To risk all

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Chapter 6

Michele stormed in the office without saying a word. She quickly closed the door. Clara hadn’t yet time to file the messages. She took the pile and went to the door, hesitant to turn the handle. Taking all her courage, she did. Her boss didn’t even raise her eyes to look at her. The young woman placed messages on the corner of the office and prepared to leave when Michele called her out.

“I’ve got interviews this afternoon and I want you to be there. Prepare the questions forms for all different jobs.”

Her boss gave her a list of vacant positions. Clara saw that there were ten in total. About six were in different departments. It wasn’t the first time she prepared those documents for Michele’s interviews, but assisting her during the interviews… She hid her astonishment, looking down at the list of job descriptions while Michele was still talking.

“You’ll ask questions and fill out the forms, but I also want you to annotate all your impressions about each candidate.”

The young woman stood up suddenly, confused and surprised.

“Me? Why?”

Michele stood up, looking very serious. I want to die! Her boss didn’t like when many questions were asked about a decision she made. But Clara didn’t understand why Michele had taken such a decision. She worked for her for several years and she knew how, but she had never done it. Then she had little trouble to conceal her surprise at this unexpected opportunity. What was she thinking?

“I need an impartial eye on those interviews. I know these people and that’s why I can’t trust my own judgment. You have already attended my interviews. So you know how to do it.”

Clara still couldn’t believe it. I was a very great opportunity offered for no real reason! She understood the conflict of interest in which Michele was. But should she be suspicious? Michele could have called to someone else than her assistant for those interviews. She didn’t have the qualifications required for that.

“So I’m counting on you. Be ready on time, please.”

“Yes. Of course.”

“Prepare everything you need for the interviews. For now, I need silence. Close the door behind you when you leave. Thank you.”

Still stunned, she shook her head and obeyed without a word. Once the door closed, she looked down to the list. She still couldn’t believe it! Her boss had just given her the chance to prove she can do better than answer the phone, take messages and give her some files when she needed them. It could perhaps open new doors for her within the company. She immediately went to work to prepare the forms necessary for the interviews in the afternoon.

She went through a few folders to find some job descriptions in order to provide a starting point to her work. She only stopped for lunch. She went out to buy a salad and returned to the office.

Comfortably installed in front of her computer, she went on the dating site. Rob had replied. Like his previous message, he was very courteous and a little pushy. He told her about dreaming of their first dinner, hand on hand. She shook her head and sighed. Is he really romantic or is he playing a game to attract her? He didn’t choose the right method with me! She wondered if it worth the trouble to reply. Yes, he insisted to meet her, but his speech was becoming more and more cheesy. As a method of approach, he could do better! She eventually chooses to delete the messages. She knew he had sent this stupid bullshit to all the women with whom he corresponded on the site. A nice talker. She didn’t want that. The type of men who thought they were Casanova didn’t attract her.

She took a bite of salad. She wasn’t disappointed or sad. She was briefly interested in the guy, nothing more. To take back her love life was a lot of patience. And hers began to disappear somewhat.

When she was about to close the browser window of her emails to finish her lunch, she received an email from Mary. She hastened to open it, curious to know what her friend had to say. She probably wants to introduce me another man who meets her own criteria. Mary reminded her she had left a future meeting pending. But she added he could meet her with other people, not necessary that they had to be alone and full of uncomfortable silences.

She answered after a few seconds of deep thought.

AGREE, BUT EDWARD DOESN’T REPRESENT THE OTHER PERSON. I DON’T WANT TO SEE YOU TWO TOGETHER AND IT’S NOT NEGOTIABLE. ONLY YOU, YOUR DATE AND MINE.

And she sent the message to her friend, hoping that her request would be respected by Edward and Mary. They were her friends, but she didn’t want them to mingle in her love life at the same time. She finished her meal and went back to work. Everything was ready for the interviews. Michele summoned her to her office shortly before the start of the afternoon to warn her that she might end her day a little later than usual. She wanted to spend thirty minutes with each candidate and, if everything went well, the minutes would be respected. Clara nodded silently. Time didn’t matter. The experience had much to her and she hoped one day it’ll benefit her. Then they went into the conference room for final preparations. The young woman took a deep breath when the first applicant entered. Let the show begin! She smiled and introduced herself with a neutral tone while shaking his hand. She wouldn’t let him see that she had the nerves to the breaking point.


