When Everett got off the phone with his grandmother, who called about a family dinner that following Sunday, Katie had already left.
Rett debated if he should call her, but decided it would be best to give her some time to cool down.
That evening was rough, his mind kept going in circles about how upset she would be with him and what repercussions it would have. He ended up barely sleeping as at that point he had convinced himself she would quit her job.
When he arrived at the front office the next morning the lights were on and Katie was at her desk talking on the phone, smiling and waving at him as he walked by.
Once out of sight he exhaled loudly, feeling relieved. That was a good sign. Phew.
She came in now, seemingly surprised to find him standing around rather than at his desk but instead of commenting she briefed him on some changes to projects. Unlike normally he cared little about that.
“So, you are good with all that?” she asked.
“Yeah, sure. So you are not upset anymore?” he asked the question burning in his mind.
“Oh, I am still pissed at you, buddy. But life goes on, and this is work. So, I’ll simmer on the inside. Want a coffee, boss?” she grinned and winked at him.
“Are you gonna spit in it?” he attempted a joke.
“Of course I will! Just like all assistants do when the boss has been aggravating.” she continued it, like they often did.
“I always wondered why it tasted so different when you brought it.”
“Most of the time because it was prepared with care, respect and gratefulness. But sometimes it’s just spit.”
She nudged him as she walked out to fetch the beverage.
Thank goodness she was still here and they were still friends. They were friends, right? Aside from dinners out, they had never done anything together like friends would. She had lived at his house for a while, that would qualify, right? Why was all this so confusing?
“Did you forget the way to your desk? Need me to take you over there?” she jested about finding him in the same spot when she returned.
“Yes, please.” he grinned.
With her free hand she grabbed his, sending jolts of electricity through his body, while she smiled and playfully pulled him along.
Say something clever! NOW! he told himself in his mind, but for the life of him he could not think of a single thing now. Instead he just said
“Thanks.” Ugh, again with the lameness! he reprimanded himself in his head again.
“Anything for you, bossman.” she planted the cup on his desk and left. Smiling.
For the first time ever, he cursed himself for not dating more in school. If he had, this would probably not be so intimidating. And less confusing.
Dating Maddie had been a lot easier.
She had struck up the initial conversation and taken the lead for the most part. His role was basically reduced to checking yes or no, in a matter of speaking.
Then as a couple, he would take her out to places she had mentioned to him at some point.
The only reason he kept taking Katie to the same restaurant, even though the staff kept being annoying by assuming they were a couple, was that he knew she really liked the food. And deep down inside because they assumed they were a couple, kept telling him what a pretty girlfriend he had. She got angry about it, while he secretly enjoyed it.
But Katie had lived with him, why did he still know so little about her? And how could he find out more?
The rest of the day, of the week, passed by in a blur. They were busy and then suddenly it was Friday.
Katie had left, before Rett had worked up the courage to ask her out. Simmering about it at his desk he finally decided to go over to her place and ask her in person. There was a modern new restaurant in San Myshuno she might like, so if she said yes, he could take her there that night.
As he arrived at her building the main entrance door was propped open for repairs as signs proclaimed, there were ladders and buckets and tools spread around everywhere. He walked right in, and down the hallway to her apartment, arrived at her door and knocked.
His facial expression went from excited smile to utter confusion when a man opened.
Not the same one he had seen before. Much older.
“Yeah?” that man barked at him, TV blaring in the background.
“I am Katie’s … friend.” Everett said.
“So?” the man barked, now visibly annoyed.
“Can I see her?” Rett remained polite.
“Dafuq you asking me about that?”
“Is she home?” Everett asked, annoyed now too.
“Do I look like Google?!”
“Screw this!” Rett had enough and tried to push past the man, but he was strong, and shoved Rett back into the hall without much effort.
“Whoa whoa whoa, kid!! If you are asking for a beating, you are almost there. What the hell is wrong with you?! Did you get separated from mommy or something?”
“I want to see Katie! Please.”
“You keep saying that like it’s supposed to mean anything, I don’t have your Katie.”
“She lives here!”
