Mastering Wren

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Chapter 4

When I open my apartment door with no key because the lock is broken, I forget to do a quick check before letting my boss roam right in.

By the time I’ve scanned the dirty dishes, my cheap ‘sleepy’ night dress on the couch with my old underwear and Mr. Fox curled up... on said underwear... Theo has waltzed passed me.

He doesn’t politely enter, he was angry and tired and wanted to get this work done.

And me, well... I was already very red in the face.

“Um, so, welcome to my apartment – I mean, my place. That I rent. From a friend – cheaply. Not illegally, I swear. Just cheaper rent because she’s a good family friend –”

“You have a laptop?” Theo buds in, after looking over my place with what must be mild disgust, he looks over his shoulder to glare at me.

“Yes. I said I did. I didn’t lie to you, it’s here. Um, no it’s not. Oh, it should be in my room –”

“Go get it, please, Wren,” Theo interrupts me again and now I’m not just embarrassed, I’m flustered and annoyed. He didn’t have to be so rude!

I hop my way over nervously to Mr. Fox, I pick him up by grabbing the underwear and also my nighty.

“Sorry,” I mutter under my breath and then quickly run into my room, placing Mr. Fox onto the bed. However, my kitten gets up suddenly, stretches and jumps down onto the floor. As I throw my underwear towards the washing basket, I’ve throw it nervously and it falls short... right onto Mr. Fox’s back. He continues to prance out the door.

“Mr. Fox!” I yell out, so utterly embarrassed now.

What else could possibly go wrong?

I run out the door, to chase him and barely manage to snatch my underwear off his back just as I look up guiltily to Theo who is settled on the couch.

For once I’m lucky, he is looking at his phone, a very serious look upon his face as he reads a text. At least he didn’t witness Mr. Fox try to run off with my dirty undies. I glare at my kitten who pauses in his stride, a paw raised as his eyes widen at the sight of another guest.

I watch in amusement as he works out whether to sniff my boss’ shoes but then gives Theo his back and jumps on the opposite couch’s top to sit and watch from afar. He looks down upon Theo, seemingly not impressed with the intruder.

“Cute,” I mutter as I turn back into my room and find my laptop on my bedside table.

I come back out and shut the door – my bedroom was a whole other mess he didn’t need to see.

“Maybe order some food to get delivered,” Theo meets my gaze, a dazed look in his eye, “This might take a while.”

“Is everything okay?” I ask seriously, aware something has happened. Whatever he read in that text was affecting him.

“Not really, but it doesn’t matter... thanks,” Theo is happy when I hand him the laptop.

He opens his brief case and takes out all the papers.

I turn away, completely confused as I look for some menus I have stored in one of my kitchen draws of the nearby restaurants.

What the hell was up with Theo? He came in ready to rush home, now he seemed shell shocked and was suggesting that it would take a while? I half expected him to leave after an hour or so and leave the rest to me. However, I get a nagging feeling that he needed some support. So I’d do my best to cheer him up.

“You know...” I start off, a bit slyly as I decide to put it out there, “You think I’m always nervous, but I think you’re always stressed.”

Theo goes quiet at this and I watch him consider what I say, before abruptly taking his phone out of his pants and turning it off. As I sort through my menus I watch as he puts his phone on the table and he turns to me, curiosity filling his gaze.

“Did you just say I’m always stressed?” he asks, “You’ve crossed a line, Wren, I may have to fire you immediately–”

“What?” I drop the menus on the counter, jaw dropping and eyebrows furrowing.

That’s until he can barely contain his smirk as he swivels back around and opens my laptop up on the coffee table.

“I was joking, Wren,” he says quietly, as he starts it up and I slowly get my nerves back under control.

Gosh, I was gullible.

“Oh, woops,” I try to sound like I’m amused but I just sound... stupid.

“Password?” he asks me.

“Barbiehater69,” I whisper, looking shyly up at him to see his reaction.

