It was good to be back and heading into the stadium. Thomas left word to meet him here, so that is what I was doing. Besides the luxury box we had some offices here for senior employees and I knew that was where I would find him.
I ran up the two flights of stairs and let myself in and Thomas was talking to Tammy in the conference room. I walked in and Tammy gave me a big hug. I was shocked but I just laughed it off and looked hard at her.
“I’m fine, quit looking at me like that.” She said, and the funny thing was she did look fine. I didn’t see the stress that I did before I left and she seemed to be more upbeat than usual.
“I was just thinking how good you look. Maybe I should go away more often.” I said inspecting her again.
“Don’t be silly, if it wasn’t for you I wouldn’t have had a quality helper this week.” She said and I must have looked as confused as I felt. “It was your idea for Daddy to find me a helper or assistant, and what he found is a possible replacement.”
“No one can replace you Tammy. Besides, I haven’t even met this girl yet.” I said looking over at Thomas.
“That’s going to be remedied in a few minutes. Joe everything rides on you. Tammy likes the girl, and I know she is capable of doing the job, but, if you don’t want her here, then she is gone.” Thomas said.
“Thanks for the vote of confidence both of you, but you are better at the front office help than I am. If you both think she can do the job, then give her the job.” I said.
“It’s not that easy. You’ll see in a little while, but look at this first.” He said handing me a sheet.
I was shocked. The salary and benefits were about equal to mine. I wasn’t the type to be jealous, but, she hadn’t even worked for the company yet, and she was getting all this. I looked at Thomas and shook my head. “Hell of a proposal.”
“It’s the top of what we can do. You have a lot of wiggle room there, and I am hoping you can save me some money on some of those points.” He said smiling.
I assumed he was smiling because he had faith in my negotiating ability. I looked through the list again and the last item caught me off guard. “She would only be answerable to me?”
“That’s what it says. Tammy wants to take a break, for a long while.”
“Damn right I do, and with the wedding coming, I want a long honeymoon. Daddy said I can take the cottage at lake Tahoe for as long as I want, or it can be his wedding present to me. I haven’t decided yet.” Tammy said excited.
I was smiling watching her light up like that. I had never seen her so happy. “Do you think this woman can do your job?”
“She has already familiarized herself this week with all the league rules and regulations and we went through every contract for both the Tornadoes and Tailwinds. She found things even I missed. She just doesn’t understand the players and where that fits in, but who better than you to guide her?” Tammy giggled.
Alright her excitement was getting contagious. “Well, I guess I better go bring this woman into the organization.”
“Not yet, we both forgot to tell you a couple things. Tammy go first.” Thomas said and he looked stern this time.
“Oh it was a simple mistake that I just kind of enjoyed. Our new girl thinks you and I are a couple, and I let her. I wanted to see how she would react and what was said.” Tammy squirmed a little bit. “When we were talking the other night about massages, well, she might have got the wrong idea.”
Part of me was flattered that Tammy did that, but another part of me knew what everyone else did. Tammy was in love with Alex and had been for years now. “Must be a new girl initiation huh. No big deal. I would have been honored to be your boyfriend, even though we both know that wasn’t feasible.”
“Exactly, see daddy, no big deal.” Tammy said smiling.
“Tammitha Updyke.” He said so sternly that I wanted to cry myself.
“Fine, I’m sorry Joe, you’ll understand soon, but I want you to know I think it proved for the best. One way or the other, I would go with it, at least for a while.” She said and then her phone rang. She looked at it and jumped up. “It’s Alex, good luck Joe.”
Like that she was gone and running out the door. I started laughing at the way a woman her age would act like a little kid then I looked at Thomas and my smile melted away. He seemed on the verge of boiling.
“Sometimes that girl makes me want to hit something.” He said. “But maybe she is right. Joe, my part is this. When we go in, I am leaving right away, and you will be alone for the entire game. When the game is over I’ll need your answer. One way or the other, by the end of the game, we will have a new employee, or we’ll keep looking.”
“Yeah that’s fine. I can close this one up for you. Why me though? I mean you really are better at this?” I said.
“First, I would just go with my gut, and knowing Tammy needs a break, well, you understand. Second, the two of you will be working together for a long time, and I need to know that you can. If it doesn’t work for you Joe, it doesn’t work for me.” He said looking sheepish, which was unusual for him.
