Stories from the Hart: Buyer Blues, Part 3

Buyer Blues by Shannon Hart
Part 3

If you missed Part 1, you can read it here.
If you missed Part 2, you can read it here
Five deep breaths later, I was in my zone, finally working on those order revisions. It wasn’t so bad. As it turned out, I didn’t have to make that many changes. But just as I started to key in numbers half way, Lana knocked on my door.

“Not now, Lana. I’m running on a tight deadline.”

Lana just stood there. She didn’t know quite what to say or how to say, I guess, so she just stood there looking as if she had just seen a ghost.

So did I when I noticed Vin standing behind her.

“You’ve got a really nice office, Janie. I can’t believe I’ve never seen it before,” he said, sporting his all-too-familiar smolder.

I wondered what he was doing here, but I couldn’t get the words out. I just sat there, as dumbstruck as Lana was, with my mouth hanging wide open.

He welcomed himself into my office and winked at Lana as he closed the door. Willingly, she stepped back and let us have some privacy, even though the look on her face told me she was dying to know why the ex-boyfriend-but-soon-to-be-brother-in-law made a surprise visit to our office.

“I’m sorry to just barge into your office like this. I didn’t know where else to go and who else to talk to. I’m just…”

“I can’t talk to you about this,” I cut him off straight away knowing exactly what the whole conversation would lead me to.

“Give me one reason why.”

“I can name you fifteen! It’s weird. It’s complicated. I don’t want to get stuck in the middle of this and Amanda already thinks I’m taking your side. I can’t do this!” I spoke to him in a high tone, but couldn’t actually look him in the eyes. It just felt too strange to be talking about his impeding marriage and pre-marital dilemmas. Besides, if I was supposed to be on Amanda’s side, I should be mad at him too, right?

“So you can talk to Amanda about this but not me?”

“She’s my sister! How can I not talk about this with her?”

Vin sat down on the black leather couch and buried his face in his hands. He wasn’t crying or anything, but I could tell he was just as frustrated as Amanda was.

I tried to recall a time when he was this devastated over a problem that we had while we were dating, but I couldn’t. I had never seen him so bothered, so miserable before. Either he wasn’t that serious with me, or he is just that much more in love with Amanda now. The latter sounded better.

I rolled my eyes. I couldn’t believe I was going to do this. “Lana,” I buzzed. “Could you help me with something?”

Lana came walking in, almost dancing perhaps at the thought that she would be able to listen in on a thing or two. Too bad all I wanted her to do was help me with my orders so I could still send everything in on time.

“Everything marked in blue in the books needs to be changed from 15 to 20 in the quantity column and everything marked in pink needs to be cancelled in the orders because the products got cancelled. I need you to help me do everything before noon. I’ve done it halfway, you’ll only have another book to do and it’s really not much.”

“Sure, sure…” Lana nodded.

“Great, thanks, Lana.”

She smiled and hopped out of the room, but didn’t close the door before sending me an I-want-to-hear-everything look.

“Look, Vin,” I began, as I closed the door. “I don’t know why this is such a big deal for you. I mean, I understand that the stay-at-home wife kind of thing has been like this lifelong goal for you or something but come on, it’s 2011 for crying out loud. Things have changed. It’s not a sin to be working a full time job, you know.”

Vin sighed.

“She just wants to make something of herself, you know. It’s not wrong to want to have a career. Imagine if you guys were to one day get a divorce and she had nothing to fall back on. Or if, let’s say, for some reason you can’t work anymore. What happens to you guys? She’d have to work, right? She’d have to support you guys.”

“Well, since we’re talking ‘what-ifs’ here, what if she takes this huge job and just gets too busy for us to have kids? What if she gets too busy loving her job that she forgets to love me?”

I suddenly felt the urge to slap him. It felt way too much like it did back when we were fighting and his nonsense was getting on my nerves.

“Are you even listening to what you’re saying? Do you even hear how ridiculous you sound right now?”

“Look, Janie, I know this is sort of a sore subject for you but my fears aren’t irrational.”

I had my arms across my chest, tightly locked, so that I wouldn’t send him a good right hook.

“What you don’t know about me and my family is that my mom is not actually my mom. Cathy is my stepmother. My real mom left us when I was two years old. She was some corporate big shot who decided she wanted to just focus on her career and that her husband and two boys were weighing her down. She just packed up her things one day and told my dad she didn’t want to be a wife or mother anymore. None of us have heard from her since she left and… I guess I haven’t really healed.”

All of a sudden, I wished Vin would slap me instead. I felt so stupid for mocking him. His fears did come from a real place. I couldn’t have known, but still.

“I know that my mom might have been a one-off case and that Amanda would never do that, but it’s hard for me to just forget everything that happened to my family. Amanda is a great person and I love her to death but…”

My urge to hit him had been replaced by an urge to hug him instead. So, I did. I couldn’t imagine what it must have been like for him and his family – the feeling of being abandoned, the sense of loss. No matter how inappropriate it was, I stood on my toes and wrapped my tiny arms around him to let him know that I cared.

“Vin, why haven’t you told anyone about this before? I mean, this is something you should be telling Amanda, not me.” I wanted to say that it could have saved our relationship if he had told me sooner, but considering that his and Amanda’s wedding was only days away, it seemed hardly worth mentioning.

“I just… wanted you to know why it’s such a big deal for me. Why I couldn’t stand it when you got so busy with your job and why I chose to end our relationship before I got hurt. But with Amanda, I don’t want to end this. I want to marry her, Janie. I want to figure out how to work this out. She isn’t answering her phone when I call, but she listens to you. She looks up to you more than anyone else in the world.”

“Well, you’re about an hour late. She was talking to me but she thinks I’m on your side, so she’s not speaking to me either at the moment.”

