Character List

Friday, November 28, 2014

Author's Note

Hi Dolls,

I hope all of you had a scrumptious and happy Thanksgiving with your loved ones, indulging in all the wonderful food and desserts!  

I guess you're wondering why I'm posting another note. Let me explain.  For ten months now, I've dealt with all types of comments and I've tried to take the good with the bad.  However, I'm over the hateful, insulting comments that take personal shots at me, my "lack" of education, my poor writing skills or better yet that I obviously don't read the comments section or care about readers just to name a few.  FYI, I attended a top 25 college and graduate school; Not only that, I graduated with honors.  

I value my readers opinions and I have tried my best to establish and maintain a positive and engaging comments section.  Most of the comments I receive are very thought provoking and positive; even the ones the offer constructive criticism which I totally appreciate. I've always wanted to give every reader a chance to voice their opinion and many have done so using the Anonymous guise.  Sadly, there is a small percentage who use anonymity to make comments that add zero value.  As a result I have disabled the anonymous option.  I hope that those of you who used this option in the past to comment, continue to do so by using your Google accounts, blogger, LiveJournal, WordPress, AIM, TypePad or OpenID.  

Honestly, over the past month or so this blog has started to become more of a burden than fun.  I receive all comments via email and after a long, stressful day at the office it absolutely sucks to read comments that take personal shots at me.  Did I mention I also get personal emails from readers that are quite insulting in addition to the comments section?  These comments just bring me down and make me question if I should continue.  What started out as something fun and stress reducing has become the opposite.  Lately more often than not, I find myself finding excuses not to write.  

I appreciate all of you and I can't promise you that I will continue with the blog forever or even as long as I had initially planned.  As of now, I can't even guarantee that I will be sticking to the schedule.  I'll try but I can't guarantee anything.  I need to decompress. hopefully clear my head and get back to enjoying writing this blog.  I've always thought of myself as a strong woman but even the strongest of women have their breaking point.  I apologize if this disappoints my readers.  

With that said, I hope all of you have a great Thanksgiving weekend and get some Christmas shopping done!

Arianna

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

Hello Dolls,

Elisabeth is busy celebrating Thanksgiving with her loved ones and counting all of her blessings. Like Elisabeth I am sure we all have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.  

I am extremely thankful for so much.  My patient and loving husband, my wonderful family, my friends, my health and of course being able to live in a country where a woman can achieve anything she sets her mind to.  

I am very thankful for all of you, my wonderful readers:) I enjoy writing this blog and the majority of you make it worthwhile.  You've stuck by me through the good posts and the not so good posts and I appreciate your support more than you know.  

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays and I hope all of you are indulging (there is no such thing as diet on this day) and enjoying this time with your loves ones.  

On this day, I leave you with a couple quotes and wish you a Happy Thanksgiving!

Let us remember that, as much has been given us, much will be expected from us, and that true homage comes from the heart as well as from the lips, and shows itself in deeds. ~Theodore Roosevelt

“I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual. It is surprising how contented one can be with nothing definite - only a sense of existence. Well, anything for variety. I am ready to try this for the next ten thousand years, and exhaust it. How sweet to think of! my extremities well charred, and my intellectual part too, so that there is no danger of worm or rot for a long while. My breath is sweet to me. O how I laugh when I think of my vague indefinite riches. No run on my bank can drain it, for my wealth is not possession but enjoyment.” 
― Henry David Thoreau


Monday, November 24, 2014

Jack and Coke

Depeka....Priya's sister...Melissa invited her...completely ambushing Anthony.  Holy shit....I glanced at Anthony who looked pissed.  His jaw was clenched and his eyes narrowed.  This was one surprise that he wasn't looking forward to.  Not wanting to be rude, I smiled at Depeka and extended my hand, "I'm Elisabeth, we met at your wedding months ago."

"It's so good to see you again.  Priya has told me such amazing things about you.  When I moved out she was so worried about finding the perfect roommate but you're all that and much more to her" Depeka replied happily.

I smiled, "Living with Priya has been wonderful."

She turned her attention to Anthony, who was staring into his drink.  "You must be Anthony.  Priya talks about you nonstop.  I'm so happy to finally get to meet you."

"Same here" Anthony said, flatly, clearly not in the mood to socialize.

Before excusing herself to get a drink, Depeka asked if we wanted anything.  We all graciously declined....at least Melissa and I did.  Anthony just ignored her.  Once she was out of earshot, he glared at Melissa.  "What the fuck is she doing here?  I can't believe you would ambush me like this. First inviting Joe to Bagatelle to fuck with Liz and Lukas and now this.  Why don't you mind your own fucking business?"

I understood Anthony's anger.  I'd be beyond upset if I were in Anthony's shoes.  He was completely blindsided by Depeka's presence.  I was confused as well.  "Calm down, Anthony.  I invited her because she can help you.  You just have to trust me," Melissa replied softly.

He scoffed, "I don't have time for your shit.  I asked you, my friend, to meet me so that the three of us could talk and figure out my relationship issues with Priya.  Instead you go behind my back and invite her freaking sister?  Are you out of your fucking mind?"

Melissa rolled her eyes, "Her sister knows her better than all of us."

I glanced towards the bar and noticed Depeka paying the bartender. "Guys, she's on her way back.  Let's not make this situation any weirder than it needs to be."

"I just love this place.  It's so warm and cozy.  Thank you so much for inviting me, Melissa" Depeka said merrily, sitting in the empty seat beside me.

Anthony pushed his chair back and stood, "Depeka, it was a pleasure meeting you but I really do have to get going.  Long day at work and I'm exhausted."

"Please don't leave.  I wanted to talk to you about Priya" she replied.

He sighed, "What's there to talk about Priya?  We aren't together anymore so all this is pointless."

"What do you mean you are Priya aren't together anymore?  I spoke with her this afternoon and she was saying how happy the two of you are" Depeka shared with a concerned look.

"I need another drink" Anthony said as he got up and walked towards the bar. 

Depeka looked at the two of us, "What's going on?"

I didn't know how much or what to tell her.  She was clearly worried about her sister but it wasn't my place to provide her the nitty gritty details.  For the first time all evening, Melissa looked uncomfortable.  "Maybe this wasn't such a good idea.  I invited you thinking you'd be able to help Anthony but now he's upset because he feels I set him up."

"I don't blame him; I'm beginning to feel the same way.  You told me to meet you for a drink to catch up" Depeka replied.

Melissa was squirming.  "I just thought that....I didn't.....I didn't think you'd come if I told you the truth."

Depeka shook her head, "This is so fucked up."

"I second that" Anthony replied, sitting down.

"Anthony, I didn't expect to meet you like this and I understand if you don't want to talk about Priya" Depeka said gently.

Anthony took a deep breath and let the air out slowly.  "To be honest, I invited both Melissa and Liz here to get some advice.  You being here is unexpected.  I don't want to talk shit about Priya or put you in the middle of our relationship drama."

She nodded, "I understand.  I know Priya better than most people and if you'd like to get my input on whatever it is the two of you are going through, I'd be happy to help you."

Anthony thought about it for a moment.  "I'd like that a lot, Depeka."

"See I knew this would be a good idea" Melissa said with a big smile.

Anthony looked in her direction, "I need you to leave.  I'm not cool with you being here and I don't want to talk to you right now."

Melissa frowned, "I was only trying to help."

"I don't give a shit what you were trying to do.  Lately all you've been doing is sticking your nose where it doesn't belong and creating unnecessary drama.  Go home and annoy the shit out of Josh" he said pointedly.

Without a word, Melissa got up and walked towards the exit.  We all stared awkwardly at each other.  None of us knew the appropriate thing to say.  However, I gave it my best shot.  "So Depeka, how's married life treating you?"

She smiled appreciatively at me.  "Marriage is great.  I'm sure you guys know that my parents are very conservative.  My husband and I weren't allowed to live together before marriage which is a good thing in retrospect.  Each day I learn something new about him."

"Did you have to get your parent's approval when you started dating your husband?" Anthony quipped.

She shook her head, "I wouldn't be with a man only because my parent's liked him.  I'm the one that has to live with him, not my parents.  I'm lucky that my parents adore my husband but even if they didn't that wouldn't have stopped me from being with him."

"You and Priya couldn't be any more different" Anthony said flatly.

"What does that mean?" she asked, clearly confused.

Anthony looked at me helplessly.  "I have to go to the restroom real quick.  Elisabeth, do you mind filling Depeka in?"

I nodded.  "What's up?" Depeka asked once Anthony was out of earshot.

"All I know is Priya wanted Anthony to visit your parents for Thanksgiving.  She told me that she couldn't give their relationship 100% until your parents meet and give Anthony their seal of approval.  Anyway, he tried to explain that his mom is doing this huge Thanksgiving dinner and that he couldn't disappoint her but Priya wasn't having it.  She told him that they were on break and stormed out."

Depeka chuckled, "On break?  What the hell does that mean?"

I shrugged, "Anthony told me what happened and I talked to Priya and urged her to at least hear him out since she had been ignoring his calls, text, etc.  She agreed."

"What happened when they talked?" Depeka asked quickly.

"That's just it...she didn't reach out to him for over a week."

Depeka rubbed her temples, "I didn't know any of this.  I talk to Priya almost daily; all she says is how happy she is with Anthony.  I had no clue that there so much drama going on."

"There's a little more" I said nervously.

Her eyes widened, "More?"

I nodded, "My boyfriend's birthday was over the weekend.  I planned a party in Atlantic City; invited my friends and his...Priya included.  She said she more or less decided not to attend.  Long story short, Anthony thought they were broken up and was only talking to this redhead at our table...Priya showed up....got mad....threw a drink at him and stormed out.  I don't know what happened after that.  Last night when I got back to the city, Priya was in our apartment and she was irate.  She kept saying that I should understand how important it is for your parents to accept Anthony and that I let him cheat on her which isn't true."

Depeka crinkled her forehead, "Since when is she so concerned with getting our parent's approval?"

I shrugged, "I don't know.  I swear, if Anthony was doing anything but talking to the redhead, I would've stepped in."

She shook her head, "I get that.  I wasn't there so I won't judge.  Doesn't a break mean that you're broken up?"

I chuckled, "All I think about is Ross and Rachel on Friends. I don't know what a break means.  I guess the couple would have to specify what they can and can't do."

By this point Anthony returned.  "Sorry about that."

Depeka asked gently, "Elisabeth has filled me in and my head is spinning.  What happened after Priya stormed out of the club?"

"I went looking for Priya.  She was sitting in the lobby, playing on her phone.  I sat next her and tried to explain myself but she wouldn't listen.  She started yelling; saying that I didn't want to meet her parents because I was fucking around behind her back.  I couldn't get a word in edgewise.  She started ranting and raving; blaming me for having a hard time in medical school; telling me how fucked up my friends and family were.  At one point she started screaming that I don't love her and played her.  I tried my best to calm her down but couldn't."

