It’s hard. I feel a pull deep in my gut to go, to lose myself in the character I’ve made for myself there. To let Hudson take me to places of pleasure I’ve never felt before. Instead I find myself reliving the moments we already had. Over and over again as I work and try to focus on my life. Tiny things will remind me and I’ll be thrown back into a memory from the last six weeks. The way light hits black fabric, a candle, or even just touching the grain of wood.
On the third day I don’t even notice when Sandra comes up behind me, and I jump when she puts her hand on my shoulder. “What happened?”
She pulls a chair up to the desk next to me. “You’ve gone from glowingly happy to—for lack of a better word, depressed, in a matter of days. Something’s up. Give me a little credit.”
I shake my head. “I left the guy I was seeing.”
She frowns in that way older people do when they don’t approve of something that you’re doing, but know that they can’t tell you to stop. “Why did you do that? You seemed like you were having a good time.”
Even though she can’t tell me directly what to do, I know Sandra well enough to know that she’s not going to stop with her questions until I’ve answered. I sigh and push away from the desk, trying to figure out a way to organize all the thoughts that are swirling in my head about Hudson and me and our relationship. “Because,” I say slowly, “the way he knows me, how we spent our time, it was exciting. Adventurous. I wasn’t really me when I was with him—I was a girl who bought lingerie and went to parties like that one and was some daring mysterious woman. That’s not really me. I’m…this. I work here and then I go home and watch TV. I’m not who he thinks I am. I’m…boring.”
Sandra gives me a look like she doesn’t understand. “And?”
“I mean,” I feel a little awkward talking about this with my boss, “I guess you know we were at a sex club.”
“I wasn’t born yesterday, dear.”
I fight down the blush rising in my cheeks. “Anyway, he wanted to do more outside the club. He wanted to see my photos. He wanted to…I don’t know…date me. And I’m not ready for it to end.”
“Sounds to me like he wasn’t ending it,” Sandra chuckles.
“But don’t you see? I’m not the person he thought I was. And when he sees that I’m not that girl he knows from the club everything’s going to be ruined.”
She blows out a breath and leans back. “Girl, you’re being a little over dramatic.”
I grit my teeth. “No, I’m not.”
“What has you so convinced that he won’t like you when you’re not having sex?”
“I’m boring,” I shrug. “I always have been. I’m not special. I’m average. The most daring thing I’ve ever done was moving here. Which isn’t exactly a stretch considering it’s only an hour and a half and away from my hometown. I’m just…in the middle.”
Sandra is quiet for a second, just looking at me. The way she’s looking at me—as if she’s really looking through me—is unnerving. Finally, she stands. “We’ve got a quiet few days ahead of us, and I know the weather is going to be nice. Why don’t you take a couple of creative days? I don’t think you’ve had much time lately to take any photos of your own.”
“Are you sure? I don’t want to leave you shorthanded.”
She smiles, and it’s a little sad. “I have your phone number. I can call if I need you. I’ll see you back here on Monday, okay?”
She heads back to the office, stopping before she reaches the door. “I don’t think those words about you being average actually come from you. Do me a favor, and give some thought to why you’re so convinced that you’re not worth this guy’s time. Especially since you seem to make each other happy.” She doesn’t give me a chance to respond, closing the office door behind her.
I have that sinking sensation in my gut like I’ve disappointed her. Even though I’m not sure why. I’ve known Sandra for a few years now, and I know she cares about me, but why does this really matter? I’ve made the decision. Might as well get a head start on picking my locations tonight if I’m going to shoot tomorrow. Pushing Sandra’s words out of my head, I grab my things and head for home.