Willow meets up with her co-worker, Simon, and feels like a fool because of it.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Willow Carter was a graphic designer (informally crowned as the marketing person) at a well-known charitable organization called Paws and Protect. The purpose of the charity was to rescue any and all dogs from kill shelters, retrain them as watchdogs, and adopt them out to domestic abuse and rape victims and families. Her workspace was a regular-sized cubicle and her pay wasn’t exactly gasp-worthy, but it was enough to keep her up-to-date on her car payments, house payments, and other bills. It was enough for her to spend spare money on things she enjoyed doing.
Everything was just enough.
She was kind of the go-to person for just about anything and everything marketing. In addition to that, she had free creativity. She wasn’t confined to the demands of an overwhelming client. She was able to enjoy the freedom that came with the job considering the rest of her life was chained to limitations and expectations.
After coding a commercial she had edited into the charity’s website, she got up from her computer chair and stretched, looking around the office space that surrounded her. The headquarters was a well-oiled machine with everyone doing what they were supposed to be doing.
On Saturday, she had twisted her ankle. Now, it was Monday and her ankle still hurt, which caused her to limp a little. She walked through the small cluster of cubicles to get to the water cooler for a refreshing cup of water, taking her sweet time.
“Hey,” a male voice said as she passed by a particular cubicle. Willow stopped her journey and turned around. Her co-worker, Simon, poked his head out of his cubicle with a warm smile. “How’s your ankle, Will?”
Willow smiled back at him and shrugged her shoulders a little. “It’s getting better. I’ll give it a few more days. It just sucks that my little accident happened so close to Thanksgiving.”
“I never knew you were a jogger.”
“I wouldn’t exactly call it jogging. I consider mine more of a painfully mangled version of walking and running than jogging.”
He chuckled and his smile grew bigger. “I bet you jog just fine.”
Simon was such a nice guy. So nice in fact that she had a bit of a crush on him. He liked her sense of humor or at least, he pretended to. However, she knew that she wasn’t his type. She had seen the pictures of his previous girlfriends as his screensavers and backgrounds on his cellphones over the years. She even had the ‘pleasure’ of meeting a handful of them at some of the charity organization’s annual events as well as some other social events outside of work due to the fact that both of their families ran in the same social circle.
They all looked like Farrah—tall, slender, and elegant-looking—except with honey-hued skin.
Willow’s skin was a few shades darker than that. She was far from tall and slender. She was far from elegant too.
“You know I jog at the same park except in the evenings. Maybe I should switch up my schedule and join you in the morning. A woman such as yourself shouldn’t jog by yourself that early in the morning. You never know what lunatics are lurking around.”
Aside from her family and friends, no one knew about her being attacked at the park. She didn’t need any more people lecturing or pitying her for being so stupid.
“I couldn’t ask you to do that,” she smiled weakly as memories of that fated morning swirled around in her head, unraveling her slowly at the seams.
“I want to,” he said, “when your ankle feels better, of course.”
Since she had twisted her ankle, she decided it was best not to jog. She gave herself a limit of two more days before she would go back to her old routine.
She smiled at his kindness. “When my ankle feels better, we’ll work out the details. Does that satisfy you,” she teased.
“Absolutely,” Simon said, giving her a playful wink. If her skin was light enough, he could probably see her blushing.
Good thing it wasn’t.
It was the day before Thanksgiving. While Willow was still curled in bed trying to soak up some more minutes of sleep, she had gotten a text message. Her cellphone chirped and vibrated on her nightstand. She groaned in protest and snuggled her head further into the softness of her pillow. After several blissful days of actually sleeping until the sun came up, Willow was starting to have second thoughts about going back to her early morning jogs.
However, a few moments later, her cellphone chirped and buzzed on her nightstand attempting to notify her that she hadn’t looked at the received text message.
Aimlessly, she reached for the device and pried her eyes open.
Rise and shine, sleepyhead.
It was from Simon.
Knowing it was from Simon was enough to get her ass out of bed.
She shimmied out of her cozy pajamas and dressed herself into her standard jogging uniform. She even put on some makeup and lip gloss. For good measure, she sprayed on a little lavender perfume too.
The drive to the park made her rather anxious. Her heart throbbed against her ribcage a little too quickly and she was squirmy in the driver’s seat. Her foot had a bit of lead in it as she drove a little too fast over the speed limit down the empty streets of the city.
When she arrived to the parking lot of the park, she noticed Simon’s car and decided to park two empty spaces away from it. While she was still in the car, she slid her car key in its safe place in her sports bra and opened the door. She hopped out and closed the door behind her.
Simon got out of his black Mercedes. Aside from working at the charity organization, another thing they had in common was the fact that they both came from affluent African American families. His father was a tax attorney and his mother was a top-notch accountant with her own firm.
Willow’s father, Doctor Edison William Carter, was a neurosurgeon who was currently nearing the end of his sabbatical and her mother, Sabrina Evelyn Carter, was a socialite in several upper-crust circles.
Their mothers were very good friends.
“Good morning,” he said with a bright smile as he approached her.
“Good morning,” she returned with a smile of her own.
