“Hey, Tiffany,” I said.
“Hi,” she said. She sounded kind of depressed. We hadn’t had a chance to talk last night because she never called me back. I thought about bringing it up but didn’t want to rock the boat. I did feel a little offended that she didn’t return my text, but it was something that I’d to get over.
“How are you?” I asked. Austin walked into the kitchen. He looked rough. I could always tell when he was sick. His eyes would glaze over. Poor kid.
“I’m… okay,” she said. I frowned. She was never just okay. She often used words like great, excited, and fabulous. I wasn’t used to this Tiffany.
“Austin still sick?” she asked.
“He is,” I replied.
“Tim mentioned you might work from home if he was still not feeling well when I turned in my article,” she explained. “I’m sorry. It sucks to be sick so close to the holidays.”
“I agree,” I said. “I’m taking him to the doctor this afternoon. I’m hoping we have some time to turn this around before Christmas. He was really looking forward to everything.”
“Yeah…” she said. Her voice trailed off.
“Are you okay?” I asked. I could no longer pretend that nothing was wrong. Obviously, something was bothering her.
“We can talk about it later,” Tiffany said. “Austin is sick. You need to go focus on him.” I handed the medicine cup to Austin. He pressed it to his lips and swallowed all of it. He handed the empty cup back to me and stuck out his tongue.
“Gross,” he said, walking away.
“He’s fine,” I said. “I just gave him some medicine. I have some extra time to talk. Tell me what’s wrong. Did something happen at your interview?”
“No,” she said. “It was fine. It went really well, actually. It was something that happened after that. We can talk about it later, though. You should really go take care of Austin.”
I couldn’t help but think that she was hiding something from me. I knew that she wanted me to take care of Austin, but at the same time, I felt like she was using it as an excuse.
“We can talk about it, Tiffany,” I said. Austin had already left the room, on the search for his tablet. Once he found it, he would be quiet for a good half hour. It would give me plenty of time to talk to Tiffany.
“I’m at work,” she said. “I just wanted to call to say that I hope Austin is feeling better. I guess you’ll be back to the office on Monday?”
“I’m sure,” I said. “There’s some things that I need to wrap up before Christmas. But, really, we can talk now.”
“No,” she said, a bit more firmly. I could tell that I’d pressed too hard. She was obviously uncomfortable bringing up what was wrong with her. My mind started to swirl with possibilities. Was she having second thoughts about our relationship? Had Robin found out and threatened her?
“Okay,” I said. “Maybe we can make some time and see each other this weekend, depending on how Austin is feeling. He’s a kid, they tend to bounce back from illnesses rather quickly.”
“Sure,” she said. “We can see what happens.”
We said our goodbyes and I hung up the phone. I almost wished that I’d let her call go to voicemail. The phone call had ruined my morning. I went to the refrigerator and grabbed a bottle of water, contemplating my conversation with Tiffany. I replayed the past forty-eight hours in my head.
Wednesday had been amazing. Thursday morning was great, as well. Thursday before she left for the interview was good, and then she went missing in action. Something happened between leaving the office for the interview and coming back to the office, but what? She said the interview went well. I couldn’t think about what could have happened to make her change drastically.
I picked my phone back up and dialed my sister.
“Hello?” Sarah picked up the phone.
“Hey,” I said. “What’s going on?”
“Nothing,” she said. “Actually, nothing and everything all at once. The life of a stay at home mom.”
I laughed. Although it didn’t make sense, I understood what she was saying. She didn’t have a job but taking care of her kids was a much harder job than I’d. As much as I loved Austin, I could not imagine staying at home all day long with him every day. I actually enjoyed going to work and having adult time.
“Is Austin okay?” she asked. She was probably asking more for herself than anything else. He had been around her kids over the weekend. She didn’t want her kids to be sick as much as I didn’t want Austin to be.
“He’s pretty rough,” I admitted. “We have a doctor’s appointment this afternoon. She’s pretty sure it’s just a virus that is making the rounds, but we are going in to confirm. Poor guy. I feel awful for him. It’s taken the Christmas spirit right out of him.”
“Aww,” Sarah said sympathetically. “He’ll feel better soon. He’s a tough little kid.”
“I hope so,” I said. “But to be honest, I didn’t call to talk about Austin. I’m calling to pick your brain.”
“Let me guess,” she said. “You’re overanalyzing things with Tiffany?”
My sister knew me too well. I’d done similar things with Layla in the beginning of our relationship and Sarah had helped me through that, too. It was always comforting to have a woman to talk to. I definitely couldn’t talk to Allen about it and I didn’t want to bring Maurice into the mess, either. Sarah was all I’d.
“She’s gotten really weird, really fast,” I explained. I told my sister about everything that had happened the past couple of days. After listening to me, she finally spoke.
“I would just relax, Cayden,” she said. “I know it is hard for you to do that, but just step back for a minute and take a breath. You told me that she has some issues with the holidays and her family, right? Maybe it’s that. I know some people that turn into hermits around Christmas. It probably has nothing to do with you. I mean, you said you didn’t talk to her in between the time where she was fine and got weird, right?”
“Right,” I confirmed. I was beginning to feel silly now that my sister had said the words aloud. I was overreacting. It could have been about Tiffany’s family or her feelings toward Christmas. It didn’t necessarily have anything to do with me.
“Seriously,” Sarah continued, “You need to just relax. I would take the day and love on Austin and then call Tiffany tomorrow. I’m telling you, it’s probably not a big deal at all.”
I sighed. I knew that Sarah was right, but I also knew that I couldn’t just brush this feeling aside. I’d be trapped inside with Austin all day. My mind would go crazy, no matter what kind of assurance my sister tried to give me.
“Thanks,” I said. I’d to give Tiffany the benefit of the doubt. Maybe it really had nothing to do with me. I ended the call with my sister and walked into my bedroom. As expected, Austin was in my bed with his tablet.
“Hi, Daddy.” He looked up from the screen for a split second before looking back down.
“Hey, buddy,” I said, getting back into bed with him. As he watched his tablet, I scrolled on my phone, checking my email. Luckily, there wasn’t much to catch up on. Most of the office had already checked out for the holidays, even though Christmas wasn’t until Wednesday. It didn’t surprise me, though. If I wasn’t in the position that I was in, I would have probably checked out early as well.
As I looked at my phone, an email from Tim popped up. The subject was simply “Tiffany.” I opened it immediately.
Tiffany turned in her first article today – It’s great! She really has a talent. Glad to have her on our team. Can’t wait to have you two collaborate on some pieces in the new year. Talk to you soon.
I shut my screen off after I read the email. I was pleased that Tim was so happy with Tiffany’s work. I knew that she would be a rock star. While I was happy that Tiffany was excelling, I was also a bit torn. If she was doing so well at work, why was she so distant?