I don’t want to eat my donut, and if you know me, you know skipping dessert two meals in a row goes against everything I stand for.
But it’s gotten uncomfortable in Dionysos’ apartment, and it’s not the cramped sitting position or the fact that I’ve now seen my boss almost naked.
I only told him I’m thankful for all he did for me, but the way he’s going almost cross-eyed, keeping his gaze on the croissant he’s tearing into, says he heard something else. Was it my tone of voice? Or is it in my eyes? Can he tell I’m dying to touch him again? And I don’t mean his hand for another split second. Twice now he’s pulled away, as if I burned him. Perhaps he senses my interest, and it’s not reciprocated.
But the way he looks at me some times… He seems to feel the same ache I do. The need for more. Is it wishful thinking?
That sounded like his voice in my head. Lovely. I’m now having Dionysos-voiced illusions.
Well, wishful thinking or not, it’s stupid. I need the money, which means that until I find another job, I need to keep my hands off Dionysos. And to stop looking at him like I want to eat him up.
“I should go.” I climb to my feet. “I’m meeting a friend, who’s gonna help me”—I can’t say move, or he may want to know where—“get my stuff from the office.” I need to do that anyway.
He hops up and makes it to the door before I do. The hand not holding the door open is in his pocket. Dear God, is that an erection he’s trying to hide, stretching the cotton?
Shit. Did he see me looking?
Yes, and I want you to do so much more than that.
I need to quit having conversations in my head, before I believe the imaginary voices and trace that erection with my fingers.
“Come in fifteen minutes before shift begins, to sign the employment agreement,” Dionysos says.
Right. I should be thinking about the job, not him. “Will do.” I slide past him and all but tumble down the stairs, holding my breath till I reach the landing. I feel off when I’m around that man. I’d better tone it down, or the next few months will be beyond awkward.
The 171 bus passes a block from here, but once I board that, it’s an hour and twenty minute to the Halandri metro where I parked my car, if there’s no wait for M2 at Helliniko. I’m supposed to meet Sofia in an hour. Meh, whom am I kidding? I’d take a taxi even if I had time to spare.
I call for one, and it magically arrives a mere five minutes later.
The driver isn’t too happy to take me to Halandri, and mumbles something about wanting to stay in the southern suburbs, but I smile and buckle up as if he didn’t speak. He’s obligated by law to take me where I want to go.
He’s broody throughout the drive, swerving too hard and cursing at anyone who dares cross paths with us.
My hand is practically glued to the grab handle, and I play a mental prayer on a loop. Please keep me safe.
Dionysos’ voice in my head replies, Nothing will happen to you while I draw breath. I promise.
And I’m officially in need of a shrink.
The driver all but pulls the handbrake when we get to the metro station. I shove twenty euro into his open palm and hop out of the car without waiting for a receipt. I need solid ground under my feet and another coffee, STAT.
My Ford Fiesta awaits in the parking lot, thankfully in the shade. I still drive home with the windows cracked open, enjoying the breeze. Need to take a shower anyway, so a few more knots in my hair won’t be an issue.
Sofia is waiting outside my soon-to-be-former building, full makeup on, like always. Got to admire the dedication of a woman who wakes up twenty minutes earlier than necessary every single day, to apply colored contacts and false eyelashes.
“Someone had an interesting morning.” She twirls a finger, indicating my head.
My hand flies to my crazy curls. “Only touched by the air, honest.”
She huffs. “I was hoping for some inside info on the sex-on-legs rumor. What good are you, anyway?”
I give her a quick hug. “I can introduce you to him, but I thought you had a sex-god of your own.”
Another huff, this one more exaggerated. “I am involved; I’m not dead. Though a guy like that may be able to bring women back from the dead.”
He sure revived my hormones, which currently resemble those of an eighteen year old. “Well, I have no stories to share. Except he makes an incredible burger, looks even better without a shirt on, and is surprisingly down to earth for a millionaire.”
Her eyes bug out. “A millionaire? On top of looking like that? Is he at least a sadistic asshole?” She rubs her chin. “Though I’m not sure that would count against him.”
My mind invokes the mental image of him behind me, one large palm landing on my asscheek. I shake my head but cannot dislodge the image that repeats itself in a loop until I’m impossibly wet. I hook my arm around Sofia’s and fish my keys out of my bag. “Let’s get this over with.”
I unlock the door and push it open slowly, as if Petros may jump out. He’s not here, of course. Doesn’t make me less jittery.
I remember the day I moved into the fourth floor apartment. It was my first week with Marinos Advertising, and I couldn’t believe how lucky I got, for my boss to be renting me this furnished apartment at two thirds of its market value. He said I’d be spending the difference on public transport, and it wouldn’t be fair to charge me more. Little did I know at the time he was buttering me up so he could get into my pants. Sofia warned me about him soon after that, but other than the occasional inappropriate remark, he was mostly friendly.
Too friendly. I should have known—
“You’d better be thinking about Denny, and not that asshole, Petros.” Sofia pulls me further into the apartment.
“I prefer Dionysos,” I mumble. It’s annoying that she’s so astute and witty, on top of gorgeous. “I shouldn’t have stayed late with him—Petros. You told me he made a pass at everything with boobs. I… I shouldn’t have been there yesterday.”
Her eyes are blazing when she twirls me to face her. “Are you shitting me? There’s no universe in which this is even remotely your fault. It’s a thousand percent on him, and he knows it.”
