Serial Saturday: Part Nine

Continued from Serial Saturday: Part Eight

It was the perfect June evening for a ballgame.  Rachel needed to relax, to let her mind rest, to let the improbability of the day’s events wash over her.  She could not help but think how unlikely it would be for her to get hired once Jason found out her true connection to Peter and Mel.

“Hey?”

Rachel refocused.  Sarah was staring at her.  “Yeah?”

“Where are you?  You haven’t said anything the entire inning.”  Rachel looked at the scoreboard.  It was the top of the third.  She had been sitting here the entire time, but she did not see the Indian’s bat.

“I’m sorry.  Seeing Peter through me for a loop.”

“Don’t let it.  That was a couple of years ago.”

“I know, but I cannot believe I met his girlfriend.”

“Fiancé,” Sarah interrupted.

“Okay, fiancé.  But I didn’t know it and I think she did. I spent the day worrying that I had made the wrong impression.  The entire situation is weirding me out, and I feel like I am losing my chances at a job with Davenport.”  Rachel picked up her cup.  It was empty.

“Rach, Davenport is one company.  You don’t know what will transpire, but you have no control over the situation.  You need to relax.”  Sarah’s advice for everything was to relax.  When Rachel was seventeen and her father had to have emergency bypass surgery, Sarah sat with her in the waiting room.  “Relax.  Your father is at the Cleveland Clinic.  Shahs and Kings and important diplomats fly in from all over the world to have heart surgery here.  Your father is in good hands.”  Sarah had a way of putting things into perspective and making Rachel calm.  Besides, Rachel knew she was correct—if Davenport did not work out for her, something would.

“Why don’t we go grab a beer?” Sarah suggested.  Rachel was feeling the effects of the alcohol, but she decided one more beer would be all right.

The girls stood and walked up the stairs to go to a concession stand and grab a beer.

“I’m going to use the restroom,” Sarah said.

“All right, I’ll grab us two beers.”  Rachel headed toward a concession and got in line.  She took out her phone to check if she had missed any calls or texts.  Rachel had recently decided to place her phone permanently on silent.  The constant ringing and text notifications were consuming her.  Once she silenced her phone she realized she forgot about it for a few hours at a time.  She began to get more accomplished in her day.

No one had called or texted.

Standing in line, she stared at the television trying to refocus on the game.  She was distracted from her distraction, and she wanted nothing more than to lose herself in the game.  It was already the bottom of the third and the Indians were winning 1-0.  She was unsure who had scored.   If she had been at the game with anyone but Sarah, she would be keeping score, but Sarah did not really come to the games to watch; she came to people watch, drink beer, and have fun.  Had she realized she would be this distracted, she would have insisted on keeping score so she could at least enjoy the game.

As she inched closer to the counter, she thought about Tony.  He really seemed to want her to apply for a bartending job at City Tap.  Admittedly, working downtown would offer her new and different experiences.  She would meet more corporate types and maybe get a line on a job that way.  Anyway, the money would be better, and she would really like to start putting some money away.  Graduate school was not out of the question.

Just as she was about to order, she heard Sarah.  “Rach!  Look!”  She turned.  Sarah was standing with Jason and they were each holding two big beers.

“Can I help you?”  The cashier said.  Rachel looked from Sarah to the cashier.

“Get out of line,” Sarah said grinning.

“No, I’m sorry.  I don’t need anything, but thank you.”  The woman smiled as Rachel walked over to Sarah.

“What is going on?” she asked taking the beer that Sarah was offering.

“Well.  I walked out of the restroom and Jason was buying two beers from a beer vendor and then he called my name, and presto!   Two beers became four beers.”  She held up her two cups.  Jason then help up his two cups.

“Did you pay for this, too?” Rachel asked him.

“Yes.”

“Let me give you a twenty.  You’ve already paid for too much.”  Rachel had the money in her hand already.  She moved closer to Jason, but his hands were full.  She reached for one of the cups, to hold it so he could take her money, but he recoiled from her, spilling each beer slightly.

“Seriously?  No.  It’s fine.”  He shook his head waiving off the twenty she was holding out to him.

