The Wall of Winnipeg and Me(7)

by Mariana Zapata

His brown gaze had swept over my face and shoulders before returning to my eyes. That hard, unrelenting face stared right at me. “You don’t talk much, do you?”

I smiled at him, a little one, and lifted a shoulder. I wasn’t a big talker, but nobody could say I was shy or quiet either. Plus, I didn’t want to mess this up until I figured out what he wanted and needed from me as an assistant.

Looking back on it, I wasn’t sure if that was the greatest first impression, but tough shit. It wasn’t like I could take it back and do it over again.

All Aiden, my new boss at the time did, was tip his chin down in what I’d later find out was his form of a nod. “Good.”

Not much had changed over the last two years.

Our work relationship had progressed past me calling Aiden “sir”, and using more than two words at a time when I talked to him.

I knew everything I could about Aiden, considering how pulling personal information out of him was like yanking teeth. I could tell you how old he was, how much money he had in his bank account, what spices made him cringe, and what brand of underwear he preferred. I knew his favorite meals, what size shoe he wore, what colors he refused to wear, and even what kind of porn he watched. I knew the first thing he wanted when he had more time on his hands was a dog—not a family. He wanted a dog.

But that was all something a stalker could learn, or someone really observant. He held on to the details of his life with both of his dinner-plate-sized hands. I had a feeling the number of things I didn’t know about him could keep me busy for the rest of my life, if I were to try to pry them out of him.

I’d tried being friendly once I realized he wasn’t going to go Incredible Hulk on me for asking questions, but it had all been in vain. For the last two years, my smiles were never returned, my every single “How are you?” went unanswered, and other than that infamous look that made my imaginary hackles rise, there was that tone, that almost smug tone, he took sometimes that just asked for an ass whooping… from someone much bigger than me.

Our boss and employee roles became more and more pronounced each day. I cared about him as much as I could care for someone who I saw a minimum of five days a week, who I basically took care of for a living, but who treated me like the friend of a pesky little sister he would rather not have. For two years, it had been fine doing duties I wasn’t a huge fan of, but the cooking, the e-mails, and all things related to his fans were my favorite things about being his assistant.

And that was half the reason why I kept talking myself out of putting in my notice. Because I’d check his Facebook account or go on his Twitter and see something one of his fans posted that made me laugh. I’d gotten to know some of them over the years through online interactions, and it was easy to remember that working for him wasn’t so bad.

It wasn’t the worst job in the world—not even close to it. My pay was more than fair, my hours pretty good too… and in the words of almost every woman who had ever found out who I worked for, I “had the sexiest boss in the entire world.” So there was that. If I was stuck looking at someone, it might as well be someone with a body and a face that put the models I put on other people’s book covers to shame.

But there were things in life you couldn’t do unless you stepped out of your comfort zone and took a risk, and working for myself was one of them.

That was why I hadn’t actually gone through with it and told Aiden “Sayonara, big boy” on the eighty different occasions my brain had told me to.

I was nervous. Quitting a well-paying job—a steady one at least while Aiden had a career—was scary. But that excuse was getting older and older.