What could go wrong
Jerking my head up, my chin at some point had fallen to my chest—more like my collarbone—I blink rapidly, trying to clear the hazy film that’s coating my eyes. I shift, sorta uncomfortably in my seat, wedged against two joining prime-painted walls in the conference room—yes, yes, they like to put baby in the corner.
My mother repeats my name. A solid edge of annoyance rolls from her tongue. What else is new?
Snapping out of it, leaving my alternate reality, or my past reality, or recollection, whatever. Okay, I think I legit fell asleep.
I swipe the smidge of drool threatening the corner of my lips, currently dry from the abrupt change in climate. The winter is actual bullshit, with its slush and sleet. Nonetheless, I am—for once, on a Monday—in a great mood.
I mean, kinda. It’s fucking Monday and I’m currently working on about three hours of sleep.
But ya know what? I’m gonna own this shit.
I’d Uber’d it home from the airport last night somewhere around nine-thirty. And can I really quick note that the past weekend felt like the longest, shortest weekend that’s ever weekended. It’s a thing... just go with it. I didn’t even wait a full minute after unlocking the door to my place and dropping my bag, to shoot Trey a text versus a call, not trying to be too much or too needy.
Yeah, fuck that. He made my heart burst. A herd of butterflies stampeded throughout my insides, and all those gushy types of feelings, when an instantaneous video call sounded from my phone. His soulful eyes looked even lighter against the contrast of dark lashes that layered the top and bottom, his incredible head of hair, wet and hanging loosely over the side of his face.
It should be illegal to be so damn hot.
My fingers had gotten all twitchy, already desperate to feel the strands under my grasp once more. There is something about his presence, even via FaceTime, that’s almost soothing. No, it’s definitely soothing. I’m so comfortable around him... I was desperate to stay in our little weekend bubble for a bit longer.
Once I’d walked through those airport doors, not gonna lie, I had to fight tears brimming my eyes and stinging my nose, leaving Trey standing there. I’d felt utterly sorry for myself, wishing that I’d somehow met—truly met—him sooner, or circumstances were different. Like I suddenly lived in Georgia, or who knows.
Life doesn’t go that way.
Get real. I can’t up and leave, making yet another knee-jerk decision to move somewhere because of one fucking weekend. Well, been more than one now.
Would be nice if I could. I feel like that probs falls under serial creeper status.
Plus, where would I even stay? He lives with his parents. I live in an apartment funded—partially—by mine. I say partially because I’m working on it. That part—the funds part—got my brain reeling. Because as I said, for once, I was actually thinking about the future-ish, not just the here and now.
During the couple hours on the plane, I’d divulged a plan, trying to take some of his mom’s advice. When Vada had shown me her workshop area, she’d explained that she’d been a lawyer—most of her dealings with property law—and she fucking hated it. She didn’t say fucking, that’s just me.
But she’d dealt with several old churches, ones that were more historic in the area, and couldn’t keep up with the growing costs or the expansions. That’s where she’d discovered her love, or calling, as Vada had put it, marveling at the way the light reflected through the intricately stained windows.
She’d left her first career path behind, followed her dream, enamored by the way the designs of glass—a material so beautiful and strong, yet delicate and fragile all in the same breath—could be broken, put back together, and create something completely new.
She’d been adamant that I was an artist, which made me laugh. Going on to say that anyone, anyone who can create, who’s able to make something on their own and to do it with the ease Trey had explained to her, is an artist. Continuing that a person who had the capability and let it go, let it become dormant, didn’t integrate their passion into daily life, was simply wasting time.
Thus, an idea was kinda born.
So anyway, Trey and I stayed on the phone for hours—literally till two in the morning. I’d told him my plan, and he’d been all for it, convincing me this was a great way to bridge the gap between the realty job I was a few weeks away from transitioning into, and design, which is one million percent my passion.
“Briar?!” Cecilia says my name again with that snippy tone. Arms crossed over her stuffy, black type of business dress, glancing down at her overpriced watch. Someone off me if I ever have to wear that shit.
