“Working. Please leave me alone for a little while.”
“Come on, Seth. You’ve been sitting at your desk for three hours. I’m hungry.”
Seth glanced up at Brooke but didn’t really see her. At the moment, she was nothing more than a distraction. “Then eat. I’m not stopping you.”
“But you said that you’d take me out tonight,” she wailed. “I haven’t been out in weeks!” She stamped her foot for emphasis. This is the problem with having a girlfriend who is significantly younger than you, Seth thought, they act like children.
“I don’t want to have this fight right now. If you want to go out, call some of your friends and go out.” Seth pulled out his wallet and handed her a couple of folded hundreds. “Here, take this.”
Brooke stared at him for a long moment before grabbing the money and huffing out of the room. Seth turned back to his computer to review the spreadsheet he had just completed. All he really wanted to do was crawl into bed, but there weren’t enough hours in the day and sleep was always the lowest priority. Pushing his glasses back, he rubbed his eyes and wondered if he should have gone with Brooke. She had been picking fights with him lately, probably due to neglect. She had to understand that he was trying hard to make partner. It took more work and determination than she could understand. It was ignorant of her to think that he would be able to drop everything whenever she needed him.
Threw on a pair of jeans and a Daft Punk tee shirt, Brooke grabbed her jacket and raced out of the house. Slamming the door as hard as she could, she tried to simultaneously call her friend Tiffany, button up her jacket, and secure her purse on her shoulder.
“Tiff? Tiff? God damn it Tiffany, I hate your cell phone.”
Her friends tinny voice came through, “Bee? That you? What’s up?”
Outside the building, Brooke held the phone shoulder to ear and lit a cigarette. “Seth’s being a dick again. Do you want to grab dinner? I’m freakin’ starving.”
“Yeah. Mathew is on his way over though, can I bring him with?”
“Totally, maybe he can explain men to me. I’m gonna call Tich. Meet at Blue Iguana in 30?”
“See ya there.” Brooke held cigarette in mouth and dialed Tich.
“Hey Bee. What’s up?”
“I’m there. Ella’s over, I’ll bring her along.”
“Awesome, see you then.”
Brooke put out her cigarette and threw away her butt. She caught the bus and settled in. It was hard to push Seth’s indifference out of her mind but she wanted to be able to enjoy dinner with her friends. Things had been hard lately and she had been leaning heavily on them. Everyone deserved a night of fun.
Seth finally shut down his computer, it was 2:47 and he wanted to be in the office by 7:30. Most of the partners didn’t get in until 9 so it would give him plenty of time to get more work done. Brooke hadn’t come home yet. He tried not to worry but couldn’t help himself. She always did this when she was angry, staying out all night, not calling. Stripping off all but his underwear, he struggled into bed and fell asleep almost instantly.
“It’s just, he’s never there for me. I understand that he needs to work really hard right now so that he can make partner, but I feel like I come last. All I want is a little attention. Just an hour or something.” Brooke was three margaritas into her night.
“Well have you told him that?” asked Mathew, always the voice of reason.
“No, I can’t.”
“Why not?” Tich piped in. “I mean, how is he suppose to know if you, like, don’t tell him?”
“I don’t wanna be one of those girls who is always whining at her boyfriend for attention.”
“Yeah, ‘cause whining to your friends all the time is so much better.” Brooke was a little hurt. She must have been bad lately for Ella to say something. Ella normally had a very sweet disposition.
“Can you really imagine me. ‘Seth, I need you. I can’t live without you. Pay attention to me.’ Ugh!” Brooke put her head down so she wouldn’t have to look any of her friends in the eye.
Tiffany rubbed her back, “You know, Bee, there’s no shame in needing people. You need us, and we need you, too. And I know that Seth needs you. How would he survive without you there to make sure that he’s taken care of?”
“You’re right, of course you’re right. I’m just sick of fighting with him, you know? I hate him coming to bed when I’m already asleep. I hate him eating dinner at his damn desk.”
“You have to talk to him, honey. I know that he’s not intentionally making you feel this way. Seth’s a good guy. Give him a chance.”
“You can come stay with me tonight,” Tich offered, “But you have to promise to promise to talk to Seth tomorrow.
