“Are you sure that’s all there is to it?”
Julian looked at her in disbelief. “That’s some severe accusations, Grace.”
“You didn’t answer my question, Julian.”
He scoffed and shook his head. “No. Why would you even think that?”
Grace finally peered back at me, where I’ve remained stoic throughout their confrontation. It was then Julian noticed more bystanders had gathered as people returned from their lunch break.
She bravely glared at him, unhinged by the gathering crowd. I think she’s using it as leverage. “Oh! I have more to say. When she arrived in your life, you suddenly disappeared. Gone! Not even a call! And you think I won’t know something is up?”
“For goodness sake,” he sighed in frustration. “I’ve always been gone for weeks at a time when I’m busy, Grace. You know that.”
“But she’s there with you. Remember New York!”
“Don’t you hear yourself!”
“You still haven’t answered the question, Julian.”
“That’s it, Grace! I don’t want to speak about this nonsense again. You know your way out.” Julian said with finality and made a quick exit towards his office.
“Wait! Julian! Please! I’m sorry! I didn’t mean…” Grace didn’t have time to finish her piece as I walked past her and Amy joined me.
When she finally noticed, she sent an icy glare my way. “You.” She breathes.
She didn’t get her claws on me when Amy walked out from behind the reception desk and blocked her way. “Ms. Allen, please. We don’t want to make any commotion. And I know you don’t like to be escorted out here with security.”
“Just let me talk to him… he’ll…” She tried, like feigning innocence, though it was obvious. I got to admire her boldness.
“Don’t let me do something you might not like, Ms. Allen,” Amy warned again, her voice softly echoing as I finally walked away from the scene.
I mentally noted to talk her later for that.
Once I arrived at my cubicle, Julian didn’t even let me sit as he called. I placed my purse on my desk before entering his office.
As the glass door closed behind me, he didn’t wait a minute to let me breathe. “I saw you two get out of the elevator. Did she say anything to you?”
“Don’t worry. I can hold my own.” I reassured him.
“God! This is a mess. Why the hell is she here? Can’t she take a hint? I don’t want to talk.” He grumbled under his breath.
I watched him paced in front of his desk for a moment before taking a seat on the couch. “Maybe that’s just it. You have to talk to her so that she could take a hint and stop stalking you.” I offered.
Julian was preoccupied with his thoughts. It took him a minute to hear what I said. “What?”
“You heard me. Talk to her. Tell her what you want to say. It’s obvious the woman needs closure.” I firmly stated.
“What?” He asked again.
“Oh! Don’t pretend to be deaf. It’s an insult to deaf people.” I scoffed. “Just talk to her,” I commanded. “And don’t think I’ll be solving all of your love problems again in the future.”
With that, I got up and headed to the door. “If you need anything which isn’t related to your troublesome romantic problems, I’m by my desk.”
Julian was too baffled to answer, which was amusing to watch.
By the next day, the gossip about Julian and Grace’s confrontation by the reception area had done widespread throughout the floor and some staff in the building. I could see some of my co-worker peering briefly in his office and at me whenever they passed by. It was like the first day of work all over again. As for Julian, he was like a child throwing a tantrum and kept himself locked up in his room that evening, and now in his office. Any other week his silence was a blessing; however, this kind of silence was nerve-wrecking for me. It made me rethink my perspective about Julian. But it doesn’t change anything that what we currently have was purely physical.
While I pretended to wait for our dinner meeting again, which had been the official excuse I made about staying at his place, Julian suddenly came out of his office. I fumbled through my things, getting ready to go when he finally spoke to me that didn’t involve ‘hi’ ‘good night’ let’s go’ or business talks.
“Do you have any plans tonight?” He asked. And for a moment, I felt my heart jolt at the question. Don’t get your hopes up. Wait for the punch line.
“Depends. Do you need me for something?” I inquired about evasively.
I studied me for a moment before wearily peered behind me on the open workspace, which was mostly empty now it was nearly two hours past cut-off.
