Suspiciously Obedient

Page 6

Jonah’s face shifted slightly. Aha! A tell. He wasn’t certain.

“We’re pretty damn close,” Jonah crowed. His tell was in his eyes, the reduced eye contact and how they flitted from object to object in Mike's office. The seeds were germinating.

“Give me a day to think it through.”

“Nope.” Jonah walked to the door, turned around and said, “You have exactly six hours. My people will be in touch with your people. Oh, that’s right. You don’t have any people…Matt.”

Mike looked up at the ceiling, peering intently at the corners. “Are the cameras rolling?”

Jonah got a look of alarm on his face and then sprinted out the door.

“You had sex where?” Krysta’s eyes bugged out of her head, like something out of a Jim Carrey movie or a Bugs Bunny cartoon where the characters’ eyes stretched out a foot away from their face before popping back in.

“In his office,” Lydia said in a quiet, meek voice, as if saying it softly would somehow make it less horrible.

Eyes firmly back in their sockets, Krysta stared her down. “How exactly does that fit into your plans for career advancement? You always said you despised women who slept their way to the top.”

“I’m not sleeping my way to the top,” Lydia protested, “I’m…sleeping my…way to…an orgasm.”

Krysta was not impressed, she just stared with the most neutral expression that Lydia had ever seen—and her mother had perfected the neutral disapproval look.

“It wasn’t something I planned, it just…pffffft,” Lydia said, blowing a puff of air out in frustration. “It just happened.”

“Right, like the elevator situation where you let him take your panties?”

“Yeah, like that.”

“You slipped and fell on his dick.”


“Lydia!” The sound of her name coming out of Krysta’s mouth felt like a slap. “What do you think you’re doing? You’ve always told me that you never wanted to be like this, that you were very focused and career-driven, and that you hate the patriarchal corporate politics in the workplace, and that you were going to break the mold and be different from everybody else.” Her words came out in a breathy rush, the emotion evident and triggering a touch of guilt.

Lydia’s shoulders relaxed. She felt more authentic, more real, in this moment than she had in years. All those words had come out of her mouth. She would own them, and she would also own what she said next. “It turns out I’m not so different.”

That took the wind out of Krysta’s sails, and she seemed to become more real. “That I understand.”

Did anyone understand anything? Lydia wondered. She sure didn’t. Matt had been so different after they’d had sex in his office. He’d been wonderful at Tempo Bistro, and amazing in bed later on, but something was off—and she couldn’t put her finger on it. She wanted to talk about it with Krysta, and yet, there wasn’t exactly a flow of approval and acceptance going on between the two of them right now. She hated being judged. She hated that it was her best friend doing the judging. Worst of all, though, she hated that if the roles were reversed she’d be even worse than Krysta was right now.

Suck it up and put on your big panties, she thought. Holding her palms up in a gesture of surrender, Lydia said, “Okay, okay, I got it. I own what I did, and do you know why I own what I did, Krysta?”

Krysta just shrugged.

“Because I’m a planner. I’m that careful, almost OCD-like woman who organizes her purse when she’s waiting at the dentist. I’m efficient and I optimize my time, my money, my work, my presentations—everything. All of it goes through, like, a formula in my head, for how I can get the most and maximize everything, all while following the rules. Climbing on Matt in that office, having his hand slide under my skirt, the way that he touched me as if I were the only woman in the world—I can’t track that on a spreadsheet,” she whispered, a half-smile on her face that felt like a grimace. “There’s no project management system for slicing and dicing and allocating resources when it comes to your heart.”

“God damn it, Lydia,” Krysta said, “now you got me all confused.”

“You’re confused? Try being me.”

“I don’t want to be you.”

“What’s wrong with being me?” Lydia protested.

“You try too hard. You have expectations for yourself that are so much higher than you have for anyone else,” Krysta sighed. “If you think it’s hard being you, you’ve got to know that it’s awfully hard watching you, Lydia, and I’m worried.”

“Worried? Who are you, Sandy?”

Krysta laughed. “No, I’m not your mom, and trust me, I’m not telling your mom any of this.”

“My mother would have our wedding planned if she knew about this.”

“Yeah, I think half your family thought you’d never find someone.”

“I don’t know that I have found someone.” Lydia swallowed hard. Her cup of coffee was getting cold. She took a sip and winced. Too late, it was cold. Could Matt be the one? She’d given up on the idea that there might be a one. The idea that there were some ones had kept her going, ignoring her career for so long, and then, of course, being burned by Dave had just made her crawl inside herself. Matt seemed to pull her out, luring her to reveal more and more of what lay under the facade of the progressive feminist corporate drone. “I think I’m falling for him.”

“Ya think?” Krysta said, guzzling the rest of her drink.

“Don’t be sarcastic.”