The alarm was buzzing. The alarm read 6:42, which meant that it had been buzzing for 12 minutes straight. There was no need to check the bed for Brooke; she would never have let it go for that long. She would have turned it off and kissed him on the cheek to wake him up. Seth felt bad that he hadn’t spent some time with her last night. There was nothing he could do now; he was running late. The only thing he had time for now was a quick shower and a dry shave. He left a small heart on the bathroom mirror in shaving cream. Maybe he and Brooke could go out to dinner tonight.
Straightening his tie while trying to keep a hold on his briefcase, he locked the apartment door and took the elevator downstairs to catch a cab. He didn’t have time for the bus. He made it to the office by 7:25. There were a few secretaries already there but he had made it before any of the partners. After grabbing a cup of coffee, he sat down at his desk and started reviewing a case file from his inbox.
There was a knock at his door around 8. It was another associate, Thomas. “Hey Seth. Do you want to grab a cup of coffee?”
“I can’t this morning. I have to get this case reviewed for Schmitt by 11.”
Thomas sat down anyway; he could never take a hint. Seth kept working, while hoping that he would leave. “How’s life been? How’s that little girlfriend of yours?”
Seth couldn’t keep the look of sadness from crossing his face. “She’s okay. We’ve been fighting lately. She doesn’t understand the pressure that I’m under. It’s not that I don’t want to spend time with her, I just don’t have the time to spare.”
“Hey, I know you’re up for partner next you but that doesn’t mean you have to kill yourself. Brooke’s a really nice girl. She deserves your time.”
Seth stared at him skeptically. Thomas was the kind of guy that made jokes about being a ‘boob inspector’ and had a tendency to get slapped when he drank. The fact that he would give such sensitive advice made Seth wonder if he wasn’t at least partially at fault. “You’re right. She is a nice girl. She’s a great girl and she deserves more than I give her. Thanks, Thomas. Look, I really do have to finish review this file though. Want to grab Starbucks around 3?”
“Sure thing, my friend. I’ll see you then.”
It was almost 6 and Brooke was sitting on the small iron balcony smoking a cigarette. She heard the key in the door and quickly hurried back inside. Seth usually didn’t come home until 8 or 9. She couldn’t remember if any of her friends had keys. One of them had to.
“Brooke?” she heard Seth’s unmistakable baritone as the door opened. “Are you home?”
“What are you doing home?” it came out accusatory, she didn’t mean for it to but it did.
Shutting the door behind him, Seth sat his briefcase on the floor before saying, “I thought that you would be happy to have me home early.” He noticed her cigarette. “I’ve asked you not to smoke in the house, you know I can’t stand the smell.”
Brooke quickly ran back to the balcony to extinguish her cigarette. “I’m sorry. I wasn’t smoking in the house, I just came in when I heard the front door.”
“Why? Were you expecting someone?”
“No. That’s why it surprised me.”
It wasn’t going how either of them wanted. This small argument would escalate until both of their feelings were hurt and they stopped talking to each other. Neither of them wanted it to happen but one of them had to be willing to stop it.
“I told you about the case I’m working on. You know that all the associates have to put in long hours. I’m not an exception.”
“I also know that the other associates make time for their partners. Not that you even know what that word means.” Brooke had her back to him so that he wouldn’t see her tears.
Seth couldn’t stand the angry curve of her back. He thought about the way she looked last summer when their relationship was new. They had gone to the park to feed ducks and she had been wearing a green halter dress. The twin points of her shoulder blades had driven him wild.
“You’re right, Bee.” His voice was heavy, he felt completely defeated. “I haven’t been spending as much time with you as I should. It’s not fair. It’s not fair to me either, I miss you.”
Brooke turned to him, wiping her cheek with the back of a hand. “What?”
“I miss you. I hate that we fight all the time. I hate that we never have fun anymore.”
“Me too. I know that you have to work really hard right now. I really do. I understand. It’s just, I need a little bit of time. I need to remember what it feels like to laugh with you.”
Seth reached out for her hand. “I’m sorry. I promise that we will find a way to make this work. I don’t want to lose you.”
“I don’t want to be lost,” Brooke mumbled into Seth’s chest before pushing back. “Why don’t you go put on some pajamas and I’ll make dinner? We can find a movie to watch on TV.”
“That’s sounds like a great idea.”
For the first time in months, Seth and Brooke spent an entire evening together with no interruptions.
| COPYRIGHT 2006-2011
Portland Fiction Project
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED