(Excerpt from Chapter 10:)
At 5:30 p.m. on the 23rd of
December, the doors of the board room of Delta Global Shipping
were thrown open to EDNO and their guests. The room was a large
rectangle on the top floor of the four-story DGS building, located
on the river-side of the protection levee at the foot of Poydras
Street. The room took up a quarter of the floor, and one side
was lined with windows overlooking the Mississippi. A large table
was in the center of the room, and it was covered with appetizers.
A temporary bar serving wine, beer and soft drinks was set up
close to the double doors leading to the hallway. A second door
led to the personal offices of the President/CEO and the Chairman.
The hosts for the evening were Will Darcy and his VP of Marketing,
The men were dressed in their
usual business attire -- suits, and sport coats, with only Christmas
ties as a nod to the season. The women were dressed appropriately
for the occasion, their outfits more suitable for a night on
the town than a day at the office. Elizabeth, after much indecision,
had decided to go for it and wore a dark green cocktail dress
and heels, a red belt showing off her trim figure.
Most everyone who was married
or attached brought guests. Elizabeth hung out with Charlotte,
as neither had a date.
As they were introduced to
Kaywanda's new boyfriend, Scott Davis, Charlotte asked, "And
where did you say you met him, Kay?"
Kaywanda giggled as she tightened
her hold on Scott's arm. "I was down at Re-Uzz-It -- you
know, that reused building supply non-profit off St. Claude?
I was looking for a new door for my momma's house, and Scott
here was so helpful, showing me all the doors that had come in,
and taking measurements, and all that construction stuff. We
got to talking and found we had so much in common and
here we are!"
Scott grinned. He was dressed
rather causally in a black crew-neck shirt and cargo pants with
a grey houndstooth jacket. "I'm just working there until
next fall. I should be starting my graduate studies at UNO in
"What's your major?"
"Sociology," he answered.
Kaywanda piped in. "He
wants to get his Ph.D. or become a social worker. Isn't that
They shared a little more small
talk before the couple drifted off. Once out of range, Charlotte
leaned over to Lizzy. "So, what do you think of Kay's new
"He's nice, if awfully--"
"I was going to say 'Goth'
with all those piercings and tattoos, Char."
"That too," Char
laughed. "I like him. Kay needs somebody good. Oh, hi, Jan.
Hi, Mr. Hill."
Lizzy and Charlotte talked
for awhile with Jan Hill and her husband, a contractor from Jefferson.
Lizzy looked around to see Will Darcy approaching. Her gut clenched.
He was in a navy suit with a tie in a holly pattern. She had
wondered if Will was going to talk to her ever since she learned
of Darcy's offer to host the party. Now she was going to find
"Hi, Will." She moved
over to invite him into the circle of conversation.
"Merry Christmas, Lizzy,"
he smiled. "I hope all of you are enjoying yourselves. Hello,
Charlotte, Jan. Mr. Hill, nice to meet you."
"Same here, Mr. Darcy.
Very nice place you got here. Who built it?"
"Haven't a clue. You may
want to ask Leon." He turned to call to Anderson. "Hey,
Leon, we got a question for you." After introducing Hill
to Anderson and the two, with Jan, wandered off discussing the
design of the building, Will turned to Charlotte. "Are y'all
having a good time?"
"Of course! What a spread
you've put out! I just might sneak some of that shrimp home in
Will said with a straight face,
"Well, don't take 'em all. Leave some for me. Saves me from
makin' groceries over Christmas." It took a second for the
girls to get the joke, and all three had a good laugh.
Charlotte looked out the window.
"That's a nice balcony, Mr. Darcy."
"Please, call me Will.
Want to see it? The door's right this way." He escorted
the two women through a door onto the balcony overlooking the
wharf and the river. The sun was almost down, the last pink streams
of sunlight painting the nearby skyscrapers. The day was mild,
with only a light breeze off the river.
Charlotte. Will silently agreed with her, but for a different
reason, as his eyes were on Lizzy. They moved to the railing,
watching some of the river traffic.
"Will, this is so nice,"
"Yeah. Sometimes, when
I brown-bag it, I eat lunch out here. My office is right over
there." He pointed at another door.
Char breathed in. "How
can you get any work done with this view, Will?"
"It's tough, sometimes.
My assistant, Barbara, keeps my feet to the fire, though."
They turned and observed the crowd within. "Everybody seems
to be enjoying themselves."
"It was very nice of you
to host this party, and to invite the spouses too."
"Yeah, well, it's a tradition
at DGS, as well. We had about two hundred people at the office
Christmas party last Friday. We had to hold it at the Hilton.
You didn't bring a date, Char?"
She shook her head. "Lizzy's
my date tonight."
"Mike couldn't make it
tonight, Lizzy?" Will asked.
