VI.

The amount of work Peggy has to accomplish in the short time she has left in Los Angeles is daunting. She hasn't been in the office for more than two hours and her back is stiff. Her head feels too heavy for her neck. She can't relax. She stretches her arms above her head and twists side to side. Peggy moves to where the Sunkist art is displayed against the wall. Lloyd drew up a storyboard off Ted's addition of the parent caring for the sick child. She zeroes in on the young boy tucked under a blue blanket, thermometer sticking out the corner of his mouth, cheeks rosy from fever.

Pete taps on the door and lets himself in, wondering if Peggy wants to leave the building for a meal or take a drive to sightsee. She declines, as she has each time he's asked since her arrival. "You really don't want to visit the beach at least once?" he asks, incredulous.

Peggy extends her arm, showing him her pasty complexion. She says, "My hotel has a pool. That might have to be as close as I get to the beach."

He eyes the new artwork and his mouth takes on the shape of the same awkward, wistful smile on Peggy's face. He ducks out and leaves Peggy to contemplate the boards and the uncomfortable similarity between herself and the mother Lloyd drew from Ted's instructions.

She told Ted the previous night that they have to move forward and focus on the work, but she knows more than ever how tangled the work and their lives are.

x

"Would the third week in June be a good time for you to visit the New York office?" Nan asks. She has the wall calendar flipped open on the kitchen table and taps a pen on the glossy page.

Ted dumps the dregs of his cold coffee into the sink. He looks at the clock – he meant to be out the door over an hour ago. "New York? What?"

The legs of Nan's chair scrape against the floor as she pushes away from the table. "The boys miss their friends and their cousins. I thought that might be a good time for us to visit."

He blinks. It's hard to think of New York when Peggy is currently in the same state and Sunkist is finally picking up momentum. "I don't know, Nan."

Her chin quivers and she looks down at her slippers. "I thought you'd jump at the chance to have a reason to go back."

"It's hard to say right now," he tells her, softening his tone.

"Maybe I'll plan the trip for the three of us and if you can make it… great."

Ted watches her go, her long, pale blue nightgown dragging on the floor behind her. He goes to where the calendar is on the table and flips backward to the beginning of the year. It feels like he should have to flip so many more pages to count how long they've been in California. It's been so little time that it should feel new and exciting, and none of them should be looking for the chance to leave.

x

The team has less than forty-eight hours to perfect the idea Sunkist is sold on. While Peggy plans to stay long enough to do the final pitch, she has to prep someone to be her stand-in for all the time she can't be in Los Angeles. She doesn't know the small creative team well but working closely with any of them is better than working closely with only Ted.

As if on cue, he appears outside the open door with a small, white paper bag in his hand. "How's your morning been so far?" Ted asks.

"Fine," Peggy tells him. "I already put a call in to casting. You'll be set for next week if they sign off."

Ted pads across the floor and holds the bag up, giving it a gentle shake. "You've barely left the office to see L.A. so I brought a little bit of L.A. to you."

She squints, trying to read the logo on the center of the bag. The black ink is small, cursive writing and nearly impossible to decipher from the design of swirls that surrounds it.

Ted opens the top of the bag and points it toward her. The smell of fresh baked pastry, butter and cinnamon tickles her senses and makes Peggy aware of how hungry she is. "It's from a bakery a few blocks away. It was in a movie," he explains, handing the bag to her. "Don't ask me which one. Everything's claim to fame is being in a movie and I can't keep up."

"Who cares as long as it tastes as good as it smells," she remarks, peeking inside the bag to the gooey cinnamon roll that tempts her from the bottom. "Thank you."

He backs up, stopping at the door to say, "I'll be in my office most of the day. See Moira if you need anything."

She nods. She feels a pang in her chest at how hard Ted is trying to be professional, at how well he succeeds until he doesn't. She loves being applauded by the partners back in New York, and being seen as a heroine by the L.A. branch. But Peggy knows all too well what her presence is doing to Ted because she feels it all the same.

x

The hours leading up to the meeting are different for Peggy than for the other staff hanging around to see how it goes. She is confident in the work and most of all, she's ready to leave. When Franklin and Hodges sign off on the pitch and put it all into production, Peggy will celebrate with everyone, but mostly she'll be relieved to put the California trip to bed.

Her time has been measured not only in cups of coffee and cocktails with orange juice, but in how many times Ted walked by her office. How often she turned the wrong direction to the restroom to see what he was doing behind his desk. Peggy knows neither of them can function that way and spends the hours before the meeting preparing to put it all to an end.

She pinpoints the one copywriter she can rely on to leave with the most responsibility. She decides to ship Lloyd's art to the New York office for Stan to tinker with. She accepts the notion of possibly adjusting her schedule to match the West Coast office's hours of operation – to be of counsel to their copywriters when needed. Peggy hopes her success in L.A. will be enough leverage to convince the partners they need her focus to be on the clients located in New York.

x

Everyone hides in the kitchen with a cold jug of orange juice and several bottles of champagne while Moira prepares the conference room. They chatter nervously and offer Peggy a cocktail, but she declines. "Better get in there," she says, and they all wish her good luck. She stops in the women's room to freshen her lipstick and by the time she reaches the conference room, Franklin and Hodges are already seated at the table.

"Hello. I'm sorry I'm late," Peggy says, smiling when the men stand to greet her.

