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Choices Chapter 1


Locking the door to her apartment, she leaned back against it and surveyed her new home.  Packing boxes predominated, stacked wherever the friends that helped her move in had placed them.  The new furniture was where she envisioned it.  And it looked fabulous.  Susan heaved a satisfied sigh.

Her new apartment was perfect. It almost made living in that cheap walk up for another year worth the effort.  It had enabled her to salt away the cash that she needed to really get on her feet, to rent a nice apartment with a secure lobby and to buy some good furniture, albeit with payments that would last another year.  She was going to love living here, she just knew it.

“You’ve come a long way, Baby!” she enthused, checking the lock on the door again. Susan almost danced down the hallway and passed a mirror still leaning against the wall. Unable to ignore the mirror, she glanced sassily into its now fingerprinted surface.  “You’ve come a long way from small town Creston, a long way from University, and a long way from being a go-for in the front office!” she addressed the woman in the mirror and then laughed, twirling around in front of the mirror and hugging herself.  The slim redhead in the mirror, wearing snug jeans and a tattered University of British Columbia sweatshirt grinned back at her.

Susan left the image in the mirror and turned her attention to cleaning the kitchen.  Pizza boxes and empty beer cans were scattered everywhere.  Within fifteen minutes, the kitchen sparkled and she reached for one of the packing boxes to begin to unload her dishes.  An hour later, she stepped back to admire her work, jumping when the buzzer from the front door sounded.

“Yes?” she asked proudly.

“Sue?” a male voice asked.  “It’s Kevin.”

“Come on up,” she answered immediately.  “Do you know the apartment number?”


Within a few minutes, a knock at the door heralded his arrival. After checking the peephole, Susan opened the door with a flourish, stepping back to allow her visitor to enter.

He casually looked around, icy gray eyes noting the chaos of boxes and items scattered around the living area.

“Very nice!  I’ve always said you had great taste,” he stated with authority.  “After all, you are an officer now.  I brought a little something to celebrate your promotion.”

A soft smile tugged at his lips as he pulled a bottle of wine from underneath his jacket.  “We’ve come a long way since we joined the department, haven’t we?”

“We sure have!” Susan agreed, scooping up the bottle of wine with typical aplomb. “Thanks! I just unpacked the wine glasses.  Do you have time to share a glass with me?”

Kevin shifted uncomfortably and ran a hand through his black hair.  “I’d love to, Sue, but I have to get home.  Shirley’s in one of her moods.  That’s why I didn’t make it over to help you move. I’m really sorry!  I was looking forward to it.”

A small whoosh of air escaped as he let out a deep breath.  “I’ll see you on Monday.”

Placing the wine on the counter, Susan’s smile didn’t quite reach her navy blue eyes.  “Thanks so much, Kevin.  This was really so sweet of you.”  She stood on tiptoes and kissed his cheek.  “I truly appreciate you taking the time to come over.   See you on Monday.”

Kevin squeezed her hand and sauntered towards the door.  “What are best friends for?” he asked, and quietly closed the door behind him.

Dead-bolting the door behind Kevin, Susan continued to unload the kitchen boxes.  She worried about her old friend.  His wife seemed to take perverse pleasure in screwing up his plans with the office buddies.  It was getting so bad, that he had stopped planning anything with them.

They had both started in the Department of Foreign Affairs at the same time, and had been promoted more or less at the same pace.  Now they were both in a position where posting to another country was possible.

And she was ready. She had studied, worked hard, and was confident in her abilities.  Fluent in French and several Slavic languages, a decided plus, her major in University had been Economics.  Both skills would make her a superb Trade Officer for the Department of Foreign Affairs.


Examining a bottle of wine a number of years later, Susan’s smile was somewhat poignant.  It was the bottle of wine that Kevin had given to her when she moved into this very apartment.  She had promised herself that it would remain unopened until he was able to share it with her, and at this stage, it looked like the bottle would remain forever unopened. Kevin was an enigma to her.

She remembered her first day at the Department so vividly. Kevin had arrived a week earlier.  They were the newbies, the go-fors and the raw recruits. Both were new to Ottawa, both were fresh out of university and both were determined to succeed.  To that end, they did whatever was asked of them.  Overtime was a fact of life. Neither worried about their personal life; success had been their only goal.

Her apartment was far more elegant than it had been back then.  She could now afford to furnish it in a more upscale manner.  A trip to Ukraine with the Department had resulted in a shopping binge of epic proportions, and the results were now tastefully displayed throughout the apartment.

