Fear The Dawn: Chapter 23

It's amazing how much things have changed in the last few months, isn't it?”
He shrugged. “Things have kind of settled down for me.”
Are you kidding? Look at you! You're not eating a sandwich for lunch! You've been bringing a sandwich every day since university!”
Aidan looked down at his lunch. He had a little container of rice with vegetables and meat that Nisha had made for him. It was pretty good and he appreciated the gesture, but it really wasn't that different from the microwave dinners that he lived on as a bachelor. “This is really pretty small compared to some of the other things that have changed”, he said. “How are you and Nicole doing these days?”
Amazing, being with her is even more wonderful than I ever imagined. Her life is pretty busy, but we talk on the phone a lot, and I get to visit her on weekends. I've been spending time with David, too, we play video games. He's a good kid, they've had a difficult life but he's very supportive of his mom.”
Sounds like things are going pretty well. What do your parents think about it?”
They still think it's pretty weird, but they're starting to come around. It helps that they've met her now, she's just so nice and genuine that it's not hard to see why I like her.”
They probably saw why you liked her the moment they laid eyes on her”, he grinned.
God, you don't even know the half of it. If you think she looks sexy in her office clothes you wouldn't even be able to imagine how she looks in bed. Every time we're together I'm just totally overwhelmed by the feeling that I'm not good enough for someone like her.”
I felt that way about Nisha at first, but eventually it sinks in that they like you too.”
Yeah”. Dan's disposition changed, and he became serious for a moment. “Thanks so much, buddy. I can't believe I was going to pass this up. You really saved me.”
Well, that's what friends do.”
I won't forget this. You let me know if you ever need anything.”
Aidan finished up his rice. “Well, you should make sure things work out between the two of you first. Don't waste this chance.”
He nodded. “I definitely won't”, and the two of them went back to their desks.

He was still thinking about that conversation on the train that evening. Nisha boarded the train, and he greeted her with a hug, and they made small talk about work for a few minutes.
Hey Nish, have you thought about having children?”, he asked as soon as the train reached the bridge over the lake.
Where did that come from all of a sudden?”
Dan was talking about spending time with Nicole's son at lunch today, and it got me thinking about it.”
She smiled, “it made you want to raise a child of your own?”
Actually, it made me feel like I totally wasn't ready for it. It seemed hard to believe he was already at that point in his life.”
Well, you're never really ready for these things until you have to be. When did you feel ready to be with me?”
He laughed. “Sometimes I still don't”.
Well, I definitely want to have children. There's really nothing quite like bringing new life into this world and watching them grow into their own person. It's a lot of work, but I don't think you'll ever find something that's as rewarding.”
I think being with someone you love and making them happy certainly comes close.”
That's good too”, she said, snuggling up to him, “I also still want to have a career, so I'd have to have the children early enough that I could still go back to work once they were old enough.”
You could always put them in daycare so you could still go to work.”
She shook her head. “I'm not really into that. When you have kids, your life revolves around them until they're old enough to fend for themselves. That's just how it should be.”
Well, for the time being I just want to focus on making you happy”, he said, putting his arm around her.
Aww, you're sweet”. She gave him a little kiss on the cheek. “You're doing pretty well so far.”

As they walked home it was her time to surprise him with a question he didn't expect.
Have you been thinking about marriage at all?”, she asked, innocently.
He swallowed nervously. “Why do you ask?”
Well, we've been living together a while now, and you sound like you're pretty sure about me, so I was wondering if you'd been thinking about it.”
Well, uh, a little, I guess”, he lied. “What about you, have you been thinking about it?”
She nodded. “Almost as much as my mother.”
Your mother?”
Nisha”, she said, imitating her mother's voice. “You hurry up and get that nice banker boy to marry you. Cause I'll tell you one thing about marriage: you're not getting any younger. And remember, if you don't give me a grandchild before I die, I'll come back and haunt you forever.”
That seems harsh.”
She smiled. “All parents are like that, towards their daughters anyway. She means well.”
They kept walking for a few more minutes, but she stopped him when they reached the park near his apartment. “Hold on a moment. The sun is just setting, look”. Sure enough, the sun was just beginning to fade below the horizon, painting the sky a brilliant red colour. “Let's sit for a bit before we head back home.”

