Couldnt stop thinking about you last night.

  1. About myself
  2. About myself
  3. About myself and my future profession
  4. About myself.
  6. Answer the questions about passages III and IV.
  7. Ask other students about their weekends, and complete the chart with different names.
  8. Askig about Tim
  9. B) Speak about the traffic in this country using the word combinations in bold type.



A few minutes later:



Youre very welcome. Glad to see it arrived so quickly. Explanation is already taken care of. Im still thinking about you this morning


My heart skipped a beat and I smiled. Attached to the email was another email sent to my teams business admin and Catherine with an IO number owned by Ryans cost center explaining the reason for the new laptop as the now infamous car accident.

Ryan mentioned he had a business dinner tonight, but I wondered when I would see him again. I had Annas bachelorette party this Saturday, but I was hoping we could do something on Friday night together. He mustve been able to read my mind because just then I noticed my IM icon blinking.



Ryan McGraw[10:34 AM]: Got a minute?

Julia Hayes[10:34 AM]: For you, yes :)

Ryan McGraw[10:34 AM]: I forgot to mention to you Im heading to Canada office tomorrow morning - Coming back late Friday night.


Well, there goes my Friday night idea. I was suddenly sad that I wouldnt see him for several more days.



Ryan McGraw[10:35 AM]: Can I see you Saturday?

Julia Hayes[10:35 AM]: Its Annas bachelorette party that night. Festivities start at my place in the afternoon.

Ryan McGraw[10:36 AM]: Festivities???

Julia Hayes[10:36 AM]: cocktails and gifts - then dinner then who knows

Ryan McGraw[10:37 AM]: hmm sounds like trouble

Julia Hayes[10:37 AM]: Being naughty can be fun

Hey! I was in a good mood and felt like flirting.



Ryan McGraw [10:37 AM]:Naughty? Interesting choice of words

Julia Hayes[10:37 AM]: and why do you consider it an interesting choice of words?

Ryan McGraw[10:38 AM]: Its very visual :)






Julia Hayes[10:38 AM]: and what are you visualizing?



Oh God, did I really just ask him that?



Ryan McGraw[10:38 AM]: naughty things

Julia Hayes[10:38 AM]: Oh



I noticed he started to type something, but then it stopped. I waited, but he didnt continue. He mustve been interrupted by someone talking to him on his end. Several minutes went by and then my IM icon started blinking again.



Ryan McGraw[10:45 AM]: Got interrupted - Sorry about that. Ive got to run. Call me for a ride after the partying if you need one.

Julia Hayes[10:45 AM]: Thanks again for the new laptop :) Okay, have a safe trip.


Ryan McGraw[10:45 AM]: Wish I couldve gotten it to you sooner.

Ryan McGraw[10:45 AM]: Be good :)



I couldnt help smiling to myself. I felt like the cat that ate the canary.



On Saturday morning, I went to the local market to purchase a fresh bouquet of flowers, light appetizers, and ingredients for cosmos. I later made a stop to the Wallingford Erotic Bakery to pick up Annas penis cake. They had penis shaped straws sitting next to the counter, so I grabbed a handful.

Anna was relatively simple with her party requests. Penis paraphernalia was ok, but she had forbidden any games that required embarrassing herself in front of strange men in public. I was cool with that. We would try to be as classy as our pre-drunken states would allow.

I set out all the ingredients for our cosmos and lined up the martini glasses on my kitchen counter. I arranged the peonies into a vase that looked like a solid glass circle from a distance. Peonies were our favorite flowers.

After prepping everything for the party, I sat on my patio waiting for my guests, drinking a glass of wine, and wondering when Ryan had finally gotten home last night. Even though we were planning on taking taxis tonight, maybe I would take Ryan up on his offer and call him for a ride home from the bar. He had offered, hadnt he?

We hadnt talked in person since Monday night. We had one brief email exchange after our IM conversation on Tuesday, which was just him letting me know he had arrived safely and was thinking of me. We tentatively planned to get together Sunday afternoon and he teased me that Id better not be too hungover from the bachelorette festivities. A part of me wished that hed tried to call me while he was away, but I was letting him take the lead here. He was out of town on business, and if he didnt want to reach out to me, then so be it. I wasnt going to overthink this. Or at least, thats what I kept telling myself.

The party tonight was an intimate gathering of women who included only Anna, myself, and her three other bridesmaids. I had planned for us to start the evening drinking homemade cosmopolitans and nibbling on a few light appetizers. We would have time to open gifts and then transition to dinner at a trendy sushi restaurant in Belltown. From there, we were going to play it by ear. Maybe we would end the night with dancing, maybe karaoke, who knows. The girls were all dressing up for our swanky party, so I put on my favorite little black dress, which had spaghetti straps and a hem that came slightly higher than mid-thigh. It hung over my body like a flapper dress, but it didnt have the tassels. It was just basic black slinky material. Simple meant more with this dress and it made me feel fabulous.

The door buzzed, signaling that my first guest had arrived. I slipped on my black heels as I went to the door and smiled wickedly at myself in the mirrorthese were definitely fuck me heels. I certainly wasnt going to bring a guy home tonight, but maybe I would ask Ryan to pick us up at the end of our evening after all, just so he could see my legs in these shoes.

Bridget arrived first. She was tall and sharp as a tack with one of those stylish, short, Halle Berry haircuts that not all women could get away with it. Bridget definitely could. Her daringly short hair matched her brains and personality. Bridget worked at MS in HR as a generalist and had a classic MS type-A personality; she was a control freak like me, which was probably why we got along so well. Bridget was probably more my friend, since I introduced her to Anna, but the three of us got along great together and I was happy to see the two of them continue building their own personal bond.

Next to arrive was Allison, who was a PhD candidate in the UW Education Department. Anna and Allison met when they taught together at the same school, but after a couple of years teaching, Allison decided she would rather go into administration, so she started her long journey into the world of academia. She was unpretentious, practical, and easy to be around. Allison was awesome and I was glad Anna chose her as one of her bridesmaids.

Anna and Sarah arrived last and, of course, fashionably late. Sarah was a teacher at the same school as Anna. She was a beautiful Korean girl with a great smile, sunny disposition, and a fabulous sense of style. I wasnt surprised to hear she had been a cheerleader in high schoolits probably why Anna and Sarah got along so well; they had that same bubbly personality. Out of all of Annas bridesmaids, I knew Sarah the least. I had met her initially at Annas bridal shower and was looking forward to spending more time with her.

