E-Beth Ch. 04bybluedragonauthor©
-- CHAPTER 4: After "I Love You" --
*-- APRIL 2007 --*
"I told you. My old man thinks it 'builds character'." Teddy sighed. "You think I *want* to work in a stockroom?"
"No, no..." Stella waved her chopsticks in lieu of shaking her head. "It's just... we're the same age, and I'd do *anything* to climb out of this dead-end job. I mean, right now I'm a freakin' secretary. You think I want to be a secretary all my life? I want to be more. It's my own damn fault for not going to college. But I'm taking classes now and I really think I'm learning things that'll help me find something better."
Stella sighed, shoving around her orange chicken. The three of us were having lunch together at Wok 'N Roll, our local Chinese dive, eating 2-item combos with chow mein. She reached across the table and covered Teddy's hand with her own. "Believe me, I'd hate to see you leave Argen; but you're brilliant, Teddy. You deserve better. You need to tell your old man 'screw you' and go find a job that really challenges you."
My boyfriend fidgeted and then looked pointedly at us. "And leave you two? No way. I'd rather work a dead-end job and see you both every day than risk going away."
"We're always around. It's not like you don't know where we live." Stella shook her head. "And there's always weekends. C'mon, E-Beth. Help me out."
"He can do whatever he wants to do," I exhaled quietly and looked away. Stella looked disappointed in me, then turned back to Teddy, rubbing his hand and leaning forward as she urged him on.
How had I not seen it sooner? How had I not realized what I was creating? Was I so naïve to think that Teddy and Stella would be able to continue seeing each other without me, continue fucking each other without me, and NOT develop some sort of close bond?
It was happening again. I suppose it was my own fault. I never should have invited the cute blonde into our bed. I mean, yeah, *I* was horny and craving some pussy. But maybe I should have insisted it just be a one-time thing. Even after the incredible weekend, maybe I should have told Stella that it was the one and only time I'd share my boyfriend with her, and we'd move on with our own lives just as friends.
But it all just seemed so perfect. I like girls. I love their softness in contrast with a man's hardness. I love their tenderness and grace. I love their smell. And I love their taste. And who better than a close friend who *promised* me she would never betray me? Who better than someone who had already resisted the temptation to sleep with my boyfriend behind my back? Had I given Stella too much leeway? Was she now falling in love with my boyfriend and stealing him away from me, even if she hadn't intended to?
It was my own fault. Stella's a size zero with C-cup tits, a tiny little ass, and an angel's face. I'm just me. I don't work out enough. My butt and thighs are too fat. I don't like my cheekbones. And my skin could be clearer. Stella's a green-eyed blonde babe. I'm just frumpy me. I should have known Teddy would pick her over me, given the choice.
"E-Beth?" Stella touched my arm. "You've been really quiet today. You okay?"
I took a deep breath and pasted a smile on my face. "I'm fine. I'm fine."
She looked at me sweetly with concern, then patted my knee and went back to gazing adoringly at Teddy. And the whole time, I couldn't get their words out of my head.
Teddy: *'Stella, I love you.'*
Stella: *'I love you, too.'*
I sighed. "Up here, Teddy."
The cute boy with the nice hair blushed and pulled his gaze up from my chest. He tapped his clipboard with his index finger and grinned. "What? I'm suddenly not allowed to stare anymore?"
"Not here." I looked up and down the hallway, wondering if any of our coworkers were around while I stood at the counter to the stockroom.
He pouted. "But I haven't really seen 'em since your birthday," he complained in a whiny, but joking, tone.
"It's only been three days."
"And I don't want to wait a minute more than I have to."
"Jeez, is that all I am to you?" I suddenly snapped. "A pair of tits?"
Teddy's eyes popped open and he pulled his head back, looking at me in confusion. "You okay?"
I grimaced and took a deep breath, looking around again to make sure we were alone. "I'm fine, I'm fine. Can I just get my samples, please?"
"Uh, sure. Gimme a minute." He turned away from the counter and headed into the racks.
