Friday, March 14, 2014

Coffee Date

Mike was already sitting in one of the two brown leather armchairs at the coffee shop when I arrived. He was wearing his baby blue button down, which he knew I loved and it made my stomach flip.

“I already ordered for us,” he said motioning to the little table in between the two chairs. There were two large cups filled with a light brown liquid and a enormous brownie.

“Thank you,” I said and before I could stop myself, I gave him an innocent kiss on the lips. What started out as a brief peck turned into a lingering, romantic kiss. Oh, I missed him. His small, thoughtful gestures made me really miss having a special guy in my life.

I sat down and we began talking about our usual go to topics. I asked him how his mom was and then how his dad was. They were divorced but I knew them both very well and there was always something new going on with one of them. Mike informed me that his dad was looking for a new apartment. Then, he asked me how school was going and what was new with my friends.

“You know,” I began. “Anna is still trying so desperately to get the attention of all the guys.” Mike began to laugh.

“Yeah, that was weird,” Mike said while cutting the double chocolate brownie in half. When I arrive in Heaven, it will consist of an infinite amount of these things.

“So,” he continued. “Does she take the attention away from your guys?”

I rolled my eyes at him. “Wouldn’t you like to know?”

He nudged half of the brownie towards me before taking a bite himself. Before he was even done with it he muttered, “I would.” Once he swallowed he continued, “But I know it’s not my business.”

I wondered about all the girls Mike talked to while we weren’t talking. I knew about some of his early flings, but after a couple months I tried to allow him some privacy. Since he brought it up, though, I thought it was time to at least touch on the subject I knew we were both thinking about.

“Well,” I began. “Do you want it to be your business?”

Mike took a long sip of his drink. I don’t know if he was buying time or just enjoying the heavenly hot chocolate and coffee mixture this coffee shop made so well.

“I mean, I love you, Caroline. I really love you. I miss you all the time and every time something good happens, you’re the first person I think of telling. I know you have such high hopes for me and I don’t know, even though we’re not together, I want to make you proud.”

I looked down and smiled. “I know exactly what you mean,” I finally responded. “As soon as Todd offered me a better position, I couldn’t wait to tell you. Not a single person popped in my head first.”

Mike reached over the small table and put his hand on mine. “Listen, I know you’re excited but is this really the best step for you?”

I went from leaning forward to sitting back in my chair as far as possible. “Mike,” I started as I pressed my lips together. “This program is two years and it’s expensive. My hours will be so flexible and it will just be, I don’t know…”

“Comfortable?” Mike cut me off. I began to slowly nod. “Yeah but Caroline, comfortable isn’t always right.”

I knew he wasn’t talking about the job anymore.

“I guess you’re right,” I responded. Neither one of us said anything for a while. I wanted Mike and I to work. I really, really did, but a part of me knew we wouldn’t be able to put the pieces of our relationship back together without some hard work. Was I willing to put in all that effort for something I really wasn’t sure about?

“Are you 25 yet?” Mike asked me, which broke the ice a little. Mike and I made a pact a few days after we broke up that on my 25th birthday, if we were both single we’d get back together. It wasn’t exactly an old age or a scary age, but it gave us about two years apart to see if we wanted to get back together.

“Mike, can we try like, being friends again?”

“Ugh,” Mike began. “You know that’s not going to work. Maybe we can stay in touch more, though. I don’t like not talking to you.” I nodded as a single tear fell from my eye. I tried to wipe it away before Mike saw it but he grabbed my hand and held on to it as the tear fell onto my lap.

“We don’t have to decide this now,” he assured me. “Do you want to keep doing what we’re doing? We’ll hang out once in a while and a few months from now, we’ll have a better idea.”

I finished off my drink. “I just wish I could see into the future,” I finally said. “Wouldn’t it be nice to know if we’re supposed to end up together? If we’re meant to be together?”

Mike rubbed the back of his neck and sighed. “I think that’s what intuition is for. We’d just know, wouldn’t we? The only thing is, I do think we could work. I just don’t know if we could work now, you know?”

I nodded. I could see myself married to Mike. I could see myself having his children. But he was right. We couldn’t get back together now. It would be forced and neither of us would end up happy.

We left the coffee shop and stood outside by our cars for a little while. We didn’t speak for a few moments.

“We’ll talk soon, okay?” Mike finally asked before wrapping me up in a hug. I cried into his shoulder while nodding.

