“Listen,” Amy said, “I know this is lame, but it’ll be over quick.”
“It’s fine,” Jared replied, “I’ll fake it.”
She kissed him on the cheek, as they walked into the badly decorated rental hall. She was almost willing to bet her company had spent all of fifty bucks at the dollar store to fix the place up.
“Ames! Ames!” Rebecca shouted.
“Shit, is it too late to leave?” Jared joked. At least Amy assumed he was joking.
“Hey, Beck,” she replied. “How’s the party so far?”
“Absolute shit,” Rebecca said, looking critically at Jared. “So, I guess you decided to come?”
Amy could feel him squeezing her hand and she quickly tried to break the tension.
“Have I missed anything interesting?” she asked.
“Not really. Bob’s already drunk,” Rebecca answered. “I tell ya, some people just can’t hold their liquor.”
Amy was certain she heard Rebecca let out a tiny hiccup, but bit her lip to refrain from laughing.
“I’m going to go get a drink, do you want anything?” Jared asked.
He barely walked a few feet before Rebecca asked, “Why the hell did you bring him?”
“Oh, come on,” Amy said. “He’s really trying this time.”
“Bullshit. All guys will try when they think you’re about to leave!” Rebecca snapped.
“It’s not like that, Beck,” Amy replied, trying desperately to avoid the conversation.
“Well, I am telling you, Ames, there is far better out there for you,” she said. “One of them just happens to be here tonight!”
“What—,” Amy stopped, surprised by Jared handing her a drink.
“That’s my cue to leave,” Rebecca said. “Nice seeing you, Jared.”
As Rebecca walked away, Amy began to wonder who she had been talking about. A few possibilities raced through her head, as Jared’s phone began to ring. She gave him the evil eye.
“Jared!” she snapped.
“Sorry,” he replied. “I told them not to call tonight.” He answered his phone and walked away.
She then noticed she was standing next to a tacky, plastic, four foot tall Santa. His hand was stretched out as if it was waiting to be shaken. She figured it was worth a try. Shaking it, he began to wiggle from side-to-side, laughing merrily. She pulled away immediately, embarrassed by the commotion this has created. She moved towards the buffet.
Ah, food, you won’t let me down, she thought to herself. Just as she was about to enjoy a nice, greasy pig-in-a-blanket, Jared came up behind her.
“Listen, babe,” he began.
“No!” she snapped. “You’ve got to be kidding me!”
“I’m really sorry, honey, but they need me right away in Atlanta.”
“Well, fuck ’em!” she yelled, noticing the volume of her voice. “Tell them to send someone else.”
“I wish I could sweetie, but it’s that bad.”
“But you promised,” she didn’t like the pleading, almost pathetic sound of her own voice. She paused, trying to calm down. “I suppose you’d be happier somewhere else, right?”
“Aw, come on, Amy,” he said. “You know this has nothing to do with us.”
“It has everything to do with us, J,” she said, rolling her eyes. “Whatever, just leave.”
“Are you going to be alright to get home?” he asked after a brief pause.
“I guess I will,” she answered. “Not like I have much of a choice, now do I?”
After a kiss and a hug, both of which seemed forced, he left. She stood at the buffet wondering what to do. If she left, she was confirming how dependent she was on him. If she stayed, she’d have to deal with Rebecca’s nagging. Then, she saw her friend making her way across the room. Too late, she thought.
“Did he just leave?” Rebecca asked.
“Drop it,” Amy replied. “I need a drink.”
“Damn right you do!” she cheered. “First, there’s someone you’ve got to meet.”
“Oh, come on, he’s harmless. Besides, he’s new and needs to meet some people.”
Before she could argue, Amy was being dragged across the dance floor to a table filled with men. She scanned each one, wondering which one this ‘he’ was. She was hoping it wasn’t the one with dark hair, slicked back with way too much gel.
“Amy, this is Patrick. Patrick, this is Amy,” Rebecca introduced her to the taller one of the bunch. Amy noted how good-looking he was. “Patrick is your soon to be neighbor,” she was nudging Amy in the ribs. The men at the table chuckled. Amy wanted to die from humiliation.
“Oh, Amy, right,” Patrick said, smiling. He got up to shake her hand and she realized she was blushing. He was taller than she had expected, at least six-foot, if not more. He had gray, peaceful eyes, and seemed to take pride in his appearance, but not in an arrogant, macho-type of manner. Rebecca nudged her in the ribs again—Amy was staring.
“Hi, Patrick,” she said, shaking his outstretched hand. “I’m Amy.” You idiot, she thought.
“Yeah, I caught that already” he laughed. Now convinced she should have left when Jared did, she looked around to find Rebecca already chatting up the other men. Luckily for her, she thought, no one else had caught her blunder.
“So, what does she mean by us being neighbors?”
