She ignored the sign that told her to please knock before entering and pushed the heavy door open, scowling at the brass name plate; Dr. Allison Curran.
‘Michaela,’ Dr. Curran looked up from her computer screen. ‘Come in. I’m glad you could stop by, I need to talk to you.’
‘You’ve been ignoring me,’ Michaela said. She stepped into the room and shoved the door closed. ‘You haven’t returned any of my calls. We were supposed to meet on Friday and you didn’t turn up.’ She forced a calming breath. ‘I waited two hours for you, Allison.’
The other woman looked surprised. ‘Why did you wait so long? I couldn’t make it.’
Michaela shook her head. ‘And let me guess, your cell battery was dead and you weren’t anywhere you could plug a charger in. You’ve been ignoring me, Allison.’
Dr. Curran perched on the side of her desk, legs long and shapely. She cleared her throat. ‘I don’t know exactly how to say this, honey,’ she started.
Michaela suddenly wanted to close her eyes. ‘Don’t honey me,’ she said, feeling tired. ‘Just say it. Just tell me what it is you called me in here for. I know it’s not about my thesis. I got the message that you’ve palmed me off onto Professor Grayson.’ Michaela leaned back against the door, now wanting to just turn around and leave. She did not want to hear this.
‘Michaela,’ Allison was saying, ‘I’m sorry about that really, but it’s for the best.
I don’t think this is going to work between us.’
Michaela watched her though narrowed eyes and said nothing.
Allison cleared her throat and carried on. ‘We had a terrific time, you and me. It’s been amazing; you know that. I know that. But it can’t go on.’ She gave a sigh that sounded to Michaela a touch too theatrical. ‘I should’ve known better than to get involved with you.’
Now Michaela was gaping at her. ‘What?’ she said. ‘What are you talking about? You’re the one who made the first move. And now you’re thinking it’s a bad idea?’ She shook her head and stood up. ‘You’ve got to be kidding, Allison.’
Allison smoothed her skirt down over shapely hips. She raised a perfectly shaped eyebrow. ‘I’m not in the habit of this, you know.’
‘No?’ said Michaela. She hesitated, then nodded. ‘Okay, I’ll give you that.’ ‘You are an amazing young woman,’ Allison carried on. ‘I’ve never met anyone
with so much potential.’ She stood up and took Michaela’s hands in her own. ‘I have to end this. Do you have any idea what would happen to me here, if people found out about us? My reputation would be in tatters. I’d be lucky if I managed to keep my job.
‘I’ve worked too hard and too long to risk it this way,’ she said. ‘You’re young, just starting out. There’s a different path for you. You won’t have to pretend the way I have.’ She sat down at her desk and stared at the neat piles of paper there. ‘This is the way it is for me, and I’m stuck with it and I’m sorry, but I can’t risk it.’
Michaela leaned back against the door again and stared at the view through the window. ‘Okay,’ she said at last on a sigh. ‘Okay.’
Allison opened one of the desk drawers. She pulled out a key ring and sorted through it, removed one of the keys.
‘I know we’d planned a few days away,’ she said. ‘There’s no reason you shouldn’t go anyway.’ She held out the small silver key. ‘Please. I would feel better knowing you were enjoying the place. It’s beautiful there by the lake. You can go for walks, do some work on your thesis, relax.’
Michaela looked at it. ‘Won’t you and your husband be wanting to go there now?’ she asked, bringing her gaze away from the window and onto the woman’s face.
Allison flushed. ‘Gerald and I are flying out to Paris on Saturday. Please, Michaela, take the cabin for a while. There’s everything you need there, it’s a lovely spot. Drive up there, pick up some food on the way, and when you get there, just relax. Do a bit of work and otherwise just relax.’ She stood and pressed the key into Michaela’s hand, curled the fingers around it.
Michaela stared at the woman who had been her lover for the last three months. ‘Flying out to Paris?’ she repeated. She held up the key. ‘Sure Allison. That’ll be great. No problem.’ She pulled open the door. Have a terrific time,’ she said and left.