It was the retirement party for Richard Forbes, the manager at the company. It was held at the Hilton Hotel in their biggest ballrooms. Melania showed up alone and felt underdressed when she saw the other guests. She hadn’t planned on going but Mr. Forbes’ secretary, Hannah had encouraged her to go.
She got a ride with Hannah who had to leave her alone when they got there so that she could make sure that everything was arranged as she had instructed. There was to be a pre-dinner cocktail hour, then speeches followed by dinner and dancing.
Melania stood aside, watching as other guests arrived. Her heart skipped a beat when she saw Tanner arrive. He looked gorgeous in his black suit and expensive looking tie. He wasn’t alone. Her eyes shifted to the stunning woman next to him. She was a elegant looking blonde dressed in a beautiful and chic skirt suit. Her hair was swept back. She had her hand tucked through his arm.
As she stood there watching them, Melania debated whether or not to go over there and say hello, Tanner suddenly turned his head in her direction. Their eyes met and held for several minutes and then, he and the blonde were coming towards her. Melania watched as they approached, her heart pounding. She wished now that she had worn a dressy jacket over her plain black top and pants.
Tanner smiled. “Hello, Lana,” he said.
“Hello, Mr. Walde.” Since they weren’t alone, she addressed him formally.
“This is Skylar. Skylar, this is Melania. She works as an intern at the company.”
“Hello.” Skylar held out her hand although her eyes were frosty.
Melania shook her hand. “Hello.” Up close, she was even more stunning. Who was she? Tanner’s girlfriend?
After they shook hands, Skylar put her arms around him and rested her head on his shoulder. She was looking at Melania and her expression was hostile.
“Did you come alone?” Tanner asked.
“No, I came with Hannah. It was she who invited me.”
“Well, I’m glad she did. I think Mr. Forbes would have been disappointed if you didn’t come.”
Melania wondered if he was glad that she went too. Even if he were, he couldn’t very well say that in front of Skylar, could he? “I guess it would it have looked bad if I didn’t because it was he who arranged for my internship here.” Mr. Forbes had been very nice to her and they often had very interesting conversations about so many different things. He always encouraged her in her studies.
“Daddy should be here at any minute,” Skylar said. “I can’t wait to see the look on his face when he walks in and finds us all here. He thinks he’s coming here for a business meeting.”
Melania stared at her. “Mr. Forbes is your father?”
“Yes. Tanner, I think we should see if Hannah needs any help.”
Tanner looked at Melania. “Excuse us.”
Melania watched them walk away. For the rest of the evening, she felt miserable but tried her best to hide it. She had hoped that Tanner and she would develop more than a working relationship but that wasn’t possible now. He had a girlfriend. She should have expected that. A man with his looks wouldn’t be single.
After dinner, she stayed for a while and then, she told Hannah that she was leaving. Hannah arranged for her to get a cab and gave her chit which could be charged to the company. Melania left without saying goodbye to Tanner. She took the cab home and tried not to think about him and Skylar but that was extremely difficult to do.
The next morning, Tanner called her and asked her to go over to his apartment. After she hung up the phone, she wondered why he wanted to see her and why he told her to bring a swimsuit. Was he planning to take her to the beach or was there a swimming pool where he lived? She decided to go for two reasons–curiosity and her desire to see him.
It was late afternoon when she took the subway. When she got to the condo building, she asked him if he wanted her to wait for him in the lobby. He told her to go on up to his suite. She walked to the bank of elevators and took one up to the top floor of the low-rise building. She stood outside the door for a few minutes before she rang the bell. Tanner opened the door and invited her to go in.
The ringing of the phone jolted Melania back to the present. She sat up on the sofa and reached for the receiver. “Hello?”
“Hello, Mel.” It was Matt.
Melania wondered what he would say if he knew that she had been lying there on the sofa reminiscing about Tanner. He had called just before she got to what happened between Tanner and her in his apartment. She closed her eyes as heat coursed through her body at the memories.
“Mel, are you there?”
“Yes, sorry, Matt. I was distracted by something on the television.” She had been watching Netflix until her mind drifted back to the evening of the retirement party which happened nine years ago.
“I was calling to invite you to go to Natalie’s and Graham’s cocktail party on Saturday.”
Natalie was Gina’s cousin. No doubt Gina was going to be there and if she was going to be there, most likely Tanner was as well. Could she stand to see them together? Should she make up some excuse not to go or should she tell him the truth? How would Matt feel knowing that she didn’t want to go because of Tanner? What if he asked her questions about Tanner? And what would he do if he knew that she and Tanner had been romantically involved? Would he think that she still had feelings for Tanner and that was why she had a problem with him dating Gina?
“Sure,” she heard herself say now. “I’ll go to the party with you.”
“Good. What are you doing now?”
“Watching Netflix. What about you?”
“I’m just running some errands.”
“I know that Gina’s going to be at the party, so who’s going to watch Cam?”
“My parents because Joel and Kira and Gina’s parents aren’t available.”
“But, Cam is still spending the weekend with you, right?”
They chatted for a little while longer and then Matt had to end the call as he got another one. Melania hung up the phone. She hugged one of the cushions, her eyes fixed on the television screen but her mind was miles away. Again it was drifting back nine years ago, to that day when she went to Tanner’s apartment for the first time.
Matt ended his call with his mother. As he walked to his car, he couldn’t help thinking that Melania had sounded a bit off. She wasn’t her usual bright self. He had noticed it for a while now. What could be the reason for it? Should he call Kira and find out if she had noticed anything?
Maybe it wasn’t anything to be concerned about and he didn’t want Kira to worry. He decided that he would monitor Melania and if he noticed anything amiss, he would talk to her about it.