A delivery by Madam Mia Barth, Matchmaker, Psychic Extraordinaire
Mother's Christmas Wish
By Madam Mia Barth, Matchmaker, Psychic Extraordinaire
When the pressure in her belly peaked, Nancy pulled her knees up and together, even tighter against the long body pillow pretending to be her lover. If the alarm doesn't go off soon, I'll need to get up or bust out the new sheets for the bed. The noise of the truck engine roared outside, its hydraulics hummed as the dumpster impaled on its lone steel arms rumbled, clunked, and thumped. Nancy's eyes opened with a start, as her half sleeping brain connected the rude sound and the concept of the time this racket usually occurred.
"Oh, shit... shiiiit, not again," she yelled, as her feet kicked at the covers and her eyes locked on the flashing alarm clock beside her bed. "No, not today, please dear God, why? What did I do to deserve this?"
She ran to the bathroom, after flushing, brushing, and a quick cloth over her face, she went to her closet. "Shit... I should have done some laundry instead of going to that stupid party."
She picked a dark wool skirt and slid on a white camisole before poking her arm through the sleeve of a pin striped linen blouse. Buttoned and tucked, she stepped in front of the mirror, brushed back her auburn hair from her face, applied too much mascara, drew on her lips, pinched her cheeks and poked in a pair of dangling earrings. Her phone in hand, she was out the door with her rolling sample case in tow.
Around the corner, she stopped at the regular coffee shop for her usual morning latte. With a tapping toe, she waited. Yeah, it figures, already late and having to settle for a coffee only breakfast. So, why should I expect quick service today? She quietly watched until she saw the server girl hand a coffee to a second customer who came in after her. Nancy looked at the back counter to see if someone else was working on her order and spotted a cup sitting there with her name scrawled big as life across the front.
"Excuse me, is that my latte, I've been waiting a while now, and I am late already." Try as she might, Nancy couldn't stop her face from turning up to the ceiling and the loud sigh, not yet a scream that followed.
The girl behind the counter looked up at Nancy, then scanned the room as if she needed permission to acknowledge her customer's complaint. Having received some invisible cue, she grabbed the latte cup and asked: "Are you, Nancy?"
"I have been ordering the same fuc..." she caught herself mid-sentence. Deciding her rant didn't get her the coffee any faster and said, "Yes... I'm Nancy. One medium mocha special."
The counter girl handed the drink over and went back to her next customer. Nancy spun on her heels, maneuvering her wheeled case behind her. She stopped at the entry, released her hold on the sample case to push open the heavy glass. With a toe holding the door open, she reached for the sample case with one hand, while she raised the coffee to her lips for a sip.
At that exact moment, another customer having sensed Nancy's hesitation pushed past to exit ahead of her. She bumped hard into Nancy who had re-started her exit. As a result of the harsh blow, Nancy's hand jumped upward and clenched. The ensuing bath of espresso, milk, chocolate, and creamed foam drenched the front of Nancy from her right shoulder, across her body, all the way to her toes. The entire cup splashed down the front of her.
Nancy screamed, "Oh for the love of Christ, you're a stupid bitch! I was here first; didn't you see me?" The woman who had bumped into her didn't turn around. No, she kept walking as if she didn't hear or understand someone was yelling at her. As the December cold rushed in over her, Nancy realized that she was not as unlucky as she first thought. "Shit on a biscuit, guess it's a good thing I didn't get my coffee on time. Because had it not been stone cold, I'd be scalded from head to toe," she yelled to everyone in the shop who now stared from around the room.
"Fuck me, I can't go to work like this. Why today?" She tossed the empty cup in the trash can and reversed her steps back to her apartment.
Now, came her frantic dig through the closet looking for something to wear in New York City the day before Christmas. But selection after the selection was either dirty or sleeveless summer wear. She stripped off the coffee stained clothes. Put on a new bra, it wasn't the best match for the only clean blouse she found that even halfway went with the short gray pencil skirt she was giving into. But the matching vest would cover most of the thin white silk. She stood in front of the mirror and knew the shoes she had on would not work either.
"Oh great, heels and snow that will work well. Okay, take your boots and change in the elevator once you get there," Nancy said, instructing her reflection.
She checked the time, "God Damn it," punched the app on her phone and ordered a cab for outside her building. A few minutes later, she is sitting stopped in traffic, still ten blocks from her appointment. She picked up her phone and dialed. But after the customer answered, the phone shut off, dead as the cockroaches in the back windowsill.
The cab driver's eyes cut to the rearview mirror as the cab rocked from the gyrations in the backseat. Nancy's arm flailed at the seat, in her hand the dead phone slamming the seat-cushion as if it were spiking a wayward vampire. "No... Not today... Sure, why would you have charged, the power was off?" she yelled at the black rectangle as if it were a disobedient child.
