Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Internet issues

Hi everyone!! I'm so sorry but I'll have to upload tomorrow. My internet has been down all day and still isn't fixed. I'm posting this from my phone but unfortunately the next post is saved on my laptop. Apologizes for this!! Hopefully my internet will be back up ASAP!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Meet the Parents

            My date with Cam starts in an hour, and I’m still in a towel staring at my closet.  Panic swells in my chest like a balloon, and I know if I don’t pick an outfit fast, that balloon will burst.  I swear I spend at least half of my life picking out what to wear. 

            Dress?  Heels?  Dress with heels?  Too much.  Jeans and heels?  Maybe.  But do I really want to wear jeans to meet Cam’s parents?

            Speak of the devil.  My phone chirps at me, and I lunge for it and read the text.  “I’m outside,” it says.

            “SHIIIIT,” I yell.  Cam is way, way early, and I’m practically naked.  I swear I can hear his footsteps, so I walk to the front door to let him in.

            I was right.  He knocks just as I get to our door.  I swing it open and say “ta da.”

            Cam’s eyebrows shoot up instantly.  “Um,” he starts, “looks nice, but maybe try something less absorbent.  So maybe not a towel.”

            “I thought this was a pool party,” I say sullenly.  Cam cracks a smile and snorts. 

            “Come on, cheer up,” he tells me.  “You’ll look good in anything.”

            “Aww, A+!” I say, beckoning him in.  “And since you’re so early, you can help me pick something out!”

            “Uh, I just realized I forgot something—”  I give him a look before he can finish his sentence.  “I’m kidding.  Let’s see these options.”

            I take him into my room and instruct him to sit on my bed.  He moves a rogue bra out of his way and takes a seat.  “What about that?” he asks immediately, pointing out a skintight black dress.

            “Are we meeting your parents at a strip club?” I ask.

            “Okay, okay, so that one’s for my eyes only.”  He winks at me.  Cam is one of the only guys I know who can wink and get away with it. 

            After about five minutes of me sighing every time Cam suggests something short and inappropriate and him saying that everything I pick out is “fine,” I feel a tug at my towel.  In one swift motion, he pulls it off.  It falls to the floor and he grabs my hand, gently tugging me towards him.  I turn and sit on his lap, facing him. 

            “Come on,” he says softly.  “Let’s take a quick break.” I start unbuttoning his shirt as he kisses my neck, something that I’ve never been able to resist.  Closing my eyes, I push his shirt off and giggle when he gives me a gentle bite. 

            “No hickeys tonight,” I whisper in his ear, then gently nibble on his ear, kissing my way to his mouth.  He quickly tugs his pants down and I can feel that he’s already hard.  I shiver with anticipation. 

            Trailing my fingers up his chest and to his shoulders, I slowly push him down on bed so I’m straddling him.  His hands rest on my hips, and I lower myself down, grinding on him.  Soon, his grip tightens and I love the feel of his fingertips digging into my sides. 

            Afterwards, I quickly yank on some black underwear and choose a pair of floral-patterned jeans and my go-to, a crisp white top with little gold buttons.  “See?” Cam murmurs to me as I put earrings in, “That made the decision easy.”

            “Time constraint made the decision easy!” I laugh, spraying perfume into my hair.

            Ten minutes later, we’re on our way, a bottle of wine cradled in my lap.  Cam’s parents live in one of the suburbs of Columbus, and he tells me a little about his family while he drives.  His mom and dad have been happily married for twenty-seven years—aw!  He has an older brother, who won’t be home, and a sister who still lives with his parents. 

            “Don’t worry, they’ll love you,” Cam insists.  I’m starting to feel nauseous. 

            Cam’s house is one of many in a line of cute white homes with two-car garages.  Very Midwestern, very conservative.  I see a well-maintained garden and a light blue front door.  I can already tell that someone in Cam’s family has an eye for design. 

            “Welcome!”  A woman who must be Cam’s mother flings open the door as soon as we step out of the car.  She hurries towards Cam and engulfs him in a hug.  “It’s wonderful to see you.”  She breaks free and smiles at me.  “And you must be Ryan.”

            “Hello,” I say with a smile.  “It’s so nice to meet you!” 

            “Well, come in, come in!”  Cam’s mother rushes us inside.  “Dinner is just about ready.” 

            I was right about the eye for design—Cam’s parents’ house is absolutely stunning, with original art on the walls and clean hardwood floors.  Definitely no dogs in this household; the furniture is immaculate, and they even have white couches! 

            We’re led by Cam’s mother—who has asked me to call her Jeannie—to a set table, complete with hydrangea centerpieces and candles that cast a soft glow.  I’m impressed, and also increasingly desperate to make a good impression.  Jeannie and I chat a little about my job, and she ends up asking if the woman who writes articles for design magazines is related to me. 

            “She’s actually my mother!” I say.  I can tell that wins me major points, even if it has nothing to do with me other than my genes. 

            “I absolutely adore Classic Design,” Jeannie gushes, talking about a magazine my mother writes for.  Before we can discuss it further, a tall man with immaculate posture enters the dining room.  I immediately straighten my blouse.  He does not look like a man who would tolerate a wrinkled shirt. 

            “Is dinner ready, dear?” Jeannie asks.  The man nods. 

            “Take a plate and come into the kitchen,” he says in a voice that reminds me of Cam’s, only deeper.  I glance at Cam and grab the plate next to his.

            The selection looks incredible.  I take some of everything and sit down, my hands in my lap.  When everyone is seated, Cam’s father dips his head, closes his eyes, and is silent for a moment.  Everyone else does the same, so I follow suit.  A moment later, he looks up and everyone starts to eat. 

            “Dad,” Cam says before he takes a bite, “I don’t know if you were introduced, but this is Ryan.”

            He doesn’t even look at me.  “Interesting name for a girl,” he says, cutting a piece of chicken.  “Is that a nickname?”

            I clear my throat, glad I don’t have any food in my mouth.  “No, just a name my mom liked,” I tell him.  “It’s very unique, and I love it.  I didn’t use to when I was younger, though.”

