Second Chance Ch. 02byS-Des©
Thanks again to KevH for all of his efforts, and to DawnJ and Aruban for their many suggestions and support. This chapter is part of a larger story, and does not work as a stand-alone story. There is also no sex in the chapter, so please keep that in mind if you decide to continue.
"Shit!" Tim swore in frustration, slamming his hands against the steering wheel. He shot a quick glance at his watch and knew there was no way to make it on time. His fingers drummed impatiently against the steering wheel as he waited for the light to change. Damn thing seems to catch me every day, he fumed.
"Whose dumb-assed idea was it to put it here in the first place?" he complained impotently.
The light finally turned green and the wheels screeched as he turned sharply into the parking lot, his eyes immediately searching for an open space. The only one available seemed to be a mile from the front door so he hurried into it, then began sprinting in a vain hope of making it before eight. Tim ran into the lobby, breathing heavily and quickly threw a cursory wave to Tammy at the front desk.
"They're already in the meeting Tim, you better hurry," she called out, a twinge of mirth betrayed by her voice. He rushed by, casting a quick glance over his shoulder which confirmed that she was openly laughing at his plight.
Tim reached the conference room just as Pete started his presentation. "Shit!" he muttered under his breath, trying to open the door quietly, hoping not to be noticed. Like he ever misses me screwing up?, Tim thought miserably, reaching for the door handle.
"This figure shows the problem we're having with the rail voltage on the new model," Pete was saying as his protégé discreetly slipped into a chair, ignoring the amused grins from the others around the conference table. Without turning he pointedly said, "Perhaps Mr. Sullivan could explain why this problem hasn't been fixed yet, since he's so graciously decided to join us this morning."
Damn, Tim thought. How does he do that?
"Well," Tim said, trying to calm his breathing, "I was going over the specs yesterday and noticed that we were having trouble sustaining the output from the power supply section. We can correct this if we..."
He laid out the ideas discovered over a weekend spent researching every variation of every power supply the company had produced over the last three years, hoping to redeem himself for the embarrassing start to the day. Some of the other engineers were shaking their heads in disbelief, unable to fathom that the young man didn't have anything better to do on his weekend than go over specs and diagrams. As Tim opened the folder to pull out the handouts he had prepared at home, he tried not to think about the fact they were right.
When the meeting ended, he walked up to Pete tentatively, hoping he wasn't annoyed. Despite affinity for Tim, his being late could be considered a reflection of Pete's leadership and he hated the idea of making his best friend look bad. "Sorry, I was up late on this stuff and overslept."
Pete looked him over from head to toe and shook his head. "You look like crap! You could have waited to finish it until today. Did you even take a shower this morning?"
"It was important to have it ready for the meeting," Tim said defiantly. "And yes, for your information, I did shower this morning." With a wry smile, he added, "If you're that interested, I even used my brand new cologne. Want a whiff?"
Pete threw his head back and laughed so loudly it earned a curious stare from his secretary. "Rhonda, could you please make sure wonder-boy here gets the rest of his work to my desk?" As Tim turned to leave, Pete added, "For heaven's sake, can you find him a comb?"
She ran her hand through Tim's hair as if he was a child, telling him not to worry about Pete's teasing. He handed her the completed work and took the discs back to his office to try to tie up any loose ends before lunch. Pete was taking him out to extract any information about the weekend. Tim tried to focus his attention on the work. Everything else was a mess, as usual.
"So, how was Maria?" Pete asked with his usual lack of tact as they waited for the waitress.
Tim shrugged his shoulders vaguely. "She was nice."
"Nice?" he hissed, sounding shocked. "She looks like a model, has a great job and is smart as hell. Trisha said that she would be perfect for you. All I get is 'nice'? My wife is going to kick your ass Wednesday night."
"Yeah, I'm not looking forward to this one," he mumbled, unable to look his friend in the eyes. "There wasn't anything wrong with her, we just didn't click. She was way out of my league anyway."