After struggling with her sample case to exit the elevator, she made her way to the floor to ceiling glass storefront at the end of the hall. Scrolled on either side of the of the double glass doors was the six-foot-tall Ascenea, LLC. logo. This was her test, getting The Ann Inc. chain to add The NYC & Co product lines to theirs. Tom, her new boss, called it a do or die mission, her first big chance in the fashion business. Nancy held the door for an oddly dressed woman coming out. Though Nancy managed a smile, the lady didn't seem to notice her and kept walking. The woman's face held down as she rummaged through a giant cloth handbag.
Once inside the office, the receptionist told Nancy that Mr. Jackson would be right out, he had only just finished an appointment. Sure enough, Richard Jackson appeared with his own case on wheels. He stopped at the desk, whispered instructions to the girl, handed her a stack of papers and moved to Nancy.
"Ms. Bloom is it? From NYC & C?"
"Yes, sir, my apologies for being so late. But it's been a trying morning. Thank you, for still agreeing to see me."
"Well, I have two meetings after this, and all scheduled next door at the Hyatt. If you still want a shot at our markets? I can just squeeze you in, but you must be quick, hold the usual BS and flirting foreplay for another time."
"Of course, I understand. I'll do my best to make things up to you. That's one thing I do well."
Once, they were in the hotel suite, Nancy noticed the fancy luncheon setting. "Oh, I see you have a lunch meeting planned. We can do this another time, and let me provide everything. I have a good entertainment package."
"Again, that's what I was told. But as you can see, I have little time. So, you can do your thing in here."
Nancy followed Jackson into the next room. He took off his coat and tossed it on the far bed. Then, Jackson stepped behind Nancy and pulled on her coat. It and the vest under slid off, as easy as if he were popping a pimple and she was the goo left on the surface of the mirror. After throwing the garments on the bed, he turned back to Nancy. She was leaning over retrieving items from her sample case.
"Jesus, the lady didn't lie. Those gams run from the floor... clean to heaven."
"Pardon me?" said Nancy as she straightened to stand in front of Jackson. The air in the room had turned thin, crisp, and sweet tasting. The lacy cowboy bra Nancy was wearing did nothing to hide her firm nipples from showing through the low-cut silk blouse she ended up wearing.
"I'll be a bug-eyed ball licker. Those may be the prettiest tits I've ever seen Ms. Bloom," Jackson moved up and started undoing the four buttons on her blouse.
"What the fuck are you doing?" Nancy brought her arms up, crisscrossing them over her chest.
"Your herald said you got this job by doing whatever it takes. Well, even if it's only a second chance to schedule a meeting this is what it takes... sweetie." Jackson grabbed the zipper on the side of Nancy's skirt ripping it down quickly, and the garment fell to her ankles. Jackson stood gawking at Nancy, and he rushed to undo his belt.
"No, stop, asshole! I'm not here to fuck you. I am only here on business..."
Jackson took advantage of Nancy's bending over to pick up her skirt. He pulled her onto the bed and slid on top of her lower legs. He yanked her bra up and exposed her breasts. His mouth opened, his face appeared much like a child about to stick a giant candy sucker in. He leaned down putting his mouth on Nancy's left breast. Nancy's hand reached the phone on the nightstand. As Jackson's lips latched, nursing her nipple, the phone receiver smashed his temple, then again, and yet a third time, Nancy hit Jackson as hard as she could.
The man moaned and rolled off to the side. Nancy rolled the other way falling off the bed to end up on the floor. She tried to get up, but a dizziness took hold, the room spun, and her head laid on the carpet, eyes staring at the dust bunnies under the bed.
When she came to, Nancy was naked on the bed with the coats, her head was pounding. The clock, now on the floor, read 4:30. Jackson was nowhere to be seen. There was blood on the sheets of the second bed. But no sign of Jackson otherwise.
"Awwwg... shit, what happened? How long have I been laying here? Where the fuck are my clothes?"
She found and put her bra back on. She grabbed her skirt, and blouse from the floor there was no sign of her panties. She scooped up her coat and grabbed the handle of her case. She was at the suite door when she heard Jackson puking, cussing and yelling at her from the suite bathroom.
"Bitch, what the fuck did you do to me? You're done, do you hear me? You'll pay big time for this."
Nancy said nothing, looking in the wall mirror beside the door, she rubbed her hand over her groin, there was no pain or any of the usual signs she'd had sex, she didn't see any bruises or marks on her body anywhere. Another round of moans, and puking made its way out from the bedroom door. Everything was foggy, nothing wanted to focus, her face wrinkled, her lips tightened over clenched teeth. And Nancy found the courage to speak, "You... What the fuck did you do to me? You whack-job... you drugged me, didn't you?" Nancy yelled toward the other room.
