Estimated reading time — 10 minutes
“Thank you for calling the law offices of Mr. Henry S. Murray, how may we be of service?”
The blonde woman in her mid-20s impatiently tapped a pencil’s eraser on the desk as she answered the phone. She sat with her legs crossed neatly behind a solid-oak desk in the firm’s decadent lobby. In the back stood two large solid-cherry doors leading to the executive office of Henry S. Murray, Esq. Behind those tall doors sat a busy man at a desk who didn’t much care for being disturbed while in the middle of business. And while she could call his messages into his office telephone directly, she preferred to deliver them personally. It was more her style.
“Come in Eve,” Henry answered at the light knocking.
“Your two o’clock canceled, Mr. Murray. Would you like me to order us some lunch before your next meeting?”
“Thank you, Eve, but I’m having lunch with Janet this afternoon. She wants to discuss wedding plans before she heads back to Chicago this weekend. Our special day is fast approaching after all,” Henry said, sharply closing the screen on his laptop and pushing himself away from the desk.
“I’ll be back in a few hours. Could you do one more task for me, Eve, before you go to lunch? Contact Harold for me and tell him that I’m not going to make it to our three o’clock today. Have him rescheduled, okay? Thanks.”
Eve nodded, looking on with disappointment as Henry walked past her, grabbing his coat off the rack. Waiting in the lobby for Henry was Janet. Her eyes lit up like a freshly struck match when he walked into the room. He greeted her with a big kiss, lifting her off her feet and spinning her around before carrying her out the front door laughing. Janet’s giggling made Eve sick to her stomach.
For months, Eve had been sending subtle messages to Henry in the form of light touches and seductive eyes. Although Henry didn’t show it, she could feel the connection between them. She wondered what a handsome, successful man like Henry could possibly see in a woman like Janet. Janet was controlling and pretentious; petty with an arrogance that only a wealthy and privileged upbringing can instill. Worst of all, she was ugly. She dressed with an antiquated sense of style appreciated by the people of the distant past. Henry could do so much better than Janet. He could be with her. No! He will be with her－and soon－or she would likely lose Henry to Janet forever.
Shortly after Henry had left with Janet, Eve snuck out and changed into something a little younger. What she now wore was sure to catch his attention. As a part of her new strategy for winning Henry’s affection, there would be no more business attire for her, only beauty attire.
Even as the lunch hour passed and the evening approached, Eve’s eyes stayed fixated on the front entrance, waiting patiently for Henry’s return. When Henry finally came strolling through the door a few minutes before closing time, the sight of Eve forced him into a double-take. He slowly came to a stop before reaching his office doors, turning around sharply.
“Did you change?” Henry asked. His eyebrows hanging high atop his face.
Eve stood up and spun herself around.
“Yes sir, does it look nice on me? I was trying it out before wearing it to my sister’s dinner party. I was hoping to get your opinion,” she answered, grabbing a lock of blonde hair and twirling it around her finger.
“You look lovely, my dear. You should definitely wear it to your sister’s party.”
His face felt uncomfortable with the conversation, so he quickly tried to change the subject.
“Do I have any messages?” Henry asked, his eyes involuntarily navigating across her body.
“There were a few calls. I’ll bring them to your office if you’d like?” She fluttered her eyes at him with every word.
“That will do. Don’t be too long though, I have something very important to talk to you about,” Henry added as he closed the door behind him.
Eve was anxious to know what Henry wanted to talk about, so she wasted little time in joining him back in the office. When Eve walked through his doors, Henry looked happy to see her. She took his smile as an invitation, walking around his desk to lay the messages before him, sure to bend over his chair in the process.
“Please have a seat, Eve,” Henry said, clearing his throat and pointing to the set of chairs in front of the desk.
She could hear the seriousness in his voice, so she quickly sat in one of the seats in front of the desk and crossed her legs.
“Janet and I have set a date for our special day. It’s in two weeks! I hope you can be there, although, it is several hours north in Chicago at a church Janet attended as a little girl. So, I would understand if you couldn’t attend.”
Eve didn’t offer an answer, she just nodded her head and forced out a meek smile. She felt a small flame ignite and begin flickering inside her. She wasn’t sure if it burned with passion or anger.
Henry broke the lingering awkward silence after she didn’t offer an answer.
“I also wanted to talk to you about our move. I’m closing down this location and moving with Janet to Chicago. She tells me I will do so much better in the big city. I know it may seem like I’m making a rash decision, but I assure you I’ve put a lot of thought into this. I believe it will provide the exciting and lucrative change of pace this firm desperately needs.”
Stunned, Eve sat up straight and cleared her throat. In a soft voice, she responded.
