(This is a continuing series called “Kissing Frogs” posted every Friday. To get caught up, you can click the “Kissing Frogs . . . so far” link at the top of the page.)
Tracey walked back up the stairs in her bare feet. She liked the feeling of the cold concrete on her soles. This morning she thought she was going to have a bad day, but all in all it didn’t go too bad. Dr. Faulkner and Ms. Free had seemed open to her presentation. And the plumbing problem didn’t turn out to be much of a problem. She had always thought of Joey Dreus as a bit simple. But he was charming in a back woods kind of way, and there was no doubt that she could trust him.
It was 2:30. She had fifteen more things on her “To do” list for today, and a couple left over from last week. Her to-do app had conveniently put an exclamation point beside them to mark them overdue. She had eight phone messages to return, and her e-mail in box had a big read 54 beside it – although more than half of those would be SPAM. There was really only one thing to do.
“Joanna, I’m going for coffee. I’ve got my phone if you need to reach me.”
The coffee shop across the street had everything Tracey needed: a convenient location, free wi-fi and the best low-fat, sugar-free, ‘high octane’ mocha she had ever tasted. As she ordered, she took out her iPhone to check her e-mail thereby justifying standing in a coffee shop at 2:30 in the afternoon.
Tracey didn’t even look up. “Tracey.” They’d spell it wrong, everyone always did.
She was right. Most of the e-mail was SPAM, or solicitations to subscribe to some website or other full of promising young writers just waiting for their break. But wait, here was one from Dr. Andrew Faulkner. Why was he e-mailing her? How did he get her e-mail address?
Dear Ms. MacManus: (it read)
When I agreed to meet with you I had expected to find a dowdy, greying librarian in her late sixties, with eye glasses on a chain. I was completely shocked to be greeted by a beautiful, charming and obviously intelligent young woman. After thinking it over for several hours, I find I can’t shake the image of you, and I am writing to ask your permission to offer a token of my admiration. I have no further expectations in this, and a negative response will in no way damage the business relationship we are building.
“Low fat, sugar-free mocha with two extra shots for Tracey”
Tracey grabbed the cup without looking, and wandered out, across the street and back into her office building. She was still holding the phone in one hand, and the coffee in the other when she passed Joanna’s desk. Joanna looked from her computer.
“Honestly, I don’t know why you have to go to the coffee shop to check your e-mail. We have a perfectly good internet connection right here in this building.”
Tracey ignored Joanna, and instead put the phone down in front of her.
“Dr. Faulkner thinks I’m charming, beautiful and intelligent and would like to send me a token of his. . .” at this she checked the phone herself “. . . admiration.”
Joanna grabbed the small device, and read, and re-read the email for herself. Finally she looked up at Tracey.
“Okay, this is possibly the most romantic thing I have ever read. Please tell me that ‘No’ is not an option.”
Tracey found herself giggling like a school girl, and Joanna let out a little squeak, before jumping up and hugging her friend.
Before Tracey knew it, Joanna had responded with a very appropriate, and not too gushy “I would be honored”, and then had forwarded the e-mail to the six other women who worked in the fledgling company. Soon, Anne, the resident techno-geek, Diane in charge of shipping, Robin and Kristi who were heading up the proofreading department, Terri, the copyrighter, and Cori the firm lawyer who took contract and real estate cases on the side, were all sitting and chatting in Tracey’s office. Somehow some Krispy Kreme donuts showed up, and coffee from across the street for everyone else, and all work ceased.
This was the situation when a delivery boy arrived and hollered from Joanna’s desk. Joanna had him come directly to Tracey’s office, and when he arrived, all noise ceased. He was carrying an exquisite, and very expensive, bouquet of orchids. A collective gasp of delight came from the gathered women, and the delivery boy looked at them all nervously. He coughed and read Tracey’s name from the card, but by the time he did, everyone already knew they were the token of admiration from Andrew Faulkner.
Eventually everyone went back to work. But Tracey was in a bit of a daze for the rest of the day. She drove through a red light on the way home – fortunately the intersection was empty – and she drove away from the Wendy’s drive-through window without her change.
Her evening was like most of her evenings. She changed into her pajamas, and ate her salad and potato while watching NatGeo, and reading a manuscript. Stan was curled up beside her on the leather couch, and would periodically stand up and walk across the reading material just to remind her that she wasn’t alone. The clock ticked toward bed time, and she knew that eventually she would curl up in the big empty bed, and drift off into a mildly dis-satisfying sleep until her alarm went off and it was today, again. Well, not exactly today. It’s not everyday your college idol sends you orchids.
When the phone suddenly rang, Stanley jumped up and ran a few steps before stopping, delivering a withering glare at the offending instrument and curling up again.
Tracey was as shocked as her tortoiseshell companion. The first thought to run through her head was that it must be Andrew Faulkner. Who else would it be? And the thought, far from comforting her, made butterflies suddenly sprout from her esophagus to her belly button. On the third ring, Tracey had tamed her stomach butterflies enough to answer.
“This is Tracey.”
“I’ve been trying to fax this bid to you and I don’t think your fax machine is set to auto answer.”
“I’m sorry, who is this?” Tracey could taste the disappointment.
“Uh, it’s Joey Dreus. The plumber. . .”
“Yes, yes Joey. I know who you are, I just didn’t recognize your voice on the phone. I was expecting. . . I thought you were. . . I wasn’t expecting it to be you.” Now Tracey was flustered, embarrassed, disappointed, and mad at herself for being disappointed.
“So, is your fax machine . . .”
“Oh, uh, no. Joanna got tired of cleaning up the junk faxes every morning, so we set it to answer in the morning, and turn it off when we go home. Can you e-mail it?”
“Yeah, that’s even easier. Hey, is there a reason Joanna forwarded me that personal e-mail to you from radio talk guy?”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t even know she had your e-mail address. She sent it to everyone in the office, she must have put your address in that list.”
“No, it looks like the entire singles group got it.”
The groan began almost in her toes as she slid off the sofa and onto the floor. This was more than she could handle. “She is so fired, so fired, so fired!”
It was then that she heard the laugh. It was a contagious laugh, somewhere between a giggle and a comic book style ‘hee hee hee’. She couldn’t help but join in.
“I’m just kidding. I stopped by the office to drop off the quote and Joanna had to tell me the whole story. She dared me to call. I’ll say this for the guy: anyone who asks a woman’s permission to send orchids has some class.”
“You have an evil sense of humor!” Tracey responded with vehemence dampened by her chuckle.
“I know. But seriously, I hope this works out for you.”
“Thanks Joey. I appreciate it. I’ll see you tomorrow?”
“Sure thing. Have a good night.” And he was gone.
The call had cheered her up. It had been a long time since someone had just laughed with her about something stupid. Everyone in her life wanted something. Even laughs came with a price tag these days. She sighed as she climbed into the big lonely bed. Maybe orchids came with reasonable expectations. I mean even Joey thought that was class. That had to mean something right?