"Bitch... I'm the victim here, wait until they see what you did to my face. I'll see you in prison for the next ten fucking years... cunt."
Nancy's eyes cut from the bedroom doorway back to the mirror, and the memory of Jackson's bloody head and face appeared. Oh, fuck, who's going to believe me?
Out the suite door into the hallway, Nancy stopped for a second realizing she was wearing nothing but her bra. She put on her skirt and blouse the latter now buttoned and tucked it in she put on her coat. Her eyes locked on the elevator. That will take too long and what if the asshole calls down? The sign for the fire escape came into focus. She didn't stop running until she reached the bottom of the stairs. Only then, to read the sign that said, "Fire Alarm will sound when opened."
Nancy adjusted her clothes once more, and put on her shoes, the heels, she didn't know where her boots were. She took hold of her case and then pushed the door's crossbar handle. The horn blasted, and the lights flashed. Nancy walked calmly out to the street. After a four-minute walk, and a block away, police cars and fire trucks flew by. Nancy looked back down the road behind her. A policeman stood on the sidewalk as a man in a suit next to him pointed her way.
"Oh shit, I get attacked, and now, I'm the one going to get arrested. For what, defending myself, or for running away? Aaaahh, fuck this day."
Nancy quickened her pace and turned the corner. In the middle of the block she ducked into the first door, she came to. A neighborhood restaurant called The Wren. She pushed past a couple looking at a menu and went straight to a booth behind the short white wooden wall divider jetting out between the entry door and the back wall. She took off her coat and put it on top of her case, pushed it all under the table and sat down. When she saw the cop and the hotel security man outside the window. She ducked under the table. After a few seconds a woman, the waitress appeared next to the table.
"Can I help you, Miss?"
Nancy pulled her phone cord from her bag before sitting up. "Yes, sorry, I was looking for a place to plug in my phone charger, it's dead."
The waitress pointed to the wall at the side of the table. "It's there behind the wine list. What can I bring you, you must order something? The owner doesn't allow loitering."
"Is it too late to order breakfast, I missed my bagel this morning."
"Lady it's 4:30 in the afternoon, we will start dinner in thirty minutes. But there are a few bagels left is that what you want?"
"Please, with plain cream cheese and a glass of OJ would be great."
Once the waitress had left, Nancy plugged in her phone waited a minute to compose herself than with the phone cord dangling she dialed her boss's direct line.
"Nancy, what in the name of God did you do? I just got off the phone with the cops. They're looking for you. They said you attacked Dick Jackson, and you smashed his face in with a telephone before robbing him."
"What... He tried to rape me. I only hit him after he was on top of me in the bed."
"Wait... Wait! What were you doing in his bedroom?"
"It wasn't his bedroom. It was the Hyatt next door to their office. He had meetings scheduled there. I was trying to show him our line when he yanked off my clothes and threw me on the bed."
"Nancy, you said you just left him, your meeting was scheduled at 9:00 o'clock this morning. What were you doing in a hotel room with him at almost 4 in the afternoon?"
"I overslept, and then things went downhill from there. In the struggle in the hotel, I must have gotten knocked out. I only came to a few minutes ago. I ran from the hotel, but I haven't called the police yet."
"I'm sure that's what you should do, like I said, they are looking for you. Damn it, do you know what you've done? I can see the News headlines already; Fashion District's top buyer robbed in hotel room by NYC & Company-Sales Rep."
"That's not what happened. Jackson tried to rape me! But I said no."
"Why? If missing the appointment was your fault, and all he wanted was to bed you. What the fuck! How long have you been in the business? It's all part of this world. If you want the big contracts, you have to step up the game. Just like every other industry Rep in town does."
"You can't expect me to fuck them to get a contract, it's against the law!" and several heads turned in her direction as Nancy yelled into her phone.
"Oh, get real you... prissy little dumbass. You think you got the job because of your business degree. Here's a clue, fashion reps are all sexy females or muscled gays for a reason. And nobody gives a flying bucket of shit where you went to college."
"Fuck you, Tom. I'm calling the police, then my lawyer. I will sue the shit out of you and the company."
"If I were you, I would call the lawyer first. Make sure he reads your contract, more especially, the sections about arbitration and the personal conduct standards and exception provisions. I would also tell you, I understand lawsuits take a lot longer to work out when you are in jail. Oh... on that part, I need to protect the company. Nancy, you can drop your samples, cards, and any other company property off with the doorman. Cause you're fired." And her boss hung up.
The waitress returned with her bagel and juice. Nancy sat there silently contemplating her next move. Thirty minutes later she picked up the bagel. But after two bites, an urge to throw-up took hold of her. She sprung from her seat and headed for the restroom. After coming out of the stall, she washed her face only to discover her hair looked ratty and her makeup was smeared. She looked for her purse.
