I must’ve fallen asleep because when I opened my eyes it was dark out. Jimmy sat on the other sofa chair watching TV. He looked down at me and shot me an empathetic smile.
“You hungry?” He said placing his beer down on the coffee table. “I could make you something to eat.”
The thought of food turned my stomach inside out. I shook my head and looked at the TV. He was watching an old movie, one I had seen before but couldn’t name.
“It was Tobias that called. He asked me to check up on you. I told him you’re here.”
My heart twinged. Tobias still cared, on some level I wasn’t nothing to him. The knowledge should have eased my pain, but it only increased it.
“Whatever happened, you guys will get through it. You two are the real deal.”
I wanted to believe him, I wanted to put weight into his words and live on the hope that he was right, but with Tobias’ words still fresh in my mind, I couldn’t justify it.
“I don’t want to talk about it.” I whispered.
“Fair enough. I uh, set up the spare bedroom while you were asleep.”
“Spare bedroom?” I replied sitting up. My head thumped, the sheer emotion of today had gotten to me. I wasn’t sure what I was meant to do or how I was meant to feel…
Work. I sighed and bit my lip. How was I supposed to work with Tobias?
“The study.” Jimmy noted. “When I moved in there was already a bed so..” He stopped and picked his beer back up. “So I put it in there.”
I smiled and nodded, as comfortable as the sofa was, sleeping in a bed sounded good.
“Thank you Jimmy.”
“Any time Ruby, You’re my friend, I care about you. You know that.”
I nodded, he was right we were friends and one day, when I wasn’t a complete mess I’d repay him for his constant support.
“I might go to bed.” I said standing up. “Work night and all.”
Jimmy raised his eyebrows. “You’re going to work?”
“It’s my job.” I replied. I knew what he was thinking, I was thinking it too. How on earth was this going to work.
“You’re a strong woman Ruby Moritz.”
I held back a self deprecating chuckle.
“Or am I insanely stupid?” I questioned. “The jury seems to still be out on that one.”
I walked through the apartment, dragging my feet across the floor, pulling the heavy suitcase down the hallway to the end where the study had once been. I pushed the door open. Jimmy had used the linens that had been on the bed in my old room when I had lived here. I smiled sadly and ran my fingertips over the soft fabric, was everything always going to remind me of Tobias? I forced myself to refocus. I picked my suitcase up off the floor and placed it on the bed. Once I’d dragged the zip around to open it I flipped the lid up. My clothes were still neatly packed like that had been earlier that day. I rifled through, looking for something to wear to bed when my fingers gripped onto a familiar grey t-shirt. I let out a gasp and pulled the offending item from my case. I’d packed Tobias’ t-shirt. The one I had pretty much commandeered early in our relationship. Tears welled in my eyes as I hugged the material close to my body. I inhaled deeply, although the shirt had more of my scent than his these days, a soft reminder of him still remained.
I turned off the light before stripping off my clothes and threw on the the shirt, it hung loosely over my body like it always had, but tonight it’s presence felt like a tight hug, reassuring me enough to attempt to sleep. I climbed in the bed and stared at the ceiling for what seemed like an age. I wanted to sleep, I wanted to remove myself from my torment even if it was only momentary. Unfortunately I couldn’t stop thinking and then my phone beeped at some point, startling me. I sat up and grabbed my pants from the floor. It was a text, from Tobias.
It’s better this way. I’m glad you’re safe.
I held back tears already lining my eyes, so he cared, but it wasn’t enough. Not if he didn’t love me. We’d been at this place once before, where I felt more than he felt for me. I couldn’t do it again. I swallowed hard and placed the phone down. Strictly professional was how it needed to be, I needed a job after all.
I climbed back into bed and closed my eyes finally falling asleep.
When I woke the next morning my eyes felt puffy, like I’d been crying. I tried to remember my dreams, but I couldn’t. Reluctantly I sat up and pulled on my jeans before walking out of the bedroom. The smell of coffee filled the air.
“Morning Ruby.” Jimmy exclaimed as I walked into the kitchen. He held out a cup of coffee for me, and gratefully I took it.
“Morning Jimmy.” I replied. I walked around the breakfast bar and sat down on one of the stools. I lifted the cup to my mouth and sipped on the hot liquid. It wasn’t as smooth as the brew in the office, but it wasn’t bad either.
“I can’t afford the stuff Tobias has.” He said leaning on the counter. “But it passes.”
“Thank you. It’s nice.”
“My pleasure.” He straightened up, leaving his mug on the bench before turning and opening the pantry doors.
