She shuts the lid and leans forward, sorrow written all over her face. I don’t have the heart to tell her that it’s not because of my mom, at least not this week, but because I keep getting these phone calls that last for hours.
“What do the doctors say?”
“About Mom?” I question, causing her look at me suspiciously. “They changed her chemo because the last round didn’t work. We won’t know much more until they do another CAT scan.”
“Is she in pain?”
“No.” My answer is very nonchalant, and I avoid making eye contact with her because I know she’ll see right through me. The longer I can hold out on my secret, the better it is for me. She’s going to hound me, pressure me into going out with him, and I can’t.
“I don’t get it. If your mom is feeling well, why aren’t you sleeping? Oh, it’s because you’re watching Livid?”
No, I wish it were, but unfortunately because of you, my best friend, I’m on the phone while it’s airing, and I haven’t upgraded my cable to include a digital video recorder.
“That’s not why, either.” I’m starting to like this game. I’m wondering how long I can go until I break and tell her why I’m so tired.
I hit print on my computer, and the paper schedule spits out so I can look it over before posting it. Stella takes a donut out of the box and starts munching away, her eyes unfocused as she tries to figure out what is going on in my life. It’s sweet, really, how much she cares, but it’s not all that complicated. For her, the fact that I have stopped dating to care for my mother boggles her mind. Add that to my rule of never dating an athlete, and she’s completely beside herself. I’m just not as carefree with my heart as she is.
“Welp, I’m officially confused,” she says, tossing the donut box onto my desk. I give her the stink eye, but to no avail. She isn’t buying my act, and honestly, it’s getting harder to keep everything bottled in. “I give up. Why are you so tired?”
I calmly fold my hands over my stack of papers and look at her as if she’s being reprimanded. “I’ve been on the phone for the past three nights with Cooper Bailey.”
Her eyes go wide, and her mouth drops open, but I slowly shake my head back and forth. “Before you start planning my wedding, there is nothing going on between us, and I am still not going out with him.”
“Then why’s he calling?” The confusion is back. I guess it’s too much to accept that a single man and woman can be friends and not lovers these days.
“At first I thought it was to ask me out, but I told him no before he could even get the words out, and we started talking. One night has turned into three, but after last night, I think we’re done chatting.”
“Why?” she asks, leaning forward.
“All he does is ask me questions about Fort Myers, and I think he knows it all by now.”
“Do you like him?”
Sighing, I push away from my desk and take the schedule over to my corkboard so I can look it over. “It doesn’t matter if I do, Stella. It’s never going to happen.”
“How do you know if you won’t give him a chance?”
I turn and face her. “Because he lives in Boston and I live here. And I’m not looking for a relationship that ends in April. And moving out of the state is out of the question.” I throw my hands up in the air. “All of this is out of the question. I’m not going on a date with Cooper Bailey.”
“Ainsley?” my intercom beeps with my secretary interrupting us.
“There’s a Mister Bailey on the line for you.”
Stella smirks and crosses her legs. She’s making it clear that she has no intention of leaving my office. My ass falls into my chair as I thank Edna for letting me know.
“You better say yes.”
Shaking my head. “I won’t.”
The phone feels like it weighs a hundred pounds in my hand while my throat feels as if it has shrunk, leaving me barely enough space to swallow.
“He…hello,” I say after clearing my throat. I don’t know why he’s calling me at work when he has my cell number.