She always tasted like mint, not just any mint-spearmint, the kind you find in Wrigley’s chewing gum. I will never forget that smell, but I always seem to remember her scent at the most inappropriate times. I could never forget her, but one thing I always remembered first, was spearmint and Isabelle. This time I’m sat in the car, pulled over in the emergency lane by an over enthusiastic coper by the name of “Byre”. Apparently I’ve been speeding, I tell this “Byre” I find this bullshit; he thinks I’m a smart ass. In the end- I get a $80 speeding ticket and he’s adding another one towards his targets; and so progressed my day. I had to run into work, because some bozo decided to park in my spot, taking up another twenty minutes. Bolting in sweaty and out of breath, once again irritated with Greg for choosing a fourth floor office and finding ALL my early appointments on time, giving me no manoeuvrability.
“Morning June! Before you start on me, I’ll be ready in five!” and swiftly close my office door before she could give me a sarcastic reply.
Throwing myself into my office chair, I speed through my morning ritual of marvelling at how I got here and why I’m not enjoying it more… Eventually, I tell myself that self-pity isn’t going to pay the bills and get myself to work seeing patients. One after another they stroll into my office with different ailments, from ear infections to check ups to rashes and by the time I’m able to take a break; it’s time for my weekly meeting with Greg. This was never the highlight in my day; Greg, my business partner, best friend and the pain in my neck. His main goal is increasing revenue, mine on the other hand is keeping sane and to escape the continual thoughts of emptiness that wash over me. That’s the fundamental difference between Greg and I; he seems to be void of any emotional thought process, whereas I seem to have in excess. I meet Greg in his office down the hall from mine and pour myself a cup of coffee. In he runs, over enthusiastic as usual, carrying a huge pile of approximately forty to fifty files.
“What’s this?,” I ask and already sorry for my curiosity.
Greg looks at me with that smile, the smile where I know I’m in for trouble, the smile that got us both suspended for a week in high school. The same smile that convinced me that dating the same girl would be an insight I definitely did not one to miss…that smile.
“Well…?”, begins Greg.
“Don’t even think about it!”
“You don’t even know what it is…before you shoot it down, give me a listen, alright?”, pleads Greg.
“Alright?”, he says more forcefully.
“Yea, yea…I never win these debates, so off you go…I’m really not in the mood Greg”, I reply; knowing full well that whatever the idea, I’ll be giving in anyways.
“Well, these files are just a few from Yates Medical Centre- they’re closing down”, as he slams the files down on his desk. “This isn’t even anywhere near the half of it!,” says Greg excitedly. “I figured since were only about ten minutes away, we could get June and Sam to call them up and see if they’ll be looking for new doctors.” This was totally Greg’s forté.
“But we’ve already got lots of clients, especially for such a new practice; do we really need more patients? Is this really the next step Greg? God knows I’ve had enough stress in my life”, I reply slowly.
“Yea, well I knew you’d say that, so I took it upon myself to have them called and…” he stops.
“Yea, and?”, I reply dryly.
“We’ve got forty five new clients! How fantastic is that?!”
“Oh my God, that’s a hell of a lot! You got them all from Yates’?”, even I was becoming excited. “How have you managed to do that? Who did you sweet talk?”, excitement turns to concern.
“I’ve got connections…”, he states.
“Yea, that’s precisely what I was worried about.”
There was silence as we both mull over our own thoughts. I was the fist to break.
“We won’t need to hire another receptionist, will we? June and Sam have just got into the swing of things…” My voice trails off- pessimistic.
“Naa…I think we’ll be fine at the moment, but we will need another full-time doctor if we’re going to be in for a packed house. I guess we have to decide whether we’ll hire Dr. Strange full-time or hire someone else part-time”, his excitement not waning for one minute.
Dr. Tomas Langston or “Dr. Strange” is our part-time doctor who fully lives up to his name. He’s a pale, wiry looking man, who can barely offer two words into a conversation but knows every Elton John song imaginable; but he’s good at his job, which is why we hired him in the first place.
