Plus One(9)

By: Aleatha Romig


My neck stiffens as I feel the anxiety build. I can’t avoid this any longer. No matter how badly I don’t want to attend the perfect wedding or return to Indiana and field all the questions about why I’m not married, why I’m living far away in New York, or why I have a life instead of being pregnant with baby number three at twenty-five years old, I have to put on my big-girl panties and face the music.

“Mom,” I try to interrupt as I push my way through a crowd of obviously lost tourists. “Mom, um, Timothy…”

“Kimberly, you’re breaking up. What did you say?”

“We’re not…”

“Kimberly Ann, I RSVP’d for you plus-one.”

The anxiety grows as she says exactly what I expect.

“That was six months ago. Oh my Lord,” she continues without taking a breath. “Tell me you’re not single again! I was afraid this was why you weren’t giving me his measurements. Why didn’t you tell me? You know your aunt and uncle paid for a sit-down dinner. The reception is at the Hyatt. It’s very fancy, place settings with real silverware and everything. Oh dear Lord in Heaven, don’t tell me that I have to tell them you don’t have a plus-one. I know! I can call Darrin. Do you want me to call him?”

Nothing like a little down-home guilt. I take a deep breath and tap the microphone of my Bluetooth. “No. Not Darrin. I-I’m… said… see… going… Thursday… rental car…” I say as I disconnect the call.

One day she’s going to catch on.

In the meantime, I’m going to bask in the reprieve.

I told her… well, I tried to tell her.

My thoughts fill with the details of my upcoming trip of disgrace. I need to book a flight and a rental car. I need to buy a dress. If only my plus-one was as easy. I practice my responses in my head. “Children? No, not yet… no, no dog either… Married? No… Yes, I’m sure he’s out there somewhere too… Yes, I suppose I’m sort of married to my job…” And then there’s the abundance of disapproving looks from my aunt, grandmother, and mother as I sit in my assigned seat at the reception next to an empty chair or next to Darrin McKinney, Indiana’s shoe king.

Maybe if I call Aunt Laura now, she can move me to the kids’ table. Or I could get one of those blow-up, life-sized dolls.

I half giggle, half grimace as I make my way along the street to the building where I work at a real job. When I enter the lobby of the building that houses the offices of Buchanan and Willis, my mind is hundreds of miles away. Out of habit, I squeeze my way into the coffee shop.

“Caffè vanilla light frappuccino. Venti,” I say while making mental notes: it’s Monday. I need to be in Indiana on Thursday. I haven’t asked for time off or bought a dress or ordered a blow-up date. My mind’s a blur as the barista hands me my coffee and I turn, bumping right into him.

“Shit!” I say louder than I intend.

“Miss Jones.”

I look up from the steaming coffee that managed to mostly stay within the confines of the cup—thank God for lids—and stare as some trickles down my hand and a small drop lands on my white blouse. My gaze goes to the floor. In front of me are those same shiny, dark leather shoes. My eyes move upward: his dark blue slacks that narrow at his waist. I suck in a breath at the way his suit coat hangs from his broad shoulders. Finally, our eyes meet.

Gritting my teeth, I force a smile. “Mr. Willis.” I search his suit for evidence of our collision. “Did I…” I motion with a tip of my head.

Mr. Willis grins his panty-melting smirk. His deep voice drowns out the crowd. “Near miss, I believe. No harm, no foul. Have a good day, Miss Jones.” And then he steps around me.

Shit.

A week ago, I was on my knees in front of Duncan Willis at a high-end restaurant. Now I’m bumping into him at the coffee shop. In general, I’m not a klutz; however, I doubt I could convince him of that.

First my mom and now this.

Can this day get any worse?

Not that any of that matters.

Shaking my head, I make my way to the elevator. Minutes later I walk the length of the hall and large room to my cubicle. Leaving my cup of coffee on my desk, I decide that before anything else, I should attempt to save my blouse. Maybe if I can wash the coffee stain away, my day will begin to look up.

Not wanting to strip to my lacy bra in front of half my female coworkers, I turn down a less-used hallway to a smaller employee bathroom, one with only two stalls.

Any other day I’d be irate about the coffee. After all, this is one of my favorite outfits, a white silk blouse, navy pencil skirt, big red chunky necklace, and red high-heeled, fuck-me pumps. It would seem like the shoes would be uncomfortable, but surprisingly they aren’t. Besides, I love the way they accent the red. With everything else that’s happening, sadly today the spilled coffee seems to rank lower on my list of concerns.