I woke up this morning, thinking everything was going to be okay, not knowing that today would be the last of my normal existence. I rolled over ten minutes before my alarm would go off, sighed, and puffed out my bottom lip in defeat; there was no time to go back to sleep. As I flung the blanket off me and placed my feet on the ground, I felt a sudden pressure build up inside my heart. He wasn't here. He never would be here again. How was I supposed to continue? How was I supposed to pretend that everything was okay? He'd left me. For her. I would have to put on a face like I had for the past four months, even though I worked right next to her. That b***h. That man-stealing whore! But, I was over it. Maybe...
I showered with an absent mind, working mostly from routine and muscle memory; blow-dried my hair and looked at myself in the mirror. I'm not gorgeous, but I'm not unattractive! How could he have chosen her? I have perky breasts that fit comfortably in a C-cup, a narrow waist, and long legs. How could anyone not want me? That a**-hole. I am a natural strawberry blonde, which everyone believes I color. I don't. And dark blue eyes. Traits from both parents.
I dressed, again, from memory. A red ruffled shirt, black A-line skirt, and a cute little pair of kitten heels I'd gotten on sale the weekend before. I would show him! Show him I was capable of living, capable of moving on. I didn't need him. I was strong! Independent! And alone... We had lived together, we had shared all our secrets. And he had abandoned me. I needed to move on for me, not to prove something to him. I could do it. Day by day, one step at a time. It's probably been four months, I lost count after Day 97. Why linger?!
I grabbed my coat and keys, threw my purse over one shoulder and took a deep, steadying breath. I could do this! I had to. I placed my hand on the doorknob and stopped; what if he came in to visit her today? What if I broke down and begged him to come back? No. I couldn't. And I sure as hell wasn't going to belittle myself by grovelling at his knock-off shoes and crying like a lost little girl! One more breath, and I closed the door behind me triumphantly.
I ran to my car, my heels clicking against the pavement beneath me, and covered my head best I could with my jacket and purse. Even though it was pouring, it was warm. Well, humid really. I jumped in my car to look in the rear-view mirror and see a depressed woman staring back. Did I really look that way? The rain didn't help, ruining most of my fresh make-up and matting my perfectly straight hair down, which would only curl and frizz up later. Oh well, I still had my confidence. Barely. I started the car and drove to work.
I parked in my regular spot in the underground parking, right next to the black BMW convertible. That b***h. He bought her everything, and he couldn't even buy me tampons when we were together. To think I loved him. But I had. Fixing my make up, I reapplied my mascara, thanking whatever genius came up with waterproof eye-liner, and pulled my hair up into a ponytail with my butterfly clip. I climbed out of my car and scanned the garage, looking for predators. Not that there would be, but I liked to feel safe and secure. That's when I noticed a car I'd never seen before. Well, not here before. A brand new white Chevrolet Camaro, with black stripes down the hood. Who could that be? I dismissed it and went to the parkade elevator, pressed the button for the sixth floor, and waited patiently for the door to close. Just as it did, an arm stuck through and stopped the door. I jumped back in fright and immediately pressed the button to keep the doors open.
"Sorry about that," the gentleman said and smiled, stepping inside next to me and reaching for the selection button; his hand hovered over six, only to realize it was already pressed and then took a step back. He was incredibly handsome, the rough and rugged type. Stubble grew on his square jaw, and the ceiling light shined upon luminescent blue eyes. He was gorgeous! Damn! Why was he here? He could be a model! I blushed at the thought and looked away, watching the numbers count up to the sixth floor, stopping at nearly every floor to let others off or on.
I jumped off at the sixth and made for my cubicle, tossing Sarah (the b***h my ex went for) a smile. She didn't need to know I was a wreck. I didn't even notice the man from the elevator following me, until I'd sat down at my computer and glanced over at the cubicle next to mine. He sat down. He worked here? Why had I never noticed him before? He must be new; nobody had worked at that desk for almost two months, so maybe he was a temp. I hoped not; he was so pretty to look at.
Sarah leaned over the back of her cubicle to look down the front of mine. "Hey, Phoebe" she whispered, thinking she could talk to me like we were still friends, "have you seen the new guy? I heard he was transferred here from Australia. Isn't he absolutely incredible?"
I nodded and looked back to her, an innocent smile plastered on my angry face. "Would Darren approve of your ogling?" I asked, the irritation evident in my voice rather than my face. ******** her! She took the hint and sat back down. I could hear her clicking away on her keyboard. I glanced over at the new guy from the corner of my eyes, just in time to see him turn his head slightly to glance over at me. I could feel the heat rise to my cheeks at being caught peeking, and then I could see the smile spread over his lips. I clicked away at my keyboard, my cheeks still flushed.
