COPYRIGHT Paranoia by Joseph Finder. Copyright 2004 by Joseph Finder. All Rights Reserved. Sharing not permitted.
I got an e-mail from Alana saying that she was back, her trip to Palo Alto had been cut short—she didn't explain, but I knew why—and she'd love to see me. I called her at home, and we talked a while about the funeral, and how I was doing, and all that. I told her I didn't much feel like talking about Dad, and then she said, "Are you aware you're in serious trouble with HR?"
My breath stopped. "Am I?"
"Oh, boy. Trion's Personnel Policy Manual expressly forbids workplace romances. Inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace harms organizational effectiveness through its negative impact on participants and co-workers."
I let my breath out slowly. "You're not in my management chain. Anyway, I felt that we were organizationally quite effective. And I thought our sexual behavior was quite appropriate. We were practicing horizontal integration." She laughed, and I said, "I know that neither one of us has time, but don't you think we'll be better Trion employees if we take off a night? I mean really get out of town. Be spontaneous."
"That sounds intriguing," she said. "Yes, I think that could definitely boost productivity."
"Good. I booked a room for us tomorrow night."
"Uh-uh. Tell me where," she said.
"Nope. It'll be a surprise. As our fearless leader likes to say, sometimes you just gotta get in the car."
She picked me up in her blue Mazda Miata convertible, drove us out to the country while I gave directions. In the silences I obsessed about what I was about to do. I was into her, and this was a problem. Here I was, using her to try to save my own skin. I was so going to hell.
The drive took forty-five minutes, on a stop-and-go road past a parade of identical shopping malls and gas stations and fast-food places, and then a narrow and very winding road through woods. At one point she peered at me, noticed the bruise around my eye, said, "What happened? You get into a fight?"
"Basketball," I said.
"I thought you weren't going to play with Chad anymore."
I smiled, didn't say anything.
Finally we came to a big, rambling country inn, white clapboard with dark green shutters. The air was cool and fragrant, and you could hear birds chirping, and no traffic.
"Hey," she said, removing her sunglasses. "Nice. This place is supposed to be excellent."
"You take all your girlfriends here?"
"Never been here before," I said. "I read about it, and it seemed like the perfect getaway." I put my arm around her narrow waist and gave her a kiss. "Let me get your bags."
"Just one," she said. "I travel light."
I took our bags up to the front door. Inside it smelled of wood fires and maple syrup. The couple who owned and ran the place greeted us like old friends.
Our room was sweet, very country-inn. There was an enormous four-poster bed with a canopy, braided throw rugs, chintz curtains. The bed faced a huge old brick fireplace that clearly got a lot of use. The furnishings were all antiques, the rickety kind that make me nervous. There was a captain's chest at the foot of the bed. The bathroom was enormous, with an old iron clawfoot tub in the middle of the room—the kind that looks great, but if you want to take a shower you have to stand in the tub with a little handheld shower thing and spray yourself the way you wash a dog, and try not to splash water all over the floor. The bathroom was connected to a little sitting area off the bedroom furnished with an oak desk and an old telephone on a rickety telephone table.
The bed squeaked and groaned, as we found out when we both plopped down on it after the innkeeper had left. "God, imagine what this bed has seen," I said.
"A lot of chintz," Alana said. "Reminds me of my grandmother's house."
"Is your grandmother's house as big as this place?"
She nodded once. "This is cozy. Great idea, Adam." She slipped a cool hand under my shirt, stroked my stomach, and then moved south. "What were you saying about horizontal integration?"
Question of the Week: Can you think up a dish for Thanksgiving? Use your imagination (make it literary, imaginative or just plain crazy) and let your creative juices flow! Click here to share your dish.