“You are allowed to be both a masterpiece and a work in progress simultaneously.” – Sophia Bush
Picking up the landline phone in my office, I impatiently drummed my nails again the desk. “What’s up Kenzie?” Kate chippered on the other end.
“I need to see you in my office,” I replied. “Now.”
A few moments later when Kate poked her head in, I motioned for her to come in. “I’m going over the project details on AstraTech and I’m having a hard time understanding what you guys tested for. You were the project lead on it.”
“Oh – ” Her smile flattened. “We just tested for the basic internal controls. How soon do terminated employees have their access revoked, how often are passwords changed – that sorta thing.”
I nodded, continuing to scan the file opened on my desktop. “There were only five different scenarios tested. This is a big client – we can’t just half-ass the work they tasked us with doing.”
“We didn’t – ”
“If you can’t supervise and ensure that the proper work is being done, tell me from the start and I will assign another senior consultant on the project.” I snapped.
“I’m sorry,” Kate shifted her weight from one foot to the other, refusing to look me in the eye. “I’ll do better next time.”
“And get me the first-year consultant who did the actual testing.” I dismissed. “That will be all, Kate.”
“Right away.” Kate nodded before scurrying away.
I woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning and seeing the subpar work I was reviewing wasn’t helping to improve my mood.
The whole point of having other people work for you is to make your life easier – not harder. I understand we all make mistakes, and maybe I was a little too harsh on Kate, but she should know better. She’s worked with me long enough to know I don’t accept half-assed work.
It’s been almost two weeks since I found out Ethan was married, and I’ve done everything short of hiding under my desk to avoid him. So far I had been successful, but that was in part to him being out of town last week on business.
This morning, when I saw him by the elevators, I pretended to have forgotten sugar for my coffee so that we wouldn’t get in the same elevator cart. I know he saw me because from the corner of my eye I saw him shaking his head in disappointment.
Perhaps it was childish, but what he did was much worse.
It was just after three in the afternoon when I got out of a client meeting. Going over all of my to-do’s in my head, I didn’t even notice that there was someone already in my office when I entered.
“McKenzie,” Ethan said when I walked in. My head whipped to the sound of his voice, and I was met with his wild sea-green eyes already trained on me.
“Get out of my office.” I curtly replied, breaking eye contact and walking past him.
“No.” He said, standing up to close the door which I had purposely left open. “We need to talk.”
“No, we don’t.” I coldly replied, taking a seat behind my desk and pretending to busy myself on the desktop computer.
“Yes,” He gritted, trying to keep his cool and failing miserably. “We do.”
“Ethan.” My eyes flickered to meet his. “Fuck off.”
“That’s enough.” He towered over me, his palms resting on the wooden surface of my desk. “I have given you space because I understand that you’re angry, but you are going to listen to what I have to say. If afterward, you decide you still want nothing to do with me, then I will honor your decision.”
I quirked an eyebrow up at him, continuing to hold his gaze. “Go on.”
If it was going to get him to leave me alone, I was willing to sacrifice a few minutes of my life.
He signed, making no indication to move just yet. “It’s true that Stacy and I are technically still married but that’s only because the divorce hasn’t been finalized. There are a lot of assets to be divided, plus her stake in the company and it’s taking longer than expected.”
I stared at him for a good ten seconds, my brain still processing what he said. “Ethan.” I sighed running a hand through my hair. God, why did life have to be so complicated? “You had so many chances to tell me.”
“I know that – and I’m sorry I didn’t tell you.” His shoulders slumped as he straightened himself so that he was no longer towering over me. “Believe me, if I could go back in time it would be the first thing I would tell you. I was just too stupid to see how it was relevant at the time.”
“You didn’t see how it was relevant?” I asked, my voice laced with sarcasm. “I let you into my life! I told you stuff I haven’t even told my friends. The least you could have done was tell me you were still married!”
“I ... I – I trusted you.” I continued, my eyebrows furrowing together.
“Let me earn your trust again.” Ethan pleaded. By now he had taken a seat in one of the chairs in front of my desk and was leaning forward in his seat, his gaze still trained on me. “Stacy and I, we’ve been separated for over two years now. The last time I saw her before she just randomly showed up here was when I walked in on her and her yoga instructor.”
