It was almost 2am before I was finally exhausted enough to fall asleep. As much as I had tried to tell myself to be brave, the harsh reality was the day’s events had really affected me. Luckily what little sleep I had managed to get, calmed my nerves because when I woke on Saturday morning I felt okay again. I stretched in my bed, like a starfish, pointing my limbs out to each corner.
It was almost midday before I forced myself out of bed and into the shower. Even though my plans for the day didn’t involve leaving my apartment, I felt like I still had to get up.
The shower was soothing, the warmth of the water rushing over my body was almost as comforting as my dreamless sleep had been. If I hadn’t been fretful about the water bill I could have easily stayed in there for hours.
Once I was dressed I spent the rest of the afternoon watching incredibly bad movies on netflix. I was almost falling asleep when the sound of my phone woke me up.
I fumbled around for it, lifting it up and staring at the screen like it’s brightness was akin to 1000 suns combined. My heart rate picked up at the name on the screen, It was Tobias…
I swiped to answer and help the phone next to my ear.
“Uh, Mr Clarke?” I mumbled. “Everything okay?”
I lifted my hand to my face and shook my head. Of course things weren’t okay if he was calling. I wasn’t as though we were friends or anything.
“Ruby, I need your help.” He exclaimed, his voice was uncharacteristically soft and I didn’t really know what to make of it. “I was writing a report with the notes you collated yesterday, but I lost them. I need to finish the report to show a client before monday. Could you please come to the office and print me another copy.”
I swore under my breath, I still had the notes on the laptop, but I hadn’t saved the file with the collated copy before I had left the office. There had been too much going on, and I’d made another error. I was going to have to redo them. I looked at the clock, it was 6pm. “There’s a bus in ten, I can be at the office by 7.” I replied.
“I’ll pick you up.” He exclaimed. I could tell by the tone of his voice that it wasn’t an offer, he was telling me. “I don’t want you catching the bus at night for me.”
“Uh okay.” I frowned. “Thanks.”
“I’ll see you soon Ruby.”
The call disconnected and I stood there, dumbfounded. I walked into my bedroom and stood in front of the mirror. I chewed on my bottom lip. I was wearing my favourite jeans, ones I’d had since high school. They had seen their better days, but they were comfy and as ridiculous as it sounded, they reminded me of a better time. It was stupid to place so much nostalgia in pants, but now I was all alone… a lot of things gave me nostalgia. I grabbed my black cardigan and put it on over the top of my vintage The Doors T-shirt. I shrugged and walked out of the room, I didn’t have to impress Tobias, not on the weekend anyway.
Of course, the moment my phone rang again and I picked up, I regretted my decision to stay dressed like I was going to a rock concert.
I swiped to answer. “Uh hi.”
“I’m downstairs.” I ignored the way my heart seemed to skip a beat as Tobias’ voice filled my ears and whirred around my head.
“I’ll be right down.” I replied.
I shoved the phone into my pocket and looked back at my bedroom. I had no time to change. Reluctantly I left the apartment and walked downstairs, Tobias’ i8 sat outside on the road like a rose amongst the thorns of a dead garden. I opened the car door and sat in the low seat, almost audibly breathing a sigh of relief when I noticed he too was wearing jeans and a t-shirt.
“So you don’t just own expensive suits then.” I noted, hoping the change in attire meant he might be a little more laid back, my hope was in vain however because I felt him glare at me. I closed the door and put the seatbelt on.
“Don’t I pay you enough to purchase new jeans.” He remarked pulling away from the curb. I smiled, he’d cracked a joke, even if it sounded like it was painful for him to even say it.
“Guess not.” I replied with a smile. “You could always give me a raise.”
I watched him, surprised to see the corner of his lip move slightly. It wasn’t quite a smile, but it was something… a flicker. When we made it to the office Tobias drove into the underground parking. It was eerie being in the place when it was so empty. I got out of the car and followed him to the elevator.
“I need to redo the notes.” I whispered stepping into the small cell like room. “I was in such a fluster yesterday I didn’t save them.”
Tobias didn’t sigh, and he didn’t glare at me. He closed the doors and hit the button for the top floor then leaned against the outer wall. “It’s okay. I’ve got a couple of things to attend to anyway.”
His reply was surprising, stripped back of all the coldness I’d faced all week. I had made a mistake, but for some reason he wasn’t reprimanding me for it this time.
“I’ll save it to USB too.” I offered. “Just in case.”
The doors opened and we both stepped out into the darkened office. Tobias flicked a switch, instantly bathing the office in light. I walked around to my desk, and he walked into his office. I was collating the notes when he walked back out at sat on an empty seat in the corner of the office.
“I’m about five minutes from finishing.” I said without looking up.
“No rush.” Tobias replied. “So last night was uneventful I take it? No assholes turned up at your door?”
I looked up at Tobias, taking my attention from the work in front of me and tilted my head. Despite the fact he sounded almost angry, the words he spoke were inquisitive and laced with what sounded like worry. I shook my head and looked back at the document. “I suspect he’ll scurry back to where ever he came from.” I replied. For a little while at least.
“Good.” He muttered.
I frowned and stopped typing. I had been stupid enough to date Ben, and now Tobias had met Ben, he knew that about me.
“I’m not stupid you know.” I whispered.
“Excuse me?” Tobias replied.
“I didn’t willingly date a psychopath.” I replied. “I was lonely and he was lovely at first.”
