It had been a month since their visa application interview and Margaret and Andrew were not yet married. They were going to be someday though. They were required by law to marry within 90 days, and if they didn’t choose a date within another month, Grace and Annie would probably come down to New York themselves to drag the happy couple to Alaska to be married.
That was still plenty of time. Andrew had just been promoted to editor, his manuscript was pending a release date ... and Margaret had yet to get a new assistant.
'Look, I'll be in the office right next to you!' Andrew said. 'You can still call me in to terrorize me about getting you cookies or whatever.'
'I don't care that you're not my assistant anymore,' Margaret said with a frown.
Andrew rolled his eyes. 'Of course you don't. I've set up two more interviews for you today, they're both really nice girls, and when I get back from my lunch meet, I want you to have hired one of them.'
'What, so now you're my boss instead?'
'No, Margaret, I think you'll find that I'm your fiancé.' He leaned forward and kissed her cheek. She pulled away, her hair falling to hide her expression, and Andrew knew it was a smile. 'See you later, honey. Be nice.'
It had only taken Margaret an hour after Andrew proposed to her for her to return to her prickly, cold self. But she was her prickly, cold self engaged to Andrew, and that was what mattered.
Margaret did hire one of the really nice girls, the brunette named Kenzie, and at first, Andrew was afraid she might be too nice. She walked out of the interview with a frozen smile on her face belying the expression of terror in her eyes. Andrew got the message on his phone that she was the one who had been hired, and caught her as she was leaving the building and he was coming back from lunch.
He gently led her to a mobile coffee vendor, bought her a tall one, and gave her a much kinder version of Margaret’s instructions of her daily duties.
‘She’s not so bad once you get to know her,’ he said. ‘The staff are scared of her, but they all love their jobs. They wouldn’t try to see how much they can get away with when she’s not looking otherwise.’
Kenzie nodded along nervously to Andrew rattling off tips and dos and don’ts, trying to soothe herself with her cappuccino and keep it all in at the same time.
‘But at least you probably won’t have to go on tampon runs or keep her workaholic ass company on weekends,’ Andrew said. ‘I’ll go on doing that.’
He declined her profuse thanks. ‘Knowing Margaret, she’s not going to give me a choice.’ But he smiled as he said it.
The next day, Andrew checked in on Kenzie inside Margaret’s office before he started his own work. He gave her an encouraging thumbs up, gestured towards her desktop computer to say, ‘Just tell the office group if anything happens!’, and ducked into his office.
Twenty minutes later, Margaret stormed his office, snatching the manuscript he was reading out of his hands and casting it aside on to the desk.
‘Good morning, Miss Tate,’ he said calmly to the thunder on her face.
‘Why does Kenzie say that I have dinner with you at seven tonight?’ she asked, chilly as the morning air of Andrew’s hometown.
‘Because you do.’
‘It’s a date, Margaret,’ he said exasperatedly. ‘I know you might not have heard of it before. It’s when two people who have decided to be involved –‘
‘You need to ask the other person before you take them out on a date,’ Margaret said, scowling furiously.
‘You’re my fiancée. I didn’t think you’d say no.’
She stared at him for several seconds, making Andrew feel like it was his first day all over again, and unlike Kenzie, he hadn’t had his boss’ caring and warm-hearted fiancé to show him the ropes beforehand.
Then she said, ‘Just ask next time,’ and flounced back out.
It was a moment before Andrew could pull himself together, and when he did, he found himself grinning. It was obvious Margaret was pleased to have her dates arranged for her. He was more than happy to do so.
Andrew wondered if Margaret was hiding behind her menu. She had been perusing it for the last five minutes.
‘If you’re undecided on something, I can order the other one and we can share,’ he offered.
‘I know what I want,’ she said, abruptly putting the menu down. ‘I’ll have the linguine and clams.’
He watched her out of the corner of his eye as he waved a waiter over to order. Before it had even occurred to the two of them to marry, Margaret had been chilly and imposing because she was reserved and lonely. Now Andrew wondered if she was falling back on her old ways because she felt shy.