            “I can see why,” his father says.  I’m not sure what to say, but the girl across from me, Cam’s sister, speaks up.

            “I think it’s cool.”  She smiles at me.  “I’m Clara.” 

            “You have a pretty name too,” I tell her.  She rolls her eyes, which are caked in eyeliner. 

            “Thanks.  It’s a little piano-school teacher for me, but it could be worse.”

            “Clara is a lovely name,” Jeannie says.  Clara shrugs. 

            “Cam hasn’t brought a girl home since high school,” she says, chewing.  “I’m relieved.  I was starting to think something was wrong with him.  But I guess I already knew that.”  She grins, then yelps.  “Hey!  Don’t kick me!”

            I laugh.  I can already tell that things are easygoing between Cam and his sister, which is something I like to see.  Their father, though, clears his throat loudly.  “I’m sure our guest doesn’t need to see you behaving like this.”  I’m not sure how to respond, so I take another bite.  Everything is insanely delicious. 

            “This is all fabulous,” I say.  “Compliments to the chef, for sure.” 

            “That would be Tom,” Jeannie beams.  She must be referring to her husband.  Honestly, I’m a little shocked.  He doesn’t seem the cooking type. 

            I turn to him.  “Wow, that’s incredible,” I say.  “If every night included meals like this, you’ve got a lucky family!” 

            “Well, it is like this every night,” he says without a hint of a smile.  I feel Cam put his hand on my knee, gently, and I feel as though I’m saying everything wrong.  After a few more bites, I try again. 

            “So what do you do for a living?” I ask, leaving the question open so either Jeannie or Tom can answer. 

            “I work at Children’s Hospital, and Tom here is an accountant!”  she says, beaming. 

            “Oh, my dad is an accountant, too!” I say.  Tom says nothing. 

            “Ryan here is a writer,” Jeannie says.  She must notice the tension.  “She works in fashion.”

            “Well that’s not your typical job, is it?”  Tom finally looks up at me.  “So, is it mostly women in your department?”

            “Um,” I don’t know what to say.  “Yes, but my boss is a man, actually.”

            Tom chuckles.  “Must be gay.”

            “Dad!  Stop!”  Clara speaks up, her tone frustrated.  “Can you just be nice, please?  Ryan is trying really hard, and you’re making it weird.”

            “How am I ‘making it weird?’”  Tom sets his silverware down and stares at Clara, unblinking.  “Is there something wrong with making conversation?”

            “There is when you’re doing it like that!  You’re making it seem like she’s a criminal or something.”

            I’m completely bewildered.  Cam squeezes my knee. 

            “Now, now,” Jeannie starts, but she’s ignored entirely. 

            “I just want to know more about her job,” Tom is saying.  “It’s an entry-level position in fashion and writing, and honestly it seems like woman’s work.  I was just curious.” 

            “Woman’s work?”  Clara looks enraged, and I wonder how often the two of them fight. 

            Cam finally speaks up.  “Look, I guess this is a bad night to have come.  I think Ryan and I will leave now.”

            “No.”  Tom stares at his son.  “You will not be leaving.  You’ll finish your dinner.  Your sister will apologize and everything will be fine.” 

            Clara stabs at her asparagus and doesn’t say a word. 

            “No, I think we should be going.” Cam pushes his chair out, but Tom bangs his fork down.

            “You. Will. Stay.”


            The rest of dinner is entirely silent except for the sound of silverware occasionally scraping the expensive china plates.  

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Downsizing

            Over the next few days, Abby apologizes profusely.  She sends me multiple texts, each heavy with exclamation points and blue-faced emojis.  Things are a little awkward at work for a while, but I insist that nothing’s wrong.  Mark, Abby explained, has wanted to be married since he was a kid.  He has trouble seeing when other people don’t have the same goals as he does.  Not that you don’t want to ever get married, she backtracks and apologizes until I finally tell her to shut it with a laugh.  I just want to pretend that the scenario never happened. 

            I try to think of ways to repay Cam for being so cool about the marriage comment.  Then again, I don’t want the situation to blow up any more than it already did by making a big deal out of it.  Maybe I’d just lie low and let my gratitude speak for itself.

            After work one day, Cam texts me with a surprise request.  I immediately run into the kitchen, skidding on the tile.  Emma’s sitting at the counter, eating, and looks up at me in surprise.

            “Cam wants me to meet his family,” I burst.  Emma raises her eyebrows, still chewing.  “Tomorrow!  I have no time to prepare!”

            Swallowing, Emma clears her throat.  “That’s honestly probably better for you.  I know you—you’d overanalyze everything and probably make note of conversation topics.”  I give her a look, but she continues.  “Come on, that’s exactly who you are and you know it.”

            “I’ve never rehearsed conversation topics!” I insist.  “Well, maybe I’ve thought about them. I’ve never, like, written them down and taken them with me on a card or anything like that.  That’s just crazy!”

            Emma rolls her eyes.  “I’m just saying, the only thing you should be planning is your outfit.  No cleavage, a nice dress, not too short.” 

            “No stripper heels, then?”  I shake my head in mock disappointment.  “Will you help me pick something out?”

            Emma nods, finishing off her scrambled eggs.  “As long as you help me pick out my outfit for my date.”

            “Date?!” I squawk.  Leave it to Emma to casually drop a bomb like that.  “With your college man?”

            Emma sighs dramatically.  “Must you word it like that?  Yes, with DJ.”

            I clap excitedly and do a little dance. 

            “You’re more excited about this than I am,” Emma says drily, but I can tell she’s looking forward to it.  Emma doesn’t go on dates—she’s so busy with her work schedule that she barely has time for the things she wants to do, let alone go out with guys she’s interested in.  As a matter of fact, I can’t remember the last date she went on—Emma’s turned down more guys than I can count. 

            “Where are you going?” I ask as I dash into her room.  Picking out a boring outfit for Cam’s family dinner will be easy, but Emma’s outfit will be way more fun.  I’m already tossing options on her bed by the time she gets to her room.

