Dancing to the Rumour Mill - part 4
Toby drove home feeling slightly guilty. Sometime in the darkness of the theatre, he had started to pretend that Margaret was Andi. In the dimness of the theatre and the restaurant, she and Andi looked a little bit alike, although Margaret was taller and had much less poise.
For the rest of the evening, he kept falling into the fantasy that it was Andi across from him, that it was Andi he was having such a pleasant evening with. It wasn't fair to Margaret, he knew, but the whole date was so much like the dates he had taken Andi on before they were married.
He had to stop doing that. He had to stop looking for Andi in every woman he met. At least Margaret had seemed to be having a good time. Maybe if he went out more often.
"Good morning, Leo." Margaret glanced at Leo as he came into the office on Monday morning.
"Good morning, Margaret." Leo hung up his coat and hesitated for a moment before asking. "How was the ballet?
"It was breathtaking." Margaret replied. "The Royal Winnipeg sure knows how to do classical ballet."
"So it was a good performance."
"Oh, yes." Margaret got up and went into his office with a handful of papers. Leo followed.
"Did you do anything else?" He asked carefully.
"We went to dinner." Margaret kept her back turned so he couldn't see the sly smile on her face. "At Il Vagabondo. You know the place?"
"Yes." Leo allowed. "It's got great food."
"The antipasto was a little disappointing, but the fettucini primavera was fabulous." Margaret continued to fuss with the papers on his desk. "Don't forget to call Senator Mitchell back. He called four times since I got here."
"So you had a nice time."
"He was a perfectly charming, Leo. He ordered champagne in honour of my birthday and everything." Margaret said sweetly. "I got home kind of late, but I didn't have to work the next day, so it was fine." With that, Margaret left, leaving Leo with a very disturbing suspicion that he tried hard not to let form into an image.
"How was the ballet?" Sam asked Toby as soon as he saw him.
"It was very good." Toby replied.
"Did you and Margaret have a good time?" Sam persisted.
"Sam. Go to work."
"You don't have to tell me." Sam said calmly.
"No, I don't."
"I'll find out all the lurid details from Bonnie and Cathy later."
"Sam, nothing happened. We went to the ballet, had a late dinner and I took her home."
"I went home." Toby said, with an exaggerated sigh of impatience. "Sam, Margaret is far too young for me."
"There are days when Mother Teresa would be far too young for you." CJ commented in passing.
"It wouldn't work anyway." Toby shot back. "We could never get beyond the religious differences."
"Not to mention she's dead." CJ retorted mildly. "How was the ballet?"
"It was an extraordinary performance."
"Are you going to tell me about it?"
"Good. Then I won't have to fetch a pillow and blankets."
"Leo?" Bartlett looked at his friend with concern. "What's on your mind?"
"I said, what's on your mind? You haven't been paying attention to me. Not that you ever listen when I start talking economics, but you usually pretend that you do."
"So tell me and we can move on."
"It's just that..." Leo hesitated, then threw down the papers he was holding. "Margaret and Toby went on a date Friday night."
"Did they go to Royal Winnipeg Ballet performance? Abbey tried to get me to ask for tickets, but ballet bores me to tears." Bartlett said brightly. "I thought it would be bad for my image to cry in public."
"Last time I checked, Margaret was a big girl. She can go out with whoever she wants."
"Toby wouldn't be my first choice for a date. Beards don't do anything for me." Bartlett admitted. "Still, he isn't some kind of a troll you find under a bridge."
"He's too old for her." Leo snapped. "And he's not good enough for her."
"Sure he is. He's intelligent and well read. He's employed. He bathes. What more do you want?" Bartlett took off his glasses and looked keenly at Leo. "Or is it that nobody's good enough for Margaret?"
"I promised myself that I would protect her." Leo muttered.
"Protect her from what, Leo? Growing up? Leaving you to live her own life?" Bartlett asked gently. "You can't do that, Leo. You can't play heavy handed father for her. She's a big girl."
