Chapter Seven
Control


AN: In case you forgot (I know I did), here's a little recap for chapter six: Nadine encourages Liz to go on a date with a guy she knows, Adam. Liz reluctantly accepts and the date (which is awkward and weird because it's Liz) ends with a kiss and a ridiculously large bouquet of flowers the next day. Also, somewhere in there, we had a fight/lover's spat with Andrew and a really bad line involving Donald Trump. Enjoy!


It's been three days since the roses incident, and even more than that since I've spoken to Adam. He's called twice, but I've been avoiding him like the plague. Nadine informs me that it's totally okay to draw out the first contact for as long as possible, which seems silly to me since the man probably spent what I make in a week on a bouquet of roses after just one date. Still, not talking to Adam fits in nicely with my social leprosy, so I've been going with it thinking that the longer I can put off what will inevitably turn into a conversation about a second date, the better. It's not that I don't like Adam – and Nadine says I'm crazy if I don't go out with him – it's just that it seems like an awful lot of effort to date someone when you're just so genuinely bad at it like I am.

My frustration must be showing, because for once, Andrew doesn't try to provoke me first thing in the morning. Instead he sets a cup of coffee on my desk and glances down at me with a look that might border on concerned if I didn't know that was impossible. "You okay?" He asks, pushing the cup closer to me.

I stare up at him for a moment, surprising myself by wondering if I should ask for his advice. He's a guy, after all – an annoying, confusing, ridiculous guy - but a guy nonetheless. Still, he could hold it against me or worse, make fun of me for being so clueless. The last thing I need to do is give him more ammunition for his insult gun. For the time being, I decide to just shrug and take a sip of the coffee so hot it burns my tongue.

Andrew laughs at me. "I've always wondered why they have to bother with the 'Caution: Hot' warnings on the side of the cup," he says with a grin. "Guess I just found out."

I roll my eyes and rub my tongue along the roof of my mouth, once again considering my crazy idea to ask for his help. I can't think of Adam without guilt welling up in the pit of my stomach and it's really starting to bother me. Nadine is no help, but if Andrew could clear it up for me, even a little…

Why not ask the man I've had a dirty sex dream about for romantic advice? I mean, it's a great idea, right? I take a deep breath and go for it, ignoring the voice in my head that's telling me to just shut up. "Can I ask you something?" I try to keep my voice neutral, to signal that I'm not going to insult him as per our usual morning repertoire. "A serious question? I guess I need a guy's point of view."

Andrew raises one eyebrow. "Are you really about to ask me for dating advice?"

I sigh and smile sheepishly, tucking my head down. "Kind of?"

He shakes his head with a grin, but perches on the ledge of my desk anyway. "Sure you can ask me," he says. "Frankly though, I'm surprised you want anything to do with me if you don't have to. Ask away, but I should probably warn you that I don't have the best track record when it comes to dating."

I find this very hard to believe and I feel the words spewing out before I can stop them. "You? Oh please, you probably have girls lined up around the corner waiting to date you…" I trail off and want to slap a hand over my mouth but feel that might be too dramatic. Instead I just keep talking, which is always a bad idea. "I mean, not because I think they should be lining up to date you because you're kind of an asshole, but it's…you're not hideous or anything and a lot of girls like that sort of thing…not that I like that sort of thing…"

Andrew's laughter stops me from continuing – thank God. "Wow, Liz. Was that a compliment?"

I swallow and shake my head, focusing on my mission, remembering to tone down the animosity I'm always feeling for him for just a few brief moments in an effort to shed a little light on the whole Adam situation. "It was just a statement," I recover, shrugging. "I guess what I was trying to say is that no one would ever accuse you of being a Quasimodo or anything."

His eyes sparkle with amusement as he looks at me. "Well thanks, I guess," he says. "I think that's the nicest thing you've ever said to me." He bats his eyelashes as if he's flattered and then leans forward, all business. "So, I'm guessing this is about those flowers from the other day, right?"