But for real, she looks nice in it. She’s always had this way of throwing an outfit on and immediately appearing put together, and professional as hell. Some of us have to work a little harder.
A few of the others—the lead realtors—glance up from their screens. I won’t be sitting amongst the elite once I get my license. For the time being, I’m only included in the room as a note-taker, coffee-breaker, sandwich-maker. Not really. I make my runs to the cafes or restaurants lining the block. You get it though. Once I pass those tests, I’ll become an associate, stuck with the lower end sales, with minimal profit margins. It’s okay though, maybe if I can incorporate my other skills it can be a win-win for everyone.
I force my eyes not to hang on Jonathan’s wandering gaze for more than a millisecond.
Not anymore. Trust me, he doesn’t even begin to make me feel anything—nothing. Except maybe a little awkward, but oh well. He’d been fine with the casual, no strings. He’ll be fine without it.
I’d specified to Trey, when he was waving at me like a grinning, handsome, spank-bank vision, that when I said he needed to rest that hand, it was for his own needs.
We didn’t already go in for the ultra specific girlfriend, boyfriend, exclusive talk. Though, I’d note that a plane ride to and from technically equals about ten dates, each way. Pretty sure by the googly eyed faces we were both making over the video chat, it’s a given.
Damn. How’d all this happen?
I plaster a smile on my face, standing from my meager corner seat. Okay, it’s not plastered, it’s for real. A genuine, authentic, ear to ear, thankful for braces when I was younger, smile.
“Sorry, zoned out for a minute,” I apologize to the group, shaking my head. Teeth flashing around my lips that I’d actually applied makeup to, not my staple gloss that smells like bubblegum which I’ve been donning since the fifth grade. Smoothing out the front of my white blouse, tucked into a sleek pencil skirt. It’s a little more sophisticated than my norm, but my mom had said if I want to be taken seriously, I’d need to act the part. So, fuck it, I’m goin’ for it.
Her stern scowl and disapproving manner reaches a new height. Cecilia clicks her tongue, nails drumming over her long-sleeved arms. Dad, of course, rocking his adoring grin at me. Karen, who sincerely thanked me this morning for her coffee delivery, telling me I looked great today, offers her full attention. Stacey gives a narrow-eyed look with an indifferent sigh. Jonathan closes his laptop as I balance my own along my forearm. I swallow, a bit nervously, as he zeros in on me.
“So, most of you... most of you know...” I juggle the laptop, placing it down on the table next to my dad, who touches the top of my shaky hand with a reassuring look.
I’m tapping away, trying to connect with the screen hanging in the front of the room, ready for the PowerPoint presentation I somehow made up in the early hours of this morning.
I’m not even sure how. Guess I was on a mission.
“Here, sweetie.” Karen, sitting to my left, stands up, gesturing a hand to her chair while I furiously try to get the fucking Wi-Fi to connect with the Bluetooth to the thingie-ma-jingy. She nods, encouraging me to continue, while I ignore the icy glare I know is coming from the judger.
“Thanks, so sorry.” I clear my throat, appreciative of the seat she’d given up for me. Trying to squat slightly, and not distastefully, in the heels I’d thrown on to complete my working woman getup is somewhat of a difficult feat. Settling in the chair, which makes it so much easier to focus on the computer instead of avoiding a face plant into the conference table.
“I’ve got a nine-thirty,” Stacey complains, joining in with my mother’s disdainful look. Her pursed lips make me want to tug on the high collar of my shirt.
“Ah, here we go.” With one final click of a button, the large screen comes to life with the slideshow I’d created. Filled with some of their higher dollar listings. The ones I knew would hold their attention, hopefully. The vid is only five minutes long.
I stand, giving Karen back her chair, flipping the lights down so the picture shows more distinctly.
“What I was saying is that some of you may already be aware I have an MFA. I focused, and not only focused, but excelled in interior design, graduating at the top of my class.”
Dad beams at me, Mom stares apathetically straight ahead. But she’s listening. It’s a start.
