Trudy Cavanaugh strode from the mahogany paneled boardroom, leaving in her wake seven men looking at each other in astonishment. She bolted into the ladies’ room at the end of the hall, pushed open a stall door, and leaned over the toilet, allowing the bile to flow freely from her agitated stomach. Damn! she thought. When will I ever get used to confronting people without vomiting? Straightening, she flushed the toilet and emerged from the stall, going directly to the vanity area where she ran water and pumped the soap dispenser vigorously. Glancing at herself in the mirror, she grimaced at her appearance. She hoped she didn’t look as sick as she felt. Cupping her hands under the flow of cold water, she sipped water and rinsed her mouth of the foul taste. That would have to do until she could get her handbag where she carried a small bottle of mints. Opening the ladies’ room door, she nodded at her secretary, who handed Trudy her handbag and her full-length mink coat, then motioned to the man who was leaning over the desk.
Her attorney pursued her through the offices of Cavanaugh Enterprises toward the elevators. Leo Powell knew he didn’t have to hurry; even the powerful and wealthy Cavanaugh woman had to wait for the elevator to crawl slowly from the ground floor to the twenty-fifth.
So, she’s done it again. He grinned to himself as he walked behind the rapidly retreating figure. She outwitted those old farts on the board and headed this business in the right direction. If Trudy had been merely a figurehead chairman, she would have allowed the members to watch the company die, along with many other publications in this year of change.
Instead, Trudy held her ground and bullied the old men—those paunchy, balding, impotent, old men in their pinstriped suits—into turning the focus of the business around toward the ladies’ market.
Not the traditional ladies’ market, though. With the emergence of women into positions of authority and power in the business world, Trudy had recognized their need for publications aimed at their work-world. No recipes for her. No fashion commentaries or movie-star profiles, but articles related to work experience, how to juggle appointments with babysitters…that’s what Trudy Cavanaugh wanted.
That’s what she’ll get, Leo knew. He slowed his pace and stood silently beside his employer by the elevator.
“Leo,” she said without turning to him. “What were those old geezers doing when I left?”
“Babbling amongst themselves. Having strokes and heart attacks.”
She chuckled. “Good. I want a meeting with the editors of all our publications tomorrow morning. I want to tell them all personally before the Board has a chance to do any more damage.”
The elevator arrived, and they stepped inside as the brass doors closed silently and firmly. They rode in silence to the garage floor where Trudy’s limousine waited.
Leo assisted her into the back seat, telling the driver, “We’ll go to Mrs. Cavanaugh’s home, now.”
Trudy settled herself against the car’s soft leather, pulling off her kid gloves and shrugging off her mink coat.
Leo pulled his cigarette lighter from his coat pocket and held it as she put a cigarette to her lips.
“Thank you.” She inhaled deeply and stretched her long legs straight out, flexing her tense leg muscles.
Leo wisely withheld his questions as Trudy was seemingly absorbed in looking out the window at the changing autumn scenery.
Glancing out the window every so often, he studied her.
I know her like a book, he thought. In fact, Leo had been offered a great deal of money to write a book about the Cavanaughs, all of them, with Trudy as the focal point, but he had declined. Leo was above all else, loyal to the family, but what a book he could write. The Cavanaughs were newsmakers, and this lovely member of the family was the most sensational of them all.
He found himself appraising her: tall, rather an angular woman, with strong features, and a certain boyish stride. Her hair was blond with sun-streaks, unaided by hairdressers, as far as Leo could determine, and he knew well how her emerald-green eyes could turn from warm to stone cold. A line or wrinkle there, he admitted, but the woman was approaching fifty, and the strain of simply being a Cavanaugh was enough to age her.
He shook his head.
Trudy had said something.
“I’m sorry. What did you say?”
“I said I want to give a party.” She ground out her cigarette and turned her luminous eyes on him. They were not warm.
“I’ll get your social secretary—” He put his hand on the telephone.
“No.” She put her hand over his, stopping him. “No, Leo. I want do this one myself, but I need your help. Give me your legal pad and a pen, would you?”
He pulled them from his briefcase, and she began writing in her illegible scrawl.
