All Caught Up in the Game
It was after noon before I got out of bed since I was off it was ok. I looked out of the window and saw that it was a sunny southern California day. I padded off to the kitchen to get my daily cup of ginger tea. I shook the kettle to see if there was any water in it. I heard the water swish around, it didn't sound like enough to make a cup. i placed a full kettle on the stove and sat down at the table to wait for the familiar whistle of the kettle. I had time to gather my thoughts.
My relationship with Lyle was winding down he was getting boring. We were doing the same old things our relationship was becoming mundane and routine especially since I lost weight. He would call everyday from work at 10:15 exactly but since today was Saturday he called at exactly 8:00. He said his usual greeting of "Hey babe are ya' up yet."
My usual response "No, not yet but I'll call you back when I get up."
"Ok, babe I'm going to the gym. Call me on my cell."
That is how it had gone for the last few years. I haven't called him back yet so I should get a call soon. He usually calls around 12:30 when he thinks I have gotten up. I feel like not being around for his call today and I am going to cut off my cell phone so he can't reach me that way. Maybe he'll wonder about me because I'm not there to receive his call. Maybe he'll think that I'm with another man. I guess he will notice me more, I hope.
Our relationship was not always this way. I've lost a lot of weight since we met five years ago. I remember being embarrassed about how overweight I was. I thought I was not sexy because I was not thin like the women in the fashion magazines. In my heart I was a high fashion model and I could wear all of those wonderful fashionable dresses that I couldn't afford. I couldn't go into Macy's or any other department store and buy clothes because they just didn't go up to my size and if it did then it still was too small in those more curvy spots.
I met Lyle in of all places Hometown Buffet in the entree section where all of the fating foods are such as mashed potatoes, sweet mashed potatoes fried chicken and etc. We were both piling food on to our plates. I had gone there with some of my friends and so had he with his friends. We combined tables and had one big party. We must have stayed there about couple hours after the rest of our group left.
Lyle asked me for my phone number and I gave it to him. I liked Lyle because he made me laugh. He was also handsome, single working and not gay. The men I had met up to that point were only one or two of those things but Lyle seemed to meet most of the criteria I was looking for in a man.
We talked on the phone the first day we met for hours. We talked about our favorite music, traveling and just life. He said that he wanted to take me places. He took me riding down the coast a few times and we went up to San Francisco for the weekend once. We haven't done any of that in the last two years.
Lyle has been having to work more and harder because job security is uncertain in these days. He had feared he might loose his job so his personal life had to suffer. While Lyle was securing his job, I started on my quest to be more like the models in the fashion magazines. I cut out my lunchtime trips to fast food restaurants and started making my own lunches and abandoned sweets (not chocolate) for fruits and vegetables.
I work for an Urban Development company which has its offices in multi-use facility, that the firm designed. There are three towers; one of the towers is for offices and stores the other two were condominiums. They were out of my budget range. One of the co-presidents of the company Ethan Thommason had a unit in the one which has the best view of the ocean. One of the selling points of the complex was that it was a block from the beach.
Since I was so close to the beach this encouraged me to go walking. I started out walking on my lunch break for 30 minutes, my lunch break was an hour. I would eat my salad on the first half of my lunch break and walk the second half. Within weeks my co-workers noticed the difference and Lyle didn't notice at all.
I bought dresses which were more sexy to go with my emerging new body and Lyle still didn't take note.. The skinny women, as I call them at my job, started inviting me to lunch where we all ate different variations of the same old salad. They started encouraging me to go to the gym and when I started doing that did the pounds ever started going down. Lyle still didn't notice. I even tried to get Lyle to go to the gym with me but he wouldn't. He says that I would break his concentration.
I just gave up. It was beginning to seem like he liked me fat You know that some men like women who are larger but they don't want their friends to tease them about liking big beautiful women. I have nothing against women who want to remain a large size and I am not against very thin women, I believe in to each his own as long as you're.healthy and feel good about yourself. I didn't so I lost weight.
I was so involved in my thoughts until I didn't hear the phone ring at first then the ringing made me jump. I remembered that Lyle was supposed to call me from the gym and I looked at the clock to see the time, it was one thirty, he was an hour late with his call. It doesn't matter anyway. I was not going to answer the phone and then on the last ring I did.
"Hello, is this Naomi?" I recognized the voice as my boss Ethan Thommason
"Hi Ethan, It's strange to hear from you on a Saturday. What's going on." I figured it must have been important for him to call today.
"I was wondering if you could you meet me at my apartment so we could go over this web page design, I mean if you don't have any plans. I will pay you overtime for coming out on a Saturday."
I hesitated for a moment and then I said "Ok, I'll be there in about an hour."
"Good, I'll see you then."