I nod and look down to pick at my fingernails, unable to meet Andrew's eyes for fear that he'll catch the blush steadily rising to my cheeks. "It was a blind date," I say, figuring I'd better start from the beginning. "Nadine is always on my case about not dating and…" I trail off and feel the blush again. I realize he doesn't need to know everything so I skip most of the embarrassing details. "Anyway, Adam, the guy, he was really sweet and I think we had a good time, but…"

"No, wait, let me guess," Andrew says grinning. "You had a great time but then you found yourself opening your mouth to speak, which, let's face it, always gets you into trouble. Now you're questioning the sanity of this guy because who would send you flowers after you made such a fool of yourself, right?"

I make a face. That was not what I was talking about. Was it? "Um…well, not…exactly…"

Andrew snorts. "We should get you a muzzle," he says, almost affectionately, which makes me feel weird. "Keep you from talking at all."

I think to myself that Andrew might be onto something with that one. Maybe I could have my jaw wired shut to prevent myself any future embarrassment on first dates. Or first dates in general, now that I think about it. The idea sounds more and more promising with every passing moment. "It wasn't that though, no. I mean, that did happen, yes…but…"

"But what?" Andrew asks, shrugging his shoulders as if it's the most obvious thing in the world. "The guy likes you, Liz. We're not all that complicated. And try not to let this go to your head, but you're a really…attractive girl and you can be pretty entertaining when you're not trying to control the entire world around you. Maybe he's just the type of guy who can look past the part of you that's slightly crazy and he wants to see you again."

I stare blankly at him. Andrew thinks I'm attractive. Huh. It's strange to hear it coming from his mouth while sober and I find myself dwelling on the part of the sentence where he complimented me instead of the implication that I'm both insane and an idiot when it comes to men. "But I'm not sure that I even want…"

"Wait a minute," Andrew says, sitting up straighter and unfolding his arms. "He sent you these flowers on Monday, right?" At my nod, he goes on. "And today is Thursday…"

"I know," I say, burying my face in my hands. "I've been ignoring his calls because I don't know what to say to him. I'm an awful person."

He chuckles under his breath and then throws his hands up. "You sort of are, yeah. Listen, it all comes down to one simple question – do you like the guy or not? Do you want to see him again, or did he waste a hundred bucks on roses for nothing? Because if that's the case, Liz, you owe it to him to at least tell him that you're not interested."

I was afraid he was going to say that. "I do?"

He nods. "Call him. Tell him you're sorry, but you don't think it's going to work or whatever it is you want to say, then move on." At my expression, he stops. "Unless you do want to see him again…" He sighs. "You're over thinking it, Liz. You either like the guy or you don't. It's that simple."

But it's not. The answer to this question has been eluding me since I said goodbye to Adam. "It's not simple at all," I mutter, ready to give up. "Never mind. I'll figure it out. Thanks for your help. Even though you didn't help me that much."

Andrew looks at me for a moment before speaking again. "I think you're just avoiding the truth because it makes you uncomfortable, Liz. Just because a man buys you flowers, it doesn't mean you owe him anything. Sure, we'd like to think that…and really, kudos to him because those things were pretty nice. But everyone tries to make romance so complicated - it's not. It should happen naturally, it should be easy to figure out. It shouldn't take roses or a book or some random guy's advice to figure it out. When you really ask yourself if there's a spark, if you can see anything – anything at all – coming from another date with him, what do you feel?"

I blink, amazed at the eloquence of Andrew's little speech. Does he moonlight as a couples therapist? "I have no idea," I finally answer.

"Well then," he says, standing up and brushing the leg of his pants without looking at me. I detect just a slight hesitation before he smiles in my direction. "I guess you have your answer right there."


"No," Nadine says as soon as I tell her of my plan to call Adam and let him down gently. "Abso-fucking-lutely not. Are you insane? Are you seriously missing half of your brain cells or something? How could you not like Adam? He's perfect!"

I sigh. "I know he is, Dee. But maybe he's just not perfect for me…"

"Maybe no one is perfect enough for you, Liz! Have you ever thought of that? If you spend your entire life waiting for a 'spark' or whatever the hell you're calling it, you're going to be waiting a hell of a long time. You're how old again? Before you know it you're going to be fourty, holed up in a one-bedroom apartment eating Chinese takeout and talking to your pet gerbil about the latest episode of Law and Order, okay? Stop. Stop trying to control the universe and just do something crazy for once." She slaps her hands onto the table to make her point.

"How is going out with a guy I'm not even attracted to crazy? It's cruel, that's what it is!" Andrew's words find their way back into my brain. "I owe it to him to be honest."

