Thursday evening had Meaghan cleaning the terrace house with a vengeance. Friday was a half day at work, and the girls for the party would start arriving in the early afternoon, so she wanted to do most of the work today.
The work went a long way to burn off her excess energy, but did nothing for her mind as she ruminated over her conversation with JoAnne yesterday in Cynthia's office. She liked the woman immediately, but was a bit intimidated by her manner. How in the world was she supposed to go to a meal at Rickie's house? It wasn't as if they were actually dating or anything; he was her boss.
She skittered away from the way he made her feel, especially when he touched her, like she was a princess in a fairy tale. Her cheeks grew heated when she thought about that kiss, and her hand tingled as if it too remembered the firm but soft lips pressed against it.
Meaghan shook her hand out and then put it out of her mind, and went to the kitchen to put together the cake. Since Tina occasionally had a reaction to flour, the rich dessert was made gluten-free. She gathered together semi-sweet chocolate, butter, whey sugar, eggs, and cocoa powder. She would be able to bake the cake tonight, and finish it quickly tomorrow.
She had the kitchen cleaned up and the cake cooling on a rake by the time Tina came into the house, chattering on her phone. She gave Meaghan a quick hug and, still chattering, walked back to her bedroom and closed her door.
Meaghan shook her head and walked out of the kitchen. Had she ever felt that carefree? Even before their parents passed, she had been responsible for her younger sister, but she wouldn't trade their closeness for anything.
She walked out of the kitchen and into the living room, where her modest stereo sat on an antique credenza, a photo of her parents on top of the record player cover. Meaghan arranged the CD's she had set aside to provide music for the party. Tina's music taste was eclectic, ranging from the pop sound of Forteen to the harmonies of The Solianos and jazz of Michael Veerapan. Her favorite singer was Siti Nurhaliza, a multi-cultural performer who nevertheless employed native instruments like the seruling as background to her music. Meaghan's gift to Tina was her most recent live album, which her sister had wanted.
Once completed, she sat down on the old couch, stretched, ran a hand through her hair and closed her eyes. She thought about reviewing Ivoire's file again, but it was nice to just have a moment of quiet in the house.
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The cell phone ring was almost loud in the silence. She uncurled from the couch and ambled over to the table. She looked at the Caller ID and took a quick breath. It was him…
~ ~ ~
Rickie sat in the driver's seat of his car in front of Meaghan's house, listening to his phone ring as he willed her to answer. He had spent the entire day in meetings of one form or another, including a teleconference with his father, and so missed seeing her at the office. His father was up to something, he was sure, but he couldn't catch his cagy father despite several attempts. The elder Ahmad did hint about having a special dinner soon, but neither Rickie nor Sethe had any anniversaries upcoming. He had left a message for JoAnne regarding this, but she hadn't replied as yet. After dinner, he was feeling restless and decided to go for a drive. Almost without thought, he ended up in her neighborhood, and felt a sudden need to hear Meaghan's voice.
~ ~ ~
Meghan carried the phone back to the couch, sat down, and pressed the [OK] button.
"Hello?" she asked, cautiously.
"Selamat petang, Meaghan. How are you tonight?" The warm, smooth tones sensitized her ears, and as she listened, she played with her earring.
[A/N: Good evening]
"Selamat petang. Good evening, Rickie. I'm doing well. How are you?"
There was a pause, and then in a low voice, he said, "I miss you."