Zoey

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Chapter 4

Who could that be at this late hour? Second knock got me to my feet and I said

'who is it? "

"will you let me in for a minute zoey?"

My mind raced through a thousand possibilities of who it might be. I recall all those forensic documentaries I saw on discovery Channel, monsters hunting for single vulnerable girls. I shudder at the thought and said firmly

" who is it?

"it's Sam please open up so I don't have to disturb your neighbours ." Sam? It's been over two weeks since he dropped me off. What is he doing here at this time at my door. I opened the door with the bolts still on.

"hey Sam, what's up?"

"aren't you going to let me in? I won't bite!" he smirked. I closed the door unleashed three bolts and opened it wide and waived him in. He stood smiling and walked in, scanned around the apartment and then looked at me. I gathered my blanket around me and looked down at my fluffy socks and said

"you need something to drink?" holding back saying what the heck are you doing here? He sat on a stool at my kitchen counter.

"yeah sure?"

"what would you like? seven up, coke, tea or coffee?" I said opening up the fridge and checking what I have.

"I ll have a seven up"

I pored the drink with ice cubes and a straw. He looked at the straw and smiles to himself, and started to sip from the glass instead. I remember buying the straw from a store. I thought it was cute it has a cartoon character blue cheerful elephant on it, dumbo. I looked at him, he wore a black v neck sweater and khaki pants. He looks thoughtful. While I was looking, more like staring, I realized how handsome he is. He cought me staring, again!

"so why are you here? And how did you know which floor i live in? " I said uncomfortably.

"I asked an old lady at the lobby, told her your name and that I'm an old friend and luckily she was cooperative" he said and smiled.

"and you are here because... ?"

"I need your help, the management wants to know what juniors at customer service department are facing each day. The challanges and their day to day routines, they need to know to figure out what affects their sales?"

Typical management always about the sales! But who could blame them? I thought.

" oh I see, so you decided to show up this late to interview me about the challanges I face at work? " I said sarcastically.

" I went to the sales department at exactly five pm, and no one would give me 10 minutes of their time to answer simple questions, I think five pm is a big deal huh?"

" yeah! eight am is a big deal to them, five pm is a big deal to us." I sounded bitter than I wanted.

" so eight am is important how? "

" no one will tolerate you if you are even 5 minutes late. I sometimes wish I could just call in sick instead of running late. Five minutes and they will ruin your whole day."

He said "hmm" and took out a tiny note book and starts writing.

"your not gonna..."

"disclose your name? Nope it should be anonymous, but tell me more."

"your not gonna get me in to any sort of trouble are you?"

"don't worry I won't?"

"okay"

"you were telling me about being late"

"oh yes, so I'm not usually late, but we have to face the fact that I run late once in two months or three months and they still would give me lectures of how being late affects productivity and shift replacements. When I say that I am rearly late, I still get more lecture about being consistent. " I finished with a sigh and I sipped my tea.

He was still writing and nodding for me to go on and he stopped to look at me and said" anything else that you might like to talk about"

I thought the management doesn't really care about our work environment, all they care about are their sales so why bother whining about stuff the won't change.

"that's pretty much it." I sipped my tea and waited.

He looked at me for a while put down the pen and said "let's get comfortable, why don't we sit on the couch over there?" he pointed to my couch.

"okay" I replied and headed to my couch at the window while he took the bigger couch in the middle of the room. He looked at the books lying around the coffee table and asked

"were you reading?"

"yes" and pointed to the old hard cover book.

He took the book and flip through it and said "it's old and I'm pretty sure the cover was red and not faded pink." he put it back and asked "you like reading novels?"

"Yeah I love reading. You?"

"I do read but not novels."

"let me guess, marketing or business books?"

He smiled and shoved the notebook into his pocket. "so what do you like to do other than read novels?"

I went through things I like doing and nothing comes to mind, oh my! am I boring? I don't have friends in this town, I don't hang out with anyone and I definitely don't date. All I do is sit around my apartment all weekend and read. And at other times I visit my family who live two hours away. Sam cleared his throat

"zoey? You okay? I lost you there for a second."

"yeah I'm fine, I like reading psychology books and researches too." I said awkwardly.

"okay, do you hangout with colleagues after work?"

