If you’re new to the story, please read the prologue here.
This work is my first draft and thus unedited, so may be subject to changes.
“Hey Jo,” said a voice from beside me and made me jump. I span round in my comfortable office chair and looked up at a familiar face of my colleague. My insides twisted the moment I saw him. Well, to be honest, my insides twisted the moment I heard him. “How was your weekend?”
The guy looking down at me smiled his lovely welcoming smile which sent a familiar warm feeling through my body. He leaned on the desk next to mine with his arms crossed, waiting patiently for my answer. All I could think about was how close he was to me and hoping my pale cheeks hadn’t gone red.
The desk he was leaning on belonged to my work colleague and friend; Leah, who was currently away from her desk. The guy currently in her place was one of those guys that most of the girls swooned over. He wasn’t exceptionally handsome. At least not as handsome as the guy I met on Saturday evening in the bar. But he was cute enough to turn heads. It was his charm and sense of humour that mostly won the ladies over. He had a way of making everyone feel comfortable. He liked to joke about and even make fun of himself. Always had a witty comment to say.
“Oh, hi, yeah, was good,” I felt my cheeks flush. “How was yours?”
His smile widened and I couldn’t help but smile back at him. It was infectious. “Same old. What did you get up to?”
“Oh, not much,” I shrugged. “Went out to that bar you told me about on Saturday though.”
I remembered back to Saturday when I met that strange guy. Xander, his name was. After he told me his name, I felt a little uncomfortable and wanted to leave. He ended up convincing me to have a drink, which I just asked for a glass of water – I didn’t want anything alcoholic and risk getting tipsy, or worse, drunk. When he returned he said again he didn’t mean to insult me and said I could ask him any question I liked. I made a point by asking him the same question he asked me; “who are you?” And I saw that familiar small smile creep on his face and reach his eyes. It was as if he liked the fact I had asked him the same question he asked me. He seemed to like talking about himself a little too. Which was why he probably asked the question in the first place. He told me he was born and grew up in Chicago, finished college, never went to university, but climbed up the employment ladder quickly and always seen in that same bar we were in. The conversation went onto the bar for a bit, I mentioned I hadn’t been there before and he only replied; “I know, I would have recognised you.” I then went back to how he knew Bath. He apparently travels a lot with work. I was nearly tempted to ask him about work, but I stopped myself as I wasn’t sure if it would have been an offensive question or not.
It wasn’t until I noticed the bar was thinning out that I realised it was getting late and I had to excuse myself. Xander didn’t seem to push, he just made a comment about hoping to see me again and let me leave.
I had walked away slightly wishing I didn’t leave. I realised afterwards that whatever anger I had earlier in the evening had vanished, replaced with a deep curiosity and attraction. I replayed the conversation in my head and didn’t find anything of what he said odd anymore. He did say he thought he recognised me from somewhere and was trying to figure out where, which was why he was listing places he knew to see if I did. Then he clearly got bored asking – or maybe thought I was bored, I did seem a little curious to the questions, he could have read that wrong and thought I was bored – and the conversation turned into wanting to know who I was. Maybe by asking ‘who are you?’ he was avoiding those boring cliché questions of ‘What do you do? Where do you work?’ I remember reading somewhere that a person’s job shouldn’t define the person, what makes someone happy defines them. Or was it how they treat people? Could have been both. But either way, I figured that could be why he later asked about my work. He was trying to figure out if work was important to me or not. It was also the reason why I didn’t ask him about his work.
I realised when I got home why I was feeling low that night. Realisation hit me while I was scrubbing myself clean in the shower before bed that evening. I was lonely. Although, Xander filled that hole for just under two hours. Even if it was just a strange chat in a bar. But it returned when I got home.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think of Xander again. I actually hadn’t stopped thinking about him. In fact, for a moment, he even made me forget about my crush at work. When Monday morning came around, I plopped down onto my office chair and felt slightly annoyed it was Monday already. Normally I’d look forward to going in, just to see my crush again and hoping that that day was the day he’d ask me out. But Xander was on my mind. It wasn’t until my crush was in front of me that Xander was momentarily forgotten about.
“You went to Mario’s?” The guy in front of me looked shocked. Maybe even a little disappointed.
“Yeah, it is nice in there,” I smiled politely. “You were right.”
“Who did you go with?”
“Oh, I didn’t go with anyone.”
He laughed. “You went to Mario’s on your own?”
My smile faltered.
“Oh, wait, did you go to score?”
“Find a guy to hook up with?”
My face flushed. I did speak to a guy; that was true. I had some images of me going home with him or even inviting him back to mine. But I also had previous thoughts of him being a serial killer so I couldn’t really rely on what my intentions were on Saturday night. But I never intended to go there to hook up with anyone.
