Chapter 7 – New Loves
Friday, December 16th, 2011
Karma texted me after her date last night promising that she would share every single wonderful detail the next morning over coffee and breakfast. We decide to meet an hour before work starts.
“Good morning, Lucy!” Karma is sitting outside when I arrive and motions me over. This adorable café is our meeting place whenever we have good news to share.
“Good morning sunshine. I’m assuming the date went well since we’re here?”
“Wait a second – where did you get that skirt?”
“Macy’s, girl. Eryn Carlo.”
She laughs and claps her hands. “Boy, you’re really serious about this blog. For the record, though? I … love … it!”
“Naturally my blog requires hands on research.” I order a coffee and orange juice and then continue my inquiry. “I cannot wait a second longer to hear about your date with Patrick.”
And this is the first time I have ever heard Karma gush on and on about a boy.
“So after our amazing dinner he surprises me and takes me back to the bakery. No lie, Lucy, he throws on an apron and bakes fresh plain donuts for me right then and there. Then he drizzles milk chocolate over them, Lucy!! I could have died happy right then and there.” She is bursting with excitement and I love to see it. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen someone falling head over heels in love.
“I’m so happy for you, sweetie.”
“Thanks, Luce. I can’t stop smiling!”
“We should have mimosas to celebrate your successful date.”
Seconds later we have fresh sparkling mimosas in hand and a salute is in order.
“He’s the one. I know it. I’ve never felt this way. I’ve never been this sure in my life. Ever.”
“What does it feel like?”
“Like they say in the romance novels and chick flicks. A less cornier version of Harlequin. Floating on air. Like the missing piece has been placed in the puzzle. A sort of invincible feeling. As if nothing can touch you because you’re in love.” She glances down and scoffs. “I know, I sound crazy, right?”
“Well no. Not crazy. It sounds wonderful to me. You deserve this. I’m rooting for you. Now, let’s get an insanely delicious breakfast to prep for this workday. Shall we?”
Saturday, December 24th, 2011
The end of the year is flying by. Christmas Eve is here. Karma and Patrick are suffering from the most intense form of puppy love since they met. They’re coming over to my parent’s place to join us for Christmas Eve dinner. I hate to sound selfish but seeing them so happy makes me feel more lonely than usual. Before it was Karma and I. Now it’s Karma and Patrick and I pretty much only see her at work.
Don’t get me wrong. I love seeing her so blissfully happy. I’m more than glad that she has found someone wonderful to spend time with. But now that she has Patrick I’m realizing how much free time I have – time that Karma used to fill.
Overall, I’m just not feeling the holiday spirit. Bah humbug.
Tuesday, December 27th, 2011
I need an extra couple day in addition to the holiday weekend so I request Monday and Tuesday off. Today I’m lounging in my pajamas for as long as I want. I plan to do nothing but relax and read. The cell phone is on silent. No getting ready. No makeup. No binding clothing. Just scrubby ole me and my couch. And it’s all that I had hoped it would be.
After waking up from a catnap I realize I have two missed calls from work. I turn on my laptop and log into my work email account to see what is so urgent that I was called on my day off. If they can’t get you on the phone they’ll surely send an email after. Isn’t technology wonderful?
(Don’t answer that.)
And there it is. The email I have been waiting for impatiently for almost two weeks!
The email is from Mr. Rhodes. Jim is back from his holiday hiatus. It’s about time. I know I shouldn’t act so bitter but I always have believed in solid communication. No relationship, business or personal, will survive without rock steady communication. If he didn’t have time to discuss this opportunity then he could have informed me. Of course, he is a director at Sunny News. Perhaps he doesn’t feel he has to explain anything to me.
So. Two missed calls, one voicemail, and five emails from Mr. Rhodes.
I elect to email him and explain that I am taking a vacation day today. I suggest meeting later in the week or after the New Year. After all, 2012 is looming near.
He replies almost instantly asking to meet me during lunch time on Thursday, the 29th.
