So here I am, half dead from a late workday and a late though thoroughly satisfying night, minding my business and trying not to get noticed much. I want to maximize my good feels before I start to tackle work today.
I almost miss Patricia as she corners me in the restroom.
“Oh hey Sookie. I thought after yesterday, you’d be working from home today.”
Pat is a friend. But she is also my immediate boss. And Monday is her favorite day to dish out work.
I smile at her in a non committal fashion and keep brushing my hair.
Pat rummages out her own brush from her huge bag and starts tidying her hair at the adjacent mirror.
“Oh and can you believe how hot Eric is!?” she gushes.
“Uh huh!” I keep smiling, again thinking about how hot Eric was last night. Which warms up my very satisfied lady parts again.
Pat has no idea how fucking hot Eric actually is!
“Di told me all about your video-cons yesterday. The way he buried Bill in his own grave and reamed Sam. I’m in love!”
“Oh thaaaat! Hell yeah I love him too!” I smirk. “You should have seen ol’ Billy’s face.”
“Lemme guess…” Pat mock gasps, “Constipated?”
“You betchya!” I grin and start pinning my hair in place. Tired of work or not, insulting Bill always brings me happiness. I am deep like that.
“Anyways so what I really wanted to tell you was, Sam accosted me this morning. Wants me to travel with him to China instead of Bill. I am sure new big-boss-man is responsible for the change in plans.”
My grin slips as my hand stills on the clip holding my hair.
“You’re going to China?”
” Yes.” Pat nods, while applying some lip gloss, eyes trained on her reflection, “I’ll also be joining your morning meeting today.”
“You’re going in Bill’s place?”
“Yep.” Pat says without looking at me, “The management has finally realized what a piece of shit that piece of shit is! Did I tell you how he took credit for my design modules?”
“So you and Sam are going to China now. To join Eric.”
Pat screws her gloss stick shut and gives me a look.
“Get some coffee Sookie. You’re still asleep!” She smiles and shakes her head. She gathers her things and turns to go, “See you in the meeting.”
The door clicks behind Patricia and suddenly it’s all too quite. I gulp and breathe deep to try to maintain a professional front, at which I fail spectacularly. My cheeks are already red and splotched and my eyes look wet. Up until this moment, I hadn’t known how much I had wanted to go to China. And it wasn’t all just for being near Eric. I wanted some visibility for my hard work too. Just like Bill had taken credit for Pat’s design work, the whole development team had taken credit for my code. Pat was not as undeserving as Bill but not being selected to go sucked. Hard.
‘Shit! Not two days in a row Stackhouse!’ I scold myself ‘You will not cry in the restroom again. It doesn’t matter Eric didn’t ask for you to come join him in China. It doesn’t matter that Pat is going to him instead. Pat was the project lead. She knows everything there is to know. It doesn’t matter. You don’t care. You were only supposed to slog like an ass and pave the roads for the team!’
A shallow breathe.
‘It doesn’t matter.’
Another breathe. Then I punch the vanity marble, willing it to break before my wrath! The marble doesn’t budge.
‘Doesn’t fucking matter damn it!’
“Yeah keep telling yourself that!” I tell my reflection and practically stomp out of the restroom. I barely look at anyone as I flounce to my desk to pick up my laptop for the 9 o’clock. On second thoughts, I put it back on my desk and take a plain notepad instead. Oh and a pencil. That should be enough to take notes and learn from my rockstar seniors right?
I am the first one in the meeting room today and choose the best seat- away and towards the right from the video monitor, back against the wall, a view of Palo Alto hills through the window in front of me. I pull the VOIP phone closer and dial the meeting phone number, followed by our team’s passcode. Passcode accepted, clock starts on the meeting. Then I switch on the TV monitor connected with the meeting room. Without looking at the video feed, I open my pad to the next empty page and start doodling.
Clearing of a throat from the monitor and then his clear honeyed boss voice trickles in. Along with the butterflies in my stomach. Damn the asshole butterflies!
“Hi team this is Eric Northman, joining in from Shanghai. Who all are on the call?”
Without looking at the video monitor, I reply into the speaker/mic contraption, “Good evening Eric. This is Sookie Stackhouse from Palo Alto. I am still waiting for the others. It’s still five minutes to nine.”
“Before time Miss Stackhouse? Quite the model employees we have there.” he says and though I am resolutely not looking at him, I can hear the smile in his voice.
“Yes I am the frikking model of a model employee.” I grumble and roll my eyes discreetly.
Eric doesn’t answer immediately. Curiosity peaks and I take a quick glance to the monitor.
Slate gray suit jacket over a crisp white shirt, top button undone and sky blue tie loose in front of the second button. Narrowed eyes that are looking at me speculatively. Even in a snit, I can appreciate the man’s overpowering looks. However, in my mood today, the looks don’t translate into a need to worship at his altar!