I got all of the women started on their cosmos and everyone made themselves at home in my living room. We chatted about wedding details and caught up on each others lives. Anna filled everyone in on my love life, since apparently I was the only one that had a recent change of male characters. By the end of her story, they were all convinced that Ryan and I would be engaged within the year.

I mean, its like the universe is trying to push the two of you together! exclaimed Sarah, her voice naïve and dreamy.

Anna was nodding her head vigorously in agreement and finishing off her second cosmo. I thought I might need to slow her down if were going to make it through the night. It was only seven oclock and she was already getting loopy. I pushed some brie and crackers in front of her, hoping she would eat something to help slow down the effects of the alcohol.

I mean Sarah counted on her fingers and thought through my coincidental run-ins with Ryan. Thats one, two three times you guys just happened to run into each other. It has to be fate! I mean, dont you think thats more than just a mere coincidence? This is why Anna and Sarah were such great friends. They were both hopeless, over the top romantics and had watched way too many movies made from Nicholas Sparks novels.

So, is he cute? Allison asked with her eyebrows raised.

Yes! Anna exclaimed as she took the first sip of her third cosmo. Even on my scale, hes a nine or ten.

I rolled my eyes at her reference to our scaling of men. In the beginning, she expected him to be an eight because I said he was a ten. Sisters.

Hes really hot, Anna gushed. I think he looks like a younger Daniel Craig. Can I still say that hes hot, even though Im getting married next week and he might be my future brother-in-law?

Ooh, a hot older man that looks like James Bond, Bridget said salaciously, raising both of her eyebrows. Bridget has always had a thing for older men and would prefer George Clooney over Ryan Gosling any day. Whats his name?

Oh shit! I exclaimed. I totally hadnt thought about this until now. Bridget not only worked at MS, but she was in HR. She had probably heard of Ryan and maybe even knew him. Could I trust her to keep this confidential? I needed to make it clear to her, just in case it wasnt obvious.

Bridget hes a CVP. I dont know if I dont think I should tell you his full name, I said carefully. Youre in HR. Im sorry. I just dont want anyone at work to know about this. If anyone were to find out I started to panic. Bridget was one of my best friends, so how could I keep this from her? Things were just happening so fast.

Julia, its okay. I was only curious. Dont worry. I wont say anything. You can trust me to keep this confidential. I know what the implications are if you dont, she said reassuringly. So who is he? she still asked sheepishly with a mischievous grin.

I waited before saying his name. There was no turning back after this. I covered my face with both hands and took a deep breath. Ryan McGraw.

Holy shit! Bridget exclaimed, spitting out the last sip of her drink.

I know. I cringed and then looked at her carefully. Now do you see why Im a little freaked out? No one can know from Megasoft! Got it?

Got it. Bridget nodded and held up three fingers. Scouts honor. She slapped my knee. Wow, Ryan McGraw Hes, hes, just wow. With her eyes already wide, a thought occurred to her and they got impossibly bigger. You dont report into him or anything, do you? You arent in his chain of command, right? No, thank God.

Okay, then youre good. Theres nothing to worry about from an HR policy perspective. Having said that, I think you probably know that its not a good idea for the word to get out, though, right?

Totally. I nodded emphatically. I didnt even what to tell you, remember? I pointed out. Wow. Fate and forbidden love! Sarah said dramatically, sounding like she was a voiceover in a

movie preview.

Everyone laughed but me. Sarah was starting to get on my nerves a bit.

Okay, enough speculation and discussion about my love life. Lets have Anna open gifts before she passes out. I took her third cosmo away, causing her to pout. If she wasnt going to pace herself, then I needed to do it for her. Otherwise, wed be pouring her into bed by ten.

For the next thirty minutes, Anna opened her gifts and ended up with four super sexy pieces of lingerie. My favorite was a black bustier with matching panties and garters. I would never have the guts to purchase something like that on my own. Just looking at it and imagining myself wearing it in front of Ryan made me blush.

Appetizers, penis cake, dinner and several drinks later, we ended up at a nightclub in Pioneer Square. It was an ultra-trendy club with overpriced drinks, but it had a cool lounge that was lit like a futuristic blue room. The club was known as a great place for dancing and attracting top DJ talent. I didnt realize you needed talent to be a DJ, but apparently its a real skill to spin top 40 with hip hop and house music. Who knew?

The girls were all on the dance floor and Anna and Sarah were flirting outrageously, dirty dancing with a couple of attractive young fraternity guys. Seriously? Im sure the frat boys were getting a kick out of being picked up by two attractive older women. Its not like we were all that much older, but when youre twenty-two, someone who is twenty-eight or twenty-nine is pretty darn old. Anna looked like she was going to keel over. I better keep an eye on her.

I needed to pee. I left Bridget and Allison dancing with a few guys we had picked up earlier in the evening. A little innocent flirtation was harmless and they were nowhere near the blatant flirts Anna and Sarah were. I was feeling warm and dizzy from the overcrowded room and suffocated by the close body contact on the dance floor. There were silver disco balls of all sizes hanging down from the high ceiling and the blinking lights reflecting off of them were starting to give me a headache. If I kept looking at them, I was probably going to have a disco ball-induced seizure or something. I was a lightweight and I knew I was way past my drink limit for the night. I knew I had the one cosmo at my place and two glasses of wine at dinner, and two, or was this my third, at the club

On my way off the dance floor, I passed the DJ station that was raised halfway up to the ceiling and saw a couple groping each other in the corner. Get a room! I was a little grossed out, but their obvious affection for one another made me think of Ryan. Should I call him? He did offer up his driving services tonight. I joined the line for the bathroom and pondered my options. I was just about ready to go home. I knew we could always take a taxi and Anna said that Ethan was available to pick us up, too, but how lame was it to have the groom pick up his bride (and her sister) from her own bachelorette party? No, we couldnt ask Ethan to do it. I looked at my cell to see what time it was. It was almost one in the morning. Ryan was probably sleeping by now anyway.

But I did look pretty hot in my little black dress and sexy heels. Maybe I could text him to see if he was still awake. If he didnt answer, I would call us a taxi.



Me:Hi r u there?



It was my turn to go pee. Oh, he texted me back so quickly!



Ryan:Hey Julia, are u ok?




I started to type and ask him why he was still up but then my phone rang. Hello? I answered.