"She'll get hurt if I don't watch out for her."
"Yes, someday she will. Whether you fret about it or not. Whether it's Toby or some other guy." Bartlett replied. "And if you don't back off, it'll be you that hurts her, if you haven't already."
"I would never do anything to hurt Margaret."
"Not intentionally, no. Margaret would do anything for you. If you don't back off on her personal life, you'll drive away the man who could make her happy."
Leo sat back in his chair, frowning. Was he too protective of Margaret? He had only her best interests at heart. She was like a daughter to him. He didn't like any of them men she had gone out with before, but, then again, he didn't approve of most of Mallory's dates, either.
And he really didn't like his girls dating the staff. Mallory and Sam was bad enough, but Margaret and Toby was just too much. It wasn't that he disliked either of the men; he liked and respected both of them. However, he didn't trust either of them when it came to women.
Sam was too flighty, his head turned too easily by a pretty girl. Picking up a call girl said very bad things about him. It wasn't that she was a call girl, it was the idea that Sam would pick up a woman at a bar and sleep with her without knowing anything about her.
And he recalled the tense look on Andrea Wyatt's face when she and Toby were still together. The barely suppressed tears, the sheer misery on her face before they finally called it quits was not a pretty sight.
"Leo?" Margaret broke into his train of thought. "I'm going to lunch. Do you want anything?"
"No, thanks, Margaret." He answered automatically. "Margaret?"
"Did you and Toby have a good time on Friday?"
"Yes, we did." Margaret answered.
"I know it's none of my business, but are you two going out again?" Leo asked quietly.
"No." Margaret looked surprised. "I mean, he might ask me to go to the ballet again, since we both like it, but it wouldn't be like a real date."
"So you aren't... going out?"
"No. Leo, Toby's old enough to be my father, for goodness sake."
"No, he's not. He's only in his late forties."
"And I'm thirty, Leo." Margaret reminded him. "Guys can father children in their teens."
"Yes, really." Margaret nodded. "I don't know why you're so surprised. I started working for you eleven years ago and I was nineteen then."
"You're younger than I thought you were." Leo mused. "I mean..."
"I know what you mean, Leo. I'm far too efficient and professional to be that young." Margaret said with a smile.
"I'm not thirty five, Leo." Margaret said quietly. "And I'm not nineteen anymore, either."
"No, you're not." Leo confirmed. "And I'll try to stop thinking of you as that gawky kid who forced me to hire her."
"I didn't force you, Leo." Margaret stuck her nose in the air.
"You cried, Margaret. You know I'm a sucker for a woman's tears."
"I was nineteen and naive then, Leo. I'm not anymore."
"No, Margaret, you're not." Leo replied, more to himself than her.
"Did you remember to call Senator Mitchell?"
"I'll get him for you."
"Somehow I never saw you as a cradle snatcher."
Toby stopped dead in the doorway of his office to see his ex-wife sitting on the edge of his desk, swinging her legs.
"I heard about your date." Andi continued. "Isn't she a little young for you?"
"I went to the ballet with her. I didn't kidnap her and bring her to my lair. Are you here for anything in particular or are you just here to torment me?"
"The committee minutes." Andi held out the paper. "I thought I'd give you a preview."
"Thank you." Toby took the papers and glanced at them. "This is pretty explosive stuff."
"Yeah. And now its all yours." Andi smiled. "You better start asking sweet young things to concerts and the like in the next week, since you'll be too busy for anything once this report is final."
"Andi. I am not dating sweet young things. I took Margaret because it was her birthday."
"Oh, Toby." Andi dropped the teasing air and stood straight. "That's so sweet." She approached him and put her hands on his shoulders and kissed him. He put his arms around her and returned the kiss warmly.
"Why can't we do this more often?" He asked softly.
"Because we'll just start fighting again." She whispered back. "I have to get back to work. You have to let me go."