The Conference Room
Sunday finds me at Dauntless wearing a simple skirt and a warm and soft bluse, watching as the streetlights far below are turning on magically and the conference room slowly falls into darkness even though it is only half past four in the afternoon. I sigh softly, a hand going through my unbound hair and a certain feeling settles in my bones I am not up to understand or reflect on.
After the incident in the elevator on Thursday I couldn't find the strength to go back to work on Friday. Without contemplating it or argueing with myself, I just send off my mail explaining that a sudden cold keeps me at home but I will mail the finished documents asap, of course. I don't get an answer, just like I thought I wouldn't and some part of me is grateful to not be confronted by anything that has to do with my boss.
A few minutes after I pressed the send button I was feeling disappointment – not because he overstepped the limits I clearly put down for him but especially me to see and not because I let him take advantage of my emotional state but because even though I am as professional as I can be I let my emotions get in the way. I thought about apologizing in the mail but decided against it – maybe I shouldn't have said those things to him because he is my boss, but I had every right as a female feeling mistreated by a man.
For a moment I was unsure if that decision, staying at home and away from the confrontation not verbally but physically was wrong. Some part of me called me coward, another part was relieved to be not in a situation again that took too much out of me at the moment and the other part wanted to just rush to work and pretend like nothing at all happened. This last part was slowly winning and I found myself searching for my coat. But before I could wholeheartedly decide on it, my phone vibrated and I found a one sentence message from Peter: "I think it is the right decision". To that I smiled lovingly and took my time, endulging myself with a hot bath, chocolate and reading books that aren't in any way work related and have nothing to do with furthering my education to meet the high expectations of anyone.
On Saturday though I found myself with a guilty consciousness, dealt the number of the catering service and ordered the menue we would need for our Christmas party a short five days away. I apologized profundly to the elderly woman on the other side of the phone, explaining the situation with false facts and she chuckled softly and told me not to worry. Everything would be on time and she thanked me that we still worked with them after everything that had happened in the five months prior. I smiled softly and ended the talk, of course after I reassured her that there is nothing to thank for though we both know that there really is.
I still remember visiting their service with Eric in the middle of hot July after leaving a conference. Their small shop had a homey quality to it, cliche white lace doilies, old jars and marmelade that smelled heavenly on display. I saw my boss frown at the sheer sweetness of the place and smiled softly because he was so out of place in all the creamy and pastel colours in his black professional suite. I guess I didn't look to different, dressing business like myself, but being a female my soft curves took the bite and hard edge out of it.
Back then we weren't really searching for a new catering service because the old one was good as it was – at least that was what Eric thought. I didn't tell him that dealing with the waiters our catering service employed and insisted on sending were unbelievable hard to deal with because they thought they were above the orders of a mere secretary – head secretary or not. Their snobbish dealing with me pointing out details I wanted them to take care of, with pointing out mistakes they made was grating on my nerves but I would never bother my boss with something as this. Like I decided back when I met Peter for the first time and his more or less asshole side I would deal with these things on my own and though still exhausting I found a way of dealing with them. I wanted to point out to the lady that greeted us that we were just looking for directions and maybe a cool drink against the hot sun burning from the sky but Eric's posture stopped me and instead a short stop turned into an impromptu business meeting to see if this probably small service could deal with our high expectations.
I wasn't sure what Eric had in mind but played along, though I was a bit concernd that the soft spoken middle aged woman with a few grey strands in her hair was far too sweet and caring, to ready to bent to any wish thrown her way to really be a successful business woman. Maybe the warm atmosphere and her overjoyed greeting had me judging so badly even though I prided myself with being a good judge of character and the reliability of clients and the companys we dealt with in the past, present and future. Because when it came down to the business part of our meeting, speaking about conditions and so on, she was all professional, meeting my questions and inquiries head on, earning not only mine but my boss' respect as well.
We came to an agreement easily enough and after drawing up the papers and the first time calling their service Eric and I couldn't have been more convinced that it was the right decision to choose them. Our interaction with one another was uneventful for the most part, we fullfilled our side of the contract as did the catering service though some questionable slip ups started to appear one month into our cooperation.
Eric isn't the boss of a security company like Dauntless for nothing and even though I only worked for him for one and a half year then I knew that he was suspicious at least a bit when he saw the suddenly high calculation for the catering we bought. I checked the contracts a few time, the calculations itself believing in a mistake in their system and not the greedy avarice of the sweet woman we met in the shop. When I told Eric about my strong belief that I don't think that she would go behind our backs like this he just shrugged it off and gave his consent to pay the bill.
