After working over sixty hours in one week, I'm burnt out by the halfway through the next week. On Wednesday morning, I wake up to the sound of pots and pans and laughter. Groggily, I sit up and instinctively check my phone. It reads 8:47. I gasp.
I also have a missed call and three texts. Some are from Abby, and the missed call is from my manager.
"Shit!" I yelp, and practically leap out of bed. The last time I slept through an alarm was in college.
I throw on a slightly wrinkled top and yesterday's pants, hoping a blazer and necklace will distract from my makeup-less face.
As I dash out of my room, I see Emma and DJ making breakfast. They both then and stare at me as I run around looking for my wallet.
"Where's the fire?" Emma asks lazily.
"I had to be at work two hours ago," I say, my voice nearing a wail.
"It's 9 AM," DJ says helpfully.
"Almost," I correct him. He raises his hands up in the classic "hey sorry" position. For some reason both of them are irritating me. "Have either of you seen my wallet?"
Emma points with a spatula. "Right here."
I grab it and practically run out the door, not saying another word to either of them.
When I get to the office, I realize I haven't put any deodorant on and there's a massive knot at the back of my head. I'll get some deodorant on my lunch break, I think.
Everyone is seated in a circle when I walk inside. My stomach drops. I missed a whole meeting?
Slowly, I make my way over to where Abby sits, trying to be inconspicuous. Of course, Kent, my boss, spots me right away.
"Ryan," he says crisply. I wince, just a little. I can feel my sweat under my arms and feel a combination of disgust and fear.
"We were just welcoming our new assistant, Hayley." He tilts his head to a blonde with perfect eyebrows. She looks to be fresh out of college.
"Hi," I say, trying to look awake and not like I'm two hours late. Hayley smiles back.
Kent has snuck up on me somehow and he's standing right next to me. Startled, I look up at him, sure he's going to reprimand me. "That means no more answering phone calls for you," he tells me.
"That's great," I say, still nervous. "That way I can really focus on my job."
Kent nods, looking thoughtful. "Yes, last week was stressful, wasn't it? You handled it quite well."
I flush a little. "Thank you."
"I could see everyone starting to burn out a little, though." I nod. The meeting seems to be over; everyone is returning to their desks, and I debate asking what happened this morning. I decide not to. If something vital happened, Kent will tell me. "Don't worry, Ryan. You can come in at your regular time now." Damn. Of course he'd noticed that I was late this morning. I'm even more embarrassed.
"I never sleep through my alarm," I say in a low voice. "It won't happen again."
"Oh, I know," Kent says idly. "I wasn't reprimanding you. All of my employees need plenty of sleep!" He smiles. "However, Ryan, there will be some changes. As I discussed this morning, I only hired one assistant instead of the two that we lost. That means that not only will Hayley be doing the work of two people, but that everyone else will have to pick up on some of that work as well."
I swallow. "I understand. So... What will I be doing in addition?"
"I haven't decided yet, but you in particular were excellent with the spread sheets. Speedy and accurate. I'll be sending you more of that kind of work and we'll see how you do. At the end of the week, come to my office and we'll talk about your progress."
And with that, our little chat is over. I don't know how to react. I'm exhausted and the thought that I have to do more work even after an assistant has been hired is hugely disappointing. For the rest of the day I work mostly on spreadsheets and answering emails-- almost no time writing or following trends, which is the kind of work I love. By the end of the day I'm in a daze.
I'm so lost in my own thoughts that I don't even realize Emma is still there when I get back to the apartment.
"Hi," she says when she sees me. "Long day at work?"
"Considering I was two hours late and it's six now, yeah, I'm pretty tired," I reply. I don't mean to be snappy but I can hear how rude it sounds. I try to remedy it. "How are you?"
Emma shrugs. "Same old, same old."
What does that mean? I want to ask. We haven't seen each other in weeks.
"Well, do you work tonight? I could really use a movie night."
Emma shakes her head. "DJ and I are going to dinner."
I can't stop what comes out next. "So does he live here now or what?"
Emma raises her eyebrows. "Excuse me?"
I shake my head. "Em, I'm sorry. That came out wrong. I'm having a horrible week and I just feel like I haven't seen you in forever. I didn't mean it like that."
"How did you mean it, then?" She asks. "We work different schedules, Ryan. It's not my fault I'm busier now that I have DJ."
"I know," I tell her. "I just miss you."
"Well how do you think I felt when you were with Cam?" Emma challenges me. I'm stumped for a moment. Had I acted how she's acting now? "Besides, you're the one that wanted me to give DJ a chance, and now that we're together, you're suddenly jealous?"
"I'm not jealous!" I burst. "That's not it at all. I just miss you. We don't know anything about each other's lives. I never see you. When I was with Cam, we still saw each other. We still talked. Now it feels like I live alone! You don't even know that I've been on a few dates with a new guy."
Emma shakes her head. "It's always about you," she says quietly. "When have you asked about DJ and I? Do you even know his last name?"
I don't, but I do know that she's been ignoring me. "It's not like you're ever around so I can ask about him," I say.
"Sorry that I have a life and I'm happy." She picks up her phone, which is lit up and making noise. "I have to go."
"Emma," I say desperately. "I want you to be happy. But I also miss you and want us to be able to talk, and hang out, and see each other for more than two minutes every couple days. That's all."
She doesn't say anything, and in a few seconds is gone, the door closing loudly behind her. I stand, looking at where she was just moments before, not sure what just happened. Have I really been a terrible friend all these weeks?