Three hours later, at lunch time, I made my way to the break room to eat my salad. He was there. Grabbing a cup of coffee and leaning against the counter, talking to Sarah. Who did she think she was? Stealing my boyfriend, and then going after the new guy?! I could feel the scream welling up in my throat, but I forced it down as I sat at the table and began to eat. They both walked past me, him standing to the side of the door to let her pass first. I didn't even notice that he looked at me before he left, so engrossed in my anger and hatred for Sarah and Darren.
As I finished my salad, I flung my things into my purse, not caring what they hit and went to leave. I walked right into someone. "Oh, I'm so sorry," I said, glancing up into those same luminescent blue eyes. "Oh, I'm so sorry." The words kind of slurred out of my mouth, so enraptured by his looks. How could I drool so much over some guy?
"You said that already," he commented, a small smile of amusement spreading across his full lips.
"Sorry," I said again and blushed, tucking a strand of long, curly hair behind my ear.
"Do you often repeat yourself?" he said, no apparent sign of an accent.
"Yes, well no, I mean I did there because...um...nevermind," I said and looked down, side stepping past him. As I sat down at my desk again, and placed my purse by my feet, I could hear footsteps approaching. Probably his. Yup. He sat down at his own cubicle, with a new, fresh cup of coffee and began clicking away on his own keyboard. I couldn't even look at him now. I'd completely embarrassed myself by not paying attention where I was going, apologizing too much, and running away. He'd probably never talk to me again. That was okay, I didn't even know his name.
About half an hour later of absent typing and entering of numbers, I glanced up from my computer to see Darren coming down the hallway with flowers. My heart skipped a beat, forgetting for just a moment that he wasn't mine any-more. I smiled, until I saw his eyes looking for Sarah's, and how they lit up when he found them. They were happy together. Good for them. ********. I clicked harder on my keyboard so I wouldn't have to hear the gross endearing words of love between the two. I guess I was too loud because I could feel eyes looking at me from the side of my head. The new guy. I glanced over at him and rolled my eyes. If he was going to be judgemental, he wasn't worth my time. I clicked away again when I felt a presence over my shoulder. It was him. Again. "Can I help you?" I asked, the irritation radiating off my voice and face.
"I'm sorry to bother you," he said, a small smile spreading across his face as he adjusted the papers in his hand, "but I was wondering if you could look over my numbers here. I'm new and just want to make sure everything is accurate before I send them in."
A genuine smile spread over my lips as I held my hand out for his work. "It's no problem, at all," I said, reading over his numbers. They seemed weird. How were they wrong like this? "Um, this doesn't look right. Your numbers from column A don't add up in Column F here, and we don't track these numbers. What program are you using on your computer?" I was distracted for a moment by the situation at hand and left my desk to examine his, completely forgetting about the love-birds.
I sat in his chair and began rummaging through the files on his computer as he hovered behind me, watching either me or the computer with interest. I couldn't tell. I didn't care, these numbers just had to be right. "Ah ha! There it is! These are the numbers you want to use," I said and looked up at him with a smile on my face. only to realize that he was indeed watching me. I coughed and looked down, standing up and placing the papers down on his desk. "Well, if you need anything else, feel free to ask me." I walked back to my chair and sat down, only to realize he was leaning against my cubicle wall.
"I'm Henry," he said and extended a hand towards me, a welcoming smile upon his face.
I looked down at it for a moment, and then back up to his expectant face. I reached my hand out to him and shook gently, "I'm Phoebe." He smiled and sat back down at his computer to continue typing. There! I knew his name. Oh no! Now he was probably going to go around the office telling people about Phoebe the Klutz, or Phoebe the Insecure. Today was definitely not a good day.
The hours ticked by slowly for me, and I found myself staring a hole into my little wall of Hell, imagining Sarah burning on the other side. Or drowning. I shook my head when I realized just how dark my thoughts were getting and glanced up at the clock one more time: ten more minutes! Yes! I could go home, open a bottle of wine, and curl up next to the fireplace with The Princess Bride on my television. Five more minutes! I began to save my work on the computer as I gathered my things, when a tampon suddenly rolled out of my purse. Oh god, get it back! I reached out for it, my hand rubbing against someone else's. Who was trying to pick up my stuff? Glancing up, I saw Henry pulling the wrapped product from the ground and holding it out to me. I blushed. Oh god, this was so embarrassing!
"You don't need to be embarrassed," he said and smiled, waving the tampon in front of me.
I reached out my hand to grab it, hesitating as if it were going to bite me, then hastily flung it into my purse. "So, uh...thanks," I said, nodding my head once and turning away.