"You're fine," Hodges says. "We're early. I guess you could say we're excited to get started."

Ted interjects, "That's good to hear. We've been looking forward to this meeting since our dinner the other night."

The floor is handed over to Peggy. She earns laughter and nods of approval during her pitch. Ted shifts to the edge of his seat, watching her with admiration and enthusiasm. He wants to stand up and tell her that he always knew she was good but she is amazing. His excitement manifests in his foot bouncing on the floor and Pete shoots him a look when it borders on being distracting.

When Peggy wraps up and takes her seat, Hodges folds his hands over the table and says, "I don't think it's any secret we love it. I guess the only thing left is to sign on a dotted line somewhere?"

x

The party has already begun by the time Pete returns from walking the executives out. He beckons Moira to place a call to the New York office on speaker and everyone shares the good news with Cuter and Sterling.

Pete retrieves another carton of juice from the fridge and adds it to his champagne flute. He offers to refill Peggy's glass but she puts her hand over the top and shakes her head. It's not yet five o'clock and it's her last full day in Los Angeles. She has yet to pack her bags or use the pool or take a moment to experience anything about being in a different city outside of the office.

She sets her glass down on a table that is sticky with juice and liquor. Peggy finds her purse and says to Pete, "I'm going to head out."

"You can't leave!" Pete shouts. "You're the reason we're having this party."

"That's not true," Peggy rebukes.

He raises his glass in salute to her. "Will we see you tomorrow?"

"I have enough time to come by before I head to the airport," she says, and she notices Ted's eyes follow her path out of the room.

x

"I need to make a call," Ted says to no one in particular. He finishes the last sour drink of orange juice and whatever liquor the secretaries started adding to the cocktails. He leaves the glass on the edge of a random desk as he weaves through the modest but loud party, seeking the privacy of his office.

Ted stands behind his desk and dials home. Nan answers on the fifth ring and he says, "I'm sorry I didn't call sooner. I don't know when I'll be home."

"Alright," Nan replies. "I hope you're not hungry."

His immediate impulse is to blast her for not understanding why he's late on this particular day after he stressed the importance of the Sunkist meetings, but Ted controls the urge. He says, "We did have some food at the meeting."

"How did it go?"

Ted sits in his chair. He's puzzled by Nan's tone – she sounds distracted, disinterested. It sounds like she's probably holding the phone between her cheek and shoulder, freeing her hands to read a magazine or continue a game of rummy with one of the boys. "It was a success," Ted tells her. "We're moving forward and I think the campaign will-"

"I'm sorry, honey. What did you say?"

"What's going on there?"

There is a noise, a rustle of fabric, and Nan explains, "I'm getting ready to go to dinner with Alice from down the street. Remember? The boys already ate and I tried to save you some chicken, but there's not much."

"Oh, right," Ted says. He does remember the conversation. "Is Alice's daughter still available to come to the house?"

"Yes, although Eddie says he doesn't need a babysitter."

Ted smiles and starts to ask how the boy is feeling, but Nan cuts him off and says, "I hear the doorbell."

He tells her to enjoy her night out and hears the buzz of the dial tone before he says goodbye.

x

The pool is crowded when Peggy first arrives back at the hotel. By the time she changes into her bathing suit and returns, most of the families are fleeing to get ready for dinner.

She leaves her towel, sandals and room key on a chaise lounge. Peggy dips her toe in the shallow end – the temperature is moderately cool, just enough of a salve to the intense sun. She submerges herself in the water, climbing down the metal ladder until she feels the rough texture of the pool's floor scratch her feet.

Peggy glances side to side, noting the location of a couple teenagers treading water in the deep end and an older man wading his way toward a floating raft. She bends her knees and feels the water quiver under her chin. She lets her limbs go slack, her body sinking lower until she's submerged. She holds her breath until her lungs burn and then breaks the surface. Peggy kicks away from the wall to get going and swims her way to the deep end.

x

He dials her room number from the house phone in the lobby. Ted hangs up when she doesn't answer and dials again, just to make sure he pushed the right numbers. He wanders toward the hotel bar and scans the few patrons. He feels like an intruder but nobody stops him from walking further into the Biltmore and ending up on the patio by the pool.

Ted spots her immediately. She is reclining on a raft, floating slowly along the edge of the pool. Peggy's eyes are closed and her arms rest at her sides, one hand dipping down into the water every so often. He walks toward the pool as she slides off the raft and dives underwater. He watches Peggy's lithe frame glide to the ladder on the opposite side from where he stands.

She emerges with a splash and ascends the small ladder. Ted notes that her bathing suit is simple – one piece, black, with a scooped back that exposes the exquisite shape of her shoulder blades. It's the simplicity of the swimsuit that makes it sexy and he tugs at the knot in his tie when Peggy turns and walks toward him, leaving a trail of small footprints along the concrete.

Ted realizes he's standing next to the chaise lounge where she's stashed her belongings. He picks up the white towel and holds it out toward her. Peggy bunches it in her hands and presses her face into the soft cotton. She ties it around her waist and drops her sandals onto the concrete.

He says, "You left before I could tell you…"

The words he can't manage to speak hang between them. It makes the heat of the sun seem more intense and brighter, and they both squint against the light. Beads of water glisten on Peggy's chest. She looks away sharply and slips her feet into her sandals. She brushes past him, heading into the hotel. Ted sees that she's left her room key and snatches it, chasing after her.