Chapter 10 – Warnings

Chapter 10 – Warnings

Friday, January 6th, 2012

This morning I wake up to more than a few romantic text messages from Jim. His flight has already taken off and I miss him terribly. I reply to his texts with my own sweet nothings and smile when I picture him reading my responses. Is it too soon to begin counting down the hours until I will see him again?

Karma is planning a dinner for Saturday night where I will finally meet the one, the only, the infamous Prince of Dough. In all seriousness, I’m very much looking forward to meeting Patrick because any guy that makes Karma this happy? Well he’s 100% golden in my book.

It’s a chill Friday in the workplace so I’m wandering up to the third floor to see if Rebekah is in today. I figure a follow-up happy hour is in order. And there she is with her platinum smile.

“Rebekah! Long time no see!” I lean against her desk and set down a napkin holding a few donuts from Karma’s donut assortment of the day. “They’re filled with raspberry jelly. Happy new year, girlie.”

“Hi Lucy! Thanks! Happy new year to you too!” She smiles in return but seems a tad bit uneasy.

“You okay?” Maybe I’m getting to close? I ease away from the desk.

“Sure! Yeah. Just a rough day. Jim is out and it has been really hectic here. I could use a solid drink right about now.” She bites into one of the donuts and nervously pushes papers around on her desk.

“That’s perfect because I actually came up here to see if you want to go to happy hour today. We could scoot out at five being that it’s Friday and all.”

“Oh um…”

“No um’s. Meet you downstairs at 5:15pm and not a minute later, lady.”

I’m probably being too pushy but I need to go out to get my head off of Jim for a few hours. And besides that Rebekah looks as if something is troubling her. It’s just not healthy to hold drama in, you know.

When I return to my desk my phone is ringing off the hook. The caller id shows that it’s an internal call. No, don’t cancel on me, Rebekah. Please.

“Hello, Lucy Post.” It takes extra effort to make my voice sound cheery.

“Lucy, its Eric. May I see you in my office, please?”

“Sure. Be right in.”

Eric is standing, staring out of his floor to ceiling office windows.

“Hey Eric, what’s up?”

“Sit down.”

“Oh, no that’s ok. I’m alright standing.”

“Please sit down, Lucy.”

“Uh oh. Are you firing me?” I begin to sweat as I sit in the hard leather chair in front of his desk.

“Give me a break. You’re one of my best and favorite employees, Lucy.”

“I am?” This is news to me, for sure.

He lets out a short laugh. “Yes.”

“Okay. Well … thank you, Eric.”

“I want to talk to you about something that is concerning me.”

“Did I do something wrong?”

“Will you just let me speak?” Exasperated he sits at his desk and clasps his hands.

“Yes. Sorry. I-“

“Okay, I-“ I swear he’s starting to turn red at this point.

“Sorry. Lips-“

“…just want to say-“

“Are sealed.” Oops!

“Quiet!”

So maybe it’s best that I keep my mouth shut.

Once he sees that I’m tight-lipped, jaw clenched, and 100% done speaking he continues. “I just want to say that I’m hearing of a new addition to the rumor mill. This one just so happens to be about you.”

I nod ‘no’ demonstrating that I’m unaware of what he is telling me.

“You and Mr. Rhodes?”

The shake of my head this time communicates a cautious ‘yes’ with an added shoulder shrug.

“You can speak your acknowledgement.”

“Yes I’ve been seeing Jim, er, Mr. Rhodes. Just recently.”

“Lucy, look.” Eric takes a long deep breath. “I’m not fond of having this conversation. In fact, our HR department should be included. This is merely a private exchange, though, as I have a high regard for you. You’re a smart woman and a valuable asset to Sunny News. You know that right?”

“I do. Thank you for the kind words.”

“I don’t want to see that ruined by an interoffice relationship. It’s, uh, always best to keep your professional life separate from your personal life.”

“With all due respect, Eric, I don’t believe this new relationship with Mr. Rhodes, not that it’s an official relationship yet, has affected my work at all.”

“It hasn’t. That’s not why I’m discussing this with you.”

“Then why?” I’m completely lost. I’ve been so careful with this situation. I haven’t spent time with Jim at work besides that one lunch date at the salad joint. All of my work is caught up and I’ve been proactive with follow-ups and tasks that hadn’t even been assigned to me yet.

“Jim Rhodes has a … reputation.” Eric says slowly, gaging my response as each syllable leaves his mouth. He winces. “This isn’t easy for me, Lucy.”

“A reputation?” To say that I’m completely bewildered is an understatement. “Of course. He’s intelligent and brings a lot of talent to this company. He does an excellent job. Doesn’t he?”