"no,we don't hang out much. We are not that close" not that close doesn't even come close to describing the complex relationship we have at office.

"how long have you worked here?"

'three years"

"hmmm" he said and looked thoughtful again. He better not get that notebook or he's out of here.

"so three years at the same office and you are telling me you at least don't go out as groups of colleagues and have a drink?"

"I mean what's there to drink to, our shitty saleries, our bossy supervisors, cheap and tasteless cafeteria foods or may be our whiny customers. The moment I stepped out of the building I want to forget everything, everything!" huge sigh.

He looked at me with understanding and nodded.

" it's that bad, huh? "

" yeah, I get how everyone complains about their job, if they have difficult bosses. They say at least the pay is good or the job is too easy to let go of, but this is different, everything is wrong with this job."

"surely, there must be at least one thing you like about the company?" he asked with concern.

"the library" I smiled and he laughed in return. With that simple smile I felt the tension go away and I realized I was clutching on my blankets the whole time and sipping a now cold tea. I threw the blanket on my couch, took my mug to the kitchen and start to heat the tea with the microwave humming. Sam streached out his long legs and is now flipping through my boooks. I smiled and thought you don't flip books like colorful magazines, you read whatever page you land on so you could have some idea about the story.

I took out my mug and sipped on my tea and got back to my couch. He looked up and smiled.

I raised my eyebrow in question. He said

"you reminded me of a sweet old woman who lived next door from my parents. My parents forced me to call her Nana, She used to babysit me and my brother sometimes when we were kids. The old couch, the books, the blanket and the tea. All brought back sweet nana's memories. " he smirked.

I smile back and said

" I am an old soul"

He stood up and looked at me, he's leaving already? I stood up too and started for the door and stopped when he said

" Zoey let me take you out for a coffee and something to eat for helping me get all the info I needed."

"I only told you about how serous they are about being late," I said defensively.

"oh no! not only that my dear, you told me the payment is shitty, that the supervisors who are meant to assist you with sales and difficult customers are bossy and that colleagues are not friends in fact I suspect from what I saw last time I was at your office that they actually are bullies. "

" FYI, bully is a term used in school, not at work"

"if the shoe fits..now come on get dressed and let's go"

"I am not going anywhere" I replied stubbornly.

"why? You got other plans?"

"yes I am gonna read some more and go to sleep. Besides its late."

"no it's not. its only eight and you are all ready for bed?At least sweet Nana waited until its ten to retire to bed. " he smirked.

OK that's it! this guy is on my nerves. I should tell him to leave and get back to my book but on second thought.. I said

" OK I will get ready" and went to my bedroom. Picking outclothes took me more than 10 minutes. For office, I never worried what to wear, just put on something that comes to mind. But now I picked up a cloth and think this is too much he might think that I wanted this thing to be a date. I picked up another and think this is too simple for a night out. After 20 minutes I decided to stick with too simple instead of fancy. I wore my black comfy skinny jeans with flat velvet ballerina shoes and burgundy chiffon shirt. Put on matching burgundy lipstick lightly ,some maskara and black eyeliner. Tied my hair up in messy ponytail, grab a small black purse, spray my favorite Versace perfume and I'm good to go.

Sam was looking out of the window, his hands in his pockets. I wonder what he is looking at. All I could see outside of my window is the next building wall and huge AC on the other building roof top.

"OK I'm ready, let's go." I announced and head to the door.He followed behind as I open the door and gesture him to go out. I locked the door and walked to the elevator. My apartment is on 12th floor so the elevator ride was awkward and quiet. We locked eyes occasionally and I smiled nervously. He was looking down down at his shoes smiling. I wonder what he was thinking. We reached ground floor and walked to his car. Now I don't know much about cars but this black car is fancy. The leather seats and all the gagets scream expensive. I hopped in to the passenger side and said

" nice car"

He looked up at me, surprise written all over his face and asked

"you know what this car is right?"

I shook my head no, he announced

" it's Audi" and waived his hands to the car.

"brag much?" I teased, he just shook his head, smiled and start to drive. We reached down town in silence and I looked out of the window and thought,so this is what I have been missing. There are a mass of good looking and well dressed people everywhere. The lights, the music and the noise it's all new and exciting for me.

