Ryan McGraw[12:49 AM]: I do - Master of the universe, huh? 4


I convinced myself that it was different between us. He wasnt taking advantage of me, nor was I in his reporting chain of command. But would the MS jury of public opinion think so, too? Could we even keep it a secret? I supposed I could live with limiting public outings and making sure there were no joint appearances around the office. I knew we werent at the point in our relationship where we needed to talk about any of this stuff in any level of detail, but I couldnt help anticipating that these questions would soon need to be answered.

At 5:45, I decided to head out. As I drove away from campus, my thoughts wandered from potential career-limiting moves to Annas wedding. I wondered when or if Ryan would ever get back to me about it. I never shouldve asked him. Now its become this thing thats out there and I cant take it back. It was like asking someone to the prom and getting a maybe as your answer. The only reasonable conclusion for the maybe was because the person didnt want to either reject you outright or they were waiting for someone else to ask them.

I let out a big sigh. I was so glad I was going for a run tonight. My brain was too full of information from the documentation overload and then thinking about the implications of getting involved with Ryanall of it made my head spin. Not to mention I was wound up with nervous excitement at the idea of seeing him again. I needed an outlet for all my pent up energy.

I saw him as I walked to the crew house from the parking lot and watched him in the short moment I had before I knew he would notice me. He was wearing an old, gray Stanford t-shirt and black shorts. Even though his shirt was somewhat loose, I could still see how it molded to what appeared to be well-defined pecs and a lean torso and waist. The muscles on his legs were long and sinewy. It was clear he worked out; he had the body of an athlete.

I was wearing a relatively tight-fitting white tank top and black shorts with a white stripe on the side. I took extra care in making sure I picked out the appropriate running attire that said I was a serious runner, but I could look cute too. For the most part, I liked my body and took efforts to keep myself healthy and fit. I wore a Ccup and had moderate curves, but unfortunately I had little ass to speak of. I kept hoping running would bulk it up alas


Ryan turned and saw me as I crossed the street. He greeted me with a gorgeous double-dimpled smile and I melted at the sight of him. I walked up to him and we embraced, but he pulled away from me relatively quickly. After the hot and heavy kiss we shared less than two days ago, I couldnt help feeling a little disappointed.

Greenlake had a nicely paved trail lined with trees and flowers surrounding its three mile perimeter. It wasnt too crowded this evening, despite the nice weather, probably because it was Monday and people were still recovering from the weekend. The lake was dotted with Tudor-style homes and the occasional contemporary condo, and on the northwest side of the lake, there were lots of shops and casual restaurants. If you lived in the Greenlake neighborhood, there were two unofficial prerequisites to being a resident: you must own a dog and you must enjoy running. I didnt have a dog, but whenever I came to Greenlake, I wish I did.

We ran around the lake at a leisurely pace, slow enough that we could breathe and talk while we ran. The conversation was light as we talked about our days. Ryan had been in meetings all day, as he was every day. It was a critical time for the company due to the upcoming launch, but he had a great admin, Shelly, who helped keep track of his crazy calendar. In my previous job, it was a normal week for me to be double and triple booked in meetings all day, every day. I think once I counted forty two meetings in one week on my schedule. MS was meeting crazythey even had meetings to plan meetings! I could only imagine how insane Ryans calendar was. My day today was simple compared to his, but he sounded genuinely curious and intrigued by the minor details of it.

When I had the energy, I could run twice around the lake. When I was short on time or just exhausted, it was usually just the one time. Near the end of our loop, I asked if he was up to doing another. Maybe it was the natural high I got from just being around him or all the energy I needed to burn off, but I barely felt winded.

You realize Im an old man. I cant guarantee Ill finish the whole next lap. He sounded self- deprecatingly, but I think he was somewhat serious. You dont even look tired, he observed, leaning forward with his hands on his knees to catch his breath.

I will after weve done another lap. Trust me, I assured him. I grinned and took off, not giving him the chance to talk us out of it.

Ryan had no problem keeping up and we got about halfway around the second loop when decided to finish our run a mile early and grab dinner. After stretching and getting our breath back, I suggested a little Mexican place across the street from the volleyball courts.

Ryan grabbed a table out on the patio looking out towards the lake. It was warm outside and we were both beat. I was tired and sweaty after the run, but I felt that self-satisfied, satiated feeling I got after a really great workout. I noticed that a sweaty Ryan was a sexy Ryan.

I know I should be drinking more water right now, but this beer tastes so darn good. I took a long swig of my Corona and then smacked my lips in a completely unladylike fashion.