I confirm without asking his opinion on the article. I have waited days already – what’s an extra two?
On Wednesday Karma and I stop at a sushi joint for lunch.
“Hey Luce. There’s something I want to talk to you about.”
“Ah – you slept with Patrick! Tell me. How is he? Rate him from one to ten.”
“Oh my gosh Lucy.” She blushes. “It’s different this time. We havent gotten that far yet. Why rush?”
“It’s official. You’re really serious about him, huh. Patrick is one lucky guy.”
“That he is.” She smiles at me and then put down her chopsticks. “I’d like to spend New Year’s Eve with him.”
I confess, that hurts. Karma and I always spend NYE at one of our places with take-out food, party favors, and drinks. This has been our tradition for the last five years. I knew it wouldn’t last forever but … just because you expect it and know it will happen doesn’t mean that it’ll hurt any less.
“You’re mad. I know. I’m sorry.” She pushes her sushi around on her plate.
I put on a happy face and reassure her, “No way. Not mad at all, Karma. I’m happy for you, you know that. Go have a good time with Patrick. I’ll be fine. Don’t you worry about me for one second okay?”
“Are you sure?”
“Positive! I’m not really feeling New Year’s Eve this year. I’ll probably turn in early. Now stop playing with your food.”
“Do not invite me!” I jab her in the arm.
“But you know you’re welcome.”
“Yeah right! I’d be the pesky annoying friend that tags along during the budding relationship. I’m not a fan of third wheeling.”
“You’re not pesky or annoying.” Karma snickers.
“But I would be. Trust me. That’s a time for you two. Enjoy it, girlie. But thanks for looking out for me.”
“Thanks for understanding.”
“How could I not? I’m confident you would do the same for me.”
Karma belts out the chorus line “That’s what friends are forrrrrrrrrrrrrrr” and we both practically double over giggling like little girls.
Thursday, December 29th, 2011
I arrive at the third floor a few minutes before noon.
I’m disappointed not to see Rebekah there. I’ve only seen her once since the happy hour and she had been flustered. I even tried emailing her a couple of times and called her desk but never received a response.
I inform the woman at the desk of my meeting with Jim Rhodes.
“He’ll be ready to leave in a moment.”
“Ready to leave?”
“Yes, this is a lunch meeting. He should be out in a minute. Please take a seat if you wish.”
Lunch meeting? I am hungry but … I prefer the office atmosphere for our discussion.
While I ponder Jim’s reasoning and Rebekah’s absence he walks out with his hand outstretched. “Lucy! Good to see you. Happy holidays.”
“Hello, Mr. Rhodes. Happy holidays to you as well.” Wow, I almost forgot how handsome he is.
“Call me Jim.”
“Ready for lunch?”
“I wasn’t aware we were going out to lunch. I’m actually pretty busy down in Marketing so I should probably get back as soon as possible.”
“You have time for lunch when you’re going with a director.” He winks.
Oh great, he’s pulling rank. I suppose you can do that when you’re important. Whether I like it or not – I am going to lunch.
“How about salad?” He asks as we walk out of the building and into the cool, brisk wind that chills my nose and cheeks.
“Sounds great, actually. Good choice.”
“Good. So tell me, did your Dad like the tie you bought him?”
“Oh yes. He loves it. He put it on right away, right over his Colts jersey.”
Jim chuckles at that. “Ouch. The Colts huh. They’re not playing so well this season.”
“No they’re definitely not. But he’s a fan through thick and thin he says. Dad is a very loyal guy.”
“Good man. He truly is loyal. I trust that quality runs through your family.”
He opens the door to the salad café. Good manners. “Wanna sit at the counter?”
“Sure. I’m game for that. The counter is the best seat because you can watch the chefs make everything.”
We order immediately, both of us are familiar with the menu and have our favorites. I love their Chinese chicken salad with almonds and the spicy peanut dressing. It is the most scrumptious salad. Jim opts for the creamy Caesar salad which I similarly love but it’s so fattening that it’s frightening.