But he was past the days of getting rolled over by his boss. As the waiter left, he placed his hand over Margaret’s.
‘So how was your day?’ he said.
‘You were there for most of it,’ she said pointedly, her hand keeping quite still.
‘I couldn’t tell whether or not you enjoyed it.’
‘I like my work.’
‘So do I. It’s nice being an editor. Besides, I have a huge crush on my editor in chief.’
She rolled her eyes, but she was smiling. ‘That’s enough of that, Romeo,’ she said, pulling her hand away.
‘It’s a date,’ he protested. ‘I’m supposed to say romantic stuff like that.’
‘Well stop or I’ll puke before the food even gets here.’
He laughed and subsided on the topic. He then tried to talk about some up-and-coming authors they were about to publish soon, and the subject carried them to the end of the dinner, though Andrew felt somewhat dismayed it was not as romantic as he’d wanted it to be for Margaret. In fact, it was almost awkward, the two of them still finding their place with each other in the newfound aspect of their relationship.
‘I’ll walk you home,’ he said.
‘I can walk myself home,’ she shrugged, but didn’t object.
At her apartment building, he followed her purposeful stride into the foyer and thought of her apartment on the eleventh floor. He had been there before, to deliver her things in the middle of the night or during a holiday, but he itched to go there now for a different reason.
No such luck. Margaret faced him and said, almost carefully, as if afraid of turning things uncomfortable, ‘Thanks for the dinner.’ She looked as if she might have offered to shake his hand.
‘You’re welcome.’ Andrew was rather more determined than she was, so he stepped forward, took her face in his hands and kissed her. She did kiss back, but somewhat hesitantly, perhaps self-conscious of the fact that they were among strangers.
‘Love you,’ he said, and she seemed to freeze.
‘Really?’ she said in her most sarcastic manner.
‘If you don’t believe me,’ he said with his sexiest smile, ‘I’ll tell you every day, until you tell me you love me too.’
‘What makes you so sure I do?’ she answered, but she was smiling back.
‘You’re such a good fiancée,’ he said, giving her hand an affectionate squeeze. ‘Good night.’
It was a few nights later, at three in the morning. Andrew dropped his phone in fumbling for it, and it didn’t stop its incessant ringing the whole two minutes.
‘Hey Margaret,’ he said, trying not to yawn and rubbing his eyes. ‘Can’t sleep?’
She ignored this. ‘I really need a hot chocolate. There’s a vendor that opens late three blocks from my apartment, can you buy me one from there?’
It was phrased as a question. That was a good sign. They were making progress.
‘Okay, but can we go into work a bit late tomorrow?’
Secretly he was hoping she would say they could take the whole day off. But of course, it was not to be.
Oh well. These things took time after all.
‘Great. I’ll be right there.’
He picked up two cups of chocolate, and after a bit of thought, a pretzel and a hot dog as well. Then he walked to Margaret’s apartment building, enjoying the sound of New York’s night time population as he went.
‘You took long enough,’ Margaret said when she opened the door to his knock. She seized one of the cups, took a sip, paused when she saw the food he was holding and seized a pretzel as well.
‘Knock yourself out,’ Andrew said. ‘You want this too?’ He waved the hot dog in her face.
This also went ignored as she turned away, and he followed her inside.
‘Are you sleeping on the couch?’ he said with surprise, seeing the duvet hanging over the sofa, several pillows lining the armrest and back.
‘I was trying to fall asleep watching TV,’ she said, not quite catching his eye. She sat atop the duvet and after a moment’s hesitation, he joined her and she did not protest.
‘Is something going on that you can’t sleep?’ he asked.
For a moment, she merely sipped her drink, stare trained blankly on the muted television.
At length, she said, ‘It’s stupid.’
‘I’ve found out that when you say it like that, it’s never stupid,’ Andrew replied, skating his fingers across her back where a pair of swallows were tattooed.
A smile tugged at the corner of her mouth, to his relief.