“I’m not talking about his favored professional reputation. I mean a reputation with …” He dabs sweat off of his forehead with a handkerchief.

“With?” I raise both eyebrows in question.

“With women, Lucy.”

My shoulders sink. “What?” I shake my head vehemently. “No. You’re wrong, Eric.”

“I’m sorry but that rumor and his reputation are factual. It’s all valid.”

“It can’t be.”

“I’m sorry. I just don’t want it to severely affect you. I don’t want to see you hurt. He’s not a good guy to date. And you really shouldn’t fraternize.”

“I don’t want to hear it. How would you even know all of this?”

“Lucy, I’m just trying to help you because I respect you.”

“Why are you telling me this? Are you jealous? Or are you afraid this will affect my work in the long run? Do you think it’ll make other women jealous and cause internal disputes? I’m more than caught up with my assignments. I’ve helped others with their work. I’ve been proactive!” Now I’m really heated. “This isn’t fair, Eric. You have no right to intervene in my personal life!”

“Lucy, calm down. No, I am not jealous. I am coming to you as a friend and as your boss. I’m just giving you advice I feel you should have. Jim is not a good egg when it comes to commitment. You’re a grown woman so you can make your own choices. Just …” He walks around the desk and looks me dead in the eye. “Just please be careful. That’s all I’m saying.”

“Well, I appreciate your concern. Are we done?”

“Yes. We are done. You may go.”

“Thanks.” My hands shaking I push myself out of the steady chair and make my way toward Eric’s office door.

“Lucy?”

“Yes?” I say without turning around to face him. “Why don’t you start the weekend early? Take the rest of the day off?”

“No thank you. I’m fine.” I refuse to let him see the tears welling up in my eyes. Why, for once, can’t I just be happy without it being ruined by someone? My throat feels tight and I want to collapse somewhere, alone. I don’t want to believe Eric even though I have no compelling reason to doubt his word.

I run to the nearest bathroom and lock myself into the roomier handicap stall. Trying to keep my sniffling and sobs quiet I press my face into handfuls of toilet paper.

***

Rebekah is sitting solo at the bar when I arrive. While I was composing myself in the bathroom where I broke down I was sure to send her a note explaining that I’d be a little late to our ‘happy’ hour.

Oh we’re going to be a wonderfully dynamic duo tonight. Rebekah looks beyond distressed and I’m still puffy and red from weeping. I slap a smile on my face and approach my anxious friend. She takes a long sip of her lemon-drop martini.

“Hi there.” My gloomy tone betrays my grin.

“Hey Lucy.” She drains the glass.

“Boy we sound like a happy couple huh?”

“Ohhh yeah we are.” She signals the bartender for another round.

“So, should I get us a table so we can talk about our lovely days?”

“Sure. Good idea. A booth if they have one.”

“No problem. Be right back. You just keep drinking.”

The hostess secures a nice booth in a quiet area that just happens to look over the ocean.

Rebekah appears to be on a mission to either forget something or she’s fueling up with alcohol to encourage bravery. I mean, double-fisting martinis? I can feel her hangover pains already. She sets down her glasses and slides into the booth.

“They must serve really good lemon-drops here.”

She gives a slight laugh. “I know it’s a little much but after today…and you know, I’m normally not a fruity martini kind of gal.”

“Sounds delicious.” The waitress swings around for my drink order. “Cosmopolitan, please.”

“So are you okay? Your eyes are all red.”

“Tough day but I’m alright. Better now. Thank you.”

“I’m sorry you had a rough day.” Rebekah offers a weak smile.

“Thank you.” I pause to take a deep breath. “Alright, what are you not telling me, missy? What’s up? You seemed a little on edge earlier today … and now.”

“Yeah.” She pushes her hair back out of her face. “I’m sorry about that. We both had harsh days apparently.” She throws back one of her martinis.

“And that’s exactly what I intend to do to my Cosmo as soon as it gets here. No mercy.” I giggle.

“What’s that?”

“I plan to gulp it down and let it erase the crappiness of today.” I smile when the waitress drops it off and order a ginormous plate of loaded nachos.

“Cheers.” Rebekah holds her glass up.

“Cheers, Rebekah. To a better day tomorrow.”

I begin telling her about my impromptu meeting with Eric and his warning against Jim and how preposterous the whole situation really is. That none of it can possibly be true because Jim seems so perfectly happy with me.

She guzzles her remaining martini. I watch in awe. “You might wanna take it easy there. Those martinis sneak up on you. I’d be passed out on the floor right now.”