I looked anxiously at him, "What did you do?"

He sighed, "A crowd was beginning to form and quite frankly I was embarrassed.  I got up to leave and she stopped me.  I asked her to come to my room so we could talk like adults.  She refused and when I told her that this wasn't the time or place to have such an important discussion...she slapped me."

My mouth dropped open.  "She slapped you?!? Knowing fully well what happened when you were dating Amy?"

Depeka apparently knew about Amy.  "I'm sorry she did that.  Violence is never the answer, no matter how upset you are.  When you guys started dating she told me about your ex and her death."

"Thank you.  That means a lot, Depeka.  After she slapped me, I started walking away.  That's when she told me that we were done and she deserved someone that would respect her.  Obviously I didn't because I couldn't drop my plans and go to Thanksgiving to meet her parents" Anthony explained.

I rubbed Anthony's arm gently.  "I know how much you loved Priya and I'm sorry you're dealing with all this."

Depeka nodded, "Priya's behavior is definitely disconcerting.  It's out of character and something is wrong."

"I'm sure your parents are great but this has been a rough year for me and my family.  For a little while Priya was my only bright spot, now that's over.  My mom had this huge Thanksgiving feast planned with most of our extended family.  I was psyched to be able to see them and celebrate; I tried to explain this to Priya but she wasn't willing to compromise.  If it were any other weekend, I'd drop everything and jet out to Los Angeles" Anthony shared.

Depeka downed the remainder of her drink.  "That's fair.  I want to talk to Priya and get to the bottom of this.  I know she loves you, Anthony, and I'd hate for her to give up on her chance at happiness and love because she's being inconsiderate and stubborn.  Are you willing to at least work this out?"

Anthony sighed.  "I don't know.  I do love Priya.  However, her slapping me was the last straw.  I don't want this relationship to end up like my last one with Amy.  I'm willing to talk to her and try to reestablish a friendship.  Beyond on that, is still up in the air."

"I have to get going.  My husband is beginning to get antsy.  I'm going to invite Priya to lunch either tomorrow or Wednesday and figure this out" Depeka said, looking at her watch.

"Thank you Depeka."

Before she left the three of us exchanged numbers and promised to stay in touch.  She gave both Anthony and I friendly hugs before walking towards the exit.

"She's nice and so easy to talk to" Anthony said.

I nodded, "Yes.  I really am sorry about Priya."

"It's not your fault Liz."

"I'm the one that introduced the two of you and I feel responsible" I said quietly.

He shook his head, "Don't.  The only one I'm fucking pissed at is Melissa.  What is her problem?  First she invited Joe to brunch; now she's blindsiding me by inviting Depeka?  She's a fucking bitch."

He definitely had a point there.  Melissa's actions were fucked up.  "I'd like to think that her heart was in the right place."

He sighed, "I hope so.  Right now, I don't even want to talk to her."

----------

When I got home that night, Priya was in the living room studying.  Given our last conversation, I was expecting her to completely ignore me but instead I was greeted with a warm, friendly smile.  "Hi Elisabeth, how was your day?" she asked cheerfully.

Silently I wondered what the fuck was going on but didn't voice that sentiment.  Instead I returned her smile, "My day was long and exhausting.  How was yours?"

"Great.  I got an 'A' on my test.  I couldn't be more relieved."

"That's great, Priya" I responded softly.

I started walking towards my bedroom when she said gently, "Elisabeth, I'm really sorry about what I said last night.  I was frustrated and didn't know what I was saying."

Her words seemed so sincere.  "Thanks.  I apologize for judging.  Your relationship is with Anthony and I had no business sharing my two cents."

She nodded, "I appreciate that.  You were right though."

"About what?" I asked, turning around to face her.

She shrugged, "About Anthony giving me his all and me holding back.  My actions might not always reflect it but I do love Anthony and sometimes my feelings for him scare me."

I plopped down on the couch across from her.  "Why?"

"I guess deep down I'm afraid of hurting him and him hurting me.  I haven't had the best track record with love and I thought that if Anthony met my parents, they would be able to give me an honest opinion."

Priya looked embarrassed as she stared down at her chipped manicure.  "Sometimes you have to take a chance and not worry so much."

Her eyes met mine.  "I know that now but it's too late."

I nodded, "I heard that you broke up with Anthony.  It would have been nice if the two of you would have spoken and cleared the air but what's done is done."

Teardrops started leaking out of Priya's eyes and down her caramel face.  She moved her hands to her face as uncontrollable sobs wracked through her body.  I wanted to comfort her and tell her that everything would be okay but that would be a lie.  Priya made a mistake and it would take a lot to salvage her relationship with Anthony.  Maybe if she didn't resort to slapping him, it would have been different.  I looked at Priya as gut wrenching sobs escaped.  I saw my friend hurting and it killed me.

I walked over and rubbed her back softly, allowing her to let out all of the emotions.  Between her sobs she blubbered, "I wasn't thinking straight when I broke up with Anthony.  I want to be with him."

I sighed.  I honestly didn't know what to say without sounding judgmental.  I sat there silently, rubbing her back and trying to console her.  Once her sobs subsided, she turned to face me.  "Will you help me get him back?"

I shook my head, "You're my friend and Anthony's my friend.  I want both of you to be happy.  However, I don't want to meddle in your relationship.  The two of you have to figure out what's best and go from there."

"I guess I respect that."

I started to stand but then sat back down, "Priya can I ask you something?"

She nodded and I continued, "Do you really want to go to med school?  I mean is being a doctor your dream or your parents?"

I watched as she blotted her face with a Kleenex.  "Being a doctor has always been my dream.  My parents would have been happy with me being a teacher but I chose this path.  Why do you ask?"

I paused and chose my words carefully, "Since the semester started you've been talking about quitting and giving up.  I wasn't sure why and wondered if this was something your parents wanted you to do."

She shook her head, "I have been stressed with school but I assure you this is my dream.  I admit that I've complained a lot.  I never expected this semester to be a million times harder than my first year."

I nodded before retreating to my bedroom.

------------

That night I laid in bed replaying everything that happened.  I was confused why Priya had done a complete 180 and seemed genuinely remorseful for breaking up with Anthony.  She sounded so sincere apologizing to me.  Yet, I still had question marks.  Why wouldn't she confide in her sister? She's been painting this happy picture and making it seem like her life was going so great when in actuality it was falling apart.  Why would she lie and say that her and Anthony were so happy?

If Priya really wanted to be a doctor, she wouldn't be trying to quit every chance she got.  She would work her ass off and make it happen.  Her wishy-washy attitude was disconcerting and made me question if she was being honest.  I was beginning to think that Lukas right...maybe there's something going on with Priya that she wasn't sharing.

Then there was Melissa....what the heck is going on in her head?  Why in the world would she think blindsiding Anthony by inviting Depeka would be a great idea.  Though I tried to calm Anthony down, I was a little annoyed at Melissa.  Thankfully, the night progressed seemingly well and Depeka was the sweetest.  Deep down, I couldn't help thinking that the shit will hit the fan soon.

-----------

The next day came and went, without so much as a peep from Depeka.  Priya, on the other hand, seemed to be on the edge.  When I got home from work, I asked her how she was doing and she snapped at me.  I spent the remainder of the night, avoiding Melissa's texts and FaceTiming with Lukas.  After filling him in, he shared that he was worried about Priya's behavior.  He paused for a moment before asking, "Is it possible that her parents are trying to set her up with some guy?"

I scratched my head, "You mean like an arranged marriage?"

"Kind of but not exactly.  I mean maybe they know of a guy that they think might be a good fit for Priya."

I sighed, "I guess that possible but I don't know.  A lot doesn't make sense and I wish we could just get to the bottom of all this."

He smiled, "It's fairly common if you think about it. I think at one point or another, all parents have tried to set their children up."

"Did your parents try that with you?"

He laughed, "Yeah.  It had been over a year since Isabella died and they basically forced me to go on a date with one of their friend's daughter."

"And?" I asked curiously.

"Let's just say she wasn't my type."

I giggled, "What's your type?"

"You" he said with a wink.


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Rollin' In the Deep

Anthony was determined to speak with Priya and I wasn't in any position to argue with him.  I didn't want to further embroiled myself in their drama and wished him luck before turning and heading back towards our table.  Melissa immediately followed behind me.  She was talking but I wasn't paying attention.  I didn't want Priya and Anthony's problems to fuck with Lukas' birthday celebration.  I needed to focus on him and having fun with our friends, instead of Priya's manufactured drama.

At I settled in the seat next to Lukas, he asked if everything was okay.  I nodded and told him that all I cared about was having a good time. He threw his arm around my shoulder and pulled me near.  I kissed him on the cheek; grateful to have such a wonderful man in my life.

After a couple more drinks, dancing and getting to know Lukas' friends I was exhausted.  It was close to five in the morning when we headed up to our room.  Even though I had planned to get dressed up and seduce Lukas, that was so not happening.  All I wanted to do was crawl into bed and sleep.  After taking off my makeup, I got into bed with Lukas.  I placed my head on his chest and gently stroked my hair.  "Thanks for planning all this.  I haven't back in AC in so long."

"How come?" I asked, suddenly curious.

He kissed my forehead.  "It's where I met Isabella and after her death I stayed away because it brought back painful memories.  When you suggested coming here I was a little apprehensive but tonight was awesome.  This one of my best birthday's ever."

Shit, I should have remembered that he met Isabella here.  I immediately recalled him being so vulnerable and opening up to me months earlier.  I was relieved that Lukas was able to let loose and create a different set of memories tonight.  I gave him a quick kiss, "Happy Birthday."

--------

We awoke close to noon the next day and rushed to get our things together.  After putting our overnight bags in Lukas' Range Rover, we had brunch at the hotel.  We were both stuffed when we finally hit the road to start our journey back to the city.  Lukas shared that Gino spoke very highly of me and thought I was very sweet.

"Aw, I liked him too.  He was telling me he started his career at SIB.  In fact he actually knows  my manager, John, really well."

Lukas chuckled, "Yea.  Gino knows everyone."

"I'm glad you had a good time.  It took me a while to figure out how to get you the club."

He laughed, "I almost called out the waitress when she told we were being comped a table at the club."

I giggled, "At least my plan worked."

"That it did.  How's Anthony?" he asked.

I took a deep breath.  "Honestly, I have no idea.  He hasn't texted or called all day, so I'm hoping that's a good sign."

"Priya looked upset."

"About what? Who comes to a fucking club at 2 a.m.?  She told me that it's not likely she'll show up and then arrives four hours late.  What the hell?  Then on top of it she throws a hissy fit because Anthony's TALKING to another woman.  She's the one that wanted to go on break and now she's upset?  I don't fucking get it."

Lukas glanced at me quickly before focusing back on the road.  "I don't know what to say.  On one hand Anthony is in love with her and on the other she pushed him away and basically broke up with him."