I took another deep breath and calmed myself. Was I blowing this all out of proportion? For three days, I'd studied my boyfriend and best friend, scrutinizing them to see if anything had changed. For three days, everything seemed normal. The two were friendly with each other, but not physically affectionate in public. Teddy was just as endearingly cute with me as always, acting like a schoolboy in love with me. He still talked to me every day, either visiting during lunch or calling me in the evening. As far as I could tell, he hadn't met up with Stella outside of work, as I had made calls to both of them and separate calls to their apartments to chat with their roommates just to be *sure* that Teddy really WAS playing video games and Stella really WAS out shopping with Katie. Yeah, I know it was a little stalkerish, but I had my concerns.
But I couldn't act on my concerns. All I really had were the faint memories of exchanged "I love yous" milliseconds before I passed out. Had they even really said them? Was it all in my head? Was there some context that I didn't know about?
If Stella and Teddy had started acting differently, I might have said something. But they were the same as always, and both still friendly and affectionate with me. And the last thing I wanted was to come off like some psycho-obsessive girlfriend. Heck, Teddy and I had been together for less than three months.
But it still gnawed at me in the back of my head.
"Here ya go." Teddy returned with a carrying case of vials filled with liquids in various shades of blue. He set them on the counter and slid them over to me with a smile. "Don't I get a kiss for that?"
I blushed, pleased that he would still want an affectionate kiss from me. It showed that he still was into me. And after once again glancing around to make sure the coast was clear, I leaned in and pecked him.
"We still on tonight?" he asked, hope in his voice. It was a Friday night, our usual date night, after having a drink with the girls at Monahan's.
"Sure," I smiled.
"Great. Stella and I were talking about going to Wingnuts for dinner. They're running a promo on Honey Barbecue."
*Stella?* Right. She'd come out with us the past two Friday night dates. After all, her roommates expected her to be out with Teddy. And of course, so far I'd welcomed her presence in our bed. So it would be me, my boyfriend... and *her*. "Uh, sounds good," I mumbled.
Teddy grinned and then leaned across the counter for another kiss. "I love you."
I kissed him and then sighed, feeling almost melancholy. "I love you, too."
I watched Teddy and Stella carefully at Wingnuts. Teddy sat next to me in our booth for four, his left arm around my neck and his fingers walking down my chest every so often until I spanked his hand and shot him a teasing look. He just grinned and went back to the conversation.
Stella was doing her usual chatterbox thing, flirting casually but not doing anything that really pushed the boundaries of opposite-sex friendship. I was with my boyfriend, and she was across the way just acting like a friend. And once again, I found myself wondering if I had imagined the whole thing. There was nothing going on between them beyond what Stella had promised: friends, fuck-buddies... but nothing more.
So I relaxed. I'd been quiet for most of the evening, blaming things on work and being tired. But now I came alive, flirting back with both of my friends like always, reminding myself just how much I loved them, and even moving my boob into Teddy's palm every now and again to get a comforting squeeze.
As usual, we returned to my condo for a pleasant threesome. Now that we were all getting used to the routine, we were able to take things a bit slower, not worrying about time.
I awoke the next morning to find my two lovers screwing on the bed beside me. I had a momentary panic attack, but once Stella realized I was awake, she promptly kissed me and pulled my legs around so that she could eat my pussy while still riding up and down Teddy's cock. The girl may have been a lesbian rookie, but she was learning fast. And we all had a nice screwing before splitting apart for the rest of the weekend.
But then came the following Thursday. It was the worst day of my life.
*-- MAY 2007 --*
"Elizabeth, I'm sorry." Alfred leaned back in his chair and steepled his fingers. "It's just not working."
"I can *make* it work," I repeated through clenched teeth. "I just need more time!"
"You've already spent two months trying to come up with a work-around," he said patiently, but firmly. "I can't let you waste any more time. It's okay. You can't win them all. And even with this failure, you still have an incredibly high success rate."
*'Failure'. He just *HAD* to use the word 'failure'.*
"I can make it work," I repeated insistently.
Alfred sighed and gave me a stern look, the grandfatherly disposition finally dropping to be replaced by the harder-edged manager I knew my director could be. "I've read your reports. There's just no way around the trifluoperazine interaction. And without it, you don't have a drug."
"I'm not done yet. This variant of tetrapterys methystica has shown promise, and I'm just now ready to conduct the tests on it!"
"Fine, do your tests." Alfred conceded, sensing that this compromise would at least end the argument. "But this is the final attempt. If it doesn't work, I'm going to have to pull the plug on the project and put you on something else. Radinsky can use your help."
