Reality Bites

Chapter Nineteen
Get Ready, Get Set

I find myself whistling as I stroll into work two days later. Roberta, to no one's surprise, glares at the noise.

I smile at her, wish her a good morning and take great pleasure in the fact that even she has no harsh response and returns the greeting -- albeit, without the smile.

My good mood picks up when my phone rings and instead of a client or business associate who needs to speak to someone who actually has a law degree (which is exactly what this awful man said to me yesterday!) it is my cousin.

However, as I am inquiring how she is she interrupts me with something that I can only describe as a mix between a shriek and an outraged scream.

"I have an intoxicated man sleeping on my couch, Allison, I am not well!"

I bite my lower lip to stop from laughing. "Well, Lucy, maybe you shouldn't bring home random men from bars and then you wouldn't have this problem the next morning."

The shriek/scream makes a comeback.

"Maybe I wouldn't have this problem if you didn't introduce me to all of your insane friends! Yesterday I was trying to convince a representative from an important interest group that even though I am quite young I am not inexperienced and I am extremely responsible. As I am saying this a drunken man is wandering through the halls yelling that he has to see, quote, 'the hottest woman in government since that minx Margaret Thatcher'. And who do you think he was looking for, Allison?"

"That's absurd. You are way hotter than Margaret Thatcher," I say, still trying not to laugh and attempting to memorize every part of the story so I can retell it at family gatherings.

"It was Brandon!" she yells.

Well. That was less expected.

"Brandon? British Brandon?"

"British Brandon?" she repeats, "is that his proper name?" I attempt to respond but she cuts me off. "I don't care, Allison. All I know is that lush showed up to MY office drunk and ruined any chance I had at showing that I am responsible and competent. And now that same lush is asleep on MY couch and probably making a mess of MY apartment."

I politely refrain from mentioning how possessive she is of all of her things.

"I don't know why he is here and I don't care. All I do know is you or his friend or SOMEONE had better get here TODAY and take him away."

"Well some of us have jobs that we just aren't able to leave at the present time," I respond sweetly. "And besides, he told me he was going back to England. So just let him sober up and send him on his way."

I am treated to the angry shriek/scream one final time before she hangs up the phone. Well, she also said something else but it isn't repeatable in polite company. It will, however, be repeated in front of her mother the next time I see her. I mean, really, it's rude to talk to family that way.

I wonder if I should tell Michael about Brandon's whereabouts. It's been such a pleasant two days and I really don't want to do anything to upset the balance we have working. I don't mention Brandon or his ex-wife and he pretends that neither of them exist. All in all, it works.

However, although he is a male whore I do kind of miss the British lush. Plus, I really want to know why he went to Washington, D.C., and was so intent on seeing Lucy. He can't be all bad...maybe he has realized how wrong he was and he probably wants to apologize to Michael but angry Michael isn't the most approachable person in the world.

I shrug and sneak past Roberta and ride the elevator up to Michael's office. I cheerfully ignore his new secretary and open his door unannounced.

He looks up from a pile of paperwork and smiles at me. "Isn't it a bit early for you to already skip out on work?"

"It's never too early for that." I take the seat across from his desk. "My cousin Lucy called me, though, and she has a bit of a problem on her hands." He raises an eyebrow to indicate he is listening. "Brandon showed up at her office yesterday...not entirely sober and he is currently sleeping on her couch and she is not happy about it."

He drops the smile. "Tell her to pack him on a plane to England."

"I did. She wants someone to come and get him, though."

"Well I am certainly not wasting my day just to go guide him onto a plane."

"Well...the thing is, I thought maybe I would go."


Hold up. Did I ask permission? "Excuse me?"

"No, Allison. I don't care that you suddenly feel sorry for Brandon but you are not going to get him. Because you will listen to whatever sob tale he has to tell and end up bringing him back here at which point I will have to force him back to England and then endure accusations from you for the next week about how I am heartless and unforgiving."

"I didn't say I was going to bring him here. I'm not even thinking about going for his sake but for my cousin's. She is really busy and she doesn't --"

"Where shall we have dinner this evening?" Michael interrupts.

"Don't change the subject like I'm a five-year-old. You're the one who said that it was no big deal that Brandon slept with your ex-wife. Then you punched him and kicked him out of your apartment so it obviously was a big deal but you've never mentioned him since."

"I believe we've previously established that my ex-wife is not a subject I wish to discuss with you. Would you like to continue arguing a point that will get you no where or would you prefer to let it drop peacefully and I'll take you to lunch in a few hours."

Why does he seem to think if he mentions food I will forget the topic? "Did it ever occur to you that maybe talking about it would help you? You get so angry at any mention of the subject it's obvious that you've never moved past it."

