Chapter 5: Then the Morning Comes

Pain exploded behind Beth's eyes as consciousness returned to her. She had known even last night that today was not going to be a good day, but she hadn't anticipated her hangover being nearly this bad. With great caution, she opened her eyes. She quickly closed them as painful light assaulted them. Much as she wanted to keep them closed until all the pain went away, she knew she had to get up eventually and that no matter how long she waited, the hangover was still going to be bad. She opened her eyes again and bore the pain until it diminished into a constant throbbing. Slowly, very slowly, she moved herself into a sitting position, holding still as her apartment spun around her. It took an extremely long time for the ride to be over, but Beth was just thankful that she had managed not to throw up. Her eyes and her head . . . well, actually, her entire body ached, but she stood up nonetheless. Again, she remained as still as she could manage, making sure she had her balance. Taking a few tentative steps, she felt confident enough to make her way to the kitchen, where she began brewing a large pot of coffee. As soon as it was finished, she poured some into a mug and gulped it down, relieved that it wasn't worsening her condition. After she finished the mug, she got out another and poured some into it, then walked carefully back into the other room. Lisa was still on the floor, still unconscious. With the most care that Beth could muster with the mother of all hangovers, she shook Lisa until there was some indication that she was still alive. It came out as a moan. Beth could definitely sympathize. But that didn't mean she was going to let Lisa try to sleep through it either.
"Come on Lisa, get up," Beth drawled, the pain and fatigue evident in her voice.
Lisa just groaned and turned over.
"No, you have to get up. I have some coffee here for you."
Lisa tuned onto her back, then her eyes slowly fluttered open. After a few moments, she was able to squint. She managed a weak smile. "Hey Beth."
Beth smiled sympathetically down at her friend. "Hey Lisa. Some night last night, huh?"
"You're telling me." Lisa's hand came up to block the sunlight from her eyes. "My whole body aches. Remind me not to drink that much ever again."
"Only if you'll do the same for me."
Lisa's hand stretched up to Beth, who took it and shook it. Then, to Lisa's surprise and chagrin, she pulled, causing Lisa to sit up. "Beth! Why didn't you tell me you were going to do that?"
"Duh! If I had, you wouldn't have let me."
Lisa sighed, adjusting herself. "I know that, but still, was it absolutely necessary?"
Beth shrugged. "I don't know, but it doesn't matter. You're sitting up now. Here, let me help you stand up."
Beth got to her feet while Lisa braced herself. Beth pulled and Lisa pushed, and soon Lisa was standing, albeit unsteadily. Beth handed the mug of coffee to Lisa, which she promptly drained. After a few more mugs each, they began to feel like they could function somewhat normally. Snooping around Beth's kitchen, they found some cereal, which they both ate. Breakfast itself was fun for the both of them, as they teased each other about the night before. Naturally, the subject of the late night phone call came up.
"Beth, what are you going to about Dave?"
Beth looked apprehensively at Lisa. "What do you mean?"
"I mean, are you going to ask him out or something?"
Shaking her head, Beth answered in the negative.
"Why not?" Lisa was surprised. It didn't seem like Beth to hesitate from something that she wanted.
Sighing, Beth stared into her coffee mug, trying to figure out the best way to answer her friend. A moment later, she looked Lisa in the eye. "There are a number of reasons," she started quietly. "First of all, I seriously doubt he feels the same way about me. Second of all, he's my boss, and after the way your relationship ended, I don't think he'd be interested in another office romance."
Lisa nodded her head. She had to admit that she agreed with Beth on that one.
"And, you know, I don't want to get hurt. I've had enough of rejection."
"Rejection is a part of the whole process."
"Yeah, I know. And, I don't want to hurt you."
Lisa smiled briefly at Beth. "You won't. Dave and I are just friends. I'll get over him."
"It's just that there are too many factors, you know? Too much to worry about. I really care for him, and I think that's why it's so hard. It's not just a fling, or lust. I think it's real."
Lisa nodded. "Then you really should go for it. You never know. He might feel the same way about you."
A smile flitted across Beth's face. "Hard to say really."
"Yeah, men, right?"
Beth grinned. "Yeah, men."
The two shared a brief laugh over that. It was then that Lisa looked down at her watch. "Oh no! Beth, I've got to get going. I have a banquet I have to go to tonight. I'll talk to you later, ok?"
"Yeah, I'll see you at work on Monday. Be careful on your way home, alright?"
