Twenty-Three: Office Romances
“I wish you could stay longer,” I say to my mom as I lift her last suitcase, pushing it into the trunk of the taxi cab. Her trip was over and done before I had a chance to enjoy it, she’s the one person that makes me miss home. Without my mom, I’m not nearly the person I was in North Carolina.
My mom hugs me tightly, the usual mom hug that feels like she will never let go and part of me doesn’t want her to. I’m taller than her so I lean down to hug her in return. The only thing getting me through saying goodbye is knowing that I’ll be heading back to North Carolina next month for a family event.
“I’ll see you next month,” I say to her as I reluctantly pull away from her, “Tell Daniel and Sadie that I said hi, I’ll make sure to have a great give for her when I come home.”
“She will be thrilled,” My mom says.
After I see my mom off, I go directly to work. I’m a little late because of dropping my mom off but I plan to stay later than usual anyway. I have a lot of work to do for the new building we’re designing. Mason is at the front desk talking to Ella and I’m disappointed that she isn’t alone, I had intentions on talking with her about my breakdown at the charity event.
I haven’t had the chance to talk to her about it yet and I know that I crossed boundaries. I told Ella things that no one else knows and the last thing I need is for her to mention it to anyone. Mason, my mother, Jenna. I don’t think she would be that reckless but I’m not taking my chances.
Not caring that Mason is in the middle of a conversation with Ella, I walk towards the reception desk until I reach Mason, clearing my throat when I stand behind him.
Mason looks over his shoulder and grins, “Hey, Tommy. So, what I was saying--”
“I need to talk to Ella,” I tell him, not letting him finish his story.
“Dude, I’m in the middle of a pretty great story.”
“Finish it later,” My eyes roll, unwilling to take no for an answer. Mason is used to my aggressive behavior, he knows that I mean nothing by it but he also knows better than to question me.
Mason groans in annoyance, clearly disappointed that he isn’t getting to finish his story, “Whatever, man. You ruined the excitement of it now anyway. I’ll see you later, Elle.”
I make a face as he walks away, “Elle? Since when did he call you that?”
Ella looks up from her seat, seeming confused by my attitude, “Since always? Most people in high school called me Elle rather than Ella. Regardless, I’ll take anything over Eloise.”
“Yeah, that’s a pretty ugly name,” I say with no intentions on sounding rude but of course my mouth gets ahead of me. “Not you, though. Just your name.”
“Thanks for clarifying. It’s very sweet.” Her tone is sarcastic and she looks at the papers on her desk, “Is there something you need? Because I have loads of fax and documents to send off.”
I rests my forearms on the desk and lean down closer to her so she can hear my soft whisper, “Yeah. I want to talk about what happened at the charity event... The things I said to you, I know that I told you I haven’t told anyone else and I would really like to keep it that way. It’s a tough subject for me and I really don’t need it being brought up again.”
Ella looks at me again, a strand of her blonde hair falling over her eyes. Her gaze softens but a moment after her mind processes my words I can see the disappointment forming, “Do you actually think that I would do that? Thomas, this is your life, not mine. I wouldn’t run around telling people about your personal business.”
“It isn’t that I think you would, I just wanted to make sure I was clear when I told you about it. Jade is a sensitive subject to begin with, and I’m not sure what it is but you make it really easy to open up to you,” I tell her, being honest and more vulnerable than I’m usually willing to with someone, “I appreciate you and your willingness to listen to me.”
My words seem to make Ella feel a little better. I know that I may have come off strong but I didn’t mean to make her feel as though I have no trust that she would keep my secret to herself, “Friends are there to listen, and in your situation, I’ll always be here if you need someone to talk to.”
My lips curve into a small smile, Ella and I both staying silent for a moment until the elevator door opens, the voice of Violet causing me to turn around and look.
“Hey, I brought some coffee since you didn’t get a chance to stop on your way back from the airport,” Violet says, carrying a tray with 2 coffees and an iced latte, as she reaches me she leans up on her toes to give me a kiss.
I press my lips to hers and I smile, “Thanks, babe.”
When we pull away Violet glances over my shoulder towards Ella, “Oh shoot... I totally forgot to get three coffees. I’m sorry. Maybe Mason won’t want his?”
