Peggy never thought she would visit the West Coast. She was a New York girl, maybe Paris one day, but California never crossed her mind, despite the new branch. Yet there she was on a plane headed for Los Angeles. Apparently the Tiffany's account was in desperate need of a woman's touch and the partners agreed that Peggy was the woman for the job.
Over the months things had become less tense with Ted. They discussed work and only work, but neither mentioned the impending trip. She wasn't sure if she was ready to see him again, often times she would close her eyes and suddenly flash back to the night at her apartment. How he looked, sweating from exertion, his mouth smeared with her lipstick… How would they behave with each other? Face to face again… Would he pick her up at the airport? No, he wouldn't leave work in the middle of the day to pick her up. Pete would probably send a car or come himself. She never thought she would miss Pete quite so much. But after the awkward run in with his mother it seemed as though the everlasting discomfort had finally melted between them. They had actually become friends… sort of.
The sun was blinding, especially considering that it was late in the afternoon. Peggy squinted as she set down her suitcase outside of the baggage claim and looked around. She kept thinking how stupid it was of her not to discuss travel arrangements from the airport. Looking around at the chauffeurs with signs it took her a long moment before recognizing her own name written on a white card.
"Pete." She smiled as he pulled her into a hug.
"How was your flight?" He asked, taking her suitcase and leading her towards the door.
"Long, but good." She nodded. "It's so bright here."
"Your eyes will adjust eventually. Sunglasses will be a wise investment."
"I'm only here for a week. Is it this bright inside as well?"
"Yes. Every building is at least 80% windows." Pete laughed, leading her to his car.
"I didn't know you could drive standard." She observed as he shifted the car into gear and pulled out of the crowded parking lot.
"I've since learned. How have you been?"
"Well enough. Busy, of course with Don gone and Ted focusing on the work out here."
"What about the new man they brought in?"
"He's labeled himself as a supervisor. So I do the bulk of the work and he takes the bulk of the credit."
"Just like working for Don then."
Peggy shrugged, nodding at the accuracy of the assessment.
"Have you spoken to him?"
"Yes. About work."
"Are you going to be okay with… you know, being here?"
"Fine. It's only for a few days and we're going to be working the whole time."
"Which is akin to foreplay for you creatives." Pete scoffed.
"Nothing can happen, nothing will happen." Peggy replied in a stern tone that sounded as though it was meant for her more than convincing Pete.
"He isn't happy here. If that's any consolation."
"He's miserable, I'm miserable. Always a matched pair even apart."
"I fully intend to cheer you up. After we finish at the office, which will be well before the sunset, we'll swing by the hotel, you'll change into the prettiest dress you brought, and we are going to dinner. Some where nice."
"You aren't looking for foreplay, right?"
"Of course not. I don't think the young lady I've been keeping the company of would appreciate that."
"Sent the divorce papers."
"It's my own fault."
Peggy just nodded, she couldn't very well argue the fact, especially considering that the first time they slept together the night before he married Trudy.
The offices were in a building further down on Wilshire, Peggy could swear that she could almost see the ocean. Or at the very least an extra stripe of dark blue in skyline.
The elevator traveled slowly to the top floor, a wave of nerves suddenly crashing over Peggy. She stood rigidly, watching as they passed each floor.
"You'll be fine." Pete whispered as they reached the doors etched with SC&P West. Peggy nodded and took a deep breath before following him into the office. It was five o'clock, most everyone had already cleared out for the night except for Harry, Ted, and a few of the freelancers who were loafing around.
"Peggy, good to see you." Harry managed, looking up briefly from the papers in front of him.
"You too, Harry."
"Hi." Ted managed, trying to sound calm, although Peggy could read him like a book.
"Hello, Ted." She smiled weakly, thankful for Pete interrupting the moment to introduce her to the freelancers. His eyes didn't leave her once, following her as she shook hands and exchanged greetings. The group dispersed, leaving just Peggy, Ted, and Pete.
"I've got a few calls to return and then we'll go?" Pete asked, sensing Peggy's reluctance to be left alone.
"Of course. I have a few ideas to discuss with Ted for Tiffany's."
