Coming of age

“You stand to lose a lot,” Alex said. I had met him for lunch the next Monday, the only time we actually managed to get alone these days.
“Maybe,” I listlessly took a bite out of my sandwich. “But not as much as staying with her would cost me.”
“What if she fires you?”
“I’m already looking into other opportunities. I won’t be able to stay at BTG. Not this time.” I couldn’t bear to eat anymore. My stomach clenched at the prospect of hurting Lucy.
“You can stay at ours for a while if Eleanor kicks you out.”
“Thanks, homie.” I realised how lucky I had been to get a cheap room at Eleanor’s for so long. Rent prices were still skyrocketing and then there was the dreaded search for roommates. I was about to pull the bottom out from under my life, the only difference was that this time it was intentionally.
“That’s what friends are for.” He eyed my sandwich. “Are you not eating that?”
I shoved it towards him. “I’m more in the mood for a liquid lunch.”
“For what it’s worth, I think you’re very brave,” he said before tucking into the rest of my chicken-avocado sandwich.
“It’s not a matter of courage.” I felt the tears well up behind my eyes a little bit. “It’s not even a matter of choice.”
“Are you finally coming of age, Lee Harlem Robinson?” Over the table, he grabbed my hand. “About ten years too late, but then again, it’s never too late, is it?”
I shook my head. “I guess not.”

When I got back to the office I ignored Annabelle and knocked on Lucy’s door directly. She was munching on an apple behind her computer.
“Is that all you’re eating?” I asked.
“Your concern is heart-warming, darling.” She pulled her lips into that wide grin again. I would miss that smile. “But it looks like Hong Kong is happening. Now all I need is the right person for the job.”
“I’m sure you’ll find someone. You always do.”
She looked away from her screen and pinned her eyes on me, giving me all of her attention. “What can I do for you?”
“Can we meet at your place tonight? I’ll bring some take-out.” Part of me had wanted to wait until the weekend, so she’d have at least two days to process, but it suddenly seemed so urgent, and wrong to postpone.
“Sure, you have the key. Let yourself in if I’m not home yet.”
“Okay.” I turned to leave.
“You should move in, you know,” she said, out of nowhere.
I had my back to her and took a deep breath before facing her again. “I’ll think about it.” I forced my lips into a smile.
Lucy got up from behind her desk and walked over to me. “I’m sorry, darling. I shouldn’t have sprung it on you like that.” She kissed me on my forehead. “Are you all right?”
“I’m fine.” So much wasted kindness, I thought. Cheating would have been much easier. “I have an interview this afternoon, so I’ll see you at home.” I was relieved that I didn’t have to spend the rest of the day looking at her open door, searching for her shadows.
“Bring me a chicken tikka, will you?” she said.
I was thinking of a bottle of brandy instead.

To be continued…

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