Rachel frowned.  Unlike Sarah who was giddy about free beer, Rachel did not like handouts.  She did not mind rounds; she could do rounds because eventually it evened out.  She did not like it, though, when anyone tried to pay for everything.  She was not a freeloader, and she did not want anyone to think she was taking advantage of a situation.

“So, Jason is sitting a few sections over from us.   They are a bit closer to third base,” Sarah said.  “And he asked us to sit with him.”

Sarah was smiling and Rachel did not know what her motives were here.  Sarah knew she would never sit with Peter.  Did she want Rachel to flirt with Jason in front of Peter because that was never going to happen?

“Yeah, Peter and Tyler went up to the Batter’s Eye bar.  They said to meet them after the game.  Ace and I have two seats available.  That’s if you want.  Our seats are not as good as yours.”   The crowd exploded with cheers.  Rachel looked up at the television.  Jason Kipnis just hit a double scoring two runners.  The Indians were suddenly winning 3-0.

“That’s fine.  I would like to see some of the game,” she said  indicating the hit on the screen.

“Let’s get moving then.”  Jason lead the way.  He weaved his way through the crowd and made a clear path open to his section, 163.  His  seats were about eight rows up.  Definitely the seats were not as good, but they were still very good seats.

As they approached, Ace moved over a seat.  Sarah moved in, then Rachel, and lastly Jason.

“Dude, you missed one hell of a play,” Ace said.  “The Tribe is playing really well.”

For a few minutes, they all just sat and watched the game.  Rachel could feel Jason watching her, and she felt self-conscious of her every move.  Although the night was cool, she felt her face growing hot.   She turned to Jason.  “This is a little embarrassing because we just sat down, but I need to use the restroom.  Could you excuse me?”

“Actually I do, too.  Ace, Rachel and I will be right back.”

Sarah smiled and waved them on.  She and Ace were in a conversation about Chief Wahoo.  Sarah was an activist, and she would argue with anyone about the impropriety of the logo and why she believed it should be removed indefinitely.

Walking toward the restroom, Jason said, “I’ll wait for you.”

“All right.”  She walked into the restroom and walked to the mirror.  Her face was definitely red.  She took off her cap and splashed water on her face.  She patted her face dry with a paper towel.  She looked at her phone.  It was not even 8:00.  The day was moving extremely slow, and running into Jason yet again was awkward.

Walking out of the restroom she saw Jason leaning against the wall balancing on one foot. His left knee was bent and he had his foot placed on the wall.  His fingers were moving quickly over the keys of his phone, and she assumed he was texting someone, possibly even Peter.

Rachel walked up to him in a reserved manner.   She stood silently slightly away from his at his side, not wanting to disturb him.

Jason finished texting and glanced around.  Realizing Rachel was right there, he startled.  “How long have you been there?” he asked laughing at himself.

“Just a few seconds.  I did not want to interrupt; your fingers were like lightning.”

“Yeah,” he sighed deeply.  “This Yakama account is taking the wind out of my sails.  I cannot seem to do anything that pleases them.”  They started to walk.  He gently squeezed her forearm and he stopped, forcing her to stop as well.  “Let me ask you a question.  How do you feel about giving me some input?”

She wanted desperately to give him input.  This morning, she did not have an opportunity to share her savvy and knowledge.  She did not show him that she was so much more than the Purdue Owl’s webpage.

“All right,” she said.

Even though they were standing in the middle of the concourse and people were moving around them, Rachel listened fervently to Jason’s conundrum.  “I have to pitch to a client tomorrow.  They are a small Japanese tech firm who have come up with a new tablet that is voice activated.  It is pretty impressive.”

“Sounds impressive,” Rachel admitted.

“It is.  Anyway, I just received an email from the client.  They want a slogan.  Originally, they sad they did not, but now they do.  I need to come up with something that will knock their socks off.  Any ideas?”

Rachel’s mind was racing.  If she could give him something, anything, she might get her foot in the door.  “What is the name of their product?”

“The Phenix,” he said.

“A mythological reference!  Intriguing choice by a Japanese company.” she said.  Rachel minored in literature and much of her concentration had been in Greek mythology.

“Yes, but no one will know it’s mythology because they are choosing to spell it without the ‘o’.”

