She turned around and settled in her chair. And so the day passed between making phone calls, answering e-mails, researching the market, looking into a million different companies (or so it felt). Soon enough it was 6 pm, and Myriam knocked on her door.
“Hey Ellie, Jason told me you accepted the transfer. Congratulations!”
“Thank you,” she smiled.
“We’ll need to take you out for drinks before you leave. Are you heading home now?”
“No, I have a bunch of work and I don’t want to leave it all for the last few days and panic.”
“That’s reasonable of you, unfortunately I have dinner plans and can’t stay longer at work.”
“Such a shame! Bon appétit!”
Myriam sent her a wave and left. Until she came back one second later. “Right, meant to ask you something.”
For a split moment, Ellie was petrified she’d get more work to do - until she remembered Myriam didn’t have that authority.
“Last week, you mentioned your brother knew Max. Max and Jason also know each other from before. They were in the same fraternity no?”
This was worse than more work.
“Did you ever meet Jason before working here?”
“Yeah, we met every once in a while at the same parties. Why?” She tried to look casual, so she kept typing on her computer the same sentence over and over again - “please don’t ask me more, please don’t ask me more…”
“I’m just curious to know what he was like during university years before now and this” Myriam moved her hands across her upper body. Ellie laughed.
“You mean his royal attitude? No, it’s always been there from what I know. Only met him his last year of university though, so don’t know how he was before that.”
“Hmm… I didn’t even know Canada had fraternities. Did he have a position? Don’t they have like, younger brothers and stuff like that? Who was Jason’s?”
Ellie had stopped typing, instead focusing all of her attention on Myriam. “Yeah, Jason was president his last year from what I remember. And Max is his little brother.”
She stared back at her computer screen, but something kept bothering her. Why was Myriam so curious about her relationship with Jason? Her questioning aggravated Ellie. “Who are you having dinner with again?” She asked, diverting the subject.
“Oh right! Just a high school friend. Running late actually. We should go for drinks again soon! Bye!” Myriam waved her hand then left as quickly as she had barged in.
Had the girl ever mentioned which high school she went to? Against her better judgment and pride, Ellie opened up her coworker’s Facebook page.
And why, for that matter, had she panicked so much at the thought of her coworker finding out about their old relationship? Jason and she had agreed to keep it on the low after they found out the companies they each worked for would merge. But that was then. If anything, Ellie could have brushed it aside as a short-lived campus love.
Myriam's face stared at her through the computer screen. Sharp, clean features made her coworker pleasant to look at, confident and smart. She could easily be Jason's type.
Without thinking about it, she had typed Jason's number on her keypad. But why did she care? Was she the curious one? Was it jealousy? No, Elena could not and would not be jealous. She had missed the opportunity to ask Jason anything about his new love. And she was, as an afterthought, not in any position to ask.
Someone else was - and probably already knew. The line was already ringing. Ellie almost hung up but Keon picked up before she could.
“What's up Ellie?”
She stayed silent for a bit, she could hear her brother’s breathing on the other side.
“Ellie? You OK?”
“Yeah! I'm going to Dublin!”
He laughed. “I know.”
“Well it wasn't fully settled… kind of.” She paused. Something unsuspectingly caught her eye on Myriam's profile: different high schools. “Ummm… you’ll have to come visit! You're the best placed one to do so.”
“Yeah I'll definitely try to pick up a route through Dublin.”
“Okay that's all I wanted to tell you. I haven't told the rest of the family yet. See you Friday?”
“Yes ma'am!” They hung up. She kept her phone to her ear for a few minutes. Had she passed the test? Her phone vibrated, a text. She lowered the smartphone; BB cream and sweat had this time left an imprint on the screen. The text still showed on the lock screen: “I know something else is up. What's wrong?”
She had failed. The beauty of technology is that you can now isolate yourself guiltlessly because you’re so connected at all times. So she was going to ignore that text for as long as possible.
Breaking the news to her family had gone well. Her parents had only asked how long she’d be gone. And it had all happened over phone calls so she could easily find an excuse to avoid any uncomfortable or undesirable discussions - also because, no one really likes to talk on the phone anymore.
That night however, Diego came to her place. Classy as can be, they drank wine and watched Netflix.
As she nestled in his arms, she could feel the heat of his body, hear his heart, feel his breath, see the way his jeans hugged his waist. And she pondered the nature of their relationship.
She was comfortable. He was comfortable. She inched further into him, if that was even possible. His hand moved up and down her arm slowly.
But for some reason, the minutes etched by really slowly.
What type of relationship was this? She didn’t need to think about it - she needed to live in the moment. Focus, she told herself.
But were they exclusive? Worse, was he her boyfriend?
Watch the Crown, Ellie, she told herself.
If they were a couple, she had messed up by not bringing up Dublin as a topic of discussion. But it was so new. It had only been a month of casual meet-ups.
Queen Elizabeth II, Ellie.
She should have mentioned the transfer when it was suggested to her. At least mention it.
Her phone lit up - her sister was calling. She rejected the call.
“You can take it,” murmured Diego.
She shook her head, “no need.” Lina was probably calling to discuss more about Dublin and she did not need to inadvertently break the news to Diego.
King George VI
Oh, who cared if it was King Arthur himself in front of her?
“Speaking of England, fun fact!” She started but stopped. There was no going back. “I got transferred to Ireland for a few months. I’m leaving in a couple of weeks.”
