When Tony McGregor moved into Riverview, he was hoping for a quiet life in solitude, at least for a while. He came from a different town, and like most people choosing to start a new life, he was fleeing from various problems in his past that he hoped wouldn’t follow him here.
He didn’t have much money, so he could only afford a small, a bit rundown, trailer sized house in a neighbourhood consisting of more rundown trailer sized houses. He didn’t mind.
As already mentioned, Tony hoped to lead a quiet, normal life, consisting of mundane tasks considered boring by a lot of people, like: meeting neighbours, reading books in his small nest of a house, going for walks in the local park, and working in some boring office.
It worked well for the most part, except for working in an office one. Somehow, he couldn’t find a suitable job around town for quite a while.
Until he met Rhoda Bagley.
It was a coincidence, really. He was going on one of his walks somewhere in the general vicinity of the movie theatre. He couldn’t really afford to visit, but sometimes the people coming out told each other what they saw, and that was generally enough to know what was going on.
“You’re looking for work”, she said instead of a greeting.
“Uhm”, Tony answered, giving his best not to stare at the woman infront of him in less polite ways. He hadn’t been with a woman for ages, not since highschool actually, and even if Rhoda was definitely older than him, he didn’t mind that. She was plain gorgeous. For a moment, he would have done anything she wanted from him. “Sure.”
“Then I might have just the right thing for you.”
“May I, uhm, inquire after the nature of my task?”
“Oh”, she said. “It’s boring work, mostly. Something like a callcenter agent. You’ll be making calls, filing protocols, that kind of thing. You might need to sub for someone now and then, but it won’t be too frequently.”
Tony was sold immediately and signed the contract she put in front of him. To be honest, he was more interested in taking her out for dinner that he couldn’t really afford, then in her work proposition, but she didn’t seem to return his interests. So work it was.
Rhoda didn’t lie about his tasks, she just failed to mention he would be working in a major underground network. Oh, sure, it was a perfectly legal warehouse and a perfectly legal transport and distribution company, and Tony worked in a perfectly normal office building and he was just a simple call center agent most of the time, doing customer service and disposition work, but after a while, the calls he was processing were of a more delicate matter and the cargo he managed wasn’t exactly was the package labelling told.
The problem was, that this kind of work was the reason he moved to Riverview. He wanted to leave it behind. It was the past that wasn’t supposed to follow him. Before Riverview, Tony was what you would call a criminal. A thief. And a pretty good one. He did not stay in the line of work, though, after a major project went south and a teammate got shot in the process. Tony still felt pangs of guilt sometimes.
“It won’t be like that”, Rhoda told him one night when he drunk a bit more than he should have and confided in her. He shouldn’t be doing that, she was his boss, after all, but he was in love with her from the first day and sometimes he hoped he could have a chance, if he just got close enough to her. She had a series of romances. She never stayed with the same man for longer than a year. Sometimes he hoped, he could be the next, but Rhoda never answered any of his careful advances. She came to hang out at his place often, to talk about work sometimes, but mostly about her boyfriends that never seemed to work out.
Rhoda was right. It wasn’t like that. Once Tony made peace with the idea that he couldn’t leave the life and, well, go on living, he started to enjoy it. He made friends at the Company, friends that you could call up when you needed a drink, or a small loan, or just a good evening talk. And his friendship with Rhoda gave him some advantages as well. He didn’t have to worry about money anymore. He bought a better fridge, installed a better shower, got a TV and a few other items. Some other things kind of… turned up at his house without him buying them. But even if the neighbours probably recognized their picnic table, nobody said a word. Tony was a respectable citizen for everybody with the exception of the Company, of course. They knew that Tony had a ruthless streak when he was in the mood. It wasn’t advisable to stand in his way when his temper got him, either. Thankfully for everybody, it didn’t happen too often.
There were some incidents, of course, when Tony actually got out in the open to pick something up and had contact with some henchmen that didn’t have the brains to be polite to him. He tangled with the police once and spend a rather boring night in the local jail, but it could be resolved as some terrible misunderstanding.
Later, he made sure to get in the arresting officer’s good books.
There hadn’t been any other misunderstandings, and Tony continued to rise up the corporate ladder.
One night Rhoda turned up at his doorstep in various states of disarray wearing not much more than underwear. With much imagination her outfit could be described as a very short sportswear. Tony was just about to eat something and head to bed.
She sat on the couch and pretended to watch TV. Tony knew she broke up with some guy or other and maybe took it personally this time. She didn’t say much, and he knew better than to disturb her in this state.
Even in her late forties, she was still a gorgeous woman, and Tony still adored her, and while he knew that she valued him not only as one of her best workers, but also as one of her best friends, he still wanted more.
When she complained about the rain outside, he made a mistake.
“You could stay”, he said. “I could be your shelter. I could protect you.”
“Protect me?” She was furious. “You’re just as stupid as the rest of them, but you’re my friend, so I will try not to be angry with you.”
She left despite of the rain, and her almost nonexistent clothes.
A few hours later, having found no sleep, Tony went outside to stomp in a puddle, angry at Rhoda and at himself. Mostly at himself. Why did he need to ruin a perfectly good friendship with his base needs?
Rhoda stayed true to her promise and wasn’t angry at him. She didn’t mention the incident again, and Tony did the same, and they managed to stay friends through the years, and as the time passed, Tony found doing more and more of the work that she had previously done.
He had a perfectly good life, but even after he came to terms that Rhoda would never love him, something was missing.
He had a lot of contacts, and some of them grew to friendships that stayed intact over the years, but nothing was what he wanted, no woman he met could match Rhoda’s fierceness and that certain calm in the middle of a storm, no woman did touch his heart the same as she did.
Until his sink broke. Again. And while he was perfectly able to fix it himself, he was just so tired from his shift that he caved in and called repair service.
“Shouldn’t be too hard”, she said and took the wrench from her tool belt.
Tony mumbled something unintelligible.
“What was that?” She turned around to look at him and the only thing he could do was look away. Screw the sink, he thought.
It took all his patience to let her do her work. He waited in the living room until she was finished.
“What’s your name”, he wanted to know. “Where are you from? I never saw you around the town…”
Her name was Natalia Bartlett, and she was here for all of a week.
“I used to be a doctor. I’ve fallen on some hard times”, she explained. “So I’ve been looking for a job and the temp agency needed a repairman. I figured, if I can stitch people together, I can fix plumbing just as easily. It seems to work, doesn’t it?” She smiled uncertainly and seemed to be fascinated by the floorboards.
“You can’t go”, Tony decided. “Not just yet. Let’s go out to the park together.”
“What, just like that?” – she wondered. “I guess I could do that. But you will have to pay for the overtime!”
Tony didn’t care.