“Have a safe flight.”
“Hey!” Eric cups my cheeks and gives me a sound kiss. “Cheer up! I’ll be back before you know.”
Yeah I know!
I still hate good byes. Even the bad byes, but that’s beside the point.
“Yeah?! Ok go then.” I paste a big smile on my face and start pushing him out of the car, before I do something stupid like chain him to me or start crying, “Go earn our bonuses boss.”
Eric pauses in the middle of opening his door and looks back, “Make sure you remember changing your…”
“Locks! Yes sir I will. And I’ll throw Bill out as soon as I reach home. Don’t worry. Call me when you’re there.”
He looks like he wants to say something else but decides against it and nods instead.
He gets out of the car, leans through the open door to give me another quick kiss.
“I’ll miss you Sookie Stackhouse.” He says and gives me a goofy, embarrassed grin.
“You can’t say stuff like that to me right now.”
Another kiss and he rests his forehead against mine.
I take a deep breath and lean back.
“I’ll miss you too Eric Northman!”
He takes a step back and shuts of the door. Then, as if as a second thought, he leans in to look at me through the window and gives me a look I can’t decipher
I shuffle towards his side of the door, and watch him walk towards the departures gate of San Francisco International Airport. As he walks away, this sudden urge to run out of the car and ask him to take me with him hits me out of nowhere. I actually have to dig my fingers on the window edges and give myself a stern talk to not do it.
Right then, Eric turns back. He smiles wistfully, gives me a mock salute and then he disappears behind the glass doors.
For a moment, my chest contracts as if I’m going to have a seizure. Then I shake my head, clear my throat and tell the cab driver that I am ready to leave.
When I feel fine enough, I call Pat and Diantha to see what they are up to. I need them as backup to clean Bill out of my life. For good. Sam already shifted him to another project so thankfully I do not have to worry about being bothered about him at work.
Earlier, I refused all of Eric’s offers to take care of the Bill Compton situation for me. I put my foot down and refused. Not that I didn’t need the help. But I didn’t need him to clean up my messes. We were still too new for that and I didn’t want him to think that I was some damsel in distress. Plus he needed to get on that plane to accursed China and I didn’t need him distracted. I knew he didn’t like it but in the end I won that argument.
However, I know the difference between pride and folly. Hence the calls to Pat and Diantha. They’d be back up enough.
Monday morning crept up on me out of nowhere and between my eventful weekend and lack of sleep, I felt like an anaesthetized zombie.
I am still trying to wake up, even if it is eleven fifteen in the morning and we are one project meeting down in the day’s scheme of things already. It’s just…the whole meeting Eric out of nowhere, spending Saturday with him and then him leaving, followed by throwing a very reluctant Bill out of my apartment, left me hung-over with frustration and a copious amounts of annoyance. My head still feels whoozy, which isn’t even a proper word.
The one and only positive about last evening was Eric’s call to tell me that he reached Shanghai safely. I asked him about his flight and he asked me about the ex-evacuation. We joked around for a bit and then he had to go. Afterwards, however, I just missed him even more than I already was.
I can’t believe I met him just two days ago. A two minute long update call wasn’t nearly enough to sate my stupid need for contact with that man.
Stupid hormonal Sookie!
So since my week got off to such a thrilling start, Sam choses today of all days to pile up a shitload of work on my head. Said there are some specific design changes to our software, keeping in mind the ‘Asian’ target customers.
He solicitously informed me ten minutes ago that the company president needed these changes more like yesterday and we are already past deadline. If we delay deliveries and a working version of the app with these changes in place, is not ready in two days, some new deal in China is going to suffer. Needless to say, the new management would be pissed if that happened.
I sit staring at the suggested changes listed in an email on my computer, trying to bully my brain to come out of its coma and start working like a good little minion it should be. It’s not a long list. But the changes are complicated and my brain is not my minion.
Let me break the shit down a little. For a working version of our app in two days, coding has to be complete today, so that the testing team can run their standard tests on it. Testing takes at least a day, which would have to be tomorrow. Then the back-end coders, aka just me, get a couple of hours for bug-fixing. Bug fixing would have to be followed by another round of functional tests, which would again take a day. All this and then we would just have to hope that something doesn’t break down at the last moment.
I did manage to ask Sam why he didn’t get us started sooner. He said the changes had been suggested by his highness Mr. Company president himself, immediately after a meeting with the Chinese CFO, to improve our chances for a deal and he couldn’t help the tight deadlines.
I guess I could just bring a sleeping bag to work for the next two days.
So of course, I need to forget my depression and my newfound grudge against China and try completing my work. So I gird my mental lions and just trudge along, hoping for the two days of doom to be over soon.