“You did didn’t you,” he said after I didn’t reply and sat himself down in Leah’s chair. He sounded impressed but his face told a different story. In fact, he looked a little upset at the idea.
“No, I didn’t!”
“Oh,” he frowned. “Then why did you go there on your own?”
I shrugged. “I’m used to going to places on my own, I travelled the world on my own.”
“I guess.” His eyes seemed to go off somewhere to the right, as if he was deep in thought about something. I was curious to know what he was thinking. “If you wanted company though, you only had to ask,” he said, apparently coming back to earth.
I felt my cheeks flush. Did he really just say that? “I actually had company for most it.” I tried to shrug. But feeling a little guilty that I was only moments ago swooning over another guy, I felt I was betraying someone. But that someone wasn’t even a someone. Not to me anyway. Just a crush.
His eyebrows rose slightly, clearly not even trying to feign his surprise. “But you just said you didn’t hook up and you went alone.”
“I met a guy, but I didn’t hook up with him,” I replied.
“Oh,” he said. He was suddenly lost for words. The first time I had ever seen him lost for words.
“Why are you so concerned about what I did there anyway?” I asked, swinging my body round on my office chair to face him.
“Babe, I mentioned that place for a reason, not so you could just go there on your own!” he said. His eyes wandering over my body slightly as he took in my green dress I was wearing. It made me feel even warmer as his eyes skimmed over my body. I hoped to hell I didn’t have horrible red marks on my knees where I had been crossing my legs or he wasn’t put off by my white bits. “I was sussing out if you wanted to go there one day.”
“What?” I blurted out accidentally.
“I wasn’t sure if you liked going to those places, bars and shit – it was something Leah said – so I was trying to figure out if you were interested and then I was going to ask you out. But I got interrupted on Friday and didn’t have a chance.”
“You were going to ask me out?” I asked in shock.
“Sure.” He nodded. “What do you say? Want to go back again? This time with me?” He smiled wildly again.
“Oh,” I gasped. But before I was able to answer, someone interrupted us.
“Liam, get out of my bloody chair!” Leah was back.
The guy in front of me; Liam, shot out of Leah’s chair in a flash, like he had just been stung by a wasp. He suddenly wore a strange expression on his face. One I couldn’t quite place. Either he was surprised to see Leah standing there – which was absurd as it was Leah’s desk and Liam knew that. Or Liam was just scared of Leah for some reason.
When I thought about it, I hadn’t seen Liam and Leah together in the same room for a while. I wondered if they were avoiding each other. Maybe one of them had upset the other. I wouldn’t be surprised, Liam had a habit of saying the wrong thing sometimes. Along with his witty funny side, he sometimes said things that he thought was funny but was actually rude.
I thought it was odd that Leah was upset with him though, she used to swoon over him just as much as I did. I had never told Leah that I was into Liam, as I was worried our friendship would be affected. I never twigged that Leah hadn’t mentioned Liam for a while, not until then.
Leah sat back down in her chair tentatively after Liam shot out of it and gave Liam a rather disgusted look back. “What do you want anyway?” Her New Zealand accent stronger than usual.
“I’m here to talk to, Jo,” he replied, looking away from Leah and then back at me. “Let me know what you say,” he said, before wandering off again without hearing a reply.
When Liam was out of earshot, Leah swung round to me and narrowed her eyes at me. “What did Liam want?”
Leah was a brilliant beautiful woman. Originally from New Zealand and came to Chicago with her father when she was in her late teens. She had curves in all the right places, a lovely brown face that made you think she was constantly going on exotic holidays, and had full luscious dark brown hair. Her eyebrows even looked perfectly shaped. I envied her.
“Err, well, apparently he was asking me out.”
Her face fell. “What?”
I frowned back at her and leaned over slightly. “Has something happened between you two? Did you have an argument or something?”
“Something like that,” Leah sighed and span her chair round to face her computer again. “Just be careful of Liam.”
“I can’t say, just be careful, Jo.”
“Sure,” I replied but watched Leah for a few seconds trying to figure out what she meant by that. Be careful of Liam? But he was just a bit of a joker that was all.
I span back round to my computer and sighed deeply. My thoughts went to Liam suddenly. I was thinking about what he had said. Had he just asked me out? I had been wondering about this for months, wishing Liam would finally ask me out. I was up and down trying to figure out if he liked me or not. He seemed to be friendly with most girls.
But as soon as I thought back to going to that bar with Liam, my thoughts went to Xander. It was his local, I couldn’t go there with Liam now, I might bump into Xander!
And then there was what Leah said.
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