Authors: Anita Claire
My mom’s traveling this week. After missing another Sunday family dinner, I contact my dad to see if he wants to meet me for a late mid-week dinner. Dad never texts; he’s the only one I know who uses the actual telephone. Of course, he calls me back in the middle of work to confirm where and when we’ll meet. Talking on the phone is my least favorite activity, especially at work, since I don’t want everyone knowing my business.
When I meet with Mark, he asks, “I couldn’t help overhearing. Are you meeting up with your dad for dinner?”
“Can I join you?”
“You want to have dinner with my dad and me?”
“Actually, I’ve been running through a few different scenarios for our upcoming features and would like to talk over some of the choices with an experienced engineer. Flint’s a good guy to talk technical strategy with, but he’s so busy I can never get any of his time. Your dad sounds like he has a good technical perspective. You’d be right there, so it would be a good learning experience for you too.”
My shocked brain has a hard time processing this request. Initially, I was under the assumption Mark thought less of me for going to my dad. Now it sounds like he was jealous, that he, too, wants an experienced engineer to talk to.
“Let me check if he’s cool with that.”
“OK, get your phone.”
“What, are you going to wait until you’re ready to leave?”
Rolling my eyes, I go back to my desk, get my phone, call my dad, and ask him if I can bring the senior guy I work with to dinner so we can talk design strategy. Of course, my dad loves the idea. If my mom knew about this meeting, she’d make him charge consulting fees. Knowing my dad, he’s just looking forward to solving another engineering puzzle. Giving Mark a thumbs up, I e-mail him the time and location.
After Fencing, I show up at Viva Sol—my dad’s favorite Mexican restaurant. Honking my horn and waving to my dad as he walks in, I park in back. As I walk in, I find Mark and Roger standing in the lobby about five feet from my dad. This is surprising; I wasn’t expecting Roger. After a quick introduction, the host seats us. The entire dinner consists of Mark and Roger talking about design considerations, and my dad doing his usual deep questioning. At the end of our long dinner, Roger pays the bill.
The next day at work, Mark is jazzed as he tells me, “That was a good session. You’re right, your dad’s great at asking questions that really help you focus on what’s important. Now I can see how he figured out where our problem was without looking at our code, or design documents.”
I’m so relieved. When I was freaking out about everyone at work knowing my dad helped me out Nate told me I was taking it too personally. Nate was right; no one is marginalizing me for working with my dad. They’re almost jealous that I have this great resource.
On Saturday morning, Nate heads off to work and I head off to swimming. It was uneventful. Then, as Amanda and I leave the locker room to meet the guys, my jaw drops. Zach is back. I didn’t see him in the pool. My chest clenches as I feel my nerves roll over me. Our eyes lock, pulling myself together, I smile. “Zach, you’re back. It’s been weeks,” my voice uncomfortably squeaks out.
He shakes his head, “It feels like years. I think spending time in a gulag would have been more fun.”
“But you fixed the problem.”
He shakes his head, “Yeah, we fixed the problem. I also got to check out the British NHS system.”
“You had to go to a doctor?”
He shakes his head, “I picked something up on the plane and got to spend a few nights in the hospital. Then I picked up an infection and got to spend a week in the isolation ward.”
My chest clenches with guilt. I was annoyed that he wasn’t texting. The poor guy was in the hospital.
“You must be feeling better; you’re swimming.” I say.
“Yeah, I just did some easy laps in the little pool.” Now that explains why I didn’t see him.
Keven interrupts, “Come on, let’s get some breakfast.”
As we walk to Crepevine, Amanda whispers to me, “I had no idea. If I did I would have told you.”
I’m relieved; our breakfast conversation is fun and normal. As I head off to walk home, Zach joins me at the traffic light. He smiles, “Sorry, I was so busy and so sick I wasn’t communicating with anyone.”
I nod, not knowing what to say.
He then looks a little uncomfortable, “The guy, the other guy.”
I nod, feeling really uncomfortable.
“You’re with him now?”
I nod, and say, “Yeah.”
“Yeah, I thought so.” He says, looking disappointed. Then he adds, “We’re cool for breakfast, right?”
I feel relieved as I respond, “Yeah, we’re cool for breakfast.”
He smiles, “Good, I’ll see you around.” Then he turns and heads back down the street.