“I stopped by to see you that Wednesday morning. On my deadline date for the article.”
He hangs his head. “I know. I’m sorry. Rebekah told me. I’ve had a lot going on at home.”
“Rebekah is extremely kind, by the way. I’ve never met anyone so friendly before. Down here in SoFlo I mean.”
“She says the same about you. You seem to have made quite the impression on her. Once I mentioned your name she went on and on about how fantastic you are and that you invited her to spend time with you and your friend.”
“She’s very nice. Very easy to get along with.”
“Indeed. Rebekah is very personable but most women dislike her because she’s so pretty.”
“Ah yes. I can understand that.”
“Why? Because you’re pretty?” He stares at me with an amused look on his face.
My cheeks turn pink. “No, because I felt jealousy towards her when I first saw her.”
“It takes a strong person to admit that.”
“It’s the truth.”
“So I read your article.”
“Annnnd?” I can’t help but smile. “I’d be happy to receive any criticism. Really.”
“I sent it forward to the VPs.”
“So you like it?” I dig a little deeper.
“I love it. You have a knack for writing it seems.”
“Thank you. I do love to write. And shop.”
“Well I can’t promise anything to you this week but after the New Year perhaps we will hear back.”
“Wow. This is amazing. Thank you so much for this opportunity, Mr. Rhodes.”
“Oh, right. Sorry. Jim.”
“Does a bear sh–” I pause. Woops. Wrong time for that phrase. While Jim tries to stifle a laugh I continue, “Are you kidding? I’m stoked!”
“Are these salads delicious or what? I’m full but I cannot stop eating.” He shovels forkfuls of the Caesar salad into his mouth.
“I’m doing the same thing. They must inject the lettuce with an addictive drug.”
“That’s what I was thinking.”
“Oh. I keep forgetting to ask. How was that dinner?”
“The dinner.” He sets his fork down.
“Ok, in my experience, when the person you’re dining with sets down their utensils they’re about to announce something important or bad. Did everything go okay?”
“No. The dinner went haywire. My girlfriend broke up with me. And she moved out.”
“I’m so sorry to hear that. That’s terrible. Especially during the holidays.”
He smiles one of those fake, ‘I’m trying to be strong’ smiles. “Thank you. It all happened so fast. But it’s okay. Time heals all wounds.”
“That it does. The good news is that you can start fresh with a New Year. Just two days away.”
“Actually, I wanted to ask you …”
“What is it?”
“I’d like to take you out for New Year’s Eve, Lucy.”
“That is … so kind of you. And I really appreciate you asking me. But I think we should probably keep our relationship professional. Especially with this fashion article project. Now that we’re trying to work together it might ruin it if we get personal. Also, you need some time to get past your ex, right? Was it a long-term relationship?”
“Three and a half years.”
“Ouch. That’s rough.”
“It’s just one night out. As friends.” He puts his hands up, palms out. We’re just arriving back at the Sunny News building. He presses the ‘up’ button for the elevators and keeps quiet. Rejection right after a breakup. Yeah I’d be silent too.
But this is confusing to me! “Just one night out. As friends.” I repeat. I want to go. Really badly. And why shouldn’t I? I don’t have plans. He doesn’t have plans. And he is so attractive. Newly single too.
“Yes. We would have a great time. I can’t sit in my empty home alone.” He sadly admits.
“Okay. I’ll go. But only as friends, Jim.”
“Great!” He turns on his brilliant white smile.
“Thank you for asking. I didn’t have any plans so I would have been sitting home alone too.”
“I’ll pick you up Saturday evening at six. Email me your address please.”
“I will.” The hottest guy in the building just asked me out for New Year’s Eve! I’m wondering just how cheesy my smile is right now. I’m as giddy and excited as a fifteen year old girl snagging her first boyfriend.
This will be a New Year’s Eve to remember.
I have to tell Karma about this.
And I need a new dress. Stat!