“To be honest, I think I’d rather hire another doctor; not sure I can handle seeing Dr. Strange for more than a few hours per day,” I said dryly. This amuses Greg, making him spit out the coffee he was about to swallow.
“You’re too funny…but right”, responds Greg, “I’ve already had Sam put out an ad for a new employee and we’ve narrowed it down to-“
“You’ve already done what?! So the purpose of this meeting was simply to bring me up to speed on what you’ve already done?! What’s the point of this meeting, then?”, I was starting to get irritated; lately I had a very short temper.
“Why am I here Greg, if you can’t even share tasks with me? Does it feed your ego? When did you start this venture?”
“Two weeks ago, but that’s not the point. You were stressed and I didn’t want to bother you,” he whispered, “you think I haven’t noticed the date? You think I didn’t know what you put yourself through every year at this time? It’s some morbid ritual.”
I ignore his last statement, “You could of told me and not make it like I’m an employee in this firm”, I reply, instantly tired.
“Look, I didn’t think you’d be this upset…to be frank-I thought you’d welcome it…I’m sorry”, Greg sounded genuinely repentive.
“That’s alright, just be sure I’m kept up to date on the recruitment candidates, I want to be there to interview them. After all, we both need to be able to work with them, right?”, I give him a smile.
“Yea, you will. First interviews are next Wednesday”, grins Greg.
“Wow, you’ve really taken this a long way. Huh? Ok…How many candidates do we have?”
“Seven, but I think there’s only really three who stand a chance.”
“Are they all on Wednesday?”
“Ha! Yea, Dr. Strange is going to come in early and take care of our morning appointments, which should give us till about 12:30 to get them all out of the way”.
“Sounds good”, I said getting ready to leave.
“Jonathan?”, asks Greg.
“Are you alright?”
“Are you?” he pushes.
“Why won’t you say?”, Greg inquires, a look of concern on his face.
I sigh. “Because it won’t change a thing…I’ve talked about it. I’ve cried about it and I’ve ignored it, but every time I wake up, it’s still my reality-she’s gone Greg, eventually I just need to get over it.”
I wanted to walk out of the room, I wanted to cry, to scream, but I couldn’t move- I just stood there with my cup of coffee- suspended. That was how I felt about everything, without her it was ALL suspended, not over, not moving. Suspended. Even my feelings were suspended; I haven’t cried over her, I haven’t even celebrated the success of the practice or the fact that it will be three years on Saturday that we’ve been established and couldn’t even give myself the luxury of a congratulations.
“Jon- I’m here you know, always. Just let me in, we’ve known each other a long time and though you may not believe it and fight it- I care. Besides, Leelah and I would like you to come over sometime”.
“I’ll think about it”.
“You can’t avoid her Jon, she asks about you practically everyday; you haven’t returned her calls or emails; she’s starting to take it personally”.
He was referring to Leelah Dunfield, his girlfriend of six years. She was close friends with Isabelle; even her name brought me dread. I know it has been hard on Leelah too, because she also didn’t see it coming, but she wasn’t the one sleeping with her, she wasn’t the one who visualized their children in her arms. She is just a sympathetic friend.
“Ok and I’ll think about it”, I repeat.
“Well we’re inviting you over, next Friday- no excuses. It’s not like you’ve got anything planned- you never do.”
“Gee thanks Greg, still doesn’t mean I want to spend that time with you and your girlfriend feeling sorry for me”.
I can’t look at her; I can’t walk into that house and see pictures of the two of them. To be honest, I can’t really bear the sight of another female or anyone who knows about us; that’s why my job is my saviour; my patients don’t know and I don’t have to tell.
“Tell Leelah, I don’t mean any disrespect, she knows that, right? It’s…hard, Greg I just don’t know- it’s hard”, I manage to spit out.
