Blissful Aftermath [ROMANCE]

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One

November 1st 2018

Wake up, go for a run, shower, head into work and eat breakfast at her desk. That had been her morning routine for the past 10 months or so, ever since she had gotten back on her feet.

It wasn’t the most exciting daily routine, but Audrey wasn’t complaining.

To spice things up, she often changed her breakfast menu. Some days opting for something easy and convenient like a cereal bar while other days, she feasted on something a bit more nutritious and healthier like porridge or yoghurt with fruit. The absolute worst of days were when she ate left-overs from the previous day’s dinner, or more specifically, cold pizza. As great as it tasted in the moment, it always resulted in her suffering from a stomach ache by the end of the day.

Luckily, today was one of her better days.

“Audrey.”

She glanced up at the sound of her name to eye her boss who had come to a stop in front of her desk, a disappointed look on his face. Quickly, she swallowed the blueberry in her mouth, wincing when it got stuck in her throat at her rushed actions, and chased it up with some water. Coughing lightly, she cleared her throat and forced a smile on her face.

“What are you doing here?” He asked as his gaze lingered on her open laptop and scattered notes.

“Sorry, I don’t understand.” She frowned, confused and continued to stare at him, waiting for him to explain.

“I thought we spoke last week about you taking some time off.” He hummed, hoping his words would jog her memory.

She nodded, remembering the conversation with her boss, Mr Drazer.

“I’ve decided to take some time off around Christmas.” She smiled, hoping he would accept her response and go on with his day.

However, Mr Drazer was smarter than to fall for her sweet words. He quirked a questioning brow and grinned down at her, shaking his head softly. “You mean, the same holidays that everyone else in the country will also be taking off?”

Audrey chuckled. “That’s the one.”

Mr Drazer sighed and took a seat on the corner of her desk, clasping both of his hands on his lap. “Audrey, we’ve talked about this.”

She groaned silently, knowing that he was going to start going off again. This wasn’t the first time that Mr Drazer had spoken to her about taking some time off work, and both of them doubted that it would be the last.

“Frankly, you’re the best employee I’ve ever had and I don’t want you overworking yourself. You’ve been working for 10 months now and haven’t taken a single day off. Instead, you work over time on the weekends and even bank holidays.”

“What can I say? I’m married to my job.”

They both laughed at her joke, though the sound of hers was much more strained however, she was very good at covering it up. It took years of practice.

No one in her new life needed to know anything about her old life, specifically about her first marriage and ex-husband. It was just better and less complicated that way.

“You should try putting yourself out there more and spend less time at work, but you didn’t hear that from me.” He chuckled.

Audrey nodded, her body tensing up at his words as worry began to flare up inside her. She couldn’t take time off work. It just wasn’t an option.

“Right.” Her boss stood up. “You’re pretty much finished with the project you’re working on so why don’t you go home and enjoy an early weekend?”

“It’s only Wednesday.” She stated simply, desperately hoping that he would change his mind.

“Well, I can’t have you wearing yourself out so as your boss, I demand that I don’t see you again until Monday.” And with that, he turned around to return to his office, leaving absolutely no room for any arguments.

Her mouth opened and closed as she watched him walking away, flabbergasted and at a loss for words.

“What about the paper work?” She rose to her feet and called out to him, but he merely waved his hand dismissively and chuckled light-heartedly in response.

Seeing as this was the second time that Mr Drazer had demanded that she take some time off, she decided not to anger him by making him warn her for the third time. Hence, she purposely dragged out the small change to the system she was working on before she decided to pack up her things and head home for the day. And for the rest of the week, it appeared.

It wasn’t even 11 in the morning yet she found herself slipping her laptop into her bag, her work finished for the day.

When a warm coffee landed on her desk, she glanced up and tucked her hair behind her ears. A small smile slid onto her face as she greeted her friend and co-worker.

“Word has it that you’re being sent home.” Lucas Hernandez chuckled, sliding the coffee cup across her desk, tapping on the lid to indicate that he had brought it for her.

Lucas Hernandez had been her buddy at the office when she first started, and had helped her to fit in. Very soon, she had slipped out from under him due to all her hard work, and was now working on the same projects as him. If it bothered him, she couldn’t tell. He had always been pleasant and kind towards her from the beginning and very quickly, she had found herself becoming quick friends with him as well as a few others around the office.

Lucas was a tall man, just above 6 foot with a tan complexion, a mop of dark hair and equally dark eyes. His features were soft yet defined, and his body more towards the average, chubby side than lean but nonetheless, he was very attractive. Women around the office often flirted and fawned over him, more now than ever when since his divorce was nearly finalised. The fact that he had a charming personality and a magical way with words just sweetened the deal.

