Kyle Scott rushed down the sidewalk, checking his watch, cellphone snug against his ear so he could hear over the sounds of the city street.
“Yes. Let’s see, it’s not quite 2:00. I can do a 4:00 but it can’t go past 5:00, the girls have ballet. Okay. I’ll see you then. Bye.”
Sliding the phone closed, he tucked it in his jacket pocket as he rushed to catch the light. Dashing across the intersection on the edge of the crosswalk, he avoided most of the congestion, only having to dodge a couple other enterprising souls doing the same thing. He got back to his office building, breathless. Once inside, he managed to slip into an elevator just as the doors closed. Mashing buttons for himself and his companions, he waited impatiently for his trip to the seventeenth floor to end. As he walked off, his phone rang.
“Yes, baby? Honey, I can’t come right now. You’ll just have to tough it out. You’re leaving in a little while for home. Carmelita is there. She’ll give you a tummy rub. No, Daddy’s got a meeting at 4:00 but I’ll be done before ballet. Okay. I love you too.” He made kissing noises in the phone.
Sighing heavily, he slowed his step so he wasn’t quite running when he got to the front door of the advertising firm he worked for. His assistant, Wendy, hovered nearby.
“Web wants to see you.”
“Now?” He groaned. “Is it because I’m back from Baxter’s late?”
“He didn’t say. Just said it was important and to make sure you got the message as soon as you got in.”
“Okay. Take this.” He handed her his laptop case. “If I’m not out in five minutes, call the paramedics.”
“Will do, boss.”
He smoothed his unruly light red hair, squaring broad shoulders. Pasting a smile on his face, he walked to his boss’ office. Tapping on the door, he entered when told. Mr. Webster, or Web as he liked to be called, stood when Kyle entered. A man in his sixties, he was still athletic and fit. His dark, graying hair was cut in a military style. His upper lip sported the most formidable mustache Kyle had ever seen.
“Have a seat, kid. This won’t take long.” Whenever he said that, it was usually close to an hour discussion.
“I have a meeting at 4:00 and the girls have ballet….”
“Only a second, I promise.”When they were seated, Web smiled, spreading his hands on the desk. “Kyle, you’re overworked and stressed beyond anything I’ve ever seen. If you don’t take some time off, son, I’m afraid you’re going to drop dead.”
Kyle’s face fell. Regretting his wording, Web recanted quickly.
“Sorry, kid. Margo was a great gal. I loved her like my own daughter. My point is, you’re doing too damn much. You can’t be Dad, Mom and bread winner—not to three kids. You need a break and you need it now. I’ve reassigned your accounts. I’ll take your 4:00 myself. It’s Spence, right?”
“Yes, Web.” He didn’t bother asking how the old man knew his schedule as well as he did.
“But nothing, boyo. You’re killing yourself. Literally—Margo would be the first to tell you that. You’re working too damn hard. Those kids don’t need to lose their only remaining parent.”
Kyle wanted to cry, or laugh hysterically, or yell. He couldn’t figure out which. Just as well. None of them would make him feel any better.
“I know I’m being harsh and callous, Kyle. But I refuse to watch you drive yourself at this pace. You’re taking a month off. Get your shit together, hire a full time, live-in nanny instead of a part time housekeeper. Hell, find a good woman and go out for once. Get drunk, get laid, do something to relax!”
Kyle stood, backing up a step, body tense, arms warding off Web’s diatribe. “I can’t afford a full time nanny.”
“You can now, I’m also giving you a raise. Look,” he walked around his desk, putting his arm around the younger man’s shoulders. “I’m serious, son. Those kids need you at home right now. It’s bad enough they lost their mama like that. I don’t want them losing you too. You’re wound so tight, you’re gonna snap. Every day, you’re more tense. You nursed Margo through her illness and never tried to take time after she passed.”
“I had to get right back into the swing, Web….”
“I know. God knows I felt the same way when Betsy died. But my kids were grown, not all under the age of fifteen. Thirty days starting now. I don’t want to see you, hear your voice on the phone, nothing. In fact, call Angie and book a cruise for you and the kids. Relax, get some sun, get laid…”
“You said that already.”
“Yeah, well you need it. Christ, it’s been what, a year?”
“Thirteen months since Margo got sick,” he mumbled.