Saved on Drive C:/
If she hadn't lost every stitch of her brand-new undies in an unfortunate laundromat accident, her day may have gone better. As it was, she slogged into the interview with Le Clarte & Mcdonough wearing old, blue undies with her sparkling new business suit.
This was against her policy and everything she believed in. She always wore new everything for an interview from the skin out. Then it got worse when she had to borrow her roommate's car to get there.
"Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue," she muttered while sitting at a traffic light. "Gosh-- I'm not gonna marry these guys, just work there!"
This was not something she even wanted to think about. She had been the marriage route eleven years ago; six bridesmaids, lovely reception with a choice of fish or chicken at the sit-down dinner. Uncle Bud got smashed and had to be carried home. The wedding was super, but the marriage itself was nothing. Nothing at all. Her husband Steve who insited on referring to himself as her 'significant other', was more interested in using their six-bedroom house in Scottsdale as a place for what he called, 'encounters'. His encounters were her wife-swapping club, and she refused to participate. The house had been a wedding gift from his parents, who loved her dearly and wanted scads of grandchildren.
After six months of avoiding strangers in her kitchen every weekend morning, she decided two things: get work, get out. So she did. In those days, she was a rare woman in the man's field of computers. For ten years, she wrote programs, fixed problems, never getting paid much and never looking ahead. The company she worked for provided systems support for all kinds of other companies, but the bosses abruptly decided to close down shop one day, leaving her with no job and very little savings. Ken and Brien, the bosses, retired to homes in Maui leaving behind a trail of six disgruntled former employees, and lawsuits stretching into anybody's conceivable future. She was informed by fate that she wasn't a kid anymore, and the chances of having those kids in the dream house in anywhere had been pretty much lost. She sold the little house she had bought herself with Silicon Valley money, just for something to live on in the next while, and moved in with her hairdresser, Bonnie, who was also her closest friend.
Now, things weren't in her control anymore. Her money was leaking through her charge cards at an astonishing rate: she had never learned to manage money or budget anything. For the first time in her life she was afraid she might not be able to afford even the small amount it cost her to live. This job, at LeClarte & Mcdonough, was maybe her last chance. She had applied to firms all over the world on the Internet. At first she had traveled at her own expense to places like London and Brussels. Not any more.
L&M were decent local employers with a good reputation, but the minute she walked into the room, she knew these 25-year olds weren't looking for anybody older than they who maybe understood a lot more. They wanted a hot young chick they could guide and teach, and maybe draw in some business on the strength of being able to say, "Let's consult Buffy!" She wasn't any tall, blond Buffy in the first place; she was short and 'shapely', as Bonnie kept telling her. But, at 38, she was tempted to tell these boys to get themselves a life. When she got back to the apartment, trying hard not to cry where anybody could see her, there was a basket in front of the door. Nice little basket, she'd seen one like it at an art fair once. One of those dark, handmade raffia-and reed baskets. There was something in it, and a folded sheet of paper on top. She looked under the paper, and there were her new undies, neatly folded. She gasped, thinking of tales of stalkers and weirdos. She'd gone down to the laundromat the day before to get her new undies out of the washer and they had disappeared.
"Oh, my word-" she said, slumping down to the floor before she even looked at the note. What else could possibly go wrong? The next thought was-oh yuck, some stranger handling my-oh god, handling WHAT!!
She had to force herself to read the computer-generated note, printed in a handwriting font. Yeah, sure, it was nicely composed and had a border of simple green vines. It said, " Please forgive my mistake which was due to inattention and work overload. I honestly don't mean to offend you. These items belong to you and I had to return them. A
thousand "sorries" from Mark in 301 ;>) "
Well, Mark in 301 was most likely another kid. 21 years old and thought she was hot because she bought her undies from Alicia's Quest. She had to buy that stuff; she was too short and shapely to get stuff anywhere else. For two hours, she paced the apartment fuming, and finally decided to complete this conflict, or whatever it was.
Note in hand, she boarded the elevator and punched 3. That punch took everything she had, because at that moment, she wished she had a big baseball bat in her hand. Maybe one of those 44Magnums she'd seen on TV, or at least a -a, 38 something??? Walked down the hall to 301. Knocked. Waited. She was losing her resolve and almost walked away when the door opened. His lack of a recent haircut, the little bits of grey at the temples, and that well-known long sleeved shirt told her something.
"Hello, uh-what's up?" he said, surprised but not disturbed. He was pretty damn tall. Not a mean bone in his body. Had to be 6'4" at least. She got up her nerve again, and handed him the note. "I'm 110," she said. She didn't want to shoot him anymore. He had nice eyes, the kind that were clearly saying hello. Nothing else.
"Thanks for, uh, returning, uh," she was at a loss.
"Oh, hey, that was my fault-I don't pay attention," he said, opening the door wide and leaving her to decide whether to go in. "Know anything about computers?"
He was walking back to his desk, and she could hear the familiar whirr of cooling fans and 'puter boot ups.
"A little," she said, venturing in because she could see he was working and wanted to know what work he did. This was hard to tell, considering the three computers set up in what used to be the living room, where the couch used to be. It was cold in here, but she knew why.
"How come you don't have an office?"
"I think I kinda lost focus, --y'know, all work. I do websites for half the world, and..."
"Lost your life, huh?"
He turned around and looked at her, wondering.
"How'dja know that?"
"Did the same thing, kinda. Only I'm not young and cute anymore so I can't impress the guys with checkbooks. I'm damn good at what I do!" She felt so stupid there; unexpectedly crying among Mr 301's computers, all the stuff she should know how to handle.
"Which is?" He was probably wondering what to do with this woman who was beginning to leak for some reason.
"Used to be called systems analyst-now the title changes every week." She managed a smile, and she looked at the screen on the little computer he used to build the websites. "That graphic's buggy y'know-"
Now they had some common ground, something to talk about. In minutes, they were both speaking that weird, computerese shorthand that Bonnie kept telling her sounded like Klingon or Greek or something. T1, RAM, etcetera, and etcetera. They reminisced about the old days of DOS and the slow 8088 computers. Mark was old enough to remember UNIVAC-yikes! Fun of the highest order for these 'old' computer geeks.
As they were eating the pizza Mark had ordered while she was fixing all his mistakes on the newest website, he said, "So how come if you're such an old broad, as you say, you're wearing that Alicia's Quest stuff. Must be a good guy." They were new best friends now, he could ask this.
She almost choked on a pepper. "Um, nope, no guy-when have I had time? No, I'm just, uh-built funny. It's just a thing I have, new stuff for job interviews. Don't know why."
She was sitting in his chair, and he was standing behind her, eating pizza with his left hand, watching the screen. They were close enough that she could smell the fabric softener in his shirt. This was a nice place to be. It was warm and comfortable and she'd forgotten she had ever been angry about the lost undies.
"Really? No guy, huh?" Noticing something, as if he hadn't said anything, he reached around her with his right hand and automatically grabbed for the mouse. "What do ya think-oops!" he had forgotten she was in control of the mouse here.
Brien used to do that, way back when, and she used to jump back with an angry crack, but now it didn't bother her. Mark's hand on hers felt good. She lifted a finger and stroked the side of his hand. "Not a problem," she murmured. This was a whole different thing.
She was almost prepared when he kissed her. Because her mouth was full of pizza, he kissed her with a light touch on the side of her neck. They laughed together at the predicament, and once she swallowed, he kissed her some more.
Real kisses, the kind where she could hardly breathe and didn't need air anyway. His other hand slipped into the old Alicia's Quest bra, and he said, "I don't think you're built funny, Ms. 110."
© 2000 T.W.Schuett