Later on I found out that he personally drove to the small service, talked with the woman and her husband, took care that said husband was put to jail and the woman had her life back. As it seemed her husband was the kind of man that couldn't be content with the things he had and took great measures to achieve what wasn't his right by any means going so far as to abuse his wife and the good business relationships she tried to maintain even though he did everything to make their clients angry.
My boss never talked about it to me and when I mentioned it once he brushed it off like nothing. I on the other hand kept the new knowledge about his hidden but nonetheless caring character with me, thanked him silently for helping the woman in distress, suffering in silence and never talked about it again. He is a too proud man to let anyone acknowledge his softer side, I think while I watch the now soft snow falling down through the conference room windows, a small smile on my lips.
I sigh tiredly but with a warm feeling around my heart. I guess even though everything happened the way it did I still can appreciate the many good sides I see in him and the care and passion he at least showed me while he slept with me. The anger from Thursday is gone, was gone the moment we left the elevator really but my decision still stands, evolved into something else and will come in handy when the Christmas party would take place.
Humming to myself and adding the last small, silly and frilly details to the table I check with a critical eye the color scheme and name plates before I turn around. My breath hitches when I see my boss standing in the doorway, arms crossed over his broad chest. For a stupid second I am ashamed that he sees me in anything else than my usual formal business attire but the thought is so fleeting that I nearly chuckle at my own ingrained behavior. He saw me in less and definetly more revealing things already and it seems like a small thing to worry about all of the sudden. Especially when I take his clothes in. A dark jeans that sits loosly on his narrow waist, a black formfitting shirt and a normal jacket over it. Something about it makes him more approachable then he ever was before.
"Tris." He says and nods in my direction and I smile slightly, not thinking about my heart beating fast or my hands feeling clammy a bit.
"Hello Eric. I wasn't aware you would be here today." I say and am glad that no accusation enters my voice and the statement sounds as simple as it is meant to. He shruggs and takes a few steps into my direction, his eyes a bit uncomfortable on my form, taking in my make-up free face, the messy braid and the sensual clothes I choose for the simple task of decorating the conference room.
"I had to get a few documents for a future meeting." He simply answers, not stopping in his advance on me. I don't take a step back when he is nearly infront of me and I meet his eyes even though I feel their smoldering quality without looking into them.
"I see." I say, my voice breaking a bit and my breath becoming a bit faster. I should feel ashamed to show him what exactly his presence does to me, but I don't. I don't think reacting to a man like him, especially when I am so deeply in love with him, is any show of weakness or being too soft hearted. I accept it – my reactions and my feelings – and something about that makes me feel better already, lighter.
"I see you are better again." Eric suddenly says, his eyes taking in my normally flushed face and I bite my lip and avoid his gaze for a moment.
"I do. Thank you." I answer him, a small guilty smile on my lips and meet his eyes again. He nods and I take it as my queue to distance myself a bit from him even though my body and a not really small part of my heart want to take a step forward and feel him. I probably should feel weak about that as well, but I don't. I am far too aware of my needs and feelings for that. Turning around I go back to the table rearranging the plates even though there is no need for it. Silence stretches between us and even though I never minded before on the long business travels we took together or we worked in in the last two years it doesn't seem right now. I can't really understand why because as far as I am concerned there is not much what I could say and telling him about my so obvious feelings and my wishes doesn't seem like the right thing to do anyway.
"What documents are you looking for anyway?" I ask him, back still turned to him. Of course I am aware of him approaching me and the logical part of my brain tells me keep the distance, to not let him get his way, but my flesh is weak and my heart beating wild. A rueful smile at my own traitorous behaviour crosses my face before it is replaced with heat overcoming my features when he stands close behind me, his scent enveloping me and him. Eric starts to pull my skirt up, the soft and warm material gliding over my legs until he bunches it at my hips together, pressing me back against him. For a short moment I am reminded of the first time we were together, out of the blue and one of his moods. But for some reason this is completely different. I don't tremble in fear and anticipation, I am not surprised or cluesless what his actions are about. Instead I am numb for a few seconds when his right hand leaves the fabric of my skirt and starts to softly touch the sensual knickers I wear, the dark fabric a stark contrast against my pale skin.
