Cooper ripped the comforter from my warm body, exposing me to the cold morning air. "You better jump in the shower before you're late for work."
Walking through my room, he did what he did every morning to wake me up—pull my curtains open to let in real light.
Groaning, I sat up and planted my bare feet on the floor, rubbing the sleep from my eyes.
"I don't wanna to be an adult today," I said in a low murmur, as I hung my head between my shoulders and sighed.
"Have you made coffee yet?" I asked, yawning.
"You're so damn needy."
"So, no to the coffee?"
He winked as he strolled by, flashing his million dollar smile at me. Whipping my hair from my face, I found myself ignoring him completely as I gazed over to the corner floor of the room which doubled more as my clothes hamper than anything else.
I hope there's something more than yoga pants in that pile.
Grumbling, I rifled through the clothes, searching for something even remotely presentable to wear to my shitty job.
Cooper slapped my ass as he brushed by me. "I dunno why you think you're allowed to do that?"
He shrugged his shoulders. "You don't stop me."
I shook my head. You'd think we were a couple, who'd been married for years, but he was actually my best friend, whom I'd met through a roommate want ad in college.
We shared a shabby little, two-bedroom, rent-controlled apartment in the heart of Brooklyn. It wasn't much, but we called it home. The ad I'd answered still hung in our living room, after I had it framed to commemorate our first year of roommate bliss together—or so I liked to call it.
I was a little cheesy back then, and romanticized everything. Oh, the innocence of youth. What a waste!
Although, I hadn't made much of myself since college, Cooper had become a successful reconstructive surgeon. He could have easily moved out years before, but he never did, and I never had the courage to ask why. Secretly, I was afraid he wouldn’t have an answer, and it might just make him realize he didn't need to live in the shit apartment with me anymore.
Although I kept telling myself he was only ever going to be a friend, there were fleeting moments, usually after he showered, when the electricity produced between the two of us as he brushed by sent chills up my spine. I had to bite my damn lip just to keep from ripping his clothes off.
He slapped his palm against my doorframe. "You're gonna be late."
"If you say that one more time, I swear—"
"What are you gonna do to me, little girl?"
"Don't you just wish you could find out?" I asked, rifling through the clothes, finally finding the chiffon blouse and black pencil skirt I was looking for.
Turning to head to the bathroom, I caught a glimpse of him pulling off his blood-stained shirt from work, revealing his chiseled chest and ripped abs. Hugging his hard waist was the black elastic band of his briefs, peeking over his scrub pants, enticing me to give them a snap—so I obliged.
I reached out, but he swatted my hand away. "Don't play."
"Who said I was playing?" I asked coyly. "If you don't like it, then stop walking around the apartment like that."
"Why? I pay rent here just like you."
"Well, then I believe we've reached what's called an impasse, sir."
"Yes, I believe we have." He chuckled from the area between the living room and my bedroom, where a small closet housed a stacked washer and dryer.
He tossed his shirt into the empty laundry basket on the floor then headed into the living room.
I shook my head, walking into the bathroom, unable to stare at his shirtless body for any length of time. It was like looking directly into the sun—eventually I was going to go blind. It was just a matter of when it was going to happen.
His tight body, coupled with his green eyes and dark brown hair was enough to make any woman wet. Add his five o'clock shadow to the mix, and there was no woman within a fifty mile radius who would stand a chance. If I wasn't so concerned with losing him as a friend, I would've slept with him years ago. But, I loved him too much to ever want to say goodbye. So friends we stayed, no matter how excruciating it was to live with a man I was utterly and unequivocally attracted to.
My dreams of course were another matter. That's where I got to live out my fantasies, ripping off his clothes and having my way with every inch of his olive-toned skin.
However, in the last few months, our flirting had become more overt in nature. It was a change I was a little intimidated by, but at the same time, it was something I wasn't actively trying to oppose.
He yelled from the living room, yanking me from my thoughts. "Are you in the shower yet? You're gonna be late!"
"Alright, Dad!" I sassed.
"I just know how much you love your job, and I'd hate for you to lose it."
I didn't bother to reply to his sarcastic comment.
"Fuck, I sent in all those resumes, I just haven't heard back. It's all a waiting game now."
I hopped in the shower, letting the warm water soothe my anxious body.
After what only seemed like a few minutes of enjoyment, he yelled, "I'm leaving."