“That’s like telling me not to breathe,” Krysta said back.

“No, I mean it,” Lydia protested. “You aren’t sarcastic that often. When you are, it’s great, and you get the zinger, but I can’t handle having you judge me like this.”

Krysta’s face looked like she was about to cry, and then she reached out and grasped Lydia’s forearm. “I’m sorry, I don’t know what’s going on inside me. Maybe I’m jealous.”

“Jealous? You want Matt, too?” Lydia asked, incredulous.

“No, no, no…not Matt. You,” she tsked, “you know who I want, Lydia.”

“I think everybody at the campground knows who you want.”

“Except the guy I do want.”

“Caleb’s pretty oblivious.” She wasn’t going to bring up the fact that he was also in love with Stillman’s daughter. Krysta didn’t know that, and she didn’t think that Krysta needed to know that. Why was it that the campground could invade her present life here in Boston? It invaded everything, spilling over and taking over like some sort of a virus or like those little tribble animals in the famous Star Trek episode, just filling the room, replicating until finally you were crushed to death.

“So, what now?” Krysta asked. They started to walk back to the office, headed to the elevators.

“I don’t know, I guess I'll see him here at work if he comes in today.”

“Why wouldn't he come in?”

“He left my apartment while I was asleep. Texted me at about 1 a.m. And said he wasn't feeling well.”

“The sex was that bad?”

Lydia punched Krysta a little harder than she meant to. “Hey!” she hissed.

“Sorry.” Krysta snorted.

“We’ll take it step by step. He is my boss…” Lydia ran out of words. An endless loop of questions had poured through her mind, all of them the same ones Krysta was asking, and a hundred more. Could she continue to work with Matt? Should she continue to work with Matt? Was it time to try to find another position at Bournham Industries or another company? Did she need to disclose their relationship to human resources? What about coworkers? And, worse, what if this didn’t work out and she had just completely destroyed her future at this company?

The memory of his hot breath on her neck, how he had touched her as if her skin were the most precious item on earth, how his eyes had burned into hers with thoughts she could only understand with him in her. This wasn’t going away, was it? The thought almost filled her with as much dread as the idea that it was going to end did.

The pit of her stomach tightened into a ball of hope and fear at the idea that this was a real relationship, however new. Maybe her ideas about what could be really weren't so outrageously idealistic after all. Maybe Matt was the one...

The elevator doors opened, and the two of them crammed in with about eighteen other people. Krysta whispered in her ear, “What if it doesn’t work out?”

“I can’t think that way,” Lydia hissed back.

“But you have to.”

“Can’t you just be happy for me?” Lydia said plaintively.

Krysta closed her eyes and bunched up her face, her nose going out like a rabbit. “Fuck,” she said under her breath, loud enough to make a couple of heads swivel, just an inch or so, to the left or to the right, enough to send the message that she’d been heard. Krysta took Lydia’s hand in hers and squeezed it. “I’m sorry,” she said, “I am happy for you. If this is what you want, go for it. Just be careful.”

“Oh, I’m being super careful. This is staying completely private,” she reassured Krysta. “There is no way that anyone other than you, me, and Matt know what’s going on.”

“Compared to the media mess you are about to unleash, Thailand’s looking better and better.”

Mike’s jaw couldn’t be any tighter as he listened to Jeremy’s words. He’d called his buddy and asked him to go for a run, thinking that it would allow him to clear his head, and that the two could grab a beer afterward and talk about it. Instead, he felt like some sort of disobedient preteen with Jeremy cheerfully digging the knife in.

This time it was Mike who had broken convention, and in a big way. It pretty much wiped the slate clean for all of the times he’d dug Jeremy out of some foreign jail, or untangled him from the arms of a group of beach bunnies roughing it on an intercontinental hike using daddy’s money.

“Jesus,” Jeremy said, shaking his head and gasping, as he slowed his pace down. Of the two, Mike was more careful to stay in shape. Jeremy could still whip his ass in basketball, but when it came to running, Mike had him beat. “Man, do you know what this is going to do to poor Lydia?”

“Oh, gee, Jeremy, I hadn’t even thought about that,” Mike cracked.

“I know you’ve thought about it,” Jeremy shot back, “but have you really thought about it? That video, it’s probably all over the place already.”

“No, I keep checking my phone. It wasn’t as of fifteen minutes ago.”

“But you know damn well it will spread like wildfire.” Huff, huff. Jeremy’s breath was getting labored. Mike decided to take it a little easy on him and slow down, but not too much.

“How could you…?” Jeremy paused, and shook his head, slowing way down. At this rate, the woman riding the motorized cart was going to pass them. They’d zipped by about five hundred yards ago, and she’d honked a friendly little horn at them, a little Scotty dog riding in the front basket of the cart.

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