Adam found himself smiling on his way to work Monday morning. After his discussion with his parents the day before he had gone home and relaxed. He had even done some more writing. All he could think was that he needed to have something done when Kat got there. "The Dragon's Lunch" was the perfect choice. It was the obvious choice.
Sure, it might seem like he should go back to the story that had almost been published what with Kat picking up that gear necklace, but that didn't feel right. By then things had already gotten complicated. When he thought about it he realized that the fight they'd had had bee building up for a while. She had gotten involved in modeling, then that agent came into the picture.
It wasn't all on her end. He knew that. He had gotten busy. Not just with writing, but job interviews. The more she had gotten into modeling, the more he had stopped being there for her. The truth was that a part of him had thought that if he hadn't been there all the time she would notice. She would realize that settling in with him was what she needed. They could spend some time, get money together. Go after their dreams later when it was safer.
When his story had been rejected that had clinched it for him. Without her there to push him he hadn't had it in him to keep submitting, keep getting rejected.
He hadn't felt like he'd fit into her life anymore. Now he knew that hadn't been true. Or if it had, he had been partially to blame.
Monday morning was different though. He wanted to do a bit more editing, but he thought the story was turning out to be really good. Far better than the first time, but he had changed since then. He had grown up, and it was for the best. He was a better writer than he had been when he had first told the story to Kat.
He also had made his decision about his job. It was time, and past time. So he was on his way to work to write his letter of resignation. Two weeks' notice had been the plan, but it would all depend on how his boss responded. Adam wouldn't mind just quitting right then and there. It would be better to have a reference though.
Just thinking about the letter made him grin. He stopped to grab his usual coffee and grinned at George. "So how was your weekend, George?"
The older man grinned back and flashed Adam a wink. "My wife and I got out of town for a bit. Looks like you had a pretty good weekend yourself!"
Adam laughed, nodded, and headed up to the office. Everyone he passed gave him curious looks. None of them had ever seen Adam smile. They couldn't figure out what was going on. One or two wondered if he has lost his marbles.
Adam didn't notice. And he didn't care. He went straight to his desk, set down his coffee, slipped out of his jacket, and sat down to start typing. It felt so good to say those words, to put them together in that particular configuration. The one that freed him.
He was halfway done when he heard his boss approaching in a storm. Mondays were rarely pleasant and he usually tried to keep his head down. It was one reason he tended to get work done on the weekend, so there would be no reason for his boss to turn that frustration on him.
That Monday, there was reason. More than reason. So when Adam's boss stepped into his cubicle and glowered down at him Adam did his best to keep his face blank and maybe just a little cowed. It couldn't hurt.
"Adam, I told you Friday to get that piece in to me. It was supposed to be in to me Friday morning. It's late. Far too late. You have been skating the line for a while now." It was a lie, of course, but Adam wasn't worried. He had sort of thought this might be coming. With two weeks left, though, he figured he could make it through.
He could make it through anything, because Kat was coming home.
"This is beyond unacceptable, Adam. I hate to say this, but you just are not performing up to expectations. You have been lazy and insolent. Your work has been sub-par." Adam's boss glared down at him, disgust mixed with challenge in his eyes. Monday mornings were known for the boss daring employees to fight back, daring them to contradict his rantings.
Before that morning, only one or two had dared meet the boss's eyes. That morning, Adam finally looked up into his boss's face. And then he smiled.
"Would you be working up to telling me I am fired, sir?" The statement was a goad. At that moment Adam had realized that staying, even for a two week period, was just not worthwhile. He would find another job. And he would publish his work.
The boss looked slighlty taken aback, but only for a moment. Then he steeled himself. "Yes. Yes I am. I want you to clear out your things and be out of here within the hour. You can pick up your last cheque, not that you deserve it, next week. You won't be getting a reference from me either. I am tired of your behaviour, of your lack of commitment to this company."
Freedom. For just a moment Adam sucked in a breath and felt everything release him."Good. That's nice to know. I don't have to put in the work ot finish this letter of resignation. And there is no need to fire me. I quit. I am tired of this place. I am better than this place. I don't need your Monday morning rants, the brainless writing, the complete lack of appreciation for employees. I am tired of stagnating here and putting my life on hold for absolutely nothing of worth."
For just a moment Adam regretted his speech, but it was only a moment. Then he smiled at the coworkers who were staring over the walls in utter shock. Grabbing his coat, he looked at his desk and picked up the few things he had actually placed there. All in all, there was very little of him in that office. Very little that mattered. So he simply wrapped those few things in his jacket, picked up his coffee which was still hot, and pushed his way past his boss.
