“How was your week off?” David asked.
“Fine,” I nodded. “I moved.”
David’s brows lifted a fraction. “Did you?” I nodded again. “Must have been an eventful week.”
I shrugged. “Yeah. In many ways.”
“Okay, well, let’s get down to business,” he said.
In that exact moment I gulped a huge lump and in my head I had to remind myself over and over again not to suck up. I don’t think I’d ever been in this type of position before because I saw all of my old bosses as friends of mine as well as authoritarians. Now, there was no excuse. David isn’t my friend, he’s my boss; I’m his assistant, the people I work with are my colleagues (even though some have become friends), and Brad is a client. Sitting here, in the firing line of David’s gaze, I had to come to terms with the fact that I was still possibly as naïve as ever, and in the real world, that isn’t exactly an endearing quality.
“Okay,” I said.
He sighed, intertwining his fingers and placing the lock on his desk. “Brad has taken on the entire responsibility for his actions.”
I furrowed my brows. His actions? What about my actions? “Okay…” I replied stiffly, waiting for him to go on.
“He’s apologised. But since he still has a contract with us he still remains our client. One of our top clients, actually. However, you are to be taken off overseeing business related to Brad. Stella will be taking over from now on.”
I somehow managed to internalise a dark grumble. “Okay.”
“I spoke with HR, they reviewed your records, as well as my own, and together we’ve come to the conclusion to put you on a three month probation period. You don’t deserve to be kicked off, but it’s up to you to remain here and be a part of this company so long as you follow our example. Is that clear?”
He tilted his head and breathed a sigh of agitation. “You look confused.”
“No, I’m not. I’m just…thinking.”
“Your words. I didn’t think Brad did anything wrong.” I meant it in the company’s eyes.
“He thinks he did. In fact, he wants to apologise to you.”
I scoffed. “Apologise to me?” What!?
“I think it’s quite big of him. When you give him the time of day, please let it be in a public place.”
“Shouldn’t I be staying away from him?” I didn’t need to ask, I already knew I should, but to hear David make it seem like it was fine to talk to him took me by surprise.
“Legally, I can’t say; personally, I think you should. Anyone can say sorry through text, email or phone.” I leaned back in my armchair. David blinked, eyeing the door.
“Oh—” I straightened up— “are we finished?”
“Indeed, we are. Do you need to be shown out?”
“Thanks,” I tightened my lips together once the word escaped.
“And Anna?” I stopped at the doorway and turned around. “I’ve told Brad to keep quiet about this to avoid a media disaster, but I’m not his PR manager. If word gets out, about an office canoodling of sorts, I can’t protect you any farther than this.”
I was deflated when I got back to my cubicle. With the way Brad was taking up most of the blame, I had a good feeling that this wouldn’t ruin my career. Though why Brad would even have a semblance of guilt is beyond me. Maybe it wasn’t guilt, but I couldn’t think of anything else to describe his current actions. Why was he doing this? You know what, I’m done asking questions. I was inquisitive before and look where that got me.
“You look like you could use a drink,” Noelle said when she returned to her cubicle, dropping a stack of papers before coming around mine and leaning back on my desk.
“Does it look that obvious?”
“You look like you’re trying to solve a rubix cube under thirty seconds, so yes, it does, yes,” she nodded, smiling.
I huffed a little laugh. “So strange,” I shook my head. “I was expecting more.”
“More of what? A verbal bashing. Count your lucky stars. You dodged a fucking bullet.”
“I wasn’t expecting Brad to defend me.” If that’s what it was.
Noelle shrugged. “Why not?”
I scrunched my face as I looked up at her. “I feel like I’m in the fucking Twilight Zone here.”
Noelle laughed in her palms. “Were you even old enough to know what that show was?”
I laughed with her, shaking my head. “Ugh, this is just too weird.”
As Noelle rambled on about how lucky I was, I decided a formidable action towards my career. I’m going to look for another job. Daniel was supportive of me to do so, and I still had my job here so I knew I could find another while still paying the bills. I’d grown comfortable here, but comfortability can often be misrepresented as stable. I was complacent, I was too comfortable, and I needed to leave.
“…so I gave him your number and—”
“Huh?” I looked up at Noelle, catching on the thread of those last words sounding as if they were coming into a close for her speech. “You gave who my number?” I’d changed it many times.
“Brad,” Noelle shrugged, looking at me like it was obvious. “He wants to apologise to you. That’s commendable if you ask me.”