“Kid, I live in this dump because my woman divorced me. Not making that mistake again. I ain’t lettin’ no skirt move in here. Dump or not, at least it’s all mine and I have my peace. No nagging. Except by them rats.”
“Hey, watch it pal! It’s not the Ritz Carlton, but not a dump! We don’t have rats!” another man interrupted from the hallway, Apparently he was working on some pipes. Everett had not even noticed him when he stormed in.
“Do you know where Katie is?” he went over to him now.
“Last name Wilson? I don’t know where she is, but she moved out about a week ago. Sweet gal. Probably for the better she left. Not a good place for a pretty young girl living on her own.”
“That’s what I said…” the other man protested.
“You’re neither pretty nor young nor a girl, man. Nobody wants anything from you, not even after an entire keg of beer!” the janitor called over to the man who now lived in Katie’s apartment.
“Screw you!” the dude slammed the door shut and turned up the TV even louder.
“Do you have her new address?” Everett asked the janitor.
The man just laughed, shaking his head.
Confused Everett went back to his car.
“Where you looking for me?” he heard a female voice behind him, smiling he turned, but his smile faded instantly making way for utter disappointment.
He had not even processed the different voice, just hoped it would be Katie.
“No! You are not the only person living in San Myshuno, for Christ’s sake!” he barked at her, got in his car and drove off, catching a glimpse of her crying.
Dammit. That was uncalled for.
Now he’d have to contact her again to apologize. Eventually.
And where the hell was Katie?!
He drove around aimlessly until he couldn’t take it anymore and dialed her number.
Once she answered, he didn’t even bother with niceties.
“Where the hell are you?” he asked right away.
“I went by your apartment and there was just some butch dude…”
She laughed heartily.
“Yeah, really funny. So where are you?”
“Where are YOU? Are you driving?”
“You know you are not supposed to be on the phone…”
“Katie, I am not in the mood for a lecture. My car has hands-free calling. Where are you?”
“You’re at my place?!”
“No. But I live here now too. I’ll text you the address. And before you freak out, I do not live alone. I’ll explain when you get here. Drive safe.”
They ended the call, immediately afterwards he got her text. The GPS showed that it was about 20 minutes away from his home. And what did she mean that she did not live alone?
When he parked the car in front of the home he kept repeating in his head
‘Please be a girl, please be female…’
As he got out, the front door opened and Katie appeared. He wanted to hug her, but decided against it.
“Come on in.” she smiled.
Everett did, Katie offered a beverage and as she left, a man appeared. Dammit!
“Hey.” that man smiled. Tall, blonde. Probably athletic.
Wasn’t that her type?
“Hi.” Everett pressed from between tight lips.
“Matthew Clark.” the man offered his hand, grinning.
“Everett … Cameron.” Rett replied, shaking the offered hand. Why the full name? Weirdo. As if he cared.
“So, how do you know our Katie?” the man asked.
“Work.” Everett said.
“I’ve known Katie for a long time. VERY long time.”
Wait, what? Rett thought.
Katie came back with beverages for everyone, handing them out.
“Oh, you two already met. Cool. Let’s sit.” Katie chirped.
Sipping on his soda, Rett glared at that Matthew dude. He was way too old for her, at least 25 years older. Not really that good looking either. Did she just move in with any man who would let her? If so, why had she not stayed with him instead? He asked first.
“So why were you looking for me?”
“When you called you said you were looking for me.”
“I … ” Rett eyed the man, who was following the conversation “…I just had some questions about … next week’s meeting ….” Everett lied.
“The investor’s meeting? Oh, I have questions too!”
“Investors?” Everett repeated. Oh no, that too! He remembered now. That meeting would be a bear. Yikes. Last thing he needed was more to worry about.
“Yeah, that.” he lied.
The other man still sat there, watching Everett squirm.
“You know what, we’ll just talk on Monday. Bye. Was … nice … meeting you.” he aimed the latter part at the blonde man, still smirking on the couch.
Everett nearly ran to his car, when Katie finally caught up with him.
“Hey, why are you rushing out like a murderer fleeing the scene of a crime?!”
“I am …. busy. I have to get home and … do things.” he told her, jumped in and drove off, leaving her standing there.
Why was everything so complicated with her?
