She tasted of maraschino cherries and Dunhill cigarettes.
So unbelievably out of place. Dressed as if she were heading to some exclusive Hollywood party. As if somehow on her way there, her ride dropped her off at the wrong address. But so beautiful and inviting, she immediately made acutance's. However, I know this not to be the case. This is the third year in a row we’ve both attended this terrible excuse of a New Year’s celebration. We all just show up for our bonuses and to show the people we work with we own more than one kind of outfit.
I watch her from afar. Surrounded by meek women with little taste in their own wardrobe. They complement her white velvet dress, that should look tacky, but somehow doesn’t on her. Her demeanor says it all. She’s one of those good-looking people who are completely self-aware. I always wondered what she did in this office, other than look pretty. I imagined she was some secretary for some high-level executive. Probably hired for her looks and kept around for her other attributes.
I don’t mean to sound cynical, but I'm going on five years here, and the purse that hangs in the nook of her arm cost more than one of my monthly checks.
As if my eyes produced heat, her eyes immediately dart towards me. Startled and embarrassed, I fumble with my phone, opening the first app on my home screen. It’s a dating app. I almost laugh to myself. A women's face, cute but mousy, appears. Bellow reads: Katie, 26, Enjoys reading, art, and yoga.
I laugh a little harder. I imagine walking up to the beautiful girl across the room and saying, “My names Angelo, I'm 27, I work too much to actually meet anyone the old fashion way, I used to jog, and the most exciting thing to happen to me lately was the free coffee that came with my bagel this morning.” And of course, she would blow me off, because a girl like that probably only dates guys that make more money than her. Or a guy that owns tailored suits and wears them often. Or a guy that still jogs.
“You ever find what you’re looking for on there?’ A beautiful, confident voice asks from beside me. I look and it’s her. I take a breath to calm myself. I pretend like I'm unfazed. But who wouldn’t be embarrassed? I’m standing alone at a party, if you could call it that, laughing at dating profiles.
“You ever find what you’re looking for on other people's phone screens?” I counter.
“Sometimes. Wasn’t expecting that, but it told me something about you.” She responds, laughing.
“And what would that be?” I ask and she shifts her long dark hair to one side.
“You don’t like blondes.” she states over her shoulder as she walks away. A walk like a cat. Long, slow purposeful strides. Like she’s gliding on ice.
I stand still for a moment, trance like, just watching her recede. She stops to chat up some women across the room.
“Be careful man.” my coworker says, next to me now. “That’s the owner's daughter.” I look up at him.
“You’re saying she doesn’t work here?” I ask.
“Are you kidding me? Have you seen that girl? She has her dad’s card number committed to memory.”
I look at the girl now, in new light. She’d probably never worked a day in her life. Not even to lift a phone to her ear to say, “Hello, please hold.”
The girl makes eye contact. From her drink she takes a cherry and pulls it off the stem with her tongue and teeth, when wipes her lip and smiles over her glass.
I know this is my signal to approach or at least send some sort of signal back, But I don’t. I'm so fixated on wither or not she had to ask her dad before she bought the shoes on her feet. I wonder how old she is, and why she even attends these things. Confused, she looks away. But I keep watching as she glides round the room like some kind of famous socialite. Eventually, after some time, she glides back to me.
“So, you can watch, but I can’t get a smile?” She asks, pretending to be coy. “You’re not much of a socializer, are you?”
“I see these people daily, what am I going to talk to them about? My day at work? The only thing I have in common with any of these people is our lack of free time.” I respond, she frowns.
“How was your day at work?” She asks mockingly as she uses both of her hands now to massage my shoulders.
“My day was fine, Darling. How was yours?” I play along, to which she responds,
“Well, I just watched the children and tended to the garden.” I chuckle.
“What’s your name?” I ask.
“We’ve been married 25 years and you can’t even remember my name?” She mocks and I crack a smile.
“It’s been a long day, Darling.” I say, sipping my drink.
“My names Angelica.”
“Angelica?” I ask. “Is that a family name?” For a moment, I examine her. Had her parents been fortune tellers? A woman with such angelic beauty. I’ve never seen a name so suiting.
“Daddy says I should have died when I was born, but the angels kissed me. I was born sick; so sick that I made Mamma sick.” She responds, in such a tone that it’s endearing.
“I’m sorry.” I say.
She sips her martini. “Join me for a cigarette?”
“No Actually, I quit quite recently.” I state.
“Well, you can still join me outside.” She says as she turns toward to exit as if she were positive I would follow behind her. As if she were used to this kind of thing. I follow her towards the door. Curious glances are thrown our way, understandably. I had my own curiosities. Why was it this woman had a sudden interest in me? I would consider myself handsome, but my looks are definitely beatable. There are much more desirable bachelors in this very room.
The doors open to the exit and the cold nips at my face. Angelica bends to brush off a cement step than lowers her white velvet clad figure down to sit.
“You know, I wasn’t going to come this year, but my father insisted. He couldn’t be here, so he wanted me to show face. But I never meet anyone interesting, everyone’s so terribly mundane. It’s like they’ve never had fun before.” She sparks up the cigarette between her lips. I think about my life. Work, go home, sleep, repeat. I used to have fun. So long ago, before I had a career. I imagine if she can tell how long it’s been since I’d done something for myself for fun. “I had a dream last night; I don’t want you to find me strange.” She says.
“Why would I find that strange.” I ask.
“Well, it must have been because I remembered you from years before, but you were in it. And we were right here. Just like this.” I glance at her and she smiles. “Just like this. The whole thing’s very strange. That’s why I asked you to come along. I had to see.”
“See what?” I question.
“I wanted to see if it would happen.” She says simply. From Inside a countdown starts at ten. A daring look comes from Angelica. “I wanted to see if it would really be that amazing in real life.” I couldn’t understand why such a beautiful stranger would dream of me. This girl next to me looks as if she were made from a selection of all the best parts. As if I had dreamt her up and she suddenly materialized. The entire situation seemed so backwards to me. Angelica began to lean in as the countdown got to five, then so did I.
She tasted of maraschino cherries and Dunhill cigarettes. I took her in like a drag and it went straight to my head. I was feeling dizzy and off balanced, but her arms are draped around neck keeping me up right. She definitely lived up to her name, this kiss felt like the closest to heaven I’d ever grace. But it was as wonderful and sublime as it had been, it was also short lived. Before us stood her father, whom was able to make it after all. He wore an unamused expression at the display in front of him and I wondered if I would receive my bonus this year, or even keep my job at all.
“Hello, Angelo. Hello, Angelica.” He says in a casual tone of vexation.
“Hi, Daddy.” Angelica responds, unfazed. It seems inappropriate to greet him with our usual handshake after what he’d just witnessed. So, I just nod, embarrassed and thinking of all the ways he was going to fire me.
He moves past us and with a final, “Come inside, Angelica.” he disappears through the doors. She puts her cigarette out beside her, smiles at me, then follows her father to the party. I'm left to wonder if I had lived up to her dream and if she would dream of me again. I knew I would dream of her tonight.