I stepped out of the shower, dried off, and quickly got dressed. I took one last look in the mirror before heading off to work, wishing I were going to a more exciting job.
That woman is gonna be the death of me.
I shook my head as I made my way out of the door to head back to work for my next surgery. One day, I was going to stop coming home to wake her up—maybe then she would notice.
I made it all the way to my office building but caught my heel in a crack on the sidewalk right before I got through the front doors. Thankfully, it didn't break off completely, but it was just loose enough to make walking uncomfortable.
The hours crept by as I filled out endless forms by hand because the computer system had shut down the night before when Mr. Rells, my boss, spilled his coffee on the power strip lying under his desk.
Honestly, it didn’t surprise me. The whole episode summed up my life in a nutshell. What was the saying? Anything that can go wrong—will! That was definitely me.
"Ella," Mr. Rells called from his office door.
"Yes, sir?" I asked, looking up from my papers.
"Come here, please."
I stood from my chair as the butterflies began to flutter like crazy in my stomach. This was it—the moment of truth—he was going to give me the news that was going to change my life. The look on his face wasn’t telling at all, but I was confident I'd done my best and I was finally going to reap the rewards for all my hard work and get the promotion I'd been vying for.
"Yes, Mr. Rells?" I asked as I walked into his office.
"Please, have a seat."
Nervously, I sat in the black leather chair directly across from him, anxiously clearing my throat.
"I assume you know why you're here?" he asked, staring down at a few forms I couldn’t make out.
"The promotion—I assume, sir."
"Yes. Unfortunately, we've decided to go in a different direction this time around."
"This time around?" I asked, confused.
"Yes, but keep up the hard work and I'll be sure to keep you in mind for the next one."
"The next one?" I just couldn’t wrap my mind around what he was trying to tell me. "Who did you give the promotion to?"
"It will be announced at the next staff meeting, but as for now, I just wanted to let you know so that you wouldn't have the face that you're wearing now in front of all your peers."
I eked out an awkward smile. "Thanks, I guess."
"I know you're disappointed, but I wanted to prepare you for the news."
"Do you have any other questions?"
Why not me, asshole? That's a fucking question.
"No—no questions," I replied, keeping my dignity intact.
I left his office with my eyes glued to the floor as I made my way back to my desk in utter shock. I don’t think I even breathed one time the whole way. Mildly embarrassed couldn't even begin to convey the way I felt, sitting in front of a stack of papers which still needed to be filled out.
Endless what ifs floated through my head as I picked up a pen and began to fill in the paperwork. What if I had worked harder—longer? What if I had kissed Mr. Rells' ass more? Or had I kissed his ass too much?"
Finishing my day with a distinct ache in my fingers, and three paper cuts, I began to wonder what my life had come to. Was I ever going to succeed? Was I always going to live in Cooper's shadow—weighing him down? It was not where I saw myself at this point in my life, and I was highly disappointed.
My accomplishments had been few and far between, and my prospects for the future were looking pretty bleak. I wished I were a go-getter like Cooper—so confident and sure of himself. I shook my head, pushing the thought to the back of my mind. I had to stop comparing myself to him. I wasn't him. I was me—the token nerdy fat girl in high school, lugging around an extra seventy-five pounds, a set of clunky metal braces, frizzy hair, and a face full of acne reminiscent of measles.
I even got stuck with a head full of kinky hair in desperate need of a good stylist. However, over time I'd become quite the opposite—now slender with smooth skin, perfection was what I tried to present to the world. I reiterate—tried. Hiding the insecure geek from high school was like second nature to me. It came as naturally as breathing.
Back then, I was teased incessantly—taunted with cruel words that only hormone induced teenagers could conceive in their hateful little brains.
My only saving grace had been the yearbook class I was accidentally signed up for my senior year. It was that class which inspired me to earn my bachelor's degree in journalism.
Unfortunately, I'd never published anything, and as my accomplishments were few and far between, the loss of the promotion just added to the sting of failure that was my life.
Prospects for my future were looking pretty bleak, but the thought of having to go out on countless interviews to land the job of my dreams seemed as daunting as getting through the day without actually hurting myself.
I think the biggest fear I harbored wasn't necessarily failure, but just not being the best at something—at anything. What if I got the job of a lifetime and ended up just being a second rate journalist?