“I love you,” he said.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Good News

The knot in my stomach instantly loosened. I knew I wasn’t going to get fired but I thought for sure Todd was going to ask me why I hadn’t been as alert at work. With everything on my mind lately, I pretty much think about everything but work while at work.

“Yeah?” I anxiously asked. Now that I knew this was good news, I was simply curious.

Todd walked over to his chair. “Listen, I didn’t know how much longer I was going to have you, but now that you’re in this master’s program I have you for another two years, right?” I slowly nodded. “So, I wanted to fill you in on something that’s been in the works for a while. You know how Mr. Harding is retiring next door?” he asked while pointing his finger behind me in the direction of the card store next to us in the shopping center. I continued nodding. “Well, I’ve been working with him the last few months to take over the store.”

“So,” I began as I squinted my eyes at him. “You’ll own the card store?”

“Exactly,” he proudly exclaimed. “Now, this is going to be a big adjustment. Mr. Harding always managed it and by owning both stores, I risk accidently neglecting one in the process.” He held up both of his hands and alternated between lowering his left and his right to represent a balancing scale. I didn’t say a word. I wanted Todd to get to the point before I jumped to too many conclusions in my head.

“So,” he went on while smiling, “I was wondering if you’d be interested in moving next door. You’d work the same hours, unless you want more, but you’d also obviously get a raise and more responsibilities. I don’t want you to loss sleep over any of this. I know you have enough on your plate as it is with school so if you think it’s too much, I don’t want you to feel like you have to do this.”

He grew silent and I didn’t say anything for a few seconds. I looked down and pressed my lips together. I knew my answer but I wanted Todd to know that I was not taking this lightly.

“I want to do it,” I finally said with a smile. Todd has been such a great boss to me over the years and I couldn’t imagine rejecting a promotion from him, not to mention a raise. This job was not going to become my career and Todd always knew that, but gaining more management experience in a whole new store felt exciting. I was becoming bored with work and even though I didn’t want to take on too much, I knew I could handle this. I had to at least try.

Todd rubbed his hands together and smiled. “I’m very pleased, Caroline. I need someone I can really trust in there and someone I know will do a good job. We’ll discuss it more in the upcoming weeks but we should be in there by May.”

“Perfect,” I exclaimed before standing up. I walked out of the office in a much better mood than when I walked in. As much as it killed me to admit to myself, the first person I thought to text with the news was Mike.

I already had a text message from Jessica on my phone. Her and Kyle were through. Apparently, he fell asleep or something Sunday afternoon when they were supposed to go to the mall. Sometimes, Jessica could be really unforgiving. To me, though, this was good. I didn't want to worry about running into Evan. If I did, I'd feel embarrassed that I thought he was flirting with me. Still though, I wish that worked out.

I quickly texted Mike, as well as my mom, with the exciting news. My mom responded first with a one word text. “Great.” While I’m trying to break her into the texting world, she still has the notion that text messages are only for simple, quick responses. She was actually excited about it, but her one word answer would give any millennial a cold feeling.

Mike wrote back about twenty minutes later. “So, are you committing to two years of managing the store?”

Thanks, Mike. Would a congratulation text be too much for you? I admit it was a fair question for him to ask, but I obviously wouldn’t sacrifice my future for the chance to manage a card store. The grocery store, more specifically Todd, had always guaranteed me some sense of financial security. Todd was a successful businessman and a caring guy. I knew that I’d always have a job if I stuck by him. For now, that is what I need. I also need something extremely flexible so that I would always be able to put my education first.

“No and don’t worry, I didn’t promise my first-born child either,” I wrote back.

“Haha, I’m just saying you’re going to have to start getting jobs in your field pretty soon.”

This infuriated me. Mike and I had very different views on employment. It might stem from the fact that his parents could always financially support him, so if he felt that a job was beneath him he would just quit. I didn’t really have that luxury and even if I did, not working would drive me crazy. Wasn’t it better to have something than nothing?

Before I had a chance to respond Mike sent another text. “Let’s talk about it and catch up more this weekend. Coffee?” I agreed and we set up a time and place. I hadn’t seen Mike since Valentine’s Day but we did our fair share of texting. I still had no idea what I wanted. Well, I knew what I wanted. I wanted to be with him. I have never felt as amazing as I do when I am with him. The real question was what should I do?

