Okay, so I’m posting a few more chapters for an old friend of mine. I won’t be posting anymore beyond this little teaser, as even if I don’t it published I’ll have to do it myself.
I can see people read the last post but not many people commented. Please, let me know what you all think. Its very important to me.
Description: Interoffice Fraternization is the story of two women separated by the past, insecurities and one human resources manual. When Jocelyn Laurens comes to work at Betz Advertising Firm the young executive falls head over heels for fellow exec, Ryan Fisher. Ryan is a seasoned executive with a secret. In this roller coaster romance two women try to find their way to each other despite obstacles, employee policy, relationships and endearingly meddlesome best friends.
So the days that marked Jocelyn’s arrival at Betz turned into weeks. She kept her distance as much as professionally possible from Ryan. She had grown quite fond and close to her team, however. This closeness led to a good cop-bad cop dynamic between Jocelyn and Ryan, Jocelyn being the former. She recognized this relational difference and played off it.
Most, if not all, of the ad team knew of Jocelyn’s sexuality and they appeared to be completely comfortable with it. Curtis, thrilled to have “family” on the floor, had no doubt been the one to spread the news. The only negative reaction, besides Ryan’s, had been Jake’s. Jocelyn hadn’t been surprised in the least. As with most men who were attracted to her then later discovered her sexuality, he took the news as a personal affront to his manhood. It was as if Jocelyn suddenly became afflicted with homosexuality purely to spite her suitor.
If Ryan noticed the wall Jocelyn had erected between them she did little to indicate any concern. This only solidified Jocelyn’s beliefs about her character. Despite her attraction to Ryan, the loss of potential friendship stung more than anything. In Jocelyn’s book being friendly with coworkers always led to a more productive work relationship.
She walked into the break room to find Ryan and Skyler plaintively circling the vending machine.
“Do we find the snack selection that riveting ladies?” she asked as she refilled her coffee mug.
“No, I dropped my cell phone. Of course it slid to the far side where I can’t reach. I guess we’ll have to call someone from the vender.”
“We tried crawling under,” Ryan added. “It’s too tight even for me.”
Noticing the truly forlorn look on her young associates face and knowing how completely lost she was without her Blackberry, Jocelyn intervened. She looked at the machine from a few angles and gave it a nudge causing it to rock a bit.
“Step back please.”
“What are you doing?” Ryan asked worriedly.
Not bothering to offer a response, Jocelyn wedged her shoulder between the machine and the wall behind it. She took a deep breath and exhaled using momentum to push the machine away. It slid easily so Jocelyn could stoop and retrieve the device with a triumphant smile.
“There you go. I know I couldn’t live even five minutes without my phone.”
She circled to the front of the machine to return it to its original position before grabbing her coffee and sauntering out.
Ryan watched Jocelyn shift the loaded vending machine out of place effortlessly, snag the phone, then push it back to its original position. She and Skyler were rapt until Jocelyn disappeared around the corner.
“Man, my boyfriend is lucky I really love him because she is delicious.”
Still rooted to her spot, Ryan watched the petite blonde turn the opposite corner before she nodded her agreement.
“So you two still aren’t speaking?” Tonya asked as they each painted a wall of a client’s living room.
Jocelyn wiped a paint splatter from her cheek. “We speak professionally but it’s limited to that.”
“Are you sure its homophobia?” Katrina questioned.
“It’s obvious Kat,” Shiloh chimed. “She didn’t start acting strange until she saw J’s equal rights souvenir. If that’s not a sign I don’t know what is.”
Tonya threw down her roller and sat on an overturned paint bucket. “She’s right.”
“I guess. It just sucks. We’ve met a couple of her coworkers and they all seem cool.
During her first few days at Betz Jocelyn ran into some of the team members at a bar near the office. She joined them as a sign of solidarity. Jocelyn’s friends had an opportunity to meet the few that were present and the two parts of Jocelyn’s life seemed to mesh fairly well. Based on past experience, she felt if her team knew and liked her on an appropriate personal level they would in turn like and respect her professionally.