"I'm not angry! You know what is making me angry, though, Allison? You constantly trying to analyze every fact of my life. I am over it, I don't need to talk about it and I am tired of this conversation."

"Fine," I say, turning to leave. "Enjoy the silence when you eat alone."

I leave work significantly less happy then when I arrived. I call Lucy on my way out and ask if she wants me to try and catch a flight there tonight but she says something about the situation being resolved and that she would call me later.

I make a mental note to look more into the situation considering that she transformed from caps lock!Lucy to mellow in the span of a few hours. Something interesting must have happened. Because if he just got on a plane and left she would still be mad that he had been there in the first place.

I distractedly put my phone in my purse and contemplate whether I should take a cab or the subway.

As I make a decision and raise an arm to hail a taxi someone grabs my upper arm and in one swift motion deposits me in the back of a waiting car.

I start to scream and attempt to beat them with my purse when I get a look at my kidnapper.

"You know," I say, "I would have answered your phone call. There's no need to manhandle me and throw me into your car."

Michael calmly tells his driver to take us to his apartment and doesn't bother explaining himself to me.

"Tom," I greet his driver, who I met the previous evening. "Tell me, do you often just sit by while Michael steals people?"

I don't receive a response. Changing tactics, I turn to Michael. "You could have attempted to be a little more gentle, you know. There was no need to bruise my arm."

"I didn't bruise your arm."

I triumphantly lift the sleeve of my shirt to display...nothing. "Well I'm sure there will be a bruise, it just hasn't appeared yet."

When Michael doesn't even look at me I join him in the stony silence as we approach his building.

The silence continues as we take the elevator up to his apartment. When he opens the door for me I stroll past him and go straight to his bar to make myself a drink. At his questioning look I tell him that if he is going to trap me in his apartment so that I don't have the opportunity to leave when he lectures me then I need a strong drink.

He rolls his eyes and sits on a barstool across from me. "I didn't bring you here to lecture you, Allison. You were the one who wanted to hear every detail of my life so I suggest you make yourself comfortable."

I raise my eyebrows. "You mean you're actually going to tell me something about yourself? Because thus far everything I've learned about you has generally come from a third party."

Once I see the look in his eyes though, I quickly shut up.

"If you know anything about me you should know this: I am a man of my word. When I married Danielle divorce was never an option to me. Divorce would mean I had failed and I do not fail. I was determined to make it work. However, early in our marriage I made a mistake. I was out of town to meet with a client. Before I left Danielle and I had argued...I went to the bar of my hotel, drank too much and slept with someone else.

"The next day I confessed my actions to her and told her if she wished for a divorce I would grant her one. She...I told you the truth in that Danielle and I had always been connected through our families. We saw one another quite often for years and eventually dated and married. For a time I did believe myself in love with her. The woman who I loved though was the person she had always pretended to be. Her public persona. Her reaction to my confession was not rage or disbelief...she laughed. She laughed and said she wasn't going to make it that easy for me.

"We continued on in this horrible act of a marriage while she used my own guilt to force me to ignore her actions. She had many affairs and dangled the men in front of me as if mocking me, daring me to divorce her. For years I said nothing of her affairs because I had cheated first. I accepted it as punishment. One day I came home to find her with a man I worked with. I had reached the extent I could take and I fully recognized my marriage as an utter failure and spent an absurd amount of money to get the quickest divorce possible.

He meets my eyes for the first time since beginning the story. "Brandon, though, knew all of this. He knew it and knew the agony her actions caused me. And he was one of the men contributing to it, apparently."

"I hate her," he said as calmly as he one would describe the weather, "and I hate every man with whom she slept." He turns and stares blankly out the window. "And you look exactly like her."

"I'm telling you now, Allison, to make a decision. I refuse to place myself in the same situation I just escaped. I'm horribly suspicious and possessive so if you want to be with me you cannot contact Brandon. I do not want you to speak to him or affiliate with him in any manner. My friendship with him is completed and if you wish us to be together so too is your association with him. That is the only request I am making of you."

I walk over to him and rest my hand on his cheek. "I would never cheat on you."

"Your word, Allison?"

I sigh and look him in the eye. "All right, I won't contact him. But I think you should at least ask him why --"

He stops my sentence with a kiss. "Thank you."

I rest my forehead against his as he wraps his arms around me. I feel guilty about my promise. Because I said I wouldn't contact Brandon...but said nothing about if he contacted me.


A/N -- So...I'm just not commenting on my update times. Anyone who follows the story knows that I suck at updates. I'm a college student -- procrastinating is what I do.

Reviews, as always, are very appreciated!