It was a concerned-sounding Ryan. Julia, are you okay? Do you need a ride home? Um yes! I yelled through the phone, trying to shout over the loud dance music. Where are you? I can pick you up.

Well, let me talk to Anna first. Shes picking up some college guy, I said the words, but they didnt come out as clearly as I had heard them in my brain. I clearly drank more than I thought. Can I call you right back? Im peeing right now.

Oh God, did I just tell him I was peeing? My face burned with mortification. So embarrassing! When I drink too much, I never have any issues with memory loss. Even if I pass out, I still remember everything I did the night before. My problem, however, was that I had absolutely no filter when I was drunk. Its like that part of my brain just temporarily dissolves and shuts down. I pretty much say whatevers on my mind and do whatever I feel like doing. Sometimes I wished I could forget things the next morning, because there were some pretty cringe-worthy events in the past that I really wouldve rather not remembered.

Julia, where are you? He didnt seem fazed by my pee comment.

At Trinity, its on Yesler Street, I slurred. The word Yesler came out more like Yethler.

Okay, listen, you sound a little out of it. Why dont I just pick you up in thirty minutes, okay?


How sweet of him. I think he sounded worried.

Can you take Anna home, too? She lives in Magnolia. Yeah, of course. Anyone else?

Um, maybe.

Just wait outside the entrance. Ill see you soon.

Okay, I said meekly. See you in a little bit. Ooh I really was feeling dizzy. I leaned my forehead against the bathroom door for a minute before flushing the toilet.

I walked back to the dance floor to gather the troops. When I spotted Anna, she was still dirty dancing with one of the cute college boys and he was nuzzling her neck. She tilted her head back, laughing. Oh, it was so past time for us to go. Thirty minutes later, we all headed outside. Bridget and Allison both lived in the same north Seattle neighborhood, so they shared a taxi home. I was glad to see them leave before we saw Ryan. I was worried that Ryan might feel a little uncomfortable with an MS HR representative watching him take me home. Sarah lived in Belltown only a mile up First, so she was coming with us.

Wed only been outside a few minutes when his black Range Rover pulled up. Julia! he shouted, lowering the passenger side window and pointing up ahead to the load and unload section of the curb. We walked over to his car as he pulled it over. He hopped out of the car and sauntered on over to us. Anna was barely standing, leaning on Sarahs arm.

Ryan looked like hed just woken up. His hair was a little messy and his face revealed some stubble. My eyes drank him in, though. It had been five days since Id last seen him. He was wearing jeans, flip flops, and a navy blue pocket t-shirt. He was also wearing eyeglasses. They were those retro, black-framed ones you would see on Mad Men; probably Gucci or something. He looked quite sexy in them. I always had a thing for men who wore glasses. I momentarily envisioned removing his glasses and kissing him.

When he reached us, I threw my arms around him. Ryan, my hero! Thank you for coming to get us. I made a concerted effort to speak clearly and not slur my words. I needed to remain dignified. He chuckled and his dimples were just so cute. I wanted to kiss him right on the sidewalk.

This is our friend, Sarah. She lives about a mile up, on First. Can you take her home too? I asked.

Yeah, of course. Ryan nodded to Sarah in acknowledgement and then said Hi to a barely conscious Anna before taking her in his arms helping her into the backseat of his car.

Shotgun! I cried out.

Sarah ignored me and I found her staring appreciatively at Ryan. While Ryan helped Anna, Sarah was wildly pointing her finger at Ryans back and mouthing, He is so cute!

I know! I mouthed back to her and did a little happy dance. I stopped once I realized Ryan was looking at me with an amused expression.

Once Anna was safely buckled in, Sarah slid in next to her. We dropped Sarah off and drove Anna home next. She looked like she was on the verge of passing out or getting sick or both. Ryan looked relieved to get her out of his car and helped walk her to her front door. He thought it best that I remain in the car. Did he think I was going to run away or something?

Ethan answered the door and took possession of his very drunk fiancé. The two men chatted about something for a few minutes while Anna looked adoringly up at the both of them. Ethan and Ryan turned to look at me from the doorstep and laughed. They looked like they were enjoying some inside joke. Hey! Why am I the butt of this private joke? Im not nearly as bad off as Anna! My lips did feel rather numb and I was making a real effort to not slur my words, which meant I was talking to myself in the car, as Ryan was still talking to Ethan outside of the car. Yep, Im in bad shape.

As Ryan got behind the wheel, he looked at me sympathetically and said, Lets get you home.

I loved that he picked me up to take me, my sister, and her friend home. I loved that he walked Anna to her door. I loved that he didnt look irritated at all. Frankly, there really was nothing that I didnt love about him. I was so happy to finally see him after his long absence that I was blatantly staring at him with a goofy smile on my face.

As he drove to my place, he looked over on occasion with amusement. How many drinks have you had?

Hmm? I mumbled.

Never mind, he chuckled and continued driving.

When we arrived at my place, Ryan parked the car and followed me into my unit without hesitation. I wondered if he was going to stay. I stumbled into my foyer and threw off my shoes.

Nice heels, he commented.

Score! He did notice.

Ryan headed to the kitchen and poured me a glass of filtered water, which he insisted I drink all of. He asked me where the ibuprofen was and then handed me two, which I took with the rest of my water. He put his arms around my waist and hugged me tight, inhaling deeply into my neck. I missed you.

Oh, it felt so nice to be in his arms. And he smelled so good. Before I knew it, I started kissing him. He obliged me and kissed me back hungrily. I dont know what came over me, but I decided to quickly slide the spaghetti straps off my shoulders. My dress fell to the floor in one swoop. I stood in front of him in my strapless bra and panties for a moment before I threw my arms around him and start kissing him again.

Whoa! he said in surprise and pulled back. He gently pushed me a few inches away, but I could feel his eyes lingering up and down my body, pausing briefly at my breasts. Encouraged by the hunger in his eyes, I tried to look as sexy as possible with a little mischievous grin, daring him to do whatever he wanted with me.

This must be the naughty part you were talking about, he mumbled. I heard him chuckle and saw him lightly shake his head. However, rather than taking me in his arms and passionately kissing me, he walked away and headed to my bedroom. I pouted in response. After a minute or so of standing there confused, I decided to follow him. He was standing in front of my dresser, and grabbed a camisole out of it. He walked over to me and pulled it on over my head. I was disappointed and a little confused.

You look so sad, he said, with a little smile on his face.