“Yeah well, people suck—like this color sucks! Why’d we agree to this?” Tonya exclaimed incredulously.
“Because it’s what the client wanted.”
“But we’re the designers. This lady is lucky I missed the consultation because I would have never agreed to this,” Tonya rejoined.
“Hence the convenient scheduling conflict,” Katrina chuckled bringing a laugh from the entire group.
The following week entailed a heavy workload for the fifth floor team of Betz Advertising. An up and coming natural juice company was seeking their advertising expertise for the launch of a new organic energy drink. In no way was it a glamorous assignment. Budget constraints would mean trying to reflect their best ideas with very little to supplement them. Due to the fact that this wasn’t a multi-million dollar account they had been saddled with the responsibility.
“Okay, we need your best ideas on this one people. I’ve had it with these el cheapo accounts while other teams are getting bigger clients,” Jocelyn paced. “Let’s show them we can handle a multi-million dollar campaign. You all with me?”
Even to her own ears she sounded more like a general leading her troops out to battle than a manager leading a staff meeting. It was her goal to appeal to their competitive spirit.
“Let’s keep in mind that every ad is just as important as the next, regardless of the amount being spent.”
The entire staff including Jocelyn had to restrain their eye rolls.
“Very true, Ryan,” she added as they stood on ether end of the conference table. “But let’s not forget bigger budgets allow us to perform our jobs more efficiently.”
“Good point,” Ryan countered. “However, we must keep our integrity, regardless of budgets and paychecks.”
She has the nerve to mention integrity? Jocelyn thought. She remained silent as Ryan wrapped up the meeting.
“Jocelyn, may I have a word with you?” Ryan asked once the room had been cleared. She continued once she was sure she had the other woman’s attention.
“If we’re going to be a cohesive team we must be on the same page, more importantly you and I should be aligned. I don’t feel it wise to raise the teams expectations on accounts when we have nothing concrete to go off of.”
“So I shouldn’t motivate them to do better? Wouldn’t hard work warrant better results?” Jocelyn countered.
“In theory, but you and I both know that doesn’t always happen in our business, at least not immediately. Either way, I’d rather they consistently do exemplary work and have better accounts be a pleasant yet unexpected reward of that work.”
“Fine,” Jocelyn relented. “But while we’re making request I have one.”
“Please, go ahead.”
“Could you not undermine me in front of the staff? If you have a problem with how I’m addressing the group then tell me privately. After which I’ll amend anything that needs adjustment as I see fit.”
Jocelyn shot out of her seat. “Thank you. Goodnight.”
Ryan stopped Jocelyn before she left. “There’s something else going on here,” she hedged.
“What are you talking about?”
“You tell me. You’re friendly with the staff yet cold with me. Whatever I say, you have to say the opposite. You don’t strike me as the disagreeable type, not intentionally anyway.”
“I don’t know what you’re looking to hear,” Jocelyn predicated.
In reality this cold front she enacted between them was wearing thin, but she couldn’t turn her back on her values. Regardless of how you feel about someone’s views you should at least pay them the courtesy of tolerance when forced into a situation with them. It was a rather simplistic value system Jocelyn knew, but it was one she found success operating under. She wasn’t looking to publicize her sexuality she merely wanted to be respected as a person and as a coworker regardless of her preferences that, ironically, had no bearing on their work.
Ryan stood and waited.
“Fine, you want the truth? My main problem with you is that you’re a homophobe. There it’s out—no pun intended.”
Ryan paled. “I’m a what?”
“You heard me.”
Ryan was at a total loss. Of all the things she has expected Jocelyn to say this had not been one of them. If asked she would admit that she and Jocelyn’s relationship had been strained, yes, but she thought it’d been mutual. Ryan had resented the presence of the company’s new “fly girl.” Never one to rally for change, Jocelyn represented just that with her unorthodox methods and strange working habits. Not to mention the fact that Ryan felt perfectly capable of handling the team sans co-manager. She had assumed that maybe Jocelyn sensed this resentment and was reacting to it. Homophobia didn’t seem at all feasible. Homophobic was the furthest thing from what Ryan Fisher was.
