A litte bit more relationship building (or breaking, as the case may be) in this chapter. For any of the guys reading this – don’t worry, there’s action coming soon, I promise.
Carly and I had been on four dates before we had our first fight. I guess it’s no surprise that I totally didn’t see it coming.
We had arranged to meet at a nearby pub for lunch but Carly didn’t show up or answer her phone when I called. I was a little concerned but didn’t think too much of it. I just assumed she had a last minute meeting or something. As it turns out, she did.
I knocked on Carly’s open office door and did my best Kramer entrance. Carly glanced up and gave me a quick half-smile before looking back to the paperwork on her desk. I paused. “I thought we were meeting at the Lion.”
She looked up again but didn’t meet my eyes. “Sorry, Mikhail, I’m really busy today.”
I’m no expert, but that didn’t sound good. “What’s wrong?” I cleverly inquired.
“Look, I’ve got a bunch of meetings that I don’t feel ready for and I don’t want to deal with this right now.”
Oh, shit. ‘Deal with this’? It was much worse than I thought. “What do you mean? What do we need to deal with?”
She finally put down her pen and looked straight at me. “Did you have to tell everyone in the company that we’re seeing each other?”
Well, that came out of nowhere. “I didn’t think it was a problem.”
“Mikhail, I’m in human resources. It doesn’t look good when I break a fraternization policy.”
“But Scott was there when I asked you out. I didn’t think it was a secret.”
“It’s not a secret. I just didn’t want to have everyone in the building asking me about it all the time. Brad has been giving me a really hard time. He could fire me if he wanted to.”
That really threw me off. “Brad is threatening you?”
“No. I’m saying he could fire me, not that he’s going to.”
“I can deal with Brad if you need me to.”
She rolled her eyes. “I don’t need you to deal with Brad, or anyone else. I just need some space – while we’re at work, at least.”
So she was ashamed to be seen with me. Great. “I don’t understand what’s happening here. Everything was fine yesterday.”
“Everything is still fine, Mikhail. We can talk about this when we’re not at work, ok?”
I don’t remember my final response before storming out of her office, but the next exchange is etched into my memory. It just so happened that Brad was coming down the hall toward Carly’s office as I left. Judging by the smirk on his face (which may or may not have actually been there) I assumed he’d overheard the conversation between Carly and I.
“Good afternoon, Mikhail.”
“You better leave her alone,” I muttered.
He stopped. “I’m sorry?” He seemed more curious than angry at that point.
Anger and cowardice battled for a moment. As usual, cowardice won. “Nothing.”
Brad nodded and the smirk got bigger. “Ok. I guess we’ll see you for the next progress update then.”
I stumbled back to my office in a daze of pathetic, impotent rage and hurt. Fuckin’ Brad. It was obviously his fault and, as always, I had backed down instead of calling him on it. Clever retorts and cutting remarks coursed through my mind but only made me feel worse. Why was I so clever *after* confrontations?
After 20 minutes of stewing, I’d had enough. I stomped down the hall to Brad’s office and threw open his slightly-ajar door. He looked up, the smirk still there like it was frozen on his face (or maybe that’s just what he looked like, it was a long time ago). “Can I help you?” was all he said.
“I don’t appreciate when people mess around with my business.” Ok, so maybe it wasn’t clever or cutting, but at least I wasn’t just backing down.
“What are you talking about?”
Like he didn’t know. “You better leave Carly alone.”
Brad stood up half way, then sat back down again. It was the first time I’d seen him at a loss for words. “Are you sure you want to talk about this right now?” he finally said.
Damn right I did. “I know what’s on those spreadsheets. You shouldn’t mess with me.”
Some of the colour drained from Brad’s face and he ground his teeth as he said, “Please shut the door.” I was surprised enough by his response that I just did what he said. As soon as the door closed, he continued. “You have no idea what you’re getting involved with here. I gave you a free pass the first time. You won’t get another one.”
“Who are you to threaten me? You’re the one who’s stealing from the company.”
“You have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about, Mikhail. Walk away from this, now, or you’re going to regret it.”
How was I to know he wasn’t bluffing? It sure sounded like a bluff at the time. I guess it’s a good thing I don’t play poker.