            “I just cleaned,” she grumbles. 

            Ignoring her, I pull out a minty green top with flowy sleeves and a plunging neckline.  “This would look so good with black skinny jeans,” I say. 

            “It’s a little hippy, don’t you think?”

            I shake my head.  “Not unless you plan on wearing a flower crown!”

            Emma and I go through multiple options, which takes up over an hour.  She’s being unusually picky, considering she’s the one who bought all these clothes.  Her anxiousness makes me realize that she really is worried about this date. 

            “Em,” I finally say as I hang up yet another rejected top, “you know you’re going to be beautiful, no matter what.” 

            “Blah blah blah, but I want to impress him!  He sees me at work constantly, and I want him to see that I clean up nice.”

            “Then wear a dress!” I suggest.  I pick up a dainty floral dress that she’s already turned away.  “Put a brown belt at your waist, curl the ends of your hair, and voila.  Pretty but not trying too hard.”  I see hesitation in Emma’s eyes, and I’m not above begging.  “Please, just try it on.”

            Once I’ve got her in the dress, the rest is relatively simple.  I give her one of my multi-layer necklaces, pick out a belt, and tell her to wear wedge heels.  She spins in front of the mirror, taking in the flow and twirl of the dress. 

            “Yeah,” Emma says finally.  “This is it.”  I whoop and do a little dance. 

            “He’ll be stunned and impressed that he snagged a girl like you,” I say, beaming. 

            After spending all that time picking out a dress for Emma to wear to her date, I’m done with trying on clothes for a while and decide to choose my outfit tomorrow.  Since Emma already ate, I decide to grab some food solo.  Maybe go to a sit-down place, bring a book, people watch.  The more I think about it, the more excited I become about the concept.  It seems so romantic, so movie-esque.  I could be Audrey Hepburn, I think as I slide a light jacket over my shoulders.

            I decide on a casual-yet-classy bar and order brie and a craft beer.  My table is facing the window and I start to observe the people walking by.  Surprisingly, I haven’t seen anyone I know by the time I get my food.

            I quickly discover that eating while reading is impossible, so I demolish the brie and then pick up my book and start reading.  I don’t even know how long it’s been when I hear a familiar voice and whip my head around.

            It’s Kent, my boss.  The boss who complimented me and then left me hanging.  As usual, he’s dressed impeccably—and he’s seated in the booth directly to my left.  I bury my head further in the book and don’t make eye contact.  From the glimpse I got, it looks like a business meeting.

            After a few minutes of eavesdropping, I determine that I was right.  Kent is with a pretty woman in some killer heels and a skirt suit that probably costs two of my paychecks, and a man who continuously loosens his tie.  This man has a booming voice, so listening in is easy.  Apparently, these two people work in similar fields as Kent, and are all in charge of multiple people. 

            I’ve all but abandoned my book when the woman begins to complain about the laziness of her workers.  The man chimes in, while Kent remains relatively silent.  I’m almost expecting him to bring me up—well I rarely talk to this girl with a man’s name… what is it… Riley, Rick, Ryan?  Anyway, she’s a terrible worker, just abysmal, but I had to lie to her face… she needs to step up her game or else

            Just as I let me imagination get the best of me, Kent speaks.  And the first word I hear is “downsizing.”  I almost drop my book. 

            “I interviewed all of my employees personally, and it’s going to be a tough decision,” he’s saying.  “We haven’t been using our revenue wisely, and it’s still a difficult economy we’re in.”

            Maybe my crazy worries weren’t so crazy after all… what will I do if I’m let go?  I put the book down and sign my check with shaking hands.  Will Kent name any names, or will I have to live in fear for the coming weeks?  Should I suck up to him?  Should I look for another job?  My job may be tedious at times, but I’m good at it.  I’m familiar with the work environment and what’s expected of me.  Most of all, I’m not ready to leave. 

            The three bosses have changed the subject, and are now laughing about some golf trip paid for by the woman’s company.  I’m irritated.  Maybe downsizing wouldn’t be necessary if higher-ups didn’t spend money on golf outings.  I gather my book, wallet, and phone, and head out the door, my head low. 

            I call Cam as soon as I’m home and discuss the whole situation with him.  My voice becomes increasingly high-pitched and I know I’m rambling like I always do when I’m stressed.

            “Baby, baby, baby,” Cam says as I grow increasingly more hysterical.  His voice is the soothing counterpart to my screeching.  “You don’t know what, if anything, will happen.  They could have just been complaining and exaggerating.  I know it’s hard, but try to let it go.”

            “Shouldn’t I do something?” I ask desperately.  “Suck up?  Work harder?”

            “Putting a little extra effort in what you do probably won’t hurt,” he advises.  “Don’t act like you’re trying harder, but be more precise, more timely—just do everything you can to subtly prove you’re worth their time and you rock your job.”

            I smile, the phone pressed to my cheeks.  “I have no idea how, but you’ve made me feel much better,” I say. 

            “Keep me updated, okay?” he asks.  I detect genuine concern in his voice.  I assure him that I will. 

            “Are you ready for tomorrow night?” he asks, switching from one nerve-wracking situation to another.  “Don’t be weirded out, but my mom is super excited to meet you.”

            “Super excited?” I repeat nervously. 

            “It’s all new to her.  The last girl I brought home was my high school sweetheart, and that was for prom,” he laughs.  “But no pressure, seriously.  She’ll only want to, you know, DNA and drug test you…”

            “Stop!” I say, but he’s managed to make me laugh.  “I won’t pee in a cup or agree to any testing, but I will be on my best behavior.”

            “Good.”  I can hear the smile in Cam’s voice.  “I’ll pick you up at 6:30.  I’ll see you then?”


            “See you then,” I agree.  “Good night, and thanks.”  I feel like a lovestruck teenager when we hang up, and cradle my phone in my hands for a few minutes, thinking about our conversation.  He’s calmed me down considerably, and I don’t even know how he did it.  I might still be a little wary of him, but that feeling diminishes day by day, with another, more indescribable feeling taking its place.  