Getting home, I still feel angsty over seeing Zach. I was thinking of heading to the dry bar for another updo, but decide I need the calming influence of the horses. I cancel my dry bar appointment and head for the arena.
Nate shows up to the arena at around three thirty. Watching the girls ride, he asks if he can watch me ride. Taking spirited Velvet through her paces, I make sure she follows through on each of the jumps. My riding is not showy. People unschooled to the ways of horses want to see speed and jumping height when they watch a rider; whereas, Deborah focuses her riders on controlling and understanding the animals. Leading sweet-tempered Jackson over to Nate, I show him how to pull on his lead so Jackson will bond with him.
Jackson starts following Nate around the ring. Jackson likes to lean his forehead against Nate’s back, stopping and moving as Nate stops and moves. It’s easy to tell that Nate is thrilled with Jackson as he tells me with bright eyes, “I never knew horses were so interactive.”
Riding back to the stables, we get to experience another spectacular dusk. Arriving at the barn in total darkness, Deborah comes out to meet us. Nate is a quick learner. He immediately starts helping out with the tasks we showed him last time.
As Deborah drops us off at our cars, she says, “Nate, you can come and help out any time. Jackson isn’t around very many men. He really liked you.”
When we get home, I jump into action—having only an hour to get ready, including my hair. Having chosen to forgo the dry bar, I still would like to wear my hair in a style different than my typical, long curls. After a quick shower, I use a flat iron and take the time to straighten each section of my hair. My curly hair usually lies right below my shoulders. Without curls, my hair is down to my waist. After my hair is straight, I pull the front lock back using a sparkly barrette. The whole hair ordeal takes about forty-five minutes.
Nate knocks on the bathroom door, “You realize we should be leaving now.”
“I’m almost done. Just give me another ten minutes.” I tell him as I try to work fast. This is why I never straighten my hair. Who has this kind of time? Finally, I apply the same smoky eye makeup and lipstick I wore last week. Squeezing into the deep pink dress and silver heels, I head out to the living room. Nate’s eyes go deep as he looks me up and down. Wow, I really like the non-verbal communication.
As he comes close, I hold out my hand to stop him, “Don’t even think for a second you can drag me into a bathroom at the Tech for a quickie.”
Chuckling, he pulls me close as he runs his hands over my curves. “How about we start our night with a quickie. You are so hot in this dress.”
Rolling my eyes, I say, “Did you ever think that you’re just horny? I could be wearing your sweats and you’d think I’m hot and want a quickie.”
“If that’s the definition of being horny, then you’ve got me nailed,” he says between kisses.
“Ten minutes ago you were knocking on the bathroom door trying to get me to move faster. Now you want us to be late with a quickie.” I shake my head at him.
Helping me on with my coat, he picks up my overnight bag as we head to the party.
After parking in the structure across the street, we head into the Tech. Passing two company busses, Nate asks, “What’s with the busses? Did they have them covered in company colors just for this event?”
I shake my head at Nate’s lack of Silicon Valley experience. “Most people don’t realize San Francisco is a bedroom community for Silicon Valley. Those busses run every day, bringing San Francisco employees to our Sunnyvale offices.”
At the door, the bouncer finds my name with its “Plus 1” notation. In the lobby, an attendant dressed as Adi Gallia is quick to take our coats as we head down the hall to the Star Wars exhibition.
I comment, “I hope they paid her extra to dress as Adi Gallia all night long.”
“You know the names of the Star Wars characters?”
“Oh, this night is going to be education for you.” I say with a chuckle. “I guarantee this party will be different than the one you took me to last week.”
At the door to the exhibit, a Sabe dressed attendant asks if we want to sign up to ride the Millennium Falcon. Of course, I sign us up. We start walking around the exhibit. A couple guys I don’t know are in the personal hovercraft, as Nate and I head over to play with the Maglev cars on the magnetic track.
We are interrupted by a server dressed as Padme Amidela, who offers us a canapé. Eating the canapé, I slowly turn around taking in all the people and attractions in the room. Spotting the open bar set-up across the way, I see that the bartenders are dressed as Landro Calresson and Captain Panaka.
After suggesting to Nate we get a drink, he placing his hand on my waist as we walk over together.
At the bar, Mark taps me on the shoulder, “Juliette, I almost didn’t recognize you with the straight hair.”
“Mark, this is—”
Nate sticks his hand out and gives Mark direct eye contact as he says, “Nate, Juliette’s boyfriend.”