"I'll be fine. Just remember what we talked about. 'Do what you know in your heart to be the right thing,' remember?"
Beth's smile was bittersweet as she recalled the advice she had given Lisa on her wedding day. "I remember. Thanks for everything."
"You're welcome," Lisa said as she headed for the door with Beth right behind her. The two of them hugged, then Beth let Lisa out, shutting the door behind her.
Beth sighed. All of a sudden, the apartment seemed empty. She went back into the kitchen and cleaned up the dishes, opting to wash them later, as she had no desire to at the moment. Falling back on to her couch, she stared out her window, her mind wandering to the day ahead of her. She really couldn't think of anything to do. Well, she could go see a movie or something, but somehow the thought didn't appeal to her. Maybe it was because she didn't want to go by herself. Since she couldn't seem to think of anything to do, she let her mind wander to the past week. To be perfectly honest, she was glad it was over. Upset that her big plan had been a big bust, and hurt that her secret admirer had panned out, but definitely glad that the stress of trying to impress her boss was past. He would never have to know, regardless of what Lisa had said to her, and things could go back to the way they were before the wedding, or even before that. Before she had realized she was in love with Dave.
Dwelling on these thoughts was not improving her mood, nor her headache. Her mind wandered to her "secret admirer." Despite the fact that he had stood her up, she couldn't help but wonder whom it had been. A sudden urge to reread her cards compelled Beth to stand up and shuffle over to where she had dumped her stuff the night before. She rummaged through her bag and through her small briefcase, and realized with a start that she had left them in her desk. It was coming back to her. Dave had practically pushed her out of his office, and she had been so hurt and upset that he had a date with someone else that she had threw some things into her bag and headed out, not really paying attention to what she had thrown in.
Sighing, Beth also realized that the rose wouldn't last unless she went and got it, because she hadn't refreshed the water in the vase. Besides, she wanted to admire it, and she wanted to reread her notes, if for nothing else than the ego boost they would provide. And she reasoned that since she had nothing planned for the day, a trip to the office was a way to get out of her apartment.
Ten minutes later, she was dressed and heading out the door. She stepped outside, a gentle wind whipping her hair back. The wind felt cool on her cheeks, and she opted to walk to the office, as it was such a nice day out. She took her time, enjoying the feeling of having all the time in the world. Eventually, she arrived at the office, her mood considerably lightened. The elevator reached her floor, and she virtually bounced out of the elevator, virtually bouncing into Dave. She pulled up short of running into him, but they were extremely close together. Beth could feel the blood rushing to her face as she looked up and saw the surprise and amusement in his eyes. She grinned tentatively at him. "Uh, hi."
"Hey Beth. What are you doing here?"
"Oh, I just stopped by to pick up some things I left here yesterday." She scrutinized him. He looked a little tired, and maybe a bit sad. "What are you doing here?"
He looked at her, and seemed to be thinking her question over. Was he hung over? "Oh, the same really."
Beth nodded. It wasn't really an answer, but she didn't press the issue. She stepped back from him and smiled again. "Well, I'm just going to go get my stuff and be on my way."
He nodded at stepped aside, allowing her to walk past him.
She walked over to her desk and was surprised when he followed her. She rummaged through her desk, retrieving the notes and the rose. That's when she thought she heard him snort. When she looked over in his direction, he had his trademark evil grin on his face. "What?" she asked, somewhat defensively.
Shaking his head, his grin widened. "You came all the way back to the office, just for your notes and your rose."
Beth sighed a long-suffering sigh and rolled her eyes at him. "And your point is . . . ?"
"It's an awful long way to come for some overly cliched love notes." He was grinning at her again.
"And just what did you come for, may I ask?"
Did his smile just waver? "Maybe, maybe not. It all depends."
"On what?"
"On whether or not you want to have lunch with me."
Beth hesitated. Was he asking her to lunch? "If I say yes, then will you tell me?"
He nodded.
Inside, she was screaming, but her face did not betray her. "Weeeeell . . . I don't know," she drawled, grinning at him. She didn't want to seem too eager. "I suppose so," she finished, exaggerating her apathy.
He smiled at her, and she wondered if she saw relief there. If she had, it was gone instantaneously. "Great. Chinese ok? I know a great place."
Nodding, she smiled at him. "Fine with me."
"Well, then, if you're done here . . . "
She nodded at him again.
"Let's go then."
The two of them left the building.

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Conclusion