She seemed so easy going but every time he tried to talk to her outside work ended up in a disaster.
He arrived home, after sitting in the car for several minutes, he went into the house, shut the front door behind himself and leaned up against it, when someone knocked.
He turned around and saw Katie through the glass. She looked upset.
He opened and braced himself for being slapped again, eyes closed. Almost every time Maddie had been mad at him, she ended up slapping him at some point.
When nothing happened he carefully opened his eyes again and saw a confused expression on Katie’s face
“What the hell are you doing?” she asked.
“I thought you were going to slap me.” he answered.
She burst into laughter, infectious laughter, so he chimed in.
“You are the weirdest dude – ever!” she finally said when she calmed down.
“Well, you are not exactly what I call cookie cutter either. So why are you mad at me now?” he asked.
“What was that earlier?”
“Are you kidding me? You move, and don’t bother telling me – if only out of courtesy – and then invite me to your new home, where you live with some man. Fair warning would have been nice.”
“I did tell you that I would not stay at that apartment, when we had our little – whatever you want to call that – at your office on Monday. Affordable housing goes like hot cakes, so I had not even finished thinking of leaving and there was a line for that place. So, congrats, you are off the hook for the co-sign. Secondly, that ‘man’ is my uncle. And I told you on the phone that I did not live alone.”
“Uncle? Come on now. Thought all your family is dead. How stupid do you think I am?”
“If you are asking right this second, pretty damn stupid! They are dead, except my uncle Matt. Obviously. Although he works in construction and sometimes when he comes home, I am not so sure if he’s not decomposing….” she joked.
“You don’t even have the same last name! Did you get married in college or something?”
“He’s my uncle on the maternal side, you idiot! My mom’s maiden name was Clark! That’s why he told you. He was messing with you. He thought you were my boyfriend or something. That’s his stupid sense of humor. He told me, that’s why I am here. After you called I just told him that you were coming over, but thought if I said you were my boss, he’d have a seizure. So I didn’t tell him anything and he just assumed.”
“Looked pretty young to be your uncle …”
“Want me to ask him what moisturizer he uses?”
“He really is your uncle? As in blood related?”
“Yes. As in my mother’s younger and only brother, black sheep of the family, but nice guy at heart.”
“OK. And I am kind of glad you gave up that apartment. Not a very safe area ..”
She laughed again.
“You realize I have lived in my car before that, right?”
“You realize you lived here before that, right? Why don’t you move back in? I have that guest room. It worked out well before.”
“Did you fire me?”
“Then no. Not moving in with my boss.”
“So if I fired you, you’d move in with me?”
“No, because you would be the asshole who fired me for no reason.” she grinned.
“Gawd, you are complicated.” he smiled.
“That would be the pot calling the kettle black.”
“Does the kettle want something to drink?”
“The kettle would kiss the pot for a good, strong coffee. My dumb ass uncle does not have a coffeemaker and uses that instant junk. Oh, it’s bad.”
“You would really kiss me for a hot beverage?”
“No, cos you are still my boss. Just a figure of speech.”
They both laughed.
That night he was laying in bed, staring up against the ceiling. He had convinced Katie to stay over. She was in the guest bedroom. Just a wall away. So close, yet so far out of reach.
A light knock on the door. He stopped breathing, wondering if he had only imagined it.
“Yeah?” his voice more a loud whisper, just in case he had not just dreamed it.
When the door opened, his heart began to race, as he sat up.
“I didn’t wake you, did I?” Katie stuck her head in.
He shook his head, then realize she probably could not see that, even though the full moon and the outside lighting did make it light enough in here that you would not run into things.
“No.” he said in an unfamiliar raspy voice.
“May I come in?”
She shut the door behind her, for whatever reason and came over to the bed. In a bout of unfamiliar bravery, he folded up the covers, blushing, which she would not be able to see anyway, bracing himself for rejection. But she just slipped in next to him. Not close enough to touch, but in the same bed. His heart was pounding so hard now, he thought she would be able to hear.
“Are you going to lay back down? Or do you plan on spending the rest of the night sitting?” she whispered, giggling.