“That shouldn’t matter.  It needs to be simple.  ‘Phenix: Technology Reborn.” She fanned her hand in the air as if she were picturing it on a billboard.

“That is really good,” Jason said looking up at her imaginary billboard.  “It is easy to remember and we could come up with a lot of really good print ads.  You’re genious.”  He rested his hand on her shoulder and gazed into her eyes.  For the second time that day, she felt like he was looking into her, not at her.  She felt a flutter.

Continue of to Serial Saturday: Part Ten

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Serial Saturday: Part Eight

Continued from Serial Saturday: Part Seven

All Rachel wanted to do was run away.  She had never really told Sarah how hard this break up had been to her.  She had never divulged that she did not know if she could ever love another man.  Peter had been her one.  He had told her that they were meant for each other, that he thought she was his soul mate.  She had put all of her trust in him, and he had broken her heart.

“So you guys went to college together?” Jason asked.  “Were you friends?”

“For a while,” Rachel said coyly.  “We shared common interests.”

Rachel saw Peter blush.  The first time they had made love she had joked that they had so much in common.  “To think, Poli-Sci could lead to this,” he had said.   “Yes,” she had said kissing his shoulder.  “We seem to have many common interests.”

“Have you seen much of each other since you graduated?” Jason seemed to be sincerely interested in the fact that his friend knew her.

Rachel looked at Peter.  She did not remember him ever being so reticent.  As Jason finished his question, Peter nonchalantly lifted his glass to take a sip of his beer.  It didn’t seem that he wanted to answer him.

“No.  We lost touch in college,” Rachel said.  She felt it best to leave what they were to each other in the past.  She was already worried about what Peter would say about her once they left the bar.  Would he paint her in a poor light and hinder her chances of being hired by Davenport Industries?   She looked from Peter back to Jason.  “How are you two friends? Are you from Chicago, too?” she asked Jason.

“No.  I grew up on the eastside.  I’m a Heights kid.  Mel, the woman you met this morning, is Peter’s fiance.  Peter and Mel played on the coed baseball team last summer, and we became friends.”

Rachel felt her face grow hot.  She heard ringing in her ears.  Mel must have known who she was.  Peter must have showed her a picture or had talked about her.  The time with Mel that morning had been awkward, and she could not figure out why.  Now, it was perfectly clear.

She caught Peter’s eye and the conversation came back to her in a wave.

**************

“Rachel, it’s not you.  I swear.  It’s me.”

“Did you meet someone else?” she asked through tears.  How could he be breaking up with me?  She thought they would be engaged soon, not broken up.

“No.  I just need to figure me out before I can be serious.”

“But we have been serious for over a year.”  Her face was hot and wet.

“I know.  I have been thinking about this for a while.”

Awhile.  She had not detected any difference in their relationship.  She had not felt any difference before Spring Break, but now it was all different.  Something had changed him, and there was nothing she could do.

She was numb.  She remained numb for a week.  She struggled to even get up to attend classes or get food.  She wanted to fade away.  A week later, she was sitting in the cafeteria trying to brainstorm an idea for her advertising class while trying to eat her first real meal since the break up when she heard his friend, Scott’s voice.  He did not realize that she was two tables away.  His loud booming voice carried and she heard everything he said.

“Dude, I am so jealous of the chick Peter bagged in Florida.”

“I thought he was dating Rachel Dexter.”  She did not recognize this voice and as much as she wanted to turn and see who it was, she could not.  She had to hear the truth, and she knew if Scott saw her, he would not continue talking about it.

“No Dude, he met this Melanie girl from IU and three pitchers and five hours later, Peter said he had just met his wife.  It was weird.”

“Did he break up with Rachel?”

“Yeah, when he got back.  I think he lied to her.  I don’t think he said he met someone else.”

Rachel stared at her computer screen.  She was hollow inside.  Five hours?  They had talked about marriage, but he had always said he wanted to find a career before he got married, get another degree, travel.

**************

He had said he wouldn’t get married until he was thirty, and here he was engaged at twenty-four.

She managed to smile at him. “Peter, congratulations.  I am so happy for you.”  She sounded sincere, she knew it.  She always had a way of masking her emotions.

