Friday, June 12, 2009

Excerpt from The Last Ms. Understanding

The instant Lee lifted his head from staring into his drink, he saw her. His mind shifted expeditiously as he sat up trying to keep a cool look glued to his face. Keith and Uncle Charlie both already needed to wipe the drool from the corners of their dry chapped lips. Those two talked a good game but usually settled for local regulars who were odd shaped and low on intelligence.

He desired to meet someone with substance, a lady with classy style. Someone like this mystery woman who just walked in was exactly what he envisioned for himself. You could tell by the way she glided across the floor that she wasn’t from around there. He kept thinking to himself that she had to be lost. Somehow she just didn’t fit in with the crowd filled with locals who grew up together but never found the courage to leave. He knew if he didn’t act fast, that some ridiculous looking clown, clad with polyester pants and knock off cologne would approach her, equipped with an act of buffoonery within minutes.

Without speaking, he instinctively removed himself from the bar progressing towards the stranger whose enchanted face danced beneath dim light. Her body language exuberated confidence. Her face was to be desired. Everything about her from the way her wavy hair complimented her face, down to her model like shape was in perfect place. Even her feet were gorgeous as he watched her take a seat. She sat alone at a table near a window, looking slightly bored.

“Where’s he going? Where’s he going?” Keith asked as he and Uncle Charlie slap boxed playfully, bouncing up and down like children wanting to be picked up.

Lee knew exactly where he was going and he wasn’t about to blow it by hanging around with his usual crowd. He dispersed from their vicinity, eager to approach her. Out of the corner of her eye, the lady noticed the well built former athlete moving in her direction. As a waitress passed by shouldering flutes of Moet & Chandon White Star champagne Lee grabbed two glasses and kept moving like you see in the movies.

Perhaps being Charlie’s nephew had its perks to go along with years of poor advice? Lee’s father died young and Charlie was his mother’s brother who to his credit stepped in to fill the void.

He stepped within a few feet when she glanced his way her eyes looking up at him, leaving him momentarily paralyzed. Her long eye lashes hovered over her light brown Asian inspired eyes.

Lee extended his hand. “Oh I’m sorry, can I sit down, I mean are you…” He stumbled over his words like an old drunk at midnight. Feeling sorry for his audible error, an invitation was extended to sit down by way of a hand gesture. She moved so gracefully, almost like she was below the oceans surface. Her jewelry shined radiantly, a tasteful mixture of gems and semi-precious stones adorned her neck, wrist, and fingers.

She shook his hand. “Rita Clark, nice to meet you,” she said. Her voice sounded better than she looked. The smoky sound was laced with proper tone and pronunciation.

“Lee Johnson. The pleasure is all mine,” he said. One thing was for sure, Lee had to step his game up, and it was unequivocally clear by the Burberry perfume that intoxicated his nose she wasn’t like the ladies from around town. He breathed deep to take in the fragrance again. She sipped her champagne slowly.

“I’ve been in town for a few weeks now,” she explained, “I bought one of the new lofts not far from here and commute to the city for work.”

Lee was familiar with the lofts she was referencing. He used to play baseball behind those once abandoned buildings as a youngster. He toured one of them at an open house when they first remodeled the once vacant furniture factory. Reality was he couldn’t afford half of a payment they were asking for the loft.

The brief conversation was moving along exceptionally. She was smiling and laughing at his usual charm while he continued to speak with confidence. Keep your cool he kept telling himself.

“What do you do for work?” Lee asked, doing his best to sound professional.

“I’m a CPA, I just started a job with a firm in the city but I wanted to live out a little. I’m tired of the hustle and bustle of the city. I needed a change,” she continued, “and when the opportunity came to head up Jackson & Fitz Accounting Division, I jumped at it.”

“You run the company?” Lee asked.

She laughed playfully with a sparkle in her eyes. “Oh, you don’t think a woman can handle her business?”

Even her teeth were perfect, along with her laugh. Perfect.

“I’m the first female COO in the company’s eighty-five year history and I’m proud of that,” she said. She took another small sip of champagne. Her glossed lips shined as Lee watched them closely. “Enough about me, what do you do?” she asked.

Lee froze. Panic stricken, he felt his body temperature rise and a little trickle of sweat slowly rolled down the center of his back. “I work at Home Towne Mailers as the first shift supervisor.” Lee looked down; his eyes fluctuated left to right.

“That’s great, have you been there long?” she asked with interest.

“Yea, ten years now,” he said while shrugging his shoulders. The player fa├žade he once had was now removed, and Lee didn’t feel much like conversing. Somehow ex-baseball player and bulk mail supervisor didn’t seem so fascinating matched up with accounting firm COO.

“Stability…I like that in a man,” she said. Rita smiled as she talked. “I’ll tell you what Lee, I have an engagement in the morning and I just wanted to check this place out. A girl at work recommended it to me. Why don’t we exchange numbers and talk sometime.” She reached into her pecan brown leather Coach bag and handed him a business card.

“I’d love to talk again. You know what… I’m all out of business cards here’s my number.” Lee tried to sound cultured as he scribbled seven digits on a soiled wrinkly napkin. Within moments she was gone after politely thanking him for the champagne.

As he walked back towards the bar, he watched her pull out of the parking lot in a brand new silver two door Audi TT 3.2 coupe. Lee lethargically dropped his head, still rubbing the business card she gave him as if he was consoling it. Inside his head he was thinking, maybe this time he was in over his head, and perhaps out of his league. His good looks could always get his foot in the door, but this door wasn’t like any other he’d knocked on.

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