The offer from Tesla was something unexpected, to some extent. I had sent my résumé on a whim, thinking I had zero chance in hell of anyone contacting me. I had sent my résumé six months ago and figured they weren’t interested. Then some woman named Rosalyn contacted me. I interviewed via Skype with several bigwigs and was made an offer that would cover my relocation fees, pay my room and board while I found permanent housing and then there was my salary. It was nearly three times what I was making at The Busted Knuckle.
If making a ton of money was important to me I might have taken the job. If I wasn’t so into what I had going with Sookie, I might have taken it. Things changed between then and now.
It was a wakeup call, though.
Sookie wasn’t the first thing to cross my mind when I got the offer but she definitely cracked the top ten. Ultimately what made me turn it down was the fact that I liked working for Des. He was a good boss and a nice guy. No workplace was perfect, so of course there were things that irked me, but overall, I didn’t want to leave.
If the place didn’t have more leaks than the NYPD I might have been able to keep the Tesla offer under wraps. Unfortunately, word got back to Des. I walked into work on Friday morning to find him looking pale and way more anxious than usual.
“Oh fuck. You didn’t fire everyone, did you?” I shrugged off my jacket and hung it on the back of my chair.
“No, are you quitting?” he asked, not beating around the bush.
I sighed and asked, “Where’d you hear that?”
“The rumor mill says you got an offer with Tesla,” he told me. “I heard it specifically from Andre. I don’t know how he found out. Is it true?”
“I got an offer from Tesla. It’s a good one.” I wasn’t going to lie about it. “I called yesterday before the game and turned it down. You’re stuck with me.”
He breathed a sigh of relief. The color filled his face again and he said, “I could be stuck with worse.”
“Fuckin’ right you could,” I laughed. “Wanna give me a raise anyway?” It was worth a shot.
“We’ll see.” It wasn’t a no.
I turned on the lights and got things up and running out in the shop. Felipe came wandering in with a half-eaten McDonald’s breakfast burrito in his hand. More often than not he was eating something. It was kind of ridiculous and that was coming from someone who ate more than the average person.
Andre made his way in, as did Dawson, Mel and a new guy named Patrick who we had already dubbed as Wooderson after Matthew McConaughey’s character in Dazed and Confused because of how frequently he said, “Alright, alright, alright.” He kind of sounded like him, too. He was still learning but he was a notch above a lube technician with the things he was capable of doing.
Bobby came lumbering over from his little hole across the oil change bay and pointed right at me. I restrained my eye roll.
“Tell Patricia I need an oil change,” he said rudely.
“Uh, go fuck yourself,” I replied. I was so sick of his attitude.
The front door opened and Sookie walked in just as Bobby huffed his way to the office behind me to turn in the dispatch stuff. He gave Sookie a dirty look as he passed her by. Whatever. He could go change his tampon.
“What’s up his ass?” she asked me.
“Who the fuck knows,” I shrugged.
The office door slammed and I had no doubt Bobby was in there crying to Des. It never ceased to amaze me how quickly Bobby was willing to call someone else incompetent or a prima donna, but it never occurred to him that those were the perfect terms to describe him a lot of the time. I kept my opinions to myself, however.
“I hope he goes home soon, I’m not in the mood to deal with his pissy ass.”
“Oh, so you don’t want to hear any stories about how he caught someone talking shit about Des’s wife and recorded it on his cell phone?” That was total bullshit. If Des had a recording of anyone talking shit about his wife they wouldn’t just be fired, they’d be fired to death.
“Oookay,” she said dramatically. “I don’t think I can hide my irritation if he talks to me.”
“I already told him to go fuck himself,” I told her. “But enough about that buttmunch. How was your night with the kids?” Sookie had Sawyer and Finn by herself for the night since I didn’t get back from Dallas until after midnight.
“Sawyer got a little clingy without you, otherwise they were good. They slept with me,” she admitted.
“That doesn’t surprise me at all,” I laughed.
“They looked so sad and pouty. I couldn’t say no,” she said with her own small pout. She moved in a little closer to add quietly, “And I missed having you to snuggle.”
“So then I’m guessing you won’t be happy that I can’t stay over tonight, huh?”
“Nope,” she said, popping the P. “I’ll get over it if I have to, though.”
“I can take the dogs home though.”
“Good. They’ll need to run around,” she told me. “I had to buy Finn a chew toy. My apartment is just way too small and she was getting bored.”
