“So, do you need an ear.” Jimmy asked as we walked down the street. “I’m a good listener, promise.”
I smiled, but shook my head. “I wouldn’t know where to start.”
“At the beginning.” Jimmy teased. “It’s where most stories start.”
“I dated an imbecile a few years ago because I was lonely. He wasn’t nice… I left him and he followed me here.” I gave Jimmy the short version of the truth, leaving out any and all references to our boss.
“Sounds heavy.” Jimmy exclaimed. “Want me to pound him for you?”
I shook my head. “He was arrested yesterday. Hence the stressful 24 hours.”
“Wow, Ruby. I’m sorry you had to go through so much.” He murmured after a pause. Clearly I’d caught him off guard.
“I’m okay.” I replied. “At least, I will be.”
Jimmy didn’t say anything else. He didn’t need to, just being in the company of a friend was enough to balance out some of the pain I was feeling inside.
A few minutes later we walked into the pizza parlor. Jimmy ordered us a couple of slices of pepperoni and a pitcher of beer before we sat down in a booth near the window.
“Thanks for bringing me here. I really needed the distraction.”
“I’m just glad I saw you.” Jimmy replied. The waitress brought the pitcher of beer and two glasses to the table a short while later. “Thanks.” he smiled up at her.
Jimmy poured the cold ale into my glass, filling it to the brim before filling his own.
I lifted the glass to my lips and swallowed some of the refreshing drink.
We talked about work, about our dreams and hopes for the future. It was nice not to think about anything heavy even if it was only fleeting, even if I knew the minute I walked back out onto the street it would all come flooding back.
“The pizza was amazing.” I exclaimed placing a small remnant of crust down on my plate sometime later. Jimmy nodded and picked up his glass of beer.
“Right!?” He replied. “Kind washes away all your troubles in a sea of carbs and cheesy goodness.”
I let out a chuckle and nodded. “Yeah. You could say that.”
“Did you want me to walk you home?” Jimmy said softly. “I don’t mind.”
Home. reality came crashing down earlier than I had hoped. I hadn’t factored in returning to the scene of the crime just yet and I certainly hadn’t factored in returning alone. I sat back in the booth and looked out the window. I couldn’t face it tonight, not after everything else that had happened today. I just didn’t have it in me.
“I’m uh… I’m actually going to stay in a hotel tonight.” I looked down.
“Yeah. I just, I don’t feel up to going home right now.”
“Fair enough.” he replied. “Don’t take this the wrong way or anything… But uh… My apartment is few blocks down. I have a couch. You’re more than welcome to stay.”
I smiled. “Thanks but I probably wouldn’t be great company.”
“You’ve been fine company so far. But I understand.” Jimmy replied.
I nodded and stood up, all I really wanted to do was take a long hot shower and climb into a bed. “You’ve done more than you realize Jimmy.”
He helped me find a hotel a couple of blocks away then went home. I walked into my hotel room alone and let out a heavy sigh. My mind ached almost as much as my heart did.
The hotel room had a spa, so eager to soak my aching body, I turned the jets on and once the water was warm I undressed and climbed into it.
The heat relaxed my body, but did nothing to relax the millions of thoughts that were currently smothering my mind. I ended up climbing out, feeling no better than I had before. I wrapped the hotel’s fluffy white bathrobe around my naked body and fell into bed. Desperate to put everything behind me.
My sleep was broken, I woke at least five times at various intervals over the night. When I woke at 5am I figured going back to sleep was pointless. I lay there thinking about Tobias and how I always seemed to be drawn to men I couldn’t truly have. The logistics aside though, I already missed him, the way his arms felt around me, the way his lips felt on mine, I missed his eyes and his smile, even if it’s occurance didn’t happen nearly as often as I’d like. I wanted to stop, but I just couldn’t. I was in love with him.
I checked out of the hotel around 10am, With nowhere else to go, I forced myself back to my apartment. I walked through the sliding doors into the foyer and smiled at Chris who stood there at his post, with his arms folded.
“Ruby. How are you doing?” He said softly, his voice betraying his burly size.
“I’m alright.” I lied. “How are you?”
“Good. Hey, you want an escort to your room? You haven’t been back since…”
I shook my head and placed my hands in the pockets of my jacket. “I’ll be okay Chris. Thanks though.”
He let me into the main foyer and I walked toward the elevator. My heart rate elevated after I pressed the button and waited for the doors to ping open. I wasn’t ready to return, not by a long shot. I closed my eyes and tried to shove the memories haunting me away into the same pandora’s box I’d shoved my failed relationship with Ben into, but the enormity of it meant that I couldn’t just block it out, I was going to have to deal with it.
The doors opened, so I opened my eyes and stepped inside the small cubicle. I pressed the button for my floor and looked down at the floor as the doors closed again.
Time seemed to slow down on the ride up to my apartment, and every bad thought I could possibly have crossed my mind. What if Ben had escaped, what if he had come back. I was almost in full blown panic attack mode when the doors opened again. I grabbed my keys from my pocket and walked toward my door, shaking the entire time.
