Unravelled, page 1
By Kirsten Lee
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever, including internet usage, without written permission from the author except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
First published 2012
Copyright © 2012 by Kirsten Lee
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is purely incidental.
“I cannot believe this!” I mean, I really can’t believe this. What have I done to have awakened the prankster in all the gods? I rest my suited derriere against my car and wish for a cigarette. I don’t smoke, but now seems like a good time to start. Here I am, stuck in the middle of bloody nowhere with an empty fuel tank – the fuel gauge doesn’t work – and an oversized dog suffering from flatulence.
Personally, I think that Blossom suffers from a psychosomatic disease, not some colon disorder the vet diagnosed. I also think that it’s Blossom’s revenge on my friend Janey for giving him a name that no self-respecting male canine would want to answer to. Yes, Blossom is a male Newfoundland owned by my best friend and business partner’s little sister Janey. She took her archaeologist self off to some or another excavation site and my best friend Erin, who was supposed to look after the mutt, broke his leg. I mean, did he have to go and break his leg the same week he was supposed to look after Blossom and start this project?
I sigh dramatically and look around me. Miles and miles of nothing. The world is so flat here, I can see my own future. It’s a future that does not include the holiday I was supposed to be on right now, getting my head right and adjusting to my new image, which already is beginning to show stress-fractures. Blossom sticks his head out the window that’s been open the whole drive and looks at me questioningly.
“What?” I say with maybe a bit too much impatience.
He tilts his head and I can hear his tail thumping on the seat. I have to say, it was no mean feat getting my luggage for seven weeks and a humongous dog into my old Volkswagen Beetle. I had to repack my suitcases five times and I refuse to take the blame for having difficulty deciding what should stay and what should go. I would’ve packed my ‘normal’ comfortable clothes, but no, all those power suits and pretty heels took priority.
I also packed an entire suitcase with just make-up, eye creams and all kinds of lotions and potions. Maybe I’ll use some of them. Or not. Blossom thumps his tail a few more times and responds to my dirty look with a yawn that allows me to see parts of this animal I’d rather not.
“Oh, all right,” I sigh dramatically once again and open the door for the monstrous animal. He falls out of the car with enthusiasm and runs off into the miles and miles of nothing to mess up some other animal’s territorial markings.
Where am I, you may ask. Well, I’m no longer sure. Erin drew me a detailed map which I forgot at home and my memory of said map has proved to be a wee bit sketchy. I watch Blossom bound from one shrubby bush to another and can’t help but smile. He really is an endearing animal. Such soulful eyes. I start getting mushy when I remind myself that it is the same scoundrel that destroyed my only means of communication with one chomp. My insurance company is not going to approve replacing my third cell phone this year.
And what am I doing here, you may ask. Well, I’m on my way to Villsburg, which is one of those quaint little towns with a population of twelve thousand that’s been invaded by arty farty types, and now they want to host an art festival. Actually, in all fairness, it’s their third art festival and everything that could go wrong has gone wrong. Poor souls. Their first two festivals were huge successe locally and they became too ambitious for their own good. So this year they decided to go for gold and go national, and since no one has the experience to organise anything besides a community picnic, it became too much for them very quickly and snowballed out of control.
They had the brainwave to employ outside help, but trying to do it cheaply has proved to be as successful as hiring a vegan to work in a butchery. One of the big wigs in town is a friend of Erin’s and one phone call, a broken leg, a farting dog and an empty fuel tank later, I find myself donned in one of my new power suits stranded on the side of a dusty road, sighing dramatically and surrendering myself to contemplation.
I notice an expensive sedan coming around the long bend in my direction at the same time as I catch Blossom in the corner of my eye galloping towards me. My stomach drops in recognition of what is about to happen. The driver must have decided to rescue this maiden in distress and is slowing down when, as usual, Blossom over-steers and nearly lands himself under one of the wheels. The driver slams on the brakes and one of the wheels hit the gravel with spectacular results rivalled only by a mini meteor shower.
In frozen horror I watch the car door open and an annoyed looking man slowly gets out. It takes him only a few long strides, propelled by delicious looking legs in suit trousers – I’m not too horrified to notice – to reach the back of my car. The near death experience has subdued Blossom’s usual bouncy nature and he’s now sitting half-next to and half-behind me, peering at the angry man from behind my bum.
“What on god’s green earth is that?” His glare at Blossom, so close to my backside, makes me remember my rigorous training on negotiations, posture and first impressions. I subtly lift my chest and pull in my stomach. The ‘confident posture’, Bart, my image coach, called it. It can’t hurt making a good first impression.
“His name is Blossom and he is a Newfoundland.” This was all Blossom needed to strengthen his first impression. His fart blows up a dust cloud which I want to go and hide behind.
A moment of painful silence ensues. Blossom has the good grace to hang his head, the stranger looks like he swallowed his lips and I want to dissolve into a million tiny little molecules.
