She took a final glance at herself in the full-length mirror by the door leading out of her hotel room. Her lips twisted in a smirk that had its origins in equal parts quirky humour and irritation. Some looker. The humid heat of South Carolina had done nothing to help her normally frizzy hair. She'd tried gel the night before, and had earlier in the morning washed it out and tried again, with extra conditioner, gel and spray and had achieved most of the control she wanted for her shoulder-length brown hair. Makeup, usually a taboo item for such a dedicated individualist, had been applied early, sparingly and with much consideration. She had only used enough to hide the dark smudges under her eyes that had been her curse for longer than she cared to think about. Freckles had not bothered her, so she had avoided using more concealer. She wore jewelry today, more than she usually did- a silver bangle on her right wrist, and a classy little white and red choker adorned her neck. She tugged at her light coloured shirt. She'd been tempted to wear a more slimming black, but the cool green shirt was the lowest cut one she had.
Fine figure of a woman... that's a compliment and a curse, she thought, recalling the seemingly innumerable shirts that had to be handed down or away after only a few wears. Her blue jeans were new for the occasion, hip-hugging and lower than she usually liked. Critically, she tugged at her shirt again. Maybe the jeans were pushing it, she thought. I'm not a twenty inch wonder... Still, it was too late for such deliberation. Really, truly too late.
She glanced at her watch. I have got to get going.
She'd arranged to meet him at a nearby Starbucks, without thinking. Not that they had many memories connected to the coffee company, but she did recall one or two and they had been... pleasant. Unpressured. Fun. And now her stomach turned over queasily. This isn't like me... God, what am I doing?
Taking a deep, steadying breath, she opened the paper she bought and began to read. I thought I'd be late, but it looks like he may be standing me up again... That thought, as annoying as it was, reminded her of the time she waited for two hours before going to find him- and then spent the rest of the day with him, despite the initial snafu. It had been a good day, she thought with a smile. They had found a bookstore, bought a book each and had a cheap lunch before spending the rest of the afternoon getting home.
With a start, she looked up from her paper.
And there was Jack. Time didn't seem to have passed for him, she thought enviously. His red hair was still a shaggy, overgrown mop, and his beard was still the scraggily stubble of a college-boy trying to look grown up. He was wearing a blue t-shirt emblazoned with "Have fun storming the castle!" and despite two years of marriage, still managed to look very bachelor-scruffy.
"Hi," she said, clearing her throat awkwardly and reaching for her coffee cup. She was in mid-swallow when she realised he was talking again-
"Rose is a bit tired, so I thought you wouldn't mind if I brought Myron with me- he's asleep now."
It took every ounce of self control to swallow another gulp of the cooling coffee and keep from choking, but when she put the cup down, she thought she was going to be all right.
"Sure, no problem," she said. Her voice still seemed to be unnaturally tight.
With a smile, Jack set the baby carrier down on the table and took the seat across from her. "It's good to see you again- and after all this time!"
"Yeah," she agreed, hating her tasteless, uninspired reply. Think, woman- think! "Well, SC's not exactly nearby, so I was really ah... surprised when my company decided to send me out here to do a little scouting for them."
"Still working for PTP?"
"You remembered?" she smiled.
"I saw it on your blog a while back- when you first got the job, I think," Jack admitted.
"Ah." Take the conversation off of yourself, woman! Get control of this conversation! "So, how are you? Are you still taking college classes?"
"We're doing just fine- and I actually get to teach classes now," his eyes fairly shone at this.
"Wow... that fits you pretty well, you know- teaching, I mean," she said.
"Have you kept up your Korean?" Jack asked.
"No... I've been busy," she picked up her coffee cup. "You know how it is- life gets in the way of hobbies."
"Tell me about it!" Jack laughed.
As though on cue, a half-gurgle, half-wimper could be heard from the baby-carrier.
"Hey, Trouble!" Jack lifted the cover off of the baby-carrier. "You awake? Aww..."
Making baby-talk noises that she had hitheroto never though Jack Hayden Stewart capable of making, he extricated his son from the carrier. "Myron- want to say hi to Aunty Tzirel?" He turned the baby around to face her.
A plump little face with a button nose and hazel eyes stared at her. A tuft of red-brown hair atop his head left no doubt as to his parentage. "Myron, this is Aunty Tzirel. Aunty Tzirel, this is Myron."
The silence was painful. She felt tears threatening as she looked at that sweet, innocent little face that was staring at her with a vaguely bemused expression on his face. She wasn't sure if she could breathe. Say something!
"Precious," she gasped out at last, forcing herself to smile. "Oh, what a little angel, Jack!"
Jack beamed. "Do you want to hold him?"
Oh God... "No, no I'm not good with children, Jack- I-"
"You're sitting down, it's not hard and he's not too fussy," Jack said in a tone of voice that she knew from experience would brook no argument. "Come on, put your arms out."
She had to- he fairly shoved Myron at her. Those wondering hazel eyes tilted now to look up at her as she held him.
"You're doing fine," Jack said quietly.
"Hi," she tried experimentally. "Myron. You have an awesome daddy, you know that?"
The hazel gaze blinked then resumed.
"You're a sweetie- and you're being so good for Auntie, right now..." she mumbled awkwardly. He was soft to touch and not really heavy at all. Despite her protested inexperience with children, her arms seemed to know exactly how to hold him. "How old is he?" she asked Jack.
"Five months," he replied.
"Already... wow..." Just as she was beginning to come to the conclusion that perhaps this child-holding thing wasn't so difficult after all, Myron began to get squirmy.
"Better let me have him back," Jack suggested.
Gratefully, yet strangely reluctantly, she handed Myron back. Almost instantly, the squirmy young Myron ceased his gyrations and even seemed inclined to go back to sleep.
"So, you're doing well?" Jack asked.
"Yeah." Again with the 'yeah'... come on! "There's a promotion in my division that's supposed to have my name on it."
"You look different," he commented.
"Is that a good thing or a bad thing?" she asked quickly- too quickly, she thought a moment later.
"It's a different thing," he offered. "I mean... you don't look quite like the girl I remembered. Fellow geek and all that."
This is an unfinished short story- I need help fixing it properly and I don't want to continue it until I fix what's wrong with it. I'm trying to get the idea across that Tzirel's being obvious and is in over her head. Jack can't help but notice it and he pities her-- and she really doesn't want his pity. Nor did she really think that she could win him away from a loving wife and adorable baby. Nor, really, if she admits it, does she really want to.