"Radinsky?" I scowled, thinking of the mid-40s researcher who *really* resented not only my youth, but that I was a female *daring* to play at being a chemist. "He HATES me!"
"He doesn't hate you." Alfred shook his head before sighing, and then once again the concerned grandfather was back. "You look tense, Elizabeth. You've been accumulating more vacation days again. Perhaps a short break would be good for you."
"I'll make the tetrapterys work."
"I hope you do."
Bad reaction. Bad chemical reaction. Bad.
It's a failure.
And Alfred's going to pull the plug on my project. SIX MONTHS of work... All for nothing.
*"FUCK!!!"* I yelled aloud, kicking the cabinet hard enough to make the door pop loose of its clasp and swing open.
"E-Beth!" Steve barked from across the room. He put down the tray he was holding and stepped up to me, putting a hand on my arm.
"I'm fine, I'm fine." I shrugged loose from him and took three steps away, my hands on my hips. I steamed for a few seconds before coming to a stop and stretching out my neck. I took a deep breath and then looked up at the clock. 11:45am.
Exhaling, I started pulling off my gloves and took my lab glasses off. "Let's break for lunch," I told my lab technician. "We'll clean up after that."
After taking another look to make sure I was alright, Steve nodded. And then with an apologetic shrug, he left.
I didn't leave for lunch. I put my gloves and glasses back on. Just *one* more try...
"E-Beth, did you even eat anything?" Steve sighed when he returned and saw me hunched over the lab bench, almost desperately running and re-running the tests.
I glanced up at him and then darted my eyes to the clock. *Is it one o'clock already? Crap!*
I looked back at Steve and shrugged. He took a deep breath and walked up to me, patting my back gently. "E-Beth, it's a lost cause."
I sighed and let my head fall forward. A long strand of my bangs came loose and hung over my face. Sitting up straight again, I brushed it back and sighed, "Not my day. What else can go wrong?"
Steve immediately paled and looked away.
He sort of gave me a weak smile and turned to start cleaning up the materials. "What? Oh, nothing."
"That's not 'nothing', Steve. What?" I stared intently at the bespectacled, slightly-balding man until he paled again.
"Really, it's nothing."
He sighed and slouched. For someone who looked like a middle-aged guy more interested in beer and pizza, Steve had always surprisingly been in the loop when it came to office gossip. He'd heard something, and he was trying to keep it from me. "I'm not sure I should be telling you this."
"Is it about me?"
"Then you should be telling me!" I barked.
He jumped and then wilted. "It's just... You know Reggie?"
I nodded. Reggie was another lab tech, someone Steve often met up with in the lunchroom.
Steve wouldn't meet my eyes. "Well... uh..." He took a deep breath and then just spat out the rest. "Reggie saw Teddy and Stella coming out of the janitor's closet at lunch. Teddy had lipstick on his cheek and Stella was fixing her skirt. They held hands for a few seconds before Stella giggled and then darted away from him. Teddy went straight into a bathroom, looking bashful, no doubt to clean up his face."
I was shock-still, absolutely rigid. Only my eyelids moved as I blinked several times, just trying to process everything. And after thirty seconds of me being a complete statue, Steve took a concerned step toward me.
That's when I exploded. My fists balled. My arms tensed. And I suddenly whirled to the side, once again kicking out at a cabinet hard enough to not only pop the door open, but also put a nice dent in the front of my pointy-toed shoes.
The next time I blinked, I realized I was in the hallway outside of the lab, stomping like an enraged Godzilla. Once I got amongst the cubicle farm, I half-thought about going on a rampage, destroying fuzzy-felt walls like little Tokyo buildings. But then a middle-aged woman gave me a weird look as I stomped past, and I realized how strange I must look.
The need to not make people think I was weird momentarily overrode my anger, and I slowed down to a calmer, but still hurried, pace.
Stella was at her cube. I marched straight up and barked, "Stella, come in here. I need to talk to you."
If she noticed my tone, she didn't show it. Her eyes simply lit up at the mere sight of me and she giggled while getting to her feet. She skedaddled into my office and then closed the door behind her without having to be told by me. And once closed, she excitedly chirped, "Oh, I've got something I've GOT to tell you!"
"YOU FUCKING CHEATED ON ME!" I barked, cutting her off.
