I didn’t keep track of the time; I continued making one flower chain after another. I just did the work I was assigned to do. All the while my mind raced as I perused the fact that Joe was still waiting to take me to lunch. How could I do that? What if Korbin saw us? I couldn’t think of an excuse to get out of it! The poor soul had been waiting for me all morning! This was so unfair. Life was tripping me up in every single way. What did I do to deserve all of these mishaps? What if me and Joseph were on our way out the door, and then bumped into Korbin as he was parking up outside the shop or something? I shook my head and sighed, exasperated.
But then I had an idea. Perhaps me and Joe could leave an hour early or something? Korbin said he’d come and pick me up at 1... What if me and Joe were already at a restaurant by then? It all came together in my head as I stared at my watch, it was 11:45. I immediately put my current chain down and turned to look at Joe. To my surprise, he was already watching me, however our eyes met and he quickly looked away.
I walked over to him just as he cleared his throat. "Joe, how about we go to lunch now?"
He grinned at me. "Great, let’s go!" He stood up and we began walking swiftly through the shop.
I kept a look out for Fazio or whatever his name was, but he must have been in one of the back offices. So I told the receptionist that I needed at least two hours to do ‘something’ and that she needed to tell Fazio this. After she agreed, I turned back to Joe who was standing by the door holding my handbag.
"Thank you dear." I smiled as I took it from him.
"You’re welcome." He said, swiftly opening the door and allowing me to go first.
I stepped outside to see an empty road, no sign of a merc, and no sign of Korbin.
I placed some scampi and half a chip on my fork. "Things have been difficult, to say the least."
Joe was sipping on cola between humongous bites of his burger. He was such a boy when it came to food. Hands covered and no use of the napkin whatsoever. "I just don’t want you to feel alone. I’m here for you; I’ve always been here for you."
"I know." I paused to eat my mouthful. "You’re great Joe. But something are best dealt with alone."
"Look, I get it. I get that you and Korbin are still married. I get that." He sighed, taking a swig of his cola. "You should see the way he watches you... The way he looks at you when you speak. Even this morning, it was so obvious he just wanted to spend some more time with you. But I think it was obvious that you didn’t want to... Spend time with him. So why did you go with him?"
I stared down at my plate.
"I mean..." Joe continued, thoughtfully. "You’ve had a rough weekend with your friends. Last night when I saw you, you looked awful. It’s the worst I’ve ever seen you. But then I brought you back to him and he must have done a pretty good job at clearing you up... Because you look like your beautiful self now... You’re so... Beaut-"
"Joe, please." I stopped him, taking another mouthful of scampi. "Korbin isn’t... I mean I’m not..."
"You don’t have to explain... I know you still love him. And he obviously still loves you." He sounded rather down when he said this.
I stared at him... What was wrong with him? "Korbin doesn’t love me, and I..." I couldn’t finish the sentence.
He smiled softly at me. "I understand. I just... I want to help you."
"Really?" I asked, trying to sound more cheerful. "Okay then. I need to find a permanent residence that isn’t a hotel room or my mansion. Will you keep a look out for apartments or little houses for me?"
He nodded frantically. "Of course. But shouldn’t that be something Korbin helps you do? I mean if you are... You know... Getting divorced... It’s normally the ex-husband that pays..."
"I don’t want Korbin to know that I’m looking for a new house, and I definitely don’t want him to pay. I want to cut off all ties with him." I sighed, staring at Joe. "Ideally I want to be out of that mansion by the end of this week at the latest, and it’s already Tuesday. Time is ticking."
"Can I ask you something Vi?" Joe was realizing what was going on now. "Korbin doesn’t want to get divorced does he? That’s why there was so much tension this morning... And that’s why you’re being so secretive."
I laughed, bitterly. "Oh he definitely does. He doesn’t love me, Joe. But he also doesn’t want me to be happy. So I have to protect my plans against him, in case he tries to mess them up for me."
Joe nodded, now understanding, but not wanting to pry too much. I didn’t want him to pry either.
"So." I began. "I’m going to stay late at the shop tonight. I might ask Fazio whether I can use his computer to look for properties."
"I’m sorry I won’t be able to stick around, or drive you home tonight. My... Girlfriend needs me... To come home and..."
"Don’t worry." I waved my hand to dismiss Joe’s feelings of regret. "You go home, and enjoy your time with your girlfriend! I’m not going to have you helping me when you should be with your lady!" I chuckled, softly. "By the way, I’m really pleased you’ve found someone. I’m sure you’ll be extremely happy together."
He laughed nervously, and then avoided eye contact. "What’s your plan for tomorrow?"
"Hopefully tonight I’ll find some properties to look at, so I’ll probably..." I thought about it for a second, using today’s experiences as precedent. "I’m going to leave the house at 7 in the morning, to avoid ‘everyone’. And then I’m going to spend the morning finishing some things at the shop... In the afternoon I’ll probably... Well hopefully there will be properties for me to see."
"Sounds like a plan." Joe raised his can of coke. "To you, Mrs. organized."
I laughed; it was a strange sensation after all this time to celebrate something. "To Mrs. organized!"
Our drinks clonked and we enjoyed the rest of our lunch.
I made sure I wasted enough time to ensure that we arrived back at the shop at 2. I even insisted on going to the bathroom four times before we left; which became a challenge when Joe grew suspicious of how often I needed to urinate. I gave the excuse that I just simply couldn’t stand the feeling of needing even the slightest bit of a wee, so I always went and had a ‘try’.
We laughed and joked all the way home; and for the first time since my birthday, I felt almost partially safe. However that turned deeply upside down as soon as I re-entered the shop and Joe had driven off.
Everything was in its place apart from one very expensive looking vase that seemed to be on the floor in a million pieces. The contents of it, some water and some beautiful flowers were splattered here and there within the broken pieces.
Annette one of the workers scrambled over to me in a mad panic.
"Y-your d-driver from this morning!" She half-screamed at me, she was so overexcited, in a bad way. "He came in here! An hour ago! He came in here a-asking f-for you!"
Another worker Carlos came running up behind Annette, just as overexcited as she was. "Yes! He asked where you’d gone!"
"And what did you say?!" My voice was just as panicked as I was. "Did you tell him where I’d gone?!"
Annette and Carlos collectively spoke: "Mm-hmm!"
"We told him you went off with a man on a motorbike!"
"To do ‘something’!"
My heart sank. The very portrayal those words gave off me was horrendous.
"He got so angry!"
"Yes, he threw this vase across the room!" Annette and Carlos both gave out a shuddering cry. "He ruined such an expensive vase!"
"What a terrible temper that man has!"
"Yeah! You should get a new driver!"
My heart sank deeper as I stared at the broken pieces of the vase. Each piece cut and cornered in a sharp, untidy way. I thought about what it had once been and now what it had been forced to be, because of Korbin’s temper.
I bit my lip. If this was what Korbin could do to a vase... What was he planning on doing to... Me?