Teaching The Boss

By: Mallory Crowe

He slipped his phone and wallet into his pocket. “Let’s go,” he said, not looking at April as they walked past her desk and to the elevator bay.

April gently shut her laptop and glanced to Sam’s closed office door. It wasn’t like him to shut himself in all day. Something must’ve happened with Oksana. He’d outright ignored her as he and Oksana had gone out to lunch and muttered a quick “hello” on his way back in.

Then the door was shut and, except for the few grunts she’d gotten while she announced his calls and messages, he hadn’t said a word.

Whatever. If he wanted to be left alone, she could give him his space. She collected her purse and took three steps for the elevator before she found herself inexplicably turning toward Sam’s door. Damn it. He was a grown man. It wasn’t her job to psychoanalyze his mood swings.

Even as those thoughts raced through her mind, she crossed to his office and gently rapped on the door.

“Come on in,” called Sam.

Well, he sounded okay. She eased open the heavy wood and peeked her head in. Sam stared intently at his computer screen, not even bothering to look up. “Hey. I’m heading out for the night. I’m going to visit Annabelle.”

“Tell her I said hi,” he muttered, his fingers deftly working over the keyboard.

He was never this distracted. Well, there had been times, but those were usually code red moments when they’d both been working late into the night. Something bad had to be going on that he didn’t want her to know about. “Did anything happen at lunch today?”

His head jerked up. “What are you talking about?”

Crap. Now she was imagining things and scaring him. “Just wondering. You’ve seemed agitated all afternoon. It’s not a big deal, but I wanted to make sure everything is okay.”

Sam leaned back in his chair, crossed his arms over his chest and studied her. Suddenly self-conscious, April fought the urge to fidget. She chewed on her bottom lip and her eyes focused on the ground below her.

Every sweep of his gaze felt strangely intimate, almost like a caress. Great. Now she was reading too much into his mood and his looks. This crush stuff needed to stop. Even so, she couldn’t bring herself to meet his gaze. “Sam?”

“Are you happy here?”

Her brows drew together, the abrupt question enough to break through her intense inspection of the carpeting. “What? Why would you even ask that?”

He took a deep breath. Then another. “You know what? It’s nothing. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t taking advantage of you. Have a great night.”

She nodded, but didn’t move for a moment, torn between asking more about his strange mood and getting out of the office quickly. What the hell kind of question was that? She replayed the day in her mind, but couldn’t think of anything she could’ve done to make him think she wasn’t happy.

But he was an adult. If he wanted to confide in her, he would. “Goodnight, Sam.” She finally turned to leave.

He didn’t say anything as she shut the door.

As the cab drove farther from Manhattan, the scenery got worse and worse. April would always complain about her apartment, but at least she didn’t have to worry about drive-by shootings.

Normally she’d take the L train to her tiny loft in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, but she was a bit too wary of the barred houses and constant blaring of sirens by Annabelle’s house to risk walking between bus or train stops. The cab turned onto Annabelle’s street, driving by the boarded-up windows. But none of these apartments were abandoned. Space in the city was too limited to let any building go to waste. These were owned by families struggling to get by.

The cab came to a stop and April handed the driver his fare and a tip. She’d made this trip enough times to know exactly how much it would be.

April grabbed her purse and book bag and climbed out of the backseat. She carefully made her way over the cracked and broken sidewalk to the entryway and hit the intercom button for apartment 115. She glanced around her as seconds turned to minutes. A woman walked by with her child; the young girl pedaled away on a tricycle. The warm sight helped to calm April’s nerves.

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