The rain had stopped falling and the air was refreshed as she headed toward the subway to go home. Her cell phone rang. She answered it with an evasive tone, still floating on a cloud.

“Yes?”

“Where are you now?” Mary asked. “Are you home already or did you make a little detour?”

“I’m almost in the subway. Why?”

“I may have something to offer you. Are you interested?”

Clara frowned and sighed. Another one of your last minute plans that never works… The young woman wondered if her friend could have a good idea for once.

“Tell me.”

Mary cleared her throat before she unpacked her plan.

“How about you go home to change before you spend a wonderful evening with a sexy and single guy, me and a super classy man I intend to sleep with?”

The young woman couldn’t help smiling while listening to her friend’s sexy voice tone. She was probably in official hunting season and she sniffed a potential prey. Clara still had to admit that the prospect of returning to an empty apartment for a lonely meal wasn’t really enchanted. The idea of dining out was more interesting, even with strangers. She took a deep breath before she accepted. Mary gave a cry of joy. They agreed to meet in a small downtown restaurant and Mary promised her that Edward wasn’t going to join them there. Clara wondered if it was another promise that wouldn’t be respected. She took the road, still curious to know if the evening would be interesting or a total disaster.

Once home, she quickly jumped in the shower and got changed, putting on an outfit a little more comfortable for the evening. She pulled her hair in a bun on her neck and didn’t put makeup. It wasn’t worth it. She knew it was a waste of time. She remembered her meeting with Carl. While she was preparing herself, he stomach signaled he wanted to eat. The day had been high in emotion and she was starving! A brief glance at her watch told her she had a few more minutes. She opened her computer and looked at the job. Her heart was pounding in her chest when she saw a very interesting offer. Without thinking, she sent her resume and shut the computer before heading back downtown.

The warmer air warmer was scanned by a light breeze and there were many people on the terraces. She was waiting to cross an intersection. A man laughed very loud at her side. He was talking on his cell phone. She didn’t want to listen to his conversation, but she couldn’t help it.

“No, I haven’t arrived yet,” he said, smiling.

She waited patiently for the pedestrians sign.

“Yes, she’ll be there too! That’s why I’m going, you know! You really think I accepted for pleasure?”

He laughed.

“A real loser! Can you imagine? She shouldn’t be very pretty if her friend is looking for her! Mary may want to get rid of her because she’s so ashamed!”

The young woman wrinkled her eyebrows a little. It was perhaps a coincidence, but she had a strange feeling of déjà vu. He walked – and talked – while she was taking another street. She passed few people before arriving at the restaurant. Mary was waiting near the door, her phone in her hand. She grinned when she saw her. She quickly ended her conversation.

“Hi!” she cried. “How was your day?”

Clara shrugged without saying anything.

“No need to tell me: you were heading right home when I called you. What happened this time?”

“I had interviews this afternoon. I was assisted by Michele and I’m very proud of my work.”

Mary put her phone in her purse and applauded gleefully, telling she was very proud of her. Clara moved toward the door, but her friend touched her arm to stop her actions. She explained that Victor – her blind-date – was supposed to join them outside the restaurant.

“The staging wasn’t necessary,” Clara said, folding her arms across her chest.

“It’s not staging.”

Clara didn’t want to argue with her best friend. So they remained on the sidewalk to wait for the two men’s arrival. Clara finally told her every details of her day. Mary couldn’t believe she finally got the chance to do something like this. She felt that Clara should have had that opportunity way before. Clara chose not to answer. She merely shrugged her shoulders and looked away. She saw the same man who discussed earlier on the phone while waiting to cross. He was tall and wearing a three piece suit that was worth more than her annual salary. She was surprised when Mary’s face light up when she saw him. Ah! The new prey just arrived. The man approached the two women and put a hand on Mary’s hip before kissing her on the cheek.

“This is Victor Barry,” Mary said.

He hesitantly smiled. Did he just recognize me?

