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Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Contest Entry · #2188490
And the mistake could be the best thing that happened. Winner, Cramp!
"I think I'm going to make a real mistake. I love it."

Sheila looked up. Anita was watching her anxiously. "Sit down, Anita, don't keep standing there."

"Won't sit," Anita muttered. "Can't see your expression. from there."

Sheila laughed. "You trying to read my mind?"

"Yes."

"And what is your current reading telling you?"

"It's your eyes. They're saying that you're deliberately going to choose wrong. Make a mistake on purpose."

Sheila put the papers down on the desk. Her expression changed -- from laughing, to thoughtful, to frowning. She looked up at Anita, towering over her, taking in the carefully conditioned black curls, the dark red lipstick against the brown skin, the care with which the eye make up had been applied. This was important to Anita. Anita was wearing her best navy-blue pant-suit, and had obviously spent hours dressing for the occasion.

Sheila smoothed down her T-shirt.She was in a T-shirt and jeans. She hadn't even ironed them. "Look at us," she blurted.

"I know," Anita replied, not bothering to pretend she didn't understand. They'd been working too closely with each other for too long, for pretence. "I'm all dressed up and you're not. But I'm not going to kid myself that this isn't important to you, too." Anita now took the chair opposite Sheila, sitting carefully so as not to crumple her clothes.

"It is important."

"Yes, that's what I said. So if you're planning to make a deliberate mistake, it's going to be something that looks like a mistake at the outset, but turns out to be a stroke of genius in the long run."

"How well you know me!" Sheila threw back her head and laughed.

"So out with it. Penny for your thoughts. Or rather, three million dollars for your thoughts. That's what's riding on this."

"So ... " Sheila leaned toward her friend, and for a moment, the red curls touched the black, and the blue eyes gazed into the brown. Then she leaned back again and continued. "You know how the vote seems to be hung in the balance. Equal numbers."

"Of course I know," Anita's tone was tinged with impatience.

"And you know that as chairperson, I get two votes, should there be an equal split. I get the decider."

"Get to the point."

"We've had seventeen applicants, we've narrowed it down to two ... we've going to vote on one or the other."

Anita didn't bother to reply. She raised an eyebrow, and waited for Sheila to continue.

"Well -- " Sheila finally went on. "Well -- Anita -- both my votes are going to neither of those two. I've decided to vote for the candidate currently at #14 on the list, actually. Anita? Anita?"

Sheila stood up quickly, strode around the desk and grabbed at Anita to steady her. She held her steady for a few moments, then poured out a glass of water from the jug on the desk and helped her take a few sips.

"But ..." Anita finally managed to gasp. "Sheila ... the members of the board, the press, the TV channels ...I mean - I'm addressing a press conference right after the meeting, it was going to be announced which of two ..."

"Not which of two. Which of seventeen."

"Two, Sheila, two. And #14? I don't even remember who that is!"

Sheila picked up one of the papers from the desk. She waved it at her friend. Then she said, "Look at the bits I've highlighted."

"The essay on the first round? Where did you even pull that out from?"

"Never mind where I pulled it out from. It had been buzzing in my brain since we eliminated this application. So I pulled it out. Anita, please, look at the bits I've highlighted. Please."

"You want me to look at #14 when we're down to a split vote between candidate #1 and #2?"

"Please."

It was Sheila's turn to stand and try to read her friend's expression. Sheila's T-shirt was drenched with sweat before Anita finally looked up from the paper.

They gazed at each other.

Then, Anita smiled, and spoke. "You've convinced me," she told Sheila. "I think I'm going to make a real mistake. I love it. "
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