This is the continuation of an ongoing fiction work I started years ago. If you want to read from the beginning, click “Kissing Frogs so Far” on the tab above the header.
Joey nervously brushed his work boots against the door jam before stepping on the rich plush carpet he saw stretched out in front of him. He had never been to a country club before, and the idea of it had managed to be much smaller than the reality.
“Meet me at my club. Joanna will get you the address.” Was all Edward MacManus had said, and then he had hung up. What he was supposed to do and where he was supposed to go once he had parked his work truck in the same lot as those sleek sports cars and fancy SUVs was still a mystery to him.
“Joey? Joey!” The call came from somewhere to his right, and he was bumping into the speaker before he saw her as he turned to find the voice.
“Joanna? What are you doing here?” He was so relieved to see a familiar face. Joanna smiled up into his confusion.
“Tracey and Edward are still talking some things through, so Edward asked me to make sure you were found. It’s quite the maze, isn’t it? Come on. They’re on the patio. Are you still hungry? The brunch buffet is still being served.”
She was chattering along seamlessly, but noticed Joey’s hesitation at her suggestion of brunch.
“Oh. It’s on Edward. He said to make yourself comfortable.” She grinned at Joey, “And he told me to join you. I’m starving. Let’s eat.”
Her relaxed enthusiasm was contagious, and as Joey followed her through a startlingly lush lobby, across a marble courtyard and out to a walled garden, he relaxed and began to look around him in curiosity. Before he knew it, the two of them were sitting at a small table on the periphery of a beautiful garden restaurant. The plate in front of him was a collection of anything Joanna had indicated with “That’s delicious!” He doubted his ability to consume it all, now that he really got a good look at how much was there.
Sitting in a booth close enough to see them, but far enough that he couldn’t hear, Tracey and her father were locked in a firm, but seemingly friendly, discussion.
“So you and Tracey are okay after that reprimand yesterday?” Joey managed to squeeze the words out between bites of the best food he had ever eaten in his life. He suddenly felt the need to apologize to his mama for even thinking it, but it was true!
“Well, it’s not the first time we’ve had a falling out over a man.” Joanna’s flippant words were not matched in her tone, and Joey let the silence hang long enough that she knew he wasn’t buying it. She looked down at her plate and then started again.
“I’ve known Tracey since before either of us can remember. We go a lot deeper than this. We’re okay.”
“So you’re not fired?”
Joanna laughed, “She can’t fire me. I don’t work for her.”
Joey’s confusion was evident on his face, even with all the chewing.
“I work for her Daddy. I have for years.”
As Joey seriously considered licking the hollandaise sauce from his plate, Joanna spun her tale.
“Mr. Edward is a salesman. He always has been. You’ve heard about guys who could sell ice to Polar bears? Well Mr. Edward could sell those guys ice. He just wasn’t so good with the details like where the ice was coming from and how it would be delivered. When things were good, they were rolling in success, but things weren’t always good, and twice they were so bad the entire family moved into my family’s basement for six months with only two suitcases between the five of them.
The first time it happened, Tracey and I were eight. It was like the best slumber party ever that didn’t stop. We convinced almost everyone at school that we were sisters. We did everything together. I cried when they moved into an apartment the next summer, but Tracey and I stayed close, and even years later we would be asked if we were sisters or cousins.
The second time Mr. Edward hit rock bottom was six years later, and it was a completely different experience. Everyone was older, and the bankruptcy hit harder. Tracey’s oldest brother was planning to go to college, but there was no money for tuition. She and her second brother had to drop out of everything from tennis and music lessons to school clubs. She would leave the house twenty minutes early to walk four blocks and get on the bus in a different neighborhood, just so no one would see us living in the same house. She kept a notebook of what clothing combinations she wore so that she could rotate as many top/bottom combinations as possible so that it looked like she owned more clothes. And she hated her father.
That time the recovery wasn’t so easy. No one wanted to hire a two time loser, and he was completely out of next big ideas, until he realized that politics was all about selling, and very little about delivery. He ran for state representative in an off year by-election and won, and he has never looked back.”
Joey was watching Edward and Tracey over Joanna’s shoulder as this tale was being told. They were wrapping up their conversation, and Tracey was smiling and even laughed once. He looked back at Joanna.
“So how come you work for him?”
“My degree is in economic development. Every summer I would intern for Mr. Edward in some political capacity or other, but the place I shone was community involvement. I found places where he could step in with a little money and some hand shaking, and build some good will and political capital. Thing is, what I did better than the other interns was finding him projects that would actually last. I wasn’t bringing him playgrounds and overpasses, so when I graduated he hired me. My title is “Constituent Economic and Commerce Developer,” which is a real mouthful. I don’t use it much. Sophia publishing is one of my projects, but Tracey only agreed to head it up if I was her contact, not her father directly. So I work for Edward from a desk at Sophia and because I love everyone involved I also answer the phones and send emails and occasionally fetch coffee and the like. It seems to work for us.
Anyway, it all means that I’ll probably still be working with you pretty closely if you take this next project because that’s one of mine too.”
She swallowed some of her breakfast, then glanced at her phone.
“Oh darn! I’m running late for fight club. Just sit tight here until Edward and Tracey are done. Sorry to leave you hanging. I hear the coffee is really good.” The last sentence was hollered over her shoulder as she dashed out the door.