Just as the doors of the elevator closed on Jordan, the set of doors three feet to the right peeled open to reveal Tim's sister Nadine. Out of human curiosity, Tim looked to see who was getting out of the elevator. Nadine was standing, arms crossed with a look about her that at once reminded Tim of their shared Mother. The thin lines of moisture that Nadine had done her best to blot out, the snarl of unwelcome sadness; it was the exact same expression that their mother had worn every night as their Father stumbled home from a late night at 'the office.' In a moment of irrepressible cowardice he ducked into the small recession between his elevator and the one on his left. Apparently, seeing the fated symmetry of parent and child so plainly had quietly struck a chord. He watched as his sister stalked past his hiding place. Her entire body drooped, subject to the feminine gravity of loss Tim could never hope to understand.
He followed the slow, slapping footsteps until they stopped then waited silently for the tell-tale jingle of keys and the perfunctory slam of Nadine's apartment door. A few moments later he stepped out of his make-shift hiding place and mimicked Nadine's path until he stood before her apartment door. He knew it would be best to wait a few moments before he knocked, he couldn't bear to even think of trying to explain why he'd arrived so shortly after her. However, he knew he shouldn't keep the Chassagnés waiting. Having both Nathan and Jordan arrive at the apartment only to find him standing outside wouldn't help anything. Taking a deep breath, he raised his fist and gave two sharp raps on the door.
Two floors up, Nathan was sitting on the bed again. He’d put on a t-shirt since Nadine had left, a beaten up relic from his youth. He’d planned to give the apartment a final once over before the inevitable return of his wife, but his mind couldn’t maintain the act of looking long enough to be effective. Caught in the excruciating time between action and consequence, Nathan absently wandered the apartment. He picked up a small framed picture of Jordan and stared deep into the dusty glass. He let his eyes pour over her short blond curls and into her pale green eyes and he knew he should have felt sorrow or regret or even elation, but nothing came. He no longer regretted Nadine’s affections and he felt no shame over his infidelity. He couldn’t even muster up the necessary emotions to feel glad that it looked as though his wife wouldn’t find out. At some point between spotting Nadine in his bed and gently bidding her farewell, he’d lost all feeling.
At the sound of the mechanisms of his door’s lock turning, Nathan mind snapped back into his body. He felt the tickling sensation in his chest of panic and the small gut twists of fear, but still no remorse came. Frantically, he rushed back to the bedroom. He heard the normally satisfying pop of the lock releasing, but it only made him move more quickly. Clumsily he pulled on a pair of jeans and ran a belt through the loops around his waist. All things considered he looked presentable. Jordan clacked quickly into the apartment on business heels, peeling off her coat in a rush. As she approached, Nathan heard her joyful squeal and put on a convincing smile. She stepped into the bedroom and threw her arms wide.
“Happy new years!” She cried and then immediately tackled him backwards onto the bed. Nathan laughed dizzily as he tumbled backwards under his wife’s small body.
“Hey Jo!” He stammered, his voice muffled by a volley of quick affectionate kisses. “How was Winnipeg?”
“Shitty.” She stated bluntly before planting a firm kiss on her husband’s stubbled cheek conclusively. “But it’s okay because I’m not there anymore!” She grinned widely and slid off Nathan and onto the floor. “Are you dressed for lunch? We’re having lunch with Nadine and her brother.” She explained as she abruptly began to slide out of her stiff business clothes. Nathan felt a ball rise in his throat at the prospect of seeing Nadine again so soon, but he masked his discomfort well.
“Is this good enough? Or will I need fancier?” Nathan’s shirt wasn’t exactly high-fashion.
“No, that’s good. We’ll just go somewhere close. What did you get up to while I was gone?” She shouted from the bathroom. It was amazing how quickly Jordan moved when she needed to. She’d already pulled on a flattering sweater and a pair of tight jeans. “Nothing too seedy, I hope?”
“I wish. I just sat around all week when I wasn’t at work.” Nathan mumbled it loudly enough for her to hear without it sounding as though he needed her to hear it. After a brief storm of clatters and clangs from the washroom, Jordan emerged looking invigorated. “I decided I’m going to grow a beard.” Nathan said, smiling as she walked by. She slid on a pair of flats and her coat.
“Nathan, you’ll look ridiculous with a beard, but I’ll love you anyways.” At that, Nathan stood up, grabbed his coat and followed his wife out the door at roughly the same time as Nadine and Tim arrived at the ground floor of the apartment building.
“Are you sure you’re okay, Nat?” Tim asked, staring into the profile of her unwavering face. Her hair was down but she’d clipped it out of her face, not that it had made it any easier for Tim to read.
“Yes. Stop asking me, and don’t you dare mention it when Jordan and Nate get down here. They’ll think I’m a maniac, crying on the goddamn roof on New Year’s Day...” She’d changed out of the clothes she’d worn at Nathan’s. Somehow they’d lost their luster. She was wearing a yellow sun-dress despite the January chill. She’d put on a faux-fur lined coat on-top of it just to retain some semblance of sanity, but she still looked underdressed. “Maybe you’re the one that isn’t okay; spying on your sister, hiding in goddamn elevators... Why are you being such a creep?” Tim was hurt, but it was no new sensation. Nadine’s hostility was more reliable than the sunrise and would continue long after it’s final setting. “Sorry.” Such apologies were an infrequent phenomenon, but not altogether unheard of. Still, it caught Tim off-guard.
Tim and Nadine gravitated away from the elevator and found themselves leaning against the wall opposite the row of reflective doors. ‘Nothing reminds you how much your hate yourself quite like a row of elevators.’ Nadine thought darkly, she crossed her arms over her slightly exposed cleavage and pulled the fringe of her skirt down a bit more. The door directly across from Nadine and Tim slid open slowly, revealing Nathan and Jordan. There was a half-second contact between Nathan and Nadine’s eyes but there was nothing there. Quickly all four members of the party shifted their faces to the polite smiles shared between friends and acquaintances. Greetings were exchanged and anodyne queries of “What have you been up to?” and half-hearted responses from all sides.
One by one the group filed into Tim’s small silver car; a hatchback with a broken tail-light and a horn with much in common with a dying crow. With a clumsy rush, Tim pulled into traffic and began the slow crawl to the nearest diner with a lunch special. There was a congenial flow of conversation between Nadine and Jordan as was to be expected from people who had known each other as long as they had. Nathan and Tim had tried to talk, but the conversation had died too many times to warrant another try. The car lurched to an abrupt stop in front of an ill-timed red light and there was a startled lull in the conversation. The light changed and Tim pressed his foot to the pedal.
Staring quietly out the window, Nathan watched as they passed across the steep hill which led to the ocean-front. He stared out at the boats longingly, envious of their solitary dignity. Jordan watched her husband staring vacantly out the window and felt an inexplicable concern. Hesitantly, she smiled and with a jovial tone asked, “So everyone, who was your New Year’s Kiss?” The look which passed between Nathan and Nadine was little more than an instinctive reaction, but it told Jordan more than any possible answer could have. Quietly Jordan smiled and added, “I guess the only people I really need to ask are Tim and Nadine.” She winked boldly at Nathan, who returned a warm smile of suppressed relief. With a discrete movement of her hands, Jordan slid off her wedding band without a struggle and dropped it quietly into her pocket.