"Eric, please..." I say and am surprised that these two words aren't whispered like I fear they would be. Instead of reacting to it, distancing himself from me, I feel him lean down, his lips suddenly at my ear and hear a soft sigh when one of his fingers glides under my underwear. I close my eyes in lust and wonder, but there is also a small voice that tells me to stop it before it really can start. I am not surprised that I am wet for him, that my abdomen clenches in need for his touches and my nipples harden against the fabric of my bluse. I close my eyes, bite my lip for a second and come to the decision that I can't let him do this anymore. Before I can speak up though his deep voice tickles my ear and I listen intently because there is just something behind the vibrating sentences, the smooth surface of his statement that shows me just how vunerable he is right now. And suddenly I realise that maybe he isn't as emotionally distanced as he wants me to believe.
"I know you can't do it, Tris. You are far too proud, to good for that. And I accept it. So please, let me have this last moment and I will never bother you again." I don't need to see his eyes to know that he is honest. And when he can be like this, I can be as well. At least infront of me. I can't take him up on his offer because it never would be enough. And even though he has too many mistakes too count, too many things that would drive away any self-respecting woman, it never will do the same for me. And besides this emotional descrepancy in our relationship I am also aware that maybe he would try if he would see a chance that something would change. A small painful smile pulls at my mouth before it turns into just a warm smile, a honest smile and I place my hands above his, carefully pushing them away without force.
Eric doesn't resist and I think he accepts what he thinks is a rejection of his wish. I don't let him think so too long, though, turn around and meet his eyes. The grey is dark with lust but also with something else then the unyielding quality they held when he told me what he would be ready to give on a Saturday evening in his car.
I hold his eyes why I open my bluse, revealing my skin, my missing bra. I pull it out of my skirt and softly brush it away from my shoulders, breathing softly through my mouth until it lays at my feet. In a random gesture I slip out of my boots, my socks leaving my feet with it. When I start to pull at the zipper of my skirt I see him move slightly but shake my head and he stays still. I will give him this moment but not the control of this situation.
When the last of my clothes are gone, I start to approach him, let his eyes roam my body like they did before. There is something different though. His eyes stay longer on certain aspects of my body – not on my breasts or any place that is too much connected to sex – but on the ravens on my collarbone, the scar on my hip, the birthmark on my ribcage and I know without asking that he wants to keep these small imperfections as a memory. My heart flutters and I let it because this thought has nothing to do with my wishes but with the reality I see more clear then I did before today.
I take my time brushing away his jacket and placing it on a stool next to us, he holds up his arms and I strain my feet to reach far enough up to free him of his shirt. A short blush clouds my cheeks and I nearly think he would remark how short I am, but his eyes hold nothing expect the vulnerability I heard before. Maybe I have to be strong for now, have to be the one in control and the independent part of me relishes in it. It doesn't take long for him to be as naked infront of me as I am infront of him but we don't touch. The air around us isn't filled with electricity that would indicate hot passion. It is soft instead, warm and something akin to respect lays in the smell of it. Maybe it is just my overactive brain imagine it. We both are feeling the lust though, his erected cock standing proudly, my most private area wet and pulsing with the remembered intensity from only a week ago.
We start slow, hands gliding over skin and just like him I take my time remembering the texture of his scars, the taste of his tattoos and the smell of his neck. With great care he lets his fingers wander along my bare back, not low over my ass, not too far into the regions that would ignite the fire I am not sure we both could resist. Instead his fingertips glide along my bare arms and a slight frown when he reaches my right elbow makes me aware that he yet again discovers a small imperfection – it isn't to me and I believe it isn't to him as well. I am not sure if words can destroy what we experience at the moment but I don't care really when I start to speak.
"When I was ten I climbed a tree in one of the parks. Tobias was furious with my reckless actions but I just smiled, believing his worry to be silly and over the top. That is until I fell and broke my arm. They had to operate it to fix the bone. That is where the scar stems from." I tell him, my eyes staying on his, his on the other hand not meeting mine. I see him lick his lips and a small devilish smile wants to overcome my mouth but is stopped midway when he pulls me flat against his warm and hard body, embracing me tightly. The gesture is too intimate to be anything sexual even though his hard erection presses against my stomach and my nipples press against his body. I let my hands go around him, my fingertips gliding over his soft skin on his back and I close my eyes. For a moment I want to stay like this, forever if possible and forget about his decisions and mine.