“Oh no, don’t worry about it,” Ella smiles in a far more kind way than I would expect, “I’m not much of a coffee person. Mason has been here since eight o’clock so I think he needs it much more than I do.”
She’s too kind. Even I could see the insult in Violet’s words, it doesn’t take a genius to see that she had purposely forgotten about Ella and she’s obviously staking a claim on me. Don’t get me wrong, I love attention between two women but my heart is set only on Violet, and I don’t want her being rude towards Ella.
“Fair enough,” Violet responds.
Without warning she gently takes a hold of my tie and pulls me closer to her. My eyes grow wide at her sudden suggestive attitude, “Vi...”
“Lets go to your office, we can have our beverages together.”
I feel highly uncomfortable with what seems to be unfolding right in front of Ella and I’m unsure where this sudden behavior in Violet has come from, I gently take my tie back and fixes it before nodding, “We can drop Mason’s off to his as well.”
“Eva can give it to him,” Violet answers before putting Mason’s coffee on the reception desk.
“Ella,” I correct her.
Before anything else can be said, I take Violet’s free hand and tugs her down the hallway towards my office door. A sudden burst of anger flows through my veins and once we enter my office I’m quick to close the door.
Violet doesn’t seem phased as she sets the drinks on my desk and turns to face me, “You like your with 3 sugar, right?”
“Don’t. Don’t act like that out there didn’t just happen,” I snap, “Who the hell was that because it sure as hell isn’t the girl I’ve fallen for.”
Violet becomes quiet for a moment before shrugging her shoulders nonchalantly, “I’m not sure what you mean, Thomas. I offered her Mason’s coffee.”
“Violet, I’m not stupid. And I know you! You know damn well that her name isn’t Eva and you also know that she works here. You can’t seriously expect me to believe that you conveniently forgot she was here after we had a conversation about her after what happened at the event,” I take a step towards her, watching as she looks away from me. Guilt is in her eyes but the expression on her face says much more. She’s annoyed. “I’m not bothered if you actually forgot a coffee, but I know what that was. I know it was your way of showing her that we’re together but you don’t need to do that. I’m with you. One hundred percent and I’m not in to this jealousy thing. Not when it involves you being rude to my friends.”
“Friends?” Her head snaps to look at me and as she folds her arms over her chest, she shakes her head vigorously, “No. If we’re talking about not being stupid, let me tell you that neither am I! There is something there, Thomas. Whether it’s her or you, I don’t know. But I see it and I have every right to feel insecure.”
“You’re being ridiculous,” I mutter under my breath.
“Am I? Fine. Let me just go out and find some guy to befriend and run off with for hours while you’re waiting for my return.”
My fingers grip onto the strands of my dark hair, becoming frustrated with the situation, “Vi, we talked about this! The elevator got stuck. I thought we talked about this and that you understood the situation.”
“I do understand, and we did talk about it but... I have feelings about you still being around her. Call me crazy but no one that pretty works as a receptionist unless they’re some kind of secret stripper,” Violet’s comments are out of the blue and despite my wanting to laugh, I can’t because I know that her insecurities about Ella are going to cause a lot of trouble that I don’t need or want in my life.
There’s drama on the horizon, insecure and jealous girls are never good. Nothing good comes out of it and I don’t want to be in the middle of an unnecessary cat fight.
“So what is it that you want from me, Violet? You want me to fire Ella because you’re intimidated. I can’t do that. It’s unprofessional,” My voice drifts off, I also don’t want to fire Ella because I have no reason to. She’s a good asset to this company and to my life.
“I don’t know, Thomas... But I can’t shake this feeling.”
“How can I make you feel better about this without me having to let my employee go?”
I silently pray for a simple resolution but I know nothing with women is ever simple. A man can dream, though.
“Assign her somewhere else,” Violet answers almost immediately. “Maybe a different floor, or make her Mason’s PA, but I want her far away from you and your work. Otherwise I’ll just be assuming the worst all the time. I’ve read enough books about office romances to know...”
“Look, babe. I don’t know what kind of porn you watch, but this is real life, okay? I’m a professional businessman and I don’t fuck employees after dark. In case you haven’t listened to a word I’ve said, but my dad cheated on my mom and I’ll always despise him for that, so if you even think that I would ever...” I shake my head in disappointment, “Maybe you don’t know me at all.”