"I haven't." Her eyes linger on mine for a second before they focus somewhere behind me. "Since they're just starting out, the pay isn't great. They're not planning on offering a lunch service so my hours would be a lot less too."
"Is that a deal breaker for you?"
"My hubby owns a clothing store. Sales aren't what they used to be so he took on a job at a courier a year ago. The money isn't bad but we're using most of it to keep the store afloat. We depend on what I make to keep our heads above water."
I smile softly. She's looking for advice. I don't know that I'm qualified to offer her any but I want to try. "You're really talented, Maribel. I think you have to consider the fact that if this place wants you, there's a good chance that other restaurants will too. Maybe before you make a decision, you should put out more feelers to see what's out there."
She nods. "I thought the same thing. Have you been doing that too? Are you looking for something new or are you going to hang around and wait for Nova to reopen?"
Before last night there wasn't a single doubt in my mind about my career. I envisioned spending my days next to Tyler, working on recreating Nova in a new space and my nights in his arms and his bed. Now, I'm not certain if either of those visions is anything more than a pipe dream.
"I'm not sure about my future either," I say evenly. "I have no idea where I'll end up.
"You have no reason to be here, Brendon," I say the words harshly as soon as I know he's within earshot.
I noticed him the second I rounded the corner. He was leaning against the mailbox in front of my building with his eyes cast down on his phone. I considered turning around and walking away but I'm tired after my self-initiated marathon walk around Manhattan today. The blister on my foot has reached 'impossible to ignore' status. All I want is a glass of wine and a warm soak in a bathtub filled with fragrant bubbles.
"I love you, Den. isn’t that enough of a reason to be here?"
Cue the violins and rose petals.
"You're so full of bullshit." I stop directly in front of him. "I don't want to talk to you ever again, Brendon."
"You know that's not true." He shakes his head. "We were good together."
"Were," I repeat back with a wave of my hand in the air.
"We can be again." He reaches to touch me, his fingertips brushing my bare elbow. "I gave you space because you asked for it. I'm tired of waiting for you to come back to me. I want you back. I need you at Axel."
I laugh. It's impossible not to. "I'm never coming back, Brendon. I'll never be part of your life again and there's no way in hell I'm ever coming back to Axel if you're there. You need to accept that."
He doesn't back down. On the contrary, he steps toward me so I retreat the same distance, bumping into a woman hurrying past us on the sidewalk. I murmur a half-hearted apology under my breath to her.
"I wish I could go back in time. I wouldn't mess things up between us," he says the words with enough sincerity that I'm tempted to believe him. I know him better than that though.
I know that this isn't about me at all. He wants me because I'm sleeping with Tyler. Before I landed the position at Nova, I hadn't heard from Brendon in months. This is about male pride. That's it. He sees me as the prize in a battle of ego between him and one of his culinary rivals.
"What we had is over." I sigh as I rest my hand on my chest. "It was good and then it wasn't. There's someone better out there for you. You'll find her."
"You're only saying that because you think Monroe is better for you." His shoulders tense. "You actually think you have a future with him? You're a fool if you think that, Den."
Maybe he's right. Maybe I am a fool but I know, with little doubt, that going back to him would crown me the Queen of Fools. I'm trying to avoid owing that title.
"I'm saying that because it's the truth." I fish in my bag for my keys. "I cared about you once Brendon, I don't anymore. We're done. The sooner you can accept that, the better for us both."
"I kept your secret," he blurts out. "I didn't tell Tyler because I love you."
I'll forget regret confiding in Brendon. When I did it, I thought I could trust him. He'd told me a secret and in my haste to reciprocate, I confessed something I vowed I'd never share with anyone I worked or slept with, unless I knew they were my future. In the post orgasmic haze after an afternoon in bed together, I broke that vow.
Now, he has intimate knowledge about me that I wish I could take back. I can't though. I have to accept that sooner or later, he'll renege on his promise and tell whoever will listen, every detail about my past.