“I understand, but you need to move on, these things happen and you can’t dwell on them forever- it isn’t healthy. I love you, man but even I’m getting concerned- and you know I don’t do emotions. It has been five years…”he trails off, trying to catch
I look away.
“I’ll be fine”, I state, but even I don’t believe myself.
“Yea, well you will be coming over; no excuses. Now get out of my office, I need to work”, Greg says jumping up and checking his watch.
“Alright. I’m out”, I concede.
I walk down the corridor, wondering what plans Greg had in store for me, I really didn’t know if I could face seeing Leelah this soon. It’s been seven months since I last saw her and even then I hadn’t planned on it. I bumped into her at Happy Mart, she spotted me first and the conversation naturally led to her…that’s when I had to leave. I can’t remember how I ended the conversation; but I do remember I never got the milk in went in for.
“Dr. Pierce? Dr. Pierce? Are you alright?”, June was whispering.
“Oh yea. Sorry, I was daydreaming…”, I reply, embarrassed, I had wondered into the waiting room. I clear my throat, “Umm, I’m just here to find out if I had any calls while I was with Dr. Wingham”.
June doesn’t look convinced, but replies, “Your mother called, but she said not to leave a message, she’ll be flying into New York next week and wanted to know if you could pencil her in for lunch on the 11th,” responds June excitedly, “Isn’t it wonderful? I just love when your mother comes to visit; she’s absolutely divine. I’ll never forget the last time sh-“
“June, did my mom say how long she’ll be staying? And do I have any other messages?”
“Well!!! She says she’s”, June lowers her voice further, “worried about you.” The emphasis on the word “worried” made me look up from the patient file I had picked up, to find June staring at me.
“What?”, I ask.
“So you’re not yourself lately? What’s the matter? I haven’t noticed anything different about you. Are you lonely? Or are you coming down with something? My friend Judith, has been sick for the past three days, she’s not sure what it is and I’m sure something’s going around, she never gets sick-“.
“You’ve got a friend named Judith?”, I asked.
“Yea…why? Interested? She is single”.
“No, June- not interested. I was just marvelling at the duo, June and Judith, it just comes across like a sitcom”.
“Oh well, we should get our own television show, our lives can be so strange sometimes. You should meet her…”.
June is always trying to set me up on dates, particularly with any of her friends, God only knows how many of them she has. I can’t even get over Isabelle, I’m not sure I’m looking for another- particularly if her name is Judith.
“I think I’ll pass, thanks though”.
“I’ll keep trying Dr. Pierce, if I wasn’t dating Fabio, I might of asked you out myself”, she says with a wink.
“Well, it’s a good thing I’m your boss then…”, I retort shaking my head still questioning where Greg found June, after 2 years, I still don’t quite understand her.
“Matthew Albright!” I call out before June could continue with any more random conversation. “Follow me. See you later June”.
“Toodles”, June sings.
The rest of my day continues like any other, giving out prescriptions, listening to ailments, checking pulses- the works. I was so focused, I didn’t realise that by the time there was a lull in patients, the practice had actually been closed for thirty minutes. I sigh and finish updating patient files, and by the time I leave the office, it’s almost 7 o’clock. It sometimes irritated me, that my colleagues respected my solitude so much, that they didn’t feel the need to rouse me of my seclusion and send me home.
Friday came quicker than I expected or could wrap my head around, I didn’t have time to process the fact that I would be seeing Leelah again. I opted to leave the office early that afternoon, determined to give myself time to relax my mind before tonight’s events. God only knew I needed the time to be mentally and emotionally ready; seeing her brings back too many memories and some I’m not entirely ready to face. As I leave the building, I begin to question whether this is even a good idea. When will I get over her? When will I be able to accept that she’s not here? When will I accept the fact that I won’t open the door to the smell of her cooking? When will these thoughts subside? I chose not to sell up and buy another house because her memory is so embedded in this house, it
comforts and tortures me on the lonely nights. After all, if I sold the house, will I not be selling her memories too? As I put the key through the lock, I can hear Mabel, my cat’s collar ring as she runs to the door; this puts a smile on my face.