I have been working non-stop for three hours, even skipping lunch in the process, a personal first for me. I have just managed to whittle down to item number three on the list of seven. It’s 3:15 PM when Diantha, two others in her team and I are called to a conference room. Sam is there already and is tinkering with the TV screen, setting up the video conferencing link. He is flustered and keeps dropping things and pushing the wrong buttons on the remote control. I guess his strange behavior should have alerted me to something.
The VOIP phone rings and Sam clicks the accept button.
“Hello. This is Sam from the Palo Alto dev team. I have Diantha, Peter, Jane from the User Interface team and Sookie as our database dev in the room with me.”
“Good afternoon team.”
It’s Eric! Bossman Eric!
“Sam must have explained the changes I suggested yesterday and need from you guys in the next two days. Sam, what’s the update?”
As Sam starts to stammer whatever update he has, I am furiously counting the time difference between us on my fingers under the table. It should be 7:15 AM in Shanghai right now. Which means Eric already had his meeting with the CFO on Sunday evening and would have told Sam about the changes he wanted yesterday. Sam, the fucker, waited till eleven fucking fifteen today to tell us about the shit that needed to be done. So while Eric is thinking that we must’ve gotten a couple of hours to rework our app, we don’t have diddlysquat to show him as progress!
I am just looking around for a proverbial place to hide when the huge TV screen blinks once and then lights up with…sigh…Eric in it…sitting on some kind of backless chair, perhaps a bar stool? If possible, then right now, I miss him even more than I was two seconds back.
His hair is still wet. He must have just showered, barely in time for this meeting. He is wearing…fuck! Is that the same white button down shirt he was wearing yesterday morning?
I mentally smack my head at that thought. Why would he be wearing yesterday’s dirty shirt? He would have more than one pristine white shirt. And of course he would look like a sex god in every single one of them.
Said Sex God glances briefly at me before turning to each one of us with a smile to say hello. Then he singles Sam out and starts talking business. Diantha covertly tidies up her hair and winks at me when I catch her eye. Jane, the other female in the room, leans forward on the table and puts her elbows in front of her, subtly highlighting the little cleavage she has.
What is wrong with women these days?
I roll my eyes and just then Peter straightens up his collar and pats his hair. He wasn’t even being covert about it.
I look at Eric and he looks engrossed in his discussion with Sam. Watching him over the fifty-inch flat screen from close quarters is an experience in itself. His skin looks flawless. His hair shines gold. And his lips…mmmm…
Did he have blueberry pancakes again for breakfast today?
I did. In my pathetic attempt to recreate some of yesterday’s magic.
It didn’t work and the hapless pancakes just turned out depressing.
Eric is saying something to Sam and all I can concentrate on is the way his lips move. Or how he has one hand cupping his chin, his shirtsleeves folded three fourths, putting his strong muscular forearms on display. I want him to look at me but I know I won’t be able to hide my blush if he does, so I also don’t want him to look at me. I am hanging on each and every word that comes out of that mouth. My eyes are literally stuck on his mouth rather than being on his eyes. His lips are a little dry. Is he thirsty? Did he have his morning coffee?
Then he licks his lips.
Oh Fuck me!
This video conference is fast becoming akin to watching porn at work!
I jump a bit when Diantha elbows me and am shaken out of my Eric induced haze, to find everyone staring at me, Eric included.
“Umm… sorry what?” is my intelligent response.
“Did you make changes to the tables to accommodate the new data fields being introduced?” Sam asks.
I tear my eyes away from the screen to clear my head.
“Umm I have the scripts ready for the database changes. They will take thirty seconds to run and the changes will be made. I was holding off on changing the app’s live version in any way, before I had made all the changes in the code. I was planning to apply the changes together in the form of one consolidated script.”
“Sookie I told you to make the table changes first.” Diantha says, “That way Jane and I can use those fields in the User Interface and you can continue with your code changes in the background.”
“Umm but Diantha I can’t just add five things without changing the code at the same time. We could corrupt the app.”
“Sookie if I may?” Eric interjects, “Just make the table changes and insert void function code to handle the additional fields. In that way, Diantha will be able to alter the user interface for me to show here. You can just put some hardcoded dummy values for my presentation. That meeting is a higher priority right now, rather than backend code. Just work with Diantha’s team closely for these two days.”
One part of my brain knows what he is saying is right. In the event of time shortage, user interface, it’s look and feel, is the first thing that needs to be finalized. Then it is up to the person giving the sales pitch to sell the product and show it in a way so that they don’t touch the functional parts that are still not in working condition.
But that is only a small righteous part of my brain.
The bigger, emotional, confrontational and tired part, tells me to tell them all to take their suggestions and shove them.