Pete stared at him intently, like he was about to say something Tim wasn't going to like, but just then the waitress came back. They ordered lunch, then Pete quickly let his protégé know he wasn't ready to let it drop.
"Look Tim, this has got to stop. You work all the time, you don't ever enjoy yourself. You put every penny into that ridiculous house, but don't do anything with it. Shit, it's bigger than my house, but it's just you living there. You don't even seem like you want to find someone to share it with. I don't understand what you're doing with your life."
He had touched a nerve, and it wasn't something Tim wanted to hear.
"What I'm doing is my business," he snapped, more harshly than intended. "I love my house. It proves..." he stopped for a second, unwilling to reveal that bit of his personal history. "...I enjoy my life. If you don't like the way I do things, you can stop trying to set me up with your friends."
Pete leaned back, looking stung by the tone. When Tim saw his expression, he immediately regretted his harshness.
"I'm sorry, Pete. That was totally uncalled for. Please apologize about the date to Trisha for me. I appreciate the thought, but Maria just wasn't the right one."
"Well, it seems that none of them are the right one," Pete sighed cynically. With a shrug, he changed the subject to something neutral. "All right, let's talk about your idea to fix the problem with the new line."
They spent the next hour trying to work out the details of Tim's idea and how it could be implemented without throwing off the production plans. The new line was going to make the company a ton of money and would ensure that Pete would secure yet another promotion. That was good because he always made sure that Tim was taken care of as well.
After his help on what was easily the worst night of the young man's life, Pete had pulled strings to get Tim into his alma mater. He needed to carry a larger class load and take a couple of correspondence courses during the summer, but had somehow managed to graduate on time. True to his word, Tim walked right out of school and into a high paying job with Pete's company.
It had been mutually beneficial because he was soon promoted to a supervisory position in the department. Pete was brilliant when it came to coordinating projects. He continually put Tim with groups that were doing the really crucial jobs dealing with the most cutting-edge technology. That helped the young man to become invaluable to the company; someone that could always be counted on to come through in the clutch.
Working sixty-hour weeks, plus taking projects home to work on in his free time wasn't exactly fun, but in three years he had become the youngest engineer to ever be in charge of a major project for the company.
He's right about my drive though, Tim had to admit to himself. He knew he was in danger of burning himself out, but then again how many twenty-five year olds had their own home, car, and investment portfolio? Especially when it was all earned by their own hand?
Tim didn't like to think about it, but his friend was probably also correct about what was wrong in his love life. Something was obviously screwed up, but nothing he tried seemed to make a difference. In the end it didn't matter. Work made him happy, it made sense, and it allowed him to get his life where he swore it would be and that was enough for the time being. Still, knowing Pete's wife and the hell she was going to give him, their weekly dinner wasn't something he was looking forward to.
Wednesday night finally arrived, but Tim was running a little late from working over. There was just enough time to change and clean up before heading to Pete and Tricia's. He finally grabbed his coat to head out when the doorbell rang.
"She's going to kill me," he muttered, rolling his eyes at yet another interruption. He hurried to the door, expecting to find someone selling something useless. However, opening the door he was greeted by a sight that made his knees buckle. He could literally feel the blood drain from his face as his coat fell forgotten to the floor. Standing in front of him was the one person Tim never expected to see again.
"Donna," he stammered, feeling like the victim of some cosmic joke.
It took several seconds to regain his senses. He felt like a fighter who'd just caught one to the temple. Everything seemed to be moving slowly and out of focus.
"What are you doing here?" he stammered.
She looked nervous, and a little wary. "I was wondering if we could talk?"
In a daze, he stepped back and motioned for her to come in. She stepped past him into the living room, looking around in wonder. Tim bent over and picked up the coat, trying to find some way to deal with the flurry of emotions that all seemed to hit him at once. In addition to the emotional turmoil, he couldn't help but notice how stunning she still looked; almost as if she stepped right out of one of his dreams. Tim walked behind her, hoping she wouldn't notice his legs were so wobbly there was a very real danger he might fall at any moment.
"Your house is beautiful," she said in open admiration.
