“Your tomatoes are coming in.”
“Oh, she’s got you all twisted up today.”
I grip the edges of the chair and try not to let him bait me. Pop can be like a dog with a bone when he wants.
“Already got her eyes on someone else?”
“No,” I snap, and then realize I walked right into his trap. I let out a sigh and drop my head in my hands. “She’s fine. Still the same.”
“Ahh. You know, Jordan, I remember the first time I saw your mother.”
“I know, Pop. You were at the middle school dance and spotted her on the other side of the room. She was the new girl in town, and you wanted to go over and introduce yourself. The rest was history.”
He nods, then smiles and looks away, reliving the memory in his mind. There were times when he couldn’t recall it without tears, but the older he gets, the more the memories stay happy ones. I wonder if it’s because he thinks he’s getting closer to the time when he can see her again.
Once he comes back from the stroll down memory lane, he shrugs one shoulder. “There’s nothing wrong with being friends first. It just means the first steps will be the strongest. Take your time. But don’t take too long.”
Pop picks up his crossword and goes back to it while I sit there, silently brooding. He’s right, but he doesn’t know the whole story. Or who I’m even hung up on.
I love my dad, but I don’t tell him everything. He knows me well enough to know I’ve got my eye on someone. But I haven’t told him her name. He also knows me well enough to know that I haven’t made a move yet. But I haven’t told him why.
How can I explain it? I guess I could come out and say that I work with a woman so beautiful I can hardly look her in the eyes. That before she spoke a word to me, every cell in my body ached to reach for her. That she’s so utterly perfect, I’m not sure she even notices me like that.
I rub my temples and think about how I’ve been locked in the friend zone, with no means of escape.
Jay is the administrative assistant to Miles Osbourne, so essentially, she’s the gatekeeper for the entire company. If you need Miles, you go through her, but as the old saying goes: though she be little, she is mighty.
She’s small and perky, friendly to everyone she meets. But there’s a pit bull inside of her, and I’ve seen her take a grown man down a few pegs on several occasions.
The first time I saw her, I’d had to run up to the top floor to deliver some intel to Miles. Ryan, my boss, had asked me to run some documents upstairs because he was on his way out. It wasn’t anything above my security clearance, not that there wasn’t something I couldn’t find if I wanted to, so it was an easy drop.
When I stepped off the elevator, I saw her. And that was that.
One look at her and I heard the voice of my father echoing in the back of my mind. When you know, you know. That first glance at Jay, and boy, did I know.
It was all a blur, but I’ll never forget her chestnut-colored hair in a knot at the nape of her neck. The way her glasses slipped down her nose to reveal big, round, chocolate eyes looking at me expectantly. The way her top lip was fuller than the bottom, and how her fingers held her pen. All of that is burned into my brain, yet it feels like a dream.
Without realizing it, one second I was dropping off papers, and the next she was asking me if I wanted to eat in the cafeteria with her. I don’t even think I answered her, I just followed along and got a tray of food. She was friendly and talked nonstop, but nothing beyond that. She kept her distance, and I’m pretty sure I only said about three words the whole time, but it was nice. The nicest meal I’d ever had.
“You’re overthinking,” my pop tuts, and I ignore him.
He’s right, but it’s complicated. Isn’t it? I don’t want to mess things up. I’d rather be in the friend zone with her than be nothing at all.
“I’m going to take a look at your computer and make sure you haven’t turned that virus software off yet,” I say, pushing away from the patio table and going in the house.
“The damn thing slows down my solitaire game,” Pop yells from the porch, and I shake my head. That’s all he thinks a computer is good for.
I spend the afternoon cleaning up his software and then walking with him to the market and helping him bring groceries back home. We cook Sunday dinner, and some of his friends come over to eat and give me a hard time about not being married or having any kids yet.