Serial Saturday: Part Ten

Continued from Serial Saturday: Part Nine

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.

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

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