I knew I should have been, I hadn’t eaten since before I’d left the hotel the day before but I wasn’t. My stomach turned and I shook my head.
“You need to eat.” Jimmy noted, sounding worried.
“I”m not hungry. I’ll eat a big lunch.”
Once I was showered and dressed for work Jimmy and I left the apartment. My heart was in my throat as we walked into the building together. When the elevator opened on Jimmy’s floor I almost contemplated backing out, heading down to the ground floor and running back to the apartment. But I didn’t. I forced myself to walk out once it reached the top floor, placing one shaky step in front of the other until I was behind my desk. I swallowed hard as I sat at my chair and opened up my laptop. I glanced up at Tobias’ office. Maybe we wouldn’t see each other today. He didn’t have any meetings, so he didn’t have any real reason to leave his office.
At that moment as if by some twisted form of fate his door opened. Our eyes met, and I struggled to keep it together. He looked confused by my presence.
“You’re here.” He exclaimed sounding as equally confused as he looked.
“I work here.” I replied, thankful that I sounded more together than I felt.
“But after…” He shoved his hands in his pockets and looked down at the floor. “After last night, I thought you wouldn’t want to see me.”
“I’m not here to see you sir.” I replied methodically. “I’m here to work.”
“Of course.” He replied. “Still if you need to take some time off. I can manage on my own for a while.”
He lifted his head, and returned his gaze to me. His icy blue eyes burned through me, setting fire to my soul. I should have taken the time off, but I was too busy digging my heels in. I shook my head.
His mouth fell into a thin frown, and his eyes darkened. He lifted his right hand from his pocket and ran it over the stubble of his five o’clock shadow.
“Very well.” He replied, his voice cold.
He turned away from me, breaking the eye contact. Once his office door was closed again I let out a strangled sigh and rest my head in my hands. This was going to be harder than I had anticipated.
My appetite still hadn’t returned at lunch time, so instead of eating like I said I would I managed to drink a herbal tea. Raspberry and lime flavoured, If Jimmy asked I’d tell him I had a raspberry and lime fruit salad. It would get him off my back about eating for awhile at least.
Tobias emerged from his office around 2pm. He walked across to my desk and placed a folder on my desk.
“It’s my final proposal for Echo Communication. Can you proofread and type it up for me. I need it by tomorrow 9am.”
I fought the urge to look up, and settled instead for lifting the folder up and placing it to the side. “Consider it done.”
“Good. Well in that case I’m taking an early day.” Tobias said.
“Oh, okay.” I replied, surprised. “I’ll finish this and then head… home myself.”
I closed my eyes and balled my hands into fists. Home wasn’t exactly something I had right now. Home had been with him… and now...
“Goodbye Ruby.” He whispered as he moved away from me.
“Goodbye.” I squeaked when he was too far away to hear.
The next week went by slowly. Going to work for the man who had taken my heart and ruined it for the rest of my life was something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Every day was like a nightmare that wouldn’t end, and yet at the same time I live for the glimpses of Tobias in the office. As hurt as I was, I still loved him.
Sleeping was intermittent, and my appetite was still MIA. My heart had never been broken like this and I wasn’t sure if I was ever going to recover.
It was a friday morning when I stood in the bathroom with a towel wrapped around my torso. The steam filled the room which made me feel slightly lightheaded. I leaned on the vanity for a second, gathering my bearings before stepping into the hot water. As soon as the water hit my skin I felt strange. I hadn’t been 100% for a while, since before the Echo party Tobias had taken me to, but now it seemed like it was all coming to a head. Before I knew what was happening, everything fell silent and the room went black. When I opened my eyes I was on the floor of the shower, the hot water still rushing over me. I let out a gasp of shock as I clambered up, using the glass panels to steady myself. Once I was on my feet I turned the shower off.
My heart pounded against my chest, was I sick? I hadn’t been able to eat more than a piece of toast in almost a week and my sleeping patterns were all over the place. My broken heart could account for some, but not all of this.
I stepped out of the shower and dried myself, before dressing into my work clothes. Once I was ready I escaped the bathroom and acted like what had just happened, hadn’t happened.
“You okay Ruby?” Jimmy asked as I walked into the kitchen. “You look kind of pale.”
“Just tired.” I replied.
Jimmy hummed, and I knew there was something he wanted to say but instead he bit his tongue. He handed me coffee in a to go cup and picked up his apartment keys.
“We should go.”
After an hour or so the nausea and lightheadedness wore off. I focused on my work as best I could and tried not to react when Tobias came and went from his office. Around lunch time I lost it. A woman arrived for a lunch meeting, a tall blonde bombshell with perfect teeth framed with a perfect smile and a perfect body.