“Why does she think you’re on my side?”

“Well, because I told her to look at it from your point of view… to find middle ground, to talk to you and compromise. I don’t know how that got translated into being on your side, but whatever.” I shrugged. “I guess I learned from what happened to us.”

Vin smiled.

I hated it when he smiled. He looked so damn gorgeous.

“Can’t you try again? Just pick up the phone and talk to her. She’ll listen to you, I’m sure of it.”

“Fine. After the deadline, I’ll call her. But I’m not making any promises, Vin.”

He gave me a quick peck on the cheek and whispered a soft thank you before he disappeared, leaving me sitting on my desk all dazed and confused.

It was funny how he and I connected better today than we did when we were a couple and even though I fully realized how much it made me feel like a terrible human being, I felt a pang of jealousy that he was so willing to fight for her but didn’t fight for me. Just as I did about an hour ago, I found myself contemplating yet again whether or not I should call my sister, only this time it was for entirely different reasons. I wondered if it would even make a difference. She didn’t seem like she wanted to talk to me, what good would another phone call do? But on the other hand, this time, I felt like I really could help her.

“Janie, you are going to call her, aren’t you?” Lana asked, buzzing me and interrupting my not-so-deep thoughts.

I snorted. Lana didn’t have to wait for me to tell her the full story at all. She amazingly managed to eavesdrop on the whole thing without getting caught.

“I don’t know yet, Lana. I’m still thinking about it.”

“What’s there to think about? Make the damn call! You can save this wedding, Janie. Come on!” Lana cheered me on and after about five minutes of listening to her, I finally made the decision to call – perhaps more because I wanted to shut Lana up, but whatever.

Trust my sister to be insanely unpredictable though. Instead of listening to me and understanding the situation with Vin when I said, “Amanda, you really need to hear this. Vin came by and he said that his mom’s not really his mom,” she started crying hysterically. And I mean hysterically. Even Lana, and her apparently bionic ears, almost fell over when she heard Amanda crying and screaming at the top of her lungs, telling me how I had betrayed her by seeing Vin behind her back at a time like this. In a nutshell, she was outraged that Vin came to me instead of going to her with the mom story, and didn’t even believe the story at all. My sweet, normally gentle sister actually used the words “a load of crap” – a term I had never heard her use before in my entire life. Oh, and she managed to slip in words like “backstabbing hypocrite” too. It would be a lie to say that I wasn’t tempted to just slam the phone and hang up on her. It seemed like such an easy exit: hang up and let her rot in her misery, and never have to bother about the stupid wedding again. But then I remembered what Vin looked like. And I listened to all the words behind Amanda’s screams and yells. No matter how harsh her words were to me, I kept hearing the same thing over and over again, even though she never used the exact words: she loved him so much it hurt. So I decided, it was time to use the middle name.

“Amanda Louise Garrett! Will you shut up for five minutes and let me talk?” I felt this odd sensation as I matched her high-pitched tone. It was… power? I noticed that Amanda suddenly stopped talking. She stopped crying. Heck, she probably even stopped breathing for a few seconds there. It went dead silent on the other end of the line, and so I quickly took that as my cue. “First of all, the only reason Vin came here was because he was desperate. He kept trying to call you but you would answer his calls. Go ahead and check your phone. You’ll find at least a dozen missed calls from him.”

“But I…”

“Shut up! I’m still talking!” I demanded. Geez, I sounded so much like my mother it gave me goose bumps. “Second of all, the minute I saw him, I told him I didn’t want to talk to him because I was on your side. You’re my little sister; I would never take his side.” I could tell she wanted to interrupt me again but probably decided otherwise due to the fact that I was being scary as hell at that point. I had never, ever, in my entire life, been that hard on her before. “Now, even as I tell you this, I am not on his side. I repeat – I am not on his side. But I do feel obliged to tell you what he told me because I don’t want to see you guys fall apart. You guys are so great together even when you’re both too pigheaded to listen to each other.”

I heard Amanda make a little sound that sounded like a mixture of a laugh and a sigh.

“For the first time in his life, he revealed to me that Cathy, his mom, isn’t really his birth mother. His birth mother actually left him and his family when he was about two years old to go pursue her career further. He was just a kid when it happened. He never got over it. Their family doesn’t even talk about it anymore, like she never existed. But he was hurt badly and it traumatized him. That’s why he’s always wanted to be with someone who would never put a career ahead of family.”

“But I’m not her, Janie.”

“I know you’re not and he knows it too. That’s why he kept trying to call you, to tell you why he went all crazy about your wanting to take that promotion.”

Amanda fell silent, this time not just because I forbade her to speak.

“Sissy, are you OK?”

“Janie, that’s why he chose me over you, isn’t it? Because he thought that you’d chose your career instead of family? Which means that if he had told you this a long time ago, you guys would have somehow worked it out and still be together.”

Then, it was my turn to fall silent. Those thoughts had already been roaming around in my head the last half hour or so. All the what-ifs had already gone in and out of my head. But I knew better than to let the what-ifs bug me. After all, I had seen with my own eyes how much Vin wanted to save his relationship with my sister. “He came to me to fight for you. He asked me to help him because he wanted to fight for your relationship. He could have fought for ours back then but he didn’t. He’s fighting now and that’s all that matters.”

I heard Amanda start to cry again, but this time, it was no longer the cry of angst and desperation. It was no longer a cry of pain and agony. This time it was a happy cry.

So, my little sister was happy again. And when she would call Vin, they'd both be happy, and they’d kiss and make up and get married on Saturday as planned. My mom would be over the moon, and then she’d have a blast at the wedding she’d been dreaming of giving ever since she first found out that she was pregnant with me.

Then, at the thought of all of that, I cried too… for me.

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