“Have you missed me?”, I ask, petting her. Mabel begins purring and rolls over on her back. “Come, let me give you a treat”, this was our ritual.
As I give Mabel her treats, I open my letters- they are still addressed to the both of us; Mr. Jonathan Pierce & Miss Isabelle Laughlin. Seeing her name still gives me chills, Mabel is the only indication that I am able to move on after her, if only a little bit. I bought her to fill the void, the only kind of relationship I feel safe having, someone who needed me-even if it was only a cat. I begin to enlighten Mabel with the events of my day, she looks at me like she’s paying attention and to be fair, it’s the best I can do for now. I look at the time and realise I’ve got two hours till I am to be at Greg and Leelah’s; I then begin to over-analyse our conversation. He hadn’t said there was any reason to dress up; maybe it was just going to be Greg and I watching the Knicks game. In five years, I hadn’t even given myself the amenity to enjoy the sport that used to give me pleasure. At this point, I probably wouldn’t recognize the team, but then again-nothing really gave me joy nowadays. I spend the rest of my available time; pacing, panicking and eventually having a shower and getting dressed- I opt to play it safe, a dress shirt and jeans.
I arrive at Greg’s a planned ten minutes early; I needed the time to convince myself not to run. Sighing, I step out of my car and walk up the driveway, before I can ring the doorbell, Leelah opens the front door.
“Hi!”, she squeals.
“Umm…hhh…hello”, I reply more nervous than I anticipated. She was wearing a figure-flattering white knee-length lace dress, her hair was softly curled and a light auburn. I had forgotten how beautiful she was.
“How are you? I haven’t seen you in such a longtime!”, she rushes out as she throws her arms around me. Taken aback I have no choice but to reciprocate. “You look great Cooch, I’ve really missed your face,” this time whispering.
Hearing her nickname for me, strikes a cord and my nervousness starts to dissipate. Leelah started calling me Cooch, when she learnt that my middle name was Courtney- Dr. Jonathan Courtney Pierce. This never failed to get laughs, but Leelah making a nickname out of it, made it easier to bare.
“Yea…I guess I’ve been busy?”, my response is more of a question than a statement.
“Come on in! Did Greg give away what was on for tonight?”, she looks at me and winks.
“No, but I’m suddenly beginning to get worried”, I reply dryly.
“Nah, you’ll be fine. Have I ever let you down?”
My initial reaction is- yes, had you not introduced me to Isabelle, I wouldn’t be needing to be “cheered up”, I might of been happy, but I don’t speak my thoughts and merely smile at her.
Their house had been renovated since the last time I’d been there, but I was glad to see the photo of the four of us that usually took place in their front hall, was replaced with a photograph of Greg and Leelah from their most recent vacation.
“The place looks great! I love how it’s changed; you guys have done an awesome job!” I offer.
“Jon, you’re not a guest- you’re family. There’s no need to be formal,” she reaches out and touches my hand. A woman’s touch- had become so foreign to me. So foreign that I let it last longer than it should of, just to savour the feeling. I eventually let out a nervous laugh and struggle to find something, anything to distract me. Small talk with someone who used to be one of my best friends and I can’t muster two words, but I’m eventually the first to break.
“Lee-this is really hard for me; I don’t know what to do or what to say…. Being here…with you…it’s hard. I thought I was ready, but I guess I was wrong-I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready…” I trail off; afraid I will break down in front of her.
“I know, it’s hard- but you can’t deal with it alone. It’s been five years and you haven’t moved on. Five years of feeling guilty, feeling responsible, for believing you could have stopped her, but you’re wrong Cooch. There was nothing any of us could have done. You have to start living, look at you…you’re half the person you used to be. You’re withdrawn, sullen and just generally a hermit. You HAVE to step out…eventually, “as she spoke, she had stepped forward and was holding me by the shoulders. I can’t bring myself to look into her brown eyes, so I stare into her hair, allowing the browns and the rust coloured flecks to take me away. After noticing I wasn’t going to respond, Lee tries a different tact.