“I pondered on what you told me yesterday. And then, I thought some more of it today as well…”
“Is that why you weren’t talking to me?” The words got out of my mouth before I could stop myself. I know it was a mistake from out the edges of Julian’s lips perked up in amusement.
“Were you depressed I hadn’t been talking to you all day?” he coyly asked.
“Oh, shut it!”
He chuckled at my embarrassment.
“I’m sorry for being a prick. I’m going to make it right.” He stated, reverting back to our main topic.
“And how do you propose to do that?”
“Like you said, I’m going to talk to her.”
“Talk to her…”
He rolled his eyes at how slow I was catching on. But I’d rather pretend to be stupid than a hypocrite since I didn’t want him anywhere near her after that fiasco yesterday.
“Why do you look so passive? You’re the one who suggested that I talk to her.” He reasoned.
“I did. Yes, I did.” I put on a poker face and smiled. “I’m glad you listened.”
“So, I’m going to meet her now for dinner. Which is why I’m asking what are your plans for tonight? I’ll be heading to the restaurant from here. Or would you like that I ask…” I stopped him before he said something that might pull my heartstrings.
“No. I’ll be fine. I think it’s time I’ll stay over in April.” I informed.
“Are you sure? I could ask Jeff to drive you to apartment…”
“You know that won’t look good after…”
“Yeah, yeah. I know after I heard myself say it. It isn’t a great idea at all.”
“Glad we’re on the same page.” I smiled.
“So, that’s it then…” He pointed awkwardly.
“Thank you for actually considering my advice in your personal decision. I didn’t mean for you to act on it this quick, but still… I appreciate you considered it.”
Julian’s expression softened. “Of course. I highly value your opinion, Ms. Curtis.”
What I tried to avoid happened anyways. I felt my face flushing and my stomach filled with butterflies. Oh good. Not this again.
When I made the call to April I’d be staying over the night, she was both overjoyed and irritated as she found out why I was making the visit.
“Oh yeah! I heard it from Amy yesterday. She told me last night when we had dinner together again. You know, my sister needs a good no-strings-attached commitment like Julian and you. I don’t even know when was the last time that woman was with a man since she came back from London to be a receptionist in the Chicago branch.”
I smiled as April runt-on about her older sister’s lack of interest with the opposite sex. We both knew she wasn’t playing for the other team since she had a long-standing boyfriend through college, which ended since she wanted to take the job in London while the guy wanted to say in Chicago.
“I agree. She does need some help in getting laid. How about a lady’s night?” I offered.
“I’ll hold you on that thought, but let’s go back about your situation first…” She quickly turned the table back around, seeing how I’m going off the rails on our main topic.
“I’m heading over to your place now. I just got out of work. We’ll talk then.” I offered. I felt like eavesdropping eyes and ears were around me.
“Got it. See you, Zoe!” She squealed.
“Bye, April.” I grinned at her enthusiasm.
It took me forty-five minutes to make the trip to her apartment as I made a quick stop at one of our favorite pastry shops, getting our favorite chocolate fudge cake to binge eat while we gossip. When I arrived, April was already in her comfortable over-sized Michigan College shirt and booty shorts with Chinese take-out on her living room coffee table.
“Zoe! Over here! What did you bring?” She greeted as her eyes landed on the overly familiar packaging. I didn’t even know why she’d asked.
“It’s fudge cake. Come on.” I snorted. “Did you get me dumplings?” I called as I put the cake out of the fridge for later.
“Of course!” She called back in replied. “Do you want to change first before I eat or should I eat now?” She inquired as I returned to the room and placed my purse down on the floor beside the only love seat couch in the room, facing the television.
“I’ll change. You can eat. I know you’re hungry, April.” I chuckled and headed to her bedroom.
It took a second for me to find the stash of clothes I personally left and washed here in April’s place. I also have all of my toiletries and a small bottle of facial and hair products that I used. Once I was in near identical outfit to my best friend, I returned to the living room and grabbed my own share of food and dug in. In the corner of my eyes, I noted April was nearly finished eating her share. From my experience, she would soon start asking a question and I’m not sure I could eat enough to stomach on how to answer them.
