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Chapter 4

We grabbed her car from the parking lot of the bar she was at last night. I followed her home and helped her with her bags to her door. It felt weird not having her next to me in the escape as I drove back, but I guess that’s what happens when you get used to someone.

She opened her door but she didn’t invite me in. In fact, she sat the bags inside her door and then turned to look at me. She wore a nice smile so I tried not to dwell on it, but I was curious what her apartment looked like.

“Thanks for helping me shop again today and carrying my bags all day long. You’re very sweet.” Cassie said.

“Thanks for dinner and meeting some friends of mine. I think they all liked you.” I countered.

“Maybe, we’ll see, Rhapsody might blame me when you tell her next week.” She said looking sad.

“I don’t think so; I’ve got a plan.” I said standing in the dorkiest pose ever.

She laughed, like I hoped she would. We both seemed to be searching for the next words so I bit the bullet and went first.

“Usually on Sunday morning I have a big breakfast and I make more than I can eat, would you like some breakfast tomorrow?” I asked.

She seemed unsure of what to say. I didn’t want to push, but she invited me away today, so I thought we were crossing a threshold. “Sure Joe, why not, friends have breakfast all the time. What time?”

“How about nine, or is ten better for you?”

“Can we do ten, I kind of sleep in on Sunday’s.” She said pouting a bit.

I laughed. “Sure, ten it is. Are you a French toast kind of girl or waffles?”

“Oh waffles, all day.” She said brightening up.

“OK, see you in the morning.” I said. I didn’t back away; I wasn’t sure why. I guess I just wanted to see what she would do.

“Sounds good Joe, see you then.” Then she snuck into her apartment and closed the door. I kind of stood there for a moment. Well, that didn’t go as I had hoped. I headed back to my apartment to relax for the rest of the night.

Cassie

Was I letting this get to far. I know I kept using the friend word all the time, but the last look I saw in his eyes made me wonder if we were on the same page. I better explain it to him again tomorrow when I see him. I just didn’t want a man right now. I mean Joe was nice enough, but he really wasn’t my type.

Of course; My type didn’t usually work out in the end. Something about the rugged good looking well-built guys that always seemed to disappoint in the end. I knew my Prince Charming was out there, but he would have to come to me, I wasn’t going looking for him. I was way too busy for that.

I took care of all my bags and stuff and then I flopped on my couch. I was more wore out than I thought I would be. I flipped on the television and channel surfed not finding a thing to watch. It landed on the cooking channel where they were playing some kind of completion in a grocery store.

Now that’s the job. I thought. Not the people cooking, the ones judging. Have someone make food for me and then all I have to do is tell them how good it was. Yup, I should be a food judge. I laughed at my own joke. I watched that channel till I couldn’t keep my eyes open much more and then went to bed.

Shit, I was going to be late. It was already ten and I wasn’t at Joe’s. I slept longer than I intended. I threw my hair up and grabbed a set of athletic sweats and just about ran out the door. I didn’t want him to think I wasn’t coming. I was only going to be a few minutes late.

I hit the bell on his door about eight or nine minutes late and he answered it looking like ha had been up for hours. He looked me over and grinned. “Maybe we should have planned later?” He said opening the door wider and walking back to the kitchen laughing.

I closed the door and followed him in. “I didn’t set my alarm. I must have been more tired than I thought.”

“Well, I hope you brought your appetite. I got carried away again.” He said setting a bunch of food on the table this time.

I hadn’t thought about being hungry till I saw the food and my stomach started answering for me. “Oh, I think I could eat a little bit.”

We sat down and dished what we both wanted onto out plates and began eating. It was wonderful. I couldn’t remember the last time a man had made me breakfast, especially after not sleeping together. Which reminded me.

“Joe, I want to thank you for being a good friend these last couple of days.” I said pausing before continuing. “I just thought we should be clear that I’m not interested in anything more. Especially after the other night, I don’t want any kind of relationship with anyone right now.”

There I said it. I knew I was being tough but it was better to be honest than to lie to him, or worse, lead him on. He looked, I don’t know, a little sad, but he seemed to accept what I was saying and when he did finally speak it wasn’t what I thought it would be.

“You never did say what happened to you.” He said taking another bite of his sausage.

