Never been nerdy, p.11
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       Never Been Nerdy, p.11

           C.M. Kars
 
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  “God damn it, you’re a culinary god,” I say between bites and scarf down more of the deliciousness. Dean’s making his leg jump with nervous energy, and sucking his lower lip. If we ever dated now, I’d gain a hundred pounds and die of a heart attack. But what a way to go.

  He inclines his head at my comment. “Thanks, princess, means a lot coming from you. Now that you’re almost done eating, I think we need to discuss what you can do for me, and what I get out of putting up with you for the next little while.”

  “Depends what that really means,” I say around a mouthful of burger. Manners are for wimps, this food is glorious and I won’t rush trying to swallow for the mundane task of speaking.

  Dean keeps sucking his lower lip and I have to concentrate on my food before I make this any worse. He’s clearly not comfortable around me. I’m going to have to fix that first if I’m going to get him in bed.

  “You want to hang out, fine. I’m inclined to say yes to that, because hell, you’re beautiful, and I’m into the whole second chance bullshit I’ve been spoon-fed. You want to apologize, and make it up to me.”

  “Terms and conditions,” I say, my cheeks completely full. I don’t care what I look like, I don’t think I’ve had a serious lunch in my office since I first started working here after college graduation.

  Dean nods, now in business-mode. God, he’d look fucking perfect in a suit.

  “I don’t want sex with you. Now, I know that’s hard for someone like you to believe, but it’s the truth. You fucked me up, Kat, and not in a good way. I’m doing this because I need to let it go, I need to let all this shit go with you. Maybe getting hit by your pony was supposed to happen for a reason.

  “Maybe you’re here because I need to forgive you. So here we go, I’m ready to give you my forgiveness, at a price. And you want to make it up to me. I’ve got ten years of pent up anger that’s going to take time to disappear.”

  “Deal.”

  As I finish my burger, I could swear that Dean pales out at the prospect of spending so much time with me. I keep my grin to myself.

  Chapter 11

  “Hello?” I say into my phone, balancing a coffee in my other hand, completely weighed down by the shit-ton of useless crap I have in my purse.

  “Hello?!” I yell, annoyed. I guess it’s my fault I answered my phone, but hell, it could be the boss wondering why I’m not in yet.

  “Hey, Katie, it’s Tommy. Did I catch you at a bad time?”

  I hip-bump my car door closed, get a hank of hair in my mouth from the asshole wind and end up spitting it out. “Tommy, why in hell are calling me this early?”

  Tommy, the Russian kid stuck in between Italian and Greek friends, emigrated from Russia to Canada when he was eleven. Out of all of my bros (Eli, Josh, Russia and Alex), Russia’s the one I’m most worried about. He’s messed up and none of us really know why.

  I can feel him smiling on the other end. “’Cause I know you’re up and ready to get into the office. Have you gotten that promotion yet?”

  I growl in response.

  “Well,” Tommy clears his throat, and coughs. “I’m sure it’ll be waiting for you real soon.”

  I half-jog, half-stumble into the glass doors, cracking my forehead against it. “Fucking shit!” I yelp into the phone and Tommy starts laughing at me. “Is there some purpose to this call, or do you wanna drive my blood pressure through the roof?”

  I get the doors open while scrunching my phone between my neck and shoulder and feel the opposite side of my neck give a painful twinge. This day just keeps getting better.

  “I’m pretty sure that you shouldn’t be having blood pressure problems at twenty-five.”

  “I don’t want to talk about it,” I say. Tommy chuckles. “What I want to talk about is your shitty timing in phone calls and why you need to speak to me so bad.”

  “Ah, there’s that abrasive nature we all know and love.”

  I snort. “Shut up. Why are you calling me?”

  “I have a problem and requires a certain feminine finesse that I so clearly lack.”

  “Really, Russia? I thought your ball-sack hadn’t dropped yet.”

  “Hilarious,” Tommy says, his accent thickening. It gets that way when he gets pissed off. It’s a lot of fun to make it get that way.

  “What’s your problem?” I ask, waving with my overloaded arm to the security guard, an older guy named Pietro. He gives me a nod, and waves me in without asking for my card. I guess there’s going to be something good about today.