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Lover-Partner-Boyfriend

            I’m just opening my sad ham and cheese sandwich at lunchtime on Friday when my phone buzzes loudly.  Usually it’s on silent so I quickly grab it to adjust the settings when I see the text is from Cam.  Come outside, it says.

            Puzzled, I set my sandwich down and dash out to the front of the building.  Caroline, the intern, is at her desk, doodling. 

            “Are the doors locked?” I ask. 

            She looks up at me.  “No,” she says.  “They never are.”  Then, making herself slightly taller—difficult with her petite frame—she adds, “but anyone who comes in here has to get through me.”  I laugh.  

            Lo and behold, Cam stands outside the front doors to my office.  I rush over to let him in.  “It’s open,” I laugh when he comes on.

            “Maybe I didn’t want to walk around your office like a psychopath,” he says, and then hugs me.  “Hey there.”

            I push my head into his shoulder.  “Hi,” I say, my voice muffled.  I look up at him.  “Are you on lunch break?”

            “I am indeed.  I thought we could go out?”

            Smiling, I nod like a maniac.  “Yes yes yes!  I was starting to get worried that my ham sandwich would poison me.” 

            “How do you mess up a ham sandwich?” Cam teases. 

            I shrug and grab his hand.  “I’m just being ridiculous.  What I’m trying to say is screw you ham sandwich, hellooooo sushi!”

            Just then I hear heels clicking down the tile flooring of the entryway, followed by Abby, her fiancĂ© in tow.  They look like they should be in a magazine—Abby’s hair is perfectly blown out, her blazer tossed whimsically over one shoulder.  Her fiancĂ©, Mark, is equally well-dressed.  I wonder if being engaged improves quality of life in general. 

            Abby spots me immediately.  “Hi Ryan!  Is this your man?!”

            Wow, Abby does not mess around.  I turn to Cam, smiling, glad we’re holding hands.  “This is Cam,” I offer. 

            By now they’re right next to us.  Mark shakes Cam’s hand and introductions are made.  We chitchat idly for a few moments until both parties realize we’re going out for lunch. 

            “Why don’t we just go together?” Abby suggests.  “It could be fun!  We’ll go somewhere fast.”

            Cam agrees easily, and I have to say I’m a little surprised.  I’m glad he didn’t think our mid-day “date” would be ruined. 

            We decide upon sushi, with much prodding from me—hey, the heart wants what the heart wants!  Somehow, once we get to the restaurant, Cam and I are seated next to each other and Abby and Mark are facing us.  I glance at Cam and we both laugh a little.  Meanwhile, Abby and Mark are blatantly holding hands.  It’s very sweet. 

            The two of them opt to share a roll, while Cam and I order two separate rolls.  At first, Abby and I chat about work, but it’s obvious that we’re leaving Cam and Mark out of the conversation, so we switch topics.  Mark chimes in.

            “You and Ryan seem very close,” he observes, speaking to Cam.  “Have you been together long?”

            Cam shrugs.  “We’ve known each other for a long time, actually,” he tells him.  He smiles at me and gives my shoulder a quick squeeze.  “Ryan’s a great girl.”

            “She is,” Abby agrees.  I feel an unexpected blush coming on. 

            “Cam’s pretty awesome too,” I tell them.  “We have a good time together.”  Suddenly I feel like I’m talking to my parents, trying to convince them to like my biker boyfriend with a zillion tattoos.  “He doesn’t keep me out past midnight,” I joke. 
           
            Cam catches on immediately.  “I always walk on the car-side of the street,” he says.  “I buy her flowers and chocolates.”

            “Almost as much as I buy him flowers and chocolates,” I deadpan.  We glance at each other out of the corners of our eyes and burst into laughter. 

            Abby’s grinning, too, and Mark cracks a smile as well.  Then, he says it: “So are you two planning on getting married?”

            The change in the atmosphere is immediate.  I freeze, and lock eyes with Abby, who has a look of panic on her face.  I know Mark can be a little blunt, but damn.  I honestly have no idea what to say.

            Thank God for Cam.  He grabs my hand and answers.  “Neither of us is actually at that stage in our lives yet.”  And that’s that.  Our food arrives soon after and the conversation lulls while we eat. 

            Luckily, the rest of the meal goes without a hitch.  Mark keeps his mouth shut for the most part and the rest of the bantering is light.  I tell Abby and Mark we’ll get the tip, and they leave, getting the hint. 

            As soon as they’re gone, Cam slides over to the other side of the table so we’re finally facing each other.  I can see his Adam’s apple move up and down a couple times as he swallows, thinking. 

            “So,” he says.

            “So,” I repeat.  “That was awkward.”  We both nod.  “I just want to say thank you.  I was flabbergasted and stunned silent.”

            “There’s a first time for everything,” he jokes quietly. 

             I smile.  “But really, you were great.  That was so uncalled for.  I don’t think he meant it… even Abby looked embarrassed.  He’s just a little forward and maybe he’s caught up in his own engagement.”

            Cam shrugs.  “No big deal.  He seems like a cool dude.”  We look at each other for a few seconds, each of us figuring out what comes next. 

            “I think,” I say slowly, “that we’re perfect where we are.  I don’t feel the need to rush, or even talk about the future.”  Cam is nodding, which encourages me to continue.  “I’m so happy with you, and I think we’re finally getting to a good place…”  I pause and wiggle my eyebrows, “…where I’m trying to trust you and not act crazy.” 

            “I agree completely,” Cam says.  We hold hands from across the table, over the receipt and our empty sushi plates.  My lunch hour is almost over but I’m so content just sitting her, spending time with Cam.  He’s so charming and easy-going, even in awkward and tense situations.

            Because really.  How uncalled-for was that?  It’s way too early for engagement talk!  I just chalk it up to Mark being wrapped up in his own engagement, like I told Cam. 

            “Before we leave,” I say as we stand up, “can I ask you something?”

