She was exhausted when she fell asleep to the flickering light of the TV, sleeping so hard she didn't move once in night and when she woke up just before the alarm clock, she realized that everything had changed for her.
She realized that her job was just another dead end but with a little more respect and a lot more responsibility. Her apartment, the one she'd sworn she'd leave with the new job but had not, was serviceable and fine. She'd managed rarely get together with Lee, someone she considered to be one of her closest friends. Her love life did not exist and she was probably being played by a very handsome man and his large friend. Work was drama and this Connie Stones thing -- whatever it was -- was super high drama.
She knew that the drama was over.
She felt relieved, better than she'd felt in years. She looked at herself in the bathroom mirror and smiled. She would find a new job and lose all contact with Con and Kevin. She would move forward toward new hobbies, reconnect with old friends, and maybe have dates with a man or two. She was excited for it to all get started.
She drove downtown and almost jogged from the garage to the office. It was a sunny, lovely day and the sky was a brilliant blue. She must have looked approachable and happy because people looked at her and smiled, nodding their heads, some of them mouthing hello to her. Total strangers. She felt like she could do anything.
She ran into Mr. King at the front desk, training a new security guard.
"Don't you look great," said Mr. King.
"Thanks, sir," she said. "I feel like I could climb a mountain."
"You look that way, too," he said. "I hope it keeps up for you."
"Thanks," she said. "See you later."
As she waited for the elevator, she was joined by coworkers and a man about her height who was almost bald with a big nose and a very expensive suit.
"Do you remember me?" he said to her.
She looked at him, through him, above him. She stared into his eyes, at his nose and ears, and finally had to say, "No, sorry, I don't."
"Ha," said the man. "We've never met. You just looked so delighted to be alive I thought it was a good way to meet you."
"HA!" she blurted out. "Good one!"
Her coworkers laughed at her exclamation and started watching the two of them, back and forth, hoping like hell for some gossip.
The elevator came and her coworkers piled on. She and the man signalled them to go ahead. The coworkers had plenty of gossip right there to let them start weaving some fantastic story or other.
"I'm Mike," he said. "I'm an attorney but not a litigator."
"Is it important that I know you're not a litigator?" she asked.
"But of course," Mike said. "I don't want you to think I'm pushy and scummy."
"Oh?" she asked.
"I'm pushy, but I am not scummy at all," Mike said with a grin. "And full disclosure, I'm single and I don't have kids."
"Why are you blurting all of this out?" she asked.
"Because I want you to have lunch with me and not be just some weirdo who tried to accost you in the lobby," he said.
She cocked her head and looked at him.
"High noon?" she asked.
"I'll be right here," he said. "What's your name?"
"Oh," she said. "That."
She told him her name and they shook hands.
At noon, he was waiting just where he said.
"I hope you eat meat. Please tell me you eat meat," he said.
"Sure, I eat meat," she said.
"How about fish?" Mike asked.
"I toss about anything down the hatch, Mike," she said.
"Do you like Mediterranean cooking? I know a place," he said.
"I wonder if it's the place I know," she said.
"We'll find out in five minutes," said Mike. "After you," and she stepped ahead of him to leave the building.
They walked together to the restaurant and it was the place she knew. She also knew many people who worked there and so, it turned out, did Mike.
"Hey," said Lamar at the register. "I didn't know you two knew each other."
"We met this morning," said Mike.
"A total coincidence," she said.
"We're going to see what else we have in common," said Mike.
Lamar smiled at them.
"If I'd thought of it, I would have set you all up. But I never think of anything like that, so never mind," he said and gave Mike change with a smile.
They carried their own trays and found seats in the middle of the bustling restaurant.
"You really looked extraordinarily happy this morning," said Mike. "I never meet anyone who looks so pleased and happy about their lot. I hope you don't mind that I wanted to get to know you."
"It didn't strike me as at all odd," she said. "It just seemed, well, how do I say it?"
"Right?" asked Mike. "Did it seem right?"
"Yes," she said. "It seemed right."
"What's making you so happy?" he asked.
"When I woke up this morning I realized that I didn't have to go on with all the drama I'd taken on. I was done with it, plain and simple," she replied.
"Good," he said, nibbling at his chicken-falafel salad. "Now tell me you're single, too."
"I am single," she said. "There was some weird romantic thing going on that was actually neither romantic nor a thing but I am sick of whatever the hell it was. Besides, he seems to have fallen off the map."
She took a bite of her salmon kabob salad. He was looking at her expentantly.
"And no kids," she said.
Mike smiled at her.
"And no pets," she added.
"Kids and pets are okay," he said.
"I still don't have either one," she said.
"Would you care to have dinner on Saturday night?" he asked.
"I will in fact be having dinner on Saturday," she said.
"How about with me, smartypants?" asked Mike.
"That sounds lovely," she said. "Surprise me with somewhere."
Mike leaned back in his chair and studied her.
"You asked for it, my friend," said Mike. "It will be lovely. Write down your telephone number and home address. I'll pick you up at eight."
When they were done with lunch he walked her back to her office building.
"What an excellent day," said Mike. "I'll see you on Saturday."
He shook her hand and then pulled out a business card and a pen, writing something on the card.
"This is me at work and that number's my cell phone," Mike said. "If you change your mind, no harm done. Just call me and it was nice to have met you."
"I'm not going to cancel, Mike," she told him. "I want to see your lovely surprise."
He squeezed her left hand with his left.
"See you then," he said, blended into the crowd and disappeared.
Mr. King was standing at the desk with the new guard when she walked into the building.
"He's a nice guy," offered Mr. King. "He has a client in this building and he's always polite and straightforward. I ran into him at a mall on a weekend. He was taking his dad to buy pants. He apologized to me because he didn't know my name to introduce me. Nice, nice man. And he has the most beautiful suits."
She smiled at Mr. King.
"You know just what I was thinking, didn't you?" she asked.
"Well, after that last weird situation, I wanted to let you know right away that this one's got no personal mystery," said Mr. King.
"Good," she said. "I agreed to dinner on Saturday."
"The man drives a Cadillac," said Mr. King. "It's white. It's new. It'll be a comfy ride."
"Thanks, Mr. King," she said. "I appreciate you watching out for me."
"I look out for my friends," he said, and they smiled at each other and each blushed a little bit, hoping the other didn't see.
She got on the elevator and waved at Mr. King, who waved back. The guard he was training looked puzzled and a little annoyed. Hadn't Mr. King told him to not get involved with the tenants? Do as he says not as he does, thought the guard.