Frenemies with Benefits Ch. 05

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For the prequels to this story, please see Frenemies With Benefits chapters 1-4

John:

A wreck. A complete emotional wreck. John couldn’t think straight to save his life the last two weeks. Without her anymore, he was useless.

Just over the weeks she was with him, he’d gotten so used to her sounds and smells that without her he felt like his house echoed.

He still couldn’t understand what he’d done. Yes, he hadn’t mentioned that she was the brain behind some of the work on that project, but for the most part, it was his idea. It was his basic outline. She just added to it and corrected it. Well, actually, not even that. She told him what to add and correct, and he did… They were her ideas though. He really should have at least mentioned her.

He glanced at his cell phone again to see if maybe she’d called or texted him. Ooof course she didn’t. He’d called millions of times, left million’s of messages… He’d even driven to her house one night in desperation, but she hadn’t been home, and that bothered him even more. It had been late…so where had she been?

He sighed as he glanced at the clock. He was supposed to meet Mike again for drinks tonight, but he just wasn’t sure if he was up to it. He picked up the phone again, first checking for any missed calls, then dialing Mike’s number.

“You better not be skipping out on me,” was Mike’s charming answer.

“I just don’t know if I’m up for being out tonight Mike,” John’s voice was gravelly and tired with just a hint of depression.

“You don’t sound like yourself John. You ok?”

“Yeah, yeah I’m fine. Just not feeling like being out on the town and stuff.”

“Yeah, sure, that’s cool. If… If you and Jen don’t have plans, maybe I could just chill at your place with you and we can watch some ball or something…”

“No… no Jennifer and I don’t have plans,” but oh how he wished they did. “Yeah, go ahead and come over if you want.”

Mike wasn’t exactly the company he wanted right now, but it was better than being alone. He sat on the couch, waiting for his friends arrival as he turned on the T.V., trying to find something worth watching, and his mind moved back to having Jennifer’s body close to his on this very couch, struggling over who got to watch what. He sighed and turned the T.V. off. Mike could pick a channel when he got there.

And soon, Mike was there. He walked in and they greeted each other, Mike making himself at home. He sat next to John, studying him intently while John focused on the blank T.V., knowing the questions would soon be coming.

After a few moments of silence, Mike asked, “So… Where is Jen tonight? I figured she’d be here.”

“No.. I don’t know where she is.”

Mike nodded and looked down, “Fight? Did you break up?”

John sighed, knowing at some point his friend would get the whole truth out of him. He might as well spill the beans. “She got mad at me a few weeks ago. I.. I basically stole some of her ideas and passed them off as mine for a promotion. I wasn’t trying to hurt her… I just figured things could really get going for us if I got that promotion…”

“And why did you think that? Both of you are very independent. You have good jobs. You make good money. Heck you two could have moved in together, sold one of the houses, and been just fine without any kind of promotion for either of you..”

“I… I didn’t really think of it that way, but even so.. I wanted to prove to her that…”

“That what? That you’re better than her?” Mike interrupted him.

“What? No! That’s not what I meant, I just…”

“That’s what she thinks, John. That’s what she’s always thought. You’ve always had everything she’s ever wanted, and she can never gain a mile.”

“What? No, no, no. She has always acted like she’s better than me! That’s why I feel the need to prove myself to her.. to prove I’m good at what I do.”

“By taking her ideas and getting promoted by them?”

John was silent at that point. Never in his life had he felt like such an ass. This really had been about him. Not “us” as he’d said. God, he was such a selfish ass hole.

He hung his head in defeat, and Mike sighed. “John, you’ve always had everything Jennifer ever wanted from the very beginning. The affection of our parents, the recognition… The very job you have was one she’d set her eyes on for years, and after all the work she’d put into getting it, after feeling so sure that she was good enough to have it, you waltzed in without a single preparation and took it. How was she supposed to feel when she realized you, again, stole her thunder? She’s good, John, and you know it. She deserves a better position than the one she has.”

The affection of her parents… John’s jaw fell slack. He’d never even suspected that his relationship with her parents had affected her that way. Everything sort of fell into place in that moment, but Mike continued on his rant about how horrible John had been to Jennifer throughout the years.

“Ok, ok, Mike I got it. Can güvenilir bahis you stop making me feel so shitty?”

Mike laughed and shrugged, “So what are you going to do about it?”

“I have absolutely no idea.”