            “Sure,” Cam says. 

            “Can I call you my boyfriend?”

            Cam laughs and wraps me in his arms, squeezing my shoulders against his chest.  “No!  I’ll only accept the terms ‘partner’ and ‘lover.’”

            “Okay, lover-partner.” 


            After Cam drops me off at my office with a quick kiss, I let myself think about how relieved I am that Cam was cool with all of that.  I’m still embarrassed at the way I acted at the bar towards him, but he’s been so calm and easygoing about my emotions and every strange situation thrown his way that I know I’ve got it good.  Sooner rather than later, I decide, I’m going to find a way to thank him.  

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Praise but No Raise

This week has been going smoothly until I was suddenly called into my boss’s office first thing Wednesday morning.  While I often have meetings with Melinda, my manager, and other higher-ups in the company, I have never spoken with my boss for more than five or ten minutes at a time.  I wasn’t even hired by my boss. 

            His name is Kent, and he’s so fashionable it hurts.  You have to be to work for a company like Creative Fashion Consultants.  I occasionally see him slinking through the office, in between cubicles, but he disappears after a few moments.  CFC isn’t a large company, but Kent is always swamped with work, it seems. 

            I stand nervously outside his closed office door.  I’ve been there for a few seconds, unsure if I should knock or if he’s expecting me.  I smooth down my patterned pencil skirt and make sure the back of my white blouse is tucked in.  It’s a good thing that I washed my hair this morning. 

            Finally, I rap my knuckles on the wood three quick times.  Immediately I hear “come in” in a deep voice. 

            I open the door and walk inside, my footsteps light.  “Hello.”

            Kent is seated at a wide, clean desk.  He’s not looking at any paperwork, which I’m sure means that I will have his undivided attention.  I almost wish he was preoccupied. 

            “Hello, Ryan.”  Kent smiles, his teeth celebrity-white.  He’s wearing a pinstriped button-up under a sport coat, and his hair is neatly combed.  When he waves me over I spot a gorgeous black leather watch on his wrist.  “Come sit down.”

            Once I’m seated, Kent starts talking about his day.  He tells me about the paperwork he’s completed and how he’s made phone calls to the fashion editor at Marie Claire, name-dropping like it’s nothing.  I nod and smile at all the right points, but wonder why exactly I was called in. 

            After a few minutes of this, Kent locks eyes with me.  His are a pale blue, an odd color that makes me wonder if he’s wearing colored contacts.  “So, Ryan, you’ve been here over a year now, yes?”

            I swallow to ease my dry throat.  “Yes.”

            “I just thought it was time we chatted for a bit,” he tells me.  “Abby and I talked last week, and I’ve been trying to get you at a moment when you’re free… but you always seem so busy.  Always doing something.”

            “Yes,” I say again, feeling panic swirl in my stomach.  “I always get all of my work done, but it’s a busy job.  Always something to do!”  I add cheerily.  “I stay on top of everything, though.”

            “Yes you do.  I’ve noticed that you have some of the most consistent work here.  Excellent writing, strong perspective.  Your articles are never too short or too long.  Always on time—never missed a deadline, have you?”

            I shake my head, wondering where this is going.  Have I been taking too long with my assignments? 

            “Are there any problems here?  Do you feel overwhelmed or stressed?”

            “No, not really,” I say truthfully.  “Sometimes it’s a lot of work—especially during fashion weeks—but that’s what I signed up for.  I love what I do, and it’s not always the best time of my life, but I know I’m a good writer and I keep up with all the latest trends.”  I hope my rambling tendency hasn’t taken over. 

            Kent is nodding.  He hasn’t looked away from my eyes this whole time, and I’m itching to glance away for just a second.  “I just wanted to congratulate you on your work ethic and timeliness.  I’m very impressed with everything you’ve done.”

            My ears perk up and finally, I start to get a sense of what’s going on.  Am I about to get a raise?!  My first raise, ever!

            “Thank you,” I tell Kent, smiling out of excitement and maybe just a tiny bit of relief that I’m not about to get fired.  I sit there, waiting for a response, but Kent doesn’t say anything.  For the first time, he breaks eye contact.  I watch as he reaches into his desk drawer and brings out some papers.  He glances back up at me, seeming to realize that I’m still here.

            “Anything you’d like to ask me?” he says politely. 

            “Oh, um, no, is that it?” I sound like an idiot. 

            Kent nods.  “Oh yes.  I just wanted to tell you what a great job you’ve been doing.”  He flashes a smile.  “Keep it up.”  With that, it’s clear that I’m dismissed.

            I walk out of Kent’s office fuming, and surprised at how upset I am.  My first real conversation with my boss, and it meant nothing.  Not that I expected anything more than a check-in and a quick conversation, but Kent had made it seem big.  Like I’d really exceeded expectations and was on track for a bonus or something.  But instead, nothing. 

            As soon as I’m off work—and the rest of the day, my highly-praised work ethic was definitely off—I call my mom and tell her everything. 

            “Doesn’t that sound like I deserve a raise?  I mean, not to sound greedy or anything, but I’ve been here for a year,” I tell her.  The more I’ve thought about it, the more frustrated I’ve become. 

            “It is odd, honey, but give it a little more time.”  I can hear her flipping paper, probably magazine pages, in the background.  Since it’s so closely-related to her job, she’s always reading a magazine.  “But in the near future you should be getting a raise.  He’s acknowledged your work ethic and the content you produce, and good things will come.  I promise.  Did you ask Abby what he said to her in their meeting?”

            “No,” I say.  “That seemed nosy.”

            My mom titters in agreement.  “Well, let me know if anything comes up.  I’ve got to run, but I’m so happy you called.  I’m proud of you!” 

            Maybe I am overreacting.  I’m still the newest person on the CFC team besides the intern, Caroline.  Patience is essential, I tell myself. 

