Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Never Stop Thinking About Him

It really is true; the moment you stop thinking about him is the moment he will decide to pop back into your life somehow. I expected Scott to reach out to me, but that expectation disappeared after a week of radio silence. Sure, it made sense, but I was really hoping that things magically went back to the way they were after a few days. Maybe he'd tell me that he was abducted by aliens and they did experiments on his brain. To be honest, I would've accepted any excuse if he had just called and said he wanted me back.

I know. You are all allowed to take a fat magic marker and write, 'DESPERATE' across my forehead, but I missed Scott like crazy the first couple weeks. And while I still loved him after going on my first post break up date, I knew I couldn't go back to him. Besides, I really liked California, especially now that my friends at home were bitching about the cold and I was wearing sundresses to work on Casual Fridays. It was time for me to establish myself out here a little and that included dating.

So, yeah, my heart skipped a beat when I saw I had a new text message from him on my phone. A million things went through my mind. What could possibly be his opening line after not reaching out to me for a month? Did he want me back? Did he know I was literally just on a date? You know they get a sense when we're moving on.

It was simple. "Hey." I put my phone away after reading it without even thinking about whether I was going to respond or not. I was going back to work and I'd figure it out later.

I got back to work and sat down at my desk. I actually did have a lot of work to do and planned on staying until 6 or 7 to catch up on some. Shelby and Peggy had different plans.

My butt barely made contact with the seat before I saw both their heads pop into my cubicle. I wanted to be nice, but the last thing I wanted to do was comply to answering their questions.

"He was nice," I said with a half smile before they even had a chance to say anything. "He said he wanted to set something up for next week, so we'll see if that pans out."

"We're you not into him?" Peggy hesitantly asked. They seemed to pick up on my mood and I felt really bad for being so short with them.

I quickly confessed that Scott had texted me after the date and that it kind of just threw my mood off. "I'm sorry, guys. I really just want to get back to work and not think about it. I promise to bring in coffees early tomorrow morning and we can talk then. Sound good?"

They both agreed and didn't seem too bothered by it. I'm trying to be more direct with people about my needs. The old Caroline would've sat there and cheerfully answered all their questions just to please them, while secretly wanting to crawl under my desk and bang my hand on the floor. Maybe if I had been more direct with Scott, I wouldn't be going on uncomfortable first dates.

I put my phone in my bag and swore I wouldn't look at it until I was ready to make my way home.

It was getting late and I was finishing up the last of my work when I heard someone clear his throat behind me. I nearly jumped out of my seat, before turning around and seeing, who else? Pete.

"Hey, number one," Pete said with a smile as he leaned against the wall of my cubicle. Pete had gotten into the habit of calling me, "number one," because my customer ratings and match successes were still currently the highest. I know, I'm a super star. I was just glad he didn't hunt down the employee with the second highest numbers and call him or her, "number two."

"Hi," I replied. "I swear, I'm heading home soon." Pete had been teasing me about staying at work too late the past few weeks. Little did he know that I did it to keep myself from crying in my apartment while eating eating raw cookie dough straight from the giant jug I bought.

"I just don't want you to burn out," he said with a laugh. "I hope you have fun plans this weekend."

I shrugged. "I don't know," I replied before trying to politely turn back to my work. "You?" I asked over my shoulder.

"Eh, might go meet up with some buddies tomorrow," he casually replied. "You haven't been taking off at all to go to New York. Everything all right?"

I felt the lump in my throat forming. A small part of me hoped that Pete had seen my online dating profile and connected the dots. I mean, it was kind of his job to be on the website. I knew that was unlikely, though. I just really hated having to tell people that Scott dumped me.

"Yeah," I replied, trying to sound as normal as possible. "But Scott and I are 'taking some space,'" I said as I put the last several words in air quotes. I still wasn't ready to admit that we were completely over and even if we were, Pete didn't need to know the full story just yet.

Pete didn't give one of his signature laughs. He was silent for a moment before saying, "Oh, I'm sorry to hear that."

I turned and said, "thanks," and I meant it.

"Okay," Pete said as he shifted his body and stretched out a bit. "Well, in that case, you're coming out with me tomorrow night."

"Really?" I asked, surprised.

"Yeah, it'll be fun," he replied. "Look sharp and I'll see you tomorrow."

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Jumping Into The Water

"How are you almost 25 years old, in 2015, and you haven't tried online dating?" Shelby asked, more stunned than annoyed. "And how," she continued, "have you worked here and not thought to try out the product."

