# 24 Transparent

 

by Sarah

 

Just borrowing these characters who belong to Universal and Donald Bain for a bit of fun.

Jessica jerked away from Michael and felt herself falling backward. With a scream, she grabbed onto Michael's coat and pulled him with her. They fell from the dock into the pond with a big splash. After catching her breath, she stood up in the shoulder high water. She looked at the completely soaked Michael and then down at herself and couldn't help but laugh.

"Why did you do that , Jess?" Michael asked, sputtering and shaking his head.

"Me? I was trying to escape the kiss you were about to plant on me! Oh, Michael, my purse," she exclaimed, pushing her wet hair back.

"I'll save it!" he yelled and dove in, trying to be gallant although he knew he, they, looked ridiculous in front of the elegantly turned out patrons watching from the Boat House's restaurant deck.

Once they were "rescued" from the pond by a couple of bus boys and it was obvious that neither one was injured other than in pride, the couple began to attempt to dry off with towels provided by the manager Central Park Boat House.

"Oh, my new shoes," Jessica complained, trying to wring out the dirty pond water from her skirt.

"So much for an intimate lunch, Jessica, darlin'," Michael said, shaking out his soaked jacket.

"Michael, don't call me 'darlin' and this was not intended to be an 'intimate lunch'," she replied, shaking her head at him.

"Aw, Jess..." he began, but she stopped him with a look, but he knew she wouldn't stay cross with him. After all, she never did, which did nothing but keep his hope alive that someday they would finally be in the right place at the right time and would get together like he knew they were meant to be together. "Michael, I don't think we should pursue this discussion any further. Frankly, I'd like to get home and out of these wet things."

"I'll second that, my girl," he agreed. He took her arm and lead her to the valet stand where a livery cab stood waiting for them.

Once settled in the back of the black sedan, Michael took Jessica's hand and said, "Jess, I wasn't trying to kiss you."

"Right. Michael, you know I can always see right through your blarney. There's no use trying to hide behind it. As usual, you're completely transparent," she scolded, pulling her hand back from his grip.

"Would you really have minded that much if I had kissed you?" he asked quietly, with his charming Irish brogue.

Jessica shook her head at him, "Michael, really."

"But, Jess..." he whispered in her ear.

She pushed him away. "Stop it. You know I'm already spoken for."

He grinned at her, "Come on, you can't fault a bloke for trying, can you?"

This earned a laugh from her. "You know you looked ridiculous diving after my purse," she said.

He shrugged and smiled.

When they pulled up in front of her building, she turned to Michael to say goodbye, but he preempted her, "Uh, Jess, I hate impose, but remember I mentioned the little problem of my missing luggage..."

She cocked her head at him, but invited him in. "Uh huh, well, come on then. You can borrow something of George's."

Once in her apartment, Jessica put George's terry cloth robe in the guest bathroom along with an extra guest towel. "Michael, you might as well shower. Hand your wet things out to me and I'll send them out for cleaning. Once you're out, help yourself to a drink. George's liquor cabinet is above the refrigerator."

Wrapped in the terry cloth robe that he assumed belonged to George Sutherland, Michael emerged from the bathroom. He went to the kitchen and took up Jessica's suggestion and helped himself to a snifter of brandy. He took a swig of the delicious restorative liquid and then strolled into the living room. He looked around the room at all the pictures. It was obvious to him that Jessica and George were living comfortably and quite happily together. It gave him a sinking feeling, but he remembered his vow that he would wait forever for her. He knew a dour Scotsman when he saw one and felt certain that Sutherland was no different than any other of his countrymen and eventually he would muck things up with the lovely Jessica. He made himself comfortable in the overstuffed arm chair and turned on the television.

George Sutherland was glad to sneak away from the British consulate early for once. He was excited about surprising Jessica with flowers and a bottle of excellent pinot noir that he picked up on his walk from the east side to the west side of Manhattan. It was a beautiful day and he was definitely suffering from spring fever. He was surprised to hear the television as he quietly opened the front door of their apartment. He knew, or thought, that Jessica was usually in her home office at this time of the day, hard at work on her own book or some university work. He smiled to himself at the thought of catching her slacking off from her self-imposed duties for once. He had a shock when he saw Michael Haggarty sitting in his chair, wearing in his robe and sipping his brandy. He felt his blood pressure rise as he dropped the flowers, wine and his briefcase to the floor.

"Sutherland! I didn't think you'd be home for a while yet," Michael said good naturedly as he rose to greet George and offered his hand for a shake.

Before George could answer, Jessica entered the room. "George, you're home early. This is certainly a surprise," she said.

He was even more shocked and confused when he realized that she was wearing nothing but her robe and her hair was wet. He looked at her and then back at Haggarty in disbelief.

"George?" she asked, concerned that he still didn't say anything. She noticed that all of the color had drained from his face. She was afraid that he might pass out. "George, are you okay? Do you think you should sit down?"

Still silent, George looked at her again and then back at Michael. Jessica stepped toward him and put her hand on his arm. George suddenly pushed Jessica away from his side and pulled his right arm back and landed his powerful fist right on Michael's nose, sending him tumbling over the back of the chair and to the floor.