The pictures the professional photographer snapped to advertise the properties on the site morph slightly, the first with a different shade coating the walls.
“I looked at a few of them and came up with some cheap and easy alterations. Be it a fresh coat of paint for the entryway.” The slide advances, and I have to say, I’m really proud of myself. They look way better and much more appealing to the eyes with the subtle changes. “Or some rearranging of furniture. Perhaps a slight change in decor.”
I go on through the next four minutes, thankfully not painful at all, giving the spiel I’d practiced when I went for a run before work, trying to clear my head.
I know, a run, on three hours of sleep!? Trust me when I tell you I’m chugging jet fuel this morning. But it doesn’t matter. The rush this gives me is enough to keep me awake for days. And I’m truly excited.
Continuing to tell the five sitting at the round conference table how these minor details, these small things can give a nice face lift that won’t break the bank. That I firmly believe they’ll appeal to a buyer in a shorter length of time. That the first impression, especially on an investment as substantial as a new home, is important.
“What I’m offering,” I begin, switching the lights back on, Stacey already closing her laptop and packing up her things. “Whatever bitch, you don’t wanna capitalize then see yourself out.” Okay, that last part was in my head. But I do meet her expression of annoyance with a grimace. Can’t totally lose my edge. “I’m offering my expertise,” I speak confidently with a proud smile. “Plus, it will help me learn the ropes if I can go with one of you. I think your sellers will find these changes simple, loads less than paying additional month’s mortgages. It’s a positive for everyone. And it will allow me to do something I—”
“We have a staging company,” a dismissive voice rings out. My mother stands, placing her square tipped—always fresh with the manicure—nails on the table. The tap, tap, tapping causes my eye to twitch. “That was a lovely presentation, Briar. Glad to see our investment in your studies has taught you a few things.”
My smile falls. Scratch that, it doesn’t fall; it melts straight down my face. I feel like I’ve got jowls. Is that a thing?
“I thought... it wouldn’t be hard. All the things I’ve priced, a few hundred at most. I think if you look at the prospective turnaround it—”
“And this is our area of expertise,” she interrupts, already gathering her things. Most of them spend little to no time in the office. When they’re here, I’m the go-getter, the errand girl. Most of the time I sit around with my thumb up my ass... figuratively, of course. Occasionally talking to Sandy, the receptionist, it’s like I’m a waste of space.
“You wouldn’t have to pay me.”
“Don’t we already pay you?”
“Yes. And I appreciate it. I mean, nothing extra. What could it hurt?” I make a feeble attempt to laugh after I mumble the words. The way she dismisses me so fast, the fact that I’ve gotten so much encouragement from a mother who isn’t mine, and absolutely none from my own, makes me feel about a foot tall.
“Listen,” she says with a curt nod to the rest of the team before glancing at me. Her blue eyes that look nothing like mine stare at me for a few moments. “I think the smartest thing for you to do right now is focus on one task at a time. Once you get your license, you can speak with your own clients about recommended changes to your listings.”
I nod, swallowing the painful lump in my throat. “I just wanted to help.” Biting the inside of my cheek to stop the light tremble, I drop my head, studying the top of my black heel against the taupe colored carpet.
“You can’t have everything all at once,” she replies, already moving past me, heading for the door. “Patience is a virtue, Briar.” I swear she speaks my name as if she can’t stand me. “And it seems it’s not something you’ve ever learned.”
“You did great, sweetheart.” My dad stands, always under my mother’s watchful eye, planting a kiss on my cheek. “Take it one step at a time. Focus on getting the courses finished and then go from there.” He winks, but follows her from the room.
I don’t lift my head, unblinking; I stare down at my phone on the table next to my computer, feeling like a total failure when a text pops up from Trey. I already know he’s asking how it went.
“I’d love for you to give me some advice,” Karen whispers, glancing at the door, making sure the firing squad has left. “I don’t think the staging company we use is all that great. And evidently you have an eye for it.” Giving a motherly type of squeeze over my lower arm, she smiles at me, pity hanging heavily in her eyes.