Friday, March 7, 2014

The Moose Encounter

What the actual fuck? My jaw was hanging open for a few seconds when Anna physically shut it closed. “Sorry,” I embarrassingly said as they began to laugh. “But this is crazy, right?”

Jessica shrugged. “I mean, you said he never made a move right?”

“Right,” I slowly responded while nodding. “I guess I just thought he was being polite. We had real conversations and I figured it was because he was interested in me.”

“Well, he could still be interested in you,” Darlene began. “But right now he likes you as a person. Maybe that’ll turn into something more!”

I rolled my eyes at Darlene. Was she looking at the same picture I was? This couple was obviously into each other. Thinking over our conversations, I guess he never actually made any reference to being single. I just kind of assumed since I never saw a girlfriend out with him. People need to start wearing tags or something. Are all the nice guys seriously taken? By the time I left Jessica’s house that night I had sent Evan off to “Forgotten Guy Island” with the rest of the losers who have rejected me in the past.

Friday night at Nostalgic, I arrived with a slight buzz thanks to the wine my mom supplied me with dinner. All my friends were at the bar that night, including Moose. He’s over six feet tall, so I noticed him as soon as I walked in. I decided to try and patch things up with him. I don’t know if it was my wine buzz or the fact that I felt rejected after seeing Evan's Facebook, but I felt like I didn’t want to burn too many bridges with the remaining men in my life.

“Hey Moose!” I said with too much enthusiasm when I walked over.

His eyebrows went up. “Hey, Caroline,” he responded as he scratched his head. Ugh, why did he have to be so awkward?

“So, are we doing shots?” I asked. Shots were clearly the intelligent way to break the ice. Moose let out a nervous laugh and nodded.

“Sounds good,” he said before turning to the rest of the guys. A few of them followed us over to the bar and since we couldn’t decide between tequila and Jack Daniels, we all took one of each. Oh, boy.

I tried to catch up with Moose for a while near the bar. He has been studying for the CPA exam and has a job offer in the Fall as long as he passes. “I just want to move out,” he said as he grabbed his fourth beer. “I can’t take my mom anymore.”

“Oh, she can’t be that bad,” I responded. His mom was a little overbearing, if you will, but completely tolerable.

Moose began shaking his head. “Nope, she keeps bugging me about getting serious with a girl. What am I supposed to say back to that? ‘Sorry, mom, I actually can’t get a girlfriend.’”

This was the point in the night where I could tell Moose was getting too drunk. He never opened up unless he was schwasted. I was more than buzzed myself, but knew enough to realize that I needed to escape this situation.

“Moose, you’re going to find someone,” I reassured him as I mentally planned how to gracefully end this conversation and find Darlene.

Moose rolled his eyes at me and then began to laugh. “You know what’s funny? My mom actually asked why you and I never gave it a try.”

My eyes involuntarily widened. “Yeah,” I awkwardly responded. Since I didn’t know what else to say, I made up something about having to go to the bathroom. I guess that worked as a good exit plan.

Moose luckily didn’t drunk text me that night, so it was definitely a step forward for us. I guess now we can stop awkwardly avoiding each other.

I must have had a little too much fun that weekend because when Monday morning rolled around, I overslept. I could barely open my eyes when I realized that my clock read 8:37. I had to leave for work by 8:50.

I don't even know if you can call what I did 'showering' considering I lathered up so quick I don't even know if the soap soaked into my skin, but it was sufficient. I threw my hair in a wet, messy bun before grabbing the first decent shirt to wear with a pair of jeans that were sitting on my floor. Classy, Caroline.

I arrived at work at 9:01 but still arrived before my boss. I turned on all the lights before heading to the small office of the grocery store. I brewed two coffees and was greeted by my boss as I walked out with them.

“Good morning, Caroline,” Todd said with a smile as I handed him his coffee. As I said good morning back, I saw him furrow his eyebrows. “Can I talk to you around lunch time?” he asked.  “Nothing bad,” he followed with as he waved his free hand at me.

“Um, of course,” I replied, forcing a smile. He smiled back and walked into the office. What could Todd want to talk to me about? Did I look that bad today? Until lunch, I tried to stay busy so I wouldn’t think about it. I mean, I knew I wasn’t getting fired. I had worked here since high school and this place was like a family. You had to do something really bad to get fired. But did I do something wrong? I had been distracted lately with thoughts of Mike and stress from school, but I didn’t think that was affecting my work.

