It was colder this morning. After taking a hot shower I dressed as warm as possible. Leggings beneath ironed dress pants and long sleeve shirt under a button up black blouse. I wrapped a thick, red scarf around my neck and slipped into my coat before grabbing my bag and leaving my apartment. The icy air made my shrink into my coat and the small hairs of my arm stand on end. I couldn't be happier to be in my car where I could crank up the heater. While driving my feet and hands warmed up and I relaxed. Until I thought of what awaited for me. I had a feeling today would be a long day. Nevertheless, my determination to get my work done was pretty effing high. One way or another, Fletcher would have to comply.
I rode through the streets already filled with road ragers and the thickening rays of the rising sun. Traffic only got worse as entered Times Square and I was squeezing through every nook and cranny I could find, just like my father taught me back in the small island I used to call home. There wasn't that much bad traffic like there is here, but at times maneuvering through small spaces was a necessary. One thing I do miss of Puerto Rico is the constant heat. I never knew what cold was in count that I live in that tropical island for eighteen years of my live. The beach, though I hate it, is something I miss as well. I at least liked sitting down on a towel, soaking up the sun knowing that I wouldn't come out of my room cave for at least the next few months. That's another thing about me. I hate being outside. I much rather stay in with music and a good book than endure the chatters of people "enjoying" themselves out in the streets.
Finally I was driving down a tunnel and flashed my work ID at the security guard in the booth. I smiled at him sympathetically. That used to be me when I first got here. I worked at this clinic down in Philadelphia three days a week. It's not a lot, but the hours of doing nothing but look at people come in and out was endlessly boring. It's not the best job in the world, but it works when you're trying to get by and pay your college bills. After parking I grabbed my bag and hugged the coat tighter around me before sliding out of the car. I scurried across the underground parking garage when I noticed another car pull besides mine. It was a black on black 1969 Camaro in perfect conditions, and it put my baby to shame. When the owner came out of the car, I turned furiously and walked into the building and up the stairs towards the lobby. Of course it belonged to the overconfident love guru. The day already started off badly, and I haven't even gotten the chance to sit in front of my desk and look at the empty word document.
In the office there weren't all that many people. It was still early, but I could hear a few keyboards being typed on vigorously. Last minute workers and early risers. I could relate, at least right now I could. I said hello to the main receptionist and she got back to me with a small smile. That's the only real contact I ever had with Evelyn? Emily? I never did remember her name. The rest of my co-workers were cooped up in their cubicles with bowed heads and coffee steam coming from the cup close to the edge of their desk. Which reminded me, I needed one myself. I grabbed a cup of black coffee heavy on the sugar side and strolled towards my squared hell. I took a sip of the coffee and nearly spat it back into the cup.
On my desk there was a single rose over the mouse mat. Just like the ones from last night, it had a note attached. My eyes peered over it as I slipped the coat from my shoulders and tossed it over the back of my chair. One of my hands grabbed it by the corner, with only my index and thumb, as if it would sting or burn.
"I hope your days is as beautiful as this rose."
-Your Secret Admirer.
The cuff of my coat had accidentally nudged the rose to the floor and I lowered to grab it. In that moment Fletcher walked into through the back doors, which earned him a lot less "Hey there Guru Mans," and batting lashes than if he would have come in through the main doors like a normal person. I guess this time it wasn't so bad he was weird as fudge. He came my way and looked down at the rose in my hands with a raised eyebrow. He smiled widely, fully before I rolled my eyes and tossed the rose back on my desk.
"Like it?" He asked when he reached our cubicles. He was dressed in a fitting suit again, like always, only this time it was an ashed grey that I must admit to liking. The blue tie tucked into his suit could only indicate his bright determination and the utter destruction of my efforts to getting work done.
"So it was you. Why am I not surprised?" I pulled out my chair and sat before crossing a leg over the other and folding my arms.
"Because you're bitter like a fifty year old lady who never got a Valentine." He said that with a bit of forced laughter in his voice. I could tell he tried being serious, but laughing at his own joke must have been too much to resist. Ugh...
"Hey!" It wasn't so much a yell, as it was a rather loud hiss. "I had plenty Valentines in my day. Stop pestering me about this and let's get on with your real work."
"You are my real work." It was a barely-there kind of mumble, one I leaned in forwards to try and catch.
He dismissed my question and went on with one of his own. "What did you think when you got the roses last night?"
"That I've had a stalker for a long time and I've only just found out." There was dead seriousness in my voice and I cold have sworn Chase flinched at my answer, as if it hurt his guru ego. Good.
He cleared his throat and tried again. "How did you feel when someone bothered to admit they were your secret admirer?"
He shook his head and sat down across from me on his chair. He placed his right ankle over his left knee and pulled himself closer to me before lacing his fingers together and staring into my eyes. He was silent for a long time. Well, it felt like a long time. He was just staring, studying me, possibly looking through my eyes into my soul to yank it out and take it back to hell with me. Who knows? Maybe he made a deal with the devil to get the most love rejecting soul for his private collection. Whatever it was, it made me feel uneasy and I looked away first to cleared my throat in an attempt to get rid of the lump choking me. Something about his tilted head and careful eyes made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end.