“But, what about me?” she asked, the first tears forming at the bottom of her sad blue eyes.
“Don’t worry about a thing, my dear. I’ll help you find a new job. In fact, I’ll talk to Bob over at the Sullivan firm first thing tomorrow morning. He told me Susan is going to retire at the end of the year. I’m sure he’d be very happy to have you with the firm.”
“Why do you always call me dear, Henry, as if I am somehow important to you? If I was your ‘dear,’ you would stay right here where the business has been just fine. Instead, you’re going to toss me aside and walk right out on your way to the big city! Don’t you care about me at all?” she asked, bursting into a full cry.
“Of course I care about you, Eve. Please don’t cry! Everything will be just fine. I promise,” Henry said as he left his desk to place a soft hand on her back. He rubbed back-and-forth gently.
This caused Eve to stand up suddenly and wrap her arms around Henry.
“I just don’t know what I would do without you, Henry. You can’t leave me now. I need you. I’m in love with you!”
She squeezed tightly to show Henry her seriousness.
“Eve, you have to let me go! You can’t be in love with me. I’m in love with Janet,” he said, struggling to separate himself from her.
She was squeezing him now as hard as she could. Her grip becoming stronger and stronger until Henry could feel her nails digging into his back. He tried to push her away again, but she refused to release him.
“Don’t be silly, Henry. I’ve seen the way you look at me. Denying your feelings for me will not make them go away. You know we belong together. It was fate that brought us together in the first place! Don’t you remember?”
Eve unclawed her hand from Henry’s back and slowly moved it up to his neck. Henry felt a pinch.
“Damn! What are you doing, Eve? Please let me go. This is not appropriate!”
“You’ll understand a little better when you wake up, my dear Henry.”
“Wake up?” Henry asked, confused. His voice trailed off as a strange sensation crept in.
Henry became inflicted with a warm burn, originating in his gut before slithering down to his legs and feet. His knees buckled. He tried to speak and couldn’t, mouthing the word “why?” repeatedly. He watched Eve’s smiling face blow him a kiss as he drifted off to sleep.
She used every last bit of strength she could muster to carry Henry to his office daybed, positioning him as one would a corpse on the day of a wake. She placed an extra pillow under his head before picking up the phone on Henry’s desk and dialing.
Janet was at home packing her suitcase when the phone rang.
“Hello, this is Janet,” she said, tucking the phone between shoulder and face.
“Hi Janet, this is Eve from the firm. I’m calling to deliver a message. It’s from Henry.” Janet noticed Eve was breathing heavily into the receiver.
“Is everything okay?” Janet asked.
“Yes, Janet, there is no reason to be alarmed. Henry simply asked me to call you because he is in a very important meeting at this hour, with a very important client, and he expects the meeting to continue through the midnight hour. He wants you to know that he’ll be spending the rest of the evening at the office. He’ll return home in the early morning.”
“That’s impossible! Henry told me he would be home early tonight to help me pack, and see me off to Chicago in the morning. I’m going home for two weeks to prepare for the wedding. It’s a short time away. May I speak to him, please, Eve?”
“I’m afraid not, Janet. He asked me not to disturb him for any reason. This is a very important meeting which he said must not be interrupted. I will be sure to have him call you at his earliest convenience.”
“Well…I suppose. He must be meeting with Harold from the bank. Such a terrible thing that’s happened to that poor man.”
Janet sighed with frustration.
“I assure you, Janet, I will have him call you as soon as he gets out. Bye now,” Eve said, forcefully replacing the receiver with a scowl.
“Wake up, Henry!” Eve said, shaking him.
She sat down next to him on the daybed and gently rubbed the back of her hand across his cheek. It took several seconds for Henry’s eyes to open and focus on the room.
“Eve, what happened?” Henry asked as he tried to sit up, but couldn’t move without Eve’s help. She pulled on his arm until he sat upright and shoved a large cushion beside him, propping him up between herself and the end of the bed.
“You fell asleep, my dear.”
“What time is it?” Henry asked, as his eyes moved to the century-old grandfather clock in the corner. A clock his grandfather had crafted from a tall oak tree which he climbed in his youth.
“It’s almost time for dinner, honey. I’ll pour you a drink,” Eve said.
Eve found a bottle of dark bourbon and poured a glass, neat. “Here, baby. This will make you feel better.”
Henry remained still as Eve poured the drink into his mouth. When he finished his drink, she turned his head so he was facing her.
“Now that you’re awake, honey, we have something very important to talk about. I want dozens and dozens of red roses along the aisle. My baby sister will be the flower girl! And we’ll raise our children in a big house on a hill overlooking the valley, with a white picket fence and a tire swing out front. Most importantly, I want you to know, I will never do what that snake Janet did to you. So, forget about her forever and dance with me, my love!”