“Hi,” he said, extending his hand. “You must be…”

“The ashamed loser” Clara let go, crisply. “Pleasure to meet you.”

She refused to shake his hand. Mary noticed the uneasiness that reigned between them suddenly. She glanced questioningly at her friend who did nothing but shake her head without saying anything. I hope your Victor is a real sex bomb because he’s an asshole to me. Clara forced a smile even though she didn’t want to. Victor asked if Oliver has arrived. Mary shook her head, but she seemed impatient. The prospect of an eventful night, I guess. All her enthusiasm was gone with Victor’s arrival. Now she wanted to go home.

Like a miracle, Oliver appeared that this moment. Mary gave her a small wave with her hand and he smiled. Clara hardly dared to look at him. She began to wonder why she had once again accepted a blind-date. When she finally set eyes on him, she had to admit that the guy had a pretty face. The question was why he was still single. But she wasn’t going to ask him directly.

The four of them entered the restaurant and sat at a table in a quiet corner. They chatted for a moment before giving their order to the waitress. Mary was saying good stuff about her friend when she was talking to Oliver. Clara kept asking her to stop, but she didn’t listen. The restaurant was packed for a week day. Mary slipped in the bathroom, quickly followed by Victor. Tell me I’m dreaming! Clara took a long sip of ice water while observing the other customers. Oliver cleared his throat to get her attention.

“They don’t really… doing it…?”

Clara smiled, shaking her head. Words were useless in such situation. She knew Mary long enough to know that when she wanted a man, waiting could sometimes become unbearable. So much done early. The young woman was trying to say something when he took the lead.

“Don’t get me wrong, but you’re not my type.”

She stopped searching to lay her eyes on him. She had just obtained the answer to her question. She only shook her head. He continued his speech anyway.

“I’m here only because Mary was very insistent.”

“She can be very persuasive when she wants.”

He smiled and looked away. He was going to say something when the waitress appeared with their plates. Shortly thereafter, Victor and Mary returned to the table, like everything was normal. His shirt isn’t even wrinkled! They began to talk quietly while eating. Clara was anxious for this to end. She wanted to go home. She was still looking for the reason why she agreed to come. She knew it was a waste of time! She refused to take dessert. She asked for her bill, claiming to be very tired. She hastened to pay her bill. When she returned to the table to greet them, Mary seemed sad because she was leaving.

“Already?” she said.

Clara nodded.

“I’m tired. Pleasure to meet you, gentlemen.”

Oliver and Victor waved at her and she hastened to leave the restaurant. She had to admit having a slight twinge in her heart when Oliver had told her she wasn’t his type. Why had he agreed to come, then? Mary could be very insistent when she wanted something, but he didn’t know her really. He could say no. he wanted to take a look at the merchandise in case it was getting interesting? He was disappointed to see her. How come she wasn’t his type? Her physic should be the answer.

She shook her head to chase away her thoughts from her mind and went to her apartment. As she climbed the stairs, her phone rang. She reached into her purse to find it and looked at the screen. Her sister? Since when she gave her a call? She answered without enthusiasm.

“What’s going on, Victoria?”

“Where are you?”

“I’m getting home. What do you want?”

She heard an annoyed sigh from Victoria. But what was going on? With her, everything became an emergency.

“I need to talk to you. Go up quick!”

“Can’t it wait? I’m tired and I don’t want to argue…”

“No! I’m outside your door. Hurry up!”

And she hung up without leaving her a chance for her sister to say anything. Clara frowned while storing her phone back in her purse. What had she done to deserve an evening discussion with her big sister? And since when does she come to me for emergencies? Without actually going up faster, she climbed the stairs quietly. Unfortunately for her, Victoria was waiting for her at her door of her apartment. She sighed as she approached the door to unlock it. She went inside, her sister on her heels. Victoria quickly told her what was going on.

“Do you hate me?”

Clara opened her mouth to answer her, but immediately closed it, frowning. She didn’t understand why her sister asked her this question. She scanned Victoria’s face which has a very serious expression. My God, she’s really serious? She had to choose her words to avoid a monumental crisis, followed by the trial and judgment of her entire family. Nobody should stress the future bride! But she didn’t know what to say. Why she was asking her that?