I shrugged as I picked at my boring turkey sandwich in the cafeteria. "I was dating Scott for almost a year. And before that, I had thought about it, but I don't know." I really didn't have a good answer other than never two it wanting to put myself out there. "Isn't it kind of scary?" I asked.

Shelby frantically shook her head. "Not at all," she replied. "It's kind of exciting. I thrive on the rush." I never realized that Shelby was such a fan of online dating, but apparently it was her main source of social entertainment. "Promise me that you'll try it at least once."

I slowly nodded, still hesitant. "Okay, I'll definitely give it a try."

When I told Anna about my new challenge over the phone later that day, she practically screamed with excitement. "I always told you to try it!"

I rolled my eyes, even though she clearly couldn't see me. "Yeah, but I was with Scott. Plus, you only boned guys from Tinder. I wouldn't classify you as an online 'dater.'"

"Once you realize that there's no stigma anymore, you'll totally love it," she continued. "Plus, I met Charlie on Tinder, so I still got to the same end point. I just had a lot more fun along the way."

I nodded to myself. "Maybe I just need to screw a bunch of guys until one is dumb enough to date me," I joked. "And I don't think there's a stigma," I elaborated. "Peggy made the same comment to me. I think it's great that people date online and I wish I was more comfortable with it, but it makes me so nervous."

"Why?" Anna asked.

"At least when I meet a guy in a bar or through mutual friends, I get a feel for his presence. I know right away if he's awkward and what he actually looks like. What if I meet a guy from online and he's strange or I'm simply uncomfortable around him?"

Anna laughed. "Then you tried and you'll have a great story!"

Anna's words comforted me and while I didn't tell Shelby that it was actually Anna who convinced me to take the plunge, I don't think I would've had the guts if Anna's last statement wasn't replaying in my head.

So, with the help of Shelby and Peggy, I made my first dating profile. I didn't want to fill out the information, but they insisted. "Hello, you fucking work here," Shelby said quietly over my shoulder as I sat at my computer pouting. "You should know better than anybody that the more full profiles get more traffic."

It was true. Not only did I know that tidbit of information, but I was constantly going over information about what made certain individuals more successful at online dating than others. I also spent a lot of time talking to men and women about what they were looking for in a partner. I had this incredible advantage, but why was it so hard to use this knowledge for my own personal happiness?

So I schedule a date. He works as a high school teacher in a neighborhood right outside Santa Monica. We quickly bonded over a mutual love for Harry Potter and within a few exchanges, he asked if I'd be interested in meeting. I was hesitant, figuring that simply talking to guys online was a comfortable dipping of my toe in the pool, but I knew I had to eventually take the plunge. Why not just jump right in without stressing about it?

I agreed to meet him on a Thursday around 4 for coffee. I kind of wished we were meeting for an actual drink, but this meeting was perfect. I told him that I had to go back to work after our meeting, so I had an easy out if the date was a bust.

I arrived at the coffee shop two minutes ahead of schedule. I saw him sitting down, looking at his phone, and before I even had my hand on the door, he looked up. We made eye contact and I tried my hardest to give him a genuine, care free smile. On the inside, I was freaking out.

"Hey," I said when I walked in. He mimicked the word back to me as we mutually went in for a friendly hug. This was one of the things I wasn't sure about the etiquette on. I had asked Anna earlier in the day how I should greet him. He was essentially a stranger, but a stranger that I had been flirting with for almost a week now. She assured me that it wouldn't be awkward and, so far, it wasn't.

He had ordered me a coffee and I thanked him for it. We began to make small talk as I went to pick up my coffee cup. My hand was shaking so much and I prayed he didn't notice. Why was I so nervous? It was a simple date.

We talked about our jobs and past schooling a bit; nothing too deep, but it was nice to sit down in person with him so I could get a feel for who he actually was, besides a expressionless conversation partner on my computer screen.

It was nice and our conversation seemed to flow relatively well. After about 50 minutes, the alarm I set went off and I told him that I unfortunately had to head back to work.

"It was really nice to meet you, Caroline," he said to me with a hug outside the coffee shop as we went our separate ways.

I agreed and the date was over. I didn't think my heart could speed up any faster, until I looked down at my phone.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Back to California

I got up to leave. It seemed like the normal thing to do, but Scott pulled me close to him when I tried to wiggle free.