"Augh... No, oh shit... I left my purse on the table." The door of the restroom banged loud against the wall as she burst out into the restaurant and sprinted to her table. But there was nothing there but her check and her sample bag. Gone was her purse, phone, and coat. She looked up just in time to see, in the fading daylight, what looked like the back of her coat passing by on the sidewalk outside. She ran toward the front door hoping to catch the thief. But the waitress and a manager type guy stood in the way saying something about her paying her bill. Nancy bullied past them and ran outside. She paid no attention to the shouts behind her or the cold air surrounding her as she ran after the thief who she saw turn the corner at the end of the block.
"She yelled out stop... thief." Nancy missed the irony of the same chant being yelled behind her.
At the next corner, she saw the thief, yet again, disappear around the end of the building a block away. For two more blocks, Nancy followed the thief who had taken her purse and coat. Out of breath and shivering, she stopped and looked around trying to find a landmark to tell her where she was.
Realizing she had lost the thief to the darkness, Nancy stopped to catch her breath, leaning back against a store windowsill her head tipped back, her mouth opened wide, she waited for her scream to escape her lungs, but there was no sound beyond her gasping breaths. Her arms came up clamping around her head. She tried to scream, but there was not enough air. Her face cramped, winkled and contorted looking like a big red raisin. Her stomach churned, and she doubled over with the urge to puke. But like her tears, there was nothing, beyond a massive emptiness.
"Shit, everything's gone, in one fell swoop. Everything I've worked for, all my credibility, my reputation ruined. God only knows what the cops are going to do, how did it happen, how could the world conspire so completely against me? Damn it, it's almost as mom said. I'm naked and penniless out on the street. Hah... No, that's not right I won't be sleeping on a bench. Guess I get to spend Christmas in jail, claiming I didn't do anything wrong that I'm innocent."
A classic Silver Cadillac pulled to the curb, and the window rolled down, and a male voice called out, "You here to party? How much you charge, you got a Christmas special? "
Nancy turned away but caught her reflection in the storefront window. Her dis-shuttled appearance stood out. After running after her coat and purse, the hem of her short skirt had worked its way up, almost to her waist. Her legs and her snow wetted blouse clung to her as mostly see-through. Her appearance, told a story that any lust hungry man could read, no matter how thick his glasses. She again ran away, down the street to hide in a storefront entrance alcove.
Nancy leaned back her full weight against the door with her arms
wrapped around herself. Now, the tears found their way out. She
tipped her head back trying to lessen the snot from running. The
door opened, and she fell backward crashing down in an avalanche of
boxes, and she landed on top of the man who had pulled the door
She said, "I'm sorry, I didn't think you were open. I was just..." Nancy took a step back her face darting between the street and the man in the doorway. With her next limping step, she cried out, "Oh, fucking hell... when I thought it could not get any worse." She pulled up her foot to take off her shoe to examine her broken heel and started crying again.
The fellow stood there in the dark doorway his packages scattered while the heat from the store pushed out to swirl with the cold of outside to form a misty cloud. He made a closer examination of the woman and decided she wasn't a robber. But his next thought surprised him. Holy shit, she kind of looks like that Pretty Woman actress, Julia something. What the hell is a streetwalker doing out in December without a coat?
"Are you a working girl?" he said, his wrinkled brow punctuated his question.
"Haa... Well, I was gainfully employed, up until an hour or so ago, before I was raped, fired, robbed and left on the street almost naked without a dime to my name." Nancy now shivered uncontrollably and started to turn back toward the street. "Sorry, I didn't mean you any trouble mister. I'll be going."
The man kicked the packages aside and in two quick moves scooped up Nancy in his arms and took her inside. He carried her to the back counter and stood her beside a highbacked chair.
"Okay, what has happened to you? Should I... do I need to call the police?"
Shivering uncontrollably, she replied with blue cheeks and lips, "What are they going to do? It's Christmas Eve, and they think I beat up and robbed a man. They're just going to throw me in a cell. Though that may be better than the street tonight. I am in hell... literally in fucking Hell."
The sandy-haired man took off his coat. "Here... it'll be big on you, but it will keep you from freezing to death."
"Oh no, I couldn't take your coat."
"It will be okay, I have another in the back." He gave the long Bally Cashmere a shake as if taunting a bull. "Tell me, what has happened... how can I help?"
She gave in to her chattering teeth, limbed out lopsided on one barefoot. She stopped, bent her leg up and took off the remaining high heel then slid into the coat. It still warm from being on the man, it was like crawling into a spa hot-tub. But that wasn't what caused the explosion in her brain. It was his cologne, Oh, god damn it, now I know I'm going crazy, but how could it... she had whiffed the unknown scent out of the blue for weeks. Without anyone in sight, she'd turn a corner and walk into an invisible cloud of the earthy aroma of oakmoss and birch topped with vanilla, jasmine, and pineapple. It screamed to her senses of strength, power, and decadence.
