It's strange. At the office, death means something specific. You pull a file, go through an account, contact the estate executor, make arrangements for transfers and divisions. Sometimes a will lays out instructions and the bank has to follow them, divvying up accounts among beneficiaries and trust funds and who knows what else. Sometimes there is no will, and we have to sit on accounts until probate finishes up. Providence help us if the United States has to get involved. I've had to do it all too often already. There are two point three million people in the greater metropolitan area. Someone's always dying.
The week has been strange. Accounts being settled. Accounts being balanced.
A couple of seeds. Only this time the money's mine, not Doctor Patterson's. Well, mine and Liz's, but when I try to get her interested in the details she looks at me like I've grown a second head.
But then, I'm getting used to that.
But those accounts are still tangled up, and they're not likely to untangle any time soon.
Counseling's been getting hard. Liz and I go and there's a lot of noise, but sometimes I think she's not interested in solutions -- just in talking about the problems. She was complaining about me not helping at home enough. That's a fair comment. I mean, I work hard, but that doesn't mean Liz doesn't -- with James Allen and Francie and things to do, she doesn't have time to meet people or look into getting a teaching job or something. That's fine. That's fair.
I don't understand how that turns into her getting upset when I do something to help. We've got the household funds coming in to actually address the problems. Having the maid service in two days a week means Liz doesn't have to bust herself keeping it clean. And then, when I found Yummyweb, I budgeted for three orders a week, plus eating out regularly. We go on the website, we find the food we want, it's delivered hot. Then, we both sit down once a week and figure out a Spud order and organic groceries come to us.
But no, she doesn't want the problems solved. She wants me to cook, or clean, or grocery shop. She does it all day, so I should do it in the evening, she thinks.
When I was with Thérèse, and she was the one with a career, I kept house. I cooked, I cleaned, I shopped, and I also managed Gord's businesses, crunched his numbers and planned his expansion. I'm not against the idea of keeping house. But if I'm the one going out and working every day, why do I also have to be the one cooking dinner when I get home? If she were teaching, I'd totally understand. But she's not teaching.
I was talking about it with Thérèse. We talk on the phone regularly now. That was Pierre's idea -- communication was always a big problem. And honestly, it's easier now that Thérèse and I live in different cities and have no interest in each other beyond Françoise. She can be more like my college friend Terri, instead of my ex-wife. Anyway, I try to keep her in the loop, in hopes that she'll do the same when her month to have Françoise next comes up. And of course, Thérèse is in some of the sessions that Liz and I have with Pierre, so she knows more than many. She knows about James Allen. We even had an argument about it.
"You know she'll try to get child support, don't you?" she said, almost out of nowhere during the call. I protested that Liz and I weren't going to get divorced, but she waved me off. "You never see the warning signs until you've driven into the embankment," she said. "Liz will leave you with Françoise, take the boy, and try to get alimony and child support off of you. And knowing you you'll give it to her, even though he's not your son."
I was short with her, but she just laughed. "I know you, Anthony," she said. "When we divorced, I was making more money than you. I left you with the house, the mortgage, and with burden of child support. I told you you had won, and you bought it. I was cheating on you and then I walked out on you. I should have been paying through the nose, but instead you signed the papers and went on chasing the unicorn. This time, be a little smarter, would you?"
Maybe I'm just not very smart. Gord and I were talking on the phone -- earlier, I think. I don't remember. He was complaining about something -- Gord doesn't like change. I know he wanted to pay off Dr. Patterson and get out of that situation -- and he knew I was opposed to it. I didn't like cutting ties right when Doctor Patterson had his hands full with Mrs. Patterson's episodes. But if there hadn't been that whole situation he would have gone years without rocking the boat. I was the one who found opportunities for him. And now Julia's making recommendations and some of them don't match up with things I said last year or the year before. I asked him what Tracey thought -- she was always clear headed, and I said that I always liked working with her on these things.
"Yeah, I know," he said, and his voice was weird. I asked him what he meant, and he got that little nervous edge to his voice as he changed the subject. He was avoiding. I'd heard it before. I know he doesn't think anything happened between Tracey and I, so I expect the tension's coming from her side. Thinking about it, she was the one pushing to get out from under Doctor Patterson's investment, too. Maybe she blames me for....
For what? I honestly don't know. Like I said, maybe I'm not very smart. Anyway, I didn't like the sound of a couple of Julia's ideas, but I just told him he needed to look at her numbers and just be careful not to overextend. It's not my place to undercut his current manager. And besides, I'm not there any more. Things may have changed on the ground. Without clear data, I could be dead wrong and she could be right.
...clear data. That reminds me. I've got to deal with the file that went across my desk yesterday. I need to talk to Frank Day about it. I made an absolutely clean copy of it, and then crunched numbers and came up with a recommendation, but I have to put the original on Frank's desk and have him do his own analysis before reading mine. I'm not sure why no one thought to question putting the 'Caine Accounting' file on my desk, but I absolutely have to avoid any appearance of impropriety. And of course, that's not something that will get dealt with in the next week. Not with this morning's news.
It was strange. I was pouring a bowl of cereal for Francie, so she could run into the living room and watch one of those Godawful shows on Teletoon. Honestly, I don't see the appeal. They're loud and violent and make mockery of science without any sense of wonder. I had her on Mr. Dressup DVDs and was trying to source some Friendly Giant -- something more gentle and imaginative -- but Liz just loves these American shows on Teletoon. But anyway, I was pouring Francie's cereal and she started to sing, of all things, a candy commercial jingle. "When you eat your Smarties do you eat them very fast!" she half-shouted, out of nowhere.
I smiled, a bit. "Do you eat the red ones last," I corrected.
"It's the song. It wants to know if you eat the red Smarties last."
"I promise you." Liz walked in then, and spur of the moment, out of nowhere I just... well, sang to her. "When you eat your Smarties do you eat the red ones last?" I sang.
Almost without thinking, she answered. "Do you suck them very slowly, or crunch them very fast?" And then we sang together, overacting it. "Eat those candy-coated chocolates, but tell me when I ask -- when you eat your Smarties, do you eat the red ones last?" And we burst into laughter.
Laughter. Together. And Francie laughed too. I was tempted to sing the old Cherry Blossom theme. Anything to keep the laughter going.
But then Francie took her bowl and carried it into the living room, while Liz cautioned her against spilling. And then it was just the two of us.
"We're not doing so well, are we?" I asked.
"Maybe," she said. "I dunno."
I looked at her. She's beautiful in morning sunlight. Really, really beautiful.
"I could... I don't know. Maybe if I did a full laundry and cleaned the kitchen Saturday morning--" I started.
"Anthony--" she said, shaking her head.
The phone rang. It was Mike. Calling his sister with the news, of course. He'd call April afterward.
After that, we were too busy to talk about it. We have to make plans. We have to head home. And Liz knew Iris would be calling her over web video with details soon enough and wanted to be showered and ready for it. I took some time to write all this down, though maybe I won't even send it. I don't know.
Jim Richards. Another account closing. Another ledger balanced.
So right when we'd started to spread out, we're all heading back to Milborough. I don't know what's going to happen once we get there.
Enough. Either I'll send this or I won't, but right now I need to call Frank and then the travel agent.