“I’ll see you in a couple of hours,” I told my mom. She gave me a kiss on the cheek as I left.
“Bye, buddy!” I called out, but he didn’t respond. I was sure he was engrossed in the television already. I left the house with a pep in my step. I was suddenly even more excited to see Tiffany. I would ask her to the tree lighting ceremony. It would be a great opportunity for Tiffany to meet Austin and the rest of the family. I wanted to see how Tiffany and Austin interacted, although I’d a feeling it would go well.
I walked into work full of Christmas cheer. Holiday music filled the halls and some of my co-workers wore festive Christmas apparel.
“Meeting in two minutes!” I announced loudly. They had no idea that we would be leaving early. They would all be excited, but I’d to make it clear that they needed to work hard to wrap things up before we left at noon. I noticed Tiffany down the hallway. She wasn’t dressed festively, but still looked great. She had on a black, form-fitting dress with black heels. I wanted to call out to her, but I didn’t want to make a scene. I would see her after the meeting.
I walked into the conference room and my co-workers followed in. They were buzzing with excitement, similar to how Austin had been. Everyone was in the Christmas mood. I’d hoped that Tiffany was in a good mood, as well, despite her family issues. Tiffany finally walked in and took a seat. I made eye contact with her and smiled.
“Good morning,” I greeted the room. They quieted down as soon as I began to speak.
“I have some good news,” I told them. “We will be leaving here at noon today and will not be returning until next Monday.”
The room erupted into cheers. As expected, they were happy. I was, too. Even though I’d spent the weekend relaxing with Austin, I was looking forward to having a week off work. I was excited about Christmas festivities and hopefully spending extra time with Tiffany. If her and Austin hit it off, it would be easier to see her. We could do things together with Austin, like go out to dinner.
“But, listen,” I told the group. “If you want to leave early, we all need to be super productive. We need to use these next few hours and wrap up articles, photoshoots, whatever. Let’s get this done and start celebrating!”
The group erupted into applause. I felt like I was on top of the world, until I looked across the room at Tiffany. While everyone else was excited and smiling, she had a blank stare on her face. Something was still bothering her, even though she told me it was nothing. I didn’t believe her, but I couldn’t ask her any more about it. I’d to take her word for it, even though I knew something was off.
As the employees began to leave the room, I called out for Tiffany. She turned around and walked toward me.
“Hi,” I said, as she approached me. She smiled, which made me feel a bit better.
“Hello,” she said. I wanted to grab her and kiss her, but I refrained, especially since people were still walking out of the room.
“It’s a nice surprise to be leaving early today,” she said. “That was nice of you.”
I shrugged. We both knew that it wasn’t my decision. Tim wasn’t at work today, but he had told me that I could let everyone go early. I didn’t mind looking like the hero.
“I wanted to ask you something,” I whispered to her. She moved closer to me.
“Yes?” she asked. As she moved closer, I could smell her perfume and it immediately turned me on. I’d images of us having sex dancing through my head. I shook my head, making myself come back to reality. I couldn’t get distracted this morning.
“Would you like to go the Christmas tree lighting ceremony with me tomorrow night? My mom, dad, and Austin will be there. I would love it if you could go.”
She looked at me and I could tell that she was surprised. She probably wasn’t expecting to meet my family so soon, but it was a perfect opportunity.
“Tomorrow night?” she asked. She was stalling. I knew that she didn’t have any plans.
“It’s not a big thing,” I told her. I didn’t want to scare her away. “It’s just a simple Christmas tree lighting ceremony. I thought it would be a nice, stress-free way to meet Austin.”
She nodded, taking in what I’d just proposed. I pleaded to her with my eyes. I really wanted her to come and meet my family. Plus, the whole lighting ceremony was romantic. It was a great opportunity for everyone.
“Sure,” she said. “I’ll go with you.”
My heart pounded in my chest with excitement. She had said yes! She was going to meet my parents and the most important person in my life, Austin.
“Great,” I said. “I’ll text you later with more details.”
“Sounds good,” she said. She turned to leave, but I stopped her. I couldn’t help but question her one last time about her recent sullen mood. I put my hand on her shoulder.
“Are you sure that you’re okay?” I asked her. “We can talk about whatever is on your mind. I know it’s a hard time of year for you, but I’m a great listener.”
She shook her head.
“I’m fine,” she said, faking a smile. “I’ve just had a crazy couple of weeks and then you add the Christmas stress and the bullshit with my mom. It’s just a lot. It will be over in a couple of days and I’ll be back to normal, I promise.”
“Good,” I said. I decided to drop the conversation. There was no reason to keep pushing her. I’d to take her word for it. I would try to make sure tomorrow night was a great experience for her. Maybe I could be the one to change Christmas for her.
I groaned as I looked into my closet. I’d nothing to wear. Well, that was a lie. I’d a closet full of outfits to wear, but I didn’t want to wear any of them. I didn’t feel good in any of those clothes. I knew whatever I picked, I would feel fat. I’d finally started to feel good about myself and then Brad came along and fucked it all up again. Since he had called me a whale, I began to feel like one. I wanted to stay home and wear nothing but an oversized t-shirt and yoga pants, but I knew that wouldn’t fly.
I felt the pressure to look good for Cayden’s family. I wanted to look good, but classy. It was a little chilly in Miami tonight, though, which excluded several of my outfits out of the gate. Finally, I chose a pair of dark jeans with a red sweater. It was festive, but not over-the-top. I would fit in with the crowd nicely and wouldn’t stand out. That was exactly what I wanted tonight.
I pulled the red sweater over my head and patted it down. I felt a bit bloated, but there was nothing I could do about that. I’d been eating like a pig the past several days. Brad was right. I couldn’t expect to maintain my weight, or lose weight, eating full-fat food. I resolved to watch my eating habits over the next couple of days. I needed to start the new year out on the right foot, not up five pounds.
As I began to put a pair of black boots on, my phone beeped. I was sure that it was Cayden texting me the directions to his parents’ house. We were all going to meet there and walk to the tree lighting ceremony. I finished lacing my boots and grabbed my phone. I opened the screen, expecting to see Cayden’s name, but I was wrong. It was Brad.
Need to talk. Call me.
I shut my screen off. I didn’t want to talk to him. I’d nothing to say. He had tried to text me a couple of other times over the weekend, but I ignored all of those, too. I wasn’t sure what he wanted, but I didn’t want to give him the opportunity to apologize or explain himself. No matter what excuse he had, he had still called me a whale. The worst part was that he called me a whale in front of an entire restaurant. Public humiliation at its finest.
I’d almost expected him to drop by my apartment, but he must have known better than to visit me in person. He knew I was mad at him. He probably wanted to diffuse the situation over the phone. Part of me felt like he only wanted to talk to me because he was lonely. No matter what he said, I was certain that Jessica had left him, not the opposite way around. He probably only wanted to use me for company during the holidays.
His text began to infuriate me. He wasn’t fair. The things that he did to me weren’t fair. I wanted to text him back and tell him to fuck off, but I wouldn’t give him the pleasure. I would continue to ignore him. Maybe he would finally get the hint and move on to someone else. I was sure that it would only take a night out in Miami and he could find a replacement for Jessica. She would probably be young, fit, and pretty. She would be the type of woman that he could dictate what she did, something that he could no longer do with me.