"Thank you," he answered robotically, still trying to gather his wits. Suddenly an idea occurred to him.
"I was just on my way out to meet with friends. I need to let them know I'll be a few minutes late."
She nodded, although her expression indicated she was disappointed he expected to leave so quickly.
He turned and walked into the kitchen, dialing the phone. "Hello Tim, why are you going to be late this time?" Trisha greeted him with mock irritation.
"I need to talk to Pete, now," he said urgently, ignoring her sarcasm. Something in the tone must have alerted her that he wasn't fooling around because she immediately called for her husband. "He'll be here in a second. Is everything all right?" she said, the concern evident in her voice.
Struggling to answer, Tim was saved by Pete taking the phone, asking what was wrong.
"Donna's here," was the only words Tim could think to say. There was dead silence on the other end of the line for several seconds. "Hey, is there anyone there?" he asked in frustration. "What the hell am I supposed to do?"
There was a moment of silence. "Did she say why she's there?" Pete asked.
"I didn't think to ask," he hissed sarcastically. "I haven't seen her in five years, now she shows up out of the blue? I'm freaking out. I need time to get my head together."
"Well, just tell her the truth. You have to go to your boss' house and you can't be late. She's the one who just showed up unannounced. There's no reason you should feel pressure to make excuses."
Trisha's voice chimed in, "Just make sure you find out what she wants. You'll drive yourself crazy wondering if you don't know why she's there."
"All right, I'll be about fifteen minutes late. I'll let you two know what happened when I get there. Thanks."
Tim hung up and took a deep breath, starting to feel a little more in control of his emotions. Pete was right. There was no reason to come up with some elaborate excuse for not wanting to talk to her. She was the one who showed up unannounced out of the blue. It wasn't his job to accommodate the woman who had screwed his life, then dropped in without even a phone call. He strode into the living room, ready to deal with whatever Donna had to say.
"So do you have a little time?" she asked nervously.
"I just have a few minutes; I'm supposed to be meeting my boss and his wife. I called them, but don't want to be too late." Tim searched his mind for a way to ask why she was there without sounding like he cared about her answer either way.
After a moment of uncomfortable silence, she spoke. "Well, since I only have a few minutes, I don't want to waste it. I'm in town for a week or two and wanted to take you out for dinner. I thought...well, maybe we could catch up on what's been going on in our lives."
Tim didn't even try to hide the displeasure he felt at that suggestion. Yeah, I want you to tell me about your wonderful life with Jake. That'll be special, he thought bitterly.
His irritation must have been transparent because she suddenly turned away. "I know it's strange to show up like this," she said, sounding uncharacteristically unsure of herself. "There are some things that I wanted to say a long time ago, but didn't get the chance." She paused, then looked at him with a determined expression.
"I know you weren't expecting to see me, but I've waited a long time to have the chance to be honest with you."
He snorted, "Honesty? That'll be a change for you." A hurt look flashed across her face, but she didn't back down.
"You have every right to be angry with me, Tim. But I can't leave without at least giving you the chance to know what happened. I gave up before, and it was a horrible mistake. It's important that I don't let it happen again." She turned and grabbed her purse, then walked toward the door. Stopping there, she turned and faced him with an apologetic look.
"Tim, it's really good to see you again. I'm happy you're doing so well. I always knew you would."
Tim paused for a second, then decided that Trisha was right. He did want to find out why she was there and what she wanted to say. Part of him wished she had never come back because just seeing her was already causing him physical distress. Another part had always wanted to to find out why she had betrayed him, especially with someone like Jake.
"I'll be busy tomorrow, but should be free all Friday night," he said evenly, trying not to betray his inner turmoil. "I think it might be good to catch up on things."
Her shoulders relaxed visibly and she gave him a grateful look. "Good. I'll call you Friday to find a time works for you."
They exchanged numbers, then Donna walked toward the door. As she reached it she turned. "Thank you Tim, this means a great deal to me."
The veil of stress lifted from her face, and he could see the old Donna again, young, beautiful, and full of life. She turned and stepped through the doorway. Tim watched her gracefully walk to her car, leaving him adrift in her wake, yet again.
