5-25) What Does Not Kill You …

Music was blaring, Ethan could barely hear himself think. He was only 25, but felt ancient now, he had not been at a club in years.

Right now, he could not figure out what used to be so enticing about this. The strobe lights were just annoying to him at this moment.

His cousin Cole had decided they were going out today, felt it was unhealthy for Ethan to always work or sit at his or family’s homes or playgrounds with toddlers.

Cole was currently dancing with Ava, both looked like they were having a blast.

Cole’s parents had volunteered to watch both toddlers, Cole and Ava’s boy Colin and Ethan’s son Blake, keeping both overnight.
Ethan missed Blake and wished he were home watching TV after putting his son to bed with their little nighttime routine.

“Hey!” some woman purred into his ear, engulfed in a cloud of expensive perfume.

“Hey.” Ethan replied, uncertain how to react but not too happy about this burst into his private space by a perfect stranger.
“Buy me a drink?!” her question was more of a request.
“Ok.” Ethan didn’t feel like arguing.
The woman signaled to the barkeeper, making Ethan wonder if she was a professional.
“I am Kylee.” she offered.

“Ethan.” he replied.
“So, what do you do for a living, Ethan?”
“I .. work.”
“Oh – you are funny. So are you like rich? You look like you are. I don’t like unemployed hustlers.”

Ethan’s face must have mirrored his disgust with her forward ways.
“What?!” she asked defensively when Ethan felt a hand touch his arm briefly, then another woman pass by saying to him
“Oh hi, honey, there you are.”

“Excuse me?” now Ethan was utterly confused.
“Sorry, lady, this one is mine.” the newly arrived woman sat down on the barstool next to Ethan.

“Enjoy him while it lasts…” the other one took her drink and left.
“Do I know you?” Ethan didn’t understand a word.
“Relax, just thought you might need a little help getting rid of the gold digger. She is here all the time and has a rep for being like a bulldog. Once she latched onto you, it is hard to shake her without huge drama.”
“Okay, thanks .. I guess. Do you want a drink now too?”

“I buy my own drinks, thanks.” she smiled, it looked genuine.
“I am Ethan.”
“I know.”
“How?”
“I guess technically you would be my boss. That’s why I came to help you.”
“Boss?”
“Yeah, I don’t expect you to know me, but I know you. Also pretty obvious you don’t get out much. I am Blythe.”
“Oh, of course, right … Blythe …” Ethan lied. He had no idea who she was.
“Nice try. Don’t worry about it. I’ll see you around. Oh, and stay away from those women. Nice guys don’t need to get wrapped up in that.”

She got up and left. Ethan followed, as soon as he exited the club, the sudden silence felt deafening and it took him a moment to get his bearings about him.
“Blythe, wait, please…”
Ethan went after her, for reasons he wasn’t clear about. All he did know was he didn’t want her to go just yet.

She looked at him, a question in her eyes, but she said nothing, so Ethan said the first thing that came to mind.
“Where does your car live? No, I mean, do I live close? Wait what? I meant to ask, do you live near your car? ” Ethan’s stuttered senseless babble only seemed to be getting worse, so he stopped. This was going terrible.
“I am not exactly sure what you are asking, so I am going to guess and go with: no, I don’t live near here. Why?” she looked surprised by his odd questions.
Ethan was nervous and distracted.
Why was this so complicated? But her eyes were beautiful. How could such a cute girl work at EC Architects and he had never seen her? Man, her lips were full, probably felt amazing to kiss them. And she smelled great. Like a … girl. Huh?!

“Hello?” she frowned, evidently expecting some sort or reaction by him..
“What?” Ethan was confused by the vortex of thoughts and the questioning look she now gave him.
“Are we still talking or is this your way of telling me you were done?” Blythe’s forehead was wrinkled.
“I am not done.”
“OK. So what do you want then?”

“I wanted to ask if you want to ride me. Not me, you. No, I meant, I want to ride you. Not you, with you. Home. If that’s where you were going. Well, to your version of my home. I mean, my cousin and his wife are having fun and I want to go home and you look like you want to, too, but maybe we can talk together instead. What? Dammit that makes no sense! No, that is not what I wanted to say at all … ” Ethan was horrified, her eyes grew wide with surprise, but then she burst into laughter seeing him blush and struggle with his words.
A very pleasant laughter, still Ethan wanted to sink into a hole in the ground.
“Oh my God, what was that? Are you drunk or on the spectrum?” she giggled.