“Ok, then I guess I better go meet this girl and get the party started.” I said standing up.
“Joe, you know I love you like a son, right?” He asked.
I never seen him look like this before. He seemed fragile and concerned and I wanted to hug him and tell him everything would be ok. This thing with Tammy must really be bothering him. “I know, and I love you like a father and Tammy like a sister. We are family, and always will be.”
He nodded and I felt a little better. I just needed to close this deal for him and all would be good. “Let’s go get us a new General Manager.”
I was sweating. Thomas brought me up here a while ago and other than the more comfortable chairs and larger bar area, it reminded me of Syracuse and the box there. There was a couple of televisions on the wall here, so we could see everything from the camera angle as well. There was food and drinks and a small private toilet. It was nice.
Instead of taking a seat down by the rail toward the action I was sitting at the bar at the top nursing a Pepsi. I had one at the seat next to me with a glass of ice. I was trying to start the negotiation well. Thomas said we had to get Joe to want to work with me and agree to stay with the organization for life. If he did, then I could stay here with Joe, and we could be the couple I dreamed we could be.
How in the world could I get Joe to first forgive me? Second, want to work with me, and third, agree to a lifetime contract? I mean the whole thing seemed impossible. If I could get Joe to forgive me and pick me over Tammy, that would be a win in my book. I really liked Tammy, I did, but this was Joe, we were both going after.
I wasn’t going to lose, not this time. I had all the legal pads ready to explain the good and the bad, and what I was willing to do. I would do anything to have him back, and even I doubted that Tammy would be willing to make that kind of commitment to Joe. I just had to hope he could see that and get by the hurt I caused him so deeply.
I had the length of the game to do it, and god willing, I wasn’t going down without a fight. Then with that as my last though I heard the door begin to open and I stood up waiting to meet Joe Miles, my future husband, I hoped.
Thomas opened the door and motioned for me to go first. I did. I had no problem meeting people and I was ready to go in guns and smiles a blazing. I got halfway up the ramp to the box and I heard the door click shut and lock. I hurried back down and tried to open it, but it was locked and there was no going out.
Thomas locked me in here. Why the hell did he lock me in here. I wasn’t the type to get scared with locked doors and I knew I could call to one of the guys to open the door for me, but why did he do it. Was he afraid the woman would try to leave before she heard my whole spiel. I hadn’t lost anyone that quickly ever. Where was the faith Thomas? I would show him I could do this and I walked up the ramp.
I turned the corner and looked at her. She was beautiful, the most beautiful woman I ever had seen in my life. The only problem was; she was also the last woman I ever wanted to see again. Casandra Lewis stood in front of me in a very form fitting business suit. It showed off her magnificent figure and her beaming smile didn’t hurt the overall perception.
This was Cassie, the girl that broke my heart. More than broke my heart. This was the girl who purposely threw it back at me and then shot an arrow through it. Why was she here? Why did Thomas do this to me? Why did he lie about the whole General Manager thing just to get me to come in here? I wanted to leave, but I was locked in.
Finally, I found my voice and spoke, but it wasn’t me, it was the cold hearted bastard I never wanted to be. “Casandra, how have you been.”
She just looked at me and I could tell the moment the smile left her face she was second guessing her decision to come here. Which was fine. I didn’t want to see her anyway. I was doing fine without her and I would continue to do so.
“Honestly I have been terrible. I ended up in the hospital for a bit, but that doesn’t matter. How are you? I’ve missed you so much. I tried calling a hundred times, but you never answered.” She said still standing watching me.
Actually she had called a hundred and thirteen times and left thirty-six messages, but I would never tell her I counted everyone. Instead I said “I didn’t think there was anything left to talk about. Must be Cindy or Mark told you where I was?” Last time I would talk to either of them.
“No, I saw you on Television. You had just traded that Nory guy away. I heard you mention something about him hurting someone, and that’s when I knew where you were. I’d like to talk to you if you will let me?” She asked.
“I guess I don’t have a choice, we are locked in here, till after the game at least.” I said walking over to the bar table and taking a seat where I could see that she had a Pepsi waiting for me with a glass of ice.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t know we would be locked in. I do want to talk to you Joe. Please let me.” She said pleading.
