“You just seemed off,” I said. “If something is wrong, you can tell me. Are you stressed out about work? Are you not feeling this relationship?”
She finally looked at me.
“First, nothing is wrong. You need to respect me when I say that and not ask me a million follow-up questions. Second, we are just dating. This isn’t a relationship. We’ve had a handful of dates, Cayden. Let’s not get caught up.”
The mix of her tone and words stung. I’d never heard her speak in this tone before, and I didn’t think I deserved it. Actually, I knew I didn’t deserve it. I wasn’t sure how to respond, but I knew that I could not fight fire with fire. I’d to cool down before I responded.
“I’m not sure what’s going,” I said. “But, I’m not here to play games. I’m too old and I have a child involved. If you want to do this half-ass relationship where we hook up occasionally, there’s nothing wrong with that, but I’m not that type of guy.”
“Just drop it, Cayden,” she said. “I have a lot on my plate right now and the last thing I need is to defend myself to you.”
She walked past me, leaving me angry and confused. What had just happened? I walked toward the refrigerator and grabbed my leftovers from last night.
“Hey, bro,” Maurice walked into the breakroom. “What’s wrong with Tiffany? I just passed her in the hallway and it looked like she was about to cry.”
I turned around and shrugged my shoulder.
“No clue, man,” I said.
“Girls, nothing but trouble,” Maurice shook his head. For once, I agreed with him.
I avoided Tiffany for the rest of the day. It wasn’t hard to do, as I assumed she was trying to avoid me as well. I was still angry at how she had spoken to me in the breakroom. I hadn’t done anything wrong. I didn’t deserve to be talked to that way.
I left work feeling frustrated, angry, and hurt. I didn’t want to go to my mom’s to pick up Austin. She knew that Tiffany had come over last night and I was sure she was going to ask questions. That was the last thing that I wanted to talk about. Instead, I picked up my phone and dialed Allen.
“Hey, Cayden Lewis!” Allen greeted me as he picked up the phone.
“Where are you?” I asked him, although I already knew the answer. If he wasn’t lifeguarding, sleeping, or hooking up with girls, he was at the bar.
“I’m at my bar, man,” he said. “Do you want to come by?”
“I was hoping that you would say that,” I said. “I’ll be down there in a few minutes.”
After a quick drive, I walked into the bar and found Allen sitting at the bar with a drink.
“Surprised to see you on a Tuesday,” Allen said. “I already ordered you a beer.” He slid the beer down the bar to me.
“Thanks, man,” I said, lifting the beer bottle to my lips. It tasted good, but I needed something stronger. I was letting my fight with Tiffany get to me.
“What brings you here?” Allen asked. I shrugged. I wasn’t going to tell him the truth. He wouldn’t understand.
“Just had a break from work and the little man,” I lied.
“That’s cool,” Allen said. “So, what’s going on? How’s work?”
“It’s good,” I said. “Same old shit, different day. How’s your work?”
“Fucking fantastic as always,” he said. “I actually met this chick today on the beach. She’s only here for the night, so we’re going to hook up tonight. Those are the best kind of girls to meet. No expectations, no commitment, just a night of fun. She is fucking hot, too. She looked like she just walked out of a porn movie. She had these huge tits that were just begging to come out of her bikini top. If I wasn’t working, I would have taken her right there on the beach.”
Sex on the beach. His comments remind me of Tiffany. Our sex that night was amazing, and I loved the fact that we were doing something forbidden. I suddenly felt frustrated. I was here to get my mind off of Tiffany, not think about her even more.
“That’s cool,” I replied, although I didn’t think it was cool. It would have been cool if we were in our early twenties, but not now.
“Yeah, man,” Allen said, giving me a high-five. “It’s actually awesome that you are here. I was going to text you about the New Years’ Eve party here. You should come, man. It’s going to be off the hook.”
New Years’ Eve was the last thing on my mind. I wanted to get through work, Christmas, and whatever was going on with Tiffany. I hadn’t celebrated New Years’ Eve in years and didn’t feel like starting now, but Allen continued to talk about the party.
“Last year it was amazing,” he said. “I hooked up with two girls in the same night. This year’s goal is to hook up with two girls at the same time. Wouldn’t that be awesome, Cayden Lewis?”
I nodded, but only to shut him up. I couldn’t understand how he was thirty and still had no intentions of settling down. He was my best friend, but I was starting to get irritated that he wouldn’t grow up. I did not want to spend New Years’ Eve surrounded by strange women. I wanted to spend New Years’ Eve with Tiffany, but that was starting to look like it would not happen.
“Yeah, sounds awesome,” I lied. I finished my beer and set the empty bottle on the bar.
“Get this man another beer,” Allen told the bartender. Before she could get me another beer, I waved her off.
“No,” I told her. “I’m heading home.”
I thought I wanted to drink with Allen to get my mind off Tiffany, but it was a bad idea. I would just go home, have some beers by myself, and head to bed. I could only hope tomorrow was better than today had turned out.
“Just one beer tonight?” Allen asked. He gave me a thumbs down. I grabbed some money out of my wallet as I stood up.
“Some of us have real jobs, Allen,” I said.
“Touché,” he said. “It was good seeing you, anyway. You’ll let me know about New Years’ Eve?”
I nodded, although we both already knew the answer. I would not be attending. I left the bar feeling worse than when I walked in. I didn’t want to talk about hooking up with random girls. I wanted Tiffany, even if she was acting weird. I thought about calling her, but I knew that I needed to give her space. I could not suffocate her.
I drove home, noticing how the city was decorated for Christmas. In Miami, everyone was in a good mood, but they were in a really good mood around the holidays. The Christmas lights dazzled and brought the city to life even more than usual. I was feeling good about the holidays, but now, I wasn’t so sure.
I walked into my apartment and grabbed a beer from the fridge. I thought about calling Sarah about my girl troubles but decided against it. I knew she would probably have some good advice, but I also knew I would have to rehash the fight that I’d with Tiffany, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to do that.
I picked up the TV remote, desperate to find something to take my mind off Tiffany. Suddenly, the text alert on my phone went off. It was Allen, talking more about the New Years’ Eve party. I picked up my phone and was shocked to see who it was. Tiffany.
Is Austin there?
I was confused. Why was she asking where Austin was? We had just had our first big fight, and she was concerned about my son? Although I wasn’t sure why she wanted to know, I answered.
No – At my mom’s. Why?
The three little bubbles appeared, signaling that she was writing a response.
Can you open the door?
I got off the couch and walked to my front door. I opened it and there she was, standing in a long coat.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “Can I come in?”
I nodded and opened the door wider. She walked in and handed me the six-pack of beer that was in her hands.
“Thank you,” I said, setting the beer down on the table. “What are you doing here?”
She sighed and ran her fingers through her dark hair. I could tell that she had been struggling with our fight as much as I’d.
“I was a complete bitch earlier today,” she said. “I shouldn’t have yelled at you. You didn’t do anything wrong. I’m just under a lot of stress, especially with the holidays. You didn’t deserve to get yelled at, and I’m sorry that I ruined last night.”