Well, Im just confused. I focused really hard on not slurring my words. You were just kissing me in the living room and

He kissed be lightly on the lips and then my forehead before sitting me down on my bed. He lifted my chin up to look me in the eye. There was a pained expression on his face. I really look forward to making love to you someday, but not when youre drunk, and not on the night of your sisters bachelorette party.

Oh, I said as a yawn involuntarily escaped my mouth.

Ryan tried to tuck me in under my covers, but I unclasped my bra and wriggled it out from under my camisole before I laid down. I knew that he would be able to see through the material, and it didnt hurt to torture him a little bit, right? Itll give him something to look forward to. Besides, I couldnt sleep with a bra on anyway.

As I lay my head down, it started spinning. Oh God this could be unpleasant. I never get sick. Please dont let tonight be the one night I get sick. I kept my eyes closed and waited for everything to stop spinning.

Are we still on for tomorrow? Ryan inquired quietly. Mmm hmm, I mumbled with my eyes closed. When?

Ill let you get your beauty sleep, since youll likely be hungover in the morning. How about we hang out in the afternoon and do dinner? We can cook in.

I dont remember replying. The last thing I remembered was Ryan giving me a light kiss on my forehead, sitting himself in the bed next to me, and playing with my hair.




I got a pocket, got a pocketful of sunshine, I got a love and I know that its all mine, oh, oh oh oh. Anna was trying to call me. She loved that song and programmed it in my cellphone as her personal ringtone.

The phone was nearby, but I couldnt exactly remember where. Do what you want but youre never gonna break me, sticks and stones are never gonna shake me, oh, oh oh oh.

I hid my head under my pillow to drown out the sound of my cell phone, hoping she would just leave a message. Yeah, right. You just keep on waiting, girl. She was worse off than me when Ryan delivered her home last night. How could she be awake before me?

Take me away, a secret place, a sweet escape, take It finally stopped. Peace.

Not even a minute later, my landline rang. Ring ring Damn her! I blindly reached for the phone on my nightstand, fumbling as I picked it up.

You suck, I grumbled. Let me sleep.

Hmm, I expected at least a thank you for my services last night. Ryans voice sounded sexy and teasing.

Oh, hey, hi. I was groggy, but my heart skipped a beat. I didnt realize it was you. Anna literally called just before, but I didnt pick up. I looked at the clock9:35. Ugh.

Do you want me to let you go back to sleep?

No, Im awake now. I noticed two more ibuprofen on my nightstand, sitting next to a glass of water. I sat up in bed and popped them into my mouth. Thanks for leaving more Advil next to my bed. I just took them.

Well, I dont know how much you remember about what I said last night, but Im calling about this afternoon.

Oh? I tried to run a quick mental inventory of events from the night before. Oh! I remember Oh! OH MY GOD. I am so embarrassed! Thank God he isnt here to see me flush from head to toe. Images of me throwing myself on him, stripping down to my underwear, and then trying to make out with him all flashed through my brain. Oh that was so cringeworthy. I squeezed my eyes shut in painful memory. He was such a gentleman about it all.

Uh, I didnt mind trust me, he said, chuckling. But thats not why Im calling. He paused for a moment. Julia, Im really sorry, but Im going to have to cancel later today. He sounded genuinely sad.

Oh, okay. Is everything okay? I asked, trying to sound nonchalant, though I was way more disappointed than I was letting on.

I have some personal things that came up today. It was unexpected. Just trust me when I say Im really sorry about having to cancel on you. He did sound genuinely remorseful.

Okay, I said hesitantly. His explanation was pretty vague. Are you sure everythings all right? Yes and no. Its complicated. I want to tell you all about it, but its a bit premature right

now. I heard some tension and uncertainty in his voice.

What the hell did that mean? For his benefit, I decided to stay positive and lighthearted about it. I knew he couldnt see me but I hoped he could hear it in my voice. Well, I cant say Im not disappointed. I was looking forward to spending time with you today, but I understand if theres something important that you need to take care of.

Thanks, Julia. Ill call you later, okay? Ill make it up to you.

I tried to sound as convincing as possible. Yeah, no problem. We said our

goodbyes and hung up.




But it was a problem. I was really looking forward to seeing him today. What surprised me most though, wasnt so much his change of plans, though that bothered me, too, but it was the unexpected sadness that came over me as a result of these changed plans. It frightened me to know that I could feel this hurt already by someone Ive only just gotten to know.


With the wedding a week from yesterday, I knew my schedule was going to get busier by the day. Would I see him at all this week? With all of the wedding craziness, I theoretically might not see him again until wedding weekend was over. I had to assume at this point that he wasnt coming with me to the wedding because he couldnt or wouldnt. If or when I saw him after the wedding, almost two weeks will have gone by. A lot can happen in two weeks. A person could fall in love in two weeks. His feelings could change in two weeks. A cold chill came over me as it dawned on me that this was a definite possibility.

What I also found unsettling was that he wasnt willing to tell me, at least just not yet, what this personal issue of his was that caused him to cancel his plans with me. He didnt trust me enough to tell me. He did sound sincere in his apology, but he was being so evasive about it. I really needed to try not to overthink this. Even though he wouldnt tell me the real reason he had to cancel today, he sounded reassuring. It was probably nothing. Maybe he had some family obligation come up, like his mom or sister were sick or needed help with something. I started to feel sick myself. I couldnt tell if I was nauseated from the excess alcohol or if it was a psychosomatic episode brought on my overactive imagination. I really needed to do something with my idle time today or I was going to drive myself crazy.

The phone rang again and this time it really was Anna. Since I no longer had plans for the day, I agreed to meet her at eleven for Sunday brunch.

As I walked towards the Five Spot, I saw a long line of people waiting outside. My stomach was still queasy; food was a necessity. My watch said I was only five minutes late, but knowing Anna, it would likely be another fifteen minutes or so before she arrived. Even though I could predict her arrival time, I never did adjust my own to accommodate hers. Instead, I always found myself being the one to put our name in for the table and killing time reading email and perusing the latest posts from friends on Facebook.

While I waited in line for the hostess to take my name, I took a quick glance around the room and saw a familiar blond woman looking at me. I did a double take and when I caught her eye, she smiled. Catherine.