“So yesterday… the way he was with you… that wasn’t a one off.” Tobias’ voice was thick and dark. I felt my cheeks heat up. Talking about this with Tobias was inappropriate, he didn’t want to hear about my problems.
“Oh. sorry you don’t want to know about my messy life.” I mumbled. “I should finish this.”
“Actually, If the guy is going to be a continued threat to you, I should know.” He replied. “Is he?”
I stopped typing and looked up at Tobias again. He looked angry, but this time I could tell it wasn’t me he was angry with. I nodded. Lying was futile, and I suspected Tobias knew the truth anyway.
“We broke up over a year ago.” I whispered. “Well. I left him, ran away changed schools, moved here. I thought it was the end of it. I thought I’d escaped.”
I thought wrong.
“I should have called the police.” Tobias whispered sadly. The reaction caught me off guard. I wasn’t his to protect, but for some reason he obviously felt guilt anyway.
“I just wanted him gone. You weren’t to know.”
“If I see him again…” His voice trailed off. He looked down at his hands. “As your boss, I need to ensure your safety. I’m going to have an apartment set up for you close to the office, one that has security detail at all times.”
I frowned, what was his deal? Five days earlier he had told me I wouldn’t be here right now and now he wanted to extend his hand with charitable gestures. Cold one minute, luke warm the next…
“That really isn’t necessary.” I replied looking back down at the finished document. I saved it to USB before printing it.
“Actually it is. Don’t bother arguing with me Ruby. I may be an asshole, but I’m not an asshole that will knowingly allow my employee to live where she is at risk.”
I stood up and pulled the freshly printed notes up from the copier. “I can’t afford to move yet.” I whispered shyly. “I’ve calculated it’ll be at least three months.” Granted my calculations were based on my old salary, still I hadn’t saved nearly enough for movers or rent either way. I walked back to the computer and pulled the USB stick out.
“The company will cover it Ruby.” Tobias exclaimed.
“What happened to me not lasting a week.” I walked across the floor and handed the items to Tobias. He took them from my hands and shrugged.
“You’re still here aren’t you.”
I smiled and walked back to my seat, I leaned over the desk and shut the laptop down. “I’m all done.”
“Would you like a night cap?” Tobias said, pointing to his office. “A thank you, for coming in on your weekend.”
I should have said no, I had already shared too much of my personal life with the man I was supposed to be working for. A tipple of some expensive alcohol would have me telling all my deepest darkest secrets for sure. I found myself nodding however. After the week I’d had… a drink sounded appealing despite the side effects.
“Sounds perfect.” I replied standing up straight.
Tobias didn’t smile, but his icy eyes softened as he stood up. I followed him into his office and watched him as he opened a small nook by his desk. He lifted two small tumblers out and placed them on his desk. “I only have whiskey I’m afraid.”
“Whiskey’s fine.” I murmured. “My father was a bit of a whiskey connoisseur, so I’ve had my fair share. Usually only a sip here and there though.”
I smiled, Mom had never liked Dad letting me try the various whiskey’s. She thought he was setting me up for wayward partying by giving me a taste of alcohol in my teens. Nothing could have been further from the truth, I’d never partied. Thankful for the memory I let out a reminiscent sigh.
“Was?” He said, pouring the amber liquid into a glass.
I bit my lip and fought back errant tears. With memories came the grief. “He died when I was 17.”
He stopped pouring the liquid and looked up at me, his eyes seemed like they were burning he swallowed and looked back down. “And your mom?”
“She died when I was 19.” I looked down at the floor. “They were so in love, but older you know. My dad was 50 when I was born, and my mom 43. He got sick with cancer when I was about 15 and fought it for two years. Mom’s death was a little more sudden. I think because of a broken heart.” I hadn’t even taken a sip, and I was already spilling my family history. Still I missed them like crazy. Talking about them made me feel a bittersweet happiness. It almost seemed right that they went so close to one another. One without the other just didn’t work, in life and death. I heard the glass whiskey bottle set down on the desk with a soft thud. Tobias’ chair squeaked as he stood up and walked toward me with a glass.
“I’m sorry.” he whispered. “That must have been difficult.”
“You would know.” I replied taking the glass from his hands. “You’re an adult orphan as well after all.”
He scoffed and walked back to his desk. “I suppose that is something we have in common.”
“What a thing to share.” I said dryly, taking a sip of the whiskey. It was good, expensive as I had guessed it would be.
“Josanna was like a mom to me in many ways.” He said sitting down. “Her and my father had been together for almost the entire time she worked here.”
“Josanna the PA?” I whispered. The one others had said he fired.
“Yes.” He nodded. “She and my father were lovers. But they never married, and they never lived together. I guess he did that for me.”
I wanted to ask why, but I could sense he wouldn’t tell me even if I asked. So I asked something else instead. “Why did Josanna leave?”
“She loved my father, and his death made her reevaluate her life. She wanted to travel before she was too old. So I told her to go.”
She had wanted to leave.
“That was very kind of you.”
He shrugged. “I didn’t have a choice. She would have stayed if I requested it, out of loyalty. I didn’t want her to go. But she would have been unhappy, and it would have affected the office.”
I finished the drink and placed the glass down on the corner of the desk.
“Your reputation… it’s not entirely correct is it.” I questioned.
Tobias’ placed his glass down with the thud. The loud sound shocked me enough that I jumped back. I looked up at him, his eyes were darker than ever and his mouth was taut.
“That’s where you’re wrong.” He said looking down at his glass. “My reputation is entirely correct.”