“Look. I can add dummy code. It might work for certain situations. But something else might crash. We just don’t have the time to test it all as thoroughly as we already have. At least the current app works right now. Instead of making database changes for all seven suggestions and hoping the User Interface just doesn’t crash from the void code, we should tackle them one at a time and make sure whatever we add, we add it properly. It is just not a matter of writing a few additional lines of code. Whatever I plug in now, needs to jive with the existing stuff. This takes time.”
“But that would mean my team waits for your work to finish and then start with our tasks.” Diantha interjects, not looking very happy.
“We can’t wait for you Sookie. You need to find a way to work with the team. Every one has a job to do.” Sam says.
“Yes I know but…”
“Yeah we can’t sit idle till the time the database gets to working fine.” Jane puts in her two cents, looking at Eric instead of me.
Wow! They really won’t let me speak would they?
“Ain’t I supposed to share a clear picture of the challenges I am expecting to face?”
“We are all working hard Sookie. Work like this comes with challenges”, says Sam.
And everyone starts looking at me. Again! When did I become the problem child ‘round here?
“I’m sure you guys have ample experience in handling work with tight timelines. Can we come up with some kind of plan? Now? I mean, this was not supposed to be a planning meeting. I was expecting work from you, not arguments. ”
Oh boy! Bossy Eric is back!
And however pretty he might be, it still feels shitty to be on the receiving side of said bossiness!
Wait! Did he just make a snide comment on our work experience? Does he think sarcasm was a way to get work done with us?
I shut my eyes for a moment. I’m already walking a tight rope. Try as I might, I can’t not be hurt by his tone.
Opening my eyes and taking a calming breath, I make the supreme effort to control my emotions from showing on my face or in my voice and reply as calmly as possible. “Of course we have the requisite experience with working tight deadlines, Sir. We did make the app you are going to sell, didn’t we?” I say, sounding more irritated than I meant to.
There is a flash in his eyes as Eric straightens up.
Shit! So much for keeping calm.
“I think what she means is…” Sam hurriedly interjects and gives me a significant look, one that translates into ‘shut-the-fuck-up’, “We just need more people to work on the database side. We did have Patricia as her lead and Bill too was working with Sookie on the programming part. Patricia is working on some other things today. I suggest we bring Bill in again.”
While Sam is talking, Eric hasn’t once removed his eyes from me. At Sam’s suggestion of bringing Bill back to work with me, he just cocks an eyebrow and looks angrier, as if it’s my damn fault I’ll have to work with that fucktard for two bloody days.
I cannot catch a break, can I?
Oo-ok then. If he insists on acting like an ass, he can very well bite mine if I show him he ruffled my feathers!
“Good idea Sam!” I smile at him, it might have become an overly saccharine twist of my lips but fuck it if I care, “I was down to change number three on the list. Bill can start with number seven and work his way up. I’d really appreciate the help.”
When I turn back to look at Eric, his expression is blank. Like zero emotion. Like I can’t even tell whether he is angry or amused or irritated or plain sleepy. He isn’t even looking at me any more.
“Alright. Now that we have some kind of plan of action. Sam? Schedule another call at end of day for you guys. I’d like to know where we stand with the changes. We should just have this meeting later as well. When you have something to report.”
Sam gulps. “Sure Eric. I’ll send you a meeting request.”
Eric nods and smiles at Diantha and Sam, “Good luck people. I trust you guys will handle the emergency. Have a good evening.”
Did Jane just bat her eyes?
I don’t even want to say bye.
We troop out of the meeting room, Sam going over to talk to Bill, Diantha going over to have a chat with Pat, Jane and Peter going towards the coffee machine. I stomp over to my desk and am greeted by THE dreaded list sitting on my computer again.
I drink some water, indulge in the luxury of a deep sigh and start working.
Half an hour later, I notice a smiling Sam and a gloating Bill walk towards me. My heart sinks at the sight of the laptop and it’s charger that Bill is carrying with him. Looks like the fucker is going to set up camp on my ass for two days and annoy the fuck outta me.
“Hey Sook. So I told Bill to take up item number seven and work his way up. He’s gonna sit with you so that the two of you can coordinate the code you are writing. We don’t want to rework on anything. Lemme know if you need anything.”
I am pretty sure I wasn’t able to fake the smile I was trying to fake. It comes out more like a grimace. Which then turns into a full on scowl as Sam turns his back to us and I turn to look at Bill.
Motherfucker! I want to punch that smug look right off his face.
“Looks like you need my help with your work after all. Honestly Sookie, how many times do I have to tell you…”
“BILL!” I whisper yell, “Can you try to not be a douch for two seconds? Now if you’ll excuse me…”
I get up, snatch my phone, and as briskly as possible, I walk towards the restrooms. I go to the last stall, the biggest one, lock myself in, close the lid and sit down. Then I take a shaky breath before I let the tears of frustration begin.
Sookie’s Work clothes