I just stared for a moment before reacting. It was that moment weve all had when you see someone you know out of context, so youre pretty sure its them, but what if its not and you embarrass yourself? Well, this was one of those moments and it totally took me off guard. I knew it was Catherine, but wasnt she still supposed to be traveling in Europe or was it Asia Pacific by now? I guess I never expected to see my manager outside of work, let alone enjoying brunch at the same restaurant as me, when she was supposed to literally be on the other side of the world.

She smiled and waved and I felt obligated to say hello. I made sure my name was listed with the hostess, sighing over the 25-30 minute wait, before walking over to Catherines table.

She looked a little tired and I saw some faint, but still noticeable, bags under her eyes. It was probably the jet lag. She still looked great, though, as Grace Kelly-esque as the photo on her door. I smiled as I approached her and prepared myself for the fancy meeting you here conversation I was about to have with my manager. I glanced briefly over to her friend and was momentarily stunned It was Ryan.

Fuck me.



My smile froze and I blinked a few times, double checking to make sure I was seeing correctly. Ryan acted like he had just swallowed something really bad, suddenly pale and equally stunned.

Julia! Hi, how are you? Catherine asked cheerfully.

Uh Hi, Catherine, I said stiffly but with as much pleasantry as I could muster while trying to recover from my shock. I thought you werent getting back until later this week? My words were numb; my smile frozen on my face.

I decided to cut my trip short because I wasnt feeling very well. I guess maybe I was getting a little homesick, too. She glanced over at Ryan, reaching her hand out over the table to cover his. What the fuck? I felt my stomach stir uneasily. I was already a little nauseated from my hangover, but the look Catherine gave Ryan took it to a whole new level. Something was terribly wrong here.

I looked at Ryan but he was admiring the salt and pepper shakers like they were the most fascinating objects in the world. I willed him to look at me, but he wouldnt. In fact, he didnt move. I could see a vein in his temple twitching, though, and his lips were pressed tight, but he wouldnt look at me in the eye.

Catherine noticed me looking at Ryan and said, Julia, this is Ryan McGraw. I could tell Catherine sensed something amiss between Ryan and me. She looked back and forth with a perplexed expression, but suddenly got all animated, startling me. Oh! You guys already know each other. Silly me! Ryan told me he hit you with his car and then ran into you again at the All Hands meeting. She laughed. What a funny coincidence, isnt it?

I was completely dumbfounded and blinked a few more times in surprise. Um, yes completely. What a coincidence. I smiled nervously and looked towards Ryan, regarding him as politely as I could. Thank you for the new laptop, Mr. McGraw.

Ryan finally looked up at me and replied curtly, Youre welcome. He smiled briefly but it never touched his eyes. Im sorry for hitting you with my car.

I was too stunned and hurt by Ryans betrayal to say anything. I stood there stiffly, not knowing what else to say or do. My mind was reeling and my heart was starting to splinter. Catherine noticed the awkward silence following Ryans comment. By social norms, Ryan should have said something more to me by now, especially given the mention of the car accident and laptop. Catherine shifted her head back and forth from Ryan and me, looking uncomfortable herself. Well um, this is sort of awkward, Julia. She looked over at Ryan and with a look of embarrassment, she continued, Ryan and I have a relationship outside of work. I thought I saw Ryan slightly cringe at her words. A few people know this, but not many. I would appreciate it if you could keep this between us? Im sorry to have to ask you that.

Shit. She had misinterpreted the silence. She had thought I felt uncomfortable because I had recognized that she was having breakfast with our US CVP. Good fucking grief.

Oh, I said with my eyes wide. Of course, you can trust me to not say anything. Dont worry about it, I said in a rush. I looked over at Ryan again. His face was impassive. He looked away again. If that vein could throb any harder, it was going to pop right out of his head soon. I understand completely, I said stiffly, looking directly at him, willing him to meet my eyes. At least have the guts to look at me and man up to what youve done.

Oh good, thanks, Julia, Catherine said nervously.

I needed to make my escape before she could say anything else. I felt my breath getting shallow and I could feel the tears prickling behind my eyes. If I didnt leave now, I would start crying, and that would be difficult to explain to my boss. Yes, Im balling my eyes out because your boyfriend has been two-timing you and Im a stupid, clueless idiot who just got her heart splattered all over the floor. Again.

I looked around the café and then blatantly tapped my watch. You know, I think I was supposed to meet my sister at a different café down the street. I think I just came here out of habit. Im sorry, but Ive got to run. Im already ten minutes late, I rambled.

Okay, we wont keep you then. Ill see you in the office tomorrow and we can catch up. Catherines voice was heavy with relief. She wanted me out of there, too, but her reasons were different. She didnt want anyone to know about her and Ryans relationship. Her and Ryans relationship. The thought made me shudder.

I rushed towards my car; I could text Anna from there. I was five feet out the door when my tears freely escaped. How could I have been so stupid? I knew it was too easy too good to be true too effortless. I knew there was something else going on. I knew it! But I chose not to listen to my own intuition. About a block down the street, I heard Ryan.

Julia! Wait, please!

I froze momentarily on the sidewalk, trying to wipe the tears away from my eyes. I continued towards my car, walking more briskly. I thought about running, but I didnt want to make a scene.


I felt him grab my shoulder, so I turned around.

He was breathless from running to catch up with me. Please let me explain. Please, he begged fervently, his expression stern.

I looked up at him, ambivalent, my eyes straining with tears.

Im sorry. I froze in there, he said desperately, like it was an excuse. I was completely taken by surprise.

By surprise? I repeated incredulously. I felt a wave of anger. Fuck you! I spit out bitterly and then slapped him. In broad daylight. So much for not wanting to make a scene. I was surprised by the strength of my own emotions.

Ryan scowled in pain, but was unwavering. His mouth was tight. Calmly but firmly, he spoke through gritted teeth, We need to talk, Julia. We cant do it here. I know I have a lot of explaining to do.

I glared at him and started to tremble. I was such an idiot! How could I have let this happen? I broke my first cardinal law. Never cheat with anyone. Never be cheated on by someone again.

Were you ever truly on a on a break, like you told me? I demanded. He paused and looked down at his shoes. That said enough.

I gasped. You are a piece of work, I mumbled under my breath and shook my head in distress.

As I unlocked my car door with my key remote, he moved to stand in front of me, trying to block my entry.

Let me go, Ryan, I said quietly, staring straight ahead.

No, we need to discuss this. Ill come over later today. Please, Julia, he begged.

I looked at him with tears flowing down my face. I couldnt seem to stop them now and didnt try to. I noticed the red outline of my hand was starting to reveal itself on his cheek.

