“I’ve heard this place has really good reviews.”
“It does,” Brett said, taking my hand. “It’s so popular, I almost didn’t get a reservation.”
I tried not to freak out at the fact that we were walking down the sidewalk hand in hand. “Well, it’s a good thing you did because I’m starving,” I replied lamely.
A few minutes later we were seated in the restaurant browsing their expansive menu.
“I’ll have a glass of Merlot,” I said to the waitress when she asked for my drink order.
She nodded and walked briskly away, leaving me alone with Brett for the first time in a while.
“So,” he said, folding his hands together on the table and smiling at me.
“So what?” I giggled.
“Tell me all about your day.”
“It was nothing special. Just a lot of meetings. Oh, and I have a new assistant now because Marcus got a promotion. What about you?”
“Pretty boring on my end as well. Although, Malachi was quite a handful this morning. I took the morning off so I could sleep in but the jet lag didn’t seem to touch Malachi and he was up at 5 am. I ended up going to work anyway since I was already up.”
“Aw, precious boy. I miss him,” I replied with a laugh.
“He misses you too. He asked for ‘his Pita’ non-stop when you and I were uh, not on such great terms last week.”
I snorted. “Is that what we’ve decided to call that?”
“Can you think of a better way to describe it?”
An awkward silence followed until we were rescued by the waitress who was back with my wine and ready to take our orders.
She left again and I sipped my wine quietly, thinking about the meeting with my grandparents that I had omitted from my conversation with Brett.”
Hearing my name stirred me from my thoughts. “I’m sorry did you say something?”
“I asked if you were alright. You seem a little tense.”
“I’m fine, thank you for asking.”
Brett frowned. “Are you sure? You know you can talk to me about anything. That’s part of being in a relationship.”
I nodded and chewed on my thumbnail nervously.
Setting my wine glass down, I debated briefly before deciding to let him in...a little. “You know that my relationship with my father is...complicated.”
He nodded. “I gathered that much.”
“Well, I came into some information a few months ago and have been doing some investigation since. It turns out, he’s been lying to me my entire life.”
“What do you mean?”
I sighed and told him everything that had happened over the past few months regarding my mother, ending with the meeting with my grandparents.
“I had just come from lunch with them, which was partially why I was so short with my father in that meeting.”
Brett was quiet for a moment. “Wow.”
“It’s a lot to take in, I know. Especially on our first official date. If this is too much and you don’t want to date me, I completely understand.”
Brett chuckled and reached across the table, taking my hand in his. “It’s going to take more than that to scare me away.”
His expression changed as he rubbed his thumb over the back of my hand. “Seriously though, are you okay?”
“I guess so. It was so overwhelming meeting them! And they were kind of odd; They didn’t really say anything about my mother. Even Marcus said it was weird.”
“Marcus was with you?”
“Yeah. He’s the one who set up the meeting and he’s still my acting assistant until the new one completes her training. Plus he’s my best friend; He was there to support me.”
Brett withdrew his hand from mine as the food was placed in front of us. “Hmm.”
“What was that? I asked, picking up my chopsticks, ready to dig into the steaming bowl of ramen in front of me.
“You sure spend a lot of time with Marcus,” he commented casually.
“Is that bad? He’s like the brother I never wanted.”
“You’re sure he sees you as a sister?”
“Are you implying that there’s something between Marcus and me?”
Brett shrugged and I burst out laughing. “That’s hysterical!”
“I’m glad my insecurity is amusing to you,” he frowned.
“I’m sorry for laughing,” I said, trying to regain my composure. “But there is absolutely nothing between Marcus and I, on either side. In fact, he’s invited us to meet his girlfriend, Honey, on Saturday.”
“He has a girlfriend.”
“You say that like you don’t believe me,” I said, fighting back a smile.
“I believe you.”
“Sure you do.”
I reached for my wine and Brett shook his head. “Back to the topic at hand. Are you going to talk to your father about any of this?”
“Why would I do that?” I asked in alarm.
Brett frowned. “Don’t you want to hear his side of the story? Not that I’m defending him, but he must have had a reason for keeping this from you.”
I scoffed. “If he wanted a chance to not be the bad guy, he had 26 years to do so. I’ll deal with him after I get the truth. Now, can we please change the subject?” It was getting harder and harder to fight back tears.
“Of course,” Brett replied with a soft smile. “Since this is technically our first date, should we ask some first date questions?”
“Like what? I giggled. “We’ve been friends for a while now; What don’t you know about me?”
“What’s your favorite color?”
He snorted. “Of course it is. Favorite singer?”
“Alicia, duh. And then Beyonce.”
“Italian. Specifically, chicken parm.”
“Spiders. Are these seriously the questions that people ask on a first date?”
Brett laughed. “Yes! Superficial questions are obviously the best way to get to know someone,” he replied sarcastically and I joined him in laughter.
“When’s the last time you went on a date, Lupita?”
My cheeks unwillingly flooded with color. “It’s been a while.”
“What’s ‘a while’? A few months, a year?”
“Three years,” I whispered.