"I want you to stay, baby," he whispered. I wanted to yell at him. I also wanted to bury my face in his chest and cry. I needed to show him that he couldn't push me around, but I was exhausted. I didn't have it in me to fight the urge to lay with him for a little while longer.

I fell asleep next to him. I felt strangely relaxed. I woke up a few hours later feeling groggy and forgetting where I was for a second.

Scott was standing up and putting on his shirt. When he saw me looking at him, he half smiled at me. "Morning," he said.

I smiled. "Good morning," I teased. "What time is it?"

"About 5," he replied. He scratched the back of his head as he looked out the window. "I was going to see if you wanted to go grab food?"

I glared at him. "I'm confused," I replied. "Did I dream that you told me you weren't happy?"

Scott sighed. "I know, I suck," he said after a moment. "I thought you would agree. You can't be happy with this situation either. And I'm sorry that I brought it up so early, but I don't think we should spoil the weekend."

I half laughed. "So you want to pretend like everything is fine for the rest of the weekend? Until you can forget about me?"

Scott just stared at me. "You think I'm going to forget about you? That's not what this is."

I didn't respond. I turned toward the window and took my time before saying anything else.

Before I could even articulate my feelings, Scott moved over and sat down on the bed. "I still love you, but how is this supposed to work? Are you ever coming back to New York? You haven't mentioned it at all. And we haven't discussed me moving out there. This isn't sustainable, Caroline."

"Yeah," I replied, feeling sad but understanding. He was completely right. Then, right as I was about to agree to have a nice weekend before going back to California, I remembered the picture. I remembered the way he acted the past few days. I remembered that these events were all too close together.

"So this has nothing to do with your new coworker?"

Scott gave me a look of confusion, but I was watching him too close. There was a look of panic on his face, for just a split second, before the conscious look of confusion took over. "What are you talking about?"

I laughed. "Scott, if you seriously try to lie to me right now, I will murder you."

He laughed at my exaggeration, but I did not. When he saw I wasn't laughing, he began silently rubbing his chin.

"You can't tell me you don't wonder," he finally said. "I love you, but you never wonder about what could be?"

I wanted to push him as far away from me as possible at that moment. What could be? But then, I was honest with myself, and I had thought about it. I had thought about how different my life would be if I was single when I first went to California.

"I get it," I replied as I looked away. "I'm gonna go," I continued. "It's going to be too hard to play pretend for the day."

Scott nodded and looked down. "I completely understand." Then he paused before adding, "I'm so sorry, Caroline."

I smiled and nodded. Without another word, I gathered my things and left. That's when I should've known it was over. But I'm a sucker for romance. I thought he'd call me before my flight back to California, but as I checked my phone from my seat, nothing. When my phone pinged minutes later, my heart skipped a beat. It was Anna, though.

"Hey, I hope you still managed to have a good time this weekend. I love you and Charlie said you're awesome!"

Even though I wanted it to be a text from Scott, I smiled at the sentiment and quickly responded that I had a great time hanging out with her and her relatively new boyfriend.

I didn't want to go home after leaving Scott's place, so I called Anna. She was going out with her boyfriend and his friends that night, so the timing couldn't have been more perfect. I figured some harmless flirting would be exactly what I needed to take my mind off Scott.

While I had a good time, Charlie's friends were all ridiculously drunk and all they did was make me miss Scott more. I spent most of the time chatting with Anna and her boyfriend, who were the kind of couple that didn't make you feel like a third wheel at all.

"A break?" Charlie asked when I explained my last minute attendance. "That's fucked up," he replied.

"That's what I told her," Anna contributed.

I rolled my eyes at them. "Yeah, I know. Whatever. I'm not going to think about it." I didn't want to admit that even though Scott and I should've been over, I wasn't ready to let it go. I mean, there's a reason he called it a break and not a breakup, right?

When I still didn't hear from him a few days after I was back in California, I began to really feel down. I called him a coward over drinks with Shelby and Peggy when we went out for happy hour on Thursday.

"Why did he fucking say a 'break?'" I vented as I downed the rest of my Riesling.

It took me almost a full month before I gave in to Shelby and made a dating profile on WebMatch. She told me she would leave me alone if I went on just one date. So, I scheduled said date.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Are You Happy?

