Swamped, a novel

Logan walked out and Eteo turned his chair toward the eastern horizon and closed his eyes to relax for a few minutes. He liked to do this now and then during the day, concentrating on his breathing, relaxing his tensed muscles and letting his thoughts go where they pleased. He called it giving himself a tune-up. After these interludes he seemed to manage his stress more easily. He remembered his family doctor calling his job a pressure cooker, and he wasn’t wrong. The only good thing about the job was the money really. Everything else about it was stressful, even sickening, often enough, especially when he sometimes made the wrong call, as every broker did, and his clients lost money or, worse, saw their whole investment go down the drain. In those situations, Eteo had to work even harder to make it up to the client, a tricky goal that was not always achievable.
           Eteo took a few deep breaths and repeated his mantra, the special words he used to take his mind away from the daily grind and concentrate it on his breathing, which slowly relaxed him. He stretched his legs on top of the low filing cabinet positioned against the window and in a minute or two felt invigorated and renewed. The rest of the day unfolded briskly but smoothly, but before he left for home, he called Susan and asked her to come down to his office. She arrived with a few loose documents in her hands, her way of creating the appearance of having some paperwork for Eteo to deal with so that others wouldn’t find her frequent visits questionable.
 “How are you, sweet Susan?”
          “I’m good, but very busy. How about you, honey?”
          “Busy enough, which is good. I just wanted to tell you in person that I need to take a rain-check on our weekend outing. Some… things have come up,” Eteo said.
“Oh, well … okay … sure” Susan mumbled, disappointment and stress evident in her widened eyes and trembling lips. Her eyebrows rose in surprise and her cheeks flushed.
“Next weekend, I hope, sweet Susan.”
“I’m not sure, Eteo,” she blurted out, then paused and looked at him for a long moment before adding, “Do you still want this relationship, Eteo? Has something come up in the office … or out there?”
“Well, I have noticed others in here eyeing me in a strange way,” Eteo said, jumping at the opportunity. “It’s something I’ve never liked.” He cleared his throat. “I prefer my romantic life to stay private and not …” He left the sentence unfinished and looked down at his desk.
Susan understood at once what Eteo wanted. There was no need for further details, and although she liked Eteo and enjoyed their times together, she accepted the situation.
“I understand, Eteo. It’s all good.” she said and without another word she turned and left him. Eteo watched her go the elevator with a mixture of sadness and relief

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