Well that wasn’t what I was expecting. He just kind of went over the whole I’m not interested in you thing. I wasn’t sure why but it made it seem better that way. So I opened up and told him the whole Richard story. He never questioned or made any comments he just let me talk, in between mouthfuls of food. When I finished with the story I had also finished my plate of food.

“I’m glad you are going to HR on Monday. Guys like that give all guys bad names. It’s no wonder people have images like that when there our guys like him acting that way. If you need anything let me know. I know I wasn’t there when it happened, but anything you need let me know.” He said and I believed every word.

You could tell Joe was the type that when he said that, he meant it. That’s what I liked about him, he was an upstanding guy. I should introduce him to Cindy. I’ll run it by her first. I helped clear the plates and then headed for the door with Joe behind me.

“What are you doing today?” He asked.

“Going to see Cindy and get everything wrote up so we are prepared for Monday. How about you?”

“Cleaning my apartment, then I am going to just hang out here, maybe watch a movie or something.” He said.

“I’ll talk to you later then. Thanks for breakfast. I really enjoyed this weekend, well, after the incident anyway.” I said looking at him.

“Anytime Cassie. I’m here whenever you need me.” He said and then he opened the door for me.

I walked out into the hall and looked at him one last time. There was a look on his face. I didn’t know what it was, but it was something. “Bye,” I said and headed toward the stairs.

Joe

I watched her walk away and a piece of my heart went with her. I knew I shouldn’t have got emotionally attached but how could I help it? From the moment I saw her shaking that night I was hooked.

When she said we could only be friends I pretended not to hear it, even though I heard it loud and clear. She wasn’t interested in me in that way and she was trying to be nice, but it still hurt. I closed the door and went in and sat down for a second.

This was how Rhapsody was going to feel and I almost hated myself for what I had to do, knowing it felt like this. Oh, I knew it had to be done. That wasn’t the problem. The problem was, I was always the one being disappointed, almost to the point where I had gotten used to it. I hated doing that to someone else.

I knew I wasn’t a great looking guy, so I wasn’t surprised she had “the talk” with me. Now the only question was, did I want to keep a friendship with someone I had more feeling for than they could ever have with me? I mean it hurt to feel for someone and not have it returned. Hell that was my whole high school experience. Did I want to go through that again?

Then I thought of Cassie shaking in the lobby. How hurt she was and how venerable. How could I not? Part of me was lost that night, and I needed her in my life. Was I being unreasonable? I didn’t know. I would wait and see, but even if we could never be together even as friends, there was still one thing I could do.

I grabbed my cell phone and dialed number one on my quick list. I waited three rings before he answered. “Joe, it’s Sunday.”

“I know sir. Do you have just a moment. I want your opinion on something.” I asked.

“Good thing I like you, what’s up?”

Cassie

“Get in here girl. Where have you been all weekend.” Cindy asked opening the door.

“Yesterday I went shopping and to dinner with Joe. I needed retail therapy and he was nice enough to go with me.” I said walking in and dropping into one of her two EZ chairs.

“Joe, joe who?” Cindy asked dropping into the other.

“A guy from my building. The one I told you about. I think he might be perfect for you. He’s a great cook and an all-around nice guy.” I said.

“If he is so great why are you willing to share? What’s going on Cass?”

“He just isn’t my type. He’s not on my list?” I said.

“Cass, there are no real men on your list. Famous people like Chris Young or ballplayers like Brandon Crawford don’t count. You can’t keep comparing men you meet to those fantasy guys.” Cindy tried explaining.

“He’s not hot construction guy, but I think you’ll like him Cindy. We’ll all have to do something together so you can meet him.” I kept talking ignoring what she was saying.

“Cass, I have a date with Mark.” She said and my heart fell. I wanted her to like Joe. I wanted them to like each other. I needed them to like each other.

“Mark, the guy from the bar? He was nice and all, but Joe is so much better. Just meet him and you will see.” I pleaded.

“Cass, I will meet him, but I really like Mark. He called me, well I called him, and we talked for a long time. He is awesome. He understood about us putting him off that night in the bar. When I told him about Richard he wanted to kill him. He is just great. I can’t wait to see him Saturday.”