Mark looks down at Nate’s hand on my waist then shakes his hand. Pointing over to an area that has some bar tables, he says, “My girlfriend’s over at a table.”
Mark stands with us in line as we all get drinks. “Thanks again for letting me join you for dinner the other night, it was a great session.”
Turning to Nate, I fill him in. “Mark and our boss, Roger, high jacked my dinner with my dad, turning it into a design strategy session.”
Nate gives me an “I told you so” expression.
At the table, Mark introduces me to his girlfriend, Janet—a cute Asian woman.
“How did you make it out tonight without Buddy?” I ask.
Janet starts laughing, “Buddy’s my dog. Can you believe what a traitor he is? Once Buddy and Mark met, they both completely forgot about me. I think Mark moved in just so he could spend more time with my dog.”
That answers why she puts up with Buddy as I ask, “Why did you name a girl dog Buddy?”
Janet laughs, “I was going to name her girlfriend, but I liked the sound of Buddy better.”
Hita comes gleefully running up, followed by a tall gangly Asian guy. “Did you see Mace Windu, Count Dooku, and Qui-Gin Jinn?”
“You realize that they’re just servers dressed up as Star Wars characters?” I say with a smile.
“Juliette, don’t be a spoilsport.” She says as she gives me a twice over, “Nice dress, did you need to use oil to glide that on?”
Nate squeezes my waist, and all I can think is don’t give my guy ideas. Oil would ruin my sheets. Instead, I say to the tall Asian guy she’s with, “You must be David. Hita’s a college friend. She actually got me this job. Then I look up at Nate. “This is Nate.”
Nate sticks out his hand, “Nate, Juliette’s boyfriend.”
David responds with a shy, cute half smile, which shows off his dimples.
Hita gives me a look. We’ve been friends for so long that I know what she’s thinking. Nate’s already classified our relationship and is making sure all the guys know I’m taken. In response, I just smile and wink. It’s nice having a guy who wants to be in a relationship.
Looking around the room, I spot creepy Tom standing next to a mousy looking woman. Nate’s a big guy; I wonder if he can eyeball Tom into leaving me alone? Figuring that this is probably not the venue to use my threatening boyfriend as a weapon, I decide not to point Tom out.
3CPO enters the cocktail area announcing, “The IMAX Hidden Universe show will begin in fifteen minutes.”
“Do you want to see it?” Nate asks.
“I’d rather eat dinner first. It’s supposed to be a special, catered buffet.”
Just then, Roger comes up with a flashy dressed, bottle blond, big haired woman who looks to be in her thirties. She has the same New Jersey accent as Roger. After introductions, the group decides to head over to the dining area.
On the way, we stop to say hi to Rajive, who’s hanging out with five other single Indian guys. The dining area is a large hall. It’s been professionally decorated to look like a
cantina. The servers are all in
costumes. At one end are two buffet tables flanked by two more open bars, the other end of the room is set up for a band with a dance floor in front. In between are many round tables with Star Wars themed centerpieces. Currently, there are a couple musicians providing live background music.
Looking around Nate comments, “They pulled out the stops for this event.”
The food is set up Brazilian BBQ style. The buffet tables have a wide assortment of seafood, vegetables, vegetarian dishes, and starches, while servers, dressed as
warriors, circle the room with large skewers of meat; slicing them onto your plate if you turn the card next to your plate green. Chris and Avery join us at our table; they’ve both come stag. They start pumping me on Luke information, which Nate finds funny. The two of us look at each other; I know we’re both thinking the same thing.
Nate finally says, “Luke has a lot of stamina, if you’re looking for a player with staying power you should choose him.” This causes me to laugh.
Dinner is enjoyable; everyone is in a good mood, we mostly talk about science fiction. We move from
Lord of the Rings
, finally ending up on
Game of Thrones
. Hita’s date, David, has an amazing memory. He’s a walking encyclopedia; rattling off the names of every character and every scene from every science fiction movie and book that’s ever existed. After dinner, Nate asks me if I want to go back to the other room and look at more exhibits.
On the way, he asks, “Are you into all those shows?”
“It’s a necessity if you want to carry on a non-work conversation with anyone in my group. It’s probably like what golf is to doctors.”