“Thanks, Karen,” I genuinely reply, unable to return her grin. Also, I feel bad for poking fun at her. Who dubbed the whole Karen thing, anyway? I’ve met plenty of other women who are twat-a-sauruses. She doesn’t deserve that. I highly doubt she’d ever ask to speak to anyone’s manager.
Jonathan’s gaze lingers on me. I can feel it as I try to pull myself out of the embarrassed as fuck pit of despair I’m descending into, raising my eyes to his.
Sliding a capped pen over his stubble surrounded lips—not the good kind either, his is that sharp kind, not the nicely grown out, feels smooth when it slips between your legs type Trey has—he stares, it’s a little unnerving. Also, gross, where’s that pen been? As if I’m one to talk. Taking my brief daze down between my thighs, memory lane, as an advancement. He shoots me a cocky grin, a glint of amusement in his eyes.
“Sorry.” I blow out a lip-rumbling breath, feeling my cheeks heat, trying to save myself from further embarrassment. “I’m not staring at you, I was thinking about my...”
“Not a problem,” he dismisses with a wave. “I’ll take you up on your offer.” He shrugs, and I know my face lights up.
“Yup, how could I pass up your expertise?” I ignore the not-so-subtle eyebrow raise and the hint of a smirk. “How about tomorrow? Wanna show me what you got? Come and see some of my new listings?”
“Sure,” I reply, far too excited. But hey, if he and Karen give me a shot, maybe this entire plan won’t backfire after all.
“Then it’s settled.” He rounds the table, grazing a finger down my side, barely noticeable through the silky—knockoff—fabric of my top.
“I have a boyfriend.” I rush out the words, turning to face Jonathan, met with a confused scowl. Holding my breath, I squeeze my eyes shut before opening them once I feel him back away. My palms grip the edge of the table. I don’t have an actual boyfriend, right? I’m not sure. I feel like I have to set things straight, make sure he knows anything further is off the table.
God, did I just pull a Jamie, or was it Lamie? Ugh right, right, an Amy. The crazy chick who proclaimed she was Trey’s girlfriend, unbeknownst to him.
Well, maybe I’ll just leave this little detail from my call with Trey. Told him we could video chat again tonight, every night. Maybe not all night.
Taking a few steps from me, holding his palms up in front of him. “That was... fast.” He frowns, a perplexed crease still between his brows. I raise a shoulder, lips pressed tight together. “Well, no matter.” Jonathan’s confused expression promptly shifts to neutral, not even. An accepting look covers his face.
“I just didn’t want you to get the wrong idea.” My nose scrunches. “It was kind of unexpected, but I think it’s maybe a bit more than what we...” I trail off, looking to the side, anywhere really.
Ugh, I hate uncomfortable shit.
“Seriously, Briar.” Grabbing my hand, he gives the briefest of squeezes, letting go. “We’re both adults. I respect anything you have going on. We had a mutual understanding, no hurt feelings, no strings attached.”
I let out a relieved sigh. “Thank you, Jonathan.” Meeting his seriously kind eyes, I offer an apologetic and overly toothy grin, which he laughs off.
“So, tomorrow?” he asks. And I’m so thankful he seems absolutely fine with my slight rejection. “Strictly business, you have my word,” he promises with a sincere look and a single nod.
“Yeah, okay. That would be great. It’s a short week and it would give me something to do. Do you want to send them to my email and I can work on things today? I can do it remote, and—”
He stops me from babbling with a stern look from the doorway. “Tomorrow,” he repeats, turning to walk away.
What could go wrong?
A/N: 😜😜😜 insert my evil laugh here. Okay first, thanks for reading, commenting, those who have shared, and please drop that heart, it’s helpful...
So, thoughts? Comments?
Poor Briar. At least Jonathan seems like a decent guy.
Can I say... I MISS TREY! We need him back, but not yet. You know what might lift her spirits... a bestie, or how bout two😈😈😈