Her hair was jaw-length—pale blond with streaks of flax, platinum, and gold that couldn’t have come from a bottle. It was arranged in one of those conservative hairstyles that Jodie wouldn’t have been caught dead in—brushed loosely back from her face and held in place with a narrow brown velvet clip-on headband.
She turned slightly so that Jodie got a better look. Too bad about those big, geeky glasses. They hid a nice set of green eyes. She also had a good forehead and a decent nose, neither too big nor too small. Her mouth was sort of interesting, with a thin upper lip and a plump bottom one. And she had great skin. But she didn’t seem to do much with herself. Jodie would have added a lot more makeup. All in all, the geek was a good-looking woman, but sort of intimidating, even with those red-rimmed eyes.
She put the lid on the Tupperware and held it out toward Jodie, who was just about to take it when she spotted the crumpled wrapping paper on the kitchen table and the small pile of gifts lying next to it.
“What’s the occasion?”
“Nothing, really. It’s my birthday.” Her voice had an interesting huskiness to it, and for the first time Jodie noticed the tissues crumpled in her hand.
“Hey, no kidding. Happy birthday.”
Ignoring the Tupperware container in Dr. Jane’s outstretched hand, Jodie walked over to the table and looked down at the assortment of presents: a puny little box of plain white stationary, an electric toothbrush, a pen, and a gift certificate for Jiffy Lube. Pathetic. Not a pair of crotchless panties or a sexy nightie in sight.
To her surprise, Dr. Jane gave a short laugh. “You’re right about that. My friend Caroline always comes through with the perfect gift, but she’s on a dig in Ethiopia.” And then, to Jodie’s surprise, a tear skidded out from under her glasses and slipped down her cheek.
Dr. Jane stiffened, as if it hadn’t happened, but the presents really were pathetic, and Jodie couldn’t help but feel sorry for her. “Hey, it’s not so bad. At least you don’t have to worry about the sizes being wrong.”
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t . . .” She stiffened her bottom lip, but another tear slid out from beneath her glasses.
“It’s okay. Sit down, and I’ll make us some coffee.” She pushed Dr. Jane down into one of the kitchen chairs, then took the Tupperware container over to the counter where the coffeemaker sat. She started to ask Dr. J. where the filters were, but her forehead was all crumpled, and she seemed to be taking deep breaths, so Jodie opened a couple of cupboards until she found what she wanted and began making a fresh pot.
“So what birthday is it?”
Jodie was surprised. She wouldn’t have taken Dr. J. for any more than her late twenties. “Double bummer.”
“I’m sorry to be carrying on like this.” She dabbed her nose with a tissue. “I’m not usually so emotional.”
A couple of tears was hardly Jodie’s idea of “carrying on,” but for such an uptight chick, this was probably big-time hysterical. “I said it’s okay. You got any doughnuts or anything?”
“There are some whole wheat bran muffins in the freezer.”
Jodie made a face and headed back to the table. It was small and round with a glass top and metal chairs that looked like they belonged in a garden. She sat across from Dr. Jane.
“Who gave you the presents?”
She tried to manage one of those smiles that held people at a distance. “My colleagues.”