I have the main guy’s name, and a scene in my head. I need to have 5K and I only have 1K, but I’m in a good writing mode. Sitting in red chair, next to the window. Still in my pajamas, but I have about three hours to work before heading to the east bay. Write on!
— (cont.) Beer & Chocolate, Chapter 1
“Don’t forget, we’re going to dinner with the Aspert team tonight.” Melanie started walking back to their office in Embarcadero One. “Made reservations at Slanted Door.”
Liz tucked her wallet into her purse and jostled it onto her shoulder. “That’ll be nice. I love it when the company picks up the bill.”
“What are you, still in high school? We have to waste five hours of our precious family time to talk to overweight, boring guys from the MidWest about their kids’ soccer practice, and trends in the industry. I’d rather have a hot poker shoved into my…”
Liz put a hand up. “I got the picture. I’m just saying I don’t usually go to places like Slanted Door on my paltry copywriting salary.”
“Cry me a river.”
Their heels clacked loudly on the tile, as they made their way past coffees hops, boutiques, sunglasses stores and other shops in the outdoor mall.
“Of course, they could be cute…” Melanie said. She spoke in a quieter voice. “When Jack,” that was their boss, “came back from Europe he had all of these stories about this guy who took them out on the town in Paris, and something, if I remember, about a Russian mob connection, or was it art dealing? Something really jetset. I have no idea who these guys are, but I can’t imagine a world freight consolidation company having anyone cool actually working at it, much the less being in a position of authority to hire an ad firm.”
Finally they reached the elevator area.
Liz started at her reflection in the elevator wall. “Why is it that whenever there’s a sitcom about a woman who is at a job, it’s always an ad firm? Don’t they know there’s other kinds of work out there?”
The doors started to close, when one perfect manicured, almost frosted man’s hand slipped betweeen the doors and triggered them to open again. Another guy followed the first in. They were wearing striped shirts, suit coats, and bags. A dark-haired guy next to Liz was speaking with the blond guy.
“Let’s hope they don’t take us to House of Prime Rib, or some kind of surf and turf. I bet they think we’re mafia and want some kind of scotch on the rocks, topless waitress, and a blowjob before bedtime. God I hate these dog and pony shows. Why do they send me? I’m going to be sleeping in the next five minutes as they tell me how to change the way we’re doing business. Like we’ve never thought for a moment about how do sell our own shit.”
Liz could see Melanie blushing in the reflective walls of the elevator. The blond man spoke up.
“RC, didn’t you ask to be on this trip?”
“To come here with you. To make sure you didn’t do something stupid again.”
“I’m going to pretend you’re talking about,” at this point the doors opened and they filed out. Melanie and Liz didn’t capture the rest of their conversation. Melanie fidgeted with her coffee, stalling.
“I don’t want them to see us go in there.” She pointed at the glass doors of their ad agency. “Just wait here a sec, talk to me like we’re having an intense conversation.”
“Yes, we are. Interesting. intense. Yes.”
The blond guy shot the women a look as they entered the double doors. Liz saw them talk to the receptionist, then sit down in chairs, waiting as the receptionist was probably calling Melanie’s desk. “You have to go inthere, they’re not going to go away. You can do it. Be strong.”
Melanie sighed and walked in, past the chairs, to their desks beyond the partition. Liz followed her.
Liz patted Melanie on the back. “Don’t worry about it, that dark-haired one is just an asshole. Full of himself. Let it go. You’ll be fine.”
“OMG, that is the one Jack was talking about!” She pinched Liz painfully on teh arm, and started re-applying her lipstick and fluffing her hair. “Tonight is going to be fun! That blond guy was cute, don’t you think? Like a young Matthew McCoughnahey. Get those packets from the printer, and bring them to the big conference room in 10, OK?”
Liz went back to her cube, got a pad and pen, and then went to the mail room to check on the box. It wasn’t there. She called her friend at the printing shop and he told her they thought she was going to pick it up. She ran out the door, down the elevator and across Sacramento Street. Raul, who was not Hispanic, was standing outside smoking. “Sorry babe, I thought you were gonna pick it up.”
“Maybe I was, I can’t remember. Oh well, this is it? Thanks.” She scribbled her signature and grabbed a box by the door. She hoisted it up on her hip and crossed the small road full of taxis, queued up to head into Chinatown. Her arms ached as she held it in the elevator, propping it against the mirrored wall. She was sweating, her face was hot, her shirt still had grease mark on it, and in general she looked rumpled and exhausted. Driving up from the south bay in the early morning hours didn’t help her complection, either. Bags under her eyes, pale, and her brown hair was looking more stringy and greasy by the minute.
She dropped the box near the receptionist, grabbed ten of the kits and ran to the conference room. Melanie was in fine form, legs crossed and foot dangling out while the two guys looked kind of bored, spending more time staring out the window at the Bay than at Melanie’s efforts.
“There she is. I thought you took off for Vegas!” Melanie laughed at her own joke, and Liz distributed the packets around.
“Gentlemen, I’d walk you through this but I’m sure you know how to sell your own product.” She winked at them.