“No one asked you. What are you doing?” I groaned, swivelling around to place my hands atop my desk and my forehead over.
“Well, I just thought…well, he was asking. What was I supposed to do?”
“You say no, Noelle,” I muffled. “It’s not your number to just give out.”
“I—I can’t really hear you right now, but I’m guessing your mad.”
Sherlock Holmes, everybody! If I had any sense in me, I’d disinvite her from our house-warming party right now.
Thankfully, I hadn’t seen Brad the entire work day. After scolding Noelle (not too much because she was still coming to the party and I didn’t want it to be awkward) I machined my way through work and answered to David’s every call with as little question as possible. You know that scene where Phoebe said, ‘I’ve awoken the beast’? That’s what I was afraid of doing. Even though I’d made the decision to leave the company, I still wanted to leave on a good note. On a great note. I want to leave having David and associates desperate for me to stay. Can I manage that for three months?
Well, anyway, when I finished work, that’s when Brad texted me. ‘Hey, it’s me Brad. Can we talk?’
The point of ignoring someone is to not give them the time of day, but I fought every urge to refuse. I faced a conundrum: how do I let him know that I didn’t want to see him, if I was adamant not to speak to him? I mean, I didn’t want to disrespect Daniel more so than I already have. So I just left it, and didn’t answer. Soon after, I forgot about the text.
Good news is, Chloe is here! Yup, through all of the drama I let her know that Daniel and I moved in together and we’re having a party. She hopped on a plane and came down instantly. Right now, she’s helping set up the place so if it weren’t for her, I don’t think Daniel and I would have a nice-looking place to party in. When I got home, she was setting up snacks and drinks with Paul and Johnny. Johnny was going to help out as the makeshift bartender (which I totally appreciated and hugged him and let him know that I appreciated his help) and Paul helped with the party aspect. He stocked the music and the fun.
Before I knew it, the sun was setting and people began to foil in. Paul, the sweet talker himself, jumped in whenever he noticed I was getting awkward and trying to entertain people. I used to be such a party girl, how am I awkward all of a sudden?
I also asked Daniel to invite most of his friends so I could get to know them better. It had never been such a hugely, important, deal-breaker moment in our relationship that I didn’t know much about his friends, but I was curious. I felt more a part of his life that way.
Among his bros were Steve and Tony; Tony was extremely burly and Steve got pretty tipsy within the first few seconds. I started to wonder how many times Steve influenced or encouraged Daniel’s drinking. Is that rude of me? To think that it was a force other than Daniel himself for him to develop an almost-habit with drinking? Shelly was this hot girl with long, silver, fishtail, braided hair, and a tan that looked like she was out of an L.A catalogue than New York. She was obsessed with taking selfies and instragramming it and every time she laughed all the guys looked at her lean over and lean back. Yes, I know. I realise this may be construed as a double standard: I’m getting jealous that this extremely beautiful girl was getting along seamlessly with my boyfriend. How clichéd, too. Don’t worry, I’m pushing through. I am pushing through.
“So how did you guys meet?” Shelly asked once she acknowledged me for the first time.
“Well, we met at UCLA,” I said.
“She, of course, didn’t like at me first,” Daniel smiled, wine in hand.
“Don’t be silly,” Shelly laughed, smacking Daniel on his shoulder, “who doesn’t love you?”
I looked down to clear my throat, maintaining a smile before speaking. “Yeah, well, we were both in the same class together—”
“—we both wanted to be writers-slash-editors—”
“—we worked on a project together and then—”
“—nature took its course,” Daniel smiled, lowering his head to kiss me.
Steve made a whipping noise, and nearly drunkenly stumbled by the force of his one arm motion, while Shelly aw-ed. “But aren’t you in finance?” Shelly asked Daniel.
“So you spend this whole time working at your passion and then you just gave it up?”
Daniel nodded. “Yeah, well, I had to take care of my mother.”
“But, didn’t she die?” Shelly pressed.
“Umm…” I was about to slay this bitch. And I don’t mean Beyoncé slay, I mean Jack the Ripper slay!
Daniel chuckled. “Uhh…”
“I mean, no disrespect or anything.” What a disclaimer to throw in after the disrespect!
“No, no, no,” Daniel quickly said, shaking his head, “it’s fine. Umm, yeah, she passed away.”
“So, you never went back to your passions?”
Daniel looked at me, squeezing my waist to calm me and make me peer up at him. “I always went back to my passion. I never strayed.”
