“What’s going on, my man?” Allen slid a beer bottle across the bar. I picked it up and took a sip. Nice and crisp, just what I needed to wrap up the week.
“Long work week,” I told him. He nodded as if he understood.
“Man, you don’t even know what a long work week is,” I joked with him. He shrugged.
“I know that,” he said. “But as a bartender, I have to sympathize with my customers.”
I rolled my eyes at him.
“What else is going on?” he asked. “Haven’t heard from you since last week.”
“There’s a girl in the picture now,” I revealed. Allen leaned into me.
“A girl? The one you’ve mentioned below?” he asked. “Tell me more. Have you hooked up with her yet?”
I nodded, and he gave me a high five. “Yeah the same one. She’s incredible.”
“That’s my man,” he said. “Shots on the house!” He grabbed two shot glasses and began to pour tequila into them.
“Cheers to Cayden Lewis getting on the horse again!” We raised our shot glasses to each other. The tequila burned as it went down my throat. Not my best idea, especially before six on a Friday.
“Damn,” I slammed the shot glass down on the bar. “That was rough.”
“So, what’s she like? Was the sex good? Her parents crazy? Fill me in.”
I should have expected these types of questions from Allen. Even though he was my best friend, I wasn’t about to spill our sex secrets. I could not betray Tiffany like that.
“It’s more than sex,” I told him, taking a sip of my beer to wash the rest of the tequila down. “I really like her.”
Now it was Allen’s turn to roll his eyes at me.
“Really?” he scoffed. “I told you, Cayden, don’t get sucked in by these girls, especially now. She probably just wants you for the holidays. They do this. They get you in so you can celebrate Christmas and Valentine’s Day. She just wants the presents, man. Don’t do it, Cayden.”
“Come on, Allen,” I said. “That’s bullshit. Tiffany isn’t like that. She doesn’t care about holidays or presents, we just really enjoy spending time with each other.”
“Dude,” he said. “That is so corny. Where’s the Cayden Lewis that I know? The one that doesn’t say stupid shit like this?”
“I thought you would be supportive,” I replied.
“I’m sorry,” Allen apologized. “I just know how women are. They’re evil.”
“Tiffany is not evil,” I said. I was beginning to get annoyed. I didn’t have many people to talk to Tiffany about, especially keeping it a secret at work. I thought I could at least turn to Allen for some support.
“Do whatever you want,” Allen said, handing me another beer. “I am just trying to look out for you, and you don’t need a girl bringing you down. You’re Cayden Lewis. You’re focused on your work and you do a damn good job. Don’t get caught up with a chick. She is going to chew you up and spit you out. You would be crazy to start dating a girl at the prime of your career.”
I sipped my beer silently, choosing not to respond to Allen. I was the crazy one? He was the one who didn’t have a solid job and had no plans of settling down, despite being thirty. It was dumb of me to come here and expect him to be happy for me. Maybe I would just go home and call Sarah. At least she would be happy that I was talking to another woman again.
“Don’t be mad at me, Cayden,” Allen said. “I’m sorry. You’re right, I don’t know this girl, but I just worry about you. You are such a nice guy, and I would hate to see some girl come around and crush you.”
“She’s good for me,” I said, finishing my second beer. I wanted to go home before I got too drunk or said something to Allen that I would regret. I didn’t want to fight with him, but I didn’t want to stay around for his crazy talk, either.
“Hey, when she breaks your heart, you know you can always come here for a drink,” Allen suggested. I know he was trying to be helpful, but I was beyond irritated by his attitude now.
“Thanks, man,” I said, sarcastically. It had been a mistake coming here. I put some money on the table and stood up.
“I’m just looking out for your best interests. You have too much positive stuff going on right now to let a girl take it all from you,” he said.
“I’m not mad,” I lied. “I just need to go and pick up Austin from my mom’s house.”
I walked into work feeling refreshed. The weekend had done wonders for me, even though I hadn’t seen Cayden. He did call me on Friday night to make sure that I got home from the bar safely, which I found sweet. It showed that he cared about me. I spent the rest of the weekend hanging out with Mandy, shopping for some Christmas presents, and trying yoga again. I didn’t hate it as much as I’d last week. The good mood that I was in had made everything in my life better.
I walked by Cayden’s office to say hello, but he wasn’t there. I wasn’t necessarily surprised by it. He was probably in an early morning meeting. I was a little disappointed, though. I’d wanted to say hello to him. I walked toward my office when I noticed Cayden ahead of me. He wasn’t alone. He was following our Human Resources Director, Robin, into her office. My stomach dropped. Had someone found out about us?
I shook the thoughts from my head and told myself to stop being so paranoid. There were several reasons that Cayden could be called into HR. It probably had nothing to do with me. The office had been quiet on Friday afternoon, and I didn’t think anyone had been around to see our kiss. I walked into my office.
“What’s wrong?” Nikki picked up on the look on my face.
“Nothing,” I lied. “It’s just Monday morning.” I put my things on my desk and sat down. I started going through my emails when my desk phone rang.
“Hello?” I answered it.
“Hi, Tiffany,” Robin’s voice came across the line. “Would you mind coming to my office right now?”
Shit, I thought to myself. It was about us.
“Sure,” I responded, putting on a fake, nice voice. I hung up the phone and rose from my chair.
“Where are you going?” Nikki asked. I’d told her all about Cayden on Friday night over drinks. I trusted her and knew it wasn’t her who told on me and Cayden. Plus, she was doing the same thing with Maurice.
“HR,” I responded. “I saw Cayden go in there earlier.”
Nikki grimaced as I left the room. I walked down the hall and it seemed as if time had slowed down. I did not want to get in trouble, or even worse, lose my job. I was just finding my groove in the office. I liked my job.
I opened the door to see Robin, Cayden, and our editor-in-chief, Tim.
“Sit down, please,” Robin said, motioning to a chair next to Cayden. I sat down, avoiding eye contact with Cayden.
“I’ll start off with saying that someone saw you and Cayden in a compromising position on Friday afternoon. I know that you’re new here, but there is no fraternizing, Tiffany,” Robin said. Before I could open my mouth to speak, Tim began to talk.
“Cayden has already admitted to it,” Tim said. “He apologized and wanted us to know that it wasn’t your fault. It’s my understanding that you’re very professional and take your job seriously. We appreciate that, Tiffany, but we can’t have you making out in the office. It can make other people feel uncomfortable.”
I nodded. I wasn’t sure what to say. Cayden hadn’t even tried to cover it up. He had apologized and took full blame for it.
“We are willing to let this go this one time,” Robin said. “However, this cannot continue, especially with Cayden being in a higher position than you. We do not condone this type of behavior. Both Tim and I know that you are both hard workers and we don’t want to lose you. I hate telling you that you two must decide between each other and this job, but unfortunately, that is the way that it needs to be. We need you focused when you’re here and not distracted by a relationship.”