“Thanks for letting me join you,” he said sincerely as they began to walk towards the beginning of the pathway that led into the park.
Willow turned her head to him and smiled, “No need to thank me. It’s nice having someone to jog with.”
“Maybe we could just walk this morning. It’s easier to talk that way,” Simon suggested.
“Okay,” she nodded, a wave of relief washed over her. Her left ankle still ached, but the prospect of being with her office crush was enough to make her consider pushing aside her pain. “We could do that. What do you want to talk about?”
Simon sighed heavily. “Well, I need some womanly advice.”
“Well, green isn’t your color,” she teased, pinching the fabric of his jacket.
He tossed his head back and laughed, “No, not that type of womanly advice. I need some guidance on how to deal with a woman.”
Willow’s right eyebrow shot upward. “Oh, I see,” she paused. “Well, tell me about this woman.”
“She’s amazing. She’s sweet and kind. She makes me laugh,” Simon began. “When I’m around her, I can’t think and sometimes, I forget to breath.”
I know the feeling, Willow thought. She nodded her head to his words, her heart racing with each gush of praise he had about this special woman. Maybe she was his type after all.
Willow then questioned casually as they strolled down the winding path, “Do you work with her?”
Simon halted in his steps. “How did you know that?”
Willow refrained from doing a happy dance and pretended to remain neutral, shrugging her shoulders. “It’s just a guess.”
“Damn,” Simon frowned. “Is it that obvious?”
“Maybe a little,” she admitted, licking her lips in anticipation.
He cursed under his breath and they resumed walking. “Do you think she knows?”
She nodded her head slowly. “There’s a possibility.”
“Maybe it is better this way,” Simon replied. “It will be easier to ask Cara out if she already knows.”
Now it was Willow’s turn to stop walking. “Cara?”
Cara was the slender light-skinned receptionist that got hired a few weeks back as a replacement to the old receptionist, Debbie, who decided to retire and move closer to her grown children. The arrival of the new receptionist stirred up some lawsuit-worthy reactions from some of the bachelors and married men at the office. Cara was his type. Willow wasn’t. This was about Cara.
“Oh, Cara,” she gave a fake laugh. “I thought you were talking about Brooke.”
Simon looked at her in disbelief. “Brooke and I can’t stand each other.”
Willow knew that. Everyone at the office knew that, but she needed to come up with something to prevent him from finding out about her crush on him. To prevent herself from acting even more like a silly little fool.
She shrugged her shoulders. “You know what they say. There is a fine line between love and hate. I just assumed.”
He believed her act. They continued to walk and talk about Cara even though Willow no longer had the energy to walk or talk. Now she just wanted to go back home and crawl into her bed to build up the strength she needed to drive to her grandparents’ house in Massachusetts, so that they all could go to their family vacation home in Oak Bluffs, Martha’s Vineyard for the Thanksgiving weekend.
She had made a complete fool of herself. With the small amount of makeup on her face, it wouldn’t be too far of a reach to consider herself a bit of a clown too.
A familiar hoodied figure jogged past them with ease and down the concrete trail.
Willow gasped, “Oh god.”
Simon touched her back with a concerned look on his face. “Are you okay?”
Weakly, she nodded her head. “Yes, I just forgot something that’s all.”
She had completely forgotten about Sebastian and their agreement. Now to add to the list of being a complete fool and clown, she was also a complete ass.
Once their miserable early morning walk was finished, they returned to the parking lot. “Thanks for everything, Will,” Simon said with his signature pearly white smile before he climbed into his Mercedes and drove off.
After he got what he wanted, he didn’t stay to make sure that she was safe.
Cautiously, she walked over to her parked SUV and retrieved her car key. From the corner of her eye, she saw someone moving behind her. She reached into her jacket pocket to retrieve the switchblade there but found it to be empty.
“Shit,” she cursed. She had been in so much of a hurry to get to the park that she had completely forgot her protection at home.
She swirled around in panic and widened her eyes as she realized who stood before her.
“Sebastian,” she said softly.
Though she couldn’t see his face, she knew it was him.
“I’m sorry. I completely forgot about—“
He closed in on her quickly, pressing her hard against the side of the SUV. His cold fingers gripped her chin and tilted her head up while he leaned down, smashing his lips against hers.
She didn’t fight it because she was too shocked to. Her lips parted with ease as his slid his thick tongue in between them. Their tongues danced in a feverish way that made her feel utterly hot even as they both stood in the cold November air. She squeezed her eyes shut, melting into him while gripping fistfuls of his jacket to root herself to this bizarre reality.
Sebastian was kissing her. Cold quiet Sebastian who she could barely get a handful of words out of was kissing her by his own will.
When he broke the kiss, they both panted heavily to regain air into their lungs. Willow’s eyes fluttered shut and she licked her humming swollen lips. She released his jacket from her grip.
He pulled away from her completely and took a few steps back. “Go home,” he then ordered.
She lingered against the car for a moment—still catching her breath—before she retrieved her car and unlocked the car door. She climbed into her SUV and turned on the ignition. She looked out of her window for him. He was still in the same spot, watching her.
She backed out of the parking space and drove off, glancing in her rearview mirror to catch a glimpse of him once more.