“I’m here to see Mr Clarke. Ryan from Echo Communication sent me in his place.” I swallowed my jealousy and nodded, standing up.
“You must be Miss Halliwell. Mr Clarke is expecting you.”
I walked across the floor and knocked on Tobias office door.
He replied with a gruff “Come In.” So I pushed on the door and stepped inside.
“Sir, Miss Halliwell is here for your lunch appointment.”
Tobias looked up at me, his eyes cold and distant he nodded and closed down the screen of his laptop. His focus left me and settled on the beauty beside me, he smiled instantly warming up, oozing charisma like it was nothing. He stood up and walked toward us, holding out his hand to the woman. She slipped her hand in his and shook it daintily. I frowned as I watched them, suddenly feeling like the third wheel.
I stepped back, out of the office and their atmosphere. This was too much, I couldn’t do this. I held it together until he was gone, until they had left for their reservations but it was all I could do. The moment they were gone I fell apart in the coffee room behind my office. I sat on the floor in the corner of the room with my arms wrapped around my knees. I was a mess, I was more than a mess. This was unprofessional, ridiculous and pathetic, but I couldn’t stop myself.
“Oh shit.” Jimmy’s voice interrupted my pity party for one. I lifted my hands to my face and wiped away my tears before jumping to my feet. “Ruby.”
“I’m fine.” I replied, sounding anything but.
“And I’m the queen of england. I’m taking you back to the apartment. I’ll let Tobias know you’re feeling sick.”
“That’s really not necessary.” I exclaimed.
I conceded defeat quickly, but only because I didn’t want to be in the office when Tobias returned. I wasn’t sure I could restrain the green eyed monster and my broken heart at the same time. Jimmy walked me back to the apartment, and once I was inside left to go back.
A few hours later when Jimmy came home he sat down on the sofa across from me and let out a big sigh.
“Yeah.” He murmured. “Look, Tobias asked me to tell you he’s placed you on administrative leave. Until things have calmed down between you both.”
I shook my head. “Wait what?”
“You’ll still get paid and eventually you can go back.”
“Jimmy? Why? I was dealing with it… I…”
The thought of not seeing Tobias at all in any facet filled me with dread. My throat became dry and I was on the verge of crying.
“He’s not.” Jimmy exclaimed. “And if you’re honest with yourself neither are you.”
“He dumped me Jimmy. He said he didn’t love me. What does he have to deal with.” I spat out.
Jimmy frowned and sat forward. “Just look at it this way. You can focus on yourself for a while and your job is still there for you.”
I shrugged, Tobias held all the cards, as he always had. Jimmy was right in a way, at least he wasn’t firing me.
“I guess I have no choice.”
“Pizza for dinner? My treat?” Jimmy offered with a reassuring smile. I shook my head and stood up.
“Not tonight Jimmy. I might go have a rest.”
The novelty of not having to get out of bed early wore off quickly. Especially when I was still having trouble sleeping anyway. I still hadn’t been able to eat much, and Jimmy had begun to get worried. He’d asked me to see a doctor, just to be on the safe side, but fear held me back. My symptoms read like my Father’s early hospital reports. Lack of appetite, constant nausea and insomnia. Not to mention my emotions were all out of whack. No, ignorance was bliss, unlike the rest of my life right now.
“Come to starbucks with me?” Jimmy exclaimed the Saturday after Tobias has put me on leave. I hadn’t left the house in days and truth be told despite feeling like death warmed up, i was beginning to get cabin fever. I nodded, pushing myself up from the sofa in the lounge.
We left the apartment and walked the three blocks to the nearest starbucks. The walk zapped me of any energy I’d managed to gather from the previous night’s three hours sleep. The warm air did nothing to quell the unease that began to wash over me. Jimmy held open the heavy glass door of the coffee shop and I walked inside, welcoming the air conditioning like it was my own personal icy blanket.
I followed Jimmy to the counter and looked up at the menu, the words hazed together, blurring until I couldn’t read a thing. I placed my hand on the glass of the food cabinet, and the other on Jimmy’s shoulder. My head felt like concrete, too heavy for my neck to support. I closed my eyes in an attempt to make the room stop spinning, but my stomach continued the motion anyway.
“Ruby?” Jimmy’s warped voice filled my ears, but he sounded strange like a radio that was running out of batteries. I opened my mouth to speak my nothing came out and before I could stop myself, I fell to the ground and the world around me was suddenly black.