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Rated: E · Short Story · Business · #1777520
May 2011 Short Shots Winning Entry.
The Presentation

** Image ID #1777524 Unavailable **

The sunlight crept across the bed, like a mischievous child, until it discovered Meredith's eyes. There, it seemed to pause and intensify. Meredith grabbed a handful of warm linen and pulled it over her face. She was having such a nice dream.

Mr. Jenkins introduced her to the Board of Directors. "Ms. Johnson is one of our rising stars, and I've asked her here today to update you on our launch plan for The Matrix, our revolutionary new Android 2.3 phone." He paused, and then added, "Pay attention. I think you'll be seeing a lot more of her in the near future." The Board members laughed and smiled.

Meredith stood, feeling the blood rush to her cheeks. She was unaccustomed to such direct attention. She took a deep breath and turned toward the screen and stopped. The sunlight was obscuring the image to the point that she couldn't see it. She walked to the windows and began adjusting the blinds, but she couldn't seem to get the room dark enough. The light ... .

Meredith bolted upright. "The light!" she shrieked. "It shouldn't be this bright!" She looked at the clock. "Oh my God, it's after 8:00!" She was late and today was the presentation.

Adrenaline forced her to jump out of bed but she pulled herself up short. She took a deep breath and outlined a new plan of attack, reminding herself, "You're organized, you're together, and you're ready!" And you're oh, so late, crossed her mind as she sprang to get ready. Her Blackberry was vibrating but she didn't have time. "Not now," she told the phone and promptly put it out of her mind. Focus!

It's a good thing you're compulsive, she thought, smiling. Her clothes were precisely laid out on the wing-back chair in the corner. She pulled on her blouse, to save time, as she half-sprinted to the bathroom. Turning the faucets on, she started brushing her hair as the water warmed. She grabbed her toothbrush and squeezed toothpaste out onto it. One, two, three... Oh the heck with it. Fifty strokes would have to wait. The thought of her breaking routine made her grin until the frothy mess spilled over onto her blouse. "Noooo," she sputtered, releasing another glob which fell, totally soaking her front.

Whipping her arm up, she peered at her watch. 8:25. "Don't panic. You still have time," she reminded herself.

Meredith navigated the bedroom, grabbed a new blouse and finished dressing. She shot a longing look at the coffee pot as she scurried past, knowing she didn't have time. The way the day's going, I'd probably spill it, she mused, picking up her case and heading out.

She hit the elevator button and waited, her sense of urgency approaching panic. She hit the button again ... and again ... and ... Ding. The trip down to the garage level seemed to take forever. She shot through the opening doors and collided with Mr. Skinner, the building superintendant. The collision sent him backwards and popped open her computer bag. She watched in horror as her presentation erupted into the air and sheets began to scatter.

"Whoa, little lady," he said.

"I'm so late and now this!" Tears stung Meredith's eyes.

"Don't worry. Go get your car and I'll pick these up. By the time you're back, I'll have them all."

"Oh, thank you, Mr. Skinner," she blurted, giving him a quick hug and running down the lane toward her car, the sound of her heels echoing in the dimness.

Jersey Girl, the old white Ford Taurus was sitting just where she'd left it. Old reliable. I can always count on you. The car had been a present from her folks when she graduated college and she had taken care of it. "Someday ..." she often mused but that day had never come. It was her security blanket, reminding her of family and stability in the rush of daily life.

Sliding in, she pumped the pedal three times and turned the key. Rrrrrrr. Rrrrrrr. Rrrrrr. Nothing. She turned the key again. Click, click, click. The tears that Meredith had felt before now began flowing down her cheeks as her frustration turned her cheeks red.

Knock, knock, knock. The sound made her jump. Mr. Skinner was standing at the door with the papers in his hand. "Sounds like your battery's dead," he offered.

"What can I do?" she said, sniffling back the tears.

"I can call triple-A for you. They can be here in half an hour." Seeing the look on her face, he added, "or, I can call you a cab. It might get here sooner."

Meredith began to sob.