"Michael! Oh my God!" Jessica exclaimed as she dropped to the floor. Seeing that Michael was bleeding and probably had a broken nose, she rose and rushed into the kitchen for a towel and ice. "George Sutherland, what's come over you?!" she asked angrily, kneeling back down to assist Michael who was now sitting up, holding his nose which was bleeding profusely.

Jessica flashed a look at George. He stepped back when he saw the look in her eyes. Normally her eyes were a brilliant blue but now they were steel grey. His mind was racing and his thoughts were a jumble: What in the world was going on? Why in the world was she wearing nothing but a robe? Why was another man in their home, and bloody Michael Haggarty at that, wearing nothing but a robe? What had changed since she had kissed him goodbye and sent him on his way to work that very morning?

Jessica helped Michael to his feet and over to the sofa. After making certain that he was okay, although she was sure George had broken his nose, she said, "Michael, I think you're okay for now, at least. Will you excuse me for a moment?"

Michael, still too stunned and in too much pain to say anything, nodded sullenly.

She headed toward her bedroom. When she realized that George made no move to follow her, she turned back to look at him. Their eyes met and he knew had no choice but to follow her.

 

Once they were behind the closed door of their bedroom, Jessica crossed her arms and confronted George. "Well, George?"

George stiffened and said, "What do you mean 'Well, George'? I think you're the one who should be explaining things to me."

"There's nothing to explain. How could you have hit Michael like that? I'm sure you broke his nose."

"I'm sorry you had to see that, Jessica, but he had it coming."

Jessica sighed with exasperation and went to her closet where she began to dress in a light warm-up suit. "George, Michael had nothing coming. What in the world were you thinking?"

 

George responded with a raised voice, "Bloody hell, Jessica, what was I supposed to think? You both had wet hair, both in robes...I know him, Jess. And I bloody well know that you can never resist Haggarty. He beguiles you into doing anything he wants and he always takes advantage of you. As a matter of fact, I'm wondering why you always let him," George said bitterly. He turned away and put his hands over his face, heaving a big sigh. He turned back to her and quietly added, "How could you, Jess? And in our own bloody home?"

 

"George, right now I'm going to pretend that you didn't just say that to me," she responded incredulously.

She grabbed her purse from the bathroom, but realized it was still wet. She removed the wet wallet and emptied it of her ID and credit cards and then filled a new purse with a few essential items. George watched her with silent curiosity. Finally, she went into George's wardrobe and removed a pair of sweat pants and a t-shirt for Michael to put on.

 

Before she left the room, she turned and said, "George, I'm going to take Michael to the emergency room. I think while we're gone, you'll have plenty of time to think about what you've done and said. I know you'll realize that I would never cheat on you, much less ever do anything to deliberately hurt you," she said and left the bedroom, closing the door behind her.

 

After Jessica and Michael had gone, George changed from his suit into casual clothes. His heart and pride smarted from the exchange, not to mention his knuckles from the blow to Haggarty's nose. He examined Jessica's wet purse. He couldn't imagine what had happened to get it so thoroughly soaked since there wasn't a cloud in the sky. He went to the kitchen, poured himself a tall Scotch and then wrapped some ice into a kitchen towel for his hand. He took his drink and his wounded pride into the home office and sat at Jessica's desk. He logged onto his email account and scrolled through a number of messages before he saw one from Jessica. She had emailed him earlier to tell him about her surprise invitation from Michael.

G, I tried to reach you in your office and on your cell phone but perhaps you are in a meeting. If you get this email in time, please join me and our old friend Michael Haggarty for lunch at the Central Park Boat House. He's just in town for a few of days but has free time for lunch today. I'll be there at 1:30. xoxo J

"Bloody hell," George said aloud, "How could I have been so daft?" He picked up the phone and dialed Jessica's cell phone number.

"Yes?" Jessica answered tersely.

"Jess, I just saw your email. I'm so sorry. For everything."

"Yes, well, you should be," she replied.

"I'm a jealous fool. Forgive me?"

"I think so," she said with just a hint of pixie in her voice. She continued, "I'm not so sure Michael is going to forgive you so easily though. You'll get your chance soon as I've offered him our guest room for duration of his stay in New York."

"The duration?" he asked, with a gulp.

"Yes, the duration. That should give you plenty of time to convince him that you're not completely off your rocker."

"Aye, Jessica, whatever you say. Er, Jess, before you ring off, tell me one thing?"

"What is it?" she asked impatiently.

"Why is your purse wet?"

"We fell into the boat pond."

"You fell?"

"Yes. We fell."

"That's it?"

"Yes, George, that's it. I have to go, George," she said when she saw Michael, with a bandaged nose and his eyes already beginning to blacken, walking toward her in the ER waiting room.

"Wait, Jess..." George asked

"Yes?" she said with a sigh.

"Jessie, I love you so very much."

"I love you, too. See you soon," she responded softly, her voice resonating a smile.