OPEN ENDED STORIES — #1
Trust and let go, or warn your best friend?
In trying my hand at the world of fiction after my first ever story a few days ago, I wanted to try something new. I am going to write stories with an open ending- somewhat of a crossroads and let the readers respond with what they think would be the appropriate path. If you do read this, please leave a response with what you think should happen next?
Mark was extremely excited today, as this would be the first time he was going to introduce the love of his life, Heather to his best friend, Jake. This was important to him. Not because he sought approval from Jake, but because these were two of the most important people in his life, and he needed them to get along. He had planned to go to the bowling alley first, keeping in mind that the best of times he had spent with Jake was their bowling battles — Jake had almost always beaten him but he’d gotten better during his time away in Singapore where he had practiced a couple of times a month since he hadn’t had a lot to do on weekends until of course, he’d met Heather only four months ago. Hoping for bowling to be a nice ice breaker, he had then planned for a dinner at a casual Italian dining place, because he knew that was Heather’s favorite cuisine, and Jake didn’t mind the occasional pizza either.
Mark and Jake had met three years ago, during their orientation at the Columbia Business School for their MBA.
Both came from different backgrounds — Mark had worked as a data analyst in Germany after a Mathematics degree from the London School of Economics, while Jake had a lot less impressive academic background with a diploma in literature from a local college in Florida.
But Jake had something that most people lacked — the ability and street-smarts to work his way through things, and carve his own path, especially when it came to matters of people — he was a charmer. He had built his own small retail business in Orlando, starting from a small store selling women’s apparel and had expanded it online doing a pretty fine job at it too. His entrepreneurship and his ability in the field of sales and marketing had landed him the seat at Columbia.
In most ways, Mark and Jake were like chalk and cheese. Mark was never quite the one with either the looks or the charm and hence his luck in the dating world was based purely on his intellect, solid job, 6 figure salary and the fact that he was incredibly smart and especially good with numbers, which was impressive to a small subset of girls his age. Jake, on the other hand, was tall, good looking, had a way with words, and never had any trouble getting girls.
Perhaps, it were those dissimilarities that made them perfectly complement each other as they grew into being the best of friends over their two years of MBA. Mark would always assist and help Jake in his assignments, while Jake would provide Mark the perspective he lacked in terms of practical experience that Jake had from having run his own business. When it came to time outside of campus and studies, Jake would usually help Mark build his confidence around girls, and even groomed him into a much more impressive and confident guy during the period. However, they did disagree on principles just a tad bit. While none of them were looking for a serious relationship during the two years at school since their studies were the main focus, Jake was more comfortable with casual flings, while Mark preferred to just keep things to the harmless friendships or mere first dates.
They spent the first year taking all the same courses together, but in the 2nd year they chose different electives — Mark specialized in Finance while Jake took up Sales & Marketing. By the end of their time at Columbia, both of them had landed top jobs with the most prestigious institutions in their respective fields. Mark was going to join the Blackstone Group, a world-leading private equity firm, while Jake was going to be joining Amazon, in their online retail business. While Jake’s job meant he would stay in New York, Mark was asked to join Blackstone’s Singapore office, which he saw as a great opportunity to get international exposure early in his career. They were both ecstatic and were looking forward to their respective new journeys.
The first years at their jobs had been great for both Mark and Jake.
Mark had shown a great knack for identifying investment opportunities and had excelled at his role within Blackstone, earning him a big bonus in his first year at the firm. The endless hours of working on financial models and doing due diligence on potential investments had paid off. He hadn’t had much time to socialize for the first 6 months of the job, but eventually travel within Asia had meant he would network within and outside of work. He’d met Heather during one of these client engagements — she was the Head of Product for one of the companies he was doing due diligence on. And while his team had chosen not to invest in the company eventually, he’d probably gained more from the process than he did from any of his other deals. Heather, much like himself, had moved to Singapore to pursue a career opportunity and so that bit of similarity had sparked off their first conversation. They’d decided to head to a bar after the formal networking session and had hit it off immediately and started seeing each other since.
Jake had seen his own bit of early success in his career at Amazon. He’d been employed as a Senior Marketing Manager within Amazon’s Fashion business given his background. And while his paychecks may not have been as chunky as Mark’s, he had impressed all of his colleagues with a rapid expansion of the Fashion category, signing brands and adding categories that were growing rapidly. His hours and intensity of work were a lot more relaxed compared to Mark, and he had continued in his ways of casual dating and with a strong financial standing and a steady job, he had enhanced his already impressive track record when it came to girls. He was not shy of trying anything — your conventional bars, friends of friends, or the more “virtual” ways of Tinder, Bumble, you name it. But no fling lasted more than a few dates, and nor did he ever made any promises of a serious relationship. He’d make his intentions clear on the very first date, but his charm and obvious appeal meant most girls didn’t mind. However he had his own rules — he never dated more than one girl at the same time.
