“We’re going to the South of France.” Gwen states it with a red lipstick smile and eyes that sparkle like the diamonds that hang around her neck.
“That sounds wonderful. I’m sure you’ll have a great time.” Rebekah says it casually as her stomach drops as if she’s on a turbulent flight. It’s probably her imagination. Or, maybe it’s that other thing…
“We have a summer home there. We can’t wait to go! Sipping cosmopolitans in Nice…there’s nothing better!” She squeaks at Rebekah. Gwen waves a hand dismissively at Rebekah and continues with, “You should do it one day.”
“Maybe, one day.” Rebekah concurs with a catch in her voice. It’s like someone is suddenly strangling her and she can’t breathe. But she agrees with Gwen because agreeing with someone is the best form of flattery. Or, it’s something like that. Rebekah can’t remember right now. There are other things on her mind.
“Did you hear my daughter, Nancy, will be attending Harvard?”
She can’t keep it up. “Harvard? Really?” Rebekah tries her best to sound intrigued and cheerful –instead, it comes across as if she’s doubtful.
“Yes.” Gwen’s chin punches out as she stares up at Rebekah with eyes that flicker. “You shouldn’t be surprised. Nancy takes after me, of course.”
Rebekah twists her face and says, “I have no doubt.” With that she tilts her half-filled glass of Australian Cabernet Sauvignon back to her mouth, and hastily swallows the remaining wine. When she’s done she says, “Oh-oh! I’m empty! I’ll be right back. I just got to get a refill.”
As she walks away with a small smile across her face, shoulders pushed back, she’s pleased with herself.
Also, there’s absolutely no way she’ll be returning to that conversation.
“No, you won’t.” Gwen announces.
Rebekah stops. She typically avoids confrontation. But at this moment, on this day, she spins on her heel and says, “You’re right. I won’t.”
Rebekah’s heels clip-clop across the marble floor as she makes her way to the bar. Her head begins to spin with dizziness from the alcohol that she heaved back into her gullet. When she approaches the counter she says, “Could I get another of the Australian Cabernet Sauvignon?”
A brawny bartender (because they’re always brawny that way they can do double duty as a bouncer and can toss a belligerent drunk to the curb, if needed) with black hair, light brown eyes, and a five o’clock shadow says, “Sure.” His eyes sweep across Rebekah as if he’s assessing whether she’s already too drunk to have another glass.
“Rebekah!” An enthusiastic, cheerful voice shouts at her from across the room.
Rebekah’s face brightens and her mood is suddenly calmer. Her best friend, Stacey, wraps her arms around her and gives her a big hug. They wobble together in their heels and nearly crash to the ground.
“What do you think of the venue?” Stacey asks cautiously.
“It’s beautiful. It’s a great spot for a Christmas party! The food is delicious. It must have been so much work. But everything is fantastic!”
“Thanks, Rebekah.” Stacey says as she bends her head forward, blushes, and lowers her eyes to her friend.
Rebekah is such a great friend to Stacey. When Stacey’s grandmother who raised her a few years ago died, Becky took her out for drinks, called her all the time, and they bolted from work several times to have an emergency chat session when Stacey started to become unglued at work. For that reason, she tells Rebekah the next thing.
“Mr. Bracklen, said I did a good job too. He also said because I helped set up several conferences that brought in new sales, and did a good job supporting the Sales Team, he’s giving me a promotion! Can you believe it? Becky – a promotion!”
“Stacey…” Rebekah clears her throat, shifts from one foot to the other as her face reddens, and says in a whisper with words that break apart, “th-that’s won-nder-ful.”
Stacey stares at her friend and wonders, is she jealous? How can she be? She’s an Executive Assistant and has always been at a higher level than me?
Defensively, Stacey continues in a pleading voice, “Becky, I worked really hard for it.”
“Oh, I know!” Rebekah says in a voice that sounds too ecstatic. It’s as if she’s suddenly become a salesperson who in desperation to make a sale, says and does everything with just a little too much energy. She sounds insincere, and she knows it.
Although, technically, Rebekah is trying to sell something – she’s trying to sell the fact that she’s deliciously, joyful this holiday season.
“I’m really happy for you.” Rebekah continues. “I’m sorry. I just need a little food. I’m tired tonight.”
Stacey grabs her by the elbow and says, “Ok. Let’s go chase down some of those chicken satay things! They’re SUPER YUMMY!”
“Good idea!” Rebekah straightens her back and attempts to stand taller. Everyone knows that if you slouch you look defeated. Slouching is not the way to communicate how ridiculously, brilliantly, happy you are.
In her mind, Rebekah begins to break apart as she thinks, it’s all soooo much work.
“Rebekah, Stacey!” Kyle cheers at them as they approach. He’s standing beside the table with the hors d’oeuvres with his hand poised in the direction of the appetizers.
“These things are delicious.” Kyle continues as he grabs the end of a chicken satay skewer, and casually dips it into the peanut butter sauce. Then he proceeds to nibble on the meat attached to the stick.
“Well, we’ll decide that for ourselves.” Stacey says with one of her sunny smiles and a wink at Kyle so he knows she’s kidding.
Rebekah reaches for one too and the taste of garlic mixed with smooth, delicious peanut butter dances in her mouth.
Rebekah glances around at the high ceilings where a painting is drawn on it reminiscent of the renaissance age. A ten foot Christmas tree, positioned in the middle of the room, greets each guest. Beneath the branches are presents wrapped in a mix of red, blue, green, gold, white wrapping paper and each one looks to have been carefully placed in its position under the tree. White linens are draped over chairs and tables. There are large red poinsettias in glass bowls on each table. Beside the plants are candles that sit inside golden holders.
“Where’s your wife?” Stacey asks.
“Oh, she’s not feeling well tonight.” Kyle says. “She’s in her first trimester.” He says with a bashful smile.
“What? OH MY GOD!!! THAT’S SO WONDERFUL! I didn’t know you guys were expecting!” Stacey squeals at Kyle.
Oh my god, there’s too much good news here tonight.
Brave face. Must wear brave face.
“Rebekah, isn’t that wonderful?” Stacey prods her friend.
“Absolutely! Fantastic news, Kyle! I didn’t know either.” Rebekah says as she reaches in to give Kyle a congratulatory hug.
After the hug, Rebekah eyes her glass of red wine. It’s too full. She can’t possibly drink it all in one shot (again) without making a fool of herself at the company Christmas party.
There’s only one other way out.
“You know what?” Rebekah says. “I’m really not feeling well. I think I need to go home.” She says as she places her wine glass down on a nearby table.
“Oh.” Stacey says as her face falls.
“I’ll be alright,” Rebekah giggles resassuringly at her friend. “It’s just been a long day.” She says as she wraps her arms around Stacey and gives her a hug for a few seconds too long.
Within a few minutes Rebekah has crossed the floor, grabbed her coat, pushed the button for the elevator, and now she waits for it to arrive. A time management skill that she’s honed after years of working, Rebekah pushes the button to turn her phone on and unlocks it to see if she’s missed anything.
Missed Call. The display shows.
She flips through her text messages, Voicemail, it reads.
Rebekah clenches her jaw at the voicemail. She breathes out, enters her passcode, and raises the phone to her ear and hears…
Hello. This message is for Rebekah Standard. We’ve booked your appointment with Dr. Mertul who will be your oncologist on Friday, December 22nd at 3:45 PM. He’s located at…