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Learning Anew: An Excerpt VI

“Okay, so I know that this may sound crazy.” His eyes dropped to his shoes and a light escaped from them. “Maybe just a little.” A loose chuckle rolled out of his belly. Johan tried to sound casual though he’d rehearsed this speech several times over in his head. Aniya peered at him, teeth gritted under her pressed lips. Johan’s lashes fluttered. Aniya didn’t make it easy for him but he had to get his words out. “But this isn’t just lip service. You’ve earned every single advance here.”

Aniya was silent. She allowed his words to sink in while she bore her eyes into Johan’s deep set green windows to his soul. She stared searching. Searching for truth. Searching for answers. Eventually she spoke. “Thank you. I should really get back to preparing that report for your fath…for Mr. Steinberg Sr. Excuse me.” Aniya spun around easily and quickly. One foot after the other, aiming for the door. Suddenly she heard footsteps behind her and she could feel Johan’s soft, warm breath on her neck. “One more thing. Am I forgiven?”

Time seemed to come to a screeching halt. Aniya reversed her direction slowly. She was face to face with Johan again. Even closer this time. Her round bright brown eyes grew, and grew till it formed a small protruding, shiny bulge. “Please Mr. Steinberg. Please.” 

Johan’s throat tightened. His heart drummed an energetic rhythm. He raised his hand in an attempt to cover it. Not again! He swore that his heart was on fire. He wanted to take her hand. He wanted to say he only wanted what was best for her. Instead he heard the soft, pleading tone of her voice. “I love this job too much.” She whipped around again and reached for the door handle. Aniya shot through the exit with force.

Johan was tempted to follow her. Tempted to spew every last detail lodged in his heart. But he couldn’t. Not yet anyway. There was too much at stake.

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Learning Anew: An Excerpt IV

A belly laugh tumbled out of her stomach. For some reason Johan’s words amused Aniya to the point of causing her to fold over at her stomach-laughing. It took her all of two minutes before she could compose herself.

“I’m sorry.” Sarcasm oozed out of her veins. “Um, because you’re the head honcho you think that it’s okay that you lied to me?” If the daggers shooting out of her eyes were real Johan would already been dead. He took a tentative step toward her. Aniya stepped backward. Johan remained put.

“Aniya, I’m sorry. It wasn’t my intention to lie…” Resembling a traffic cop, Aniya raised her hand up to stop him.

“I really don’t want to…I can’t.” She pressed her lips tightly together. “I have to get back to work. If that’s alright with you?” The sarcasm was back in all its glory. Johan’s eyes were half filled with regret and half filled with fear. Fear of losing Aniya forever.

“Aniya please. Please let me explain. It’s all on me. It’s all on me if you’re late getting back to work.” Johan kept his voice low, and his tone even. Aniya however, was poised to rush past him like a NFL offense player.

“I have work to do. Unlike you I don’t have the luxury of playing games.” She began her stampede forward. Johan planted himself in her path, attempting to block her. Aniya stopped dead in her tracks. Seemingly in slow motion, she raised her head and glared into Johan’s forest green eyes then allowed herself to gaze further up at the strands of dark brown hair framing his forehead. Suddenly she shook her head, vigorously. Those images had to be expelled immediately. He had to remain the ogre she only saw him as now. “Mr. Steinberg, seriously, I really need to get back to work.”

Johan hadn’t heard a word Aniya said. Not really anyway. He was lost in her russet brown almond eyes and the strand of unruly curly hair hanging over her right ear, that had gotten loose from her high puff-ponytail. “Mr. Steinberg!” Johan snapped to attention.

“Huh?” He swallowed hard to hide his embarrassment. “You know, Johan works just fine.”

Aniya sucked in an enormous breath through her nose and let it out forcibly as though she inhaled fire instead of air. She moved quickly. She maneuvered around Johan. Who knew she was so agile. So much more I have to learn about her. Johan swiveled around and tried to reach Aniya before she crossed the office door’s threshold. “Aniya…” He called out but she was already through the door interweaving among the people-traffic on the floor.

Johan sheepishly looked at the passerbys and shrinked back into his office.  He shut the door and leaned aginast it. “Okay…okay, so she’s quick. I’ve got to find a way…a way to make her hear me.”

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Learning Anew – An Excerpt III

“I don’t know Johan, you’re playing this really…really too close to the vest. What happens when Aniya finds out who you are?” Susan pressed her palms against her castle pine wooden desk, leaned over and hoisted herself above her cousin who pretended not to listen to her. He just sat, fiddled with a pen in between his fingers, and stared out the high rise office windows.

“Why don’t you let me worry about how close I’m playing things and you worry about being a good supervisor. huh?” Johan finally turned and flashed Susan a wide grin. But his boyish grin didn’t move her one bit. Well except to stand right in front of him and block any further distraction from the stunning sunlight, and magnificent clouds forming outside the windows.

“Look Johan, this all started innocently enough. You wandered downstairs to check things out and one look and you were instantly distracted, like you always are by new and shiny things. You…”

Johan jumped to his feet. This time it was him hoisted above the woman he’s known as more like an older sister than a cousin his entire life. “She’s not a ‘shiny thing’! It’s not like that Suze. I…I…” He felt something move in his stomach. What the heck? Was the ever cerebral, barely emotional Johan experiencing butterflies? “I swear.” His arms dropped limp at his side.

She gasped. She could see the vulnerability in his eyes. Johan gently maneuvered his way around Susan and stood beside the wall covered with windows.

Susan made her own graceful move and joined him. “So tell me. Tell me what it’s like. I’m all ears.”

Johan looked away from the arresting scene happening outside the window and curled his lips into a slow smile. “How much time do you have?”

“For you?” Susan tilted her eyes toward the international clocks adorning the wall across from the array of windows “30 minutes, until my next meeting.”

Laughter filled the space between them.

To Be Continued…

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