Harmony arrives at the Athletic Club dinning room a little before 8 pm and Neil wasn't there. She was exhausted Phyllis wasn't at work that day so everyone had to pitch in. Harmony checked her email and decided that she might go back to work after dinner.
"Sorry, I'm late, it's just been one of those days," Neil leans over and kisses her cheek.
"It's 8:02, no need to apologize," Harmony says. She's pleased that he kissed her again. His kissless departure from the gym that morning had been a fluke. Neil looked as if he also came straight from the office to the club. When he reached up to loosen his tie, she could tell he was beat. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah'," Neil said. "Now that I'm here. With you."
Harmony felt herself blushing. "I doubt I can fix whatever is going on, seems pretty heavy. "
"Just knowing that things are right with us again. It means a lot to me."
"Did you get hold of Malcolm?" Harmony asked. She was actually starting to believe that Neil did care for her, but it was just too soon to be having a heart to heart about their relationship. She decided to change the subject.
"I called, emailed and skyped him, but haven't heard back from him yet," Neil said. "And I know you're wondering what's going on, but it's a legal issue. I'm not supposed to know about it or Malcolm for that matter. Leslie gave me a heads up as a courtesy."
"Can you tell me in general what's going on?" Harmony prodded.
"Well, a friend of Malcolm's might have been involved in a very old crime and they're building a case against this person. It's likely that Malcolm will be called to testify because he and this person were very close at the time."
"So would Malcolm's testimony help or hurt the person?"
"I think Malcolm might vouch for this person, so I have to admit that a part of me hopes Malcolm doesn't get my messages."
"So you think this person should pay for something that happened a long time ago," Harmony took a sip of ice water dreading Neil's response. If he didn't believe in forgiveness for old sins, then what was he doing with her?
"If it's proved that this person is guilty. Yes, I think she should pay," Neil said and paused. "And I know what you're thinking. Trust me your past and my past combined doesn't compare to what this person has done."
"Well, I can't say that I don't have some sympathy for this person. Considering what I did," Harmony said.
"Nothing you have ever done in your entire life comes close," Neil said. "People almost died and from the evidence it looks like it was premeditated."
"Because I was careless and without a plan I'm off the hook then, even though I hurt people too. My own children," Harmony was worn out from the long day in the office. She knew she should stoop this train of thought right now. But once she got started it was difficult to put the brakes on."
"Don't make this about you, Harmony," Neil said firmly. "I really shouldn't be involved at this point, but I had to let Malcolm know what's happening. I don't want him to be blindsided by this. Anyway, what's going on at work?"
Harmony felt that familiar glow again. Neil was always trying to accentuate the positives in her life. She was more than happy to change the subject. "Well, they've been giving me small writing assignments, but I have to sneak to do them since my main job is copying and making sure there's enough coffee. Every once in awhile they leave me alone for five or so minutes and I can write."
"What article are you the most excited about?" Neil asked.
Harmony wondered if this was a question Neil asked his staff to keep them motivated. If so it worked. She hadn't thought about her excitement level for any of the articles. She just wanted to do a good job and meet the deadlines while getting her other work done as well. "We get review copies of books from all the major publishers and literary agents," she said.
"The other day a career book came in by two women who were saying that there is no longer a career ladder."
"There isn't?" Neil raised his eyebrows. "I wonder what I've been doing the last 25 years."
"You're old school Neil. Now there's what's called a career lattice like in gardening. A plant doesn't always grow straight up, but up, down and around. That's how careers are today."
"A career what?" Neil laughed. "Lettuce? Sounds like that book is full of lettuce to me."
"A lattice," Harmony said feeling silly. She of all people was telling Neil Winters anything bout careers. She swallowed and continued on anyway. "It's like this, there are other women out there with 10 more years of experience doing the same work I do, but because perhaps they have children or an elderly person they're caring for, they've opted to lessen their set of responsibilities."
"Oh I see, kind of like downshifting," Neil said. "Leaving the rat race behind to go up and meditate on a mountain top."
"I guess it's kind of like that, but not as drastic. You're still in the race, but you don't feel like you have to lead the pack anymore," Harmony explained. She was surprised that she remembered so much about the book. "The neat thing is that you can speed up or slow down whenever you want to."
"That depends on who is hiring you," Neil stated.
"The book is geared toward hiring managers," Harmony said. "It's really a guide about understanding the new workforce."
"All joking aside, maybe this book isn't half bad," Neil said. "We have these new hires, right out of school who think they should be able to leave early for yoga class or to meet their friends. I had one young man tell me he needed to change his vacation schedule because his parents wanted him to go to the Bahamas with them. I never would have said something like that to my boss at 22."
"You would have lied then?" Harmony teased.
"Absolutely," Neil laughed.
"Speaking of 22 year olds have you spoken to Lily today?"
"No, she sent me a text, but I haven't been able to get back to her. Why do you ask?"
Harmony tells Neil that she and Lily went shopping together. Neil seemed very pleased that they'd spent time together and says he'll call Lily in the morning.
After dinner, Harmony goes back to work. She's forgotten a file. When she enters the office, she overhears Phyllis and Daniel arguing. Daniel is yelling something about how Phyllis should just confess and get it over with then he storms out past Harmony, leaving Phyllis standing there looking shattered.
Phyllis notices Harmony and asks her how much she heard. Harmony says she didn't hear much, but that she was recently in the same position with her son. Devon wouldn't speak to her for weeks. Harmony asks if there anything she can do to help.
Phyllis says the situation is beyond hope, grabs her purse and leaves.