“Thanks, but Jazz… there’s no way they would pick someone with so little experience. Besides —”
“You can’t assume that. You don’t know what they’re looking for. They may not even know what they’re looking for. I’m going to put together a video of various things you did on camera, and you’re going to send me your résumé and a decent head shot, and I’ll make sure Trevor Stearns’s producers take a look at everything. If they’re interested, they’ll fly you up here to talk in person, so if nothing else, you’ll get a free trip out of it and you can see me.”
I smiled. “Okay. For that reason alone, I’ll give it a try.”
“Wonderful. Now, tell me quickly – everyone doing okay there? Your sister?”
“Yes, she’s —”
“My ride’s here. Let me call you later.”
“Okay, Jazz. Take care of —”
The call ended. I looked down at my phone, still bemused by the rapid-fire conversation. “And Joe said I talked fast,” I said aloud.
For the next week and a half, I received two more calls and several texts from Joe, the relaxed tone of his messages turning into perplexed impatience. Clearly he understood I was avoiding him, but he didn’t give up. He even tried the event-planning studio’s number and left a message that, although innocuous, provoked considerable interest from my employees. Sofia quieted them in a deliberately light, amused tone, telling them that whether or not I was going out with Joe Travis, it was no one’s business but mine. After work, however, she cornered me in the kitchen and said, “You’re not yourself, mija. You’ve been acting strange ever since the Kendrick wedding. Is everything okay?”
“Of course,” I said quickly, “everything’s fine.”
“Then why have you been having an OCD meltdown?”
“I’ve been doing a little cleaning and reorganizing,” I said defensively. “What’s wrong with that?”
“You put all the takeout menus in color-coded folders, and stacked all the magazines in order of their dates. Even for you, that’s too much.”
“I just want everything to be under control.” Uneasily, I opened a nearby drawer and began to rearrange the utensils. Sofia was silent, waiting patiently while I made certain that all the spatulas were in one compartment and slotted spoons were in another. “Actually,” I said in a rush, fumbling with a set of measuring spoons, “I slept with Joe Travis the night of the wedding, and now he wants to go out with me, but I don’t want to see him again and I can’t make myself tell him, so I’ve been avoiding his calls and hoping he’ll just go away.”
“Why do you want him to go away?” she asked in concern. “Did you have a bad time with him?”
“No,” I said, relieved at being able to talk about it. “Oh my God, it was so amazing that I think I lost brain cells, but I shouldn’t have done it in the first place, and I really wish I hadn’t, because now I feel weird, like I have emotional jet lag or something. I can’t catch up to myself. And I’m embarrassed every time I think about how I jumped into bed with him like that.”
“He’s not embarrassed,” Sofia pointed out. “Why should you be?”
I gave her a dark glance. “He’s a man. Just because I don’t agree with the double standard doesn’t mean it’s not there.”
“In this situation,” Sofia said gently, “I think the only person carrying around a double standard is you.” Closing the utensil drawer, she turned me to face her. “Call him tonight,” she said, “and tell him yes or no. Stop torturing yourself. And him.”
I swallowed hard and nodded. “I’ll text him.”
“Talking is better.”
“No, it has to be texting so there won’t be any paraverbals.”
“What are paraverbals?”
“All the things you communicate besides the words,” I said. “Like the tone of your voice, or the pauses, or how fast or slow you talk.”
“You mean the things that help to convey the truth.”
“You could just be honest with him,” she suggested.
“I’d rather text.”
Before I went to sleep, I opened the messages on my phone and forced myself to read Joe’s most recent text.
Why aren’t you answering?
Gripping the phone tightly, I told myself that I was being ridiculous. I had to deal with the situation.
I’ve been busy, I texted back.
His reply appeared with startling immediacy. Let’s talk.
I’d rather not. After a long silence, in which he was no doubt trying to figure out how to reply, I added, No possibility of this going anywhere.
It was perfect for one night. No regrets. But I’m not interested in anything more.
After a few minutes had passed, it was clear that there would be no answer.
I spent the rest of the night struggling to fall asleep, battling my own thoughts.
Pillow’s too flat. Covers are too hot. Maybe I need some herb tea… a glass of wine… melatonin… more reading… I should try deep breathing… I need to find a nature-sounds app… a late-night show… no, stop thinking, stop. Is three o’clock too early to get up?… maybe I should wait till four…
I finally started to doze just as the alarm sounded. Groaning, I crawled out of bed. After a long shower, I pulled on some leggings and a roomy knit tunic and went down to the kitchen.
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