Whats there to talk about? Its pretty clear to me whats going on. Your girlfriend my boss, goes on a little business trip. You use that time to get your kicks with the new piece of ass from the office. The fact that his recent ex was my manager was another pretty substantial thing he had hidden from me. Do you do this every time she travels? When you travel?

He looked horrified by my crass accusation. He gripped both of my shoulders and scowled angrily at me. I want you to know that Ive never been unfaithful to to Catherine in any way, before I met you. And you are not some piece of ass, as you put it. He ran his fingers through his hair in frustration, causing it to stand on end.

Damn it. Even pissed, he looked sexy.

Look, he said in desperation, I was going to tell you today, before she got back. She wasnt supposed to be back until Thursday, which you knew. But she got back this morning. I knew I needed to stop it before it got any further with us, because...

Further? I interrupted him. Didnt you think it went far enough the moment you kissed me? You think cheating on someone only qualifies if you fuck them? I was being callous now and I didnt give a shit.

He looked stricken by my blunt comment, but I wasnt in any mood to be delicate. He ignored my comment. I was too angry to be ladylike. I could tell my words had pushed a button.

Look. I didnt expect for this to happen, he said, gesturing in the air between us. You werent supposed to exist. He sounded almost bitter and roughly combed his hand through his hair again, exasperated. Catherine was supposed to be my happy ever after. She was supposed to be the one. After seven fucking years, I was resigned to the fact that she was it. Then I hit you with my car, and wham! I feel like I was the one that got hit over the head that day. And then that night at Bettys I knew I was in serious trouble then. I thought I did the right thing by letting you go that night. But then you showed up again and I realized I couldnt let you go a second time. He paused to take a deep breath, reflecting on his own perplexing behavior. How can you fall for someone when you already supposedly love someone else? What type of person does that make me?

I didnt respond; he wasnt asking me, anyway. He was asking himself.

He leaned forward, bending and placing both of his hands on his knees, like he had been defeated in a race. Youve completely turned my world upside down, Julia. I dont know what the right thing is to do anymore. To my satisfaction, he looked so sad; completely tormented about his predicament.

What do I say to that? He completely disarmed me again. My emotions turned from anger to sappy to sentimental to utter confusion. I wanted to be angry with him, but I couldnt, because if I was honest with myself, I was relieved to have heard his words. In fact, I was shamefully elated to hear that I had turned his world upside down.

But instead of revealing the extent of my emotions, I said, Im confused, Ryan. Are you saying you want to be with me or with Catherine?

Its complicated, he said, his face tortured.

I was really beginning to hate that word now. Is there anything that isnt complicated? Julia, Ive known her almost my whole life. Weve been through a lot together. Youve apparently made up your mind, I said curtly and I could feel my heart breaking. Juliawere engaged.

Whoosh! All the air had just deflated from my lungs. My eyes narrowed as I looked at him more closely. I thought this couldnt get any worse. I was having an affair with my bosss boyfriend no, scratch that, her fiancé. I was the other woman. Id become the thing I hated most in other women. I probably wont have a job by the end of the week, either. Awesome. The situation was getting so bad that I no longer knew how to react. It was so completely comical, I started laughing hysterically and threw my arms up in the air.

Julia he said cautiously.

Youre an asshole! I interrupted him angrily. Im done! Im not doing this with you! I snapped. No more excuses or lies. I looked down the street and I could see Catherine looking at us from a distance. She was too far for me to read the expression on her face, but she started walking in our direction. Fuck. I paused a moment to compose myself.

JuliaI dont want to lose you, Ryan begged desperately, his eyes wide and frightened. Give me some time to work this through with Catherine. Please. He implored me with his eyes.

Was he saying that he wanted some time to be able to choose between us? Or did he already choose? Was I willing to give him that time to be sure? What he did was so wrong; lying to me, lying to Catherine. Did I really want to throw this all away? I was too emotional right now to think through everything rationally. I needed some distance. I wasnt sure how I felt about his dishonesty and whether or not I could work through that. I couldnt figure that out right now. What I did know was that I had never experienced such a deep and soulful connection with another man as I had experienced with Ryan. I was falling in love with him, if I wasnt already. And because of that, for once, I decided to go against my better judgment and not become the passive player I had been in the past. I wanted to settle things under my terms.

I stood up tall, grabbing both of his large, solid hands in mine and looking passionately into his pained and desperate blue eyes. Figure it out, Ryan, I said with conviction. If you want to be with me, then be with me. Choose me. If you still have things to figure out with Catherine, then leave me the hell alone. I refuse to wait in the wings while you work things through with with your fiancé, I continued bitterly. I have way too much pride for that. Dont talk to me again until youve decided wholeheartedly that you want to be with me.

Ryan looked stricken and torn. Before he could say anything more, Catherine reached us. I glanced at her, but couldnt bear the thought of facing her right now, especially when Id obviously been crying, so I reached for my car door handle and this time Ryan didnt block my way.

Before I shut my door, I heard Catherine cautiously ask, Whats going on, Ryan?

As I drove off, I looked in my rearview mirror and saw Ryan and Catherine staring at one another, both unmoving and uncertain of what was next.



I didnt want to speak to anyone. I texted Anna and told her that I wasnt feeling well. She bought my story that I was still too hungover and I was sorry to have to cancel brunch at the last minute.

I didnt head home right away, but decided instead to go for a walk along the Elliott Bay waterfront. The clouds above resembled my mood, heavy with impending rain. I could smell the scent of ozone in the air just before I got drenched in the downpour. I didnt care.

The trail started just below the Magnolia Bridge, following along the waterfront, and ending at Sculpture Park. If you kept going, you would eventually run into the touristy downtown Seattle waterfront. I liked running here because the little waves hit the rocks piled up along the beach, and there was something soothing and calming about the never-ending subtle sound of the ocean. It was rhythmic and constant, reliable and dependable. It was unlike the drama that had just unfolded in my life.

Id always been so quick to end things. I could never bear the humiliation of trying to be with someone who didnt want to be with me. Anna and my mom always said I had too much pride and thats why I never gave some men second chances. They said I always threw in the towel too soon. I disagreed, because I couldnt name an instance where I threw in the towel early and things didnt end up the way they inevitably would have. I just helped it along. Come to think of it, I think Ryan said essentially the same thing about how Andrew and I had ended our long term relationship so quickly. Granted, that relationship was doomed anyways, so I was right in the end.

