"What?" I finally asked her.
"You're glowing," she said, narrowing her eyes. "Are you pregnant?"
"What? No! Mary!" I couldn't believe she would suggest it. I hadn't had sex in months. If my luck held, that wouldn't be true for much longer, but still.
"Okay, okay. Don't get your panties in a bunch." She looked me up and down. "Assuming you're wearing any."
Now she was just being Mary. I pursed my lips and tried to ignore it.
"Who is he?" she asked with a sigh.
"You mean you don't know?" I asked, arching a brow.
"I do. I want you to say it."
I huffed. Were we so obvious? "Does everyone know?"
"No, but I'm not just anyone." She rolled her blue eyes at me, shaking her blonde locks. "Come on, Beth. Out with it. What's going on with you two?"
"We're... seeing each other." What could I tell her? We weren't 'going steady' or any other inane thing like that. We'd gone for dinner twice and he'd fished with me. Oh, and we'd made out hot enough that I needed new underwear. What did that count for?
"Seeing each other," she repeated. "Well, that's a start. How'd the donation go?"
My grin broadened. "I gave you two."
She rolled her eyes. "You can't give twice, Beth."
"I didn't. I brought a second."
Her lips turned up in a grin as well. "Peter?" she asked, a twinkle in her eye.
I nodded vigorously. "And then he took me for a burger. How awesome is that?" I asked excitedly.
"Pretty perfect," she agreed with a smile. "I should have let you handle the drive yourself. You were on the rampage."
"I hate losing," I muttered, slouching and crossing my arms.
Mary chuckled, eyes on the road. "Well, I don't see that being a problem."
|We Heart It|
Mary chuckled. "I have a lunch. Maybe Peter will take you," she practically sang.
I stuck my tongue out at her. Soon enough, we'd be out of the car and I'd have to be professional, but for now, we were just friends.
"Think we'll make it to second base soon?" I asked, clamping a hand over my mouth when the words had already escaped. Mary laughed loud as she turned off the ignition. "Oh, baby, it'll be a home run with him. If not, I'll have the reason why." Her eyes lit up now; she meant it.
I smiled, glad Mary was on my side. I would probably need it when the rest of the office found out. Blowing out a sigh, I climbed out of the car.
My mind wasn't on the numbers all morning. I tried to do some writing, some filing, anything but data manipulation. It was only eleven, but I was useless. I threw in the towel, poking my head in Gary's open door, after finding Peter's closed and hearing his voice on the other side.
"I'm taking early lunch. Be back in an hour."
He looked up from the report he was reading. "What do I care?"
I shook my head in disbelief. I didn't understand how Gary got to be in high level position, let alone how he managed to stay there. His laid back attitude, although refreshing when you'd been staring at a screen for hours, didn't seem conducive to a business work ethic. Obviously, he was doing something right, though; the boss's kept him around. I walked the few blocks to the park, deciding on a sandwich at one of the bistros over Thai. I sat on a bench looking at the odd sculpture on this edge of the large pool. The water ran almost an entire block from city hall, giving the appearance of a lake in the middle of the downtown core. It was a great place to take a break.
|We Heart It|
intended to be inspirational for those of us "climbing the corporation," but instead it made me think of the scaffolding at the lake and Jamie. I smiled, wiping the corners of my mouth and balling my napkin in my fist.
I turned, practically colliding with Peter. He was staring at the statue. I looked between the two a couple of times, expecting him to come out of it and talk to me, but he seemed lost.
"What do you see?" I asked him.
"Sarah," he whispered. Then he shook himself visibly. "I heard you had gone out for lunch and thought I'd try my luck." I didn't know anyone named Sarah. I wondered who she was. Someone from his childhood? The way I'd just been thinking of Jamie.
"Well you got lucky," I said, not sure how to reply. "Did you need to get lunch?" I had noticed he held nothing, no sandwich, no bag.
"No, I... I left it in the office," he said looking down at his feet.