I blushed, smiling a dopey, happy smile before Shelly broke through with a high-pitched giggle. “Oh,” then she stopped abruptly, “I don’t get it.”
Daniel and I laughed. I nearly excused us but someone called Shelly’s name and waved her over, saving me from having to politely shuffle away from the conversation like a sideways crab.
The night went on pretty well. We partied until everyone left, between 1AM and 2AM, and even then Chloe and Paul and Johnny (who from the beginning till the end of the party stuck by the drinks and made everyone tasty rocks, and now I feel compelled to pay him because he totally was invited to work not make everyone drinks) stayed back and helped us clean up. Johnny, of course, cleaned up all the bottles, glasses and cups, Paul cleaned up the entire apartment, leaving the sound system for him to come and pick it up another time. When he can be bothered, he said. And Chloe, well, I had some down time on the mini couch on the fire escape with her before we went into housewife-cleaning mode (the 1950s type not the 21st century type).
“Thanks for coming here,” I told her. “It really means a lot.”
“Of course! You guys always come and visit us.”
I sighed, tired. “It’s been crazy here.”
“I know,” she nodded slowly.
“What is it?” I angled my head to the side, awaiting the onslaught. “Are you judging me?
“Nope,” she smiled, shaking her head in the same slow rhythm. “Not at all. We all make mistakes.”
I looked down, unconvinced by her definition of a mistake. “Yeah…” A lot of things are called ‘mistakes’ nowadays and people can blame their naivety on being too young. But whatever constitutes a mistake, I don’t think it includes allowing a random to kiss you while you have a boyfriend.
“Either way, you guys are still strong together.” She took my hand into hers. “I don’t believe anything can break either of you. You’ve both been through so much and here you are, moved in together, with your own apartment, a place in one of the biggest and best cities in the world. You’re living the dream.”
I smiled. “Yeah, despite all the downs I am pretty happy.”
“All that’s missing is for you and Daniel to move back to California.”
I laughed with her, resting my head over her shoulder. “Maybe one day.”
“How’d you think the party went?” I asked Daniel.
After the last few left (Chloe was staying in a hotel) I dressed down into my Peter Alexander pyjamas and hopped up on our kitchen island with an ice-cold cup of water next to me. The apartment dimly lit, with rain shadowing the rooms as they streamed down the window panes.
“I think it went well. You?” He was still cleaning up, or rearranging things, moving from one side to the other.
“Pretty good. Although that Shelly was kind of a bitch.”
Daniel laughed. “She isn’t so bad.”
“Yeah, maybe when she’s drunk.”
“Naww, she’s just in your face, I guess.”
“That’s always been an endearing quality,” I joked.
“True,” Daniel nodded in agreement. “So, you like my people?”
I smiled. “I like your people.”
“Good,” he nodded. “They passed the test.”
I looked down and chortled. “So, umm, what she said about giving up your passions…”
“Mm-hmm?” he had books in either hand, assessing each one from cover to blurb.
I lifted one leg up on the bench and let my other hang. “I never asked if you were, you know, okay.”
He looked up, his face perplexed and his lips smacked when he let them go. “’Okay’?”
I nodded and shrugged. “Yeah, you know. Giving up a passion, I mean, most people aren’t even lucky enough to know their passions, but you knew it and had to give it up. I can’t imagine how much it must’ve hurt.”
He shrugged. “It’s okay. No use in going back to it now.”
“Well, you can. You can always do anything you want, you know that, right? I support you in whatever you choose, just like you support me in leaving this job.”
Daniel smiled. “We can be two old crippling novelists.”
I half-smiled at his joke. “Yeah…”
“Hey, look,” he moved closer, setting the books down on the island, “I meant it when I said you are my passion, too. I didn’t just say it for my sake.” He stroked my cheek. “I really did mean it.” He planted a soft kiss, two, and three on my lips. Lowering his head and kissing my chest.
A combed my fingers through his thick hair at the back. “That was so sweet of you.”
“I’m a sweet kind of guy,” he whispered, smiling. “The kind that’ll give you a tooth ache?”
I shook my head. “Never.”
“Okay, just checking.” He kissed me once more before moving into our bedroom.
I just love saying that. Our bedroom, our kitchen, our apartment. I don’t think I’ll ever get enough of that.
He carried a stack of books in one hand coming back. “Hey, will you hold something for me?”
“Yeah, sure.” He handed me a dark, velvet box and turned away. I was fixated on the box and didn’t realise he had set the books down on the coffee table and came back to stand before me. I looked up. “Is this what I think it is?”