“Shout it to the world why don’t you!” I hissed angrily, diving back into my ramen.
“Sorry, I just find it incredibly hard to believe that a woman as beautiful and intelligent as you, haven’t been on a date in three years.”
I tucked my hair behind my ear, suddenly feeling self-conscious. “There hasn’t exactly been much time for dating. I’ve had a few casual flings but nothing serious.”
“You mean you haven’t made time.”
“Well since you’re being so critical of me, when’s the last time you went on a date?” I asked, folding my arms across my chest indignantly.
“Almost two years ago.”
“Why haven’t you made time? Hmm?” I knew I was creeping into bitchy like behavior but I couldn’t help myself.
Brett’s expression darkened and he clenched his jaw. “The last date I went on was with Malachi’s mother.”
That shut me up really quickly. “Oh.”
“Yeah. She broke up with me and told me that she didn’t want to do ‘the mom thing’. I told her she would pay for deserting our son and she said she didn’t care. Later that night, I got a call that she had been hit by a drunk driver on the way to her mother’s house in New Jersey.”
“Oh,” I said again.
“Yeah.” We sat in silence for a long moment. Brett blew out a deep breath and gave me a sad smile. “Aren’t we the fucked up pair?”
“We really are.” I waited quietly as Brett settled the bill. “So, should we go back to your place or mine?”
Brett looked surprised for a moment before flashing me a grin that sent a shiver up my spine. “I like the way you think Lupita.”
I woke up the next morning a little disoriented. The room was unfamiliar and there was something heavy laying across my chest. I started to panic until I realized it was Brett’s arm that was restricting my ability to move. I looked over at him sprawled across the bed, sleeping peacefully and smiled. Carefully, I moved his arm and sat up a little, pulling the sheets around my naked body and continued to study him.
I stared at him long enough for it to be creepy before crawling out of the bed. Slipping on my clothes from the previous night, I text my driver and checked my email. I was heading for the door when I heard Brett stirring behind me.
“Lupita?” he called out sleepily. “Are you really going to leave without saying goodbye again? I even bought you dinner last night.”
“Oh! I’m sorry. I didn’t even think of the rules of engagement when you’re actually dating the person you’re sleeping with.” I walked back toward him with a shy smile.
He frowned at me as he sat up. “Don’t say things like that. I don’t want to think about you sleeping with other men.”
“You know I wasn’t a virgin when you met me,” I replied with a smirk.
“Still. I’d rather not think about it. What time is it?”
“Why the hell are we awake?” He groaned and wrapped his arms around my waist. “Come back to bed, babe.”
“Because we have jobs!” I answered, somehow maintaining my composure despite the fact that he had called me babe. “I would like to shower and change before I go to mine.”
“Can’t you shower here?”
“I don’t have any clothes.”
“Isn’t that what your assistant is for? Text her and have her bring you some clothes.” He pulled me closer and reached up to give me a peck on the lips. “I want to cook breakfast for you.”
My resolve was weakening quickly. “As wonderful as that would be I can’t. It isn’t in her job description to bring me clothes because I slept over at my boyfriend’s house.
He smiled up at me.
“You called me your boyfriend.”
“And you called me babe. What’s the big deal?” I replied casually, even though I was freaking out internally.
“Nothing.” He slipped on his boxers and stood up. “At least let me walk you downstairs.”
“Fine,” I conceded, taking his hand. “Where’s Malachi?”
“Asleep. He wakes up around 2 am every night and then sleeps until like 8 am. I’m surprised you didn’t hear him crying on the monitor last night.”
I shrugged as we arrived at the front door. “You said it best yourself. I sleep like a rock.”
Brett shook his head and kissed me on the forehead. “Call me later?”
“Of course.” I reached up for another kiss but pulled away quickly. “I really have to go now.”
He released his grip on me and I ran outside before I could change my mind and call in sick.
All day long I was restlessly giddy. Brett and I texted all day in between meetings. My father even asked me what was wrong with me after our last meeting. He said I was acting out of character.
“I’m just happy today. Is there something wrong with that?” I snapped at him.
He just shook his head and walked away. I sighed happily and headed back to my office with Marcus and Taylor.
“Lupe--er Miss Marino?”
“Can I see you in your office for a moment? Alone?”
“Sure! Taylor, you can go home. See you tomorrow!”
Marcus closed the door behind us and stared at me while I gathered my things. “What is it, Marcus?”
“Oh, nothing. I’m just wondering if Mr. Jacobson was the one who put the extra pep in your step today.”
I grinned at him. “Maybe,” I said suggestively.
“Lupe Marino! You were out getting your swerve on? On a Monday night?! Who are you and what have you done with my best friend?”
“I don’t know,” I laughed. “I feel so...not me! I feel lighter, and more carefree! I feel like--I don’t know how to describe it.”
“Like you’re falling in love?” he asked, raising an eyebrow at me.
“Love? Isn’t a little soon for that?” I questioned with a scowl.
“Funny thing about love; It doesn’t run on a timeline,” he replied with a smirk. “Goodnight Lupe!”
Marcus walked out of my office leaving me alone with my thoughts.