Meet the Friend
Around 2pm, I finished up some work and, after checking my makeup, almost skipped to the elevators.
I approached Theo’s office and did a quick once over, making sure that I didn’t have anything embarrassing going on, like sweat stains or TP attached to my shoe. So far, so good. Theo and I had been texting back and forth over the last few days, and he told me to stop in sometime soon, and mentioned afternoons were usually the best.
I pushed through the door. Rita wasn’t at the front desk, but as soon as I was through the door another man came out of the back to greet me.
“Hello, can I help you?” he asked in a thick accent.
I had never seen him before. My eyes darted around, hoping Theo would materialize. “Oh, I’m not here to look for a job. I was wondering if Theo was around?” I cringed on how my voice went up a couple octaves on the last sentence.
Just then, my wish was granted and Theo came around the corner. “You bothering her, Bao?” he said, giving me one of those smiles that made me notice him in the first place. “Maddie, this is my partner, Bao. You haven’t seen him around since he worked remotely for a few weeks, visiting his mom in California.”
Bao looked between Theo and me. “Ah. I didn’t know she was your client.”
I stood there, no quite knowing what to say.
Theo helped himself to a chocolate. “She’s not exactly a client,” he said, leaning up against Rita’s empty desk.
Bao looked between Theo and myself, giving Theo a mock incredulous look. “She’s here for you? Naw. Someone like her doesn’t want an ugly guy like you,” he joked.
Theo reached over and gave him a light punch in the arm. “Whatever, dude.” They both laughed.
I smiled, happy that Theo acknowledged I was here on a personal level. “Nice to meet you, Bao.”
Bao leaned up against the desk too, in no hurry to get back to work. “What are you guys up to?”
“Just thought I’d stop by and say hi, maybe see if you wanted a coffee break.” I looked around the office. “Is Rita gone today?”
“Yeah, day off. Bao’s covering her job though.”
“You wish! You wish!” Bao exclaimed. “You gave me enough things to do when I got back! No cleaning the toilets this time though! I won’t fall for that one again, man!”
Seeing me look at them, Theo explained. “So, Bao’s family lives in California, right? Last time he got back after visiting them for a couple weeks, I told him that our cleaning crew had quit and we had to clean ourselves while I found a new one.”
Bao groaned at the memory. “Dude, you’re such a jerk.”
Theo laughed at the insult. “On his first day back, I said that clients were complaining that the bathrooms were dirty and it was his turn to do it because I was stuck doing it the whole time he was gone! So, he started cleaning the bathroom. A few minutes later, the cleaning crew shows up, and we just watched him clean the toilets in his suit, on his hands and knees, for like five minutes before he turned around and saw us all watching him!”
Bao balled his hand up and punched his fist, laughing. “Oh man, I was mad. I told Theo to watch out. I got him back too.”
Theo shook his head, grinning. “Dude, you are so gullible!”
I was laughed too. “What’d you do to him?” I asked Bao.
“Oh my god!” Theo exclaimed. “He got me good!
Bao started out. “So one day, I got into the office early and looked at our schedules. We have a couple of clients that are really hard to work with, and keep us here forever, you know? One has a huge crush on Theo, and we think that’s the only reason she comes in because she has never taken any jobs we offer her. So, I saw that they both happened to have appointments on the same day, and I switched out my schedule to have him meet with both, back to back. My day was so easy!” Bao used a lot of hand gestures when he talked, which just added to the funny story.
Theo groaned at the memory. “I was stuck there for hours, trying to please one and trying to fend off the other’s advances!”
They obviously weren’t ones to hold grudges by how funny they found the stories. It was awesome to hear more about Theo from a friend’s perspective. He normally came across so smooth and suave that hearing him pull pranks on his friend and seeing the friendship between the two of them gave me a good feeling about him. It reminded me of Jessie and me in a way, only a guy’s version. You know, less talking about feelings and more about making fun of each other.
We sat there and chatted for a few minutes before Theo glanced up at the clock. “You probably don’t have a ton of time, do you?”
I regretfully shook my head.
“Let’s get going then.”
He nodded. “Nice to meet you, Maddie. It’s good to see Theo get out again after he broke up with his – “
He said the last word right as Theo clapped his hand on Bao’s shoulder and spoke over him. “TMI! Maddie, let’s get going. Bao, I’ll be back in a few.”
I followed out the door. Bao’s accent was pretty heavy, and Theo spoke over him, so I wasn’t immediately able to determine what he said, but it definitely didn’t sound like the word girlfriend.
Theo spoke quickly and it seemed like he was trying to take attention off of what Bao was just saying. “Glad you got a chance to meet Bao. He’s a great guy. Kinda gullible and a touch naïve, but one of the funniest guys you’ll ever meet.”
Ok. So it sounded like Theo was going to avoid the topic, so I played along, though I was dying to figure out what Bao was trying to say.
As we waited for our drinks to be made, he asked me how my job search was going.
“I have a few leads,” I told him, happy I had news for once. “My brother helped me push through for an interview at his bank, and I finally heard back about a opening at Cinco’s so I might get an interview next week!”
“Your brother? Where does he live?” Theo asked, almost too casually.
“He lives outside of New York, but commutes to the Financial District every day.”
“New York? You’re thinking about moving back?” Theo asked, surprised.
Oops. I forgot that I hadn’t brought up the location of the bank yet. “No, not really. I just didn’t have any other options.” I explained. “It might be the only thing I can come up with.”
We started heading back to his office. “You know,” Theo started out carefully, “I could always –“
I stopped him there. “I know. You could help me out. But I don’t want you to.” I smiled at him to take the sting out of the words.
“Can I ask why not?”
This one was a bit harder. It came down to me just wanting more separation between work and Theo, and not coming across as helpless. When we started hanging out again, I decided that it was strictly going to be on a personal basis.
We were almost at his office door now. We stopped outside for a minute, though Bao wasn’t anywhere to be found out front.
Theo leaned against the railing of the atrium. I joined him, though leaning against railings and looking down below me always gives me chills.
“I just want to prove that I can do this myself,” I replied honestly. And I don’t want you to have to rescue me I thought.
He nodded. “I can get that. But don’t hesitate to let me know if you need help.”
I thanked him, but didn’t press the conversation any further. We started out getting to know each other through job talk, and I didn’t really want to continue that trend every time we got together.
“I better get back,” I said reluctantly.
Theo smiled and put the arm that wasn’t holding a coffee cup around me in a quick hug, and after a moment’s hesitation, kissed my cheek. “Thanks for stopping by. Made my afternoon.”
I tried to hide my mega-smile but failed. I think it was pretty safe to say I was feeling better about the whole Theo situation, especially after Eric acted the other day. Somehow the way he handled it so well made me feel less guilty.
He turned to enter his office. “Oh, and can you save me Saturday night?”
A bit of me exploded in internal excitement. “You got it.”
While walking back, I was mulling what we would do on Saturday when my phone rang with a local number. Answering it, I the first thing I heard was “Hi, is Maddie there? This is Kaitlyn from Lyon Marketing. You submitted your resume to us last week?”
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