"Phoebe, wait," he said, and I knew right then I was in trouble; just the way he said my name. I could feel my knees quake a little bit. "I was wondering if you'd like to join me for a drink tonight?"
I had just been asked out on a date. Or did I? Maybe he was gay? I thought about Wesley and Buttercup, waiting to find each other on the DVD at home. Well, they would have to wait, regardless if this man was looking for a gal-pal or a girlfriend. "Sure! Time and place?" I secretly prayed he'd pick somewhere close by, or at least an inexpensive bar.
"How about Findlay's? I think they've got steak on special tonight," he said and winked at me. There it was again, that tingling. "And we'll meet at six? Keep it early so we can get to work tomorrow. I'll see you there, Phoebe." Henry winked at me and walked past me to the hallway, turning the corner just as my knees gave out.
Dear god, he was handsome! I didn't think he really would be, so shy and quiet in the beginning. How many other girls had fallen under this trap of sly and cunning? How many hearts had he broken? Would I just be another one? I began to get worried and suddenly regretted my decision to go on this date. I could just cancel! No, I didn't have his number. And we worked right next to each other! Urgh, what to do? I decided I would call my mother when I got home.
As I walked in to my two bedroom apartment, the phone began to ring. I struggled to fling my heels off as I jumped down the hallway to my phone stand. "Hello?" I asked into the phone, struggling out of my jacket and flinging it over the back of the dining room chair. "Oh, hi, Mom! I was just going to call you. How are you?" I was silent as I listened, everything was normal and fine, my cousin Charlene was getting married. I hadn't seen her in years; we lost touch after middle school.
"Now, what did you want to talk to me about?" she asked, the concern obvious in her voice. "Is it about Darren?"
"What? No, no, no!" I said abruptly, physically shaking my head to rid my mind of any thought of him.
"I told you he was bad news, honey, didn't I? I said, 'Phoebe, that boy is bad news', and did you listen? I mean, really, you're worse than your father by not listening to me," she said, taking a breath to continue her rant.
"No, Mom, shut up a second and listen to me," I said, a chuckle following my demand. I could hear laughter from the other side as well. "There's a new guy at work, and he asked me out. Should I go?"
"Well, what did you say when he asked you?"
I was silent for a moment. "I said, yes."
"Then, yes, you should go. You already told him you were going to go. Don't be like Darren and say you're going to do something when you're not, honey. You know how that feels," she said the last part as if she were afraid I would react. I didn't. I just sat in silence for a moment. "Honey, you still there?"
"Yeah, I'm here," I said and sighed. "You're right. Thanks, Mom. Call me at seven with an emergency, just in case I need an out."
"All right, hon, have fun and I love you," she said and hung up.
I loved my mom, I really did, but sometimes she was too brutally honest for me to handle. Although she was right, I had a knotted feeling in my stomach: a mixture of anxiety and excitement. With reluctance, I went about preparing myself for a date. Jeans and a nice blouse would do; Findlay's was just a bar with a few tables for dining formalities, and therefore had no real dress code.
I stood outside Findlay's, glancing down at my watch. 5:58pm. Was he the kind of person to show up fashionably late? Or was he already inside? I turned to enter when I heard footsteps approaching. I turned my head slowly, hoping I didn't look too eager. It wasn't him. I puffed my bottom lip out and glanced at my watch again. 5:59pm. "Phoebe?" I hear behind me, and I turn. It was him.
"You showed up?" I asked, a smile starting to make it's way onto my face.
"Of course! I invited you, didn't I?" Henry chuckled and extended his elbow towards me. I looked from it to his face and my smile erupted into full bloom as I stuck my arm through. Why did this handsome stranger have an interest in me? Well, by stranger, I mean new work colleague. And by handsome I mean absolutely gorgeous!
We were seated quickly, and I shed my coat as I looked around the bar. It was spacious, warm, dimly lit, and the televisions on the walls showed sports teams, fans cheered or booed. As my eyes made their way around the room, the came back to Henry, who was watching me with fascination. "What?" I ask, worried that he was going to ask me if I like feet or something weird.
"You're very pretty," he said, folding his hands in front of him on the table.
"I said you're very pretty," he repeated, his tone even.
"Are you asking me or telling me?" he asked, a small smirk making it's way onto his handsome face.
"I uh...um, I'm telling you?"
He raised an eyebrow at me and the smile widened.
"I'm telling you," I said, resting my fist on the table. The smile spread on my lips as well. He was adamant to make me have confidence in my decisions. I could see that, but why? Was he trying to change me? What exactly was he thinking? "So, how long have you been in that office?"
