enjoyed his company. He helped me a great deal.”

“Whatever,” she said. “He’s too old for you, you know.”

Jenny shrugged. “I’m not dating him, Fiona. He is my friend. He is nice to talk to and tells me the most amusing stories. Besides, he’s lonely since his wife passed, and if I can help make him feel less lonely, that’s a plus.”

“Oh, God, do you think he has a thing for you?”

Jenny had lost all patience with Fiona’s rude comments now. “Stop!” she demanded. “I don’t want to talk about him like he’s someone who is annoying me, because that’s not true!”

Fiona shook her head. “Jenny, men and women can never be friends. Too much sexual tension.”

“That’s ridiculous. Besides, it’s not as if he asked me out to dinner. We ran into each other at the deli, that’s all.”

“I suppose that’s OK,” Fiona said. “His old parts probably don’t work anymore, anyway.”

“Fiona!” Jenny shouted her friend’s name in disgust. She did not appreciate Fiona, who boiled down everything to sex, to cheapen her relationship in that way. “There is more to life than sex.”

“No there isn’t,” Fiona replied turning pale. “The thought of life without it makes me a little sick to my stomach. Besides, there are more pressing things to discuss, anyway. What have you decided to do about Andrew?”

Jenny shrugged, knowing she was in the process of forgiving her friend for all of the crazy stuff she said, as she always did. “There’s nothing I can do. He’s taken, and I’m going to let it be.”

“Wrong move,” Fiona said.

“And what would you have me do? Contact a hit man to take out Melissa? You obviously didn’t give any thought to what I said yesterday.” Fiona’s craziness knew no bounds. Why did it still surprise her? Every conversation turned into a roller coaster of difficulties that she would have to overlook if she wanted their friendship to continue. “Even if I did do something crazy, he still never gave me any reason to believe he was interested in me. Let’s move on, ok?” Jenny stuffed her mouth with a large piece of croissant to keep her from saying anything else that might cause a fight. “Now, it’s time for both of us to move on to greener pastures.”

“Oh, I haven’t given up,” Fiona said. “As a matter of fact, I’ve concocted a new plan, but I need your help.”

“I’m not calling him or his wife, Fiona.”

“No, I don’t want you to call him exactly. I want you to hire him.”

Jenny stared at her friend with a blank look, surprised by the gall. “Hire him?”

“Yes, for some plumbing work that you need.”

“But I don’t need any plumbing work.”

“OK, then how about you ask him to give you an estimate on central air. You’ve been saying you wanted to do that for a while now, and summer is coming.”

“Fiona, what makes you think he would want the job? It would be obvious to him why I hired him. Let it go. He has a family and they need him. You can find someone else.”

Fiona’s blue eyes filled with a pool of tears. “I wish I could be like you,” she said. “I wish I didn’t feel all of the passion and love that I do, but I can’t control it. I’m highly emotional, and I love him, Jenny. I’m not like you.”

Jenny did not like the implication. She had passion and plenty of it, but that did not mean she had to give it to a man who already had another life with another woman. She simply didn’t define her life by sexual encounters the way Fiona did. Still, she had to let it go. There were bigger fish to fry today. “I don’t see the reason,” she said. “He needed to break it off clean with you, and already said so. Why can’t you listen to him?”

“Because I know he doesn’t mean it. I know he still loves me. If it weren’t for that witch he is married to, he never would have broken off with me.”

Jenny shook her head in shame. “Are you listening to yourself? He was not a nice man to do that to his family in the first place. Neither were the men that came before him. If you married him, he would do it to you, too. Can you see that? He’s already doing it to you. You have suspected him of cheating before. He’s never going to leave his family and come to you so it’s best to break it off now and learn to accept it.”

With color depleting from her face, Fiona left the table and walked out the door without a word. For the first time, Jenny provided her with honest feedback, something she should have done all along, and it backfired. The rest of the day dragged on, making Jenny’s paranoia work overtime. She felt a little guilty about being so abrupt with Fiona, but then became angry for feeling that way. Fiona needed it to hear the truth. Now, she felt lonely, and hoped Mr. Hiller would make an appearance. She began to wonder if she did depend on Mr. Hiller a little too much, but then dismissed it as ridiculous. There was no harm in enjoying his company.

During the afternoon she texted Fiona to see if she wanted to have dinner and go to a movie at the theater down the street, but she did not answer. When she knocked on her door after closing shop, she did not answer again. She would not have gone to see Doug, who lived too far out of her comfort zone. Where else could she be?

After not being able to confer with Fiona for the rest of the day, Jenny decided to order a pizza, pop in “Notorious”, stay in, and relax. There was no one better than Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman to spend the night with, anyway. That, she decided, was the perfect Saturday night.

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