I hadn’t talked to Boss since I’d come back to Portland. We’d been studiously ignoring each other since that last kiss. When he stomped by my cubicle in a mood and asked me to talk with him in his office, I nervously bit my lip thinking it would be about Ian or us or that last kiss. I really had to stop replaying it in my head over and over and over again.
“Um, hi,” I said, closing the door behind me. Boss was pacing in front of his desk like he had too much nervous energy.
He didn’t look at me when he said, “I need you to take over for a week.”
I stood there a full minute trying to parse his words, but failed. “Take over…what?”
He stopped then and looked at me and he started to smile, but it was like he thought better of it and stopped himself. He resumed his grumpy look and said, “The office.”
“What?” I said. “No! I can’t do that! Definitely not!”
“I’m going on vacation. I need someone to do my job for a few days.”
“What about Sandy? Or Mark? Or…” I trailed off trying to think of everyone in the office more responsible than me.
“Listen, if you were sitting at my desk and looking at the sales numbers, the times people call in sick, the times someone in the office offers to do a menial job that’s below them…” He looked away from me again as he said, “The most responsible person is you. This isn’t a personal decision. It’s a business one.”
“OK,” I said softly, not knowing what else to say. Obviously he’d made up his mind.
“I’m leaving this afternoon for Portland.”
He cut me off and said, “I’m going to visit my brother.” He said, “my brother,” like we were strangers. This was worse than before we’d ever kissed. At least we were friends then. Obviously Boss didn’t think our friendship was worth salvaging. He said, “I’ll send out an email telling everyone to come to you with issues and I’ll forward you a few files.”
Then Boss stared at me like he was waiting for me to leave. “OK, thanks,” I said, and I left, closing the door behind me. I felt like crying, but I wasn’t sure if it was because I was going to be in charge of the office for a few days, or because Boss hated my guts. I didn’t care what Boss thought, did I? My stomach turned at the thought. I guess I still did.
My phone pinged when I got back to my desk. Ian wrote, “Literally just saw a store with birds on everything,” and I smiled back. At least Ian could make me smile, I reasoned, but I still felt the misery radiating toward my limbs.
“What have I done?” I muttered to no one, and when I looked up, I saw that Boss was passing behind my cubicle. He’d heard me and stopped. He looked like he was going to say something, but then he closed his mouth, furrowed his brow, turned around and left. He probably was thinking of an insult to hurl my way.
I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to him hating me.