“He does know how to introduce himself.” His statement seems to declare some sort of truce and we laugh the laughter of two slightly uncomfortable strangers. Blossom must have realised that his faux pas is being forgiven and walks over to Mr Wall Street. He looks curiously at the stranger and destroys the fragile truce by committing the mother of all faux pas.
I warned Erin, I warned Janey, but neither wanted to listen to me. After I met Blossom for the first time, I knew that this animal should never be in human company. And now I’m looking at the proof of it. I wish Erin was here so I could say ‘I told you so’. The animal behaviourist explained Blossom’s habit as only wanting to make friends, but I’m sure that right now the man facing me is not thinking that.
Blossom has his nose in the well-tailored crotch of Mr Wall Street. I watch as the man in front of me takes a deep breath, blinks rapidly a few times and drags his eyes away from the pending elimination of his immortality to look me straight in the eyes.
“Please get this animal away from me.” His soft spoken request has a bit of a strangled quality to it which pops my bubble of fascinated horror and I move towards them.
“Blossom! Bad dog!” Blossoms responds to my chastising by forcing his nose between the now hyperventilating man’s legs, as if searching for clues as to his quarry’s origin. By now I’ve reached them and start pulling Blossom away.
All three of us are grunting. I, because Blossoms weighs a whopping seventy kilos and making this animal do anything is a physical challenge. Blossom’s grunting because he wants to continue his sniff-search and Mr Wall Street is grunting because... well, it’s obvious, isn’t it? Then I remember the one thing that Blossom is
“Cat! Here kitty-kitty, here.” I try to keep my voice realistically inviting, but it still manages to come out as a shriek. To my, and Mr Wall Street’s, delight it has the desired effect. Blossom jumps away from Mr Wall Street with a loud fart and cowers behind me, looking around nervously.
“I’m so sorry!” I can see from the expression on Mr Wall Street’s face that our fragile semi-truce is a distant memory and there will be no other truce forthcoming in the foreseeable future. The man is so angry he looks ready catch a family of rattle snakes.
With his bare hands.
My mouth, as it does in these kinds of situations, detaches itself from my brain and starts rambling on. “The animal behaviourist said that Blossom’s innate need to be accepted causes this behaviour. Apparently it’s the animal equivalent of human mother abandonment issues.”
I can see that I’m digging the hole deeper for myself and like a truck in one of those mafia movies where the brake fluid cable is cut, I continue to barrel unhindered downhill at sonic speed. I know this is doomed to end in an explosion of flames, yet I cannot stop myself.
“It’s kinda understandable when you think that he was ripped away from his mommy at only six weeks and then had to grow up being called Blossom.” I say his name sotto voce so as not to offend the still cowering dog. Despite the man’s expression I continue stoically. “It was Janey’s idea. She got him the first day of spring and decided that it was an appro...pri..ate...” The stranger has moved closer and now has his index finger over my lips, causing me to say “name” with closed lips which comes out all muffled. He looks at me for a short moment during which I try my utmost to not blink a thousand times a minute, but rather look at him with quiet confidence. I don’t think I’m succeeding.
“What are you doing on the side of the road?” Aha! So this is what a clipped tone sounds like. I always wondered when I read that in a book. This also gives me some indication of his character – obviously not a patient man.
“Mmm...mmm...” He removes his finger. “No fuel. The fuel gauge doesn’t work and I got a little... um... lost.” Nice going, Alex. Why don’t I just tell him that I have an IQ the equivalent of room temperature?
I’ve been known to have my moments of telepathy, but I need none of these skills to know what’s going underneath that fabulous crop of hair. He’s facing a delicate choice. I tilt my head to one side and fold my arms, wondering how he’ll solve his dilemma: a woman and a very large dog on the side of the road without fuel. As I see it, his options are either to leave me on the side of the road while he gallops off to get some fuel – not a very gallant option. Or he could put me and Blossom in his car. But if I go by the look he bestows upon Blossom I don’t think it’s an option at all. Or...
“I have a meeting to get to, so the quickest way to solve this is if I phone the local garage and wait with you until they bring some fuel.” Nice save. He digs out a fancy-smancy smart phone and taps on the screen.
I watch him turn his back to me while talking to an Al. The man looks good from the front and the back. I’m a sucker for a tall man and he’s just it: tall and broad shouldered. His dark hair is a bit longer than short, neatly styled and very suitable for the important business man that he obviously is. A pity about the personality though.
I know this is an inane and rhetorical question, but why me? Things were going so well after my make-over five months ago. I’m almost used to wearing these power suits, although I do think it makes my bum look historically big. Juan, my stylist and hairdresser says I remind him of Jennifer Lopez and I don’t know if that’s a compliment. I also seem to have mastered balancing on these heels which of course I think causes me to sway my J Lo bum a tad too much. But, according to Erin, Janey and all the staff, I look like a woman going places.