"so what do you want to eat for dinner?" I wanted to say pizza,thats what came to my mind but I decided against it and said

" I don't know,you decide.Anything works for me."

"I hope you like Italian food."

"yeah! sure"

After five minutes he parked in to this fancy little restaurant with grape vines over the entrance and bright lights. I don't know this place,never heard of it, but then again I don't know any place in this city. He got out of the car quickly and while I am getting a hold of my purse and struggling to open the door, he was at my side opening the door and put his warm hand at the small of my back sending small shivers all over my body and closed the door with the other. I furrow my brows thinking who does that these days. we entered the restaurant. An old man in black uniform greeted Sam in a friendly smile and said

"hello Sam, good to see you"

"how have you been Rick?"

"oh same old same old. so I see you brought a date" I was about to protest when Sam spoke

"good. we need the best seat you have for tonight. I didn't make a reservation but.."

"Oh you know we don't ask family for reservations, come on now, follow me"

He turned and winked at me and we followed the kind old man. He stopped at a window side table and waived for us to seat. We took a seat, thanked Rick and I looked out to the window and it has a lake view. I mouthed wow to Sam. He smiles back.

"I don't know there's a lake in this city?"

"it's man-made" he scanned the menu."I m gonna take steak with pepper sauce and mashed potato. You?"

"hmm?" I replied, why am I acting dumb?

"what do you feel like eating?"

"I'm not sure I think I will go with ravioli with cream sauce." we ordered and sat in silence.

His phone buzzed, he looked at it put it back.

"So you obviously don't enjoy working for Northons, and you hate whiny customers too. So what do you love to do that pays the bills?"

"if things had gone differently, I think I might have been a psychologist."

"Differently? How so? "

"If I studied psychology instead of going to business school."

"it's never too late to do things that you love, you are young. How old are you 21?"

"23. And no I can't just say hey mom, dad remember how you paid for my business school? Yeah I'm not interested in business anymore so how about paying for my psychology classes?"

"that's not how you tell your parents you need them to pay for tuitions. You bribe them." he smirked.

"good one." I smiled

"you have to plan it, work hard save some money and get your self to school. How does that sound."

"that sounds too good to be true. I can't imagine having tuition savings from what I am currently earning. Impossible."

"What do your parents do?"

"they are both software engineers they work together. They even met at work. You should have heard their funny office romance tales." I smiled and was lost in thought as I wondered why I didn't call them today I miss them so much.

"zoooeyyy!" he waived his hands over my face to get me back to reality. "so you miss you parents, I get it. Do you have any siblings?"

"nope it's only me" and I remember my younger brother. So sweet and adorable. He was 10 years younger than I was. He was 4 when he was diagnosed with lukemia. Died at the age of five leaving my parents and I only the sweet memory of him and a whole in our hearts. I sometimes think what my life would be like if he was still alive. A little brother to pester me and still be somewhat protective of me. I would have loved that. Shook my self out of my thoughts only to find Sam looking at me.

"sorry I.. I was just.. Where was I?" why I am stuttering?

"Dont worry about it, now let's eat, I am starving."

I haven't even noticed that they served our food and it was right in front of me. I pecked on the saucy ravioli with my fork and realized I had dinner,spaghetti and meatballs. I should have ordered something light like a salad or something.

" what's wrong? You don't like the food."

"hmm no it's nice. It's just that I forgot I already had dinner at home and I'm full." I looked at his plate and the large piece of steak was gone. To my surprise he brought his fork and pick some ravioli and stuff them into his mouth nodding in approval. After that I get to stomach two more bites.

" how do you eat like that and still look like this" I gestured to his body.

"oh this, I'm always like this. Except I go to gym 5 times a week and do intense cardio."

"hmm that explains it, but I'm always like this" I waived my hand over my body and said "and I don't lift a finger let alone intense workout."

He scoffed "you don't eat, you are under weight and unfit." true, true and true.

"thats not true, I'm fit." I defended and he shook his head no, chewing another bite from my plate.

"tell me about you? You have been asking too many questions about me I never got to ask any."

"Been working for Northons for 7years. I ve been working abroad for long and now I requested for transfer to my home and got approved and here we are. "

" here we are." I repeated. No wonder I never heard of him Untill now, he worked abroad.

"And your parents, they live here?"

"a few blocks a way."

