The memory of their meeting made Andrea smile, but it didn’t alleviate the dreaded feeling that rested in her mind no matter how much she was currently enjoying having Tariq with her. She trusted Tariq and there was no doubt that they wanted to be together, but high-profile careers, demanding schedules, and hundreds of miles do not a good relationship make; at least not for Andrea. Her parents fought hard to find and maintain balance between work and home during their marriage and they lived in the same house, but knew and saw the tolls it took on occasion and didn’t want that for herself; she wanted a relationship that afforded more time together than apart. She wanted something close to what her parents had and this visit was entirely too hard in the making taking a lot of negotiating on Andrea’s part to work with Tariq’s schedule to have it ruined. He was no longer happy in his current position and was courting offers from a few other companies; one of which could potentially put them no more than two and a half hours apart, but it wasn’t set in stone and unless saw it in writing; refused to put any stock in it. She’d done that in the past when her company offered her a position, not just in the same state, but within forty minutes of Tariq’s home; only to have it rescinded, which was a pain she didn’t want to experience again.
She finished her dessert and tried to get the negative thoughts out of her head; Tariq deserved more from her than that and she owed it to herself to live in and enjoy this time in spite of her tempered feelings.
“Earth to Andie”, Tariq said, waving his hand in front of her face. “What’s going on in that pretty head of yours?” He asked, taking the dishes to the sink, “and don’t say nothing either,” he added looking over his shoulder catching Andie in a blush.
“I’m sorry love,” Andrea got up to join Tariq at the sink. “I was on a memory drift; didn’t mean to be distant,” she wrapped her arms around Tariq’s waist, “I let my fear get the best of me I guess,” she frowned and looked up into Tariq’s eyes.
Tariq kissed Andrea’s nose and pulled her into his arms. “Stop fretting baby,” he reassured. “I’m here and we’re going to make the most of it. We’ve got almost five days and depending on an email I’m expecting, it could be more.”
“What email? You didn’t say anything before,” Andrea replied in an excited panic. “What’s going on?”
Tariq knew there was no getting out to it. He’d hoped he could wait to say anything, but with Andrea’s trip down memory lane and his needing to comfort and reassure her, it needed to be said. It always amazed him how such a strong, independent, and assertive woman could be reduced into a little girl sometimes it was something that most intrigued him about her. He’d seen her suited up for corporate meetings or ready to face a client where she was all business and a force to be reckoned with, but outside of a power suit, she was sweet, vulnerable, and sometimes fragile. He thought about their times dating where she took a rather traditional role in their relationship and how she carried herself with him. He often wondered how she’d come to be the way she was; though he didn’t complain and actually found it rather refreshing compared to the women he’d often dealt with. And even though it took a little time to balance, when he met Mrs. Phillips, he fully understood where it came from. Andrea’s mother was a corporate attorney who’d worked hard to establish herself in the business world, but when she was home, she as all about family and adhering her role of wife and mother before business. She’d groomed Andrea in her fashion always telling her that money and status while nice, didn’t make a home and could be lost at any time, but a secure family life was something to be treasured and should never be taken for granted. Even Andrea’s father prescribed to the way of thinking. He’d built his business from the ground up and even with long days and time away from his family; he carved out non-negotiable time for his wife and only child. Mr. and Mrs. Phillips had worked very hard to secure themselves without sacrificing their marriage and role as parents, which Tariq honoured. He appreciated Andrea’s family values and had come to enjoy the family dinner at the Phillips household that took place each Sunday and sometimes the golf outing with Andrea’s father. Tariq was fortunate that he’d not met the darker side of the otherwise rather congenial Mr. Phillips like his predecessors had, but he knew he’d likely face the question of intentions this visit. While Andrea was very close to her mother, she was very much daddy’s little girl and naturally, he’d want nothing but the absolute best for his daughter.
With his memories and current thoughts now taking hold, Tariq took the task of washing the dishes instead of loading the dishwasher in order to gather his thoughts and prepare to tell Andrea what he’d hoped would wait another day.
“I’ve been talking to the Human Resources Exec at Byron Taylor and Associates and they’re in the process of opening a new location,” Tariq paused to put a dish down and walk back to the table and sit down.
“Okay?” Andrea followed him to the table and waited for more information.
“A friend of a friend declined the Financial Marketing Exec position and referred me instead,” Tariq wrung his hands together. “We’ve been talking back and forth for almost two weeks and that’s why it was hard to confirm a date because they wanted me to come in and talk.”
“Well, what happened?” Andrea asked. “Did you go see them? Why has this been a secret?” An edge of irritation etched her voice.
“Andie, please understand,” Tariq pleaded. “It’s not been a secret, but I didn’t want to say anything until I had more details. We’ve been through this and I didn’t want to get my hopes up; much less yours.”
Andrea stood up and paced. Anxiety was setting in as the memories of their past excitement gripped her mind like vines. Tariq got up and walked her to the living room and sat her down on the couch.