"I agree," Nadine says, tossing back what's left in her wine glass and then pouring another. "But you haven't even given him a chance. One date is hardly enough time to decide whether or not you're into a guy. And honestly, you haven't even been on a date in so long that you wouldn't know attraction if it jumped up and bit you in the ass."

"That's not true!" I defend, instantly thinking of Andrew and then instantly regretting it.

"Oh, that's right," she says, narrowing her eyes at me. "There's that whole Andrew thing, right?" She stops to shake her head and take another sip from her glass. "You already know what I'm going to say to you, don't you? Well I'm going to say it anyway. You're insane! Absolutely insane. There's no other explanation. You want to have sex with a guy you can't even stand and you don't want to give a perfectly nice, normal guy a chance. Explain that one to me."

I blink. Nadine's words sting a little more than I expect them to. "Why does it have to be my fault?" I finally ask. "Why does something have to be wrong with me? I didn't ask for you to set me up with Adam, although you practically forced me into believing that I did. And I most definitely didn't ask for Andrew fucking Morris to waltz into my office with his stupid face and his stupid hair and his stupid cocky little grin, did I?"

"So you're not denying that you want to have sex with Andrew." Nadine sits back, looking extremely smug and satisfied with herself. "You are so blind, my friend," she says, smiling. "So extremely blind. Or maybe you see it so clearly, you're just terrified that if you go ahead and admit the truth, it'll leave you vulnerable."

"What are you talking about?" I snap, fed up with the entire conversation. We're talking in circles. "If this is about your strange obsession with convincing me that I'm in love with Andrew, then just stop now because I'm not."

"I don't have to convince you," she says, standing up and slinging her purse over her shoulder. "It's not going to make it any more or less true, whether you're willing to admit it or not. Maybe you're not in love with him, but you have a thing for Andrew, Liz. But you'll never do anything about it because you're too afraid of what might happen if you don't get to control every little aspect of it."

I feel my eyes burning in spite of myself. Is my best friend really making me cry right now? Am I really crying over something as stupid as all of this? If it's possible, I feel like even more of an idiot than usual. "Why does it even matter?" I say, fighting the tears in my throat, blinking away the ones clouding my eyes. "Why do I have to date anyone? What if I'm happy being alone?"

Nadine smiles sadly at me and reaches out to pat my shoulder. "Honey, have more respect for yourself. No one is happy being alone. I'm not trying to pressure you, but I get so tired of watching you switch on and off, back and forth, between wanting to live and wanting to control. Sometimes you just have to learn to let go."

I sigh and reach up, wiping the tear tracks from my cheeks. "Fine," I say, shrugging my shoulders in defeat, tired of arguing and of everyone saying the same thing to me. "Fine. You're right. Everybody is right – you, my mother…Andrew." Saying his name sends a strange feeling of both anticipation and anger through my body. I suddenly want to prove everyone wrong, especially Andrew. I can let go of control. I can do something spontaneous and I can do it well. I stare determinedly at Nadine. "Give me my phone."

Nadine watches me with wary eyes before handing over my cell. "Liz, don't do something just because you think you have to…"

"I want to do this," I snap, finding the contact in my phone, dialing it, and listening to the rings before I can stop myself. I hold my hand over the receiver. "I'm going to give Adam another chance because you're right, I don't want to be alone for the rest of my life. But if it doesn't work out, that's it. I'm not taking any more shit from you about it, okay? If I decide I don't like him because he's too boring or his hair is thinning or he has small hands, that's it. No questions asked."

Nadine claps her hands together excitedly and nods. "Okay, I promise, I swear. I'm so proud of you, really…"

I silence her with a wave as Adam answers the phone, then I take a deep breath and I begin the conversation that I've been avoiding all week for reasons I can't really identify at the moment.


Morris is standing in front of my desk with a stack of files at 4:45 on Friday evening, an apologetic look plastered to his face. "Right, if you could just stay an extra hour or two," he says, plopping the files onto my desk without waiting for a response. "It would really help me out. I have to get these client files completed before I can start sending out renewal notices and it's the end of the month so you know what that means." He flashes a smile at me.