"That's just it.  You can't be on break and expect things to remain exactly the same.  I feel bad for Anthony.  He's in a ridiculous situation."

Lukas agreed.  "I definitely don't envy him."

"If I don't hear from him today, I'm going to reach out to him first thing tomorrow morning."

"That's a good idea" Lukas replied.

I took a deep breath, "I'm really sorry about Priya's behavior.  We were having such a great time and then she showed up out of no where throwing a drink at Anthony."

Lukas touched my hand gently, "You don't have to apologize.  I had a great time and so did everyone else.  I like Priya but I can't help but think there's something off with her."

I thought about his words for a moment.  "What do you mean?"

He shrugged, "She's hot and cold.  One minute she's head over heels in love with Anthony, the next she's wants to take a break.  I could be wrong here but I think she's hiding something."

"Like what?  I mean I thought she was stressed with med school and then her parents are probably pressuring her to settle down."

Lukas sighed, "Maybe you're right.  It's possible that she comes from a traditional Indian family and is afraid of disappointing her parents.  Regardless, she needs to talk to Anthony.  He deserves that much."

I nodded, "Yeah.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed that they were able to work things out."

Lukas nodded, "Me too."

"What are you doing for Thanksgiving?" I asked, changing the subject slightly.

Lukas clearly wasn't expecting that question at all.  "Well I was planning on going to my parent's house in Greenwich.  My mom always invites our extended family and my sister is coming back from Europe for the weekend.  Why do you ask?  Did you have something in mind?"

I shook my head.  "No...actually if you didn't have plans I would have asked you to come to my parent's house for dinner and hang out with my crazy ass family."

He laughed, "You're family is really chill compared to mine."

"Nah.  I met your family already and they were all so welcoming and sweet....well except for Lauren but I'm partially to blame for that."

He reached over and entwined his fingers with mine.  "I'd like for you to meet my sister Linda. We can have dinner in the city."

"Umm" I started before Lukas cut me off, sensing my apprehension.

"Linda is nothing like Lauren.  I'm sure you and her will have a lot in common and she's very friendly."

It was obvious that this meant a lot to Lukas and I agreed.  "I'd love to meet you sister.  Tell me more about her."

He chuckled, "She's 28.  She's always wanted to be a part of the fashion world and has her dream job in Paris.  She likes to shop and have a good time."

I smiled, "I think I like her already."

"If your plans change, you're definitely welcome to come to parent's for Thanksgiving dinner."

"Thanks, Lukas."

As we entered the city, it dawned on me.  I had been so preoccupied with planning this weekend that I didn't even get Lukas a present.  "You okay?" he asked.

I nodded but he didn't believe me.  "You sure?  You look really pale.  Plus it's not like you to be so quiet."

"I'm mad at myself for forgetting to get you a present" I replied sadly.

"You're kidding, right?  That party you threw me last night was the best present because it came from the heart.  Having my childhood friends there blew me away.  I don't know how you planned all that and I'm very grateful.  I don't need a fancy present; you're all I need and want."

The butterflies were wreaking havoc in my stomach.  "You make me feel so special."

"That's because you are special" he said with a smile that made my heart flutter.

As we approached my apartment, I became increasingly nervous.  I had no idea what happened between Anthony and Priya and wasn't in the mood to deal with drama.  Did I mention that I have promised myself to minimize the amount of drama in my life?   Lukas pulled up in front of my building and hopped out.  He grabbed my overnight bag from the trunk and walked me into the lobby.  I gave him a tight hug, almost not wanting to let go before walking towards the elevator.

I breathed a sigh of relief when I opened my apartment door and didn't see Priya.  I was putting my bag in my room when I heard her bedroom door squeak open and then her voice.  "Elisabeth, can you come into the living room for a moment?"

"I'll be out in a minute" I replied.

Priya looked at me stoically when I joined her in the living room.  I didn't know what to say or what was up with her.  I looked in her direction waiting for her to say something but she didn't.  "So, what's up?" I asked nonchalantly.

She shook her head.  "What's up?  Is that all you have to say?  You don't even have the decency to apologize to me."

"Apologize for what?" I asked, confused.

She scoffed, "All of you sat there and did nothing while Anthony cheated on me.  My so called friends fucking stabbed me in the back."

I wanted to roll my eyes but knew better.  "Anthony didn't cheat on you.  Conversing with someone doesn't equal cheating.  Not that it's any of my business but didn't you tell Anthony that you guys needed to go on a break?"

"Yes but that doesn't mean he had permission to fuck around."

I stifled a laugh.  "Well then maybe you should have discussed that with him, instead of running away from your problems."

"Isn't it girl code for you to have my back?" she asked pointedly.

"Look Priya, I don't want to get involved in this drama.  I've begged you to talk to Anthony but you chose to ice him.  Now all of sudden you're pissed because he was talking to someone?"

She shook her head, "You don't understand."

"You're damn right, I don't.  I'm tired of you stringing Anthony along and acting like this all a game.  He has real feelings, you know?  And unlike you he gave 100%."

She glared at me.  "If he cared and gave me a 100%, he wouldn't have been hanging out with a whore in Atlantic City."

"And if you cared about him, you wouldn't have ignored him for almost a week."

She got up and started pacing.  "I can't believe this!  You're taking Anthony's side!!"

"Priya I'm tired and I am not in the mood to argue."

She turned around and faced me.  "All I wanted was for him to go to California and meet my parents.  Why is that so fucking hard?!?"

I shrugged, "Because you're being unreasonable.  You're trying to force Anthony to do what you say, instead of listening to him.  If you really cared for him as much as you claim, then you would understand that you're putting him in a difficult position."

"Meeting my parent's is an unreasonable request?" she shouted.

I started walking to my room.  "I'm so over this shit.  Do whatever you want but don't come bitching to me like you're the innocent victim."

I slammed my bedroom door shut and collapsed on my bed while Priya muttered to herself in the living room.  The mere fact that she couldn't converse with Anthony like an adult spoke volumes. And on top of that she showed up at the club and threw a drink at him because he was talking to the redhead.  I'm not justifying his actions and would be the first to call him out if he were cheating on Priya.  However in his head they were broken up.  She told him they needed a break and refused to communicate with him in any form.  What was he suppose to think?

I hated that Priya was so upset but this was all her doing.  She had to live the consequences of her action.  My thoughts were interrupted, when my phone rang.  Lukas.

"Hey honey, how are you?" I answered.

"Great.  I miss you.  You wanna come over?  My parents are in Greenwich and won't be back til tomorrow afternoon."

I breathed a sigh of relief, "I would love to come over.  Give me half hour?"

"Sure.  I'm see you in a bit."

---------

An hour later, I was telling Lukas all about my encounter with Priya.  After I was done he said, "That doesn't sound like her at all."

"I know.  She's always been really sweet and nice but since she went back to medical school it's like she's a totally different person."

He shook his head.  "Are you sure she isn't using drugs?

I shrugged, "She usually studying when I get home."

"Her behavior is just off to me."

I nodded, "It is but I chalked it up to her being stressed."

"That's a possibility.  I don't want you to fight with Priya; she needs to make her own mistakes.  I know Anthony is your buddy and you want to have his back but right now maybe you should back off and let the chips fall where they may."

"I get what you're saying and you're probably right.  Anthony's been through so much and I just want him to be happy.  I know how much he loves Priya and it kills me that she's treating him like crap.  When people fuck with my friends and family, I get defensive" I explained.

"I do too.  I get it.  You want to protect Anthony but don't get caught in the middle of their drama" he replied.

I leaned back, "I know.  Sometimes my emotions get the best of me."

"To be honest I feel the same way you do about Priya and Anthony but I don't want to get involved."

We sat quietly, watching the news when I remembered something.  I got up and headed straight to Lukas' bedroom.  I took a quick shower and slipped into lace babydoll and matching thong.  Lukas was still in the living room and I positioned myself on his well made bed.  "Lukas"  I called sweetly.

"Be there in sec" he replied. I heard the tv shut off and this his footsteps.  He opened his bedroom door at stared at me sprawled out on his bed.

"Last time I checked, it was still you're birthday and I have a special present for you" I said sexily with a wink.

-----------

The next morning I was a little sore when I woke up.  Lukas and I spent most of the night having sex, drifting off to sleep, then walking up and having more sex.  We went at least five rounds.  Five rounds of glorious sex.  I slowly walked to the bathroom, showered and got dressed for work.  Before leaving I kissed Lukas on the forehead.  His eyes fluttered.  "I have to get to work."

"Mm, why don't you call in sick?" he asked hoarsely.

"I can't babe.  We're super busy."

"Thanks for a great birthday."

"It was my pleasure" I replied sweetly before leaving.

When I got to work, I immediately noticed a young brunette sitting at the receptionist desk where Alison use to be.  She looked to be in her early 20s and had a pleasant smile.  "Good morning" she said as I swiped in.

"Morning, how are you?" I responded polite.

"Fantastic" she said in a saccharine sweet voice.

While I waited for my computer to reboot, Nick asked if I met John's new secretary.   I nodded, "Yeah, she seems really sweet."

"Total 180 from Alison" he replied with a laugh.

"Did you get a meeting invite from John?" I asked.

"Yes.  I think he's going to introduce his new secretary."

Nick was on point.  An hour later, in a crowded conference room John introduced, Shirley.  "Everyone I'd like to introduce you to Shirley.  She's a recent graduate from Pace University and the newest member of our team.  If you need anything administrative related, Shirley will be here to assist you."  With that he turned the floor over to Shirley.

She was clearly nervous.  "I'm happy to be apart of SIB and I can't wait get to know all of you.  If you need anything, just stop by my desk."

John cleared his throat, "Thank you, Shirley.  We have one more piece of business to address.  I recently interviewed someone for Grant's old position.  Before we make him an offer I am going to ask that each of you meet with him and provide me with feedback."

Nick interrupted, "Is this going to be a super day interview?  I mean there's sixteen of us here."

"No, not a super day interview.  You'll meet with him in groups of three or four.  I want to get your thoughts on whether he's a good fit for our team.  Since this is an Associate level position, he will be working most of you to some extent.  I need to know that he's someone all of you are comfortable with" John explained.

"Do you have a date in mind for us to meet with this person?" Christine asked.

"Excellent question.  He will be here on Thursday.  I'm actually going to have Shirley send you the schedule of who's meeting with him and when.  Do any of you have questions?"

No one did so John dismissed us with a simple, "Let's get back to work."

When I got back to my desk, I saw a text from Anthony.  "Drinks after work?  I need some advice."

"Yep.  You got it.  Tell me when and where."

Anthony suggested we meet at a bar downtown in the Wall Street area.  It was a little far from my work and even my apartment but I agreed to meet him there by 7.

-----

I rushed to the bar and found Anthony sitting all by himself, drowning his sorrows with Jack and Coke.  As I approached I noticed a cardigan on the chair next to him.  "Hey" I said gently before giving him a quick hug.