Mark and Jake had still kept in touch with the occasional FaceTime every other weekend and frequently texted each other small and big triumphs on the personal and professional front. And so, Mark had announced to Jake three months ago that he “may have found the one”. Jake had chuckled a little when he read this knowing that his hopeless romantic friend could be the only person he knew who’d feel like that after meeting a girl a couple of times. Mark had not given Jake any details, nor had Jake bothered to dig too deep. But a week ago, Mark had announced that he and his girlfriend were going to make a trip to New York on vacation and that he wanted the three of them to meet.
It was 5 p.m. and Mark and Heather were already at the bowling alley, waiting for Jake to show up. Mark paid at the cash counter and got them a lane assigned and headed over after grabbing some snacks, while Heather excused herself to the ladies room. Jake walked in and spotted Mark from a distance and headed straight up to him, as they shook hands briefly before Jake pulled him in for a hug — this was his best friend he was seeing after a whole year! As they exchanged pleasantries and Jake in his typical fashion made fun of Mark’s attire, Heather walked back in.
There was a slight hint of surprise on both Jake’s and Heather’s faces on seeing each other, which went unnoticed by Mark who was beyond excited to introduce the two. “Heather, this is Jake, who you’ve heard enough about, and Jake — this is the girl I briefly mentioned to you I’d started seeing in Singapore,” said Mark as he smiled slightly embarrassed when he remembered how he’d told Jake about Heather as potentially being “the one”, and he hoped Jake wouldn’t mention that. Jake, now seeming less surprised, in a very calm manner responded — “Of course I remember you mentioning “a girl”, although you haven’t told me much about her, not nearly as much as it seems you’ve told her about me.” “Of course, I wanted you to meet her in person and not take away the element of surprise,” said Mark, visibly relieved at Jake’s response.
They took turns at bowling, and Mark had surely improved his game, and the scoreboard had him slightly leading Jake, while Heather was lagging a fair bit, as she wasn’t much of a bowling enthusiast, but did enjoy it every now and then. Mark excused himself to go get them a refill of drinks, leaving the two to chat and get to know each other a bit. As soon as he’d stepped safely away so their conversation couldn’t be heard, Heather spoke first. “I know what you must be thinking, but trust me it isn’t what it looks like. Please don’t tell Mark that we know each other. I swear I had no clue the “Jake” he kept mentioning was you! Of course, it all now makes sense — Jacob Miller is Jake, Mark’s best friend.”
It was about a month ago when Jake had matched with this girl who was originally from Virginia but had been living in Singapore for the past couple of years pursuing a career with a startup. She was the Head of Product at an e-commerce venture, and in addition to her gorgeous looks, was also very smart to talk to and Jake had instantly clicked with her. They’d had very long conversations and discussions on just about everything under the sun. They’d never gotten into the details of each other’s lives, but they’d obviously enjoyed each other’s “virtual” company. The fact that she was in Singapore and he was in New York had meant they’d never actually met, in fact, they’d never done anything beyond texting each other. That didn’t however mean they were strangers, their chats and conversations had sometimes been hundreds of texts exchanged throughout the day — and they’d obviously been attracted to each other. This had lasted for a couple of weeks, and for the last two weeks or so, Jake had only received the occasional text from Heather, as she had said she’d been very busy with work.
And now, she was right there, in front of him, their first-ever meeting. But this wasn’t a date — far from it. She was his best friend’s girlfriend. Just as Jake could gather his thoughts and say something to Heather, Mark returned with a can of coke for Heather and beers for himself and Jake. Jake didn’t know what this meant — was Heather cheating on Mark in their first few months together? Was she not as serious about Mark as Mark was about her? But she must surely be serious about a guy who she’d traveled from Singapore all the way to New York with and was meeting his best friend as his date.
Or maybe, they’d hit a bit of a speed bump in their short relationship, and Mark’s long work hours had probably meant she needed company and she’d resorted to the virtual world of Tinder to find an emotional connect, as it was probably better than outright cheating, or was it? Jake knew Mark would be gutted if he told him the truth, but he wasn’t even sure what the truth was…