As I opened the door to the diner, the smell of grilled cheese and pancakes came rushing at me. It was lunch time and I’d decided to leave the office for a while and get some lunch out here. I hadn’t really made any work friends yet. All my colleagues were pretty nice, but we just hadn’t bonded much because of the big age difference between myself and most of them. So that meant that I had to enjoy a sandwich by myself.
I looked up, surprised. Michelle was sitting at the bar and waved at me. I walked over to her.
“Michelle? Aren’t you at the office?”
“I was about to ask you that. Sneaking off during office hours, huh?” she winked jokingly, her full lips broadening in a smile as she saw the nervous look on my face. “I’m just kidding. You can do whatever you want on your lunch break, it’s fine.”
She stretched her back and looked at her watch. “I was supposed to have a meeting here but the guy canceled last-minute. Apparently his wife has just gone into labor.”
“Would you like to join me for some lunch?”
I didn’t even realize what I’d said until it was too late. Surely it was kind of inappropriate to ask your boss to have lunch, just the two of you? Even a cool boss like Michelle.
But she didn’t seem to mind. “Sure, now that we’re here, we might as well!”
Not much later, we were sitting at a table having coffee and sandwiches. As usual when talking to Michelle, the conversation was easy and smooth. We’d talked about work for a while, but quickly went on to other subjects.
“So you mentioned taking the day off for your sister’s wedding soon, right?” Michelle asked. I nodded, swallowing a bite of grilled cheese. “Yeah, it’s next Friday.”
“Do you like her fiancé?”
“Oh, for sure. He’s pretty much a part of the family already. They’ve been best friends since they were ten and dating since they were seventeen. High school sweethearts, and all that. They’re even trying for a baby already.” I couldn’t help but roll my eyes slightly. Even though I knew they’d be great parents, I still thought Allie and Phil might be rushing things a bit.
Michelle saw me and laughed. “I guess you don’t agree with that?”
I shrugged. “I mean, whatever makes them happy. I just couldn’t imagine myself getting engaged and having kids anytime soon.”
“Well, you’re only eighteen. There’s no rush.” Michelle eyed me curiously. “So no fiancée for you – not even a girlfriend? Or a fling?”
I wasn’t sure how appropriate it was for my boss to ask about my love life, but I found I didn’t really mind. Sometimes Michelle seemed more like a friend than a boss.
“Not really,” I answered. It was true. I’d dated a few girls in high school and even had a girlfriend once or twice, but ever since graduation, I’d been too focused on work to be dating.
Michelle shook her head. “I can’t imagine being eighteen and not dating. Especially a guy like you.”
She looked at me for a second, and then quickly kept talking. “I loved dating until I was well into my twenties. Until the pressure of society got to me and I got married.” She shook her head. “Definitely shouldn’t have done that.”
“What happened?” I asked, not able to ignore my curiosity. Michelle shrugged. “Oh, the usual. It quickly went from bad to worse, we weren’t happy, constantly fighting, blah blah. He’s not a bad guy, honestly, just not the right guy for me. We’ve been divorced for a little over a year and I’m much happier now.”
I didn’t really know how to this sudden openness, so I simply nodded. Michelle must have noticed my awkwardness.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to bore you with an old woman’s love life.” “You’re not old,” I blurted out without thinking. Michelle started laughing heartily.
“Are you trying to convince me to give you a raise?”
We stayed for quite a bit longer than my usual lunch break was, and Michelle paid for the both of us. I tried to offer to pay, but she simply waved me off.
“It’s no big deal, honestly, Enzo. Think of it as a business lunch.”
She turned to me and smiled. “I did enjoy talking to you for a while. But I do think we maybe shouldn’t mention this lunch to the others in the office. I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea.”
“I understand,” I said quickly. “I wouldn’t want that either.”
But I couldn’t help wonder what kind of ideas people would get if they heard I’d spent nearly two hours talking to my boss about her ex-husband…