I hadn't seen my boyfriend in two weeks and he told me he couldn't pick me up from the airport because of work. Work. Last time I checked, work didn't include going to happy hour and snapping a pic with a new associate, who just happened to be super hot. He wasn't dumb enough to post it, of course, but his coworker who I follow didn't see any problem with it.

The interns were gone. I was happy about that, but my relief was short lived when Scott informed me that they hired a bunch of new graduates. He nonchalantly showed me a few of their Facebook pages and there were three or four girls who made me instantly feel slightly jealous. I didn't think about them again, because I swear I'm not crazy, but here was one on my iPhone screen. Smiling up at me. I could've cracked my phone against the ground at that point.

Instead, I took a deep breathe and patiently waited for everyone else to wake up. It felt like eternity before Anna woke up.

I thanked my lucky stars that she awoke first. Jessica and Darlene can blow things out of proportion or, at the other extreme, only tell me what I want to hear. Anna always gave it to me straight.

I immediately passed her my phone. "Ew," she responded without hesitation. "I'd dump him," she said as she threw her phone back to me.

I pouted. I didn't consider this a dumpable offense, but knew it couldn't be a good sign for our relationship. I didn't think he was cheating on me, but choosing happy hour with his coworkers, which he could've done any other night, over picking me up from the airport wasn't good.

I decided to be an adult and simply wait until that night to ask him what the deal was. I was meeting him at his place and then we were going to lunch.

When I got there and he greeted me at the door, I was overwhelmed by different emotions. He was holding a bouquet of flowers. I felt like crying, screaming, and hugging him all at the same time. I couldn't help but feel that the flowers were an apology of sorts.

"Hey, babe," I managed to say before tiredly throwing my arms around his neck. "I missed you."

"I missed you more," he replied, squeezing his arms even tighter around my waist. Then, right before I pulled away, he let out a heavy sigh and said, "this sucks."

I gulped. "Yeah," I replied. My rage was suppressed by feeling defeated. I wanted to scream at him. He made it harder than it had to be this weekend, but I knew he was doing his best. I dragged him into this.

We began kissing and the kissing led us to the bedroom.

Scott didn't say anything and neither did I. As he kissed my neck, I let out a moan of pleasure. His hands felt so good on me. I didn't ever want to address any of our problems or my concerns from the last week.

When we were done, I pulled the sheet up to my chest and settled into his arms. I lightly kissed his chest a few times before shutting my eyes.

I always had to bring up relationship issues with Scott and as I lay there, I started to think about what would happen if I just didn't bring this issue up. I mean, things were good now, right?

As I rested my head on Scott's bare chest, I could feel his heart beating louder than usual. I didn't think much of it until he asked me a three worded question that pierced my heart.

"Are you happy?"

I snapped my head so I was looking at him. He was staring straight up at the ceiling, his jaw tight.


"Are you happy?" I thought he'd clarify what he meant instead of just literally repeating himself.

I paused and tried to give him the most honest answer possible. "Usually. I mean, mostly. I love you so much."

"I didn't ask if you loved me," he replied in a cold tone. He quickly caught himself and shook his head. "I didn't mean it that way," he continued. "I love you, too. Just, are you happy with our current situation?"

I sat up straight as I felt tears well in my eyes. "Well, it doesn't matter, because you clearly aren't." I threw my hands up. "If you want to end this, just do it. You're not going to get me to agree to it." There it was: all my frustration from the last few days, erupting as Scott tried to somehow manipulate me into ending our relationship.

Scott looked at me for the first time since starting the conversation. "It's hard, Caroline. I love you, but being apart like this, without any sort of end point, I mean, how can we maintain this?"

I looked away from him, tears now fully rolling down my cheeks. It took me a full three minutes to respond and Scott remained quiet the whole time. "I'd rather do this with you than be with anyone else."

Scott reached for me. I didn't resist as he pulled me against him and spooned me. I continued to sniffle, but my tears stopped. I think, deep down, I knew this was coming. Moving to California gave us an expiration date.

We laid there for an hour, not saying anything, before I turned to face him. "So, what does this mean for us?"

Scott traced a circle on my shoulder. "Do you wanna take a break? Take some time to think about what we both want?"

I didn't know if that's what I wanted. Why delay the inevitable? But then again, I was never good at ripping off the bandaid. I always dragged my misery out.

"Sure," I responded before pulling him close and tasting his lips, maybe for the last time. 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Am I Home Sick?

