I felt my mood suddenly shift. Brad hadn’t changed a bit. He was still egotistical and only cared about appearances, especially my appearance.
“I am not fat,” I said quietly. I did not want to make a scene, but I also did not want him to think that it was okay to use that word to describe me. It was offensive. I knew that I wasn’t stick thin, but I didn’t completely let myself go. I was healthy.
“I know that you aren’t anymore,” Brad said. “But it’s so easy to relax, especially around the holidays. I just don’t want you to lose any of this progress. It would be shame for you to come this far and then gain your weight back, plus some.”
I wasn’t sure what to say to him. I used to just let him say whatever he wanted to, but I didn’t want to let him get away this easily.
“You can’t dictate what I eat or when,” I told him. “I’m a grown up. I know how to take care of my body.”
“Forget I mentioned it,” he said. “I am serious, though. It looks bad for me if you are overweight.”
“Well,” I said, “I guess it’s a good thing that I’m not officially your girlfriend, huh?”
Brad raised his eyebrows at me.
“I’m not sure why you are so upset, babe,” he said. “Let’s just forget I mentioned this. I didn’t want tonight to start off this way.”
“Fine,” I said. I agreed to drop the conversation only because I didn’t want to fight in the middle of the restaurant. Inside, I was fuming about his comments. If he was trying to win me back, this wasn’t the way.
The waiter brought over our bread. I grabbed a piece from the bread basket and buttered it. I was tempted to eat the whole damn thing just to spite Brad, but I didn’t.
We had small talk until our dinner arrived. Mostly Brad talked about his gym in Tampa and compared it to the new one in Miami.
“It’s going to be a billion times better,” he said. “Especially without Jessica around.” I could tell by the way that he spoke about her that they ended things on a sour note. I deducted that she probably broke up with him. If only I could have been a fly on the wall for that.
The waiter brought out our dinner. My shrimp scampi looked amazing, with big, plump shrimp served upon a bed of angel hair pasta. Brad began to cut his steak. He stopped and threw his hands up in the air.
“Goddammit,” he said. “I said medium and this is medium rare!” His voice boomed throughout the restaurant. I looked around and sure enough, the other patrons were staring at our table. My cheeks flushed pink. I was completely embarrassed by his outburst.
“Brad,” I hissed. “Lower your voice.”
He looked at me in surprise. I’d never spoken to him in that tone before, but I’d had enough. Between his comments about my weight and his attitude, I was beginning to think it was a mistake to come here. The waiter scurried back to our table. I could tell by the look on his face that he was uncomfortable and worried about Brad’s inevitable confrontation.
“Sir, is there a problem?” the waiter asked politely.
“Yes, there is,” Brad said. His voice was still heated. Despite my attempts to quiet him down, he would not listen to me.
“This is medium rare,” Brad said, emphasizing the word “rare”. “I ordered medium. You told them medium, right? I assume you’re not that incompetent.”
“Brad!” I exclaimed. It was one thing if he talked down to me, but another if he talked that way to a stranger in public.
“Sir, I did order your steak medium,” the waiter said. “I apologize. I can take this back into the kitchen and have them cook it further.”
Brad shook his head.
“No way,” he said. “I know what they do to food when people complain. I’m not about to have any of your cooks spit on my steak.”
I threw my napkin on the table and rose from my chair.
“That is enough,” I told him. “I’m done with this dinner.”
Both Brad and the waiter looked at me.
“Tiffany,” Brad said, “Sit down. You are making a scene.”
I laughed as I picked up my purse from the chair next to me.
“I am making a scene?” I questioned, laughing a bit. “I don’t think so. You know what, Brad? It was a mistake coming here to meet you. I should have known better.”
“Tiffany!” Brad stood up. “Please, don’t leave. I’m sorry about getting pissed off about my steak, but it wasn’t my fault. It’s these assholes who can’t cook a steak correctly. How about we just leave here together and go somewhere else?”
I shook my head.
“It’s not these people, Brad,” I told him. “It’s you.”
I turned to the waiter next.
“I apologize on his behalf for being such an asshole,” I said.
“Whatever, Tiffany,” Brad said. “Leave, I don’t care. Good luck finding someone who will fall in love with a whale like you.”
The words pierced my heart, but I refused to let Brad know that he had hurt me again. I turned on my heel and began to leave the restaurant. The people at the other tables were still looking at me, but I didn’t care. I held my head high as I walked through the restaurant. I would not let Brad’s behavior rub off on me. We were two completely different people. While part of me wanted to cry, the other part of me was celebrating inside. I did something that I never thought that I would do. I’d finally stood my ground when it came to Brad. He no longer had power over me. I was free.
I stretched my arms as I heard the birds chirping outside. Morning. I thought it would never come. Austin was up late last night after his evening nap. I think I finally put him to bed around three in the morning. I’d almost taken him to the ER, but I knew that they wouldn’t be much help. I hoped that we would be able to get him some relief today at his doctor’s appointment.
I took a deep breath as I opened my eyes. The sunshine filled my room. I looked at the clock. It was just after ten. I could not remember the last time that I’d slept this late. It was a good thing that I’d emailed Tim late last night telling him that I wouldn’t be in today. If I hadn’t done that, the whole office probably would have been really worried about me. I wasn’t the type to miss work.
I rolled over in bed and bumped into Austin. He hadn’t gone to bed with me. He must have snuck in after I passed out.
“Hey, Daddy,” he said, looking up at me. I smiled at him.
“Hey, buddy,” I said. “Are you feeling any better?” I leaned over and felt his forehead with my palm. He was still burning up.
“No,” he whimpered. “I don’t want to go to Grandma’s today.”
“We won’t, buddy,” I said. “We are going to stay home until your doctor’s appointment.”
Austin looked at me quizzically.
“Doctor?” he asked. A terrified look formed on his face.
“The doctor will help you,” I explained to him. He had a fear of doctors, or more specifically, a fear of needles. “No shots this time.” I patted his head. He smiled.
“Are you staying home with me?” Austin asked. I nodded, and his smile grew. Even though he never said it, I knew that he loved the days that I stayed home with him. I wished I could do it more often. Layla and I always had talked about raising Austin. She was going to quit her job and stay home with him full-time. We had everything planned, and then the cancer hit.
“Let me get you some more medicine for your fever,” I said, getting out from under the covers. Austin frowned.
“It tastes so gross!” he said, making a disgusted face. I laughed. Typical Austin. He was a bit dramatic, like Layla, but it was endearing in a way. I walked out of the bedroom and to the kitchen. Austin’s doctor appointment was at one in the afternoon. We still had some time to kill. I wouldn’t mind lying in bed watching cartoons until it was time to leave. I knew I should probably check my work email, though.
I grabbed Austin’s medicine from the cupboard and carefully measured out the correct dose. As I placed the medicine cup on the counter, my phone buzzed. It was Tiffany calling. I answered the phone.