“Well.. here’s a thought. You somehow fix whatever you can at your job. Get her a raise. Get her promoted… something. She deserves it, you know. But the part I can help with is dinner,” Mike wiggled his eyebrows at his friend.

“Dinner? How the hell am I gonna get Jennifer back by eating dinner with you?”

“Not with just me. With my parents, and me… and Jennifer. Jen and I are supposed to go to my parents’ next Friday night at 7:00. I can ask my mom if you can come, which of course she’ll say yes to, and we can agree to not tell Jennifer because she’s never liked you anyway, so mom won’t know the difference.”

John was quiet for a while, then he smiled at Mike, “And that is why we’re best friends.”

“Why? Because in the end with your snooty college degrees and big money, I am still smarter than both you, and my little sister?”

John just laughed and nodded, “Yeah, man, that’s it.”

For the first time that night, John took a good look at Mike. He looked cleaned up. Shaven, rested, and clear eyes told him something had changed since the last time he’d seen his friend.

“So, enough of my problems, what have you been up to lately?” John asked, fishing for the cause of the transformation.

“Things have been looking up. I’ve had tons of interviews. No calls back, yet, but I’m hopeful for one.. And I’ve been kind of seeing Heather.”

“Heather… Heather from Toby’s, Heather?”

Mike smiled and nodded, “Yeah that’s the one. I really like her a lot, John.”

“Good, man. I’m glad you’ve met someone like her.”

John sincerely meant that. Heather was a sweet girl. A little shy, but still sweet. Mike’s past relationships consisted of women who weren’t sweet at all. They hadn’t all been a certain type, necessarily, but they’d always been wrong for him. If it took a girl for Mike to get his act together, John was pretty sure Heather could be the one to do it.

They spent the rest of the night catching up, sharing a few drinks and laughing, but John just couldn’t shake the anxiety of knowing what he was about to do for the love of his life.

***************

Jennifer:

It like she was so tired these days. The last few weeks she just hadn’t felt motivated to do anything. She was sluggish, worn out, and… sad. She missed…

No. She did not miss John Tate. She avoided him at work, ignored him outside of work, and worked harder than ever before to not think of him. She did not miss him.

She sighed as she pulled into her parking spot at work. Another day, another dollar. She walked in, completely avoiding even looking in John’s direction, and went straight to her cubicle. Maybe it was trying so hard to avoid him that was tiring her. She just didn’t have any energy.

Not more than two minutes after she sat down, her phone rang. It was John. Of course. She debated on picking up the phone, but since they were at work, she figured it probably was professional.

“Jennifer Brandon, how may I help you?”

“Jennifer, this is John. You’re wanted in Mr. Alston’s office in an hour.”

“Mr. Alston?” Mr. Alston was the big boss. The top dog. Well, not completely, but he was sort of over most things that go on. Advertising, media, accounting, etc. “What does he want with me? Am I in trouble,” she asked apprehensively.

“I don’t know, honestly. I was just told to tell you.”

“Ok. Thank you.”

Her stomach tightened up and she felt sick. This was either a very good thing, or a very bad thing. She didn’t think she’d done anything to screw up, lately… Maybe she was just getting laid off… They needed to get rid of someone, and it would be her..

She chided herself, trying to calm down. She tried telling herself not to be irrational. She’d done a good job for this company. There was no reason for her to be fired.

She watched the clock anxiously as it moved slower than ever before. Finally, it was her time and she made her way to Alston’s office.

His secretary let her in, and he smiled at her, “Ms. Brandon, it’s a pleasure to see you. Have a seat.”

She smiled nervously and sat down. This was why she hadn’t gotten John’s job. She had no interview skills whatsoever. She was such a nervous wreck that she’d seemed frazzled and underprepared, when really she’d never prepared more for something in her life.

“I’m sure you’re wondering why I’ve called you here today,” Alston smiled up at her again before looking back to his computer. From where she sat, she could see his screen, and it looked like designs from her portfolio pulled up on it.

Realizing she hadn’t answered his question, she quickly nodded, not trusting herself to speak.

“We’ve been watching you closely since you started here, Ms. Brandon. I feel that you have a lot to offer this company. You’re very dependable, türkçe bahis and hard working.”

“Well…yes sir. I do have a lot to offer,” she found her voice, “I’m very good at what I do.. I love my job.”

“Do you love your job too much to be promoted?”

She nearly choked, and she didn’t even have anything in her mouth. When she finally found her voice, she squeaked, “Promoted to what?”