I went to lunch with Shelby after hanging up with Scott. I considered cancelling, telling her I was sick, and leaving for the day to go home for some private crying. I knew I was being over sensitive about the situation, but I was very caught off guard.

Anyway, I went to the bathroom, washed my face, and went to lunch with Shelby. It would be good to be around a friend, right?

"These protein bowls are so good," Shelby gushed to me as she shoveled a bite into her mouth. "No wonder you're so thin, is that smoothie all you're going to have for lunch?"

I shrugged. "I ate a big breakfast," I lied. The truth was I was starving before I called Scott but his attitude made my appetite disappear. That's one way to diet.

"Are you excited to go home this weekend?" It wasn't the first thing Shelby asked me. I managed to keep my composure during our talk about work. When she asked me this question half way through our lunch, though, I fell apart.

I was being ridiculous and I felt for Shelby, who sat there with a blank expression on her face for a moment. I wiped my eyes after a few seconds and began apologizing to her. Then, I told her about my conversation with Scott.

"That sucks, Caroline," she responded with a frown.

"It's really not a big deal," I responded with a wave of my hand. "I shouldn't be this upset but, I don't know, I am." I sat back in my seat and insisted that I was looking forward to going home. "I miss home a lot. It'd be easier if I wasn't in a relationship, but I miss my friends and family. I think it's kind of hitting me how truly far away from everything I am."

Shelby sympathetically nodded. "Do you think about moving back?"

I shrugged and looked down at my finger nails. It was really bothering me that the pink nail polish was already chipping after I got them down two days earlier. That would never happen when I got them done in New York. "I see a future with Scott, you know? And when I have a family, I mean way down the line, I would like to be around my parents. So, I guess my plans would kind of require me to go back there." I felt the urge to cry again, but I took a deep breathe and resisted. How was it just hitting me that I couldn't have the life I wanted if I stayed in California? "I couldn't pass up this opportunity, you know? Maybe they'll open an office in New York."

Shelby nodded. I definitely owed her for being so supportive as I went on and on about my insignificant problems. "Well, I'm glad you're here," she said with a smile. "But I totally get where you're coming from. I see my parents twice a week and I still feel like I don't spend enough time with them."

I finished taking a sip of my smoothie before responding. "I would've killed myself by now if I didn't meet you. As pathetic as it sounds, I almost never leave my apartment unless someone from home is visiting me or I'm hanging out with you." I wanted to make it clear to Shelby that even though we weren't getting best friend tattoos yet, I did consider her a good friend and I liked hanging out with her.

The next day, I flew into New York and Darlene picked me up. As soon as I saw her car, I opened the back door to throw my bag in. I practically had a heart attack when Jessica and Anna were sitting there, yelling surprise at me upon the door opening.

Seeing my friends definitely put a smile on my face. "You guys all came?" I asked as I leaned in and gave them quick hugs before I saw a security person making his way over to me. "I can use a drink," I finished as I jumped into the passenger seat and closed the door.

"Oh, we're getting drinks," Darlene replied as she put her car into drive. "We're going back to Jessica's and we're all sleeping over there."

"Nobody better be able to walk after how much we plan to drink," Anna added.

I nodded. If I was going to get that drunk, I was hiding my phone. Knowing myself, I would end up texting Scott and text screaming at him in a completely non cohesive manner.

I called my mom while in the car and caught her up to speed. I was actually really excited to catch up with my parents. Not only did I move out, but I moved across the country. I didn't realize what a transition it was, especially since I didn't go away to college.

I texted Scott after hanging up with my mom. "Darlene picked me up. We're all heading to Jessica's. I'll see you tomorrow. I love you."

He answered back right away. "I love you, too. Can't wait to kiss you!"

I rolled my eyes. If he couldn't wait to kiss me, why wasn't he here kissing me? I put my phone away and before I could even say a word, Jessica dramatically asked what was wrong.

"Nothing," I replied.

"Shut up, I saw that eye roll."

I let out a sigh. "Well," I began and then I told them about the Scott situation. I was so tired of talking about something that really didn't feel like anything.

They were all super supportive and insisted that we'd have so much fun that night so I would forget about the whole ordeal. I still just had a bad feeling about the whole thing.

But I did put it out of my mind. I drank so much wine that the night became blurry, but the next morning, as I scrolled through Instagram, I was reminded of it.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

I Need Some Accounting

I was sitting at my desk, bored out of my mind, on a Wednesday. I had made some calls, responded to all my emails, and it was still an hour until I was set to leave for lunch with Shelby.