But the fire burns in my veins and his wild beating heart tells me in Eric's as well. I pull away softly, let my hands glid down to his hips and myself glide to the floor. My discarded clothes cushion my bare knees against the luxurious but slightly rough dark grey carpet of the conference room. My right hand glides to his erection, the flesh hot and hard in my hand and with a groan and closed eyes he leans his head back. His hands are clenched beside him and I smile for a short moment in thanks when he lets me have the control of my movement, before I start to lick the flesh from the base to the tip. I repeat the gesture, the taste a bit soapy because he probably showered before he came here, the smell laced with his showergel but the certain musky scent that is a hundred percent Eric. I close my eyes when I take him into my mouth, start to bop my head softly, my tongue flickering above his hard head and latching away the precum. It is a bit salty but doesn't bother me.
I continue to pleasure him with my mouth and though I never enjoyed it that much with Tobias I find a certain powerful feeling in doing it to Eric. He is at my mercy's hands... and mouth. He groans again and the whispered 'Tris' and the light flexing of his muscles in his abdomen make me aware that he won't be able to take it any longer. I stop then because this moment is too precious to let it just end and stand slowly up. I am a bit surprised when I find his hand helping me to my feet before it wanders up to my neck and jaw. Our eyes meet again, a silent communication going on I am not sure I am even a part of. Maybe he talks to some part of me that I am not even aware has a voice of its own. When he scoops me up and wraps my legs around his waist I let him do it. I am not too self-centered to keep the control no matter what and my own need for him inside me is far too hot to be ignored.
Eric settles me down on a chair with ease I am still amazed to see. He kneels down between my legs, spreading them softly, his hands gliding over my warm skin from my claves, to my knees, to my hips. He doesn't touch me where I want him to desperately and I mutter softly 'tease' in his direction to what a soft glint of amusement enters his otherwise dark grey eyes. Without him saying so, I put one of my feet on his shoulder, spreading my legs further for him.
Two weeks ago I would have been a bit ashamed of my wanton display. Looking at it now it would be silly to still play coy when all I want is to feel him around and inside me. His fingers softly slide over my inner thighs until he reaches my most private area, throbbing with want and burning hot. With two fingers he separates the outer lips, baring me even more to the cool air and his heavy breathing. Catching my eyes for a short moment he leans forward, his tongue leaving his mouth to brush against the bundle of nerves just right and I groan softly, my head falling back and my eyes close.
He softly nibbles at it, his right hand secured on my hip, his left hand busy exposing my pussy to him. Instead of complimenting my willingness like he did before he just starts to take leasure licks of my wet genitals, his movements drawn out and slow. My toes curl to the sensation I feel, to the sensitive way he stimulates my nerves to stand on end.
I feel his left hand slowly gliding down to my wet entrance, his pointer finger circling it and dipping only slightly into it. Without seeing him or him telling me what he is about to do, I know he wants to collect some lubricant to ease the process of entering my anus. With a shudder I remember the sensation I felt for the first time in the shower, my fear back then. And I remember the highened lust I felt when he repeated this action in the kitchen, still with a bit fright on my part. This time I can only react with shuddering legs and a throaty moan when he softly starts to massage my anus, his tongue slowly drawing over my pulsing sex and slowly entering my pussy. I don't know where to put my hands, bite my lip and on instinct squeeze one of my nipples to highen the sensation.
I feel Eric's burning eyes on me, his growl vibrating into my body where he is pressed against me, his own groan at the lust he seems to feel while pleasuring me. Fire burns in my veins like all the other times we were together, but it isn't eating away and making me mindless like the times before. It is filled with passion and a deep love on my part for this man. He doesn't love me but living through this last time with him before everything changes is one of the most beautiful things I have ever felt. There is no guilt or pain, no sadness or anger.
I pull myself together, open my eyes with a few difficulties and let my hand fall down to his cheek softly. He stops his ministrations and looks up.
"I want you in me." I tell him softly, my voice barely above a whisper but sure nonetheless. He nods and pushes himself up on his knees. I help him to position myself more on the edge of the chair, bracing my hands against the chair behind the one I sit on and keep my eyes fixed where he watches him and me become one. This time he doesn't take his time to tease me, just brushes his cock two times along my wet pussy before he enters me with a powerful thrust. That alone tells me that he is desperate.