Yoga instructor, huh? That must’ve hurt.
“She has no place in my life anymore.” He continued. “If I’m being honest – there’s only one person I want in my life, and that’s you, McKenzie.”
“I... I believe you.” I finally let out the breath I didn’t know I was holding. There was something about his words – the rawness in his voice – that made me believe he was being sincere. Perhaps I was too quick to judge, but I still needed to process all of this. “I just need some time.”
Ethan had no doubt etched his way into my heart, but it was as if there was an invisible force holding me back – not allowing me to fully give in to him.
In the short period of time I’d known him, Ethan made me feel alive again. He brought out a side of me I buried a long time ago when I married Justin, and I was still trying to process how to deal with all of my feelings and the emotions he surfaced.
Perhaps I was overcompensating for the aching anxiety that made permanent residence in my heart, but when I was with Ethan, no matter how short-lived it was, the anxiety dulled and my heart was a little less heavy.
Everything I felt when I was around him –these were feelings I craved for. Feelings I desperately wanted to latch on to for as long as possible.
But at what cost?
What’s to say my relationship with Ethan, if we ever pursue it, would be any different than my relationship with Justin.
I thrive on certainty, and Ethan was still an enigma to me. One I had yet to figure out, and that terrified me.
“I’ll give you as much time as you need, but please don’t shut me out.” Ethan reached for my hand across the desk, but I kept both of my hands clasped in front of me.
The rest of the week passed by in a blur, and before I knew it, it was Sunday and I was sitting at my mom’s dining room table scarfing down my third slice of freshly baked bread.
We all have our guilty pleasures, mine just so happened to be bread.
“How’s Ethan?” Mom asked innocently, setting a bowl of mashed potatoes on the table. I internally groaned and tried my best to keep a straight face. I can’t even be mad at her for asking since she was completely unaware of the recent events that occurred. “I was hoping he’s come to dinner this week. He’s such a nice boy.”
“He’s been busy,” I replied, reaching for a piece of chicken. “Out of town with work.”
The lies come so naturally at this point.
“When he’s back in town, you two should stop by for dinner.” She smiled brightly.
“Sweetheart,” Dave nudged her. “They’ll stop by when they have time.”
“Sure.” I stabbed at the salad on my plate. “We’ll see.”
After some idle chatter, mom turned to Zoey. “Have you given any more thought to Penn State’s business program?”
“Angela.” Dave shot her a warning look which she completely dismissed.
“I told you mom,” Zoey gritted out, stabbing her fork into a piece of chicken. “I’m not going to business school.”
“Please don’t tell me you’re still on that nursing nonsense.” Mom rolled her eyes.
“Here we go again.” I heard Zoey mumble under her breath, low enough so that only I could hear.
“Mom,” I sigh, setting down my utensils. “That’s enough.”
“Leave her alone.”
“I’m just asking a question.” Mom feigned innocence, except I could see right through it. She wanted to pressure Zoey into going to business school because that’s what she wants, not because it’s something Zoey had ever expressed interest in.
Sometimes, I think my mother should be clinically diagnosed with a personality disorder because she can be nearly impossible to deal with at times.
“No – ” I shot her a glare. “You’re trying to push your ideas onto her. It’s her college experience, she’s going to study whatever she wants to.”
“Not as long as I’m paying for it.” Mom grumbled lowly.
“If you’re going to hold that over my head forever,” Zoey snapped, folding her arms over her chest. “I have no problem taking out student loans.”
“Girls, I really don’t th–” Dave tried interrupting by mom was quick to cut him off.
“We’ll see if you’re still saying that when you owe the bank double in interest.” Mom retorted, cutting up the food on her plate in unnecessarily small pieces.
“Ugh!” Zoey pushed her chair back and stormed out of the room. “I can’t wait to move out.”
The three of us sat in silence until we heard Zoey’s bedroom door slam shut.
Afterward, I was the first to speak, “Dave,” I smiled politely. “Will you pass me the bread bowl please.”
Just your usual drama-filled Sunday dinner.
Dun dun dun! We’re slowly but surely nearing my favorite chapter of the book, so stay tuned!
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