She took a couple of gulps of the wine. Had his body just tensed or had it been hers?
What was the King saying? Something about Bray?
“Oh, cool. That’ll be fun.” He said after several minutes.
See Ellie, that went down well. You worried for no reason. She relaxed.
“Yeah, should be. I accepted the offer today.” Why had she just said that? “I mean, it wasn’t much of an offer - formally it was but really a transfer.” She rambled on - had it made any difference?
Maybe it was just her - she really wanted to believe that - but she felt his breathing pattern change.
“Well, I’ll miss you.”
She rested her head on his chest. “I’ll miss you too.”
It was still warm enough for people to sit at the tables set outside on the sidewalks and enjoy their morning coffees. Strollers were left unattended while the babies were taking their own stroll by the parents. The main street of the plateau was a kaleidoscope of people. With her basket filled with produce, Ellie was trekking to a part of the street that was less busy. She kept staring at the freshly baked baguette enviously. After ceremoniously refusing to steal a bite (twice), she ripped a corner of the bread.
The wait staff in the bakery asked her what she could be helped with as she was still chewing. Her eyes round, she held her hand up to signal her full mouth. She chewed faster and bit her inner cheek in the process. Holding back tears, she quickly ordered the pastries.
With her grocery shopping done, she walked happily back to her apartment, leaving behind the families at the coffee shops and in the park. The quiet streets of the neighborhood with the coiled metal stairs, deadly come winter and ice, were much more pleasant to her. The colourful trees danced slowly at wind’s will.
She made her way into her apartment, up a flight of those metal stairs, after making sure Diego was nowhere in sight. Still sucking in her bruised cheek, she dropped her groceries on a chair. Her laptop was turned on, she popped in a DVD of the second season of Sex and the City and got to cooking.
Two bottles of wine along with a large amount of food later, her friends and herself sat around the kitchen table discussing all. Alex’s babysitter had this time not cancelled. Ellie stared at Alex, then Erica and Kayla. Now was the time.
“Girls, my company suggested I go work a contract at the office in Dublin. So I’m going. In two weeks.”
“Dublin… Ontario?” asked Erica.
“Or the one in Ohio?” followed Kayla.
“Seriously, people. Ireland. I’m going to Ireland.” She took a long sip as she stared at her friends.
“Is this about Jason? His fiancée?” ventured Alex. “That thing about your hoohah?”
“I will indeed find someone else to check my hoohah for anomalies. But no. This is about me.”
“I don’t know how I feel about this,” pressed Erica, “What does Lina think about this?”
Ellie’s twin sister had been on board the second Ellie had mentioned Ireland. She had shouted something about men not deserving anything and being wicked and praised Ellie for leaving Montreal behind. “She thinks it’s a good idea.”
Kayla raised her glass: “I think it’s a great idea. Get away for a bit, see the world, and experience it. To Dublin, Ireland!”
They all raised their glasses, Erica reluctantly so, and drank.
Too soon, the girls stood at the doorway outside. As Ellie hugged each of them, they expressed words of congratulations and well wishes about Ireland.
The two last weeks in Montreal had flown by quickly, between late nights at work, squishing in meetings with the friends and sleep overs with Diego.
It was her last night in Montreal that Diego and her finally had the dreaded “what are we” conversation. He sat on the floor amongst Ellie’s suitcases as she ran mindlessly through her room.
“Don’t you think you’re overpacking?” he asked her as he stared at the bulky suitcases.
She waved a hand in his face. “Noooooo! I don’t know how long I’ll be there.”
“But you can always buy clothes there. And you probably will. Also, there’s literally no point in bringing this,” he held up a summery top. “It’s winter in Ireland too babe.”
She stopped. He was right. She sat on the floor in front of him and went through her luggage, picking out clothes.
“This however, don’t forget to pack. Is it new?” He handed her a lovely teal raincoat.
Grabbing it quickly, she stored it away in one of the suitcases, “yup. Fitting no?”
Jason had not come to drinks with her coworkers. Instead she had found by her front door, the morning after, a package with a simple note. I hear it always rains in Ireland.
“Ugh what would I have done without you?” she said as she alleviated her luggage by countless of random, useless clothes. She did not realize she had just opened the floodgates - those you do not really want to open, ever.
“Speaking of, what are we Ellie?”
“Humans. That’s what we are.” She answered quickly before thinking. He nudged her knee with his foot.
“I mean, I don’t want to... “ he paused. “keep you from experiencing Ireland fully.”
She had been out of the dating game for so long, she had forgotten how awkward and unpleasant this conversation was. At that point, she would have gladly switched places with the 20-year-old Ellie on the night of her birthday party, puking all the tequila shots and bits of hamburger in the dirty bathroom of Buns.
“I don’t know what we are honestly. What do you want?” Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted teal fabric. She knew she didn’t feel ready for that type of relationship.
“Well, you are only leaving for a bit. And we do get along well. I don’t know. I’m just saying - we don’t have to be exclusive or anything. Or like wait for each other. I mean, waiting - it’s not like anyone would be waiting right? Life goes on but we get along.”
I’m glad to know the anxiety of this conversation goes both ways, she thought. “So you want us to not be exclusive but… keep in touch? With no expectations of what happens once I come back?”
“Yeah, I guess.”
She locked her suitcase. “Friends don’t sleep with one another.”
“Life is made of exceptions.”