"so you brought me around your parents home to buy me dinner? So classy." I said sarcastically.

"I love this place, they got good food. And Rick knew me since I was 11."

"hmm in my opinion you tend to seek your comfort zone over trying out new and a exciting things. Am I right?"

"look who is talking? Oh how I cherish reading old books at my old apartment on my old couch sipping English tea from my large cup. " he mocked me and now I am angry. He could tell me that I don't hang out much and don't have friends from office. But when I say one thing thing about him, he got nasty.

" oh great! Mock me! Mock my humble way of living, my old apartment and my couch! So classy! Are you sure you are not from the management, cause you sure as hell sound exactly like them and it's not English tea it's mint tea. "

"I am sorry, I didn't mean that I.. I was just."

"oh don't be sorry. Cause I got one for you. Hey look at me I worked at Northons for 7 years abroad, I got loads of money from that and I drive Audi and I am an important person at HQ." and I fake applauded "yeeeaaahhhh". "

He threw his head back and laughed at my little show. Oh now I am very pissed off! I clutched my purse and stormed out of the place.

I walked along the street and tried to hail taxi twice but they drove by . I have no clue where I am or how to get back to my apartment. I should have checked my temperament before I stormed out of the restaurant. Sam's car came closer to me slowing down to my pace and rolled down the passenger's side window

"please get in so we could talk?" I turned around to face him. Theres no trace of laughter or smile. He was so serious and looks concerned. "please? " he said. That was the magic word but lacked humor.

"say 'pretty pleaaaseee!!' and I will hop in" I said and raised my left eyebrow for the challange. He smiles and raises his arms from the wheel as surrender and said "pretty please"

"that was the dullest pretty please I've ever heard. It's' pretty pleeeasee'" I repeated with a little girl's voice. Now he looks pissed off but collects himself and said" I'm gonna count to three and if you are not in the car by the time it's three I'm out of here. I thought may be I went too far with the' pretty please ' thing, he's pissed off and we are even. I smiled and hopped in. He drove in silence and I felt ungrateful and childish so I said "I'm sorry. for the record, I ve had a great time and thanks for the dinner."

"you' re welcome!" he breathed and I looked at him and thought I should be grateful that a guy like this bought me dinner and chose to have a discussion with me. He's so out of my league and I wouldn't even dare to dream about this guy. I'm the type of person who don't fantasize about guys who are out of my league, in a way I know what I deserve. I don't stretch for more,and he is way more. And honestly speaking, I don't dare call this a date.

He turned around and said" you are staring "

" umm sorry, I was lost in my thoughts."

" yeah that happens a lot, what are you thinking about? You got lost deep in thoughts with dark expression on your face."

I pointed to my head and said

" you don't wanna go in there" a little embarrassed that he could read me like a book.

"okay" he replied. I watched the streets and the crowd of people, rolled the window down to get some fresh air. I love the feel of air caressing my face and softly blowing my hair. I closed my eyes and breathed in.

"are you having a moment?" He asked with a smirk. I stared at him and said "thanks for ruining my moment."

"we just have the talk about getting lost in your thoughts and you closed your eyes and got lost."

He smiled and looked at me.

"keep your eyes on the road please, I don't want to die young."

He scoffed and said "I'm one of the best drivers in town my dear".

I mouthed wow and said " you know what they say about pride coming before fall."

"no, I'm not bragging I'm just stating the facts."

"OK whatever" that's what I always say when I'm losing an argument. He stopped the car and I realized that we are at my apartment. He pushed the button to stop the engine and turned to me. I felt like I need to say something, it's getting very awkward.

"hmm so I ll see you around office?"

He nodded and cleared his throat "yeah, I 'll see you around Zoey." my name rolled off his tounge like its more than just a name. Felt like I heard my name for the first time. Does that even makes sense? I woke up from my thoughts when he cleared his throat? We locked eyes and I felt a blush creeping all over my face. My adrenalin kicked in and my flee mode is now activated. My logical side of the brain told me to flee before I embarrass my self so I opened the car door and stood outside with the door open. I looked down and said

"good night" in the most cheerful voice I could manage.

"good night Zoey" OK that's it he said my name again, that same way, I closed the car door with a large bang and hurried to the entrance, and this time I didn't look back.

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