“Uh... excuse me?” he asks, disbelief evident.

“I made it up with my best friend as a joke one day. We were trying to think of ridiculous passwords. She thought of the barbie hater part and she asked me what would be a random combination of numbers that’s still easy to remember. I said – ”

“69?” he finishes the sentence for me, “Do you have some unexpected fetishes I should be informed about, Wren?”

I’m wondering why the hell he’d jump to such a conclusion over a stupid password... when I see him also eyeing my Fifty Shades books on the opposite couch, Mr. Fox had decided to sit down on two of them, sprawled out as he started to groom.

“I’ve never had a boyfriend,” I admit, blurting it out and then feeling a little numb with how much embarrassment is flooding me right now.

Theo enters the password to access the computer and I watch as he eyes the books one more time and thinks about the new information he has gained about me.

“Well... aren’t you interesting...” he mutters it to himself, barely audible as an ambulance whizzes past outside and drowns him out.

Seriously, why could I never hear him properly when he said something important?

Why do you consider him calling you interesting, important, Wren? You want his approval.

Shut up, conscience! Fuck my life, why did I overthink everything?

“Italian?” I squeak out, way too high pitched, “Or, uh, indian. I also have a thai menu,” I slowly walk over with the menus and sit down opposite him, next to Mr. Fox, “What do you like, Theo?”

Theo glances up at me, pauses his typing as he already starts up a document. He opens his mouth to answer, pauses again... and...

“You choose,” he finally answers and I’m initially annoyed he hasn’t given me a choice. Until I assess the way he answered and I assume he told me to choose...

...because he was trying to get to know what I liked.

You like him and you want him to like you, you want to think he is asking you to choose so he can get to know you –

“Indian,” I answer before my thoughts start to run around in circles.

“Order. I’ll start this,” Theo continues to type away while I now realise I have to choose him some dishes. I’m about to ask him, but he is already looking at me, which startles me, “Whatever you want,” he adds, answering my own thoughts.

I needed to know what he liked, not have myself tested out by guessing his damn food preferences.

I think, slyly, that I can use this as a way to get back at him.

He better like spicy.

I ring up and place my order of lamb vindaloo, rice, raita and garlic naan bread.

When I’m done, I’m not sure what to do since Theo is so engrossed in typing in the details himself. And I feel too awkward getting up to sit next to him. Turns out I don’t have to make the next move because Theo speaks up.

“I didn’t choose you for the job because you answered the question right,” his words are so unexpected and out of nowhere that I straighten my back, curious and confused about where he is going with this, “I chose you because Cynthia always had a problem if I worked closely with anyone who resembled her in any way. So I chose you because you look nothing like her.”

This random information is strange but it also makes me feel gross. Nothing like her? I guess because if I looked nothing like her, he would have zero chance of ever liking me.

“Um, I have no idea why you just told me this,” I fess up.

“Let me explain,” Theo glances up at me but then starts typing again as he explains further, “Our last assistant was fired because she flirted with me too much. It nearly broke down our whole relationship that we built up over the years. So I got rid of that girl and hired you instead. You look nothing like her, yet Cynthia is done with me again. What did you do, Wren?”

“If you guys broke up, it had nothing to do with me. I don’t even know her, from what I overheard it sounded like you fucked up. You booked something without asking her and now ... why are you blaming me?”

“I’m not blaming you,” Theo snaps, “I’m just clearing you out as an option for why she just told me, over text, that she’s done. For good this time.”

“Is it a regular occurrence for you guys to be on and off all the time? I wouldn’t know, I hardly know you two,” I find myself getting very defensive in front of Theo’s rambling of Cynthia. I didn’t want to talk about her – even though it was interesting she ended it with him. An engagement... all over because of an angry text.

“We worked fine until we started this charity,” Theo reluctantly admits, “I’m sorry for asking you that question before, it was... inappropriate.”

