Don't Ever Give Up Ch. 04bySpotInTheSand©
Later, he checked his watch - 6:30, or a half-hour before he was meeting Julia after she got off work. Tim had finally called her that morning.
"Hi," Julia said, sounding clearly relieved. "I'm sorry."
"Me too," he answered back. "Listen. I love your voice, and as much as I would enjoy listening to it for the next hour or five, I think we'd better have this conversation in person."
"I think so, too," she replied. "I get off work at seven."
"I'll be at the airport this afternoon. I'll meet you there."
And that was that. Tim walked from MHC's office to the main passenger terminal and decided to hit up the Starbucks in the baggage claim area to kill some time before Julia got off work. He ordered a drink for himself and grabbed something for her, too. They were both addicted to coffee, he thought, rather unfortunately.
He sat in the corner of the small café and thought about what he would say to Julia. She'd certainly sounded happy to hear from him this morning, but she had every right to be upset with him. He still felt he had a right to be upset about what she'd done last week, but he should have called her back before today. Had the four days of not returning her phone calls finally made her realize that he wasn't worth it? Was it too late?
He was lost in thought when the short, pretty blonde sat down across from him.
"Hi," she said, offering a hand. "Tim, right?"
Tim turned on the brightest smile he could. She was pretty attractive, but his thoughts were elsewhere. He took her hand and gave it a light shake before nodding.
"I'm Brandi," she replied. "I work with your girlfriend at the Southwest office here."
"Well, Julia's not my girlfriend," Tim said reflexively, noticing how stupid the words sounded coming out of his mouth. He noticed her eyes twinkle as he said it, though. "But we are very good friends. Is there something I can do for you?"
The girl looked doubtful for a moment, which was fine with Tim. He was so very much not in the mood for flirting right now.
"Maybe," she answered. "She's not going to take that job, is she?"
Tim felt his eyebrows furrow as his face narrowed. "What job?"
"Oh!" Brandi said. "She didn't tell you? I'm sorry. It's totally not my place to tell you."
"It's all right," Tim said. He knew Brandi's type. She knew it wasn't her place to tell him - with the right amount of silence, she would anyway. So, Tim simply nodded and sipped on his coffee.
"It's just, she got this job offer," Brandi said. "An assistant VP of Southeastern Operations for Southwest."
"Ah," Tim smiled. "Yes, she did tell me about that." It was a blatant lie, but he wanted to keep her talking. "She didn't tell me where the job would be, though."
"Oh, at our hub down in Miami," she answered. "She flew down there this weekend to interview for it, but everyone here is sure that was just a formality."
"I'm sure it is," he answered. "Why do you think she won't take it?"
"Well, they wanted an answer today, and she hasn't told anyone about it. We only know because one of the pilots stopped in today, while Julia was at lunch, and told us what he'd heard through the grapevine."
People still said that? Tim hadn't heard that particular phrase in ages.
"He heard she'd said no, that she wanted to stay here. But like I said, she hasn't brought it up, and she'd be really pissed if she knew we knew."
Yes, she would, Tim thought. Julia was generally a very open person, but if she didn't want you to know something, she didn't.
"And what's your interest in all this... Brooke, was it?" Tim asked, as politely as possible. She'd been staring at him pretty intently throughout the conversation, and he was doing all he could to make it clear he wasn't biting. He figured forgetting her name was a good start.
"It's Brandi," she replied. "And, well, I'm the highest-ranking person in the office. After Julia, of course."
"And you wanted to know if you should be expecting a pay raise, what with the holidays coming and all?"
Brandi smiled. "Something like that, yes."
"Well, I can't help you," he said. "I know she was talking to them about the job, but we haven't spoken since she left for the interview. You'll have to ask her yourself."
Brandi didn't look pleased with that idea, but Tim said nothing else.
"So," Brandi said, turning on the charm now. Tim could almost see her flip the switch from professional to personal. "You and she are just friends, huh?"
"That's right," he replied flatly.
"Well, I get off at eight," she answered. "Do you want to go get a drink?"
Tim smiled. This girl didn't seem all that bad. She wanted a promotion - who didn't? She didn't really start hitting on Tim until he'd told her that her boss was just a friend. So he tried to let her down easy.
