He squinted up into the sun. “That’s about the only dirt there is.”
He looked down at me and I couldn’t for the life of me read his expression. Was he furious? Indifferent? Relieved that the score was even now? Why did I feel as though we’d just met but already had so much baggage?
I opened my mouth for a few confused seconds before asking, “You mean, is it a good thing or a bad thing you only have one interesting story?”
He winced, but it was gone in a blink. “Let me know if you want some more wine.”
I finished the last line of the email I’d been working on before looking over to the door.
“Greg. Hey.” I pushed back from my desk and waved him in. “What’s up?”
“I heard you’re taking a vacation,” he said. Greg Schiller was another business attorney, specializing in biotech mergers, and loved gossip more than anyone I’d met, aside from my aunt Mette and Max Stella. “And now I see you in here scrambling on a Saturday night, so I know it must be true.”
“Yeah,” I said, laughing. “Vacation. Just until the twenty-second.”
Vacation. My mind tripped on the word and how unfamiliar it felt in the context of I, Jensen Bergstrom, am going on vacation.
I was the guy who stayed late and worked weekends when something had to be done, the one you called in an emergency. I didn’t rush through emails to get out of the office, and I definitely didn’t have my assistant clear my schedule for the next two weeks so I could third-wheel it across the East Coast.
Except a couple of hours ago, I’d done just that.
I’d cleared my schedule to go on a road trip to wineries with my sister and brother-in-law and their friends and a drunken woman I’d met on the plane.
What in the world was I thinking?
Uncertainty clutched me. There were still a few loose ends to clean up on the London side of this HealthCo and FitWest merge. What if I was out of cell range at some point and—
As if sensing my hesitation, Greg leaned across my desk. “Don’t do that.”
I blinked up at him. “Do what?”
“That thing where you imagine any and every catastrophic scenario and talk yourself out of going.”
I groaned; he was right. It was so much more than missing work. It was a gnawing sense that I was at a fork in the road in my life. Again. It would be eminently easier to stay home, get some rest tomorrow instead of hopping into a van with my sister and her friends, and then dive back into the familiar routine of work on Monday.
But to do that would be to stay exactly where I’d been for the past six years.
Shaking my head, I spun a stapler on the top of my desk. “I never thought I’d be this guy, you know? I mean, you’re right, it’s Saturday. Natalie could handle all of this.”
“She could.” He sat in the chair opposite me.
“Well, what are you doing here?” I asked, looking up at him.
“I left my wallet in my office yesterday.” He laughed. “I’m not Jensen Bergstrom level of dedicated yet.”
“But we all know there are two paths in this firm. Sacrifice everything and become partner, or remain an associate for a decade. A lot of us envy you, you know.”
I ran a hand through my hair. “Yeah, but you have three kids and a wife who brews beer. Some of us envy you.”
Greg laughed. “But I’ll probably never make partner. You’re almost there.”
God, what a strange finish line. And to be thirty-four and nearly there. Then what? Two decades of more of the same?
He leaned in. “You spend way too much time here, though. You’re headed straight to midlife crisis and yellow Ferrari in less than three years.”
This made me laugh. “Don’t say that. You sound like my sister.”
“She sounds pretty smart. Where are you going, anyway?”
His brows lifted in surprise. But the unspoken hung in the air—the question of whether there was someone else coming, someone else in my life. Red flags waved in my peripheral vision.
He grinned, and I realized I’d made the right call. Better to have Greg know I was tagging along than think there was some interesting gossip to be found.
“Booze and time off,” he said. “Well done.”
The Sunday-morning air carried a damp chill. My car was silent in the driveway, already bombarded with leaves falling from the sugar maple in the front yard, and I wondered how much dust it would accumulate out here. Ziggy had offered to come pick me up in the van, but in an impulsive burst I’d said I’d meet them at her house. My car hadn’t been out of the garage in three months. I either took the bus to the office or caught a taxi to the airport. My life felt small enough to fit into a thimble.
I climbed the stairs to Will and Ziggy’s, kicking a few leaves off the porch as I went. The birthday balloons were gone, and two fat pumpkins and an urn of mums now stood in their place.
I thought back to my own house—no pumpkins, no wreath on the door—and pushed down the wiggly, hollow feeling in my chest.
I wasn’t denying that I wanted more for my life.
I just wasn’t thrilled that my little sister had pointed it all out to me so glaringly. Having always had a knee-jerk response to criticism, I tended to shut down and need to think for a bit. Last night’s thinking still lived as an exhausted yawn, echoing in my head.