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“What crawled up your ass and died?” Aidan asks me when he finds me hiding in my office, drinking. The party is still going strong but I left it after finding Sophia in that prick Jeremy’s arms. Of all the men in the world – why did she have to pick him? He is such a manwhore and has easily made his way through half of the women in my company. Apparently, he has now made Sophia his latest target, and she’s going along with it which.

“Fuck off, Aidan. I’m not in the mood,” I snap back. If he’s wise, Aidan will take the hint and leave me alone for the rest of the night. Knowing him though, he won’t be smart.

“There is a company party being held elsewhere in this building and you’re here wallowing in self-pity – what the hell is going on?” He asks again while helping himself to a drink. He sits in one of the chairs on the other side of my desk while he waits for my answer. Knowing he won’t leave until he gets it, I exhale deeply as if he’s a nuisance – which he is – and confess.

“I found Sophia in the arms of that Jeremy prick,” I mumble, scarcely able to believe I’m saying the words out loud. I finish my drink and then get up to refill it, muttering the entire time. Aidan sits quietly, dumbfounded for a moment before bursting out into laughter.

“You’re shitting me, right? Jeremy from Accounting? That guy?” He asks while holding his gut as if it is the funniest thing he has ever heard in his life. He laughs some more while I sit down again, nursing a new drink. My already shit mood grows even darker the more he enjoys himself. “You can’t be serious – I thought she was smart?” He jokes before laughing some more.

“Shut up, Aidan,” I growl, not seeing the humour in any of this. Sobering, Aidan stops laughing and looks at me seriously finally.

“So what’s the problem, Hayes?” He asks me with a tilt to his head, as if it is the simplest matter in the world. Now it is my turn to look at him dumbfounded.

“She’s with someone else? That’s the problem?” I want to add on ‘duh’ but don’t, figuring it is too immature despite how right it feels. Aidan looks at me like I’m an idiot.

“So fight for her! The Hayes Matthews I know doesn’t back down from anything or anyone,” he reminds me. I shake my head to the negative, giving up before I even begin.

“I don’t chase women, Aidan. Never have, never will. If she wants to be with him, then fine, fuck her,” I grumble, not believing a single word I’m saying. My body also disagrees based on how nauseous I suddenly feel.

“You’re not chasing after a woman, dumbass,” he huffs. I look at him in confusion until he clarifies the difference.

“You’re going after your woman.”


The first thing I do when I get back to my place is email a letter of resignation to my immediate supervisor, effective immediately - I won’t be returning to The Matthews Corporation – ever. The second thing I do is call my parents. It is a tough phonecall to make and I’m crying through most of it.

Returning home isn’t as difficult as I was as fearful it was going to be – given the time of year there are charter planes going back and forth and thankfully, one has a spare seat for me. Once I explained my reasons for wanting to come home, Mom and Dad were immediately sympathetic and understanding. Actually, Mom freaked out, Dad lost his shit and both started shouting for different reasons but out of love and concern for me and the end result was the same – they agreed to help me get home. Bridget is going to clean up my place for me and I packed up a couple of bags, only enough that I can carry. Bridge will sell or donate whatever she doesn’t keep for herself.

Within four days I am back up north, hugging my family. The minute I step foot back into the family home, it is like I never left. All of my memories of being in Saskatoon – school, work and everything that goes with it seems like another lifetime, or another person. Well, almost everything – the nightmares of Jeremy started the very first night and haven’t stopped, not even after returning here. That keeps my alternate life ‘real’ and refuses to let me move on completely, or to forget.

Jeremy… and Hayes.

Jeremy haunts my thoughts and nightmares but so does Hayes and what could have been. If he weren’t my boss, if we had met at another time in another place – I think we could have maybe had something but now we’ll never know. The way he responded to me – it was clear how he feels about me and now, with Jeremy harassing me at every turn, there is no reason for me to stay there. Bridget is busy with school, Logan and her own life – as she should be – so while I feel like a failure coming home, I don’t regret it.

“What are your plans, honey?” Mom asks me over breakfast a week after I’ve been here. I shrug, not having any idea what I want to do. Mom and Dad exchange a look.

“I’ll start applying online, see what turns up. For now I was thinking of seeing if they need any help at the lodge,” I tell them. Mom met Dad while working at the lodge so if it is good enough for her, it will be fine for me, especially until I figure out what I want to do with my life.

I can’t believe I’m starting over at 19 years of age.

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