“Michael?” Maggie asked into the intercom.
“Hey, Mags.” His voice sounded tinny over the ancient device. “I know it’s late. I’m sorry. But when I saw your light on, I mean… Can I come up?”
Maggie hesitated, her finger hovering over the button. “What do you want, Michael?”
“Mags, I just…I just want to talk.”
She shook her head, checking the time again. What the hell? And he’s probably drunk. Standing out there in the rain like he’s got absolutely no sense.
She pressed the door buzzer. “Don’t wake my neighbors,” she admonished him.
Maggie pulled the wooly cream colored robe tighter around herself, tying the belt securely and she stalked to the door, opening it to wait for Michael. She watched him coming up the stairs, his soaked hair matted to his head. His wet shoes squeaked softly with each footfall. She started to say something snippy but noticed the haunted look in his eyes, so she simply stepped back and let him into the apartment. She closed the door behind him and walked to the kitchen counter where she leaned back, crossing her arms, head cocked at him expectantly.
Michael stood just inside the doorway, rainwater pooling all around his feet. He looked ill at ease and uncertain.
“Well?” she finally said.
He ran his fingers through his wet hair and sighed deeply.
“Oh for God’s sake, Michael!” She left him standing there and returned with a large blue towel. “You’re soaked.”
She took his jacket from him and hung it over the back of a kitchen chair. As he used the towel to dry his face and hair, she couldn’t help herself. “Are you drunk?”
He frowned and shook his head. “I’m not drunk. I had some bourbon. I might be drunk. A little.”
Maggie rolled her eyes. “Sit down. I’m making you some coffee so we can send you home. Have you eaten lately?”
“I don’t know.” Michael sank onto a chair at the kitchen table. He glanced around as Maggie busied herself putting a kettle of water on the stove and taking a French press from a cupboard.
“I hope I’m not causing a problem with your fiancé. Husband? Whatever.”
Maggie paused to look at him, her lips forming a grim line. “Yeah, well, that didn’t work out so…no worries.”
She worked in silence breaking eggs into a bowl and putting strips of bacon into a skillet as Michael sat at the table and occasionally used the towel to swipe at his face. On the stove, the bacon began to sizzle as the kettle whistled. Maggie poured the boiling water into the press and let it stand for a moment as she chopped a small onion and part of a green pepper.
“Did you know Stan Hodges died?” Michael finally asked.
Maggie arched an eyebrow. “I was at the funeral. Where were you?”
“I don’t know,” he answered vaguely. He watched her grate cheddar into the eggs. Then she pressed the plunger on the coffee and poured some into a cornflower blue mug with a white script ‘M’ on the side.
M for Maggie. Or Michael. He shook his head to dismiss the inane thought. Looking around the small apartment, he asked, “Why are you still here?”
Maggie glanced over her shoulder. “What, I should move uptown into one of your glass and steel monstrosities?”
“I was just thinking that you could afford a bigger place, that’s all.”
“This may be a tiny apartment but this building has soul. Once upon a time, a family called this place home. Maybe I can’t afford to own a whole townhouse but at least I can rent a small part of it.”
Michael watched her for a moment. “You could have bought your own townhouse if you’d stayed with the firm.”
Maggie turned around and leaned against the counter, crossing her arms. “If I’d stayed, I’d have been out of a job along with everyone else. You really tanked everyone, you know that, right?”
He looked down at his hands. “I wouldn’t have pursued the television thing if you’d still been there.”
She snorted, returning to her cutting board. “Bullshit. Being on the news every night is exactly your thing. You can’t put that off on me.”
She set the coffee in front of him. “What are you doing here, Michael?”
He stalled, sipping the steaming hazelnut blend. “This isn’t where I meant to be. I went out and ended up down here in the Village. I was at the Blue Note until they kicked everybody out. I got a little lost and then realized I was across the street from your apartment.”
Maggie turned back to her omelet, stirring in the vegetables. The bacon had quieted down and she turned over the strips, causing them to erupt into loud sizzling once again. “Why are you here?” she asked again.
“I’m sick,” he said quietly.
“I don’t doubt it. It’s forty degrees outside and you’re soaked. It’s a wonder you don’t have pneumonia.”
Maggie froze mid-stir. “What?” Slowly, she turned around.
“Shit.” She crossed to the table and sank onto the chair across from him, gaping at him wide-eyed.
“There was this spot. And then they found out it was melanoma.” Michael’s face twisted. “Mags, you wouldn’t believe the chunk they cut out of my shoulder.”
“Well, they got it then,” she said. “Good. That’s good, right?”
“Bacon’s burning,” Michael said quietly.
“Fuck!” She jumped up and took the pan off the burner.
“I like it that way,” he offered as she set the strips of bacon on a paper towel to drain and poured the omelet into the pan.
“So after they took the hunk out of my arm they did a biopsy. It was melanoma, just like the doctor said. Then they had me get a PET scan. Said they needed to see if it had spread.”
Maggie worked mechanically at the egg mixture in the pan, listening intently as he spoke. “And?” she asked as she slid the omelet onto a blue ceramic plate. She placed it in front of him and sat down again.
“And they called this afternoon to say they have the results. The doctor wouldn’t discuss it over the phone. He wants me to come in tomorrow.” He looked down at the plate. “He said I should have someone with me.”
“Oh my God. Michael.”
He nodded. “I started making phone calls. That’s how I found out about Stan. Which was after I called Murph and then Jimbo. They pretty much told me to go fuck myself.”
Maggie watched him grimly. I imagine they did.
“I called some of the women I go out with. I guess everybody has a lot going on.” He sighed. “I thought about calling you. But, I don’t know. I’ve been an asshole. Plus I figured you were busy with getting married and stuff.” He met her eyes. “I didn’t mean to come here, honest to God.”
She watched him pick at the omelet. “My agent’s pissed at me because I bailed on some appearances. Asking her to come with me is out of the question. She’s probably not in town anyway.”
Michael shook his head. “I don’t know why they’re insisting that someone comes with me to that appointment tomorrow. I should just go and find out what the scan shows, figure out where to go from there. It’s just…” His voice broke. “Mags, I’m scared shitless.” He put down the fork and held his head in his hands.
Maggie could never have imagined a scenario in which S. Michael Rannigan would break down sobbing at her kitchen table. She felt as though her heart would break.
“Michael,” she said softly, standing beside him, placing her hand on his shoulder. His body shook as he let loose the emotions that had been building since the day the nightmare had started. “It’s okay,” she murmured. “It’s okay, everything’s going to be alright.” She waited for him to quiet down. “What time is your appointment?”