Nancy's hand pulled the coat lapel up to her nose, and she inhaled deeply. "What is this cologne it seems familiar, but I have never known anyone who wore it."
"Creed Adventus. It was a gift from my mother. She was assured it would catch more girls than flies. But so far you are the only one ever to notice it. Though, I have only been wearing it for a couple of weeks."
He looked at her standing there barefoot, in summer clothes and a twinge tickled... no, better said, it bit at his side. The corners of his mouth reached for his ears, he returned to the store entrance, picked the packages off the floor and kicked the shop door closed with his toe.
He returned to the sales counter set down the packages and turned on the desk lamp before he said, "Okay, let's see what we can do to help you out."
"Thank you, I swear, I have never had a day like today. Guess that's what I get for..."
She let her voice trail off as she took her first good look at the man. Oh shit, he looks like he could be Blake Sheldon's younger brother. Her hands subconsciously pulled at the coat to hide what was underneath.
He asked, "What made things so bad?"
Around them, the store mannequins seemed to dance, a result of their lively shadows movement. Cast from the flashing storefront display lights and the headlamps of passing cars. Even though the pair where the only ones there, the store came to life. Nancy was caught in a spell, the mesmerizing blue eyes of this man. In the dozen second that they locked on to her hazel green orbs. They said more than anyone could expression with ten-thousand words. The festive holiday lights and the store's cheery designs almost made Nancy forget her situation. Then he guided her to the chair and she sat.
"It's going to be okay, I promise, tell me what happened."
For the next ten minutes, Nancy recounted her day. Her oversleeping, the coffee fiasco, the dead phone, the come on and near-rape by Dick Jackson. She tells him of her firing, her stolen coat, and purse, the attempted pickup by some sex pervert and to top it off, like a big cherry on a shake, she broke the heel on her best pair of shoes.
The man took the shoe from her hand and looked at it. He scanned the floor around them and said, "Do you have the heel? Maybe I can fix it." He inspected the inside of the shoe.
"Oh, these are Aldo. Comfortable but not all that expensive, not worth the repair bill."
"Hey, 100 bucks is not the cheapest on the shelf either."
"Come with me," he said and held out his hand. He pulled her up and led Nancy to the other side of the store.
"Please forgive being in the dark. I don't want to turn the lights back on, or we'll have a dozen last-minute shoppers banging on the door. You will just have to trust me."
He grabbed items off the hanging racks, then packages from a counter drawer, then from three aisles over he called out, "Sorry, I forgot to check, what size shoe do you wear?"
She replied, and when he returned, he put the arm full of items down on a table and pointed to the small cubical behind her.
"There's the changing room, try these on."
"Didn't you hear me before? The bastards stole my purse, I can't pay for anything. Hell, no doubt they have drained my bank account and maxed out my credit cards by now too."
It's Christmas Eve, there's no place to use the cards. But I'll make a deal with you. I am late for dinner with my mother. It's only her second Christmas since my father died. I can't leave you here in that skimpy outfit. Come Tuesday, they'll find you frozen on my sidewalk, like a big blue popsicle. Here's the proposal; Change into those, come with me to my Mother's and have dinner with us. Afterward, I will take you home, and the new clothes are on me, a gift or payment for helping me out with my Mother's expectations."
From the dressing room, a couple of minutes later, Nancy said, "This dress.... it's a SIRENE, their Black Scallop, they're $500 bucks."
"$539.00 retail, but we sell it for $270," said the man.
"And these shoes... Are they Jimmy Choo?"
"Yeah, so what. the bag is too."
"I can't afford these, I got fired, and even if the thieves that stole my handbag haven't cleaned out my bank account. I don't have a job, my rent is due next week, and my refrigerator is as empty as a bird's nest in December."
"Are you trying to back out of our deal? I mean... you keep your end up, and I'll keep mine."
She stepped out of the dressing room. Even in the dim lighting, with wild hair and a smeared face, she could tell the image in the full-length mirror was gorgeous. She looked at the man, his face reaffirmed her conclusion, it beamed, his surprise, punctuated as his left eyebrow rose an inch higher than the right.
"Do I look okay, I mean is this an image you can take home to your mother? It seems sexy, maybe not as slutty as what I had on. But still, it's..."
"It's perfect..." he said interrupting her, "You look better than any of the models in the store's catalog. Though, maybe you'll want to find a hairbrush and check out our makeup counter."