Eve yanked Henry off of the couch by his arms and draped them over her shoulders. “Do you have anything you’d like to say to me, dear?” Eve asked.
“I love you,” Henry said, lost for words.
She swayed back and forth with him for several songs before laying him back on the daybed, exhausted. They laid together until she fell asleep in his arms. It was the sun, poking through the slits of the partially opened blinds, that woke Eve in the early morning. Shortly after her head left the pillow, the office phone rang. “Hello?” Eve answered.
“Eve, I must speak to Henry at once! My driver will be here in an hour and I need Henry to see me off to Chicago. Put him on the phone right away!” Janet yelled into the phone.
“Sorry, Janet, but Henry is not in the office at the moment. He and Harold left just a moment ago to get some breakfast. I assure you I will have him call you as soon as they get back. They are working on a very important case together.”
“Well, I just… can’t understand why he won’t step away for a moment and come home. I’m ready to leave!” Janet was showing her anger.
“I’ll have him call you, okay? He’s on important business. Sorry, Janet, but I’ve got to go. Bye now.” Eve hung up the phone by ripping it out of the wall and throwing it in the trash bin in the lobby.
This day would be the best day of Eve’s life. She was finally with the man of her dreams and Janet was nowhere to be seen. They spent the day dancing, eating, drinking and making love. Most importantly, they began planning their wedding. Things were absolutely beautiful. Beautiful that is, until Janet came back into the picture and ruined everything.
It started with a strong knock on the glass door at the front of the attorney’s office. “Eve dear, go see who’s at the door,” Henry said.
Eve pulled her nightgown shut as she opened the office doors and stepped into the lobby. There at the front door stood Janet, angrily banging on the glass. Behind her stood the county sheriff’s deputy, resting his hands on his gun belt and looking unamused. “Open the door right now!” Janet screamed at Eve.
“No! Henry doesn’t love you anymore, Janet. He loves me. Now go away forever!” Eve said, furious at the site of Janet’s ugly face.
The deputy sheriff, having seen enough, wiggled his way around Janet and banged on the door with stronger force.
“If you don’t open this door, ma’am, we’re going to have to break it down and I’ll have to arrest you. Nobody wants that. Just open the door,” the deputy said, cupping his hands around his mouth.
“You can’t have him, Janet, he’s mine!” Eve screamed as she rushed back into Henry’s office and slammed the doors shut. She engaged the locks and propped a large desk chair under the door handle. Panicked, she hurried to the daybed and sat down next to Henry.
“Is everything alright?” Henry asked.
“No! They’re trying to take you away from me.”
“You know they can’t do that, my dear. I’ll always be with you.”
“Soon, Henry, Janet will come through those doors. And when she does, I need you to tell her we’re getting married.” She grabbed his hands into her own. “Tell her it’s over between you and her. Tell her you don’t love her anymore! You love me!”
A crashing noise emanated from the lobby area where the deputy had made good on his threat. Seconds later, a banging on the tall solid-cherry office doors accompanied a command to open them immediately.
“Eve dear, they’ll be in here any moment now. It’s time for you to accept the truth. The truth is, you have to let me go now.”
“They can’t take you away from me, Henry. You said we would be together forever!” Eve gasped.
The deputy was stomping on the doors. With each shot, the doors opened ever so slightly more. For now, the chair held still.
“You tell Janet you love me…and only me!” she screamed at Henry. “All along, we were meant to be in love!” She shrieked with a crackling voice. “And I’ll never leave your side! Ever!”
One last solid shot sprung the double doors wide open. In came the deputy who was quickly pushed aside by Janet. Eve and Henry sat huddled together on the daybed. Eve’s arms were securely wrapped around Henry’s shoulders and her face pressed against his. She glared at Janet, whose face quickly changed from furious to petrified. The sight before her caused her whole body to stiffen. She wanted to scream, but her lips would only quiver. No color remained in her face. Tears began to pool at the bottom of her eyes.
Henry sat still on the couch. Stiff-as-a-board. His eyes stuck wide open. His gaze focused on a point a thousand miles away. His face held pale and blue. A trickle of dried blood poured from his nose.
Janet watched as Eve planted a wet kiss on Henry’s lips and turned back to her with a smile. “I told you he loved me. Go on, Henry, tell her,” Eve said with a giggle.
Janet sunk to the floor and dropped her face in her hands, sobbing relentlessly.
“See, I told you so!” Eve said as the deputy pried her hands from Henry’s shoulders and placed them in handcuffs.
Credit: Jesse Picker
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