Ted's office had the same artwork from his New York office, propellers, model planes, strange abstract patterns. It was brighter though, she could see straight down the main street, at the end of which the setting sun lingered.
"How was your flight?"
"Good. Finally getting used to flying."
"I told you before, nothing to be scared of."
"Different when you know the pilot. You got the ideas I sent?"
"Yes. The art department will have something finished by tomorrow, we'll have a day or so to tweak anything that may need tweaking. Then we go to Tiffany's on Thursday."
"Any word yet on samples from them?"
"Just photos of what they want to showcase. But hey, if things go well…"
"A blue box will be mine." Peggy laughed quietly.
"How have you been?"
"Fine. California is agreeing with you?"
"Still spend most of my time in an office, just the scenery that changes… you and Pete are going out on the town?"
"He's keen to show me around, apparently his girlfriend is out of town for the week."
"Right. I'm sure you'll have fun."
She just nodded, lingering near the door. They looked at each other for a long moment, neither sure what to say. It took everything in Ted not to close the distance between them and take her into his arms. Just to hug her, feel her body close to his again would provide the warmth that had been missing in his life since the move. He was the only cold man in California.
"I'll see you tomorrow." She finally managed, trying to sound cheerful and leaving before either could doubt her tone.
Peggy and Pete left shortly after, stopping at the hotel for her to check in and change. He smiled brightly when she returned to the lobby in a short gold dress, cinched at the waist and cut low in the front to allow for cleavage. The sleeveless dress had a transparent layer over top decorated in a paisley pattern that provided highlights of purple and turquoise.
"Do I look all right?"
Dinner was at The Cocoanut Grove, which was still surprisingly grand despite the unpleasantness attached to the hotel next door. Pete didn't think about the fact that Bobby Kennedy was shot just a short walk away. Peggy didn't want to think about that fact. There was live music and a woman was getting ready to sing throughout the meal, the extra two seats at their table yet to be filled so it looked as though it would just be the pair. Then a waiter appeared.
It took Peggy a moment to realize who was looking back at her. Standing before them was Ted and Nan Chaough. Unconsciously, Peggy clasped Pete's hand under the table, hoping the action would release any tension that might creep into her fake smile.
"My goodness! What a surprise!" Nan smiled.
"Isn't it though." Pete was the first to make it past his shock. Ted still seemed to be frozen in his spot and Peggy was having an internal breakdown of her own.
"Are you two on a date? We wouldn't want to interrupt."
"No, of course not, Mrs. Chaough." It was Pete's turn to control his features as the pointed toe of Peggy's shoe made hard contact with his shin.
"Pete, please, call me Nan." The blonde smiled before shifting her attention. "And Peggy, how are you enjoying California?"
"I've only been here for a few hours, but I'm already impressed."
"The sun shines year round, you'll get to go home with a tan." Nan grinned as she sat down in the chair her husband pulled out for her.
Peggy managed to force a smile, though she could see the panic in Ted's eyes.
"I'm not really one for tanning. I get burned very easily." The double meaning of her words were not lost on the men at the table.
"You've got such a beautiful, fair complexion, certainly a worthy trade off."
"You seem to get a lot of sun though."
"Oh yes, I take the boys down to the beach almost daily. They love it."
"That's great." Peggy nodded, reaching for her glass. She was going to kill Ted, then Pete, then Ted again.
"Hopefully you'll have a chance to get to the beach while you're here."
"Maybe on Friday, it's my only free day before I go home."
After they ordered dinner Nan excused herself to the ladies room, looking expectantly at Peggy, who remained seated. Finally taking the hint that she would be going alone, Nan left the three. Pete watched as Peggy downed what was left of her cocktail. While Ted seemed to forget that Pete was still there and launched into his apology.
"Peggy, please. I had no idea you two would be here. I got home and Nan…"
Peggy turned away, looking for their waiter and flagging him down.
"I'm going to need another whiskey sour and just keep them coming please."
"Did you say something to her? What was all of that about the tan?"
"I didn't run home and share our pillow talk."
"Well, thank God there's that boundary." Peggy snapped back. Ted didn't get a chance to reply as Nan returned to the table.