“Obviously! I’ve only worked with you two days and you’re my boss,” I find myself accusing him now, even though he has apologised. I can’t help it, I hated being attacked just because someone else was upset.

There is an awkward pause as Theo continues to type.

Eventually he looks up at me.

“Come over here,” Theo suddenly changes topic, looking back down to his work. Mr.Fox rolls on his back and stretches out, clawing the end of my dress. I glance over and see the Fifty Shades books.

Okay, now my thoughts were switching to Christian and Theo being like... don’t start, Wren.

Theo is glaring at me now.

“What?” I ask, confused.

“I need to show you how to do this, I’ve done the first one, sit next to me,” as Theo explains it I reluctantly get up and walk over.

“This whole time has passed and you’ve only done one entry? Don’t we have over two hundred?” I ask, gawking.

“Yep. I may have been over-confident about us being able to finish them tonight but I didn’t lie about them needing to be completed by tomorrow. It’s up to you whether we finish them tonight, we might be done by 12, or you can come in really early tomorrow to enter them? That’s if I’m allowed back into my apartment tonight to get the key.”

“But it’s your apartment,” I snap out, angry at ... I don’t even know who I’m angry at anymore!

“She had my keys, she’ll probably pack her stuff and be gone by tomorrow morning. I may as well crash here since it’s above the office,” when Theo says this I instantly feel defensive. My place, my welcome. I didn’t invite him to stay over.

But...

I needed this job and I had never had such an attractive guy over before.

“Okay,” it comes out a bit high pitched and I pretend to clear my throat, like that was the issue, but it just reaffirms my awkwardness, “Allllll good.”

Shut up, Wren!

“Don’t worry, Wren, I’m not going to judge you on your ability to clean,” Theo smirks to himself and I glare at him for a moment, what the fuck did he just say?

Oh my gosh, Wren, just be happy that he thought you were nervous about the state of your apartment and not because you were freaking out he’d possibly turn into a crazy Christian!

But, he was arrogant like him...

“Mr. Fox will probably curl up next to you if you sleep on the couch, I hope you don’t mind. Oh, I didn’t mean if, I know you won’t sleep in the b- well that was said unnecessarily, I’ll just shut up now,” I laugh when really what I want to do is walk out onto the balcony, wave to Theo, and jump off so I can end this nightmare.

“Always enter the date here,” Theo runs the mouse over the section, choosing to ignore my nervous spiel, “You try it, I’ve done this so many times it drives me crazy. Want to make a deal? You write these in and I’ll do your dishes.”

Okay, sounded good.

Wait.

What?!

“Oh...okay, sure? I mean... stop, you’re my boss, you’re not doing my dishes. If you need a break, I’m sure Mr. Fox wouldn’t mind a pat. Or you can watch television.”

“I’ll do the dishes, sweet cheeks,” he hands me the laptop and I try to remember to breathe.

Did he just call me... sweet cheeks?!

“Okay,” yep, I can’t deny it, Theo was dwindling my vocabulary down to ‘okay’ and ‘um’. And I had agreed to let him sleep over. What the hell was wrong with me?

I don’t dare to glance at Theo, scared he’ll read all my damn thoughts or say something else to make me feel weird.

I come up with the ‘genius’ plan to turn on the television anyway, so some noise will break up any awkward silences. Then I type away, as Theo cleans. I admit I get a sneak peek. He rolls up his sleeves and starts rinsing my dishes and putting them in the dishwasher.

All the while I’m trying to concentrate on doing my entries. The television does the trick, but it only feels like ten minutes has passed when the buzzer goes off... the food was here! Suddenly I was annoyed I lived so close to a place that often delivered to me within fifteen minutes. Without even having to ask, Theo goes to get the food.

Surprisingly, we eat comfortably and Theo seems to really enjoy the vindaloo.

I eat next to Mr. Fox while Theo eats opposite, back to our original spots, a couch each.

It was simple, distance equalled safety of sanity.