At noon, I met Todd in the office. He had me sit down in an empty chair as he perched himself on the ledge of the desk.

“Caroline,” he began rubbing his hands together. “I think this will be good news for you.”

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Spilt Wine

That was it. The cat was completely out of the bag. Not only did Anna now know I was talking to Mike, but she also knew I spent Valentine’s Day with him. I had some ‘splainin to do.

It’s not that my friends didn’t like Mike. They always got along with him while we were dating. He even went out of his way to gain points with them, including one time when he called up the restaurant where we were eating dinner and ordered us a big dessert on his credit card. The problem for them was when we broke up. Mike didn’t really have a specific reason for dumping me that they could understand. I understood, though. We had problems in the beginning, mainly with trust. One night, an old crush from high school texted me late and Mike saw it. He didn’t get mad at me, but he was moody for the rest of the night. Later on, he admitted that even though he knew it wasn’t my fault, he began questioning the trust in our relationship. It prompted me to tell him some things, even though I didn’t feel like I was ever betraying Mike’s trust. I opened up about my knowledge that Moose had feelings for me or that I often received drunk text messages from that high school crush but never respond. I was really starting to feel invested in our relationship and this made me feel closer to him.

The next night, he felt the need to tell me some things. This is when the trouble started. He was seeing another girl before we were exclusive. Yes, he had every right to because I was actually the one who wanted to keep my options open. He wanted to make me his girlfriend so I know he would have dropped her the second I agreed to make it Facebook official. The problem I had was that he was so insistent that there was nobody else. She had met his mom. She had slept over his house. I luckily didn’t sleep with him until we were exclusive and this news made me so glad I hadn’t, but what if I had? I couldn’t even consider that without feeling sick.

The bottom line for me was that while I loved him and I truly appreciated him coming clean to me, this all hurt me so much. He kept up with this lie for so long and I never saw any sign of it. I wasn’t sure if I even knew him anymore.

Mike was willing to work with me and stay with me even though I told him I would need time to get over everything. After several hard months, I finally felt like we had worked through it and that we were becoming stronger from it all. Then, he dumped me. He said he didn’t want to feel guilty anymore. I still feel like I could have stopped him. I mean, we were in love but I wasn’t about to beg my boyfriend to stay with me.

I kept a lot of our problems from my friends, so I just told them that we mutually decided to break up. Mike and I continued to talk after ending it, like so many couples do nowadays. It’s so easy to continue texting every day. While this prevented me from letting go of our relationship, it didn’t stop him. I would ask him what he was doing and he would be honest with me. He couldn’t lie to me after what we went through, so he would tell me about making out with random girls in bars and texting new girls more than he was texting me. This is what made my friends begin to dislike him. Can I blame them? All they saw was that I was miserable and it was his fault. But they didn’t get that we broke up and he had every right to do whatever he wanted. He was trying to move on while I couldn't accept that. And when I stupidly asked, he told me the truth.

I didn't know where Mike and I were headed or how I felt about the situation, but I didn’t want to hear the negative opinions from my friends while I tried to decide what I wanted. I was confused enough without worrying about what they thought.

I didn’t have a choice now, though. I clutched my phone as I looked over at Anna, expecting her to blurt out my secret at any moment. Instead, I saw her mouth still open and her hands out. One hand holding an empty wine glass. She had spilt wine all over herself. I let out a nervous laugh. Maybe she hadn’t seen my phone after all. I still had a shot!

Jessica ran to get paper towels. “You’re lucky we’re drinking white,” she said to Anna as they attempted to soak up the wine on Anna’s sweater and the couch around her.

“Tell me about it,” Anna exclaimed. “This is a new sweater!” Once everything was cleaned up, we continued chatting and watching the movie. Anna had definitely not seen my phone. I was so relieved and began secretly texting Mike the rest of the night. We agreed to hang out but didn't set any specific day. Jessica had luckily already proposed a trip to Nostalgic on Friday with our guy friends, as well as Kyle and his friends, so I had something to look forward to before seeing Mike.

As the night came to an end, Jessica got her laptop from her room and began showing us Kyle’s Facebook page. They had just become Facebook friends a few days before. I wasn’t really paying attention until I heard Darlene ask, “Isn’t that Evan?”

It was Evan! We couldn’t see his whole profile, but we could see his profile picture and his relationship status. There was my crush, with a pretty blonde and apparently, “in a relationship.” My heart sank.