"That bad is it" I don't normally wear much, just that today was supposed to be a huge deal and I... Well, I already told you what happened." Nancy finished wiping her face with the damp cloth brought to her. She looked in the mirror on the counter and decided that just some lipstick was all she should dare, her eyes still looked puffy to her. When she had finished she stepped from behind the counter, and she said, "You know, if you moved this counter to the front of the store you would get more sales."
"We sell clothes. The makeup and other stuff are just accessories."
"Yes, but women will splurge on a bit of makeup when they aren't sure about the dress. And then nothing draws a woman in like seeing a gaggle of other gals congregating in one place. So, at the front of the store, visible from the street, four or five women at the counter is like a giant magnet for the ladies passing by on the sidewalk."
"But we sell Men's clothing as well, we would lose a lot of display area."
"Ha-ha, men don't shop, they usually know what they want before they enter any store. Besides, I would bet a months' worth of paychecks that half a dozen attractive women at your front door will garner a lot more attention from the men on the street than any suit you have."
"A month's worth of paychecks, I thought you said you were fired?"
Nancy's lips twisted she tried to pout, but could not contain the laugh... "Ha-ha... Well, I am sure that even the prison laundry is going to pay something."
He held up a coat for her to put on.
"Wait that's a Mesange IB, it's an $800 coat... with the shoes, dress, and underclothes you'd be out almost three-grand, this is too much."
"Look, I am already late; my mother is expecting me. And I was dreading letting her down. You know, not bringing a date. So please, can you shut up about it and let's get going? I'm good for it... I swear. Besides, you haven't met my mother yet. Before the night's over you may ask for double what you have on."
In his car, a Ferrari Pininfarina, she asked, "What is your mother going to say when you bring a complete stranger into her house?"
"Well, that's another part of this crazy encounter of ours. You see when I asked my mother what I could get her for Christmas. She said the only thing she wanted was to see a pretty girl on my arm. So, if you will play along, we can help each other out of a tight spot."
Nancy was quiet for a few seconds as she watched his azure eyes switch between her face and the road as he drove while waiting for her answer.
"Well, it might help if we knew each other's names, don't you think?"
"Ha-ha, Oh my god, how stupid of me. I am Vince St. James."
"St James... oh shit. That was the store. Are you... You are..."
"Yes, it was my father's first store, but after he passed, I took over running the company for my mother. But, I am afraid I'm not great at it, with seventeen locations scattered across the country we need someone with more industry savvy to manage the entire chain. Unless we sell out, which I have suggested to mother several times."
"I am Nancy Bloom. I'm not related to anyone rich or famous. Until earlier today, I was just a wholesale Rep for New York & Company. You know; the Gabrielle Union, Eva Mendes lines and Soho Jeans. And please don't sell. Family chains are the backbone of the industry. Without them, the big box stores would decimate the fashion world. They don't care about art and style. They only care about how cheap something can be made."
"Oh, a fashion Rep that explains how you know your garment names so well. Where do the ideas for things like moving the makeup counter come from?"
"I did my undergrad work at FIT. My major in Fashion Business Management and a minor in Fashion design. However, I switched to Columbia for my MBA though I guess today's events don't show much use of the brains my daddy gave me."
"What did your father do for a living?"
"I'm from Illinois, big-time corn country. Daddy sold tractors and combines. He was a great salesman even though he didn't have a minute spent in a classroom past his senior year of high school. But people knew they could trust him. Growing up in his house had its challenges, he never lied to his customers or anyone else, about anything. Can you imagine a salesman that never lies?"
"Sounds like a pretty nice way to grow up."
"Until you start taking an interest in boys. You see that's the thing about someone who never lies, they know when they are being lied too. It's like some magic polygraph is wired to their ass. So, when you come in late, there is no need to try the old we ran out of the gas story."
"My dad didn't go to college either. Hell, he didn't even finish high school he learned his trade in the shops and became one of the best tailors in NYC. His thing was quality if it isn't right you do it over, no matter what."
"You know, I think I met your father once. Two years ago, at a show during Fashion Week. It was the last one held in Damrosch Park. I was interning for the Mercedes producers. Before a friend of mine got Kanye West to put in a word at NYC and CO after he took over production of the show."
"That was his last show, his heart just gave out we didn't even know he had a heart problem."
They arrived at Vince's mother's condo. Vince stopped Nancy in the hall outside the door.
"Look, I know this will seem strange. But please, play along for tonight, you don't have to do anything else after this is over. I'm just trying to make this Christmas not as sucky as it was last year. You will not believe me when I tell you I was dreading the visit. But just before opening the shop door. I had said a prayer asking for a miracle. Then, wham... you fall onto me like an angel dropped from heaven."
"Hah... I assure you, I am no Angel. Hell, even now, the police may be looking for me."
"Don't worry about that tonight, we can sort it out tomorrow, I know guys at the Sixth, 10th and One PP too. Hell, about half the Deputy Commissioners buys stuff from us."