It was as though he could read my mind, "I invited Melissa.  I figured that between the three of us, we could figure out my fucked up life."

"Where is Melissa?" I asked while looking around.

"She said she had an important call she had to take" Anthony shared.

"How are you feeling?"

He shrugged, "Eh.  I don't know.  I'm fucking confused and out of it."

With a sympathetic smile, I reassured him that we'd help him make things better.  I excused myself for a moment to get a glass of wine from the bar.  As I was walking back to the table, I spotted Melissa. She waved as she approached.  "Hey Liz."

"Hey, I wasn't expecting to see you here."

She chuckled, "I kind of invited myself.  Since you're here I have a little surprise for both of you."

My eyes widened, "OH MY GOD, YOU'RE PREGNANT!!!" I exclaimed.

Anthony looked bewildered while Melissa just laughed.  "Nope, not yet.  We are working on it though so hopefully soon!"

"I'm sorry for jumping the gun" I replied apologetically.

She shook her head, "Don't be.  I've bombarded you with all this baby talk so it's only natural that you'd think that."

I nodded, "So what's the big surprise then?"

Melissa started fidgeting with her glass of red wine and became increasingly nervous.  "I've been worried about Priya.  We all have been...her behavior has been so off lately....then what happened in Atlantic City.  I've known her since freshman year of college and I can't help thinking there's something that she isn't telling us, that why I......"

A cheerful voice interrupted her mid-sentence, "Hi Melissa."

I turned around and saw a tall, stunning woman with the same caramel skin and big brown eyes as Priya.  She had full lips and high cheekbones.  It took me a moment to realize who she was.

Melissa and her exchanged a friendly hug.  "Guys, this Priya's sister, Depeka."


******  Hi Dolls - I haven't written Monday's post yet but would like to know your thoughts.  Would you prefer a post from Anthony's perspective, Priya's perspective or a regular post that picks up where this one left off.  Thanks for reading and I hope all of you have a great weekend:) ******

Monday, November 17, 2014

Atlantic City

It was close to five when Lukas and I checked in at the Borgata.  I looked around anxiously, hoping that no one we knew would unexpectedly walk by and spoil my surprise.  I grew increasingly nervous, realizing that I didn't know what some of his friends looked like.  Though he shared story after story about them, I had never met them before.  My fears were alleviated as we took the elevator to our room; I had initially booked a deluxe room but upon checking in we were advised that they had overbooked and our room was no longer available.  Since it was the hotel's fault we were upgraded to the Opus Suite for the same exact price!

Lukas opened the door and let me in.  I was immediately taken by the floor to ceiling windows in the living room/dining room area.  The bedroom was gorgeous with a king sized bed and huge marble bathroom with an enormous tub.  If it wasn't a hotel tub, I'd totally suggest that we take a long, hot, bubble bath together.  Being a germaphobe, I couldn't envision relaxing in a tub that could've been used by God knows who.  Plus, how clean was that tub?  I know...I'm such a drag at times.

I felt Lukas' arms around my waist as his lips found my neck.  I pushed back against him, feeling how hard he was.  I turned around and on my tip toes kissed him.  He pushed me back until I was at the edge of the bed.  His hands trailed down my body, stopping to unbutton my jeans.  His eyes gazed into mine as his hands slipped into my panties.  He grinned at me, feeling how wet and ready I was for him.  I helped him push my jeans down past my hips.  I sat on the bed and watched as he quickly pulled off my skinny jeans and threw them across the room.  I pulled off my v-neck sweater and bra while he hooked his finger in the waistband of my panties.  I lifted my hips, allowing him to slide them off.  His eyes hungrily took in my nakedness and I blushed.

I sat up and pulled at his sweater, my fingers trailing over his flat stomach.  In no time his sweater was on the floor and he pushed me back onto the bed.  I gasped as I felt his hot breath in between my legs.  He kissed my inner thighs and teased me mercilessly before tasting me.  My hand gripped the sheets while the other grasped at his hair as pleasure consumed my body.  He knew exactly what to do to make me putty in his hands. He reached up and rolled my nipples between his thumb and forefinger while he teased my clitoris with his tongue.  My moans were getting louder and my legs were literally shaking.  I screamed out his name as my orgasm washed over my body in waves.  He slowed down the pace before kissing his way up my body, stopping to suck and nibble on my nipples, kissing the sensitive skin on my neck and then my lips.  I rolled him onto his back and took of his pants.  His cock glistening and pulsating.  I wrapped my fingers around it and stroked him.  He groaned, clearly wanting more.  Before I could make my next move he got up and positioned me so I was on all fours on the bed.  He teased me with his cock until I was begging him to fuck me.  He thrust into me fast and deep.  I took a moment for me to adjust.  He grabbed my hips as his thrusts became more urgent.  I felt his body tense as he came breathlessly whispering my name.  He was still hard and moved slowly inside me while his fingers teased my clitoris in a tortuously slow circular motion.  I allowed myself to get lost in the pleasure.

---------

It was a little after eight thirty when finally left our room to go to dinner.  Lukas looked gorgeous in dark, fitted jeans, a blue button down and black blazer.  I was wearing a long sleeved, black sequined dress with black Jimmy Choo heels.  Lukas had suggested that we stay in our room and order room service but that would totally screw up my plan.  Instead I convinced him to go with me to Bobby Flay's Steak which was right in the hotel.  After some convincing, he agreed.  Dinner was great.  Naturally Lukas had the spicy southwest rib eye while I went with rack of lamb.  We shared the New England Clam Chowder and smashed potatoes.   By ten, our waitress arrived with the dessert menu and on cue advised us that Borgata would like to comp us with a table at mur.mur - one of their clubs.  I feigned surprise and said how excited I was.  Seeing how happy that news made me, Lukas went along with it.  Little did he know, I actually asked the waitress to play along and pretend that we were being comped.  That was the only way I'd get Lukas to go to the club without blowing the surprise.

After consuming the scrumptious chocolate espresso cake, I excused myself to go to the bathroom.  I immediately texted Anthony to ensure that everyone was there.  He replied that only Lukas and I were missing and that everyone was having a great time so far.  I told him we'd be there shortly.  I fixed my makeup before heading back to our table.  Lukas had already taken care of the check.  I insisted on me at least leaving the tip.  Since it was his birthday I wanted to treat him.  He hesitantly agreed.

At eleven we entered the club which was packed.  There were people drinking and dancing.  Everyone seemed to be in good spirits and having the time of their lives.  As we were being escorted to the VIP area, I texted Anthony that we were coming.  I pulled back allowing Lukas to walk in front of me.  My heart was pounding as we approached our table.  I gripped Lukas' hand tighter.  From the corner of my eye I spotted Eric.  And then I heard all of them shout "Surprise!!!"  Lukas let go of my hand and looked at me and then back at our friends.

He was completely shocked.  He gave me a kiss.  "I can't believe you planned all this."

"It's the least I could do" I replied, embracing him.

"Thanks.  This means so much to me."

I watched as he greeted all of his friends.  He seemed genuinely happy to see them.  I was thanking Lisa for her help when Lukas motioned for me to come over.  He introduced me to Gino, Larry, Martin, Ray and their significant others.  They were all so welcoming and nice.  I found out that they grew up with Lukas in Greenwich.  I excused myself and went back to continue my conversation with Lisa.  "We still have to do lunch or go shopping?" she said excitedly.

"We could do a girl's night if you'd like instead?  Grab dinner in the city and then go to a bar so something."

She thought about it for a moment, "I haven't had a girls night in so long.  Only problem is how will I get back home?"

"You can spend the night at my apartment" I suggested.

"That's perfect!" she squealed, "Your friends are so much fun."

Eventually our group split up.  The guys were conversing with each other while the woman did the same.  I was on my third drink when Melissa gently nudged me.  "What happened with you and Priya?"

I rolled my eyes.  "Why?  What did she say?"

Turns out the Priya went bitching to Melissa about what I said.  Melissa claims she listened but didn't take side because she didn't know the full story.  I quickly told her about Priya refusing to talk to Anthony after she suggested they go on break and stormed out.

"I knew the entire Thanksgiving idea was going to be a disaster.  Didn't I tell her that?" Melissa asked me.

I nodded, "You totally called it.  I don't fucking get it.  She claims to love Anthony but won't give the relationship 100% until her parents meet and approve him?  What...the...fuck?'

She scoffed, "It's weird.  Back in college she didn't care what her parents thought about who she dated.  I don't know why she'd all of sudden want their 'approval'?"

"Yeah" I said, sipping on my drink.

"Anthony shouldn't have to give up his Thanksgiving to make her happy.  She's being unreasonable" Melissa said animatedly.

"I know.  Let's not talk about their drama any more.  I want to enjoy tonight."

She clinked her glass against mine, "To an unforgettable night."

We turned our attention back to the other women.  They were happily talking about getting together.  Madison (Eric's bubbly girlfriend) knew an event planner that could get us a table at almost any club for free!  We agreed to let her plan that part of the night.  Lisa shared that one of her work friends highly recommended ABC Cocina.

I immediately jumped in, "Do you mean ABC Kitchen?"

She shook her head, "No hun.  ABC Cocina is owned by the same people but it's more fun."

"Let's do it" I squealed.

Madison called our server over and ordered us a round of Screaming Orgasm shots.  With our shot glasses in hand, she excitedly said, "Here's to our girls night."

We clinked glasses and of course screamed before downing our shots.  By this time the men rejoined our group.  Lukas scooted next to me and whispered in my ear, "This is the best surprise ever.  Thank you so much."

I gave him a quick kiss.  It was close to one when my next surprise arrived.  The servers brought over a tiered birthday cake with lit sparklers and a bottle of champagne.  We all sang happy birthday to Lukas who seemed overwhelmed with emotion.  He stood up and thanked everyone for coming and said that this was one of best nights he's had in a long time.  While Lukas excused himself and headed to the restroom, Gino plopped himself down next to me.

"Tell me about yourself" he said.

"What?" I asked confused.

He laughed, "I knew that would throw you off."

I rolled my eyes, "It's nice to finally meet you guys.  Lukas told me so many stories and it's great to finally put a face to the names."

"Same here.  I've heard a lot about you.  You're all that Lukas talks about."

I blushed.  "Lukas is awesome."

He nodded,  "It's good to seem him happy."

"Do you live in the city?" I asked, changing the subject.

"Nah.  I use to.  But three years ago I got a job at RBS and they're based in Stamford.  It made sense for my wife and I to move back to Connecticut."

I nodded, "I work at SIB."

"Get the fuck out of here.  I started my career there.  What do you do?"

I smiled. "Marketing.  I sell corporate bonds and derivatives."

"I was product controller for the high grade desk.  I use to hang around the credit trading floor all the time, talking to John and Rob.  They were good peeps."

I paused for a moment, "On the sales side?"

He nodded and I continued, "John is my manager.  And Rob was my mentor."

"What do you mean Rob was....did he leave SIB?"