They chose a little wooden bench that gave a good view of the horizon and sat down. The sun slowly dropped lower in the sky, transforming the world from red to purple as a few clouds lazily rolled by. He put his arm around her and they sat there quietly for a while, watching the sky together.
This is nice”, she said, contentedly. “Aidan, I don't need a lot to be happy. It doesn't matter if we're never rich or famous, as long as you love me and we can find time for moments like this, I'll be content. I'm not sure exactly what you have planned for the future, but I hope I'm a part of it.”
His throat suddenly closed up and his tongue felt like a brick in his mouth. “She's giving me a chance to propose to her”, he realized. For a second he thought she might even propose herself, but she was too traditional for that. He gazed up at the sky, looking for answers. He loved her, and he wanted to spend his life with her, that much was certain. It also seemed pretty likely that she would accept if he asked her now. “But I don't have a ring or anything”, he thought. Did she even care about that?
It was too sudden. He already had a plan for how he would propose to her. Maybe she didn't need a lot to be happy, but he knew that her life had been difficult, and she deserved a little spectacle for something like this. She would remember this moment for the rest of her life, and he wanted to it be worth remembering.
Sorry Nish, but it won't be long now”, he thought. “You'll just have to be patient a little longer.”
He smiled and wrapped his arm around her. He had to say something, after this long she was probably really expecting it now. “You will be, I promise.” He pulled her closer to him. “I'm glad I could share this with you, and I'm so happy you're a part of my life.”
He tried to read her expression out of the corner of his eye. Luckily she didn't seems disappointed or upset. “There are times where I'm glad she thinks I'm kind of clueless”, he thought, relieved. The sun sank most of the way out of view, turning the sky into a deep purple colour that was almost grey, and they got up and walked home together.

Back at work, it seemed the news of the promotion wasn't as forthcoming as he had hoped. It had been a few months since his boss got the promotion, but they still hadn't announced who would take over for his job. Aidan yawned and quickly covered his mouth. He was doing his best to remain vigilant, but it was getting a bit tough. He was a little tired today, he and Nisha had been up late last night, and filling out forms day after day was just starting to lose its luster. He was ready for more excitement and responsibility, he often spent slow afternoons like this thinking about what it would be like to be the boss. He imagined himself rolling out a big cart full of papers and dumping them in everyone's inboxes, laughing heartily as he did so.
Aidan, can I talk to you for a minute”, his boss said, interrupting his little daydream.
Aidan's heart leapt into his throat. This could be it. He tried to speak, but he was too nervous, he simply nodded his head and followed his boss back into his office.

Have they decided?”, he manged to squeak out after he sat down.
Now just hold your horses a moment, we need to talk about something else first. Aidan, how exactly did you decide to approve the loan for that art shop?”
Oh, I called a couple of those consultants and spoke with some people I know in the art world about it, and I got the impression that it could work out.”
That's interesting”, he said, drumming his fingers, “because they've missed a few of their payments, and I spoke with one of our consultants about it and he said he'd never have recommended backing them.”
I'm sure they're just establishing themselves”, Aidan said, fidgeting with the buttons of his shirt. “Besides, didn't you say that we make money whether the loan goes well or not?”
His boss looked down at his desk and shook his head. “There's some truth to that, but... it just really doesn't look good, you know? They want someone they can trust to make decisions responsibly.”
His heart sank all the way into his shoes. “So they have decided?”, he asked, sullenly.
I'm sorry Aidan, I went to bat for you, I really did, but I think they wanted someone who's a bit more seasoned. They're going to go with Richard.”
He wasn't getting it. It had always been too good to be true, it was silly to have ever thought it could happen. But still, now what was he going to do? What would he tell Nisha?
Oh, and by the way, Aidan, have you been feeling quite all right lately? I couldn't help but notice that some of your forms seem to be coming back a little late, there's a date stamp in the corner, you know. You haven't been storing extra forms in your desk, have you?”
What? I- there must be some mistake- it only ever happened once!” he stammered, flustered. It couldn't be. This was why he wasn't getting that promotion? How could he have been so stupid?!
His boss looked at him with a knowing smile. “Don't worry, lad, it takes us all a little while to find our footing. Your time will come. I didn't get this job until I was 35. As long as you work hard you'll always have a bright future ahead of you at Walder Financial.”