He nodded, grinning. “It is.” Even though this had played out many times, my heart still raced as if it were the first. At least, in some way, this truly was the first. “Open it.”
The box creaked open and set into place and a diamond ring with a platinum band exposed itself. It took my breath away. “Oh, wow.”
“I was going to propose in front of everyone but I realised half-way that I didn’t want to turn our proposal into a spectacle. I want it to just be me and you.”
“That’s…incredible.” I couldn’t find a better word to describe this moment.
He moved closer, in between my legs, now both hanging off the island. “I want to tell you, Anna…” I looked up. He continued, gazing into my eyes. “I want to tell you that I can’t promise you a life where we don’t fight, where on days it’ll seem like we hate each other, where we’re upset or disappointed. I can’t promise you that we won’t go through some hard times and it’s perhaps inevitable. But I can promise you this: I love you. That I have always loved you and I will always love you. I’m not going to treat you like a Queen, or a Princess; I’m going to treat you like the real, beautiful, sexy, good-hearted woman that you are because that’s who I’ve fallen in love with. No, wait, don’t cry,” he smiled, stroking a thumb underneath the teardrop that escaped my eye, “just let me get through this.”
I nodded and giggled a little. “Sorry.”
He chuckled with me. “It’s okay.” He then cleared his throat. “I love you, Anna. I’ve known it since the day you drunkenly stumbled into my place and I made you eggs for breakfast—” we laughed at the memory— “that I’ve wanted to spend the rest of my life with you. Will you marry me and do me the honour of becoming my wife?”
I nodded, pushing the tears and sniffing. “Yes! Yes, I will.”
He burst into a kissing-fest all over my face before landing on my lips. He took out the ring in the box and slipped it onto my finger. Sighing he said, “Wow, you don’t even know how long I’ve wanted to do that.”
I pulled him into a tight hug. A hug that I didn’t think was tight enough so I wrapped my legs around his waist and squeezed. Even when he pulled back, I didn’t let my legs unravel.
“I can’t wait for what comes next,” I said.
He stared at me. “Yeah. Me neither.”
I let him go and hopped off the kitchen table. “My ass is hurting,” I began rubbing.
“I can fix that for you,” Daniel laughed.
I laughed with him. “Were you nervous? This whole time?” That must’ve been what was bothering him and why he was acting weird.
“No, not at all.” He leaned over and grabbed my cup of water to drink.
He chortled. “You seem disappointed.”
“No, of course not. It’s just, I thought that’s why you were acting a bit…funny.”
He stepped back, returning to the books on the coffee table. “No, not at all.”
“Daniel,” I breathed in, “do I know everything I need to know?”
He froze, staring out the window. Then he looked down and propped the books back on the coffee table. “Some things are better left unsaid.”
My heart thudded a beat out of its rhythm. I stepped closer. “Not to put a dent on this night—which has been nothing short of incredible, I might add—but if we’re going to spend our lives together, I need you to trust me.”
“It’s not about trust.”
“Then what is it?” I asked, softly.
“It’s about…protecting you. I don’t want to worry you.”
“Whatever it is, I can take it. I want to be here for you, Daniel. Let me be a part of whatever it is you are a part of.”
“I’m not sure you’d want to be,” he looked down, laughing.
I lifted his chin up with my finger, forcing him to look at me. “’Through all the hardships’,” I lifted a brow.
He smiled. “Okay.” He sucked in a deep breath of air and walked away. I thought the conversation was left in the air and was confused at first, but then he came back, with his duffel bag, and set it down on the floor. “Okay,” he breathed in and out again, shaking his hands as if he were warming up to go for a run, “lately, I haven’t exactly been going to the gym…”
***If you’ve come this far then you’ve made it to the end. Thank you guys so much for reading, I hope you enjoyed the blog and….OF COURSE I’m joking lol! No, I’m definitely not ending the blog here or so soon, there’s still a lot more story. Although, I must let everyone know that I’m going to take a little break from writing this particular scheduled blog (meaning all other blogs are still open for me to write whenever). The break will last from anywhere between three weeks and two months. It’s important for me to divert my creative juices and reserve them for my story so I hope you can all understand. Don’t worry, I’ll let you know what the deal is with Daniel when I come back, unless you’ve figured out already, especially when I’ve been dropping hints in previous posts 😉 ! Well, there’s not much left to do except say see you soon! Soul xo!***