The silence on the other side of the cubicle wall was killing her. Oh, it wasn't as if Felicity had never been alone in the office before. There were sick days and short vacations and trips to other locations. Those were different silences, though. Temporary silences. Ones she could fill with chatter, singing, and Skype messages.
This, though. This wasn't a temporary silence. This was a come-in-to-find-the-other-desk-cleaned-off silence. This was a stress-ball-on-her-desk-with-a-post-it-that-just-said-'Focus, Flick' silence. This was a permanent silence.
Well, not permanent, because desk space was at a premium and someone would move in to share her space. So, technically it was a temporary silence. But, still.
There would be no one to toss paper clips for mid-afternoon Cubicle Battleship. No one to drop of a cup of coffee on her desk after her daily 10:30 meeting because she always needed a jolt of sugar and caffeine after dealing with the corporate office. No one to bounce ideas off of in half-sentences and one-word answers. No one who understood her thought processes better than she did.
Felicity hadn't just lost a coworker, she'd lost her best friend. Not her best work friend or her best drinking buddy. Not her work-husband, but her best friend. For three years, Kyle had been there for the best and worst moments of her life. They worked together, ate lunch together, went to happy hour together, and spent the majority of their weekends together.
So, how had she not known that he was quitting? How had he managed to keep it from her? Why had he kept it from her?
Unfortunately, she feared she knew the answer to the last question. A month earlier, she'd had one too many Weekend Warriors at their favorite sports bar and had voiced her biggest secret. She'd stared straight into Kyle's handsome, if fuzzy, face and confessed her love. Not a best buds sort of love. Not a psuedo-brother sort of love. A fiery, all-consuming, everything begins-and-ends-with-you sort of love.
He'd driven her home, walked her up the three flights of stairs to her apartment, and then tucked her in to bed. Alone. The next morning, she'd ubered to her car and ignored his texts. His silence had said enough.
She'd driven him away. Ruined a perfect friendship and working relationship because of her stupid, stupid heart. And her stupid mouth. And her stupid low alcohol tolerance.
Felicity jerked, dropped the stress ball she'd been mangling. She dragged her gaze away from the cubicle wall to the doorway of their office. No. No, her office.
"Hey, Josie. Great job earlier. You had your facts together, and you presented them well. I don't think we'll have any further problems with accounting."
Josie, one of Felicity's buyers, grinned. "At least not with that issue." Her smile faded. She stepped into the office and propped a hip on the edge of Felicity's desk. "I heard about Kyle. Sucks, huh?"
Felicity swallowed back a throat full of sand. Her eyes burned, which was ridiculous because she'd never cried at work. Not even during a three-year stint in the IT department. Missing emails and crashed servers were painful for everyone involved. She hadn't even cried during her two years in customer service. One didn't get to be one of the youngest, and only female, Operations Directors in Hawkins-Sugarberry Consolidated history by crying.
'Focus, Flick,' a voice in her head - Kyle's voice - reminded her.
"For us, yes," Felicity said, smoothing the cuff of her pale pink blouse with trembling fingers. "Not for him. The new position suits him. It's a huge step up. A leap, actually. He deserves it."
And he did. As much as she adored working with him, she couldn't begrudge him the opportunity for improvement. His lack of interest in politics had stifled his grown at HSC, and he was overqualified for the job of project manager. Or, HSC's definition of a project manager, at least. The sketchy details she'd gathered from a few discreet inquiries, made the new job sound like a dream. A perfect fit for Kyle.
But, did it have to be three hours away? And had he really needed to sneak away? Things had been a little strained between them after her confession, but she'd thought they'd moved beyond it. Ignored it along with half a dozen other things that crept up occasionally. Like when his sister called her to invite her to family functions. Or when her cousins treated him like an in-law. Or when coworkers naturally assumed they'd attend events together.
"He does. We're proud of him." Josie tapped long, red fingernails on the desktop. She lifted a shoulder, let it fall. "Fuzzy's at five?"
Happy hour? Hadn't that gotten her into her current mess? Then again, the damage was already done. She and Josie had worked together for six years. They had put in grueling hours piecing together the new strategic procurement program. Josie had been a witness to the early days of the Felicity-and-Kyle show. Felicity had always thought of it as a sitcom but maybe it was a dramedy. Without the -edy part.
"Sure. I have a meeting at 4 with the San Fran office, so I might be a little late."
Josie bobbed her head as she straightened. "I'll see if anyone else wants to join us. Are you eating lunch in?"
It was Monday. Monday meant pulled pork sandwiches from The Pit because she and Kyle never remembered to bring their lunches. Did she want to go to The Pit by herself and have to answer questions about her missing partner-in-crime? Ex-partner-in-crime.
"I have a can of soup and a packet of crackers in my drawer. I need to prep for my afternoon meeting, so I think I'll just eat in. Thanks, though."
Josie opened her mouth but then snapped it shut without speaking. She shook her head as she retreated to the hallway. The hint of pity in Josie's eyes made Felicity's stomach sink like a stone. Was she going to have to deal with that for the foreseeable future? The pitying looks and the kid gloves and careful invitations?
Was it possible to have a breakup if you'd never actually been in a relationship? If so, what was the protocol? Could she play the indignant ex-non-girlfriend? Was she expected to mope or weep or pretend that nothing was wrong? What about the jacket he'd left hanging on the coat rack? The one she borrowed whenever she forgot her cardigan in the conference room and their office hit ice-box levels. What would their coworkers say if they saw her walking around the office in Kyle's jacket? Should she burn it in some sort of ex-non-girlfriend ceremony?
This was stupid. She was stupid. She was a thirty-five-year-old woman with an MBA. She'd survived an emotionally manipulative fiance and a mugging. She could text her (ex?) best friend and ask him what the hell he was doing in Austin.
'What's up, buttercup?'
There. That was good. Casual. One of their standard greetings. She tucked a dark auburn curl behind her ear and fixed her eyes on the spreadsheet on one of her monitors. She needed to review the previous week's data and update her portion of the executive dashboard. If her gaze dropped to the tiny clock on her screen far too often, well, she was only human. And patience had never been her favorite virtue.
The response came twenty-eight minutes later. 'I'm sorry, Flick'.
She could practically hear the way his voice would drop, lower, with regret. She'd heard it before. Along with the slight catch at the end of her nickname. The nickname he'd learned from her brother and no one outside of her family ever used. She could picture his face: lips pulled into a tight line, square jaw clenched, and cobalt blue eyes hooded. He'd lean forward in earnestness, angle his shoulders towards her. If she held out too long, he'd tug on a curl or her ponytail or simply plant a large, warm hand on her shoulder.
Except, no, he wouldn't. Because he was in Austin and she was in Houston, and she wasn't sure what he was apologizing for. Was it for leaving her without warning? For moving out of the city? For taking a new job? For stealing all of the good pens out of her cup?
For not loving her?
'Be happy.' was her response. She couldn't ask him to explain the apology. She didn't need to know whether or not it was possible for a broken heart to completely shatter.
He didn't take another twenty-eight minutes to text back. 'Needed Time/space."
Pro-tip? It was possible for a broken heart to not only shatter but disintegrate into ash. She tossed her phone into her drawer and focused on work.
Felicity spent ten minutes staring at her spreadsheet through a thick film of tears. When it didn't feel as if she was going to have to sprint to the bathroom, she dabbed at her cheeks with a tissue and took a long sip of cold coffee. She fished her phone out of her drawer, popped an earbud into one ear and cranked up her morning playlist. The jazz one that Kyle always begged her to exchange for something rock-ish.
And screw Kyle Lannigan.