Meeting with the Boss
After the phone call from Ethan, I got up and looked in my closet to see what I was going to wear. I wanted to dress casual but not too casual, I didn't want him to get the wrong impression; after all I was going there to work. I guess I would have been more comfortable at the office but he's the boss and he's paying overtime, so the meeting takes place where he wants it. I put on a pair of jeans but not the tight sexy ones but the slightly baggy one s that I wear when I want to eat more than I should. I put on an over-sized denim blue polo shirt to match my jeans.
I live on the other side of town from by boss as most workers do but it is a nice middle class neighborhood full of hard working people. I pull out of my driveway and notice the nice and neat lawns as I drive down my street. There were no brown spots in those lawns. There were a few neighbors out and I waved as I drove by.
There were two ways to get to work there was the freeway which in Southern California is always congested no matter what day of the week or the time of day. Then there's the scenic route along the coast which can also be crowded but the views of the ocean were excellent. Since it was such a nice day I would go the beach route; it would be relaxing I could get my head together for the meeting.
It didn't take long for me to get to the ocean. I opened my window and I could feel the breeze against my face. My mind wandered back to my meeting with Ethan. I wondered why he would call me to meet at his house, he had never done that before. We'd meet normally at the office I wondered why today he wanted to meet at his house when the office was just a building away. I guessed that he had his reasons for wanting a meeting at his house.
It took only thirty minutes to get there. I went to the visitors gate which was around the side of the building. There was telephone to call up to the tenants. Ethan's code was: 747. When Ethan answered and opened the gate for me. I took the elevator which had a rear door and a front door. I had to punch in the same code I used for the phone at the gate on the elevator. The elevator shot up; like a rocket and it seemed like in an instant I was standing in front of PH 7. I didn't knock before the door was opened for me and there was Ethan.
His long hair was damp and all over his head, as if he had just stepped out of the shower before he opened the door. The outfit that he had on a tunic which came down past his knees and he had on the matching cotton pants. the material stuck to his still damp body which showed off ;his muscular frame.The sleeves of the tunic were longer than his arms and it made him seem like he had no hands.
"I'm glad you're able to make it. Please excuse me I just got out of the shower and I threw on the most comfortable thing that I could find."
"It's alright. You should be comfortable when you're at home." I replied as I walked passed him and waited on him to show me where we were going to work.
"I'm sorry, I forgot that you haven't been here, so let me give you the five dollar tour."
He started out in the living room it had a wonderful view of the ocean. Since it was a breezy day the ocean waves had peaks of white foam as they rushed on the shore. There were a few surfers testing out some of the larger waves.
"Step out on the patio and really experience the view" He said as he opened the door so i could go out.
I stood next to the rail and looked down. "How high up are we?"
"Oh about ten stories up."
"Wow, what a view. You're right. I don't think I could get any work done here because now all; I want to do is to stand and enjoy the view."
He laughed "Well we have work to do now but one day I'll invite you to dinner one evening and we'll watch the sunset. It's beautiful from the patio. We'll get something to each after we get through."
"Well I guess we better get started, I'm going to be hungry after we finish." I giggled.
"So we'll save the rest of the tour when we finish the work." He said as we walked to his office.
He opened the door to the office and the view was just as breathtaking as the one in the living room. How were we going to get any work done I am unable to concentrate on anything but the view. He had a deep cherry desk which was set up with a computer on each side and enough room for each of us to work.
Ethan pulled out the chair for me to sit down and then he went to the other side of the desk. "I guess you're wondering why I call our meeting at my house? " Ethan paused for dramatic effect before answering his own question "Because I have a new system where two people can work on projects together. Roland set it up for me."
I had to question that Roland set up this system. We call him the co-present in name only. It doesn't seem like he does anything around the office except for bother people while they're trying to work "Roland Sutter put your system together?"
"Yes, He did why do you find it hard to believe. This set up was actually his idea. It makes it easier to work together because we can see what each other is doing. This way brainstorming is easier.".
"I don't know. I guess because I've never seen him put a lot of effort in to anything even though he is project manger." I added another reason "Plus I've known him for along time and I know how he is."
"So you think that you know a man just because you've known for him a long time?"
"Well no, a person has many disguises to shield themselves from the world. I only see the one that he puts on at the office."
"What about you? What disguise do you use?" Ethan said looking at me trying to figure me out. This was different.
Ethan and I worked closely at developing integrated systems for both home and office. Roland was project manager when ever we started a project. It seemed to me that he did nothing but tell others how to do their job but he didn't do his. I guess I was wrong.
"You see Naomi, Roland works a lot behind the scenes to keep things running smoothly. He is a valuable part of our organization.."
I wanted to tell him now that you're finished defending Roland Sutter let's get to work. "So let's get down to business, what did you want me to help you with."