“Thank you.”  He, for the first time, looked her in the eyes.  She sensed his anxiety, although she could not understand it.  He had gotten what he wanted.  It was she who was left to put her life back together, and it was just recently that she felt whole again.

“How are y’all doing?” Tony was back to see if anyone needed another drink.  Her glass was completely empty, but she did not remember drinking her beer.  “Would you like another, Rachel?”

“Get us a round,” Jason said, indicating everyone.

“You don’t have to do that,” Rachel turned toward Jason.

“Yeah I do.  I was supposed to buy you lunch.”  He winked.  Her eyes widened slightly as Sarah nudged her.  She knew Sarah thought he was flirting.

“Rach,” Sarah said getting off of her barstool.  “Do you want to go with me to powder our noses?”

“Is that code?” Jason asked Sarah.

“Code for making ourselves even better looking than we are now,” she teased.

“Impossible.” He smacked his hand lightly on the bar.

Sarah curtsied.

Rachel stood up.  Jason pulled her chair away so she could get by.  “We will keep your stools for you ladies.”

They walked away from the bar and Sarah turned to say something before they had even reached the stairs.

“Wait,” Rachel said to her.  She did not know if the boys were watching them or not, but she did not want to engage in one of Sarah’s animated conversations within earshot or eye range of either Jason or Peter.

They walked into the restroom behind Sarah.  Sarah turned around, “Spill it.  That is Peter as in “the Peter” isn’t it?”

“Yes.”

“How do you feel?  If I didn’t know all about him, I would never know by the way you are acting what he did to you.  Why are you being so nice?”

“Because it happened a long time ago.”  Rachel swallowed hard.  She suddenly felt tears welling in her throat.

“I wish I would have known.  I would have made a scene.”

“And that is exactly what I am trying to avoid.  I want this job, Sarah.  I really want it,” she said.

“Even though your Ex’s fiancé works for the company?  Even though the guy who interviewed you is flirting with you?”

“He is not flirting.  You read too much into things, Sarah.  He is in advertising.  He sweet talks and strokes clients all day long,  He is doing his job without realizing it.”

“Well, if that is how he treats his clients, he must have a ton of clients.”  She turned and walked into a restroom stall.

“Again,” Rachel said through the door,  “over-analyzing.”  She turned and washed her hands.  The adrenaline of the last twenty minutes had made her hands clammy.

“We’ll see,” Sarah responded.

After Sarah washed her hands, Rachel grabbed her arm.  “Sarah, please do not create a scene.  I just want to act natural, drink the beer that they just bought for us, and go to the game.  Can you do that for me?”

“Give me some credit,” she said.

They returned to the boys and they parted and let the girls sit down once again.  “See,” Jason said, “Just as good looking as when you left.”

Conversation remained light.  Peter had moved a barstool away and was talking to Tyler.  She could not hear every word, but thankfully, the conversation was not about her.  They were talking about the Islands.  Sarah, Jason, Ace, and she made small talk.  She listened more than she spoke.  Twice, she caught Tony looking at her.  He furrowed his eyebrows at one point and then moved his fingers to the corner of his mouth pushing up a smile.  She smiled and he smiled.

Rachel realized the bar was starting to thin out.  She looked at her phone; it was almost 7:00.  She drank the rest of her beer and pushed her empty glass and a tip toward the edge of the bar.  “Hey, we should be going.  The game is about to start.”

Sarah finished her beer and stood.  “Well Gentlemen, it has been a real pleasure.  Thank you so much for the drinks.”

“Anytime,” Jason said.  “We should hit it, too.”  He gathered his change, pushed a tip, and signaled to Peter and Tyler that they should get going.  Tyler nodded.  “Well, Rachel, I will be in touch.”

“Sounds great.”

As they all seemed to move toward the exit together, she heard her name.  She turned.  Tony was waving for her to come back to the bar.  “Sarah, wait.”

“We can all wait,” Jason added.

“No, that’s okay.  I would hate for you to miss the start of the game.”  She felt like him hesitate, but Ace hit him on the shoulder.  “Dude, let’s go.”  He smiled and walked out turned and walked out the door with his friends.

Rachel and Sarah both walked back to the bar.  “Hey, I’m not kidding.”  He handed her a business card.  “This is the owner.  I am going to tell him to hire you; you just have to call him.”

