Authors: Annie Jocoby
I wiped away my tears as I made my way to the subway. The
mid October wind was cutting me like a knife, and I was grateful for my tattered stocking cap on my head. My coat, on the other hand, left much to be desired.
Looks like I need to go back to the thrift store to find something better.
Winters here were brutal, and my thin wool coat would just not cut it anymore.
Once on the subway, I let myself feel my emotions. I knew that I was shooting myself in the foot. I just got, out of the blue, the best offer that I could ever get, and I didn’t even have to work for it. Interning for that firm would provide invaluable experience, not to mention enough money to pay my bills, and might even enable me to start paying back my rather monstrous student loans, which were getting so huge that they threatened to topple me. I could get out of bartending, which didn’t exactly boost my resumé for my post-graduate career. I would be given the chance to work on huge international projects.
And I would be close to my fantasy man, the man who had starred in most of my dreams ever since I met him.
That’s when it hit me. I didn’t want to be close to him. He would be way too distracting, and it was humiliating enough to know how bad I had it for him. Working with him every day would just be too much. Besides, he had that supermodel girlfriend, and I had to admit that seeing him with her all the time would just be too much as well.
My crush on Nick could possibly end up ruining my career.
I sighed. It was always my pattern to run from anybody that I felt anything for. That was why I had never had a real boyfriend in my entire life. That was why I was still a virgin at the age of 23. Well, technically a virgin. I mean, I had never willingly slept with anybody. I suppose that the Wall Street trader didn’t really count, because I was never willing, and I was only 13.
So, it was easier in my mind if I just considered myself a virgin.
And feeling myself so drawn to this man, who was my professor, and wanted to be my boss, was scary on so many levels it wasn’t funny. It was easier if I just avoided any such complications in my life, even if it meant that I would always live only half a life.
So, as I trudged home to shower and get ready for work, I wasn’t prepared to answer any questions that Jack had for me.
“Cocktail, honey?” he asked. He perpetually had a cocktail in his hand and perpetually wanted me to be his drinking buddy.
“I have to work, remember?”
I rolled my eyes. He might want to go drunk to his job, which was a bouncer at a gay club, but I certainly didn’t. I was way more responsible than that.
“I have to shower and get on the subway pronto. I’ll catch up to you when I get home.” Which wasn’t likely, because I wouldn’t be home until around 4 at the earliest, and tomorrow was my early class at 7:30. So, coming home and chatting with Jack after work wasn’t going to happen, but I wanted to appease him.
Jack wasn’t having it. “Not so fast, missy,” he said. “What did O’Dreamboat want from you?”
I had to think fast. I couldn’t admit that I just screwed up an opportunity of a lifetime because of my fears. Jack would rightfully want to kick my ass. “Um, he just wanted to know if there was anything more he could do to help my mom. He’s a nice guy that way.”
“And I told him no. Thanks, but no thanks. My mom’s problems are hers to deal with, and mine to a certain extent.”
“Love,” he said. “You can’t deal with that on your own. You need help.”
“Oh my god. I don’t have time for this conversation. I’m late as it is,” I said, as I hastily changed out of my clothes in the bedroom, the door open, and rushed into our tiny bathroom. Jack had seen me naked plenty of times, so I really wasn’t self-conscious about this. I turned on the warm water, and took about five minutes in total in scrubbing myself down and washing my hair. I then twisted my long brown hair into a chignon on the top of my head and secured it with butterfly clip. I threw on my mini-skirt and low-cut blouse that I always wore, because I tended to make a lot more money with this particular combination than when I wore other clothes that didn’t show skin, threw on a minimal amount of makeup, got my purse, and ran out the door.
“Love,” Jack called after me as I waited for the elevator. “We’re going to finish this conversation later!” I simply looked at him as the elevator arrived, and, as I stepped into the elevator car, I let out a sigh of relief.
I was feeling that I couldn’t breathe in that apartment, as Jack was pressing me about things that I simply wasn’t ready to face just yet.
Well, that was an odd reaction.
I wasn’t prepared for Scotty to not only reject my offer, but to reject it so vehemently. There was something up with that girl, and I was starting to see her vulnerability. It was intoxicating, to tell the truth. And it presented a challenge. And one thing about me, I never backed away from a challenge. I simply would have to approach the offer to her in a different way. Problem was, subtlety had never been my strong point, and subtlety would be exactly what this situation would call for.
