If you haven't seen the movie "Up in the Air," then don't worry about it- you'll be able to understand this chapter without knowing the details of the movie.
Also, this would have been up a lot sooner tonight if I had had a plan for this chapter in the first place and if I wasn't so distracted by the game tonight! Sorry!
"Okay so let's go over this again" I stated taking another bite of my chicken salad. "You didn't like the movie... at all?"
I watched him shake his head no again but cut him off before he could say anything else. "Not even a little bit?"
"Not really. Ending was bad" he replied shrugging his shoulders lightly. He chuckled again at my expression of disbelief as we discussed the movie "Up in the Air" which both of us had happened to see (though separately) this past week.
"The ending was bad" I corrected, not able to hold myself back. Besides, the general purpose of this lunch meeting was to work on his english. That automatically gave me the right to correct him whenever I wanted to.
"The ending was bad" he repeated and I frowned not entirely sure if he was repeating the statement correctly to mock me or because he didn't mind that I was correcting him.
After going out to lunch for the first time a month ago, it was slowly becoming our routine to go out to lunch instead of sitting in my office and working on his english. He claimed that it made me less grumpy with him and I wasn't complaining either because strangely enough, lunch with him once or twice a week was a break from the office- and almost like having another new friend here in Pittsburgh. Slowly as we went along every week, I learned a little bit more about him. They were mostly inane details about life, his career, etc but it was a start.
"Why didn't you like the ending?" I questioned genuinely curious for his perspective. Since I had no clue how to coach anyone on how to speak proper english, it had been easier for us to just talk about whatever random subject usually popped into my mind.
While it had been awkward and long-pause ridden initially, now I found myself actually wanting to know what he was thinking when we talked- as strange as that actually was. He could be insightful when he actually spoke and though that unreadable look in his eyes still unnerved me when he looked at me and watched me spoke, it was getting better.
Before answering my question, I watched him mull over his thoughts before opening his mouth to answer. That was another thing that I noticed about him- he thought carefully before he spoke, always, and I hadn't figured out yet if that was because of the language barrier or if he thought that carefully in russian too.
"Because woman lie to man and man end up alone." I took his response to mean that the woman who seemed like she was the love interest in the movie ends up lying to George Clooney leaving him alone at the end of the movie. Not exactly the ideal happy ending but that doesn't mean that the whole movie was bad because of it.
"So you didn't like it because it didn't have a happy ending?" I asked suddenly annoyed that we didn't have the same high opinion of the film. Another sign that I valued his opinion.
"No, I just don't like ending." His dark, brown eyes were assessing me like he was annoyed with me for not agreeing with him as well.
"You didn't like the ending" I corrected rolling my eyes. How could he just make up his mind that he didn't like the ending and then not even try to defend his opinion?
"You just mad because I don't agree with you" he stated watching me smugly. "You roll your eyes."
"I do not-" I cut myself off when I realized that I was about to roll my eyes and watched his grin widen. His eyes were sparkling in amusement and he gave me a crooked grin.
And then I couldn't help it- I smiled back suddenly feeling like there was something contagious in the air that we had both caught.
I was reluctant to break the sudden, nice moment that had developed between us when my phone began to vibrate on the table between us.
"Sorry, one second" I apologized picking it up to see the caller ID before I answered it. The grin on my face disappeared as soon as I realized who was calling.
Peter. Only he would be calling me again after I explicitly told him not to and refused his phone calls for the past two weeks. What else did I have to do to make him understand that I wasn't going back to New York or ever speaking to him again?
I saw Geno's eyes look between me and the phone, obviously wondering why I was still letting it buzz uncomfortably instead of answering it.
"Don't touch that!" I said freaking out slightly when he grabbed the phone and read off the name on the screen.
"Peter. Who is Peter?" he asked still holding the phone and pulling it out of my grasp every time I reached for it.
"No one" I said finally snatching the phone out of his outstretched hand and holding it posessively against me.
"Doesn't seem like no one" he stated skeptically and just a little mockingly. Just when we were starting to have fun, he had to act like a jerk again and piss me off by butting his big russian nose where it didn't belong.