"You cheated on me!" I yelled loud enough for my voice to carry through the door, even if the words might be muffled. I quickly grimaced to try and force myself to speak more softly.
"E-Beth, what are you talking about?"
"*Today*. At *lunch*. A tech SAW you and Teddy coming out of the janitor's closet!"
Stella's face went ghost white. Her eyes popped wide open and there was no mistaking the guilty expression on her face before she clapped her hands over her mouth. She looked absolutely horrified. And getting that kind of confirmation only made me even more enraged.
"You cold-hearted, manipulative bitch!" I barked.
"Whoa, whoa!" Stella held her hands up. "Wait, no-no-no! That's what I was JUST going to tell you! Teddy and I had a quickie at lunch and I was all excited to come tell you about it! I just can't believe we got caught! We checked the hallway to make sure the coast was clear and Teddy rushed to the bathroom to make sure he didn't have any of my makeup on him!"
"Ohhh..." I drawled, my eyes rolling. "So you thought you'd get away with it!"
"E-Beth! It was just sex! Same thing Teddy and I have been doing for a month now! You told me we could, as long as I told you about it! Well I'm telling you about it!"
I just glared at my supposed friend. I folded my arms and coldly hissed, "And when did you fall in love with my boyfriend?"
Stella's eyebrows furrowed in confusion. "Huh?"
"I heard you," I spat just as coldly. "I heard you say you loved him; and I heard him say it back."
Stella winced, shaking her head. "E-Beth, that's not what it sounds like."
I couldn't take any more. I just shook my head in disgust, grabbed my purse, and then bolted out of my office.
"E-Beth, wait!" Stella came after me.
I marched straight over to Alfred's office, this time not caring if anyone saw me stomping like an out-of-control, radioactively-mutated lizard. I burst in, surprising him. I simply barked, "Fine. I'm taking a vacation. I'll see you next week." And then just as quickly, I stormed away.
Stella was right behind me, grabbing at my hand outside Alfred's office. "E-Beth!" she pleaded.
I shrugged her off my arm and whirled on her, holding up a finger in her face. "Fuck off and die, you backstabbing bitch!"
It wasn't the most common phrase heard in the middle of our department floor. Three heads had already been poking up above the cubicle walls when I went raging into Alfred's office. At the words "backstabbing bitch", the rest of the heads in our department popped up.
Ignoring them, I left Stella standing there in absolute shock. And I quickly flew out of the building.
Teddy tried calling me first. I held the phone in my hand, staring at the display screen, wondering if I should answer it. I really wanted to talk to him. I loved him. It was crazy, but I loved him.
Why the fuck did I love him? I was smarter than this. I was more logical than this. I had only ever really loved one man before: David. And I knew exactly why I loved him so much.
David had been the first boy to see me as a girl worth getting to know. Yeah, it may have started off because of that stupid Chemistry experiment in High School, but he didn't have to become my friend over it. He had. He'd given me the motivation to get in shape and to start taking care of my body. Then I'd started to fall in love with him during my Prom. I'd given him my virginity. And even though we had nothing else bonding us together, he'd become my boyfriend and we'd shared a wonderful year of romance together.
I'd screwed up that relationship by breaking up with him. I'd wanted to explore myself, to move beyond him. I won't say it was the biggest mistake of my life. A lot of good things came of it and David found his soulmate in Amber. But there were many, many times over the last seven years that I'd wondered how things might have turned out if I hadn't done that. David had been my one and only love, and I still loved him in my own way.
But Teddy? Yeah, we'd known each other since he started working at Argen almost a year ago. But we'd never really *known* each other until that night of the Holiday Party, only five months ago. And everything had been such a whirlwind since then. We'd started dating in February, only three months ago. And heck, I'd seduced and brought Stella into our relationship two months ago. He'd been fucking her for almost as long as he'd been fucking me!
Why the hell would I feel in love with Teddy? I'd dated other guys: Marcus, Vic, and Chad. All of them I spent more time with than with Teddy. And while I'd enjoyed their company, and even exchanged the L-word a time or two, I'd never FELT this kind of attachment. When those relationships failed, I'd felt angry, but deep down they didn't really *hurt*.
This one hurt. Maybe it was because with all the other guys, in the back of my head I kind of *expected* them to betray me. They were bad boys. They were players. They were walking penises just waiting to screw up and put themselves into a cunt they weren't supposed to.