“Don’t you think she was a giant part of me too? I miss her Jon, so much-it hurts. I understand what your lost, you HAVE to believe me. But you’re so damn stubborn, I can see you resisting registering any kind of emotion. Have you cried for her? You never speak her name…”, she suddenly stopped.
“Lee I-“, I start.
“It’s fine Jon. I get it. You need time. Time. Five years is time…”, she sighs.
The laughter from the living room brings her back to the present and her cheery self again. “It’s been long enough! Personally, I don’t like seeing you single, which leads me to why you’re here tonight. You’ve got a date”.
“A WHAT?!” I practically screech.
“You heard Cooch- a date”, she says- this time more persuasively.
“No!” I step towards the front door; we hadn’t made it farther than the hallway.
“Yes,” said Lee, reaching for my hand.
“No, I’m not interested in being introduced to another one of your friends, I’ve barely got over the first!”, before I could stop myself- the words came fumbling out. Lee let go of my hand so suddenly- it hit my thigh as it dropped. The look of confusion, hurt and anger all registered on her face.
“Do you…do you think it’s my fault? You blame me!? Is that why you’ve ignored my calls, texts, emails!?” she barely whispered.
“I didn’t mean it that way Lee, you know I didn’t. It was because I didn’t expect…you know how I get when I’m nervous… I blame myself mostly…for not seeing the signs. I was busy with the practice-so preoccupied…overwhelmed…”, I couldn’t finish.
Inhaling deeply, Lee takes a step back and gently shakes her head, as if to shake off the word I’d spoken, she replies, “I need to put the fish in the oven. We’ll talk later”, and with that she walks to the end of the hallway to the kitchen, before crossing the threshold, she turns around and barely whispers, “She’s one of Greg’s friends, so you should be safe-if that makes you feel better.”
With that the door to the kitchen closes, leaving me standing in the foyer, wondering if I should just go home.
Greg and Leelah’s house was a gorgeous four bedroom cottage on the outskirts of town, which originally belonged to Greg’s grandparents, Mick and Joan Wingham. The house was passed down in their will to Greg as their only grandchild, but he wasn’t allowed to have it till he was 21. Originally, when Greg first learned that he’d inherited the house, he
wanted nothing to do with it and intended to sell it, but Lee and I managed to convince him that it would be a good investment to keep and increase the value of the house. Didn’t take much to convince Greg, once he learned that the house was worth quite a lot without any renovations- it always came down to money with Greg. They have been renovating the cottage for the past few years or so but now it really looked like a home. Looking around their now spacious living room, I can’t help but acknowledge the overwhelming fact that their lives have moved on without me. We used to be over at each other’s houses almost every day- the best friends dating the best friends. It was something out of a story, which ended so unromantically. My thoughts are broken up by my entrance into the living room.
“Hey man,” I start, “I think I just made a fool of myself with Le-“, my eyes are then drawn to a tall slender, brunette with dancing green eyes, standing behind him. Her hair cascades around her small, heart-shaped face, my eyes move slowly down her body, noticing her body-hugging blue dress, right down to her slender legs- she was gorgeous and once again I was at a loss for words. I blink.
“Jon! You’re on time. You’re NEVER on time! This is Cassidy,” he says flicking his head in her direction, “Cassidy, Jonathan. That’s Doctor to you. Dr. Pierce.”, he says nonchalantly.
She flashes him a look and then turns to me with a huge grin, “Really? I thought I might have been hooking up with Leelah tonight”, she replies sarcastically, grabbing a hold of my arm.
Greg chuckles, I am completely frozen in place; she was beautiful- too beautiful. In five years, I’d seen women-but I never really noticed them-being here, I couldn’t ignore her beauty. She carried herself with confidence, obviously fully aware of how attractive she was and the gawking didn’t bother her. Cassidy noticed I was dumbstruck and decided to break the ice by asking me questions about my profession. She wanted to know what type of doctor I was- learning I was a general practitioner, this seemed to confuse
her even more.
