Why did I think it was a good idea to run? It’s not like I made it that far - I can still see my house. My stomach is cramping up and with every inhale I feel sharp stings along my abdomen. I crouch down where I am standing in hopes of relieving some of the pain. Rocking back and forth, I try to regain steady breathing. Nothing but mistakes, I hear his voice, full of disapproval. I scream out in frustration into the darkness of the road. I hate thinking about him. What’s worse is I hate myself even more for thinking about him.
“It’s been three years!!” I shout. By now, the little warmth I had obtained by running has escaped from my body and cold air has taken it’s place. It’s time for me to head back into the house. I slowly stand up and turn to the direction of my house. Only when I do so, I end up colliding with Adrian. The sudden spinning motion followed by the collision causes me to stumble backward. Adrian grabs onto my arms to prevent me from falling. I feel my cheeks flush red. Good thing he can’t see my face right now.
“What was that?” he asks, still holding on to me. I look up at him. The moonlight reflects off his face perfectly, enhancing his features even more. Not breaking eye contact, I loosen my arms from his grip and fold them across my chest.
“What was what?” I blink a couple of times, acting oblivious. I don’t know how to explain to him why I’m so paranoid all of the time or why I get so angsty in the month of August every year. I don’t know how to tell him that he triggers memories that I’ve worked so desperately to suppress. My therapist says it’s my defense mechanisms preventing me from confronting my thoughts, but I’m calling her bullshit. What does she know about what goes on in my mind?
“Hadley,” Adrian leans forward so his face is only inches from mine. “I hope I didn’t offend you by coming out here so late at night.” He almost whispers the last word. If we weren’t standing so close, I probably wouldn’t have heard it.
“I’m not offended,” I say more sharply than intended. “Now is just not a good time.” Not the best answer, but it will have to do. Adrian purses his lips and lets out a deep sigh, breathing directly onto my face. My face contorts instinctively to display my discomfort. He seems to see my change in facial expression and stands upright.
I wrap my arms around myself tightly, trying to keep warm. “Look, can we have this conversation inside? It’s cold out here?” I say and Adrian nods. As we walk back to the house in silence, I can sense him glancing at me now and then. He probably thinks I’m an emotional mess just like every other person who knows me.
Once inside, I head for the bathroom to wash my feet of any dirt that may have stuck after having run barefoot. When I come out, I see Adrian sitting down on the sofa. He looks up at me and forces a smile. I walk over and take a seat on the chair across from him. Tonight, I have officially made things awkward between the two of us.
We sit in silence, avoiding looking at one another. After what seems like a few minutes, Adrian clears his throat before saying, “So, are you sure you’re not offended?”
“Yes, yes, I’m not,” I reply. It’s true, I’m not offended by Adrian showing up here tonight, but I am nervous and I think I’m starting to understand why.
“Good,” he pauses shortly before continuing. “I don’t know what you’re going through right now, but I want you to think of me as your friend. You can talk to me, Hadley.” I slowly nod taking in what he just said. Friend. My gut clenches at the sound of that word. I didn’t have any friends growing up, and as much as I’d like to say that I enjoyed being alone, I guess I always knew that that was a lie. No one likes to be alone. No
“Adrian,“I say softly. He looks at me, his eyes searching my face as if he is trying to figure me out. “You caught me off guard when you told me that you were coming over to my house this late at night.” I pause. “You see how it’s a little weird to be getting a visit from my boss at one in the morning?”
Adrian looks up at the ceiling and sighs loudly. He plants his face in his hands and mumbles something from which I can only make out the word ‘care’. When he looks at me again, his eyes look tired and sad. He’s hurting too, I think and suddenly I don’t feel so alone anymore.
“Hadley,” Adrian moves to the edge of his seat, closing the space between us. “I need to tell you something.” His eyes stay fixated on my face as he reaches over to take my hands in his. To my surprise, I give in with ease. It’s funny to think that meer moments ago I was running away from this very person and now we’re both sitting in my living room with our fingers intertwined. I can’t help but wonder what must be going on through that creative mind of his. He lets out a shaky breath and bites his lip. This small action sends an overwhelming sensation of nervousness throughout my body.
I’m so caught up in battling my own nervousness that I completely miss out on what Adrian says. I look at him, confused.
“Sorry, what did you just say?” I ask sheepishly. Stupid thoughts, I think. Always getting in the way.
Adrian lets go of my hands and they fall limp onto my lap. I feel my stomach rise up to my throat and my heart starts pounding in my chest. The sorrow look in his eyes says it all; something isn’t right.
“Hadley,” he says looking deep into my eyes. “I’m letting you go.”
“Letting me go where?” I regret saying the words as soon as they leave my mouth as I understand what he meant to say. He’s letting me go. In other words, he’s firing me.