I didn't want to put a damper on the evening but I had to tell him.  "Rob actually had a massive heart attack and died two weeks ago."

His brown eyes bulged out.  "Holy shit!  I'm sorry to hear that.  He was one of the good ones."

"I'm sorry for killing your mood."

"It's all good.  I'd rather know the truth.  He's in a better place" Gino said.

I nodded, "I can't believe you know my manager. This is a little surreal."

He laughed, "In our industry, everyone's connected to each other to some degree."

"You couldn't be more right."

He glanced at me,  "Thanks for planning tonight.  It's what we all needed."

I nodded and watched as he made his way over to his wife Victoria.  Once Lukas returned I dragged him to the dance floor for a little while. His hands were all over my body as we moved in sync to the music.  As the music slowed he pulled me near.  My breathing quickened.  He tipped my chin up and kissed me.  I wrapped my arms around him, pressing my body against his.  I wanted him so bad.  We stood there looking at each other passionately as a faster song came on.  "We should be getting back" I said quickly.

He nodded.  As we approached our table I noticed a pretty redhead sitting very close to Anthony.  She had one hand on his thigh and was laughing at whatever he was telling her.  I didn't know how to feel.  Technically since Priya told him they were on break, he wasn't doing anything wrong.  However, I knew that they both cared for each other.  Melissa followed my gaze and kicked me under the table.  I yelped, "What the fuck, Melissa?"

She leaned forward, "Should we interrupt them?"

I shrugged, "I don't know anymore."

I turned my attention back to Lukas who asked me what was up with Anthony.  I told him that Anthony and Priya were on break and he shook his head.  I was relieved he didn't ask any other questions.  We were all laughing and joking when I heard a glass break.  I turned my head and was shocked to see Priya standing there and Anthony drenched.  "How could you do this to me?" she shrieked before running out of the club.

Melissa and I exchanged looks.  Neither of us knowing exactly what to say or do.  Anthony blotted his face and shirt while the redhead tried to help.  He pushed her off and started to walk in the direction that Priya went.  Melissa jumped up and grabbed me.  We followed Anthony and pulled him into a corner.  "What the fuck is she doing here?" he asked angrily.

"I don't know.  She said she wasn't coming" I replied.

Melissa trying to make sense of the situation asked "What are you going to tell her?"

Anthony clenched his jaw.  "That she needs to stop playing games and make up her fucking mind.  She wanted to go on break.  Wouldn't even talk to me and now she's here acting like I'm fucking around behind her back."

I sighed loudly, "Maybe you should wait until you've cooled off a little before confronting her."

"Why?  All I did was talk to another girl.  I didn't even fucking kiss her.  She doesn't give a shit about my feeling so why should I consider hers?" he asked.

"I just don't want you to say something you might regret" I said gently.

With a tight smile he said, "I appreciate that but I have to do this."

Thursday, November 13, 2014

If I Stay

We need to talk. 

Those words kept repeating in my mind and consumed every thought.  What did Anthony need to talk about?  Maybe I did something to piss him off?  Nah, that couldn't be it.  I was completely wrong and out of line for accusing him of inviting Joe to brunch but we had long moved on from that debacle.  In fact, I thought our friendship was headed in the right track and becoming stronger.  On Saturday, the three of us (Anthony, Lukas and I) tried to make sense of his relationship with Priya and figure out what he could do to make it better.  Even though all I wanted to do was call or text Anthony, I realized that it was way too early.

Today was a less hectic day than yesterday or maybe I was just becoming use to being crazy busy and allocated my time better.  Around ten I texted Anthony "What's up?" and put my phone down. Technically we weren't suppose to use our personal cell phones on a trading floor because of the possibility of insider trading or passing on classified information but everyone did in moderation. Anthony didn't respond until close to noon.

"Too complicated to discuss over text.  Can we meet after work?"

I didn't have any set plans and replied, "Sure.  Where do you want to meet?"

"I'll meet you in front of your work building.  Is that cool?"

I stared at his text, trying to figure out what was going on.  There were so many possibilities going through my head....some way too outlandish but you never know, right?  Anthony worked downtown and would take a good half hour to get to my building.  I replied, "Sure.  What time?"

"I'll be there at 6:30.  Does that work?"

"Yes" I texted back.

By six, I started to become anxious.  Not knowing what was going on had me on edge.  Nick noticed this and asked if I was okay.  I smiled politely and told that I was before changing the subject.  "Did you vote today?"

He shook his head, "I haven't voted in years.  My vote doesn't count in the big elections.  Even in the governor race Cuomo is way ahead of Astorino.  I'd just be wasting my time.  Did you vote?"

"Nope.  I have to re-register in NY.  Right now I can only vote in California."

He chuckled, "Does that mean you're off the hook for NY jury duty too?"

"I sure hope so.  During the summer before my junior year in college, I wascalled in for jury duty.  It was soooooooo boring sitting there and waiting to know if jurors were needed.  Plus I had this super cute elderly lady who kept telling my about the soap operas she watched."

He grinned, "I served three weeks one time...I was selected to be a juror in this malpractice case.  The case wasn't bad but one person on the jury kept holding us back during verdict time."

"That sucks" I replied.

"Anyway, I'm going to head out."

I glanced at the clock - 6:25.  That meant Anthony should be here soon.  "Have a good night, Nick" I chirped.

It was close to 6:45 when my phone vibrated with a text from Anthony.  "Just got off the train.  Will be there in 2 minutes."

I put on my coat and gathered my things before heading downstairs.  When I got outside I immediately spotted Anthony in a black pea coat, pinstriped pants and leather loafers.  I approached and gave him a quick hug.

"Sorry I'm late.  I had train problems" he said.

"No big deal.  Where do you want to go?"

He looked around, "Let's grab a drink."

We walked up Madison to Pranna.  Our waitress escorted us to an area in the back and took our orders.  I ordered a pranna sutra (vodka and white wine with muddled grapes) and Anthony got straight vodka.  I studied Anthony's face for a clue but came up empty.  Once our drinks arrived and I was sure there wasn't going to be any interruptions, I asked slowly, "So what did you want to talk about?"

He sighed,  "Priya suggested we take a break?"

"A break...like Ross and Rachel?" I replied.

He nodded, "Yea, we went to dinner last night and she basically told me that I had to go with her to meet her family in California Thanksgiving weekend.  I tried to explain how important Thanksgiving is to my family, especially this year with all we've been through but she wasn't having it."

He paused and I awaited anxiously for him to continue.  When he didn't I gently prodded. "And?"

"And she said that if I couldn't see how important this is to her then we might as well go on break."

What...the...fuck?  I was completely shocked.  Priya was just telling me the other day how much she loved Anthony.  What the hell changed?  I knew she had been acting weird later but chalked it up to her being stressed with medical school.  Now I was left wondering if she was on edge because of something else.

I took a moment to compose myself.  "Wow.  I'm shocked.  Did you and her speak after that?"

He shook his head, "She fucking got up and stormed out of the restaurant.  I've been trying to call her all day but she sends me straight to voicemail.  I've texted her but she's not responding.  Do you think I'm being unreasonable here?"

I thought about it for a moment.  "Meeting the family is a huge step in any relationship.  Maybe Priya had her heart set on showing you off to her family.  However, I think she should understand that you already have plans."

"Yea, that's just it.  I would love to meet her family if it were any other weekend."

I sipped my drink which was amazing by the way.  "I hear ya.  Every couple needs to work out where they're spending their holidays.  I don't think it's fair to you that Priya refuses to discuss this.  It seems completely out of character for her."

"If you were in my shoes would you go to California for Thanksgiving?" he asked pointedly.

I shrugged, "I don't know what I'd do to be honest.  I think you need to do what you feel is best."

"What I feel is best is spending Thanksgiving with my family.  After almost dying, dealing with Amy's crap and then her death, I'm grateful that my life has turned around.  My mom, sister, you, all my friends, my family, Priya have played a huge role in getting through those times.  I have so much to be thankful for and I want to be with all of my loved ones."

"I understand that perfectly.  I can't picture spending Thanksgiving anywhere but with my crazy family."

He downed the remainder of his drink.  "What do you think I should do?"

"I think that you and Priya need to talk this out."

"The problem is she's ignoring me" he said sadly.

I played absentmindedly with the stir in my drink.  "Maybe once she calms down, cooler heads will prevail."

"I know this is asking a lot but can you maybe talk to her and see where her head is for me?"

I wanted to say no and not get involved in their relationship drama but I didn't.  Seeing Anthony so sad and desperate broke my heart.  "I'll talk to her but I can't make you any promises."

With a relieved look he said, "Thank you."

-------

It was obvious that Priya was avoiding me.  She wasn't home when I got home Tuesday or Wednesday night.  It wasn't until Thursday when I finally saw her.  When I was walking into the living room after a rough day at work, she was scurrying into her bedroom.  I called out her name and she stopped in her tracks and turned around.  She avoided eye contact and said, "Hey Liz.  I was just going to my room to study."

"Can we talk?  I promise it will be quick."

She hesitantly agreed.  "I'm guessing you spoke to Anthony" she said.

I nodded, "Yes.  What's going on?"

"I asked him to go to California with me and he said he had plans already with his own family.  I got upset and told him I wanted to take a break and left."

I looked at her, "Is that what you really want?"

"Yes.....no.  Fuck Liz, all I want is for my family to meet him but he's being so difficult."

"Honey, this has been a trying year for Anthony and his mom planned this grand Thanksgiving feast.  I'm sure if it were any other weekend, he'd jump at the opportunity to meet you parents.  Have you thought of maybe inviting them to NY for Thanksgiving considering both you and your sister are here?'

She stared at her fingernails, "I feel so guilty now."

"I think you need to work this out with Anthony."

She nibbled on her bottom lip.  "I really don't want to go on break.  I was angry and said that in the heat of the moment.  I've been a total bitch to him since school started."

"Why?'

She looked at me.  "Because I don't want to hurt him.  I can't be in a relationship that my parents don't approve of....that's why I was so upset when he told me he had plans.  What if I fall deeper in love with him and they hate him?"

"Honey all that matters is what you feel about Anthony.  If your parents don't like him so be it.  You're the one that's with him not them."

She sighed.  "I guess."

"Please talk to Anthony."

She nodded and started walking towards her bedroom.

Later that night when I was talking to Lukas on the phone he let it slip that his birthday was on Sunday.  November 9th.  Shit,  I knew he his birthday was in November but I didn't expect it to come sneaking up on me like that.  I wanted to do something special for him to show him how much I appreciated him.  Ideally I would have loved to take him somewhere warm for the weekend but I couldn't swing that with only two days until the big day.  After our conversation, I whipped out my laptop and got to work.  Searching for the perfect birthday present.

I was about to give up when a thought popped in my head.  Atlantic City.  I could rent a room at the Borgata and get a table at a club.  I'd have to work fast and invite our friends.  I immediately texted Anthony, Melissa and my cousin Maria.  They all loved my idea and accepted my invite.  I was halfway there.  Now all I needed to do was invite Lukas' friends.  I had Lisa's contact info in my phone.  She was the bubbly blond that I met at the wedding.

