And the saga continues...
For this month, I'm doing installments to Kacey's (aka Pumpkin Spice Girl) story. If you're just now joining us, you can catch up on the story here.
I jump in my chair, my lip gloss nearly flying from my hand. I spin toward the door and hide a grimace. Janet hangs from my doorframe, her too-thin eyebrows arched. “Departmental wide meeting in five minutes. Did you not get the memo?”
I paste on a smile. “I did, thanks.” I turn back to my computer and hope she goes away without noticing the lip gloss in my hand. No way do I need Janet wondering who I’m getting dolled up for. She’s probably the one who snitches on people checking Facebook at work. Geez. I grab my coffee mug and head to the conference room.
“Kacey.” My co-worker Meg sidles up beside me, her own coffee in hand. “Any idea what this meeting is about?”
“Our big fat Christmas bonuses?”
As if there is such a thing. She smirks and leads us into the room. Others are gathering in the chairs on the far side. Dean leans against the table. He looks up when I enter, and I fight every instinct I have to smile. It’s like my heart gets electrocuted every time I see him. I haven’t changed because I’m dating Dean. But I feel different. Alive and vibrant, the way you do after a new hair cut (unless that hair cut involves heavy bangs as mine did in college, which left me in a stupor of sobs and regret for days on end).
Dean glances away from me. We’re so well practiced on hiding things. Even though that personnel manual he so carefully poured over doesn’t prevent us from dating, there’s no need to be the spotlight of office gossip.
The blue oxford shirt he has on today is plain but offset nicely by his dark eyes and checkered Vans. Gah, he’s so cute. The top button of his shirt is undone, exposing just a hint of his chest that I like to trace with my finger when we’re cuddled up watching a movie together. This past weekend when I did it, he’d eventually grabbed my hand and told me I couldn’t do that to him if I expected him to pay attention to the movie.
Which I didn’t.
No need to get hasty, Kacey. I still haven’t met his parents or heard him call me his girlfriend or anything. And it’s not like we spend all weekends tangled up in some teenage make out session on his couch. I can count the kisses we’ve shared on one hand. But, I can also count the number of kids we’ll have that I’ll be soccer mom to one day.
Heaven help me.
I glance at Dean. His eyes are on me again. I hide my smile behind my coffee mug as he glances away, a nervous expression on his face like he’s embarrassed I caught him staring.
Mr. Benning walks in, and Meg elbows me in the ribs. Must be something big if he’s doing the meeting. I settle back in my chair. Mr. Benning can drone on and on about nothing; superfluous in speech but not in making a point at all. Good thing I grabbed my coffee. This could last all morning.
“Well, folks, I’ve got some bad news.”
Everyone leans forward, and I can practically smell the word layoff rising up above everyone’s heads.
“We’re losing one of our best people to the good folks in Ohio.” He motions to someone up front, who stands.
Mr. Benning claps him on the shoulder. “Seems Dean here is wanted as the new Financial Director of a company in Columbus. He’ll be here the next two weeks getting things ready to transition.”
The air has somehow been sucked out of the room.
“Until we have a new hire, Janet will be managing Dean’s roles.”
Janet smiles, smug. I swivel my gaze back to Dean. His brown eyes are fixed everywhere but on me.
Chatter breaks out, but all I can hear is the sound of my own heart, pounding so loud against my head it's nearly deafening. Dean shakes Mr. Benning’s hand and people gather around him, offering congratulations.
He didn’t tell me.
I spent Saturday night pressed into his side, his hand like blazing fire where it rested on top of my knee. And he didn't tell me.
“Well, no Christmas bonus," Meg stands and waves her coffee mug. “Let’s get refills while we have a chance.”
I stand, but don’t know how, and somehow follow her out on legs that seem to be operating apart from me. No one says anything as we walk out. Meg chatters on while we refill our coffee. Nausea churns up in my stomach. "I better get back to work." I turn and leave without another word.
Breathe, Kacey. Just breathe. My hand shakes as I set my coffee down. I reach into the cabinet where I keep my purse and grasp my car keys. Just leave. Leave and don't cry until you get out of the parking lot.
I stand. Then sit back down. No.
I am an adult. A professional.
And darnit, I will not let Dean see me run out. Or cry.
Three deep breaths, and I turn back to my computer screen and the spreadsheets I have pulled up. Minutes pass.
Dean doesn't appear in my doorway. I check my emails.
He's leaving. And didn't tell me. I click on my spreadsheet again as tears race down my face.
It was all nothing.