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"Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live." ~ Dorothy Thompson
Jean flashed a confident grin to the full-length mirror in her room and fixed the collar of her maroon blouse while music from La Roux played on her computer. She brushed away the stray hairs in front of her face to follow the path of her bangs that she parted to the left. Her brown eyes lit up with the application of black liquid eyeliner and a light kiss of golden eye shadow. She finished her look with a creamy nude lipstick and smoothed out her black slacks. Despite having to cover an assignment on a Sunday night, an upbeat rhythm guided her steps.
Trinity had invited her to dinner over the phone. Dinner! She expected a simple lunch at a café somewhere, not a full-blown meal at a Pakistani restaurant in Brighton Wednesday night. Was this a date? Wait, what? No way. Of course not. Jean laughed at her reflection. We’re just two acquaintances about to know each better so we can become friends, yes? She wanted friendship; maybe even a new roommate so she could live someplace more decent, but it was wishful thinking to believe Trinity needed a roommate too. And would she be comfortable sharing an apartment with a gay woman?
She bit her inner check, ashamed by the thought. It shouldn’t matter of course, so why did the awful question pop up in her mind? Culture and upbringing, she answered even if it was a poor excuse. Her eyes jumped to her loose, silver watch bracelet. Time to go! She picked up three silver rings from her makeshift jewelry box and put two on her right thumb and one on her forefinger. Jean grabbed her midnight blue pea coat in lieu of her favorite leather jacket. She slipped on her business flats, grabbed her bag from the hook, and bolted for the subway. Calculating the commute time in her head, she frustratingly accepted that she might arrive fifteen minutes late to the benefit. Why did time hate her so much?
Jean reached the entrance of the banquet hall twenty minutes after seven. In the lobby, she approached a young woman who sat behind a table covered with flyers, the ceremony’s programs, and a myriad of inserts full of information about domestic violence, prevention, and support services. The plastic nametag dangling from her neck read Amanda typed in big block letters.
“Hi Amanda, I’m Jean Noble,” she said and extended her hand. “I’m here on behalf of Utopia Magazine. I’m actually covering for Claire Reyes…”
“Let’s see, I do remember seeing her name,” Amanda said as she looked through a box with plastic nametags. “I wondered whether she was coming at all. Here we are!” The young woman smiled and gave Jean the tag intended for Claire.
“Um, do you have a sharpie I can use to write my name in?”
Amanda shook her head. “I’m sorry. We prepare all of these before hand.”
Obviously. Jean took out the piece of paper with Claire’s name and turned it over. She used her own pen to write in her name as dark as possible. Unfortunately she started out in cursive and ended in print. She sighed and wrote Utopia Magazine underneath. It was far from professional but it would have to do. She inserted the paper back into its plastic pocket.
“What a shame. Your tag won’t have our logo on it,” Amanda piped.
“Yes, darn shame.” Jean prepared to enter the hall, but the young woman stopped her.
“Oh wait. Wouldn’t you like to donate to the domestic violence shelters in the greater Boston area? We would appreciate it very much.”
Jean swallowed the negative answer that swelled in her throat. The month ended in two days and she needed whatever little she had to purchase a bus pass for the next month.
“Uh, sure!” She reached into her bag and scrounged for her pocketbook. Inside sat a lonely, but hefty twenty-dollar bill. She had her ATM, but doubted a debit card would work here. And her checkbook was forgotten and tucked between books back at her apartment. She stared at the bill and all the magical powers it held: a seven-day subway pass; four lunch meals; more purchases of apples; paying her dinner at the Pakistani restaurant on Wednesday...
“Is everything okay?” Amanda asked.
Jean raised an eyebrow at the impatience. “Why would anything not be okay? Here you are.” She bit her tongue to stop any acid from leaking out and put the twenty on the table. This donation would serve as her church offering for the week.
“Thank you very much. We appreciate your donation.”
“Yes, you’re welcome.” She grabbed a program and several other reading materials and entered the banquet hall, notepad and pen already at hand. Luckily, the introduction of the night’s keynote speaker had not ended. She found a seat in a table at the back and listened intently as she put together a story from the night.