I texted her, "Hey Lisa.  This is Elisabeth.  We met at the wedding Labor Day wedding.  I was planning something special for Lukas' birthday Saturday night in AC. Would love it if you and Jacob could come."

She texted me right back.  "Elisabeth!  So glad to hear from you.  We'd love to come to AC for Lukas' b-day.  Let me know if you need any help:)"

I grinned while I responded. "You're awesome!!  I want to invite Lukas' buddies to the party too but don't have their numbers.  Might you be able to help me with that?"

This time it took her a good fifteen minutes to write back.  "Definitely."

Before I could reply and say thank you, she had texted me Gino (Lukas' roommate way back when), Ray, Larry and Martin's contact info.  I sent a group text inviting them.  Both Ray and Martin responded that they would be there and asked if they could bring their girlfriends.  I told them of course.  It was getting late and I put my phone to charge, hoping that I would get a response from Gino and Larry the next day.

By noon my guest list was all set.  I was getting ready to contact mur.mur  (club at the Borgata) when my phone vibrated.  I glanced down and saw a text from Eric asking if he and Madison could come with us to AC.  Naturally I said yes.  I did a recount......20 people.  Well 19.  I wasn't sure if Priya would make it but I had a strong feeling that she would.  I reserved a VIP table and texted everyone the finalized details.

----------

That night I met Lukas for dinner.  He was saying how stressed he was and needed a nice quiet weekend.  If only he knew what I had in store was the furthest thing from quiet.  Between bites of lasagna, I said "Why don't we go away for the weekend?"

He looked intrigued, "What did you have in mind?"

"I know this is totally in the spur of the moment, but I kinda want to go to AC.  We can drive down there tomorrow, get a room and grab dinner or something."

"That's not a bad idea" he said.

I smiled nervously, "Does that mean you'll go with me?"

He nodded, "Yes.  I'll book us a room."

I interrupted, "No.  Since it's my idea, I want to do all the work."

"Okay.  I guess that's only fair."

I was pleased that Lukas was going along with my plan, albeit unknowingly.  After dinner, Lukas walked me back to my building and gave me a long, deep kiss before heading back to his place.  He wanted to get some things done before we left for AC at two in the afternoon tomorrow.

As soon as I walked into my apartment, I spotted Priya.  She looked at me and then back at her phone.  I wondered what she was up to but didn't want to pry.  "Hi Priya" I said as cheerfully as possible.

"Hey.  What's going on?" she asked flatly.

"Nothing much.  Have you made up your mind about Atlantic City yet?"

She shrugged, "Not really.  I'd love to go but I'm leaning towards no.  It'll be awkward with Anthony there and I have a shitload of studying to do."

I nodded, "It's your call.  Only you know what's best for you."

"If I stay with" she started and I cut her off.

"Priya I treasure our friendship but I can't tell you what to do.  If you chose to not talk your issues out with Anthony that's on you. I get it.  You need your parent's approval before giving the relationship 100%.  However, Anthony's been giving you 100% from the beginning and you need to consider his feelings and stop being so damn selfish.  If you don't want to be with him, just tell him and stop playing games."

She was clearly shocked by words.  "I never thought about it like that" she said quietly.

"Maybe you should think about his feelings every once in a while.  I don't get how you go from wanting to be with him, telling me how much you love him, that he's the one for you to telling him you want to go on break."

She stared at me but didn't utter a word.  Maybe she was pissed or just shocked that I would be brutally honest with her.  Either way, I didn't care.  Anthony was my lifelong friend and I wasn't going to let anyone play his heart and emotions.  I was annoyed that Priya's words and actions weren't in sync.  If she really cared about Anthony, she would have spoken to him by now and cleared the air, instead of hiding and avoiding any type of communication.

After retreating to my bedroom, I packed an overnight bag.  I picked up the sexy nurse costume and contemplated taking it with me but then opted against it.  I could definitely put that to use when Lukas least expects it...in our apartment.  Instead I packed lingerie - a black lace babydoll with matching thong.

--------

The next day, as I was leaving I noticed Priya looking at me expectantly.  It was as though she was waiting for me to apologize.  I wasn't going to to though.  I said what I felt and had no regrets.  Plus I wasn't the type to just apologize when I felt my actions were justified.  I noticed that even though it was close to one, Priya was still in her pajamas.  That was so unlike her but I chalked it up to her staying up and studying all night.

As I approached the door, I turned around.  "Priya, Lukas is waiting for me outside.  Let's talk when I get back."

She nodded, "Have fun in Atlantic City."


Monday, November 10, 2014

Trick or Treat

Friday evening I was in my apartment getting dressed for Halloween.  We had reserved a table at Revel in the Meatpacking District.  I had never been to Revel before but Anthony assured me it was one of the best new clubs in the area.  I laid out my costume on the bed and was perfecting my smoky eye when my phone vibrated.  I picked it up and saw a text from Lukas saying he'd be over in five minutes.  I applied shimmer lotion on my arms, legs and chest.  I had just plugged in my curling iron to freshen up my loose curls look when I heard a knock on the door.  I yelled to Priya, who was getting ready, that I'd get it.

I swung open the door and saw Lukas standing there in jeans and a sweater.  I pouted, "Where's your costume?"

He lifted the bag in his left hand, "In here.  I figured I'd get dressed here, if that's okay with you."

"Yeah, that's fine."

I was suddenly aware that I left the curling iron on and rushed to my room.  I was fixing my hair while Lukas watched.  "How was Miami?" I asked.

"Great but I missed you" he said smiling.

Why is he so sexy?  I totally wanted Lukas but knew we were running late, "We really need to get dressed.  Anthony will be here any minute and we promised to meet everyone else at the club by 10:15.  That only gives us like a half hour."

He watched as I slipped on my Queen of Hearts costume that made my body look amazing.  All that was left were my strappy red stiletto sandals.  Lukas put on his Man Hatter costume and pulled me in for a kiss.  Even though it's probably lame, we wanted, no I wanted for us to have similar outfits.  Hence, the Alice in Wonderland theme.  I'm guessing Priya and Anthony had the same idea with their Tinkerbell and Peter Pan costumes. It was close to ten when the four of us left for the club.

Once we got to the club we were escorted to the VIP section where we had a table.  I was fascinated by all of the costumes. When we got to our table I spotted Melissa who was dressed like an Angel (wings and all) and Josh in his devil outfit.  Eric was Mark Anthony and Madison was Cleopatra naturally.  We complemented each other's outfits and were chatting when my cousin Maria arrived in her cowgirl outfit.  She introduced us to her date, Vinny, who was dressed as a mobster.  After a two rounds of tequila shots, I grabbed Lukas' hand and dragged him onto the packed dance floor.

I squealed excitedly when Anaconda came on.  I started grinding against him, feeling his erection.  I worked my hips in rhythm to the song while his hands roamed from my waist and settled on my upper thigh.  Towards the end of the song, I turned around and wrapped my arms around him, kissing him passionately.  When I pulled away we were both flushed and breathless.  "Let's get outta here" I suggested excitedly and he agreed.

We walked back to our table and said that we were going to call it a night.  Maria frowned, "It's only one.  The night is still young.  Plus we haven't even gotten a chance to talk."

"I had a long day at work and I'm exhausted" I lied.

"You don't have to stay til closing time, just a half hour more" she pleaded.

"Okay, fine.  A half hour."

During that time Maria told me that she met Vinny at a bar a month earlier.  He had his own e-commerce business and worked part time in real estate.  He was 29 and from Boston originally.  "Is he in NY for good?" I asked.

"Yea, he's been living here for three years now.  I really like him and wanted you to meet him" she said excitedly.

I gave her a quick hug, "He's seems like a nice guy.  Maybe we can do dinner one night so we can get to know each other better" I suggested.

"That sounds awesome.  I'll talk to Vinny and see what date works best for him and text you" she said.

"I really should get going" I said standing up.

"Not yet.  How are things with you and Lukas?"

I smiled broadly, "Amazing.  He asked me to move in with him and I said yes.  I haven't told my family yet so please don't say anything.  I wanted to tell them in person next weekend."

She yelped and clasped her hands in front of her, "That's great.  I'm so happy for you.  Next thing you know you'll have mini Lukas' and Elisabeth's running around."

I laughed, "Don't get ahead of yourself just yet.  I want kids but I'm not ready for them right now.  Plus I want to spend more time with Lukas and get to know him on a whole other level."

She looked at me seriously.  "I'm thrilled that you and Lukas are taking such a huge step.  I'm beyond excited for you."

"Thanks" I said gently.

Needless to say we didn't leave the club until three and by that time we were both truly exhausted.  When we got back to my place, we stripped out of our costumes and crawled into bed; falling asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillow.

I awoke around seven the next morning and glanced at Lukas' perfect body sprawled on my bed.  I pushed down the covers and wrapped my fingers around his erection.  I stroked him slowly, feeling him getting harder, before licking all around his shaft.  With the tip of my tongue I licked around the head before taking it into my mouth. I heard Lukas moan and his hand moved towards my head.  I slid him further into my mouth and started bobbing my head.  I switched between licking and sucking; After sliding his cock out of my mouth, I painstakingly slowly licked the underside of his cock.  He shivered and pulled at my hair.  I was so aroused and needed him.  I straddled him and placed my hands on his chest as I lowered my body.  I moaned feeling as I stretched to accommodate him.  I alternated between bouncing and grinding on him, my breath getting shallower with each passing second.  His hands moved up to my breasts, rolling my nipples between his thumb and forefinger.  The pleasure was too much for me.  I threw my head back and came hard.  Lukas wasted no time flipping my onto my back and pulling my towards the edge of the bed.  He threw my legs over his shoulder and entered me.  He started pumping in me deeper.  After a few minutes I felt his body tense as he came.  He leaned forward and sucked on my nipples before kissing my lips.

After cleaning up we spooned until we fell back asleep.  Hours later when I awoke, I heard Anthony and Lukas talking in the living room.  I couldn't quite make out what they were saying but they both sounded happy.  I rolled onto my side and grabbed my phone from the nightstand.  12:34.  I sat up and stretched before throwing on a robe and heading through the living room to the bathroom.  After a long, hot shower, I felt relaxed.

By this time Lukas and Anthony were watching something about Ebola and debating over that nurse that had been put under quarantine by Governor Christie.  It seemed they both agree that the quarantine was necessary and that the nurse was being selfish.  Naturally I chimed in,  "Remember how the doctor right here in NY claimed that he quarantined himself in his apartment and then when he was diagnosed with Ebola authorities dug into his activities.  They found out he was taking the train, Uber cabs, bowling and dining out.  Maybe the measures are extreme but it's better to err on the side of caution than potential cause a pandemic."

The two of them exchanged glances before applauding.  I rolled my eyes, "You two are so damn immature.  Where's Priya?"