He laid back, slightly turned towards her. What was an appropriate thing to say in this situation?
“Why are we whispering?” she whispered.
“Anyway, you still have not told me, why you came to see me today.” she said in a normal speaking voice now.
What could he tell her? Be honest and tell her he wanted to ask her out? But she had since rejected him twice – at least – on grounds of him being her superior. Then he had an idea.
“My family is having dinner together tomorrow .. well .. today I guess. I thought maybe you would want to go.”
She giggled quietly.
“I have no place at your family events…”
He did not know what to say to that.
“If you think it would not be weird, I’ll go.” she now said.
“Not weird. You’ll like them. They are loud and crazy and many, but good people. You know my grandparents, my parents are awesome too. My siblings are annoying, but I love them.” he told her.
“Your grandpa is so cute!” she giggled. Rett felt a jealous pang. What about him?
“Well, you’d probably think my dad is even cuter then. He’s Liam Cameron. THE Liam Cameron.”
“I kinda figured that. The last name, and you look like him. You look like your grandpa, too. A younger version, of course. Guess cute runs in the family.” she giggled again.
His heart raced. Finally. So she did think he was cute. At least something.
“Do you think this is inappropriate?” she gestured at them and the bed.
“No.” he replied quickly.
“So you think the assistant in bed with her boss is appropriate?” she chuckled.
“At least we are satisfying the old cliche. We just aim to please.”
Everett wished he were his grandfather now. Blaine would probably have just thrown himself atop her already, kissing her, and with his charisma and sense of humor, nobody ever took such things too seriously with him. He got away with so much, still.
But he wasn’t.
If he were to do that now, she’d likely beat him with a lamp and quit her job .. and hate him for life. He was more like his dad. He’d have to ask him how he approached his mother. Maybe that was something he could use. Too bad he could not ask him right now. The image of him laying in bed next to Katie texting his father about dating tips – or even better, his dad in there too, coaching, inadvertently made him chuckle. He heard Katie’s heard turn towards him on the pillow, and she already asked
“What’s so funny?”
“It’s nothing, just a funny moment. Makes no sense out of context.”
He heard her move and suddenly she was very close, then her arms to his sides, her propped up above him.
This close, and in his bed … he would have told her his PIN number and passwords to everything if she asked for it.
“Just wished my dad was here to tell me how to ask you out.” WOW! Did he really just say that?
She laughed her hearty laugh.
“You are unbelievable!” At least she did not pull away, or run away. She seemed amused. Maybe this wasn’t too bad?
She stopped laughing now.
“Actually, you are an idiot.”
“Why do you need daddy to help you? How old are you?”
“I just don’t want to mess this up. And you keep rejecting me …”
“Rejecting you?! DUDE! Open your eyes! I came into your room, at night, wearing nothing but YOUR t-shirt, I am almost laying on top of you. How many more goddamn hints do you need?!”
“Grandpa, can we go and have some grandpa-grandson time?”
“Tada, we are.”
“No, I mean go somewhere and talk. Just us.”
“Tada, we ARE.”
“Grandpa, can we go fishing or something?”
“Fishing? Why the heck would I wanna do that? I do not know the first thing about fishing.”
“How hard can it be, we just sit at some body of water, hold some rods and wait. And talk.”
“Well, we are at a beach, so we got water, we are talking, may have to improvise with the rods, but I have suggestions…”
“I just want to be alone with you. No interruptions.”
“Shall I be worried?”
“Grandpa, please, I just do not want grandma to suddenly walk in.”
“Ok, I AM worried now.”
“It’s about … sex.”
“Fine, kid, come on, let’s go for a ride. On the bike, just in case my worries weren’t unfounded.”
They passed Everett’s grandmother on their way out, where Blaine told her the plan. She looked at Rett, bright red and flustered, then addressed Blaine
“Were you teasing poor Rett again?”
“Yes Ma’am, to the best of my abilities.”
“Blaine, please stop. Be nice. He’s not like you.”
“I am nice. He keeps coming back, so how bad can I be?”
Shaking her head, smiling, she kissed both men, although her husband a little differently than her grandson.