‘I was just thinking ... about us,’ she said, and Andrew’s heart stopped cold. He tried to speak, but found his throat too tight to speak. Margaret, seemingly discouraged by his silence, fiddled with the corner of the duvet for a time before she continued, ‘What if ... we don’t work out?’
Andrew forcibly unstuck his throat. ‘That’s what divorce is for.’
She finally looked at him, but it was a look of scrutiny, searching for something in his gaze. ‘I told you it’d be easier if you’d just let me leave.’
‘You mean it’d be easier for you.’
‘Right.’ She started and looked uncertain. ‘I mean ...’
He was alarmed when her usual frown came back in full force.
‘I don’t want you to get hurt again, okay?’ she snapped. ‘It’s nice having a family and everything, but I’m making it all complicated and I don’t really fit, I never really will. Your family is more important to you than anything else, isn’t it?’
‘You think you’re making my family complicated?’ he said incredulously. ‘Did you miss the whole thing with me and my dad fighting about me working in New York and not taking up the family business?’
When she didn’t answer, he closed some of the distance between them so their legs touched.
‘I think I get it,’ he said gently. ‘You’re madly in love with me and you’re worried I don’t feel the same way.’
‘I can see you didn’t get high marks in listening in school,’ she said scathingly.
‘Guess what, I do,’ he said, not taking any notice of her reply. ‘Sometimes we’re going to fight and sometimes we’re going to wonder if we’re making the right decision – well, that’s just normal. The way you’re feeling is a good sign we’ll make it.’
Margaret looked up at him, and he smiled reassuringly. She reached out to touch his neck and he put his arm around her waist, holding her.
‘Sorry,’ she mumbled, hugging him back.
‘Don’t apologise,’ he said, kissing the top of her head, feeling relieved and really rather happy.
Some time later, they fell asleep on the couch together. It wasn’t exactly how Andrew wanted to find himself sleeping at Margaret’s place, but it was still quite nice, though he did wake up by rolling off the couch and onto the floor.
Kenzie poked her head into Margaret’s office and said, ‘There’s a Grace Paxton on the phone for you, Miss Tate. She said she’s family so I patched her through ...?’ The question mark was tentatively placed on the end of the sentence, unsure if it was supposed to be there, or if it should start running.
‘Uh.’ Margaret looked doubtfully at the phone on her desk. ‘Right. I’ve got it.’
As Kenzie withdrew, Margaret picked up the phone and said, ‘... Hello?’
‘Hey, Margaret!’ came Grace’s voice from the line, bright and cheerful. ‘How’s work going? Read any good books lately?’
‘Er ... yeah. It’s great.’ Margaret absently picked at a box of paperclips. She didn’t know why Grace was calling her instead of Andrew directly, and felt somewhat at sea in domestic small talk. ‘We’ve published some great books lately ... you should check them out.’
‘You know, I think I really should. I’m sure you and Andrew are amazing editors. Andrew’s loved reading ever since he was a kid.’ Grace laughed fondly. ‘He was always running off with a book when he should have been helping his father, it used to make Joe so angry.’
Inexplicably, the account made Margaret smile too. ‘I can imagine that. I’ve caught him so into something he was reading that it would take him a while to answer me.’
‘That’s just like him,’ Grace said happily. ‘Don’t be too harsh on him, Margaret. He’s a good kid, really.’
Maybe too good for me, Margaret thought, and quickly shrugged the idea away. ‘I know.’
‘So have you and Andrew decided when you two want to get married?’ Grace asked.
‘No ...’ Margaret considered for a brief moment. ‘Maybe Gammy would like to set the date. I want it to be at a time that would be comfortable for her.’
Two months ago, when Andrew had flown from Alaska to New York to profess his undying love for Margaret in front of her staff, his family had accompanied him and stayed a while afterwards. Margaret had found then that she had always liked Gammy a great deal; she had much more strength of feeling than Margaret would have thought to credit to her, and they spent a surprising amount of time in New York together.