Rachel took the card and slipped it into her purse.  “I’ll think about it.”

He gently touched her forearm.  “Don’t think for too long; sometimes, that’s how opportunities slip away.” He stepped back.  “Have fun, you two.”  He walked away to help a customer.

“You better not be stealing my boyfriend,” Sarah said sarcastically.

“I’m not.  He wants me to work here.”

Sarah clapped her hands together excitedly.  “Do it!   Then I can oogle at him even more than I do now.”

“Maybe.”

“Well either way, his advice was prett sagacious.  I told you he was more than ‘just a pretty face.’”

Rachel rolled her eyes.  “Come on, I don’t want to miss the game.”

Continue to Serial Saturday: Part Nine

Serial Saturday: Part Seven

a continuation of Serial Saturday: Part Six

“So you know this stumbler?” Sarah asked.

Rachel, for a split second,  forgot Sarah was even there.

“I’m sorry.  Sarah this is Jason Swisher.  He works for Davenport Industries.  He interviewed me this morning.”

Jason and Sarah were already shaking hands.  “If you can call it that,” he said.  “It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Sarah.”

He let go of her hand and continued to adjust and readjust his shirt to try to get the wetness away from his skin.  He looked around, as though he was expecting someone to pop out of thin air with a change of clothes.

“I’m confused,” Sarah said, ignoring his discomfort.  “What do you mean ‘if you can call it that?'”

“Jason got pulled into a meeting just as we were going to look at my portfolio.”

Jason was flagging Tony.  When he made eye contact, Jason made a lasso type motion in the air, and his head bobbed at both Rachel and Sarah, too.

“Sarah, Rachel and I were having a wonderful conversation, and then I received a call from one of our overseas clients.  I could not escape the tongue lashing, nor could I get off the telephone.”

Rachel was impressed.  He used Sarah’s name.  She recognized that in the society of fast fingers and shortened text, it seemed that people had been losing the fine art of communication.  How many times had she met someone and she knew within five minutes they had forgotten her name?  Jason was making a concerted effort not to let that happen, just by saying Sarah’s name.

“I had a lovely interview with you, and Mel was very nice,” Rachel said.

“Yeah, she liked you, too.  I need to check my schedule to see when I can get you back into the office to look at that portfolio.”

“Just let me know,” she said.  “I am very interested in the position.”

“Excuse me ladies, these are on the gentlemen.”  Tony placed six shots on the bar.  It looked like a cherry bomb.  Sarah’s eyes grew wide and she clapped like a child.

“Yummy!” she said.

Rachel could feel her own face crimson.  She wanted so desperately to get the job, and  she didn’t need the child-like attitude of her best friend to make him think she was not serious.  She was and could be very serious.  Luckily, Jason laughed.

“I’m glad you approve,” he said.  “Let me just get my buddies over here, and we can all do it together.”  He placed his hand on the small of Rachel’s back.  “Excuse me for a second, Ladies.”

He walked toward the other end of the bar where a group of guys were amassed.

Sarah leaned in.  “He is super cute, and don’t think his body language went unnoticed.”

Rachel rolled her eyes.  Sarah was a forever romantic.  She had a way of analyzing every movement, every look, every touch between a man and a woman.

“Whatever,” Rachel said defensively.  She didn’t want to admit that she felt a physical attraction for Jason since this morning.   She could still feel the warmth of his hand on her back.

“Don’t whatever me.  The way he looked at you.  The fact that he bought us shots.  The fact that he just touched you.”

Sarah had a way of getting into Rachel’s head.  She did not want to over think it.  She did not want it.  She wanted a job.  She did not want a romance.  Rachel glanced over at Jason who was facing her.  He was gesticulating with his hands, and she could see that he was telling the story of what just happened.  He poured a fake beer on his shirt, wiped it off, motioned a look of surprise, and then continued to speak.  Clearly, he was explaining what had just happened, and he was convincing his friends to come to the bar for shots.  Rachel could see the face of one friend, but his other two friends’ backs were to her.  Nonetheless, she already knew who they were.  These were those twenty-somethings who worked hard and played hard.  They were probably all attractive, they dressed well, and they were adventurous. These were the types of boys she usually avoided in college.  Their arrogance seemed to speak louder than anything they really had to say, and she felt like anytime she got to know any of them for more than a second, they always fell into two categories: they either wanted to hang with the boys and share their brotherly bond over beer, or they wanted to flirt with girls because they were in the mood for a quick meaningless lay.

