After the weekend—which Liz spent in the fetal position on her bed, nursing her monstrous hangover—she drags herself into work mode, making an effort to do something with her hair and consume some much-needed caffeine.
As she straightens herself in the bedroom one final time, she frowns into the mirror. Liz just wishes her memories would come back. No, scratch that. She needs her memory back. She's had it with people telling her they know more about her life than she does (she had a decent amount of time to herself over the weekend to stew in her own thoughts, and mainly spent it desperately trying to avoid dealing with the Jack situation).
It's her memory. It belongs to her.
She stares into her eyes, reflected an inch away in the mirrored closet door. This is a new habit of hers, to stand right up close to the mirror so the only part she can she is her eyes. It's comforting. It makes Liz feel like she's looking at the old version of herself.
"Remember, you moron," she instructs herself in a low, fierce voice. "Re-mem-ber."
Her dark shark eyes stare back as though they know everything but won't tell. Liz sighs in resignation, because pep talks always suck, and grabs her bag before heading back into the office.
There's her desk, all spotless and neat with the chair pushed underneath tidily (she blames Angie, because she's never owned a desk that looked like this her entire life). On impulse, she sits down and opens the first drawer. It's full of letters, carefully clipped together in plastic files. The second drawer is full of company account statements, perfectly filed by date.
Jeez Louise. Since when did she become so anal?
Liz opens the last drawer, expecting to find meticulously stacked bottles of Wite-Out or something, but it's empty save for two pieces of paper. The first is a bank statement, and her eyes widen as she takes in her monthly salary—too bad there's nobody around to slap.
The other paper is obviously torn from one of those yellow memo pads. It has her handwriting scrawled across it; only three words in pencil.
I just wish
She stares at it. What? What did she wish?
Liz turns the scrap over in her fingers, trying to imagine writing the words. Was it a year ago? Six months? A few weeks? What was she talking about?
There's a knock on the door, interrupting her thoughts. She folds the scrap of paper carefully and puts it in her pocket. Then she bangs the drawer shut and stands to greet Angie, who bustles in with a black leather folder.
"Good morning, Ms. Lemon. I was just about to get your coffee, when the Dolson contract arrived—"
"Hey, Angie, don't worry about it," Liz interrupts, eyeing the thick folder warily. No way does she feel like finding out what's inside.
"You know what? I'll go get the coffee, and why don't you do, um, a preliminary read-through?" she suggests with a bright smile, trying to sound like she knows what she's talking about.
Liz feels the sudden need to escape 30 Rock. She's still rattled from the annoying note that she doesn't remember writing.
"Oh, well, if you're sure…" Angie frowns.
"Yeah, I'll be back in five, no sweat," she shrugs. When she notices Angie's stare, she clears her throat.
"I mean…I've just a few errands to run, and I trust that you can keep it under control until my return?" she amends in a professional tone, one eyebrow raised impressively.
Angie—eager to please—nods enthusiastically. "Oh, yes. Of course!"
"Great. See you soon," Liz says quickly, and rushes out the door, leaving her slightly perplexed assistant to shift the heavy folder in her arms. With luck, Liz won't have to do any work until the next year.
She returns to the office a half hour later, feeling refreshed from her quick sprint to the Tasti D-Lite. She holds two cups of the frozen treat; one for Angie, one for her.
(Angie doesn't need to know that this will be Liz's fourth.)
She waits for the elevator in the lobby, watching the numbers flip as the ice cream begins to melt.
"A treat for me?" Devon's sarcastic voice hits the back of her head. She turns to see him loping towards her, one of those trendy coconut waters in hand. "How sweet of you, Liz!"
God, he gives her the creeps.
"Hi, Devon," she says with forced cheer. "Good to see you."
Summoning all of her strength, she lifts her chin high. But despite her desire to remain confident, the rainbow sprinkles are killing her image a bit.
"It's really brave of you to come back, Liz," Devon says with faux sweetness. "Very admirable."
"Ha-ha, not really," she says through her teeth. "I'm looking forward to it."
"Well, any questions, you know where I am. Although today I'll be on conference call with Michael Brady most of the day. You remember Michael Brady?"
Son of a bitch. Why does he pick the people she's never heard of?
"Remind me," Liz says reluctantly. She has the sudden urge to smear melting Tasti D-Lite in his spray-tanned face.
"Well, he was just telling me that—"
"—Devon," an impossibly smoother voice interrupts. "How are you this fine morning?"
"Jack!" Liz says, shock seeping into her voice. Devon, however, just narrows his eyes at the intruder.
"I was just explaining to poor Liz here that waltzing in won't be as simple as she thinks—"
"—I trust that you are doing your best to assist Liz," Jack says coldly. Liz shoots him a grateful look, but he doesn't acknowledge it. "She is your superior, I may add."
