March 23

Peace and quiet have been ruined today. Ruined. I have, however, managed to show my boss that I won’t be pushed around. I belong here, regardless of how he feels about it. He doesn’t have to like me, but he will come to respect me. Respect yourself and others will respect you, as Confucius (or somebody) once said.

I was going through messages—mostly from women in the church (of course, Faith, and then, Jessica, plenty from some Jessica, Melinda, Heather—don’t these women have a life?) wanting to schedule a meeting with Tavish. It’s actually becoming embarrassing. Three from Faith, four from someone named Jessie or something, all for Tavish, and I was feeling like it was a waste of my time, so I tried to skip forward. That’s what I tried to do. The church voicemail system is ancient though, just ancient, so instead of skipping…

“Messages erased.”

Robot voicemail man informs me the messages are gone. I’ve accidentally cleared all the messages from the system. The entire system! A whole weekend of deleted voicemails. So I’m already in a state, for obvious reasons, and then, out of nowhere, there’s a loud—

“Natalie!”

I squeal in terror and fall out of my chair. Undignified but understandable under the circumstances.

“Whaaat?!”

“Do you always say that?”

“What?”

“Exactly.”

Not the most respectful way to greet my boss, I realize.

And he’s in the office on Monday! I resent this. Monday is the quiet day of the week. I thought it would be my day. Kate is off. Mark is off. Today is the day I was planning on catching up on the leftover stuff from Friday. Not to mention improving my (nonexistent) typing skills. With no one looking over my shoulder.

“I’m sorry. It’s just…you scared me! I thought all the staff were off on Mondays.” I’m staring at him like a tetchy and sarcastic private eye from a 1940s detective film. I simply felt I needed to hint at the invasion of my privacy.

“No apologies necessary. I should have told you that I prefer to be in on Mondays. I can get a lot more done. As you know, fewer distractions.”

I nodded in agreement. I couldn’t think of anything else to do. What I want to tell him is, “No. Hands off. Monday is my day.” We haven’t even spoken since our awkward encounter in the copy room and things still feel uncomfortable, though I am holding my ground and standing up to him. Or at least that’s what I’m trying to do, hopefully he sees this.

“Look, I’ll stay out of your way,” Tav says. “You won’t even notice I’m here.”

“Even trade. I’ll stay out of yours.”

We shake hands and seal the deal. The touch of his hand on mine is like lightning through my body. I quickly dismiss the feeling.

“Any messages for me?”

A warmth heats up my face. If he had arrived at the office before me, he probably heard me play some of those messages. And he must have heard, “Messages erased.”

“Well, several women of the church have…urgent needs for you.”

“I understand you deleted their needs.”

“I…I…excuse me?”

He heard. He heard me delete the messages.

“It’s ok, I think I heard a few of them. Maybe next time you can just take the messages down before deleting them.”

“That was a total mistake.”

“I’m certain it was.” No emotion registering.

I am mortified.

The problem with me when I get embarrassed is that I tend to make the situation worse.

“Yes. Yes! Yes, of course it was! It’s not like I’m…jealous of your girlfriends!”

There it is. Out there, big and bold and awkward. The one thing I do not feel and did not want to say, and it’s just popped out like a lunatic escaped from an asylum.

Maybe I’m the one who needs to check into an asylum.

“It didn’t cross my mind.”

And he’s so calm. That’s the problem. He smiles good-naturedly, nods his head, and seems to dismiss the whole thing entirely.

“Because I’m not.”

Yep. Me again. The lady doth protest too much, methinks, runs quickly through my brain and I absolutely wish I were a paper weight.

I attempt to redeem myself from my blathering self-sabotage.

“By the way, did you get Faith’s message about Thursday? I left a note in your box.”

“Yes, I did. I owe her a call.”

He smiles again and I turn away, grandly stapling together the church directory and a bulletin, two things that obviously do not need stapling together. I hope he hasn’t noticed this, and I’m trying to get a reading on his thoughts as he walks into his office with that smile still on his face. Hmmm. He is not at all an open book.

All in all, though, I’ve kept most of my dignity intact, acting nonchalant and totally uninterested in him and his relationship, or whatever, with Faith. They can ride off into the sunset for all I care. I have a big, wide world waiting for me.

And yet, I still feel the electricity of his hand in mine, even for that brief moment.

Stop. Stop. I have to stop thinking about my gorgeous Scottish boss!!

I’m focusing on a little chair at a little café near the Place St. Michel, waiting for my pulse to cool down…

Better. Yes. Much better.