Before she could stop it laughter began bubbling forth. Ryan couldn’t reign in the peals as they came spilling out one after another. The irony of the situation made this misunderstanding unbearably funny. While she was trying to control her immediate attraction to Jocelyn, Jocelyn was assuming her to be a homophobe.
“Well I’m glad I amuse you Ms. Fisher,” she reached for the door handle once more, “but I’ll be damned if I stand here while you laugh in my face.”
Jocelyn was halfway down the hall by the time Ryan was able to cross the room. It would have been her first instinct to shrink away from the fire she saw in Jocelyn’s eyes, but she pushed forward undaunted. She wasn’t quite sure why she cared, why it mattered so much to clear up this miscommunication, but in this moment it meant everything.
“No, wait, please excuse me. I didn’t mean to insult you.”
She looked down the hall to make sure no prying eyes or ears were present. Tripping over her word, she gripped the larger woman’s forearm in an effort to make her listen.
“I’m not homophobic. That’s the last thing I am. I apologize if you feel as if I slighted you for that cause—for any cause.”
Jocelyn didn’t budge.
“If I were homophobic wouldn’t I subject Curtis to the same treatment you feel you’ve been receiving?”
Jocelyn had to agree. While Ryan was rigid and professional to the point to painfulness, she did treat Curtis exactly the same way as the other associates.
“I guess I was a little upset when you got here,” Ryan continued. “I was close to Paige, the woman you replaced. Then Mr. Betz was giving you so much praise…it was too much.”
That was the truth. Not only had Ryan been unhappy about not being the sole manager of the team, she also hated the attention being lavished on Jocelyn. Always an overachiever, she had grown accustomed to being recognized as the best and the brightest in the workplace. Not only was Jocelyn now receiving that attention, Mr. Betz himself had stepped down from his ivory tower to administer it.
“Look, I’m sorry your friend is not here anymore. But I have no control over that. I also have no control over any favor Mr. Betz has shown me. I’m just here to do my job,” Jocelyn explained.
“I know that now. This is all the result of pure childishness on my part. Will you accept my apology…please?”
Ryan looked down at her hand still gripping Jocelyn’s forearm. Does she lift weights? She pulled away suddenly.
It was several moments before Jocelyn replied. “Yes, I accept.”
Jocelyn flashed her winning smile and in one fell swoop successfully eased Ryan’s nerves professionally yet sent her into a riot emotionally.
After a few days to test out their newfound ceasefire Jocelyn and Ryan seemed to have found their rhythm. They continued the good cop-bad cop routine, but they were more in sync with each other. Everyone on the staff noticed the change and they were grateful for it. While they both demanded a lot of their staff, Ryan was more of the disciplinarian and Jocelyn provided stress relief. Like with children, the young associates thrived under both methods.
“So, Tasty Fine Food Company has had one batch of contaminated produce out of millions in fifty years. They are on the brink of ruin.”
“They need us to find a way to reinvent their brand so that this one isolated incident doesn’t become their downfall,” Jocelyn added.
“How do we make millions of people forget that Tasty Fine poisoned those people?” Jake began. “No one is going to be able to see passed that.”
“Perhaps,” Ryan hedged.
Jocelyn went to the white board and drew a box around the brand name.
“Framing?” Skyler piped.
“Exactly,” Ryan confirmed. “Placing the incident aside the only thing that matters is brand perception. Whatever people think about the brand will reflect in their revenue. They aren’t willing to change their name and frankly, I don’t believe that’s necessary. What they are willing to do is change their business practices so that something like this won’t slip through the cracks again.”
“So we get rid of this stogy old frame that was the product of their forefathers.” Jocelyn erased the box and drew squiggly lines in its place. “And we replace it with a more hip and new frame. One that will make the public forget about their past and get excited about their future.”
Jocelyn paused for dramatic affect and smiled at Ryan. She’d yet to share her idea. “One word: Organic.”
Ryan smiled in return.
Jocelyn and Ryan each excelled at what the other lacked. Jocelyn’s sense of imagination gave them a chance to truly explore the team’s creative side. Ryan’s more traditional work ethic helped keep that creativity relatable to the clients.