“Where this conversation is going?”

“I know you don’t want to come to my wedding. So why do you hate me so much?”

Did I mention to anyone I wasn’t going? She didn’t remember that detail.

“You haven’t sent out the invitations! How can you know who’s going?”

Victoria sank on the sofa, her face in her hands. Clara looked at her, wondering again why her sister hadn’t chosen a career as an actress. Dramatic roles would surely have been easy for her to win a trophy! She loved to play the victim so much! It seemed as her life was summed up in a list of dramas. A true American soap! Taking a deep breath to calm her desire to shake her violently, Clara sat on the sofa near her sister and asked her where she had heard such a thing. It was true she didn’t want to go, but she hadn’t formally told anyone.

“Sebastian told me… This is the most important day of my life!”

Why did he say that? Just to cause a catastrophic reaction? Thank you! It’s great success! She suppressed a smile, knowing the answer now. Sebastian loved psychologically torture Victoria. And she believed it all the time! Since he would be outside the country and miss the wedding, he surely wanted Victoria to believe their sister wouldn’t go either. Except now, it was Clara who has to calm her.

“Don’t believe everything Sebastian says to you. Calm down.”

Victoria looked up at Clara.

“You promise you’ll be there?”

“I don’t like… to promise, you know…”

Her sister jumped back on her feet, startling her.

“I know why you react like a spoiled child!” she cried with a shrieking voice. “You’re so selfish! You only think about yourself!”

“What do you mean?”

“You decided not to come to MY wedding because you’re not my bridesmaid! It’s so immature of you!”

The young woman raised her eyebrows, realizing that her sister was really serious on this point. Just because she wasn’t a bridesmaid, she has decided to punish her by refusing to attend her wedding. What an idea! What could it change in her life that she’s there or not? Clara shook her head.

“You’re completely hallucinating.”

“So why can’t you promise me?”

“Because I hate weddings. I think it’s stupid that one day make people so nervous and irritable… It doesn’t interest me. That’s it.

“You’re lying!”

Victoria clapped her hands on her hips, looking furious. Seeing her sister like that, Clara felt that she had turned into a big cup. She suppressed a giggle.

“Anyway, why should I go? My presence doesn’t change anything, I think.”

“Because it’s MY wedding!”

“Exactly! Whether I am or not doesn’t change your day. You’ll don’t even notice!”

“I want you to be there because it’s very important to Patrick and me.”

It’s just bullshit! The young woman has difficulties to restrain herself from not saying what she really thinks. It wasn’t worth to provoke a new crisis of tears. Clara was too tired to argue so she finally makes her promise that she would be there. She bought peace only to please her sister, even if it just depressed her to spend an evening in company of people she didn’t know. Now much calmer, Victoria told her that there was a dinner to celebrate the engagement. It would be the following Saturday. Can I just disappear before this weekend? She simply smiled at her and wished her a safe return home. She quickly locked the door once she was alone. She leaned against it with a sigh of relief and despair. Another family dinner… How happy she could be! She was so happy to know that. She collapsed on the sofa, moaning in despair.


The next day was much quieter. Michele seemed in high spirits even though she locked herself in her office to work. She said she wanted a little peace to concentrate. In the late afternoon, she asked Clara to come into her office for conversation on the interviews. The young woman was waiting for a few reprimands and no compliment, and perhaps everything would be followed by some insults which only her boss had the secret. Michele loved to harass her pitilessly, to catch her off guard. For this reason, Clara remained on guard. She wouldn’t give her the pleasure to hit her.

“Sit down, please.”

Clara sat down without asking any questions.

“I just wanted to congratulate you for your work. The interviews have gone very well and you were very professional.”

The young woman was speechless. Very surprised, she had no reaction, remaining impassive without really realizing it. Normally, bad things followed very soon after the flowers thrown. What was she going to blame her for now? She rummaged in her memory what she might have done wrong, but couldn’t find anything. Sometimes, Michele lingered on the little details that seemed insignificant to ordinary mortals. Clara believed to have been as professional as possible despite her lack of experience. So what? Michele gave her a big smile.