While I was lost in thought about Scotty, and wondering how to approach the situation, Portia, one of the other senior partners at the firm, appeared at my door. If it weren’t for the fact that Portia was so accomplished, earning her PhD by the age of 24 from Stanford, she would be exactly my type. Slender and blonde, long legs, gorgeous ass and cleavage, and perpetually dressed in short skirts and fuck-me pumps. Flawless skin, big blue eyes, perfect Barbie-doll face.
She was also unmistakably hot for me.
But when she came into my office, I really wasn’t paying too much attention to her. I was lost in thought about Scotty.
“Nick,” she said, her voice hoarse and throaty. She shut the door behind her, then slinked over to my desk. As she sat across me, she leaned forward, showing her lacey bra and her generous cleavage. “What are you doing tonight?”
She smelled like some kind of expensive perfume.
Chanel No. 5
– Rielle always wore it, so I would recognize it anywhere.
“Portia. I think we’ve been over this. I don’t believe in shitting where I sleep. I never have. I don’t have many rules when it comes to fuck-buddies, but that’s one of them.” That was only partially true. Actually, I usually didn’t care about that – I’d had affairs with plenty of people I worked with before, both male and female - but I was determined to turn over a new leaf, at least when it came to working partners.
The real issue, however, was Scotty. I couldn’t get that girl out of my mind.
The problem with Scotty, though, was that she was just the type of girl who might sneak into my heart just when I least expected it. Exactly like Iris did. I’d never wanted that. Women who promised
no emotional attachments were the ones that I was always drawn to. So, truth be told, not wanting to fuck Portia confused me, for she held no real interest for me, and she usually was just my type. Aside from the fact that she was wicked smart, that is. With the possible exception of Alexis, most of my women haven’t had much in the way of intelligence.
But Portia was a woman who always got what she wanted, and she had made it clear, ever since I arrived, that what she wanted was me. So, when I rebuffed her, she simply went to the door and locked it. Then sat back down across from me. She slinked back behind me, and put her fingers on my neck. “Oooh, so tense. Why so tense?”
I tried to resist her touch, but I
tense. And she really had a gentle, yet firm, way of soothing my muscles. This had become almost a daily occurrence with her – coming into my office and rubbing my neck and back muscles. I let her do it, partially out of the desire to actually get a free massage, partially out my desire just to be touched. I associated touch with warmth and affection, two things which had been missing in my life for far too long. Not that I thought, in my mind, that her touch meant that she was warm and affectionate, so much as she was hot and wanted in my pants. Thus far, I hadn’t let her, but this was her way of getting there. I knew that.
She was breathing in my ear now, as her perfectly manicured hands unbuttoned my collar and made their way underneath my shirt and onto my chest. I closed my eyes, trying to imagine somebody who I loved doing this to me. Usually, when I closed my eyes, I started to picture Iris. Lovely Iris who I dismissed until I found out how beautiful she was. Down to earth Iris who was the wife of my best friend, a best friend who was madly, truly, deeply in love with her. But, for some reason, as Portia’s strong and commanding hands made their way down my chest and onto my belly, I couldn’t conjure up Iris’ face.
Perhaps that was a good sign.
“Portia, don’t. Please don’t,” I said, but I was starting to get hard, in spite of myself.
Oh, what the hell?
I stood up, and proceeded to unbutton her blouse. Her gorgeous natural D cups spilled out as I unhooked her bra, which clasped in the front, conveniently enough. I put my hands on her flat stomach and slender hips. Her lips met mine hungrily, her hands stroking my back. I put her up on my desk, and it wasn’t difficult to hike up her mini-skirt. I hadn’t seen a professional woman wear a skirt that short since
which was, surprisingly enough, a show I really got into when I was in my late teens.
I tongued her lightly then ordered her to bend over the desk.
She obliged, her perfect ass up the air. I fucked her right then and there. Physically, it felt amazing. As usual. Emotionally, it felt empty. As usual. But she was evidently enjoying herself, as my women usually do. But I felt my mind wandering, even worse than usual. It’s like when I used to be banging Alexis while thinking the entire time about Iris.
But I wasn’t thinking about Iris as I banged Portia’s beautiful body over my desk.
I was thinking about Scotty.
After it was over, I immediately felt that I had done something wrong. The problem was, Portia wasn’t a rando. She was a partner at the firm. This could create a huge mess which might be difficult to contain. Professionally, she wasn’t above me – we were on the same level of partnership, as both of us were senior partners. All the same, she could very well make my life hell.
Not my most shining moment, fucking her like that. And I had no idea why I even did. She was more than willing and I was…vulnerable. Somewhere in my soul there was an opening to find love, and that feeling was scary as hell. And, somehow, Scotty’s own vulnerability was piercing my heart, and I wanted to deny that feeling.