‘Oh, Annie’s always around, especially where Andrew is concerned.’ Grace sounded unconcerned, and Margaret knew it was probably true, but she still would have liked her opinion on the matter. ‘I was thinking maybe you could have it on a weekday and give Joe the opportunity to skip a bit of work? We can never tear him away unless it’s a weekend and then he’s always too tired to do anything. But I know you and Andrew have work yourselves.’
‘It’s fine,’ Margaret said. She could sneak in a holiday from work to get married, though she was personally not too worried about including Joe in the proceedings. ‘How about on a Friday? Then you can have a three-day weekend with him.’
‘That sounds wonderful!’ Grace gushed. ‘Talk it over with Andrew and let us know as soon as possible so we can set up the barn. The barn is okay for you to get married in again, isn’t it?’
‘The barn would be perfect,’ Margaret said quite honestly. She had been surprised by how beautifully the barn had been set up for her and Andrew’s first wedding. A hotel ballroom could hardly have been any prettier, and certainly could not be half as homey. ‘And I don’t need to ask Andrew.’ She pulled her desk calendar towards herself. ‘Would Friday in two weeks work?’
‘Of course it would!’ Grace sounded as excited as a child at Christmas – or, indeed, as excited as when she had asked Andrew and Margaret to marry on the very weekend they had first come to Sitka. ‘You and Andrew don’t worry about a thing. Everything will be ready by the time you two are ready to come down yourselves. We’ll take care of everything.’
‘Thank you, Grace.’
‘No need to thank me. What’s family for? Send my love to Andrew, Margaret.’
‘Yeah, say hi to Gammy for me.’
Margaret sat still for a moment, trying to digest that she had just had a normal conversation with somebody who considered her family, over the phone. It had been a while.
Then she noticed the paperclips strewn across the desk. Several of them were crudely arranged into ‘A-N-D-R-‘, and she scattered them impatiently, feeling a blush spread over her face.
‘You had a conversation with my mom? Without me?’
‘You don’t have to look at me like that,’ Margaret said haughtily. ‘I’m perfectly capable of having a normal conversation with my future mother-in-law.’
Andrew’s brow furrowed, but he closed his mouth and his stance relaxed. ‘I’m proud of you,’ he said, and she couldn’t help but laugh a little.
‘I’ve set the date of our wedding to Friday two weeks from now,’ she said, and Andrew returned to incredulity, mixed now with exasperation.
‘I thought you were the one who said you should ask before setting a date.’
‘I didn’t think you’d say no,’ Margaret said, and it was Andrew’s turn to laugh, though he sounded chagrined.
‘I have lunch with Max Beckett on Friday. Remember? “The book that will change how you see American history”?’
‘It’s not that great.’
‘Well, yeah, but it’s good enough for us to publish.’
‘Then just squeeze him in on Thursday. Is that the only reason you’re freaking out?’
‘No,’ he admitted. ‘I think I’m freaking out because my demon fiancée is acting like a human fiancée for once.’
She swiftly assessed her desk for objects suitable for throwing at him, found nothing, and settled for a cold look instead.
‘Take it or leave it,’ she said shortly.
‘Well, when you put it like that ...’
Margaret bent her head to her work, discreetly watching Andrew out of the corner of her eye. He was still staring at her in some puzzlement. She felt a little hurt, to tell the truth. What was it that he was finding so hard to accept? That she could talk to his family about normal things in a normal manner? That she had taken arranging the date of their wedding in her own hands? She wanted it too, after all ...
‘You know what?’ Andrew said at last. 'I really want this, so I’m just going to accept the fact that you’ve organised it all for me, without me. As usual.’
She looked up, feeling relieved, even as she opened her mouth to deliver a witty retort. He abruptly stopped her with a kiss, and as he pulled away, he murmured, ‘Love you, sweetie,’ delivering a scent of coffee and jam in his breath blowing across her face.
He dashed away, leaving her staring at the wall of her office in a confusion of feeling. Then she jumped up, seized the glass door as it swung on its hinge, pushed it open and yelled after him, ‘Love you too!’
She let go of the door and retreated, the sounds of her staff not trying particularly hard to hide their laughter following her back to her desk.