I couldn't quite understand. "You came to meet me for lunch, but didn't bring your lunch?" I giggled a little at the end. He turned a little pink.
"Gary just told me you'd left. He didn't say how long ago. I..."
Still chuckling, I put my fingers to his lips, stopping him. "It's all right. You don't have to explain. I'm glad you did," I added after a slight pause, a little less glib.
"Did what?" he asked.
I couldn't help laughing again. "Came to find me." I grabbed his hand, lacing my free fingers through his. "Walk with me?"
A large smile spread across his face. "I'd love to. Around the lake?" he offered.
"Perfect," I said dumping my garbage in a nearby can. "And you can tell me about Sarah." I smiled at him, knowing my dimples were showing. It was a trap, but I didn't want it to feel like one. I was really curious about him. He knew I didn't have any siblings, but I didn't know if he had any. I didn't know if he grew up here or moved after college. I didn't know much before two years ago when I met him. I was understandably curious. Especially if this were to be something more than a fling, and I dearly hoped it would be. I'd done the casual dating scene and it didn't suit me.
"Not today?" he pleaded.
I set my mouth in a line, but nodded before walking away.
He sighed. "Ask me something else? Anything else?"
I turned to face him, crossing my arms beneath my breasts, appraising.
He blanched a little then flushed. He reached out and grabbed my wrists, pulling my hands to him.
"Please, Beth. I will tell you, I promise, just... please, not now."
I knew the disappointment was still on my face. "Tell me about your grandma, the one that gives you cookies." I still wasn't smiling.
"I will tell you, this weekend?" he offered. "All about Sarah, okay?"
"Thank you." He leaned forward and kissed me, still holding my wrists tightly. He stepped back and I felt my lips curl up. It was so nice to be touched by him, kissed by him, if only I were trusted by him a little more.
"Grandma Netty is my Dad's Mom. She lives in Florida with her sister Flo. They moved there when I was still in school." He turned us and started walking again.
"And you visit her every Christmas? Are your parents in Florida too?"
"My parents are dead," he said flatly.
I stopped, staring at him. "I'm sorry... I didn't... Oh God, Peter-"
"Stop, Beth," he said with a tiny smile. "They passed a few years ago. It's really okay."
I took several short quick breaths before coming to believe him. "So... that's their house," I said, making the connection aloud.
He chuckled. "Yeah. I couldn't afford that place myself. They'd almost paid it off though. I should clear the last of the mortgage next year."
I nodded, smiling. When his face reflected it to me, I wrapped my arms around his neck.
"For what?" he asked with a chuckle.
"For trusting me. For letting me in."
He squeezed me tighter and I felt my breath leave in a whoosh.
"I want nothing more than to let you in, Beth. Please, please come in."
Whoa. That... might have frightened me if I hadn't just thought that I wanted more than casual. I kissed his cheek, settling back on my heels and sniffing. Was I tearing up? I touched the corners of my eyes, surprised to see that I was.
"Beth?" Peter asked, searching my face.
"I'm fine. Just... a little overwhelmed, I guess."
"Shit, I knew I shouldn't... I wasn't supposed to fuck this up, it was supposed to be perfect." He started to stalk away from me.
My eyes narrowed. "Peter Strauss."
He stopped dead, peeking over his shoulder at me.
"Here. Now." I pointed at the ground in front of me. This had to be straightened out. I wasn't about to let him go thinking anything about this afternoon, with the possible exception of not telling me about Sarah, was a mistake.
His mouth opened, working on air. He closed his eyes a moment before obeying me.
"I may have been overwhelmed, but only because it's more than I thought I could expect. Not more than I wanted. If you ever walk away from me like that again, I won't stop you," I threatened. An empty threat, a bluff, I wasn't about to let him go now.
He gasped a little. He took my hand again. I didn't realize both were on my hips. I dropped the other as well.
|We Heart It|
I blushed, not knowing what to make of his gesture.
"Well, then we should probably get back," I told him, still flustered.
"Of course." He wrapped my hand around his arm, leading us back to the office.