Warmer

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God, it was hot.  One of those days where the air had the weight of oceans with whales in it, and soaked its way into your very bones.  Glorious.  If only she was on the beach, feet in the sea, instead of standing on a patch of cream marble off the entryway of the office, in her second favourite shoes: royal purple, slight platform, six inch dusty silver heels.  Perfect with her gray pinstripe pants suit and the purple silk of her camisole top that showed above the top button of her jacket.

Bree tipped her face to the warmth and sipped her mango smoothie.  She had ten minutes of her lunch break left and she intended to spend them soaking up the vitamin D.  She took the jacket off and slung it over a railing.  She let the sun work its magic on the bruised skin of her arms and her sore shoulder muscles as she watched people come out of the building foyer, recoiling in surprise as the heat hit them, or go in and look instantly grateful for the crisp air-conditioning.  She’d be one of those soon, but not yet she needed to stand, sip, think.  And maybe the sun would burn away the strangeness of the phone call she’d just had. 

Tom.  Two years of Tom.  Then ten months of no Tom.  Followed by twelve minutes of Tom on the phone.  Bree didn’t know what to make of it.  She wasn’t sure what she felt more of: surprise, exasperation or the rising edge of something that felt weirdly like satisfaction.

Two years of Tom had been good.  There’d been common friends, shared interests and Vietnamese restaurants in Ho Chi Minh city.  There’d been the hot air balloon ride birthday surprise—hers.  The V8 race car drive around the Bathurst track—his.  There’d been breakfasts in bed and Sunday coast walks.  There’d been kindness and friendship.  And then the ultimatum, and the no Tom period began.

And now after one phone call, she was supposed to forgive Tom for getting all furious over her work hours, over her commitment to her career.  Tom, who worked a forty hour week as an air traffic controller and got so annoyed when she wouldn’t dump work, derby, sleep, to fit in with his shift breaks, he’d tried to traffic control her.  He’d slapped down the ultimatum; quit the traineeship or derby or lose the relationship.

He had no idea how easy he’d made it to choose.  What surprised Bree was how quickly she forgot about him.  He was in her life one minute and then he wasn’t, and after a few weeks of feeling angry and betrayed she simply got on with things and didn’t think about him again. 

Tom on the other hand had just said he’d done nothing but think about Bree for the last two hundred and eighty days.  He had a funny way of showing it.  By which he clearly meant ‘treat ‘em mean, keep ‘em keen’.  No call, no letter, no email, no text, no flowers or chocolates, no showing up.  So not surprisingly, Bree felt not a teaspoon of keen.

It’d taken her two minutes to tell him so.  It could’ve taken less time, but she’d made the mistake of letting him try to defend himself.  The whole discussion could’ve taken much less time if she’d just said, “Tom who?”

What a jerk.

Had he been a jerk when she was seeing him too and she’d never noticed?  No, he’d been a good guy.  She didn’t go out with jerks or losers or insecure boys.  He was generous and happy and spontaneous, and loud and funny and loved to laugh.  He was fun to be with and um, yeah he liked a good laugh, and...

Well, that’s probably what he’d excelled at—being fun to be with, until he’d had his sudden conversation to insecurity and jerkdom right around the time she entered the traineeship and her work hours increased and her play time got compromised.  And then he wasn’t fun to be with.  He was sullen and grumpy and expert at ladling out the guilt.

He’d said, “You’re not giving us enough time.”

She’d said, “You know this is what I’ve been working for.  It won’t always be like this.”

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