Plush Life
Chapter 1

“Hey, wild woman. Ready for tonight?”

Meggie turned to see Tommy behind her, leaning against the doorframe of her office, grinning. “I think so. You keep on being so mysterious.”

“I like keeping you in suspense. I’ll get you in a couple of hours.” He turned and sauntered off.

She didn’t know why Tommy was being so secretive this month. Their Last Friday of the Month date had started in junior high and continued on into their adult lives. It was a ritual and Meggie enjoyed rituals like this. Even when they were dating other people, this night was always ‘theirs’. They’d do things together other nights, cover for each other if a date or significant other was needed, and just generally watch each other’s backs, of course, but nothing had ever taken the place of their Last Friday.

Not that Tommy was seeing anyone. He didn’t date all that much. He always joked that Meggie covered the dating end of things in their relationship. Of course, now that she’d met Mark, she was pretty much off the market.

It hit Meggie again how much Tommy had changed since the first time they’d met – in seventh grade. He’d been a short, brilliant nerd, complete with thick glasses and a really unfortunate way of dressing. But they’d hit it off anyway. Most of her other friends had never understood why she liked to spend time with Tommy. In addition to being brilliant, he was funny, liked many of the same things she did, and never tried to make her anything she wasn’t. That explanation hadn’t held a lot of weight in school.

But they weren’t kids any more. Tommy had shot up in their senior year of high school and was well over six feet now. Contacts and her help with wardrobe had made him presentable years ago. He worked out regularly, and was a black belt in a variety of martial arts. They were both out of college and working, Meggie as the Vice President of Sales for the firm Tommy owned. The small but successful firm Tommy owned.

He’d been awkward, shy and unsure for a long time, but success and money had turned Tommy into a very eligible bachelor. Unlike most eligible bachelors however, he didn’t date much and was still nowhere near to being a jerk, let alone worse. But Tommy didn’t seem to be looking to find a girl to cover as his companion for more than when it was needed professionally. She wasn’t sure why. He was really quite handsome, kind, sweet, gentle – a good catch for anyone.

Her phone rang. “Hello?”

“Hey, honey bunny, how’s tricks?”

“Hi Mark. Good.” Meggie wondered when she’d get up the nerve to tell Mark she hated him calling her honey bunny and that every time he asked her how tricks were she wondered if he thought she moonlit as a hooker or a cartoon rabbit selling cereal.

“See you tonight?”

“No, remember, it’s my night out with Tommy.”

Mark was silent and Meggie steeled herself for the argument. “You see too much of that guy.”

“He’s been my best friend for over half my life. And I don’t think I see too much of him.”

“You work for him. You know he’s sexually harassing you.”

“If he told me I had to have sex with him to stay employed, yeah, that would be harassment. There’re a lot of definitions of harassment, but it begins with the harassee feeling uncomfortable. And I don’t. I never feel uncomfortable with Tommy.” And, unlike some, he never tried to make her stop seeing other people, even when he knew they hated him.

“Fine, fine, I’ve heard it. Remember, we’re going to the lake this weekend.”

“Oh, I remember.” Meggie hated the lake. She sunburned, didn’t know how to water-ski, and didn’t like speedboats. She also wasn’t wild about Mark’s friends. But, you made allowances for your boyfriend’s wants, just like he made allowances for yours. “Since I’m driving up myself tomorrow, you mind if I ask Tommy to come along?”

“Yeah, I mind. It’s one thing, you going out once a month as friends. It’s another him coming along like he’s part of the gang.”

Meggie sighed to herself. It never changed. No matter what she said or did, her other friends or boyfriends wanted nothing to do with Tommy. “He’s a nice guy.”

Mark snorted. “Right. Look, you said he’s not gay.”

“Right, he’s not.”

“Then he wants you. And I don’t like men who want my girl hanging around. What’s so hard to understand about that?”

“Nothing. Look, I have to go. I’ll see you tomorrow evening.”

“You can bet on it, babe. Have fun tonight, but not too much fun.”

Meggie hung up the phone and flipped through what Tommy called her Picture Rolodex on her desk. Family, friends, relatives, pets. Most of the other shots showed her and Tommy doing something together – conventions, Vegas, skiing, laughing. The ones of her and Mark were nice, but Meggie had to admit her smile looked more forced in these pictures.

She stared at the engagement ring on her hand. Mark was tall, dark and handsome. He was a doctor. And he was crazy about her. What wasn’t to be happy about?

A voice in the back of her head mentioned that Tommy was also tall, also handsome, also successful. He had dirty blond hair and blue eyes, but she liked that. But he was also her best friend, and her boss. She thought about Mark’s sexual harassment comments. As if Tommy would ever make a move on her. He hadn’t in fifteen years, why would he start now?

Her eye caught the picture of the two of them when she’d turned twenty-one. She was sitting on Tommy’s lap, looking up at him, he was looking down at her, and they were both smiling. Real smiles. The photographer at the club they’d been in had mentioned what a great, happy couple they were.

“Get back to work,” Meggie muttered to herself. “That way lies dragons.”

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