His soon-to-be ex-wife didn’t know what she was missing out on, and was most definitely blind for letting a man as great as him go.

Occasionally, Audrey wondered if he was interested in becoming more than just friends with her as Lucas tended to dote on her more than their other female friends, but he was very subtle about it so she wasn’t completely sure, and she didn’t want to risk jeopardising their friendship by asking about it.

As attractive as he was, her heart just wasn’t ready to open up and let someone in. She needed to heal first before she let anyone else into her life at the moment.

Audrey chuckled and leaned back in her seat, raising the warm coffee to her mouth. She smiled in thanks.

“What did you do this time? Get caught using the photocopier for personal use? Or did you lunch break last 5 minutes longer than an hour?” He teased, a large smirk on his face.

“Neither.” She rolled her eyes, her tone playful. “Apparently I’ve been working too hard.”

“Only you.” Lucas chuckled and seated himself on the corner of her desk.

“So, what do you plan to do with a 4-day weekend?”

“I haven’t really thought about it.” She shrugged. “I might just catch up on some sleep.” Audrey was aware of how boring she sounded, but Lucas’ cheerful face gave nothing away.

“You crack me up every time.” He threw his head back and laughed.

Oh, so he thought she was joking. It was probably better if she allowed him to think that. She wasn’t really in the mood to explain herself.

“Maybe we can do something together on the weekend?” He suggested, the hope sparkling in his eyes as he attempted to come across as nonchalant. “We could meet up for drinks and then maybe get something to eat.”

“That sounds like fun. You should put it in the group chat and we can organise something.” She offered with a smile, aware that he had probably intended that the two of them did something alone together, but she just wasn’t ready for that. And it was better to feign naivety than to come outright and reject him. Audrey knew how much that hurt.

“Yeah, I’ll do that.” His smile dimmed a little and he jumped off her desk, straightening out his suit.

“I’ll see you then, Lucas.” She smiled and waited for him to leave.

He nodded and it appeared as if he wanted to say something further, but decided to hold himself back.

“I look forward to it.” He murmured quietly and walked away, pausing to glance at her one last time over his shoulder, but she was already busy with finishing packing up her things.

Before the lunch hour could hit and Mr Drazer caught her still at her desk, Audrey walked out of the office and headed home with absolutely no idea what she was going to pass the time over the next 4 days.

When she got home, taking a nap didn’t sound like such a bad idea.

When she woke up, it was still daylight and she couldn’t justify taking another nap to pass the time, so Audrey planted herself in front of the TV and ordered herself a pizza. Some random show played on Netflix when she found herself itching to open up her laptop and to get some work done however, she was sure her boss would find out and berate her for it. He may just order her to take another day off and so she dared not risk it.

Being at home for a few hours with nothing to do was hard enough. Audrey wasn’t sure how she was supposed to last a few days living like this.

Ever since she had moved out of the city after the divorce, Audrey had buried herself in work. The first month she had worked at a start-up however, she didn’t feel challenged enough and had too much time on her hands to dwell on her past life hence, she started applying elsewhere and dropped it as soon as she landed her current job.

The first month after she had filed for the divorce, all Audrey wanted to do was return back to him – and at one point, she nearly did. The first month had been the absolute hardest and all the hours that she was at home, all she could think about was him.

Audrey hated herself that even after everything he had put her through, she found herself trying to make excuses for him. A small part of her, the one with the loudest voice, wanted nothing more than to run back to him and beg him to forgive her and take her back.

She hated that part of her the most.

The other part of her felt ashamed for having stayed with him so long. However, it had taken much more strength to leave him than she had ever imagined.

To many – including her boss and colleagues at work – she seemed crazy for working so many hours, leaving very little time and space for a personal life, but she couldn’t disagree with them more. What they didn’t understand was that her work was healing her, distracting her from the mess that was her life, or lack thereof.

She merely settled on the conclusion that she was lonely.

And what better way to counter loneliness than to bury herself in work? Anything that kept her mind busy, really.

That way, she had no time to think about him as her work kept her busy and mentally challenged. When she returned home from after work, it was often pretty late and she was too tired for her to think about anything but a quick dinner and then hitting the sack, getting some rest before repeating the whole routine the next day.

The never-ending cycle that she was stuck in may have been sad, but she was comfortable and somewhat happy in it. A welcomed escape even, after spending the last few years stuck in marriage precariously glued together with nothing but her unrequited love.

When the doorbell sounded, she glanced at the door and blinked in confusion. When it rang for the second time, she remembered her pizza and rushed to the door with her purse in hand.

When she opened it, instead of being met with the glorious sight of melted cheese, a tomato base and a cheese stuffed crust, she was met with a pair of dark grey eyes that she recognised belonging to none other than the one and only, Joseph Darcy.

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