Returning to her desk, Jocelyn found she had several new messages. Unfortunately they were all from her friends informing her they were unable to attend their usual after work dinner and drinks. This wasn’t atypical as they each had their own lives and jobs outside of each other and their business. Most of the time, however, it would be some combination of the four women when there was no work to be done.
Jocelyn plopped into her chair with a sigh. It had been a trying day and the next would prove to be doubly so. She desperately needed to unwind before she had to return home and face the needs and concerns of her clients. An idea formulated and she sprung into action.
Ryan rolled her eyes as she was forced to endure yet another monologue detailing an accolade Reed received at work. He was an investment banker and, to his credit, a rather good one. He graduated at the top of his class from a state school and turned his meager beginnings into a lucrative and successful career. Being a few years older than Ryan he was further along in his career and able to, as he put it, “treat her as she should be treated.”
“So this will be one of my largest commissions to date,” he continued. “Which means a probable promotion. Isn’t that great?”
She was roused from her game of solitaire by his excitement.
“Yes, that’s wonderful!”
“So, do you feel up to celebrating with me tonight?”
There was that tone again. The suggestive tone that made her skin flush and her palms sweat and not from arousal. Before she could answer she heard a brief knock before the door swung open.
“Hey, Ryan, you want to—oh I’m so sorry I should have waited.” Jocelyn backed out of the office.
Relieved for the intrusion Ryan instructed her to enter with a wave of her hand placing Reed on hold.
“I didn’t mean to interrupt, I was just wondering if you wanted to grab a drink since my girls canceled,” Jocelyn explained. “But you probably have plans so—”
“No, actually I don’t,” Ryan lied. “What did you have I mind?”
“Just some dinner and drinks at the place down the block, nothing too fancy.
Ryan stared into Jocelyn’s brilliant smile. She couldn’t help but feel a bit surprised by the sudden invitation. It was only days ago that they were clearing up a rather serious misunderstanding. Despite Ryan’s usual reticence, she was unable to say no.
“Just let me get my things together. Meet you by the elevator?”
Ryan sighed and prepared for her most dynamic performance to date before she took Reed off hold.
A while later the two women arrived at a trendy restaurant right at the edge of Downtown Jersey City. It was one of the trendier after work spots in the area with its spectacular view of New York City so it was crowded most days of the week. Tonight was no exception.
“Packed tonight,” Jocelyn noted.
“Typical for this place. They make a great cosmopolitan though.”
She and Jocelyn shared a look.
“What?” Ryan asked defensively.
“Nothing, I just never figured you a cosmo’ girl.”
“Just what kind of girl did you take me for?”
Jocelyn pondered for a few moments. “I don’t know, but not a cosmo’ girl,” she finished with a laugh.
“Well, what’s your drink?”
“Whiskey, straight up more often than not. If I’m in the mood for something a little more fruity, red devil.”
Ryan was thoughtful for a few seconds. “Yeah that seems perfect actually.”
They both laughed as the hostess informed them a table was ready. Ryan noted how Jocelyn took a step back to allow her through first placing a hand on the small of her back as a guide. She was sure it was nothing but pure habit, but she couldn’t help the rush of those old familiar feelings. That protected yet equal feeling of another woman’s hand on her in a semi-intimate manner. Those feelings, however, were all too short lived in a figurative and literal sense.
“What can I get you ladies to drink?”
“What whiskey do you offer?”
“Jack, Jim and Glen.”
“Oh, the three boys.” Jocelyn screwed up her face.
The waitress smiled. “We also have some Highland Park, if you’re willing to pay.”
“Twelve year old?”
Jocelyn smiled seductively. “We have a winner. Chilled, but no ice please.”
“A woman that knows her whiskey, I like that. Anything else?”
Jocelyn licked her lips and smiled again. “A cosmopolitan for my friend here.”
“Coming right up.”
Ryan shot daggers at the waitress as she sauntered off. She didn’t even ask me directly what I wanted.