Many in-depth interviews and friendly chats later, Jean retired to a chair as people slowly filed out of the hall. Overall, it was a successful night and she met several high impact people and friendly college and grad students who in were attendance as well. She gave away all her business cards that had taken shelter in her bag. Surely one of them needed a roommate, right? She half-smiled at her desperation. Anyway, their bright faces and passion brought back nostalgia of her media study days at NYU. The combination of living in Harlem and commuting downtown for school gave her two years of experiences she would forever cherish.
A beautiful woman arguing with a man at the corner of an emergency exit intruded her act of remembering. Jean piqued her ears even though she knew it was wrong to eavesdrop, but as a writer, she was always on the hunt for new material.
“You’re sick, you know that. You waited until now to tell me this? Why now? Tell me,” the woman said. She wore a form fitting, sea green sleeveless dress that stopped several inches below her knees and were accompanied by black pumps. Light brown, curly hair spilled below her shoulders. The blues eyes set against her smooth brown skin intrigued Jean. Were those contacts lenses or authentic?
“It just had to happen now. I’m sorry, Charity,” said a gorgeous dark skinned man in an expensive black suit. “I really am, but tonight I finally reached my limit.”
Wow, these two look like a power couple, Jean thought. She almost wished she could snap a picture of them. Too bad it appeared that they were breaking up.
“Get out of my face. Now, before I…” Charity pushed both palms against the air. “Go. We’ll talk about this later.”
“There won’t be a later. This is it,” the man said.
“Say what you want, but it’s not over until I say it’s over. Now, please, just get out of my face.”
The man shook his head and walked away in resignation.
Charity pressed her fingers underneath her eyes and breathed deeply. She turned her eyes at Jean.
Jean almost fell off her chair from the sheer anger and hate sent toward her direction. This woman’s aura was powerful! She marched toward Jean.
“I saw you staring. Do you usually do that? Sit and listen to people’s conversations while watching them like some damn movie? Did you find that entertaining?” Her blue eyes widened after each question.
Jean searched for the faint lines of contact lenses. They were none she could see. Those really were her eyes. Interesting.
“I’m Jean.” She offered her hand, but the woman did not accept it, so she retrieved her hanging fingers. “I’m sorry about listening in on your private conversation. That was rude. But let me make it up to you. Want to talk about what just happened?”
Charity crossed her arms across her chest and scoffed. “You have got to be kidding me? Who the hell do you think you are?”
“Just a concerned stranger who wants to help.”
“You can help by minding your own business next time. Some people.” She shook her head and turned for the opposite direction.
“I didn’t give you my name, so do not use it,” she said, spitting ice cubes.
“I’m sorry. Look, why don’t I give you…” Jean remembered that she had no more business cards as she looked through her bag. Damn. Well, this was painfully awkward. What should she say next? Reason said to let Charity be on her way, but instinct didn’t want to let go. “Listen, I’m very sorry. I had a really long night and was just resting before taking the commute back home. You two were talking and looked so gorgeous together that I stared like some five-year old without manners. I truly apologize and meant no harm.”
Charity finally relaxed her tense shoulders and sighed. “Apology accepted. We were pretty loud so I don’t blame you too much,” she said. “I’ve been having a pretty rough week myself so I’m sorry if I came off as too abrasive.” She held out her hand and Jean accepted it with her signature, soul-snatching smile.
“No, not at all. Anyway, without coming off as very strange, do you mind if I have your contact info? I’ve run out of business cards to offer.”
“Here, you can have one of mine.” Charity took the green feathery clutch from underneath her right arm and opened it to unearth a card, which she offered.
Jean glanced at the card in her hand and learned that Charity was a resident physician in the field of child psychiatry. Pretty amazing.
“I treat childhood trauma and maltreatment,” she said. “Thus why I’m here. Well, Jean, although we didn’t meet under the best circumstances, I hope you have a good night. I really should be going now.”
“Of course. Thanks. Have a good night, too!”
Charity nodded and walked away.
Jean realized she and the janitor were the only two people left in the hall.
“Good night,” she told him with a wave.
He smiled and waved too. “Good night.”
To be continued….
Adolescence 2.0 © 2012 C.S. Severe All Rights Reserved