  There’s a scratching noise and then the sound of a heavy breath being expelled into the mic.

  “I want you to make Sera break up with him.”

  It’s been months and months and this asshole can’t even say his name.

  “Ha! Fat chance of that happening, my friend.”

  “Just hear me out, krasavitsa.”

  I make it up the escalator and only almost fall over three times. I end up scuffing my heel hard against the ceramic flooring outside of my office and let out another yelp of pain. I just bought these shoes!

  “You know you can do this. She’s always listened to you, and haven’t you been saying they’re like a ticking time bomb?” he says, voice hushed.

  Well, shit. Maybe I have muttered it a couple times or a hundred more when I’ve been hanging out with the guys all on my lonesome. “I’ve gone and said no such thing.”

  Jesus, if Dean hears me talking about Sera like this he’s going to kill me.

  “Krasavitsa....”

  I scoff. “Like I’m even supposed to know what that means. You could just be saying ‘fellate me please’ or some shit like that and I’ve have no fucking clue.”

  I finally get to my desk and plop my purse down after setting my coffee right next to the keyboard. Of course the thing promptly falls over and I’m standing there, swearing in my office, while precious papers get doused in caramel macchiato with an extra shot.

  I stare up at the ceiling and give Fate the finger. Fuck this.

  “What happened? Are you okay?” Russia asks.

  “Yeah, yeah. Everything’s a goddamn disaster but no broken bones.” I sigh. “Could you please get to the point, Russia? I’ve got a lot of shit to do.”

  Tommy clears his throat. “Look, all I’m saying is maybe we should give Sera a second option. Show her my good side.”

  A flicker of annoyance comes to life at the bottom of my skull, and I grind down on my teeth. “Oh, really? I’m pretty sure you don’t have a good side. Besides, Sera’s happy with MacLaine. It’s a done deal, get over it.”

  “Wait, wait! Don’t hang up! I... I was an idiot, and I let her get away.” He sounds almost... remorseful. But I doubt he’s capable of such a feeling, Russia’s been built on something else other than human emotion. Or if he has them, they’re buried down deep where no one can see, least of all him.

  “Yeah, you did,” I say, lifting up sodden paper and shaking it so that droplets end up staining my red pencil skirt. Madonn’, if anything else goes to shit today I’m going to slit my wrists.

  “C’mon, you think that Hunter is better for her? What kind of attention can he give her when he has a son to look after? Family comes first, Katie, and Sera will always come second to him. I wouldn’t do that to her; I would treat her right.”

  I’m intrigued - I’m not going to lie. And he does sound sincere. Oh, hell, are you actually considering this? That’s a definite maybe.

  “I am her best friend, and all screening goes through me. How’d you treat her right, huh? What can you give her that MacLaine can’t?”

  Russia makes a satisfied sound, all I’ve got this. “Are you kidding? Have you seen my apartment? It’s a hundred times better than what she’s living in now. And I have a nicer car to drive her around with. Plus, not to mention that my family adores her already so there’ll be no friction there. All I see is a win-win situation. You going to hook this up or not?”

  In the privacy of my o
ffice, I’m shaking my head. Holy hell, this guy doesn’t get Sera at all.

  “Russia, if you knew anything about her, you’d know she doesn’t give two shits about what you just told me. I’m sorry, I can’t do anything for you.”

  But Sera was upset remember? Is the relationship ending for real this time?

  “Maybe you should keep your eyes peeled for an opportunity,” I say, as a parting shot.

  Tommy’s breath catches, and it somehow echoes. “Understood. I’ll see you soon, krasavitsa. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”

  I gasp in mock-shock. “You just stole Josh’s line. Oh, he’s going to kick your ass for that!”

  “That would be funny if Josh could catch me instead of eating anytime we’re together. This was a fun and informative conversation.”

  I snort. Asshole Russia will always be an asshole. “Bye, Russia.”

  We disconnect and then I decide to shoot off a text to Sera while my computer boots up.

  I want to have that conversation where you and I discuss what is bothering you with Mr. MacLaine. How about lunch, my treat? Xx

  God knows I can use the break from all of this. I’ll stay an extra hour after work if I need to.