“Sounds right. I’m going to look online for kennel plans so they can be outside during the day if they want.” I had space on the north side of the house and if I put in a doggy door, they would be able to go in during the summer for a break from the heat but still be able to go outside to potty anytime without me worrying they’d run off or jump a fence. Particularly with Finn being a Pit, I didn’t want anyone thinking she was a threat.
“Oh, they’ll really love that,” she smiled. “Let me know if you need me to help you out with it.”
“I will,” I winked.
The office door flew open and Bobby stormed out.
Was it possible that Des finally told Bobby he couldn’t act like a toddler? I got my answer a few seconds later when Bobby grabbed a trashcan and hurled it across the lobby. Sookie ducked in time but the fact that it flew in her direction infuriated me. I didn’t even think about it; I jumped over the counter and clocked Bobby in his fat head.
“Eric!” Sookie gasped.
I heard the shop doors open but it didn’t stop me from throwing a second punch. Bobby fell down and I would have kept going if Dawson and Wooderson wouldn’t have intervened and pulled me back.
“Don’t you ever pull some shit like that again!” I yelled at Bobby. It didn’t help matters that Sookie was my girlfriend, but throwing a trashcan at anyone – let alone a woman – was completely inexcusable to me.
“Bobby, out,” Des yelled when he came out of the office. “Eric, in the office.”
I shook my hand out and looked at Sookie.
“Are you okay?” I asked her, ignoring Des’s order.
“I’m fine. Luckily he has shitty aim,” she said, glaring at Bobby.
I nodded my agreement and at Des’s second prompt, I went into the office and took a seat.
“I’m not going to apologize to that shithead. He’s walked around this place for as long as I’ve worked here, acting like he’s a manager and he can treat people like complete shit and I’m sick of it. I’m tired of his attitude toward the guys that work in the shop and I’m fed up with the blatant disrespect he shows for everyone but you. And to throw a trashcan at someone, especially Sookie? No. That’s not acceptable,” I ranted.
“I just wanted you to take a breather,” he shrugged.
“Oh.” I took a deep breath. “Good. Fuck him.”
“For what it’s worth, I’m tired of it too, but I can’t find anyone to work overnights.”
I shook my head.
“He knows it. He knows he’s got you over a barrel and he’s abusing it. It’s not cool, Des. It used to be a joke but if he’s throwing violent tantrums? What if that had been a customer?”
“He’s going to get a phone call. He’ll be getting a week off unpaid to cool his jets,” he told me. “If he steps one foot in here during that time I’ll fire him.”
“And me?” I knew I probably overreacted.
“Take the rest of the day off to cool down,” he said. “Someone needed to do it, but I can’t let you off without some sort of punishment.”
“Sorry. I didn’t mean to put you in an awkward spot,” I said sincerely.
“Is there something going on between you and Sookie?” he asked point blank.
“What? Why would you ask that?” We were careful at work. But if there was anyone I wasn’t going to lie to, it was the guy who signed my check.
“You reacted pretty quick,” he said. “I’m just curious.”
“It was just a reflex. Throwing anything was wrong but throwing it at a woman was worse,” I replied. “But to answer your question, yes, there’s something going on with her.”
“Okay,” he nodded. “I appreciate that you’ve kept it professional. Your secret is safe with me. I’m going to be putting her on all days soon too.”
“Really? Is Ras moving shifts or something?”
“Yeah. He’s going to need mornings off so he’s going to take the night shift,” he told me. “That was what set Bobby off. Ras mentioned that he was going to nights and Bobby wanted his day shift. I said no.”
“What a dickhead,” I muttered.
“Uh huh. Which is why he’s getting an unpaid vacation.”
I wasn’t going to ask who was going to cover those shifts. It wasn’t my business.
“Well, I guess I’ll get out of here. See you tomorrow?”
“Yeah. You can send Sookie in when you leave,” he told me.
“You got it,” I nodded. I opened the office door to find Sookie sitting on my stool. “Des wants to see you.”
“Alright. Are you okay?” she asked with concern.
“Hand hurts but I’ll be fine. I’m going to go ice it off the clock,” I replied.
“Uh oh,” she said quietly. She fished her keys out of her purse and took them off the ring. “Here, so you can pick up the kids.”
I nodded and took the keys from her.
“I’ll leave them under your mat,” I offered. I didn’t know if she’d want to see me later after my Mike Tyson impression.
