“The wedding will be great, you know. How could it not be when you’re the bride?” Matthews face softened, a small sad smile making an appearance. “I bet you’ll look beautiful, as you always do.” Tears threatened to spill over onto my cheeks, but I held them in. He was merciless now, playing with my emotions as only a desperate man could. “All dressed in white lace, satin sashes and a flowing train.” His face tensed, as though he were imagining the man would be standing at the altar in his place.
His voice lost its dreamy quality and quieted. “Does he even know?”
He whispered his next question. “Does he know I exist?”
Just then his cellphone rang. The cheery tune of The Beatles’ “Day Tripper” sounded from his pocket. He heaved a sigh and looked away, but did nothing to cancel the music. This brought the attention of onlookers who merely frowned and glowered in our direction before moving on. I smiled apologetically to them and shifted in my seat once more. When the music stopped and his phone signalled a new voicemail message, he looked at me again. This time he was begging me to say something. Anything.
The look he gave me now reminded me of the same look I received a while back. It was shortly after watching another woman receive my promotion at the office get-together. “And now we would like to present Mr. Matthew Cartier with his promotion to office manager,” the emcee had said. Mr. Cartier promptly made his way to the podium and thanked his supporters and the boss for selecting him for the new position. At the after party, Matthew had approached me. I had tried my best to avoid him this particular evening, but as usual he had been able to catch up to me. He had taken one look and my face and embraced me. After a minute or two of involuntary weeping from my end, he had whispered, “Say something. Anything.” I had pushed him away and driven to my apartment where my boyfriend had been waiting for me. That night he had proposed to me. We had managed to keep it a secret for almost a year.
Matthew leaned forward to examine his empty mug, as though considering whether another refill of coffee would be enough to appease him, or whether he would need something stronger. I opened my mouth, not sure of what to say but feeling obligated to finally say something. It felt as though a frog was lodged in my throat. He cut me off before I could form a single coherent thought in my mind.
“I’m not going to fire you, if that’s what you’re wondering.” That did me in. I turned away and silently excused myself to the restroom. Although I couldn’t see him, I could feel his eyes on my back, following me from my seat across from him to the restroom.