“So are we going to talk about what’s going on or are we going to let it slide for a while?” I asked.
Daniel peered up from making his soup. His gaze riddled with lines of concentration, and confusion. “What’s going on?”
I scoffed. “Umm, the whole promotion and the fact that it could move you.”
“Oh,” Daniel replied, unfazed. “What’s your question?”
I paused for a moment. “Are you seriously considering this offer?”
Daniel nodded, his lips tight. “Yeah.”
“I guess I can’t exactly tell you to not take the promotion. That would be bad girlfriend 101, wouldn’t it?”
Daniel shrugged. “No harm in asking.”
“Maybe not now, but in the long run, it could be cause for resentment.” Plus I shouldn’t even have to ask. We’re supposed to be living in New York together!
“Your chest is going red,” Daniel pointed.
I dropped my head and found a pool of anger coating my skin. I couldn’t contain it, it was just too hard at this point.
“Take a guess, Daniel.”
Daniel chuckled. “So you’re mad at me?”
“Well,” I hesitated, “I can’t explain what you’re doing. I can’t find reason in it; and I’m trying to understand it, but I just can’t.”
Daniel laughed even more. I could practically feel my blood vessels pop at the reaction. I don’t think he’s ever infuriated me more than in this very moment.
“Let’s just have a good time Anna. We’ll come back to it when we need to.”
I gasped. “What are you talking about? This time is when we need to!”
My voice rose prominently and vehemently too much for it to be just a casual conversation between partners in crime. Luckily for us (for me, mostly) the whole family was out and Daniel and I were cooking dinner on our last night to show appreciation of their hospitality. Dinner was the most we could think of in return; if there was ever a next time, at least then I’d be more prepared.
Daniel stared at me, not with impatience but with calm, almost apologetic, eyes. He stopped making his winning soup and pulled me in at the waist. I tried to fight him off but all my limp efforts just ended up with my back facing him and Daniel cradling me from behind. I say ‘tried’ but in all honesty, my hands were arguably pulling back once the thought of Daniel holding me entered my mind.
“Look,” Daniel started, speaking into my neck, “nothing is definite just yet. Don’t even worry about it.”
“Why are you doing this Daniel?”
“How can you think I’m so flexible?”
He lowered his warm hand and kissed me on the neck. “You are flexible, baby.”
I sighed, anger regaining its strength. I grasped his hand before he could enter me and coldly nudged it away. Then I turned around. “Why won’t you talk about this?”
“Because I don’t want to right now, okay. It’s such a downer of a topic and I don’t want it to put a damper into our whole vacation.”
“I’m about to be uprooted, Daniel,” I explained, my voice lowering to a simmer. “I’m about to move my whole life out of California and relocate to New York. Leave my friends, practically my family too. I won’t be able to visit them as often. Get a job in a place I’ve never lived in before. You said so yourself that Will was pleased with my interview rounds. Not only would it look bad if I backed out now, but I’m doing this all for you. Doesn’t that mean anything?”
Daniel chuckled, humourlessly. The rigid sputters of breath left as coldly as they had entered. “Are you trying to make me regret ever asking you to move in with me?”
I tilted my head when he turned his back on me. Back to the soup. His loser soup dish!
“This promotion means a lot to you, doesn’t it?” I was met with a silence but that was response enough. “Does it mean more to you than us?”
Daniel turned his head to the right, revealing his profile. “Are you really going to make me choose?”
“Yeah,” I crossed my arms, leaning against the kitchen island, “kind of like how I chose between California and New York.”
Daniel turned around and leaned against the bench in front of me facing my way. His shoulders were low, uncommon for such a usually confident man. “I don’t want to make this trip bad. I want to make the best of this. The best of us. I want us to stop fighting.”
I sighed and uncrossed my arms. I slowly walked over and half-fitted in between his legs. “I don’t want my heart broken again Daniel,” I whispered.
With his thumb, Daniel stroked my cheek. “I won’t, trust me on this.”
“I don’t know what this is that I should be trusting you on. It’s driving me insane.”
“All for understandably good reasons.”
“Then you understand my position.”
Daniel nodded. “I do.”
“Tell me what’s going on.”
Daniel sighed, I could tell he was finally letting me in and I wondered why it was so hard for him in the first place. “I’m trying my best to land the promotion and remain in New York. The thing is though, is that my employers don’t want to hear about a financial analyst that isn’t flexible. They’re counting on me, which is partially the reason why they sent me to Chicago.”
I furrowed my brows. “Isn’t flexible?”
“They want to feel like they can put me anywhere and I’ll work like a machine.” He paused. “Trying to land the promotion and remain in New York could possibly ruin any chances for me having a career in the industry. Richard was a lot easier. He was more malleable than me. The higher he got though, the more the pole stuck out until he was finally stuck into his own ways. They need to continue seeing me as Richard for me to be there. For me to stay there.”
I wasn’t realising until he finished, that I was slightly shaking my head from side to side. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. If this was true, then we have bigger problems than relocation.
“Don’t lose sight of yourself, Daniel.” Daniel laughed it off and then turned his head away. I grabbed his chin and forced his gaze back on me. And yes, unnecessary pressure was applied. “Sorry. Look, the more you talk, the more I’m hearing you trying to be more like your father. And last time I checked, he ain’t that great of a man.”
“Anna…” he whined.
“No, don’t ‘Anna’ me,” I said. “This isn’t right. You don’t have to ride off of the name of your father anymore, Daniel. You’re better than that. Regardless, you’re always going to have the company, or any company you work for, bending at their knees.”
Daniel smiled, this time genuinely. The corners of which reaching the eyes. “So what do you think I should do?”
“You really want this promotion, don’t you?”
“It’s a promotion. Anyone would kill for a promotion.”
“But why would even go after a promotion when you knew we were moving in together?”
Daniel angled his head down and placed his hands on my hips. “This was when we were broken up. I was working like a machine, and they very much enjoyed that. It was the perfect distraction turned into an opportunity.”
I shrugged. “I can’t make the decision for you, Daniel. Just don’t go breaking my heart again, because I don’t think I can survive another jab.”
Daniel’s eyes slanted in pain. He leaned in for kiss, at which moment I peeled away and returned to my side of the dinner. I didn’t hear any movement from behind me until he shuffled over and wrapped his arms around me.
“I love you, Anna.”
“Yeah,” I said. “I know.”