“Thanks, Joseph, I appreciate it,” I say, sighing and grabbing the stack of papers. I cleared out my afternoon so I could go through this, and I haven’t even started.
“Is there anything else I can do to help you with the contracts?” he asks, patient and ready to work.
“No. At some point I’m going to have to rip the Band-Aid off,” I say, opening up one file.
“Give us some privacy, kid,” Pandora says, walking straight into my office and sitting down in the chair in front of my desk.
“Can I get you anything to drink or eat?” Joseph asks. He knows my cousin all too well.
“The usual,” she says, and thanks him when he quickly brings her back a Coke with a tray of snacks.
I wait for Joseph to exit and close the doors to my office before I acknowledge Pandora’s presence.
“Any particular reason you’re barging into my office and being rude to my assistant?” I ask, happy for another distraction and a reason to avoid the tedious work I hate to do.
“She’s back,” she says, and lays a legal-size envelope on my desk.
“She who?” I reach over and pick it up, turning it over in my hands. It’s blank on the outside, but it’s heavy. “What is this?”
“It’s Kory. She’s back in the city. She moved here two weeks ago. At first, I thought maybe she was visiting her mom, but she’s taken a job in Manhattan. You know her mom still lives in the same building on the Lower East Side. Crazy, right? Must be rent controlled.”
“Stop,” I order, holding up one hand and gripping the envelope tighter with the other. My mind is flooded with so many questions I can’t think straight. So I start with the basics. “What?”
“Kory Summers. I’ve kept tabs on her since…” She shrugs and looks away. “You know.”
“What the fuck, Pandora?” I say, standing up so fast my chair smacks into the window behind me. “You knew where she was this whole time?”
“Don’t pretend like you didn’t want me to know, Henry. Ignorance doesn’t suit you.” She looks at me with hard eyes but leans back in her chair calmly. “We all know you never got over her. Not even for a second did you ever let the flame you kept burning for her dim. So don’t act like you’re not about to explode on the inside at this information.”
“But why would you do this? Why now? It’s been ten years and you’re just now telling me?” I pace back and forth as all the wheels in my head begin spinning at once.
I know exactly where her mom lives. I bought the building as soon as I got part of my trust fund. I kept the rent low enough that her mom would never leave or have to worry about making a payment. I ride by there at least once a week to check on things and speak to the property manager.
“Look, I could have told you a thousand different times before today,” she says, leaning forward and putting her elbows on her knees. “But from what I saw, she was happy. She was living her life in Boston, and as much as I love you, it wasn’t my place to step in.”
“You’re damn right!” I yell, and that takes Pandora by surprise. “It wasn’t your place then and it isn’t your place now. What good is going to come from you giving me this information? What am I supposed to do? Run to her mom’s house and beg a woman I haven’t seen in a decade to love me? Do you know what I’ve had to do to cope in a life without her? Do you have any idea the pain I’ve felt every single day that she wasn’t with me? I found my soul mate when I was eighteen years old and had to let her go. This is going to rip me in two, Pandora.”
She stands up from her seat and places her hands on my desk. “Henry, look at yourself. You never moved on. You had one day with her, and it changed you forever. You have to see this through. If you don’t, you’ll never heal, and you can’t keep living like this.” She straightens up. “I can see it in you as time goes on. Every year that passes, we lose more of you, and I know this is why. Open the goddamn envelope.”
Those are her last words as she turns and walks out of my office, closing the door behind her. I grip the envelope so tight that it crinkles in my hand. I look down at it and release it, smoothing it as much as possible. I place it on my desk and fall down in my seat in front of it. I put my face in my hands and think over my options.