The rest of the week went by painfully slowly. It seemed as though everywhere I went, people would snicker and start talking about soccer rules. I felt like I had the words “own goal” imprinted on my forehead.
Sarah, as usual, thought that I was just being paranoid and misinterpreting everyone’s behaviour. She kept reminding me that people had better things to do than sit around making fun of me and my soccer skills.
Soon after, however, something happened that changed everything.
It was Tuesday morning, and Sarah, Derek, James and I were walking across the office lobby on our way to get our Starbucks fix. Preoccupied with the question of whether or not John was sleeping with the cleaning lady, Amanda, we were completely unmindful of our surroundings.
Derek was claiming that there was no way John and Amanda were sleeping together, and S was insisting that they were. James and I weren’t sure.
“Why would John sleep with Amanda, a cleaning lady?” Derek asked. “He is worth like a billion more than what she is and we all know that he never does anything money is involved.”
“Who said money has anything to do with this?” S answered. “It’s very possible that John really likes Amanda and that she likes him back, regardless of their economical differences.”
“The thing though,” I said, “is that when did this start? If it’s true that is. I mean, John is so materialistic that it’s hard to imagine that he’d go for someone like Amanda.”
“And when does he see her?” Derek added. “She gets here when we leave so it’s not like they work the same hours. And where do they get together? There’s no way he takes her out in public.”
“Maybe they don’t see each other all the time. Maybe they just hang out at his place or something,” James said. “And I think Sarah’s right. I mean, have you not seen the looks they give each other? It’s like they’ve found their soul mate or something.”
“There is no way,” Derek replied. “That’s crap man, are you high? John is a greedy, selfish asshole incapable of loving anything but himself.”
Somewhere around there, I went all ADD and started looking around our favourite coffee shop to see if anyone else from work was there. And then, I saw Calvin walk in – his eyes looking greener than ever. From the corner of my eye I saw that he went and sat at a corner table by himself. I dared to look right at him – and he was looking right at me too!
I turned a deep shade of red, and quickly turned my head and in the opposite direction. God, why was I acting like a love struck teenager? Why couldn’t I appear confident, and flirt casually? But at least he had looked at me. And first, as a matter of fact. The question was for what.
“There’s only one way to find out,” I heard Derek say. “We’ll ask him.”
“Who?” I asked panicking.
“John, who else?” Derek answered. “We’ll drop hints around and see how he reacts.”
“Oh...” I said.
“Under one condition,” Sarah said looking at Derek and James. “You have to ask him.”
“Why us?” they asked in unison.
“Because you’re guys and it makes more sense.”
“K, fine,” James said. “I’ll ask. Just for you Sarah. I’d do anything for you.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Sarah replied, rolling her eyes.
“Look, he just walked in!” Derek said excitedly.
“K, let’s go,” S said. “Jess?”
“What?” I asked.
“Why are you standing there? Let’s go.”
“I don’t wanna come,” I said. “I’ll uhh... I’ll stay here.”
“Why?” Derek asked.
“Because I don’t want John to start talking about the soccer game,” I lied.
S looked at me suspiciously. I – discreetly – winked at her, and tried to point in Calvin’s direction with my head. She finally realized what was going on and linked arms with Derek and James and walked away.
I was left behind all alone, and I immediately began to regret it. It was so obvious why I had stayed behind.
And now what? Surely everyone will be looking at me. They’ll be thinking that after the whole soccer thing, no one would want to be seen with me. Not even my few friends...
Whoa, that came from where Calvin was sitting. I turned towards his direction and, suddenly, I found myself looking at him right in the eyes. Actually, I take that back. I wasn’t looking at his eyes, I had drowned in them. It was impossible to think of anything, I just stood there staring into his eyes.
“Nothing, really,” I replied.
Ok, so to say that that wasn’t the best answer, would be an understatement. But at that moment, I was just happy that I was able to say anything. After that, I didn’t know what else to say. I just smiled at him.
And he smiled back. He smiled at me! There was no doubt now. There was a God. Who had decided to, finally, let Jessica Brown, a woman who up to now was pathetically neglected, feel utter happiness.
“I just wanted to ask you something,” Calvin said.
What? What was the question? Was it if I remembered that day, when I had first started with Anderson Advertising, when he asked me out? If I knew that he never got over the disappointment he felt when I said no? If I had realised that we were meant to be together? If I wanted to marry him and have kids, dogs, and all that stuff? Yes! Yes! Yes! Ask away!
