Learning to Love

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I expected to hear yelling and things breaking after the door shut. Instead it was eerily quiet. I had to remind myself that not everyone exploded when they got angry.

Shifting nervously I peeked into the office next to the one Adrian had gone in.

“That’s Adrains office.” Rhea said. Her dark brown eyes were so much like Adrians it was a comfort. “You can check it out I’m sure.”

I looked between her and the office unsure. What if it was a trap and Adrian got mad?

Rhea nodded encouragingly. I slid into the room determined not to touch anything. The gray carpet looked comfortable and there was a black leather sofa on the far wall. To my left was a dark cherry wood desk with a big office chair that matched the sofa.

On the desk was a picture of who I assumed was Adrian’s family. In the center Rhea smiles brightly held in the arms of an older man who looks almost exactly like Adrian. To their left was a teenage girl with her mom’s fair complexion and her dad’s black hair. To their right we’re two boys; Adrian I recognized immediately, but what surprised me was that his brother looked familiar as well. They look almost identical so I eventually decided that had to be the only explanation. On Adrian’s shoulders was a little boy with fair skin and blonde curly hair, he was smiling so wide his eyes were closed.

When I finally pulled my eyes off the picture I saw papers covered in numbers. I immediately deduced that Adrian had been trying to figure something out with the finances, and I should look away.

As I went to do that though a notebook caught my eyes. It read; Amount missing. But there was no answer next to it. Instinctively I shifted through the papers, remembering all the extra math I had done online for fun, and quickly found that five million dollars had been stolen this year and four million the year before.

“What are you doing?” Adrians voice startled me out of my daze and I suddenly realized I was neck deep in his personal papers.

“I-I’m sorry.” I stuttered nervously.

I surprised myself by being more embarrassed than afraid.

Adrian shrugged passively and slid into a chair by the desk. He smiled crookedly as he watched me for a moment.

Slowly, I felt my gaze drop back down to the papers.

“Someone is stealing from your company.” I said quietly.

“I know.” His voice was calm but his eyebrows raised slightly in shock. “It took me months to figure that out. I’m still trying to figure out how much money is missing though.”

“Nine million in total, five this year. Did you hire anyone new last year?” I asked as I continued to do the math in my head.

He laughed without humor, “Only a couple thousand. It’s a massive company.”

“It’s someone in the management department.” I muttered, still staring at some graphs.

“You couldn’t possibly know that.” He retorted skeptically.

“According to these charts all other departments have varied within an expected average.” I pointed out, trying to ignore my nerves as he circled around behind me to look over my shoulder.

“However,” I continued. “The variations in the management department are much more dramatic. Whoever it is, they aren’t covering their tracks very well.”

Reaching past me he took the charts looking over them again. As the time passed I felt more and more uncomfortable.

“How did I miss that?” He muttered, before finally looking up at me. “How did you know what to look for?”

I shrugged timidly, “I like numbers. They are reliable and have set rules. I have taken a lot of online math and business classes.”

“You never cease to surprise me.” He chuckled looking back at the paper. “Why work at a cafe though?”

“I don’t technically have a degree yet...” I also had to have shorter hours and more flexibility than most major businesses allowed.

“Why not?” He asked.

“I’m saving up for my last class.” I continued distractedly as I picked up another paper.

“Huh,” Adrian said, watching me.

I wondered if he could tell I was lying. I did have a degree in business management, I just couldn’t tell him the real reason I worked at the cafe.

Aliyahs face flashed in my mind.

“I should get home.” I said nervously.

“We haven’t even gotten to hang out yet.” Adrian said disappointed. “And I could really use your help with this, if you’re interested.”

I hesitated, but then another paper caught my eye.

“Not for too long though, and I have to make a call first.” I relented.

“Why does Andrew keep such good tabs on you?” He asked when I returned.

“Complicated.” I replied before grabbing a pile of papers.

He watched me silently for a minute before nodding slowly.

We worked in silence for a couple minutes before he sighed.

“I just want to say I’m sorry.” He said awkwardly.

I didn’t look up as I responded passively, “About?”

“Whatever haunts you.” His voice was low and calm. “I want you to know you can tell me anything.”

Once again Aaliyahs face dashed across my mind. I could tell him, now was as good a chance as any. I was certain he wouldn’t harm her, but what if word got back to Charlie.

It was true he was imprisoned, but I knew he had a lot of friends out here. I was constantly worried he would try to get back at me by hurting Aaliyah. It’s why I was so paranoid.

I weighed the chance of losing him, endangering her, or possibly everything working out right. When did anything actually work out right for me though?

“I just feel like you’re hiding something, something you’re afraid of.” He said calmly.

I dropped my gaze, suddenly deciding. “I have only known you for almost four months. There’s a lot you don’t know.”

He nodded then smiled thoughtfully, “Okay so what was your favorite hobby as a child?”

I couldn’t help but chuckle as I rolled my eyes. Here we were back to twenty questions. This time though I didn’t mind at all.

“Calculating the math of skating tricks before I tried them on the ice.” I blushed, knowing what a dork I sounded like. “I would spend hour’s determining the speed, thrust, angles, and all other factors of each individual move.”

“Wow, that’s...” he hesitated.

“Stupid? I know.” I smiled at him.

“I was going to say, unusual or strangely fascinating.” He finished, “How did that math work?”

So I told him. We sat organizing papers, talking, and laughing.

Time flew by and I gasped as I looked at the clock to realize it was after midnight.

“Oh my god, I have to go.” I said frantically grabbing my stuff.

“Okay, I’m sorry. I lost track of time too.” Adrian frowned at the clock, surprised.

However when we got to the front door, my heart dropped. There was several feet of snow piled up against the glass door.

“This isn’t possible. It’s November in Washington. It doesn’t snow like this here!” I gasped frantically.

“It’s okay. There’s food and sofas we could sleep on here. I’ll take you home first thing tomorrow.” Adrian said in a soothing voice.

“N-no I c-can’t, I-I...” I bit my lip, and turned away, furious at my inability to speak coherently.

Pressing my palms against my eyes, I tried to fight the tears that were building up. I felt my breathing quicken as my body started to tremble.

I felt a gentle hand on my shoulder and managed to not pull away. To my relief he didn’t try anything more. For a long minute we stood there as I fought to regain control of myself.

“Are you worried Andrew will be mad?” He asked, sounding confused. “Because if so I can call and talk to him.”

I suddenly realized that without knowing about Aaliyah, my reactions did seem as if I was afraid of Drew. The thought was so foreign and absurd that I almost laughed. As it was I couldn’t help the chuckle that broke almost silently through my lips.

“I’m n-not af-fraid of D-Drew.” I stuttered.

“You only stutter when you are afraid,” Adrian said confidently. “So what are you afraid of?”

Losing Aaliyah, I wanted to say, not being with her. I didn’t say that though because as I slowly turned to face him my nerve failed me once again.

“You are safe,” he finally said in a quiet voice, “You know that right?”

I realized I believed him completely. I was safe with him. He would never let anyone hurt me.

For that reason I couldn’t tell him. I couldn’t risk losing him. I just wanted to feel safe and cared for, the way only he had ever done.

“Yeah,” I said quietly. “I have to make a call.”

“Here.” He handed me his phone.

I called six times but, of course, it was too late. Nobody was answering.

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