“Thanks for the dinner, I’ll pay you back for it,” as Theo finishes off he picks up the laptop once more, “I’ll do these next twenty, deal?”

“What do I do?” I ask, tired now. It was well and truly dark outside.

“It’s your apartment, you can undress if you like – oh sorry, what I mean is,” Theo says the last part, clearly mimicking my nervous blurting as he grins, “You can change... into something more comfortable.”

I’m blushing far too much to think of a witty reply.

He just made fun of me!

I get to my feet, picking up his dishes.

“Good idea,” I say quickly, as I put the dishes in the sink and then I head off into my bedroom, shutting the door on Theo.

I look around for respectable pyjamas, to wear in front of my boss. I honestly come up empty handed. So I end up wearing green trackydackys* and a loose white oversized t-shirt. As I glance myself in the mirror I look like such a tom-boy. But I rather look like this than wear my old high school nighty... which I really should throw out.

I feel confident that I can’t be ogled in my over-sized clothes and I open my door with new found confidence.

Theo immediately glances over at me, sees what I’m wearing, eyes widening in disbelief for a moment. Right before he glances back at the computer, I see him pause in typing.

“My turn,” I try to break the ice, again, which I feel he keeps bringing up by making me feel out of place.

“I haven’t done my twenty,” Theo mutters, “Watch TV or something.”

Oh yeah, his twenty, right.

I watch TV. Then we fall into a rhythm. I do my lot of twenty while he watches TV. Then we swap and we swap again – until we finally and exhaustingly reach the two hundred mark.

I finish the last one, lying on my stomach on Mr. Fox’s couch, barely keeping my eyes open as I type in the last few points of the entry.

Amazingly, believe it or not the last few hours of us exchanging the laptop and helping each other enter the details – actually pass by with no more awkward silences.

In fact, the part where we spoke was more awkward than the silence.

I guess that in itself was awkward.

I save the document and I barely notice Theo standing up and coming over to take the laptop away from me.

“Up you get, sweety, get some sleep,” he says it gently now, all arrogance gone.

I feel like curling up on the couch and falling asleep right where I am. Except I better get up and go to my actual bed... did he call me sweety or did I imagine that?

I slowly get up on my hands and knees, stretching like a cat, just before I roll off the couch and get to my feet properly.

I stretch my shoulders by clasping my hands behind my back as Theo closes the laptop on the coffee table. I briefly look at his couch and blink a few times.

“Blankets...” I murmur as I wander into my room, grab a spare blanket and stumble out to Theo. He is now standing by the window, looking out over the city, “Here you go, boss,” I shake out the blanket over the couch and stack the pillows at one end for him.

When I glance up, Mr. Fox has approached Theo and is winding between his legs, purring.

Cute but... nope, couldn’t torture myself with my stupid thoughts, so I decide to go to bed.

“Night,” I say, but he doesn’t turn to face me, he just answers me.

“Thanks for letting me stay... get some sleep, we have lots to do tomorrow.”

“All good boss, I’m here to help.”

He still doesn’t turn to face me.

“Call me Theo.”

“Theo.”

I stumble into my room and realise I just said his name but he meant to call him Theo from now on... not just say his name because he said ‘call me Theo’... oh gosh... I was actually hopeless.

I don’t even know how I manage it, but I blush again for the thousandth time.

I face plant into my bed, well and truly brain-dead, emotionally wrecked, for some reason, and ready for a deep beautiful sleep.

Any moment now...

...sleep.

Deep, beautiful, satisfying sleep.

Any moment.

Soon.

Very soon.

Just around the corner.

Counting sheep.

Nope.

Great.

Fantastic.

I can’t sleep.


A bit on Aussie slang:

*trackydackys = tracksuits, sweat pants etc

image: she likes to dress daggy* when she can

*daggy = (especially of clothes) scruffy.

“‘pre-worn’ clothing might be a bit daggy”

not stylish; unfashionable.

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