The Universe, being what it is, liked to insuate itself into her life. The day after the Fourth of July holiday, she was summoned to the H.R. office where she was joined by their big boss, in town for the day.
"You're doing a great job," said the boss. "We are most impressed."
"Thank you," she said with great apprehension. Being called for a meeting with someone in charge when you didn't know that person was in town is jarring.
"I can see you're worried. Stop worrying. I mean it. You're doing great. So great that we want to send you on a seminar for a week in Vegas," he said.
Vegas. Interesting. She didn't think of Vegas as a place for a seminar, but what the heck.
"Next week," said the boss. "Someone from the Portland office decided he better not go because his wife is due to give birth any day now. So there's an opening that we don't want to go to waste and I thought you'd be perfect."
"Next week?" she asked. She was hoping to see Kevin and Mrs. Kevin and any Kevin offspring next week. Oh, and eat lobster. And meet Handsome.
"Yeah, the seminar is Tuesday through Thursday. You travel on Monday and come back on Friday. Here's the phone number of the travel agent handling it," he said as he handed her the card. "You'll be staying where the seminar is. Luxor, I think."
Vegas. A free trip to Vegas. She been there as a college student and had looked at it like a sociological experiment rather than a city of fun and frolic. She'd enjoyed herself immensely but had to remind herself at the airport that it was America and she didn't have to convert her currency back to U.S. dollars.
"This has been in the works for nine months and we've chosen the most promising managers to attend. Your ex-manager was due to go and was replaced by someone in Kanas City, just like this guy was slated to go but probably impregnated his wife when we told him," said the big boss. "So you're going in his place. You'll have a generous expense account for meals and incidentals and the room is already paid for. Tell me you'll go."
"I'll go," she said, somewhat breathlessly. Kevin and Handsome could wait.
"That's terrific," he said. "Now go make nice with your supervisor so she can make nice with her babysitter and maybe stay late if she has to. Oh, I know. Tell her I approved her driving and parking every day. Tell her I'll pay for additional for the babysitter. Tell her I'll pay mileage, too."
"Very generous," she said.
"Not so much generous as the price of doing business. She's a sharp cookie and I want her to be happy. I know her situation and I don't want to take advantage," said the big boss.
"You don't want to tell her?" she asked.
"No," said the big boss. "If she has questions, she can track me down. Please tell her I hope she does it."
The supervisor was a reasonable individual and with her boss approving everything so she wouldn't say no, she was confident it would work out.
"Will you be attending?" she asked.
"I will not. I attended this seminar ten years ago. It was very useful," he said. "But I attended when I was working for another company. It was how I met the people who hired me for this job."
She cocked her head and looked at him. She thought he'd been with this company since college.
"Yeah," he said. "I was fast-tracked at my former job. The track was even faster at this one."
He stood and then she did, too. He shook her hand.
"You're going to learn a lot," he said. "I'm excited for you. The dress code is business casual, plus you'll need one business suit, and a cocktail dress or more formal suit."
Then he turned and left.
She stood watching his back disappear up the hall. She ran her mind through her closet and there was a black sheath she could tart up with some jewelry and that suit she got at the blow-it-out-the-door sale at the New York-style store in the suburbs. She was actually okay for clothing. She breathed a sigh of relief.
She was still looking up the hall when the back of her big boss was replaced by the advancing front of the supervisor, probably headed to the restroom. She waved at her and the supervisor smiled and waved back.
"What are you doing over here?" the supervisor asked.
"Come in and I'll tell you," she said.
The supervisor was relaxed and calm and agreed to everything.
"I've been expecting it," the supervisor said. "Our ex-manager was supposed to go. Someone always drops out. I thought you might get called for it."
"You're cool with everything? I know you have a delicate balance going," she said.
"My mom's on vacation next week so if the babysitter can't help out, Grandma will gladly step in. Driving is the big thing, so thanks for that."
"Thank the big boss," she said. "He offered it all right away. Oh, yeah, plus mileage."
"Excellent," said the supervisor. "I feel like I'm getting the better of the deal."
"I think that was his intention," she said. "So thank you."
She and the supervisor walked back to their side of the office. She saw there was a party being set up in the small conference room.
"What's going on?" she asked.
"Shhh, it's a secret but Kim's boyfriend is popping the question today. He's bringing his jeweler and everything. He's giving her a choice of stones and settings. The jeweler's going to have a briefcase handcuffed to his wrist. It's going to look like a birthday party for you, so act surprised," said the supervisor.
"My birthday's in three weeks," she said.
"Kim doesn't know that," said the supervisor. "I gather this jeweler is very personable and makes a huge deal with the whole thing. People who've seen it are just crazy to have it, too."
"That would be cool," she said.
"Say, do you mind if the jeweler comes into your office for a few minutes if he gets here early?" asked the supervisor.
"Of course," she said.
"I'll tell the receptionist," said the supervisor and went around the corner to set up.
She was working on a particularly vexing report where nothing added up when the receptionist called her to say that Conrad was in the lobby.
Her stomach went instantly to her head.
"What?" she asked.
"Conrad," said the receptionist. Then in a whisper, "For the party."
"Oh, yeah, duh. I'll come and get him," and she hung up and stood up and went around the long way to the reception area so no one would see her.
Ha, ha, ha, she thought, it's not a common name but what would be the likelihood of it being the same Conrad. A jeweler? Nah, not the type.
She turned the corner into reception and there stood Handsome, carrying a Costco frozen food shopping bag that seemed to be stuffed.