And that was it. The discussion was done, the choice was made, there was nothing more to say. Aidan returned to his desk without a word. He looked at the big stack of papers in front of him, but he just had nothing left. How many more years of this would there be? Five? Ten? He put his hand on his head and tried to come to terms with it all, but it just wasn't working, not now.
This is all my fault”, he thought. “I took my eyes off the prize. I could have had it, but I blew it.”
He just sat there like that for a few minutes, wishing it was all a bad dream. Without even turning his head he picked up his phone. He wasn't supposed to make personal calls at work, but what difference did that make, he wasn't getting promoted anyway. He needed to hear her voice, to know that he still had her in his life.
Hello, this is Nisha speaking”.
Hey Nish, it's me.”
Aidan? I'm working, what is it?”
Can I talk to you for a minute? Do you remember that positioning opening up at my work that I told you about? I didn't get it.”
Aww, I'm sorry. I know you were really hoping for that. We can talk about it later, okay?”
All right, have a good afternoon. Love you”. She really didn't know the half of it, but he couldn't explain it all right now. He didn't know how he was ever going to explain it. Just last week he thought he had everything figured out for their future, and now he felt completely lost. Where would they live? How would he ask her to marry him? When would he ask her to marry him? What were they going to do for the rest of their lives?
Before all of that, what was he going to do? Aidan stared at his pile, but he didn't have any answers. All he could do now was dot his Is and cross his Ts, the same as he'd been doing for years.

It'll be all right, Aidan”, she tried to reassure him later that evening. He was sprawled out on the couch, and she was sitting on the bed nearby. “You'll get another chance.”
It was my fault”, he mumbled. “I should have had it.”
You can't do everything. You've been working hard, I know it.”
I hate this job. It's boring and I'm never getting anywhere.”
I can sympathize, my job isn't always exciting either and I don't know if I'm ever going to be doing more than this, but at least we can come home and spend time together. Doesn't that help?”
You deserve better.”
Don't be silly. Weren't you listening when I told you I don't need a lot to be happy? I don't need to live in a fancy place or have a lot of expensive things or anything like that, what I really want is to pursue my dream and have someone who loves me there by my side, that's all”.
Listen”, she said, getting up from the bed and rubbing his shoulder, “why don't we go to the city on the weekend? We could both use a little fun.”
He thought about that fancy apartment they had been to, and how he planned to propose to her after he got that promotion. That would never happen now. Just thinking about it made him feel like a failure, it was the last place he wanted to be right now.
I don't feel like it”, he moped. “It's okay if you don't want to hang out here all weekend, you can spend some time with your folks if you want.”
What I want is to see you be happy again”, she said, sadly, but in the end they didn't go to the city, and she did spend some of the weekend at her parents house. He didn't blame her, he was still in a deep funk when Monday finally came.

The sandwich is back”, Dan noted at lunchtime. Aidan merely grumbled.
Bad weekend?” he asked. “My weekend was great. Nicole, David, and I all went to the fair, and we had a great time. He wanted to go on all the rides, so I went on a couple with him, and we played the midway games. It was also really great to finally have a date to go with, you know? Even though she's a little older and we have a child with us it still feels really exciting.”
Aidan really wasn't in the mood for sappy love stories right now. He just kept chewing on his sandwich.
The one issue though is that I really don't know how to advance our relationship. I want things to go forward, but it's complicated. David goes to school near where she lives, so do we look for a place near there? Would she just ask me to move in with her where she's living now? How would David feel about it? It's really hard to figure all this stuff out.”
Tell me about it.”
Is something wrong with you and Nisha?”
He sighed. “No, it's not her, it's this job. It's just so boring and I'm not getting anywhere. There was a chance for a promotion, but I blew it, and now there's probably nothing for a long, long time.”
So why do you keep working here?”
Because I need the money. Don't be stupid.”
I mean it, if you really don't like your job, you could go somewhere else. You used to have a lot more ambition, what happened to all of that?”
Life happened”, he replied. “Surely you're not talking about comedy, it's way too late for that now.”
Oh, that reminds me”, he said, perking up. “I saw something interesting when I was visiting Nicole at the university last week. They host some kind of comedy show in the bar and they're looking for people to join them. You used to write for the campus paper, maybe you could go.”
Yeah right”, he replied dismissively.
I think I had a little ticket for it or something”, he said, checking his pockets. “It must be upstairs, I'll give it to you later. You never know, it might cheer you up.”

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