My heart was falling. No, she was supposed to like Joe. “How about we get drinks Friday and I’ll invite Joe. You can meet him and see what you think.”

“Cass, I will meet him for you, but if you don’t want him, why are you so gun-ho about me having him?” She asked.

“He is just great and he deserves someone who is great. I just know you’ll like him.” I explained.

“Cass, you are great too. Maybe he deserves you.” She said looking at me hard. I hated when she looked at me like that. I needed to move this conversation.

“Let’s write up everything that happened so when we walk into HR we are ready. I don’t want him to be able to hurt either one of us.” I said pulling out the notebook I brought and getting everything ready.

I could tell she was staring at me but I didn’t care. I didn’t want to continue that other conversation and I would be damned if we were going to.

We were waiting in the HR waiting room at seven forty-five, we wanted to be there when they opened. We had to make sure we got our complaint in first before Richard did anything. Talia Johnson came in and looked at both of us and shook her head.

Had she already heard? Why would she do that. She dropped her stuff in her office and came back out and looked at both of us. She evaluated each of us and then she looked at Cindy. “Cynthia, you can head up to the office. I need to talk to Casandra for a few minutes.”

“Mrs. Johnson, we need to file a complaint about something that happened Friday evening. I don’t know what you heard but we did nothing wrong.” I said scared that Richard had already filed a complaint against us.

She looked at me for a moment and then she said “That won’t be necessary. We got a transfer request from Mr. Preston and he is being reassigned to a different office effective immediately.”

“What, how, I mean, when did all this happen?” I asked confused.

“Cynthia, if you would please head back to work so I can talk to Cassandra.” Mrs. Johnson said in a no-nonsense kind of way.

Cindy squeezed my arm as she got up and left. Once she was out of the room Mrs. Johnson looked at me. “Casandra, you can call me Pam. We have some paperwork to fill out. Once that is done then we can go on a tour. If you have any questions, feel free to ask.”

“Cassie,” I said.

“I’m sorry,” Pam asked.

“My friends call me Cassie.” I said looking at her.

“Great Cassie. Let’s start with the wage assessment and then continue from there.” She said grabbing a bunch of papers and putting them on her desk.

“I don’t understand.” I stammered.

She looked at me and then she smiled. She got up and went and closed the door to her office. She came back and sat down. She looked at me and smiled. “Cassie, this is not the first time one of our managers thought they could use their position for extra benefits. We just don’t want this to become public knowledge.”

“Richard has been moved to an office more his style. It is an all-male office located in Utica. He can continue to work there or he can resign. The choice is his, but he will not be able to proposition any female workers again.” She explained.

“How did you know? We hadn’t been able to tell anyone till this morning.” I asked shocked.

“I got a call from the Mr. Whitehouse yesterday. He doesn’t usually call me on a Sunday, so when he did, I checked everything he said and called the bar and got confirmation. The bartender heard him proposition Cynthia, and explained your role in the ensuing argument. I got the paperwork started and gave Richard the two options. He chose Utica, and I filed the rest of the information away if we ever need it in the future.”

“I see, but how did Mr. Whitehouse know about it? I doubt he hangs in the kind of bar the rest of us do.”

“That I don’t know. And between you and me, I never ask him how he knows things the rest of us don’t, it’s not good for longevity. Now back to the paperwork. I need you to sign the wage increase statement.” She said sliding a piece of paper over to me.

“I don’t understand?” And I didn’t. Did they want me not to say anything? If that was it, shouldn’t Cindy be here instead of me?

“You were the assistant on the floor. With his promotion, she said with hand quotation marks, you will move into his role and manage the floor. You will have two weekly meetings with upper managers on Tuesday and Friday at ten in the conference room on level seven.”

“Now, sign the paper, so we can get started. We have a lot to go over.” She said sternly but with a smile that ruined the whole effect.

I looked at it. I just got a raise about a third more than I was already making. I didn’t hesitate, I signed it quick and handed it back.

Pam laughed and kept shoving more and more papers at me to sign. I had no idea it was intensive being middle management. Life insurance, different pension options, dental, company car, which I declined, and expense account for treating clients to lunch. Right now I was so happy I didn’t want to think about how I was going to earn all of this.

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