“No … I …. ” he had no clue what to say.
“Were you asking me to give you a lift?”
“YES! That’s it! But, I’ll just have my cousin do me. I mean take me. Home. With him. I mean, not with him. To my place. I am so sorry … I don’t know what is wrong with me tonight.” Ethan blushed deep.
“No expert, but sounds to me like you need to get laid.” she went into another bout of laughter, Ethan blushed even deeper, turned to go back inside.
Dammit.
And she worked where he worked. Major embarrassment with potential for more.
Crap!

“Hey, wait. I am sorry. I didn’t mean to laugh at you. But it is pretty funny…”
“Yeah, hilarious.” Ethan was not amused in the least.

“Are you mad now? Don’t be mad. I’ll stop laughing. And I’ll even take you home with me. I mean, I’ll take you at your home. TO your home! Where I will leave you. Man, that is contagious!” she blushed after her stuttered effort of a conversation.
Suddenly both burst into laughter that did not seem to want to end.
When they finally calmed down, she offered her hand to him.
“Can we start over? Hi, I am Blythe. I love long walks on the beach and making a fool of myself.”

“Nice to meet you Blythe, I am Ethan, and I think I will need my foot surgically removed from my mouth. I also feel horrible, cos I have never seen you before at work.”
“Ooooh, straight into blunt honesty! No worries, I would be shocked if you had. They keep me tucked away in the basement. I work in the archive. They keep us chained to the desks all the time.”
“Not even let you out to eat or pee?”
“No, which is why some older documents have jagged edges. And if you ever go down there, I would avoid the dark corners.”

“Thank you for that hint. Since you helped me, I will put in a request for longer chains, reaching to the bathrooms on Monday.”
“Wow, I feel so special … I really do not know what to say, but I would like to thank my parents, my second grade teacher …” she acted like she was holding an acceptance speech until they laughed again.

“Wow, I have not laughed this much in years.” Ethan said truthfully.
“Maybe we need to get you a longer chain too?”
“No chain, just somewhere along the way I have become socially inept with a dash of anti-social, I guess.”
“Oh, so like serial killer material?” Blythe grinned.
“Only the cereal you pour from a box.”

“All right Ethan, I am parked about 5 blocks that way. Will be a hike, but I will drive you home.”

The car ride seemed to fly by too fast and was filled with lighthearted talk and laughter. Half way home already Ethan was trying to think of non-sexual sounding ways to ask her to come inside for a while.
When she pulled up to the house, he still had nothing that didn’t have potential to sound odd.

“Umm, Ethan? I live all the way out in Willow Creek … would it be rude if I asked to use your bathroom real quick?”
“No, not at all!” he said with just a tad too much enthusiasm, hoping she missed it.

Standing in the hallway after she disappeared in the guest bathroom he felt odd.

This was the first time ever a woman he was not related to set foot in this home.

Maybe any other man would know how to gallantly offer a coffee or water or heck knows what, but all Ethan could do was stand there, failing to think of anything gallant or charming – or anything beyond the basics – to make her stay longer without it coming across as something X-rated. Again.

When she exited the restroom she smiled at him, then left after the standard ‘goodbye, good night, nice-meeting-you’ platitudes.
From the dark kitchen window he watched her drive away and felt really lonely and abandoned.

A beep and buzz by his phone startled him. Maybe it was her!

He pulled out his phone and it was Cole. Text message.

“Shit!” Ethan said, typing his response. He never told Cole and Ava he was leaving and they had been looking for him. Oops.

“And how the hell is she supposed to have your number if you never gave it to her, you dumbass. THAT would have been the right thing to do. Or ask for hers. Gawd, I am incompetent!” Ethan scolded himself.

***


Monday morning, Ethan was sitting in his office at work, pondering the events from the past weekend. It was now 11:30 AM and Ethan just sat back down from his 7th time at the door to leave his office, to go down to the archive, but just as before, his courage left him as soon as he had that door handle in his hand.

What was he supposed to do or say once down there?
Managers didn’t just stroll into the archive room, that was what they had assistants for, who knew what they were doing down there.

The truth would be blatantly obvious were he to just go there now. Last thing he needed was more humiliation. But knowing she was in the same building was burning holes in his brain, making concentrating on anything else impossible.

He got up again and went to his assistant’s desk, only to find it empty. Right, she was at lunch! She had told him she would be at lunch. Perfect! He was running down the stairs seconds after his discovery. Elevators took too long. Stairs gave him just enough time to think up some excuse before he got downstairs.

He burst into the file room/archives in the basement and headed to the desk where an old man was looking at him.

“Can I help you?” the old man asked without much emotion.