“You can talk; I’ll watch the game.” I said. The game was still at least ten minutes off but I could pretend to not care what she said.
“Joe, I am so sorry I hurt you. I’m not going to make excuses because you deserve better than that, but I do want you to know, that not a day goes by that I don’t regret that night.” Cassie said and I could tell she meant it because she always got a little curl to her lip when she was being sincere and caring.
“I’m sure you do, but what’s done is done, and I hope the two of you are happy.” I said not meaning a single word of it.
“Joe there is no two of us. It was a stupid decision but he was never the one for me. The one that was for me, I was too stupid to see. Then when I finally figured it out, he was gone. I cried, I screamed, I ended up in the hospital, and everything I did wasn’t going to bring him back to me, so I came to find him.”
“And when you do find him what do you hope to accomplish?” I asked waiting to hear this response.
“First tell him how sorry I am for being stupid. Second tell him he was the best friend I ever had.”
I hated that word with a passion. I never wanted to hear that word again. I never wanted to be friend with a girl again, not after the pain it caused me.
“And last, well, when he was gone I realized I was in love with him, and that I needed him in my life more than anything in the world.” She said and I just stared at her.
He was just staring at me. I laid myself out bare, and he was just staring at me. I wanted to run a hand across his eyes to see if he was still with the realm of the living but I didn’t dare do anything he might take the wrong way, so I waited.
“How would you know what love is?” He asked softly, but the meaning wasn’t lost on me. He didn’t believe me.
I needed to tell him more than anything what he means to me before it’s too late.
“Joe, I tried fighting it. I tried to pretend that you didn’t mean more to me than a friend, but when I hurt you, and you left, I crashed. I missed everything about you. I missed the way you laughed. I missed the way you talked. I missed the way your face would crinkle when you thought real hard. Hell I even missed the way you used to be a pain in the ass when making sure I was ok. I just missed everything about you.” I said spilling my guts out.
He thought for a moment and then he answered. “Cassie, those are all feelings when you miss a friend. We were friends, but I wanted more, and you didn’t. I understand missing a friend Cassie, and maybe someday we can be again, but I can’t make any promises.”
“Maybe I’m not explaining myself right. Joe I love you. I need you in my life and I want to be in your life as well. I knew the minute you walked away from me that I loved you and I was too stubborn to chase you down and tackle you, but it doesn’t change the fact that I do. I need you Joe.” Please let him understand I said in my head.
“Cassie, I don’t know what you’re feeling, but it can’t be love. If it was love you wouldn’t have done what you did to me.” He said getting emotional.
“Joe I can’t take back what I did. I was wrong, and I was mean, and I want to say I will never hurt you again. I will, but I don’t know if you will believe me. I want to start showing you every day how important you are to me and to never take you for granted again.” I said promising.
“Cassie, maybe it was bad timing. Maybe I wasn’t the kind of guy you were looking for, but we went past that. We can’t go back. I did love you, and part of me always will, but I don’t know if I can go on loving you. Things have happened and changed.” He said.
“I know Joe. She is beautiful, and smart and the nicest damn person I have ever met. I hate her for you loving her, when I was too stupid to let you love me. I hate her, and then I hate myself for feeling that way. It’s not her fault, it’s mine. I let you go, and she was here, and she is awesome. She is the woman I wished I was. I know I can’t compete with her, but I have to try, I can’t lose you again.” I said throwing my feelings out for the world and Joe to see.
“Cassie, Tammy is …”
“Please rise for the National Anthem, being sung by Dougie.”
I hated being in an arena right now. I needed privacy to talk to Joe and this was definitely not helping. The arena wasn’t completely full, but it was close and everyone seemed to be making it more and more crowded. Why couldn’t I just have him alone?
She said she loved me. How I longed to hear those words from her. I was going to tell her about Tammy but we were interrupted. I didn’t want her to think there was something going on when there wasn’t. I didn’t know why I still cared what she thought, but I did.
God she was beautiful. She was the most beautiful woman in the world, at least to me, and she said she loved me. Did she mean it? Or was it just her missing her friend? I needed to know more. I needed to find out exactly why she was here. I needed to know what she wanted from me.