“Andie, listen to me. Nigel, the Bryon Taylor Exec wasn’t even supposed to contact me. He did it as a courtesy to his friend. Things are very hush-hush right now and they’re carefully considering the corporate structure,” Tariq paused to make sure Andrea was following. He could see the fire in her eyes and it wasn’t one of passion. “Babe, you of all people knows how this goes.”
“Ugh!” Andrea fumed. “Okay, I do, but you still should’ve told me; it’s not like I was gonna tell anyone. Sheesh!”
Tariq pulled Andrea into his arms and ran his fingers through her hair. “I’m sorry,” he whispered, “I know I could have told you, but like I said, I didn’t want to jinx anything. Too much is riding on this and I don’t want to compromise Nigel’s insight.”
Andrea adjusted in Tariq’s arms, but said nothing. She was trying to understand what Tariq had said and why it was all kept from her. Yes, she understood corporate dynamics, how companies strategize over launching new business, and corporate structure from the top down; it was carefully structured and not entered into lightly. She’d seen her parents go through it and had experienced herself, but it still didn’t take the sting of the information being withheld away.
“Tariq,” Andrea eased out of his arms and met his stare, “when would you have told me anything?” She questioned, once again trying to mask her irritation.
Tariq sighed heavily. He didn’t want any of this to happen. He wished they kept making love and fallen asleep only to wake for sustenance and then go back to bed. Yes, it was a Neanderthal thought process, but it was how he felt. Andrea was right, he could have found a way to say something; given her some indications that change was in progress, but he’d always erred on the side of caution when making major decisions. And this wasn’t just any decision; this is one that affected them exponentially. If he’d betrayed the confidence of Nigel, he could put him at risk of breaking proprietary information and if he’d mentioned it and the potential position didn’t materialize, Andrea would’ve been more than disappointed and he couldn’t bear to see her go through that again.
“Andie, please understand there is a lot at stake here, but I’ll tell you this,” he pulled her back into his arms. “If this deal doesn’t work out, I’m still going to give notice at MKE. I’ve had enough and I don’t want to keep going through the messiness that’s going on. I know I’d get a good severance package and it would give me time to really find what’s best for our future.”
“You’re gonna do what? I know you weren’t happy there and yes, we talked about you looking for something else, but to leave outright?” A knot rose in her throat, “are you serious? Thanks for another heads-up hun.” The knot tightened and tears filled her eyes. “Are there any other surprises you have me Tariq? I mean you’re on a roll, so you might as well get them all out now,” she fussed as her voice shook.
Tariq got up and left the room leaving Andrea to her tears. She pounded the cushions in frustration and confusion. This was not how things were supposed to be. This weekend was supposed to be beautiful in every way possible. They were going to spend time making love, cooking and eating, lazing around together and leaving the house only when necessary. No time could ever make up for lost time, but they were certainly going to try.
Tariq came back into the living room, pulled Andrea to a seated position and wiped her face with a warm towel.
“Hush Andie,” Tariq’s warm voice erased the sound of crying. “Please stop crying baby, I’m sorry for upsetting you,” he kissed her eyes. “Please forgive me.” Tariq put the towel aside and kissed her lips softly; tentatively until she responded. “Is that a yes? You forgive me?” He asked between kisses.
Andrea nodded her head. “Uh huh,” she whispered, continuing their kisses. “I’m sorry too,” she went on before yielding to a passionate kiss.
Tariq returned the kiss while pulling Andrea from the couch to her feet. Once she was stable, he broke free and kissed his way down her stomach and stopped abruptly. Andrea looked down at him wondering why he’d stopped kissing her, but said nothing; just waited. Tariq pulled out a small bag from his pocket and removed the content.
“Andrea Renee Martina Phillips, will you marry me?” Tariq asked, taking her hand in his.
Andrea’s knees buckled and she fell backward on the couch. Air caught and compressed in her throat. Tariq remained on his knees as Andrea regained her composure. When she did, she was still speechless.
“Well, you said, if I had any more surprises I might as well give it them to you, so here it is,” he smiled softly.
Andrea’s eyes welled up again and she reached out her hand. “Yes! Yes! I’ll marry you,” she jumped up, almost knocking Tariq over. “Now, that’s a surprise!” Andrea giggled. “I love you Tariq and I’m sorry. I’m so very sorry for getting mad. Please for…”
Tariq pulled her on top of him and kissed her his forgiveness. He then pushed ring onto her finger and said, “don’t ever doubt me again okay?” He said firmly. “I know things are crazy and there’s things to be worked out, but this needed to be done. I love you and don’t want to live with you thinking this can’t or won’t work. Understood?”
Andrea nodded her head between starting at the beautiful ring sparkling on her finger.
“Good. Now, let’s take this surprise upstairs so you can thank me properly,” Tariq said, scooping Andrea up into his arms as he carried her to the bedroom.
© Blu Jewel 2012