Rachel woke naturally Friday morning. She rolled over and looked at the clock. 9:15 AM. Of all the people who were together the night before, she was the only one who had the luxury of sleeping in and sleeping it off. She felt rested, and it was like she never even drank last night. She knew Sarah would be feeling differently. Sarah, who insisted on going back to City Tap for one more beer. Sarah who insisted on buying Jason a shot of Fireball. Even though everyone parted ways at eleven, and everyone was probably in bed before midnight, the amount of drinks they consumed multiplied by a lack of sleep was going to make the day miserable for everyone else.
Smiling, she rolled back over and stared at her wall. She loved the way she had decorated her apartment. She had bought prints of all her favorite paintings, and many mornings, she lazily lay in bed and studied the paint strokes of the masters. Vermeer, Van Gogh, Monet, and Cezanne– all poets with paint brushes. Everytime she gave herself quiet time to stare at the works, they took on a different meaning. Maybe it was the lighting in her room. Maybe it was her mood and her experiences. It didn’t matter; she loved that she bonded with the landscapes and the people on her walls.
She felt a particular affinity for “Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window” by Jon Vermeer this morning. “What was in the letter?” she often asked herself? Vermeer painted her face so soft, and the hint of emotion was slight. On different days the painting meant different things to her. Often, the letter contained bad news: someone had died, a boyfriend was writing to denounce his love, her mother had suffered a stroke. Other times, she thought the girl was holding her breath, anticipating the letter to turn toward the worst, but in reality, it was actually what she was waiting for– news of a distant lover arriving safely from his journey, news of an oppportunity to be more than she was.
Rachel loved to put herself into the painting and stand at the window. She wanted nothing more than to stand at that very window, to look out at the city of Delft, and breathe in the sea air. What would life be if she could transport herself somewhere else entirely?
After a while, Rachel decided it was time to get out of bed and start her day. She needed to run some errands before she met her auntie for lunch, and she desperately wanted to get in a workout before her shift started at four.
Rising, she walked into the livingroom. It was in disarray, as it often was after a night of drinking. Her purse was thrown haphazardly on the comfy chair. Her shoes were in the middle of the room. Her baseball cap was on the floor next to a box of crackers that she felt the need to consume at midnight. Yes. She definitely needed to get in a workout to free her body from toxins and trans fats.
She opened her purse to look for her cell phone. She had five texts and two voicemails. She loved morning communication when she didn’t expect any. She first opened the texts.
Two were from Sarah. The first was when they were about to leave the bar. “I think he likes you.” They had spent the evening with Jason and Ace, and Rachel had spent most of the time engaging Jason in conversation. However, it was not flirtation. She desperately tried to help him come up with his marketing campaign, something to catch the clients attention. In between watching the Tribe win 4-1, they were able to hammer out some really good, easily implemented ideas.
“Who knew my office extended all the way to section 163 of Progressive Field?” Jason had joked. “And to think of the consulting fee I am going to owe you.”
Joking or not, she felt that their conversation had moved from casual conversation. He was no longer trying to get to know her; he was trying to milk her for her creativity and her mature understanding of marketing.
Rachel did not think Jason liked anything more than her mind at this point, and that was fine with her. She wanted a career more than she wanted a man in her life, so if he viewed her as a troll but respected her mind, that was fine with her.
The second text was from Sarah as well: “Home safe. Night, Love.”
The next message was from a number she did not know. “Rachel, this is Tony. Can you call me when you get this text? If not tonight then tomorrow.” The message was time stamped 2:10 AM.
Rachel immediately went to her purse to make sure she had not forgotten her wallet at the bar. She had paid for the last round, and it would not have been the first time that she had to go back to an establishment the next day and retrieve some personnal effect. Here wallet was there. Why would Tony have texted so late? “I’ll call him after coffee,” she said out loud to know one. She needed to hear herself say it, or she would never actually call.
The next two texts were from this morning. Both messages were from her auntie. The first one read: “Morning Sunshine. The usual?” Her aunt was referring to The Courtyard, a cute little restaurant in the heart of Brecksville, a restaurant they had been going to since Rachel was just a child. They had made a plan to meet for lunch. Her aunt was a second mother to her. Actually, sometimes Rachel felt she was a first mother because she was not judgemental and she did not try to sway Rachel to be someone she was not. Rachel loved to be with her because she felt that her aunt offered her nothing but love and acceptance, something her own mother had a difficult time portraying.
The second message read: “Can we do 1:30. I have a lot on my plate this morning?”
Rachel immediately replied, “Yes.” They had originally planned to meet at noon, but with the pushed back time, she could definitely go for a two-mile run and clear her mind and body.
Rachel went into her voicemail. Each number was unfamiliar, but on second glance, the first number was the number Tony texted from.
“Hey Rachel. Sorry for the cryptic text. Charlie, the owner, stopped in at the end of the night and I mentioned you. He wants to meet you ASAP. Can you come down tomorrow? Oh wait, that’s today.” He laughed into the phone, very aware that he was leaving a message in the middle of the night. Rachel smiled. “Call me. Even if you can’t come later today, I have got to get you in here. Okay, bye.”
How did this happen? Here she was trying to land a job in corporate America and she was being wooed in a completely different position. A position that she knew would make her a great deal of money, but a position that did not lead to a career. She seriously wanted a career so that she could prove to her parents that she did not waste her time going to college. She wanted a career to prove to herself that she was respected because of her mind. However, something about Tony’s excitement made her excited. Why not open up the possibility of something new?
She pushed the button on her phone to listen to the second message: “Rachel, this is Jason. Thank you again for all of your help. I came in early and have implemented some of what we discussed. I will let you know how it goes.”
He did not say goodbye. He just hung up. His voice was stoic, and it seemed to have a different level of familiarity than the night before. She listened to the message again. “Rachel, this is Jason. Thank you again for all of your help. I came in early and have implemented some of what we discussed. I will let you know how it goes.”
Your help. Some of what we discussed. The message was very generic. Last night he kept saying, “Your ideas are fabulous,” but his message did not give her credit. She walked into the kitchen to get coffee. She needed clarity. Surely, he would not claim to have come up with these ideas all on his own? Or would he? He did not owe her anything, and she had heard awful stories about people doing anything to make a name for themselves. She worried that Jason was a corporate climber and that somehow he used her to get what he wanted– a pitch.
Rachel needed to run. She needed to get the last twenty-four hours out of her head. She wished she could take them back. If she could have just gone to work and not gone to the game last night, none of this would be happening. She would have a wallet full of money and a clear head. Instead, she felt anxious and her apartment suddenly seemed very lonely.
The clock above the stove read 10:00 am exactly. She would get dressed, stretch, and go for a run. She would allow for the blaring music and the rhythmic breathing to drown out the noise created by her thoughts.