Thunder echoed off the cavernous walls of skyscrapers, shaking the city like an old rag in the wind. Julanna worked the keys in the locks of her apartment as quickly as she could. The exit from the subway was less than half a block, but that had still been enough, in this downpour, to soak through her clothes, leaving her shivering, cold, and dripping water in the hallway. She gave a fleeting thought to mopping up the small puddle that had formed in front of her door, but decided against it, hoping that bothersome old Mr. Dreyfus might slip and fall to his death, or at least damage enough to keep him from stalking her.
Clothes started hitting the floor the instant the door was shut behind her and she was naked by the time she reached the towels in the bathroom. She turned the water in the shower on as hot as she could stand and stood under the stream until it started to cool. She then wrapped in a towel and made her way back to the living room, still wet, but feeling some better about the matter.
Passing by the phone, she saw the message light blinking, reminding her that even after five her work was not done. Pressing the play button, she stretched out across the bed waiting for the first message.
“Julianna, this is Kristi. I guess you know by now you left your umbrella in the cab. I have it here at the office. Not that it does you any good here, does it? Anyway, it will be here. I think it’s supposed to rain all week. You may want to bring hip waders, too, though not for the water. Bill’s back from his vacation. See you tomorrow!”
Julianna smiled. Kristi was a good enough admin, but not always quite as on the ball as she would have liked. She made a mental note to grab a copy of the Post in the morning, in case she needed a cover between the building and the subway.
“Julie, it’s Mom. Tory’s birthday is Saturday. You are coming, aren’t you? You’ve missed the past three years. I know you’re busy, but you’re hurting your brother’s feelings. I know you think Tory’s a skank, and, just between us, you’re probably right, but as long as Dave loves her …”
Mercifully, the machine didn’t allow long messages. Julianna winced at the thought of having to be in the same room with her brother’s wife. She and Tory had gotten off on the wrong foot from the beginning. Julianna was positive she had seen the young woman just the day before, standing on the subway platform locked lip to lip with someone who was definitely not her brother. She made a mental note to take her digital camera with her from now on, just in case she came across the bitch again.
“Hi, this is Karen Richardson at the Gotham Cancer Center. Our records indicate you’re due for another check-up. This is the fifth year since your surgery, so we’re going to want to run some tests while you’re here, make sure there’s nothing hiding from us. Please give me a call to set up your appointment. My number is … ”
Groan. Was it that time again, already? The colon cancer that had given her a scare five years ago had been caught in its early stages, thanks to an extra-diligent young female doctor with whom Julianna had fallen hopelessly in love. Unfortunately, though the cancer was in full remission, so was their relationship. The check-up was necessary, but there was no way the visit could be comfortable.
“Ms. Gartner, this is Lucas at the Freshman’s Deli. We have that special Virginia-cured ham that you requested. Just give me a call and I’ll have it sliced and waiting for you when you get here.”
Mmmmm. The sweet flavor of the Virginia-cured ham brought back wonderful memories of dinner at her grandmother’s in Norfolk. The particular brand her grandmother bought wasn’t widely available outside the region. She would look forward to dining on the special meat all weekend.
“This is Roger. Julianna, listen, about last night, I just want to apologize, you know? I mean, I didn’t even know that bra was in my coat pocket! Really, I’m not some lothario. Can I have another chance, please?”
Sigh. What was it about boys that forced them all to be so very disappointing? Especially the pretty ones. Julianna suspected than the more muscles a boy had the fewer active brain cells remained. Again, another reason for preferring girls.
“Hey, pretty. Thanks for the flowers. You always know exactly what to pick to fit my mood. God, I miss you. Seriously, is there any good reason you can’t come to Conneticut this weekend? I need some time between those lovely legs of yours. Call me when you’re wet, dearest.”
“Should have seen me thirty minutes ago,” Julianna laughed. There was her excuse for not going to Tory’s party: she was needed in Connecticut. Her family didn’t need to know who she was seeing there, nor why. Although, she wondered how jealous Tory would feel knowing she was with another woman instead of her.
“Julianna, this is Roger again. Uhm, you don’t happen to remember me setting my credit card down anywhere, do you? I can’t seem to find it and I need to make plane reservations for a trip to … uh, well … nah, you probably never saw it. Anyway, call me, okay? Bye.”
She laughed. Stupid boy. She wondered how he would explain to his wife the charge for flowers sent to Conneticut. Of course, she had used the card only once before passing it to a homeless person who looked like they could use a good meal. She hoped he had a high credit limit.
“Julianna, Gordon here. I just got off the phone with the Miliken Agnecy. Good work there! Now, the down side is they’re going to be here in the office tomorrow afternoon and they want to see your sketches for their new campaign. I went out on a limb and told them you’d be ready. Please, we’re counting on you for this one.”
Shit. She had bullshitted her way through that whole presentation. Not only did she not have any drawings, she didn’t have any hard research to support her plan. So much for a relaxing evening. She’d order pizza and spend the rest of the night getting the campaign together.
“Julianna, Gordon again. I’m sorry, that meeting’s been moved to ten in the morning. Hope that’s not a problem.”
What the fuck? She sat up and looked around for something to throw. A 10:00 meeting meant she’d have to be at the office by six to get everything printed on time. She hoped no one would mind the bags under her eyes from lack of sleep.
“Hey, this is Tory. I know your mom and brother have probably already been on you about being at my birthday party this weekend, but … uhm … yeah, I know you saw me in the subway and, well … it really wasn’t what you think, but … I won’t be offended if you decide to not come, I mean, given the circumstances and all …”
This time Julianna did throw a pillow at the phone. “What a fucking bitch,” she thought. Not only would she definitely be at the party, she would be taking Miss Connecticut along with her. Cheat on her brother and then try to blow her off? Oh HELL no that wasn’t happening!
“Julianna Gartner, this Daniel’s Cleaners. This white blouse you brought in, we can’t get clean! What is this, blood on the collar? Please, come pick up. We can’t do anything.”
Julianna groaned and fell back on the bed. She had been shaving and, of course, cut herself. Thinking she had grabbed a towel, she ended up blotting her leg with her favorite white blouse. Obviously, she was going to need a new one.
“Ms. Gartner? This is Gary at the front desk. We just had some flowers delivered for you. Let me know when you’re in and I’ll send them right up.”
She wouldn’t even need to read the card. Julianna knew who had sent those flowers, and why. She smiled. Perhaps the night wasn’t going to be so bad after all. Let it rain. Sometimes it doesn’t hurt to be a little wet.