“Alright, I’ll see you in a bit,” she said, leaving our office. I stared at the flowers for a bit after she left, still confused.
“Hey, Tiffany,” a voice cut through my thoughts. I looked up to see Cayden standing in my doorway. Of course, he looked absolutely stunning as always.
“Hi,” I said. “Thank you for the flowers.”
He walked into the office and grinned.
“Beautiful flowers for a beautiful girl,” he said. “I just didn’t want to leave a card because I knew Nikki would have read it. I just wanted to do something for you to put a smile on your face.”
“That was very thoughtful of you, Cayden,” I responded. “Can you close the door?”
He grinned and closed the door. He walked over to me. He was expecting a kiss, but I quickly stood from my desk and backed up from him.
“What’s wrong?” he asked. There was a genuine look of concern on his face.
“I can’t do this,” I told him. “It’s just too much.”
He wrinkled his eyebrows. He was confused. To be honest, so was I. What was I doing?
“What is too much?”
“This,” I pointed to the flowers. “The flowers, the dinner, the weekend. It’s too much. And, we work together. We shouldn’t be doing this.”
He stood quietly for a minute, taking in what I’d just said.
“But, we had such a great time on Saturday night,” he said. I sighed. It was true, we did. I couldn’t dispute that.
“I’m not just letting you end this before it begins,” Cayden said. His response took me by surprise. I thought that I could just tell him I couldn’t do this, and it would be the end. I would go back to my boring life alone and he could go find someone who looked better with him. I didn’t know what else to say to him. I would need to give him a reason that he couldn’t argue with.
“I need a solid answer, Tiffany,” he continued to speak. “I’d such a great time with you last week. I don’t understand where all of this is coming from. Did I do something wrong?”
I shook my head. I wanted him to leave before someone, namely Nikki, came into the office to witness our little lovers’ spat.
“I am just not ready,” I told him. “I am not ready to move on, and I don’t know when I ever will be.”
He pursed his lips, thinking about what I’d just said. He was weighing the options in his head, thinking about what to say next.
“Will you just meet me for drinks on Wednesday after work?” he asked. His question took me by surprise. After all of that, he still wanted to go out with me again?
“I have meetings the next two afternoons that will undoubtedly run late,” he explained. “Please, just meet me for drinks on Wednesday night. That’s all I ask for. One more date.”
He was relentless. When I didn’t respond, he began to speak again.
“I know how hard it’s to move on,” he said. “Believe me. I get it. Can you please just meet me on Wednesday?”
“Is that a yes?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said. “It’s a yes.”
“Great,” he responded. “I will be in touch.” He turned and left the office.
I sat back down in my chair and thought about what had just happened. Before he walked in, I was firm in my decision to not pursue things any further. Now I was going out with him again?
I’d to admit, I was intrigued by his past. I never thought that he would understand how hard it was to move on. What had happened in his past with his wife? Maybe I would find out more on Wednesday night.
Should I tell him about Brad if it came up? I was nervous to talk about my past relationship with him. Wasn’t that against one of the new relationship rules, anyway? You should never talk about your past. I was scared that if I talked about Brad, it would open the floodgates of emotion. After that, there was no turning back.
“So, I saw Cayden heading in here after I left,” Nikki returned to our office. She sipped on her smoothie as she waited for me to respond.
“He did,” I said. I knew what she was getting at, but now I really did not want to talk about it.
“He is the mystery man, isn’t he?” she whispered, shutting the door. “I knew it!”
“Hush!” I said. Even though the door was closed, our walls were thin, and I didn’t want the people in the next office to hear any of our conversation. Nikki giggled.
“You’re so lucky, Tiffany,” she said, walking over to the flowers. “If Cayden Lewis sent me these, I would die. I can’t believe you snagged him. Way to go, girl!”
“It’s nothing serious,” I told her. Although I wasn’t sure which one of us I was really trying to convince. It was something serious. Despite trying to fight it, I knew that this was a battle that I was about to lose.
I watched the skies turn color as the sun set for the day. Florida had the most beautiful sunsets. They were much better than what New York had to offer. The skies would light up with pinks and yellows, casting a magical glow on the city below.
Tiffany and I were drinking on the rooftop at a bar on the beach. After our conversation at work on Monday, I decided to pick somewhere low-key for drinks. I actually wore jeans, which was rare for me. This bar was a typical beach bar. Good drinks, but nothing special. The beach scenery made up for the lack of pizazz that the bar had to offer.
Tiffany was already on her second glass of wine. I didn’t want her to get plastered, but I’d seen firsthand how the wine had loosened her up on Saturday night. I wanted her to talk to me about what was going on in her head. I wanted her to finally open up about her past and tell me about this man who broke her heart.
As expected, she was quiet at the beginning of the date. We chit-chatted about work, but I steered clear of talking about anything serious. I didn’t want to give her a reason to end this date early.
“I am sorry about earlier,” she suddenly spoke. I turned to her, surprised by her admission. Where had this come from?
“You’re sorry about what?” I asked. “You’re here with me now, it’s water under the bridge.”
She took a long sip of her wine before replying.
“I’m a mess, Cayden,” she confessed. “I feel like I need to tell you everything, so you understand where I’m coming from.”
“Tell me,” I said, getting closer to her. “I want to know everything.” I really did. I wanted to know her past, who had hurt her, and what I could do to make her feel better.
“His name was Brad,” she began. “We were best friends since sixth grade. He moved next door to me, and we were inseparable despite being very different. Brad was a chunky, overweight pre-pubescent boy and I was a bubbly, outgoing, skinny girl. When we were younger, I never thought about dating him. He was always “Just Brad”, my pal and confidant. I would go to him with boy problems and he would help me through them.”
She stopped to take another sip of her wine. I could tell she was getting emotional. I reached out and touched her leg.
“It’s okay,” I said. “Take your time. Or don’t. Just tell me whatever you feel comfortable with.”
She took a deep breath and began to speak again.
“After graduation, both of our fathers died within a few months of each other. It was a very hard time in both of our lives. Since I was going to college in Miami, I stayed home with my mom. Brad didn’t go to college. He got a full-time job to help his mom out with the bills. Our fathers’ deaths brought us together. It was just like one day, I knew we were supposed to be together.”
I nodded, letting her know that I was listening to the story.
“We dealt with the grief very differently. Brad began to work out, taking up running. Looking back, I should have done that, but I didn’t. I turned to food and TV. Brad was too busy dealing with his own sadness to notice mine. Not that I blamed him. I didn’t expect him to help me out of my dark hole when he was in his own. I gained a lot of weight over a short time.”