            After I hang up with my mom, I stop in Starbucks for a quick coffee (what can I say, the afternoon sleepies were hitting haaaard).  While I’m waiting for my vanilla blonde roast, I spot someone sitting down.  I squint at him, knowing I’ve seen him before but not being able to place him.  He has a straight nose, dark hair, and broad shoulders, and he’s sitting with a woman who looks exactly like him.  The barista calls out my drink and I grab it, lingering by the sugar-and-straws table to see if I can place him. 

            I have a really weird thing with faces where if I’ve seen you once, I’ll likely recognize you.  This means I never really forget someone’s face, which can be flattering or creepy depending on the way you look at it.  Recognizing someone’s face, however, does not mean that I recall their name, and that has caused many an uncomfortable scenario when I call someone over and then realize I have no idea what their name is.  But I know I’ve seen this guy, and recently. 

            By now I’ve fiddled with lids for far too long and still haven’t placed this guy.  I decide to just give up and live with the frustration of not knowing; maybe I’ll even see him again someday, and then I’ll be able to ask who he is.  Just then, however, the woman he’s with stands up, and they hug.  The guy lightly slaps her on the back, which seems odd to me.  I’m still standing there, holding my scalding coffee in one hand, when she breezes by me, and stops. 

            “Your skirt is amazing,” she says to me, looking at it in admiration.  “I love the pattern.” 

            “Thanks!” I say, beaming.  Before she can walk away, the guy comes up, and that’s when I see his pretty gray eyes and know exactly where I’ve seen him before. 

            “Ready to go, Laura?”  He glances at me a second too long while he talks to the girl, Laura. 

            “Hey,” I say quickly, before I lose my nerve, “I’m sorry if this is super bizarre, but I think I recognize you from somewhere… I just can’t place it though.” 

            The guy looks at me for a second, as if willing himself to remember.  Then he raises his eyebrows triumphantly.  “That club, this weekend,” he says, a hint of excitement in his voice.  “I’m Ben.”

            It all comes back to me—Marie’s girl’s night, the multiple bars, talking with him for a brief moment when he saw me with two drinks and said I was double-fisting. 

            “Oh!  Right.  I’m Ryan.” 

            “Ryan!  That’s it.  Wow, small world, huh?”  He grins, showing perfectly even teeth.  Nothing like good dental work.  Ben turns to the girl next to him, the skirt-complimenter.  "This is my sister, Laura.”

            Sister!  That’s why they look so similar.  “Hi, I’m Ryan,” I say, smiling and reaching out my hand.  She shakes it while simultaneously shaking her head. 

            “Cool skirt and cool name.  I’m so jealous right now.”  She looks up at her brother.  “Please tell me you tried to hit on her and she rejected you.” 

            I’m a little startled and uncomfortable, but Ben laughs.  “Dude, I didn’t even get the chance!  We barely talked.  But you’re right, she does have a cool name.” 

            Laura shoulders her purse—talk about awesome clothing, she’s carrying a pricey Celine bag like it’s nothing.  I try not to ogle.  “Anyway, it was nice meeting you, Ryan.  I’ve gotta run, but I’ll see you later, bro!”  She gives him a light punch on the arm, and that’s when his back-slapping finally clicked into place in my brain.  They act so much like siblings. 

            I shift my coffee to my other hand.  “Anyway, sorry for being such a creep.  I have this thing where I recognize people even if I’ve only seen them once or twice, and I knew I’d seen you and it was driving me absolutely insane because I couldn’t place you…”  I shake my head and collect my thoughts.  “I’m glad we figured it out,” I say with a laugh. 

            Ben smiles at me.  “No worries.  I remembered you for a reason.”  Uh oh.  I think I know what’s coming next.  “Would you want to grab coffee sometime?”  He looks down at the drink in my hand.  “Maybe after you’ve finished that one?  I like my girls hyped up on caffeine.”

            I can’t help but laugh.  “Hey, I’m sorry, but I’m actually with someone right now.  It really was nice meeting you, though.” 

            Shrugging, Ben puts his hands in his pockets.  “Ah, I see.  Well, maybe we’ll run into each other some other time.  It was really nice meeting you again, Ryan.”  With that, he’s gone. 


            Kind of a strange encounter, but flattering nonetheless.  Things could have gone much worse, and I’m relieved that neither Ben nor Laura called me out for staring them down while I had been trying to figure out how I knew him.  At least he recognized me!  Of course, I’m glad things with Cam and I have been going well after this weekend—we’ve even talked about it a little more and he understands why I was upset—but it’s still nice to be hit on.  Even if it kind of was the sister who hit on me first.  

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Nothing Says Sorry Like Pizza

I wake up the next morning to movement in my bed. No, I didn't take someone home that I'd forgotten about-- it's Kolby. Kolby has a tendency to wake up obscenely early after a night of drinking, and has been this way since our college days. I couldn't even count the number of times I've woken to to her face inches from mine at the crack of dawn. Others might find this terrifying. To me, it's oddly reassuring. 

"Morning Kolb," I say sleepily as I feel her launch herself into my bed. "What time is it?"  

"No idea but I'm wide awake." It's still mostly dark outside, but I can see Kolby's greenish eyes almost glowing. 

"Now I am too," I laugh. She snuggles closer to me and we're quiet for a few minutes. 

"You okay?" Kolby asks. I knew it was coming. She saw the fury and hurt on my face last night, feelings which I still haven't forgotten. They're eating me from the inside out. 

"I'm still not sure," I tell her honestly. "I can't tell if I'm jealous or actually on to something." It wasn't exactly the best impression for Kolby either. She knew Cam in college and I'd really wanted her to forget everything in the past and realize that he's a good guy. 

As soon as I think that I want to smack myself on the forehead. Of course. I'm the one who needs to realize that Cam is a good guy. How many times do I have to tell myself that before I believe it?

Kolby's looking at me expectantly and I realize I trailed off and haven't spoken for a few seconds. I clear my throat. 

"I think I was being a liiiittle crazy," I admit to her. I'm glad it's dark because if it wasn't, I'd be avoiding her gaze. I absolutely despise admitting I'm wrong. "I need to do something," I say. 