  I hope she says sushi. Man, I’d kill for some sushi right about now, even if it isn’t your most conventional breakfast food. Which reminds me that I didn’t bring anything for breakfast – again. Well, my leftover coffee should do the trick. I chug the rest of it before signing on to the network, and start checking my e-mails.

  God damn it, people are lazy. Don’t shoot off e-mails if it’ll take you two seconds to get off your ass and come talk to me in person!

  A whole hour and a half passes before my phone buzzes and I’m dragged back to reality with a pounding headache right between my eyes and an impending wave of anger ready to kill anyone who comes walking through my door with bad news.

  Lunch sounds stupendous. I’ll meet you at our usual spot. Cowabunga, dude! Sorry, I watched the Michael Bay version and have Mikey on the brain. See you soon, K!

  I text her that I’ll meet her there and frown at the lack of her needing a ride over, or willing to meet me halfway so we can walk to the sushi restaurant together. Why is she acting so weird?

  Ten minutes after emailing my finalised report on the latest product we received from our distributors, (hint: it was a shitty ass product), my phone buzzes with a phone call.

  “Katarina!” Mom’s voice uses my name like it’s a good piece of news. Oh, shit. Here we go.

  “So glad I could catch you.”

  “Ma, why are you talking so weird?”

  “I don’t know what you mean,” she says, and then I pinpoint what’s wrong.

  “You’re not speaking with your accent. I wonder why that would happen, fifty years after the fact that you were born with it, uh?”

  Mom lets out an annoyed sound, all blown air and tisks. “Please, sweetie, why do we always have to get into fights when we’re on the phone? I’d like to have a nice, serious conversation with you.”

  “Then go ahead. Let’s have a serious conversation.” I bet she could feel the air quotes on that one. I snicker, and wave my mouse over to my Excel spreadsheet to double check some numbers.

  “Friday night is happening, cara, no matter how much you wish it wasn’t.”

  I squeeze my eyes tight. Shit, I forgot all about it. Wonderful. Maybe I can OD on some alcohol or something and need to be rushed to the hospital so I don’t have to go. Better yet, I should ask Dean to run me over with his car, and the cast and everything will keep me stuck in a wheelchair for at least a couple of months.

  There, I’ll miss the rehearsal dinner and the wedding with one injury.

  I need to call Dean right after this conversation. I’m thinking he’ll go for it.

  “Whatever, Mom. Is this a confirmation call, then? ‘Cause I have a lot to do and you know, the higher ups frown on employees using their phone for personal use. I could get fired just talking to you.”

  “You always do this to me,” Mom says, and her voice has bite. Yeah, well, boo-fucking-hoo. “You always make me feel like I’m not important in your life.”

  Well, you’re not. Not anymore. Not after what you did.

  “I’m going to be there on Friday. Look, I’ll even put it in my calendar right now and set an alarm and everything. I’ll even go buy a new dress, and shoes. Wouldn’t want to disappoint the bride by wearing jeans and sneakers to her rehearsal dinner.”

  I don’t own sneakers, but Mom doesn’t know that.”

  “Katie, don’t you dare. I finally have a chance at being happy, and all you want to do is ruin it.”

  There it is. The truth. Me and Dad were never good enough for her. We couldn’t make her happy, but this fuckhead, Malcolm, can. Fuck that.

  “I said I’m going to be there. I’ve got to go.”

  “Friday at seven pm. We’re having it at the Ritz Carlton. Don’t be late, please!”

  Obviously they’re having it at the Ritz. Fucking Sherbrooke street is a bitch to find parking on. I can always say I’m allergic to taking the metro. Yeah, like that’ll work.

  Okay, new game plan. I need to come down with a mysterious illness that can be miraculously cured on Saturday morning, or maybe I’ll drink myself into oblivion and forget what day of the week it was.

  Decisions, decisions.

  Before I know it, lunch has rolled around and I hurry to grab my purse and trench and get to my designated parking spot in the lot. I’m waiting for Sera to show up when my phone buzzes again with e-mail notifications and a couple of texts when I get to the restaurant.