I had always taken a little time to lick my wounds, but my goal was always to move on. After Andrew, moving on was in the form of finding a new job. This time, however, finding a new job wouldnt take me away from my problems. This time it was part of the problem. I wasnt sure what to do. I ran away from Ryan as fast as I could and now I didnt know what to do next. My pride had been damaged one too many times. I couldnt bear to face Catherine, either. Most of all, I just couldnt face the fact that Ryan would probably choose herbeautiful, smart, confident, poised Catherine, a woman hes known almost his whole life.

He said he needed some time to think through things. I never gave him the chance to say anything more, nor did I give him an opportunity to talk to me later under more calm circumstances. That was my pride getting in the way again. Maybe I shouldve agreed to meet him to talk it through, but I was too hurt and angry to really rationalize and process anything he had said.

I remembered him telling me that I turned his world upside down. He didnt say that he wanted to be with me or that he would give up Catherine to do so. Thus, my only conclusion was that I was just a diversion. He must have cold feet. Anyone who waited seven years to marry someone was suffering from a long term case of it. He once called her part of the scenery. You cant marry the scenery. It would be a tragedy for someone as wonderful and brilliant as Ryan to settle and merely enjoy the view.

It didnt feel like he was treating me like a diversion, though. All the time we spent together felt sincere and his feelings seemed so genuine. Was he really that good and I was a fool, or could he have really been falling in love with me? He sounded so upset and regretful this morning when he called to cancel. Maybe he was telling the truth. I really wanted to believe him. From the moment I met him, it felt different than any other relationship I had ever been in. I was happier somehow with him than I could remember being with anyone. When the two of us were together, it felt like the rest of the world didnt exist. The connection between us wasnt imagined. Or maybe in the aftermath of Andrew, I wanted to feel love again so badly that perhaps I imagined his feelings for me. It all happened so quickly. That mustve been the reason.

He grew up with Catherine and I couldnt help wondering how long theyd known each other since childhood? Middle school? Perhaps they were high school sweethearts. I wished I knew more about their history, and at the same time, I didnt want to think about him being with her. Had I agreed to discuss things with him, maybe I wouldve learned more about it.

I couldnt help thinking about Jake at this moment. Maybe Ryan was another Jake. Catherine was his comfort, his longtime companion, and he had chosen to marry her despite the lack of passion. Maybe thats what you do after being with someone for so long; you eventually marry because thats what everyone expects. You give up on the fireworks and the butterflies in your stomach. You wimp out.

Would Ryan choose to take a leap of faith and go the less certain route? Id like to think that I could offer him love and companionship, and if our kisses were any indication, there was definitely no shortage of physical chemistry.

Then it hit me. Andrew chose the latter of these two options. It never occurred to me before, but Andrew left the security of our very comfortable relationship. I was always the safe bet. Andrew did what I was hoping Ryan would have the courage to do. When Andrew broke up with me, it really wasnt about me. It was about going after the love of his life. He had found the one, and it wasnt me. He wanted his stars and butterflies and he took the leap.

I couldnt be angry with Andrew anymore for the choices he had made. I couldnt blame him since I encouraged Ryan to do the same thing. Being unfaithful to me was wrong, but I wouldnt be so quick to judge anymore. If Ryan hadnt done what he had done, would he even be contemplating this choice? Probably not.

Regardless of his decision, I had another dilemma I needed to process. I was screwed at work. I had become the byproduct of an office affair, only my situation was worse. The woman being cheated on was not a stay at home mom or a wife whom I would never see or meet; she was my direct manager. Just my luck. Could it honestly get any worse?

How will I be able to show my face at work again? Maybe I should call in sick. But since Im already taking Thursday and Friday off for Annas wedding, and having just started this job, I cant take a whole week off work.

Since I wasnt in Ryans direct chain of command, I didnt think MS had the right to fire me for this. At the same time, I dreaded what would certainly be a discussion with HR. They may reprimand me or maybe put it in my file. Regardless, Ill have to leave the team, because I couldnt imagine Catherine leaving her job for this. She was the established legacy on the team, not me.

How would this be explained to my teammates? Oh, the thought of this getting out was beyond mortifying. Crap, Stephanie Wheeler will soon know about this. I can just see her now, looking down and possibly even lecturing Ryan for getting involved in such a mess. I was such a freakin idiot.

I could just quit, I guess. But I didnt want to give him or anyone else the satisfaction.



Plus, thats the last thing I wanted to have happen. I have, or had, a really good career here and it paid well. I was considered a senior at level 62 and for someone who was only twenty-nine years old, I was doing quite well for MS standards.

There was no good ending to this. I was angry with Ryan for even putting me in this situation. As the more powerful and older influence, he shouldve made better decisions both with my career and my heart. If I was completely honest with myself, despite his error in judgment and his dishonesty, I was still crazy about him. I had been falling in love with him and I couldnt just shut it off. If he said he wanted to be with me right now, I would say yes in a heartbeat. For once, I would put all my pride and judgment aside, no doubt about it.

So where did all of this lead me? I was at a complete dead end. This time, I had nowhere to escape to. I had allowed Ryan into my heart and he had entered it so easily. I had only myself to blame for letting that happen. I let the tears fall as it started to rain.

If there ever was a bad case of the Mondays, today was it. I couldnt recall a Monday morning I had ever dreaded more. There was no traffic this morning, of course, since I was hoping for a few extra minutes to agonize about going into the office. But no, despite the Mercer Street construction, I had no delays getting to the freeway. Most lights were green and the 520 bridge was wide open.

As I drove into the parking garage of my building, my paranoia about Catherine kicked in. I didnt know why, but I felt so ashamed. Its not like I knowingly let all this happen on purpose. If anything, I was just as innocent as Catherine was. I kept telling myself that Ryan was the bad guy herehe was the one that had put both Catherine and me in this very awkward position. Even as I tried to make him the villain, my feelings oscillated between anger and pathetically missing him.

In my desperate attempt to prevent a Catherine run-in, I went out of my way to get coffee on a completely different floor, stopping at the first floor kitchen even though my office was on the second floor. How cowardly was that? I just didnt have the energy to face her. As I waited for the Starbucks machine to cycle through its noisy grinding and brewing stages, I thought about how strange this situation had become.

Catherine was everything I aspired to be. She was beautiful, successful, sophisticated and confident. The irony here was that not only was Catherine my manager and I the other woman, but she was also now my competition. I was crazy jealous of her.

