As the Fourth of July holiday approached, she realized that she had a good strong grip on the job and was in no danger of being let go for incompetence. The company was as crazy as any other company; she knew they could decide at any time -- be it whim, caprice, or just because -- to just close up her office but if her deparment ran well with no major errors then they might put everyone in other offices. She might not have a job but at least her underlings would have be employed.
With her strong grip on the job came the realization that she was bored with the present state of affairs. She'd worked too many hours these last six months and she wanted to do something that wasn't this. Her V.P. didn't encourage her to have a balanced life; the company liked the salaried employees to work harder than was necessary. They gave her a parking space in the building -- "This building has parking?" she'd asked. -- so there was no argument about public transportation and late hours, which she accepted gladly. She simply wanted to have a few evenings out a month with friends. She wanted to meet someone nice and have adult beverages, nothing too serious unless it became serious and then okay, something serious would be nice, too. She would not have minded running into Kevin and getting another dinner invitation.
And so it was the 2nd of July and her car, her wonderful, well maintained, 15-year-old red Toyota Corolla with the sunroof, decided to break. She got it towed to her mechanic and told him to do what he had to do and just before she went home from work that day, he'd called her.
"Hey," he said, "it's Juan. How are you?"
"Hi, Juan," she said. "I will be fine as soon as you tell me my car's okay. And how are you?"
"Heh, heh," said Juan. "I'm fine, Miss."
Juan always called her "Miss."
"So, what's the word, Juan?" she asked.
"Well, it's not so good. Should I give you the particulars or just the bottom line?" Juan asked back.
"Bottom line, please," she said.
"Two thousand dollars, give or take a hundred," he said. "On a 15-year-old car."
She said nothing. She sat staring at the doorknob in her office.
"Hello, Miss? You still there?" he asked. "Hello?"
"I'm here, Juan," she said.
"Yeah, it looks the timing belt broke and had a field day with the engine. I'm giving you my Good Customer Discount," he said. "May I suggest something?"
"Yes, Juan," she said, but it sounded to her like she was listening to a tape recording of each of them talking, like she wasn't really there.
"Buy a newer used car. Buy a new car," said Juan. "This one's for scrap. But I'll give you $500 for the rest of the parts and the body."
She'd been wanting to move and had been saving and thinking about where she'd live when she got comfortable enough to start looking for new places. The bottom line on the car was this: it was gone. It lived a good long life and had served her well. It was time to say goodbye and use the savings for moving and a new vehicle.
"Juan, I'll come over on Saturday and get my things from the car. Is that okay?"
"Yes, Miss," he said. "I'll park it inside so no one trashes it. I'll show you what's going on with it when you come in, so you know I'm not cheating. And I'll have a check ready for you."
"Thanks, Juan," she said.
"See you then," said Juan and they hung up.
So it was the 2nd of July, it was 6:30 p.m. and she had to take public transportation home. She considered a cab that night but didn't feel like going to the cash machine to get money, she still had money on her transit card, so she headed over to the bus stop.
She'd been waiting about five minutes, starting at a spot on the cityscape, thinking about the book she was reading that was in her tote bag, when she realized someone was standing next to her.
"Oh, hey, hi, I thought it was you," said Kevin.
She smiled at him.
"Hi, Kevin, long time no see," she said.
"It's like you fell off the face of the earth," Kevin said.
"I got a promotion and I've been working long hours and driving," she told him.
"Oh, say, congrats," said Kevin. "That's great news. Do you like it?"
"It's good," she said. "I have a handle on it, the client likes me, and my employees seem to mostly not hate my guts."
"Wow, that's great. Congrats, congrats. I don't know a lot about you but I think you'd be a reasonable boss. Didn't you have one that was terrible?" asked Kevin.
"Yes, that's right," she said.
"You know what a crappy boss is like and know to not be one," said Kevin. "Good for you."
"Thanks, Kevin," she said with a smile.
"So I told the wife I ran into you -- I'd told her about you before -- and she wants to have you over," he said, reaching into this inside jacket pocket. It was 90 degrees and this immense man in a sport coat didn't look particularly overheated. He just looked like he always looked: a little tired, a bit rumpled, slightly confused. He looked like Kevin.
The card said, "The House of Kevin," and gave a phone number.
She looked at Kevin with a puzzled look.
"I know, I know," said Kevin. "And I said Conrad's a man of mystery."
"I'll call you, Kevin," she said. "It'll be soon, too, because I've not been socializing and it'd be nice to be with people."
"You know I'm inviting Conrad, right?" asked Kevin. "You do know that, yeah?"
"No, I didn't know that Kevin. But I'm good with it," she said.
"Because he'd be really disappointed if you came over for lobster and he didn't," he said.
The bus was approaching.
"Here's my bus, Kevin," she said. "I'll call you tonight when I get home. How about that?"
"Wow, oh, great," said Kevin. "If you get my wife, tell her who you are, that you're the lady from the train, and she'll know who you are. She'll set everything up."
The bus came to a stop.
"Thanks, Kevin," she said. "I look forward to it."
"Me, too. And my wife. But I think Conrad most," said Kevin.
They smiled and she got on the bus, taking a seat on the right side. She waved at Kevin who waved back, then turned and walked up the street.
As the bus took its route toward her home, she realized she was very excited. She was going to socialize with new people. She was going to have an evening with Handsome.