The Lies That Define Us(10)

By: Micalea Smeltzer

“This way.” Ollie nodded, and they started toward the building.

I trailed behind and kept my head low; my long, dark hair provided an excellent shield.

Ollie held the door open for Talia and then me. When his hand landed on the small of my back, I gasped and jumped away.

“Sorry.” His hand fell like he’d been burned.

I shook my head. “Don’t be.”

I am going to have to work on being so jumpy.

“Darren’s office is this way.” He stepped in front of me, taking Talia’s hand.

The interior of Mo’s was more bright colors and shiny wood floors. It was packed with the evening crowd, and there wasn’t an empty seat at the bar.

We reached the door, and Ollie rapped his knuckles against it.

A male voice called out, “Just a second!”

The door swung open a moment later and a guy stood there. Shaggy, brown hair hung past his ears, and his chin and cheeks were covered in several days’ worth of stubble. His green eyes were bright and alert, and he had an easy smile.

“You must be Ariella.” He held his hand out for me to shake.

I nodded and slipped my hand in his. “Ari.”

“It’s nice to meet you.” He let go of my hand. “Shall we talk in here?” He nodded back at his office. At my panic-stricken look, he added, “Ollie and Talia can join us, if you'd prefer?”

I glanced at them and shook my head. As much as I wanted their presence, I didn’t need it. I couldn’t need it.

I’d found the strength to leave Blaise; I had to find the strength to stand on my own two feet.

Darren stepped back, clearing a path for me into his office.

“Have a seat, please.” He indicated the plain gray chair in front of his desk.

I took a seat as he moved behind his cluttered desk. There were so many pieces of paper strewn across it I didn’t know how he could ever find anything.

“Talia and Ollie explained your situation to me, and I want to help in any way I can. Have you ever waited tables?”

I shook my head. “No, I haven’t. But I’m a quick learner.” I flinched at my own words; I was sure he’d heard them plenty of times.

His lips rose in a slow smile. “I’ll have Rebecca train you. She’s one of my best waitresses, and she also bartends, so you’ll get training with both.”

“Thank you for this. You have no idea how much it means to me.”

“I’m happy to help.” He held his hand out to me once more to shake.

I stood and started toward the door.

“When can you start?” he called out.

I turned back around. “Tomorrow?”

“Excellent.” He smiled broadly, displaying perfectly-straight, white teeth. “I’ll see you at eleven o’ clock?”

I nodded. “See you then.”

I opened the office door, expecting to bump into Ollie and Talia, but they weren’t there. Instead, they were seated at a table, side by side. Talia laughed at something he said, and Ollie nipped at her chin before going in for a kiss.

I found a soft sigh passing through my lips.

I couldn’t help but be slightly envious of their easy relationship. I hadn’t had that, and I feared I never would. When you’re surrounded by toxic people as long as I have you start to feel like you’re one of them.

I joined the happy duo and pulled out the chair across from them.

“How’d it go?” Talia asked, pressing her hand to the side of Ollie’s face and pushing him away so she could speak to me. He was undeterred and simply grabbed her hand in his before pressing his lips to her cheek.

“Good.” I smiled. “I start tomorrow. You guys are life savers.”

“We do what we can.” Ollie grinned. “You ready to head out?”

I nodded, rubbing my hands together nervously beneath the table. “Yeah, unless you guys want dinner or something.”

“Nope, we’re good.” He stood and held his hand out for Talia. She beamed up at him, and I wish I had a camera so I could’ve snapped a picture of the look that passed between them. Maybe if I ever got my hands on a sketchbook I could draw it.

They dropped me back off at Liam’s house, and I waved goodbye as I headed inside.