Emma was fumbling for her room card when his words made her jump with fear.
“Sweetheart, please forgive me. I didn’t mean to frighten you.” Paul stood near her and continued, “It’s just that you seemed lost tonight, and I’m concerned about you. Would you care to have a nightcap with me to maybe bring some happiness to that beautiful face?”
“Paul, I’m tired, and my mind is elsewhere. I think I’ll need to take a rain check.”
“Sure, I understand. You do know, however, that in my profession, I’m quite sensitive to peoples’ feelings and thoughts. It seems pretty clear that you need to talk, and again, my training might help you.”
Emma stood in the hallway torn. She needed to be alone, but this man was reaching out to her in a way that might put her fears of her mother at ease. “On second thought, maybe I could use the company. Maybe you’re just what I need at this moment.”
A smug feeling erupted inside him. Who is this woman that has captured the trust, and may I dare think, the love from Gloria? On one hand, Gloria seems jealous of her, but with more thought, she seems to be a mother-hen. His confidence filled him with elation. “Come on, Emma. Let me sit down with you and be your listener. It can’t hurt, and who knows, it may even get you out of your funk.”
Emma took him to the bar that seemed to be most hidden from the public, the one that was sure to give them the privacy she desired so that she could let go of the pain and guilt she felt for keeping a secret from her mother, a secret that would surely bring pain to the woman who had raised her.
She chose a table in the corner at the back of the room. The place was nearly empty, but still, she wanted to be in hiding with him, just in case someone she knew decided to use the bar for a nightcap. After ordering two glasses of a fine wine, he prompted her to begin telling him of her troubles. “Emma, I’m here to do nothing but listen, no judgment, just listen.”
Her eyes swelled with tears, and as private as she was, she needed to unload. She was ready to talk to him when the interruption came.
“So Paul, are you here to poison this lady’s head with your ideas?” Dr. Jeremy Prince stood over them, his expression filled with his usual anger toward Paul.
“Oh come on, Jeremy, get lost. This has nothing to do with you.” Paul’s frustration was adamant, his loathing of the man apparent in his tone.
Jeremy shook his head and said to her, “Be careful, Emma. This man has ways of making you think crazy thoughts.” And then he left them alone.
She looked across the table. “Don’t worry, Paul. He doesn’t believe in what you do. To tell the truth, I’m not sure I’m all that keen on it either. But we’re not here to discuss your work. I need to talk, and maybe you are best qualified to hear me out.” The waiter delivered their drinks, and she took a sip of the wine. “I am disturbed, but it has nothing to do with the events of tonight, but rather, my life. You see, I come from a family that is very close, and I’ve deceived my parents. Well, my mom, I’ve deceived my mom. And I put my dad in a bad place by having him keep a secret from her. He’s so devoted to her. It was wrong for me to put him in the middle of all this.” She took another sip of her wine, and was struck with the silent attention he was giving her, allowing her to unload her anguish without any dissenting opinion.
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