Studying her image in the mirror as she prepared to leave for work, Susan couldn’t help but think that so much had changed in the years she had lived in this apartment.  Her long hair was now in a stylish bob, barely grazing her shoulders.  This morning, it was swept back into a sophisticated French twist.  Her navy blue eyes seemed darker than normal today and noticing that her cheekbones appeared more prominent than normal, it occurred to her that she had lost weight lately.

Who had time to cook?  She was too busy. Her work demanded her time and concentration.  She would have to consider eating out more often Susan decided, as she blotted her lipstick and walked out of the apartment.

Arriving at the office early enough to have to unlock the door, Susan immediately set up a pot of coffee to brew and began a review of her messages and schedule for the day.  Retrieving a cup of coffee immediately it was ready, she had been working for almost an hour before the other department employees began to trickle in.  Suddenly sensing someone standing by her desk, Susan lifted a hand, never taking her eyes off of the report that she was reading.

“Be with you in a minute, I’m almost done.”

“Well!  I thought you’d be happier to see me!”

Susan’s head immediately snapped up at the familiar voice.  “Kevin!  You’re back!”  She sat back into her chair, slid off her glasses and gave him the once-over.  “You look great!  Are you here for long?  How was China?”

Kevin eased his lanky frame into the chair in front of her desk.  “Glad to be back!  China was the absolutely wonderful.  You look beautiful as ever.  Love the hair.”

“Why thank you! China must have really agreed with you.  I thought you weren’t due back until the end of the month.”

“There was no point in waiting; Rene has a good handle on things. There’s nothing worse than watching someone else doing what you do, and anticipating what they’re going to do next, if you know what I mean.”  He shrugged his shoulders, tenting his long fingers.

Noting the slight skip of her heart and the buzz in her ears, she took a deep breath and took her time exhaling.  There was nothing new here. It was simply her reaction to Kevin.  This was nothing to worry about. It would dissipate once he’d been around for a while.  It had before.

Regaining her voice, Susan fervently hoped that she hadn‘t taken too long to reply. “I know what you mean!  It’s really hard when you’re really into what you’re doing.  So, how long will you be in Ottawa or do you know?”

“I have no idea,” he replied with a shrug of his broad shoulders.  “I have a meeting with Gordon at 9:30.  Guess I’ll find out then.”

A bell seemed to go off in Susan’s brain, and she glanced at her day timer.  “That’s interesting.  I have a meeting with him at 9:30 as well. We might as well head up to his office.” A glance at her watch had her standing and reaching for a slim leather briefcase.

Kevin rose, and they walked together to the elevator.  Upon their arrival at their manager’s office, his secretary waved them in.  He was on the phone but motioned for them to sit.  Hanging up the phone, Gordon removed his glasses and rubbed his forehead.

“Don’t ever get into management,” he remarked.  “Sometimes it’s just plain hell to deal with people that act like elementary school children!”  Heaving a sigh, he replaced his glasses and gave them his full attention.

“But that’s not why I asked you here today.  I have a special project for you to tackle.  You both have an economics background.  That’s what this project requires and I know that you work well together. The project will likely take six months.  After it’s complete, you’ll travel to our European trade offices and introduce the changes in practices that this project will invoke.  Interested?” he asked and leaned back in his chair, studying his employees.

Typically, Susan immediately jumped in. “Absolutely!”

“Definitely,” Kevin’s reply was almost as quick.

“Good.  Here are the details.  I’ve set up a separate office for you to work from. Take today to get settled in, and let me know if you need anything or have any questions.  I’ll expect a weekly report on your progress. Bernice will tell you where your office is located.”

Standing almost as one, they were aware that the meeting was over and as Gordon reached for his ringing telephone and they filed out of the office.  Bernice smiled and handed them a sheet of paper and two keys to the office that they would call home for the next six months.

“Shall we check out our new home away from home?” Kevin asked as they waited for the elevator.

“Might as well,” Susan replied.  “Then I’ll need to pack up my desk.  You’re lucky that you don’t have anything at the office right now.”

Kevin face broke into a cheerful grin and his dark eyebrows lifted.  “Talk nice to me and I’ll help you move.”

“You’re on!  I’ll even spring for lunch,” Susan added as the elevator doors opened and they proceeded down the hallway to their new office.

“How can I turn down an offer like that? Are there still boxes in the file room we can use to haul your stuff?” Susan nodded and stopped in front of an office door.

“Looks like we’ll be working pretty closely for the next six months,” she remarked as they opened the door to their new office and got their first glance at it.  Two desks were pushed together face to face against the far wall, just under the window.  Filing cabinets lined the opposite wall. There was just enough room to open a file drawer and walk by the desks.

“At least we have a window,” Kevin remarked dryly.  “Which desk do you want?”

“It doesn’t matter,” Susan shrugged congenially.