(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.)
Joanna joined them in the hall, quietly closing the door behind her before speaking.
“When I asked if you could wait in her office, she said it was fine, but it’s a pretty important call with the printers, so maybe keep it as silent as possible?” Joanna was almost apologetic in the suggestion, but both men nodded in understanding and hesitated at the closed door as Joanna headed back to her lonely desk.
“Do we just go on in?” asked Joey, despite Joanna’s assurances.
Jack just shrugged, and quietly unlatched the door, opening it enough to slip through, but no more. Tracey’s voice rose through opening, startling Joey into action.
“So you would agree that the words “princess” and “goddess” would be fairly important to the overall message of the book?”
Joey joined Jack, closing the door as quietly as his friend had opened it, and lowered himself into the one of modern leather chairs sitting across from Tracey’s desk. She didn’t even glance up at them, but the general level of total disgust wafted from her like cologne off a middle school boy.
“Good. We both agree. Princess and Goddess are integral words to the book. So explain to me then, why every single instance of the word “goddess”- all 397 of them – that appears in the digital manuscript has been magically transformed into the word “gaudiness” in the print edition sitting on my desk right now?”
There was a brief moment of silence in which Jack and Joey dared not make eye contact, and then Tracey erupted once more.
“I don’t care if your spell checker is HAL 9000! There is just no excuse for this sentence getting past your quality control: ‘Jennifer, the time has come. In three days you will have your birthday ball, and when the clock strikes midnight, you must decide: will you become a princess or a gaudiness?’ The digital edition should never have been edited at all after final approval. This is completely unacceptable! . . .”
The rant continued, understandably, thought Joey. The poor woman had banked a significant gamble on this book and she was sitting two weeks from the release date with boxes of unusable editions. Feeling empathy, however, did not stop the men from feeling completely awkward. They sat there, rooted in place by mutual embarrassment, wishing they were somewhere, anywhere, else, while simultaneously feeling that leaving would just make things worse.
“So they just walked in uninvited and then sat there through the entire discussion?” Andrew had a more sardonic expression than usual as he listened to the story of Tracey’s afternoon.
They were sitting in a fenced courtyard as they had three evenings a week, eating grilled salmon with sweet potato fries and grilled vegetables. It was delicious, and Tracey had given up wondering where the meals came from. She would just eat and enjoy the one-on-one time with the most private man in radio.
“What did they need that was so important they couldn’t wait at Joanna’s desk?” asked Andrew as he meticulously flaked a portion of his salmon.
“A key to the building.”
Andrew halted his excavation and looked up at her.
“It’s for the work on the electrical they are supposed to begin tomorrow,” answered Tracey, almost sorry she’d brought it up.
The problem was that they’d been asking for a key for two weeks, since before the plumbing weekend, but she had no key to give them. Her father owned the building – and the entire business, until she could pay off that loan he’d floated her – and there were only three keys. He refused to get the depression era locks changed – something about character – so she couldn’t even get another key cut, and dear daddy was a miser about access to his real estate.
“The last thing I need is to get a call from a local police force informing me that my building has been used for a rave,” he told her when she mentioned that she’s hired a repair crew.
“Daddy, I’m thirty-two. My friends aren’t throwing raves, they’re having babies and buying SUVs,” Tracey had responded.
“No one thinks their friends are throwing raves dear.” And the conversation was over. Joanna, the only other trustee of a key, had helped out last weekend, but she was supposed to be at some sort of tournament or other this weekend and couldn’t help out.
“It’s just a security issue,” said Tracey, waving it off to Andrew, and wishing she could convince herself.
“I’ll look after that for you. You have enough on your plate with your incompetent printers.” Andrew reached over and drew one finger down her jaw.
“All I know is that Dr. Faulkner hired us to do security for the weekend while the building is being renovated.”
Joey was staring at a very large man in a cheesy “rent-a-cop” uniform. He looked at Jack, who shrugged.
“Yeah. I’m as stumped as you are. I sure prefer Joanna and muffins.”
So did Joey, but he couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong with Tracey. This just felt off. Suddenly Joey felt a hand on his shoulder and looked up to see Will, his friend and Sunday school teacher, and occasional employee on jobs like this one.
“Hey, it’s not on you. Let’s just do exemplary work this weekend.”
Joey smiled and hefted two boxes of wire onto his shoulders and into the building.