Peter was not the kind of man you interrupted to tell news to so Gill waited in the doorway until her mentor was done serenading the group of young bright things who had gathered to hear the master’s tale of a past most people these days were trying very hard to brush beneath the concrete and glass of the new cities.
“I can see your restlessness from this chair, Gill.”
“I know, sorry, I’ve been working on that.”
“It isn’t something one works on. What is it today?”
“The Prime,” Gill stopped her voice shuddering.
Peter stood to comfort his aide in all things. Though he promised himself to never show the depth of his feelings, Peter had loved and cared for Gill since she dropped his breakfast into his lap on her second day. Gill’s violet eyes had been so big with terror Peter had thought she might have passed out in front of him. Instead she’d straightened him up, somehow found a new suit for his presentation and got on with it. Gill might have been too timid but she somehow always surprised Peter when he thought to have figured her out.
“The Prime requested a paper on the outcome of a contact,” Gill finished, feeling foolish for still being so nervous around the man she’d worked for nearly eight years.
“So they think it’s inevitable then?” Peter rubbed his neck, the tell Gill had learned early on that meant he was worried about something most people weren’t smart enough to bother with.
“It seems likely, She wouldn’t ask for this unless it was nearly time.”
“I know Gill, that’s what bothers me. So much talk lately and we should have been prepared so much sooner.”
Peter began to walk back to the waiting car. Gill followed with his forgotten briefcase.
“Not in my lifetime, that’s what I always told myself. But now it’s gotten too late and the things about to get out,” Peter continued talking as they walked down the marble stairs.
“With all dues respect,” Gill replied.
“Oh now, whenever you begin with that I know you’r about to cut into me,” Peter interrupted.
“No, not at all but I’ve believed this would happen, it was bound to. There has been too much chatter over too many years.”
“Too smart, I’m going to have to retire soon just to keep from getting trampled beneath your heels.”
“You know I walk on my toes anyway.”
Peter was unsure in that moment where he stood. He knew his feet where quickly taking him out of the Grandiam Hotel in Parlease but Peter was not sure in those few words if his entire friendship with Gill had just shifted. Yet just as he began to wonder they were swept into the SSK and were headed up and east. The moment felt lost. Peter lay his head back on the seat and said nothing; an unusual fete for him.
“We’ll have to move the response you were penning to next month in order for you to have enough time on this,” Gill began.
“Yes, makes sense. Maybe send them an extra flask.”
The ride was quiet and Peter pretended to sleep through it. The years were beginning to catch up to his energy. Even Gill was beginning to slow, her wit as quick as ever but the lines around her eyes had begun to show more in the bright sunlight. But Peter thought that made the darkness of them even more present.
By the time they pulled into the driveway the sky was dark and the holiday lights burned brightly, reflecting the stars above.
“It’s been the coldest since I was a child.”
“They say the shift was bound to happen, it can only heat so long until the cooling begins. I suspect my children won’t be able to live here.”
Peter was surprised to hear those words, Gill had never spoken of children, nor any real life outside their work together.
“I think it may be true, but we’ll survive.”
“Oh we always do, if only we didn’t once in a while.”
Inside the living room the tall evergreen was alight with bright blue bulbs. The room glowed in the warmth from the heating system.
“I got you something,” Gill said, racing like a child to hold up a small box.
The gift was wrapped in exquisitely delicate silk, the color of pale salmon. All gloss and softness to the touch. Peter slowly, lovingly even in the way he wanted to touch Gill, unwrapped the present. Inside was a small cream card with his office’s address. Peter looked up slightly confused.
“You gave me this card when you offered me this job.”
“And it is has been wonderful, but I feel as though I will never be able to move forwards in my life if I stay.”
“But what would I do without you?”
“There are a lot of people who can do this job, better than me I think. I’ve been too distracted to really fit in with everything you need.”
“But why, is it something I’ve said?”
“No,” Gill said, looking down at the wrappings for a moment. “It is something I’ve needed to say."
As if lightening was somehow able to reach inside his mind, Peter understood that look, the longing in Gill’s eyes. He couldn’t bare to have her say to him what he had so wanted to speak himself.
“So we’ve both loved the other for how long now then?”
There. It had been said. The line between them remained unbroken, no sudden force of god had punished them for feelings never quite under control.