I cry out softly, my voice a bit hoarse just like his guttural groan reverberates in my ears like the animalistic growl of a predator finishing his prey. I would have thought he would start pumping in and out of me and seriously I wouldn't have minded. Instead though he holds my hips still, his eyes still fixed on our joined bodies and starts to move slowly. I feel him filling me completely and my eyes roll back into my head when he brushes just the right spot inside of me. I want him to move more, want him to be powerful and wild, to let go of the control we both seem to cling to, though I am further down the road already to lose it.
Eric doesn't though, but continues is slow pace, his hands not desperately holding on to me anymore but caressing my skin, wandering over my stomach, circling my navel with one finger and softly brushing my breasts. He doesn't pinch my nipples though I shudder in longing but circles them, his hips still, his erection filling me up. I look up to him, our eyes fixed together then, heated stares, too many and too few words forgotten for the moment. Some big part of me wants to whisper the words he knows I feel because it just seems like the right moment, like the right time, like everything would be perfect, but I don't because I suddenly know his weakness is my strength and overpowering him now wouldn't do any of us any good.
So instead I softly start to move upwards a bit, let him help me with his strong hands and arms. Slowly we sink down to the floor, the movement a bit uncomfortable but neither of us wants to lose the connection bodily and emotionally we feel now.
When I straddle him like I did in my bedroom when his only wish was to be with me for the night letting him leave the hotel and flying back even though he was possibly too tired to drive and think clearly, I smile. It is soft and I know it changes my face into an expression that is hard for him to see. Eric confirms it when he lays his forehead down on my shoulder. In a gesture to comfort him and myself I softly trail my fingers into his hair, pulling at the longer strands. He doesn't withstand it and I kiss him. Our lips meet, soft tissue, hot and thin skin touching and this time I ask him for entrance, my tongue pressing against his lips. A groan leaves his mouth before our tongues meet and I choose that moment to start to move my hips in small circles. It needs my whole control to not fall into the passionate rhythm that the baser needs my body possesses want me to fall into, but I can do it and the soft sound of our shared breaths, of our flesh barely connecting and disconnecting fills the air around us.
His warm hands travel to my ribcage, fingers brushing the side of my breasts and I believe he keeps a strong leash of his passion just like I do. Eric's fingertips are soft against my spine, his pull at my hair barely there but enough for me to tip my head to the side for his mouth to kiss my earlobe and my neck with so much care I want to burst. I don't resist when he starts to push forward slowly, lets me down to the ground softly. With a bit surprise I watch him as he tries to lay his jacket beneath my bare back to no leave scratches and aggravated skin left when everything is done but not said.
We don't lose our connection and when he settles down on me, his elbows braced on either side of my head and his forehead lays down on mine it is with a beating heart and warm breaths that he starts to move slowly, sensually as if he wants to continue to draw out our climax and the inevitable end just like I wanted not a minute ago.
But I feel my high build, feel it in my toes and fingertips, on the tip of my tongue that softly latches at his earlobe, in my nipples that brush against his chest when he moves above me and in my whole body. Eric picks up his speed, his movements showing his strength, his power, his will to dominate and I would do everything to keep this moment, when the lust becomes too much, when the low growl of my name and his in passion whispered name leaves my lips.
Even before any of us come down from the high we feel, from the prickling release of too much energy and a feeling like flying I know that this is over finally. Not the sex and not my love for him, but we are over before we began.
I let him pull me against his chest, let him pull my head to him when he places a hot kiss on my mouth and I let his fingertips lull me to sleep. There is nothing in the silence of the dark conference room. No word, no sudden confession, no cliche whispered word of him loving me after all. I hear him breath normally after a while, hear his breath even out unconsciously and with a sad smile, but a smile nonetheless, I leave the room and enter the dream. And though they will never be a window to a reality, at least I have them left.
Thursday finds me again in the conference room, staring at the spot where my ex-boyfriend found our boss and me sleeping like some teenagers after their first time together. The silence as he watched me get dressed like nothing has happened stretched on long after I pointed to the door to show him to give us some privaty. I woke Eric softly, surprised that he was still undisturbed even though he slept next to me and someone else entered the room. He didn't say anything as I didn't. I didn't tell him what woke me up. For a moment I saw his face unguarded, a mixture of tiredness and acceptance mixing to make him even more handsome but just as vulnerable, even more so then yesterday.