I can tell Kolby is smiling. "I wasn't going to say anything, but I felt kinda bad for the poor guy. I knew you were upset but still! Give him the benefit of the doubt."

Rolling my eyes, I say, "thanks for the advice," as sarcastically as possible, but secretly I'm relieved. Hopefully this is the last time I question Cam, his motives, and his intentions. 

Both Kolby and I fall back asleep for a few hours, and we wake up to the sun seeping through the window. We hang out in bed, catching up a little. With Marie's breakup and my whirlwind romance, Kolby's life has seemed almost tame. We talk about her job, her hot boss who never takes off his cowboy hat, and the guys she's been trying to date. 

"What do you mean, 'trying?'" I ask. 

She sighs. "It's hard to explain. I'll go on dates and talk to guys at bars, but it's all so boring and predictable. I swear I've gone on the same date with the same guy ten times. I'm just bored, you know?" 

I'm quiet while she speaks, thinking. "Maybe you could try something different?" I suggest. "Don't get numbers from guys in bars." Suddenly I squint my eyes at her. "Kolb, are you telling me you're looking for something serious?"

She waves her hands and shakes her head. "No! No, not necessarily. But it would be nice to date a guy who actually interests me for a change." 

"Tinder," I suggest. We both giggle. "But really, you're such a funny and intelligent person. If you want to find smart, funny guys, you will! It just might take some time. And there's nothing wrong with online dating, even just for casual dates. Maybe it'll give you confidence that there are good guys out there!"

Kolby looks skeptical, but tells me she'll think about it. "It's just hard when you think you see good relationships around you, like Marie's, and then it ends up not working." Immediately I think of seeing Liam with that girl. If I misjudged the Cam situation, maybe I misjudged what I saw with Liam. I don't want to be a gossip, though, especially with Marie in the next room, so I keep quiet.

Kolby and I make our way to the kitchen, where Emma and Marie are chatting and sipping fresh-brewed coffee. My heart swells and though it's cheesy, I want to hug all three girls. I love having such a close-knit group of friends. 

Of course, we grill Marie about the guy she met at the bar last night, but she's smiling tight-lipped. That's the Marie I know and love: private about her personal life. 

Marie has to leave first, and Kolby goes home soon after. Kolby asks me to keep her updated about Cam, and I tell her loudly to enjoy the tinder dates. She swats at me on her way out. 

It's only when I leave that I notice Emma is wearing jeans. Suspicious. "Nice pants, Em," I say. 

Her response is equally as breezy. "I sleep in them now. Super comfy. You should try it."

"You spent the night at DJ's," I say triumphantly. 

Emma sighs loudly. "I did, yes. But! I didn't get off work til 3:30 AM and his apartment is closer... It was safer, really."  

I clap my hands like a toddler. "I knew it I knew it I knew it! This is true love. I can feel it." Before I can start singing "Can You Feel the Love Tonight," Emma cuts me off. 

"Okay, I get it, master matchmaker." She takes a drunk of coffee. "It doesn't mean anything is happening."

"Not yet!" 

Emma rolls her eyes, but I can tell a smile is just below the surface. She seems happy. 

I finish my coffee and tell Emma I have errands to run. This is only partially true--a Target trip is always in order, but the real reason for my outing is much more nerve-wracking. 

I dress quickly in dark jeans and a striped T shirt. Makeup: BB cream and mascara. I want to look as low key as possible today, but still pretty. 

As soon as I leave the house I call Cam's favorite pizza place. I've got some apologizing to do. 

Forty minutes later I'm at Cam's door feeling lame and slightly creepy. What if this isn't cute but just downright weird? 

Cam answers looking like he's just stepped out of the shower. His hair is still wet and I can smell his soap. I swallow hard. 

"Hi." Before I can lose my courage I continue. "All I want to say is sorry for being a complete douche. I don't know what came over me." I offer him the pizza. "I got this for you." I open the top; it spells "sorry" with pepperoni, but also has green and banana peppers sprinkled on it. Cam's favorite. 

Looking slightly bewildered, Cam takes the pizza. "I'm... Wow. Um, thanks, Ryan."

Blushing, I quickly tell him to call me if he wants. I'm ready to go when he says "wait." 

"I can't eat this by myself," he tells me. I smile, a tiny bit. "Come inside." He's smiling. As I follow Cam into his apartment, he says, "thanks for the pizza. This was kinda weird, but also the best apology I've ever witnessed." 

At that moment, I can't think of a better compliment. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Shaken Up

            I can’t help it—I gasp when I spot Cam with this other girl.  He’s leaning in close to talk with her, and I see her giggle.  Giggle.  This is no ordinary laugh, I can feel it.  I know I’m dangerously close to overreacting but can’t stop myself. 

            Do I march over there and yank him aside, or do I hide and confront him later?  Or should we just never talk again?  I don’t know which option would hurt me the most, and I realize then that every option would hurt.  I’ve become attached to Cam. 

            “Hey.”  Kolby has sidled over to me, which is a feat within itself.  Notoriously loud and impossible to miss, I know I must have been deep in thought to have not seen Kolby approaching.  “Woah, are you okay?” 

            I know my face must look like a stormcloud before a lightning bolt strikes.  “No.” I say, and point.  “There’s my boyfriend.”

            “Woah,” Kolby says again, taking them in.  “Maybe they’re cousins.”

            “Does your cousin put his hand on your lower back like that?” I ask harshly.

            Kolby shakes her head.  “We have to do something.”

            “No!”  I hold her back, glancing around the room.  “I haven’t decided what to do yet.”

            “Ryan, you’re going to be absolutely miserable if you don’t say anything.” She has a point.  I can be passive-aggressive, and Kolby knows that well.  The summer after junior year I shut her out for two months because of a stupid argument we had.  Kolby never even knew I was upset until I just stopped talking with her.  I’d like to think that I’m more mature now, but after tonight, who knows. 

            “Fine.”  I stomp over to Cam and tap him on the shoulder.  He turns, smiling, but when he sees me the smile drops instantly off of his face as though it was never there. 