“Have you got a pen with you?” Calvin asked.
“Yea. I need to write something and I don’t have one on me. Do you have one with you?”
“Um, yea I think so,” I said taken aback, and started looking in my purse.
Underneath my gum, sunglasses, wallet and makeup back, I finally found an old pen I had from hotel I stayed at in Florida for a recent business trip. And I gave it to him.
“Thanks,” he said. “You’re really kind.”
“No worries,” I said. “You can keep it if you’d like. I mean, you don’t have to return it.”
Calvin smiled at me again, and then took out a piece of paper from his breast pocket, and started writing something. I was still standing there. Until I realised that the conversation was over. How embarrassing! I should have left right away.
I tried to pretend that I had just remembered something really important to do (not that Calvin was looking at me anymore). And I walked away, with what I hopped looked like purpose, towards the exit door.
As soon as I was outside, I took out my mirror and began examining my appearance. Great, my eye liner had made its way to my bottom lashes and there was some mascara on my right eye hid. Great! Oh my God my hair! Why had I slept in that morning? If I had gotten up on time I could have had nice, soft, shiny straight hair instead of this frizzy mess on my head? Uhh!
On my way to the office, I started replaying the whole thing in my mind, trying to figure out if the whole thing was a step forward or a step backward. Was I supposed to be in rapture or praying that I didn’t exist?
Hmm, I don’t think it was a step backward because at least he had talked to me. And smiled. Twice. Which equalled two smiles.
Which definitely meant a step forward. Yes, it was a good thing, no doubt.
Yay! Calvin and I had made progress. I immediately decided that I was in rapture.
When I got off the elevator on the 11th floor, Sarah, Derek and James almost ran into me. They were so excited, that they almost didn’t notice me.
“Watch out!” I exclaimed. “There’s living people walking around.”
“Sorry, Jess,” Derek said. “But I just can’t get over it.”
“Can’t get over what?” I asked.
“He totally caught on to what we were up to,” Sarah answered. “We were asking John random questions about the cleaning service in general, and then he got angry and demanded to know why we were bothering him with stupid questions when we should be working.”
“What did you tell him?”
“James started saying some bs about how he wanted to know if the cleaning people do a good job cleaning so that he can recommend them to his dad’s cottage for cleaning.
“Firm,” James corrected her. “I said for my dad’s firm.”
“Same difference,” S said. “The point is that John was pissed and told us to get back to work.”
“And then he left,” Derek added. “Damn it!”
I was trying to pay attention to the new plan they were coming up with in order to find out if John was sleeping with Amanda, but I found myself replaying the Starbucks incident with Calvin. I was going over every little detail (again) when it dawned on me that I shouldn’t have told him to keep the pen because that way, he wouldn’t have a reason to talk to me again. How could I have been so stupid?
In fact, maybe, that’s exactly what he wanted! Maybe the whole “I don’t have a pen”, was just an excuse to talk to me. Perhaps, deep down inside, he was as shy as I was!
But on the other hand, I would sound like such a cheapo asking for the pen back. Greedy and cheap. And I wouldn’t want to base our marriage on those things.
My BlackBerry vibrated, and a quick look at the display told me that the next accounting seminar was about to start. The four of us started walking towards Kingston, a big meeting room.
“Is it the new girl’s first day today?” Derek asked.
“Yup,” Sarah answered. “Delaney Peterson.”
“I hope she’s hot,” Derek said. “It’d be nice to have a hot chick for a change.”
“Hmm,” S said and narrowed her eyes at him.
“Obviously there’s Paris and London,” Derek said oblivious to Sarah’s death stare. “They’re hot, but unfortunately, they know it all too well.”
“And of course, we have Sarah and Jessica,” James said looking right at S.
This conversation made me worry a little. What is the new girl attracted all the guys? And what if Calvin fell in love with her at first sight, and swore to never ask for a pen from another woman?
We walked in Kingston. John was there talking to someone who was standing with their back to the door.
I froze. I knew that hair from somewhere. I couldn’t figure out from where, but I was certain I had seen it before.
“Good morning everyone,” John greeted all of us. “This is Ben Peterson, our new marketing executive.”