"You know the account my intern was working on?" Ethan asked
"Well it's all screwed up and we need to present a working model to the client on Monday."
I knew the intern that Ethan was referring to. She was the newest skinny blonde to flounce into the office looking more like she was going to the beach than a job. She would come in with a tank top, some jeans with the holes torn in the knees and some flip flops. We'd all just look and not say nothing because it is the presidents who make the decision about being an intern with the company. I tried not to notice her too much because I didn't want to be dragged into the office gossip.
"How can I help?"
"See how she screwed up." Ethan said as he punched up the web page.
"Yes, it is not our usual high quality work." I said as I looked at the mess on the screen.
"We can fix this before Monday, right?" He said with hope in his voice that he didn't loose a client after all the hard work we had done to get the client in the first place. This is what happens when a novice was placed in charge without guidance.
After several hours of work me and Ethan got the program to work the way the client wanted to. Ethan came around to where I was sitting. He moved my ponytail and began to massage my shoulders. Most people would feel uncomfortable with their boss massaging their shoulders, I didn't. His hand felt good loosing up my muscles in my neck.
While he was massaging my neck, I was thinking about the work that Ethan and me were doing. He could have done it himself he didn't really need my help. Well it was good that I came out on a Saturday; it looks good when it comes promotion time. I stopped thinking about Ethan's motives and continued enjoying my massage.
"That feels good Ethan; you have wonderful hands." I cooed enjoying the massage.
"Thank you, all of my clients seem to think so."
I positioned my head so he could get to my neck and shoulders better "So this is why our company is so successful."
He laughed " I thought we got our clients due to our expertise in urban planning and integrated systems and our extraordinary customer service."
"I thought that we were going to dinner ." I said still enjoying the massage.
"We are. You just have to decide what we are going to have to eat."
"I don't know any good places to eat dinner. I only know where to get lunch, so the ball is in your court."
Ethan stopped massaging, walked around to face me then said "How'd you like to stay here and eat dinner?"
"Stay here, I don't know about that."
"Just dinner and some friendly conversation.".
I never had indication from Ethan that he was interested in me at all. Not even when I lost weight and now he was seeming like he was interested in me. I decided to ask him if he was interested in me outside of work.
"Ethan, you've never given me any indication that you were interested in me at all. I don't know how to take this attention that you're showing me."
"Well, I have been interested in you ever since you come to work for us. I liked your ideas that is why you're Senior Technician in the firm in the computer department and plus Roland recommended you."
I interrupted "Roland recommended me."
"Yes, he said that you were the best out of systems technicians we have. I am not only attracted to your mind but I think that you're sexy."
"You find me sexy?" I laughed.
"Yes, don't bring me up on sexual harassment charges but yes I find you sexy."
"I can't believe that you find me sexy. All I see you talking to, in the office, are those skinny blonde broads; like the one you brought to the Christmas ;party last year."
"Well let's say that I was trying to promote an image. Everyone expects me to have a woman like that. Even the other women in the office expect that I have a woman like that ."
"What are you trying to tell me?"
"I trying to tell you that I like you and I'd like to get to know you better."
"Is that why you wanted to meet me at your house instead of at the office because you wanted to, what...?" I said because I was surprised that he was interested in me even when I was fat.
"I know that I should have went about this a different way but I didn't know how. I've never felt this way about a Black woman before and I didn't know how to approach you and I didn't want to ask Roland."
"I knew when we started to work on the website that you didn't need my help. I thought that you were testing me, you know, for future promotion to see how dedicated I was to the company."
"I'm glad to know about you're dedication to the company." he laughed "Now what do you want to eat and do you want to stay here or go out."
I took my time and thought about what I wanted to do then I said "Let's go out and that way it can be our first date. Since it is our first date surprise me."
"Ok, I can do that. You sit back and ride and I will take you to a place where we can get to know each other better.
"It's a deal."
A Couple of Months Later
It had been two months since Ethan and I started dating and a little less than that when Lyle and I broke up. Lyle asked me out to lunch so that he could have some closure and I wanted to give him closure. I picked one of his favorite places to eat Ruby's Diner out on the ocean. It was a warm and sunny Saturday afternoon and the cost highway was packed with people trying to catch the the sunset. I arrived at the restaurant an hour before sunset.
He was already seated when I got there in a booth which faced the ocean. It was a good day, nice and clear, I could see the the waves from where we were sitting. The waves looked like they were bathed in gold as the sun began to sink into the ocean. I liked looking at the ocean it made me relax. He stood up when I came to the table and as I slid into the booth.
"You look wonderful Naomi, did you loose more weight?" he asked as I slid into the booth across from him.
"I don't think so."
"You look like the women in the fashion magazine, you know like the ones that you used to read before you changed."