Dinner was painful. A drawn out pain. Like having surgery while still conscious. Nan carried on quite happily, making small talk as if she were the hostess of a party. Peggy managed to be polite, slowly making her way through three whiskey sours. Ted and Pete simply wished to be anywhere else in the world just to escape the discomfort at the table.
Nan was in the middle of a story about one of the children when Peggy felt her eyes drooping shut.
"I'm sorry, Peggy, am I boring you?"
"Hmm? No, of course not. I'm sorry, it's almost midnight back home. I haven't adjusted yet."
"Oh! Of course, dear. I'm sorry, yes. Pete, you should get her back to the hotel."
They said their goodbyes at the table and Ted watched as Pete looped an arm around Peggy's waist, guiding her out of club.
"They make such a cute couple."
"That would stop her?" Nan asked pointedly.
"What's that suppose to mean?"
"You think I don't notice when you come home smelling like Channel Number Five? I'm not stupid, Ted. Truth be told I was more surprised that you found a mistress that could pull you away from your work. She must have a special talent in bed."
"Yes, she's actually warm."
"I'm plenty warm, just ask Ben Murphy."
Peggy and Pete made their way back to the car, unaware of what they left behind at the table.
"You know what's funny, Pete?"
"What?" He smiled as she leaned her head back to admire the stars.
"Convertibles are so marvelous. I see the appeal when you live here."
"That isn't particularly funny."
"Hmm? Oh, no, that wasn't it. Everyone at that table has screwed me either figuratively or literally."
"I love him. No matter what I do, no matter how I try, I can't shake it."
"You can't shake love."
"I wish I could. I wish I could just flip a switch and turn it off. Just forget it all." She shook her head. "I always pick the wrong man."
Peggy got back to her hotel room, settling in with a cold cloth on her eyes and a few aspirin. She didn't even bother taking off her dress, just resting for a few hours.
It was still dark out when she woke later, the clock telling her it was only 3 am. With a quiet groan she sat up and looked for a pair of shoes. There was a beach only a block away, she wanted to see the ocean.
She didn't expect it to be so cold, it was early but everyone went on about how hot the weather was. The sand was cold on her bare feet as she walked towards the water. It was beautiful and abandoned for the night.
"Aren't you freezing?" Asked a voice from behind her.
"I'll live." She shrugged. After a few quiet moments a jacket was draped across her shoulders and a familiar cologne surrounded her. "How did you find me, Ted?"
"I went to the hotel looking for you. The girl at the desk said she had given you directions down here." He sat down besides her, pulling off his own shoes and socks. "I like your dress."
"What are you doing here? Wasn't dinner uncomfortable enough?"
"Dinner was uncomfortable, not nearly as uncomfortable as after you two left and Nan informed me that she has been having an affair of her own. She's known about my feelings for you for months. I couldn't hide it from anyone else, I don't know why I thought I could hide it from her."
"What are you working towards?"
"Do you still want me?"
"Of course I still want you. I'll always want you…" He cut her off, leaning in close and capturing her lips in a kiss.
Peggy moaned as they laid back in the sand, Ted moving between her legs so that they were pressed together. His mouth was hot against hers, quickly distracting her from the cold of the beach. She had intended to protest, to tell him that it was too bad about his wife but that didn't mean they could just pick up as if nothing had happened. But then their bodies touched and every protest fell away.
"I want you, Peggy. Please…" He murmured, his lips moving to her neck.
"Yes. Yes. I want you, Ted. I love you." She pulled him closer.
"I love you."
Words were quickly forgotten as he hiked up her skirt and she pushed down his pants. Their movements were frenzied, those of lovers who had been separated for far too long.
"I've missed you so much." He whispered, his hands holding tightly to her hips.
"I've missed you too." She replied between kisses.
"I can't be without you again, Peggy. Please let me stay with you." He cried out, moving faster against her. They were both on the cusp, eager to reach their peaks together.
She just nodded, her nails digging into his back.
"You can't put me through all of this again." She spoke first, breaking the silence that had fallen between them after they finished.
"I won't. It's going to be you and me, Peggy."
"We have to go slow. No rash decisions. You're not coming back to New York yet and I'm not coming out here."
"Okay." He nodded, quickly realizing that any future would have to happen on her terms.
"Slow." She repeated.