“I also read the reports you have filled for the interviews. I’m very impressed by what you have accomplished.”

“Thank you.”

“It’s good to work with someone competent. You’ll be able to do the next interview when I’ll be out in a few weeks. I can rely on you without any worries.”

Where were the cameras? No insult? Really? What have I done to deserve her confidence? She only shook her head without answering. She was too surprised to say a word. She was always afraid that compliments hide a darker side. But to her surprise, nothing came. Michele continued to compliment her on her work and it was a good thing to have her assistant like her. She kept telling her that she was very lucky to have her working for her, she didn’t regret her decision.

“Thank you very much.”

“Tomorrow I’ll give you the files for future interviews.”

“Okay.”

Michele gratified her again with a big smile.

“Just relax, will you!”

Clara tried to return her smile, but she always had a knot in her stomach. She shook her head again trying to relax a bit. But she was unable to lower her guard. Michele could sometimes be very unpredictable. There was always room to remain alerted. Her boss gave her a folder to classify and reminded her that she would have other interviews to prepare for next week. Then Clara left the office as fast as she could.

When she was in college, one of her teachers told her she should enjoy the compliments that were made. There she was downright overwhelmed! It was good that someone finally recognize all the hard work she was doing. But coming from someone like Michele, it was enough to keep the date in mind as an event to celebrate!

During her lunch hour, she hastened to contact Mary to tell her everything. Her friend was stunned by the turnaround of Clara. She even asked if her boss was ill or under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Clara had to admit that she doubted it. Then she thought about it for a moment. Mood swings often explained a fight with her boyfriend of the moment. But now, she smiled and complimented. Does it mean that everything was okay with her boyfriend? It’s been a long time that Clara noticed that Michele lugging her personal problems in the office. If she had quarreled with her boyfriend, she was in a foul mood and nothing was good enough to satisfy her. The coffee tasted awful, the food made her want to vomit…

Lately, the situation had changed.

“I think you’re right”, Mary said. “She got laid yesterday because she left the office early because of you!”

“Super”, Clara moaned. “I’m victim of her sexuality!”

“Take it on the right side.”

“Easy for you to say! Your boss’s always the same when he speaks. Impossible to know if he’s happy or not when you’re talking to him!”

“At least I know with whom I’m dealing with.”

Clara sighed, rubbing her eyes. Mary hastened to ask her what they had discussed when Victor and her had gone to the bathroom. And why does it interest you? She simply said there was nothing to say.

“But what? We left for some time. You have probably discussed of something!”

“No. Not really.”

“Not even a little debate worthy for a first date? Nothing at all?”

“No. And it won’t go further either.”

“Too bad… I was sure you were meant for each other. Not even a phone call?”

The young woman shook her head, shrugging her shoulders.

“I’ll get over it, Mary.”

“So I can go for it?”

Clara sat up, surprised by the question.

“What do you mean…? With Oliver? And what happened with Victor? You’ve already dropped him without a second chance?”

“You’re kidding, I hope! This is ancient history, of course!”

Mary seemed almost proud of her. However, switching from one man to another without worrying about what will happen… There was nothing to be proud, according to Clara. But she kept her comments for herself. She was content to tell her friend she could go for him without regret. Mary was preparing for a meeting so they hung up. Clara went on the dating site and took a quick glance. She was very surprised to see Thomas’s photo. I thought he had a girlfriend… She read his profile and realized that it was active for less than forty-eight hours. That explained why she hadn’t seen before. She was still sorry to hear that.

Her profile had some appeal and the picture he had chosen wouldn’t let indifferent. She realized that they had partially identical tastes. She had never thought to date someone with whom she worked with. Was she his type? She didn’t know him very well and she was too shy to ask him directly. She thought about it before returning to work.

The phone didn’t ring for the morning, allowing her to concentrate more on preparing the interviews. At the end of the day, she closed her computer when she heard someone clearing his throat behind her. Intrigued, she turned to see who wanted to talk to her. Thomas stood in front of her, a hesitant smile on his lips. She frowned, waving.

“Is everything okay?” she asked him to engage the conversation.

“Yes! I… I just wanted to say hello… So… Hello!”

She smiled, holding back a giggle.

