by Jean Blasiar
Two of the most unlikely people to enjoy each others company were Dana Pierson and Marc Childs. They met at a concert, seated next to each other, one avoidably stood up by her date. (Clue number one against further involvement.)
Marc introduced himself as a writer. It was an understatement.
Dana introduced herself as an executive. It was not an understatement.
At intermission the young people were both reluctant to leave their seats. Marc asked, “What do you exect?”.
The suddenness and ridiculous way in which he asked the question nearly blew their improbable relationship right there, but tickets in the loge were frightfully expensive. Dana was determined to see the rest of the concert, and so she responded. “I’m a financial officer.”
‘Ah!” Marc replied.
As Dana finished saying, “My firm bought a block of tickets for this concert. I was offered two,” the lights dimmed and the conductor made his appearance.
For the next hour, the two concert-goers in the loge section with empty seats on either side of them remained quietly engaged. After a thrilling experience, three encores and at least half a dozen standing ovations, Marc suggested that they might get a nightcap. Neither of them apparently wanted the magnificent evening to end. However, it being a Thursday, the local bars in the area had closed early. Dana had never in her life suggested to a man that she did not know that he come to her apartment within walking distance from the concert hall for a nightcap. But that evening she did.
They walked. Marc did not recall until much later that he left his car in the ‘We close at midnight’ garage of the concert hall.
Conversation-wise, the two concert-goers didn’t fare all that well at first. (Clue number two against further involvement.) Dana found Marc ‘calming’, a digger of truth. Marc found Dana ‘exciting’, a climber in a competitive profession, as he listened to her over two and a half brandies. He was grateful that she did not ask him any questions about what it was he wrote, especially after he learned the details of her job.
Long after midnight Marc said that he probably should go. He took the parking ticket out of his jacket pocket and they both saw the bold letters of We close at midnight! across the top.
“Oh!” Dana cried. “I should have remembered. It happened to me once, a few years ago, shortly after I moved into this apartment. There was nothing I could do but wait until the next day to retrieve my car. And I don’t think they open until five unless there’s a matinee.”
Marc put out his hand to thank Dana. “It’s my problem,” he said. “I’ll handle it.”
“You can stay here,” Dana said unexpectedly. “On the sofa.”
Marc looked at her curiously. “You don’t know anything about me,” he said. “I could be an axe murderer.”
“I don’t think so,” she said. “Besides, there’s a lock on my bedroom door.”
And so it was settled. Marc spent the night. Dana gave him a plush terry bathrobe which she bought (or filched) from a Marriott. They said “goodnight” and both turned in.
At six thirty the next morning, after only a few hours of sleep, they were awakened by a pounding on the door. Dana came out of the bedroom tying her peignoir and apologizing. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I don’t know who that could be at this hour.” While Dana opened the door, Marc put on the bathrobe over his shorts and tee shirt.
In the hallway, a man was just raising his fist to knock again, but Marc, believing that the raised fist was an aggressive move, lunged across the room and socked the stranger on the chin.
“Why did you do that?” Dana screamed. “Philip, are you hurt? And by the way, where were you last night?”
Marc, realizing his mistake, helped the young man to his feet. “Sorry,” he said. “I thought you were…well I thought you were a burglar or a molester.”
“Are you insane?” the young man said. “ I knocked.”
“Yes. Yes, of course, you did. Well, I’ll just get dressed and leave.”
Sensing the need for introductions, Dana began with, “This is Philip, the jerk who stood me up last night.”
“I tried to phone you but your phone wasn’t on.”
“I was at the concert. Of course, my phone wasn’t on.”
“Well, how in bloody hell was I to reach you?”
“You were to show up, that’s how. Those were outrageously expensive seats.”
“And who is this?” Philip said, rubbing his jaw.
“This is Marc…”
“Childs,” Marc said.
“Marc sat next to me at the concert.”
“How convenient,” Philip said. “I did run over to the concert hall from the hospital, but the concert had already started and they have a policy of not allowing anyone in once the conductor steps to the podium. And, I might add, you did not leave a ticket for me at Will Call, so I couldn’t even join you at intermission.”
“I…” Dana started to explain and then, realizing that what Philip said was true, resisted saying anything else.
“Did you spend the night?” Philip asked Marc point blank.
“Yes, I did,” Marc admitted. “My car was locked in the garage. They close at midnight.”
Philip then turned angrily on Dana. “You invited a perfect stranger…?”
“Not perfect,” Marc said. “I mean, we did introduce ourselves. I’m in town to interview executives of search firms for an article I’m doing for Forbes Magazine. I was left two tickets at Will Call for this sold out concert. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anyone to invite.”
