Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Late for Work - Episode 7: It's Dr. Mike

Late For Work

Late for Work is an interactive Choose Your Own Path story. Each episode, readers vote for the path they would like to take. Together, we will follow the path with the most votes.

You never heard anyone enter the room. You glance up with a smile. Who do you see?

  • Dr. Mike
  • Your ex

You smile at Dr. Mike as he settles across from you. “I don’t know about you, but I was hungry.”

Dr. Mike nods. “I just couldn’t decide what to get. Everything sounded so good.”

You nod. “This is one of my favorite restaurants.”

“Good to know.” Dr. Mike holds up the bottle of wine. “Shall I?”

When you nod, he pours the chardonnay into two glasses. After passing you one, he raises the other.

“To new friends.”

You repeat the toast, a ping of disappointment settling in your stomach. Just friends? Meaning there is no chance of more?

With a sigh, you sip the wine. Of course there is no chance of anything more. If everything went according to plan, Dr. Mike will be your client by this time tomorrow. More than friends would be … unethical.

Dr. Mike puts down his glass and glances around. “No chopsticks?”

You shake your head. “You do realize they don’t really use chopsticks in Thailand, right?”

Dr. Mike frowns. “They don’t? Then why do the restaurants always have them on the plates?”

“For the Americans who expect it. But you’re supposed to eat Thai food with a fork.”

You reach for yours to demonstrate. Except, you don’t have one. Frowning, you glance across the table.

Dr. Mike is smirking. “Forget something?”

Although you’re annoyed, you try to act nonchalant. “I’m not the one who went upstairs. I think you’re the one who forgot something.”

Shaking his head with a smile, Dr. Mike gets to his feet. “Be right back.”

As you watch him leave, you let out a breath you didn’t realize you were holding. Why are you so nervous? You’re acting like you’re back in high school. This isn’t even a date. Just dinner with a potential new client. Maybe when Dr. Mike returns, you should discuss work.

You’re still contemplating safe topics of conversation when he returns. After passing you a fork and spoon, he sits, gesturing to the food. “Eat. Please. It’s probably already cold.”

You take a bite of your noodles. Nope, still warm. Not fresh off the stove hot, but definitely still warm enough to eat. Across from you, Dr. Mike is sipping his soup. He looks at you between spoonfuls.

“So, how long have you been working at Mackenzie & Associates?”

You do the math in your head, sighing at the sum. “Eight years? I got an internship there my senior year of college. They hired me after graduation.”

“Do you enjoy it?”

With a shrug, you take a large bite of noodles to avoid answering.

Dr. Mike laughs. “That fun, huh? But I get it. Probably not a great idea to admit you hate your job to a new client.”

“Potential new client.” You point at him with your fork. “Your father hasn’t signed a contract yet.”

“He will.”

You nod. “And I don’t hate my job.” How can you explain it? Sipping your wine, you consider what you do each day. “It’s just—okay. This is going to sound stupid, and I really shouldn’t be telling you. But I hate dealing with the clients.”

“You’re right. You probably shouldn’t be telling me that.”

Since Dr. Mike is smiling, he’s probably not offended. But you still feel you need to justify yourself. “I enjoy working with numbers. I was the math nerd in school that loved algebra. When I’m balancing accounts, I can see everything so clearly. But as soon as I try to explain to a client that they’re overspending or something? Sometimes I wish I could just crunch numbers and let someone else handle the clients.”

Dr. Mike smirks. “But then, we would have never met.”

You frown. “I literally bumped into you three times today. I think we would have met.”

“Two and a half. You managed *not* to get your coffee on me at the coffee shop.”

Talking with Dr. Mike is easy. By the time your meals are gone, you feel as if you’ve known him for years. As you clear the table, he gestures to the couches. “Would you like to stay awhile?”

Of course you want to keep talking. There is still so much you want to know about Dr. Mike. And not as a potential new client. You follow him to a sofa, looking around the room with a frown.

“I’m probably jinxing it by saying this aloud, but this is a fantastic lounge. Why are we the only ones here?”

Dr. Mike sends you a mischievous smile as he settles on the opposite side of your couch. “I may have bribed the doorman to keep everyone out so I could be alone with you.”

You can feel your face growing warm. It has nothing to do with the wine. But as you try to picture the doorman, you remember something. “Wait a minute! Your building doesn’t have a doorman!” Frowning, you hit Dr. Mike playfully on the shoulder.

He laughs. “You caught me. The truth is, I’ve never seen anyone here, especially during the week. Probably because there’s no Wi-Fi.”

His expression turns serious. “There’s also no television. I was going to suggest we watch a movie. I don’t suppose you’d want to come upstairs to my place?”

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