There was just something about that girl…
Portia was looking at me, licking her lips, evidently wanting to go again. I had to make an excuse to get out of there.
Looks like I need to leave the scene.
“Uh, Portia, I need to talk to Peter about the new intern we were talking about, Scotty James. If you will excuse me,” I said, as I zipped up my pants. But Portia wasn’t about to leave. She went over to my couch, and lay down suggestively.
“I’ll be right here when you get back,” she said.
I nodded, and waited until I was safely outside the office to roll my eyes.
Looks like I’m going to have go home without my briefcase tonight, because I’m not going to go back in my office. She can stay there all night, for all I care.
I made my way to Peter’s office down the hall.
“Knock knock,” I said.
Peter turned around. “Nick. Come in.”
I approached his desk and sat down. He looked at me. “So, how did it go? When is Ms. James going to start working here?”
“We’re still in negotiation,” I lied. I didn’t tell John that I offered her $40,000 to work there. I planned to pay her salary with my own money, as it was this firm’s policy that new interns would start out unpaid. But I knew that Scotty would never be able to take an unpaid internship, considering her obvious financial situation, so I had to offer her something. “But I’ll let you know when I get something nailed down for sure.”
“In negotiation? Since when do you have to negotiate with an intern?” Peter was incredulous. He knew, as did I, that this was a plumb, absolutely cream of the crop internship position, and, thus far, all the students who have been offered a position either jumped at it or had actively sought it in the first place.
“Well, she was taken by surprise by the offer,” I offered helpfully. “She needs to figure out if it fits in her schedule.”
Peter looked skeptical, to say the least. “She doesn’t sound hungry. I say we look for somebody else who is.” The words were unspoken –
who does she think she is, not leaping at the chance to work here on high-profile projects around the globe?
“I’ll let you know by tomorrow,” I said. Which meant that I had to convince her to take the internship position by then.
I had no idea how I was going to do this.
So I headed down to her bar.
I arrived to my job right at 4:30 on the dot. I prayed that my mom wouldn’t make another guest appearance tonight. In the back of my mind, I was desperately worried about Aaron, who was in the sole care of my mother. But I couldn’t think about that. Selfish as it sounds, I had to think of myself and my bills and dreams. Nobody asked my mother to get knocked up by one of her tricks. Aaron was an innocent party, of course, but I felt myself irrationally resenting the little boy. I saw my future, and it was as a mother to that kid. If that happened, I might as well kiss my dreams goodbye, and resign myself to living in poverty for the rest of my life.
It was only a Tuesday evening, therefore the bar wouldn’t be wall to wall people. It would be busy, of course, but nothing like it was on the weekends. There wasn’t a game on the plasma screens that night, and there also wasn’t a drink special. So, I could count on a steady stream of regulars, but I wouldn’t be slammed. Really, if it weren’t for the fact that I didn’t make that much money on such evenings – I typically would go home with only about $75 to $100, as opposed to $500-$750 on a busy Saturday night – these evenings would be my absolute favorite. And I arrived to find that I was working with my favorite bartender, Ralph, who greeted me as I arrived in harried fashion.
“Hey, Scotty, my Scotty. The A-Team!” Ralph greeted me, as I rushed into the back to put up my purse, my coat and my hat.
“Hey. Um, sorry I’m late.”
“You’re not. You’re right on time, actually.”
After putting everything up, I took my place at the bar. The only people who were surrounding the bar, so far, were the regulars. When I say regulars, I mean regulars. People who were there every evening, rain or shine, game or no game. But it was cool having them here, because we were literally their family. Sometimes I looked at some of the women regulars and said to myself
there, but for the grace of god, go I.
God knew there were moments in my adolescence that I figured that I would end up a barfly. Never would I have imagined that I would be working on a master’s in anything, let alone working on a master’s in architecture at Columbia.
“Scotty!” Deana was calling me, and motioning to her empty drink. “Another one!”
There was no need for her to tell me what she was drinking and how she wanted it. I automatically knew. Like clockwork, I got out the gin and lime juice, adding just a hint of Frangelico, a hazelnut liqueur. An odd combination, in my opinion, but Deana drank nothing but this, as far as I knew.
“Thanks,” she slurred. Then she got up and pinched my cheeks, and touched my stomach. “Who’s feeding you? Nobody, apparently.”
She was right. I wasn’t eating that much, because food was turning out to be a luxury that I couldn’t always afford. “Thanks, Dee,” I said. “I think that’s a compliment, coming from you.”
