“Honey, we should talk about some options.” Dad’s weary eyes searched for mine.
“Stop it. Just stop it. You’re starting to sound like them.” My eyes wandered across the room, settling on the quietly beeping heart rate monitor next to the bed. I couldn’t look at him, especially when he started talking like this.
“You can’t keep going on like this, throwing away your money on an old man.”
“Dr. Vatel thinks the new treatment will work.”
“He said there was a possibility it could work, Julia.”
I studied the pattern on the linoleum tiles, trying to calm myself down. Every so often he’d bring this up again, and it never ceased to rile me up all the same. I think it was when the pain got bad for him. I tried to ask the doctors to increase the dosage on the morphine drip, but they said it was too dangerous.
“Stop talking like that. I’m not going to lose you like we lost Mom. I’m going to continue paying for Glenvale and that’s final!” I stared down at my hands, trembling slightly. I gripped the plastic handle on the hospital bed, my vision starting to blur with wetness.
I needed to be strong. I needed to be strong for Dad. Mom made me promise that to her when she was in the hospital, when she had lain in that antiseptic room just waiting for the disease to take her. It was hard on both of us, but Dad took the worst of it. I was too busy building up Lynx, the magazine company I founded, to have much time to think about her passing. Every day I would rush over to the hospital after work to check on her, but Dad was with her all the time. He practically slept in that hospital room. We tried every treatment that the insurance covered, but it wasn’t enough to save her in the end.
And now it’s happening all over again.
No. This time it’s different. Lynx is no longer the scrappy magazine operating out of a basement apartment. It doesn’t matter if Dad’s insurance won’t cover the new experimental treatments. Now, I can make sure he has the best treatment that money can buy.
“You were always so headstrong.” Dad chuckled lightly, realizing that he wasn’t going to win this argument. “So how’s your world?”
Thank God, he’s finally dropping the subject.
“Good Daddy, everything is good.”
“How’s the big story? Ready to go to press?”
“Soon, there are a few more things to sort out, but it’s getting there.”
“What about that handsome young man? Blake.” His eyes twinkled at me.
“You mean Mark? He’s the only one you met. He’s fine I guess, I don’t see him around that much. He’s been getting on my case, but at least he doesn’t hold the fact that they own the majority stake in the company over my head constantly.”
“You owe them a lot you know. Especially Mark.”
Blake and Mark Stone of Sandstone Ventures had saved Lynx in 2008 with an injection of capital, when the recession pretty much froze the news stands. No one was buying magazines. It was the right decision at the time to take their offer, but I couldn’t help but regret losing full control over Lynx. It was my company, my child, my life.
Even though Mark had never been heavy handed when giving me “advice”, I knew that ultimately they could force the company to go in whichever direction they wanted. I followed Mark’s advice when it made sense, but sometimes I had to ignore him.
Mark had never been able to convince me to give up my feud with the larger and more popular Ladies World. I knew that Sandstone Ventures had a stake in Ladies World, but that didn’t stop me from undercutting them, scooping the heck out of their reporters, and calling them out on their vapid articles.
I knew I should have given him a break, especially since he got my father into Glenvale when the hospital director had claimed that all of the beds were full.
“Mark’s a good man, Julia. Why doesn’t he come around anymore?”
“He’s very busy Dad, he was just being polite when he came to visit.”
Truth was, Mark had been adamant about visiting my father with me and insisted on speaking to the hospital director to make sure that Dad had the best doctor on his case. It was one of the only times in recent memory that he hadn’t hounded me about leaving Ladies World alone.
“Oh please, Julia, I saw the way you two looked at each other last time he was here. He can’t be so busy that he doesn’t have time for my lovely daughter.”
I had always been attracted to Mark, and he really went out of his way to help me out so he must have felt something for me too, but neither of us ever acted on those impulses. I guess he always seemed so composed and distant. Thinking about Mark’s square chin and piercing eyes was sending uncomfortable waves of heat between my thighs and I wasn’t quite ready for those feelings again. Nor did I want to have to justify my relationship status to Dad yet again.
“Listen Dad, I have to get to work. I’ll be around to visit later tonight okay?”
“Okay, bye honey.”
“Love you, Daddy.”
Something’s different today. I can tell the second I walk in the door to the office. Instead of the usual noise and chatter of reporters and designers brainstorming and teasing one another, or the frantic scurry of interns running photos to various cubicles, there is a hushed and focused pall across the room. I see Jeff mouth, “She’s here” to the layout manager.
Crossing the room in silence, acutely aware of the absence of clicking keyboards, I push this morning’s conversation with Daddy out of my head and put on my business face.
Janice stands up as I approach. That’s not normal.
“You need to wait here,” Janice says in a quiet but heavy voice. I try to push past her.
“Why would I do that? I need to be in my office.”
“Julia. Stop!” Janice jumps between me and the door. “Just stop a moment.”
“What on earth?” I try to control my confused reaction. Janice has been my administrative assistant since the first issue of Lynx went to press. She’s a good employee and an even better friend. When we’re at yoga, lunch or anywhere else she calls me Julia. But in all these years inside this office I have always been “Miss Sharp.”
“Julia, I don’t know what’s going on, but some lawyer from Sandstone came in today with security guards. They’ve been going through the stuff in your office all morning, I tried to stop them but—”