“Yes. Hi. My assistant is at lunch. Will be a while till she is back!” Ethan told the old man.

“My condolences.” was the snarky response.

“Well, I came down myself because I am urgently looking for the Brindleton Bay project from 10 years ago. Need it for a reference and my assistant is at lunch …where she will be for a while. An undetermined amount of time.” Ethan over-explained nervously.

“Yes, you said that already. Must be quite the event for your assistant. To calm your nerves, lunches usually last one hour in this company. Anyway, Blythe, san you come help Mr. Cameron Junior with the old Bay project files?” he yelled the last part into the abyss of the archive.
Blythe came into view and started smiling.

“Of course! If you would follow me, Sir…” she said politely, as Ethan stepped towards her.
“You don’t have to call me Sir…” Ethan whispered, when she gestured to follow her.

“I didn’t want to embarrass you …” she whispered back as they arrived at a location behind high filing cabinets, hidden from view of the other people rummaging around the file room.
“Why would I be embarrassed?!”

“The big guys upstairs don’t usually fraternize with us bottom feeders…”
“That is bullshit! My grandpa would never stand for such a stupid hierarchy, nor would my mother or I!”
“Well, your grandpa, and none of you, can change this. It’s office life. Same everywhere… and what did you need again?”

“Nothing, I came here to see you.” WHAT?! How the hell could that slip out!? Ethan was horrified at his own honesty.
“Oh. Wow, you are one honest man. So what did you want to see me about then?” she whispered.
“Can we eat?” Ethan whispered.

“I can’t speak for you, but last time I tried, it still worked.” she chuckled.
“Crap, here I go again. I meant do you want to go out with me? Uh – to lunch. Or dinner.”
“I don’t know .. I mean, I would like to have lunch or dinner with you, but don’t want to get fired. I am not exactly here because getting paper cuts is my calling….”

“Of course it’s allowed. You are not our slave or something.” Ethan whispered.
“What about your wife?”

“My … wife?”
“Yeah, aren’t you married and have a kid?”
“Oh .. I … was … married. Not anymore. She left me. We’re divorced.”

“Oh, shoot. Sorry. I was wondering why my mouth felt so empty. The foot was missing. Glad to see its back.”
“It’s okay, not like we put that into the company newsletter. So, how about dinner after work?”
“I am not exactly dressed for dinner after work.”

“I wasn’t suggesting dinner at the Ritz-Carlton. You look fine.”
“Even if you took me to McDonald’s, I’d prefer to be less dusty and filthy. I had to change four toner cartridges and look like I rubbed the inside walls of a chimney with bare hands all day.”

“Fine, I can pick you up at your home, but would need your address. And phone number. The phone number – just in case.” Ethan wondered when he had become such a dork. All work and no play … did that to a person, evidently.

“No shit, Sherlock. You shall have all my numbers and addresses, chill.” she giggled.

When Ethan got back to his desk he couldn’t stop smiling.

Yeah, awkward again, but he was looking forward to the dinner tonight. Just had to call his dad and tell him he had to work late.

***


Once seated, their order placed, he asked.
“So, what do you do when you are not getting paper cuts in the catacombs of EC Architects?”
“What a cliche question…”
“Why? Normal thing to ask.”
“How old are you, Ethan?”

“25, why?”
“You look about 18, but you sound like 80. Just wondering.”
“How old are you?”
“Really?! Asking a lady her age now?”
“Fine, you pick a topic then.”
“OK, let’s see. Favorite color?”
“Seriously? And you busted my stuff for asking cliche questions?”

“Are you going to answer?”
“Fine, blue I guess.”
“So the standard man color.”
“Why are you asking?”
“Wondering why the walls all over EC Architects are still puke green then.”
“They are not puke-green, but moss-green and green is kinda like the Cameron signature color. Because of the eye color. Green.”

“Your eyes aren’t green.”
“Guess I am the odd ball out. My grandpa’s, mom’s and sister’s are. I take after my dad.”
“Lucky you, boobs would really look odd on you.”
“What’s your favorite color?”
“Black, like my soul.”
“That’s what my sister used to say. For a while she used to only wear black. I guess that changed after she met Nick. Another one of those odd relationships.”
“Speaking of, why did you get divorced, if you don’t mind me asking? Did you cheat on your wife?”

“What? No! We … drifted apart, I suppose. Why are you asking that now?”
“Sorry, didn’t mean to step on your toes. Just want to know who I am dealing with here.”
“Dealing with? We’re just having a harmless dinner.”
“Yeah, I know. But a jealous person would not see it that way. Trust me, I would know.”
“Personal experience?”
“Yup.”
“Are you the jealous one, or did you have a jealous boyfriend?”
“The latter.”