Blaine drove Everett out to Windenburg. Parked the bike, then took him up a long windy road. Houses became more and more sparse, eventually it was mostly fields and meadows.
“This, kid, is remote. Nobody can sneak up on you, the three people a day who come here you can see coming when they are a mile away. No fishing, but has good karma.”
“The very first time I walked this road was with your grandma. She was 6, I was 7 and a hapless idiot without a future. Guess you could say my life changed that day on this road. Let’s see if it gives you good karma too. Plus, not exactly crowded, as you can tell. So, let’s have that sex talk you wanted. I would have thought Liam would have had that with you years ago, hope the other three are not gonna line up for it next …”
“Grandpa, why do you always joke about everything?”
“Cos that’s what life is. One big joke. Sometimes you have to wait forever for the point though, and often, you are the butt of it. But all you can do is laugh as much as you can muster, makes it easier to deal with. The tougher it is, the more you need to laugh or you get run over.”
“Wow, you just answered one question I have been pondering for a long time. I know someone else who had been dealt some bad cards, but still laughs so much. Makes sense.”
“So what kinda sex talk are you looking for?”
“I don’t know how to ask this, but I want to know your secret. How can you and grandma always be together and still be like .. newlyweds? What is it that you do? To keep her close?”
“Oh, kid. That has nothing to do with sex. That is something very different. Why are you asking?”
“Katie. She … stayed over last night. I mean, differently than before. Like … in my room.”
“I get it kid, no need to draw me a picture. But what’s the problem? Did your equipment not work as advertised or what?”
“No, all went well…”
“Did she complain?”
“Oh, no. We went for seconds in the morning …”
“Then what the hell is your problem?”
“I think I am in love, grandpa. She may be the one.”
“Do you want me to braid your hair now? I knew that, I have told you that right away. So why is this a headliner?”
“She wants to keep us a secret. Because of work and …”
“Sounds reasonable. None of your employees’ business anyway.”
“Not just from them. From everybody. I invited her to the dinner tonight, she said she’d come. I am picking her up later. But she wants me to hide it from you guys, mom and dad, Natty … everyone. I don’t want to have to lie, and especially not about something I want to scream from the rooftops. But if I said no, or just told you all, I’m afraid she’d break up with me. And quit her job. And if I don’t she may still get tired of me. I am not as … interesting as you are. Or dad. I mean, he was a big movie star. I am just an architect. I am usually quiet, I don’t have any outrageous hobbies or amazing talents…”
“Look, kiddo. I do not know your Katie well, barely at all, but if this is what you think it is, she ain’t gonna leave you. Yell at you, maybe, hit you, probably. Your grandma does that all the time. But if she is the one, she ain’t going nowhere. Your grandma still puts up with my ass, and your mother with your dad. I’ve known your dad much longer than you have, Rett, and let me tell ya, there were times were he tested me to the outer limits. That wasn’t pretty. And he and your mom have been through very rough seas, too. So your mother is either a Saint or the right girl. Likely both. But the right girl won’t just leave.”
“We just started. It’s still so new…”
“Then don’t tell. Smile and nod and do whatever it is that you and the rest of the brood does. Not like you told your parents every detail of your life before, so just leave that bit out. And before you swear me to secrecy, your grandmother has some sort of radar for such things. She may already know, but like me, she won’t tell anyone. I have to ask though …. why do you keep coming to me with that stuff? I thought you and your dad are so tight. Something happen?”
“Oh no, and we are. It’s just … I cannot get a minute alone with him. Someone always walks in and he is even harder to pry away from mom than you are from grandma. And you have always been so easy to talk to. I like your advise. Always have.”
“Hmm. So what’s wrong with your mom and grandma?”
“Nothing, except they are female. I am sorry , grandpa, but I just cannot talk to them about THAT. But I so want to tell Natty that Katie and I are a thing now. Like you, she called it right away, you know with Katie and me. Just so that brat can get that ‘told you so’ spiel over with. I miss her a lot.”
“She misses her big bro too. Was over the other day with that boy, Rhys. Nice kid.”
“I have only met him briefly a few times.”
“She’ll be dragging him to the dinner. You probably won’t see much of him though. They are constantly making out, it’s sickening.”