Lizzy blinked. "Pardon
"Mike Riviere. Did he
come in this weekend from Washington?"
"I don't know. How would
I know that?"
Will frowned. "What do
you mean? I thought-- Hold on a second. Aren't y'all dating?"
By this time, Charlotte, seeing
that something both personal and important was going on, had
discreetly slipped away back indoors. The pair never noticed.
Will was clearly confused.
but I was told
You aren't dating?"
Lizzy shook her head. "Mike
and I broke up back in May. I haven't seen him since."
Will blinked. "You aren't
dating Mike Riviere."
"No, I'm not."
Now Lizzy was confused. "You
sound like you're disappointed."
Will started. "No! I mean
I'm sorry." He looked over her shoulder, trying
to control his growing hopes. "Mike's a nice guy. I'm sorry
it didn't work out."
"Right. Breakups can be
painful. I hope
well--" He looked at her, "How
are you doing?"
She smiled. "I'm fine,
Will." She realized that Will was uncomfortable, but for
all the right reasons.
"Good, good. You look
good. Well, I mean. Happy."
"I am happy. Alone, but
"Good, good. No! I mean,
It's not good that you're alone
I mean--" He stopped
and slapped his forehead. "Oh, hell -- I better shut up.
I sound like an idiot."
Lizzy giggled. "And how
"Me? I'm fine, fine."
He shrugged. "Umm
I'm not dating anybody right now,
either, though. Been busy, you know."
"Yes, I can imagine."
"Lots of out-of-town meetings."
"I know how it is. It's
hard to have a relationship when you're busy."
He leaned over the railing
and looked at the river in the twilight. "Yes, well, it's
lonely, too. Finally, you get to the point of wondering if it's
all worth it. The work, without having someone to share it with.
Without having meaning in your life."
Lizzy joined him gazing at
the river, watching a freighter navigate the bend at Algiers
Point. "I agree. We weren't made to go through life alone.
Everyone's looking for that special someone, wondering if they'll
ever meet, frightened that they won't, and scared that they have
but passed up the opportunity. Torn between the mystery of the
future and the regrets of the past."
Lizzy stole a peek at her companion,
afraid she had said too much or not enough. She felt a warm rush
as he turned his attention to her, his eyes searching, wondering.
His lips started to move.
The couple broke out of their
trance at the interruption. Darcy's assistant, Barbara, was right
behind them. "I'm sorry to disturb you, but Miss Darcy's
on line one."
"Oh!" cried Will.
He glanced at his watch. "Tell her I'll be at the condo
in a little while. Thank you, Barbara." As the secretary
walked away, Will turned back to Lizzy. "I'm sorry, Lizzy,
but I've got to cut out a bit early. Gina got back in town today
from Auburn, and we've got this dinner to go to. Family thing."
"I understand. How is
"She's doing fine. She's
studying marketing and graphic arts, and doing real well. Between
school and her sorority, she's staying busy."
"Nice to have her home
for the holidays."
"It is. And you? What
are you doing this Christmas?"
"What I usually do. Spend
some time back home in Chackbay."
"I'm sorry -- I should
have asked. How is your family? I know how Jane and Chuck are
doing, but what about the rest of them?"
"Oh! They're fine. My
parents are just the same. Mary's teaching now, and Kit's in
you all together, right?"
"Yes, all girls. Jane,
Mary, Kit, Lydia and me. The Boudreaux Babes." She didn't
know if Will had caught the slight hesitation before she mentioned
her youngest sister.
Will seemed torn for a moment.
"I've really gotta go. I'll make my excuses inside. But
before I do that, I want to personally wish you and your family
a very Merry Christmas."
"Thank you, Will, that's
very nice. I wish the same to you, too."
"Thanks." He turned
to go. "Please give my regards to Chuck and Jane?"
"I will. See you next
Will stopped and turned, confused.
right, next year. January. Yep, I'll be
seeing you. You bet!" He grinned, waved, and stepped back
into the board room.
Lizzy sagged back onto the
railing, replaying the encounter in her mind. She was still staring
off into space when Charlotte found her a few minutes later.
"He just left. What the
heck was going on out here?"
Lizzy had been contemplating
Darcy's dimples. "What's that, Char?"
"What's with you and Will
Lizzy was glad that the gathering
darkness hid her blush. "We were just catching up on old
times. We did go to college together."
"Is that all?"
For now, maybe. "Since when did you get so nosey?"
"Since when do you have
a private conversation with the most eligible bachelor in New
"'Most eligible bachelor?'
Where did you get that?"
"Gambit -- two
She pointed at her friend's
forehead. "You read trash, you'll turn that into trash.
Now, let's go inside. All of a sudden, I'm famished!" She
made her way towards the door, Charlotte following in her wake.
"Hey! Leave some shrimp
"Not a chance."