“Wait,” Dana said, “you’re the one interviewing search firms for Forbes?”
“I am at eight-thirty this morning, if I can prevail upon you for a quick shower.”
“I’m the CFO for the most prominent search firm in town, Starns and Richards. Do you know what this looks like?”
“I’m sure Philip can give us an outsider’s point of view. But you and I both know that it was all very innocent.”
Dana, however, would not be placated. “I’ll be accused of trying to buy your rating and assessment with my…”
“Did you realize who she was?” Philip asked Marc.
“Not until she told me late last evening about her position at Starns and Richards. But then it was too late to undo the evening, I’m afraid. I was already here.”
“You’ll have to excuse yourself from the interview,” Dana said quite forcefully.
“Yes, I suppose that would be best.” Marc gathered up his trousers, shirt, vest, suit coat and one sock. It didn’t seem appropriate to look for the other one at the moment.
“Dana,” Philip said angrily, “you haven’t even asked me why I was called to the hospital last night.”
Dana plopped herself into a chair. “Marc,” she called as he prepared to enter her bedroom, “make a call and cancel your interview. They’ll have to send someone else.” And then, only then, did she turn to Philip. “Now…why were you at the hospital? Would you like some coffee? I could definitely use some.” She got up and walked into the kitchen from where she could still see and hear Philip.
“Please!” Philip said. “Don’t even pretend that you have the slightest interest.” And with that, he left the apartment slamming the door quite firmly.
Ten minutes later, Marc appeared from the bedroom carrying his shoes, his hair wet from the shower, wearing the suit from the evening before and one sock. He put the bathrobe on top of the sofa and began to gather the sheets and blanket.
“No need for that,” Dana said. “Did you make your call?”
“Yes, I did. They were very understanding.”
“You’ll excuse yourself then from the other search firms? It wouldn’t be fair to exclude Starns and Richards from the assessments.”
“I’m afraid that Starns and Richards was my last interview. I’ve already issued my assessments of four other firms. The deadline for the article is Monday.”
“Oh, bloody hell! You can’t eliminate us from the group. We’re the largest!”
“I know. And my analysis wouldn’t be complete without you. They’ll have to scrap it… and me, too, I imagine. At any rate, I can’t tell them why I can’t conduct the interview.”
Dana stared at Marc. When the coffee maker beeped, she turned and poured them each a cup.
“Why not?” she said. “I’m certainly not going to tell.”
Marc took a sip of his coffee. “What about Philip?”
“Who is he going to tell? I don’t think he’s a vindictive person. Full of himself, yes, but not vindictive.”
“I don’t know how I would handle the situation if it were reversed. If my girl…”
“I am not his ‘girl’. I am not anyone’s girl. I’m not even a girl.”
“Pardon me. My lady friend. You are that, I hope, to Philip and myself. He did try to reach you last night, evidently.”
“Oh, he’s always doing things like that, not showing up. He’s a doctor. I assume he was called in on some emergency. He was dying to tell me about it.”
“Well, I should be going.”
“I feel terrible about what’s happened.”
“No need. I didn’t much care for this job anyway. My true calling is fiction. Now I’ll have more time to finish my novel.”
She poured him more coffee. “What’s it about?”
“The Civil War. Two brothers on opposite sides.”
“Hmmmmm. I believe I’ve read a book along those lines.”
“Well, there you are. I’ll just have to think of another plot. Maybe two people, totally unsuited for each other meeting under odd circumstances and…hitting it off.”
She looked at him curiously. “What makes you think they hit it off?”
“She let him spend the night on her sofa. And she’s going to have lunch with him today and perhaps they’ll spend the evening together again. I’m nothing if not hopeful. By the way, have you seen my sock?”
“You’re spending the night again?”
“Yes. If I’m invited. I’ve always wanted someone good with math to do the bills and taxes and such.”
“Are you suggesting…”
“Yes. I think as opposites, we attract.”
She looked around for her phone, found it in her purse. “I need to call in if I’m going to spend the day… attracting.” And then by way of justification, she said, “We do have to wait until five for your car.”
The phone call to Dana’s office confirmed that the writer from Forbes who was coming that day to interview the executive board had called in and cancelled the interview. Dana then cancelled her other meetings for the day. (Clue number three for further involvement.)
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Jean Blasiar is a published author with 12 books for middle grades, playwright (one of her plays was optioned by 20th Century Fox for a pilot), and theatrical producer. Please visit her website, www.jeanblasiar.com, for a complete listing of her books, plays and productions.