Two months after he started working for me, Richard and I had gotten closer. He was a nice guy, had funny jokes about everything, and enjoyed the outdoors as much as I did.
We worked well together, Richard working on the outside part, while I tackled the inner part of the greenhouse. He also enjoyed my food, and it turned out we both had a similar favorite- beef stew. I made it pretty frequently, and it was some of the best food I’d created in a while.
There were moments where it was a bit hard. Richard didn’t sleep with a shirt, and after a while we stopped getting dressed first thing in the morning, instead stumbling out in pajamas.
It was rather interesting… I did sneak a few peaks- he was very muscular. But not many- I was an adult woman, I would admit he was attractive but I was also his boss and needed to be professional, thank you.
We didn’t often eat together- Richard sometimes was up earlier, and sometimes he was working out first thing.
But any time we sat down to eat together we talked, mostly about random things, but often we would play twenty-questions- Richard had the weirdest questions I had heard sometimes.
He was also could go pretty deep.
“Ex-wife?” I asked one day, when we were talking about our pasts in the big city. He was amused by my declaration of despising the subways because ‘to many damn people in one place’. It had ended up with us chatting about our past love lives, of which I only had one boyfriend who had broken up with me because he found out that a girl he had liked for years liked him back.
“Yeah, we were married about three years, divorced when she decided that having only a second string baseball player wasn’t enough.” He shrugged, but I could tell it hurt him. “I ended up quitting the team and coming here.”
“That’s a terrible reason to divorce someone!” I protested. He shrugged.
“Eh, Erin was a business woman who had a certain image. She was a sly fox, knew the best way to win awards. An athlete for a husband, one of the best jobs in the city? She was damn proud of herself.” He sighed. “But I never became a first string, and she got annoyed. We divorced about seven months ago… and I quit the team, came here.”
I nod a bit, and drop it, the two of us heading out to work. I slowly noticed more things about Richard as time went on. He always seemed on edge, like he was waiting for something, but he was slowly unwinding.
I think it had something to do with his ex. The more I noticed it, the more I got annoyed. Richard was a really nice guy- I didn’t understand why anyone would divorce him over something as silly as a baseball team.
“Your hair is getting long.” I said, noticing Richard’s hair as I walked up behind him one day. He jumped a bit, turning to face me. “Sorry, but it looks good on you.”
“Huh, you think so?”
“Yeah, makes you look younger.” I told him honestly. It was coming in weirdly, but it did look good.
“Never heard that before.” Richard said with a laugh.
“Why not? It does look good on you.” I pointed out, confused at why no one else saw it.
“The Dolphins had a hair rule, so I kept mine short.” Richard answered honestly. “My ex thought it was cute to, but no one ever told me it made me look younger before.”
“Well, I honestly don’t care how you wear your hair here, and it does. You look like my age.” I laughed as we headed to the greenhouse. He grinned in reply.
As time went on, and he grew out his hair more, Richard didn’t both with shaving as much either, not like he had before, keeping a slightly rugged look. He started letting his beard get a bit longer, though he didn’t let it grow to long.
I enjoyed it, watching him get more and more comfortable with himself, and the Greenhouse. It was a little fascinating, watching him go from the stylish man, to the comfortable gardener.
I was even going through a similar transformation. I’d always tried to dress at least business casual, but now I found myself valuing function and comfort more as time went on. It was just more refreshing to wear the simple clothing, and be comfortable rather then trying to conform.
I even found myself less on the phone with Lisa, and more often around town. Richard was a people person and often went to the bar on the weekends, while I stayed home with a good book, but I slowly began leaving the house.
I didn’t do much then walks around the park or a quick stop at the library to read a book, but I was slowly becoming known to a few people in the town- as the Greenhouse owner anyway.
It was nice, to be stopped and chatted with, even if I didn’t know them.
I couldn’t help but wonder if I would have felt like this back in Bridgeport, where I had been so tired so often, and where I had felt like I was drowning.
It was… amazing, to feel so happy.
I would admit as well- Richard played a part in my happiness. I kept myself professional, but I found myself smiling more around him. We became closer everyday, and it felt amazing.
“You know what.” he said one day, after we were finished with the work, and I was sitting reading. “We should go to the fair in town.”
“The fair?” I asked in surprise, looking up from my book. Richard grinned and nodded.
“Yeah- it’s the last week, we might as well try it out.” I bit my lip but then smiled, nodding.
“It sounds perfect.” I told him.
Honestly, it was the best decision we made. We had a ball- rollerskating, waterballoon fights, getting our photos taken- it was a ball.
“Wow, this is so much fun!” I laughed, as we finished our turn at the waterballoon fight.
“I know- this is fantastic!” Richard laughed, and I smiled at him. We grinned like fools at one another for a few minutes, and then Richard took a cautious step towards me, smiling still, but the smile had changed, become something else.
“I… I’m having fun.” I spoke up- for something to say at least. Richard laughed under his breath.
“I am to…” he trailed off, and then spoke up once more. “Maria… I was wondering…” He trailed off, and I risked a step towards him.
“Yes?” I asked softly.
“Do… do you-”
“Richard.” a new voice spoke up, and we jerked towards the speaker- eyes wide. A beautiful woman stood, arms crossed.
“…Erica.” Richard said, and I froze. He’d mentioned an Erica before- his ex-wife.
“Hello Richard- it’s good to see you again.” Erica said, smiling at us with a beautiful face. I felt my chest tighten as I looked at her.
“What are you doing here?” Richard demanded, anger in his voice.
“Why Richard- I’m here because the paperwork is almost finalized.” Erica replied evenly.
“Paperwork?” I asked outloud, confused. Erica laughed a bit.
“Oh, he didn’t tell you? The paperwork for our divorce has just been finalized.”
“It was supposed to have been almost a year ago.” Richard snapped, as I took a step back from him, Erica striding forward towards us.
” Oh, come now Richard, I simply had a change of heart.”
“Yes- after telling me that the only way you would ‘entertain’ the idea of taking me back would be if I got onto first string.”
“Which you did.” Erica pointed out. I turned to Richard, eyes wide as he scoffed.
“I soon left, as you should remember.”
“Which was silly Richard- you finally got your dream!” Erica said, looking annoyed.
“That was not my dream Erica.” he snapped. I couldn’t look at him, as my heart beat.
“Well… I still want you.” I felt it freeze as Erica spoke. I wrapped my arms around myself, unable to breath. “I still want you back Richard- please, come back to me.”
I couldn’t think, I couldn’t do anything.
My father choose a new life. My mother chose death. My grandmother chose to die without a care for me.
I was never the first choice. I was never a choice.
“Maria…” Richard said, and I snapped, turning and running off, as rain began to pour down.