I bite my tongue to hold back the response I really want to go with, which is a big fat "fuck you, Sir," and shrug my shoulders instead. I'm not going to get out of it – if I try, he'll just find a way to work my guilty conscience in his favor like usual. "Fine," I bite out, my eyes drifting down to the blinking red light on my phone, indicating my call with Nadine on line one. "Anything else?"

Morris gives me a big thumbs up. "I knew I could count on you."

I watch him walk away and make sure he's out the door and out of hearing distance before I pick up the phone. "I work for Satan," I whisper into the phone, sending Nadine into a fit of giggles.

"Asked you to stay late again?" Nadine is familiar with Morris's Friday afternoon routine.

I groan into the phone and contemplate knocking myself unconscious by banging my head onto my desk repeatedly. "I hate my life."

"No you don't," she says firmly, and I can picture her shaking her head at me. "You're young, you're hot, you have a second date with an extremely attractive man that just so happens to be crazy about you tomorrow…what's to hate?"

I groan again. "Um, everything?"

Nadine clucks her tongue. "Whatever. Listen, since you can't meet me for drinks tonight we're going to have to have an emergency crash session at your place tomorrow. I have plans later and as much as I love you, I can't cancel."

I know exactly what this means – she has a date. "Who's the guy?" I ask casually, pretending not to feel a little hurt that she wouldn't ditch some random for a girls night with me. I'd do it for her. At least, if I ever had a date with a random guy on a Friday night I would. Besides, I need her. Even if her advice about Adam has been less than helpful so far.

Nadine hesitates, and that's my first sign that something is up. "No one," she finally says, feigning nonchalance. "I mean, not no one, obviously I wouldn't ditch you for a no one, but…" She stops and sighs, defeated. "Fine. It's Vinnie, okay? And yes, before you ask, he's the guy from a few weeks ago. I've been seeing him and no, I don't want to talk about it."

I roll my eyes but relish the opportunity to taunt her. "Who the hell is this guy? What kind of name is Vinnie? Is he some kind of Italian mobster? It's not that guy from that Jersey Shore show, is it?" I stop to giggle at her obvious annoyance before continuing. "And anyway, how is it fair that we can sit here and dissect my love life but we can never talk about yours? Seriously, Dee, when was the last time you dated a guy for longer than eight hours? This must be a big deal if you're seeing him again…"

"It's not," she snaps, losing patience. "And anyway, shouldn't you be worried about your date?" At my silence she continues. "Exactly, that's what I thought. Now listen, I have to go. If you finish before eight give me a call and we'll get a quick drink before, okay?"

With that, she's gone and I'm rolling my eyes at the absurdity of it all. Nadine getting serious with a guy, me trying to date – I think the world may be coming to an end.

I fix my game face and start to tackle the files Morris dumped on my desk but it's hard to concentrate when the office is so quiet. I'm used to the noise that comes with working alongside five men and when it's completely silent like it is now, my brain goes into overdrive.

I start thinking about Adam, about how I'm proud of myself for at least trying to break out of my shell a bit. Maybe it's a small step – especially since he's pretty much made it clear that he's interested in me – but it's a nice change of pace from my usual weekend hermit-like state. And so what if my stomach doesn't do backflips every time I look at him? So what if the world doesn't stop turning when we kiss? It doesn't mean anything. Not yet at least. Nadine was right – one date isn't enough time to figure out things like that.

Then again, what if it's Andrew that really is right? What if I am trying to overcomplicate things by looking for something that isn't there? What if all I'm doing is setting myself up for disappointment? Could I handle that? Could I handle doing that to Adam?

I groan and let my head hit the desk, back to square one - trying to control things, to figure out the ending before I even start chapter one. I don't know how long I've been like this, but it's starting to stress me out. I know that everyone is right – that letting things go every once in a while is perfectly fine – but why can't I do it for more than twelve hours at a time? What would be so horrible about something actually surprising me for once?

"I don't think Morris pays overtime for sleeping," Andrew's voice comes from the door, scaring the living shit out of me. I jump up from my chair and hit my head on my computer monitor in the process, sending stacks of paper flying when my hands flail in front of me.

"Jesus Christ!" I hold a hand to my chest, trying to calm my racing heart.

"Nice try," Andrew says, taking a step forward and grabbing some of the papers from the carpet. "But it's just me."

My heart is still pounding as I sit back down. "What are you doing here?"