"I'd offer to drive you but my car's in for service. I'm reduced to riding my daughter's bike if I want to go anywhere," he said, trying to lighten the moment.

A desperate thought suddenly surfaced in Meredith's mind. It was around two miles to the office. She could be there in fifteen minutes. Glancing at her watch again, she saw it was 8:45. Yes, she could still make the meeting ... barely. "A bike? Would you lend it to me? I promise to take care of it," she blurted.

Mr. Skinner's eyes grew wide. "Well, I guess it would be okay ... if you're sure. This must be an important engagement you have."

"You have no idea."

She followed him up to the first level where the bike was parked. "She's nothing fancy but she's in good shape." He pointed to the green Schwinn resting on its kick stand.

"It's perfect." She propped her computer case against the front handle bars, straddled the bike and shoved off with a "Thank You" thrown over her shoulder. He yelled something back but it was lost as she focused on keeping her balance.

It had been years since Meredith had ridden a bike and that became evident as she wobbled down the street. Slowly, she gained confidence and began pedaling faster and faster. This is exhilarating! Why haven't I thought of this before? She loved the feel of the morning air rushing by and it felt good to be doing something besides just sitting. Speaking of which, she thought, adjusting her position as she bounced over a rough patch of road, I guess I forgot about cobblestone wedgies. Gritting her teeth, she continued to speed up.

The light at the intersection turned yellow as she approached. Brakes flashed through her mind as she instinctively reversed her pedaling. With the sudden application of full brakes, Meredith felt the rear wheel lock and begin a slow-motion turn to her right. Without thinking, she put out her left leg to keep herself upright and felt the heel of her shoe snap.

Skidding to a stop, Meredith tried to calm her breathing and her shaking as the adrenaline coursed through her. "Oh, perfect! At this rate I should have just driven into traffic and ended it all!" she said in total frustration.

She took a deep breath and exhaled. "God – I don't know why you're trying me today but I'm not a quitter. You've got to do better than this," she exclaimed, setting her jaw in a determined manner. "I will get to the office today!"

Beep, beep! A blaring horn startled her and, looking up, she saw the light had turned green. She waved at the driver, pushed off, and was soon covering the last few blocks to the office. She maneuvered the bike down the ramp into the parking garage and put it next to the elevator. It was 9:20. I've got ten minutes to get cleaned up and to the boardroom, she thought, entering the elevator and pushing the button for 8.

Exiting on the eighth floor, she hobbled to the lady's room. What confronted her in the mirror was almost too much to take in. Her hair was windblown, her face was dotted with perspiration, and she had a black smudge on her cheek. "Too bad! I made it and that's what matters!" The image seemed to agree and smiled back. She tucked in her blouse, wiped her face and patted her hair. She pulled off her good shoe and with a quick motion, tore the heel off. "You're too tall anyway," she accused the mirror with a smile.

She picked up her computer bag and, squaring her shoulders, she marched out and to the reception desk. "Ms. Meredith Johnson for Mr. Jenkins. I've a 9:30 presentation for the Board today."

"Yes, Ms. Johnson. One moment please." The receptionist picked up the phone and called. "Yes, Mr. Jenkins. Ms. Johnson is here for the meeting." A long pause followed as she busily began writing notes. "Yes, Mr. Jenkins."

Hanging up, the receptionist said, "Mr. Jenkins is terribly sorry. One of the Board members was ill and the meeting has been rescheduled for next Monday at the same time. He said he sent you an email and text. He apologizes for any confusion."

Meredith smiled, moved over to the waiting area and collapsed into an overstuffed chair. Thinking back over the events of the morning, she began smiling. The ridiculousness of the day soon had her giggling. After all the worry and obsessing over the presentation ... and then today! She couldn't help herself. Soon, she was choking back laughter, snorting as her eyes teared up. One thing she knew as she finally regained control and headed back to the bike - after today, the presentation was going to be a ride in the park! The thought made her start giggling again.

An entry in WDC's Short Shots: Official Contest  
Prompt: Image
Word Limit: 2,000
Word Count: 1,604

Thank you to the many who helped polish this! You're all angels.

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