“So, you treat patients?” she asked enquiringly.
Greg bellowed out a deep guttural laugh and looked at Cassidy, stunned that this was a genuine question; he eventually walks out of the living room in stitches, leaving us alone.
Cassie, as she preferred to be called, was full of questions, which in any other circumstance would have been appealing, but because of the way she moved her lips- my brain couldn’t communicate with my mouth. Greg’s reappearance saved me from my predicament.
“Anyone for drinks? Beer? Wine? Cocktail?”
“White wine, if that’s ok. And you, Jon?”, asked Cassie.
“A beer and possibly a shot”, I blurt out.
“Whoa! Starting early, huh?”, laughs Greg, “You spending the night?”, he winks.
“Not sure what you’re implying. I could always take a cab. “
“Alright then, the shots are coming right up!”
With Greg out of the room once again, I return to being uncomfortable, somehow Cassie senses this and moves closer to me on the couch, placing her hand firmly on my thigh, before I know it she starts to play with my left earlobe.
“Eh…wwwwhat do you do for a living?”, I clear my throat and shift a few inches away from her.
“A little bit of this and a little bit of that,” she purrs out an answer.
“Oh. That sounds…vague.”
“Yea-I guess it is.”
“Look, Cassie”, I clear my throat, “I’d really like to get to know you, who you are. But I don’t want to rush into anything. Can we slow this down? I mean…I don’t even know how old you are…what you like to do on your spare time…and really…it makes me uncomfortable that you’re so touchy feely”, I flash a childish smile at her, hoping I didn’t let her down too hard. This doesn’t put her off- it stops the playing with my earlobe, but her hand is still firmly planted on my thigh.
“I’m a masseuse, I have been for about six years now. Age? I’m 24. I’ve got an older sister and a younger brother, both live in Kansas and my mother recently moved to Italy. Anything else you’d like to know before you can fully form sentences?”, she spills out, almost scripted.
“Um…that’s a start. Sounds like you’ve said that a lot, do you go on a lot of dates?”, I intended to be funny.
“You can kinda say that, but I don’t like beating around the bush. If I like someone- I go for it. Simple. Greg made me an offer I couldn’t refuse, so I jumped at the chance. Besides, you’re a young, good-looking doctor- who wouldn’t want to date you?”
“Yea…sure…”, I mumble, rolling my eyes. If only you knew, I thought.
Our drinks arrive and after a shot and two beers, I begin to relax. With Cassie’s hand seemingly stitched to my thigh and the alcohol making me care a lot less about how uncomfortable it made me feel. After about an hour of obvious aversion, Greg and Leelah finally make their way into the living room to join us, by then I had more courage to address Lee.
“So, how’s work going Lee? Any news?”, I offer.
Leelah was assistant manager at Brentwood Women’s Shelter, counselling abused women and children; back in college she was always taking part in marches and sit-ins, but I would never dare call her a feminist for fear of the repercussions.
“Naa. Not really, same old. We have had a full house for the past three weeks and I’ve had to turn away about twenty women, but what can you do?”, she said morosely.
“Have you told him, yet?”, inquires Greg, bringing in a bowl of nachos.
“No…” replies Lee.
“We’ve got two pieces of good news,” Greg takes over, “which is why I insisted on you coming over.”
“Yeah?”, I reply questioningly.
“Well, since you last saw Lee, she got a promotion and she’s been fully running the shelter. It’s been about nine to ten months now”, Greg beamed.
“I was gonna tell you, around that time we bumped into each other in Happy Mart.”, Lee piped in.
She had probably written it to me in one of her many emails over the past year, but they had gone unread. I dropped her gaze out of embarrassment; I wonder if she knew.
“And the other good news?”, asked Cassie dryly, she didn’t seem interested in any of these developments.