“Before you tell me every detail, like what his face looked when he saw you with that witch getting out of the elevator, I want to say it was stupid you even consider him talking to her.” She held back as much as she could, however, her face had become reddish.
“I know. I know. I feel stupid as well. But what was I going to do, stop him? It not like that between Julian and I.” I sighed.
“You should have kept your mouth shut if you’re going to start feeling like this… are you sure that it’s only physical between…”
“Yes,” I interjected.
She studied my gloomy expression for a moment before turning the conversation in a different direction again.
“Okay, let’s talk about what happened yesterday. Amy doesn’t like going through every detail, which is annoying. And I know you weren’t in the mood to say anything after that, so I waited until you are ready.”
I bleakly smiled. “Thank you for always considering my emotions, April.” I dryly said.
“Of course, babe.” She cheekily winked. “So, then, tell me how it happened.”
I told her thorough and detailed recap of yesterday’s drama, which April kept on interjecting for questions – and I’m patiently answering each one. However, halfway throughout story-telling, I felt my phone beside me vibrating as I put it on silent mode. I held up my hand briefly letting her know to wait a moment. April gestured for me to go ahead and check. The first thing I saw on my screen was an incoming call with Julian Hawksley’s name flashing on the screen.
“It’s him.” I breathily muttered.
April gasped in surprise and started nudging me. “Go! Answer it!” She briefly paused to read my expression. “Would you be willing to put it on speaker? I will keep my mouth shut.” She cheekily inquired.
I rolled my eyes and clicked the answer button then the speaker.
“Good evening, Mr. Hawksley. Is there something you need from me this evening?” I asked my usual premeditated response to most of his calls.
“Are you alone, Zoey?” His voice echoed clearly in the quiet apartment.
Beside me, April covered her mouth from an incoming squeal. She looked at me with begging eyes, asking me to lie.
“Ah… yeah. April’s in the bathroom right now.” I replied.
“Oh, okay. So, are you still going to stay over there for the rest of the night?” he asked.
“That was the plan.”
“What if I say that I’m outside of your friend’s apartment? Would you consider changing your plans for the remaining evening?”
This time April couldn’t hold back her enthusiasm. “Damn!” She ran towards her window and pulled it up before peering down the pavement. “It’s him! Good god! He’s here!”
“So, I supposed you lied to me about your friend being in the bathroom,” Julian stated cheekily as he continued the phone call.
“You heard her down there.” I amused.
“I can’t miss it.” He chuckled. “She sounds happy for you.” He added.
“She’s into delusions of fairytales and romantic gestures.”
“I heard that, Zoey!” April called out as she kept on peering down at Julian. And without shame, she waved her hands at him and shouted. “Good evening, Mr. Hawksley!”
“Hi, Ms. Nolan.” Julian greeted loudly on the phone, which April heard clearly. “Oh! Ms. Nolan, you wouldn’t mind if I take away your friend from you, right?”
April squealed and walked back to where I sat and pulled the phone on my hand closer to her mouth. “Of course you can take my lovely friend away from me any time of the day, Mr. Hawksley. As long as you promise me you’ll take good care of her and not hurt her. If you do, sir, I do work at a law firm. I just want you to keep that in mind.” She still looked happy, but her words took a quick dark turn.
“Of course. I won’t dream of hurting, Ms. Curtis.” Julian replied seriously.
“Good. Then, maybe you should ask her on a date…”
Before her last words could be heard by Julian over the phone, I pulled it away and covered the mic. “What the heck, April?” I looked at her in disbelief.
“Like you don’t want too.” She pointed out and rolled her eyes.
I didn’t get to respond to her comment as she packed up my things for me and dragged me to her bedroom to change back.
“Why are you so enthusiastic about kicking me out and fending me to the sharks?” I inquired as I put on my work clothes back on and throwing my pajamas on her hamper.
“Because, honey, if he just had a dinner with his ex-girlfriend but came crawling back to you, this man isn’t only here because of your body.”
“Maybe, that’s it. He might be here because he might want…”
She held up her hand, stopping me mid-sentence. “Trust me on this, Zoey. He’s not here for a booty call.”
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