I got up to fill my water bottle in the kitchen. I passed Pete's desk on the way there. It was empty, just like it had been all week. He was vacationing in Colorado. I would've thought his vacation was filled with bar hopping and camping with his fraternity brothers, but I know he was taking his daughter with him. I heard him trying to book some family friendly activities over the phone.

The Monday morning after the benefit dinner, I had gone to his office to thank him for the acknowledgment and the gift certificate. I had also decided I was going to insist he keep the gift certificate. Even though I really appreciated the gesture, he won it and I knew he wanted it.

He laughed in my face when I gave him my prepared speech. "Caroline," he said shaking his head. "I never really wanted it." I titled my head to the side, confused. "I have a nice condo here. I can cook myself some awesome eggs Benny. I figured it'd be nice for you and your boyfriend when he comes to visit."

"Oh," I said. He really caught me off guard. Don't get me wrong, it was still a really nice gesture. I just wasn't sure if I believed that he actually didn't want it or if he was trying to make me feel better about accepting it. "Well, thank you so much again! My birthday's in December and I think we're going to use it then."

"Glad to hear it," Pete replied as he spun in his chair and stood up to walk to a filing cabinet. "I was kind of selfish in giving it to you, too. If I had kept it, my date would've been all over the hints about wanting me to take her." He found the file he was looking for a shut the drawer. "A night in a hotel room would've definitely given her the wrong message."

Pete had never talked to me about his love life, so I wasn't completely sure what an appropriate response was. "So you guys aren't serious, I'm guessing."

Pete sat back in his seat and dropped the file on his desk. "Nope, not serious. I just have too much love to give, you know?"

I couldn't help it. I actually rolled my eyes at him. Besides, I think we were at that point in our work relationship.

"I sincerely hope you don't tell girls that," I replied.

"Do I look like an idiot?" He asked as he arched an eyebrow at me. "If I had, I would've been stabbed by now. Not that I haven't been close."

I laughed so loud that I immediately covered my mouth. The idea of a scorned woman trying to stab Pete was hilarious to me for some reason.

"Well," I said as I composed myself somewhat. "I'll let you get back to work. Thank you again for the tickets, regardless of the reason you gave them to me."

"You are very welcome," he replied. "Now she me why you're my top employee right now!" With that, I smiled, nodded, and made my way back to my desk.

That was about a week and a half ago. Now, he wasn't in the office and the timing worked out perfect because I had no work to do. It was the beginning of the school year and, as it turns out, people aren't focused on finding a relationship at this time of year. I overheard some IT guys talking about it in the cafeteria. I didn't mind the break, though. I knew it would get busier with the upcoming holidays and I was taking a long weekend in New York.

When I got back to my desk, I called Scott. We hadn't talked all day and I don't know if it was just because work was so dead, but I really wanted to hear his voice.

He didn't answer his cell phone, so I called his work line. He answered on the third or fourth ring by stating his full name. He's such a professional.

"Hello, I need some accounting," I jokingly greeted.

There was silence for a few seconds before it clicked. "Hey, babe," he responded with zero enthusiasm.

"Rough day?" I asked. There had to be a reason for his cold tone.

"I'm just swamped," he replied, followed by silence.

"Well, I think I know a way I can cheer you up when I fly in tomorrow."

Scott sighed. He actually sighed at me hinting at our pending sexual activity.

"I guess I'll let you go then," I began before I waited for him to interrupt me with an apology or some kind words at the very least.

"I don't think I can take off Friday," he said instead. My heart sank a little. We were supposed to spend the whole day together. He had suggested going to the zoo followed by a baseball game at night.

"Oh," I began. "That's okay."

"And do you think Darlene can still pick you up from the airport?" He was just dropping bomb after bomb on me. Darlene had offered to pick me up Thursday night and we were all going to go to a bar to catch up over strong drinks. When I asked Scott, he had said that he couldn't wait to see me, so he'd pick me up and drive me to see them.

"I'll check," I replied. I was trying to take silent deep breathes to prevent myself from crying at this point. What was the matter with him?

"Okay, let me know," he said. "I gotta run. I'll text you later."

I managed to mutter a goodbye before practically slamming my phone down. Then, the tears came.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Charity Dinner: Part Two

Scott reached into his pocket and pulled out a $50 bill.

"How many tickets are you buying?" I asked him as I stirred my whiskey sour.

