12/23/2011

Them? You Listen to Them? - Part 1


“There is someone out there for everyone.”
Isn’t that what they always say? Of course, this would be the same “they” who told her that eating the bread crusts on her PB&J would make her hair curly, and you can see how that turned out.
Even so, like everyone else, she wanted it to be true. So she believed, and looked forward to the day her special someone would find her.
Until she didn’t.
It was kind of like believing in Santa Claus, Meg Gilchrist thought. She wasn’t sure when it happened, but one day, she realized she no longer bought into whole someday-he’ll-come-along fantasy. Didn’t they also say, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is”?
***
Meg was fast approaching her thirty-fourth birthday when she figured it was time to face reality. He wasn’t coming. Ha, if he even existed. Her failure to find her “someone” had been stellar, at least as her mother described it.
Not that she was a dog in the looks department, or some kind of wallflower. A natural (though abysmally curl-free) blonde with hazel eyes, she was passably attractive, if she did say so herself. Well, OK, you can overlook that one crooked front tooth, can’t you? She dated as often as the next girl, and had had her share of close calls. Fortunately, before extricating herself became the stuff of daytime TV drama, she realized that none of those losers guys was the right one -- despite what her mother thought -- and ended it. They were all duds in her opinion, bringing not one spark of the fireworks she’d expected to feel when Mr. I’m-the-One walked into her life. She hadn’t been willing to settle for Mr. Almost-the-One.
“Don’t be so picky, Margaret,” her mother chided. “You’re not getting any younger, you know. Tick, tick, tick.”
“Oh, for heaven’s sake, chill, Mom,” Meg replied wearily. “I have no intention of leaping into bed with the next warm male body to come through my door just to satisfy your desire for a grandchild. There’s plenty of time.”
In a shocked voice, her mother said, “Margaret! Watch your mouth. No wonder. Oh, well, they say it’s always darkest before the dawn.”
Oh, no. Mom too?
Well, there was plenty of time, right? Of course there was.
But she might as well face the facts, she soon decided. Mom was right. The proverbial clock was ticking. It was time to make a plan. Clearly, a girl had to take matters into her own hands. It was time to find someone to love, even he were Mr. Not-Quite-the-One.
***
The day she put her plan into action, Meg was working as a temp, filling in for a service clerk who’d been called up and sent to Iraq, She could have spent her whole assignment at Colonial Investment Solutions without once ever seeing its CEO. Sure, CIS was a small fish in the vast sea of financial management, but it was big enough. His office was in the building next door where the brokers did their thing, and besides, the distance between the head office and the Customer Service desk was much greater than the width of a parking lot.
An irate customer insisting on seeing “the idiot running this show” brought Robert Prince on a rare visit to the front office where Meg worked behind the desk.
“That was my retirement!” she’d sputtered at Meg without explanation. “What am I supposed to do now?”
Meg was clearly in over her head.
“I’m so sorry,” she’d offered sympathetically. “But I’m only filling in here. Let me get someone else to help you.”
“Oh, you can get someone else, alright, Missy.” That was when the customer, her face flushing redder with every word, demanded to see The Idiot.
Meg consulted the telephone directory taped to the desk next to the phone and called the CEO. She wasn’t sure she was doing the right thing. In fact, she was pretty sure it was the wrong thing, but everyone was out to lunch and there was no one around to ask. Her heart went out to the poor woman, who looked as though she could stroke out at any moment. Besides, what could they do? Fire her?
To his credit, Prince had come to Customer Service without argument. He introduced himself to the now weeping woman, and gently steered her to a small grouping of chairs near the front windows. She couldn’t hear his words, but as she watched him turn on the charm and soothe the distraught woman, she was impressed. And when he walked the woman, who was now almost smiling, out to her car, she was flabbergasted. Obviously, the guy running this show was no idiot.
She expected him to continue across the parking lot to the other building and his office, but instead he turned, and headed back. Uh-oh. She had a feeling she was in trouble. Maybe he would fire her.
She had a short reprieve when Prince stopped in the lot to talk to one of the brokers returning from lunch. Something the man said brought a smile to his face, and for the first time, she noticed how good-looking he was. She’d heard the buzz about the “drop-dead gorgeous” CEO in the coffee room, of course. How could she not? He was a favorite topic of conversation. She knew he wasn’t married, and all the girls -- the single girls, anyway, and maybe a few of the married ones – had their eye on him. No wonder. Tall, dark, handsome, not to mention wealthy. And, oh yeah, way out of her league.
No matter, because in her head, they piped up to remind her, “If it sounds too good to be true…”
As she stood awaiting her fate, the sound of conversation from the hall announced the return of the other customer service clerks. Not anxious to be chastised in front of the others, she decided to talk to him outside. It was her lunch break, anyway.
“I’m off to lunch. See you later,” she told her coworkers as she walked to the door. Prince was on his way up the walkway from the parking lot, and she hurried to intercept him.
“Mr. Prince, I’m really sorry. I…”
In her haste to speak to him before he reached the entrance, she missed the step down to the walkway. With all the grace at her command, she went flying and landed at his feet. Humiliated, she took the hand he held down to her and scrambled to her feet.
“Oh, my gawd, I’m so embarrassed.” Face flaming, she straightened herself out and struggled to meet his eyes. “I came out to apologize for siccing Mrs. Flynn on you. I didn’t mean to tackle you in the process.”
“No apologies needed on either count,” he said. “You did the right thing. The calling part, I mean, not the tackling part.” The hint of laughter in his voice drew her eyes to his face. She was relieved to see no sign of anger. What she did see was a definite spark of interest in his Paul- Newman-blue eyes.
As he spoke, he reached out and lightly touched her arm, and hello. Was that a small flash of fireworks?
And there they were again. “It’s just as easy to fall in love with a rich man as it is with a poor one.”
She swallowed her pride and turned on the flirtatious charm she’d been practicing in front of the mirror.
***
The silence in the taxi fairly crackles with anger as Meg and Robert ride home from the CIS Christmas party at the country club. Recriminations hang heavy like some kind of cruel interpretation of holiday decorations. Meg wiped tears from her cheeks, noting the dark mascara smudges on the tissue. When would she ever learn to wear waterproof mascara?
You’d think that after living with the bastard for nearly seven years, she would no longer be surprised by his behavior. But tonight… Tonight he was in fine form.
She weeps silently as she looks at the mulish set of Robert’s chiseled jaw in the light of passing headlights. But she knows she’s not crying in sadness. She shed those tears years ago. No, these are tears of regret and disgust at herself for believing.