After getting my coffee, I purposely took the long way to my office in an effort to avoid passing Catherines. I logged onto my machine and reviewed my meetings for the week, then looked up Catherines Lync status and was relieved to see it showed her as unavailable. Her away message status still showed that she wasnt expected to be in the office until Friday, the day she was originally supposed to have gotten back.

It all made sense now why Ryan was unable to commit to attending Annas wedding. Catherine wouldve been back by then. Of course, he couldnt be my date once his fiancé was back in town. A new wave of hurt and anger ran through me.

I wondered if Catherine just hadnt gotten around to updating or deactivating her away message yet or if shed decided to take a personal day. I was hoping for the latter. I had no idea what happened between Catherine and Ryan after I left yesterday. I could only assume there was a difficult discussion.

By mid-morning, it still appeared that Catherine would remain out of the office. By one oclock, I gave into the feeling of relief that she likely wouldnt be in today.

Getting motivated to do any work was difficult. I wasnt sure if I would even have a job tomorrow. I hadnt heard from Ryan. His Lync status continually showed that he was in a meeting. He had made no attempt to contact me. I was saddened by his silence, but also somewhat surprised, since I expected some sort of follow up after his persistence on the street yesterday morning.

Maybe he chose Catherine. Maybe they spent all day yesterday, and last night, talking and making up. The idea of losing Ryan pained me more than I liked to admit. I literally felt a dull ache in my gut and experienced a shortness of breath at the mere thought of my loss.

I went for a run to blow off steam after work, hoping to regain some mental and emotional balance. I didnt have the energy to cook or even get take out and ended up having a bowl of cereal for dinner.

I went back online after dinner to check my email, but there was nothing from Ryan. His IM status showed as unavailable. Silence meant only one thing. He had chosen Catherine. I swallowed the reality of Ryans rejection and spent another restless night tossing and turning and evading sleep.

Tuesday morning I went through the same morning routine; there was still no sign of Catherine. If she was out of office again tomorrow, maybe Id get lucky and not have to see her at all this week. Oh, let the gods please be good. Next week, I could face her. I just needed a few days to collect my dignity so I could face the inevitable with her with my chin held high.

I had a meeting with Kyle in Lincoln Square this afternoon. Since the meeting was in Lincoln Square, Ryans building, I considered cancelling it. Mia would be joining us as well, but she was staying on campus and dialing in via conference call, something I could totally do. Admittedly, I decided to meet Kyle in person since there was a small chance I might see Ryan from a distance. I was a glutton for punishment.

After lunch, I drove over to Kyles (and Ryans) building. I entered the elevator from the main lobby and pressed the button for the twenty-second floor. Two other men entered the elevator with me, both displaying their blue MS badges. The elevator stopped on the sixteenth floor and several more people walked in. Just as the elevator was about to close, a hand from the right jarred it back open. My heart stopped and a small gasp escaped my lips. It was Ryan.

Of course, this was one of those elevator rides where it seemed like every single floor button had been pushed between the sixteenth and twenty-second floors. There were six other people on the elevator and, of course, they each needed to get off on a different level. He didnt spot me immediately, because I stood in one of the far back corners, but our eyes met only momentarily before he faced forward with a stoic expression.

Most of Ryans back was to me, but I could tell he was keenly aware of my presence. I noticed the vein on his temple was twitching again, but I couldnt fully see his face to read his expression. A guy who had entered the elevator with him began speaking about the meeting they had both come from. Ryan sounded guarded, but polite, and asked the gentleman to provide more details to him in an email.

I painstakingly watched the buttons light on and off on each floor, impatiently waiting as the door repeatedly opened and closed. He finally exited on the floor just before mine. After walking out of the elevator, he turned around and looked directly at me. His eyes were hard, but seemed to soften a tad bit, before he walked away. A couple of the people in the elevator followed Ryans gaze, wondering why Ryan was looking at me. As the door closed, I slowly let out my breath, not realizing Id been holding it for six floors.

I was about ten minutes early, so I used the time to grab a diet soda. I walked over to the lobby area behind the kitchen and sat for a few minutes on the arm of a bright orange, contemporary chair. I looked out at the view of downtown Bellevue, sipping my soda and trying to recover from the last few minutes. Why did Ryan affect me this way? The Ryan in the elevator was all business, not the warm and charming Ryan I was accustomed to. Despite his stoic, frozen look, he still looked dashingly handsome. It was hard to believe that it was only a few days ago that he was hugging me and nuzzling into my neck, kissing me sweetly. He had seen me almost naked and tucked me into bed, yet five minutes ago, we had just pretended not to know one another in an elevator. I bit my lip, wanting to cry.

I had to pull myself together. Just one more meeting, one more hour, and I could call it an early day. As I headed to Kyles desk, I found him sitting in his corner cubicle overlooking the Cascade Mountains. Now why couldnt I fall for a sweet, sexy, uncomplicated guy like Kyle?

I tapped him on the shoulder. Hey, Kyle.

Kyle spun his chair around and rewarded me a broad smile. He stood up and gave me a hug. Hey, Julia, hows it going? he said cheerfully.

Its going well, I lied, faking my smile. Im starting to get the hang of things.

Good. Well, you know, you can always reach out to me if you ever need help with anything, he said happily.

Yeah, totally, I replied. This is exactly why Im here. Well, lets grab a focus room.

I followed him down the hall, hoping to find an empty room for our meeting. Lincoln Square, unlike most MS buildings, was set up as office cubicles. The whole idea was to create an open physical working environment that fostered collaboration and the sharing of ideas. Frankly, in a company that was meeting-crazy, I found it cubicles rather inconvenient and all this talk about collaboration was a bunch of bullshit. It was just the MS way of saving money, though no one would admit it. I was thankful I still had the privacy of my own office.

I followed Kyle around the building for what felt like forever, until we realized there werent any available focus rooms on the floor. We were now running ten minutes late and resorted to walking down to Ryans floor to look for a room. My anxiety level rose as we wandered the halls, and I looked around nervously, bracing myself for another potential Ryan run in. We finally found a room and situated our laptops on the table. I sighed loudly and opened up Lync to conference in Mia, who was already waiting.

Sorry, Mia, I apologized. We couldnt find a room.

No worries, Mia replied. So, how are you guys doing? How were both your weekends?

: 2015-09-15; : 3;

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