I stepped up to the perpetually scantily-clad secretary, a young girl named Jillian, at Lawrence's front desk.
“I need to speak with Mr. Boudin please.” I asked her.
With a raise of her eyebrow, she got up from her post and pushed open the heavy frosted-glass door leading into Lawrence's private office. I glanced backward quickly and there was Abram, standing with his arms crossed over his chest and looking much more imposing than any Amish man should, whether he's shunned or not. I gave a small smile, and turned back to the desk when the secretary emerged.
The secretary soon emerged, and said in an airy voice, “Mr. Boudin is in a meeting right now.”
I resisted the urge to roll my eyes. “Tell him it's important.”
“I said, he's in a m....”
“I heard what you said,” I snapped, “Now you go tell Lawrence what I said: it's important.”
She narrowed her eyes, but returned to the office and rejoined us a moment later.
“Mr. Boudin will see you now,” she said with a very unconvincing smile plastered on her face.
“Mmm-hmm,” I said as I turned back towards Abram. “I will be out in a little while.”
“Oh no,” Abram said, shaking his head. “I'm going with you.”
“I agreed to have you come with me, Abe, but I've got to do this part alone. Okay?”
He pondered my words a moment, and reluctantly agreed. “I'll be right here if you need me.”
I nodded, and turned towards Lawrence's office.
'It's now or never,' I thought, and pushed through the door. I entered into Lawrence's lair – a staunch gray brick room with little to no decoration, and my eyes fell on my husband's desk chair – it was turned around, not facing the doorway, but I could see the tip of Lawrence's head. I frowned, thinking 'In a meeting my foot!', but I walked on, until I was less than a foot from the ornate black desk.
“Lawrence,” I said, my tone cool and calm, “we need to talk.”
I could see him shake his head before spinning around to face me.
“What about?” He asked, his hands crossed over his body, his fingertips tapping his knuckles lightly. On the surface he looked apathetic – no real expression on his ashen face - but his eyes held a certain hostility.
I took a breath, and – not feeling quite as anxious as I had anticipated – I began to speak. “I am leaving, Lawrence.”
'Hmm, that wasn't all too difficult.'
The corners of his lips flicked up for a fraction of a second as his eyes narrowed on me. “You only just got here.”
His attempt at humor didn't elicit a response from me. I simply repeated myself, “I'm leaving, Lawrence. I'm leaving you.”
He lowered his eyebrows, but his expression didn't change. He appeared to be calculating something in his head as he stared into space, but he didn't speak.
“This can't be a surprise,” I continued to elaborate, “not with the way things have been lately....”
Still, he didn't respond – he didn't move a fraction of an inch.
“Lawrence?” I asked, eying him suspiciously. I had expected some kind of a reaction. I had expected him to yell, or scream, or... something. “Lawrence.” I repeated, my voice louder this time.
His steely gray eyes met mine, and suddenly I saw it - that look I had become all too familiar with in five simyears of marriage- the look that usually preceded a very bad, very physical fight. I swallowed hard, but didn't move as he stood.
“You're leaving....” He said in a calm voice, pushing his chair back towards the wall. “You're leaving... me?” His last word was obscured by a small chuckle.
“Yes.” I said, my eyes glued to him as he rounded his desk, a disconcerting smile plastered on his full lips.
“Neeve,” he started to say as he come towards me. “You're not leaving me.”
“Y-Yes, I am.” I stuttered, but I didn't relent. “I'm sorry, Lawrence, but I can't stay at the house....”
“You're not understanding me,” Lawrence's voice was less calm now, and I began to see anger contort his face. “You. Are. Not. Leaving.”
As he closed the distance between us, I stepped back. The usual things began to filter through my mind – 'How far away is the door?' and 'Could I get out before he gets to me?'.
“You see, Neeve,” he started again, following me slowly, matching me step for step, “You're being silly. No, that's not even the word. You're being stupid, Neeve. You wouldn't be able to make it out there without me. You have no family. You have no friends. You would fall on your face, and come crawling back. Don't you see? You can skip all that embarrassment, and just stay. It would be a lot less... painful... for both of us.”
Somehow, I didn't believe he really meant it would be less painful for 'us', as I backed up through his office, my muscles tightening as I saw his fists ball.
“Lawrence,” I started, but realized that my voice wasn't the only one in the room saying his name. I glanced backward to see Abram standing at the door, his jaw set in a hard line, his eyes narrowed on my husband. I glanced back at Lawrence, and saw him cock his head. He looked almost amused.
“Perfect timing, Dr. Vogel.” He said with that same slick smile, his fists relaxing. “How is it that you know exactly when it interrupt a conversation. I thought the Amish were supposed to have manners.”
“Come, Neeve.” Abram said, not paying heed to Lawrence's words, but not taking his eyes off him either. “We're leaving.”
“Ah,” Lawrence said with a short laugh, “At least I'll know where to find her then. When I come to bring her home tonight, I mean.”
“She won't be coming home, Lawrence.”
“Oh, I doubt that.” Lawrence replied, almost grinning now.
“Come, Neeve.” Abram repeated, and this time I listened. I watched Lawrence out of the corner of my eye as we left the office.
“Bye, Neeve,” He said almost sweetly, “See you tonight, honey.”
Only when the elevator door was closed did I allow myself to shudder. I felt Abram's arm encircle me immediately.
“Ach, Neeve,” he said, pulling me into him, “You needn't worry. You'll be safe at the beach house.”
“Yeah, I know....” I muttered, not sounding quite as sure about that is he did.
With Abram and Neeve gone, Lawrence sank back into his desk chair. He lent back and frowned – he wouldn't let this happen. Where did that woman get the gull to say those things to him? Hadn't he shown her that he was the one calling the shots? His mother always told him that it was a woman's job to cater to her husband, and Neeve, well, she was piss-poor at it. If he couldn't make her understand that she belonged with him, that she belonged to him, well....
Suddenly, he had an idea. Leaning forward he grabbed his phone and dialed the lobby. “Yes, Jillian,” he spoke into the receiver, “get Ronaldo Bernardi on the phone for me.”
A sly smile spread across Lawrence's face as he waited for his secretary to make the connection.