Liz sat back at her place, and the room started to fill with other creative sources from the team. She had a time to sneak glances at the guys from the elevator, who were turned to watch a short PowerPoint presentation Melanie was leading, in the darkened room. The dark-haired guy looked at her- she had found out his name at this point, RC Patterson. Johnny Cook was the blond. RC turned away from her and looked back at the screen. There was some word for him, it was on the tip of her tongue. Some word that would just nail his personality to a T.
Melanie was right, Johnny had a Matthew McCoughnay look about him. Kind of rugged, wide face, and messy unruly hair like he didn’t use product and spent a lot of time outdoors. RC looked really anal and stuck-up. That was the word. Anal sounded too conservative and buttoned-up. But stuck-up was just right. She hadn’t used that word stuck-up since junior high when they used it with such abandon like we use “like” today. Everyone was stuck-up. In fact it was so overused, she coudln’t think now what it meant then. Sure, nowadays she’s using it to mean, well, conceited perhaps, arrogant, full of yourself. In this new day of modern psycho-babble, and the inner child, being a confident woman at work, knowing your worth in an Oprah-esque way, being your own champion, in all that everyone was to a degree stuck-up. But this guy was old fashioned junior high meaning stuck-up. He thought he was so cool. Too cool for school.
Someone flicked the lights on and they all blinked in the glare. Another person opened up the big view windows.
“Shall we take a short break? Meet back here in 20?” Melanie smiled at the guys, and people started filing out of the room. RC stood and stretched, and Johnny smiled at Melanie. “So, what do you guys do for fun around here?”
Melanie giggled. “Do you guys like wine? There’s a wine bar right nearby.”
Johnny looked at his watch. “Think we can wrap up by 7? I’ve got a family obligation at the Hyatt then.”
RC leaned back in his chair. “Yes, we have to get over to, um, Jones by 8, too.”
Melanie laughed quickly, “Well I guess we won’t be taking you to dinenr then? I have reservations at Slanted Door.”
Johnny smiled, “Maybe tomorrow night? I just have a few meetings with friends here in town tonight, but I’d love tomorrow.”
Melanie smiled, and agreed. Liz started cleaning up the table of empty cups and papers. Why do her coworkers leave their stuff, knowing she’s the one to clean it up? She wanted to leave it all here, but didn’t want these guys to think they ran a messy shop.
Melanie grabbed her cell phone, “If you’ll excuse me gentlmen,” and she left to return some calls. Liz left to visit the bathroom. When she came back, she was around the corner from the conference room, and heard them talking.
“The brunette one is about as much a mess as the blond. You know what they say about women here, there are no straight guys left, so they’re all totally desperate. ” Mr. Stuck-up was the source of this gem, and as Liz entered the room she gave him a long low look.
Johnny leaned across the table, “So, Liz was it? Where do you live around here?”
“Up on Cathedral Hill. That’s, uh, over Nob Hill, the next one over.”
“My aunt lives over there. We used to visit her each year. That hill, Fillmore, that’s really intense. We heard about Mosely skiing off that. Did you see it? Intense.”
“Yeah, that was kinda cool. Weird thing is, it was hard for him to do it because the insurance was so high on all of those houses and he had to get it together before his birthday. Some lady was having a wedding up on Broadway and didn’t want the closure all along the stret. She went on the radio and was a real Bridezilla. Anyways, it was funny kind of news story at the time.”
While she was telling Johnny this story, she coudln’t help but feel that RC was boring holes in her with his eyes. She hated that trite expression, but there was no other way to say it. He was really intense. It unsettled her and she wanted to leave the room. But Melanie was back and they were back on topic about the upcoming sales campaign. Liz doodled on her pad and let her mind wander. Finally it was 5 and they wrapped up, heading over to the wine bar.
Johnny caught up with Melanie and they giggled about something Liz didn’t catch. That left her behind with RC.
“So what does RC stand for?”
“Are you happy at Cleinston Winthrop?”
“It’s a good job. I like working with Melanie. You?”
He smiled quietly. “I like it fine.”
Pompous ass, she thought to herself. They walked into Wine and sat on little square cushions. Melanie ordered a flight of white and red, and they shared wine glasses. Johnny and Melanie joking about their various trips to Aspen and Vail. The closest Liz had been to skiing was seeing the snow for the first time off I-80 in Tahoe, on a trip with her parents when she was 10. RC seemed equally quiet. Finally it rolled around to 7 and Johnny and RC took off for their “family meetings.”
Melanie smiled at Johnny’s departing back and Liz finished off her glass of Pinot Noir. “I think I’m going to go. I only got about four hours of sleep last night.”
“He is really amazing. So energetic, and nice.”
Energetic? Liz groaned.
“Come on, stay with me for another glass.” Melanie’s cheeks were rosy and Liz wondered if it would stop at one more glass.
“Sorry, I really have to go. I’m totaly wiped. I only got four hours of sleep.”
Melanie sighed. “Well have a half a glass with me. Please.”
Liz sucked it up. “OK.”
“He’s just the right man for me. So strong, and cheerful. And I can really tell he likes me. It’ll be great, he can move here and we can…”
Liz put her hand up. “Woah. Come on. You’re going into that whole overimagined dreamland before you even know the guy. He could be married. He could be hung up on his high school sweetheart. He could be… gay.”
Melanie’s eyes opened wide. “Do you think he’s gay?”