“Or I can just come to you unless you want to spend the night alone.”
“We can talk about it. Des is waiting.”
“I’ll call you later.”
I nodded again and headed out to my car. Bobby’s car was gone. Good. Two punches wasn’t enough in my opinion but it was going to have to do.
“It felt fuckin’ great. I can’t remember the last time it felt so good to punch a guy,” I told Sookie later that night while we were sitting on my couch.
I couldn’t find it in me to tell her not to come by.
“I felt a little bad for him since he didn’t actually hit me, but he made a comment after you went into the office that took away any sympathy I had.”
“What did he say?”
“That he wished he would have hit me,” she admitted.
“Motherfucker. What the fuck is wrong with him? I get that he feels entitled to certain things for some unknown reason, but taking it out on someone else is ridiculous. He’s lucky Dawson and Wooderson pulled me off him or he’d be in the fuckin’ hospital right now,” I told her. If that trashcan had hit her he’d be a dead man.
“Yeah and you might be in a cast with a broken hand,” she said. “I don’t want to think about the what ifs. What happened, happened. Des told me he put Bobby on suspension for a week.”
“Yeah, he told me too. He knows about us. I told him. He won’t say anything,” I said.
“He told me,” she nodded. “He also told me in two weeks I’m switching to days. Apparently Ras decided to get his GED and the classes he’s taking are in the morning.”
“That’s good. You don’t mind the switch, right?”
“No. I’ll be nice to not have to flip flop,” she told me. “I can take Finn on a walk every evening too.” Finn was curled up with her head on Sookie’s foot.
“She’ll like that.”
“Mmhmm,” she nodded. Sookie leaned over to rest her head on my thigh.
“So what do you want to do now?” I twirled her hair around my fingers.
“Are you ready for bed?” she asked. “If not we can watch a movie, or take the dogs out unless you already took them today.”
“I let them run through the sprinkler,” I laughed.
“I assume they liked it?” she smiled up at me.
“Finn kept trying to lick up the water as it came up.” It was pretty amusing.
“My girl is special,” Sookie laughed.
“She sure is,” I agreed.
“What do you want to do?”
“I don’t know. This is good.” The TV was on and I didn’t mind having Sookie’s head on my thigh. My hand moved down to rub her shoulder but since it was my punching hand, it hurt a little still. I winced when I tried to apply any pressure to her shoulder.
She reached up to grab my wrist. She turned it so she could kiss my knuckles. “How long did you have it iced today?”
“An hour, maybe?” I wasn’t sure.
“Do you want me to get you some more?” she offered, looking up at me.
“Nah. I never would have thought hitting such a fat head would be so painful.”
Sookie chuckled at that, but stayed quiet.
“I’ll probably go to bed soon anyway. I didn’t go to bed until almost two this morning,” I told her.
“Alright. Want me to go home?”
“You don’t have to,” I shrugged. It didn’t matter either way.
“I’m not really sleepy yet and I don’t want to keep you up,” she said.
Sookie sat up and stretched. When she showed up she was already in her pajamas.
“Should I take Finn with me?”
“She’s your dog. You can do whatever you want.” If she wanted to take the Pit, that was fine with me.
Sookie got up from the couch and went to the closet to get Finn’s leash. She grabbed her sweater from the back of the kitchen chair to put on and then called Finn over to clip on her leash.
“Walk us out?”
I got up and followed Sookie and Finn outside. Sawyer was napping on his little bed by the fireplace. I closed the door behind me and followed Sookie to her car. She opened the door to let Finn jump in. She went straight to the passenger seat and curled into a ball. It was past her bedtime.
“I’ll send you a text when I get home,” Sookie told me as she stood on her toes to kiss my chin.
“If I don’t reply I’m already passed out.” I tilted my head to kiss her forehead. “Drive safe.”
“I will,” she promised. “Sleep well.” Sookie got into her Malibu and started it up after closing the door.
I took a step back and watched her drive away before going into the house. I locked up and turned off the lights. Sawyer popped his head up to see what I was doing.
“Bedtime, buddy,” I said. He sprang up and followed me up to my room.
I got ready for bed like I usually did but when I stretched out it dawned on me that it didn’t feel right without Sookie. So I grabbed my phone and dialed her number before she got too far away.
“Hello?” she answered on the second ring.
“Come back,” I requested. I didn’t want to sleep alone after all.