I didn't know how to react to what he said "What do you mean by changed? "
"You know, you stopped making all of the good food like, greens with hamhocks, fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy and mac and cheese." Lyle looked disappointed "Then you started changing the way that you cooked; you started putting smoked turkey wings in the greens, started making baked potatoes, baked chicken and making salad."
"What was wrong with wanting a healthy diet?"
"Nothing was wrong with it for you. I wasn't ready for a change I didn't want to eat healthy. After you changed your cooking style and lost a little weight then you started going to the gym; I knew that you had gotten caught up in the game."
"Caught up in what game Lyle?"
"What game? Well let me see. You loose weight and then you start dressing more like the women in the fashion magazines and then you start dating your white boss." Lyle said sarcastically, then he continued with his rant."That is what you successful black women do they start reading those magazines and get ideas that black men aren't good enough!"
"I see. You're upset because i am a successful black woman, who saw a need for change in her life and because of that change is now satisfied with her life, is that what you're trying to say?" I said calmly as I could resisting the urge to walk out of the restaurant and leave him sitting there; then I continued not waiting on an answer "Now I'm going to answer your question on if why i was with Ethan is because black men aren't good enough. The answer is that Ethan and I have a lot in common. We discovered we like some of the same music, we love to go bike riding.long walks. Some things that you don't like to do. The most important thing he does is notice me."
"I'm sorry that I didn't do those things with you but did that mean you had to leave me?"
"Yes. I'm sorry also on how things turned out. I did ask you to go to the gym with me but you just wanted to sit and watch television. I was tired of eating and sitting and watching television that was no life, at least not for me."
After that discussion we sat in silence waiting on the waitress to come and take our order. It took her a little while to get to us, the place was packed. It was always packed when it was clear and warm, like today. I didn't look at Lyle, I just stared out of the window watching the sun set further into the sea. I didn't feel like defending my choices so I sat silent.
"May I take your order?" the waitress said in a hurry to get to the next table of hungry patrons.
"What do you want hun, a salad?" Lyle said sarcastically.
I just rolled my eyes at him and looked at the waitress "I don't know what I want to order yet, so go ahead and take his order.
He was quietly reviewing the menu again. I was contemplating leaving before it got ugly. He just had one more sarcastic remark and I was gone. This was one of the reasons our relationship didn't work out. His sarcasm downing everything I do.
When I heard him order that snapped me out of my trance. "So Lyle why don't you order everything on the menu so you don't leave hungry." I said just as sarcastically. I could see that it was going to be word for word with us. I say let the battle begin.
"Oh so you want to embarrass yourself Miss Rabbit Food." Lyle snapped back.
The waitress looked between the two of us discussed and tired of us arguing when she had other tables to attend to. "I'll be back in a few minutes, let you look over the menu some more." she left hurriedly to get to the next table who had an irritable baby. Need to get those people fed and out is what she was probably thinking.
I had quite enough of Lyle and his hating ways. I got up to leave "You know Lyle you're a bitter man. I wouldn't have agreed to meet you if I would have known that you'd be like that.I wouldn't have come."
As I was leaving the booth that we were sitting at, Lyle grabbed my wrist "Don't go I'm sorry. I guess I'm acting this way because I miss you and you never gave me a chance to make things up to you. You just lost weight and you left me for another man."
His grip was firm and he pulled me down in the seat next to him. I tried to get my wrist free but he was too strong for me. After I was seated next to him he continued "It didn't matter that the other man was white, it mattered that it was another man besides me. I guess that it was my fault why we broke up." he put his head down so his chin was touching his chest in defeat.
I felt sorry for him but he didn't want to work at our relationship. He saw me change and he didn't want to try and change even though it would have been good for our relationship. Then he let go of my wrist and said "If you want to go I'm not going to stop you. I just wish that you would have one last meal with me for old times."
I sat for a moment and then moved to the other side of the table. "Yes I'll stay but no more digs at my expense. Deal?"
"Deal. I want to tell you one thing, a confession, When I was telling you I was going to the gym I wasn't I was going to Big Lil's Kitchen over on Central."
I had to laugh. Big Lil's is one of the greasiest spoons in all of Southern California. "No wonder you never lost any weight"
"Yea, Big Lil's will do it."
We both laughed.
The rest of the time Lyle and I spent talking about the good times we had together. He even admitted that he had a girlfriend (who he met at Big Lil's) and if I were willing to come back he would drop her and come back to me. No I don't look backward, I look forward. Ethan is my future.
Ethan and me left the company and we started our own architecture and systems design company. We've only been in business for a few weeks but we are growing quickly. I feel comfortable now that we are the co-founders of the company. No more dating the boss.
After all was said and done, change is good but it is often painful to get there but it is well worth it as long as you don't get caught up in the game.
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