A Glimpse of Jenna

A Glimpse of Jenna

Shit! Shit! Shit!

The quick pace Jenna set wearing heels made her shins ache, but the flight that should have landed in LaGuardia had been diverted to JFK. So instead of being picked up by her car service, she had to drag her luggage from baggage claim to take a cab all the way into midtown.

“Taxi!” She waved and a Yellow Cab pulled forward to the curb.

“Lemme getcha bags,” the heavy, balding, cabbie said. He popped the trunk and stuffed her luggage inside while she slipped into the warm car.

Simple rules kept her happy and focused on her goals. No distractions. Scratch when it itches, but don’t get attached. She had told Alex’s story honestly, with every ounce of her skill, and had been rewarded with her dream job. Everything was going according to plan.

“Where to?” the cabbie said as the suspension rocked when he sat down.

“Midtown near eighth and fifty-first.”

But the plan doesn’t included Larry, she thought to herself. She had watched that wounded man, heartbroken over the idea that he’d failed his best friend, push through his injuries to help save those three kids. Larry was a machine; focused, controlled, handling dozens of details despite his concussion and gunshot wound. When he hung up after hearing the kids were safe, Jenna watched him shut his eyes for a moment to breathe, wipe them, and then he got right back to work.

It wasn’t until the rest of the Context Security tactical team arrived to take command that Larry was left alone with his phone in his hand and scraps of paper surrounding him in his hospital bed. Jenna went to him then, and she sat on the edge of his bed. He resisted for a moment when she pulled him into her arms, but he eventually fell apart and let her hold him.

During her last two weeks in San Antonio, Jenna had secretly brought Larry home to recover at her condo. They both knew it was temporary and neither wanted anyone to start making assumptions. He was supposed to remain at rest to give his brain injury time to heal, but their mutual attraction overrode doctor’s orders and common sense. For two weeks, they scratched their respective itches until Jenna felt the beginnings of an attachment forming and panicked.

She was saved by her new job in New York City and immediately lost herself in her new role and responsibilities. But as the date of Molly and Alex’s wedding approached, Jenna steeled herself to keep Larry at arm’s length. Seeing him again awakened their undeniable chemistry, but she remained strong the whole week. Until the night before her flight back to New York.

Her phone vibrated and chimed in her purse. She pulled it out and saw a handful of texts from her producer asking if she was back yet. She pressed his contact and put the phone to her ear.

“Jenna! My favorite reporter, how was your trip?” Bernard asked, then rushed on without waiting for her to answer. “I’ve found a confidential informant about that Georgia chemical plant closing and we need to be on a plane tomorrow morning.”

“Bernie, I just spent the entire day in an airport waiting for the weather to clear, just to be diverted to JFK. I’m sitting in a cab, stuck in holiday traffic, and utterly exhausted.”

“Don’t call me Bernie. I’ll send a car for you at seven, but only pack for overnight. We should be back Tuesday afternoon in time for the all-hands meeting.”

“What all-hands meeting?”

“Who the hell knows?” Jenna could almost hear the eyeroll in his tone. “Don’t be late. Bye!”

Jenna stared at her phone for a moment before muttering, “Prick.”

Riding through the city with her forehead against the cold glass, Jenna tried not to fixate on how wonderful it had been to be with Larry again. Even though he had scared the hell out of her with his suggestion to visit on New Year’s Eve, her traitorous feet had taken her to his room. Larry hadn't said anything when she showed up or even when she left in the morning to pack. But when she got in her rental to leave the Arbor Gate Bed and Breakfast, his eyes had said enough for them both.

The taxi arrived at her apartment building just a few blocks off Central Park. The taciturn driver dumped her bags on the curb and took his fee and tip without another word. The network had arranged for the one-bedroom apartment in the high rise, but she had to write the insane rent check each month.

“Welcome back, Ms. Banks,” the young, dark-skinned doorman said as he lifted her two large bags like they weighed nothing.

“Thanks, Lashawn.” He was the best of all the doormen who worked the front desk. They handled the daily deliveries, visitors, and building security, but Lashawn always went above and beyond. Jenna pulled her purse over her shoulder and rolled her carry-on after him into her apartment building. “It’s good to be home.”

The lobby had been amazing once, but the glass shelves were all bare and there were lighter squares on the walls showing where artwork had once hung. When Jenna had asked why they took everything down, the manager explained the fancy decor attracted thieves.

“How was the wedding?” Lashawn asked as they waited for the elevator.

“It was lovely,” Jenna said with a sad smile. And it had been until she knocked on Larry’s door. Then it had been amazing.

“Good, good.” Lashawn carried the bags into the elevator car and pressed the button for the eleventh floor.

“I’ve got a car coming for me at seven,” Jenna groaned as she leaned against the wall of the elevator and shut her eyes.

“I’ll leave a note for the mornin’ guy.” They rode in silence for moment. “Hey, you okay?”

Just being asked made her throat tighten, but she wasn’t going to tell her doorman about her love life. Exhaustion opened her heart in a way nothing else could. She admitted the truth, if only to herself. I miss him.

“I’m fine,” she lied and pushed off the wall as the door opened to her floor. “Thanks for helping me with the bags.”

“Anytime, Ms. Banks,” he said with a cheeky grin as they stopped at her door.

Jenna opened the door for him and stopped in her tracks. On the side table near the front door was a vase with two dozen red roses. Her heart thumped in her chest as she approached the arrangement.

“Oh, yeah, those came in earlier today. I hope you don’t mind I put ‘em in your apartment, but I didn’t want someone walkin’ off with ‘em.”

Jenna took the small card from the plastic holder. Inside were just quotation marks around an empty space and it was signed with a looping L. Larry had obviously sent her flowers, but the puzzle of the note left her confused.

After tipping Lashawn a ten dollar bill, Jenna locked and bolted her front door. She was exhausted, but still needed to eat something, unpack, and then repack for the trip to Georgia. Moving like a robot, she shed her heels and dragged her bags into her bedroom. When she opened her suitcases, the first thing she noticed was the pink robe and slippers she’d worn the night before.

The telltale scent of their passion wafted out and cracked her heart open like an egg. It was too late to put the memory back in the shell, so she shut her eyes and let herself remember the feel of Larry against her skin. It had been like no time had passed from their brief connection in San Antonio. He brought her passion faster and deeper than anyone she’d ever met. But instead of comforting her, it made her twitchy.

The dirty clothes went in her wicker hamper, while those to be dry cleaned went into a cloth sack with her cleaner’s logo on it. She quickly repacked one bag for her overnight in Georgia and padded barefoot into the kitchen. At the counter she sat on a chrome stool to eat a Greek yogurt with peaches and sip white wine while her mind circled. What had he meant by the blank note?

She checked her cell phone, but Larry hadn’t reached out to her. Feeling weak and tired, she realized this had to stop or he would derail her plans without even meaning to. Before she could talk herself out of it, she pressed Larry’s contact.

“Hey,” he mumbled, his voice thick from sleep.

“The card was blank.” It was all she trusted herself to say.

“What do you want it to say?”

Jenna fought with herself for a long moment. Do it! Say it!

“Goodbye,” she whispered with more determination than she felt.

He was silent for a moment, but she could hear his breathing become labored. “Goodbye, Jenna.” He dropped the call.

Jenna put her phone down and shot the rest of her glass of wine. For a moment, she stared at the artwork on her fridge from Hannah, Manny, and Will. She was happy with being Aunt Jenna, she told herself. Kids, love, marriage, it wasn’t her thing. Wiping her eyes, she forced herself to go to bed to be ready for work the next morning. Despite her exhaustion, sleep was a long time coming.