He smiled before turning toward the woman with the roll of tickets. "How many tickets will $50 get me?"

Her eyes widened as she did the math. From what I had noticed, nobody had bought more than $10 in raffle tickets.

Once Scott had a ridiculous hand full of tickets, he stretched his arm out in my direction. I looked at him, confused, before he clarified. "I know you like to win. Hopefully this many tickets does that."

I gave him the cheesiest smile I could manage. "You know me so well," I said as I planted a kiss on his cheek.

He told me he was going to the bathroom, so I took the time to walk around the raffle baskets and strategically place my tickets into the ones I wanted.

I got to the end of the table, where there was a bottle of red wine wrapped and an envelope attached to it. Red wines not really my thing, but I leaned down to read the envelope anyway.

"Don't even think about it, kid," I heard the voice behind me. I turned to face Pete and he was smiling, holding a glass of what looked like scotch.

"What?" I asked with a raised eyebrow. "Do you want this prize?"

"Of course," he replied with a laugh. "It's the only thing worth winning here."

I turned back around and examined the envelope. It was a two night stay at a really nice hotel on the water, with a breakfast and dinner included.

"Well, I hate to break it to you, but I'm winning it," I responded as I dropped four or five tickets in.

Pete shrugged. "If you want to waste your tickets, that's fine with me. I'll have you know I'm very lucky."

"We'll see," I playfully replied to Pete as I continued picking baskets. Shelby found me a few minute later and I was surprised to see how drunk she had become.

"Caroline," she slurred. "This is so much fun!"

I suppressed my urge to laugh. "Yeah, I'm having a good time," I replied with a smile. I had hung out with Shelby a few times outside of the office, but had never seen her get drunk like this. I didn't want to seem judgmental and tell her what to do, but I also hoped she wasn't going to get too drunk and regret it. I asked her if she wanted to hunt down a cocktail waitress with some food.

As I was stuffing a mozzarella stick into my mouth with Shelby, Scott found me. We decided to make our way to the table since they were taking dinner orders.

I sat and drank with Scott and a few other people from my department. It was nice to see everybody out of the office and get to know them a little more. It was even nicer to have Scott there.

When they started calling out raffle prizes, I really put my game face on. "I put in for a lot of stuff," I whispered to Scott. "If I don't win anything, I'm going to be furious."

Scott laughed and put his arm around me. "It's cute how competitive you are, even over something you can't control winning or not. And it's for charity."

I giggled. He was totally right.

Every time the DJ called out a number, I quickly ran my finger over my tickets. Around the fifth or sixth basket, I was beginning to feel discouraged.

I didn't win anything. Anything. I turned to Scott right before the last prize and while I wanted to scream, because yes, I am that competitive, I simply pouted.

"I know my boss really wants this one," I said as the DJ talked up the hotel prize. "But it'd be great if we won it. We could stay at the hotel when you come to visit next month"

Scott nodded and kissed my forehead. As they called out the numbers, I had a brief moment where I thought I won it, but I unfortunately did not.

For the third time that night, I heard that familiar voice before I even saw his face. Pete was standing up, a string of five tickets in his hand. He began high fiving the other people at his table and I almost rolled my eyes at how much he resembled his frat boy roots in that moment.

As he walked up to the front of the room, I turned to Scott and shrugged. "I'm glad it went to someone I know."

Scott laughed and rubbed my knee. "You're the cutest."

"I'm so glad to see so many familiar faces at the benefit here, tonight," I heard Pete begin to say. Nobody was giving a speech when winning a raffle. Was this normal or was Pete being a big weirdo? He continued rambling on about the company and all the wonderful employees.

"It's because of the amazing employees that I supervise that I enjoy coming to work so much. And I'd actually like to give this to one of our newest, but most ambitious, employees." Then, he said my name and I instantly felt my stomach drop. My face began to grow redder as more people turned to look at me.

"Caroline, you deserve this." Everyone began clapping and I awkwardly smiled at everyone. I thought Pete wanted this prize. He began walking toward the table and handed me the wine with the envelope. Then, in a very theatric way, he grabbed the wine out of my hand. People began laughing as Pete continued back to his seat.

"Wow," Scott replied. "Your boss must really like you."

I shrugged and tried to evaluate Scott's expression. I couldn't see if he was being genuine or not.