“The vacant general manager position. I think it would benefit us for the position to go to you.” He smiled again, a very business like smile, waiting on her reply.

Her brain stumbled. That was the position… “Mr. Alston… isn’t that the position Jo…Mr. Tate was going to have?”

“It’s been decided that Mr. Tate is very good at the position he is currently involved in. This position seems to be best fitted for you.”

“I…I would love that, sir. Thank you so much for the opportunity.”

“Wonderful. You may go, and begin moving your things. You will have the vacant office next to mine. Feel free to ask Mrs. Peters, the secretary, for anything. She’s your secretary now, too.”

In a daze, she floated back to the main office, and went to her cubicle, slowly stacking her things. Heather came crashing in and whisper/screamed, “Oh my God, did you get fired?!”

“No! I got promoted!”

Heather’s eyes popped and she quietly clapped her hands in celebration, “Oh Jennifer that’s amazing! How?!”

Jennifer, still bewildered, shook her head, “I still don’t really know..”

She thought back to the designs… her designs that had been on Mr. Alston’s computer. That portfolio had just been for fun. It was completely separate from the one she’d given when she’d applied here. She had never even given them that portfolio….

Things moved fast. She felt John’s eyes on her as she moved to her new office. The office that was bigger than John’s. She’d finally won. She beat John Tate at one damn thing in her life.

His eyes looked sad as she walked past him, and she smirked. Serves him right. He doesn’t deserve any promotion after…

She still had a few more things to move. Her new office wasn’t set up with a computer, so she’d have to move hers. She wasn’t very physically strong, but she was sure she could manage. She was trying to haul the monitor. It wasn’t so much how heavy it was, but it was awkward. Soon she felt stronger hands pulling it from her.

“John, I don’t need your help.”

“I was just…I just thought it looked a little heavy for you.”

She thought back to a moment they’d had a few months ago and smiled, “I’m perfectly capable of handling this on my own Tate. Remember, I am the boss. You’re free to leave.”

He stepped away dejectedly from her, and silently moved back to his office, gently closing the door.

She felt a little sting there, but she’d had every right. After what he’d done…

But if it was the right thing to say, why did she feel like such a bitch?

She sighed, now feeling conflicted, and finished her move. It was Friday, so even with her promotion, and the exciting things that were happening, she was relieved to feel 5:00 come along. She wished everyone in her new office space a good weekend, and left. She was supposed to have dinner with her parents and Mike tonight, but she was so tired. She might cancel.

Picking up the phone, she dialed Mike’s number, and heard the abrupt answer from him, “No, you’re not canceling.”

“Mike, I’m so tired. It’s been such a long week…”

“And it’s now the weekend. You can sleep in tomorrow, and do whatever the hell you want to do. You haven’t seen Mom and Dad in forever. As a matter of fact, you haven’t even talked to them. They miss you.”

“Well they could call me every now and then, too, if they miss me so badly. Communication is a two way street.”

“They know how busy you are. They don’t like to bother you. Anyway, it really has been too long since you’ve seen them, and it’s been too long since I’ve seen you. I miss you, too, you know. Sometimes anyway.”

“Ok, ok. I’ll be there. Seven, right?”

“You know it.”

“Ok. Oh hey Mike guess what?”

“What’s up?” She heard curiosity pique in his voice.

“I got a promotion!”

“No way, kiddo! That’s awesome! I’m so proud of you!” Genuine happiness. God, Mike was so lovable sometimes. He really was a good brother.

She laughed into the phone and made a playful groan, “Miiiike you know I hate ‘kiddo.’ Don’t call me that.”

“Aw, it’s good for you. Anyway I gotta run. I’m gonna meet Heather for coffee before tonight.”

“Aw, good. Have fun, and I’ll see you later.”

As she hung up, she grinned. Who knew that her best friend and her big brother would end up having a little crush on each other?

Jennifer was so glad for the relationship they were beginning to have. None of Mike’s old girlfriends were really good enough for him. Yeah, he was a college drop out, and at that moment, jobless, but he was such a wonderful guy. He deserved a girl güvenilir bahis siteleri like Heather.

She got home and changed out of her work clothes into jeans and a sweater, glad to be more comfortable. Soon enough it was time to head to her parents’ place. She sighed and grabbed her keys, heading out the door.