They stood staring into each other's eyes. Vince was on the verge of leaning in and kissing Nancy when the door opened, and his mother popped out all giggles and happy.
"Vinny, you made it. And you brought someone with you. Oh, and she's quite comely too. Good thing your father isn't here, or I'd be spending the evening beating him off her."
"Mother please, we only just met. This is Nancy Bloom, she's a Rep for NYC & CO. I tricked her into coming so you wouldn't spend the whole evening lecturing me about needing a love life."
"Come in, come in... join the party."
"Thank you, Mrs. St. James. My family is all back in Illinois, and it is very kind of you and Vince to save me from a cold, lonely night."
"Nonsense, I say. We can't have the prettiest gal ever to step over this threshold speaking of such depressing topics. Be merry, sing a few songs, get drunk and make love until the new year has rung in."
"Oh, for Christ's sake, Mother. Please, it's just a date, and there may not be another if you don't stop scaring the poor girl."
"Hah... Nancy, my dear girl, please, forgive an old woman her glee. But you are the first women he's brought here in over three years; his father and I were thinking he was gay."
"Holly shit, Mother!" Vince turned to Nancy "Look see what you've started. Mother for the last time, I am not fucking gay..." then Vince caught himself, he stood up straight let out a deep sigh "See, I told you. You didn't know what was coming." And he stepped through the door passed his mother and headed for the bar.
"It's okay, Vince," said Nancy as he passed. "It looks like your mother already tested the punch before we got here. And it would be just my luck if the best-looking fellow I've met in years was gay, not that that's bad or anything, I mean..."
"Right... right, come in Nancy, I am Beth, just like your grandmother. Your party is just getting started."
When Nancy reached Vince, she grabbed him by the arm, and whispered, "Vince... how did she know my grandmother's name was Elisabeth? And what does she mean by... my party?"
"Forget about it. It's nothing more than a crazy parlor game. And nobody uses Beth, everyone calls her Bee."
Drinks in hand they entered the great-room of the festively decorated condo. There was Christmas music playing, and dozens of voices fell silent when Vince and Nancy rounded the corner. A chorus of people of Bee's generation stood in waiting.
"They're here everyone. And look... it worked! I told you it would... Mia Barth has her mother's Romanian blood for sure," said Bee to the room full of people.
Everyone greeted Nancy and Vince. Some hugged the girl as if she were a long-lost child. Bee was not the depressed woman Nancy was expecting. No, she was walking on air, bouncing from one group of friends to the next. The entire evening went on filled with music, songs, mirth, and frivolity.
After three hours, Nancy found herself on the patio looking out over the city. Vince spotted her and went out to stand beside her.
"It's cold for this view, no matter how breathtaking it seems," said Vince
"Sorry, I needed a minute alone, just a few seconds of not telling someone my life story, or having to repeat how we met. Which we didn't talk about beforehand, so I told them the truth."
"No, I'm the one who should apologize, I did not know my mother had this ambush planned. I thought we were just having a quiet dinner. I didn't know she had seen her gypsy again."
"Yes, after my father died, she went to this Psychic, and she swears by the woman and her crazy predictions. Most of these people here tonight are family friends she has dragged down to meet her Gypsy."
"Oh, that explains a lot,"
Vince looked at Nancy, his brow rose, and head tilted a millimeter to the side.
"I kept getting asked if I liked children and if we were planning to stay in the city? It was as if they had already attended the wedding and we had just gotten back from the honeymoon."
"Sorry, this Gypsy is good, she has everyone convinced. I almost fell for her game myself ."
"Oh, how so?"
"When we met earlier at the store, I wasn't kidding about having said a prayer. Mother had told me that her Gypsy had predicted I would have a wife by the New Year. She is obsessed with the idea of needing to see me married with children before she dies. Insisting that I had promised my father. So, as I was heading out, I prayed that something would get my mother to stop pestering me about finding a wife. Then, I opened the store door, and you fell in and when a saw you..."
"When you saw me what?"
"Shit, you will think I'm crazy. But you look very much like the person mother described from her Gypsy's so-called vision."
"Hah... I knew it, she has put some kind of voodoo on me. I knew it, nobody has as much bad luck as I've seen today. This is the worst fucking day ever."
Vince's brow sunk, and small wrinkles formed at the corners of his mouth. Nancy knew her statement had stung.
"I didn't mean all of it. As crazy as it seems. I've had a good time this evening." Oh my God! That was true. What if all this was designed so I could meet this guy, this one man who has everything I could dream of. Oh shit, he probably is gay. The last thought sent a chill through her core, and a shiver rolled over her as if she had plunged into the Hudson.
Vince couldn't help seeing the tremor. He opened his coat and pulled Nancy in close against his chest and wrapped the fleece lined panels around her. They stood still for a moment before he apologized once more for all the troubles of the day.