He nodded in agreement as he took another drink from his own bottle. I find you so attractive right now. He laughed, sounding lighthearted.

You mean sweaty and guzzling beer?

Its every mans dream, he agreed. He was smiling, but his eyes were glazed.

They called our number, signaling that our food was ready and we could pick it up at the counter.

We were both starving, having worked up a good appetite from the run.

Wow, this is really good, he muttered between bites of his chicken enchilada.

I nodded, too focused on eating my tamale to speak. We continued to eat our meal in comfortable silence, watching the passersby.

Julia, about Annas wedding he began.

Oh. That came out of the blue.

I wanted to let you know that Im not avoiding your invitation, Ryan said seriously.

I gulped, but suddenly had trouble swallowing the food I had in my mouth. No, dont worry about it. I know you probably have other plans, I said as nonchalantly as possible.

I just cant commit to it right now. I wanted to let you know so that you didnt misinterpret it as me not wanting to be there with you, because Id like nothing more.

Oh, I said, both surprised by his response and relieved as well.

Ive committed to going to a fundraiser for Childrens Hospital. Its for a good friend, he explained. He tilted his head coyly. Are you going to ask anyone else to the wedding?

No, I wasnt planning on it, I replied to his visible relief. Its almost easier that I go alone anyways. I have the whole extended family there. It wouldnt be very fair of me to subject you, let alone anyone else, to all of that.

He smiled. I wouldnt have minded, he assured me. Can I consider the invitation open-ended?

I might be able to get out of my previous obligation, I just cant commit right now. Sure, of course, I said and smiled back.

If there was any way for Ryan to have declined my invitation gently without hurting my feelings, he had successfully done it. Not only was I okay with him not being able go with me, but I was flattered by his explanation.

I could see my old apartment from my vantage point and pointed to it. I used to live about half a block up this street. I moved here right after graduating the UW and lived here for a few years. I wouldve loved to have bought a condo here or a small house, but there were none available in my price range at the time.


I used to run down here all the time when I was in school. I lived over on Ravenna, Ryan said. Ravenna was only a few blocks away. I shared a house there with a couple of guys my senior year.

What were you like in college? I asked, curious about his younger years.

He was happy to talk about college. He listened to grunge music in the early 90s and went to clubs like the Crocodile Café to hear bands like Soundgarden, Nirvana, and Pearl Jam. I jokingly told him he was a time capsule straight out of the early Seattle grunge music scene. He pretended to look wounded, but laughed.

Ryans dad paid for school, books, and room and board, but made him earn his spending money. He did manual labor jobs during the summers, and worked at the computer lab during the school year. He remembered the days when he could go a whole weekend on just twenty bucks. Even though he grew up in Magnolia, it made him appreciate money and the value of a dollar.

I had always thought of kids that grew up in Magnolia as privileged, private school brats. Magnolia was only a five minute hop from Queen Anne, tucked away in its own little inlet directly north of Elliott Bay. It was an extremely protected upper class neighborhood in the northwest part of the Seattle limits. Apparently his parents hadnt spoiled him, though.

With two girls in college at the same time, my folks helped out as much as they could, but both Anna and I had to take out some loans and worked through college to help pay for any personal extras and entertainment. I had great memories from college, though. The nerd that I was, I joined a business club at the UW business school, and thats where I met the bulk of my college friends, including Andrew. I decided not to mention that part to Ryan.

Ryan graduated from the UW in 95. He explained that most of the jobs that existed today in technology didnt exist when he was in college. We were both blown away by the knowledge that the burst of technology that we now knew as a normal part of our lives, really didnt take off until Portals 95 came out. He thought being at MS wouldve been cool back then, but he went straight to the Bay Area after graduation to start what he thought would be a long investment career. I mentioned that I was in my last year of Junior High in 1995, which made him cringe.

He got all corporate genius on me for a little while, talking about the advances of social media in our culture and speculating where it would be in a few years. I only thought of it from the perspective of having a Facebook account, which I really only used to post my vacation photos, my arrival at a trendy restaurant, and to satisfy my curiosity about what my friends were up to. I wasnt much of a Twitter user, but what MS professional didnt have a LinkedIn account? That was the extent of my social media usage, though. He encouraged me to get more engaged with understanding the social media benefits for marketing and how it could be used to build stronger customer relationships. He said this would help me in my job.


Why did I find it so sexy listening to him about this sort of stuff? Then again, he could be speaking binarytalking about zeros and ones that were the fundamental building blocks of writing codeI would still probably have found him sexy. We sat there for another hour just talking, relaxing, and drinking our beers. It was still light out. I loved that about summer nights in Seattle.