I snapped my head his way and watched him with wide eyes. No one knew my middle name. No one. Only Iris and I doubt he got the name from her.
"What?" I wasn't exactly shocked when I remembered my first day on the job. I still had some paper work to fill out and I know I wrote my full name down on a couple of documents. Which could only mean he went through the files to find it. "How did you even-... Evelyn." It was the only explanation. He sweet talked her into showing him my file. Weak! These women were all weak.
"Don't blame her. I had to lie to get her to show me that file."
"I highly doubt that. What were you looking through it for anyway?"
"There's a survey. I've never really seen your writing before, so I looked through the questions to get an idea of how your brain works. You can tell a lot by a person's writing. Looking through it I stumbled upon that name."
I zoned out after he said he has never seen my work before. I took offence to that. Had he any idea how long I spent on my articles? How many were in corners all over the magazine? Of course not. They were in the least unseen pages whilst the big stories were in big bold letters. "And what could you tell through my writing?" I asked, curious of what he had to say.
"You're a humorous writer. Morgan was right to say you were one of his best writers, but you shut down every offer to cover a bigger story."
"I do not." I exclaimed, defending myself for dear life.
"I've seen the story proposals Morgan has in file for you. Every single one is marked denied and he doesn't give them to anyone else because your particular style would fit better than any other. What I have noticed it that they are all somehow about love."
"Exactly. So now you understand why I turned them down."
"I don't, but I will."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
His whole facial expression changed right then. He wasn't going to answer and I wasn't going to let it get to me. Even though in the pit of my stomach there was this huge knot that pulled tighter when I saw the sly smile across his face. "Let's get to work." He said. And those words should have made me feel a world better, but it made the knot worse. There was something about his tone that told me we were far from done with out conversation. Still, he moved on.
"I trust you have a list of questions for me?" He leaned back finally and I felt like I could catch my breath. This guy was annoying beyond compare, yet so handsome and luring. Stop! Pull it together Billie Compton. Get your notepad, ask away, don't think about his eyes. His chocolaty brown eyes...
"Yes." I crooked, but only for a second before I had to clear my throat once more. I looked through my drawer for the notepad I kept bent in half and pulled it out. I flipped through the pages and finally found the right now. "So, tell me about your new story." I began.
Chase got comfortable and opened his mouth to answer. We spent some time in the interview and I wrote down what I could while trying to ignore his stare glued to my face. Through every question and answer Chase watched me carefully, not making sure I wrote what he answered, to read more into me. I wasn't sure what he was trying to figure out, but I felt like screaming at him for looking at me as if he was peeling the skin off an orange. "Ok." I said, slightly exasperated might I add. "How did you become the love guru?"
He didn't answer.
"Fletcher I'm talking to you." I held on to my notepad and pen tightly until my knuckles turned white and my lips were sucked in by my teeth biting down.
"I know, Roza. We should take a break. It's nearly lunch time."
"Don't call me that."
"Relax. Grab your coat. You and I have a date." He was fixing the cuff of his sleeve when I let my jaw drop. Now I was the one staring at him, dumbfounded by his words. Was he serious? I hope not. But, he was already slipping into his black, wool coat and gathering the keys from the black mug on his desk.
"Excuse me?" I sat back on my chair, looking up at him for some answers.
"You heard me. Let's go. We shouldn't be late. I made reservations and it's rude to keep 'em waiting."
Reser-... I found myself reaching for my coat and wrapping myself with it. After that I was in Chase's car while he drove through Time's Square. God only knows where he was taking, but it was all surreal. I knew this was all part of his plan to turn me into your average love sick woman and I could handle that. I just wasn't sure I could handle a date. If it could even be considered a date since he hadn't really asked me out.
But he did say it was a date.
And that was the annoying voice in my head that I often ignored, until now. I pushed back every urge to panic and drew in a deep, quiet breath before slowly letting it go. Chase turned left into a parking lot and every urge to panic and scream as loud as my voice could manage came back. Chase didn't notice though because it all happened in an instance and in my head. He was taking me to Chez Josephine. Expensive doesn't even cover half my problems right now.
"I can't afford this." I told him.
"Silly Roza. This is a date. You don't have to afford it because I'm paying." He gave me that half smile that already did things to me I'm ashamed of. It made my blood boil in a good way and the terribly wonderful pain in my stomach that everyone mistakes with fluttering butterflies made me want to stick my head in the ground like an ostrich. And then Chase frowned when I tried to open the door. The locks disappeared and I raised an eyebrow at him. "Wait there." So I did. He stepped out of the car and walked around it to my door. He pressed a button on his small controller and unlocked the doors only to open mine for me and offer a hand... You have to to be kidding me.