“I want you to find these people— ”
“Is this what I think it is?” His eyebrows knitted in a frown. “Your friends from Korea?”
She continued scribbling. “We promised twenty years ago that we’d all meet again, and it’s time, or it will be, soon.”
She tore off the page, handing it to him. “Do what you can, will you?”
It wasn’t a request. It was an order.
Leo looked at the list in dismay. It contained about twenty names, ranks, and a few last-known addresses. He looked up at her, but Trudy was looking out the window again.
“I’ll find them. When do you want them?”
“I’ve wanted them for a long time, Leo.” Her chin trembled and tears welled in her emerald eyes.
Leo had never, in all the years he had been around the family, seen Trudy Cavanaugh cry. Never. Not when she and Philip returned from Korea, his body mutilated then his soul, nor when Philip died. Not even when the Old Man died—but now—now, the woman was about to cry.
The driver slowed as he turned to question his employer with his eyes. They were nearing the turnoff to the cemetery.
Trudy nodded, slowly, as she bit her lip to control the tears that had spilled over onto her cheeks. Yes, she would stop at the cemetery as was her usual custom after haggling with the Cavanaugh Enterprises board members over one issue or another. She needed to get in touch with her roots, where she came from, more than where she was headed, and her roots lay with her late father-in-law, who had chosen Trudy over his own son, to assume the chairmanship shortly before he died.
Leo helped her into her coat before she stepped out of the car in front of the Cavanaugh Mausoleum.
She approached the stone edifice with legs that felt like rubber. Entering, she paused at the casket that contained the body of her father-in-law. “Colin,” she murmured. “You would have been proud of me today. I turned the company upside down. And yes, I threw up later.” She allowed herself a somewhat crooked grin as she stroked the top of the casket. She could almost imagine Colin guffawing loudly, his eyes sparking with a mischievous glint. She was silent for a few moments then turned to her husband’s casket a few feet away.
“Philip,” she whispered softly as she knelt to touch his casket. “I’m keeping the pact we all made when we were in Korea. We will all meet again as we promised. Maggie and Jake, BT and Doc, Nell and Evan…and…and…” She could not finish before she was swept away by great sobs. A moment passed while she composed herself. “I miss you.”
Wiping her eyes, she straightened and walked briskly to her waiting car.
“Let’s go home, Leo,” she said.
* * * *
Now clear-eyed, Trudy allowed Leo to assist her from the limousine, saying, “Come into the study. We’ll have a drink before we go over those new Ellis contracts.”
Leo followed her from the car into the great hallway and into the massive oak paneled study. At the sideboard, she poured a drink and sat in a dark green wingback chair.
I feel like a fool, crying in front of Leo like that. It must be hormones, she thought.
They’re running full steam, getting in their last gasps, but Alex doesn’t think I’m too old. The feeling of warmth spread to her breasts as she remembered last evening with Alex. No, there was nothing wrong with my hormones, she assured herself.
She turned her thoughts to her upcoming reunion. She wondered how her “old” friends had fared in these twenty-five years since they had all been Army wives in a military compound so far from home.
Maggie would only be more plump, more brassy, if possible. And Nell. Nell would be even more of a comfort, an island of sanity in a crazy world.
She swallowed her drink
Leah should be here, she thought.
But Leah was dead.
Leah died in Korea, a voice taunted.
She stood and mixed another drink, something she rarely did.
The voice nagged at her. Leah didn’t just die. She killed herself.
Her legs became unsteady beneath her, and she sank into the chair. Colin’s chair. Her breath came in ragged gasps.
She was crying, dammit.
“I really don’t know why I’m crying, Leo,” she sobbed. “Except, after all these years, I miss those people. They were special.”
She motioned for his handkerchief. She blew her nose and started to hand the handkerchief back. “Thanks. I’ll get this back to you later. I’m sorry you had to see me cry.” She laughed self-consciously. “And if word ever gets out that Trudy Cavanaugh cried, I’ll know who to blame…”
“I’ll find them for you, Trudy. I’ll bring them all back.” Leo patted her shoulder awkwardly.
No, you can’t bring them all back, Trudy thought. Not Colin, Philip, or Leah.
Or the past. Never the past.
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