I didn't initiate touches of goodbye, just smiled softly and left the room. His eyes I can still feel on my back as I reminiscene about that Monday morning and I sigh softly. The catering should be here any minute now. It is already four pm and the party should start soon, bringing together the different parts of Dauntless to celebrate the last year and strengthen their bond to the company.
When the door opens behind me I sigh because without even looking I am sure I know who enters. It isn't the first time this week that he searches me, corners me and though I want to point out that his stalkerish ways are becoming quite uncomfortable to deal with I can't bring myself to say so. I guess being my first boyfriend he will always have at least a small right to be concerned for me. At least I think that is what brings him here.
I turn around, small smile on my face and even though I know he expects me to be ashamed that he found me like he did I am not in the slightest. Maybe that last Sunday evening changed more within me than I was aware of. It was my goodbye in more way then one, not that anybody knows about that. I take a breath, feel my heart beat normally, feel no pain and watch him approach me with sure steps that speak of at least a bit of anger. Suppressing a sigh I brace myself against any accusations that are quite clearly visible in his eyes that he could throw my way and speak up.
"Hey Four." My voice is soft and his features change with this small greeting. A glint probably noone but me can read appears in his strong dark blue eyes. I see him take a breath and a small smile appears on his features.
"Hey." He softly replies and takes one of my hands in his. Normally I would shy away from any of his touches because they are mostly laced with the longing for old times but in this moment I don't because something has changed. Letting him lead me to a few chairs, we sit down and I can see that he is struggling with remaining soft – maybe because he feels I don't want to fight – and giving in to his urge to be hard and angry. At seems for a short amount of time the latter wins.
"He is your boyfriend?" Tobias asks me, voice holding too many emotions I can't understand and I bite my lip. Take a deep breath and telling myself that pain isn't allowed, I shake my head.
"No, he isn't." I answer him and even though it isn't his business and I should go now before we can say anything anymore, I stay because I won't run away, no matter what.
"So you what...? Sleep with him?" He asks and I feel my eyes go hard because my defenses go up at his tone. I was soft and peaceful before but he continues to press biting salt into my wounds and his eyes are unyielding. I stand up and cross my arms in a protective and angry gesture.
"It really isn't any of your business anymore, Four." I tell him and there is a hint of pain in his eyes. I am sorry that he still hasn't moved on and I am even more sorry because he saw me with another man. With his and my boss.
"I am sorry, Tris. I know it isn't and I don't want to make an even greater ass out of myself, but... you know you are worth more than this. Worth more of being just... the woman who fucks her boss." His words hurt but they are true, so true. I cringe and the compassion in his eyes makes me want to cry. I take a deep breath.
"I know but... you remember Susan, don't you?" I ask him, voice a bit raspy from suppressed sadness but soft at the same time. He nods and I don't retreat my hand when he grasps it in his, leading me back over to the chair I just vacated, sitting me down on it.
For a split second I am lost in thoughts, maybe triggered by his warm hand, maybe pushed forward by the way he seems to understand me without words. I know we didn't work out and after my experience with Eric I know that we never will. But some part of me wishes that my heart would still belong to Tobias because I am aware that he would be safe, would mean no drama, no heartache. He could give me the things I want. But he isn't Eric and we both are aware I think that no matter what we won't be together ever again.
"And you know that she wanted to be with Caleb so bad that she quitted college to be with him?" I continue and Tobias sighs. I think he knows where I am going with this and maybe he thinks I am as stupid as I know I am.
"The first two years it was so hard for her what with Caleb too emerged in his studies to really recognize her. But in the end it worked out and they are now expecting their second child. I know I am silly to think I will have anything like that with Eric. I know that I hurt myself even more and that maybe he doesn't even deserve this small part of me but I can't seem to find the strength to... let it go." I finish my explanation and it sounds weak and idiotic in my own ears.
When did I become this kind of female? I was never a person to judge too quickly or to be prejudiced and biased when it comes to emotion I don't feel, when it comes to relationships I am not involved in. I always held back opinions, tried to be reasonable and look at it from different perspectives but right now all I can see within myself disgusts me. Even more so because I can't say that Eric is the reason why I feel angry at myself, repulsed by myself.