“Well…”, began Lee, “We’re going to be…parents!”, she finishes and reaches for Greg’s hand, bracing for my reaction.
“Oh. Congratulations. Doubly so,” I was shell-shocked. I knew this day would come, but I would have handled it better because I would have been a dad by now…my daughter, Amelia Rose would have just turned five. “I’m really happy for you…”, then the unexpected happens, I begin to cry. “I don’t know what to say…”. I manage to squeeze out through my tears.
Greg was the first to react, walking over- he gives me a comforting hug, this was rare for him, but I suppose the occasion called for it.
“I know it comes with a huge burden for you…that is why Lee and I would like you to be the baby’s godparent.”
I turn to look at Lee, “Really?”, I look back at Greg, “Oh thank you! I don’t know what to say…”, clearing my throat and trying to save face I muster and wipe my face, “It must be the hay fever.”
We all let out a chorus of laughs at the break in tension; Lee then offers me a hug as I congratulate her, whispering that she would be touched having me be a part of the experience. As I turn back to take my seat, Cassie looks on unmoved.
“Ugh. Awkward…yea..congrats- Lee”, Cassie replies dismissively.
“It’s Leelah to you”, she shoots Cassie a look I can’t quite register and excuses herself, entering the kitchen. Cassie was now sitting some distance from me on the couch, had I known this was what it took for some space, I would have cried earlier.
Supper was a reprieve, the hosts ensure the conversation is casual and playful; making sure we stay away from anything that could remind me of Isabelle. As the night progresses, I felt myself relax, whether it was the alcohol or hearing Lee’s boisterous laugh again; but whatever it is- it was my antidote. By the end of the night, I fully intend to take a cab home and hit the sack, my emotions had been on a roller coaster, but by then- I’d forgotten about Cassie.
As I help Cassie with her coat, she suggests, “Would you like to come back to my place?”
“Uh…I’m really not sure about that…I’m kind of tired and…”, I start.
“Come on, it’s only coffee and besides, you live on Hamilton, right?”, I nodded. “Well, I live just off Lombard, it’ll save you a cab fare.”
After catching appealing eyes from Greg, I decided coffee couldn’t hurt to see through the date. Although I wasn’t in the slightly interested in Cassie, I figure it was the gentlemanly thing to do to ensure she got home safely. We say our goodbyes and make our way to Cassie’s apartment. The taxi ride over is uneventful, I can’t think of anything to say to her-so I opt for silence choosing to listen to the radio instead. Cassie’s apartment is on the 8th floor of Fredrick’s tower in the centre of the city; as we walk to the front entrance of the building a doorman greets us.
“Good evening, Miss Evans”, he tips his head in my direction. I return the greeting.
“Gilbert”, replies Cassie, “This is Dr. Jonathan Pierce”.
“Good evening, Dr. Pierce”, Gilbert responds.
As we make our way into the elevator and up to the 8th floor, Cassie glances over at me and breaks her silence, “You’ve been really quiet on the way over here, what are you thinking?”
“You really want to know?”, I ask.
“Yeah, it beats the uncomfortable silence; it kinda feels like you would rather be somewhere else.”
“No, that’s not it that at all. I’ve just had a lot on my mind and then Greg throws a date and a baby into the mix and I’m just really overwhelmed”, this is the most honest I’ve been with myself or anyone.
“Right. Well you could pretend to have a good time? Or should I change your mind?”, she reaches up and starts to stroke my face.
“Whoa! Cassie…I genuinely came here for coffee and conversation. Nothing else.”, pulling her hands away.
“Yea…right. No guy ever goes back to a girl’s house, to really have coffee”, she says with a smirk, “I’ll change your mind.”
“Well, then I’ll just let you off at your door and be on my way…” I suggest.
“No, I’ll make you the promised coffee,” she flashes me a smile.
“Alright then,” her knowing smile didn’t give me much choice.
Cassie’s apartment was a hugely spacious, loft with an extra-large north-facing window- the city its backdrop; I walk over to the large windows and wonder how she’s able to afford living in this part of the city on a masseuse’s salary.