While I was still slightly embarrassed, it was a nice end to the night.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Charity Dinner: Part One

I flipped my hair forward as I bent over and quickly flipped it back when I stood up straight. I was worried it would get frizzy with the California heat, but it was a risk I was willing to take.

That night, I was going to a charity dinner that Web Matcher was throwing. Scott was flying in for it and staying for a few days. I couldn't wait to see him.

While buying tickets were voluntary, I knew that it was in my best interest to go. Peggy and Shelby were both going also, and while I still didn't feel like our relationships had reached the point of more than "work" friends, I knew it would be nice to have them there. It was a bonus to know that Scott wouldn't think I had become a complete hermit since I came out here.

Scott was taking an Uber from the airport and while I really wanted to greet him at the terminal, I needed all the time I had to get ready. I didn't get out of work until 6:30 and we were supposed to leave for the benefit at 7:30.

I heard a knock on the door around 7 and while I got butterflies in my stomach, I also felt a tiny ping of annoyance. I didn't give him his own key for my health.

I pulled the door open with one swift motion. I couldn't wait to see him any longer. I expected to see him in his traveling clothes; basketball shorts, his old gym sneakers, and one of his college t-shirts.

Instead, he was standing in front of me in a perfectly fit, gray suit. To make it better, he was holding a white rose. If I didn't spend so much time on my hair, I would've easily showed up an hour late to this thing just to have sex with my boyfriend right then until he was all tired out.

"I fucking love you," I said as he walked toward me. He dropped his duffle bag before throwing his arm around my waist and burying his face in my neck. Even though we were getting the routine down, I still couldn't get use to this feeling of complete euphoria every time I saw him, mixed with a desire to break down with emotions knowing that he was going to leave again days later.

I couldn't let a five hour plane ride go unrewarded before dinner, so I closed the door and gave my hot boyfriend a welcome to California blow job in the very place we just embraced for the first time in almost two weeks. He deserves way more for putting up with me.

We walked into the hall about fifteen minutes late. I almost immediately spotted Peggy's blonde hair in a high bun. She was lingering around a group of IT guys with a glass of white wine in her hand. "I see one of my friends," I whispered to Scott and he took my hand as we walked toward her.

"Hey!" I loudly called to Peggy when we were a few steps away. "Peggy, I'd like you to meet my boyfriend, Scott."

Peggy and Scott shook hands before Peggy sneaked a wink my way. "I hope this thing isn't lame," she quickly said as she looked around the hall. There were a ton of people all standing in their own little groups. I recognized a lot of the people from the office and could quickly match particular employees with their significant others. I was surprised not to see Pete anywhere. Regardless, the place looked extremely elegant and everybody already seemed to be having a good time. I didn't know why Peggy was already raising her eyebrows at the night.

"Well, we're going to grab drinks," I responded as Scott put his hand on my waist.

Once we were out of earshot, Scott whispered to me that Peggy seemed like a real "gem."

"She's nice," I giggled. "But yeah, definitely likes to sit on her cloud of judgment."

As we waited in line for drinks, I asked Scott what he wanted to do that weekend. "I don't care," he said with a shrug. "I'm always just glad to be spending time with you." Then, he laughed and looked down.

"What?" I asked, suddenly feeling self conscious.

"Well," he hesitantly replied. 'I'd like to spend some more time doing what we did before coming here." He raised his eyebrows up and down at me.

I playfully laughed. "Done," I replied with a kiss. "There's lot more of that planned for this weekend."

"Fun plans for the weekend?" I suddenly heard the question from over my shoulder and immediately knew who was asking.

I casually turned around to face Pete. There he stood, towering over both Scott and I. At his side, was a really beautiful woman, who's hair had the curls without the frizz that I had tried so hard to achieve.

"Hi, Pete," I said with a warm, professional smile. "I'd like you to meet my boyfriend, Scott."

They shook hands and I couldn't believe this moment had come. My hunky boss could now see that maybe I wasn't that awkward around hot men, because clearly I was able to get one to date me.

He introduced me to the woman he was with as his date before quickly moving on. "So, what's there going to be plenty of this weekend?" Pete asked.

I looked at his puzzled for a second before my stomach dropped. He had overheard our sexual wordplay and had no idea what he was actually asking. Scott luckily picked up on this before me.

"I told Caroline that we need to go to the beach," he replied before looking at me and winking.

I think Pete realized his error because as I looked back at him, his face was red. At last, for once, Pete was the embarrassed one! This night was off to a great start.