“Look,” she swallows hard, “I’ve been kind of avoiding you.”

“What?” Points for the honesty but ouch.

“I mean I’ve been staying away from you because this isn’t my business.”

“Excuse me?”

“Drink your Cosmo first. I insist.”

“Um, okay.” I gulp down half of it and make the face. You know, the ‘holy crap this is one strong drink’ face. “Ah, this is just what I need. I can feel the alcohol mollifying every tense muscle.” I close my eyes savoring the tingling feeling that spreads throughout my body.

“Drink the rest. Please.” She demands nicely.

“Yes ma’am. But only because I want to know what the deal is.” I finish my Cosmo as requested and scrunch up my face. Feeling confident I can handle any news Rebekah has to deliver I slam my hand on the table. “Okay. Hit me with it. What’s bothering you? Did I do something wrong?”

“He’s been hitting on a new girl in the HR department. I saw him talking to her a few times and there are rumors…”

“Who has?”

“Mr. Rhodes.” She looks away, unable to meet my gaze.

“What the –“

“And –“

“There’s an ‘and’?”

“Yes. And I am certain he’s been seeing his ex-girlfriend.”

“Stop for a second please.” I dig through my bag for my emergency stash of cigarettes. I light one up and take a long drag.

“You smoke?” Rebekah asks wide-eyed.

“Irrelevant at this moment don’t you think?”

“You’re right. Completely irrelevant. Can I have one too?”

I push the pack and lighter to her.

“Thank you.”

“Don’t mention it.”

“Lucy, I know that you like him. I do. I can clearly see that you’re falling in love with him. But I’m sorry to say … Eric is right.”

What am I supposed to say to this?

“I’m not even sure he went to visit family this weekend. I suspect that he’s in New York right now visiting his ex. I heard from one of the columnists that he doesn’t have family in New York.”

“Oh my gosh!” I cover my face with my hands. “Enough! None of this can be true. None of it is true. He’s different. He’s sweet, romantic. He’s wonderful, Rebekah. He’s my Mr. Right. I’ve seen no reason not to believe that he’s into me. And we’re not even officially dating so he doesn’t even have to explain anything to me at this point.”

“Yes he does.”

“Oh yeah? And why’s that?”

“Did you sleep with him?”

“Yes. So?”

“So it’s an unwritten rule. If he sleeps with you then he has to tell you what other relationships he has in the works.”

I laugh out loud to that. “This isn’t high school, Rebekah.”

She sighs … and burps. “Ooo. Excuse me.” We try to resist the immaturity of giggling but give in to it.

The waitress, uncertain about interrupting, asks us if we need another round but keeps her distance from the table.

“Yes please.” We say in unison.

“I am sorry, Lucy. I hate having to do this but-“

“Oh now there’s a ‘but’?”

“But there’s something else.”

“Great! I can’t wait to hear. Please, by all means, don’t stop now.”

“I won’t say it if you don’t want to hear anymore. I’m just trying to help.”

I light up another cigarette.

“Look, I know that we haven’t been friends for a long time but I do care about you. And I’m not lying, I swear.”

“I know. I realize this isn’t your fault, Rebekah.” I rub my forehead in frustration. This is just too much to take in all in one day. “I just feel like I’ve finally found something perfect with someone special. Now all of a sudden everyone is trying to sabotage it.” And here comes the downpour of tears thick with confusion and pain.

“Nothing is perfect, Lucy.”

“Ugh!” I signal the waitress. “Another Cosmo please. If you can you make it stronger than the last one that would be great.”

“Sure thing sweetie. I’ll grab some tissues for you too. Be right back.”

“Thank you so much.” I cry lightly.

“Is there more, Rebekah? I’d rather know everything now.”

“Are you sure?”

“You mean there really is more? This is one unhappy happy hour.”

The waitress drops off our drinks and says, “It’s on the house,” with an empathetic smile.

“He never sent your article forward to the VPs.”

I gasp. “What?” I whisper, trying to keep myself in control. “But he said he did and that …”

“Yes, I know what he told you but what he did was the opposite.”

“What’d he say exactly?”

“He told me to ‘file it somewhere.’ Those were his exact words. And I did it. I feel horrible, Lucy. The guilt has been weighing on me every day. I had to tell you. I couldn’t hold it in any longer. I’m not that type of person.”

“What do I do now? This is a nightmare.”

“What do you do? That’s obvious.” She replies innocently.

“Is it?”

“Yes. Do what you feel is right in your heart. Cliché, I know.”

“I will. But I’d like to hear his side of the story. Perhaps he can explain just what the hell is going on.”

“Fair enough.”

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