He looked at his watch and sighed. Why does time always go so quickly when Im with you? I smiled at him and shrugged my shoulders. I was wondering the same thing.

I really like being with you, Julia, he said more seriously. I felt my pulse start to race. I like being with you, Ryan.

Its effortless, he said quietly, but with a perplexed expression, like he was trying to figure out a great mystery.

Yeah I know. I nodded in agreement, but whispered it like it was a revelation. Things were happening to Ryan and me. The hairs on the back of my neck started to rise. Ryan, can I ask you a question?

Of course, anything.

How long have you been on a break? I needed to know, because despite his confession, I still felt like he was holding something back.

He paused, taken off guard by my question. He didnt look at me. Only a couple of weeks, he said guiltily, looking down at his plate. Basically, since I had dinner with you. He then looked at me with a cautious eye.

Oh. I wondered if I was the reason they were on a break. Why do you ask?

Sometimes, you seem hesitant with me, like youre holding something of yourself back. Other times you throw caution to the wind and its like you dont care who sees.

He paused for a long moment. Youre very observant, Julia Hayes.

Im very cautious, Ryan McGraw. I looked across the street towards the volleyball game in progress. I couldnt look at him for what I was about to say next. My wounds are still very raw and fresh, I told him, feeling vulnerable and exposed. I finally had enough courage to look him in the eyes. Please be gentle with my heart.

He studied me for a long time, his brows furrowed. He placed one of his hands over mine. I will never intentionally hurt you, Julia. I need you to trust me, okay?

Okay, I said.

We both looked at each other for several more seconds, our gazes locked in silent contemplation. Neither of us shied away from the direct eye contact, and it was at that very moment that I felt it happen. The chambers of my heart fluttered wide open and gave in to the weight and pressure that had been trying to keep it shut. My past heartbreak was still a dull ache, but I knew I needed to muffle it if I was to let myself fully explore what Ryan and I might become. I needed to trust him. I needed to trust in my own heart and its ability to heal and move forward with someone new.

I thought he felt it too, because there was a shift in the air between us. It was like there was this invisible magnetic rope; it had always been there, but we had both kept it rigid for fear that giving it too much slack might cause one of us to lose our balance. I still sensed that Ryan was dealing with some internal struggle, but hed asked me to trust him. So I would. And once I did, I sensed the pull relax itself on both sides. Whatever he was struggling with, I could tell he was giving in and he would share with me when he was ready. The fact that he was here with me at this very moment and thinking the same thoughts as me was all I needed to know. Whatever fears I might have, I knew I was past the point of no return. I was falling in love with Ryan McGraw.



Every MS building and floor had a kitchen and in each kitchen were two robust, three foot tall, automated, heavy duty Starbucks coffee machines. The coffee was actually quite good and it had been my daily habit to visit one of these machines every morning. As I waited for my freshly ground and brewed coffee to come pouring out of the machine, I thought back on the previous evening.

After dinner, Ryan and I walked leisurely, hand in hand, back to our cars. When I reached for my keys, he tilted my chin up and surprised me with a deep kiss. He cradled my face with both hands and we shamelessly made out as I leaned against my door. We kissed and giggled like teenagers. When we finally broke apart, he turned to leave and made it only a few feet before he came back for one more mini make out session. It was amazing.

Hey, Julia, what are you all smiles about this morning? I looked up to find Amy grinning and looking at me suspiciously. Care to share?

Oh, its nothing. I blushed. I shook my head and waved my hand away nonchalantly to let Amy know that it wasnt anything worth discussing. I certainly wouldnt be sharing any information about my recent extracurricular activities with her.

I dont think she believed me, but she wasnt going to push. She talked about her uneventful Monday and I shared the details of my mine, as close as possible to what occurred, but intentionally leaving out a particular participant. I read once, probably from some spy novel, that if you were ever going to lie about something, you should stick to the truth as close as possible because your odds of getting caught later were less likely. With some dismay, I thought of this as the first of many more half-truths that I knew to come.

Back at my desk, I prepped for a couple meetings I had scheduled for later in the day. Mid- morning, I looked up to see the mailroom delivery guy standing in my doorway presenting me with a package containing a new Lenovo ThinkPad laptop complete with a new docking station and an extra battery. I smiled, because not only did I now have a nice, new, cool laptop, but I knew who it came from.

After signing for the package, I set up the machine and emailed Ryan.


Thank you for my new laptop. Youve got great taste. How am I going to explain this to my manager?



: 2015-09-15; : 3;

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