Chapter 4 – Meeting of the Ties

Chapter 4 – Meeting of the Ties

Saturday, December 10th, 2011

Lady Luck is smiling upon me today. This is one of those rare instances when you have a random and completely unwished for streak of good luck. Everything is going your way, the exact way that you want it to go, which just doesn’t happen regularly.

This morning I woke rested and happy that the night was a dreamless one, for once. My day is relatively smooth. First things first – car maintenance. Check! Then the necessary beauty maintenance: manicure, pedicure, and eyebrow waxing. Check! Check! Check! Accomplishment can certainly build up an appetite so I meet Karma for breakfast at a local café. To top off the day? A solo shopping trip. It’s the most wonderful time of the year so I need to commence the inevitable task of Christmas gift shopping.

At this very moment I’m in Nordstrom’s looking for an exotic tie for Dad. I enjoy hunting for new and exciting ties for him. Good thing he works in an office and can actually wear all of them. Everyone knows he’s an avid tie collector or perhaps he’s humoring my own selfish love for ties. After all, I am his favorite daughter.

Alright fine – I’m his only daughter.

Fortunately for me the very man I’ve been wondering about, the director of all weekly columnists, is standing a mere ten feet away from me at one of the many circular tie display tables. The Mr. James Rhodes!

It turns out James was hired about six months ago and was given strict instruction to get the columnists under control and producing 110% as opposed to the previous unacceptable 80%. Naturally the VPs want this done sooner than later. That would explain his lack of socialization.

I casually saunter over to the tie area and browse through a table of hideous pastel ties while seizing the opportunity to size him up.

He is very attractive; more so in person than in his badge photo. His hair is medium brown and his eyes are an unusual combination of cool ice blue and heather gray. The suit he’s wearing is simple yet elegant. He is very GQ. Did I mention that he’s attractive?

He moves closer, to the table next to me. Here’s my opportunity!

I act as if I suddenly recognize him.

“Mr. Rhodes, hello!” I smile and hold out my hand. Naturally my greeting startled him. I might have been a little too chipper. He nearly dropped the tie he was holding and juggled to keep it in his hands. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you.” I wince.

He chuckles and smiles in return while shaking my hand lightly. “No problem. I’m sorry, do I know you?”

Of course he doesn’t know who you are, Lucy. Duh! You work in a completely different department! And on a different floor. “No, sir.” I laugh. “But I know you. I work in the Marketing department at Sunny News on the second floor.”

“Oh! Pleasure to meet you…” He hesitates.

Ah yes, he’s waiting for my name.

“I apologize. I haven’t had my afternoon cup of coffee yet so I’m a little slow. My name is Lucy. Lucy Post. It’s very nice to meet you, Mr. Rhodes.”

“The pleasure is all mine, Lucy Post.”

“You look like you could use some help picking out a tie.” I flash my sweetest smile.

He grins and rubs his forehead. “I do. My girlfriend has informed me that we are to attend a very important dinner and asked that I look my best. Actually it was a demand. I’m sure there was an ‘or else’ implied in there somewhere. She prefers a black suit and a bold tie. I have the suit. Just need the ‘bold’ tie.” He held up the one he had chosen and raised his eyebrows. It was a wreck of a tie.

Ugh! A girlfriend. Damn.

“Oh no.  That tie is hideous.” We laugh in unison. “I mean that tie is well made but the colors are all wrong. Coral, yellow, and pale blue? That is definitely not the color scheme you want for an important dinner party, Mr. Rhodes. Unless you’re having dinner in the Keys?”

“Not exactly. Dinner is at an overpriced, slightly stuffy, upscale restaurant. I think I would prefer the Keys.”

“Perhaps the dinner party will agree to change the location.”

“That would make me a happy man. All sarcasm aside, I must fulfill my duty as the boyfriend.”

“This is true.”

“In the meantime, would you mind helping me? I usually ask the employees here to pick out a tie but they seem to be busy with other customers with the holidays approaching.”

“Sure! I’d love to help. Fashion is my passion.” Ha, that rhymes in a very corny way.

“How about this one?” He holds up a paisley tie in pale pink and gray tones.

I raise an eyebrow. “Obviously you cannot be left alone with these ties. Allow me, Mr. Rhodes.”

“Please call me Jim.”

“Okay, Jim. Wander around and take it easy. I’m going to find you five perfect ties to choose from.”

He finds a chair and makes himself comfortable. “No red.”

“No red? Why? Red is a power color you know. It exudes self-confidence.”

“It is a power color indeed but it’s played out, don’t you think? In my opinion, a red tie doesn’t have the strong effect it once had.”

“You may have a point there.” I concede. “I’ll take that into consideration,” I say jokingly.

Jim picks the best tie in the bunch that I gather for him. It has a black and cobalt blue diamond pattern with flecks of silver and gray which will bring out his eyes. It is, in short, the perfect tie for a significant evening dinner. Within forty-five minutes we both walk out of Nordstrom with ties for special occasions.

“I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your help with the tie. Thanks to you my girlfriend just might keep me.”

“Hey it’s no problem. I’m happy to be of assistance. I love this kind of stuff.”

“You’re very talented. You were a tremendous help to me today. I’m a terrible shopper.”

“Thank you. I appreciate that.”

“Allow me to buy you a cup of coffee.”

“Sure. Why not? I could use a caffeine boost.”

We walk to the Starbucks near the food court and I control myself when it comes to ordering. No foo-foo girlie drinks. I need to impress him. He’s a director and I need his influence for the role change I seek.

“What are you having?” He inquires when we reach the barista.