"I don't need to tell you what I think about this?" Tobias asks and I bite my lip, already about to shake my head no but stop myself. Maybe his words can push me the last small steps forward to make this last step away. He seems to be aware of my need and puts his arm around me. At first I want to shrug it off, but the gesture is friendly, is like back when we were still confined in the Abnegation community dreaming about lives we want to live, is like Tobias is my friend again and not my ex-boyfriend that still habours some feelings I don't really want and maybe not even deserve.
"You are beautiful, intelligent, kind and strong. And noone should make you feel the way I see you feel at the moment. You deserve more, you deserve someone better. And I am not talking about me here... even though it is hard, I know that you can't love me anymore and I accept that. But just like that you should maybe accept that Eric Coulter isn't able to love. Not you, not anyone and it has nothing to do with you or something you could lack of." Some part of me wants to protest because his words sound too harsh and not completely true. A memory enters my mind – a memory of a picture I saw in Eric's kitchen of him with a small boy and a woman. He is able to love but I don't think Four needs to know that and my experience tells me he won't believe me anyway because he thinks I am too blind with love to see the truth. I shake my head slightly, but accept at least small parts of his speech.
I know that I am not the reason why Eric doesn't love me. Whatever happened to him, whatever made him this way, it lays in his past and not in my inability to maybe fullfill his desires mentally, emotionally and physically. I know that he is at least physically attracted and whatever stops him to be involved with me emotionally has nothing to do with me as a person. I smile slightly and squeeze Four's hand.
"Thank you." I whisper and let him pull me into a platonic embrace. My decision still stands, my plan still in progress and Four's words do nothing but encourage me.
The tables are cleared of the used plates and cluttery, wine and other alcoholic beverages served to the many employees of Dauntless and a soft and cheerful atmosphere embraces everyone that cares to be a part of the slight mess that is the Christmas party of the company. The boisterous voices, loud laugther and stories retold from the year that nearly comes to an end envelops the whole room and I smile slightly at some remarks.
At the beginning of the feast Eric gave his usual speech, though something was off about him. I couldn't put my finger on it and when Alice engaged me in some funny stories about Peter's more caring side since she was pregnant I forget mostly about anything about my boss. Her cheeks are well rounded now, as is her belly and she presses my hand to it after I reluctantly smile and agree to do it. A tiny pressure against my hand lets my smile broaden and tears appear in my eyes.
"Oh, Alice..." I whisper and hug her tightly. My heart seems to burst with tears for my best friend who has found a woman like her, a perfect companion for the life ahead of him. I couldn't be more happy for him, nor could I wish for a better wife. But as happy as I am for them, as joyous I feel for the strength both lend me after my weekend with my boss and that stupid evening in the elevator, I can't suppress the jeaulousy I feel because they have what I can't seem to reach. Of course my thoughts are fueled by the developments of the last days. I tasted a future but couldn't keep it. Like a delicious meal I savored it whole and in the end I realized that I am allergic to some aspect of it. I wish for something... something that.. my thoughts are stopped when I hear the small screech of the microphone at the front of the conference room.
It is a tradition in Dauntless that at the Christmas party every employee has the right to make a small speech about him or her personal life. It is to encourage the bonding of the different departsments, to get to know the people some don't see for the whole year and maybe just have constant contact over mail or telephone with. I really like this aspect of my company. I love to listen to all the small and big changes happening around me I am not too aware about and the mostly happy announcements are a huge part of this celebration.
When the crowd slowly starts to calm down and everyone pays attention to the person standing at the microphone I raise an eyebrow to see it is Peter. Of course it would be him making the first speech, his ego far too big to allow anyone else the honor. I smile slightly and squeeze Alice hand for a second who chuckles softly next to me when she sees me rolling my eyes.
"Hello everyone. As some of you know, I am Peter Hayes, Head of the Law Department. At first I want to thank each and everyone of you for behaving quite good this year. I hadn't too many cases on my hand and that is the reason why I was able to bang my wife often enough to make her pregnant with our first child – a son by the name of Naithen who will be born hopefully healthy and with the same good looks as his father not too far away in February." Loud yells of congratulations, some crude remarks about his ego swelling his head enourmously and Alice cheerful laughter and promise of revenge for his speech filled the room. I brush away some tears of laughter as well and shake my head at my best friend.
"And to conclude this, I want to say thank you to our boss and his beautiful, extraordinary and sometimes really scary secretary who will be the godmother of my son for letting us celebrate with so much good food, so many great people and an atmosphere as if all of us are one family. Thank you." Cheering from all around the room was heard and my cheeks flushed red when many raised their glasses and clink them together. I want to say that I didn't do much, that all of this wouldn't have been possible if they wouldn't be the way they are, if we wouldn't function the way we are, but I just accept the thanks and cheers because Peter presses my shoulder softly and places a kiss on my forehead.
