Hendricks O'Keefe had just finished typing his 'out of office' notification into the e-mail system when his office phone rang. He considered ignoring the call but he recognized the caller ID as Ivy Tangers' cell so he picked up the receiver.
"Yes?" He asked tentatively.
"Oh, good, you're still there," Ivy said with relief.
"I shouldn't be," he grumbled. "It's nearly eight o'clock and I got a 5:30 flight in the morning. I should probably drive to the airport now."
"To see the folks for Christmas," he confirmed.
"No, things are kind of cold between us right now," Hendricks sighed. "In fact, I think we broke up."
"You think or you know?"
"I think she just hasn't told me yet," Hendricks admitted. "Why are you calling me at the office at eight o'clock at night?"
"I forgot to take the Murphy background stuff home with me," Ivy said with annoyance. "I was hoping you could drive it up here. It's in a box on the table in my office."
'Now!?" Hendricks groaned.
"I know, I know."
He glanced out the window. "But it's snowing."
"That's why I don't want to drive down," she confessed.
"Can't this wait?"
"No, I'm on deadline and I wasn't planning on coming in for a few days" Ivy sighed. "I got all the stuff you e-mailed me but I need the underlying research too."
"How could you forget to take it?" Hendricks asked with annoyance.
"I don't know," she moaned. "Patterson came into the office just as I was about to leave and he distracted me and then he insisted on walking me to my car and I forgot all about the stupid box."
"That guy pays more attention to you than he does his own wife," Hendricks observed with disgust.
"So, will you?" Ivy pleaded.
He sucked in his breath and let out a sigh. "I guess," he mumbled, glancing out the window at the snow one more time.
"Oh, thank you, Hen, you're a life saver."
"I'm leaving now, Hendricks let her know.
"I'll be waiting."
Hendricks hung up the phone, put on his winter coat, turned off the lights to his office and walked down the hall to Ivy's office, flipping on the light and seeing the cardboard carrier box sitting on the coffee table.
Stupid Patterson. He picked up the box, turned off the lights, and headed for the elevator.
It was snowing at a good clip when Hendricks stepped outside the office building and lugged the box to his car in the company parking lot. He just wanted to go home and go to bed to get up early for his flight - driving up the mountain to Mt. Griffin in a snow storm was not what he envisioned himself doing on this night.
But Ivy was a co-worker and a friend. They went to high school together. Hendricks dated Ivy's best friend Maggie for a while and Ivy was with Hendricks good friend Matt for a good chunk of high school too so they were familiar with one another before they both started working at Clemson and Baker CPA and Auditors.
Ivy's first job out of college was with Clemson and Baker and she worked her way up into the middle management level. Hendricks got an entry job at a Providence firm, transferred to Hartford, and then took a position in Albany before deciding to return to Greenville when his parents sold his childhood home and retired to Florida.
Hendricks and Ivy were more or less equals in the pecking order at the agency and they often worked together on projects and accounts. Hendricks had conducted the Murphy audit the previous year but he turned it over to Ivy this time around. And now here he was driving her box of crap to her house in a snow storm. He should have just kept the account!
It was snowing harder than he realized and Hendricks worried that his flight might be cancelled in the morning. Christmas was still a week away but he promised the boss he'd be back in the office two days after Christmas to cover the New Year's staffing. A day or two delay in his Florida arrival was a day or two too many.
Mountain Road to Mt. Griffin was always a pain in the ass when the weather turned bad. Ivy and her boyfriend Jeff moved into their cabin in the woods about five years ago but when the relationship went south Ivy decided to stay put and make the daily commute.
Hendricks had been to the place several times for office socials and other gatherings - it was peaceful, quiet, rustic and relaxing to be out in the middle of nowhere but on this night Hendricks wished Ivy had never moved out of Greenville.
The road conditions quickly deteriorated the higher Hendricks went up the mountain. The road was deserted and he carefully crawled along at a snail's pace until taking a left onto Mountain Trail a half mile north of the junk yard which hadn't been plowed and he squinted through the whiteness of the dark looking for the dirt road which was Taylor's Pass.
Luckily, Ivy's place was the first lot on the left a hundred yards down the road but it was still a challenge to get reach her driveway and when Hendricks turned left to enter the drive, the car slid off the small embankment between the road and the driveway and became stuck in the snow.
Hendricks attempted to back the car out of the driveway but the vehicle was hopelessly immobilized. He dropped his forehead against the steering wheel in frustration before reluctantly turning off the car's engine and lights.
He really wasn't dressed for the weather – he hadn't bothered to check the forecast when he left for work that morning so he was hatless, gloveless, and bootless as he grabbed Ivy's box from the passenger's seat and trudged his way to the cabin while thinking about the warm sunshine of Florida.
He followed the lights of the cabin through the falling snow and stumbled up the steps of the front porch, almost dropping the stupid box and cursing in anger. He gave the door a kick with his foot since he was clutching the box in his hands. The door finally opened a few moments later and the light from the cabin's interior flowed into his eyes.
"Come in, come in," Ivy said. "Hurry. It's cold."
Hendricks rolled his eyes as he stepped into the cabin and she quickly closed the door behind him. Didn't she think he knew it was cold outside!?
But it was warm inside the cabin and Ivy smiled her gratitude as she took the box from his hold.
"I'm stuck in your driveway," he reported with annoyance as he kicked off his wet shoes and began peeling off his wet socks.
"Emmitt will tow you out in the morning when he plows," Ivy replied as she set the box on one of her tables.
"What about my flight?" He wanted to know as he took off his jacket and hung it on the tree rack in the corner of the room.
"You can take my car if you have to," She replied easily.
"I'll just leave now then," Hendricks decided.
"Why don't you check and see if your flight's been cancelled already," Ivy suggested. "It's supposed to snow all night, I just heard on the radio."
Hendricks let out a long sigh as he walked to the sofa and took a seat. The cabin featured one large open room, a small kitchen, a bathroom, and a loft above. It was an intimate and comfortable abode but Hendricks really didn't want to have to spend the night on the couch.
He dug his cell from his pocket and checked his flight information.
"It's in a delay," he groaned.
"Well, keep checking," Ivy advised. "There's no point leaving now in the snowstorm anyway. If you put my car into a ditch we're both screwed."
"I suppose," Hendricks reluctantly agreed.
Ivy plopped herself onto the couch next to him. She was wearing flannel pajamas and bunny slippers underneath a heavy bathrobe. She had been rail thin and lanky in high school but now, at thirty-six, she had filled out though she still wore her black hair long. Her skin had always been soft and light and it still was. Her most prominent feature was probably her nose which was a little bit too long for her face.
"You wear perfume in your pajamas?" Hendricks asked, getting a sniff of her sitting next to him.
"It hasn't worn off yet from earlier," she shrugged. "I'm really sorry I dragged you out in this. Would you like a drink?"
"Sure," he said. "Gin and tonic if you have it."
"I've even got olives!" Ivy laughed as she sprang from the couch and went to her make shift bar in the corner (it was really just a cabinet).
"So, what do you think of the Murphy account?" Hendricks wanted to know.
"Ugh, do we really need to talk business?" Ivy moaned as she returned to the couch with two drinks in her hand.
"You'll do a good job," Hendricks predicted as he took one of the glasses from her hand. "So?" He asked. "What do we do now?"
"Drink," Ivy answered, lifting up her glass in a toasting fashion.