Rachel turned back to the bar  and took a sip of beer.  Sarah was fawning over Tony.  “Umm, Sweetie, you need to put your tongue back in your mouth,”  she said to Sarah.  “He’s not a steak.”

Sarah laughed.  “Yeah, yeah.  I just think he is so cute.  How do I get a date with him?”

“I don’t know.  He asked me to apply here.  If I get a job here, I could work my magic as matchmaker.”

Sarah’s eyes lit up.  She leaned over and put her hands on Rachel’s legs.  “Would you do that for little ole’ me?”  She batted her eyes.

“Maybe.”  Jason was still talking and he said something that caused an uproar of laughter.  No one turned to look at them, so she was pretty sure, they were in a different conversation.  “Hey, I’m going to run to the restroom.  It will only take a second.”

Rachel stood up and headed up the stairs.  Luckily, it was still early enough in the evening that there wasn’t a line.  After she washed her hands, she looked hard at herself in the mirror.  She had such a young, plain face.  She didn’t have knockout qualities.  It was hard to imagine that Jason had really been flirting.  He was in marketing and advertising.  He stroked and schmoozed customers all day long.  She assumed that those habits were so subtly submerged into his subconscious that they became part of his personality.  He was overly flirtatious and nice by default.  For some reason, this idea calmed her.  She adjusted her brim, pulling it a little lower over her eyes.   She wanted their relationship to be friendly, but professional.  More than anything, she needed this job.

She exited the restroom and walked back downstairs.  The men were surrounding Sarah, and per usual, they were mesmerized by her.  Sarah’s personality drew people in.  Rachel had never met a man, woman, or child that did not immediately take to Sarah.  It was her gift as well as her fault.  Sometimes, Rachel saw that it intimidated people, and Sarah saw that, too.

Walking back toward the group, Jason caught sight of her first.  “There she is,” he said in a familiar tone.  Jason put out his hand as if to draw her in, and all of his friends turned around.  “Rachel, these are my friends.  This is Tyler, Ace, and….”

“Peter.”  She could feel her face flush.  She felt the tension sweep over the moment.  Sarah’s eyes furrowed, and she knew everyone was staring at her.  She had not seen him in almost two years.  She had heard that he had taken a job in Cleveland, but she did not expect they would run into each other.  He was a hipster East-side boy.  She was west-side through and through.  Never the twain shall meet. However, with Sarah’s influence, Rachel had become more calculating over the years.  She had played countless scenarios in her head, one of  which had been meeting him out somewhere through a friend.  She knew she had a split second to recover.

“Peter,” she leaned in to give him a hug.  “It is so nice to see you.”

She released Peter and smiled at him.   She could sense his discomfort, although it was not visible to the naked eye.  Rachel knew his tell.  Whenever Peter was nervous, a nerve above his eye would twitch, and his eyebrow would shake ever so slightly.  She remembered the exact same stoic look on his face the day he returned from Spring Break, had it not been for the tell, she would never have known how distressed he truly was.

“It’s nice to meet you all.”  She shook the hands of both Ace and Bob.

“You know each other?” Sarah asked.

“Yes,” Rachel said smiling, returning to her stool, “Peter and I were at Purdue at the same time.  I haven’t seen him in over two years.”  She did not want to say more.  She did not want to say that he had broken her heart.  She di not want to say what she was thinking, Jason’s friend was an asshole, and she seriously questioned his integrity as well.

“That’s awesome.”   Jason leaned into the bar and picked up the shot glasses and began to dole them out.  Everyone brought their shot glasses together.  “To a second interview with Rachel, to the Tribe winning, and to old friendships reacquainting.”

Everyone touched glasses.  Peter avoided eye contact with her.  Rachel and Jason were the only two to tap their glasses on the bar before they drank.  After Jason placed his empty glass on the bar, he stood close enough that his leg was just ever so lightly brushing against hers.

Continue to Serial Saturday: Part Eight