The man just spluttered, staring in utter confusion at Adam. It took him a minute to close his mouth, then another one to get back to glaring at his employees before stalking to his office.
Adam walked back outside, waved to George who looked at him in confusion but gave him a thumbs' up anyway, and headed back home.
Walking into his apartment, he dropped his briefcase, kicking it out of the way with glee. His jacket was dropped on the floor as he closed the door. He would have to get it pressed later, but for the moment it felt good not to worry about wrinkles.
The very next thing he did was go to the phone to see if there was a message. Which there was. A smile lit his face as he picked up the phone, hoping it was from Kat.
"Hi Adam, it's me, I'm hoping this message finds you OK. I'm just leaving this message as I leave the mall from the next town. I-I bought a sketchbook and some supplies. I want you to see some of my work when I come to see you. Remember when I drew that princess from your story? How I got bugged for having a crush on you, you kept that drawing didn't you? You always supported my talents. I remember you were there at my first gallery too, even when there wasn't a good turnout. You were still there, you were always there weren't you? I just wanted to say thank you, for being there when even I wasn't there for you. Adam, I want to tell you so many things, but, I'm not sure how to say it yet. Please, just wait for me all right?"
He remembered the picture she was talking about. She was right, he had kept it. It had been adorable. Maybe not amazing from adult standards, but it had been wonderful from his. The fact that she had drawn the picture for his story had made something inside him take flight.
She had gotten better. The gallery had been a surprise he had worked out for her. She had been ecstatic when he'd told her about it. It had been the first time she had kissed him. A surprise to them both. They had flushed, looked away, and done their best to avoid bringing it up.
It was the next night he had showed up at her place with a dozen roses, stammering and asking her out. He had known for a while about his feelings, but hadn't suspected she had felt the same. Or he had, but had been unsure of whether she would follow through. Any guy at school would have happily dated her. Yet she never looked at any of them. She never made him doubt how she felt about him.
He strode into his bedroom and tugged open his sock drawer. As he dug his hands in balled socks spilled onto the floor, tumbling and rolling across the carpet, a few disappearing under the dresser. None of that mattered. Adam's fingers encountered a frame and he let out a sigh of relief. Of course it was still there. Tugging out the frame, he smiled as a corner of a piece of paper was revealed behind the glass. It had been crumpled at some point, but had been carefully smoothed again. Once it was revealed, the drawing was of a princess bearing a sword, shaking it at the tail of a dragon. It made him smile. He had put it in the drawer after she left. It had been on his wall, but seeing it had hurt too much. It was time to pull it out again.
A thud brought his attention finally to the mess on the floor as he tilted the frame, intending to set it on the dresser. Looking around, he saw the edge of something dark sticking out from under the dresser. Setting down the frame, he leaned down and his fingers encountered something. Something that made his heart speed.
Standing, he held a small, black velvet box in his palm. It was nothing fancy, nothing extravagant. Carefully swinging the lid open on its hinge, he licked his lips as he looked at the diamond ring inside.
It was all he could afford back then. He had bought it when he had submitted that story. It was the reason he hadn't been able to afford getting the gear made. He had hoped he could get that made as a wedding gift. The ring was fairly plain, classic. At least that was what the saleswoman had said. It had been within his budget, although at the upper end. It had looked perfect, exactly what he wanted.
Carefully lifting the ring out of the box, he tilted it, looking at the inside of the band. "To my princess" was engraved inside. Slowly, he let out a breath as he looked at it. Memories of their fight came back to him, the moments after when he had realized that she was leaving. The ring had been in his pocket; it had been there for the week before that as he waited to hear back about the story. He had gotten the rejection letter while she was out of town. It was the reason he hadn't just given her the ring when she got back. But he kept it in his pocket.
After the fight it had felt like it weighed 20 lbs. He had shoved it into the drawer, not wanting to deal with it, think about it. He had thought about selling it, but never could do it. That would have been admitting that Kat was gone.
Now... he played with the ring, turning it to let the light catch the stone. Hardly what she would be used to for jewelry. One corner of his lips quirked at that thought. If she was really coming back, back to him, if she had really almost said what he thought she had almost said, then it wouldn't matter.
Carefully he slipped the ring back in the box, then tucked it back into the drawer. Not yet. He wasn't quite ready yet.