Footsteps on the polished marble stairs caught his attention and he stepped back to look upwards. Sure enough, his father hurried down, tugging on his gloves, a frown of concentration on his face. Making a silent bet with himself, Drake waited at the foot of the stairs. His father looked right at him, nodded a greeting, and headed for the door.
Devon Ashcroft turned, his frown deepening, to shatter a moment later with a chuckle. He easily admitted his bad habit of being so deep in thought he lost track of the outside world. His ability to laugh at himself defused any frustration his friends and associates usually felt. That, and his constant efforts to improve.
The door on the opposite side of the lobby opened and a young woman with long, straight bronze hair stepped out, shrugging into a full-length navy coat, holding a piece of paper between her lips, and juggling a purse and an accordion folder full of papers. Her phone rang. Drake stared, smiling, as he merged his last clear memory of Stacy with this three-years-older young woman. His certainty of her identity was confirmed as she yanked the paper from her mouth and brought the phone up to her ear with the other hand, and spoke.
"Just a second," he said, when his father gestured at the door.
Then Stacy headed for the door as she listened to the person on the other end, and didn't show any sign of seeing them. Drake focused on her as he and his father followed her outside and down the steps.
"Stacy?" he called, when she finished the phone call with a promise to call the other person back in an hour, and put the phone back in her purse. "It's Drake. Drake Ashcroft," he added, with a funny little dropping sensation of disappointment when she frowned at him, her expression clearly saying she didn't recognize him. She hadn't changed enough to be noticeable or confusing since the last time they had spoken -- how could he have?
"Oh -- hi." Her eyes widened in what he could have sworn was panic, though she managed a wobbly smile. "I guess you're back in town for the party. Well, duh, of course." Stacy offered a laugh.
"Come to lunch with us," his father offered. Drake came near to hugging him in that moment, when his tongue seemed stapled to the roof of his mouth.
"Can't. A dozen errands, and I have to cut my lunch short to take care of another emergency for Dr. Filmore. Thanks." She waved and hurried away. A little too fast for the coating of icy snow on the sidewalk.
"When can we get together?" Drake called. "You know, talk, catch up?"
"I'll call you when I check my schedule, okay?" She waved, not even looking back at him, and picked up speed."Something is definitely wrong," Drake muttered. Fortunately, his father didn't hear him, so he didn't have to explain.