“Calm down.” I whispered to myself under my breath, for what good it did.
I unlocked the door, and pushed it open. I walked inside, stopping to take the time to lock the door behind me. I walked slowly across the floor, absorbing my atmosphere as if it was for the first time, checking to make sure everything was okay. Checking to make sure I was okay with everything. I glanced over at the couch a brief flashback of Ben pushing me down surfaced. Anger surged through me.
There had been a moment when I could have reached forward and grabbed the gun from his pocket. I could have turned the tables on him then. Hindsight was a beautiful thing though, and just like the rest of my life I couldn’t change the past.
I looked away and continued down the hallway, stopping at the door of the bathroom. I looked inside, the police had taken my phone from the floor of the shower. I frowned, I was going to need to buy a new one. I opened my bedroom door, expecting a rush of darkness to engulf me, but it never did. I smiled and walked into the room. Ben hadn’t won… I had, and this time I wasn’t afraid he’d return.
I spent the rest of the day watching movies, but not Tarantino. It was going to be a while before I could face watching one of his movies without Tobias. Instead I watched sappy romantic comedy after sappy romantic comedy, crying with frustration at the seemingly ridiculous happy ever afters. At some point I just gave up and crashed into my bed, angry at love and everything that came with it.
I woke with a start the next morning, gasping for air as I sat up in my bed. Today I had to face Tobias and I had to be adult about it, when everything within me wanted to moon over a relationship that couldn’t happen.
I forced myself out of bed and into work appropriate attire. I walked into work, behind the same snooty bitches who’d whispered and snickered about me and Tobias numerous times. I scowled, today I wasn’t in the mood for their bullshit.
I stood behind them while waiting at the elevator, praying they’d all grown up enough not to say anything, at least not while I was present. But I wasn’t that lucky. The moment the doors popped open one of them looked back at me, the one whose friend had supposedly bedded Tobias. She gleaned a satisfied grin in my direction and chuckled.
“Still here?” She said in mock surprise, which garnered the attention of her friends. They all turned to look at me, four sets of beady eyes staring in my direction. I pushed passed them, walking into the elevator without saying a word.
“Look at her, thinks she’s so much better than us.” One of them remarked in a low voice.
“If only she knew…” The girls all laughed, which riled me up. I shook my head and turned to face them, nibbling at the bait they had dropped. I folded my arms hard across my chest and stared them all down.
“Knew what?” I exclaimed, my voice harsh. “That I got the job because everyone else was too shit scared to even try? I’m not a moron, and unfortunately for you pack mentality bitches, I’m also good at my job. I succeeded where you all failed, and you’re nothing but a bunch of sad jealous little girls. Grow the hell up.”
The doors opened on the second floor, but none of the girls moved. They looked shellshocked. The ring leader gulped and placed her hand behind her neck.
“We were just… we were just mucking around.” She murmured sheepishly.
“At my expense. Nice.” I replied. “If you’ll excuse me, I have actual work to attend to.”
The girls spilled out of the elevator and I let an amused smile cross my lips as the doors closed. So my broken heart meant I had little to no tolerance for bullshit, maybe it would work in my favor.
I walked down the corridor toward my desk when the elevator doors pinged open. I was still smiling when I sat down and turned on my computer. It was two minutes after 9, technically I was late, but after the showdown in the elevator had been worth it, luckily though, it seemed that Tobias himself hadn’t arrived yet.
I glanced through my emails, although there was nothing important yet so I opened up a proposal Tobias had given me to type up. A few minutes later the elevator made it’s familiar ping sound and the doors opened.
I fought the urge to look up, scared that if I did I’d throw myself at Tobias here and now, but then the unfamiliar sound of a female’s laughter filled my ears. Tobias mumbled something out of earshot. I looked up and the smile I had been wearing fell into a frown almost instantly. Tobias was with Louisa Taylor. She was quite clearly everything I wasn’t in a nutshell. Tall, blonde, with a figure to die for, which just so happened to be styled in a royal blue bodycon minidress that clung like life to her every curve. She was a goddess, as perfect as a person could be in real life. I looked at Tobias, he was dressed in a suit, which wasn’t unusual… what was unusual was the fact her arm was looped around his.
For a fleeting moment our eyes met. His expression was unreadable. He looked back at Louisa and then said as he passed my desk.
“Louisa this is Ruby, my PA.” he noted abruptly. “Ruby, this is Louisa.”
Louisa pulled her arm from Tobias’ and held it out. “Nice to meet you.” She said softly.
I placed my hand in hers and shook. “Likewise.”
“Ruby, I didn’t have time to order in coffee before work. Could you make Louisa and I coffee? Bring it into my office.”
“Of course. Right away.” I replied, standing.
The two walked into his office, and I stood there, dumbfounded as the door closed behind them. My stomach twisted, and my heart plummeted.
She wanted him, it was her one, whilst unprofessional, stipulation for the deal going ahead. Now she was here, first thing in the morning, with him. I walked into the small break room and turned on the coffee machine. He hadn’t had time to get his coffee, maybe because he’d been too busy with her.