Unconscious of the set of eyes on her at the moment Jocelyn shed her suit jacket and loosened her silk ladies tie. Ryan took this opportunity to admire the other woman’s sense of style and bravery. She wore women’s clothes with a subtle masculine flair. Her appearance didn’t paint her as gay, but it didn’t negate all suspicion either.
“What looks good to you?” Jocelyn asked.
Is that a trick question? “I’ll probably stick with something light like a salad. I had a heavy lunch…got to watch my figure,” she responded offhandedly.
“It looks fine to me.” Jocelyn looked down at her menu and shook her head in frustration.
Ryan smiled. “Does that happen a lot?”
“Does what happen?”
“Women, flirting with you.”
Jocelyn looked in the waitress’ direction. “Oh, that. You think she was flirting with me?”
Ryan tilted her head to the side. “She was. You both were doing it.”
Jocelyn tried to hide her smile. “Well, no. Yes. I don’t always notice. It can be hard to gauge if a woman is flirting or just being nice. You know?
Ryan looked incredulous. “So, she was just being nice in your perception?”
“No, she was flirting with me,” Jocelyn admitted.
“I’m willing to bet that happens far more than you know,” Ryan mumbled as she continued to study the menu.
An uncomfortable silence fell between them. Ryan was only being inquisitive, but as often happens, she had managed to make the enjoyable situation a tense one.
“I have to admit, I was kind of surprised by the invitation tonight,” she revealed once their drink orders arrived. Why not get it all out there while things are this uncomfortable?
Jocelyn thanked the waitress without looking at her. “Really?”
“Yes, well, we were having a rather serious disagreement just a few days ago. You accused me of being a homophobe. You must have hated me. Then, poof, you’re inviting me out for drinks. Not that I’m complaining. I’m just surprised, like I said.”
“I told you, I’m using you since my friends couldn’t make it.”
Jocelyn sighed. “Okay, I really am using you…but…I try not hold on to grudges for long. I don’t see the point. I had an issue with you and you not only cleared it up but also apologized. There’s no reason for me to be unable to move on. Don’t you agree?”
Ryan took a sip of her drink. “Yes, I do agree. That’s very rational, but I don’t know if I’d be able to forgive and actually forget that quickly.”
“Oh, I haven’t forgotten, but it was a misunderstanding. If this becomes an issue again then I’ll be a bit more reticent about forgiving. But you’ve given me no reason not to believe you, and frankly its just dinner and drinks. No harm in having someone to eat a meal with, right?
Ryan couldn’t help but smile at Jocelyn’s sensible, if not oversimplified, way of thinking. “Right.”
Jocelyn found it easy to talk to Ryan and she hoped the feeling was mutual. She was pleasantly surprised that Ryan was far more talkative than expected. She was nothing like the “Queen B” persona she gave off at the office. It seemed Ryan Fisher was full of surprises.
“So your apartment must be fabulous.”
“I wouldn’t say that, but I like it.”
Ryan tilted her head to the side. “You’re being modest. You have an interior decorating business. Do you expect me to believe you live in a poorly decorated home?”
Jocelyn’s eyes widened. “Well I wouldn’t say that either. But—”
“Exactly,” Ryan interrupted. “There’s no need to continue speaking.”
They shared a laugh.
They had finished dinner some time ago and were both on their second and third drink. Neither seemed to be conscious of the time. A comfortable silence had fallen between them. It was one of those silences that happen when you finally recognize the amount of fun you’re having and how much you’re enjoying the other persons company. It was the kind of silence that usually ruins everything. Now was no exception.
“Shoot, it’s after ten,” Ryan pointed out. “I totally lost track of time.”
“Yeah, me too,” Jocelyn agreed. “You ready to go?”
Jocelyn asked for the check and already had her credit card out to pay.
“Wait, let me,” Ryan protested.
“Too late.” Jocelyn smiled as the waitress disappeared.
“This was supposed to be a thank you for the coffee the other morning.”
“Was it? I don’t remember you telling me that.”
“Well it was supposed to be a surprise,” Ryan countered. “Until you ruined it that is.”
“Oh, I see. Next time then?” Her voice was hopeful to the prospect of a next time.