This is the third unfortunate ‘incident’ this month after four months of perfect conduct. After the second ‘incident’ I realised that my make-over was starting to unravel and that is why I planned a holiday. I needed to go over the notes I took while on business-and-beauty-boot camp so that I could hold onto being the ‘new me’. Admittedly the ‘new me’ really only applies to my wardrobe and to some miniscule extend to client-relations, but inside I am still...well, me. And I like who I am. Although, I did like the posture and confidence training. I wish I had some more of that confidence now to help me deal with Mr Wall Street as he ends his call and turns to me.
“Al will be here in ten minutes. Are you sure it’s only a matter of fuel?” he asks me in a voice reserved for little children and very old people. I honour him with my signature, well-feared icy stare, which seems to have no effect on him whatsoever. I turn the temperature down even more and answer him coldly.
“Yes, I am sure.” I reach down and bury my fingers in Blossom’s black hair. “Please feel free to continue on to your meeting. Blossom and I will be just fine.” I shake my shoulders a fraction and lift my chin slightly in a pathetic attempt to look more confident.
His eyes fire up and I ready myself for some male chauvinistic remark about little ladies not being alone on the side of a road when his fancy-smancy phone starts chiming. He turns his back on me and starts walking away, no doubt to do some super-duper secret business deal over the phone. I’m willing to bet my favourite set of earrings that he goes on holiday with his laptop and has another smart phone in one of his suit jacket pockets.
A loud, now familiar, sound next to me reminds me of my canine companion. Mr Wall Street looks over his shoulder with a frown at me and then at the dog, who guiltily thumps his tail.
“Oh Blossom, what are we going to do with you?” The only plus about this poor animal’s embarrassing condition is that there is no unfortunate smell accompanying the frequent and loud exits of air. I would never have taken him in the car had that been the case. It was necessary for my psyche, however, to keep the window open all the way. Just in case.
Mr Wall Street is now pacing a trench into the side of the road and is sounding decidedly ornery. I reflect on how glad I am to not work for or with him and turn to the car to get Blossom something to drink. My total make-over also requires me to keep my car neat. So far that has been the biggest challenge and I’m sad to report that I have failed miserably. Another hint that the whole make-over thing didn’t take too well. It needs work. A lot of work.
I enter the passenger’s side headfirst, looking for Blossom’s water bowl. When I can’t find it on the floor under an embarrassing amount of paper, I put my knees on the passenger seat and squeeze myself through the two front seats to do a blind hand search on the floor at the back.
Well, spank me twice and call me Dixie! I just found an earring that I misplaced – and mourned over – months ago. My musings on how it got there are interrupted when I feel a hairy body try to squeeze itself in beside me.
“Blossom! I’m not leaving, love. I’m looking for your water bowl.” This dog is the perfect test subject for study on animal neurosis. Ever since Janey forgot him in the hair salon, he’s paranoid when he hears keys or sees you get into a car without him.
“Blossom!” I shriek and then burst out in strangled laughter as this monstrous dog forces himself into the car and squashes me between the seats with my face crushed against a head rest. He clambers over me and settles in the driver’s seat with a – I swear! – self-satisfied grin stretched across his hairy face.
At least, with the help of Blossom’s shove, I located his water bowl. I exit the car with my wriggling suited bum first. I grab hold of the bowl and a bottle of water, straighten, turn around and freeze. Mr Wall Street is standing not too far away, obviously a witness to the last few minutes, and is looking at me with pure consternation on his face.
I know that look. I used to see that look all the time on my parents’ faces. No matter how hard they – or I for that matter – tried, I always seemed to be inappropriate. It was not my behaviour, per se, that got to them. It was
“Enjoying the view?”
Mr Wall Street lets out a little bark of laughter which does nothing to endear him to me.
“It was quite something to behold.” He shakes his head, which makes his oh-so-wonderful black hair flop sexily, as if to clear the image.
“Where are you on your way to?” he says with just a smidgen too much please-don’t-come-to-my-town in his voice.
“I’m ...” My response is interrupted by another chime from his phone. I roll my eyes when Mr Wall Street holds up a finger as if to indicate something and returns to his trench. It’s behaviour like his that validates my instinctive mistrust of strangers. How rude!
Just before I fall to my knees, clutch my heart and scream to the heavens ‘why me’”, a dirty red pick up truck slows down and honks. The large black print on the door tips me off that it’s my knight in not-so-shining armour from the local garage coming to my rescue. I refrain from clapping my hands and breaking out in song, and wait for the very young-looking Al to get out of his truck.
Mr Wall Street puts whomever he’s been talking to on hold and walks over to shake Al’s hand. They share a moment of male bonding by nodding and rolling their eyes at me, before anyone deem me important enough to be addressed.
“Al will look after you now. Good luck.” Mr Wall Street turns and walks to his car with me gaping at him. Is that it? Is that really all he has to say?
“Thanks for your help. It was wonderful talking to you.” I say to his back in a voice dripping with sarcasm. I try to burn a hole in his back with an icy glare, but when he climbs in his car unharmed, I sigh in defeat and turn to Al with a smile exuding a million watts.