It was my last day of work, and I was swamped. I stared at the stack of folders on my desk and willed them to disappear. I wanted to tie up all my loose ends so I wouldn't have drop my work into anyone elses' lap. We were short staffed as it was, and my leaving wasn't making things any better for the rest of the staff.
"Can we take you out for a drink after work today?" Evan asked. Evan was the art director and the rock of the staff. We all looked to him to help us through particularly rough shipping weeks and the occasional deadline crisis. He was always calm, never freaked out, even when he probably should have. He was an incredible editor, and I was truly sad to leave his staff.
I glanced at my stack of red folders again and then back to Evan with a tentative shrug.
"I'd love to, but ask me again in an hour," I said. "Hopefully I'll knock out a few folders by then."
An hour later, I'd barely made a dent in my stack. My mind was all over the place. How was I going to finish all of my work that day and pack up my entire apartment the next day and then move on Friday? All I wanted to do was have a relaxing couple of days with Cayden. It seemed like everything was always go, go, go, when all I wanted was for things to be pause, stop, enjoy.
My mind wandered again to Cayden and me cuddled up in front of the fireplace at the cottage in the Cotswolds. I could stop, pause, and enjoy that. I grabbed for my phone to text Cayden to tell him I was thinking about him, but I threw it down in frustration when I remembered it was broken. My refurbished phone was supposedly in transit.
Evan walked by again and eyed the stack of folders in front of me. I sighed and slid farther down in my chair.
"Hey, anything you don't finish, just drop it on my desk and we'll knock it out," Evan said, trying to reassure me. I knew his stack was twice as big as mine, and so was Stephanies' and everyone elses'.
"Thanks, but I'm really going to try to plow through this," I said, tapping the folders.
The sun had gone down.
I emailed Cayden and told him to head my way because I was almost done. He took up post in the cubicle behind me while I stared down at my last red folder with glazed eyes.
Evan walked by again.
"Evan, go home. We'll reschedule drinks," I said.
We made a promise to meet for drinks after the new year. I popped my thumb drive into my computer and started dragging my clips onto it. Then I made a stack of the last 15 issues—every issue I'd had a hand in since I'd started there. I pulled the photos off the walls and bunched Cayden's dried, fragile bouquets of roses together with a rubber band. I went to the kitchen and packed up my single-serve blender, my Rosemary Beach mug, and my lone bowl. I'd decorated my cube with anti-Longhorn paraphernalia (pictures of crying Texas fans) for the OU/TX game two months back, so before I left I made sure to redistribute the pictures throughout the office.
"Almost ready, baby?" Poor Cayden was still cooped up in the cubicle. I felt so bad he'd wasted half of his vacation camped out in my office and Starbucks.
"Yeah, just have to grab my jacket, my Webble, and my Snuggie and we're good to go."
With our arms full of my random belongings, I took one last look around the office. It was a boring, muted office with white walls and neutral-colored cubicles. I'd fought to make the office more fun—suggested we paint one wall lime green and add a fooseball table and funky clock, ANYTHING to give it more life—but it was a losing battle. Regardless, I was going to miss that place. It was my dream job. It brought me home to Texas. It brought me home to my family. It brought me home. Was I going to cry?
My stomach growled loudly, overpowering the emotional thoughts in my head.
I looked at Cayden. He was watching me.
"Hungry?" he asked.
"What gave it away?" I tried to smile but it wouldn't quite come out. I was in a strange mood.
"Let's go," he said, putting an arm around my shoulders and leading me toward the door. I felt instantly better. I looked up at him with a full smile and said, "Let's eat."
We met Gayle and Donovan at their loft downtown. Gayle was a good friend of mine; she'd been my editor when we worked in the Student Media department at OU. I'd always looked up to her. She was beautiful, smart, and determined. Oh, and she'd also met her perfect match in college, landed an editorial job before she walked across the stage to get her journalism degree (which is unheard of), and asked me to be one of her bridesmaids a couple years later. I was honored. (And, yes, I cried at the wedding.)
I'd met the love of her life, and it was time she met mine.
"Cayden, Gayle. Gayle, Cayden," I said when Gayle met us at the front door of the building to let us in.
Once upstairs, I hugged Donovan and then introduced him to Cayden.
"Can I give him the tour?" I asked them, excitedly.
"And by 'tour' you mean 'shower,' right?" Gayle asked.
I nodded and grabbed Cayden's arm, dragging him toward the bathroom.
"You have to see this thing!" I said. "You can fit, like, 14 people in it!"
I pulled him through the bathroom and through the doorway of the shower. He looked around in shock. It was bigger than my bedroom. Hell, it was probably bigger than my whole apartment in New York.
"You can have a party in here!" he exclaimed. Interestingly enough, the first time I walked in there I used the word "orgy."
The tour concluded and the four of us walked down the street to a Mexican restaurant called Sol Irlandes. I slid into the booth next to Cayden and Donovan slid in next to Gayle.
Donovan and Cayden had a blossoming bromance, and Gayle and I were stuck on the outskirts. They talked about politics in China and TED Talks and the BBC and whether FOX news was rubbish or not. They were two huge dorks in a giant dork pod.
Gayle and I immediately regretted the seating arrangement.
We had a silent conversation across the table.
"How can we get out of this?"
Is it too late to switch seats?
"Do you think they even know we're here?"
"If I started talking about rainbows and dinosaur eggs, do you think they'd even notice?"
"Probably not, not unless there was a recent cover story involving one or the other in the Wall Street Journal."
"Touche, my friend. Touche."
A few beers, a lot of conversation, and two hours later, Cayden and I said our goodbyes to the happy couple. We stepped outside and realized it had started to rain. We hustled to the parking garage with our heads ducked in our jackets.
"Ummm, Cayden, do you see that?" I asked.
"That sign that says the parking garage closes at 11 p.m. and that there's absolutely, positively no way to get your car out once it's closed?"
"What time is it?" he asked, dreading the answer.
Had it been 11:11, I would have wished it had been 11:00.