  Not a single one of them is from Dean.

  You don’t just bring a girl lunch that you made and then don’t speak to her again! It’s been two days! What the freaking hell?

  He did tell you no, remember? And no means no?

  Yeah, and Sera’s going to dump Hunter for Tommy. What guy says no?

  “Hi! I practically ran over here just to get warm!” Sera smiles, and somehow gets me to raise my hand for a fist bump. I swear to God we are adults.

  “You have no idea how hungry I am. I want seventy pieces of sushi and like another eighty for me to bring home tonight to Hunt and Matty.”

  My mouth pops open. “Matty’s gonna eat sushi?”

  Sera nods slowly, like she’s mulling it over. “You’re right, I don’t know what I was thinking. Too much rice. It’s gonna make his sugar shoot through the roof and then I won’t get any sleep. Which is cool, but feeling like a zombie after no sleeping doesn’t make feel awesome, you know?”

  “I... I didn’t mean-” I mumble, then grab a drink of water to keep my mouth shut. The constant running calculations she has to do to make sure my pseudo-nephew stays on the fast track to normal sugars boggles my mind. And it probably tires her out as well. I wonder if she does the same thing for MacLaine?

  Knowing Sera, probably. And she’s probably given up on chocolate, too, which is how she’s gotten to keeping the weight off. She’s not eating junk anymore, because they can’t. It all just seems so unfair.

  Maybe her being with Tommy might even the score a little. She wouldn’t have to play these mental gymnastics over a meal, for Christ’s sake. And Russia isn’t a picky eater like Alex. Plus, he cooks! Maybe not as good as Dean, but still pretty good. And Sera can have her fix of chocolate whenever she wants.

  Maybe she is giving up too much for MacLaine.

  If she is, what the hell do I do about it?

  “It’s fine, K. I just forgot for a second is all.” I get another Sera smile, the kind where her one dimple takes the stage on her cheek. “Did you order already?”

  “Please,” I say, blowing air on my knuckles. “I am the picture of efficiency. Of course I did.”

  Oh, man, I’m going to have to yank this conversation out of her like trying to pull a fat kid away from the golden arches.

  Sera’s eyes don’t ever stay on mine. She keeps looking down at
the paper placemat, adjusting the cutlery, only to drink water and repeat the process over again. The uncomfortable silence is stretching my nerves to the very edge, and my skin itches between my shoulder blades.

  “Just spill it, before I lose my mind. What’s wrong?”

  Sera shakes her head and tries to put her features into a shocked expression. “I .... I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

  I frown. “When have you started keeping secrets from me, huh? Who’s been here, through thick and thin?” I jab a thumb into my chest, making me left boob cry. Don’t know my own strength!

  “Who’s listened to every single problem you’ve had and tried to make it better? That’s right, I’m right here,” I wave in front of her face, nearly spilling my glass of water over. Goddamn it, today of all days! No one will take me seriously. Maybe I shouldn’t move. Or breathe...

  She makes a show of looking around, like someone important might be overhearing us. What the hell is going on?! She curls her fingers towards me, pulling me closer until we’re both leaned over the table, chests crushed against the surface.

  “I’m Batman,” she whispers, and then abruptly sits back in her chair and laughs the kind of laugh that’s hollow; the kind of laugh that’s hiding some sort of pain.

  Will I get in trouble if I stab her hand with my fork?

  Maybe Dean should be the one talking to her. They’re thick as thieves and clearly meant to be the very best of friends!

  I let her stew in the silence, all the while willing my anger to make her as uncomfortable as possible. She’s always been a tough one to break, but fuck, we made progress, and shit, with MacLaine, she came out of her shell even more.

  “So what the fuck happened?” I snarl, just as the waiter comes to our table to place our sushi between us. The kid doesn’t bother sticking around to point out what’s what.

  “I don’t want to talk about it here.” She says, eating a piece of caviar sashimi.

  My heart’s pumping too fast, and sweat makes my palms clammy. “Are you sick or something?” I ask, willing the answer to be no, praying that it’s no. I think I’ll die if she’s sick. I wouldn’t know what to do without her.

 
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