I grasp his hand and squeeze it, taking a sip of my orange juice and continue to listen to all of the more or less serious stories so many people want to share with us today. We laugh with some, toast to other that lost someone dear, stay in silence to remember and boast with joy for the new life that entered someones life we didn't even know the name of a few minutes ago.
The people going up to the microphone become less and the atmosphere slowly calms down a bit, the overflowing joy slowly evolving in the calm happiness and appreciation it always does when most words are said and everything for the year is done. I sigh softly and stand up.
"I'll be right back." I say to Alice and Peter and make my way up to the podium without a glance back. I know their confused looks are following me up the three short steps, their brains trying to catch on what exactly is going on. When I stand infront of the microphone I let my eyes take in all the faces, the woman and some kids, the guys I worked with for only two years but in reality it feels like a life well spend. I smile and feel tears prickle in my eyes.
"Hello everyone. My name is Tris Prior. Most of you know me as the head secretary of Mr. Coulter, as Tris who mails you to hurry up with your freaking report, as Ms. Prior that sends a list as long from here to Brasilia with things you still have to do." I let them all have a laugh and some shout their agreement. I smile brightly.
"I have been here in this company for only two years, don't know most of you because I was always hauled up behind that desk of mine – and a fine desk it is, I have to say. But throughout these days, months and finally years I have seen Dauntless grow into a company I never thought I could leave. Not in years, not even when I am too old to look representable in a business suit." Some chuckles respond to that, but far less then before. I swallow hard, take a sip from my organe juice I took with me. I have the feeling they all know it already without me saying it and though I want to be strong and want this to be a happy evening, tears slip from my eyes. I don't dare to look at Eric or Peter or Christina. I don't dare to look at any of them because I think I wouldn't do what is right for me as a woman too much in love to stay.
"And with a heavy heart and as you can see big, girly tears, I have to announce that I will leave Dauntless at the end of the year." Silence greets me and all I can do is school my features into the brilliant smile I want all of them to remember.
"I wish everyone of you the best of luck, all the love in the world and a happy future. Happy Christmas and a happy new year." I raise my glass, sip the last drops of juice and leave the small podium. The air is filled with a mixture of shock, sadness and whispered voices. When I reach my table I kiss Alice cheek and press Peter to me for a moment.
"I will see you in a few days." I say and know that I will have to explain at least a bit. In the end they will understand though.
I leave the conference room and stay outside for a moment, let the cool air of the corridor calm my heated skin, take a deep breath to calm my beating heart. I have done it. A mixture of pride and sorrow fill me, but I also feel lighter then I always thought possible – at least after the things that happened in the last two weeks.
I smile slightly, remember the beginning of this more or less downfall two weeks ago on a Thursday, when I wanted to calm down my boss with coffee but only was able to fall more deeply, more sincerely for him. I chuckle softly but stop when I hear the door close behind me. A short moment I glance back and meet his eyes. They are dark grey like always when he thinks. Sighing softly again I turn around.
"I am sorry that you had to be informed that way but..." I start to explain when he stays silent but a gesture of his hand lets me halt in the middle of my sentence. Instead of saying anything he comes up to me. I am too perplexed to react when he leans down and places a kiss at the corner of my mouth. For a short moment when I look in his eyes, the orbs glinting with something I cannot place – not that I really ever could – I believe that now is the time. That now he knows that there is at least a small flame burning for me. I hold my breath and let him take his time. If it really is what I believe it is, then he deserves all the time he can get.
"Tris Prior..." He mumbles the name, seems to taste the syllables on the tip of his tongue, savors them and something inside of me flutters. He opens his mouth once, twice and the air around us could be cut with a knife. At last he shakes his head and there is a smile around his mouth that lets my heart drop but raise at the same time.
"Thank you, Tris. For everything." I take one of his hands, squeeze it lightly and stand on my tiptoes to kiss his cheek. Before I pull back and leave him alone, I whisper in his ear:
"You are welcome, Eric." Then I turn around, wave over my shoulder and leave Dauntless to return only to get my things and never look back again.
It were two good years, I think, as the elevator's doors close and I look into his eyes for the last time.