She frowned. “Usually it would be, but honey, you’re starting to look like one of those bone-thin models. You need to come over to my house for a home-cooked meal.”
Larry, another regular, nudged Dee, and said “yeah, but she still got her boobs!” And he started laughing.
I self-consciously put my hands across my chest at that one. My generous rack, which never seemed to shrink no matter how much the rest of my body did, was always a cause for embarrassment. I blamed them for enticing Mr. Lucas, the Wall Street trader, into my bed when I first started sprouting them. After I ran away from that home, finding out that nobody, absolutely nobody, would believe me when I told them what was going on, I went to a plastic surgeon to find out how much it would cost to get them reduced. Finding out that the cheapest surgeon was going to charge me $20,000 was discouraging, to say the least. From then on, I tried to minimize them by wearing bras that were so small they smashed the girls against my chest, but they still looked huge, just less so. And it was uncomfortable to boot. Plus, my tips dried up. Finally, pragmatism won out - I realized that the size of my tips were directly proportional to how much cleavage I showed, so I reluctantly decided to display them.
I literally couldn’t afford not to.
Dee nudged Larry back, and punched him on the arm. “Stop that. You’re embarrassing her.”
Larry said nothing, just leered like he usually did and asked for another Jack and Seven. I obliged. He took it, and kept leering at me hungrily. I looked away uncomfortably like I usually did, and Ralph helpfully stepped in front of me. One thing about Ralph, he was very protective of me, much like a father would be. Or how I would imagine a father would be. Never having had a father, I was left to imagine what one would do.
And, no, I didn’t count Mr. Lucas as being like a real father. God forbid.
“What can I do for you, Larry?” Ralph asked. “I suppose you want me to change the channel?”
“You got it. Put it on Fox News.”
At that, Dee snorted. “Faux News my ass. Why don’t you just get the tooth fairy to deliver your news? She would be so much more credible than Megyn Kelly.”
Oh, boy, here we go.
“Why don’t we put the television on a cooking channel?” I said, changing it to the
Larry looked annoyed, as he obviously wanted his fill of conservative news, but Dee looked happy.
“Oh, great, they have a rerun on of
I love this show,” Dee said, clapping her hands.
At that, I noticed a few more people streaming in the door. There was Chaz, who was another regular, and he greeted the others warmly. He was with Josh, a good friend of his who was often his buddy there. The four of them all talked amongst themselves as they nursed their rums and cokes, gins and tonics and scotches and waters.
I smiled. Really, these people were more family to me than anybody else had ever been. My earlier stress started to melt away as I engaged the four people and Ralph in bantering conversation.
“So, I signed up for the Affordable Care Act today,” Dee said.
“Sure. Support the pinko Kenyan. Go right ahead. We’ll be living in Nazi Germany before you know it.” Larry.
Chaz and Josh started laughing. “Yup. Giving health care to the masses is totally the same as killing 12 million Jews,” Chaz said.
At that Josh said “You know, I think I did hear something in the news about putting a statue of Stalin in the middle of Times Square, come to think of it.”
“You guys laugh, but just wait. There’s going to be Second Amendment remedies for all of this.” Larry.
I smiled, thinking that I was seeing an argument between Archie and Meathead from
All In the Family.
“Come on, you guys,” I said, “can’t we all just get along?” At that, I saw that Dee was dry, so I prepared another drink and put it in front of her.
As I was putting some popcorn into my mouth, and Ralph was launching into one of tasteless but hilarious jokes, I saw a familiar face coming in.
It was Nick.
My heart quickened, and I saw my hands start to shake as I turned to get another Scotch and soda for Chaz. I tried to studiously ignore Nick, but he sat down on a barstool and stared at me, saying nothing.
Ralph put a cocktail napkin in front of him. “What can I get you?” he asked Nick.
“Scotch rocks,” he said. I could feel his eyes still trained on me.
Ralph looked at me. “Are you alright? Your face is beet red.”
That was one thing about me. My face never could hide what I was feeling. I just shook my head as Ralph said “Girl, you’re blushing.”
I continued to shake my head. “Uh, I have to go use the ladies’ room,” I said, as I beat a hasty retreat from behind the bar. I practically ran to the bathroom and splashed some cold water on my face. “Get it together,” I said to my reflection. “He’s your professor. You’ve been seeing him twice a week for over two months. Why are you feeling like this now?”
I really didn’t know the answer to that question. I only knew that I felt weak and shaky.
