The Wall of Winnipeg and Me(8)


by Mariana Zapata

Aiden and I weren’t BFFs, much less confidants. Then again, why would we be? This was a man who didn’t have more than possibly three people he spent time with when he managed to tear himself away from training and games. Vacations? He didn’t take them. I didn’t even think he knew what they were.

He didn’t have pictures of family or friends anywhere in the house. His entire life revolved around football. It was the center of his universe.

In the grand scheme of Aiden Graves’s life, I was no one really. We just sort of put up with each other. Obviously. He needed an assistant, and I needed a job. He told me what he wanted done, and I did it, regardless of whether I agreed with it or not. Every once in a while, I tried futilely to change his mind, but in the back of my head, I never forgot how pointless my opinion was to him.

You could only try for so long to be friendly with someone, and have them shut you down with their indifference, before you gave up. This was a job, nothing more and nothing less. It was why I had worked so hard to get to the point where I could be my own boss, so that I could deal with people who appreciated my hard work.

Yet here I was, doing the things that drove me nuts and putting my dreams off for another day, and another day, and another day…

What the hell was I doing?

“The only person you’re screwing over is yourself,” Diana had told me the last time we’d talked. She’d asked if I’d finally told Aiden I was quitting, and I’d told her the truth: no.

Guilt had pounded my belly at her comment. The only person I was hurting was myself. I knew I needed to tell Aiden. No one was going to do it for me; I was well aware of that. But…

Okay, there was no ‘but.’ What if I crashed and burned once I was on my own?

I had planned it out and built up my business so that wouldn’t be the case, I reminded myself as I sat there watching Aiden eat. I knew what I was doing. I had money squirreled away. I was good at what I did, and I loved doing it.

I’d be fine.

I’d be fine.

What was I waiting for? Every time I’d thought about telling Aiden before, it just hadn’t seemed like the perfect moment. He had just gotten cleared to start practicing again after his injury, and it didn’t feel right laying that on him then. I felt like I’d be abandoning him when he’d barely gotten back on his feet once more. Then, we’d immediately left for Colorado for him to train in peace and quiet. On another occasion, it hadn’t been a Friday. Or he’d had a bad day. Or… whatever. There was always something. Always.

I wasn’t staying on because I was in love with him or anything like that. Maybe at some point, right after I’d begun working for him, I might have had a giant crush on him, but his cool attitude had never let my heart get any crazier than that. It wasn’t like I’d ever had any expectations of Aiden suddenly looking at me and thinking I was the most amazing person in his life. I didn’t have time for that unrealistic crap. If anything, my goal had always been to do what I needed to do for him, and maybe make the man who never smiled, smile. I’d only succeeded at one of those things.

Over the years, my attraction to him had dwindled so that the only thing I really mooned over—correction: appreciated in a healthy, normal way—was his work ethic.

And his face.

And his body.

But there were plenty of guys with amazing bodies and faces in the world. I should know. I looked at models almost every day.

And none of those physical traits helped me in any way. Hot guys weren’t going to make my dreams come true.

I swallowed and clenched my fingers.

Do it, my brain said.

What was the worst that would happen? I’d have to find another job if my customer base dried up? How horrifying. I wouldn’t know what would happen until I tried.