(Continuation of If You Can't be with him, be Cupid)
I’m staring at the office clock, mounted proudly on the wall, and I’m waiting impatiently for it to tick tock to the time I want it to be.
It’s Friday afternoon.
I should be thankful.
But it’s been such a long week that I’m now fully ready for the weekend, and these last twenty minutes of office hours seem to be the most painful. Surely, it’s time to go by now.
And yet, the time continues to be cruel; teasing everyone until they’re at breaking point. In fact, looking around the office, everyone is transfixed by this little ornament on the wall, raising their heads from the computers every ten seconds. They say a watched pot never boils, but maybe if I throw this stress ball at it, it will fall from its throne and land in the fish tank underneath.
That wouldn’t be fair on the fish.
“Anything exciting planned for the weekend?” Luke asks, perching himself on my desk.
I tear my eyes from the clock and look up at him. I once had a crush on this man. A rather bad crush, but since he started going out with one of my closest friends, the crush (thankfully) has been locked up in a small box at the very back of my mind.
“Not really,” I drawl, resting my head on my hand.
“Really? The way you’re staring at that clock you’d think you’re going home to something amazing,” he jokes.
I turn my focus on him again.
“I am. I’d like to think my home is amazing,”
He laughs. That poetic laugh that would practically make me swoon. But not anymore. Now, I’m a grown-up.
“Not long now,” he rises from my desk and pats my shoulder gently with the files he’s holding.
I attempt a laugh. But I fail. My gosh, I have never been this tired.
“And what has both of you so intrigued?” Hannah asks creeping up behind us.
“The clock,” I say bluntly without turning around. “It won’t bloody move,”
I can feel Hannah’s eyes rise to the location where the entire office has been obsessed with. It’s alright for her – she’s dating Luke. She has her home life come to work with her every day.
I finally turn to face both of them. They’re standing ridiculously close to one another, cocooned in love and devotion.
I want to hurl.
“I bet you’re looking forward to leaving,” Hannah says, now taking Luke’s perching spot.
“Well, yes,” I say. Surely that’s obvious.
“Are you nervous?”
No. I’ve gone home before.
“Nervous about what?” Luke asks for me. I stare at Hannah trying to imagine what on earth she means.
“For your date with Brandon,” she shouts. Everyone turns towards us, but then are distracted by the clock a mere second later.
Oh! That! Oops!
“I completely forgot about that,” I say feeling a little bad about it. Hannah had cornered me a week earlier telling me how upsetting it was to watch me ‘being single’. So, she very kindly offered to set me up with her cousin.
I hate it when people do that. As soon as they’ve encountered a relationship of their own, they feel they will simply perish if everyone else is not in the same soppy state.
But I said yes because sometimes that is the only way to get Hannah’s tight grip of your arm.
“Brandon? As in your cousin?” Luke crosses his arms and looks at his girlfriend.
“Yeah,” she says defensively. “What’s wrong with that?”
“He’s divorced!” Luke shouts. “And he’s at least ten years older than her,”
“He’s only thirty-two,”
“And she’s only twenty-two,”
“He’s a lovely guy. He’s smart. Hilarious. Has a great job.”
“He’s divorced,” Luke persists.
Hannah jumps off the desk and stares him out. Her eyes are now looking blood-shot and in all honesty I’m feeling a bit scared for Luke.
“He’s my cousin,” she says, stepping closer and closer towards him.
“And he’s a great guy. But only just divorced. Would you like to have been pushed together with someone who’s clearly not in the right mind for dating?”
“He’s doing fine,”
Luke chuckles. “He told me he cries himself to sleep every night,”
“Well, she needs to be going out with someone,” Hannah shoves a finger in my direction.
I look up at both of them. It’s nice to finally be acknowledged.
“I like being single,” I tell them. “But I also like going on dates,” I try to find the happy medium. I know I’m the reason they got together, but I don’t want to be the reason they break up.
Luke just nods, and Hannah smiles at me.
“Sorry,” she says quietly, and I know she means it. Which is why I always forgive her.
“6 o’clock,” someone yells.
Two hours later, I’m sitting down on my own at the restaurant, looking frantically at the door to see if my date is here yet. Hannah only managed to flick through some Facebook pictures of him, so at the moment I’m expecting to see someone with very thick, dark hair, some stubble, and a pair of drumsticks in his hands. Goodness’ knows which photos of me she ended up showing him.
My attention focuses on the door again. Many handsome men have entered, but all of them have walked straight past me to their appointments.
I sigh when I look down at my phone – the digital numbers failing to move to the speed I want.
Five more minutes, I tell myself. Then, I’ll leave.
But I recognise him straight away when he enters, and luckily he has seen me too.
He’s not that different from the pictures, apart from the fact that he’s now sporting quite a bushy beard and the drumsticks are nowhere in sight.
“Hello,” I greet, “It’s an absolute pleasure to meet you,”
“You too,” he beams, sitting himself down opposite me. “I hope my cousin wasn’t too forceful,” he jokes.
She was, in fact. I still have her fingernail imprints on my arm.
“Not at all,” I reply.
I look at him as he’s scanning the drinks menu. He’s a little older than I had hoped for, but he is very attractive – in a ‘your friend’s young uncle’ sort of way. His eyes are a deep grey with thin wrinkles forming at the edges, and his hair is dark brown, which he constantly keeps sweeping away from his forehead.
“Luke and Hannah seem to be doing well,” he looks up from the menu and tells me. “Setting up your best friend with your cousin is always a sign that your own relationship is going well,”
I laugh. “The way they act around each other you’d think they were married,”
“How long have they been seeing each other?” he asks, the menu now fully down.
I try to think back to that meeting where everything was revealed. “Umm, about a month and a half now,”
“Oh, so we shouldn’t expect wedding bells anytime soon then,”
“Perhaps not,” I agree.
I’m trying my very best not to ask him anything about his relationship. Although, it’s proving difficult. We’ve skimmed through a few topics and all of them have finished abruptly because it leads to a conversation about his ex-wife.
And now I’m running out of hummus for the bread, which means I’m going to have to talk to him again.
“So, where do you work?” I ask.
He pauses and takes a deep breath.
I feel like I’ve asked something seriously wrong.
“I’ve just had to leave my current job,” he says, almost whispering.
Oh. Definitely the wrong question to ask. Where’s the bloody waiter when you need him???
“My wife worked there,” he begins, “Well, ex-wife now, I suppose. It didn’t feel right to continue there,”
I smile sympathetically as I notice the pain in his eyes.
“I’m sorry,” I say.
But there’s something so bitter in his voice that I can tell he’s clearly not over the marriage yet. So, I don’t push it anymore. If he wants to continue with another topic, he can.
I turn around to get the attention of the waiter so that we can order mains. When I turn back around, Brandon has buried his head in his hands.
Is he crying?
“Brandon? Are you alright?” I ask.
He looks up. His eyes a bit swollen. I know that look – it’s that look that you get when you’re desperate not to cry in public and all you want to do is go home an spill your soul on the pillow.
“Would you like to leave?” I ask gently. “We can do this another time,”
If the two lovebirds want to get involved in my love life, then Luke will be in charge. Hannah clearly knows nothing.