“Hello to you too.”

But he stood there without saying anything else. She began to feel a little uncomfortable. She bit her lower lip.

“Can I help you? Did you want to tell me something?”

“Uh… No… Yes… I wanted to ask you if you wanted to go out for a coffee with me one of these days...”

“One of these days?”

He laughed, a little embarrassed and his face turned crimson as she lightly laid eyes on him. He looked away for a moment, visibly more embarrassed. He corrected his offer by inviting her to go for a coffee after work, if she had nothing better to do. A strange feeling took hold of the young woman. She was curious to know why Thomas – a colleague for two years – suddenly wanted to spend time with her outside of office hours. She had never really mixed with other employees since she worked there. In fact, it was the first time a colleague invited her to spend time outside the walls of the building.

And she didn’t know what she could say. A social life outside her small circle of friends… Why not? It would change from Edward’s conquests or Mary’s acquaintances. She accepted his offer. He seemed relieved. She finished gathering her belongings and they went to the little coffee shop near their workplace. After ordering their coffee, they settle at a table to discuss calmly.

“You wanted to discuss something in particular or just to chat?” the young woman said in a calm tone.

She felt he was very nervous, putting her in trust. He shook his head by placing his cup on the table.

“No, not really.”

He just needs someone to talk to. But why does he trust me? She was that he hesitated to speak to him. He seemed to have something in mind, but he was unable to say. Then he launched himself without daring to look directly at her.

“Can I ask you a question?”

She put her cup in front of her, shaking her head.

“Of course. What’s the matter?”

“Even if it’s a bit personal…?”

Clara became a little more curious. He wanted to ask her a personal question when they didn’t knew each other. She wasn’t offended by it, but rather amused. A small smile on her lips, she replied that he could as the question and she retained the right to refuse to answer if she thought it didn’t concern him. He nodded, approving her choice.

“So? What’s your question?”

“I think I saw your profile on an online dating site and I was wondering if… it’s been a long time since you registered.”

“No. Why?”

Thomas’s shoulders sagged and the expression on his face betrayed his disappointment. She felt sorry for him. She asked him why he wanted to know this detail. He sighed, patting his coffee cup. He avoided her eyes for a moment.

“You had a girlfriend, didn’t you?”

He nodded.

“It took me a while before I register and I wondered if it was… long… to find someone…”

“It’s not recommended to seek at all costs, you know.”

He looked up at her, a forced smile on his lips.

“Easy to say.”

She smiled back, looking down on her coffee. No need to lie to him. To find someone wasn’t an easy task to do. It could be very long before something happens. The expression on her face told him that he fully understood what she meant. She bit her lower lip, wondering if she could add something without offending. She took a deep breath and stared in his.

“Can I be frank?”

“Of course.”

“Don’t try to replace her.”

His shoulders sagged again, discouraged. It was perhaps not very thoughtful of Clara to say such a thing, but she had no choice. Anyway, he should doubt it. It wasn’t the first time in his life he was single. To find a soul mate was a big challenge for many people. He sight deeply.

“I… I don’t want to replace her. I want to forget about her.”

“It’s perhaps not the right reason.”

“Yes, I know.”

She took a deep breath before revealing to him her deep thoughts. There was no other way to explain facts to him.

“I don’t think I’m the right person you should talk to.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Well because we work for the same company. That’s it. One of your friends would surely be the best to advise you.”

“It doesn’t matter!” he said. “We are in the same situation. This is why I believe you can help me. You understand what I feel.”

“Not quiet. I think I’m single for a little longer than you.”

He forced himself to smile to her, visibly sad to learn it that way. She would have liked not to mention this detail to him. She had still been very honest with him about it. She bit her lower lip, forcing herself to smile back. She insisted that there surely must have trustworthy people around him whom he could confide. He shook his head once again.

“You… you inspire me confidence… It’s…”

“It’s nice of you.”

“I would be able to understand women and it’s not easy!”

“And you think men are easier to understand? Your priorities are not always at the right place!”