Flakes of snow started to fall, and both looked up at the sky through the pergola covering the patio. It was then that Vince noticed a dozen clumps of Mistletoe hanging all around them. His eyes cut back to Nancy's who after a long second said.
"Well, we agreed to play the part tonight, and your mother went to a lot of trouble."
Nancy rose on tiptoe as Vince leaned in to kiss her. When Vince sensed no rush to end the kiss, he pulled Nancy tighter into his arms, and she responded by letting her tongue slip between his lips. Vince allowed his right hand to move up her back until it was behind her neck and with his left around her waist, he lifted her off her feet. Nancy's body melted into his, and she let out the soft moan as her arms wrapped around his neck. Five minutes later and the patio door opened, it was Vi... Bee's best friend.
"Oh, there you are, we've been looking for you two lovebirds. It's time for some of us to be on our way. You should come say goodnight."
"Sure Vi, we'll be right there," said Vince. Though, he did not release his hold over Nancy nor did she let a single muscle flinch while in his embrace. Once Vi went back inside Vince kissed Nancy again only this time it was his tongue searching Nancy's mouth. After three minutes they stopped, and Vince let Nancy slowly slide down the front of him until her feet touched the floor once more.
"I guess we should see them off and I have to get you home like I promised."
They slipped apart and turned toward the doors neither noticed the stir of the blinds as they started back inside. They stood at the door saying goodnight to Bee's guests, and when almost everyone had gone, Vince turned to his mother.
"Mom, I need to get Nancy home. So, we need to go."
Vince and Nancy left heading for the elevator. They couldn't see Bee enter the condo's kitchen. Where she handed a large thick envelope to a woman dressed in dark colors with a huge scarf tied around her head.
"You are amazing Mia. Everything is as you predicted, how do you do it?"
"My dear friend, I do nothing, it is fate that guides. I simply tell you what I see on her path. And yes, there will be grandchildren soon." The woman stuffed the envelope inside her blouse and reached out taking Bee's hand. She turned it palm up and ran her fingers over the lines and creases. "Yes, I see many blessings, much more than the flourish of fabric will appear with the next Harvest Moon."
The Woman left the condo taking the back elevator. Leaving out the back door she walked to a long, classic, silver Cadillac and got in. She took out the envelope, and her thumb fanned through the five bundles of hundred-dollar bills.
The man sitting behind the Caddie's steering wheel asked, "You going to send back her purse and coat?"
"Hah... Are you kidding, and miss seeing the look on her face when she discovers she doesn't have a key to get in her apartment? Oh, my, where ever is she to sleep tonight."
"And your predictions to the mother?"
"If you replaced the box in his nightstand as I instructed, then we are right for twice this amount by the end of spring. And come September when they tell her the child's name. Triple again, the old mother will offer--for a second grand blessing from the Great Madam Mia Barth."
"What about Jackson?"
"Screw that pig. Big Dick Jackson deserved what he got, I am sure once he gets a look at the video we shot. He'll be more than happy to drop everything, including the twenty grand we will ask for the photographic art."
"I still don't understand why he was so quick to believe the lies you told about her.
"Hah, Jackson was easy; his brains were in his pants. He believed every word I suggested about my NYC & CO competitor. No, the hard thing was getting all those cologne squirts times correctly."
"You know it's only luck that the happy gas got them before he raped her."
"Yes, we will have to be more careful before we use that nitrous thing again. But the Propofol worked just as it was supposed to. And they don't remember a thing."
"Why all the pictures?"
"You would rather he gets off Scott free? This way she is covered, he pays for his actions only instead of paying the state he pays us."
"I guess that's fair since it was us who set him up."
"Now, get going. But not too close. I don't want Ms. Bloom to recognize me from this morning's run-in at the coffee shop."
"Yeah, it was close this morning you almost collided with her a second time leaving her boss's office. Oh, here. I forgot to give you her phone back. And later, do you want me to put the batteries back in her alarm clock?"
"No, if we... I mean, Madam Barth, has cast her matchmaking spell correctly she won't be sleeping there anymore. Nope, Ms. Nancy Bloom will soon assume the role of Mrs. Nancy St. James... VP and Director of Operations for all 17 Saint James Inc. Clothiers. And Oh heavens, the look on her mother-in-law's face when she sees the story in Cosmopolitan. About how the new Mrs. St. James balances her duties between the business, her three children and her loving husband, who serves as the Chairman of the family-owned company. It will be priceless, I promise."
"And they all live Happily ever after," said the man?
The Woman again thumbed a stack of Hundred-dollar bills, this time holding the money under the man's nose as he drove. "I'm happy... How About You?"
"Yes, I see it now... We all lived very Happily Ever-after.