“I’m replacing Mark while he’s on paternity leave,” he explained, his smile never fading. “So I’ll be working in your office, I’ve been told.”
She nodded trying to hide her worry. Was this man going to be her co-worker? The one face she would see every day, five days a week? More often than her own boyfriend?
“That’s great,” she lied, faking a smile. Unlike the man he was replacing, Patrick’s good looks would surely be a daily distraction.
Patrick’s eyes darted to her left and she followed his gaze. Rebecca was now sitting on someone’s lap, flirting non-stop. Amy shook her head to seem surprised when in reality she wasn’t. Rebecca was, in a sober state, the office flirt, give her a few drinks and watch out.
Amy was now feeling rather uncomfortable. She badly wanted to leave, and Patrick obviously sensing this, suggested they hit the bar. Amy accepted almost too enthusiastically.
A few hours later, fairly loosened up with some alcohol, Amy found herself dancing with Rebecca. Only far too many Cosmos will make grown women dance to the YMCA and still look sexy. As the men ogled Rebecca, Amy couldn’t help but notice Patrick chatting with Debbie from Human Resources. She hated Debbie from HR. The sight of this somehow sobered her up a little, as she told Rebecca that she wanted to go home.
“Fuck you!” Rebecca answered, ever so graciously. “You’re not going home now?”
“Damn it,” Amy snapped back, watching Rebecca tug on her overpriced and over-revealing dress, “I’ve been here long enough.”
“Fine,” she said. “Loser.”
With a quick smack on her ass, Amy was set free and attempted to leave the party. She made it as far as the cloakroom before being startled by a light tap on her shoulder.
“Fuck off, Beck. I’m leaving!” she shouted, turning around.
It was Patrick. Surprised but grinning, he chuckled.
“Shit, I am so sorry,” she said, hearing the slightest slur in her words and realized she must be drunker than she had originally thought.
“That’s fine,” he said. “We’re you planning on saying goodbye?”
“No,” she answered directly.
“Oh, OK. Sorry.” He started to walk away, defeated.
Amy shook her head unsure why she had been so rude. “Pat!” she called him, making him turn around. “Come with me?”
“Outside,” she suggested. She knew she could probably make it to a cab alone, but thought it might be safer if she had a crutch.
Holding out his arm, she interlaced hers as he led her outside. The cold air hit her like a freight train but it felt good at the same time. She reached into her purse for her phone, nearly dropping it to the ground.
“Why don’t I take you home?” he said, picking it up for her. “I don’t think you should take a cab alone.”
She smiled at him and thought he seemed too sweet for his own good.
“You wanna sleep with me,” she said, unsure if it was a question or a proposition. Even in such a moment of absolute intoxication, she realized she was being stupid and unlike herself. “Shit, I’m sorry, Pat,” she apologized. “That was completely uncalled for.” She heard the words leave her mouth and knew it sounded like gibberish.
“Don’t be. I’ll just drive you home if that’s all the same?”
She smiled at him and accepted his offer. Besides, he was right. It would be wiser and safer for her not to be alone in her current state. She followed him to his car and tried desperately not to say any more stupidities.
“Amy?” he said, opening the car door for her. “Would you mind not calling me Pat? I really hate that.”
He didn’t seem incredibly upset about it, but she nodded and decided she was definitely better off keeping quiet.
The drive was a quiet one, and by the time they got to her place, she could sense she had probably repulsed him with her behavior. She thanked him, but he insisted on walking her to the door. She wanted to say no thanks, but nearly fell out of the car so thought it might be a good idea after all.
They got in the elevator and as the doors closed, she soon felt dizzy. Before she knew what had come over her, she was resting her head on his shoulder. Surprisingly, he let her. She tried to remember the last time Jared let her do that.
They exited the elevator, Patrick’s arm wrapped around her waist, still keeping her up.
“Are you sure you’re going to be alright tonight?” he asked, looking concerned.
“For sure,” she replied, unlocking her door. “Thank you for the ride home.”
“My pleasure,” he replied.
She leaned in and kissed him on the cheek. As she pulled away, stunned by her actions, she couldn’t help but feel a certain pull between them.
He cleared his throat. “I’ll see you at work, Amy.” With a smile, he walked away, down the hall.
She stumbled into her apartment and noticed that Jared had definitely left in a hurry. Items were scattered all over the place, with no concern for her. Before going to bed, she grabbed a glass of water and found a note sitting on the kitchen counter.
I am sorry. Please try to understand. I’ll do my best to come home soon.
“Yeah, right!” she said out loud, throwing the note away. “Shit.” Smacking her hand to her mouth, she barely made it to the bathroom before her night’s debauchery returned to haunt her. Cleaning herself off, she crawled into bed, desperate for the oblivion of sleep.
Within moments, her wish was granted.