The thing is, she knew better. She has always known better. But he was so handsome and he had that whole power-of-position thing they like to talk about going on. In her mind, and no doubt in his own as well, he bore the unmistakable appeal of being “the town’s most eligible bachelor,” as the local press liked to call him.
She’d been blinded by his reputation, and fooled by how nice he’d seemed to be when she first met him. She still feels a little blush of shame as she recalls how she had literally thrown herself at his feet, which he probably saw as his due, she suspects now.
And he’d actually been interested in her, which flattered her enormously.
It had all come together. He’d seemed perfect. She’d begun to believe that maybe they were right, and her “someone” had found her at last.
Ah, but as they say, you can’t judge a book by its cover.
Concluded in Part 2

***

Written for The Tenth Daughter of Memory.

6 comments:

  1. I know this guy. Onto Part 2...

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  2. hmmm...interesting...off to part 2....

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  3. little fix ups needed:
    It was time find someone to love, even he were Mr. Not-Quite-the-One.

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  4. So far so good. Reading on ...
    ;-)

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  5. Finally I've read Part 1...always did begin reading from the back of the book, forward.

    But I don't think we are all Bastards, either. I wonder how many women fall into that trap of thinking they are getting too far over the hill to be desired by a 'good' man?

    Nice story, and ended (I think) predictably (after reading Part the First)--grin!
    PEACE!

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