“Yes, next time.”
The walk back to the office parking lot was in silence, but the unseasonably warm night was conducive to peaceful and companionable quite. Ryan wasn’t too surprised when Jocelyn insisted she escort her to her car.
“And who’s going to walk you to yours?” she challenged.
“Don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine.”
After a short and playful argument Ryan finally gave in. Surprisingly she found Jocelyn’s chivalry endearing instead of suffocating. As expected, when Ryan hit the auto unlock button Jocelyn opened the door and held it for her.
“Nice car.” Jocelyn took a step back to get a better look at the sporty BMW. “This is one of my favorites.”
“Thank you. I love it too,” Ryan commented as she climbed in. “Where’s yours?”
Jocelyn pointed to the other end of the lot. “I’m that vintage Mustang down there.”
Ryan looked in the direction she pointed. “Very nice.”
Yet another silence fell between them. This one wasn’t as comfortable as the last. This was the kind of silence that occurred at the end of a good night. A night you don’t want to end.
“Thanks for dinner, Jocelyn. I really had a good time.”
“Me too. Let’s do it again soon.”
Several seconds ticked with Ryan making no move to set off.
“Are you leaving?”
“Oh…yes,” she blushed. “I’m going. See you in the morning.”
A bemused smile never left Jocelyn’s face as she watched Ryan pull away.
Jocelyn rushed out of the elevator and into her office to quickly drop off her things before heading to the conference room. Today Mr. Betz had a special announcement to make. No one had any idea what this was in regards to. It was rare that the big boss, as many called him, made an appearance on the lower floors of the building. When he did it was for something big. The last time was for Jocelyn’s arrival a little over three months ago.
“Please tell me he’s not here yet, Curtis,” she huffed on her way passed the receptionist station. Even after all this time it seemed that some force kept her from being on time when something important was happening on the floor. It was even more infuriating when more often than not she was at the office early to get a head start on her day to ensure she’d be able to leave at a reasonable hour.
“You’re safe, just hurry your tail up!”
She breathed a sigh of relief as she finally made it to the conference room. A brief greeting was sent to the team as she found a seat next to Ryan at the head of the table.
“Late as usual I see.”
“Way to kick me while I’m down, pal,” Jocelyn returned. “Today, of all days, a truck decides to dump its load of salmon onto the parkway. I didn’t even have time for coffee so please nudge me if I start to doze off.”
Ryan smiled devilishly. “You are so going to love me.”
Jocelyn paused for a second. “I find that hard to believe, but why are you destined to receive my unwavering devotion?”
“This isn’t the time to be flippant Ms. Laurence. I may decide to keep this extra tall mocha latte with the extra whip cream.”
Jocelyn’s eyes lit up. “I do love you. Please don’t let my under caffeinated insolence ever convince you otherwise.”
“I had the sinking suspicion you’d be late this morning. I heard the radio coming in. I missed that truck by minutes.”
“Based upon your keen foresight and the fact that you thought of me, it is I who thinks you’re in love with me.”
Laughing as Jocelyn batted her lashes, their playful banter was interrupted by Mr. Betz and his assistant finally joining the meeting.
“Ms. Fisher, Ms. Laurence and team, good morning. I know there is plenty you all have to get done so I’ll make this brief.”
Mr. Betz went on to explain the reason for this impromptu meeting. Apparently Jocelyn’s unorthodox methods were paying off. The team’s ad sales had taken a dramatic spike. Due to that fact, Mr. Betz was allowing the team to pitch and work their own ad campaign with an unlimited budget on a trial basis. This was a privilege paid to upper executives only. This would and could potentially be a chance for them to prove not only that they could acquire a large client, but also create a lucrative campaign that could maintain that client. It went without saying that this in turn would lead to the acquisition of other such clients.
Once the meeting was concluded the entire team enthused over this great opportunity and reigned praise upon Jocelyn. Even Ryan had to admit that while the other woman’s methods were downright strange at times, they were also effective.
“This was a team effort one hundred percent,” Jocelyn modestly explained. “Now is our chance to prove we all belong on those upper floors. Lets not waste this opportunity.”