“Did he …. hurt you?”
“No. At least not physically, if that is what you meant. But what hurt more was finding out that he was so very jealous, cos he assumed everybody was like him. A cheater.”
“Oh man, that sucks.”
“You have no idea. Nothing like constantly having to justify everything you do to the man you love, who talks about having a family, marriage, the white picket fence home, only to find out there is another woman.”
“The famous side chick.”
“I wish. No, the wife. I was the side-chick, just didn’t know it. Nothing to demolish every last ounce of self-respect and confidence than that. I cannot recommend it.”
“Oh shit! I am so sorry.”
“What does not kill you, makes you stronger, right?”

“If that’s true, I must be some strong dude by now. While my marriage was falling apart, my sister ended up in a coma for a couple years while her husband, my best friend, went missing. And I was raising two babies almost on my own while working full time.”
“Yikes. But I can trump that. I ended up homeless and pregnant after the breakup, and while he crawled back to his wife, I had to crawl back into the family fold to mommy and daddy. After I had been all high and mighty about moving in with the boyfriend against their wishes. But they are great.”

“Wait – you have a child, too?”
“No. I lost it. Add miscarriage to the list. How am I doing? Am I winning yet? If not, I can dig deeper in the ‘shitty life and drama’ treasure chest. I have more.”
“If you look up ‘drama’ in the dictionary, you’ll find the Cameron family tree. But I am very sorry to hear about your miscarriage. My sister has been through that. Really rough.”
“Yeah, it was, but still better than having that child with that loser as a dad. No thanks. You talk a lot about your sister. Assume you are close?”

“We are. We’re twins, I hear that’s pretty common.”
“I have a sister, she is great. We actually live together now. So I get it, even though we’re not twins.” she giggled.
“Maybe the four of us can get together sometime.”
“Umm, Ethan, kinda hard to explain why you’re hanging out with a subordinate.”

“Can you get over this boss thing. I am not your boss. At least not really.”
“All I know is you are higher in the work food chain than me and therefore us hanging out has a bit of a bitter aftertaste.”

The evening was pleasant but ended way too soon. He took her home, then drove to his parents to pick up Blake, while cursing himself again for not walking her to the door like a gentleman. Dammit!

***

The next time Ethan went out with Blythe he dropped her off at her home after dinner, like he had before.

This time he walked her to the door, she seemed a bit taken aback, probably afraid he was expecting to be invited in, but just smiled.

After she unlocked the door and turned to bid him farewell, Ethan took all his courage and leaned in for a kiss.

When their lips met, the sensation making his heart skip a beat, then pounding hard, seeing her beautiful eyes close, feeling the warmth radiating off her skin, smelling her soft, warm, floral and feminine scent.

For a few seconds he had heaven, until she turned her head away pushing him away.
“Ethan …”

He stood like frozen, looking horrified when he realized his advances were unwelcome.
“I am sorry.” she was visible uncomfortable too.

“But … I thought … I was sure you …. liked me too….” he stuttered, and even then he realized how immature he sounded.
“I do. I like you. But we just met. And also I like you but… not like …. that. You are a nice guy. But just not my type. Sorry.”

Ouch. A swift kick in the groin would have been less painful.
“Type? Is it my hair? The clothes? I can … change…”
“Ethan, please, don’t.”

“Please tell me.”
“I don’t know how to say it. I am not trying to be mean, but you are … you … look like a high school kid. Skinny and baby faced. I mean, you are cute and all. But I like men to look more …. mature. Just a different type …  sorry. You are great. But .. for someone else.”
“I can grow a beard!”
“Please stop. I am really sorry. Bye, Ethan… and thank you. I had a great time. Well, until … you know.” she smiled briefly, looked down and slipped inside.

IDIOT!’ it kept resounding in his head all the way home.

-tbc-

 

 

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2 thoughts on “5-25) What Does Not Kill You …

  1. Awww. Poor Ethan. Probably not good to date in the workplace. Blythe is gorgeous! At least she saved him from the gold digger. What a blow to his ego. I wonder if she really was afraid of getting fired at some point if it didn’t work out. Or if she really didn’t want to hang with him because he isn’t her type. Hmmm. So pretty too. But she did have some big time baggage.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think by your mid-twenties we all have some sort of baggage. She’ll be around more, so we will find out what her deal is, but clearly she likes him. If he is not her type, that’s just the way it is. Happens. But Ethan will be the focus for the next few chapters. Finally. Poor guy. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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