A drawback of working in the subbasement was that it did not come equipped with a bathroom. By lunchtime she was ready to grab one of the antique bedpans from a Victorian medicine exhibit and press it into service for her personal use. Her respect for history won out—barely—so that she managed to hold it until she could take the elevator up to the first floor.
While up there, she changed into her running clothes. She found Dr. Dreyfus waiting at their usual bench, stretching his quads. “Hey,” he said. “Are you sure you’re up to this?”
“I’m feeling much better, thank you,” she said. The cuts to her midsection didn’t really bother her much as she ran, so long as she didn’t try to stop to scratch them. She suspected that Dr. Dreyfus kept his pace slower than usual so as not to push her too much, for which she was grateful. Her ankle felt much better, but it did start to ache a bit after the first lap.
“So they put you down in the subbasement?”
“That’s terrible.” He shook his head and then smiled at her. “Did you find the Ark of the Covenant down there?”
“No. Should I have?”
“It was a joke. Did you ever see Raiders of the Lost Ark?”
“That’s all right. I guess it is more of a guy movie.”
“What’s it about?”
He spent another lap telling her about the movie, which involved a dashing scientist who rescued artifacts from exotic locations. “Isn’t that illegal?” she asked, interrupting him.
“Well, I suppose it would be, but it’s kind of a Robin Hood deal. He takes the artifacts so they aren’t stolen by treasure hunters. That way they can end up in establishments like ours.”
“I see. Have you ever stolen anything?”
“Not yet. But then I don’t have a bull whip and fedora.”
She laughed uncertainly at this. Besides An Affair to Remember, she had watched only a handful of movies, most of them old Disney cartoons with Becky when they were kids. Like television, movies had never really held much interest for her.
She tripped over her sneakers when he said, “Maybe we could see it sometime.” He reached out just in time to catch her, one hand catching her left breast. He left it there for a few seconds before letting go. She could feel her face turning volcanically hot. “I’m so sorry,” he said. “I didn’t mean—”
“No, it’s all right,” she mumbled.
“It’s just that you were falling and I—”
“I understand,” she said, though she was certain her red face belied this. By all rights she could go to the director and have him reported for sexual harassment. She wouldn’t do this, though, knowing that he hadn’t meant to touch her there; he had touched her to keep her from falling, not to fondle her.
“I guess we should go back now, huh?”
“I suppose so.”
They jogged in silence, Emma trying to think of something comforting to say to him. The words caught in her throat and despite her best efforts she couldn’t force them to the surface. “See you later,” he said in the main gallery. She could only nod to him and then stagger off to the elevator.
She managed to wait until she was down in the subbasement to put her head down on her desk and cry. There was every chance Dr. Dreyfus would be scared off by this accidental indiscretion and never want to see her again. Why hadn’t she said more to make him understand that she knew he didn’t mean anything by it? Why hadn’t she told him that she didn’t want this to change things between them?