"Julia gets off at seven," Tim said. "She and I have some things to talk about tonight, so I'll have to pass. Thank you, though."
She just smiled. "Yeah, I thought that 'good friends' thing was crap."
"Excuse me?" Tim asked. He was rewarded with an even bigger smile.
"Nothing," Brandi replied. "Have a nice evening."
Tim watched her walk out of Starbucks. He shook his head. In another life, maybe. As soon as she was out of sight, his mind slid right back to Julia. A job? A promotion? In Miami? And she was turning it down?
He checked his watch - just five till seven now. He got up, tossed out his empty cup, and took Julia's with him as he headed toward the Southwest office. Brandi was nowhere in sight.
Just as he opened the door, Julia was walking out, and they bumped into each other rather hard. Tim managed not to spill her coffee, but that didn't stop Julia from colliding with the glass outer wall of the office.
"Oh, shit," Tim said. "Are you OK?"
Julia grimaced a little but forced a smile. "I am. It looks like your coffee survived the crash, as well."
"Oh," Tim said. "Um.. actually, it's your coffee." He held it out to her. "Your favorite."
"Oh!" she exclaimed, genuinely excited about something as small as a cup of gourmet coffee. She took a sip, then looked back at him. "Thank you. You didn't have to."
"I'm aware of that, Jules," Tim replied. "You know, not everything I do around you is out of necessity."
She just grinned. "So?"
"We need to talk," he said.
"I know," she replied. "Your place?"
"Jules, I -"
"Tim, I don't want to talk right here, OK?" she answered back with an interruption of her own. "We'll talk about whatever you want. Just... not here, OK?"
"You're right. My house is fine."
They left the terminal and headed into the parking lot. He started heading for his car, and he noticed she was following him.
"You should probably take your car, Jules," he said, and she almost scowled back.
"Not this again!"
"No," he agreed. "Not this again. I have to leave for Charlotte at four a.m. If you ride with me now, I'll be happy to wake you up at three, so I can drive you back to your apartment before I head south. Or, you can take your car, sleep till whenever, and drive straight to work. Your choice."
Julia chewed on her cheek for a minute. "Oh," she said finally. "Well, that's actually a good reason."
Tim nodded, smiling. He watched her walk to her Camry, parked a few rows away from his SUV, and the lyrics to a popular country song popped into his head:
"We hate to see her go, but love to watch her leave."
Trace Adkins had nailed that one.
Tim hopped into his SUV and mindlessly navigated the long route to his house. His mind was fairly jumbled. A week ago, he'd have gone nuts if she'd turned down a promotion. Now, he was still pretty upset that she'd put her career on hold like this, but, maybe for the first time ever, he was able to admit to himself that the thought of her leaving hurt more than just a little.
He turned on the radio and found some monotonous sports talk show to occupy his brain for the rest of the drive out to his house. He'd deal with Julia and this job offer when he arrived. No use obsessing about it now.
Tim hadn't bothered waiting for Julia in the parking lot at the airport; she'd driven to the lake hundreds of times by now and didn't need to follow him. She wasn't in his rear-view mirror when he hung the left into his drive, so he had a few minutes. He went inside, grabbed a bottle of water out of the fridge, and waited.
His wait wasn't a long one. Just as he sat down at the table, he heard her Camry rumble up the driveway, the gravel announcing anyone who arrived by a means other than walking.
Julia opened the door and spotted him immediately, sitting in one of the dining room chairs. She strutted seductively over to him and took a seat right on his lap.
"Howdy, pilot," she drawled, laying on the Southern accent extra thick. "You in town long?"
She started kissing his face, down his neck and across his collarbone. It'd been four days, and he hadn't cum the last time they were together, either, so he was more than ready to go. However, Tim just couldn't do what he'd accused her of - he couldn't fuck her first, knowing there was something very important they needed to discuss.
"Wait," Tim replied, pulling her off his neck. "We don't talk for four days, and you're ready to go at it as soon as you walk in?"
"What can I say?" she replied, grinning seductively. "You just do it for me."
She started back in on his neck, and his hands instinctively moved to her back, rubbing up and down. He was about to move them down to cup her ass through her dress, but he managed to stop and pull away from her kisses.
"Julia, wait a minute."
"Seriously? The last time we were together was Wednesday, and I know I left you with a wicked case of blue balls. You're not ready to throw me down on the nearest flat surface?"