Back in the exhibit room, we head to the robot engineering design lab where we get to build a robot by selecting design elements like sensors, wheels or treads. There’s also a remote control booth where you can use hand controls to maneuver small things around inside a glass container. Nate gets on this device and shows amazing dexterity.
“How did you do that?” I ask in amazement.
He shakes his head. With a smirk, he puts his arm around me. As we walk away, he says, “What do you think I do all day long? It’s the same principle as orthoscopic surgery. You wouldn’t want to have a doctor repair your knee if he wasn’t patient and didn’t have amazing hand-eye coordination.”
As we walk over to the costume area, we pass by Flint, who is surrounded by a group of people. Nate and I part as we take different paths to examine the costumes.
Out of the corner of my eye, I see Flint excuse himself from his group and head over. He flinches as I catch him looking me up and down, “Juliette, enjoying yourself?”
“Flint, yes, this is an amazing party. The Brazilian BBQ was wonderful.”
“I hear Mark and Roger had a good session with your dad. We should bring him in to do some more consulting.”
Nate joins me, placing a proprietary hand on my waist.
Smiling, I continue, “Yes, I’m sure he’d enjoy that.”
As I turn to introduce Nate, I see he’s looking at Flint with the eye of warrior. Nate extends his hand keeping a grip on my waist “Nate, Juliette’s boyfriend.”
Flint doesn’t flinch from Nate’s aggressive stare as he shakes his hand and amps up the situation with his own stare. “Flint, CTO. So, Nate, you work high tech?”
“No, sports medicine.”
“What, are you a trainer or something?”
“No. Orthopedic Surgeon.” Nate says as he pulls me in.
Luckily Flint’s interrupted from this testosterone laced introduction by Terri, who gives me a sneer as she tells Flint in a sweet voice he’s needed in another room. Then she physically escorts him away.
Turning back to Nate, I say in horror, “That’s one of the founders of my company. Why were you so Neanderthal to him?”
Watching Terri and Flint retreat through pinched eyes, he responds, “That guy’s been checking out your ass for the last half hour. I wanted to make sure he realizes you’re taken.”
Wow, I don’t know if I’m flattered or alarmed. I’m glad he wasn’t as protective of me when we were around Mark and Roger.
“What’s with the blond who’s trying too hard?” Nate asks.
“Terri? Who just pulled Flint away?”
“Yeah, are those two together, or does she just want to be with him?”
“I heard she was with Sid, my VP.”
“Sid should be watching his back because she’s definitely on the make, and not happy that Flint has his eyes on you. Though, I don’t like knowing he has his eyes on you either.” Nate says as we walk around the death star model. Wow, Nate is surprisingly good at picking up what’s going on around here, much better at it than me, but I don’t think Flint’s interested in me that way. Anyway, it takes two to tango, and I’m happy dancing with Nate.
After our turn on the Millennium Falcon, Chewbacca tells us that desert will be served and the band will be playing in the other room.
Nate looks at me and tips his head toward the other room. “We’ve never danced together.” He threads his fingers through my hand.
“It had better be slow dancing, since I don’t have much room to move in this dress.”
Smiling, Nate says, “I’d like to do some slow dancing with you.”
On our way to the bar, before we head into the other room, we run into Megan, Caroline, and Kami—all looking festive in their pretty party dresses.
As the women I lunch with check Nate out, I make introductions, then ask, “Where’s Jessica?”
“Oh, she’s been hanging with that product manager she’s been chasing since last month.”
Then I step right in it, “Caroline, where’s Jeremy? I thought you were bringing him?”
The other women roll their eyes as Caroline gets this really sad look, bites her lip, and says, “We drove over together, but as we were entering the lobby, he told me he left something at home. He hasn’t come back.”
Standing there without a clue of what to say next, Nate dives right in. “Can I get you ladies a drink?” He ushers us over to the bar. In my ear, he says, “Christmas parties bring out the crazy.”
We then head into the dining room and search out the table where my group is sitting. The band starts playing a nice, slow song. Leaving my clutch and wine glass on the table, Nate takes my hand and leads me to the dance floor. Leaning into him, I say, “This is where I work; please don’t put your hands on my ass or any non-G rated locations.”
Smiling, Nate pulls me tight. “Just G rated dancing tonight. I’ll leave the X ratings for tonight’s show…when I get you in my bed.”
As he twirls me around the floor, all I can do is smile as I gaze into his wonderful blue eyes. I’m real lucky to have found a good guy like Nate.