“Where’s your laptop?” Eric asks, finally finding something to say.
“Chilling on my desk.” I smile.
“Ummm…Are you well Sookie?”
“I am very well thank you.”
Though I’d like to drown a few people into the overflowing well of my wellness!
The door clicks open and Sam and Pat walk in. The hello’s follow. Tailed by the rest of the team. Bill is conspicuously missing. No one asks about him.
As the daily statuses start, I look at everyone except at Eric. I am not sure I’ll be able to concentrate if I ogle him. My head is too muddled for a good ogling anyways. I speak out the status of my tasks, which is no different than what I said last evening, I train my eyes on Pat and Sam. My notepad remains untouched. As the meeting winds up, people start gathering their things. Eric is still online. Talking to Pat. They are discussing her upcoming trip. I tune them out and when most of the team leaves the conference room, I walk out too. There is just one small task I have on my plate today. The same one that Bill was looking into yesterday and couldn’t complete. It would take me five whole minutes to finish it. So I put it off even further and go to get myself some coffee.
My cup is brimming over with coffee and frustration when my cell phone starts ringing. It’s Eric. I dump the cup and step into the restroom, making sure it is empty before pressing the accept button.
“What’s wrong Sookie?”
“Stop lying to me please. Was Bill bothering you?”
“No.” I snort.
“I thought you were ok to take on his task from yesterday. Is that a problem?”
“That’s kinda my job Eric. Why would I have a problem with taking it on?”
I hear a deep sigh.
“Then what? I don’t know what happened between last night and today morning, and I cannot understand what’s pissing you off.”
“Who says I’m pissed off?”
“Sookie…” a faint warning….
I cut him off.
“I have to go get started on my work Eric. Was there something you wanted to say?”
Someone speaks in the background and Eric’s muffled response follows, before he gets back to our conversation.
“Don’t pretend to be busy. What you have in your plate, you can finish off in ten minutes.”
“Yes Eric. I know I can. But I have a feeling I will take a whole day to finish it. I may run into some snags on the way. The server might be down.”
I know I am needling him but I am angry at the office space and am on a roll anyways…
“Network might be slow. My laptop might crash. We might have an earthquake. The world might end.”
He keeps quite, as if waiting for me to be finished with the list of potential hazards I might run into during the course of the day. When he starts speaking, it is in a supremely fake patient voice.
“If the server crashes, the backup server will pick up the slack. The network is working perfectly fine. Your laptop isn’t going to crash and even if it does, you can login to any other secure machine and work on it. Palo Alto gets three to four minor earthquakes everyday and it has never interfered with business continuity before. Even if it does, like I said before, backup servers will pick up the slack. If the world ends, I am sure there is no point in discussing business continuity after that. Any other potential issues you want to bring to my attention?”
“Not at this moment no.” I carry on blithely.
“Good. Getting back to the issue at hand, what the fuck is wrong with you?”
Before I can answer, there is more talk from the background. I wait for him to get back. It takes him a whole minute this time, within which I loose a little of the steam I was roller-chair-surfing on. I don’t want to discuss Patricia’s trip to China with Eric. I don’t want to discuss my disappointment at being overlooked for the trip. Not right now when I am confused and itching for an argument. Not till I have analysed and over-analysed the heck out of it and my resulting conflicting emotions safely alone at home.
“Look Eric. Clearly you are busy. The office is no place for personal conversations. I’ll let you get back to work and we can talk later.”
“No. I am busy but we’ll talk right now and you’ll tell me what’s going on with you.”
“Give me a break Eric! Not having a very good day here.”
“Yeah? Well me neither. But I am not pouting and throwing a tantrum.”
“Hey! Not everything is about you and me and this relationship ok? Just give me a little space. I need to work out some stuff in my head.”
“Fine.” he snaps, “Call me when you have worked over your stuff…if your phone doesn’t crash along with your laptop.”
The call ends abruptly and all I am left with is a silent phone at my ear and an irritating ache in my chest I can’t get rid of.
I decided to stew in my crock-pot of bitterness for a little longer and didn’t call him later. I didn’t call him at night. Sometime before I slept, my phone tinged with a message.
Eric Northman: ‘Hi’
What the fuck am I supposed to say to that? Hi back?
I spend the next fifteen minutes trying to formulate an acceptable response that doesn’t sound too whiny/petulant/childish and makes me look like a grown up mature person, capable of grown up mature conversation, while at the same time not conveying that I am still confused and want to throw a tantrum.
Sookie Stackhouse: ‘I’m sleeping’.
There. That’s mature.
Not even half a minute passes before my phone tings with a message.
Eric Northman: ‘So are you sleep texting?’
Sookie Stackhouse:’Still sleeping. And texting.’
Eric Northman: ‘Angel…’
Oh why did he have to say that!!!
I hit my head on the phone before it tings again.