"I wouldn't even need a flat surface," Tim replied, gently sliding Julia off his lap before standing up. "And yes, I know this is a very un-me thing to say, but before we do this - and believe me, I want to - we need to talk."
"Wow," she answered. "Never thought I'd see the day."
"Me either," Tim agreed. "But then, I never thought I'd storm out on you like I did the other night." It wasn't the most important topic on Tim's mind at the moment, but it seemed like a good place to start.
"I know," she answered. "J.T. and Sheila both talked to me about it. I know what I did was wrong. It would have been wrong, even if you didn't have reasons to be upset because of what happened in your past. Since you do, that just makes it worse. You needed some time to stop being angry. I could stand here all day and tell you how sorry I am and it wouldn't be enough. So, I just thought I would show you instead."
Tim had moved over to the kitchen bar, so Julia hopped onto the nearest barstool and pulled him back toward her again. Instead of working on his neck and collarbone with her mouth, she pulled his head down to her own neck. She smelled damn good all the time, but at this distance, her scent was almost intoxicating. He couldn't help it - he ran his tongue from the base of her neck all the way up to her left earlobe, gently sucking it between his lips. She let out one of those sounds that was uniquely Julia - a half-gasp, half-moan that sounded like she'd just walked in on something unexpected. Tim felt himself get hard just from that.
He nibbled on her neck and traced the outline of her jaw for a few more seconds while her hands roamed all over his chest and back. Eventually, though, he found the will to back away. It wasn't easy.
"I'm sorry, too," he replied. "I know you're getting impatient with me, and you're waiting for me to tell you what you want to hear. I'm probably driving you up the wall. I wasn't happy with what you did, but I do understand why you did it. I just couldn't comprehend it then."
"I know," she replied, looking down at the ground. That just wouldn't do, Tim said to himself as he lifted her chin up so she was looking him in the eyes again.
"And, I'm sorry I didn't call you," he continued. "I'm sorry I didn't answer any of your calls. In all fairness, I didn't even see the last three calls till late last night."
"It's OK," she answered. "I know you were very, very busy this weekend."
"Yeah," Tim replied, and then pulled away from Julia completely. She looked at him quizzically. "I heard you had a pretty eventful weekend, too."
The confused look vanished as she looked down at the ground again. The new look was.. almost guilty. That was a good thing - Tim thought she'd be upset that he even knew.
"You turned it down?"
Now the guilty look was gone, replaced by something in the shocked neighborhood.
"How did you-?"
"Doesn't matter," Tim replied. "I know."
She hesitated with her response, so Tim continued.
"First off, why didn't you tell me?" Tim asked. "I know things weren't great last week, but... I would have been really happy for you, Jules. Hell, I am really happy for you. I'm just not sure why you turned them down."
"I did tell you," she answered back. She slid off the barstool - even that was sexy as hell - and started pacing in front of the bar. "At least I tried to. I know you didn't answer my calls, but did you not listen to your voicemail?"
That's why she wasn't angry when he brought it up, Tim thought.
"Wait a second," Julia continued, turning to face him. Her cheeks were starting to flush - not the first time Tim had caused that reaction, but this time he knew it wasn't a good thing. "If you never checked the voicemails I left you, how did you know about the job in the first place? Who have you been talking to?"
Tim wasn't about to sell Julia's co-worker out. Fortunately, he had a somewhat-believable alternative.
"Julia, come on," he answered back. "Between me, J.T. and J.T.'s dad, we know pretty much everyone who has anything to do with things being airborne east of the Mississippi."
She didn't say anything.
"OK, you're right. It's mostly J.T.'s dad. Howard Lancaster knows people who manufacture kites."
Tim thought he detected the tiniest of smiles tugging at the corners of Julia's lips. That was something, at least.
"It doesn't matter how I found out," he continued. "Nor does it matter how I found out you didn't take it. What matters is that you didn't take it. Are you out of your mind?"
Yeah... that smile was nice while it lasted. Her face was doing the cheeks-flushing thing again.
"You would have wanted me to take it?" Her voice was starting to climb up the decibel chart.
"Hell, yes!" Tim answered back with equal fervor. "You're damn right I would have wanted you to take it."