Anthony chuckled, "She went to meet with her study group.  She should be back in an hour."

"Who bought bagels?" I asked, cutting a plain on down the middle and spreading on scallion cream cheese.

"Both of us" Anthony said happily.

I made myself a cup of English Breakfast tea and brought my breakfast into the living room.  "I don't mean to be nosy.  Well maybe I do but I swear it's all out of love.  What's up with you and Priya?"

Anthony shrugged while Lukas watched on.  "I don't know.  I love her and I know she loves me. It's just that she's been on edge lately and won't open up to me.  Last night was great; the Priya I fell in love with was in full force but then this morning she was back to stressed out, I don't have time for anything but school Priya."

Lukas interrupted, "When Isabella and I were engaged, she was attending grad school.  She was stressed but we managed to find time together.  I think you and Priya need to create a schedule that works for both of you.  Maybe that means not seeing each other during the week or only on Saturdays?"

I nodded, "That's true.  Right now you're suppressing all of your feelings and that'll make you either blow up or resent Priya."

Anthony took a deep breath.  "I'm afraid of losing her."

"You won't, sweetie.  I know for a fact that Priya loves and adores you.  The two of you started dating in summer and then when school started it added a whole new dynamic to your relationship.  Instead of making small changes both of you are still seeking that dynamic you had when you first started dating.  The problem is....that original dynamic doesn't exist right now" I explained.

The room fell silent.  It was apparent that Anthony was processing my words.  After a couple minutes he sighed loudly.  "I think you're right.  I'm expecting to see and be with Priya whenever I want but that's not realistic with her in school.  I guess we need to talk things through."

Eventually the conversation shifted from Priya to me and Lukas.  "So when are you two moving in together?" Anthony asked.

I quickly responded, "January 1 at earliest."

Lukas agreed, "We have some renovations to do and who knows how long that'll take."

"Was Priya cool with you moving out?" Anthony asked.

I nodded, "Yea,  She said she's happy for me and super excited."

"I'm happy for both of you as well" Anthony said genuinely.

--------

The remainder of my weekend was spent relaxing and checking the progress of our apartment.  The kitchen was in the process of being demolished.  The building only allowed contractors to work during the week from 9 to 5 so who knows how long the entire renovation process will take.  While having dinner Sunday night, Lukas shared that he felt there was a disconnect between Anthony and Priya.  Of course I asked him to elaborate which he so graciously did.

"Anthony is open with his feelings for her.  However, I think something is preventing Priya from fully committing to him.  I could be way off but that's the impression I'm getting."

After a huge gulp of Pinot Noir, I shared "Priya had told me that she was worried about her family liking Anthony."

"He's a good man and treats her well."

I nodded, "Yea but they're a traditional Indian family and I think she wants to get their approval before opening up herself completely, if that makes sense."

"Didn't her sister marry a white guy?" he asked.

"Yea.  I think she's looking for approval.  She told me she wanted to take him to California for Thanksgiving to meet her family."

Lukas' eyes widened.  "That's a huge step.  Spending an entire weekend with her immediate and extended family."

"I spent a weekend with your parents when we just started dating."

He smiled.  "Yes that's true but you and I were true to our feelings.  I didn't want you to meet my parents to get the green light and then give 100% to our relationship.  Even if my parents didn't like you as much as they do, I still would've stayed with you because all that matters is what you and I think and feel."

"Aw.  That's like one of the sweetest things you've ever said to me" I said blotting away a tear of happiness that managed to escape.

"I mean it.  I love you...craziness and all" he said, gazing into my eyes.

I giggled.  "I love you too.  Maybe we should let Priya and Anthony figure out their own relationship?"

"Agreed" he said quickly.

"Promise me you won't tell Anthony, anything I said?  Priya told me she wanted to tell him herself" I explained.

He nodded, "I understand and I promise."

-----------

As I headed to work Monday morning, I crossed my arms across my chest.  I didn't dress warm enough for this November day.  I had become spoiled by the perfect sixty and seventy degree days New York had been blessed for the past month.  I made a mental note to take my winter coat to the cleaners because I might be needing it sooner rather than later.

I felt a pang of sorrow and I saw Rob's empty workspace immediately to my right.  I had grown accustomed to his presence and endless support; now there was void that couldn't be filled.  His pictures, stress ball and copy of Das Kapital was still there.  I glanced at the picture and saw his smiling face as he posed with his family around a Christmas tree.  They all looked so happy.  Now that happiness was gone and they were in mourning

I was so caught up with my own thoughts that I didn't even notice Nick.  He tapped me on the shoulder and I jumped.  "Sorry, I didn't mean to startle you" he said quietly.

"I was just thinking.  How was your weekend?"

He shrugged, "So-so.  After Rob's wake all I could think about is what would happen to my family if I died."

"Don't be so morbid.  You have a long, happy life ahead of you."

While typing in his password he replied, "Yea, Rob thought so too."

He had a valid point there.  "We all miss Rob and feel for his family.  None of us know when our last day will be, that's why we have to live in the moment.  No regrets."

He smiled, "You're getting really good at this."

"At what?" I asked confused.

"These heart-to-heart conversations.  What you said to Rob's boys was exactly what they needed to hear.  And what you just said to me is on point."

I blushed, "Thanks. When I got in this morning I felt so sad seeing Rob's work space.  I wish I could have thanked him for encouraging and pushing me to take on responsibilities that were out of my comfort zone."

He nodded in agreement, "I hear ya."

"Rob would want to us to carry on with our lives and not sit around moping."

With a small smile he replied, "That's true.  Did you see this email that John sent?"

I shook my head and checked my email.  "I just opened it."

In the email John outlined our interim course of action until we were able to add to our group.  We were all going to take on additional accounts.  As for the projects Rob was working on, those were up in the air at the moment.  Towards the end of the email, John mentioned that he recently hired a new secretary who will be starting on Monday.

"I hope the new secretary isn't a basket case like Alison" Nick said under his breath.

I chuckled, "She wasn't that bad."

He shook his head, "Maybe she wasn't bat shit crazy like Grant but she was a pain in the ass.  She never did anything I asked and always gave me an attitude.  I hate saying this but I'm happy she was fired."

Even though I agreed with him, I didn't say anything.  I was determined to stay out of drama and wouldn't be baited into a conversation about how shitty Alison was.  I started catching up on my emails.  By nine the trading floor was in a frenzy.  We had so many clients calling in to get quotes or execute trades.  I could hardly catch my breath or even leave my desk to go to the bathroom.  By three, I was exhausted and my throat hurt from yelling over to our traders.  I was also starving; I only had a grande chai latte all day long.  I knew I didn't have time to grab lunch and instead went to the trader's pantry and purchased a bottle of Coke and Doritos.  Super healthy...I know.

I didn't leave work until well after eight.  Thankfully SIB has a policy that if you work after seven, you can order dinner on the company.  Since all of us were still in the office, we ordered sandwiches from Lenny's.  I literally gobbled mine down and then focused solely on ensuring all the trades I executed were booked.  As I shut down my computer, I grabbed my things and walked towards the elevator bank.

I was surprised to not find Priya studying when I got home.  I called for her but there was no answer.  I assumed that she was with her study group at the library so I took a quick shower, changed into pajamas and crawled into bed.  Needless to say I literally fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.

The next morning I awoke to a text from Anthony.

We need to talk.

Friday, November 7, 2014

One Sweet Day

It was exactly one week from Halloween and I wanted to do something fun.  When I was with Jason he hated getting dressed up or even giving out candy to the trick or treaters.  He considered Halloween to be evil and wanted no part in it.  I yearned to be able to get dressed up and go out like the rest of my age group.  Since Halloween fell on a Friday it was the perfect day to join in the debauchery.

I was hurrying to get dressed to meet Lukas for dinner.  I felt bloated and had killer cramps which I hoped would go away soon.  I had popped two Midol's an hour earlier and they were taking their sweet time working their magic.  We had agreed to go to a local diner and get something greasy.  That meant I didn't have to get dressed up and could be as comfortable as I wanted.  I was a little chilly out and I opted to wear black leggings (yes..I know they aren't pants), a fitted black tank and an oversized charcoal grey open front cardigan.  I slipped on my Uggs (I know so not fashionable but I didn't have a fuck to give at this moment) and pulled my hair into a ponytail.  I applied mascara, a little bronzer and lip gloss before leaving.  

Lukas was already at the diner and seated in a secluded booth.  He looked amazing in a fitted black v-neck sweater.  Being the chivalrous man that he is, he stood when he saw me approaching.  He wrapped his arms around me and kissed the top of my head before motioning for me to slide into the booth.  "You look cute" he said quizzically.

I groaned.  "If you start with me, I swear I'll kick your ass."

He grinned mischievously.  "I mean it.  It's nice to see you dressed down every now and then."

"Good.  I'm starving" I replied satisfied by his assurance.

He looked up from his menu, "What do you feel like having?"

"Honestly?  Mozzarella sticks.  Baked potato skins without the bacon and extra cheese.  To start."

He chuckled, "To start?"

I nodded, "I'm starving.  Plus you're going to help me eat all that."

Before he could say anything our teenaged waitress appeared.  Poor girl kept blushing when she looked in Lukas' direction and got all flustered.  Feeling for her I interrupted. "I think we know what we'd like to order" I said with a friendly smile.

A wave of relief flashed over her crimson face.  "Whenever you're ready ma'am."

Holy shit, did she just call me ma'am?  I brushed that thought to the side momentarily, "I'll have a chocolate milkshake."

As she scribbled that onto her small notepad, Lukas added, "I'll have an Iced Tea.  For starters we'll have mozzarella sticks and baked potato skins without bacon - if you could add extra cheese that'd be great.  We need a few more minutes to think about our entrees."

"I'll be right back with your drinks" she said quickly.

Once she was out of earshot, Lukas chuckled while I hit him playfully with my napkin.  "Stop it Lukas.  Did that girl really call me ma'am?"

He nodded, "Yea and you should have seen the look on your face when she did.  I don't know how I managed to contain myself."

"Do I look old?  I mean, I 'm too young for someone to call me ma'am.  Isn't that what you call matronly women."

By this time he composed himself.  "You're perfect.  She was just being polite.  She didn't mean anything bad by it."

"I guess.  The poor girl was all flustered by your presence."

"I can't help that I'm irresistible to women" he teased.

I rolled my eyes, "If you say so."

"You know it's true.  You can't resist me."

"Well that's because you're hot" I deadpanned.

I swear he blushed but before I could tease him further the waitress appeared with our drinks.  "Is there anything else I can get you?"

"Yes, I'll have grilled chicken caesar wrap with fries."

Lukas cleared his throat, "I'll have the Greek burger."

"Thank you.  Sir, Ma'am, I'll be back with your appetizers in a few minutes" she said quietly.

"She's cute.  I remember being that age and a little insecure" I shared.