            “Ryan.”

            “Cam.”  I cross my arms and force a smile.  “Crazy seeing you here, isn’t it?”

            “Yeah, I… didn’t know you were going out.”  He looks shaken, but not guilty.  Maybe just surprised. 

            “I could say the same thing to you.”  I turn to the girl, who isn’t even really paying attention to our conversation.  I notice the two of them aren’t touching. 

            “I’m Cam’s girlfriend,” I say loudly so she’ll hear me.  The girl glances back, her eyes wide. 

            “Oh, Ryan, right?”  I’m stumped for a second.  How does she know my name?

            “Cam was actually just talking about you.”  She reaches out to shake my hand and says a name I don’t catch.  I numbly shake her hand, confused.  “We work together.” 

            I recross my arms after we shake hands.  I can feel the sweat on my palms—not cute.  “I’m sorry, I didn’t get your name.” 

            “Alyssa,” she says with a smile.  “Wow, you two are cute together!”

            She must be sensing the tension or lying or something, because at that moment, Cam and I are anything but cute.  We’re standing a foot apart and he isn’t even looking at me.  I’m sure I could shoot daggers with my eyes. 

            I turn to Cam.  “Can we talk?” I ask through gritted teeth.  He’s visibly uncomfortable but Alyssa smiles at me. 

            “It was so nice meeting you!”  I kid you not, she flounces off without a care in the world.  I stomp over to an empty table where the music isn’t as deafening. 

            “What’s going on?” I demand as soon as we sit.  All pretenses of being calm and collected have vanished and I’m full-on furious.  “No, before you say anything, I saw you.  I saw your hands all over her.  You two looked like the couple!”

            Silence.  I wait for a few moments, becoming increasingly angry as Cam is silent. 

            “That’s it, then?  You’ve got nothing to say?”  Still nothing.  By now I’m furious.  I get up to leave, but before I can walk away Cam grabs my wrist.  I try to yank free. 

            “Ryan, let’s talk about this somewhere else.” 

            “Is now bad for you?” I sneer.  “Don’t have enough time to come up with an excuse?” 

            “No!”  Cam is visibly frustrated.  “It’s not that.  I know it looks bad, but nothing was going on.  I swear.  I was talking about you with her—she asked about you.”

            “Why?” 

            “Because I said I had just started dating someone!  She has a boyfriend, okay?  We were weirdly close to one another because it’s so damn loud in here.  I’m here with coworkers.  I’m sorry I don’t keep you updated on every second of my life but it’s not like you told me you’d be here either.”  He looks me up and down.  “It looks like you’re the one trying to pick up dates tonight.”

            I laugh, meanly.  “Cam, I’m here because one of my best friends got dumped.  Sorry I don’t wear sweats to a bar.  I’m here to support a friend, so don’t turn this around on me.” 

            Resting his head in his palms, Cam looks defeated.  He mumbles something, but it’s too loud to understand him.  “What?”  I ask. 

            He lifts his head and looks at me.  “This is stupid.”

            “You’re telling me,” I retort. 

            “I wasn’t cheating on you, or trying to hit on Alyssa.  We’re friends, but that’s all.  She’s an airhead, Ry, and you know I only like smart girls.”  I can’t help but crack a smile at that.  “Look, I’m sick of arguing with you.  It’s happening a lot.  I thought we could trust one another now.”

            “I’m trying,” I tell him.  By now I’m sitting down again, but he’s still holding onto my wrist lightly.  “It’s hard.  And that looked really, really suspicious.  Your hand was practically on her ass.”

            “No it wasn’t!” Cam says defensively.  “I was trying to scoot her away from a wet spot on the floor.  Some chick had just wiped out on it a few seconds before.” 

            I sigh loudly and look around the bar.  I’ve lost sight of Kolby, but I see Marie still talking to the same guy.  They’ve left the dance floor but she’s smiling up at him, which I take as a good sign.  Seeing her smile makes me smile in turn, something that Cam picks up on immediately. 

            “Are we okay?”

            Shrugging, I look back at him.  “I don’t know.  Honestly, I think I need some time.” 

            I can see his Adam’s apple bob as he swallows.  “Okay.”  I stand up to leave and quickly kiss the side of his face, right on the cheek.  “Do you believe me?” he asks. 

            “I don’t know,” I say almost inaduably.  “Have a good night, okay?”

            As I walk away, I’m still not sure what’s happened.  Did we break up?  Are we on a break?  I’m no longer in the mood to drink, but I put a happy face on for Marie, who still is talking to the blond dude. 

            Kolby eyes me worriedly.  “You okay?” she asks.  I shrug. 

            “I’m ready to dance,” I tell her.  As the two of us make our way through clusters of people, I see Cam leave the bar, alone, out of the corner of my eye. 

            I’d be lying if I said the rest of the night was fun.  I dance with Kolby and even Marie joins us a little while later, without her mystery man.  We try to convince her to talk about him, but she refuses, saying it’s too soon to tell and waving her hand dismissively when we teased her.  She did, however, get his number, which surprised me.  Marie is sensible and would never talk to a guy she barely knows, but maybe this breakup shook her up a little.

            I know I’m shaken up.

            The three of us arrive at my apartment before 1 AM, a relatively early night for college students but for us post-grads, practically an all-nighter.  I let Kolby and Marie crash at my place and the two of them are asleep before I’m even in bed.  I sit awake for a while, sipping water to prevent a hangover I know I won’t have.  Of course, I’m thinking about Cam.

            This relationship, or whatever it is, has been sapping so much of my energy.  I’m starting to think that there’s no way we can be together because I just can’t trust him.  Was what he said tonight true?  I’ll never know, and the thought is driving me crazy.


            But, as my mom always says, sleeping makes for better decision-making, so I put on my rattiest old T-shirt from high school and fuzzy striped pants.  With all the thoughts spinning in my head I think it’ll take hours before I can fall asleep, but I pass out as soon as my head hits the pillow.