A woman came out of one of the stalls, and I immediately felt embarrassed for talking to myself. She looked at me and smiled knowingly. “I know what you mean,” she said. “I’ve had a crush on many professors. There’s something about a smart man, huh?”
I smiled back. “Is that what it is? I always just thought that I was always recreating my first crush, which was on the professor on
“Right? That boy be hot!”
I laughed, feeling better and calmer. She left the bathroom, and I continued to stare at my reflection, willing my heart to go completely back to normal before making my way back out there. In about two minutes, the girl came back in. “Your professor is that guy at the bar?”
I said nothing, just nodded.
“All I can say is wow! I can see why you’d have the hots for him!” She shook her head. “I never had a professor who looked like that. Good god.”
Thanks. Thanks a lot. Now I’m more nervous than ever.
That girl left, and Dee came in. “Dear, are you doing okay?” she asked me, as she put her arm around me.
“Sure,” I lied. “Why do you ask?”
“You’ve been in here for a long time. There’s a fine young man who wants to talk to you.” She looked at me, and nodded knowingly.
“I know, I know. I’ll be right out.”
“Take your time. I just wanted to make sure you were doing ok.”
Good ol’ Dee. If Ralph was the father I never had, then Dee was the mother I never had.
She left, and I spent another five minutes looking down at the sink, my hands on the edge. I couldn’t figure out why Nick’s presence at the bar was doing this to me, except for the fact that I was started to feel that there was an attraction that was growing between us. I felt it when I was in his office, truth be told, which was a good part of the reason why I left in such a hurry. Having those feelings was scary, and to think that there was a chance that they would be reciprocated was scarier yet.
Finally, I took a deep breath and made my way out. Nick was still sitting there at the bar, engaging in conversation with Larry. “True story. They served eel at the first Thanksgiving,” Nick was saying, popping a handful of peanuts into his mouth.
Larry made a face. “Not for me. Give me turkey and dressing any day of the week.”
“I actually like eel,” Nick said. “I get it in sushi restaurants all the time.”
“Better you than me, that’s all I have to say.” Larry.
I hurried behind the bar, and Nick stood up when he saw me approach. I turned my back, pretending to clean the area around the beer taps.
“Uh, Scotty,” his deep voice called out to me.
“Oh, hi!” I said, pretending that I just now noticed him. “Professor O’Hara, uh, what a nice surprise!” I still had my bar rag in my hand, so I turned around and proceeded to clean the bar around Nick and the others. I couldn’t meet his eyes.
Ralph put his arm around me. “Honey, you’re going to scrub a hole in the bar the way that you’re going.”
Nick put his hand on the arm that was still frantically scrubbing the bar. “I need to talk to you.”
I looked at Ralph, and he waved his hand. “Go take a break. It’s not going to get crowded for another hour.”
I took a deep breath, and walked out from behind the bar. Nick gestured to a table, and the two of us sat down.
“I don’t want to beat around the bush,” he said to me after we sat down. “I wanted to find out what the hell happened back there in my office.”
I looked at him, then immediately looked away. He had a way of looking at me with those penetrating eyes of
his, that made me feel like he could see inside my very soul. As corny as that sounds.
He just looked at me, not saying a word. Then, he got up. “Wait right here,” he said. Then he went to the bar, and I saw him talking to Ralph. Ralph was nodding a lot, and looking over at me from time to time. I saw Nick looking at me a few times as well. Then I saw Ralph getting on the phone. Nick slapped Ralph’s back, and made his way back over to me.
“Come with me,” he said, offering his hand.
“What? I have to work.”
“No you don’t. Ralph is calling somebody to come in for you.”
I shook my head. “You can’t do this. I-I-I can’t afford not to work.”
“Go back and get your coat. I’m going to buy you dinner.”
I looked desperately back at Ralph, but he was looking at me and smiling, and giving me the thumbs up.
My mind started to race. It wasn’t quite life-or-death if I didn’t work my shift that night, at least not like it was last Saturday night. The floating checks were already paid. But I still was living on a razor thin edge, and just one night off could completely throw me.
But I somehow found my way back to get my coat and hat and then walked back to where Nick was standing, which was by the entrance. I had my coat in my arms, and, before I could put it on, Nick had it in his hands and held it up for me. I reluctantly put my arms into the coat. Then he took my scarf and put it around my neck. He lightly tousled my hair and smiled. “You look cute,” he said, and I lost my breath at the sight of his dimples making a reappearance. Then he put his arm on my shoulder as we made our way out to his car, which he somehow managed to park right in front.