She loved her parents, she really did. It just seemed that nothing was ever quite good enough for them. Her mother was sort of a meddler, and was always trying to interfere with her plans… her work… her life.

That’s why she’d never told her about John…when they were together. It would have been such a big deal if things hadn’t ended well…and they hadn’t.

Her dad was a gruff but loving man. He was also very critical. No matter what she did, he’d tell her in the most loving way how she could have done it better.

It was just such a headache to be around her parents, no matter how much she loved them.

On her way, she felt her phone buzz. Heather was calling. She sighed, debating on picking up the phone. Heather would surely try to get her to go out tonight, trying to “cheer” her up. She didn’t need cheer. She needed space.

Picking up the phone against her own will, she put it to her ear. “Hello?”

“Hey! Whatcha got planned for tonight?”

“Oh, just dinner with my parents. You?”

“I want to go dance, but no one will go with me! Wanna come after you leave your parents’?”

“Oh… I don’t know, Heather. It’s been such a long week. I probably shouldn’t.”

“That means you probably should!”

Jennifer didn’t answer, and Heather huffed, “Fine. I haven’t seen you outside of work since… But whatever. Just go home and mope.”

“Heather… Come on, don’t be like that. I’ll go, ok? I’ll text you when I leave.”

She could practically hear Heather’s satisfied smile

She pulled into the driveway, and was soon walking in. The first thing she saw was the backside of, wouldn’t you know it, John fucking Tate. Her mother came to hug her and, pulled back, smiling, “John came here with Mike! Isn’t that wonderful Jennifer?”

Oh yeah. It was just perfect.

***************

John:

He saw her look of dismay, and that hurt his feelings more than anything. Right then and there, he almost left. Had it not been for Mr. and Mrs. Brandon, he would have.

But Mrs. Brandon was practically waiting on him hand and foot, and Mr. Brandon was in a deep conversation with him about his work. He couldn’t leave.

Mrs. Brandon was a short, round lady with short curly silver hair. She was possibly the sweetest, most loving person John had ever met.

Mr. Brandon was very tall and distinguished looking, a gruff voice, but tender eyes, and very intelligent.

He tried to seem enthralled by what Mr. Brandon was saying, but in his peripherals he was watching Jennifer. She moved to help Mrs. Brandon in the kitchen, setting the table, and adding the extra place setting for him.

Eventually, they sat down to eat, and it got quiet. Soon, Mrs. Brandon piped up, “So, Jennifer, how’s work? How do you like working for John?”

“I’ve never worked ‘for John,” mom. I work for the company. Besides, John isn’t my boss anymore.”

“Ooh!” Mrs. Brandon turned to John, her eyes lighting up, “Did you get moved in the company? Do you have a new position? Do you like it better?”

“Well, actually…” John started to answer, but was interrupted by Jennifer.

“Why does it have to be John who has success? If you must know, I am the one with a changed job description.”

“…Aw Jennifer,” her mom’s eyes took on pity, “did you get fired?”

“…What?! No! No, mom, I’m John’s boss now. I got a promotion. Why is that so hard to imagine?!”

Silence hit the table as the tension thickened. Mrs. Brandon blinked, the realization of her assumptions sinking into her.

“Jennifer… I’m sorry. I didn’t think…”

“Why didn’t you think? Why can’t you think your own daughter is incredibly good at something? I have always been just as good as John! Honestly, in our line of work, I’ve always been better!”

Mrs. Brandon began to tear up, and John muttered, “Jenny….”

She turned, her eyes burning him down, and her nostrils flaring, “Don’t you dare ‘Jenny’ me! You know damn well it’s the truth.”

“That’s enough, Jennifer!” Mr. Brandon finally spoke, his harsh voice bouncing off the walls of the small dining room.

“Oh, what?” Jennifer hissed, “is this the part where you tell me what a terrible daughter, and complete disappointment I am? No ‘congratulations Jennifer,’ or ‘we’re so proud of you?’ Of course not. I don’t know why the hell I ever expect anything different from you.”

She abruptly stood, and left the room, heading for the door. There was a violent slam, then complete silence. Mrs. Brandon started crying, making the tension awkward.

Mike, who’d been intently watching the entire ordeal from his quiet corner at the table, stood to follow Jennifer. Everyone, including John, knew that Mike was the only one who could talk sense into her at this point.

Mrs. Brandon, still at the table, sniffed and dabbed her eyes, “I just don’t know what she wants me to say. I don’t know what she wants from me.”

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