“Gorgeous place you have here! The view of the city is spectacular”, I state, genuinely in awe. With my family’s wealth, I could easily live here, but it wasn’t the life I wanted. Standing in Cassie’s loft, I couldn’t help think I missed a treat.
“Thanks-it is awesome! I love it. Your coffee is brewing, so what do you want to do in the meantime?” she asks as she strolls over to me, placing her hand on my lower back, I allow her to leave it there-I had turned her down enough times tonight.
“Well, you could give me a tour of your place”, I smile softly down at her.
“I could, but I don’t feel like it; more interested in you having a good night.”
“Oh. Well, that’s selfless of you,” I squirming, “I’ve had a good night and coffee would be a nice conclusion to it,” I knew where this was headed and I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to follow. In an instant, she had me pinned up against the glass window, her body pushed up against mine and her hands grabbing a hold my face.
“Wait…wait…WAIT!”, I exclaim.
“Guaranteeing you leave satisfied”, she murmurs, attempting to reach for my face again.
“I DID have a good night- I have already told you this! Did I not make it clear that I genuinely wanted coffee?”, I should of just stopped off at Starbucks, I think.
An expression of pure rejection and confusion travels across her face, “Why? Don’t you want me?”
“Look Cassie, I’m not sure what YOU thought you would get out of tonight, but I’m not here for a one night stand- that’s really NOT my style. What DID Greg tell you you would get out of this date?”, I was now getting irritated.
“Not your style? How could I NOT be your style? Have you LOOKED at me? Or were you too busy eyeing Leelah to notice me?”, she snaps.
“What? I wasn’t eyeing Lee…I…we have…history…I’m…-it’s none of your business!,” I spit out.
“Humph. Maybe not, but I’ve NEVER been rejected by a client before. The hell does that mean? You ACTUALLY wanted to come over for co-“
“CLIENT? Why did you call me a CLIENT?!”, I ask bewildered, almost shouting now.
“A job, a customer. What would you like me to call it to make it easier on your conscience?”, she says as she reaches to stroke my chest, I revolt backwards as if propelled, my head was spinning now.
“I’m sssssorry. This isn’t, wasn’t a job- it’s a blind date.Well at least it WAS for me. You mean to tell me that you were PAID to do this? PAID to go on a date with me?,” I question with an undertone of bitterness.
“Yea…why do you sound so surprised? You thought this was an ACTUAL date? I means some clients like role playing…but,” she begins to laugh, “I don’t do relationships, unless they’re paying.”
“Did Greg put you up to this?,” I was furious. Why would my best friend PAY to have an escort to take me out on a date? Did he really think that low of me? Did he think he would soften the news of him becoming a father if I got laid? Greg could really be a jerk sometimes, but this honestly took the biscuit. As my mind races, I start pacing Cassie’s loft, eventually making my way into her kitchen, I look up to find her leaning against the counter- gazing at me.
“Look Cassie, if that’s even your real name, I have nothing against you or what you choose to do for a living, but it’s not what I had in mind…I’m going to leave now.”
I walk around the kitchen island and stride across the room as fast as I can, but she runs to the front door with her back up against it, blocking my path.
“No! Don’t leave…there’s no reason why you still have to leave now that you know…I hadn’t planned on you leaving so soon”, she whispers, desperately flicking her hair. I shudder.
“Seriously, I don’t have the headspace for this right now…or ever.”
She looks at me with pleading eyes, which I suspect she’s used to doing the trick; I place my hands on her waist, this pleases her. In a split second, I lift her up, place her a few feet away and swiftly open the door and walk out.
“Please Jon!”, she shouts as she stumbles down the hall after me, but I stride on undeterred. As I step into the elevator, grateful for its swiftness, I’m aware that Cassie is still pummelling towards me. Thankfully she doesn’t get there in time and as the elevator doors close, I state matter of factly;
“I’ll make sure you get paid for your services”.