Lukas took a huge sip of his iced tea.  "You still have some insecurities.  I mean everyone does."

"I know, I suck at trusting you completely but I'm working on it" I responded honestly.

He shook his head, "I know and I appreciate that."

I took his hands in mine, "I was wondering if you'd be down with getting dressed up and celebrating Halloween with me?"

"Will you dress up as a naughty nurse and take care of me?" he asked with a wink.

I blushed in spite of myself.  "If you play your cards right, maybe."

"Then I'm down."

I grinned, "We'll get the nurse costume for just the two us.  We need to get matching outfits to go out in."

"Shit I haven't gotten dressed up for Halloween in years."

I giggled, "That means we have to go all out.....to make up for lost time."

We spent the remainder or dinner tossing back ideas about possible costumes before our conversation shifted to renovating our new place.  Lukas suggested that I come with him to pick out cabinets/granite/etc for our new kitchen and look at ideas for our master bath tomorrow.  I agreed but warned him that I'm not into fixing much.  After our calorie intensive dinner, I convinced Lukas to allow to take care of the check.  I pulled my sweater tight around me as we walked through the dark city streets.  Once we were in front of my building I invited Lukas in and he agreed.

Shortly after we sat in the living room sipping on hot chocolate and eating chocolate chip cookies.  I could tell that Lukas was getting tired and suggested we move to the bedroom.  I changed into boxer pajamas and slid into bed, cuddling up to Lukas' warm body.  His hands trailed down my back and sent shivers through my body.  I propped myself up on my elbows.  "I got my period today" I blurted out of nowhere.

He was clearly taken aback.  "That's cool.  We can cuddle and watch TV."

We ended up doing just that, coupled with a little making out before falling asleep.

-----------------------

Sunday afternoon Lukas and I were in Union Square, going to Ricky's; the place to the best Halloween costume.  Needless to say after a few hours and debating over multiple costumes we both selected our outfits and also picked up a sexy nurse costume.  I'll tell you more about our outfits as Halloween nears.

After shopping we grabbed a bite to eat at Chipotle.  As I munched on guacamole and chips, Lukas' phone rang.  He looked at me apologetically, "I'm sorry, I gotta take this.  It's my lawyer."

I nodded and listened as they discussed the business in Miami. I was a little confused when Lukas told him he'd see him soon.  Did that mean that Lukas was going to Miami again?  I didn't want to come off as an insecure bitch so I decided to let Lukas tell me about whatever was going on at his own pace.  A good ten minutes later he ended the phone call.  I looked at him expectantly.

"That was Jack.  He has some documents that he needs both me and my dad to sign.  He can't fax them because he needs the original copies."

I took a deep breath.  "Does that mean that you're going to Miami?"

He nodded, "Yes but only for a day."

"Do you know when?"

He shrugged, "More than likely Tuesday or Wednesday.  I'll have to work that out with my dad.  I was thinking that we leave Tuesday night, take care of whatever business we have to Wednesday morning and come back home."

I played anxiously with the straw in my drink.  "Okay."

He studied my face for a moment, "You're cool with this, right?"

I forced a smile.  "Yeah."

"Come on Elisabeth, what's wrong?" he prodded.

I shook my head, "It's just my crazy insecurities fucking with my head."

"You don't have anything to worry about.  Shit, if you want to come along, you're more than welcome."

"That's not necessary.  I trust you, Lukas" I replied, looking into his captivating green eyes.

"I appreciate that. Maybe you can plan another surprise for when I return?"

I shook my head, "I fucking suck at that.  I'm still amazed that you enjoyed my lame ass picnic idea."

He laughed, "I loved it because it came from your heart.  Plus I was starving."

I leaned in and kissed him softly.

--------------

Monday morning, I woke up in a great mood; totally ready to face the work week ahead.  However, when I got to the office, it was obvious that I had no idea what the day held in store.  There was a fire storm brewing and it was only a matter of time before it exploded.  All water cooler gossip had halted and we were all in a state of shock since John had scheduled an emergency meeting for 9:00 AM.

It was so quiet in the office that you could literally hear a pin drop.  Everyone stared at the multiple monitors on their desk nervously.  I think it was clear that we all figured this meeting was about Rob.  He was suppose to return to work today and his glaring absence led us to believe he had in fact resigned.  At 8:55, my colleagues started walking towards the massive conference near the elevator bank.  Nick and I followed silently.  We were all seated around the table and anxiously awaiting John's arrival.

All eyes followed John's every movement.  He looked tired but there was also a sense of sadness that encompassed his countenance.  He stood at the head of the table and looked around, ensuring that we were all present before continuing.

"I know you're all wondering why I called this meeting.  In all my years I've never had to have a meeting like this.  As you can tell Rob isn't with us."  His voice cracked when he said that last sentence.

"Today is a very sad day for SIB and our group.  I spoke with Rob's wife late last night and she informed me that Rob died of a massive heart attack" he said grimly.

I was immediately saddened to hear that Rob died.  Christine sobbed, while others stared ahead in shock.  "As soon as I get more information about the wake and funeral, I will pass it on to you.  If needed, SIB does have grief counselors available.  Please know that my door is always open if you need to discuss anything."

We were all silent for a while before Nick said, "John is there anything we can do for his family?  I mean do they need anything?"

"That's an excellent question.  As a group we can send flowers to the funeral home once we get the info or make a donation in Rob's name to the American Heart Association.  I'm going to need someone to run with that though."

Nick immediately volunteered, "I'll do it.  It's the least I can do.  Rob was an amazing man, friend and mentor.  He will be sorely missed."

Before dismissing us John said, "I know there have been rumors about Rob resigning today because he was involved in Grant's Ponzi scheme.  That wasn't the case.  Rob was one of the most honest men I've come across and I'm appalled by the rumors.  Know that if Rob didn't pass on, he'd be at work today doing what he loves."

For the remainder of the day we were like dazed zombies.  Going through the motions while processing that Rob was no longer here.  The day dragged and at 5:30 John took pity on us and told us to head home.  On my way to the train station, I called Lukas to talk.  He said the he was still at the office and asked if I wanted to stop by.  I agreed.

I felt safe and comfortable as I wrapped my arms around Lukas.  My tears flowed steadily down my cheeks as I sobbed.  It was the first time all day that I was able to release all of the emotions that had built up inside me.  Lukas rubbed my back gently and asked what was wrong.

Between my sobs I managed to get out that Rob died of a heart attack.  Lukas tried to comfort me but allowed me to let out all of the sorrow. When I pulled away from him, he walked over to his desk and grabbed a handful of Kleenex.  He blotted at my tear stained face.  "I'm sorry that Rob died."

I blew my nose loudly.  "Me too.  I never got to say goodbye."

"It's tough.  Rob is in a better place now" he said soothingly.

"I feel so bad for his wife and kids.  I wish I could do something to make it better."

He nodded, "Yea.  Maybe you can do something to support heart disease.  You know ever since my surgery, I've donated money and attended their fundraisers.  It's my way of giving back.  I know it's not much but it's something."

"My boss John suggested donating to the American Heart Association.  Maybe I will."

He smiled, "Do you want something to eat or drink?"

I shook my head, "No, I'm fine."

Lukas insisted on ordering food.  I sat on the couch in his office, thinking long and hard about life while he confirmed the details for his flight.  Both Lukas and his dad were going to Miami tomorrow afternoon and returning Wednesday evening.  After everything was arranged, sat next to me.  "I'm sorry I can't be here to help you through all this."

With a small smile I replied, "I want you to go to Miami and get everything straightened out.  I'll be fine.  Don't worry so much about me."

After we ate the roasted chicken with this yummy not too spicy green sauce, yellow rice and sweet plantains Lukas had ordered, we left the office.  Lukas made sure I got to my apartment safely and even asked if I wanted him to stay over.  I did but also knew that he had a lot on his plate.  He was flying out tomorrow and needed to set himself ready.  I didn't want to be selfish.  He gave me a tight hug and lingering kiss goodbye.

-------------

The next day was a solemn day at work.  The initial shock had worn off and we shared happy stories about Rob during our downtime.  Close to mid-day, an email was sent from Corporate Communications announcing Rob's death as well as the family's request that donations be made to the American Heart Association in lieu of flowers.  I immediately logged into the site and made a donation in his name; it was the least I could do.  Before leaving work John sent an email with information about Rob's wake and funeral.  Nick and I agreed to go to the wake tomorrow after work.

That night Lukas called and I told him my plan.  He told me to be strong and that if I needed him he'd be home by 8:30 tomorrow night.  I thanked him and asked about Miami.  The weather was shitty and he and his dad ordered room service for dinner.  He shared that he was becoming stressed listening to his dad drone on and on about Lauren.  I listened as he complained (a rarity for Lukas) before telling him his dad is worried and that he should be a little more understanding.

After a long pause, he agreed with me.  "I know I should appreciate him a little more.  I'm stressed and not thinking straight."

I heard his dad call for him and he yelled back that he was on the phone.  "Maybe I should let you go.  Go spend some quality time with your dad."

"I love you Elisabeth."

"Love you too."

-----------

The next morning I slipped on a black sheath dress with a black fitted blazer and black kitten heeled pumps.  I wanted to look appropriate for Rob's wake.  I put on minimal makeup and pulled my hair back, away from my face.  When I got to work, I found out the John had arranged to have black cars transport us to the wake in Staten Island.  I breathed a sigh of relief.  Even though I grew up on in Long Island, I wasn't familiar with Staten Island or taking the ferry.

Around four, Nick, John, Christine and I left the office to attend the wake.  During the ride we attempted to make small talk but it was apparent that our thoughts were on Rob.  I was very apprehensive entering the funeral home.  Being there gave me chills.  I slowly trailed behind my colleagues.  I observed as John hugged and kissed a middle aged woman with shoulder length brown hair.  He introduced her to us as Carla, Rob's wife.  We all offered our condolences and she thanked us for coming.

We each took a moment to say our own individual goodbyes to Rob.  Before we left I noticed two teenaged boys sitting in the front row.  I elbowed Nick and he looked at me.  In a hushed tone I asked, "Are those Rob's boys?"

He glanced in their direction and nodded, "Yes."

"Shouldn't we say something to them?" I asked.

He shrugged, "I don't know what to say.  They just lost their dad."

I walked over to them, "Hi, I'm Elisabeth.  I use to work with your dad" I said gently.

The older boy looked up, "I'm Brian and this is my brother Brad."

"It's nice to meet you both.  When Rob talked about you two his face lit up.  He loved both of you more than anything and was always so proud of your accomplishments."

Brian's eyes filled with tears.  "He was the best dad.  We're going to miss him so much."

"Honey, your dad is looking down at us from heaven.  A part of him will always be with both of you" I said brushing away a tear.

Brad nodded in agreement.  "He's our guardian angel now."

I gave both of them a hug before walking away.  Nick nudged me, "What you just said was exactly what those boys needed to hear.  Rob would be very proud of you."