Thomas frankly smiled at her for the first time since their arrival in the café. Clara was pleased to have achieved this little gesture. He only needed to talk to someone he could trust and who has an objective view of his situation. Moreover, he thanked her to distract him from his problems. She swept his thanks with a hand gesture. I do what I can so everything goes a little better for you. She understood what he feel, but she wondered if she could ask him more questions about what happened. She wanted to help him without insisting on details. He didn’t talk about his ex-girlfriend with her. It was possible that it was too soon for him. After a few seconds of hesitation, she asked him directly. The fake smile reappeared on the young man’s face. He sighed before looking directly at her. He didn’t really want to give details of what had happened. She doesn’t force him. But he chooses to speak.

“She left two weeks ago.”

Clara waited a moment before asking him what had happened for her to decide to leave. He shrugged his shoulders.

“An argument like any other and…”

“Nothing that could announce anything? Just a simple argument? Normally, there’s a triggering event.”

“I know.”

“And the dispute was over what?”

“A difference of opinion about… We talked about marriage. She wants to get married but not me. It wasn’t the first time we had this conversation, but we… we were avoiding the subject for some time.”

The young woman frowned, deciding not to answer him. There are people who take marriage very seriously. The total commitment to the loved one. Then she remembered that her sister was getting married. But there was a big difference between Patrick and Thomas. And it didn’t need to be compared to a moron. It wouldn’t cheer him up.

Mild discomfort settled between them. She was now seeking for an excuse to leave the café. She didn’t know what to say to cheer him up… without lowering his self-esteem. He was right about one thing: they were both single. She couldn’t lie about it, but she wouldn’t continue to discuss about it all evening. Thomas asked if he had spoiled her evening. She shook her head.

“Of course not. Why?”

“I’m talking about my problems when you should have of your own.”

By the merest chance, Mary chose that moment to pass her a call. The young woman bit her lip and apologized for having to take the call. Her friend had nothing special to say. Clara asked her if she could call her back. Thomas hastened to tell her she could talk to her friend because he had to go. He rose and wished her a pleasant evening. He thanked her for her advice before disappearing in the crowd. She frowned. What happened to him? He was gone so fast she wondered if it wasn’t a setup. The conversation with Mary ended very quickly, leaving the girl alone in the café. She shrugged and finally got up to leave too. She didn’t stand there. She went home, still wondering why Thomas had literally fled.

Once in her apartment, she went to her computer. She had received several messages from men interested in her profile. She took the time to read each one. One in particular caught her attention. They seemed to have much in common. She thought for a moment she could answer him. She thought it was a good guy. And he was cute too. She couldn’t deny a certain physical attraction.

So she answered him quite with the same tone: serious with a slight touch of humor. Mary called her for the second time after Clara closed her computer. Edward had just lost a big contract and he needed his two best friends. Clara couldn’t refuse.

She joined her friends. Edward was at a table, several empty glasses in front of him. She motioned to a waitress, asking her to clear everything. The young woman sat beside him. She put an arm around his shoulders and snuggled against him.

“Drinking does improve your mood?” she asked.

He nodded, his last glass towards his lips.

“It will not bring back your contract, you know.”

He slowly turned his face to hers.

“I can remember at least the amount that the company has lost because of me.”

She shook her head, sorry to see him like that.

Edward was an insurance broker and he considered himself one of the best in the company where he worked. Obvious thing because his colleagues were all ignorant. But for him it was a horrible defeat he couldn’t get over. He had been drinking quite a few glasses before she arrived and he was in a pitiful state. She understood perfectly that he wanted to forget this episode. She would have done the same! She whispered that everything would be alright. He didn’t answer.

“It was a mistake. The first of your career.”

“So what? Go tell that to my bosses.”

“They will not fire you!”

“And why not? It wouldn’t be the first time they make that decision.”

“Don’t say that!” Mary said, putting her arms around his neck.

The three of them ordered something to drink while trying to discuss something else. The two young women worked hard to support their friend during this rough time. Edward spoke very little. He was content to listen to what his friends told him. They were trying to be persuasive, but it never seemed to work. At about one o’clock in the morning, they called a taxi that took them back to their homes. Clara sank down on her bed. She wasn’t drunk, but her head wasn’t fully balanced.

She dreamed of her prince charming during the night.

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