Eric Northman: ‘Are we having a lover’s spat?’
Who uses words like lover’s spat in this century? Mr. Northman that’s who.
Eric Northman: ‘Can we wait to have a lover’s spat for when we are close enough for make up sex afterwards?’
Sookie Stackhouse: ‘We are NOT having a lover’s spat!’
Eric Northman: ‘We are most definitely having a lover’s spat!’
Sookie Stackhouse: ‘Stop saying lover’s spat’
Eric Northman: ‘Ok I won’t say lover’s spat.’
Urrgghhhh! And now I want to laugh. Not good for my hissy fit.
Sookie Stackhouse: ‘I am not going to laugh.’
Eric Northman: ‘I know. Because we are having a lover’s spat! :D’
Sookie Stackhouse: ‘Let me sleep you goof. I am tired.’
Eric Northman: ‘Sleep?? Without make up sex?’
Sookie Stackhouse: ‘In your dreams.’
Eric Northman: ‘:( :'(‘
Eric Northman: ‘How about a naked selfie instead?’
Sookie Stackhouse: ‘Oh my god how old are you?’
Eric Northman: ‘You’re no fun! At least tell me what color panties you’re wearing. ;)’
I can’t help it. I burst into a giggle fit. He is relentless.
Sookie Stackhouse: ‘Not divulging top secret info before we’ve made up and have had hot make up sex.’
Eric Northman: ‘Sex before we’ve been on an actual official date? Don’t you kids have the good old base system any more?’
Sookie Stackhouse: ‘Oh that old base system? I’m sure it phased out ages ago.’
Eric Northman: ‘So how do you measure things anymore?’
Sookie Stackhouse: ‘In inches of course 😉 😉 … ‘
Sookie Stackhouse: ‘What no witty come back?’
Sookie Stackhouse: ‘oh c’mon don’t leave a girl hanging like that!’
It takes me fifteen minutes to realize I won’t get a response. Not tonight anyways.
I still stare down my phone for a half hour before the phone is just not enough to be the only receiver of the brunt of my annoyance.
I turn off the ringer and bury my head in my quilt. I need to catch up on sleep anyways…
The next day I am substantially less pleased with the day as I was yesterday morning. The 9 o clock meeting has been cancelled and I hear they would resume once Pat reaches China. I don’t know what else is going on at the other side of the world. Eric never responded to my late night text. When I read the whole conversation again, a nagging feeling takes root inside me. I haven’t been able to get rid of that feeling.
Why couldn’t I discuss my very serious doubts and insecurities with Eric? Is it because he is my boss? Is it because we haven’t really known each other long enough. Do I not trust him?
Would sex be the only easy thing for us?
Would sex be the only thing between us?
I shake myself and put that thought away. That can’t be right. Surely Eric and I are more to each other than our bodies. Surely this is more than sex for him…
Then again, the last time I did have sex with Eric, it was in front of his wife. Could I have been that special to him?
As soon as I hit that thought, I know I am going to have my period soon. I mean what other reason can be there for me to deliberately think about things that bring me down? This is ridiculous. I am being melodramatic. I need to pull my head out of my ass.
For now, I pull my phone out of my pocket and shoot a quick text to Eric.
Sookie Stackhouse: ‘Hey…How are you? You kind of bailed last night. Everything ok?’
And then begins the waiting game.
One hour – no response
Two hours – no response
After lunch – score
Eric Northman: ‘Hey. Everything OK. Got busy. Will call you as soon as.’
See? He replied. And he got busy. No need to go all paranoid on his ass. He is a busy man. I am a busy programmer. We just have to find a balance and then we’ll be good.
Except, as more days pass, things have been more and more difficult.
I miss him. I miss intimacy. I can’t even call him whenever I like because of the time difference and his blocked schedule. Last we talked was two days ago and that when I set up a conf call through official channels (aka Godric). Eric has been MIA since.
Pat tells us that the Chinese are being a tough lot. They change requirements twenty times a day, keep bringing up competing apps and their best features, and are probably pursuing some deals with those companies too. As a result, Pat is up to her eyeteeth in the code all the time, pulling me along at all sorts of odd hours, so much so that I have kissed a good night’s sleep goodbye and am now napping between conference calls and testing sessions. Eric is frustrated and snappy. Sam prowls like a rabid wolf. People in the team haven’t had proper meals with their families for a few days now. They are frustrated and snappy too. The only person who openly smiles these days (if it can be called a smile at all) is Bill. ‘Nough said.
That’s how the last two weeks have been. We still have two more weeks till demonstration and final presentation. Lets see how many of us meet alive on the other side! The one and only thing I do have going for me is my planned vacation to LA next to next week, right after this phase of development wraps up. I just hope the deal with China goes through, the app runs and we don’t hit any snags. The last thing I need is a wrench in my long planned vacation.