Before they resumed their day of work Ryan and Jocelyn agreed to take suggestions in regards to perspective clients from the team for one week. The final decision was theirs, but suggestions were always welcome.
“This has been the roughest day, Kat.” Jocelyn leaned back into her office chair while idly spinning side to side.
“Yeah, I’m looking forward to the weekend, that’s for sure,” Katrina agreed. “But at least you have your new girlfriend to make you feel better.”
A note of bitterness slipped into Katrina’s tone. It was a note Jocelyn had learned to ignore long ago.
“She’s not my girlfriends,” she drawled. “For the hundredth time.”
“Give it time. Don’t forget we have Mrs. Thurber’s place to work on tonight, the rest of the week actually.”
“Yes, I know,” Jocelyn groaned. “I am so sick of her. If she changes the design one more time I’ll scream.”
“We all will. Look, I have to go or I’ll be late tonight. See you later.”
Jocelyn hung up the phone sharply.
“Don’t break it,” Ryan stuck her head into Jocelyn’s office.
“If only I could. Come in.”
Jocelyn enjoyed Ryan’s unexpected drop-ins. They would each kill a few moments each day by visiting with each other. For the few minutes they were together they could forget business stresses and just be.
“Care to tell me why you’re abusing office equipment?”
“Clients suck.” Jocelyn dropped her head onto her desk.
Ryan had to fight the urge to round the desk and run her fingers through Jocelyn’s soft tresses. Despite that fervent urge she remained seated.
“What else? This client is a total pain in the ass. She changes what she wants every day. No exaggeration. Then when we do it she complains. None of which would be too big of an issue if she didn’t need this all done by Sunday for some party next week. The whole thing is just so tedious—and I’m whining. Sorry.”
Ryan smiled softy. Cute. Then she frowned. “I’m sorry to hear that. What do you say we go out for a drink? My treat.”
“That sounds wonderful, but I can’t. I’ll be working tonight, and every other night this week until this is done.”
“I understand.” Ryan tried her best to hide her disappointment.
“But I can make it up to you,” Jocelyn smiled.
“How, pray tell, can you accomplish that?”
“My friends and I are having a party next weekend at my place. And you are cordially invited.”
“Well paint me grateful,” Ryan returned in jest. “What kind of party is it, dinner party?”
“No, definitely not some stuffy dinner party. I want to let my hair down and really party.”
“So spit it out already. What kind of party is it?”
“A college party,” she said then sat back and waited for a response.
Ryan stared at her with a blankly. “College party?”
“Yes. I know you remember those with the loud music, booze and good old fashion fun with no worrying about impressions and decorum. The best kind of tension release—besides sex of course.”
Thrown momentarily, Ryan quickly regained her composure. “Well I suppose that does sound like fun.”
“Of course it does. So you’re coming?”
“I guess. I have to check my schedule.” That got a laugh from the other woman and a prideful swell from Ryan.
Ryan was disappointed to be returning home so early. She had grown accustomed over the last few months to either working late or hanging out with Jocelyn after work.
She slowly made her way up the stairs of her home to undress. The phone rang shortly after she reached the top of the stairs and she momentarily entertained the idea of ignoring it, but she knew it was only one of a few people calling.
“Ryan, love, how are you?”
Ryan never considered herself a classist, but the haughty tone of her mothers voice grated on her nerves. She couldn’t figure how someone rebelled against their family and upbringing to marry outside of her race only to return to that lifestyle given the first opportunity. She wondered if her father would care for mother’s attitude but quickly discarded that thought. Her mother while her father was alive was a much different woman compared to now.
“Hello mother,” she replied dryly.
“How are things? I never hear from you anymore.”
Anymore? Ryan and her mother had never been terribly close. There were things that drove them apart. Things that even a mother, daughter relationship couldn’t mend naturally.
“I’ve been busy.”
“Yes, I’m sure. How’s Reed? I do hope you’re making time for him. You must remember that men don’t like to be put in second place. Wouldn’t want to lose him would you?” Mrs. Fisher chuckled happily.
