By Mercedes Rodriguez
I had never really been lucky when it came to the dating world. All my past partners would start off great. They would spoil me with a few surprises from time to time and see me when they could. Or, actually, I should say they would see me when I could. I will admit that I was a bit of a workaholic. I didn’t think my hours were that bad but every person I had ever dated said otherwise one way or another.
It happened so much that I even began to warn my partners beforehand. “Hey, before this continues any further, I have a pretty busy schedule.” Whoever they were, they would nod and then change the subject. That happened every time; I never learned and apparently still haven’t learned.
Because of the disappointment I had already prepared myself for on every new date, I never expected to meet anyone special. I would casually date when I had the time just for the quick stop and shop companionship. I was married to my work and seeing others on the side.
At times, I would have much rather stayed behind at the office to finish a proposal or something that seemed far more important than staring at a guy who blatantly asked if I was willing to stay home once we had kids. Woah, slow down buddy, we just met.
I was even on one of those dating apps that everyone claimed they found their one true love on. I was definitely not searching for true love but merely a good time once and a while.
I had been going out with this guy, Nico, for about three weeks. He was everything that I was not expecting. He understood my relationship with my work because he was like the male version of myself. I never had to explain why I had to cancel last minute because I needed to stay later in the office. He was so good to me and it was so unexpected.
We were on a date about a month after we got together and he took a phone call. He apologized for the intrusion but with my mouth full of iced tea I waved my hand telling him to go. He stepped off to the side and I could slightly hear him speaking to whoever was on the phone. I assumed it was work but that conversation he was having did not seem like anything work related.
I wasn’t technically eavesdropping, he was not even ten feet away and hiding behind a faux tree talking, really loudly might I add. While I tuned in here and there I tried my best not to listen.
What I did hear, I had to piece together like a puzzle. “I’m almost done here.” That was true, we were almost done. I flagged the waiter over for the check and paid quickly before he came back. I always enjoyed paying on the date but the guy on the opposite end of the tab always thought it was weird. I will admit that it was a power move of mine, almost like a test to see if this should go further or not. Nico never seemed to mind, which is why we had been going for a while longer than I was used to.
The next thing I heard didn’t seem like a work thing, more of something else that certainly was not work related. He lowered his voice so much that I almost didn’t get to hear him. “Waiting for tonight is killing me.” That was definitely not him talking to his boss.
I stopped listening after that and my skin was burning from anger. He came back a short time later and acted as if everything was normal. In his eyes, everything was normal.
“You paid the check!? That’s so sweet of you.” He gave me one of his dazzling grins that would always make me forget what I was thinking to say next.
I didn’t even let myself think before blurting out, “who was that on the phone?” I had never in my life been the jealous type but right then and there the jealousy seemed to be pouring out onto the table.
“A work thing. You know how it is.”
He said this as if I knew exactly how it was.
I knew what a real work call sounded like and what I had heard was not at all that. He saw the frustration in my face and slid his hand across the table and placed it on mine. As he spoke, he rubbed his thumb across my wrist. “It was a work call. I was trying to hold down a company that was interested in working with us. A really big account that I was trying to nail down before anyone else could.”
He softened his smile and excused himself to use the restroom before we left. I had already cooled down from the confrontation and was now okay. I lifted my napkin from the table to put on my plate. Under the napkin was a cell phone. It wasn’t mine. Then I remembered one of our first dates when Nico told me about his two phones. One for work and the other for personal use. His personal phone had a navy blue case, I know this because I remember thinking how his case matched his eyes. The work phone was just a plain black case, it matched his hair.
This phone I found was in a sleek black case. I turned it around and the logo of his company was the lock screen. Not what I was hoping for.
I slid the phone into my purse and sat there sipping at my drink. He returned shortly after and asked if I was ready to go. I saw the phone he had in his hand, it was the navy case that his fingers were wrapped tightly around.
The valet pulled the car around and we got in. I was turning the corner when his personal phone lit up with a text. I didn’t look, for safety reasons, but I could tell that he was softly smiling down at the screen and tapping away.
We were driving through neighborhoods now and he was still grinning at his screen. I abruptly stopped at a stop sign and this caught his attention.
“What’s wrong? Are you okay?”
“Who are you texting right now?
He got defensive too quickly. “No one, just a coworker asking about a last minute meeting.”
If that’s the truth then why was his “work” phone in my purse?
He began shuffling in his seat at the silence I left him with. “Really? Why is your supposed work phone in my purse right now?”
His face fell ever so slightly but then he turned on the charm. “Do you not trust me?”
I huffed under my breath, “I would if you told the truth.” He still heard it.
“You have nothing to be worried about. It’s just my job, nothing more. You of all people get it right?” I didn’t look into his eyes, if I did I would get lost in an ocean of blue.
“C’mon, you’re not even gonna look at me?”
He saw that I was trying so hard not to make eye contact that he lifted his hand and turned my chin to face him. It was like I was waving a white flag just by giving in and meeting his eyes. He knew this too because he wouldn’t have made me look if he didn’t.
“I love you, Viv.” That was the first time he had ever said that to me, the first time anyone besides my parents had ever said that to me. It sent a shock of waves through my body. Luckily I had already put the car in park or else my foot would have stepped on the gas and went flying.
He looked away but still held the smile.
“I love you.”
At that moment, my heart completely melted. We had only been dating for a few months so it seemed sudden but at the same time he seemed perfect. That was, when he wasn’t lying to my face.
I don’t know why I said it back but I did. I also didn’t regret it even though I knew that he only said it to get me to shut up about my accusation. It was weird, actually. It felt as if I was under a love spell that I couldn’t break and every time I tried he would become stronger.
I let my lips form a weak smile and drove off in satisfaction. He sat back in his seat, more comfortable than before and began once again laughing at a new message that popped up.