"But if she wants to talk about things, that could be good," Trisha insisted. "Maybe she wants to apologize."
Pete gave his wife an exasperated look. "Who cares if she wants to apologize? After what she did..." his voice trailed off as Trisha gave him a pointed glare.
"Tim," Trish carefully chose her words, "for years, I've watched you go through your personal life like you were only half alive. It kills me because you're such a good person. Marie said you acted like you were counting the minutes until the date was over." Tim cringed at the assessment, which wasn't far from the truth.
"For some reason, you're stuck in the past. Whether it's because Donna hurt you so badly that you're afraid to take a chance or something else, you need to find a way to move on. Maybe you just need to find out what really happened and why in order to get that closure."
Trisha stared at him with an unabashed fondness that made him blush. "You do what you think will make you happy. Pete and I will support you, no matter what. If you ask me though, this is the chance to get all the answers you didn't get the first time around."
Tim looked at her with a sheepish grin, feeling relieved. "Well, Pete constantly tells me that you're always right. I suppose I should start listening to him."
She smiled and leaned over tenderly kissing his cheek. "You really are such a sweet man."
Tim called Donna when he arrived home. The conversation was tense, but she seemed genuinely grateful to hear that he hadn't changed his mind about meeting with her. Something unexpected happened after he hung up though. The thought of her trying to wash away what she had done with a simple conversation nagged at him. He wrestled with it until well into the night before drifting off into restless slumber. By the next morning, he had decided to prove to her that he wasn't the sap he used to be.
On Friday night, he arrived at the restaurant at seven o'clock sharp. Donna was already sitting at a table, trying not to appear uncomfortable. He greeted her pleasantly and inspected the menu. They didn't say much until the waitress took their order. After she left, Tim leaned back in his chair with an air of authority.
As he sat staring at her, Tim felt confident and strong. He was a successful professional with a good life. Even if she was still with Jake, Tim knew he didn't make the NFL, so it was doubtful she was doing nearly as well. Judging by her shocked expression when she saw the house, he was convinced she was envious.
Unfortunately, her reaction was not exactly what he had anticipated.
"Well what," she replied, looking confused.
"I've been waiting for two days to find out why you just show up on my doorstep after five years. Is this supposed to be some kind of 'Gee, sorry I screwed you over and fucked up your life' speech?"
Her face betrayed a hint of pain, but she quickly suppressed it. "No," she simply said.
He stopped in confusion, caught off guard by her answer being different from what he expected.
"Tim," she began quietly, "what could I possibly say that would make any difference to you now? Being sorry doesn't fix what I did. If I could go back and change things, I swear to you I would. That's not a possibility." She cleared her throat, sounding like she had rehearsed a speech of her own.
"I need to explain to you what happened and why. You deserve to know the truth...at least if you want to. I was also hoping I could talk to you kind of like old friends...at least for one night. It would mean a lot to me." She looked into his eyes pleadingly.
"Later, if you still want me to apologize, I'll be happy to do so. I would do anything to take away the pain I put you through." She looked away. "I promise you, saying I regret what I did is the easy part."
Tim sat quietly, gathering his thoughts. What she said seemed to make sense, but a part of him was screaming that he was missing the other shoe about to drop. Who is she to pity me? he thought angrily.
"Fine," he said curtly. "You want to talk, I have some questions. You're here alone, where's Prince Charming?"
"I left Jake a long time ago," she answered quickly, staring at her hands.
"So he dumps you and all of the sudden you want to see what I'm doing? Is that the plan?"
Donna brought her eyes up to meet his. "Tim, I would never do something like that." Ignoring the disbelieving snort, she continued, "I left him a few months after it started. I know it's hard for you to believe, but I didn't come here to justify what I did."
Tim shook his head; suddenly realizing dinner had been a bad idea. Not only was this not turning out the way he expected, but she was doing the whole I'm just here to make you feel better bit. The only good news was that her relationship with Jake hadn't worked out.