"But..." Julia trailed off. All at once, the anger was pushed to the back. It was still there, yes, but now something else - hurt - was at the forefront. "What... about us?"
"To hell with 'us,' Julia," Tim replied, doing the quotations with his fingers. Her voice may have dropped - his didn't. Julia looked as if he'd just slugged her in the stomach. He could hear her drawing short, clipped breaths.
"What did you say?" she managed to choke out. "To hell with - what did you just say?"
Shit, Tim thought.
"Aw, hell, Jules," he answered, taking a half-step toward her. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean it like that. To hell with everything else. This is your career, and this was your shot. Nothing should get in the way of that. Not 'us' -" he did the quotations again - "not anything."
She stood there and stared back at him for a few seconds. Then, she spun on her heels and headed toward the door.
"Julia!" he called out. She stopped just before reaching the door, but didn't turn around to face him. When she spoke, her words were carefully measured, and her voice was almost eerily calm.
"I know you have two jobs that almost anyone would love to have," she said, speaking very slowly. "I know you worked very hard to get them, and you didn't let anything stand in your way."
She turned slightly now, so that he could see the right side of her face, but she still refused to look at him. As she went on, her voice became less controlled and more frantic.
"But not everyone is like you, Tim," she continued. "Sure, my career is important to me, but it's not the most important thing. It's not even in the top two. There are other things I value more than how much money I make, how much responsibility I have or what my business card says."
She made another turn, so now she was facing him completely. Still, she didn't look up from the hole she was burning in Tim's hardwood floors.
"I want more than just a friend who gives me great orgasms, Tim," she said, her voice continuing to move toward hysterical. "I know you've been hurt - God knows you won't ever talk to me about it, but it's pretty fucking obvious. And whoever she was, the dumb bitch obviously did a fucking number on you. But that wasn't me, Tim. Me? I want to get married, and have kids, and grow old with somebody. I don't care about the front yard and the white-picket fence, but I do care about the relationship. I want that, Tim, and somewhere inside that stupid fucking brain of yours, you want that, too."
Uh oh, Tim thought. Julia didn't cuss unless her clothes were off, so this was pretty far beyond not good. She let that hang in the air for a minute. If Tim was going to say something to reassure her, this would be the time.
He didn't. So, Julia kept going, and now, she was yelling.
"I'm not ready to give up on you quite yet," she screamed, "but I'm a lot fucking closer than I was 15 minutes ago. You keep treating me like this - like all you want from me is pussy and blowjobs - and it won't take long for you to get your wish. I'll leave you alone, and I'll take a job somewhere else."
Now she was near tears. Tim wanted to reach out and wrap her up in a huge hug - he would have, too, except he thought she might punch him in the nose.
Julia got right up in his face now, poking him in the chest with every "you" she screamed.
"But you better fucking be careful what you fucking wish for," she shouted. "Because I don't think you'll like me being gone as much as you think you will."
She ended with one final punch to Tim's chest. It hurt, but not as much as what she'd just said. Before Tim could gather up the words to say anything, she was out the door and down the steps.
Tim closed the gap between him and the door in a split-second, and took the stairs three at a time, nearly rolling an ankle twice. He was almost in the driveway by the time she got in her car and closed the door. She started the engine just as he reached her car. She put it in drive and tore out of the driveway, oblivious to the fact that he was right behind the car. Or maybe she wasn't. Either way, gravel flew up and pelted Tim all over his body as he ran after the car. Still, he couldn't catch up, and he could only watch as her taillights disappeared down the highway.
He stood there for a minute at the end of his driveway, trying to catch his breath after the unexpected sprint. He turned around and slowly walked back up the driveway, and was surprised to feel tears welling up in his eyes. He shook his head almost violently, determined not to cry. When he reached the stairs, he took them much more slowly this time. He quickly grabbed his phone off the charger in the kitchen and hit Julia's speed dial. It rang twice then went straight to voicemail. She hadn't turned it off, Tim thought - she just didn't want to talk to him.
Without really thinking, Tim reached for the cutlery set on the kitchen island and swept it off, sending the knives crashing into the wall next to the refrigerator. He was looking for something else to punch, but suddenly he stopped. The tears were coming back.
He looked at the ground, and his first thought was that he was glad he didn't have a dog. All those knives scattered across the floor wouldn't be a good thing.