She holds up a finger, cutting me off. “I’ll prove it to you. I should have done this sooner, but I didn’t think he’d go that far. I’m sorry.” She brings out her cell phone, scrolls, taps, and brings it to her ear. “You pitiful excuse for a human being, you’d better call Moira now and apologize, or I swear to God, I’ll end your life as you know it.”
She ends the call and gives me a sweet smile. A second later, my phone buzzes in my back pocket. Marinosflashes on the screen when I bring it out. My stomach twists into a knot, and for a frighteningly long heartbeat, I cannot draw breath. I force air into my lungs and accept the call, but I don’t speak.
“Moira?” His voice makes my skin crawl. How did I not know what a creep he was the first time I laid eyes on him? “Listen, I’m sorry. It was a misunderstanding. Come by the office. We’ll work this out. Maybe you need a couple days off, and then it can all be business as usual.” He sounds cool, but there’s an undercurrent of worry beneath it all.
The familiarity of the devil I know tempts me to accept. To return to the routine. To avoid moving out of this apartment.
To see Petros’s weasely face every morning, instead of Dionysos’ gorgeous one?
“I’m offering you an olive branch here,” Petros says.
“Well, you can shove it up your ass, along with your keys. I’ll drop them off later today, and I expect you to have my severance check ready.”
His chill is gone, as he spits out, “Listen here, you little bitch—” but I hang up before he finishes his sentence.
I switch off my phone and look at the dark screen. “So I guess that bridge is burned.”
Sofia laughs. “If you ever change your mind and want to go back, let me know. I’ll make it happen.”
“How?” Petros never hit on her while I was with the company. She was the only woman he treated with respect. “What do you have on him?”
“Dick pics. Unsolicited ones. And his father’s private number, from when Marinos Sr. used to run the show. I threatened to show the old man when pics of Petros’s Cheeto landed in my inbox, and he’s been… accommodating since.” Her grin is shark-like, and if I didn’t already adore her, this would be the moment I decided I wanted to be her friend for life.
“I’ll buy you lunch if you come with me to return his keys,” I say.
Her arched eyebrow is a work of art. “You’re buying me lunch anyway. I want a Dionysos burger.” She tucks her tongue behind her teeth. “Though I wouldn’t say no to a Dionysos sandwich.”
And there’s the jealousy again, choking reason out of me. I shove it back down my throat with both hands and summon a saccharine smile. “We’ll see what you can handle after we’re done moving my belongings. Sure you can do this without breaking a nail?” Seriously, her acrylics are impeccable.
She blows on said acrylics, not sparing me a glance. “Oh I’m not here to pack, honey. I’m here for psychological support.”
Despite her proclamation, Sofia does help. Though we’d do this faster if she didn’t comment on every single item of clothing I own. Yes, some should never be worn in public. But maybe they weren’t purchased to be worn outside. Maybe the Moira who bought them was hoping to hook up with a hot relationship-material kind of guy in Athens, and things just didn’t pan out in the year and a half I’ve been here.
After an hour of folding and stacking things, I order coffee and donuts. Don’t judge. I left my morning dose of sugar at Dionysos’.
It takes another two and a half hours, for my life in Athens to be not-so-neatly stuffed in three suitcases and two hold-alls.
I’m so glad I keep putting off bringing the rest of my stuff from Halkida, even if it means I need to go home every weekend or two, to leave my dirty laundry and get freshly ironed clothes. Yes, it’s worth the hour’s drive, if you also count in my mom’s incredible cooking. And this way, I get to see her, Dad, and my jerk of a younger brother, Niko.
Mom did my laundry even back when I lived in an apartment with a fully operational washing machine, a few blocks from my family home. It was her idea, which I fully embraced, because I’d rather drive to another country than do it myself.
Don’t like it? Don’t date me.
“All done.” I look around the bedroom that seems cold and faceless without my bright-yellow sheets and the two stuffed bears I’ve slept with since childhood. At twenty-eight, I’m aware I should act like an adult and have things more together than I do, but really, I don’t want to. I don’t leave people hanging, and I don’t drop the ball when it comes to work, but other than that, I mostly drift through life. More fun this way.
Gathering my belongings to stow them at Sofia’s for the next few weeks, while I’ll be hiding in the backroom of a bar, could be another adventure, but it doesn’t feel like fun. It feels like it may be time for me to do that overrated growing-up thing. And possibly my own laundry. Once I get a new place with a washing machine.
I take a quick shower, shove my worn clothes and used towels in my unused gym-bag, and slip into fresh underwear, clean jeans, and a new T-shirt. Sofia and I load both our cars and drop my suitcases off at hers. The hold-alls will stay in my trunk for the duration of my stay at Denny’s. Also, the darling woman offered to do my laundry.
Still in separate cars, we head to Voula and the company we both used to work for. Parking spots aren’t exactly aplenty in the area, so I have time to build up some steam during the four-block walk to the office.
Where said steam fully dissipates.
Don’t know how long I stand staring at the entrance, before Sofia taps my shoulder. “You don’t have to do this,” she says. “Gimme his keys.”
I want to tell her I got this, that this is my first adult day—a decade too late. Instead, I place the metal loop holding the apartment and front-door keys in her open palm.
She wraps her fingers around them and squeezes my arm with her free hand. “I’ll bring the papers out for you to sign. Wait here.”
It’s not the first time she’s saved my ass. She and my predecessor at this job were best friends, so she had no reason to take me under her wing when I came aboard, but she did. I hope I get to repay her one day.
And I’ll start with lunch. My severance should cover seafood overlooking the sea at En Plo.