The person turned around – and with horror, I discovered where I knew that hair from. I had seen it at the wine section of The Food Emporium while I was choosing wine for my mum. And then at the self check out when the bottles fell from the machine.
It couldn’t be true! Standing in front of me was the asshole from the store – and he was smiling in the most ironic manner.
“We’ve met before,” he said and looked right at me.
“Oh, yea?” I said uncaringly. “Where? Anyways,” I added quickly before he began explaining where we knew each other from. “I don’t remember you.”
“Wasn’t he supposed to be Delaney?” Derek asked confused.
“Who?” the man asked.
“The new guy,” Derek explained and looked at John puzzled. “That’s what you said last week.”
“Oh, yes, you’re right. But that was because of a little mix up,” John explained.
“Yea, my first name technically is Delaney, but I go by my middle name Ben, because people always think I’m a girl,” the man said.
“Oh, I see,” Derek said. “Anyways, I’m Derek.”
“Yea and I’m Sarah,” my best friend introduced herself.
“Hey, I’m James,” James said. “Hope you are having a good day so far.”
“Thanks, everything seems great so far,” the man said and turned to me expectantly.
I didn’t even acknowledge him. I just walked towards the table and took a seat towards the back of the room.
“You were really sweet and kind,” Sarah said sarcastically joining me at the table.
“Coincidentally, that’s the man from The Food Emporium. You know the guy you told me I’d never see again.”
“Unbelievable,” she said.
There was only one thing to do, I decided. I would ignore him. Yea, that was a good plan. I would just act like he didn’t exist.
Paris and London walked in and discovered the new guy, and pretty much started drooling. Especially Paris who quickly whispered something to London. Then, she tossed back her black hair and giggled like a school girl drawing attention on her.
“Welcome to Anderson Advertising. It’s sooo nice to have you here!” she literally sang and then sat in the empty seat right next to him. “I’m Paris and this is London, and we’re best friends!”
With this “joke”, which they’ve been for years now, and with which neither S nor I, ever laughed with, London laughed so hard, she was literally holding her stomach. And the joke caught on because I heard that same awful laugh that I thought I’d never hear. It appeared as though they had the same sense of humour. Meaning none.
Calvin and I would laugh all the time together. That would be one of the things that we’d have in common – meaning the fact that we would laugh with the same things. With little inside jokes, that no one else would get.
From time to time, we would remember the incident with the pen and laugh at the ridiculousness of it. Because it would be thanks to that pen that we’d be married.
We’d even laugh with the own goal. And then, Calvin would hug me tightly and tell me that because of that, he finally realised that he had to have me. He’d admit that I had seemed a little silly, but really cute at the same time.
The seminar began and Paris involuntarily stopped talking. And I had to stop day dreaming and listen to the lecturer talk about balance sheets.
At the same time however, - and this was way more important – S and I started passing notes discreetly to one another.
Finally alone! What happened at Starbucks???? I couldn’t ask you in front of D and J obviously. I want to know all the juicy dets.
xoxo, your very curious friend,
Dear curious friend,
EVERYTHING happened, that’s all I can say!!!
Or maybe this: it was a start. A very promising step in the right direction :) Dets during lunch, cause John is shooting daggers at me with his eyes.
xoxo , Jess
Fine, Jess :( Even though you know I hate waiting! John better watch his back cause I have all these plans to figure out what’s up between him and Amanda. And with everyone’s help, it won’t take long to get to the bottom of this!
During our lunch break I told her everything that happened with Calvin at Starbucks. S didn’t seem as excited as me. She said that I should have started talking to him in order to let him see my inner beauty.
Suddenly, I was filled with doubts. Maybe, after all, it wasn’t a step forward. Maybe I was reading into it, blowing things way out of proportion. Maybe all Calvin wanted was really to borrow a pen.
Thankfully, Sarah agreed to go along with my plan to ignore the guy from The Food Emporium, which made me feel a whole lot better. She agreed that anyone who laughs at people when they are in need of help are heartless people and that there is no point in talking to them.
Afterwards, she started telling me her latest plan to figure out if John is sleeping with Amanda.
I was listening to her quietly, although I had to admit that I wasn’t sure why she was so interested in the whole thing. Why would anyone care if our boss is sleeping with the cleaning lady?
Anyways, she’d get over it soon enough. Besides, it’s not like I minded listening to her. I could show my support. That’s what a good friend, and someone who’s happy, does.