Ryan had to bite her tongue. It was no surprise that her mother would consider Reeds feelings over her own daughters. Now was no time to bother with arguing. Some battles weren’t worth fighting.
“No, wouldn’t want that.”
“Good. Well, I don’t want to keep you. Let’s get together soon.”
As soon as she had hung up the phone it began to ring again. She was sure to check the display this time.
“Well look who remembers they have a friend,” Paige began sharply.
Ryan continued changing her clothes. Speaking with her mother often made her drop everything out of sheer frustration. If she concentrated she could end the conversation quickly.
“What are you talking about?”
“I haven’t heard from you in days. Out with your new work friend all the time.”
“Being a bit over dramatic don’t you think?”
“Not by a long shot. I see things are going better for you two,” Paige noted in a more serious tone.
“Yes, much. I still don’t see how she could have thought that I was a homophobe.”
“I could,” she responded with a snort.
“It’s easy to think you’re a homophobe. I thought you were for a while too,” she explained. “No big deal.”
Ryan sputtered in confusion. “Paige, where could these allegation come from? I’ve never shown any ill will towards Curtis and he’s flaming.”
“True, not Curtis, but remember Janice that mail girl we had a few years back? You were totally rude to her.”
Ryan thought back and drew a blank on her treatment of Janice the mail girl.
“I was not rude to her. I didn’t even know she was gay.”
“You didn’t know?” Paige asked incredulously. “Everyone knew. It was obvious. Hell, she wore a beaded pride flag around her neck.”
Ryan sat numbly for long moments. Clearly she was projecting her deep seeded feelings towards lesbians. She hated to think she was so transparent.
“It doesn’t matter though,” Paige went on sensing Ryan’s discomfort. “So long as Jocelyn’s comfortable around you, and you her, then there’s nothing to worry about. Right?”
Ryan grew reluctantly introspective once she disconnected from Paige. She knew she had her apprehensions, but she didn’t know everyone could detect them. Granted Paige was her best friend, but others were picking up on them as well. Jocelyn had even thought it necessary to distance herself in an attempt to dodge her judgment. She had no clue where this misguided homophobia came from.
“It’s a shame, those people. What their parents must go through,” Mrs. Fisher droned on as they watched the Mathew Sheppard coverage.
“Do you see?” she asked Ryan. “Do you see the consequences of this…this lifestyle?” She spat the offensive words.
“I know you don’t understand now, but one day you will and you’ll thank me.”
No, Ryan had no clue where her perceived homophobia came from.
She was drawn from her introspective quest back in time by the doorbell. It was moments like these that she didn’t care for her town house. It was a lovely two bedroom duplex with two and a half baths. It was equipped with an attached one-car garage and a small backyard. Despite all the amenities, an unexpected visitor meant a long trek down a lengthy flight of stairs to greet them. She was totally comfortable with her laziness.
“So you are still alive,” Reed smiled as he arrogantly strolled passed her into the foyer.
“Please, come in.”
“It’s been so difficult to track you down these days so I figured I’d pop in,” he smirked at her.
“Indeed. So can I stay or am I going to be abandoned once again?”
Ryan eyed Reed wearily. He was everything any woman should want. He had a full head of blonde, stylishly cut hair, broad shoulders and sharp features. His intelligence and wit made him pleasurable to talk to. Even with all of that she still found herself having to mentally prepare to be with him. She had to remind herself to be affectionate. Ryan had to do things you shouldn’t have to when you really care for someone.
And she did care for Reed. She cared deeply for him. He was considerate and kind and seldom selfish passed his desire to talk about his job incessantly. Ryan could honestly say she loved him. She just wasn’t in love with him.
Her mother’s words echoed in her mind. Wouldn’t want to lose him would you?
And in that moment, “Sure, stay,” she knew her feelings really didn’t matter.
Reed leaned in capturing her lips. She cringed as he roughly pushed his tongue into her mouth overwhelming her. Pulling away she led the way to her bedroom and mentally prepared herself for a long night because in the end the evil she knew was far safer than the evil she didn’t.