I closed my eyes and pushed away the green eyed monster. I was going to have to ignore the facts as they were laid out. I had a job to do, and I couldn’t spend the entire day wallowing about Tobias and Louisa, even if it was all I wanted to do.
I made the coffee, then placed all the condiments on a tray and walked with it into Tobias’ office, Louisa sat across from Tobias. She was browsing through a folder. Tobias stood up the moment I walked into the room, grabbing my attention. He walked across the floor to me and took the tray from my hands. I looked away from him, scared that I would find myself lost in his eyes given half the chance.
“Thank you.” He exclaimed.
“Anything else sir.” I replied clinically.
“No. Thank you Ruby.”
I nodded and walked back out of the room. I successfully managed to avoid Tobias for the remainder of the day by taking an early lunch running errands throughout the office building to pad out the rest of my day. Just before 5pm Jimmy brought the last round of mail up for the day. I hadn’t seen him all day and it was nice to finally see a friendly face.
“Feeling better today?” He asked placing a small box on my desk. It was addressed to Tobias. I shrugged and slid the box across the desk.
“A little.” I replied, even if it was stretching the truth. The Tobias and Louisa development was bothering me more than I was letting on, but the day was almost over. Soon I could go home and forget it all.
“In that case, maybe we could head out for food?”
“I’d like that.” I needed to get my mind of Tobias… “I finish in a few minutes I’ll meet you out front.”
Jimmy nodded and tapped on the desk. “Awesome. See you soon.” Jimmy stepped back from the desk and almost double back into the wall as his attention drew away from me.
“Mr Clarke.. I didn’t see you there.” He choked out.
“Clearly.” Tobias voice filled the room and smothered me. Jimmy half waved in my direction before making a hasty retreat toward the elevator. I looked up at Tobias, his eyes were dark and looked angry about something. I felt my brows furrow as I grasped at the box.
“Package for you.” I replied.
“Actually it’s yours.” He remarked. “A new phone. To replace the one that….” His voice trailed off. He walked back toward his office.
“You didn’t have to replace it.”
“Yes I did. It was a work phone.” He replied quietly.
“Well, thank you.”
“You can leave now. Your date is probably already waiting.”
“It’s not like that.” I whispered.
Tobias let out an amused scoff before walking back into his office. He closed the door behind him and I sighed. I closed the computer down, took the box and left the office before I made things worse.
Jimmy was waiting outside the building, sitting on a park bench to the left of the doors. He looked up as I walked out the door, his eyes gazed down at the box in my hands.
“It was for you?” he asked.
“Yeah, a replacement phone. Mine met a watery end.” I replied.
“Oh bummer, well least those job perks get you a new one.”
I shrugged. I didn’t give a rats about the job perks. There was only one thing that I wanted… One person.
Jimmy and I walked for a bit, stopping at a kebab food van a few blocks down. We ordered food and once it was cooked walked down to the harbour. We sat out on the pier as the sun set. Talking about anything and everything… well almost everything, until the sun had gone down.
“I should head home.” I murmured standing up as the air began to turn cold. “Thanks for tonight.”
“I’ll walk you.” Jimmy offered.
We walked through the city, back down the main street toward my apartment complex.
“This is me.” I said stopping outside the building. Jimmy looked up and raised his eyebrows.
“Wow, this puts my one bedroom bedsit apartment to shame.” He groaned. “The rent on this place must be killer.”
I gulped and just nodded, not willing to admit that I wasn’t even sure what Tobias usually charged for apartments like mine.
“Well, uh. We should do this again sometime.” Jimmy murmured.
“For sure. I had fun, it was nice to push my troubles away for a couple of hours.”
Jimmy smiled before stepping forward and placing his hand over mine. At first I took it as a friendly gesture, but then he moved closer, bringing his face closer to mine.
“Jimmy.” I remarked, my voice a soft whisper. “Stop.”
He stopped immediately dropping his hand from mine and stepping back. Our eyes met and I could see rejection within his. I felt guilty, Jimmy was a nice guy, and if things had been different he probably would have been exactly what I needed but I couldn’t change what had happened, I couldn’t change who I loved.
“Sorry, Jimmy… You’re a great guy.” I paused and looked down. “It just, I’m in love with someone, unrequited and he’s completely unobtainable, but still… I’m in love with him.”
Jimmy smiled and dipped his head forward. “Mr Clarke?” he questioned knowingly.
“Stupid right?” I replied, confirming his guess.
Jimmy shook his head. “Not at all. I’ve seen how he looks at you. I don’t think it’s as unrequited as you think.”
I smiled sadly. “I really wish you were right.”
Jimmy placed his hand over mine again. “Well he’s an idiot if he can’t see how special you are.”
“You’re a good friend Jimmy.” I murmured.
Jimmy laughed and held his hand up to his heart. “Ooh, friendzoned.” he joked before shrugging. “No really though, if you ever need someone to talk to, about anything. I’ve got a shoulder and some pretty good ears.”
“Thanks Jimmy. I might just take you up on that.”
Because if today had been anything to go by, Getting over Tobias was going to be harder than I had anticipated.