The phone beeped signalling that Peter had left me yet another voicemail and I deleted it instantly not wanting to even hear what he could possibly have to say to me. The fact that I still had the urge to listen to the voicemail made my mood worse and it was oddly logical to direct my sudden anger towards the man sitting before me.
"From now on, do yourself a favor and keep your hands to yourself and off of me and my phone" I snapped feeling the anger I felt from even thinking about Peter make the rest of my body cold, stiff and uncomfortable.
Instead of backing off like I expected, he raised one eyebrow assessing me for a moment, his face devoid of emotion.
"I don't touch you" he stated coldly leaning back in his chair like a cocky son of a bitch. "You know when I touch you."
Oh hells no. Was he really serious? His eyes were challenging me as he waited for a response. It was almost like he WANTED me to say something in response to that. Our pleasant lunch meeting had turned unexpectedly sour and I wanted to avoid verbal conflict for now with him.
He might have the uncanny ability to piss me off to no end but overall we still needed to maintain some sort of agreed working relationship. If I lost this job just because I couldn't get along with someone who was apparently a complete knucklehead, then what else did I have? I couldn't go back to New York any time soon and as of now, there was absolutely nothing but this job still holding me here.
It was a shitty position to find myself in and I felt like no matter what I actually wanted to say to him, I had to bite my tongue and quell the urge to really tell him exactly what I thought of him.
"Considering it's highly doubtful that you'll be touching me any time soon Mr. Malkin, I suggest that you keep your hands and opinions to yourself- unless of course your opinions relate to business."
There. I felt satisfied that I had successfully put him back in his place until he stunned me once again with the sheer magnitude of his ego by laughing. Right in my face. At this point, I was literally shaking with fury.
"The ice queen is back" he stated, his body still shaking with laughter as he mocked me. It only infuriated me more as I watched him laugh at me and my inability to get him to shut up. I wanted to hiss at him that I was not an ice queen but that would only add fuel to the fire if I snarled at him.
Instead I rose tossing a 20 on to the table that would cover my lunch and then some but it was the only cash I had and I needed to get out of there.
"Call me next week for another appointment when you're feeling more mature" I stated walking away from the table and hopefully away from him. Period.
Maybe it would be possible to have someone else deal with him on a regular basis. Was it possible for me to trade with someone else in the department without looking like I was incompetent? Screw having a successful career- I couldn't work with someone that so obviously loved to antagonize me.
Before I could get more than 5 feet away from the table, a hand clasped around my arm bringing me to a stop from where I had been trying to make an escape. "Sorry" he stated turning me so that I had to face him. His free hand clasped my other arm holding me now and gridlocking me in place.
"I'm sorry" he repeated in his thick accent. His eyes had a way of conveying all of his emotions be it happy, sad, angry or playful and our eyes locked as I tried to discern if he was being sincere or not. When I declined to say anything in response, he tried again. "I tease you."
He looked sincere and since as a rule I believed that eyes never failed to portray how someone was feeling, I sighed giving in. "I was teasing you" I corrected watching his eyebrows crinkle in confusion.
"You should have said 'I was teasing you'" I explained seeing the familiar light re-enter his eyes once he realized that I was ready to drop the touchy subject and forgive him.
"You finish lunch? With me?" he asked glancing around the restaurant. We were starting to get curious looks from other patrons in the deli who I was sure had recognized him. He was a hometown hero so of course they would be curious to know why he was fighting with a random woman while they were trying to eat lunch.
I shook my head and tried to disentangle myself from his hold without causing more of a scene. I had already put down enough money to cover my bill and I just couldn't see myself enjoying the rest of the lunch hour today even though my real bitterness wasn't really about him. Sure he had ticked me off but the real problem would always be with myself and the tentative hold Peter still had on my life and emotions.
"You very stubborn" Geno sighed taking a step back and dropping his arms. I smiled weakly and didn't know what to say in response to that. I didn't necessarily think that being stubborn was a bad quality to have and he hadn't said it like it was an insult. It had just been resigned- like we both knew that any other day would be better, just not today.
Besides, if being stubborn was what it took to make myself complete again, then so be it.