Devon seems to realize that he is outnumbered. "Of course. Not for long," he adds in a mutter, and turns on his heels in the opposite direction. The elevator dings, and Jack gestures that Liz should go first.
"Thanks for that," she says. Once they are safely behind closed doors, she surrenders to the ice cream in her hand. "I'm still finding my footing," Liz mumbles through a mouthful.
"I must admit that I'm rather surprised to see you back so soon, Lemon," Jack says carefully. "I'm sure I gave you plenty to think about over the weekend."
Liz gives a little groan. "I almost didn't come back at all," she admits.
She couldn't be more honest. The day after her conversation with Jack, she had woken up with the most awful headache, and absolutely no desire to go to work again, ever. She had stumbled into the humongous kitchen, figured out the Keurig coffee maker, then sat down and wrote out on a sheet of paper, wincing at every movement:
1. Give up.
2. Don't give up.
She had stared at it for ages. Then at last she put a line through Give up.
"Well, it's good to see you," Jack says neutrally, upon realizing that she's not going to elaborate. Liz can tell that he is walking on eggshells, and rolls her eyes before taking a bite of ice cream. It's not like she's delicate.
Then she decides to cut him some slack.
"You, too," she smiles. She really has missed him. To her, it's only felt like several months, because their relationship wasn't quite the same while she was with Criss. Liz feels guilty that for him, it's been actual years.
"Have dinner with me," Jack says suddenly. She starts, taken aback by how piercing his gaze is.
He's always been good at getting his way. Probably because of the aforementioned piercing gaze.
"Okay," she says as indifferently as possible. (The result is a timid-sounding squeak.)
Jack doesn't miss a beat. "Tonight. I'll pick you up at seven."
This is a bad idea. It's a terrible idea. What is she doing, going out to dinner with Jack Donaghy? And it is, rightly, referred to as 'going out', because she will be dining with him in an establishment other than her home, after a mandatory car ride that will probably be beyond awkward. The painful ordeal will be helped along by the dress that she is obviously expected to squeeze into.
Liz desperately wants a doughnut upon having these thoughts.
But then she remembers her goal, which is to glean some actual details of The Night; that being the time when she apparently kissed Jack before running out of his apartment in a crying fit. She is almost, almost glad that she can't recall any of it.
God, she's a mess.
Liz surveys her bedroom with narrowed eyes, where an explosion of clothing has buried the floor. About an hour earlier, she'd torn billions of garments off their hangers in a state of panic as to what she should wear for the date. Or the non-date. Whatever.
She finally settles on a foolproof black dress.
"Nut up," she tells her reflection. "And stop sweating."
Satisfied, she goes to answer the intercom. He's here.
"…And then I left my phone at Quizno's, so I had to send Angie all the way uptown to get it. Angie's my assistant, in case you didn't know. You probably already know that, though. Sorry if you already know that."
When people ask, 'How was the rest of your day?', one should answer with, 'it was fine'. So of course Liz is instead babbling.
She has never been good at social mores.
But if Jack picks up on her nervousness, he's being polite about it.
"That reminds me. I have something of yours," he says during her pause for breath. Unless it's her missing memories, Liz is probably not interested, but that doesn't stop her from being curious.
"What is it?" she asks. Jack reaches into his pocket to retrieve the item, and draws his fist out with something concealed inside.
"It's your necklace," he says softly, opening his palm. "You left it in my apartment—I suppose 'lost' is a more accurate term—that night."
She touches one hand to her collarbone, only just realizing that the gold 'L' charms have been missing. Jack lets the thin necklace dangle from his fingers before lowering it into her palm.
"When I found it, the chain was broken. I know it's silly, but I held on to it. You never asked about it," he says, and Liz wonders why he sounds…sad?
"You repaired it," she notices.
Jack shrugs. "I only just had it fixed the other day…it seemed right," he smiles.
"Because I'm back," she replies, meaning to phrase it as more of a question. His grin widens.
"Precisely. Allow me," he adds, and gently takes the jewelry from her open hand. Shifting her position on the car seat, she lifts her hair around her front and he moves to fasten the delicate chain.
She can tell that they are both holding their breath. Inevitably, his fingers lightly brush the back of her neck, sending an electrifying tingle down her spine. He mutters an apology, and hastily closes the clasp before leaning back.
"Thanks," Liz says, embarrassed at how uneven her voice sounds. The scene is an echo of that night, after Gerdhart's party, when Jack had reclaimed the borrowed necklace. It is achingly familiar, right down to the mixed feeling in her stomach…but that was back then, before they had known each other. Now she feels like they are once again taking baby steps, this time to reclaim their familiarity.
"Don't mention it."
The driver stops at the restaurant, and Jack holds the door while Liz tries to exit the car as gracefully as possible. Naturally, she has trouble regaining her balance on the damn heels, and teeters once before stumbling into Jack. He steadies her with a tiny smirk—to which she rolls her eyes—and he guides her into the bistro with one hand on the small of her back.