Andrew smirks. "I work here?"

Rolling my eyes, I shoot him a look that says, "You know what I mean, asshole."

He chuckles under his breath and tosses a few of the stray files he's collected from the floor onto my desk. "I left a couple of things unfinished when I went to that meeting with corporate this morning. I figured I'd come back in and get them done while it's quiet." He nods to the files on my desk. "I'm guessing my uncle doesn't realize that most young, pretty girls like you have plans on Friday night, huh?"

I stare at him – was that the second time he called me good looking in the span of two days? "I uh…" I'm at a loss for words, is what I am. But I can't let him know this. "I didn't have plans," I finally say, immediately regretting them because they make me sound like a loser. Which maybe I am, but he doesn't need to know that. And either way, I'm trying to better myself by making plans with Adam, right? "Why don't you have plans?" I counter.

Andrew looks surprised. "New guy in town, remember? So I guess Flowers Guy is out of luck?" At my expression he holds his hands up innocently. "My bad, that's none of my business."

He continues to watch me for a moment, his eyes intense and curious, like he really does want to know the answer to his question but he won't ask again. For some reason, I can't form any words except for "Aren't you going to lock the door?"

Andrew turns around and looks at the door, still half-propped open from his entrance. His eyes flicker back to mine and he smiles as his fingers slip the lock into position. "You know," he says, taking a few slow steps towards my desk as he loosens his tie. "If you wanted to get me alone, Liz, all you had to do was ask."

My heart starts thumping in my chest again, almost ridiculously loud. I can't help but wonder if Andrew can hear it, if he knows that there is some crazy part of me that is almost fascinated by the way he carries himself, by his confidence and his unavoidable sex appeal. I wonder if it's as obvious on the outside as it is inside my body. "Very funny," I finally manage to choke out with a roll of my eyes. "Anyone could just walk in if it's unlocked." I look pointedly at him, covering up my embarrassment. "Obviously."

The amusement in Andrew's eyes is apparent as he unbuttons the top button of his dress shirt – a move I've seen several times over the past weeks – and I tear my eyes away from his fingers, ignoring the urge to stare. "Tell you what," he says, stopping to stand over me. "If you get scared, I'll be right down the hall to rescue you." He winks at me, and I can't help the blush that rises to my cheeks and instantly I hate him for it.

I hate to blush, I hate to feel like I'm being one-upped and I especially hate to feel like someone is making me the butt of their joke. Andrew is one of the only people I know that can do all three to me at the same time. He flusters me so much just by existing, by being his stupid, charming, sexy self. And I still hate him for it, no matter what my sex drive says. "You're an idiot," I say, for lack of anything better.

Andrew grins. "So I've heard." He takes a few steps toward the hall but stops. "You know, I'm almost disappointed. I've come to expect better insults from you, Liz. Flowers Guy must really have you off your game because first you come to me for advice, then the only comeback you can deliver is to call me an idiot?" He shakes his head. "I'm surprised."

I glare at him, I feel the anger and the undeniable – but totally disgusting and stupid – attraction bubbling up and I spit out another string of words that make no sense in the context of our conversation. "I have a date with him tomorrow night."

Andrew arches an eyebrow. "Well," he says, still smiling as he walks away. "You'll probably regret not listening to me earlier, but have fun."

"Well I decided to give him a second chance," I say, effectively stopping Andrew from walking away. "One date is hardly enough time to decide if you're into a guy," I recycle Nadine's words because they sounded pretty good when she said them, even if I'm not sure she's right.

Andrew pauses, looking thoughtful. "So, you're telling me that one date isn't enough time to decide if you like a guy," he says, as if he's trying to figure something out. "But one night – one night where I was not exactly sober, mind you – is plenty of time for you to decide that you can't stand me?" He nods with his lips in a tight line. "Makes perfect sense."


AN: I really don't even know what this is...it just came out after struggling for almost 3 months to write ANYTHING, so I'm going with it! Writer's block is a cold, hard bitch. I do want to make a promise to all of you though that - short of death or my hands falling off - I WILL finish this story. I promise, dudes. Thanks to everyone who's been keeping up with this for your patience. I say that every chapter, but I really do know that it's frustrating to try to jump back into a story after such a long break. :) Also, thanks a lot for your comments, alerts and such!