“Venti Latte with whipped cream, please.” Short, sweet, and simple.

“Okay. And I’ll have a grande coffee with a little room. Extra bold if you have some brewing.” He pays and tips the barista. “Really? A plain latte? No frills? I have to admit I’m surprised.”

“Why’s that?”

“Usually women order the complicated drinks. You know, a venti, skinny iced white chocolate mocha latte with this and that but not that and definitely none of this.” He imitates a picky type of woman.

“Ha! Funny, yet true. In the defense of meticulous coffee-drinking women, I did get whipped cream on my latte to add a little excitement. I do, however, love whole milk. Skim milk just isn’t the same.”

“I couldn’t agree more. Skim milk is definitely different.”

“So what do you add to your robust extra bold blend?”

“Well I’m not a sugar kind of guy. Just a bit of skim milk to make it a nice caramel hue.”

“Ick. Sugar is my life. I could never drink coffee without it.”

“You get used to it after a while.” Jim motions to a small table in the corner.

“Never.” I sip my latte quietly after we sit. It’s a plain beverage yet it somehow defines the persona I want to create for myself. Simple yet serious. Professional. Confident. Goal-oriented. Classic. Does that sound crazy?

“So tell me, Lucy. How is it that we’ve never run into each other before at Sunny News?”

“Well, you’re pretty new to Sunny News, right?”

“Yes. I started a little over six months ago.”

“Do you like it so far?” I’m so eager to know all about him. Slow down, Luce. This isn’t an interview and it certainly is not a date.

“I do. Still learning the ropes but I’m getting there.”

“Good.”

“How long have you worked in the Marketing department?”

“A little over five years.”

“Wow. That’s a long time nowadays.”

“How true.”

“What floor are you on?”

“Second.”

“Ah, I’m on the third floor. That explains why we’ve never crossed paths. Marketing shares that floor with the Accounting division, right?”

“You are correct.”

“I never go there. I tend to hang around my own turf.” He leans back in his chair and crosses his arms, smiling. “I like to be around my columnists though. I’m trying to build a family oriented rapport.”

What a beautiful smile, I think inwardly.  I stare at his cool eyes. They are so soothing like calm waters on a gray cloudy day.

“You okay?”

“Oh yeah. Sure. I’m great. Sorry, I was just remembering something I had to do at work that I completely forgot about.” I can’t believe I was just gazing at him like that!

“It happens.”

“When is this really important dinner?” I ask, trying to compose myself and praying my cheeks don’t reflect my embarrassment.

“Tuesday night.”

“Well, you will positively have the best tie in the group.”

“Yes I’m certain I will.”

“I’d love to share my fashion experience with others.” Why can’t you be single?

“So why don’t you? What’s holding you back?”

“Honestly?”

“Yes honestly.”

“Well, I was actually just talking to my manager, Eric Weston, about creating a fashion column.”

Jim strokes his chin deep in thought. “Sunny News doesn’t have a fashion column.”

“Exactly! May I speak freely?” I lean forward.

He laughs and leans toward me. “Granted.”

 “I hate to break it to you but the Sunny News style section is boring. It needs some funk. Some pizzazz. Some excitement. Fashion is one thing that everyone has in common. Our fashion choices display our personalities. Why not put a little more oomph into our fashion segment? I’d love to do a weekly column on fashion trends or tips. What not to wear or dos and don’ts. And not just for women. Men and children too. Heck, pet fashion could even be tossed in there occasionally.”

“You might be on to something.”

“Look, I know I only helped you pick out a tie but I’d love the opportunity to do more.”

“To do more?” He raises his eyebrows, a smirk playing at the corners of his mouth.

“For the paper, I mean.” My cheeks are beet-red. I can feel them burning.

“Tell you what,” He clasps his hands on the table. “Can you get me a sample next week? By Wednesday morning?”

“Really?”

“Don’t get too excited just yet. There is a multitude of internal processes to go through before a new column can be produced and then we would have to handle your transfer between departments but before we get tangled in that corporate web I’d like to read a trial piece first.”

“Oh thank you so much!”

“Don’t thank me just yet. I am a nice guy but I will be one hundred percent honest and I will critique your work the way it needs to be critiqued. That’s how success is achieved in my department.”

“I would expect nothing less from a Director.” I am so giddy I have to fight the urge to bounce up and down in my seat!

“Be prepared.”

“Yes, sir. You will have it Wednesday morning.”

“Wednesday morning. No later or I will not consider it.”

“Absolutely. Without a doubt. Wednesday morning.”

We stand from the table and I extend my hand. “Thank you for this opportunity Mr. Rhodes. Really.”

“Always happy to give internal employees a chance. Enjoy the rest of your day, Mrs. Post.”

“Oh, no. Just ‘Miss.’ No ‘Mrs.” I hold up my left hand. “No ring.”

“Miss Post.” The look on his face was peculiar.

“Better.” We linger for a moment just smiling at each other. It was a nice moment but awkward.

Uh-oh. This could get messy.  He grabs his purchase and turns to walk away but falters.

“Lucy?”

“Yes?”

“Make the column about leather. It’s nearly Winter and it’s been getting chilly down here. Leather would be a good start.”

“You got it.” I give him the all too corny thumbs-up pose.

And with that I nix the rest of the Christmas shopping I planned to do today because I suddenly realize I do not own one article of clothing made of leather, save for my leather boots.

What kind of fashionista am I? My only answer is that it’s South Florida. We don’t have much use for leather here, regrettably.

Lucky for me I’m at the mall already.

I have some serious work to do.

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