Tuesday’s Tales — Museum Peace
Debbie Jenkins pulled off her eyeglasses and pinched the bridge of her nose. Three kids streaked into the study and chased each other around the desk, bumping her chair as they whisked past.
“Brady won’t let—“
“That’s a lie—“
“Sabrina spilled apple juice on the floor.”
“Give it back!”
The sounds of small fists pounding on flesh was drowned out by a loud, whack then a shattering crash from the kitchen. A moment of silence eerily filled the two-story home as the reverberating echoes faded. Then a loud bellowing cry burst out.
Debbie shoved the cushioned chair back from her desk and sped to the injured three-year-old. She scooped up the squalling child. “Are you hurt, honey? Tell me where you’re hurt.”
The golden-headed boy peered up with tear-stained cheeks holding his left arm. Horror gripped her chest. Yellowish pus slid from the child’s mouth and nose.
“Oh my God! Oh my God! What’s wrong with you, Brady?” He must have some kind of rare brain infection for that amount of seepage. She felt of the boy’s head. He didn’t seem to have a fever.
The two seven-year-old girls barreled into the kitchen. “Aunt Debbie, is Brady hurt?”
She collapsed on the tiled floor and held the child whose cries had quelled to a whimper. “Grab the phone, Sabrina. We need to take him to the hospital.”
Oh why did this have to happen when her sister was away. What had she been thinking when she’d agreed to take care of the five kids? Now, the youngest was going to die before Holly got back and guilt would consume her for the remainder of her life. She would close herself off and never find a man to love her because of it, and she would die a lonely old spinster, exiled from the family who would never forgive her….
The five-year old came in and with his hands on his hips said, “Aunt Debbie, Brady’s been eating my glow-in-the dark slime again.” He took the goop from Brady’s nose and mouth and placed in a plastic play-dough container. Deb squelched the urge to spew her lunch.
Thirty minutes later the doorbell rang. Debbie grabbed her keys and her purse and headed to the door. Before the old woman could say anything Debbie bolted out. “Thanks, Mom. Be back around ten. I have to get this piece done before tomorrow morning.”
The kids’ loud screeches and cries faded as she slid in the car and headed to the museum. She should have known watching kids wasn’t conducive to completing the marketing piece for the new exhibit.
She’d barely slept the night before. Being in new surroundings, each kid had gotten up in the night to find her. Unfortunately the lack of rest didn’t seem to quell their energy. Instead it seemed to fuel them. Debbie breathed out a long sigh.
She parked the car in the darkened lot. The sun sunk behind the buildings of downtown. At least she’d have a few hours of peace and quiet before returning to chaos.
Hmm. The light was on. Maybe Marvin was cleaning early tonight. She unlocked the side door and headed down the back hall to her office, which was really a converted closet with a network feed.
Rows of wooden and gilded frames lined the walls. Stacks of posters and banners of previous exhibts filled the corridor like hedgerows. She weaved and maneuvered through the dusty mess and slipped into her cave.
Deb plugged in her laptop when the first crash sounded. Panic gripped her. Had the kids followed her?
“Damn you to hell!” The woman’s curse rang down the hall.
Chills swept over Deb. Shit. She’d recognize that voice anywhere. Her boss’ wife, Iselle Ansler.
“Iselle, I don’t know why you are so angry. You got what you wanted out of this. Everything except the Picasso. Now you and your lover can go to the Riviera and live on my money.” Her boss’ smooth Dutch/French accent slid over her like silky hands.
She’d been in love with him for five years, but he was married. Her heart leapt at the thought he may no longer be. Calm yourself, Deb.
Married or not, Olivier Ansler, Curator and Director of the Kimball Art Museum, was as unattainable as the Mona Lisa. Deb shook her head, disgusted she’d allowed herself such hope. Olivier socialized with the wealthiest most influential people in the world. Diplomats and dignitaries dined regularly with him. She was just a middle-class girl with a bachelors degree in visual art. Out of her league didn’t even begin to cover it. And he was her boss.
She heard the clip of Italian leather down the hall. Her heart pounded in her chest.
The closet…erm…office door creaked opened. His eyes glinted in surprise, and his charcoal suit was splattered with red wine which he tried to dab with a handkerchief. “Deborah, what are you doing here? I thought you were taking the day off to keep your sister’s children.” The smooth olive skin of his brow furrowed into the slightly tinged salt and pepper hair of his widow’s peak. His chocolate colored eyes studied her.
“Well, I…I was trying to finish this marketing piece for the website and get it posted, but there were too many distractions at home.”
He sauntered to her desk and slipped into a chair like it was a silk robe. She let out a barely audible sigh and a hint of a smile played across his lips. Deb reached up to make sure she wasn’t drooling…again.
“I assume you heard the outburst.”
Her face flushed with heat and little sweat beads broke out on her upper lip. “Not really. I heard voices….”
“I apologize for Iselle’s behavior. As you may have heard, we are – as of today – no longer married.”
Olivier was a taciturn man and always maintained an air of professionalism. Other than harmless flirting at the museum Christmas party or exhibit openings, he’d never been anything more than cordial. To hear him speak of his personal life so freely was…unnerving, exciting.
“Oh. I’m sorry.”
“I am not, and I feel the need to celebrate. Would you care to join me in my office for some champagne?” His eyes glinted with mischief.
“Oh, I don’t –“
“You would deny me this one small request?” He flashed a brilliant smile, and it shot through her like a bolt of electricity.
Her knees turned to mush, and she was grateful to be seated. “I suppose one glass wouldn’t hurt.” She winced at the squeak in her voice.
He stepped around the desk and sat on the edge of it directly in front of her. Pinning her with his gaze with his hands firmly on the arms of her chair, he leaned in, inches from her face. His breath wisped across her cheek when he spoke, “I look forward to it.”
He stood and strode out the door. “Five minutes?”
Deb gulped and nodded. Not sure how she felt about the situation, she ran to the restroom. On one hand, he wanted to have a drink with her.
On the other hand, she didn’t want to be some consolation/celebration fling.
But it was Olivier Ansler! Man-up, Deb. You’ve fantasized about this guy for years. He’s practically invited you into…well, she wasn’t exactly sure what, but it was something. It was more than just a drink. That was for damn sure.
She brushed her hair, put on her lipstick and with as much appeal as she could muster after her Romper Room day headed to the curator’s office.
Come back next Tuesday to find out what happens….the word for next week is ‘kiss’. You really don’t want to miss that. Thanks so much for stopping by, please leave me a comment.
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