I took in Richard on my couch, his bare feet and the scruff shadowing his face. He doesn't have a key, so he clearly never even left my apartment. "I have maybe two minutes."
Richard laced his hands behind his head and sighed. "Ad Back folded."
"What?" I gasped. Ad Back is the company that hired Richard after he was let go from Literatti.
Richard nodded. "It was pretty bad. One of the founders—he invested his entire 401K in that company."
"But this didn't happen today." I folded my arms across my chest. "When?"
"Last week?" I repeated, incredulously. "Why didn't you tell me? How could you just pretend like you were going to work today?"
Richard pointed to his laptop. His resume filled the screen. "I have two interviews this week. I guess I wanted to wait until I had some sort of lead so I didn't sound like a lost cause or something."
I went over the last few days in my mind, trying to remember what we did. "Richard, you dropped over two hundred dollars at L'Artusi on Saturday night. Why would you do that if you're out of a job?"
Richard closed his laptop and placed it on the coffee table. "I have some money put away."
"How?" Before he could answer, I held up my hands. "You know what? I can't get into this right now. I have to get back to work." I made my way into my bedroom and found my passport in my sock drawer. I half expected to hear Richard's footsteps behind me, but he didn't follow me.
Richard was lacing up his shoes when I came out into the hallway. "I'm not kicking you out," I said.
"I know," Richard said, "but I shouldn't be here. It was just gross out and I thought I'd do a little work here until the snow let up." He leaned down and gave me a kiss on the cheek. "Don't be mad, okay? I'll explain everything later. Still meeting at Eataly?"
I stuffed my passport into my purse and zipped up my coat. "Yeah, okay."
I didn't even have time to think about Richard for the rest of the day. When I got back to the office, I grabbed a Kind bar from the cafeteria and met William in the conference room for a meeting with some of the agents in the LA office (via Skype)."You'll find we have a lot of meetings in the afternoon," he said, "since LA is three hours behind."
William wasn't just blowing smoke up my ass when he said CWA prides itself on being a collaborative environment. Even though William and I are in Lit, we connected with at least three other departments through out the day. Literatti was very insular—no one wanted to share information, everyone wanted to be the hero. CWA feels more like a team working for the same goal: Brand our client across the board.
It was almost 7PM by the time I got back to my desk and read the text from Richard. "Will you be mad if I take a rain check tonight?"
I frowned at the screen, considering how to answer him. "Is everything okay?"
"Fine," he said. "Just need some me time."
Well, that hurt a little. I wrote back a perfunctory, "No problem."
I gathered my things and said good night to William. Outside the street was sloppy with slush, the cold the kind that knocks the wind out of you. I didn't even realize I'd headed for the 1 train until I was waiting on the platform. The entire ride to Richard's apartment, I dissected the conversation we'd had that morning. Nothing incendiary was said, so why was he suddenly shutting down on me?
Someone was walking into Richard's building at the same time I was, so at least I was able to avoid an awkward buzz in situation. I paused outside of Richard's door, wondering what exactly I was there to say. Before I lost my nerve, I knocked.
Richard's footsteps sounded closer, and he released the lock with a sharp click. The door swung open."What are you doing here, Josie?"
I shrugged. "I want to talk, I guess."
Richard turned and disappeared into his living room, leaving the door gaping open behind him. I followed him inside. "Richard, what is going on?"
Richard drove his fingers through his hair and groaned. "This is what you were warning me about, right? How if we ever hook up you'll just infiltrate my life and make me hate you?"
I blinked, trying not to cry. "I know you're just trying to hurt me so I'll go away," I said. "I'm not falling for it."
Richard laughed, meanly. "Whatever you want to tell yourself, Josie." He flopped on his futon. Richard's apartment was small and old, the grime ground into the corners, years deep. I had the same problem—no matter how hard I scrubbed, I couldn't lift the stains packed into the crevices of my kitchen. Still, this place was located in the heart of the Upper West Side, and it must have cost $1800 a month.
"I don't understand what happened," I said. "Everything was fine when we left each other and now you're completely changed."
"Jesus Christ, Josie. I haven't completely changed." Richard kicked his feet up on the coffee table. "Way to be melodramatic."
"Listen to yourself," I cried. "Listen to how hostile you sound. You're telling me nothing's changed?"
Richard sighed. "I really don't feel like doing this."
"What does that mean?"
Richard answered me by climbing to his feet, brushing past me and pulling the door open. "It means you need to go."
I wiped my face. "Are you serious right now?"
"Deadly fucking serious, Josie." Richard's jaw tightened.
"Wow," I said, quietly. I stuffed my hands into my gloves and shook my head in disbelief. I was all set to storm past him, but at the door I stopped, struck by the urge to try again. "Whatever it is, Richard, you can tell me."
Richard brought his chin to his chest and exhaled, shakily. When he looked up at me, I was shocked to see he had tears in his eyes. "Can't."
The entire hallway rattled with the force of the door slamming behind me.