"Just today," he replied, looking up as the waiter came over and asked us for our drink order. He waited for me to order first, what a gentleman! I asked for a simple long island iced tea, and he ordered a Harvey Wallbanger.
"What's that?" I asked as the waiter walked away to get our order.
"Hmm? Oh, a Harvey Wallbanger? It's vodka and orange juice, with galiano. Quite delicious, very popular in the seventies," he answered, giving me another dazzling smile. "How long have you been in that office?"
I blinked for a moment to wrap my head around how quickly he changed the subject. "Uh, three years? Yeah, three years," I replied. The waiter returned with our drinks and I reached for mine hastily, letting the alcohol burn my throat a little as it worked its' way down. God, these were delicious! Dangerously delicious.
"So what can I get for you two to eat this evening?" he asked, pulling out a pad of paper and a pen.
I looked to him, wondering if he would order for me, or let me order what I wanted. I hadn't been on a date in awhile, if that's even what this was. I didn't remember the etiquette or protocol really.
"We'll have a bunch of appetizers," he said to the waiter, winking at me. "Have some fun finger food. Get us the chicken wings, the buffalo wings, nachos, cheesy fries, and some of your garlic bread." Henry returned his gaze to me as the waiter left. "So, Phoebe, what made you say yes to going out with me tonight?"
My drink was half gone at this point, and I couldn't help but feel a giggle well up in my body. Only iced teas did this to me. I hated them, but they were so good! His question bounced around in my head for a moment, and he waited in silence. "I don't know," I replied, wrapping my hands around the cold glass. "I guess I was lonely?" Oh no, I shouldn't have said that. Who says that on a first date?
Henry nodded, a small smile graced his lips. "I understand," he began, nodding his head. "I've been alone for awhile, too. We certainly make quite the pair!" He raised his glass for a toast, and I tapped my glass against his, sipping quickly.
Then my drink was empty. But, wait, there was another full one! The waiter had seen me drinking it quickly and must have brought it over. How thoughtful! Then I remembered I was on a date, with a guy I just met, who was probably waiting for me to get black out drunk to take advantage of me. No thanks. So, I slowed down my drinking, he was still on his first anyways. "What made you ask me out?" I figured this was a good counter question.
He shrugged and regarded me with indifference. "Loneliness?" he countered and chuckled. Okay, I guess I deserved that one. "But seriously, you're very pretty, and the awkward ones are the cutest."
I blushed, looking away.
- night passes excellently
- learn some more about him: moved from Australia but lived here first, hence no accent
I looked up at the clock and finally noticed how late it was getting. "Oh, I should get going," I said and stood, swaying a little. Oh boy, those five drinks had certainly gotten to me now.
"Please, let me walk you home," he said, standing when I did. Such chivalry! Even from my inebriated state I could tell he wanted to make sure I got home safely, and not just to try and get me in bed. I smiled and nodded, grabbing my coat from the back of the chair and my purse from the side, pulling out a few twenties and placing them on the table. He grabbed them before they even touched the surface, pushing them back into my hand. "I asked you, therefore I will pay."
I smiled again and nodded, watching as Henry placed down five twenty dollar bills. My mouth dropped; our bill hadn't been anywhere close to that much and here he was placing it down like it was nothing and motioning for me to lead the way out. Was he rich? Why was he working with my company? Sure, I made a decent amount working there, but nothing close to being able to leave $100 on a table for a $60 dinner.
He obviously saw my mouth drop because he gave me a perplexed look and then chuckled. "What? Is that not normal?" Now he was asking if it was normal? Who was this guy really?!
"Well, I don't know, I mean, the tip should be ten percent so it...why are you looking at me like that?" his face went from perplexed to amused, to some weird mixture of constipation and pain. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah I just uh, let's get going. I'll walk you home," he said, placing his hand on the small of my back and practically pushed me out of the restaurant. I looked behind me as a commotion started in the kitchen and a chef was being escorted out with a bloody rag wrapped around his hand. Did he know he had cut his hand? Did he arrange for something like this to happen? Was he a serial killer?!
The walk down the dark street was silent as those hideous thoughts went through my mind, and he must have noticed that too because he craned his neck to look at me, trying to figure me out. "Are you okay?" he asked, repeating the question I had asked him earlier.
"No, yeah, I'm good," I said and giggled. "The alcohol is making me kinda dizzy, but I'm okay."
"Would you like me to support you?" he asked, not waiting for an answer as he wrapped a strong arm around my waist. I blushed, but did not push him away. To be honest, it was supportive and made it a lot easier to walk, plus it was kind of nice to be in the arms of an attractive man.